I am deliriously happy that Elimination, another fine Dev Conrad mystery by Ed Gorman was released yesterday. I am also a wee bit sad that Elimination is the final book in the Dev Conrad series.

There are many loves in my life, among them are mysteries, politics and anything written by Ed Gorman. I’m thrilled that Elimination combines the three.

You can read my thoughts about Elimination over on Criminal Element. As a bit of a preview, I can tell you now it is a book that is not to be missed.


I Spy With A Writer’s Eye

gallery-thumbnails.phpA recent blog post from thriller and suspense author Ed Kovacs, discussed gadgets every thriller/spy novelist should have at their disposal. Many were digital and some seemed items you would think of immediately, such as a camcorder watch for undercover videos and a smart phone, a great multi-tasker, while others, such as four-cipher locks and hide safes were things I hadn’t heard of before.

As you may know from previous posts, I’ve always wanted to be a spy. So, I decided to do a little research and add my own must have spy items, if not for myself, for the next time one of my characters goes undercover.

Here are my results:
Night vision goggles, perfect for stakeouts

Voice activated recorder pen, so you never miss a word

Air freshener hidden security camera, for those hard to spy on settings

Tripwire, the invisible alarm

A drone, for the complete overview

And a pair of oversize dark sunglasses for glamorous camouflage

Now that I’ve amassed these items (figuratively that is) I’ll have to write a story
in which to use them.

How about you? Have any equipment your sleuth could use on a case? Let us know.

TV’s Hannibal: Gross, Perverse, Artistic. I Like It!

Mads Mikkelsen stars as the cannibal and serial killer Dr. Lecter in TV's Hannibal

Mads Mikkelsen as TV’s Dr. Hannibal Lecter

Based on Thomas Harris’s novels, the Hannibal TV series, created and produced by Bryan Fuller, is not for the squeamish. But I’m not. I just ask that gore be purposeful, be interesting, be done with care for what it causes and the consequences. Hannibal mines the rich inspiration of art that’s in the books and marries it with aesthetically inventive visuals, sharp but minimal dialogue, and great performances to make a show that doesn’t feel or look like any other. Dramatic, cultured, very close-up and personal, it meanders the deceptive byways of the human mind. As far as shows that could be considered mainstream horror, you can think of Hannibal as the other end of the axis that the also-unique Walking Dead occupies.

For me, the shock value of the usual red-dyed corn syrup wore off after, oh, maybe watching the already dated Toolbox Killer in high school. Most horror isn’t that horrible once you’ve seen a bunch, and when you suspect a new story is just graceless, hopeless, manipulative three-card monte, it can lose its appeal. I make an exception for trope-licious campy fun, sometimes great fun, as TV’s American Horror Story often plays in this sandbox. In my least favorite kind of horror, the effects of all the bizarrities and carnage have no cumulative effect on the characters. They could be stepping through the stations of Candyland for all it matters. That’s how you know the writer made the victims of cardboard, because not even their nearest and dearest seem to care. The slaughter-forget-repeat cycle isn’t that captivating.

But it’s not merely horror, because Hannibal is also a lawless serial killer. Whether his pursuers on TV are now retired, estranged, or recuperating, it’s their connections to law enforcement, FBI specifically, that brought them into contact with Dr. Lecter. This show is set before the events of the novel Red Dragon– seen in the movie versions Manhunter (1986) and Red Dragon (2002)–and the even later-set novel Silence of the Lambs, the basis for the 1991 movie of the same name. In the TV series, we’ve gotten to backward to see the FBI’s star-profiler Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) meet Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikklesen) for the first time. We have explored the earliest, dangerous, see-sawing interaction of hunter and hunted. Later, we know, the cannibal will perfect with profiler Clarice Starling a method of corruption which is in-development here with Will Graham. Now, in the show’s third season, Hannibal has escaped the U.S. after dramatically revealing himself as no ordinary psychiatrist-consultant to the feds. His pursuers, who are all now also profoundly wounded victims, are closing in. Which is exactly what he wants. What he craves.

I know this kind of fare is NOT to the taste of everyone among the WoM or our regular visitors, not by any means. However, I thought I’d make a stab (ha) at trying to explain the appeal of the form and of this show in particular. I’ve been doing weekly show recaps at Criminal Element. Each week, I try to explore at least one of the cultural or artistic elements raised in the episode with more detail as bonus info, if you will. The episodes you’ll notice are all named after courses or categories of cuisine. Season 1 was French, Season 2 was Japanese. This season, which takes place partially in Florence and Palermo, is appropriately Italian. So here are the links to those posts if you’re interested!

Hannibal 3.01: an “Antipasto” of Drains and Snails — more on comic opera Don Pasquale and the medieval torture device called the Catherine Wheel

Hannibal 3.02: “Primavera” Springs Will Graham — more on true-crime killer, Il Mostro, the Monster of Florence, and Botticelli’s painting Allegory of Spring

Hannibal 3.03: “Secondo” Means Choosing — more on ancient Rome’s meat apportioning and how Death’s Head moths and entomological imposters are used on screen

Hannibal 3.04: “Aperitivo” Whets the Bloodlust — more on the conspiracy to kill Caesar, mythological death goddesses, and John Donne’s sonnet “A Fever”

This will be the show’s last season on NBC, and credit to them for sticking so long with something so different. However, I have high hopes this quality show will be picked up by another network or streaming service. After all, it has a built-in base of passionate fannibals, and there’s a whole world of cuisine, art, architecture, and music left to explore!

Beach Bag Sweepstakes!

CaughtReadHanded_newcomp.inddOkay, so you know that our friends at Criminal Element run the best contests ever! Books! They giveaway lots and lots of books!  The current Beach Bag Sweepstakes is not to be missed. While I am personally overjoyed to see that my soon to be released Caught Read-Handed is one of the fifteen, yes FIFTEEN, mystery titles up for grabs all in one package. I am dying to read so many of the other books in the contest, written by such favs as Allison Brennan, Susan Furlong, Linda Reilly, Betty Hechtman and Patricia Cornwall. And there is still more–books by Darynda Jones, Matthew Dunn, Jack Coughlin with Donald A. Davis, Richard Clark, Bailey Cates, Hanna Reed, Nancy J. Parra, Claire Donally and David L. Goleman.

This is a no purchase necessary, no comment necessary sweepstakes. Click this link. Right under the picture of the very cool beach bag there is a line that says “Click here to enter for a chance to win.” Click! Sign in and you are entered. Easy peasey.

Contest ends at 1:59 pm on July 7th but don’t wait. Enter now. I’m not sure what you’ll be doing on July 7th but I’ll be busy celebrating the release of Caught Read-Handed so I am putting my name in the hat, er, beach bag for these great books right now.

Great luck to all!




With July coming up in a few days – where did June go? – here is a link to my July 4, 2014 piece at Poisoned Pen Press, my publisher. My regular date there is the 4th of the month, so the holiday is mine if I want it. Also, “birthday thoughts” if I have any, as mine is on May 4.

Slightly in advance, have a happy and safe holiday!


Summer Reading Contest…

Here’s the deal: purchase a copy of my novella, NICK OF TIME, between now and July 4th, and send me a line from the book along with your name & email info and I will enter your name in a contest to be a character in my next Nick Donahue Adventure.
UnknownNICK OF TIME is a great summer read, an international adventure of a Blackjack player hoodwinked by a beautiful woman. If you want to enter my Summer Reading Contest, the Kindle edition is just $2.51 over at Amazon. Hope you’ll enjoy it!

On The Road With Broken Window-Family Style

Broken Window and Murder at the P&Z and I will be traveling to Bluffton, South Carolina in June, to Cleveland, Ohio in August, and to Santa Maria, California in September.

UnknownAt each stop, a family member is hosting a book signing party. It is one of the many incredible benefits to having a large family.

While I promote my Carol Rossi Mysteries in different areas of the country, I’ll be thrilled for the opportunity to share this moment with my children and grandchildren since we are separated by so many miles. Thank heavens my daughter, Lisa, and son-in-law, Brian, who live nearby have faithfully come to book launchings. To boot, they’ve brought their friends as well and we’ve gone out to dinner later to celebrate.

happy-family-car-vacation-13549568When coming up with this family book tour, I was surprised by the enthusiasm of all involved living in other states, in particular one of my grandsons and granddaughters who insisted that their friends come. Two of my daughters and one granddaughter are arranging everything, and I’m calling myself a very lucky person.



Hiring a Publicist

Buzz Key Showing Awareness Exposure And Publicity


Here’s what I love about mystery novels. There’s a beginning, middle and a logical end. Here’s what I hate about publicity. There’s a splashy beginning, a fuzzy middle and no one is certain how it ends.

And yet, I just wrote a check to publicist to help promote the first book in my Sketch in Crime series, Drawing Conclusions. What was I thinking?

Since this is all new to me, I’ll give you some backstory – but not too much as my publisher has indicated that readers don’t like excessive backstory.

I was at a book conference recently, and I spoke with a few authors who had invested a decent sum of money in a publicist. I was curious as our publisher already provides publicity services for the launch of each book. I wondered if more PR investment was worthwhile.

In general, a publisher’s in-house publicity will cover the following tasks. They craft and circulate a public relations release to industry insiders. The publicity team promotes the advanced review copy (arc) in hopes of getting reviews. Finally, they submit books for award consideration and arrange blog tours. I was pretty happy with my publisher’s effort, but I continued to hear from authors who were still spending money on supplemental publicity.

I decided to consult my best friend – math. First, I contacted five book publicists. Fees ranged from $5,000 to $15,000. The publicists made no promises, but offered to try for more reviews, radio spots and book signings. So in addition to the upfront fee, I’d have to spend more of my own money traveling to signings and radio stations.

Then I used math to consider the investment from my publisher’s perspective. If a $15,000 publicity investment in a book makes a significant sales difference, why wouldn’t the publisher spend the money? When I looked at our publisher/author royalty split, it wasn’t economically feasible for me to make a $15,000 investment. It would take years at my royalty rate to break even and that’s if the ‘no promises’ publicity worked. The publisher, of course, takes a higher split of the sales and could recoup their money much faster.

It occurred to me that publishers also use math to make decisions. And since my publisher chose not to invest more than currently budgeted, I have to conclude that even at the publisher’s royalty rate, the extra investment doesn’t make sense for most books in their catalog. After the initial push, additional publicity expenditures may have diminishing returns. Maybe a publisher will take a risk on few books in their catalog, but not all. It’s a gamble.

Then I had another thought. What if I hired a non-traditional publicist — a publicist that didn’t hit up the same contacts as the rest of the book world? Would it make sense to spend money attracting a new market? A market that hadn’t already been tapped by the standard publicity efforts. I liked that strategy so I started to think out of the proverbial box.

I went back to my publisher’s initial publicity push. I really enjoyed the blog tours, specifically:

DollyCas http://www.escapewithdollycas.com/

Dru Book Musings http://drusbookmusing.com/

A blog tour is inexpensive and a good blogger is well connected to his or her readers. There’s also the potential for social media sharing.

To reach a new audience, I’d need to spin my book to match an avid blogging market. My main character, CeCe Prentice, is green. She’s an eco-friendly, Dumpster diver with a keen interest in environmental causes. I decided I needed a way into the green market, which is heavily populated by bloggers. After a few Google searches, I found green publicist, Paige Wolfe, Media & Public Relations. Paige Wolf

I pitched my concept and Paige got it right away. That’s always a good sign and she’s an author. Double brownie points!  For a reasonable fee (as in not $15k), she created a blog tour and book giveaway using her targeted green contact list. So far, I like what I’m seeing ,and I’m happy I spent the money. Here are two examples of reviews. There are more to come, but I think I’m off to a good start.

Green Review 1

Green Review 2

I’d love to hear from other authors on this topic. I’d also love to hear from readers. How do you discover new books?


Deirdre Verne is the author of Drawing Conclusions. The second book in the series, Drawing Blood, is available in Feb 2106. www.deirdreverne.com







The Nuts and Bolts of Blog Tours

CaughtReadHanded_newcomp.inddAs we sometimes do, the Women of Mystery were chatting the other day. Someone suggested that one of us write a post on the nuts and bolts of blog tours. I raised my hand and offered to do so because I have a tour starting July 6th as part of the launch extravaganza for the release of Caught Read-Handed on July 7th.

How does a blog tour start? I am sure that every writer has her own path to blog tour success. I am happy to share mine. The first thing I do, at least six months before the release date of a book, is to contact Lori at Escape with Dollycas into a Good Book.

Lori is a tour guide extraordinaire. I recommend you be prepared to tell her whether you would like to tour for one week or two and what dates work best for you. I will tour fourteen blogs in fourteen days. Most of the bloggers will write a review of Caught Read-Handed and so will require
review copies. In addition, most of the bloggers will do a giveaway of a copy of your book. Again, you or your publisher will have to provide copies. Lori will ask if you want to have a tour-wide giveaway which will be done by rafflecopter at each blog site. I put together a few book/beach related items, including a mousepad, necklace and note paper and took a picture for the rafflecopter. I will be responsible to mail that prize to the winner. Separate from the tour, I have chosen to advertise on Dollycas for two months and I will also do a blog post for the Dollycas blog after my tour is ended. Some of the Dollycas bloggers want me to write a guest post and some sent me interview questions. All of this material plus my bio, any pictures that I think will go well with my posts and anything else I think will be helpful must be sent to Lori a few weeks before the tour starts. I handed them in this morning.

Rafflecopter Prize

Rafflecopter Prize

Separately, the publicist from Berkley Prime Crime has asked me for several blog posts that she can deliver to her cadre of bloggers. Those are also due weeks before the release date. I submitted them two weeks ago.

Finally there are blogger buddies who are kind enough to invite me to visit their blogs. I try to accept every invitation and, most importantly, I follow every blogger’s rules.

The rules of a blog tour are simple: do exactly what the blogger requests, submit the work on time, comment on the blog shortly after it goes up and then check on it frequently. Comment often. If prizes are involved, make sure they are sent.

Here are some examples of blogs with rules:

I had a request from one blog that I visit them only on a day when I will not be present on any other blog and that the material I present to them be fresh. Done.

Deb Lacy over at Mystery Playground does Drinks with Reads posts on Fridays. It happens that Lori assigned me to Mystery Playground on July 10th, which turns out to be a Friday. As soon as I looked at the calendar I knew that a “drinks” post would be in order. Done.

I keep a separate calendar just for blog tour info. I find it necessary because there are often surprises, such as this mention by Lisa Kelley over at Lisa K’s Book Reviews.  Each Cozy Food Friday, Lisa talks about a cozy mystery. Last Friday it was Bushel Full of Murder by Paige Shelton, and includes a fabulous recipe for Shrimp Tacos. On Fridays Lisa also posts and links to two memes Book Beginnings hosted by Rose City Reader  and The Friday 56 hosted by Freda’s Voice.  I am honored and surprised that Lisa chose Caught Read-Handed as her meme book last week. The Book Beginnings link includes the opening paragraphs of Caught Read-Handed and The Friday 56 includes a quote Lisa chose from page 56 of the book. Lisa was kind enough to let me know that I would be in the memes, so I watched for the post and linked to it here and there.

And that is the final rule. Bloggers work very hard. A blogger who invites a writer to visit a blog is doing the writer a huge favor. In turn, the writer must spread the word to help readers discover that blog. That’s called Fair Play, and it is what the mystery community is all about.


On Re-Reading “A Good Man Is Hard to Find”

I brought Flannery O’Connor’s collected short stories with us to the Cape last week and had the pleasure of rediscovering “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” a tragic/comic crime story by a literary writer who died much too young at age thirty-nine.

The opening vignette: Grandma is trying to persuade her son not to take the family to Florida for vacation, but to east Tennessee where she has people she’d like to visit. The old woman is rarely silent—it would be easier to stop a river from flowing than to staunch the torrent coming from her mouth—and generally ignored by her son as well as her daughter-in-law, whose face is “as broad and innocent as a cabbage.” After the old woman’s grandson rudely asks why she doesn’t just stay home, his sister responds: “She wouldn’t stay home to be queen for a day.”

So here we have a toxic family scene marked by the kind of generational warfare that occurs in other O’Connor stories. As they set off on their road trip, Grandma, dressed like a lady in case she ends up dead in an accident, dispenses unsolicited information about the speed limit, the scenery, and good manners. While in real life, we wouldn’t choose to spend five claustrophobic minutes in that car, as readers we’re compelled to keep going. I won’t risk a spoiler by divulging more about the plot except to say that O’Connor provides an ending that’s both shocking and inevitable.

As writers of short crime fiction, we know that the conventional ending is the twist, the unexpected. What O’Connor did here, and did brilliantly, is  more powerful and also more difficult given that ‘shocking’ implies ‘unexpected’ and ‘inevitable’ implies the opposite.

Curious? Click here for the full text of the story; click here for a talk O’Connor gave on the story in 1963.

Thoughts about O’Connor, endings, crime fiction by literary writers? Please share.