When Do You Beta?

Beta image by Arturo D. Castillo on Flickr. Creative Commons license, unaltered.Not long ago, I sent off my Gothic to some beta readers. After I did, I read a couple of comments on writerly loops about the fact that they use beta readers as a final check on their books and I suddenly panicked. Not because I think they’re right (I don’t think there’s a “right” way to write a book — you get feedback when it works for you) but because I thought these poor people who’d said they would beta were going to expect a book that was basically finished.

Spoiler alert: it’s not.

Perhaps I ought to call my readers Alpha readers. The things I want from betas are not that useful after the book is in its final form. I want them to tell me where they’re bored, where they want more of something. I want them to say “this scene needs to be longer,” or “that scene should go away entirely.” If they find a character unbelievable, or they figure out the villain too soon, or they recognize a MacGuffin, those things will have a huge effect on the revisions I do to the book.

For me, beta-ing takes place at the same time as developmental editing, not at the same time as copy editing.

How about you? Do you beta? If so, when?

Publishing and Promoting Your Book

At a writer’s conference, on Saturday, at the Ferguson Public Library in Stamford, Connecticut, my home town, several writers and I, on a panel, were asked to address the subject of getting your work published.

My own story started with a self-published book in 2006 and then my first traditionally published book in 2013 and then another in 2015.

After two hours of discussion the conclusion was that there is no easy way. But, writers have more options today, and the general message to writers in the audience of about sixty, was to never give up. If you want your book published, you can do it.

Self-published books, once called “vanity press” are now dubbed the more respectful label, “Indie Books.” Publishers Weekly who wouldn’t once give them a glance back about nine years ago, now have a book review section for Indie Books. Larger presses, who were impossible to reach without an agent, now have Ebook versions of books and are more welcoming to unknown writers. Libraries who wouldn’t invite an author who self-published, now are more accepting. Agents advised that once you do get a book traditionally published keep secret your self-published book, if you have one.

Times have changed since 2006 when I self-published my book Animal Instinct, it is no longer a stigma to self-publish it is a badge of self-confidence, and you should even tell your traditional publisher about it, agents now advise.

Once in print, joining Yahoo book clubs was the one solid suggestion as a way to promote. If you are with a large press or small press it is the author who will take the book to the public through every available promotional venue, digital or otherwise, unless he or she is a well-known brand.

What have you found to be the best form of promotion? Is social media working for you?

Do you advertise on Facebook?

Caught Read-Handed at a reduced price!


Caught Read-Handed is STILL at a reduced price on Amazon. Amazing but true! I am sure the price reduction will disappear soon so if you are interested in getting a copy of for yourself or a someone who you know loves to read beachy cozy mysteries, now is the time. Click here for the purchase link.

And as an added Monday morning treat, here is a picture of Fort Myers Beach, setting of the Read ’Em and Eat mysteries.


The pier at the foot of Times Square


On the (Guest Blog) Road Again

It’s almost here. In less than a month, my new book, Brooklyn Secrets, will be out in the world. I am appropriately excited and nervous. It was a harder book to write than I expected and while I hope I succeeded, who knows? Brooklyn Secrets Cover

So I am sidetracking anxiety by immersing myself in publicity activities. We are supposed to do that anyway, so it serves two purposes. Here’s what I am up to over the next month plus.

Guest Blogging dates for now. I’d be happy to do more. I have topics for some as I write this somewhat in advance.

11/5 Jungle Reds. Stretching as a Writer (see above)
11/17 Crime Writers Chronicle
11/30 Bookbrowsing (PJ Nunn)
12/2 Auntie M
12/7 Lori Rader-Day (Lori asks the questions)
12/8 CnC Books Blog
12/10 Wicked Cozy Are my Books Cozies?
12/TBA Dru’s Book Musing Day in the Life

Will I run out of things to say? Not at all likely. I am a talkative person, in real life or on paper (using “paper” loosely!) Will I run out of things worth saying? Hmmm

There are also a few events:

Launch (!!!)

December 3. At New York’s well-known Mysterious Bookshop, at 6:30. 298327_268242919874769_957023598_n

Naturally you are all invited. There will be interesting talk. Friendly folks. And cookies that look like the book cover! Somewhat like this: rec logo big

Brooklyn Public Library

I have finally succeeded in making the right contacts there. (There are disadvantages in living in a city with a writer on every street corner. Librarians and bookstores are not necessarily excited about one being a “local” author). However:

Dec 8 I will be a guest at the Brooklyn Collection, part of their monthly programs on Brooklyn history, which is exciting and appropriate.

TBA later: I am hoping to connect also with the historic Stone Avenue branch of the library, the setting of some crucial scenes in Brooklyn Secrets. stone02_bc

Revising and Revising

I find it worth examining the reason why I had to spend two weeks writing Chapter 19 of Invest In Death, my current Newport Mystery book-in-progress.

My writing method is fairly standard. I begin by making sure I know what I want to say in the chapter I am about to write. How, as the movie people like to ask, does this scene advance the story. Only when I know what I want to say, and believe it makes sense to say it in this chapter, am I ready to begin writing.

I expect the resulting first written draft to be rough, which it always is, and to contain way too many words, which it always does.

My next step is to print what I have written, take my felt tip pen in hand (I alternate using the black one and the red one to keep all the changes easier to decipher) and cross out the many instances of my using more words than I need to express myself. I replace adjectives, adverbs, nouns, including the word just which I find impossible not use at least five times a page.

After this is done, I need to cleanse my mind of these pages so I put them aside and do something else. I may leave my office to check if the dryer cycle has ended and laundry must be folded or if the cats need to be fed. It might even be my lunch time.

Once I’ve cleared out my head, I return to my office and with fresh eyes read the recently written chapter, always finding more words to change, a few paragraphs to move into a different order, and surprisingly a lot more words, even whole paragraphs that need to be crossed out.

Reading the pages aloud usually comes next with – you guessed it – more crossed out words and replaced vocabulary.

All this revising of my draft generally takes two or three days. With Chapter 19, unaccountably, the process I’ve described wouldn’t end: I couldn’t stop revising. As the days wore on I was beginning to feel like The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. The more I carried the words away, the more there seemed to be too many of them, and the wrong ones at that.

IMG_0736 (2)

I came to feel like the sorcerer’s apprentice as I furiously deleted words from my draft.


For a week I wrote and re-wrote, revised and edited. I had to resort to using a green felt tip pen because I had so made so many corrections on my draft. The more I worked at it, the more dissatisfied I was with Chapter 19. Yet the concept of the chapter, what I wanted the scene to contribute to the book, was exactly what I wanted. I just wasn’t finding the right words to communicate my ideas.

I began the second week of working on the intractable chapter.

In between revisions I washed all the scatter rugs in the house. I frequently went out to see if the mail was here even though the window in my office overlooks the mail box – I can not only see the mail truck when it comes, but hear its distinctive acceleration as it circles around our cul-de-sac. The cats got fed extra food.

Then, it began to happen. At last I was beginning to feel that I was wrestling Chapter 19 into shape. Finally the words coming out of the characters’ mouths – it is primarily a scene between two of the suspects – started to sound like what I had wanted them to say all along.

The infamous Chapter 19

The infamous Chapter 19

As I write this, I am now finishing up the draft of Chapter 20, a process which has taken only my customary few days of work and the result of which generally pleases me. I am definitely relieved that I’m not losing my writing grip.

When I stepped back to ask myself why Chapter 20 fell into place so easily and #19 didn’t, I discovered something. The action in #20 focused on my three continuing characters: Caroline, my amateur detective; Hank, my police detective; and Caroline’s mother-in-law Louise.

And this is what finally led me to what realize what caused my problems with Chapter 19.

Although I had created my two suspects and given them the obligatory bios all the characters get, it came to me that I didn’t know Scott and Jason as human beings very well. When I look back on my first drafts of Chapter 19, I realize that I was still in the process of getting to know them. I was writing a pivotal scene in my story, and I hadn’t known how Jason and Scott were going to react. I had thought I knew, but it turns out I didn’t.

It was only when I got them talking about several aspects of the case that I was able to work out meaningful actions and reactions. I had to hear them talk to one another so I could hear in my head that what these two men were doing in the chapter wasn’t working. With my countless rewrites their dialog and actions improved. They began to be the characters I wanted them to be.

Now going forward in the book, Scott and Jason are stronger and definitely more interesting. I’m looking forward to writing the next chapter in which they appear, singly or together. I can’t wait to hear what they have to say for themselves.

Literary Gifts for the Holidays

If you stepped into any retail stores on November 1, you probably noticed the holiday jpg_pumpkin_vector_image_031citems already available for sale, and holiday decorations adorning said stores as well. We barely blew the candles out in our jack-o-lanterns, or sorted through the Halloween candy, while the stores were busy changing over from Halloween to Christmas and other December holidays. They’re not even waiting ’til after Thanksgiving!

Shopping Choices catalogs 1Also, my letter carrier has been delivering catalogs every day. Most offer free shipping if you place an order of a certain amount by a certain date.

Every year I promise myself I will start preparing for the holidays early, and then be able to enjoy the year-end parties and gatherings instead of shopping and wrapping.

Here’s my chance!

I’ve been perusing some literary gift sites and thought I’d share them with my fellow Women of Mystery and our dear readers.

The Literary Gift CMugompany offers literary gifts, and then specifically, gifts for writers.

Etsy, of course, has unique literary gifts.

Notonthehighstreet.com has 142 items listed on their site when searching “literary gifts.”

Redbubble.com has over 1,700 items listed as Literary Gifts and Merchandise.

Ebookfriendly.com posts, “50 best literary gifts for a modern-day book lover.”

Do you plan on ordering holiday gifts online, shopping in stores, or both? Cafepress.com has pages of literary gifts!jpg_FHH0208

Do you plan on ordering holiday gifts online, shopping in stores, or both? Happy shopping!


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