About Lois Karlin

Lois Karlin writes fiction and blogs at Women of Mystery. She is the founding editor of a small publishing house, Glenmere Press. As Winged Books, she provides eBook and print-on-demand services. Lois is a professional writer who for two decades has published online documentation and web copy. She has worked as a writing instructor through the Orange County Council of Arts, published "The Understudy" in the Fresh Slices (Murder New York Style) anthology, She lives in New York’s Hudson Valley.

Anne of the Fens: Giveaway Winner!

Anne of the Fens by Gretchen Gibbs

On Friday, we ran an Interview and Giveaway of Anne of the Fens  (The Bradstreet Chronicles) by Gretchen Gibbs. I’m happy to announce the winner of the free paperback copy is Anne Wein! 

Thanks to all who expressed interest in the book.  Anne of the Fens is available in paperback and ebook at all online retailers, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble,  iBookstore, Google Play Books, Kobo, Powells, Books-a-Million

You can read more about Gretchen Gibbs here and Anne of the Fens here.

What others are saying about Anne of the Fens

“Gibbs weaves a story of a young girl coping with adult feelings and questioning her religious beliefs. Anne of the Fens takes the reader on a historical journey from the marshes of England to the wilds of a new land.” ― Gayle C. Krause, author of the award nominated YA novel, Ratgirl: Song of the Viper

“Set against the dark, threatening landscape of pre-English Civil War, when men and women were hanged or burned alive for their religious beliefs, Anne of the Fens is a very quick read and easy to fall into.” ― Jenny Maloney, CriminalElement.com

“Take one part spunky adolescent, two parts woman-to-be, a generous helping of smarts, and you’ve got Gibbs’s extraordinary protagonist. Whether she’s reading forbidden literature or making her way through the dangerous fens, we are right there, rooting for her. Anne of the Fens is a breathless ride.” ― Carole Howard, author of About Face and Deadly Adagio

“With wit and an eye to sumptuous detail, Gretchen Gibbs catapults us into 1627 England. This is a terrific book, and Anne’s story is both romantic and harrowing. From its opening scene at Lincolnshire’s fair to its unpredictable end, I couldn’t put it down.” ― Donna Reis, author of No Passing Zone and Certain


Anne of the Fens: Author Chat & Giveaway

image004Last Friday I posted about Gretchen Gibbs’ newly released Anne of the Fens,  a YA historical romance. What follows is my interview with Gretchen, but first let me tell you about our Giveaway: Readers who leave a comment following this post are entered in a contest to win a paperback copy of Anne of the Fens. I’ll announce the winner on Tuesday, May 12, so check back then. (Be sure to give me some way to reach you.)

Now, here’s Gretchen, who’ll be responding to comments and questions when she returns from her morning tennis game.

Congratulations, Gretchen, on publishing Anne
of the Fens!
  I’ll start with the hardest question: I think readers most want to know why they should read your book!  
“Thanks for inviting me! I can tell you some reasons why I think readers will like Anne. First, people say it’s a page-turner, what with a secret room in a castle, a handsome scoundrel, and a chase scene through the fens, no less. Anne of the Fens by Gretchen GibbsSecond, the novel’s a love story. Who can resist a romance? Third, it’s about a fascinating woman who became America’s first poet, Anne Dudley Bradstreet. She came to the Colonies on an ocean voyage fraught with hardship, and she bore eight children under circumstances of extreme deprivation. I thought, what kind of adolescence would such a strong woman have had?”

How did you get interested in Anne Bradstreet?   “I’ve always loved poetry, but IMaggie_Cover_Thumb
discovered Anne in a different way. My first novel, The Book of Maggie Bradstreet, told the story of the Colonial witch trials from the perspective of one of my ancestors, a young woman who found herself caught up in them. Anne Bradstreet was Maggie’s grandmother, and once I had told Maggie’s story I began to get interested in Anne as a character. I owe my interest, ultimately, to my mother, who discovered we’re descendants of the Bradstreets.”

What kind of research did you do for the book?   “I read a lot about Anne; there are several good biographies, the latest by Charlotte Gordon, and a number of books about Anne’s poetry. Then I discovered that intriguing, key fact: The family emigrated because of the traitor they housed. Not much is known about her childhood, but she wrote a few things in a notebook that her own children scribbled over. (She said she had been religious, but became ‘loose from God’ at fourteen or fifteen, when she was taken over by her carnal feelings.) I also read some English history, as I was unfamiliar with Charles I and his struggles with Parliament. I’m sure most Britons know all about that period, but Americans are apt to associate the name ‘King Charles’ with a handsome breed of spaniel!”

Given that kind of unfamiliarity, was it hard to set your book in England?   “I spent some time in England, where I found myself quite taken with the fen lands. Many people love mountains, and I admire them too, but I am often drawn to flat areas; oceans and big sky country, as they say in the American West. The fens were like that; they’ve been drained and filled in dramatically in the 400 years since Anne’s harrowing adventures, but there’s still that flatness. Tattershall was the only castle made of brick I’d ever seen – warm, and beautifully restored. Nearby Boston was a great town, with a street called “Wormgate,” and St. Botolph’s church, the largest in England, if you don’t count cathedrals. Seeing it helped me visualize the book’s first scene, where Anne runs after Sarah around the corner of the church.”

So what’s next? Anne of the Fens is the second in the Bradstreet Chronicles. Will there be a third?   “I’d love to write about Anne’s great-grandfather, who was from the nobility that Anne’s father was so proud of. At fourteen, he was a British spy. He was imprisoned twice in France, escaped both times, and became a Knight of Malta, which is where he lived.”

Thank you Gretchen. You’ve given us a real feel for Anne Bradstreet and your own enthusiasm.  “It’s been fun.
I’m happy to chat about Anne.

Read more about Gretchen and her young adult historical novels at www.gretchengibbs.com.

Don’t forget to comment here for a chance to win a copy of Anne of the Fens, then check back next Tuesday for the winner.

Anne of the Fens: Romantic Suspense

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00020]I’m happy and proud as a mamma to announce the release of Glenmere Press’s latest title, Anne of the Fens, historical romantic suspense written for teens as well as adults who can’t get their hands on enough great YA fiction.

Author Gretchen Gibbs – author of The Book of Maggie Bradstreet, a novel that brought the Colonial witch trials to life for readers – now explores the life of yet another of the young Bradstreet women, both of them Gretchen’s own ancestors. Well researched and lovingly portrayed, Anne of the Fens is about the spirited young Anne Bradstreet, who as an adult became America’s first published poet, and whose work and words are honored to this day.

The story in Anne of the Fens  is one of thrilling suspense, as Anne tries to help a fugitive escape. The novel is new to The Bradstreet Chronicles, Gretchen’s series that can be read in any order.

Anne grew up in a turbulent era of religious intolerance in early 16th century England. We know a lot about her, through her poetry that became famous throughout the English-speaking world, as well as through abundant historical records about her Puritan family’s quarrels with King Charles, their flight to the New World, and the important role they played in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

Here’s a snippet from Jenny Maloney’s review of the novel on Criminal Element:

“Anne Dudley is a fifteen year old who has very little experience when it comes to trouble – that’s more her sister Sarah’s issue. Raised as a Puritan, Anne knows it is wicked to lie, cheat, steal, and lust after men. Still, she is caught in a world that is anything but Godly and pure. Her religion prohibits the reading of certain books, like William Shakespeare.  And, on the other side of things, King Charles I is demanding taxes and limiting her family’s freedom because of their religion.

When Anne discovers her father is hiding a Puritan fugitive from the King’s justice, she finds herself learning how to lie. She sneaks the man, John Holland, food. During their midnight meetings, she discovers that perhaps she feels more than just duty towards him. However, as she gets to know John and becomes better at telling lies, she starts to wonder if she isn’t being lied to.”

I asked Gretchen Gibbs to provide a bit of background for the story and explain how she came to write the novel. Next Thursday, May 7, I’ll introduce her and post our interview.

In that post I’ll also let you in on our giveaway – a contest to win a free copy of Anne of the Fens.

Book Expo America 2014: A Few From the Floor

Mystery Writers of America (MWA) at Book Expo America 2014

Faces you’ll recognize from MWA’s crowded booth.

From the perspective of the Book Expo America 2014 exhibit floor yesterday, all is going very well indeed in book land. I did my best to catch a few shots from my mobile, but what with the crowds and the juggling of bags and books, my efforts were undermined.

I attended with two Glenmere Press authors, and it was a grand coincidence that the first person we bumped into was the owner of our small town’s indie bookstore – Ye Olde Warwick Book Shoppe  – a gorgeous and recently expanded store that supports local authors as it does joyous readers who come to our town for the pleasure. On the floor at BEA, he, and we, thoroughly approved the apparent confirmation that the well-being of print books, and bookstores in general, is stabilizing.

Author signings at the MWA booth.

Regularly scheduled author signings at the MWA booth.

The so called eBook threat may still bob around at ceiling level, but you wouldn’t know it down on the floor, among the folks in healthy sized lineups waiting for free print copies and author signings.

Our friends over at MWA and RWA were enjoying mobs of readers, and they’re true pros at scheduling signings and keeping the crowds both happy and orderly.



Yet it’s true the show is experiencing undercurrents, this year as in many others, at meetings off-floor and behind the booth tables. Murmurs about Saturday’s fan-based BookCon with a childrens’ author list largely white and male. Grumblings about the deadlock between Amazon and Hachette Book Group that has incited protest from The Authors Guild and from authors hit in the crossfire.


NetGalley's booth at BEA 2014

NetGalley’s BookExpo booth

As a small publisher, I attended with a slightly different perspective. I met with my wonderful reps and marketing mentors at INscribe Digital, the fabulous eBook distributor that gives small publishers the means to achieve status at retailer sites. I checked out three of our authors’ books on the shelves of the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) booth, where I got helpful guidance from the personable and knowledgeable Terry Nathan. I also talked to the folks at NetGalley, where our books are available as e-ARCs for reviewers, booksellers, and librarians.

If you weren’t out on the floor yesterday, I encourage you to go today, or on Saturday when fan-based BookCon debuts. Be sure to pick up a copy of Publishers Weekly Show Daily, a good way to get your bearings on the day’s signings and events.

There yesterday? Going soon? Went last year? Got better pictures? Do tell!

What’s With the Book Cover Makeovers?

Harry Potter Gets a Makeover Why do authors and publishers go for the big makeover in book covers? It isn’t as if Harry Potter and Hunger Games aren’t selling. You expect new covers when there’s a switch in publisher, or with the release of a new edition that involves content changes, but otherwise, why go for a face lift when the original hasn’t aged?

In the case of the big sellers, maybe it’s simply because they can. To be sure there’s a marketing and sales angle – that bottomline to bolster. But maybe it’s also just fun to get fans excited all over again. And excited they are! Check out book cover makeovers on GoodReads and you find polls galore and heated discussions over which version is best.

Still, even for books with, ahem, more modest expectations, there are very good reasons to go for a change. No question a new cover can stir interest and increase sales, but if we’re going for improvement, what do we expect of the switch? Maybe to better give a hint of the story. Raise an intriguing question in a reader’s mind. To more precisely set a tone. Correct for gender neutrality. Go for more current design20140314_ebook_thumbnail trends. Or simply to create a design so pleasing to the eye that readers want to hang it on their walls.

Here’s one, for example: our friend Carole Howard’s About Face, currently featured on NetGalley’s “Judge a Book by its Cover” blog.

Ever wish you could trade in your old book for the edition with a new face? Ever discover a classic in gorgeous new garb?

Thanks to the LA Times for the side by side Harry Potter cover display used above.

Popup books – feeding the kid in us

Mommy? popup with art by Maurice Sendak

MOMMY? by Michael Di Capua Books – Scholastic with art by Maurice Sendak, scenario by Arthur Yorinks, paper engineering by Matthew Reinhart

I didn’t have time, Easter Day, to read to the four visiting little ones, but that’s the good thing about family. With very few exceptions – like when they were tearing around the yard finding Easter eggs or examining the compost heap – at any given moment one kid or another was draped over a grownup’s lap absorbed in “hearing” a book.

It was a beautiful thing. And when it’s not a grand holiday with a lot of cooking and cleanup to interrupt, I do have time to read to them, and I absolutely love the fact there are so many ways to do it.

Popups don’t usually make the list of book publishing media, but I think they qualify as a category. As a couple of dozen paper engineers ply their art around the world, I’m increasingly amazed by what they produce. The Sendak book shown above (I’m pleased to say it’s from my own small collection – these books are pricey!) is one example, but the 2-D image I’ve supplied hardly begins to demonstrate the experience of thumbing through one of these hand-crafted books. But hey, we’ve got video to show us what it’s like.

Whatever you think of Game of Thrones (much to appreciate there, though I don’t count myself a fan) if you haven’t been amazed by popups in the past, here’s a trailer you’ve got to watch for the popup effect. If you enjoy popup books too, I hope you’ll tell me about your favorites.

Social media overwhelm? Oh wait. . . there’s Twitter’s Fiction Festival!

Twitter Fiction Festival 2014When you’ve got a book to promote or better yet, more than one; or you’re trying to brand yourself as a writer or help readers find your book, there’s no better way to do it than social media networking. Right? Okay then!

Problem is, if you’re writing and publishing and promoting, there’s so much of it to do, and so little time. It’s a killer. Social networking invades the space and time we set aside for writing. It’s terrifically exhilarating until it isn’t. But just when you’re throwing up your hands, crying “No more! No more!” there’s the next new train to jump on. It’s exhausting.

Time to get back to telling stories. And lo, there’s a fresh new social-media way to do it!

Twitter’s upcoming Fiction Festival is for every kind of story teller, but the authors selected for featured spots alongside a group of famous authors may well be pitching ideas that transcend the written page. (And you thought you were up to date because the world can read your book on an Android or iPhone.) If you’re interested in new ways to share stories and get a lot of attention for doing so, enter your pitch by Feb. 5th and you might win a featured spot.

You don’t have to already be on Twitter or have a huge crowd of followers. And so what if your pitch doesn’t win you a showcase spot. Join in, join in, and do it anyway! You do have to be able to tell a story in 140 character segments or in photos, or six-second looping videos. Because now, of course we have Vine and Twitpic and who knows what else to make that a breeze.

During the Twitter Fiction Festival, authors have six days to tell their stories in itty bitty slices. Which of course means figuring out how to leave watchers on the edge of their seats, gasping for the next installment, which you can post in five seconds (or 5 hours, if you really must catch a few winks of sleep).

Last time around we had Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Jennifer Egan telling a Sci Fi story, and Lucy Coates telling a hundred myths in a hundred tweets written in headline form. (Read more about it at The Christian Science Monitor.)

Are you in? Do tell. And I hope you’ll come back and share pitches and plots once things get rolling on March 12.

Cathi Stoler is Keeping Secrets

Keeping-Secrets-by-Cathi-StolerOver on Criminal Element, check out the Fresh Meat review by Doreen Sheridan with a Sweepstakes giveaway of Cathi Stoler’s new book – released today! – KEEPING SECRETS, the second novel in her Laurel and Helen New York Mystery series.

Here’s Sheridan’s take on the reporter and private eye in this story about identity theft, greedy bankers and dirty politicians:

“It’s great to read a contemporary mystery with two strong female leads who are friends without being sidekicks to one another. Cathi Stoler writes about the problems faced by modern women sympathetically, but in a way that also reminds us that certain dilemmas are timeless. The burgeoning love triangle between Laurel, Matt and Aaron, for example, is echoed in Helen’s navigation of her own tricky relationships with Mike and Joe. The romances are just as colorful as the mysteries unraveled here, and just as satisfyingly resolved.”

Hop over quickly; the sweepstakes ends at 9:29 a.m. ET this Monday, November 4. All youNick-of-Time-by-Cathi-Stoler need do to enter for a chance to win a copy of Keeping Secrets and Cathi’s novella Nick of Time (out Nov. 25), an international gambler’s tale of intrigue, is make sure you’re a registered member of Criminal Elements and leave a comment at the Fresh Meat post.

DEADLY ADAGIO book giveaway winner!

Congratulations to Teralee, winner of the Carole Howard – DEADLY ADAGIO book giveaway!

We had a grand turnout of readers for our interview with Carole Howard. Each person who posted a comment was eligible to win a signed copy of Howard’s suspenseful first mystery, in which the American community in Senagal deals with the brutal murder of one of its own.

Was the murder of the Peace Corps Director’s wife in Senegal just random anti-American violence, as the official investigative team seems to think? Emily  suspects it may have been something else. She ignores everyone’s warnings that she’s putting her life in danger to find out. But it turns out they’re right.

Giveaway winner

Teralee, your signed book will arrive in the mail. Thanks for providing your contact information, and happy reading!

Don’t forget to check back often at www.womenofmystery.net for book giveaways.

Giveaway! Carole Howard’s DEADLY ADAGIO

Deadly Adagio CoverI’m happy to introduce our readers to Carole Howard, whose first mystery, Deadly Adagio, set in West Africa, was published in July by Second Wind Publishing. (Check the bottom of this post to enter the book giveaway!) The novel offers a glimpse into the private lives of Embassy families, backstage politics among members of an amateur orchestra, and a collision of cultures; all contributing to an engrossing read.

Carole, your background as violinist in a community orchestra and your life in West Africa with a Peace Corps administrator both come across in your plot and characters. Can you tell us a little about how your experience in Senegal influenced the novel?

CAROLE: Living in West Africa was a pivotal chapter in my life; I loved it; I recently realized that my overseas experiences were unusual, and that things I found “normal” were considered exotic by others. I found that spending time in other countries shaped my perspective on life, on the world, on our country, and on human values, and I hoped to communicate some of that.

How much of the story did you have in mind before you started writing it?

CAROLE: I knew I wanted it to be a mystery, and I knew I wanted it to be set in West Africa. I figured out who the murder victim was and who the murderer was. I also knew I wanted an amateur orchestra to be part of the story because most people have no idea about the shenanigans that go on behind the scenes. Then I started writing. Between writing and revising (and revising and revising), I figured out the rest. In retrospect, I think I was a bit naive. Then again, if I’d known much more than that, I don’t know that it would have been as much fun to write.

What do readers tell you they find most surprising?

CAROLE: They like having a glimpse into the Peace Corps (I’m constantly amazed that people think the Peace Corps doesn’t exist anymore!) and the day-to-day workings of the State Department. Plus, without getting into any spoilers, there’s a common tribal practice that many Westerners consider cruel. I hope I’ve shed some light on that as well.

What advice about writing helped you most?

CAROLE: Natalie Goldberg, in Writing Down the Bones, spoke of the need for experiences to be composted before she could write about them deeply and honestly. That helped me deal with the fact that when I was in Africa, I couldn’t write about it. I was paralyzed by the overpowering sensory stimulation.  But later, when I was home, it came more easily.

Your engaging voice first hit the stands in 2011, in About Face, your first novel. How did that book differ from Deadly Adagio?

CAROLE: About Face was more of a character-driven novel. The protagonist is a 50-something woman who’s trying to resolve the differences  between who she used to be (Peace Corps volunteer) and who she is (Marketing Executive), whose body is conducting its own little mutiny, and whose boss is, let’s just say, not a nice guy. It may not sound as if it’s also funny, but it is. Really.

Are you working on another book?

CAROLE: After my husband and I retired, we did five overseas volunteer assignments, each in a different developing country, each about two months.  I’m working on a travel memoir about those experiences. Let’s see now, three books, three different genres: I sure don’t make things easy for myself!

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Win a signed copy of Deadly Adagio by leaving a comment and an email address below. We’ll do a random drawing at midnight on Sunday and announce the winner next Wednesday!

You can find Carole Howard online here.