Writing Inspiration

I had no idea how important other writers would be to me when I began my journey as a mystery writer. At one point, I almost gave up writing my first mystery, Murder at the P&Z. But then I went to a meeting of Sisters-in-Crime, the Tri-State, New York City Chapter. By the time I left, no doubt dwelled in my mind about the book, I couldn’t wait to finish it.

What made the difference? The energy in the room from all the other writers who were in all stages of making their dreams come true, including those who had published series of books to those budding authors. Then we went out to dinner and the supportive conversation continued.

I was with kindred spirits. And so too, being a contributing writer for Women of Mystery.Net. It also fed my author’s spirit and gave me a means of communicating with other writers, and a platform to introduce my new books to readers.

Now I’m working on my third book in the Carol Rossi Mystery Series, the first two published by Mainly Murder Press. Although writing is an isolating venture, we don’t do this alone. We have our beta readers, our writing groups, our blogs, our editors, our publishers, our wonderful libraries who also serve as a platform for our new releases.

At a time when we give thanks for our blessings, I’d like to give mine to all the above.

 

 

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?

Henning Mankell: “An Honorable Man”

It is as though I’ve lost a very good friend in the death of Henning Mankell today, October 5, 2015. He created the internationally known, fictional Swedish detective, Kurt Wallander, and was an honorable man, as many have commented, for he wanted to right the wrong.

Henning-Mankell-in-Visby--007His books delivered me to Ystad, Sweden an area where most of his stories took place, featuring Kurt Wallander. Mankell was a writer who wanted to make sense of the world for his readers, that’s how he described his writing in an author’s note. Kurt Wallander was one “instrument.”

He had many such instruments, as The Guardian noted today in his obituary. “Mankell was always bemused to be known in the UK and US as a cop novelistwhich was a misunderstanding for his writings including 20 historical, literary and political novels and a series for children.” The Guardian wrote also that, “he was a prolific journalist and theatre-maker who wrote more plays than Shakespeare in a theatrical career so industrious that he often spent half the year in Africa, co-running the Teatro Avenida in Maputo since 1987 and undertaking much charitable and campaigning work, especially in education about HIV/Aids.

Henning Mankell was courageous as his fictional character, Wallander, in 2010 he joined “a flotilla of Swedish ships attempting to deliver aid to Gaza, his boat was ambushed by Israeli troops and he was at one point reported dead, although he was only arrested,” The Guardian reported.

Prolific and varied a writer that he was, the author of forty novels and forty plays, according the The New York Times and The Guardian, but what brought Mankell the most fame, selling forty million copies around the world, was his eleven book series on the Swedish police detective Kurt Wallander, which no doubt contributed to his image as a crime fiction writer.

The Guardian mentioned that he was “A leading figure in the so-called “Nordic noir” genre, exploring the darker side of Sweden and providing a counterpoint to the country’s image as a relatively crime-free society.”

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Kenneth Branagh played Kurt Wallander for the BBC series, and so did Swedish actors, Rolf Lassgard, and Kristen Henriksson. Mankell noted that they had done a highly personalized depiction of his character and he was “honored’ by their portrayals.images

He stopped writing about Wallander while it was still fun, he said in an author’s note at in his novel, An Event In Autumn: In his own words: 

“But I don’t regret a single line of the thousands of lines I wrote about Wallander. I think the books live on because in many ways they are a reflection of what happened in Sweden and in Europe in the 1990s and the first decade of the twenty-first center. They are novels of Swedish unrest, as I used to call the series of books about Wallander.” images-1

When he heard he had lung cancer and it had spread to other parts of his body, he chronicled his decline in a series of articles. He remarked that he never lost hope in the future and that he was satisfied with his life.

This is about the best possible outcome as our lives come to a close and we take that long look back.

He chronicled his decline from lung cancer.

He chronicled his decline from lung cancer.

Brave and honorable human beings such as Henning Mankell live on inspiring us in our own works and deeds.

 

Writing Organically

Stephen King does it, he writes organically, and another writer a little lower on the popularity scale, myself, and of course many others.

The First Writer and Editor: 'Take out that part?! Are you nuts? How is the stampede scene at the end of the cave going to make sense without it?!'

The First Writer and Editor: ‘Take out that part?! Are you nuts? How is the stampede scene at the end of the cave going to make sense without it?!’

A recent conversation with my sister revealed that people don’t know what the heck you’re talking about when you say you write organically. I told my sister that “nothing much was happening in my story,” and she delivered a long silence followed by “well?”

The most common reaction to my stories, although I’ve addressed organized crime and human trafficking, is that they are a “fun read.” That was kind of mysterious to me given the heavy subject matter. Then I realized that my books are like many others, they are adventures.

That’s always what I wanted them to be.

Of course, I place myself in my characters’ emotional lives and the physical movements and thought process begins and that’s what keeps the plot moving along. My research on the subject matter usually provides information for the reactions of my characters in a given situation.

If the plot gets stuck, for some reason or another, I just keep plowing along meaning my protagonist continues to do what she’s doing until another element pops up, or some event occurs to change the course of her actions. Which means I focus on another character and that character makes a surprising move and my protagonist reacts.

I also begin with a vision or two. Then I write to the vision, they usually reveal themselves in the course of the research on the chosen subject. I write to make the visions believable when the reader finally reaches them. But, I have no idea how the heck I’m going to get there, that depends on the research, the motives and the personalities of the characters.

Many wonderful writers, other than Stephen KIng, do a complete and detailed outline before they start. One new writer asked me how I began if I had no outline. I usually pick a subject I’m interested in, and what I think is a good move for my protagonist that has to do with research into the publishing business as well. Then my protagonist is fashioned by my own experience, sticking to that principle that you write about what you know. Endless details are the blood of your story, generally you don’t know them if you write about a subject you know little about even given the research.

I was an investigative reporter and so is Carol Rossi, my protagonist. A character, a subject and we’re off to the races.

I can see trying, however, to branch into subjects you know little about.

Do you do outlines?

Do you stick to what you know?

 

 

 

Selling Books-Amazon Reviews

What efforts do you make to reach the reader to introduce them to your work?

Unknown-1Jenny Milchman takes herself on a book tour and has done so with huge success. I’ve done my smaller tour with book signings hosted by my family. I talk to rotaries, and libraries.

Online, I keep in touch with several blogs on a daily basis. Does Goodreads help? I find its site confusing, but that could just be me. Linked-in?

I’ve gotten forty Amazon reviews for my March release, Broken Window, many from those I don’t know, but there is also a fair share of those who I’ve asked to post a review once they read Broken Window.

But do the reviews help? Does Amazon push your book more? I know at least two reviewers focused on writing Amazon reviews, I was glad to get a fine review from them.

I love the libraries and I’ve not been to a book store yet.

What’s your secret to reaching the reader?

When do you see a difference in the sales, or do you?

Speaking Techniques

I told an official of a local rotary on the day I was there to give a presentation that I was not a speaker, that I was a writer. But we have to do both. Although I’ve picked up some technique, it’s still a puzzle at times.Unknown-3

Are they really interested in what I’m talking about? I ask myself that as I look around the room while speaking.

I know I can find this in a book, but I thought I’d ask sister and brother writers what works for them.

For instance, do you look at those you are speaking to, or not?

If it’s a business group, do you still talk as if you’re addressing a crowd at the library telling them where your idea for your latest book came from and how you go about getting it down on paper, and more, how you got it published? Unknown-1

My last address to business people was about how I carved out a career as a novelist. I had a good time. I kept it short and then asked for questions. I joked and they joked back. It worked that time but will it work the next time?

Any suggestions?

 

 

Kurt Wallander: Your Best Friend

Henning Mankell’s main character becomes your best friend, that is one of the secrets of this internationally famous mystery writer and his protagonist, Kurt Wallander. Unknown-2If you haven’t read him, you might have seen the Kurt Wallander BBC productions on PBS staring Kenneth Branagh. He is also played by star, Krister Henriksson, in a Scandinavian production. Unknown-1

Kurt Wallander is someone you want to spend your free time with, in any case. He’s provocative, a brilliant crime solver, and is moving ahead with heart and not always with caution as he solves mysteries in his beloved Sweden.

A recurring theme is to be true to yourself to offer to the world what and who your are. His personal life is in shambles because he fights crime and the victims are upper most in his mind, trying to stop killers from killing again, his priority. Since his youth, he wanted to be a cop, he doesn’t know why he chose this career as his life’s work, but that’s who he is at heart.

Wallander makes costly mistakes there too. His frailties, however, only endear him to us, we see him as human, we relate to not being able to handle everything perfectly in a time of crisis, in particular. How we push things aside to do what is most important at the time, and we pay for it later.

Mankell taught me as a writer, to talk to your reader as if he or she is sitting next to you. Yet, your work should focus on an issue first, one that is bigger than the character, in particular, if you’re writing police procedures, or in my case, investigative reporting, which is what I do in my Carol Rossi Mystery Series;Rossi is second to the issue at hand.

Wallander fights the issues of prejudice against immigrants in Sweden in Faceless Killers. He openly speaks of an unrest in Sweden in dealing with immigrants as inspiration for Faceless Killers. Sidetrack addresses human trafficking, how wealthy influential men imported and abducted young women holding them as sex slaves, some even abusing their own daughters.poster_sidetracked

In The Fifth Women Mankell addresses domestic violence towards women by writing a revenge tale of a daughter of an abused woman brutally killing abusive men, to name a few of his plots.

But it is Kurt Wallander’s voice, steady, sure and fallible that a reader falls in love with. He’s that friend who is always at your side, when you need him; and he stands for what is right with the world, a true valiant fighter for justice sacrificing himself at every turn.

 

 

Book Signing; A Family Affair

My family, in Bluffton, South Carolina, invited friends, neighbors and clients to a book signing party for Broken Window. We had fun and sold books.

One of my daughters and husband and two of my fourteen grandchildren

My daughter, Lauren, and her husband, Don, and two of my fourteen grandchildren, Faith and Hannah.

The picture is taken in the beautiful house of my granddaughter, Hannah, and her husband, Mike. She’s the one holding a copy of Broken Window while I take the picture.

Having too much fun, we forgot to take pictures while the book signing was going on two days before.

Hopefully, at the moment, people who would never have read Broken Window are reading it, and more, at least a couple are purchasing Murder at the P&Z, the first book in the Carol Rossi Mystery Series published by Mainly Murder Press.

The local library was fully booked for the summer for author talks when I called. My daughter, Lauren, and granddaughter, Joy, did the major work and I can’t thank them enough for it.

Why did I become a writer? One of the guests asked me that question and we were off to the races for a nice give and take talk.

 

 

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.

 

 

It’s a Thrill to Hear the Trill

Spizella_passerina_186_edit_web-248x300It’s summer, well almost, in the Northeast and it’s a thrill to just listen to the birds. Outside the sliding glass doors of our condo is a courtyard filled with trees, bushes and a huge evergreen that I call the mother tree for all the birds that live there and stay protected during the cold winters. We are on the second story of the building and the mother tree rises way above us past the third story and the roof.

Now the fountain is running and the local birds, wrens, robins, cardinals, mockingbirds, and doves, to name a few and of course the migratory birds, stop by for a drink, bathe, and sing and by all means bring spring and summer inside our homes with their music.

With quavering or vibratory sounds they sing notes as clear as any flute. Reflections of our own joy is in the music; the flowers are in bloom, the grass is green, and the birds are singing.

Trills, so soothing to the mind, so peaceful for the heart and soul.