Advice to Writers

Are you familiar with the site If not, I highly recommend it. The Daily Quote of the Day is always a gem. The information on the site, “Writerly Wisdom of the Ages,” is collected by Jon Winokur. Advice to Writers also features interviews with writers.

jpg_writing400You can subscribe to email to receive a Quote of the Day, and follow Advice to Writers on Twitter @AdviceToWriters.

Another of my ‘go-to’ sites for writerly advice and inspiration is the interviews from The Paris Review. The archived interviews with authors date back to the 1950s. From Truman Capote to Dorothy Parker, Ernest Hemingway to Henry Miller, and James M. Cain to W.H. Auden, The Paris Review interviews provide hours of fascinating reading.

Do you have a favorite site for writing advice and/or writer interviews?

Follow me on Twitter @katcop13

Writing Tips from E.L. Doctorow

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The world recently lost a great literary master, E.L. Doctorow (Edgar Lawrence Doctorow ~ his parents named him after Edgar Allan Poe ~ lived from January 6, 1931, until his death at age 84 on July 21, 2015).

Here, Doctorow is giving an interview about his writing processWriting Clip Art

One of Doctorow’s most famous tips about writing: “I tell them it’s like driving a car at night: you never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

From one writer to another, Doctorow said, “Perseverance is all.”

Doctorow had many quotes about writing, including: “Good wriragtime-novel-e-l-doctorow-paperback-cover-artting is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader — not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.”

I was fortunate to have met E.L. Doctorow at the Southampton Writers Conference in 2006. He autographed a copy of The Book of Daniel for my nephew, Daniel.

Do you have a favorite E.L. Doctorow quote? (Mine is: “Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go.”)

How about a favorite book? (Mine is Ragtime).


Follow me on Twitter @katcop13.

Flannery O’Connor U.S. Postage Stamp

Author Flannery O’Connor (1925-1964) will grace a U.S. “Forever” Postage Stamp, set to debut on June 5, 2015. The stamp will also feature peacock feathers, since O’Connor raised peacocks on her family’s farm in Georgia.

This will be the 30th stamp issued in the USPS’s Literary Arts series.

WatercolorJoyce Carol Oates, however, does not think the watercolor painting resembles O’Connor.

The publishing firm Farrar, Straus & Giroux is holding a sweepstakes open to U.S. residents to win a complete set of Flannery O’Connor’s newly reissued Wise Blood, Everything That Rises Must Converge, The Complete Stories, The Violent Bear It Away, and Mystery and Manners (with covers illustrated by June Glasson and designed by Charlotte Strick), by subscribing to their FSG Work in Progress email news. The deadline to enter is 11:59 PM ET on Monday, June 22, 2015. There will be five grand prize winners.


On Twitter, you can learn more about Andalusia Farm, the historic home of Flannery O’Connor in Milledgeville, Georgia; or “like” the farm’s page on Facebook.

Listen to a rare audio of Flannery O’Connor reading, “A Good Man Is Hard To Find,” ~ my favorite short story of all time.

Late-breaking news: Minnesota artist Chris Larson takes on Flannery O’Connor in opera, “Wise Blood,” by Gregory J. Scott in the StarTribune. If I lived in Minneapolis, I wouldn’t miss this production at the Soap Factory!

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Follow me on Twitter @katcop13.

Come Visit Me at MYSTERICAL-E

I am delighted to announce that the magnificent  Christine Verstraete interviewed me for an Author Snapshot in the latest issue of MYSTERICAL-E. We talked about the past, the future, characters and settings. The article even includes a tiny excerpt from the soon to be released Caught Read-Handed.


So, pop on over to MYSTERICAL-E, where you’ll find some great short stories and articles including an Author Snapshot that I hope you’ll enjoy.


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

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.

Here and There on the Internet

Mangeot giveaway


If you are interested in a chance to win a signed copy of the April (signed by me) and the May (signed by Robert Mangeot) issues of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine click on through to Robert’s Facebook page and message him. You can say “Hi” or “Hitchcock” or “Taxes”, whatever and your entry will be valid. Just let him know of your interest by 7 pm central time tonight for a chance to win. If you are not on Facebook you can comment on Bob’s website. As a last resort, you can leave a comment on this post but you really should visit Bob’s website to read his hilarious explanation of how this giveaway came to be.

WellRead_2Once you’ve entered and are sitting around strumming your fingers on the arm of your chair waiting to find out if you won, I have something else that can fill in your time.

The fabulous and prolific writer B. K. Stevens, author of the newly released Interpretation of Murder, has begun a blog called The First Two Pages. She invites writers to talk about the first two pages of the project of their choice and lucky duck that I am, this is my week.

Click on over to visit the blog and I’ll tell you how the first two pages of Well Read, Then Dead morphed from not bad to so much better.

See you around the internet.


Making the Best Seller List

thLike most writers I know, i’d love to see my name on the Best Seller list. We work hard to make our stories interesting and compelling. We find our voice and create plots with amazing characters (at least to us) who inhabit terrific settings. Stories we hope will rack up the sales and offer us fame and fortune so that one day, our names will be on The List.

In an interview with Sophie Kinsella, author of the Shopaholic series,the BBC News Entertainment and Arts section listed the author’s Ten Tips for being a Best Selling Author. From starting a story and getting to the end to finding an agent, her advice can help with navigating the road to that elusive Best Seller list.

What about you? Any tips you’d like to share?

More Giveaways


Today I am being interviewed by Anna over at Cozy Mystery Book Reviews.  We talk about food,movies, music, shopping and, of course, books.

Since it is the season of giving of course there are prizes. Hop on over, make a  comment and you just may win a Well Read, Then Dead tee shirt.


And if you visit Lisa K’s Book Reviews there may be a free copy of our Sisters in Crime Chapter Anthology, Murder New York Style: Family Matters in your future. Take a look. It is easy to enter.

Good luck to you all.


How to Moderate an Author Panel (well, one way)

How-To-Moderate-An-Author-PanelThere is, actually, NO single, right way to moderate an author panel, so I’m offering my own thoughts only. Many outstanding moderators and panelists view it differently, but here’s my take on both roles. By the time you read this, I may be already moderating my first panel of three at this year’s Bouchercon *gulp*

Like many people, I do get nervous in advance of public appearances. I still get jitters–not cripplingly, but notably–even after doing a lot of them and even though I enjoy doing them. That’s because I want things also to go well this time, and you can’t know whether it worked until it’s all done, like a manuscript. Part of my insuring things go well is that I have a clear idea of my own rationale for such appearances. It’s served me well enough so far, and I stick to it. Whether you think my tips have merit, finding any approach you like for such situations (since like public readings, author panels are something fiction writers are encouraged to do) and being consistent will help provide a buffer against anxiety.


Alfred Hitchcock interviewed by Dick Cavett

AS A MODERATOR: When I’m asked to moderate, I approach it like the authors are showing up to do the Dick Cavett show. I pick Cavett as an example, though I wasn’t alive for his whole run. But in interviews I’ve seen (and there are a bazillion worth watching online–just search), he comes across as upbeat and well-versed, confident, but with a light touch that keeps the focus on the guests. That is a smooth quality, IMO, so that’s what I try to be: an engaged, friendly person who’s done enough homework to offer the authors a positive and interesting way to showcase their work.

Now, I don’t have a team of research assistants or junior production staff, but I’m blessed by the times. For bios and book info, I’ll search. If there’s a featured interview online or guest post, I’ll find it. So, the only info I ask from authors is to let me know if there’s a specific question I should or should not ask, and whether their online materials are correct. I’ll always mention their latest publications or endeavors–that’s what will most likely be available in the book room after all–but occasionally, there’s something specific to an audience’s interest or something late-breaking that ought also to be part of their intro. There are also occasionally landmines (could be contractual or related to partnerships or series) or sensitivities (a recent online contretemps or blow-up) that an author wishes to dodge in panel conversation. I can’t control the audience Q&A, but I can and will steer clear of such things myself if notified. Yes, the latest tempest may be the most recent topic of interest, but I’m there for the work first.

I do read a lot a material for panels, but probably not an author’s entire bibliography and maybe not even to The End of the latest novel. My goal is to get enough of a feel for anything I don’t know yet (since I’ve already got some major genre mileage on my eyeballs) that I can harvest it for questions. I frequently use an author’s words, quoted in brevity, as a launch pad for my questions. If I want to ask questions about characters, I’ll read a sentence of the novel’s description about the protagonist. Humor? I’ll quote from a a funny interview the author gave. I make these quotes brief, and I mean brief, because the mod should never be the focus for too long. But when I’m spring-boarding from the author’s own work or words, I’m always confident of being on-topic. Talk To Me About Your Work is my mantra. It’s the source, the wellspring, the safe harbor to which I will return for questions again and again.

Attention-Please-Hurry-UpNow, backing up some, even if supplied the text by authors or their websites, I may need to cut panel introductions down. If you recall my How to Read Fiction Aloud post, when reading material for an audience, I’m at the pace of about 150 words/minute. Therefore, I like an author intro that’s no longer than 30 seconds, about half that time, or about 75 words at max. Why? 30 seconds can seem like a plenty loooong time to simply be reading from your notes, but audiences aren’t there to hear me, and they won’t recall all the fine details anyway. In fact, because of this, rather than introduce everybody all in a row at once, blab, blab, blab… I like to give the intro at the time when I ask each author the first question. To me, this links their bio more memorably to the question and response. Think of it like a cinematic establishing shot. (Yes, I may ask general questions for the whole panel’s response later, but I always start with an intro and question for each individual. ) To some people, this approach seems weirder than rattling all the intros off at once, but I think it gives each author’s intro pride of place, attention right at the time they can respond to it, like a natural conversation. YMMV. To condense bios, I may summarize a list of by-name awards down to “three lifetime achievement awards from international organizations.” It’s easier to recall, still sounds impressive, and lets us swiftly get onto the conversation.

I do try to retain anything unusual from the bio that will help the author stick in the mind, however, especially for those building series and careers. So sue me, I’d rather mention your parents’s ostrich ranch than each of the titles of your past four books. If I mention the series name or protagonist, interested readers can and will look up the book list themselves, but they’ll be more likely to remember they wanted to if they can mentally link your name, series, and the interesting detail of a growing up on an ostrich ranch. And since I got all that from your online materials (right?), a general search of “cozy mystery bike shop ostrich ranch” will bring your site right to the top of the list. Ta-da, your prospective reader has found you, even if the convention program and schedule get lost.

Let’s suppose your sadly impoverished bio has no ostrich ranch, no, don’t bother making one up. I’m most focused, as the audience will be, on having the conversation. Without doubt, it’s the conversation that audiences remember most of all! Casual, pithy, relevant remarks are the ones that get recalled and retold. As moderator, I’m trying to give the maximum opportunity for a conversation that feels unique to the time and place and crowd, something candid, not canned. This becomes increasingly important with authors and audiences that have a lot of panels in their pasts. I’ve heard about every crime fiction topic ever invented, I’d guess, but I still leave grinning after terrific panels. While at the dais, IMO, the moderator and panelists should work together to cultivate a spontaneous, genuine feeling and to promote generous participation (and that’s whether the topics are funny or deadly serious, or even feel at the outset to be threadbare or misconceived). That authenticity and goodwill happen in the moment. It’s not necessarily related to any advance cramming, it’s about enjoying the experience in real-time, about making the most of sharing with like-minded fans. For an audience, that creates a positive emotional impression of the experience that will outlast the details.

talk-micAS A PANELIST: Please speak right into the mic (but don’t yell) with genuine enthusiasm about your own work. If you don’t seem to care, who else will? Yes, yes, many authors are introverted and shy by nature. But, if you can sit in the dentist’s chair for an hour and resist the urge to fight back, you can overcome your other natural instincts long enough to smile for people who may actually want to invite your work into their imaginations and pay you for it!  That said, here are some of my Pet Peeves for Panelists:

1) If there’s a great story you like to tell, please don’t use the same verbiage or punch line unless it’s popular enough to be a t-shirt and people expect it. Do feel free to allude to the fact you’re aware the audience may have heard it before. In stuffy conference rooms, and especially after lunch, eyes glaze over with lusterless repetition. Make sure it’s really worth the risk to jam in that old chestnut. Didn’t something silly happen with your neighbor’s dog and the laundry last week? Survey your family’s Facebook stories, and find a way to work them in–you’re a creative liar, remember? You can always ask your friendly mod (yes, ask me!) to bring up the subject The question might be a set-up, like in a late-night talk show, but your having fresh material to share and discuss is more important.

2) If your work is a really bad fit for the panel you’re on (which definitely happens), grousing about that or other conference logistics during the panel will only make you look like a sourpuss. Your gripes may be well-founded, but is the impression you want to leave with prospective readers that you’re person who’s a drag to spend time with? Or instead, if you’re inviting readers into your written adventures of life-and-death and injustice, is there a chance you could, for the short-term, embrace a bold and adventurous can-do attitude yourself?


Even if nerves make you chatty, don’t get labeled as a glory hog.

3) Don’t steal all the airtime. As an audience member, you already know how much you hate when this happens, but be especially aware if you’re a habitual blatherer when nervous. *my hand is raised* No one, not your mother or your literary agent, wants to hear all the details of the dream in three acts you had the night before you started writing your novel. “I got the idea during a nightmare” is perfectly interesting (and Tweetable) and leaves the audience wanting to know more, not wishing you’d wrap it up. Don’t get so caught in your own head that you fail to look at anyone else–they’ll give you cues to their interest. Also, if I’m doing my mod job right, after you open an interesting topic, I can invite your follow-up or check if another panelist has had a similar experience, leading to an expanded discussion. We’re with you then, captivated, not simply held captive.

4) Your opinions are yours. Yes, you should share them (re: that authenticity I keep harping on about), but as your personal convictions and from your perspective, always leaving respectful room for disparate views–there are plenty, which is what makes life and fiction entertaining.

So many panels fail in just these simple aspects, that I can guarantee if a panel session feels genuine and collegial (of whatever style the moderation or topic or authors), people will tell you it was a great panel. Really! Take my word for it, and see you at the next panel!

Talk to me mic image via ShizzleDizzleMagic‘s 9 tips for public speaking.

GGM eBooks Are Coming!

Gabriel García Márquez fans, rejoice!

On October 15, 2014, nine of Nobel laureate García Márquez’s translated works will be available digitally in the United States — for the first time.

Love in the Time of Cholera coverAmong the eBooks being released by Penguin Random House Imprint Vintage Books include Love in the Time of Cholera and Chronicle of a Death Foretold (Read my 2011 post when GGM won his 17-year-long legal battle regarding Chronicle). 

100 yrs of solitude coverNot all of Gabriel García Márquez’s translated works will be available. It doesn’t include English e-book rights for his epic 1967 novel One Hundred Years of Solitude (the rights of the English Language version are held by HarperCollins).

Gabriel García Márquez, the Master of Magic Realism, passed away at age 87 on April 17, 2014, in Mexico City, Mexico.

My fellow blog-mate, Dorothy Hayes, wrote about GGM after his passing, and how he influenced her writing.

The Paris ReviewFor a real treat, check out Peter H. Stone’s interview with Gabriel García Márquez in the Paris Review – The Art of Fiction No. 69; GGM revealed his inspirations; his influences; his writing schedule; the genesis of all of his writing; and so much more.

Follow me on Twitter @katcop13.