Handwritten Letters: Redux

I wanted to re-post my first post when I joined Women of Mystery in 2009. It remains one of my favorites. I hope you enjoy it!DSCN1543-1

It’s truly an honor and a privilege to be joining my fellow “Sisters in Crime” on the Women of Mystery blog. My heartfelt gratitude to the talented writers for inviting me along; I’m thrilled to be here.

Nearing the first anniversary of the death of their only son, I wrote a letter to a former coworker and his wife. A handwritten letter, not a typed one. I lost my 37 year old brother in 2001, and I know how it feels when anniversaries approach, especially that first one. The man who lost his talented clarinetist son in a tragic car ajpg_pancilhand-2ccident called me to say how touched they were. “No one writes handwritten letters anymore,” he said.

Afterward, I thought about some of the handwritten letters of my past.

In Mrs. Luciano’s fourth grade class at St. Patrick’s School in Huntington in 1970, we wrote letters to soldiers in Vietnam. Two soldiers responded, and I will never part with those letters.

jpg_correspondenceDuring my teen years, I had as many as fifty pen pals. I remember the most letters I ever received in one day — fourteen. Most of my pen pals were fellow Osmond Brothers fans. Kindred spirits find a way to be together, I guess. Besides, what kid doesn’t like to receive mail?

In the late 1970s, I chose “Ethnic Studies” as one of my electives at Huntington High School, specifically for the long-term project: a family tree. Upon learning that my mom knew little of her Irish roots, she suggested that I write to her Aunt Mary.jpg_tree-of-life-and-love

Aunt Mary’s five-page response sparked a flame that’s been burning for over two decades. Genealogy became a passion for me, as well as my mom and my Uncle Jimmy. Our obsession has taken us to Ireland, Pennsylvania, and New York City; to libraries, cemeteries, and genealogy research centers — and to think it all started with a letter. It’s amazing how much we still glean from Aunt Mary’s letter.

In 1979, I wrote a letter to Andy Gibb asking him to take me to my prom. I never heard back; I guess he just didn’t want to be my everything.

My mom wrote to her Aunt Gert in 1980 in search of family photos. Aunt Gert wrote back to say that she had packed the photos away, “in a rare fit of domestic activity,” and wasn’t sure where they were.

Gert remarked, “I know one of these days they’ll come to light (like the Dead Sea Scrolls, Tut-Ank-Amen’s Tomb, Veronica’s Veil and Howard Hughes’ will), but at the moment I think it would take the combined efforts of the FBI, Scotland Yard and Interpol to give me the faintest clue. I know the day will come when suddenly my hand will touch a crumbling cardboard box and upon opening it and seeing the contents, I’ll stagger back and shriek, ‘Eureka!’, rush to the phone and dial your number and say, ‘It’s all yours, baby, come and get it.’ Until then, darling, bear with me, I beseech you.”

She could have written, “I’m not sure where they are, but when I find them, I’ll let you know,” but I’m so glad she didn’t. Aunt Gert’s letter is a gem.

Do you still write handwritten letters? Are there certain letters from your past that you won’t part with? Is it a lost art?
Follow me on Twitter @katcop13

Sunday Sentence

I’m participating in David Abrams’ project, Sunday Sentence, from his blog, The Quivering Pen, in which, “Simply put, the best sentence(s) I’ve read this past week, presented out of context and without commentary.”

“Poets, like detectives, know the truth is laborious: it doesn’t occur by accident, rather it is chiseled and worked into being, the product of time and distance and graft.” 

Source: Thirteen Ways of Looking by Colum McCann; Random House NY 2015.

BTW, Colum McCann will be reading from, discussing, and signing this book in Huntington, NY, at the Book Revue, on Saturday, December 12, 7 pm, at 313 New York Avenue (Colum’s tour originally lists December 11, but it has been changed to December 12th, as per Book Revue).

Thirteen Ways of Looking

Anyone else wish to join in with their favorite sentence of the week?

Follow me on Twitter @katcop13

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

Opening Lines: A First Impression

large_open_bookIn a recent Huffington Post Blog, author Mark Rubinstein, talks about the power the opening sentences of a novel have to grab the reader and pull them into the story.

With examples from authors as diverse as Charles Dickens and David Morrell, we see how they structured their opening lines to make us want to read on.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading on the craft of novel writing and just how important a good opening is in making that first impression, not only in enticing your readers, but also in setting the premise of the story to come.

Some of my favorite first few sentences are from the novel BACKSEAT SAINTS by Joshilyn Jackson, the story of a young woman who’s finding her way back to herself.

“It was an airport gypsy who told me that I had to kill my husband. She may have been the first to say the words out loud, but she was only giving voice to a thing I’d been trying not to know for a long, long time.”

I read on, curious to find out whom the protagonist was and if she was really going to do the deed, why. I won’t tell you here, but I think you’d find it fun to read the book.

Here are a few sentences from a novel I’m working on, OUT OF TIME. It features
Nick Donahue, the protagonist from the novella, NICK OF TIME.

“Just ask Marina.
If you want to know how I wound tethered like a sacrificial goat to a flimsy spire swaying
in the wind on top of the world’s tallest building, maybe she can explain it.
Because I definitely can’t.”

How about you? Any first sentences that drew you in? Or, any that you’re working on?
We’d love to 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!

Broken Window’s Blog Tour Pays Off

Do you wonder what, if anything, is to be gained from blog tours when launching your new book?

Well, besides the exposure, from blogs such as Two Sassy Chicks to Fictional Rendezvous, Obsessed by Books, Eskimo Princess, to name just a few, the second week into its launch, Broken Window has visited seventy blogs and has three favorable book reviews posted on the blogs and also on Amazon.com, and goodreads. The tour generated a good number of tweets also and was so totally affordable that I couldn’t believe the fee.

There are no guarantees for favorable reviews, however, here is one of the reviews from Theresa Masker Reviews from agapareads.com, Theresa noted that she was limited by Amazon.com’s rating system,“5 stars… I would have given more if they would let me….”

Coming from a person who normally doesn’t read crime novels let me tell you I was impressed with Dorothy Hayes “Broken Window.”

The story is about every parents worst nightmare, a missing child. Three teens convinced their parents to let them ride the subway of NYC as one of the girls was going to be attending NYU in the fall. And she wanted to look around the campus. Against better judgement they finally got the ok. There was one problem with that… Three teens got on and only two got off at the destination. Their friend Kelly Singleton was missing.

Investigative reporter Carol Rossi a.k.a as Rossi sees her police husbands information about the girl. She is from their town. Rossi feels the need to help find Kelly. So she does what she does best, investigate. But can she help find Kelly before its too late? You will have to read the book to find out. You won’t be disappointed. I was on the edge of my seat. I was unable to put the book down and neither will you.

Checkout another review:
Red Pencil Beta: https://redpencilfictionbeta.wordpress.com/book-reviews/books-reviewed/broken-window-by-dorothy-hayes/

One more from Mich’s Book Reviews will be posted on Saturday.

I’ve heard sad stories, not all tours are as productive or reasonable, so if you do decide on a blog tour be sure to compare prices and services well.




Do you have any blog tour stories to share?

Getting Your Blurbs

My new book, Broken Window, is coming out in a month or two, published by Mainly Murder Press, and I’ve got the ARC, Advanced Review Copy, and have sent it out for blurbs. In only a couple of weeks, and during the holiday season, several blurbs were emailed to me all ready alleviating the stress since I have a deadline.

When I know the publishing date, and see the book cover, I’ll set-up the local library book tour, and the virtual book tour where my new book and I will visit websites for mystery fans, and I’ll be offering some giveaways. Also there’s the local newspaper that I hope will be interested since the story takes place in a small town, Wilton, CT.

As always, I’m grateful for the venues, the dedicated librarians and all those behind the scenes who offer platforms for writers to introduce their brand new book to readers.

Have you learned any secrets to launching a new book?




Finding Inspiration

Meeting creative and humorous writers on this site and others is a joy, but also a must. On LinkedIn’s group, Crime Fiction, I have the pleasure of joking around with other writers as nutty as myself. The good natured ribbing brightens my otherwise isolated day, since I work at home. Crime Fiction has several threads going at the one time on a given aspect of writing generally being about a new book, and new ideas before they become books.

On-line chats are great, but sometimes, I need an infusion of creative energy in real life. As a member of Sister-in-Crime and Mystery Writers of America, I go to meetings. The dynamic women at SinC meetings are in various stages of creation.

When I leave for home, I’m full of positive energy and with two feet jump back into the project. My first mystery, which I was ready to drop, came back to life after a meeting and I wondered how I could ever doubt myself.

Several mystery book sites send emails on a regular basis. I visit and comment on book reviews and the author interviews. Goodreads friends, also, discuss new books.

I’d love to add to my list more sites designed for readers, such as Criminal Element. com. with the hopes of getting my books into their hands.

What sites do you visit? And why?


A Blog Tour: One Woman’s Opinion X Ten

thThis past July, my publisher, Camel Press, set up a ten stop Blog Tour for my newest novel in the Laurel and Helen New York Mystery Series, THE HARD WAY. Here’s a synopsis of the story the bloggers received along with a copy of the book.

Private Investigator Helen McCorkendale’s childhood friend, Jimmy Scanlan, has just opened January, the most lavish casino and hotel resort on the Las Vegas Strip. After attending the grand opening, Helen returns to New York and encourages her friend, Laurel Imperiole, Senior Editor at Women Now magazine, to create a get-away contest for readers offering a weekend at the hotel as the grand prize. The winner, Dawn Chapman, a jewelry store employee from Cincinnati, denies entering the contest and initially refuses the trip. Finally persuaded by Laurel to accept, she arrives at the hotel and nearly faints when she passes the hotel’s elite meeting rooms where the International Diamond Dealers Consortium is holding its annual meeting. She insists on returning home immediately.

Suspicious of her behavior, Jimmy visits her suite to encourage her to attend the Saturday afternoon pool party, saying she can leave on his private jet the next day. Later in the afternoon, he finds Chapman’s dead body by the pool. She’s been murdered—an unusual double poisoning by cyanide and diamond dust.

Dawn Chapman was not who she appeared to be, and therein lies a mystery. But to Helen and Laurel, the main task is to take Jimmy Scanlon off the suspect list and clear his name. Will their luck hold? Or will it be a crap shoot, as they roll the dice and do it ‘the hard way,’ going for doubles when the odds are against them. Losing may mean losing their lives.

I’m happy to report and extremely grateful that nearly all the bloggers really enjoyed the book and recommended it to their readers. Stoler

But what I really found as interesting as the Blog Tour reviews themselves was the unique perspectives each reviewer overlaid onto my story. Viewpoints I didn’t necessarily intend while I was writing it. These comments ranged from seeing good and bad characters reversing positions, to observations on Laurel’s life and how she should handle her relationship with her estranged boyfriend, Aaron Gerrard, to analyzing and expanding on the relationship dynamics between Helen and Jimmy, Laurel and Aaron and even the bad guys, Deirdre and Pieter.

When I thought about it a little bit more, I realized that’s the marvelous thing that people do when they read. Bringing themselves into the story and what they feel and believe, or what they wish would happen, makes it more compelling and enjoyable, and that makes the story come to life in ways different than the writer might have imagined.

While one reviewer felt THE HARD WAY was written in the passive voice, she did give it props for structure and description and joined the other bloggers who seemed to wish that January, an ice palace in the middle of the dessert, were a real place they could all visit. Me, too!

Blog Tour continues…


Dru's Book Musing

Dru’s Book Musing

So the whirl wind tour continues: If you wander around the internet you can find me doing guest posts and interviews. On some blogs the host provides a book review of Well Read, Then Dead. I really enjoy finding out how other folks view the story, which characters they like, and how they respond to the Read ‘Em and Eat.  On many of the blogs you have a chance to win a copy of the book.


Here is the  list of places I am presently visiting:

Lilly Pond Reads

Sapphyria’s Book Reviews


Stuff and Nonsense

Lesa’s Book Critiques

A Cozy Girl Reads  ( guest post)

Marie’s Cozy Corner

Dru’s Book Musings has a special giveaway. In addition to a copy of the book, the lucky winner will receive the cosmetics bag pictured above, signed by more than a dozen cozy authors, including me. Giveaway ends Monday August 11 at 6pm EST.

And, in a post different from the one above, A Cozy Girl Reads is also offering an extra prize, this swag bag and goodies. Giveaway ends on Monday August 11 at 9 am EST.

A Cozy Girl Reads--swag

A Cozy Girl Reads–swag

So follow along. I am having a grand time and I’m sure you will, too.