Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Guest Sheila Boneham: Drop Dead for Healthy Dogs

I welcome Sheila to my Travels today. She'll tell you about a terrific benefit for dogs and bookstores and--just about everyone--that's leashed with her brand new book!

I’m just the tiniest bit goal-oriented and competitive. Born this way, according to my mother (who, I might add, probably provided the genetic material that made me this way!). I’ve been involved since childhood in activities that provide lots of opportunity to challenge myself – competing with horses and dogs in a variety of sports, completing advanced academic degrees, teaching in universities, writing for publication.... Of course, these arenas provide even more opportunity to fail. It’s a good balance, I think, and good exercise, falling flat, getting back up, around and around. Still, let me go on record now: it sucks to lose or be rejected or criticized. The characters in Drop Dead on Recall know that all too well!

The good ones also know that collaborating with like-minded partners to reach a common goal is every bit as rewarding as personal success. More so, in fact. There's a synergy in working with smart, passionate people that is energizing and inspiring. So I’d like to tell you about to Drop Dead for Healthy Dogs, a collaboration I’m involved in to support canine health research as we launch Drop Dead on Recall, the first Animals in Focus mystery, just out from Midnight Ink.

As you might guess from the title and cover of my mystery, I'm crazy about dogs. What the cover doesn't show is that the protagonist's dog is an Australian Shepherd. It doesn't show that there's a very important cat in the book, either, but that's another story! In any case, the publisher chose to feature the victim's Border Collie, but the "protagdog" in Drop Dead on Recall is an Aussie named Jay. I have been involved with Australian Shepherds for almost two decades as owner, competitor, breeder, rescuer, and now judge. So when I decided to put the excitement of my book launch to work for a cause, The Australian Shepherd Health and Genetics Foundation seemed a natural choice. The organization helps supprt health research and disseminates information, and while the major focus is on Aussies, the impact of the work extends far beyond a single breed.

My interests and love for animals also extends beyond Aussies, and I wanted to support an all-dog group as well. Last spring I worked with Canine Health Events to raffle off a cameo appearance for a dog in the next book in my series. First, Gayle Watkins and the other CHE volunteers were fabulous to work and raised $2,000 with the raffle, so when they expressed interest in trying another project together, I was on it like a hungry dog on a dropped cookie. CHE's purpose is to hold events, notably a big agility trial every spring, to raise money that they donate to support canine health research.

To accomplish this bnefit launch, we needed a bookseller, and I love to support independent businesses, especially booksellers. I am fortunate to live in a town with several Indie bookstores, and one of my favorites is Pomegranate Books, partly because owner Kathleen Jewel often takes her dog to work, and has let me bring my own dog for booksignings in the past. Books and animals - what could be better? So I talked to Kathleen and Pomegranate is the official vendor for Drop Dead for Healthy Dogs. The store is handling the "virtual" part of the event, meaning online or telephone orders, and hosting a real live launch party on October 11 at 7 p.m. Come if you can!

I love this idea, if I do say so myself. As a working author, of course I want my books to sell well. But I also love cooperative projects where everyone wins, and I think that’s what we have created. Kathleen and I both think this is a model that could work for many authors, booksellers, and causes.

So who wins?
· Readers, I hope. Drop Dead on Recall was fun to write, and I hope it’s fun to read as well. We are also offering Rescue Matters! How to Find, Foster, and Rehome Companion Animals, my nonfiction book for animal rescuers, as part of this event.
· Holiday shoppers! Hey, it’s almost the season! Autographed books make terrific gifts, and I will be autographing for the buyers’ autographee of choice. How cool is that?
· Dogs! The research projects and other work that ASHGI and CHE support are aimed at helping our dogs live longer, healthier lives. All dog lovers want that. And the fact is that medical knowledge transcends species, so what researchers learn in their work with dogs may help our cats, our horses, and us.
· Local, independent business, specifically Pomegranate Books, which is a valuable resource for this community, as are Indies everywhere.
Thanks to Kaye George for letting me share. I would love to know what you think. (And authors, if you do something similar, please let me know.) If you like this idea, please share the link. Here's to healthy happy dogs and dog owners!

Award-winning author Sheila Webster Boneham writes fiction and nonfiction, much of it focused on animals, nature, and travel. Although best know for her writing about dogs and cats for the past fifteen years, Sheila also writes fiction, narrative nonfiction, and poetry, teaches writing workshops and classes, and is interested in speaking to groups about writing, creativity, and related topics. Drop Dead on Recall, her new mystery, is available now from your local bookseller and online – ebook and Audible editions will be available in October. Find Sheila at or on Facebook at

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Guest Marilyn Meredith: My Bumpy Writers Journey

I'm so pleased to welcome Marilyn Meredith to my place today! She's been in this business for awhile and  has invaluable advice for writers. Check out her new book. And, hey, be sure to check out the end of the blog for an extraordinary offer. 

My Bumpy Writers Journey

Before I even begin I’m going to give any aspiring writers my best piece of advice—never give up. You’ll see why as you read about the hurdles I jumped over.

I’m not going into the nitty gritty of how difficult it was to even write and submit a book when I began before there were computers and no Internet, suffice it to say it wasn’t easy. Anyone who was easily discouraged did give up. I sent my typed and retyped manuscript off nearly 30 times before it was accepted. (There were plenty of rewrites along the way.)

At that time I didn’t have the benefit of writers conferences, most of my writing education came from reading books and seeing how other authors did it. (I’m horrified today by how many new writers I hear say they don’t have time to read.) My education grew as I subscribed to writer’s magazines and joined a critique group.

Despite being published the first time, my next move was a misstep. The next book was accepted by a publisher who despite glowing words everywhere turned out to be a crook. Yes, truly, he ended up in jail because he didn’t bother to pay royalties.

Even using Writers Digest’s big market book, I got tangled up with two more publishers who weren’t honest.

I’ve been with two small press publishers who died, and two who decided the publishing business was not for them.

While attending writers’ conferences I met the publishers I’m with now.

Oak Tree Press’s owner attended the Public Safety Writers Association’s writers conference regularly. When I pulled my contract from the publisher I was with I asked if she’d be interested in publishing my Rocky Bluff P.D. series. Not long after that I signed a contract wither her for the next book. Since that time she’s republished all the books in the series.

I belong to Epic which is an organization for e-publishers and authors, where I’d met Mundania Press’s publisher. At a cocktail party I approached him about picking up my Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series. He said yes and I’ve been with them ever since.

What every aspiring writer needs to do is check out the publishers you are thinking of approaching. Ask their writers about their experience. Make sure your book fits the house’s criteria. And lately, it’s been important to most publishers that you have a marketing plan for your books. Today, with so many people writing, first make sure you have the best book you can possibly write so you stand out.

Most of all, don’t get discouraged. Write, write, write and keep submitting. Most writers don’t have quite the bumpy journey I had. Giving up would have been easy, but I didn’t and I’m glad.

Raging Water Blurb: Deputy Tempe Crabtree’s investigation of the murder of two close friends is complicated when relentless rain turns Bear Creek into a raging river. Homes are inundated and a mud slide blocks the only road out of Bear Creek stranding many—including the murderer.

Contest: The person who leaves comments on the most blogs will have his/her name used for a character in my next book—can choose if you want it in a Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery or a Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novel.

Bio: Marilyn Meredith is the author of over thirty published novels, including the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, the latest Raging Water from Mundania Press. Writing as F. M. Meredith, her latest Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novel us No Bells, the forth from Oak Tree Press. Marilyn is a member of EPIC, three chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. Visit her at and follow her blog at

Marilyn borrows a lot from where she lives in the Southern Sierra for the town of Bear Creek and the surrounding area.

I know there are some people who like to read a series in order, but let me reassure you that every book is complete. Though the characters grow through each book, the crime is always solved. Here is the order of the books for anyone who wants to know: Deadly Trail, Deadly Omen, Unequally Yoked, Wing Beat, Intervention, Calling the Dead, Judgment Fire, Kindred Spirits, Dispel the Mist, Invisible Path, Bears With Us, Raging Water.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Press Releases

Everyone should send out press releases when they have a book to be published, right?

OK, but what should it say? And who should it go to? And when should it go out?

Recently I saw some general guidelines online, I've put them below.

Lead Times:
Daily Newspapers, Radio and TV – seven to ten days. Weekly newspapers – four to six weeks. Magazines – four to six months

This means you have to know what your local newspapers (if you still have any) and radio stations are. I'm not sure what magazines I would send a press release to, but some of you may have some in mind.

The best days to send them are supposed to be Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. The term for sending a press release is, well, releasing. But I hate to say release a press release. Maybe the publicity people are less stressed in the middle of the week and will pay more attention to your news.

I've saved the hardest for last. Of course, you must tell them the name and author of your book, a bit about it, and what's happening where. You can announce an award, a signing, or a book launch. Here's what I've put together for the first signing of my novel coming out in October.

For Immediate Release

Contact: Ken Bartay

(254) 741-9499

Media Alert

Kaye George/Broke: An Imogene Duckworthy Mystery

Waco-Kaye George, author of the Imogene Duckworthy mysteries, will sign copies of the third in the series, Broke, at Barnes & Noble Waco on Saturday, November 3th at 2:00 p.m. The store is located in Circuit City Plaza at 4909 West Waco Drive, Waco, TX 76710.

Immy, PI assistant, wants to be on her own. She finds a rental house where her four-year-old daughter, Nancy Drew Duckworthy, and Drew's pet pig, Marshmallow, are allowed. The rumors are that the house is haunted. But it's no rumor there's a dead man in the bathtub when she tours the house.

Kaye George is a novelist and short story writer whose has been nominated for an Agatha award twice. She reviews for Suspense Magazine and writes articles for newsletters and booklets. She lives near Waco.

All events are free and open to the public.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

National Preparedness Month

I found out that September is National Preparedness Month. Does this mean I should be prepared for September? Or maybe it means I should take September to prepare? Since I didn't do the former, I'll try the latter.

Not going all that well so far. I posted my Monday blog at All Things Writing on Tuesday when I woke up and remembered it. I pretended I was taking Labor Day seriously, but really, I just wasn't prepared! And I forgot.

There's a lot to prepare for this month! I've joined a new blog, Make Mine Mystery, where I'm blogging twice a month.

I'm part of a discussion panel for the Austin Sisters in Crime chapter on Sunday, the 9th (NOT the 14th as I stated in my newsletter), although I don't need to prepare too much. I'll need to bring books to sell and a change of clothes, since I'm staying the night. I already have an audio book for the drive from Hubbard.

Hubby and I are flying to DC to visit our daughter's family and see their new house the next week, so that take a bunch of prep.

But I won't have to prepare for this blog too much, because I have two more fabulous guests lined up this month! Marilyn Meredith will be here the 19th and Sheila Boneham the 26th.

I've reached a breathing space in my writing. I've handed in my manuscript to Barking Rain Press. EINE KLEINE MURDER is on schedule to be published next spring by them. Yay!

BROKE is in the hands of a few first readers. I have the ebook cover, and that mystery novel is on schedule to be published last September/early October.

I'm writing a short story for an apocalypse anthology. It's due September 15th and I'm doing well on it so far. In fact, it's the only thing I'm actively working on right now.

More is coming, though! Stay tuned. Two more projects are in the wings.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Interview with Sandra Parshall

Today I'm welcoming Sandra Parshall to my place. She has been a role model for me ever since I got serious about mystery writing. Her series sleuth is Rachel Goddard, a veterinarian in Virginia. Parshall's love for animals is no secret and she champions their cause whenever she can. She's the reason I wasted--I mean spent --so many hours on the National Zoo Panda Cam when Tai Shan was a baby.

Her first mystery, THE HEAT OF THE MOON (which absolutely blew me away), develops Rachel's memories of her past and established her as a heroine to be admired. In the second, DISTURBING THE DEAD, Rachel leaves the DC area and ventures far into Virginia, where she will remain and practice. This book introduced me to Melungeons. In BROKEN PLACES, a past love of Rachel's beau turns up, along with a dead body, of course. UNDER THE DOG STAR, has, as one of its themes, a feral dog pack. These summaries are overly simplified and don't do the books any sort of justice. If you haven't discovered Parshall, I recommend remedying that quickly and delving into her work. Her books are available in print, ebook, and audio. She has a brand new mystery coming out in this month, called BLEEDING THROUGH. I can't wait to read it!

BIO: Sandra Parshall’s first paying job as a writer was that of obituary columnist for her hometown newspaper in South Carolina. Within a few months she moved up to writing feature stories. She worked on newspapers in West Virginia and on the Baltimore Evening Sun before moving to the Washington, DC, area with her journalist husband. They still live there, with their two cats, Emma and Gabriel. Sandy is a former member of the Sisters in Crime national board and remains active in SinC as manager of the members-only listserve.

ME: Sandy, have you ever worked for a vet? If not, why make your main character one? Wasn't that harder than choosing a profession you know?

SANDY: No, I’ve never worked for a vet, but I’ve certainly spent plenty of time (and money) in vet clinics over the years with our pets. I wanted Rachel to have a job that would show her as the warm, caring person she is. I also wanted it to be a profession that her mother, Judith, would disapprove of. I knew Judith would be a psychologist because that would work best in the kind of suspense novel I wanted THE HEAT OF THE MOON to be. Rachel’s sister Michelle followed in Judith’s footsteps and became a psychologist, but despite Judith’s insistence that Rachel go to medical school and become a physician, she held onto her dream and became a veterinarian. Judith never let her forget that she was wasting her ability by doctoring cats and dogs. So the choice of Rachel’s profession initially highlighted the mother-daughter conflict, but as the series has continued her job has often been important in the stories.

ME: I've learned so much about writing from reading your prose. For instance, I remember remarking, awhile ago, about how you know just when to begin and end scenes. Your dialog is natural, your settings are alive. And you tackle serious issues in your books. How did you learn to write so well?

SANDY: That’s enormously flattering. Thank you! I learned to write by reading voraciously and writing many, many short stories and, later, several novels that never sold. I didn’t fully grasp story structure until I started reading and writing suspense/mystery. A crime that has to be solved gives a book a narrative drive that keeps me on track. Every element must contribute to the central story. I can’t let myself indulge in long tangents that don’t move the plot forward or poetic descriptions that don’t develop the mood and tone. I need those constraints. I love writing in this genre.

ME: You are one of my mentors, with your rich, literary writing. I'm never disappointed when I delve into one of your complex, satisfying books. Can you name some of your mentors?

SANDY: The two mystery/suspense writers I idolize are Ruth Rendell and Thomas H. Cook. Rendell’s ability to get inside the heads of her characters is always amazing to me. There is no type of character she can’t write convincingly. Personally, I think she’s telepathic. Nothing else can explain how this genteel English lady in her early eighties knows so much about the thoughts and emotions of such a broad range of people from every level of society. Her plotting is impeccable, and she can invest the most ordinary objects and places with a terrifying menace. Tom Cook’s writing is beautiful, and his deep insight into his characters is extraordinary. I also love Karin Slaughter, Tess Gerritsen, Linwood Barclay, and a number of others who excel at creating suspense.

ME: You're an expert at coming up with evocative titles. How do you do this?

SANDY: Usually the book will tell me its name if I’m patient. For example, my working title for THE HEAT OF THE MOON was MEMORY, because that’s basically what the story is about. I was well into it, writing chapter eleven, when I typed: “Her [Mother’s] show of affection for me was like the heat of the moon, an illusion, a glow that gave no warmth.” And I realized that was the title I’d been waiting for.

ME: How long did you write before you were published? Do you have unpublished books sitting around and, if so, do you ever plan to rework and publish them?

SANDY: I’ve been writing since I was a child, trying to sell since my twenties, so it took me decades to get published. I had almost given up hope of ever being published when Poisoned Pen Press took THE HEAT OF THE MOON. I have a habit of cannibalizing old manuscripts and reusing characters I love, settings I like – if I loved it when I first wrote it, I’ll find a way to rework it and give it new life in a new book. Rachel’s young friend Holly Turner was recycled. She existed before Rachel did, in an old manuscript I wrote years and years ago. I don’t have much that I could rework and publish now, but it has all been useful and will continue to be, I’m sure.

ME: Do you have plans to write books outside your series? (Not that I don't want waaay more Rachel books!)

SANDY: I would like to write more psychological suspense like THE HEAT OF THE MOON. To return to your previous question, I do have one suspense novel that I want to rewrite and try to sell. I’ve been careful not to steal a lot from it for other books. I don’t want to pick its bones clean and have nothing to rework.

ME: You've been putting out about a book a year. Are you comfortable with this pace? How do you manage your writing time? Are you disciplined about it?

SANDY: I’m not totally comfortable with it. It’s a strain, mainly because I’m not terribly good at managing my time or concentrating in the midst of distractions. If my writing time is interrupted, it tends to vanish. It’s hard for me to get my concentration back. I was just reading about Patricia Cornwell’s habit of retreating to a hotel room and writing every waking moment, with no distractions. I wish I could do that. But I would miss the cats!

ME: I know that writers involved in traditional publishing are frequently finished with the next and writing the one beyond that when a book comes out. How many do you have lined up? Can you tell us a bit about them?

SANDY: I wish I could say the next one is finished, but I feel as if it’s barely begun. (I’ll probably still feel that way when I turn it in. I can always see a million more things that need to be done.) I’m writing book number six in the Rachel series. On the surface, the story appears to be about a controversy over development of a high-end mountain resort in rural Mason County, Virginia – development that will bring in a lot of jobs while radically changing the nature of the community. And the jobs are the Walmart variety – not all that great. The dispute between pro and con is vicious, and people start turning up dead. Of course, this being one of my stories, there’s a whole lot more to the murders than a simple dispute over development.

ME: Anything else you'd like my readers to know?

SANDY: I’d like to add that my new book, BLEEDING THROUGH, was written for the readers who have relentlessly pushed me for six years to revisit the events of THE HEAT OF THE MOON and resolve some of the unfinished business in Rachel’s life and in her relationship with her sister. Michelle plays a major role in the book – the first time she’s appeared since THE HEAT OF THE MOON. The plot has a murder for Tom Bridger to solve, but Rachel and Michelle’s past – bleeding through into the present -- is a strong thread in the story. I can’t promise that I’ve given readers exactly the resolution they want, but I think I’ve handled it in a way that is true to Rachel.  

Thanks for being here today, Sandy, and best of luck with the new book!