Friday, January 17, 2020

Interview with Author Nancy A. Hughes

Nancy A. Hughes, a Key West native and Penn State graduate, writes character-driven crime-solving mysteries. She followed her dream from journalistic business writing to a life of crime. When Nancy isn’t writing, she is devoted to shade gardening and to volunteering at the Veteran’s Hospital and the Reading Hospital. She is an active member of MWA, ITW, Sisters in Crime, and Penn Writers. Visit Nancy on her website at hughescribe.com, on facebook.com/hughescribe1 and twitter.com/hughescribe1. She lives in South-central Pennsylvania with her husband.


Question: What is the title and genre of your novel?  Why did you select them?

Answer: The Innocent Hour is a cross between suspense and amateur sleuth, which is my signature approach—ordinary individuals, thrust into peril through no fault of their own, with no recourse but to solve the crime themselves. The protagonist wades into danger with no knowledge or experience in law enforcement, and is not a paid professional. The Innocent Hour’s cover captures a ping! in time and offers the reader a clue, as do all my book covers. This genre appeals to my journalistic background and love of sweating the details. We’re told to write about what we know, but I’d add “or what we are wiling to learn.”   

Question:   What inspired this novel? How did it come about?

Answer: Over the years ago, I’ve read newspaper accounts about people, accused of crimes they didn’t commit, with no recourse. Their situation, however heart renting, isn’t unique, as the Innocence Project is now exposing thousands of wrongful convictions. No innocent person should go to jail for lack of money, support, or knowledge of his rights. And our Supreme Court has ruled that it is all right for police to lie to a suspect. So what’s an 18-year-old high school student supposed to do? Take a plea? Accept a life of ruin and despair? Possible death at the hands of career inmates?    

Question:  Could you tell us a little bit about the heroine and/or hero of your novel?

Answer:  Protagonist Vietnam veteran Charlie Alderfer, whom readers met in my debut novel, The Dying Hour, finds one more battle to fight—or rather, it finds him. Charlie hires Ben, an 18-year old high school student as his handyman whom everybody loves. When mean-spirited accusers bring false charges against Ben, Charlie learns that police terrorized him to confess to something rather than risk super-max prison. This infuriates Charlie, who wages battle to unravel their motives and expose the truth. He confronts layers of incompetents and liars to solve the case and exonerate Ben.

Charlie is a strong moral man with clear guiding principles and a big empathetic heart. And he’s typical of many returning veterans we hear little about who resume civilian life, study and work, raise families, and lead quiet productive lives. He’s a mild-mannered grandfather who lives by the motto displayed at the VA, “Freedom Isn’t Free.”  


Question:   Can you tell us about some of your other published novels or work?

Answer:  My publisher, Black Opal Books, released five mystery novels since 2016. The Dying Hour was intended to be a “stand alone.” As a volunteer at our local VA hospital, I understood why hospitals are vulnerable at night and was captivated by the stories the old vets in hospice and skilled nursing told me. Charlie Alderfer became my spokesperson. What started as a relationship story between Charlie and a mute little boy grew legs when a serial medical murderer invaded the ward and began killing Charlie’s roommates, one at a time.

My next novel, A Matter of Trust followed. A young widowed banker uncovers fraud and murder at her new job and is thrust into unraveling corporate, high level crime. Her story continues in Redeeming Trust with a new love and a determined killer swearing revenge for solving the bank crime. In Vanished, a sophisticated kidnapping ring steals her baby and leaves clues that implicate her, necessitating the parents to find him themselves while dodging the cops and the killers. Kirkus says that although Vanished is part of a series, it works just fine as a stand-alone.

The Innocent Hour came about when Charlie Alderfer begged to solve one more crime. I could not shut up his voice in my head! I never planned juggle two series at once, but write them one at a time. At book fairs, readers ask, “which one do I read first?” I try to explain one-and-five go together; two, three and four…They glaze over.

Question:   What are you working on now?

Answer:  I’m doubling back to the Trust characters because my readers insist. I’m superbly complimented when they ask, “What comes next in their lives? They seem so real to me; like family or friends.” That’s humbling. And that keeps me writing. I’d like to take a crack at humor—the hilarious consequences of multiple career changes while juggling family, friends and community. From millennials who change jobs frequently to advance their careers to re-entry women plunging into new opportunities, there’s a bit of Erma Bombeck-type fun as women particularly zigzag through opportunities.

Question:   What made you start writing?

Answer: I was raised by avid readers, and have been putting stories together in my head since I was a little girl. My dream was to be a big-time advertising executive in a large city. But I married the man of my dreams—an agricultural banker. Folks, there are no more cows and plows in Manhattan! I started my own little business and I wrote reams of business literature, handled media relations, and PR for small to mid-size businesses and corporations. When it was obvious I needed to get a lot bigger or get a real job, I joined a bank, which supplied a paycheck and the background for the Trust series in the era of merger mania where employees were as expendable as toilet paper and the environment, toxic. In time, I put a big red lipstick kiss on the envelope with our son’s last tuition check, quit my job, and turned me to a life of crime—fiction, that is.  

Question:   What advice would you offer to those who are currently writing novels?

Answer: There’s no right approach. Ignore authorities poking directives at you. Some writers prefer set schedules—write x-many hours or words a day—no excuses. I write in marathon sweeps, closed in my little home office, not days in a row necessarily. Do whenever you know works for you. Have confidence, persistence, endurance, and patience. Just never give up.  

Figure out if you’re a “pantser” or an outliner, using whatever organizational tool suit your skill set. The split among well-known authors seems to be 50-50. I start with a one-sentence summary, and yes, you need that for focus and the prospective agent or editor who says, “What’s your book about?” For example (not mine) “In the post-Civil War south, a woman’s obsession with the wrong man blinds her to the love of the right one.” 1,000 pages later… My outlines start with about 10 key points that I expand later to make an outline—a couple pages max. Vanished came to me when I awoke in ten clear points, which I scurried to capture and let incubate while other books were in the works. Gold to spend later!   

Question:  Where and when will readers be able to obtain your novel?

Answer: All my novels are available in print and e-format. The first four can be found in the usual online bookstores or through your independents who will order for you. Amazon pounced immediately on The Innocent Hour in December. Others venues will follow. Googling Nancy A. Hughes should bring up my titles. That “A” is important or you’ll find the cookbook lady, who isn’t me. (Ask my family.) And please—support your local independent bookstores for whatever literature feeds your habit. We need them!   


Nancy is available for comments and/or questions!

Friday, January 10, 2020

Interview with Mystery Author Jan Christensen

I’m interviewing author Jan Christensen who, like me, grew up in New Jersey. However, she bounced around the world as an Army wife, and in Texas after her husband retired. After traveling for eleven years in a motor home, she settled down in the Texas Coastal Bend. Previously published novels are: Sara’s Search, Revelations, Organized to Death, Perfect Victim, Blackout, Buried Under Clutter, A Broken Life, Cluttered Attic Secrets, and Organized to Kill. She's had over seventy short stories appear in various places over the last twenty years, and is a long-time member of Mystery Writers of America and past president of the Short Mystery Fiction Society. Learn more at her website: www.janchristensen.com


Question: What is the title and genre of your current novel?  Why did you select them?

Answer: Haunting Dreams, a Paula, PI, mystery is my latest novel. I like writing mysteries because you start with a crime and know what needs to happen in the end—reveal a criminal. Haunting Dreams as a title just seemed appropriate for this particular book.

Question:   What inspired this novel? How did it come about?

Answer: This is the fourth book in the Paula, PI, series, and the last two began with someone with a gun, so I knew I wanted to keep that up. Maybe I was hungry at the time. I put Paula in a restaurant, and there’s screaming and a gunshot in the kitchen, and off she goes. I never plot ahead, so I just keep going. Usually I don’t know who the “bad guy or gal” is until about three-fourths of the way through. I think this helps keep that person better hidden from the reader, as well. Of course, sometimes I have to add a few things during edits to make that work, but that’s pretty easy.

Question:  Could you tell us a little bit about the heroine and/or hero of your novel?

Answer:  Paula Mitchell is one of those feisty female PIs who never gives up, no matter how much danger she might put herself into. It’s fun to write about someone like that.

Question:   Can you tell us about some of your other published novels or work?

Answer:  I have another series of four books in the Tina Tales series out and am working on a new book with a different protag which I also plan to serialize. I’ve also had a few standalones published and over seventy short stories, most of them mysteries.

Question:   What made you start writing?

Answer: I’ve loved books since my mother began reading Alice in Wonderland to me when I was a toddler. English was my favorite subject in school. And when I began to pick out my own books, they were often mysteries. I just decided to start writing in my early twenties. I put it aside for many years and started up again later. And began selling short stories rather quickly. With that validation, I decided to keep going.

Question:   What advice would you offer to those who are currently writing novels?

Answer: The usual, I guess. Write every day. Or try to. Finish what you draft. Edit that draft several times (I average about four or five times). For novels, I’ve used editors and beta readers all along. Do some more editing after comments come in. Submit or publish it yourself. That’s for novels. Some of my short stories were workshopped in writers’ groups, but I haven’t been in one for several years. Now I usually just send them out after I’ve edited them.

Question:  Where and when will readers be able to obtain your novel?

Answer: Haunting Dreams just came out a couple of weeks ago in paperback and Kindle editions. So, anywhere on-line for paperback, and on Amazon for Kindle.

 Jan welcomes questions or comments!

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Starting the New Year Right 2020

                                 
January symbolically marks a new beginning and a fresh start. With that in mind, I am planning what I intend to do during the new year. However, my resolutions have only slightly changed since 2019.

First come family needs and concerns. This very much includes seeing to health matters.

After that I resolve to continue my writing. This I do faithfully beginning early each morning. At this time, I’m hard at work on a new novel.

The fifth Kim Reynolds mystery in the series, entitled
BLOOD FAMILY, will be published in 2020 by Encircle. I believe it’s the best one yet. Kim has evolved as a very real character.


I will also continue to send my work out, short stories in particular, to various publishers and publications regardless of acceptances. Most writers meet with a lot more rejection than acceptance. In that respect, I am typical. But if writing is something you feel compelled to do—like me—than you work at it regardless.

One of my continuing resolutions is striving to improve the quality of my work. With that in mind, I pay attention to editorial and reader comments. The year 2019 brought publication of my historical romance novel, SINFUL SEDUCTION, for adult readers. Building a readership is not easy. I hope to increase mine. I also intend to continue reading diverse books and writing reviews of those I truly enjoy.

I resolve to do more landscape painting. I’ve let that go of late.


I confess housework comes last—but it does and will get done, as does shopping and cooking. All of life’s necessities.

What are some of your plans or resolutions for the year ahead? Are they the same as last year or have they changed?

Friday, December 20, 2019

Interview with Award-winning Author Cathi Stoler

Holiday Greetings! I’m interviewing Cathi Stoler, a prolific, award-winning author. She is a three-time finalist & winner of the Derringer for Best Short Story, “The Kaluki Kings of Queens”. Cathi is a board member of Sisters in Crime NY, and a member of Mystery Writers of America & International Thriller Writers.


Question: What is the title and genre of your novel?  Why did you select them?

Answer: OUT OF TIME A Nick Donahue Adventure is a mystery/suspense novel and is the sequel to NICK OF TIME. From the very beginning, I wanted to write a story featuring a male as the main protagonist. Like most writers, I wanted there to be something unique about this character; something that would make him stand out in the crowded mystery/suspense genre.

Question:   What inspired this novel? How did it come about?

Answer: As I thought about who the character would be, I had the idea of creating an interesting and exciting professional gambler who becomes involved in solving crimes that are somehow related to his profession. I recalled being in a casino in Venice, Italy and watching all the well-dressed men and women playing high-stakes Blackjack, and knew that was the game for Nick. As a Blackjack player, he needs to get into the heads his opponents to stay ahead of the game and win. It’s the same for solving a crime.

The first book actually started with a short story in which Nick Donahue meets a mysterious woman, Marina DiPietro, who is being pursued by an International gang of jewel thieves. The story evolved into the novella, NICK OF TIME. By the end of the book, Nick discovers Marina is working for MI6 and they are living and working together.

Question:  Could you tell us a little bit about the heroine and/or hero of your novel?

Answer:  Nick is a character I really enjoy writing, Suave, sophisticated and smart, as a professional gambler, he’s also a risk taker—it’s what makes him a successful gambler, and he understands the odds are not always in his favor. He tends to figure things out in the long run and wants to be part of helping Marina solve the cases she now works on as a private investigator. As you’ll see in OUT OF TIME, this can lead to perilous situations in which he needs all the cunning, skill and subterfuge he possesses as a gambler to win.

Question:   Can you tell us about some of your other published novels or work?

Answer:  My first series includes the three-volume Laurel and Helen New York Mysteries featuring magazine editor Laurel Imperiole and private detective, Helen McCorkendale, in KEEPING SECRETS, TELLING LIES and THE HARD WAY. I’ve also written several short stories and am a three-time finalist & winner of the Derringer for Best Short Story.

Question:   What are you working on now?

Answer:  I’m working on an Urban Thriller Murder On The Rocks series. The first book is BAR NONE, with Lower East Side Corner Lounge bar owner, Jude Dillane who investigates murder and fraud at the Big City Food Bank. The next two books in the series, LAST CALL and STRAIGHT UP will be published next year.

Question:   What made you start writing?

Answer:  I was an advertising copywriter for many years and finally decided to try writing a novel, which I’d been thinking about doing for some time. Of course, I chose to write a mystery, the genre I loved to read since I was a child. If I couldn’t be a detective, at least I could write about one. So far, it’s been a great experience and I don’t plan to stop anytime soon.

Question:   What advice would you offer to those who are currently writing novels?

Answer:  Be totally committed. Talent aside, writing and finishing a book is an enormous amount of work. But that’s just the beginning. Most of us spend months, if not years, searching for an agent, then an editor and a publisher who will to take a chance on you. It can be a very long process and not always financially rewarding. So, I’d say look deep inside and make sure you want to do this.

Question:  Where and when will readers be able to obtain your novel?

Answer:  OUT OF TIME, is available in paperback and eBook editions on Amazon. Here are the links:

Paper back:  https://amzn.to/2rBt4Fz  

I hope you will enjoy reading OUT OF TIME.

Cathi welcomes your comments and/or questions. So don’t be shy!


Friday, December 13, 2019

Sharing Reading Suggestions for the Holidays 2019

The winter holidays are a great time to gift friends, family or  yourself with books to read. With people going on vacation, many individuals enjoy relaxing with a good book. And there certainly are a lot of them being published! You can find books to suit every age and taste whether fiction or nonfiction. Let’s share recommendations, whether it be your own work or that of others. The only requirement for this blog is that the book was published in 2019.

I’ll start things going. I have short stories in five new publications which I recommend. They are: SHERLOCK HOLMES MYSTERY MAGAZINE #27, THE BLEND INTERNATIONAL, ROCK AND A HARD PLACE, RE-HAUNT, and last but not least, A MURDER OF CROWS. This last anthology is a large collection of cozy mystery stories connected by a common theme.

I also humbly suggest my just published historical romance SINFUL SEDUCTION which is receiving excellent reviews:



Amazon


B&N

Nook

Kobo

Okay, now it’s your turn. Please share the books and publications you think will make for good holiday reading. Feel free to talk about work you’ve recently had published if you’re an author. Readers, please mention books you have on your wish list and/or recently read and enjoyed.



Sunday, December 1, 2019

New Novel Reveal

Today is the publication date of my latest novel, an historical romance from Luminosity Publishing. I would like to introduce SINFUL SEDUCTION to you.


Brief Synopsis:

They met and loved passionately in a time of revolution.
Anne McIntyre, a schoolmistress in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey at the outset of the American Revolution, is serious-minded, intelligent, and patriotic. Anne supports her sister in her marital problems and helps the ironmaster’s widow manage a difficult situation with her daughter.
Peter Kensington should have been an earl, but thanks to the duplicity of his younger brother and his own reckless nature, he has ended up an officer in the colonial war. Spying is alien to his gentlemanly code. Yet he must do exactly that. Anne is suspicious of him from the first but as passionately attracted to him as he is to her.

SINFUL SEDUCTION has received an excellent review from the Historical Novel Society:

Sinful Seduction sets a romantic domestic drama against the backdrop of the American Revolution in an innovative way… an enjoyable read.”

You can check out the complete review here:

Excerpt:

New Jersey, 1776

AT FIRST, the trip to Princeton was not frightening. There were no armies of soldiers on the road. Yet the smell of fear was in the air. Anne McIntyre had been told the Continental Army was retreating across New Jersey with the British army in hot pursuit. The coach pressed on. She grimly kept her skinning knife at one side and the spare pistol at the other — just in case. Visions of red-coated soldiers pillaging and raping marched through her mind.
A few miles outside of Princeton, old Jacob sped up the coach. Anne could hear horses racing and drawing near. Soon there was the sound of voices yelling at Jacob to halt.
“Is it soldiers?” Delia Baincroft asked in a small, frightened voice that made her sound more childish than her sixteen years.
Anne turned her head toward the window at the rear of the coach and peered out. There were four armed men on horses chasing after them, but they were in civilian dress.
“It looks like highwaymen, although I cannot be certain.”
The coach could not outrun the men on horseback, and they were forced to pull over. Anne’s heartbeat increased as she gripped the pistol beside her.
“Where are you goin’, driver? And who are the folk within this fine coach?”
“Who wants to know?” she heard Jacob return sharply.
“Do not be rude to your betters, old man, or I’ll slice out your tongue.”
Fanny Baincroft slightly opened the coach door and peered her head outside. “Step away, man. My daughter is ill, and we are on our way to seek a physician.”
“Then surely you fine ladies have money with you to pay a fat fee. Get out of the coach and hand over your valuables.”
“How dare they!” Delia sputtered indignantly.
“Stand and deliver.”
There was the sound of a pistol fired and then another in exchange. Anne brushed past Fanny to see what was happening. Jacob had obviously tried to shoot one of the robbers, but his aim wasn’t good enough. The old man gasped, holding his chest where blood spurted forth. While the men had their eyes turned on Jacob, Anne took up her weapon and aimed it at the leader of the group.
“I’ll shoot you if you don’t get out of here,” she said, cocking the mechanism.
The highwayman laughed at her in a crude, menacing way. “And what does a young woman like yourself know of weapons?” He started moving toward her. “I think you need to be taught a lesson in how to yield right and proper.”
Anne let loose her shot and caught the man in the head. She saw the look of astonishment as he fell from his horse, blood trickling down his temple. She hoped that without a leader, the others would turn and ride away, but that was not the case. Three men charged toward her, and she could only think to remove her knife from its hide casing in readiness. She would not die without a fight.
But suddenly she heard a pistol discharging and then another. A tall man on a great horse dispersed the robbers, another of whom fell from his horse, bleeding profusely while the other two rode away.
“Are you all right?” The man’s black horse reared up.
Anne found herself trembling. She had been fine in the moment that required her greatest effort, but now she felt weak. It was as if her legs could no longer support her. Their savior seemed to sense this. He climbed down from the spirited stallion and put his arms around her, holding her close as if she were a child. Normally, she would have been shocked and offended by such behavior from a stranger, but these were not usual circumstances. She felt his gesture of comfort suffuse her flesh with an unfamiliar but pleasant sensation of warmth.
“They won’t be back,” he said reassuringly.
He ran his hands over her back and continued to press her close against the hard length of his masculine body. Her reaction to him was peculiar. She felt herself begin to tremble as if in the grip of a raging fever. It took all the strength she could summon to pull free of him.
Anne looked up into the handsomest face she had ever seen. The man removed his hat and bowed to her. His eyes were of a deep, dark blue, hair completely blond on top and sandy beneath. He was well-dressed in a great, black cape and fully armed with a sword and brace of pistols. When he returned his hat to his head, he cocked it jauntily like a military man.

This book is available in print and all e-book formats.

Some Book Links: 


Goodreads

Amazon


B&N

Nook

Kobo

I hope you decide to read this novel.


Friday, November 22, 2019

Publicity and Promotion

Many people in the public eye believe that there is no such thing as bad publicity. Publicity, positive or negative, promotes a career because it puts that person in the limelight. Of course, writers would like to be recognized for the quality of their work. Bad reviews hurt a writer’s sales and recognition as a serious author. Nevertheless, being ignored by reviewers is not something that authors appreciate either. Readers aren’t going to buy books they’ve never heard of. No reviews? No publicity? No sales.

So how do authors go about reaching readers, building a following among those who buy books? After all, it’s not just the small independent publishers who do little to promote their authors. These days even the major publishers do not put much effort and money into book promotion either. Writers have to think proactive.

How should writers go about reaching and building a readership? I’m going to offer a few suggestions that won’t break your bank account.

l. Use the internet:

a. Create a website. Every professional writer should have one.

b. Do social media networking such as blogging. Create your own blog and also guest blog on other sites. Interview other authors. Offer to do interviews on other sites, not those only for writers. Reach out to a more general, larger audience.  Create a presence on such popular internet sites as: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Bookbub, Booktown, etc.

d. Join internet writer groups of authors with common interests. Be an active reader and comment often in group and on their blogs. Not everyone can be an “influencer” but it helps to connect.

e. Be willing to read and review the work of other writers.

f. Ask other authors in your genre to read and review your books as well. You want as many reviews as possible on Amazon, B&N, Goodreads, Kobo, etc.

g. Send out advance review copies to internet reviewers who read in your genre. Reviews are important and we can’t always get them from the major review publications.

h. Possibly offer ARCs as giveaways both on your site, other sites. Is giving away free books a good method of increasing overall sales and getting publicity for an author’s brand? It appears to do so for ebooks. Many writers are offering free ebooks on Amazon. Usually this creates awareness of an author who has numerous books to offer. I don’t have the statistics on how well this is working out. If you do, please comment.

2. Bookstore signings and events are great. However, unless you are a famous author, these opportunities have diminished. My advice is to see if there are any independent bookstores locally that you can contact. Be prepared to advertise your “event”/signing on your own.

3. Library Events. Offer to do a program at your local library. You can have a book signing and selling afterward if the library approves.

4. Don’t forget to advertise every program you do. Contact the local newspapers and offer a “news release.”

5. Your college probably has a graduate publication, magazine or newsletter. The publication of your book is certainly a newsworthy item.

6. Consider selling books at various unexpected places. Book fairs sponsored by local libraries are great and so are craft shows, however, you might think of a more creative venue. Try to think outside the box. For example, suppose your novel is about a baker. Is there a local bakery that might display and sell your books on consignment?  Is your novel set in a beauty parlor? Would a beauty shop owner allow your books selling space for a cut of the profits?

7. Attending conferences. Many writers swear by them. It’s a great place for networking and connecting. You can meet editors, agents and other authors. At the very least, you can interact and get interesting feedback and share ideas. Since our work is solitary, this is a good way to know you are not alone.

8. Some writers publish their own newsletters which advertise the release of their new books as they come out.

9. You might also keep friends and relatives in the loop through e-mail announcements.

10. Send out announcements to acquisition librarians, especially if your book has had good reviews which you can quote. This can be done inexpensively via e-mail.

11. Podcasts are popular as are Youtube videos. If you have a talent for creating either one, it might benefit sales.

Have I left out anything that I should be mentioning? As a writer, what promotion and or publicity ideas have worked well for you and might work well for other authors?
Readers, what determines the books you select? I would love to share ideas in this forum.