If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

Look for our new bloggers this month. Debra Sennefelder will blog on 1/15, and Debra Goldstein debuts on 1/22. Please welcome our double Debs to WWK.

Don't miss our January author interviews: 1/10-Lawrence H. Levy, 1/17-Kaye George, 1/24-Janet Bolin, 1/31-Kathy Aarons. And E. B. Davis will interview Shari Randall on Monday 1/29 about the publication of her first novel, Curses, Boiled Again. Please join us in welcoming these authors to WWK.

Our January Saturday Guest Blogger Schedule: 1/6-Becky Clark, Pat Hale, Leslie Karst, Edith Maxwell, Shawn McGuire, C. Perkins, and Sue Star, and 1/13-Polly Iyer. WWK's Margaret H. Hamilton will blog on 1/20, and Kait Carson on 1/27.

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.

In addition, our prolific KM has had the following shorts published as well: "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017 and "Turkey Underfoot," appears in the anthology The Killer Wore Cranberry: a Fifth Course of Chaos.


Monday, January 22, 2018

ne·far·i·ous by Debra H. Goldstein

We’re adding writers to our blog this New Year. Please welcome author Debra H. Goldstein to WWK.                                                                                                                                                                         E.B. Davis
ne·far·i·ous by Debra H. Goldstein

I already was nervous about writing a blog introducing myself to Writers Who Kill readers when Elaine Douts (E.B. Davis) asked me for a nefarious picture for the sidebar. Many words, including judge, author, litigator, wife, step-mom, mother of twins, community volunteer, Sisters in Crime Guppy president and national board member, Southeast Mystery Writers vice-president, and loyal friend have been used to describe me, but I’ve rarely been accused of engaging in activities characterized as wicked, evil, sinful, or criminal.

There was a time, early in my career as a trial attorney for the Department of Labor, when I was co-counsel on a case of first impression dealing with equal pay in higher education in the state of Georgia that the other side, when being kind, referred to me as “That Damn Lady Lawyer,” but it was for my hard work digging into the facts and evidence rather than for monstrous behavior. During the years I sat on the bench as a federal Administrative Law Judge, I’m sure the attorneys appearing before me said different things, but I hope most included integrity and fairness as opposed to fiendish or diabolical.

Since my first book, Maze in Blue, a mystery set on the University of Michigan’s campus in the 1970’s, was published in 2011 and won an IPPY award in 2012, the standard headshot I’ve used, as seen above, has been meant to be friendly and open rather than depraved or monstrous. In fact, even though my two novels are mysteries, their covers hint at crime while making it clear they have cozy elements.

2017 allowed me to call myself a “Cover Girl” when my name for two short stories made the covers of the magazines they appeared in. Believe me, I was on top of the world when my best story to that point, The Night They Burned Ms. Dixie’s Place, my first attempt to be published by Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine succeeded (May/June 2017). It was icing on the cake when Mystery Weekly featured Day After Thanksgiving Soup on its cover. Each time, I smiled and danced with such abandon that anyone would have been hard-pressed to attach a negative adjective to my behavior.

Faced with a busy schedule and the need to submit a nefarious picture, I mentioned my dilemma to a friend while we were at dinner at another friend’s home on a rainy night. The next thing I knew, she had me sticking my face out from behind the wrought iron of our host’s front door while she snapped a picture with my cellphone. Between the weather and my deliberately stern pose, I thought we had my nefarious picture. My friend wasn’t satisfied. She suggested we create a picture around a colored steam machine. A shout-out to Penny H. who, as you can see from the sidebar picture, captured my nefarious side. The irony is, after a life on the straight and narrow except for my murderous writings, I liked the feeling. Stay tuned – every third Monday.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Apologies to My Neighbor, Who No Doubt Thinks I’m Some Kind of Maniac

By Julie Tollefson

Wednesday night, returning from a delightfully relaxing yoga class, I became stuck at the end of our driveway. It’s a long drive. After last weekend’s snow and this week’s frigid temperatures and a few days of the Tollefson clan driving in and out, in and out, the driveway had become a compacted sheet of ice. And that bit at the very end, where it meets the road? It’s steep.

But I drive a big truck, so I threw it in four-wheel drive and made it up the bump and to the house, still basking in the yoga glow.

A few minutes later, though, I thought about my son, working a late shift at the local Sonic. He drives a little car. Low clearance. No four-wheel drive. He would definitely not make it up that icy little hill. I worried about this for a few minutes, my hard-earned calm ebbing, before I remembered the bags of sand left over from last summer’s gardening projects. Perfect! I’d just dump some of that at the end of the drive and put my anxieties to rest.

A flaw with this plan quickly became apparent: The sand, which had been sitting outside the garage since summer, was heavy and frozen solid. Nevertheless, I had ideas. I could solve this problem. So I wrangled the sand into my truck, found a hammer to break it up, and carted it to the end of the driveway.

Which is how I came to be silhouetted against my truck’s headlights whaling away at a frozen chunk of sand with the claw end of a hammer when a neighbor I only know by sight drove by.

He slowed.

Don’t stop, I thought. Maybe if I turn my back, he’ll drive right on past.

He stopped. A little hesitantly, I thought. Then he rolled down his window.

“Everything okay?”

He even sounded hesitant. And who could blame him?

“Sure!” I injected extra cheer in my voice, but I half-hid the hammer clutched at my side behind my coat as I walked toward his SUV. (Yo, that’s not suspicious and menacing at all!) “Just spreading sand on the ice!”

“Um, yeah. Good.” His window hadn’t even fully closed before he sped off.

And that’s the story of how I went from peaced-out post-yoga bliss to a hammer-wielding fiend straight out of a Coen brothers film in less than 30 minutes. I’m sure this will be useful if I ever need to write a villain with an affinity for brandishing common household tools at innocent passersby.

Every experience is research.

Sorry, neighbor.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Donna Leon’s portrayal of Venice

By Margaret S. Hamilton

Before I visit a new place, I read a work of crime fiction about it--P.D. James on London, Cara Black on Paris, and this fall, Donna Leon on Venice.

Leon is an American who has taught English abroad since the seventies. Over the past twenty-five years, she has published twenty-six Commissario Brunetti novels set in Venice.

Brunetti is an appealing and empathetic police detective, more interested in conducting interviews concerning a crime than climbing the bureaucratic ladder at the Questura. Passionate about uncovering the truth, his vision of justice is more pragmatic. Brunetti is a Venetian, born and bred, as are his university-professor wife and two teenage children. They have no wish to live elsewhere.

As in the works of James and Black, Venice assumes the role of a major character in Leon’s books. Venice is a maze of narrow streets, alleys, and canals, overrun most of the year with hordes of tourists. Street crime exists, particularly pickpockets, but, in general, Venice is a safe city. Except for the murders Brunetti investigates. Bodies are everywhere, the murder committed off-stage before he and Inspector Vianello are summoned. Crimes of passion, corruption, and greed affect every stratum of Venetian society.

Brunetti navigates the city on foot or takes the vaporetto water bus on the Grand Canal. Occasionally, he’ll use a police launch. He has a sidearm, but he rarely remembers to carry it. Brunetti has an instinctive knowledge of Venice, knowing with certainly which of ten streets intersecting a large square will lead him to his destination. Venice addresses aren’t sequentially numbered. Brunetti uses landmarks (the house with green shutters to the left of the church) instead.

Leon describes Brunetti’s daily life: his lunches and dinners at home with his wife and children, his meetings at a local coffee bar, when the garbage is collected at his front door (in the early morning, on a two-wheeled collection cart). Venice recycles. Parents escort their children to and from school. Dog-owners walk their dogs on the narrow streets. Muzzled dogs are allowed on the vaporetti. Food and rent are hideously expensive, the population in a steady decline.

In Earthly Remains, her latest book, Leon delves into eco-detective fiction. Venice is sinking—the acqua alta, high water, regularly floods the city in the fall and winter. The long-term MOSE tidal barrier project is a construction disaster rife with corruption. And in her book, something is killing the bees in hives on the islands in the lagoon:

He’d stopped rowing then, and Brunetti’d pulled up his own oar and turned to look at the older man. “Look at that,” Casati had said, pointing his chin to the left, and when that failed to encompass his meaning, he’d waved his left hand in a wide arc towards the mainland. “Everywhere, we’ve built and dug and torn up and done what we wanted with nature. And look at this,” he’d said, turning to his right and waving out over the laguna, “we’ve poisoned this, too…They’ve done what they wanted with nature, and our children will pay the price.” Immediately, Brunetti had thought of the MOSE, the tidal barrier that many people believed could not work, and realized that Casati’s prophecy included Brunetti’s own children. “We’ve poisoned it all, killed it all,” Casati had said, turning back to Brunetti. (Earthly Remains, p.157)

When my husband and I were in Venice, we found it a challenge navigating the narrow streets in the pouring-down rain. Donna Leon describes how the Venetians handle it:

There were few people on the streets, so he was spared the usual jostle and umbrella-sparring as people tried to pass in the narrow calli. Venetians had had ages to develop the technique of tilting the top to the side of the calle and slipping along the walls past the oncoming walker. Tourists had two techniques: either they forged ahead in the face of all human obstacles or they stopped and cowered with their backs against the nearest building, the umbrella extended fully open above them, effectively forcing all traffic into the centre of the street. (The Waters of Eternal Youth, p.247-8)

During our visit, we had seen posters advertising a Vivaldi concert in a church. One day, when we were lost looking for the Accademia Gallery, we passed the church where the concert would be performed. We purchased tickets, asked about a nearby restaurant for dinner, and were given a large- scale paper map showing the route to the church from San Marco.

After the concert, we stood on the Accademia Bridge watching the vaporetti and water taxis rumble up and down the Grand Canal, Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” reverberating in our heads. Venice, La Serenissima, is a magical place that must be protected and preserved.

Readers and writers, do you enjoy learning about a new place by reading a novel (in particular, work of crime fiction), before your visit?

Friday, January 19, 2018

Mr. Campion’s Farthing by Philip Youngman Carter: A Review by Warren Bull

Mr. Campion’s Farthing by Philip Youngman Carter: A Review by Warren Bull

Originally published in 1969, Mr. Campion’s Farthing was written by Philip  Youngman Carter.  The author was the husband of Margery Allingham. He said the idea for the novel came from his deceased wife. He also reported that he had collaborated with her in many of her books written over forty years. And that may even have been true. At least his deceased wife did not rise from the grave in protest.

Mr. Campion’s Farthing is a well-written book that places Mr. Campion in the environment of the cold war and brings in a new character, Rupert Campion, his son. The social commentary is worthy of Margery Allingham. So is the humor and the imagery.

The plot is fair to readers. The beginning pulled me in. The characters are interesting. The novel fits with the style and sensibility of golden age mysteries in a later setting than most of them.

It’s a shame no other books about the Campion family were written. This should satisfy Allingham fans. It is definitely recommend this novel.

Thursday, January 18, 2018


The back of my barn & my frozen pond.

I like living in the north with its change of seasons, but there comes a time when it’s enough especially when the temperature drops down into single digits or lower, and I have to make two trips to the barn each day to feed my ponies, barn cats and four hens. After which I walk to my son’s house to feed and water his peacock because he leaves for work while it’s still dark. Most days I have to fill a bucket with water to carry it out because the outside pump is frozen.  If the weather is too cold and bitter, I keep the ponies in their stalls, but on days when it warms up I let them go outside. They need the exercise and with their warm coats now it doesn’t seem to bother them.
Phoebe and Puffy who are sisters.
                                                                                                                                                                                     Years ago when I was younger and still married, I enjoyed riding behind my husband on a snowmobile mostly after dark with the lights on, but sometimes in the daytime, too. We always went with friends and sometimes we went to a cabin  also had snow shoes, but they were too awkward to walk with so
eventually I gave them away.

But most of the time I enjoy being in a warm house looking at snow covered grounds and at times the silvery branches of trees when they are ice covered. Still I do have to go places like the grocery store, church on Sunday, two book clubs, delivering Mobile Meals and other places.

It’s in the winter that I get most of my writing done because I don’t have to weed gardens or mow my yard. I also don’t spend much time walking in the woods, especially with the temperature so low.
My family on Christmas at my house.

Winter brings Christmas, too, one of my favorite holidays with family. Christmas Eve is at my sister Suzanne’s house where my other siblings except for the one in Washington State go along with nieces and nephews to exchange gifts, eat the food everyone brings and admire the beautiful tree she picks out and decorates every year.

My grandson Jacob passing grab bag gifts to his mother.

On Christmas Day is when most of my siblings come, my grown children, (except this year my California daughter couldn’t get off work to come}, and those grandchildren, who aren’t married. Those grandchildren all my son’s children are married and spend Christmas with their spouses’ family because they spent Christmas Eve at my son’s house where I went briefly to exchange gifts before heading to my sister’s house.

The highlight of our Christmas afternoon is when we do the grab bag, a family tradition that goes back to when I was a child, and my father who worked in the office of a big manufacturer and ordered goods from other businesses.  One of those businesses sent a package of little items that weren’t much, but on Christmas Day, my siblings and I got to put our hand in the box and then pass it on around the circle until everything was gone. Today, almost everyone brings wrapped items for our grab bag, two large laundry baskets this year.
One of the funny grab bag gifts.

Nothing is very expensive, and there are always some funny gag gifts like a large nose and big glasses, and one year, my brother got a small pink child’s handbag. One year there was a moose cookie jar wrapped in separate parts. It came back for years until someone decided to keep it. Another year there was a corncob with a plug to plug it in. That circulated for years before my mother-in-law kept it. She probably threw it away. I bought a lot of things for the grab bag this year. 

My sister Suzanne, and my daughter Susan brought a lot, too. After they’re all gone and everyone has opened their gifts, we start with the exchange where everyone holds up something they got and tries to bargain with someone else to exchange.
Well, Christmas is over and I’m just finishing up taking down the decorations, but I saved for last the large pine tree that goes all the way to my ceiling. Before Christmas two of my grandchildren Jacob and Emilie who are in college but still live at home asked if they could help me pick out a Christmas tree. So we went to a local Christmas tree farm, and they picked out a really large and full tree. Jacob put it into the back of his pickup truck, and Emilie and I followed him to my house where Jacob dragged it in and he and Emilie decorated the tree. After it was done, I took them to lunch – Jacob followed in his pickup.

I know I used this in my last blog, but I can't locate my camera for a new picture.

Now as I’m writing this, I can still look at it when I lean away from my computer to see it in my living room still lit up and beautiful. I hate to take it down, but it’s starting to droop just a little. As soon as I take all the decorations and lights off, I’ll drag it out the front door, and when it’s slightly warmer I’ll drag it way back to my frozen pond and drag or push it over the edge where it will be a hiding place in the spring and summer for the tiny minnows of the fish who live there.
Probably one of the best things I like about winter is when it gradually slips away and I see the small flowers in my woods start to come up through last year’s leaves and I know spring has arrived. It’s another joy that could only come if we had survived another winter.

What do you like most about winter?

What do you hate most?

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

An Interview With Kaye George by E. B. Davis

The Neanderthal tribe of Enga Dancing Flower must trek south to flee the approaching glacier, but the distance is long and the food is scarce. When a venerable elder drowns crossing a flooded river, Enga suspects that it was not an accident, and that a murderer travels with them.

I was on a spate of reading boring novels. So when I discovered I’d missed the second book of Kaye George’s People of the Wind series, Death On The Trek, I was glad—knowing it would be a great read—much to my relief.

I wouldn’t expect to love books about Neanderthals. But Kaye’s book captivated me. I read it in a day. The Neanderthal Hamapa tribe must migrate when its main food source, the mammoth, has gone south to escape glacier ice that is descending from what is now Canada. They encounter much strife and challenges along the way, but when murders occur, a tribe elder enlists Enga Dancing Flower, Kaye’s main character, to discover the perpetrator.

My interview with Kaye about the first book in the series, Death In The Time Of Ice, is linked here. Welcome back to WWK, Kaye!                                                                                                       E. B. Davis 
To orient modern readers, from what I could discern, the Hamapa Neanderthal tribe started their trek at the beginning of spring in what is now known as Wisconsin to follow their main food source, the mammoth, south after the glaciers move toward them. By the end of the story, in autumn, they have found mammoth located in what is now Texas. Ten thousand years ago? Did I get that right?

Not quite. It’s probably hard to tell, but I put them in New Mexico, near a distinctive rock formation, Tucumcari Mountain. And the story takes place about 30,000 years ago. I had the date in the intro to the first book. Maybe I should have repeated that in this one. I’ll include it in the third one!

To ground readers in the story, you start each chapter with a quote from an archeology, biology, or sociology book that explains an aspect of the chapter. Was that a technique you developed at the series inception or one you devised during beta readings?

I went through SO many iterations of style and content, it’s hard to tell. Since I’m writing from inside their world, it’s impossible to convey some of the things that might not make sense, or might be questionable to a modern reader. I thought that including snippets of my research might help. For instance, when I introduce the Denisovans, I can’t call them that. So I put a short passage describing their probable dark skin, hair, and eyes, from the genome reconstruction published online by the UK Natural History Museum. In the chapter where the storyteller relates ancient history about horses in North America fleeing to Asia (they originated on this continent, then migrated to Asia and were reintroduced by the Spanish), I quote from a book on Ice Age Mammals.

Prior to beginning the trek, Hama, the female ruler of the tribe, receives the adult names from the supreme spirit, Dakadaga, of two boys even though they have not come of age, as is the practice. One is an apprentice storyteller, and the other is the fire keeper, who inherited the job early, his predecessor having died. Enga Dancing Flower fears Hama doesn’t think the boys will survive the trek and gives them names to die by, but that isn’t the reason. What is?

The fire tender has already been doing the job of an adult, so it is fitting that he gets his Passage Ceremony before they start the trek. Also, the senior storyteller is getting old and, even if most of the tribe survives the trip, it’s doubtful he will. The apprentice has already learned all of the lore and is ready to step into his position, so this will make it easier, if that has to happen during the journey. But, really, the main reason is that the leader, through the high god, doesn’t think everyone will survive the journey. She’s right, of course.

Enga and her sister, Ung Strong Arm, are not native to the Hamapa tribe, having been taken in as infants. I was surprised that the tribe was mostly unprejudiced, (although wary of adults from other tribes). Sooka, a baby of another woman, was fathered by a Tall One, who I think may be of the homo sapiens species. Why don’t they have fear of other tribes/species?

Yes, the Tall One, Sooka’s father, was mostly Cro Magnon, or, as they’re now called, Anatomically Modern Humans or Early Modern Humans. (Personally, I liked Cro Magnon better.) There’s enough space for everyone back then, so they don’t have rivalry with other Neanderthal tribes. Instead, they trade with them on rare get-togethers. The Hamapa haven’t met enough people of other species to fear them. They assume others are like them. Most of them are, but with some marked differences, as they find out. But Enga and Ung are Neanderthals from a different tribe. They know that they are all one bad winter away from starvation, and the winters are getting worse, so they don’t mind helping out their own kind.

Although Enga and Ung are from another tribe, they must have close genetics to the Hamapa, who can communicate telepathically and verbally. Not only can they communicate telepathically, they also can intercept others thoughts and communiqués if the transmitter doesn’t cloak his/her thoughts, which can happen during unguarded moments. Why doesn’t telepathy cause more stress and fighting among members?

I think this is explained more fully in the first book, too. The two adopted girls are better able to learn the tribe’s own telepathy because they were so young when they come to the Hamapa. I’ve portrayed the tribe as a mostly peaceful people, with petty squabbles, but no serious battles. When, sometimes, the telepathy cloaks slip, that does cause some problems.

They run into the Mikino who attack them and take their mammoth jerky, which they brought to sustain them on their journey. Were the disgusting small people, the Mikino, homo floresiensis? Are there archeological clues that the species was aggressive?

Yes, that’s my portrayal of them, also called Hobbit People. There are not clues that they were disgusting and violent. I just wanted more conflict at the point where they encounter each other. But the latest research, which wasn’t out when I wrote this, shows that they were most likely descended from Homo habilis, beings that are much more ancient than either Homo sapiens or Neanderthals, even older than Homo erectus. I’m pleased to find this out, since it might (might!) make them more primitive and animal-like than the others in the world I created, where I mash all these species together on the same continent.

You wrote within two POVs: Enga and Jeek, a young boy who likes to throw spears even though it’s a “girl’s” job. Why did you want Jeek’s POV, and why was spear throwing a female pursuit?

First of all, the spear-throwing—that’s my feminist slant that pervades the whole set up. My thought is that, if you didn’t know biology and you weren’t strictly monogamous, you wouldn’t necessarily know who your father was. But you would always know who your mother was. So I had heredity and lineage come through the matriarchal line, and also gave them the main jobs—leading the tribe and hunting the food. As to Jeek, after I created him, I found that I liked him a lot and could give him a major role in the story. I wanted him to be an instrument of change for them, to challenge the status-quo. He’s Enga’s clever helper when she solves mysteries. I think of him like a street urchin for Holmes, only better.

They run across some helpful people they know as the Hooden, who dine on sloth, which they pen in caves and feed. The Hamapa are so hungry due to the Mikino attack, they need to eat the sloth. Have you confirmed that sloth is disgusting to eat?

Yes, I did find that out! Even though they have no body odor, the meat tastes terrible to almost everyone who has tried it. There is one tribe who occasionally eats it, but modern people who have tasted it never want to do that again. I had to include penned up sloth, because I ran across an article about giant sloths being kept in pens in Patagonia and had to use it.

When Panan One Eye is hit on the head with a rock and killed, his apprentice Mootak claims to have seen a spirit murder Panan. Why don’t many of the tribe believe him?

They’re pretty practical people. Even though they pay homage to their many gods, and feel that they influence their lives, they’re pragmatic enough to know that the gods don’t actually walk around among them.

Enga is pregnant with Tog’s child. Tog isn’t a great mate. He spends much of his time with another female and her child. He urges her to dance when she could miscarry. Do the Hamapa marry?

They don’t marry, exactly. They have a First Coupling, which is for a man or woman’s very first time. That is supposed to happen only with the approval of Hama and it used to be done in the Holy Cave, in the place where they lived before they set out on the trek. The Holy Cave was reserved for First Coupling, a female’s first Red Flow, and the place where they gave Birth. They’ll have to find a new place for this when they get to the new land. Once someone has a First Coupling, they usually stay together, but can change partners. The Hama does this more than anyone, it seems.

Is Vala an early sociopath?

She’s not a very good person! She is the daughter of Nanno, who was also not nice in the first book. However, her sister, Rho, didn’t turn out the way she did.

Why wouldn’t the Hooden touch Sooka?

I thought that, since she looked so different from the other Hamapa, the Hooden (Denisovans) would think something was very wrong with her.

Puka, spirit of strife? Are you having fun yet, Kaye?

You can’t imagine how fun these books are to write! And how difficult. I bring in all the professions I might have pursued, if I had an infinite life: archeology, linguistics, anthropology, even a bit of theology, to name a few.

What is your next project, Kaye?

The next People of the Wind book will be Death in the New Land and the poor Hamapa will be introduced to the awful practice of war. In the first book, they had their first murder ever, so they will have lost most of their innocence by the end of the third book. I’m ascribing to the Noble Savage model for them.

My immediate next project, though, the one I’m working on now, is a cozy series for Lyrical Press/Kensington—the Vintage Sweets mysteries set in Fredericksburg, Texas. The first book will be called REVENGE IS SWEET. I hope to have turned in the manuscript and to have a publication date by the time this appears.

Thanks so much for the interview and for your interest in my writing, and especially this series!                                            


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Editing a Themed Anthology

Jay Hartman of Untreed Reads returns to give us a little more information on the process of coordinating and editing an anthology.

Back in 2010 I had the idea of putting together an anthology of humorous mystery and crime stories based around Thanksgiving and popular Thanksgiving dishes. I never would have dreamed that seven years later we’d be releasing the fifth volume in the series and that people all over the world would, even in countries that don’t celebrate our US version of Thanksgiving, be so excited for the books to come out. I still remember when a television station in the northeast declared one of the volumes to be a “must-read” for the holiday season.

Although those accolades are great, putting together an anthology is an insane amount of work and is more time-consuming than any other project we create in the course of a year. In fact, from the time we start accepting submissions to the final product coming to market sometimes over six months may have passed. In the case of our latest volume (The Killer Wore Cranberry: A Fifth Course of Chaos) the process was nearly nine months.

Everything usually starts with me trying to come up with a title. Once you start numbering a series you realize you have to be original with each release. The late Sue Grafton had it pretty easy using letters of the alphabet. I’m already having to figure out what “six” is going to be.

Once the title is decided, I put out a call for submissions. This initially goes to all of the agents I work with, current Untreed Reads authors and the Short Fiction Mystery Society newsgroup. Then, I typically add a Duotrope listing to get more submissions and follow it up with postings in appropriate Facebook groups. Evidently I’m a glutton for punishment, because these days I’ll receive around 150+ submissions with room in the final volume for no more than 14 stories (plus my sister Lisa’s vegan recipes).

I don’t actually start reading submissions until the window for submitting is closed. A lot of people think I’m crazy to leave so much work until later, but during the call for the first volume I did a bunch of reading ahead of time and decided on a whole bunch of stories. Then, later, I discovered that there were some terrific last-minute entries and I had to start over. I should also add that I originally had one vision of the flow of the anthology, but it was the submissions that made me decide to take it in another direction.

Some submissions I can decide right away just aren’t going to
make it: it’s a mystery but they forgot the humor, it’s humorous but they forgot the mystery, it’s humorous and a mystery but they forgot the theme. I can’t tell you how many people don’t read submission requirements. My gut usually tells me which titles are the right ones to include, but sometimes it gets ridiculously agonizing. This is especially true when you’re down to your last couple of slots to fill but you have four equally terrific stories to choose from. I have a board where I put the finalists’ stories up and move them around to figure out the order of the book and which ones to include. I have literally woken up in the middle of the night to make adjustments to the board or switch out one story for another. Fifth Course of Chaos was supposed to have 13 stories initially, but I couldn’t sleep two nights in a row because there was a story I wanted to include, and it didn’t make the final cut. Finally, I broke down and expanded to 14 stories and got some sleep.

Contracts come next, and that’s (fortunately) my business partner K. D. Sullivan’s domain and not mine. It’s a long process to get all those contracts out, answer all the questions, get signed copies back, etc. We pay royalties rather than paying a one-time usage fee because we feel that if everyone is invested in the success of the book then everyone will work to promote it. From a royalty standpoint, collecting royalty statements from 20+ retailers (who all have their own format) and splitting up the pie between all the authors is so time-consuming that K. D. has pretty much banned me from doing any anthologies other than Killer, and I honestly can’t blame her.

Finally, it’s time for production which, surprisingly, seems to take the shortest amount of time. K. D. proofreads all the stories and coordinates all the changes with the authors, then formats them into their final version for both ebook and print. During this time we’ve coordinated with Ginny Glass of Wordsugar Designs to get our ebook and print cover templates done. I handle the conversion of the ebook and the uploads of all of our print and ebook files to our retailers and distributors around the world and on every continent (yep, we have readers at a science station on Antarctica but that’s another story…)

The last step is the step that truly never ends for as long as the anthology is available: promotion and marketing. Whether it’s social media, traditional print or some other unique avenue, the promoting never ends. There’s this feeling among authors that if you have a publisher the publisher should be doing all the promoting. It’s absolutely a 50/50 game. Think about it this way: if you see a commercial from Ford telling you how fantastic a new car is, that won’t have as much of an influence on you purchasing it as hearing actual stories from other car owners about their experience. Nobody wants to hear the publisher shill for a book because the reader assumes “he’s out to get a buck.” But the reader WANTS to know the author and what drove them to write and would much rather hear what the author has to say. So it has to be a two-pronged approach. With so many authors in an anthology, that’s far more help we can get for promotion than just a single author.

It’s January, and the holidays are over. But there’s still time to read The Killer Wore Cranberry: A Fifth Course of Chaos. As well as the four previous anthologies.

And for me, it’s time to think about the sixth installment of The Killer Wore Cranberry.

                                                Jay Hartman

                                                Editor, Untreed Reads

The Killer Wore Cranberry: A Fifth Course of Chaos and the previous anthologies in the series are available at https://www.untreedreads.com/store/ and through the usual sources, including Amazon.

Monday, January 15, 2018

From Food Blogger to Mystery Author by Debra Sennefelder

Please welcome new WWK blogger, Debra Sennefelder. I will interview her about the first in her Food Blogger Mysteries, The Uninvited Corpse, on March 28th. We're delighted she decided to blog with us.                                                                                                                                 E. B. Davis

I am thrilled to be here today to introduce myself and share a little bit about my upcoming release, The Uninvited Corpse.  I made a few stops along the way to becoming a published mystery author and one of those stops included a stint as a food blogger. That's right, I was The Cookbook Diva. I blogged about my favorite cookbooks, shared some of my favorite recipes and hustled to get comments, page views and had a love/hate relationship with my DSLR camera. Yeah, good times.

These days I'm creating fictional worlds that include plotting murder, developing recipes for my and a creating bunch of lovable characters. So how exactly did I go from food blogger to author?

I'd been pursuing publication for several years and I got discouraged enough to look for another creative outlet. At that time blogging was becoming popular so I started my first blog on a community website. There were dozens of blogs (on the now-defunct website), and I was hooked.  After a couple of months I realized I wanted to branch out on my and I'd discovered food blogs. Talk about a perfect match. I love cooking and baking and I love writing. I began a free blog on Wordpress.com and after about six months I bought my blog domain and shifted over to my own website. The Cookbook Diva.com was born.

I reviewed cookbooks, developed recipes and struggled with my photography. I loved everything about blogging. What I loved most was the fact no one could tell me what to write, how to write it or when to write. The freedom was intoxicating. It was heaven, yet something was missing - fiction.

I realized I missed writing fiction, something I'd done since childhood. To say I was torn would be accurate. I could continue with food blogging, maybe becoming the Connecticut version of the Pioneer Woman, or go back to a dream I'd had since I was a kid, which was to be an author. I decided to ease back into fiction writing by connecting with a critique partner and spending a few hours a week writing in addition to my day job, blogging and life. A point came where something had to give, I couldn't do it all. The more I worked on my manuscript the more I realized that's what I was meant to do. Within a year I stopped blogging and a year later I let the website go and put all my eggs in one basket. Within a year after that, I'd had a completed manuscript, found an agent and was offered a three-book contract about a food blogger who has a side hustle of solving murders. I think I made the right decision.

In addition to writing The Food Blogger Mystery series, which debuts March 27th with book number one The Uninvited Corpse, I have sold a second series, The Resale Boutique Mystery series to Kensington Publishers and debuts in January 2019. I'm looking forward to spending every fourth Monday here with you and sharing my journey as a debut author this year.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Bucket Lists

By James M. Jackson

In 46 B.C. Julius Caesar did away with a flawed lunar-based calendar and introduced the Julian calendar, based (as the Egyptians had been doing for a very long time) on a solar year. He didn’t get it quite right, which required the change over 1,600 years later to our current Gregorian calendar. All of which is to say that we should blame Caesar for having to start anew during the days of shortest daylight hours instead of (say) near the vernal equinox.

I didn’t find anything that linked Caesar to the common practice of setting (and mostly ignoring) New Year’s Resolutions. For a time, I tried to be a maverick and set goals commencing on my birthday. That didn’t seem to work any better, and since the IRS insists that I use a calendar-year basis for my personal and business taxes, I’ve reverted to calendar-year based goals. And lists.

I’ve mentioned before that I am a person who keeps lists. Lots of lists, but fewer than there used to be. I still maintain my books read (80 for 2017). It has the practical purpose of answering the question: did I already read this? I also maintain a lifetime bird list, but I’ve discarded the practice of keeping track of the number seen each year, and in each state, and on my property, and . . . I no longer care.

One list I continue to maintain has nothing to do with calendar years; it’s a bucket list. In case you are not familiar with the term, it means a list of things you want to do or experience before you die (or “kick the bucket”).

My bucket list has changed over the years. Some things have come off because I completed them. My trip to Alaska in 2008 completed my objective to visit all 50 states. And in 2014 when we visited Newfoundland/Labrador, I finished off my Canadian providences list. (I still hope to visit all the Canadian territories, and that remains on my bucket list.)

I consider my list as a way to remind me of some of my inspirational goals, but I don’t allow it to exert pressure on me. (You’re past Social Security eligibility age and you still haven’t done that? Shame, Jim!) Over the years, I removed some items from the list because they are no longer possible to do, at least in the way first intended. I had to scratch “Hike the Appalachian Trail” when my shoulders deteriorated to the point it was too painful to carry a heavy pack for a full day, let alone three months.

I’ve flown in a hot air balloon and helicopter, but still want to fly in a glider plane during hawk migration. I’ve been to the Arctic, but not to Antarctica—that is about to be rectified.

We’ve booked passage on a birding tour that will take us to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia Island, and the Antarctica peninsula. We leave at the end of January and will be gone for three-plus weeks. I can’t wait to experience the remote habitats, see birds I have only visited in zoos, and experience—well, who knows exactly what I’ll experience? That’s why I’m going.

What’s on your bucket list and what do you hope to scratch off this year? (Oh, oh – there’s that calendar year thing raising its head again!)

Saturday, January 13, 2018

The Scent of Murder by Polly Iyer

On January 9th, I released The Scent of Murder, the fourth book in the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series. In 2002, when I wrote Mind Games, I had no idea it would be the first book in a series. I enjoyed writing standalones with a different heroine/hero each time. Did I really want to commit to a series?

Skip over a half-dozen years during which I wrote three more books, queried agents, was rejected by agents, found an agent, was rejected by publishers, and finally came to the conclusion that I wasn’t getting any younger, so I published all four myself, almost at one time.
Even though I still hadn’t thought of a series, Diana and New Orleans police Lieutenant Ernie Lucier, Diana’s partner in life and in crime, got into my head and wouldn’t leave. Okay, I thought, I’ll write a second book. That turned out to be Goddess of the Moon. Readers liked the characters and the stories. What to do? Write a third?

Now I’m nervous.

Standalones are self-contained. The characters live and grow in one book. In a series, not only does a writer have to develop her creations, she has to keep them in character from one book to the next. If that isn’t enough pressure, each book should be better than the last. We’ve all read books in long-running series that seem to have lost their spark, almost as if the writer phoned in the story. Hopefully, at only four books, that wouldn’t be my problem, but it was still a consideration.

A few reviews of Backlash, the third book in the series, declared it the best book of the three. In that book, the story revolved around Lucier more than Diana, so taking that route was a little risky. After all, it’s the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series, and readers like Diana. I breathed a long sigh of relief over the good reviews.

Though my two main characters develop their own personalities over the course of four books, Diana and Ernie must also grow as a couple. Diana is no longer a psychic entertainer, she’s a police consultant … but she’s still Diana: impetuous, daring, and as we find out in book four, unpredictable, though the question arises that she may be more predictable than we thought. Does her reputation progress from being a charlatan psychic―which she never was except to skeptics―to someone worthy of being taken seriously?

Anyone who’s read my books knows I like to target as villains those who use their power to inflict damage on others and/or to benefit from doing so. The Scent of Murder is no exception. The powerful make great villains, and you don’t have to look far to see their counterparts in the real world. Taking them down in my books is the only justice I can control.

The big challenge in book four, in addition to keeping up the quality of the series, was to juggle two independent plots, two sets of villains, and two denouements. The theme in both plots is a missing woman, but that’s their only connection. Would I be able to keep readers focused, or would switching scenarios annoy them? There is also a new character, a ten-year-old boy, that I debated whether to make a permanent cast member. I didn’t know myself until the end. You’ll have to read the book to find out the answer.

By the way, Mind Games is free on Amazon today and tomorrow, if the series might interest you. Happy reading.

Polly Iyer is the Amazon bestselling author of nine books of suspense and three sexy romances written under the name Maryn Sinclair. She started out as a fashion illustrator and storyboard artist, importer, and store owner before embarking on her fourth, and last, career as an author. Writing opened new doors for her, allowed her to make wonderful friends in the community, and gave her carte blanche to put her fantasies into novels of excitement and romance. One reviewer described her stories as “…making heroes out of damaged people.” 

Her novels include Hooked, InSight, Murder Déjà Vu, Threads, Kindle Scout winner Indiscretion, and four books in the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series: Mind Games, Goddess of the Moon, Backlash, and The Scent of Murder.