Saturday, September 30, 2017

Losing My Way by Trixie Stilletto

Professional writers write. Like professionals in many other fields, we tend to work through sickness and health, times of triumph and failure. Writing is a job; one we take seriously.

I have followed that rule for years. I wrote fast and always had multiple stories waiting to be told. Until the summer of 2014.

That’s when I learned I have a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer called Her2+. Throughout the next year, I tried to work while undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments. I came up with several really good story ideas and characters. When it came time to sit down at the computer and put those ideas into words or give those characters a voice, I simply couldn’t.

I was a failure as a professional writer. I had lost “it,” whatever “it” was. I doubted I would ever be able to get “it” back.

After getting diagnosed, I decided to chronicle my treatment on social media. I’ve never been one to journal or keep a diary. My first writing job was as a sports writer/photographer for a small daily newspaper in Wisconsin covering two or three stories a day. With each successive newspaper job, I got busier. Who had time for personal stuff other than my fiction?

I was determined, though, to let my small band of social media followers know what I was experiencing. I know breast cancer can kill. Despite numerous discoveries and advances in treatment and survivor rates, there are types of the disease that kill with brutal efficiency and calculation. Too many women (and men) ignore signs or don’t get examinations. By being vocal about my journey, perhaps someone else would be spared.

Anyway, how hard could this social media thing be? I’m a professional and this was for the greater good.

But throughout the rest of 2014 and over half of 2015, I found I had trouble organizing my thoughts enough to form a coherent post. I learned there’s something called “chemo brain.” It’s a real thing, I was told by doctors and other patients.

Right. That’s like “writer’s block.” Another one I knew didn’t exist. You never hear plumbers say they can’t do their job because of “plumber block” and my belief is if something isn’t working, rewrite it until it does.  I kept remembering my first boss who used to throw a glue pot (yes, I’m dating myself because it’s been more decades than I can count since glue has been used in newsrooms) at me when I was struggling with a lede (the opening paragraph of a news story).

Since I knew I wasn’t blocked, there was only one other conclusion. My writing ability was officially dead. “It” was gone for good. Time to find another career.

Then one day, I was undergoing radiation treatment and “it” came to me. The perfect character and the perfect story. From that germ of an idea came my latest story, Do Grave Harm. Things have changed, of course, because I’m not the same person I was before 2014.
I don’t write as fast. Do Grave Harm took over a year to complete. Before, I would have finished three or four stories in that time. But change is okay. I’ve learned to accept and revel in what I can do, not in what I can’t.

In talking to other cancer patients I realize this kind of change is something we’ve all had to learn. I’ve also learned sometimes my “it” needs to regroup and recharge. Like my physical body getting older and maturing, my mental stamina has done the same. Perhaps this change was caused by something I had no control over, but it is my new normal. The “it” is back with a different flavor and focus. Perhaps my “it” will be better for the change.

Author Bio
A southern girl, Trixie Stilletto traveled north when she found the love of her life. Together, they enjoyed more than 20 years working as journalists. Now back home in Tennessee she’s writing stories that range from short hot romances with a kiss of humor to southern-flavored mysteries. She lives seven miles from the neighborhood where she grew up with two cats, an aging beagle and a host of characters waiting for her to tell their stories.

Do Grave Harm, the first in the exciting new Blue Bald Falls cross-genre series is available in digital and paperback from major retailers. Portions of the proceeds from Do Grave Harm will be donated to breast cancer charities.

Link to website, excerpt:

Links to buy book:
Website; social media links
Facebook: @TrixieStilleto
Twitter: @TrixieStilletto


Friday, September 29, 2017

How Like An Angel by Margaret Millar: A Review By Warren Bull

How Like An Angel by Margaret Millar: A Review By Warren Bull

By the time How Like An Angel was published (1962) the author had already won an Edgar for her novel Beast in View. She was named Grand Master by Mystery Writers of America. Ed Gorman described he work as ..”too good for the mass market.”

Broke, unemployed and alone, Joe Quinn is dropped off in the desert with a path to follow that leads toward a religious commune called the Tower. Addicted to gambling despite his inevitable losses, Quinn is not the sort of guy to get tangled up in other people’s problems. However, when Sister Blessing offers one hundred and twenty dollars in cash for Quinn to find out if a man named Patrick O’Gorman still lives in a town nearby, he accepts the offer with no idea what making inquiries will set off.

How Like An Angel is compelling, suspenseful novel that surprises as it depicts human motivation, obsession, love and hate. Belief versus doubt plays out in the town as well as in the commune.

This is a well-written study of the human condition in addition to being a truly satisfying mystery.  I am glad to be able to recommend it highly.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Girl Who Wrote In Silk

As I’ve mentioned before I love my two book clubs because they introduce me to books I’ve not heard of. Today I’m discussing The Girl Who Wrote In Silk by Kelli Estes, a USA Today bestseller, and I can see why it is.

The book combines the story of a Chinese girl in the late 1800s and a girl from modern times. The prologue starts with Mei Lien on a ship in Puget Sound leaving Seattle and she is thrown overboard.

Chapter one has us meeting Inara Erickson on a ferry with her sister heading for Orcas island where she and her family spent summers at their Aunt Dahlia’s home. Aunt Dahlia had recently died and left her home to Inara.

As she and her sister are exploring the house, Inara finds a piece of fabric hidden in the house that is an elaborately stitched sleeve that tells a story with pictures.

Against her father’s wishes, Inara wants to live on the island and turn the larger part of the house into a boutique hotel. He humors her at first giving her a loan to start fixing it up figuring she’ll change her mind and then she could sell it at a greater profit.

However, after finding the silk sleeve with the pictures, she contacts a professor at a Seattle university, who has a Chinese background and  teaches Chinese history. He’s fascinated by it, and together they try to research and find out who was the Chinese woman who embroidered this beautiful piece of work.

Inara (and through this book) we find out the horrors the Chinese immigrants faced in the 1800s not only in Seattle, but in the western states. 
In a conversation written with the author of this debut novel, she said that in 2002 she was researching the history of the San Juan Islands for a historical romance when she discovered a smuggler, who rather than get caught with his illegal cargo of Chinese immigrants in the 1900s chose to bash them over their heads and throw them overboard. From reading that story grew the story of Mei Lien and on to the connection Inara had through her family ancestors.

It is a powerful book, and although I’d heard the Chinese were looked down on in the past and not treated well, I had no idea of the horrors they faced. The story was both tragic at times and touching, too. Mei Lien is rescued and the man who rescues her keeps her hidden from others on the island because he knows what could happen to her if she is found. I don’t want to give too many details so all I can say is that it’s a book I highly recommend. When this blog is up, I’ll be attending the book club where it will be discussed. I’ve heard from a few who already read it how much they liked it, and I’m sure tonight it will be a very interesting discussion.

How much did you know about how the Chinese immigrants were treated in the 1800s?


Wednesday, September 27, 2017

An Interview With Frances Brody

by Grace Topping

Novels about strong women have wide appeal, especially women in historical novels who face challenges modern-day women don’t always face—making them even more impressive. One of those characters is Kate Shackleton, created by British writer, Frances Brody. Kate, an amateur detective in early 20th century England, stumbles on bodies and mysterious happenings in locations throughout Yorkshire following WWI. The mysteries provide an intriguing puzzle, and the description of the settings is better than a travel guide to Yorkshire.

I discovered the Kate Shackleton series after meeting Frances Brody at a Malice Domestic conference in 2015 and was impressed that she had traveled from England to Bethesda, Maryland, for the conference. Her appearance on a panel at the 2017 conference entitled Murder Most English, where she talked about Kate Shackleton, convinced me that this was a series I would enjoy, and in deed I have. The fictional Kate is almost as delightful as her creator, Frances Brody. 

Welcome, Frances, to Writers Who Kill.

Thank you so much for inviting me, Grace. It’s lovely to be here.

Kate Shackleton seems to be a woman before her time. Did making her a widow give her a freedom that young women wouldn’t ordinarily have had immediately following WWI?

Frances Brody
As your question suggests, Kate’s life would have been very different if her husband Gerald had returned from the Great War. Many young women courageously seized a certain kind of freedom for themselves, even though society viewed them as “surplus women”. A real life contemporary of Kate’s, a single woman, joined the Metropolitan Police and worked at Scotland Yard for forty-six years. Kate’s freedom to follow her calling as a detective is made possible by her economic independence. Virginia Woolf said “a room of one’s own” is a necessity for a woman to be able to write. Kate, fortunately, has a house of her own, an income, and a car. She can take off on a case at a moment’s notice. I was pleased to provide this security for her, and it cost me nothing!

In Death at the Seaside, Kate goes on holiday and abruptly finds herself spending a night in the clink. Her experience illustrates how someone, even with her status, can go from innocent bystander to suspect in a murder investigation. What was the greatest challenge she faced working as a female amateur detective?

The greatest challenge is yet to come …

You’ve set your books in various locations in Yorkshire, for example, Death at the Seaside in Whitby. How do you select the location for each book?

Before I begin, I have a feeling about the kind of story this might be and what will go into the making of it. There will be images in my head that give a clue as to the place. Death at the Seaside involves a nostalgic trip for Kate. She visits an old school friend who lives in a seaside town, Whitby. This is where Kate met her husband Gerald. It just had to be Whitby.

It might happen the other way round. I learn something about a place and realize there is a story to tell.

You also include some of the history of those locations, for example the wreck of the Rohilla, a hospital ship that sank off the east coast of England. How do the residents of those locations react to your books featuring their cities or towns?

Residents are enormously helpful and generous with their time when I am researching. I always go back when the book is finished. Generally, people are pleased to have the place they love featured in a novel. If there’s a contrary view, they are too polite to tell me!

I’m glad that American and Canadian readers have warmed to Kate Shackleton as much as I have. How was it breaking into the North American market and trying to do promotion on two sides of the Atlantic? Have your books been translated for readers elsewhere?

View of Whitby
I can’t take credit for breaking into the North American market as it was thanks to my agent that the books were introduced to an editor at Minotaur, a great publisher. Attending US conventions and doing “road trips” with writer friends has been an amazing experience. I have attended the Malice Domestic conference in Bethesda, Maryland several times, and Bouchercon New Orleans. It’s a huge pleasure to make friends with American and Canadian readers and writers. Thanks to social media (like this!) it’s possible to stay in touch.

Kate Shackleton has been introduced to Russian readers. There will be German translations next year.

Your list of honors, including being shortlisted for the Mystery Writers of America Mary Higgins Clark Award and receiving the HarperCollins Elizabeth Elgin Award, is impressive. Of the acknowledgements you’ve received, which ones give you the most satisfaction?

Writing can be a solitary business. I know I’m not the only one to say to herself, ‘Does this manuscript have any merit whatsoever, and will anybody read it?!’ So it’s always wonderful to have a good review, a nomination or an award. Yet some of the best moments for me are when I receive an email from a reader who has enjoyed one of my books. It may be someone who has been having a hard time and the book has given pleasure.
You come from a long line of storytellers but are the first in your family to actually write stories. What motivated you to take your family talent to the next step? And why mysteries?

I had the urge to write a novel and bought a typewriter at the age of 18. I wrote thirty pages and came to a halt. I have no idea what that novel was about, or why I had to go on writing. Perhaps I turned to mysteries because life is a great mystery.

In addition to your Kate Shackleton mystery series, I understand that you’ve also written stories and plays for BBC radio and scripts for television. How was it hearing or seeing your work performed? If we look real hard, would we be able to find them somewhere online?

Writing stories was a great pleasure and so much more manageable than writing a novel! Scriptwriting taught me a lot about structure and dialogue. Actors and writers share a similar approach to the work and it helps develop antennae.

I don’t believe you’ll find any of the work online, perhaps for copyright reasons. The radio plays have repeats from time to time.

I was pleased to hear that books you wrote under your real name, Frances McNeil, are being made available again under your pen name, Frances Brody. What’s it like having your earlier work resurrected and under a pen name?

Those books meant a lot to me, Sisters on Bread Street, Sixpence in Her Shoe and Halfpenny Dreams, and so I’m glad they’re available again. I’m used to being Frances Brody now and so it does not feel strange.

Kings River Life Magazine said, “Frances Brody… has a way of evoking Yorkshire in the 20th century that reminds fans of Golden Age mysteries….” That was quite a compliment to be compared to writers from that period. Do you have a particular writer from that era that you admire or who inspires you?

The Golden Age writers included such good storytellers, with so much depth and intelligence. If I were to choose just one it would be Josephine Tey.

The number of public appearances you do sounds exhausting. What do you enjoy about them most? How do you balance those appearances with writing the next book?

I enjoy meeting readers and writers, old friends and new. Oh, and it helps if the hotel has a swimming pool! As for balancing the appearances with writing, I try not to spend too long unpacking when I arrive home. I’m very slow at putting stuff away. I try to start work as soon as possible when I come back – usually in the morning, after I’ve fed the garden birds.

What’s next for Kate Shackleton?

Kate’s latest adventure, Death in the Stars, features a much-loved singer, variety theatres, and a total eclipse of the sun. It will be published in the UK on October 5.

Will fans be seeing you on this side of the pond in the near future?

I’ve no immediate plans, but I’m sure I’ll be over before too long.

Thank you, Frances. I look forward to seeing you in the future.

To learn more about Frances Brody, visit her on Facebook and at her website:

Death at the Seaside Jacket Copy
Frances Brody returns with an intricate, absorbing plot while capturing the atmosphere and language of 1920s England in the eighth book of her cozy mystery series.
Nothing ever happens in August, and tenacious sleuth Kate Shackleton deserves a break.
Heading off for a long-overdue holiday to Whitby, she visits her school friend Alma who works as a fortuneteller there. Kate had been looking forward to a relaxing seaside sojourn, but upon arrival discovers that Alma's daughter Felicity has disappeared, leaving her mother a note and the pawn ticket for their only asset: a watch-guard.
What makes this more intriguing is the jeweler who advanced Felicity the thirty shillings is Jack Phillips, Alma's current gentleman friend.
Kate can't help but become involved, and goes to the jeweler's shop to get some answers. When she makes a horrifying discovery in the back room, it becomes clear that her services are needed. Met by a wall of silence by town officials, keen to maintain Whitby's idyllic façade, it's up to Kate - ably assisted by Jim Sykes and Mrs. Sugden - to discover the truth behind Felicity's disappearance.
And they say nothing happens in August...

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

It's In Their Stars

There is a phenomenon in astrology called the Saturn return: an astrological transit that occurs when the planet Saturn returns to the same place in the sky that it occupied at the moment of a person's birth, roughly 29.5 years into their lifetime. It’s a time of reckoning, of karma and consequence, and its effects can last for over a year.

In the first book in my Tai Randolph series, I introduced Tai, my narrator, right smack dab in the middle of her Saturn return. She's tipped over that edge now in the sixth book (the upcoming Necessary Ends), but is still mired in the transitional chaos, still struggling with the upheavals in her life. By the end of this book (out in April!) she makes a choice that rewrites her understanding of herself in a significant way. Pure Saturn return stuff.

This isn't the first book for which I've employed astrology as a developmental tool. Way back when I first started thinking about my characters, I created their natal charts, which are celestial maps that show the position of the sun, moon, and planets when a person was born. To make these charts, I used a very basic computer program that came with my favorite astrology book—the perfectly named The Only Astrology Book You’ll Ever Need—but the Astrolabe site offers a free version of the same. And the information I learned, even if very basic as astrological interpretations go, has proven quite helpful.

My protagonist Tai Randolph was born on March 21st.  That makes her an Aries sun sign—fiery, aggressive, energetic. It's where she gets her recklessness too, and her competitive streak. Her moon is also in Aries, which gives her a double dose of that head-first, all-systems-go, Ram energy. Her rising sign, however—the sign that was overhead when she was born—is Sagittarius the Archer. No accident that the first tattoo she got was of a flaming arrow in a flaming bow. Here is where we see Tai's independence, her philosophical streak, and her love of the outdoors.

Her partner in all things both romantic and crime solving is Trey Seaver—his birthday is September 17th, which gives him a sun sign of Virgo, with all the caution and reservation and love of order conveyed by that sign. It's where he gets his brain power and his overly analytical mode of operation. His rising sign is Taurus, which bestows strength and calmness and deliberation to his nature. And his moon sign? Capricorn—serious and practical, with a strong sense of duty. All three of these are earth signs, a combination that can make him spectacularly and aggressively stubborn, but also faithful and trustworthy, with a good head and grounded personality.

What keeps these two characters from butting heads to the point of mutual destruction? They both have the planet Venus in the sign of Leo, a fiercely loyal and ferociously passionate sign. Tai and Trey each have a fire heart, and as the saying goes, fire calls to fire.

I'm no professional astrologer—tarot is my divinatory tool of choice—but I do have an amateur's love of the stars and their celestial mysteries. If you'd like to learn more, visit your local bookstore; there's plenty of material to get you started. Or better yet, consult a professional astrologer and get your own birth chart done. It's an illuminating process no matter who you are, even if you happen to be a fictional character.

*     *     *
Tina Whittle writes the Tai Randolph mysteries for Poisoned Pen Press. The sixth book in this Atlanta-based series—Necessary Ends—is scheduled for an April release. Tina is a proud member of Sisters in Crime and serves as both a chapter officer and national board member. Visit her website to follow her on social media, sign up for her newsletter, or read additional scenes and short stories:

Monday, September 25, 2017

Holmes at Home: Gillette’s Castle in East Haddam, CT

by Shari Randall

221B Baker Street. We all know Sherlock Holmes’s address, right? Well, here in Connecticut we know a secret. Sherlock Holmes had another home, a castle overlooking the Connecticut River.

Don’t believe me? My daughter and I visited just last week. The castle looks like it was transplanted directly from a misty Scottish moor to a spectacular overlook on the Connecticut River.

How did that incongruous mansion get there? It all started with a young man who defied his parents to become an actor.

William H. Gillette was born in Hartford, CT, the son of a US Senator. His mother was the direct descendant of Thomas Hooker, the co-founder of the Colony of Connecticut. Mark Twain and Harriett Beecher Stowe lived down the street from his boyhood home. To say that his parents didn’t support his desire to work in the theater would be an understatement.

But William H. Gillette became one of the most popular playwrights and actors of his time. His legacy endures in two ways.

First, Gillette was the first to portray Sherlock Holmes on stage and screen, and his acting choices became the bedrock for the Holmes persona. When Sir Arthur Conan Doyle decided to bring Sherlock to the stage (evidently Doyle needed the money) he contacted a fresh, young American to adapt the stories into stage plays. Gillette read all the stories and the play he wrote, called simply Sherlock Holmes, debuted in 1899 to great success. Holmes and Conan Doyle enjoyed a long creative partnership and personal friendship.

Some of the trademarks we associate with Holmes were the creation of Gillette, not Conan Doyle. The signature deerstalker hat and caped coat were hunting gear a well-bred Englishman would never wear in the city, but became part of Gillette’s Sherlock costume. He also adopted the curved briar pipe, which did not appear in the stories, thinking it a distinctive stage prop.

One of Holmes’ most famous catchphrases “Elementary, my dear Watson” never appeared in the original stories. For the play, Gillette wrote “Oh, this is elementary, my dear fellow.” For the Holmes films, the phrase was shortened to “Elementary, my dear Watson.”

Gillette played Holmes on stage and on film for almost 33 years and made over 1,300 stage appearances as the great detective. This work made him a famous and wealthy man.

He used his fortune to build a twenty-four room mansion of magnificent imagination and charm in the Connecticut countryside. Known to locals as “Gillette’s Castle,” the building sits high over the Connecticut River in East Haddam. The exterior walls were constructed with local fieldstone, interior walls built in southern white oak. One can imagine Sherlock Holmes retiring to this retreat, walking in the woods enjoying the spectacular view of the river. Inside, Gillette designed ingenious locks, built-in furniture, and strategically placed mirrors that allowed him to keep track of the comings and goings of his guests.

Gillette died in 1937 and the State of Connecticut purchased the property from the executors of his will. He had directed that the property not fall into the hands of “some blithering saphead who has no conception of where he is or with what surrounded.”

If you’d like to visit this home of “Sherlock Holmes,” it is open from Memorial Day through Columbus Day. Check out for more information.

Have you ever visited the home of a fictional character?

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Author’s Toolbox: The Auditory Read Through

by James M. Jackson

Every author develops a toolkit of writing skills and techniques, preferred software and hardware, and proven processes to develop a polished manuscript. In my online course, Revision and Self-Editing (next month-long class starts October 1 if you are interested), I suggest authors add the Auditory Read Through to their stockpile of available tools.

If you are like most modern authors, you compose your first draft using a word-processing program, which means you first see your words on a screen. You may rewrite your manuscript using a screen to display your text, or you may print out a copy of your manuscript, make handwritten corrections and then convert those back to an electronic form.

Many authors have learned that they find different problems when they view their manuscript on the screen compared to what they find when using a hard copy. I know authors who change from their standard font and a single column printout and use a different font and two columns to make sure nothing looks “familiar.” In addition to these techniques, I suggest that you will discover different issues when you read your manuscript out loud.

Even if on previous read throughs you silently sounded things out in your head, you were not using your sense of hearing. Before the written word, stories were spoken, and you should listen to yours to discover a few last issues you may have missed.

Approaches to the Auditory Read Through

#1 I read it myself

One key to this approach is I try to mimic a reader’s experience.
I print out the manuscript single-spaced applying the same font, type size, lines per page and page size as the publisher uses. As I read, I’ll see, for example, a long paragraph that needs splitting or dialogue that runs unbroken for two pages. [I do not worry about exact layout, orphan lines, where words break on a line, or anything like that.]

What do I listen for? Anything that doesn’t sound right on a sentence-by-sentence basis, or as part of a paragraph, or the entire page. Whenever I stumble or trip over a word, there is a good chance I need a rewrite. This gives me the opportunity to straighten convoluted sentences and exchange flabby diction with precise wording.

I often discover I used a word several times within a short span. I might not see the multiple uses on screen or page, but my ear picks them up. Reading often reveals double words: detritus remaining from earlier rewriting (the the is my most common).

I pay attention to adverbs: are they covering for a flabby verb? Make sure every adverb is necessary. As an example, consider the line “She quickly walked to the sidewalk.” With the multitude of verbs available to describe exactly how she moved to the sidewalk, this sentence employs a lazy approximation for what the reader should visualize as they read.

Where I used multiple adjectives, can I replace them with one perfect descriptor?

Have I noun-ized verbs (xxxxx-ness) or verbed nouns (xxxxx-ize)?

Are verbs that end with “ing” appropriate?

Have I fallen into a repetitive pattern? Do too many sentences share the same form? Are sentences all the same length?

#2 Use software to read the manuscript

I used this technique with Empty Promises (Seamus McCree #5) this week as the final step before sending the manuscript to my editor. I allow the software to read the words (fully engaging my ears in the process) while I follow along on the computer screen. A variety of free and for-purchase software exists to read documents. I use the voices incorporated in Microsoft Word.

Most of my POV characters for this story are male, so I chose Microsoft’s David Mobile. Unlike a voice actor, or when I read my WIP aloud, this electronic reading does not provide inflection, which allows me to pay more attention to the actual words. It does take a bit of getting used to. Microsoft mangles many proper names because it tries to pronounce them phonetically and guesses at syllables. One character is Frank Cabibi. I’ve pronounced his last name in my head as Că-BEE-bee. Microsoft David chose CAY-bǝ-BY. David also doesn’t correctly enunciate the difference between the “live” in live bait versus the one in live and let live.

The occasional auditory jar startles me back to listening with careful ears. When I read my own work, I read through typos. (I know what the word is supposed to be.) Microsoft David reads what’s there, catching, for example, “habit” in a sentence where I intended “habitat.” (The error had survived two earlier drafts.) He always reads double words, something I sometimes miss when I read my own manuscript.

Some things are more obvious when I listen to my writing rather than read it myself. I can’t catch words or sentences I stumble over—Microsoft David is too competent to stumble. However, I do catch more clunky sentences when hearing his monotone—words, not inflection, must carry the meaning.

#3 Record, then listen

I have not tried this technique, but I know authors who swear by recording themselves reading their manuscript out loud and then listening to the recording. While they record their words, they muzzle the internal editor. (This is the part I find impossible.) Once they start the playback, they are truly listening (since they are not also reading).

When to perform an Auditory Read Through

My current workflow incorporates two Auditory Read Throughs. The first is as I described in my use for Empty Promises: when I think I have a manuscript ready to send to my editor. I know the editor will find many things for me to change, and much of this polishing will be wasted effort. However, if I’ve corrected all the problems I can see, it allows my editor to spend her time spotting things I haven’t seen. For me that is worth the extra time.

I perform a final Auditory Read Through on the final, final, final, manuscript. It’s my last bit of quality control before I approve the manuscript for publication. I admit it’s probably a belt-and-suspenders approach to a clean read, but hey—it’s my name on the cover!

If you’ve tried the technique, how did you think it worked for you? If you haven’t performed an Auditory Read Through, do you think you might?

~ Jim

There is still time to register for the Revision and Self-Editing class, which you can do from Jim's website.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

A Time to Kill, A Time to Sellabrate, by Kait Carson

Once upon a time there was a hungry novelist and his name was John Grisham. The guy couldn’t sell a book to save his life. That’s right. John Grisham couldn’t sell a book. And he was desperate. The man came from a working-class background. He had his law degree, and like many of his characters, he took on the hard cases. Cases he believed in. Cases for indigent clients. Cases that would let him learn his trade. It beat his earlier jobs, heavy construction and selling tidy whities at Sears.

Sitting in the back of a courtroom watching a trial unfold he learned more than his trade. He learned anger and rage and had no place to channel them. It wasn’t his case. Lacking a way to control the outcome, he put pen to paper and A Time to Kill was born. Like many first born, it was a slow, painful, process. It took three years. After all that emotion, time, sweat and tears, the darn thing tanked. Grisham went back to the practice of law, hoping someday he would get good enough at it to quit.

This should be the part of the story where we write the rest is history. Except there’s a twist. Why not, Grisham writes thrillers. Ya gotta have a twist or two. Grisham’s second book The Firm turned into a runaway best seller. The book was optioned, Tom Cruise played the lead and a novelist star was born. Overnight fame (never mind those two pesky years between books) doesn’t get much better than that.

Grisham continued to churn out best sellers and the movies kept calling, The Pelican Brief followed The Firm, then The Client, The Chamber, The Rainmaker followed a year apart. The guy was no longer practicing law. Or if he was, his partners were shouldering the briefs. At some point, A Time to Kill made its second debut. Looking back, the book was ahead of its time. It horrified the reading public on a visceral level. Much the same way the true-life crime must have horrified Grisham. Horrified him enough to confess that he modeled the revenge shooting on his own desire.

A funny thing happened to A Time to Kill. The book of Grisham’s heart was a book he couldn’t give away. In fact, he claims to have forty or fifty buried in his back yard. These days, you can buy it on Amazon, probably eBay too, or you can go to a rare book store. If you are lucky you can find a first edition, for about $3,000 to $4,500. Talk about the ultimate backlist!

Readers, have you read A Time to Kill?
Writers, are you feeling as hopeful as I am about those early books that only jump off the shelves in earthquakes and hurricanes?