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

October Interviews

10/07 M.E. Browning, Shadow Ridge

10/14 Alexia Gordon

10/21 Adam Meyer

10/28 Barbara Ross, Jane Darrowfield and the Madwoman Next Door

October Guest Bloggers

10/03 Kathleen Kalb

10/17 S. Lee Manning

10/31 Sharon Dean

WWK Weekend Bloggers

10/10 Jennifer J. Chow

10/24 Kait Carson


For The Love Of Lobster Tales by Shari Randall is now available to download free for a limited time. Go to Black Cat Mysteries at: https://bcmystery.com/ to get your free copy! Thanks for the freebie, Shari.

Keenan Powell recently signed with agent Amy Collins of Talcott Notch. Congratulations, Keenan!

KM Rockwood's "Secrets To The Grave" will appear in the new SinC Chesapeake Chapter's new anthology Invitation To Murder, which will be released by Wildside Press on 10/6.

Congratulations to our two Silver Falchion Finalists Connie Berry and Debra Goldstein!

Paula Gail Benson's "Cosway's Confidence" placed second and Debra Goldstein's "Wabbit's Carat" received Honorable Mention in the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable 2020 short story contest. Congratulations, Paula and Debra!

Susan Van Kirk's Three May Keep A Secret has been republished by Harlequinn's Worldwide Mystery. The WWK interview about the book can be accessed here. We're so glad another publisher picked up this series.

KM Rockwood's "Burning Desire," and Paula Gail Benson's "Living One's Own Truth," have been published in the anthology Heartbreaks & Half-truths. Congratulations to all of the WWK writers.

Please join Margaret S. Hamilton's Kings River Life podcast of her short story "Busted at the Book Sale" here. Congratulations, Margaret!


Thursday, May 23, 2019

What Do You Write?


By Margaret S. Hamilton

"Oh, you’re a writer. What do you write?” I frequently encounter the question at the meat counter, gym, and while I’m walking the dogs.

 I turn the question around. “I write lots of things. What do you enjoy reading?” She (it’s usually a woman) frowns in deep concentration.

 I’ve tried books.” She gives me a wide-eyed look. “But nothing I can sink my teeth into.”

 I'm tempted to say, “You’re too busy watching Netflix and HGTV, re-imagining your life in an open concept house.” Instead, I ease into my pitch. “I write cozy stories—the kind without explicit violence or sex—and recently finished my first amateur sleuth traditional mystery, Curtains for the Corpse. My main character manages both an interior design shop and historic home renovations.”

"Ooh, like tearing down walls to make a glamourous bathroom?” She tiptoes closer, anxious for inside information. “Tell me, is granite really on the way out?”

I don’t respond. If every motel bathroom in America has granite countertops and a waterfall shower faucet, the design world has moved on. “It’s all about your vision. I wouldn’t fret.” Trust me, if they’re desperate to buy your house, thirty-somethings strapped with day care and two car payments aren’t going to quibble about granite instead of quartz countertops.

She smirks. “What mystery shows do you watch on TV?” Gotcha! Book snob, let’s talk about TV.

I inwardly groan, thinking of a long list of British police procedurals I’ve borrowed from the library—Shetland, Vera, Dalziel and Pascoe, Judge John Deed, George Gently, Phryne Fisher, Endeavour, Inspector Lewis, Morse. My husband and I joke that the British TV industry has a designated pool of character actors for police procedurals.

I finally come up with an answer. “I enjoy the mysteries on PBS every summer.”

"Oh, PBS. I don’t watch, other than Downton, of course.”

I smile. “I love Maggie Smith. The dowager countess is my favorite character.”

"You should watch TV. It would give you some great plot ideas.”

I cringe as I remember newbie stories I’ve critiqued with plots based on what I suspect were NCIS or Law and Order episodes, and pull a business card out of my jacket pocket. “Check my website. It has links to my short stories.”

“I haven’t read a short story since high school. Not enough meat on ‘em.” She turns to leave. “I like hunky cowboys. If you ever write a romance about cowboys, I’ll read it.” With a wink, she walks away.

While trapped in his chair, I had an interchange with my dentist. “Mysteries, huh? I read mysteries. Like all the action.”

I grunt in response as he repositions his drill. “Why don’t you write a mystery about a dentist? When I look for one at the airport bookstore, all I find is books about bioweapons and terrorists.”

I close my eyes and inwardly scream as the drill bites down.

Questions at writers’ conferences are different. “What’s your book about? You know, not just what happens.” A perky twenty-something leans on one hip and pushes her owl-like eyeglasses up her nose.

"My book features a female protagonist determined to overcome her traumatic past and make a new life for herself in a small Ohio college town.”

"She’s got PTSD? You do know Janet Reid says that’s not a character flaw.”

I take a deep breath. “Yes, I read the same Query Shark blog. I consider the character flawed if she refuses to seek treatment.”

She eats a glazed donut, one luscious bite at a time, and licks her fingers. “OK, tell me more.”

"My protagonist uncovers a plot to silence two whistleblowers, a college student, who disappears, and an itinerant artist, whom she finds dead.”

"Oh. It’s a psychological thriller?”

"No, first book of a traditional mystery series.”

 "They’re not selling. Why don’t you turn it into domestic suspense? You know, Gone Girl, but different. With an older character, like thirty-five.” She wipes her mouth, smirks, and saunters away.

 Next up, a woman wearing dangling tabby earrings and a striking silk scarf printed with jungle cats. “I collect cat cozies,” she says, bristling with pride. “I’m on a mission to read every cat cozy ever printed.”

"Sounds like a big project. Love your scarf.”

 She preens. “I’ve started a blog and post on Facebook every day.” We exchange business cards.

She whips out cheetah print reading glasses and scrutinizes my card. “You do write cozies, don’t you?”

"Traditional small-town amateur sleuth.”

 "That’s cozy, right? Louise Penny writes about a small town, but she doesn’t include cats in her books.” She shakes her head. “I wrote to her suggesting that she correct that oversight immediately.”

"Mysteries set in small towns aren’t necessarily cozies.”

"Some don’t even feature cats in a secondary role, which is a huge mistake.” She inspects me, head to toe. Nary a hair on my sweater and black slacks. “You’re not a cat person.”

"I like cats well enough, but I write about dogs—specifically, standard poodles.”

 She sniffs and hands back my card. “Regrettably, I can’t mention your book on my blog. Don’t bother asking. I won’t change my mind.” She pulls off her reading glasses and hustles to intercept her next victim.

It’s going to be a long and bumpy road to publication.

Readers, what questions do you ask authors? Writers, what’s the most outrageous question you were asked?


Jim Jackson said...

I get, "You're good enough to write a bridge book?" Me, dry wit firmly under control, "The New York Times Bridge Column editor recommended it.

Anonymous said...

If it helps, the notoriously cranky SF author Harlan Ellison used to, upon being asked where he got his ideas from, say the Idea Store. He would then give a street address in Schenectady, NY. Kind of the opposite of your problem, where everyone wants to share, but not unrelated.

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

Jim, does Seamus play bridge? I suspect there are readers looking for a good bridge-based mystery.

Anon, if I'm sitting in a gaggle of women, I usually respond, "I see plenty of plot material right here."

Shari Randall said...

Oh, Margaret, I think I've met some of these people! Hilarious but so true. It all makes me think of vampire books. Remember when every other book published was a vampire book? Where are they now? Reader tastes turn on a dime - let's hope traditional mysteries are the next It Book.

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

Shari, I hope traditional mysteries are on the rebound! I'm eagerly awaiting Martin Walker's new Inspector Bruno, Crombie's new James and Kincaid, and Spencer-Fleming's long-awaited Clare Ferguson mysteries. I have a huge stack of domestic thrillers but they're not the same as a good puzzle mystery with memorable characters.

Warren Bull said...

At a book signing a woman smiled at me and said, "I was going to buy your book but then I found this one." Fortunately, the book she showed me was a classic. "That's a great book," I answered.

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

Warren, you could be a bit pushy. "Why don't you take mine, too, and read them both?"

KM Rockwood said...

Ha! Maybe I don't get out as much, but pretty much all of the people I encounter do read, or at least say they do.

carla said...

Don't you love it when people suggest that you write something different? We write WHAT WE WRITE, dammit!!!

Kaye George said...

I just had a man suggest a subject to me the other day. I tried to explain that I don't write that kind of book, but, you know, I COULD make his suggestion work. If I do, I'll thank him in the acknowledgments. My favorite question is, "Have I read anything by you?" Or, "Have I heard of you?" Those are impossible to answer, but I know the probable answer. One time, selling books with a group in a small town, a man waved his hand over a stack of my Fat Cat books and said, dismissively, "Oh, I've read all those." That man made my day!!! I don't get very much of that!

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

Kathleen, same here. I see Danielle Steel romances and Daniel Silva thrillers at the gym. It's not "have you read a book lately?", it's "what are you reading this week?"

Carla, the twenty-somethings at writers workshops have all the answers, usually YA dystopian fantasy or domestic thrillers. I also remember the agent who was looking for "upmarket women's fiction, not (shudder) genre fiction." She's now looking for mysteries.

Kaye, a guy read all the Fat Cats? Wow, impressive. You've met all kinds of readers.