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!


Wednesday, June 5, 2019

An Interview with Three Daphne Du Maurier Contest Finalists by E. B. Davis

The Daphne Du Maurier Award contest in Mystery/Suspense is held every year by the Kiss of Death chapter of the Romance Writers of America. I suspect because of the overlap between romance and mystery genres, many Sisters in Crime members enter the contest. It is divided between published and unpublished novels. After that division, the novels must be entered into one of six subcategories by those submitting, which can be tricky. The categories are:

·       Series romantic mystery/suspense
·       Single-title romantic mystery/suspense
·       Historical (predating WWII) romantic mystery/suspense
·       Inspirational romantic mystery/suspense
·       Paranormal romantic mystery/suspense
·       Mainstream mystery/suspense

The first two categories listed must have romance as the main genre with elements of mystery/suspense. The next three categories, Historical, Inspirational, and Paranormal must have those elements be a dominant factor in the manuscript submitted. The last category doesn’t have to have any elements of romance. But one wonders if the contest is sponsored by the RWA chapter, will having no elements of romance be detrimental in winning. 

In the SinC Guppy chapter there are three finalists this year. I wanted to ask those authors the same six questions. The three authors are Joyce Woollcott, Amy Drayer, and WWK’s own Margaret S. Hamilton.

Please welcome these authors to WWK.                                                                            _        __E. B. Davis

Are you competing in the Published or Unpublished category?

Joyce: The Unpublished. (Sounds like a great title for a mystery). A Nice Place to Die

 Amy: Unpublished. Murder Comes to Makah

Margaret: Unpublished. Curtains for the Corpse

How did you place your novel within the six categories? Was it hard to do? Does your novel have romantic elements?

Joyce: They were fairly clear in the notes, and as I never thought of myself as a romance writer, I just naturally chose Mainstream Mystery/Suspense. Strangely though, romance, love and jealousy are major themes in the book, but the core of it is a mystery. Who murdered Kate?

Amy: My novel is competing in the mainstream category. It doesn’t contain any elements associated with the romance genre, though it does contain some significant character development associated with interpersonal relationships. But placement within the categories wasn’t particularly difficult in this instance and the guidelines the Daphne laid out were clear and instructive.

Margaret: Mainstream Mystery. I read the guidelines several times. My traditional mystery does have a romantic element—my amateur sleuth and her lover, both widowed, are co-parents in a cobbled-together family to two teenagers, but it’s a crime-based plot.

Did you have to pay to enter the contest?

Joyce: Yes, I paid $30. Members of RWA pay $15.

Amy: Yes – I believe it was $30.

Margaret: The Kiss of Death fee is $30 for non-RWA members, and includes four critiques. The bottom score is dropped from the cumulative score.

If you enter the contest, are you also required to judge? If you are, is it within a different category? Are all the judges contestants?

Joyce: No, I wasn’t required to judge, although they are looking for qualified people all the time. I don’t see myself as qualified to judge at this point. Unpublished and still learning, I’m just beginning the journey. You may need to be a member of RWA though. I don’t believe all the judges are contestants. On the second round for finalists, the judges are working editors and agents.

Amy: There was no judging requirement associated with the contest.

Margaret: I’ve entered several times, but this is the first year I was asked to judge. I picked published mainstream mysteries as my category because I don’t know how to evaluate the romance genre. In the end, I wasn’t assigned a book or books to judge. I have no idea who the judges are, but it’s obvious all my critiques were done by experienced writers.

What are the benefits of winning the contest?

Joyce: Well, it’s something to put on your query letter, if you can ever get a query letter written. And also, it gives you a jolt of confidence. This is the second manuscript I’ve ever written and like a lot of new writers, there’s a lot of self-doubt. In January I was long listed in the Arthur Ellis Awards for my first unpublished novel. At the time I was very thrilled and excited, but imagined it was a fluke, a one-time thing. It did however, give me the courage to enter the Daphnes. To be recognized again for the second one is wonderful. But still, you wonder… I think lack of confidence is part of who we are. It’s not about the prize money, that’s for sure.
But then creative writing seldom is about the money, is it?

Amy: Murder Comes to Makah is my debut work - I’m currently querying the novel, so the biggest advantage right now is being able to include the fact that it was selected as a finalist in my outgoing pitches. As well it’s a great advantage as a finalist to be able to move your query and your opening pages out of the slush pile and directly in front of an agent and editor who are relevant to your genre.

Margaret: Brand name recognition (designation as Daphne Finalist in query letter) and professional validation of the book: well-structured plot, believable character arcs, dramatic tension, dialogue, lucid prose, and a strong narrative voice. If I attend the NYC event in July, contact with the other finalists, editors, and agents associated with the contest.

Has the feedback you’ve received been beneficial?

Joyce: I haven’t received feedback yet. I think finalists have to wait until the end. They do take the feedback portion seriously though. I’ve read the question sheet and it’s fairly comprehensive. Certainly worth $15 or $30 if you can manage it. Everyone who enters gets honest feedback and that’s really helpful. Getting the comments from an established editor and agent is something I’m really looking forward to.

Amy: As I understand it we won’t receive feedback on the submissions until late July, after the awards are announced.

Margaret: The critiques have been very valuable. A year ago, I used them as the basis for my developmental edit. My editor agreed with the Daphne judges that my protagonist was a mess and so was the plot. 

The score sheets are detailed, but I learn the most from the editorial comments on the sheets as well as in the text. Finalists will not receive their score sheets until after the awards are announced. We submitted our final twenty-five pages and two-page synopsis without having the benefit of the judges’ critiques. 

Added bonus: Submission formatting mandates a header on the left including subgenre and page number on the right. It used to take me hours to accomplish this feat.


Margaret S. Hamilton said...

Congrats to all the finalists! Thanks, Elaine.

Jim Jackson said...

Congratulations to all three of you for your nominations.

Shari Randall said...

Congratulations! I have to say that I find all those titles enticing. Margaret, please keep us up to date!

Connie Berry said...

Congratulations to all the finalists, especially Margaret S. Hamilton. I had the pleasure of reading a portion of the second in her series. This is a winner!

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

Thanks, Connie. All the better with your detailed line-by-line edits (Connie critiqued the first 25 pp. of the second traditional mystery in my series as part of the Midwest MWA Holton unpublished novelist program. It's a great service to the mystery-writing community and non-MWA members can participate).

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Congratulations to Joyce, Amy and Margaret. I chaired the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense for several years, and as you have finaled in arguably the Daphne's most competitive category (mainstream), you should all be updating your resumes and touting your success when you submit this manuscript. (And won't it be something if your manuscripts are requested by an agent or editor or both in the final round judging) which is why you can't have your entries back yet;)

You ask about mainstream and worry that romance readers might not be adequate judges. First, the reason KOD has a mainstream category is that when we went to the estate and requested the use of Daphne du Maurier's name, we were told that Dame Daphne did not consider herself a romance writer. The estate gave us permission to use her name if we had a mainstream category for both published and unpublished. Second, Kiss of Death members are romantic suspense, mystery, thriller writers, and many, like me, belong to Sisters in Crime, MWA, ITW, and because we recruit experienced judges, I can assure you contestants are in good hands. We also have a training for judges, and of course nonmembers can judge, provided they are experience and go through KOD's painless training. It's really a worthwhile experience to judge because you get to see brilliant entries and/or mistakes we might make in our own writing. It's a win/win opportunity to judge the Daphne. (Of course if you enter, you cannot judge the same category you enter.)

One of the great things about this contest is that an unpublished entrant receives feedback. Four judges per entry, the lowest score dropped. That's a lot of feedback. Are the judges always correct? Unfortunately not. It's subjective. But they often see the same problems in a manuscript, and that is what is so helpful to entrants, whether they final or not.

The Daphne Contest begins every January 15 and runs through March 15, and because we have so many judges, the entries are capped so first come first serve.

No matter what category you enter, having a Daphne win or final behind your name is a terrific credential.

Congratulations again. I hope you get a request(s) and maybe one of you will be the OVERALL winner, and that plaque is something to behold.

Donnell Ann Bell

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

Donnell, thanks for all the information! I've always received supportive and very helpful critiques from the Daphne competition and would encourage unpublished mystery writers to submit next year.

Kait carson said...

Congratulations to all the finalists. Sounds like I have some good reading ahead of me. Great interview Elaine!

Kait carson said...

Donnell, what great information. And it makes the work of the finalists even more impressive.

KM Rockwood said...

An encouraging, helpful blog!

Donnell, thanks for the insider's view!

Congrats to the finalists, and I hope your work brings you many rewards.

Susan said...

This was an informative post, and I imagine the feedback will be helpful. Congratulations to all of you.