Saturday, May 30, 2015


I hope to get back to my Wednesday Blog post schedule, but am posting this early (or very late) because, after almost two months of e-mails with Amazon, my memoir, THE GREEN BOUGH, is finally going into their Countdown program. For seven days, starting June 3rd, it will be priced at $.99 instead of $2.99.

That’s the e-book. The paperback version is getting its slight updating now and will be published by Createspace soon.

I’ve mentioned before, I think, that the paper book has been my most popular at all the 2-3 book fairs I’ve attended every year for six years, and customers often come back for extra copies to give to friends and relatives.

Recently, however, looking for a possible new audience for the story, I did a bit of rewriting, added a teen romance, titled it A YEAR IN PARNEL, and submitted it to Kensington’s Lyrical imprint for New Adult books. I received the following rejection.

“I’ve had the opportunity to read your book and really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, as a romance imprint of Kensington, your NA submission doesn’t have strong enough romantic elements for me to offer contract.

“But so you know, even when I knew the book wasn’t necessarily for Lyrical, I still kept reading because I thought it was that good. Well-written, historically accurate and enjoyable. Even though there is a bit of a romantic thread throughout the story, it’s more about the awakening of this young woman, which, by the way, is really well done. Lovely in itself.

“Thank you for considering us and I wish you all the best.”

It’s not often one gets a rejection as complimentary as this, and, if I submit it elsewhere and get a contract, I’ll let you know.

Meanwhile, my three Sherlock Holmes novellas are on Amazon (promotion to be done later), I have a straight romance coming from Coffeetown Press in November, plus I submitted my two cozy mysteries to a California publisher and received a contract for both for 2016. So the year is going well.

Thursday, May 21, 2015


It’s amazing how books I wrote recently (to me, recently means within the last five years) are now Back List and it’s time to give them new life. Many multi-published authors say this, so it’s not an original idea. Check the blogs of writers like J.A. Konrath, Russell Blake and Louisa Locke.

Since I’m doing this myself, I can share my thoughts about what to change, and what not to, here today.

1. The Title. No, don’t change the title. Even if you sold very few copies when the book made its debut, changing the title would be a mistake. Someone who bought an earlier version might buy the new one and get very angry when finding they already read it under a different title. Angry enough to give you a one-star review or vow never to buy one of your books again.

2. Names. Although I don’t recommend this, character names can probably be changed without damaging your reputation, but don’t do it unless absolutely necessary (like a main character has the same name as a suddenly-notorious serial killer).

3. Plot. This ranks as another place to tread carefully. I think it’s a good idea to reread your older novel and make notes of anything that seems odd, or unclear. Such changes might improve the experience for your reader.

4. Word choices and grammar. Be sure your grammar is correct, but also set your “search” feature for “was, were, that, had” or words ending in ly. (adverbs)” Also sentences that begin with “And” or “But” or “It was” or “There was.” These, perhaps, can all be improved and therefore strengthen your writing skills. Words such as “seemed,“ and “felt” can be changed to better ways to show how characters thought and behaved. Similarly, look for “saw,” “watched,” “looked,” and “turned,” to give readers a more tangible vision.

5. I’m giving “said” a paragraph of its own. If you haven’t already changed old-fashioned speech tags such as “laughed, groaned, replied and opined,” replace them now with “said.” In fact, I recommend trying to eliminate “he said” and “she said,” by putting the character’s action in the same paragraph with his/her speech, which will make it clear who’s talking.

I wrote some of this in an earlier blog post, but I think it bears repeating. I sincerely hope it helps and results in new sales for your older books.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


The next batch of writing awards go to the winners of the Anthonies, named for Anthony Boucher, the late mystery writer, reviewer and editor. An annual convention, the Bouchercon, has been held every year in a U.S. city since 1970. The 2015 conference will be October 8-11 in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Unlike other awards, Anthony winners are chosen during the conference by the members who are creators and fans of mystery and detective fiction. Nominees, however, are chosen in advance, and this year they are:

Best Novel

LAMENTATION. Joe Clifford. Oceanview Publishing
THE SECRET PLACE. Tana French. Viking
AFTER I’M GONE. Laura Lippman. William Morrow
THE LONG WAY HOME. Louise Penny. Minotaur
TRUTH BE TOLD. Hank Phillippi Ryan. Forge

Best First Novel

BLESSED ARE THE DEAD. Kristi Belcamino. Witness Impulse
ICE SHEAR. M.P. Cooley. William Morrow
INVISIBLE CITY. Julia Dahl. Minotaur
THE LIFE WE BURY. Allen Eskens. Seventh Street
THE BLACK HOUR. Lori Rader-Day. Seventh Street

Best Paperback Original

STAY WITH ME. Alison Gaylin. Harper
THE KILLER NEXT DOOR. Alex Marwood. Penguin
THE DAY SHE DIED. Catriona McPherson. Midnight Ink
WORLD OF TROUBLE. Ben H. Winters. Quirk
NO STONE UNTURNED. James W. Ziskin. Seventh Street

Best Critical or Non-Fiction Work

THE FIGURE OF THE DETECTIVE. Charles Brownson. McFarland
DEATH DEALER. Kate Clark Flora. New Horizon.
DRU’S BOOK MUSINGS. Dru Ann Love. Dru’
POE-LAND. J. W. Ocker. Countryman.
WRITES OF PASSAGE. Hank Phillippi Ryan, Ed. Henery Press

Best Short Story

HONEYMOON SWEET. The Bouchercon Anthology 2014. Craig Faustus Buck. (Down and Out)
THE SHADOW KNOWS. Chesapeake Crimes. Barb Goffman. (Wildside)
HOWLING AT THE MOON. Ellery Queen Mystery Mag. Paul D. Marks
OF DOGS AND DECEIT. Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Mag. John Shepphird. (Dell)
THE ODDS ARE AGAINST US. Ellery Queen Mystery Mag. Art Taylor (Dell)

Best Anthology or Collection

FACE-OFF. David Baldacci, Ed. Simon & Schuster.
MURDER AT THE BEACH. Bouchercon Anthology 2014. Dana Cameron, Ed. Down and Out.
TROUBLE IN THE HEARTLAND. Crime Fiction Inspired by songs of Bruce Springsteen. Joe Clifford, Ed. Gutter.
IN THE COMPANY OF SHERLOCK HOLMES. Laurie King & Leslie Klinger, Eds. Pegasus Crime.
CAROLINA CRIMES. Karen Pullen, Ed. Wildside.

Since 1989, a “Lifetime Achievement Award” has also been given at Bouchercon. Some of the winners were Donald Westlake, Robert Parker, Lawrence Block, Lee Child, Sara Paretsky, and Sue Grafton. In 2015, it will be presented to Margaret Maron.

Of the 25 authors of books or stories this year, 11 were women, with a possible two more if initials disguised the gender. Whether a man or woman, J. W. Ocker’s POE-LAND, has already won the Edgar and is nominated for an Anthony. The most winning novels by a publisher was three by Seventh Street. I was also pleased by the nomination of the collection, IN THE COMPANY OF SHERLOCK HOLMES, since my series of stories featuring the great detective is already up on Amazon and a launch will be held soon.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015


Mystery Writers of America announced the winners of the 2015 Edgar Allen Poe Awards on April 29th at the 69th annual Edgar Awards Gala Dinner at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City.
The winners of the best Mystery writing of 2014 were:

Best Novel
MR. MERCEDES. Stephen King. Simon & Schuster

Best First Novel by an American Author
DRY BONES IN THE VALLEY. Tom Bouman. W.W. Norton

Best Paperback Original

Best Fact Crime

Best Critical, Biographical
J. W. Ocker. W.W. Norton

Best Short Story
“WHAT DO YOU DO?” - ROGUES. Gillian Flynn. Bantam Books

Best Juvenile
GREENGLASS HOUSE. Kate Milford. Clarion Books

Best Young Adult
THE ART OF SECRETS. James Klise. Algonquin Young Readers

Best Television Episode Teleplay
EPISODE 1, HAPPY VALLEY. Sally Wainwright. Netflix

Robert L. Fish Memorial Award
Dell Magazines

Raven Awards
Ruth & Jon Jordan. Crimespree Magazine
Kathryn Kennison, Magna Cum Murder

Ellery Queen Award
Charles Ardai, Editor & Founder, Hard Case Crime

Simon & Schuster Mary Higgins Clark Award
THE STRANGER YOU KNOW. Jane Casey. Minotaur Books

The finalists (who went on to win in their categories) were announced in my Blog Post on March 6th. Of the 13 winners, six were women, and five were men. Unless Chris Abani and J. W. Ocker are men, in which case, seven were men. Pretty even. All of the books were from traditional publishers, not self-publishers.

* * *

For those still waiting for THE GREEN BOUGH to go on Amazon’s Countdown, the latest news is that, due to two minor changes having to do with Front Matter and Back Matter, plus missing photographs, Amazon considers this a new submission and the book must be in KDP Select for a certain length of time before it’s eligible for Countdown. The new date is June 3rd.