Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Laurel S. Peterson - Guest Author

Laurel S. Peterson writes mysteries and poetry, and teaches at a community college. She is also a fellow member of the Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime.

What is the background noise when you write and why is it there?

If possible, there is no background noise when I write. I grew up in a silent home (which sounds much worse than it was! Think of it as peaceful…). For me, anything requiring focus requires silence. When my father wanted to play his Dixieland jazz, he descended to his basement workshop. Now, I live with a husband, a dog and a cat. Cats understand silence. Husbands and dogs, not so much.

Are you a plotter, pantser or something in between and why?

I am a something-in-between. At the start, I tend to be a pantser. I begin with a clear idea of conflict, protagonist, and final scene. On that energy, I can make it through about a quarter of the text. When I hit 80 pages, I stall and have to start outlining. I find plotting the most difficult aspect of writing (thus, it involves a lot of chocolate—see writing advice below), and I’m so so so happy when that part of it is clear-ish in my brain.

When you start reading a book do you always finish it? If not, what causes you to permanently put a book down?

I generally finish the books I begin. I keep a running tally of the books I read each year, and to dedicate time to a book I don’t finish messes with my numbers. (I’m not competitive, though. No, not at all.) Occasionally, I’ll find I dislike a character intensely, or that an author’s style doesn’t work for me. But that’s pretty rare. I vet my books before I get them through friends, recommended lists on Goodreads or other book review sites or newsletters.

Name three not-well-known authors you would recommend and tell us what you like about their writing.

I’m going outside the mystery genre here for a couple; I hope that’s OK.  Elizabeth Eslami’s book of short stories titled Hibernate is sad, poignant, disturbing. The title story is about a couple that decides to live underground with the bugs. Creepy.

Sharbari Ahmed’s stories, The Ocean of Mrs. Nagai, are explorations of what it means as a brown person to be American, both at home and abroad.

Finally, in the genre, John Roche’s Bronx Bound is a reporter-in-the-Bronx-in-trouble kind of story—good old fashioned detecting. My favorite thing!!

When you compare your first draft to your final draft, do you net add words or subtract words? In general, what is it that you add or subtract between first and final draft?

Between my first and final draft, I cut a lot! I started my writing life as a poet, so I love condensed language. I tend to eliminate “extra” language—there is constructions, for example. I tighten verbs, choose more particular nouns (maple instead of tree), get rid of dialogue that doesn’t work, and wherever I can, make the senses more prominent. I’m always reminding my students that it’s not just what they can see that they are reporting when they write, but the cinnamon smell of apple pie, or the slip of wet leaves, or the metallic grit of a paper clip between the teeth.

How did you develop the idea for your most recent work?

My mother befriended a young man who is a healer. One summer evening, he and his lover came to my parents’ home for dinner, so that my husband and I could meet them. In the middle of the evening, I looked at him and thought, What does he know about my mother that I don’t know? What if something happened, and the only way I could know her was through him? From that, I imagined my character having been gone from home for a long time, a mother in danger, a therapist who knew more than he should… and there you go.

What language error, when you hear or see it, grates on you like the screech of fingernails on a chalkboard?

I am an English professor. How long do you have?? Text-speak in papers. Would of done. Try and go, try and do, instead of try to go or try to do, etc. Ending commas that appear after the quotations marks…. I’ll stop there.

Name three writers from whom you have drawn inspiration and tell us why.

Sara Paretsky:  She’s just so damn smart. I love smart people. I saw her once at Bouchercon, and her ability to pull together multiple strands of thinking and ideas was so impressive. When I grow up, I want to be like that.

Mark Doty: Poet! I love poems—and I love his in particular. He understands light. He also wrote one of the most beautiful memoirs I have ever read, Heaven’s Coast, about the loss of his lover to AIDs. It’s painful, yes, but it takes me beyond pain into the bigger questions of existence.

Simone de Beauvoir: She made me a feminist. Little sheltered me, coming home from college in 1984, discovered de Beauvoir’s memoirs in the library. Suddenly, I understood why I was angry.

What is a piece of writing advice you think is worth sharing?

More writing gets done if the writer rewards herself (chocolate works well or walks with the dog) than gets done if the writer is mean to herself.

You can find more information about Laurel S. Peterson and her writing at www.laurelpeterson.com. Find her on Twitter @laurelwriter49, on Facebook, and on Goodreads. Thanks for having me!

Here’s a blurb for SHADOW NOTES

Clara Montague didn’t want to come home. Her mother Constance never liked—or listened—to her but now they have to get along or they will both end up dead.

Clara suspects she and Constance share intuitive powers, but Constance always denied it. When Clara was twenty, she dreamed her beloved father would have a heart attack. Constance claimed she was hysterical. Then he died.

Furious, Clara leaves for fifteen years, but when she dreams Constance is in danger, she returns home. Then, Constance’s therapist is murdered and Constance is arrested.

Starting to explore her mother’s past, Clara discovers books on trauma and gets a midnight visit from a knife-wielding intruder. Her dreams become more demanding and there’s a second murder. Clara realizes that only in finding the connection between Hugh’s murder and her mother’s past can she save them and finally heal their relationship.   


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Marian McMahon Stanley - Guest Aurhor

Marian McMahon Stanley’s just released Boston-based mystery about the murder of an elderly nun, is described by author Hallie Ephron as a “taut, character-rich whodunit”. She shares with me membership in the Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime and has been fortunate in careers – first at a Fortune 500 company, then at a university. She is delighted with this third incarnation.

Free print copy of THE IMMACULATE going out to a commentator chosen at random! (Who answers the question at the end,)

You have an all-expense-paid long weekend to spend with three guests. The Starship Enterprise has agreed to beam you to the place of your choosing, so travel time is not a consideration. Who are your guests (and why) and where are you staying (and why)?

Let’s see. Maybe in an old camper van driving along the blue highways or secondary roads of The US and Canada. Or actually two old campers to fit all of us. And, you know, we would be having so much fun that we’d start with a long weekend and just keep going for weeks or months.

John Steinbeck, accompanied by his standard poodle Charley, is driving Rocinante 1. In his book TRAVELS WITH CHARLEY, Steinbeck named his camper after Don Quixote’s horse Rocinante. Like Don Quixote, Rocinante “is awkward, past his prime and engaged in a task beyond his capacities”.

William Least-Moon, author OF BLUE HIGHWAYS, is driving the second camper, Rocinante 2. If we are lucky, we spend most of our time getting lost in interesting places.


 We need music, of course. I couldn't decide between two iconic folk singers who died too young – Kate Wolf and Canadian Stan Rogers, so I figured we’d all squeeze together and make room for both of them.

Riding along, we enjoy the stunning landscapes of this great continent and poke around little towns, taking in sights like the world’s largest ball of twine and the Dan Quayle Library. Steinbeck makes coffee in the morning and later we eat in four-calendar roadside cafes and diners. (Least-Moon judges that a cafĂ© or diner having four product calendars behind the counter has traveling salesmen who frequent the establishment, thus insuring decent food.)

Our West Highland Terrier Archie and Steinbeck’s dog Charley, of course, become fast friends. They ride along together with their heads out the camper windows, facing into the wind and occasionally barking at cows.

Every now and then, Stan Rogers bursts into song, and belts out “Barrett’s Privateers” or maybe “Northwest Passage” as we head west along Lake Superior. At night in the Rockies, Kate Wolf sings us to sleep under the stars with “Across the Great Divide” and “Unfinished Life”. Perfect.

(Editor note: as long-time readers of the blog know, fiction writers often feel unconstrained to stay within the guidelines of the question, but Marian is the first to over-invite and over-stay! Makes me smile.)

What is the background noise when you write and why is it there?

I grew up in a big family and was the working mom of four active, lively children. My last career was at a large urban university with thousands of young adults on its campus. As a result, I always thought that I could write and study in any kind of low-level pandemonium.

But, if it was that way then, it’s not now for some reason. I can’t handle the noise level in a coffee shop when I’m writing. Even with earphones on, I’m conscious of a hum of activity. I also get too interested in everything and everybody. Or, working in my own beloved town public library, a quiet question at the reference desk or a subdued conversation between library patrons tends to be too distracting for me to get any real writing or editing done. I’m embarrassed by this wimpy ultra-sensitivity but there we are.

For real writing, I like to work in very early morning pre-dawn or dawn silence with only quiet house or nature sounds. When I’m in a certain kind of a roll, usually editing some mess of scribbles I’ve made in the earlier hours, I listen to Celtic music – the tin whistle (Sean Potts or Joanie Madden) or the fiddle (Martin Hayes or Eileen Ivers) are favorites.

Are you a plotter, pantser or something in between and why?

I guess in between – though perhaps more toward a pantser. Anything tighter than a broad loose idea of where the plot is going makes me feel a little claustrophobic.  I once had an excellent teacher who said he couldn’t start a story without knowing the end of it. I could have wept for him. Where’s the fun in that? But, to each his own.

I don’t write scenes sequentially. I usually write scenes out of order for various points through the course of the book. When I’m forward writing with these out of order scenes, I kind of think of it as throwing out markers – like those little stone cairns you might see on hiking trails. I write scenes further and further out and then come back to fill in the gaps. Perhaps in some odd way, this is my own version of an outline. Again, each to her own.

When you start reading a book do you always finish it? If not, what causes you to permanently put a book down?

I’m too old to finish books that I’m not enjoying, though I might give a book an extra chapter to be sure I’m not being too quick to judge.  I‘m not sure I can always tell you what makes me stop reading. Perhaps I find the writing flat or the book too formulaic with stereotypical characters, or maybe the pace of breathless action is just unbelievable and getting a little silly. All of this reflects my particular taste, of course. Another reader may enjoy the book.

Do you read reviews of your books? Why or why not?

Right now, I’m in that rosy period of bringing out a first book to the sweet accolades of friends, family and colleagues. If they don’t like THE IMMACULATE, they have been too kind to tell me. However, this won’t last and I do plan to read reviews of my book as it heads into a somewhat wider market. Having been through many frank, and occasionally merciless, experiences of “workshopping” a manuscript in various classes and forums, I think I can handle the reviews with some equanimity. We’ll see. What I look for in critiques is a pattern – more than one person mentioning a point. Then, I’ll examine that point or insight and see if I can learn from it.

What do you do that you suspect causes your copyeditor to pull her/his hair out?

I don’t know why I use the English spelling for certain words – “acknowledgement” or “afterwards”, as opposed to American and Canadian usage – “acknowledgment” and “afterward”. Perhaps it’s a New England thing, perhaps it’s because of the time I spent in the UK as a student and later for work. Anyway, usage corrections were all through my copyedited manuscript this time. I still write that way, without even realizing it, so I imagine that the copy editor for my next book will be equally annoyed.

What language error, when you hear or see it, grates on you like the screech of fingernails on a chalkboard?

I make enough of my own language errors (always have to look up “lay” and “lie”) that I tend not to be too uptight about other people’s errors. I also find some old rules arbitrary and annoying. How many awkward sentences could be written just to avoid ending with a preposition? “With whom did you attend the party, Miss Glamorous Suspect?” (Editor’s note: this reminds me of Winston Churchill’s retort which goes something like: “Ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put.”)

I break certain rules all the time and am sometimes tempted to put in a little footnote, “I know the rule, I know the rule. It’s a dumb rule and this reads better.”

That being said, I get a teeny bit on edge when subjects and verbs don’t agree or when “I” is used as a direct object instead of “me”. Then, I just take a deep breath and remember that it is, after all, only grammar.

Name three writers from whom you have drawn inspiration and tell us why.

I’m very fond of Louise Penny’s books for her storytelling talent and her sense of place, of course, but also for her skill in representing the human character. I love the way she brings out small and large personal failings even in her most beloved characters. She is quite funny too, always a blessing.

Tana French and Benjamin Black (John Banville’s pen name when he’s writing mysteries) are two Irish mystery writers who influence me most. The way they use words and images as they are telling a story is like water to a thirsty soul. I still chuckle recalling Black’s description of a difficult old man as having a face “like a carp” and Tana French’s description of a reluctant character’s having “silence so stubborn that you could feel it elbowing you”.

What is a piece of writing advice you think is worth sharing?

The best advice I’ve gotten – especially helpful to women with our family commitments and caretaking– is to take our writing seriously. Find a place to write and have a regular time to write. It’s okay for us to have a passion for this creative art and to carve out an important space in our busy lives for it. Even to think of writing as a serious vocation.

I’d like to turn it around on this one and ask readers what mystery writers inspire them and why.

Free print copy of THE IMMACULATE going out to a commentator chosen at random! (Jim will contact the winner and obtain your mailing address.)

You can find out more about Marian on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook (Marian McMahon Stanley Author) or her website www.marianmcmahonstanley.com.


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Lisa Q. Mathews - Guest Author

Fellow Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime member Lisa Q. Mathews is a former Nancy Drew and Random House Children’s editor who now writes The Ladies Smythe & Westin mystery series (Carina Press/Harlequin) for grown-ups.

What is the background noise when you write and why is it there?

I’m one of those writers who can easily work to a personal or coffee shop soundtrack. But I am most productive with a football (NFL), baseball (preferably Red Sox), or golf game on in the background. Golf is actually the best, because I have less interest in it and I enjoy the hushed commentary and soft clapping. Growing up, I always did my homework on weekends in front of “the game” with my dad, who paid bills (remember those manual adding machines?). Soccer, hockey and basketball don’t work the same magic for me.

What is your most recent excellent read (book, short story or essay) and why?

I’m currently reading KILLER TAKEOUT, the latest in the Key West Food Critic Mysteries by Lucy Burdette. I love food critic/sleuth Hayley Snow, and I’m always up for a literary, if not literal, trip to Key West. I have a manuscript deadline right now, and since my series is also set in Florida, I can still stay in “the zone.”

Are you a plotter, pantser or something in between and why?

I have to say “pantser,” if we’re being a hundred percent honest here. I do attempt to outline each story, because 1. I used to be an in-house editor, 2. my publisher requests an extended synopsis, and 3. I know it’s good for me. But I usually discover much better clues (and even switch the killer) as I write.

When you start reading a book do you always finish it? If not, what causes you to permanently put a book down?

I used to finish every book I started, without fail. Lately, though, I’ve found it easier to quit if I’m not really that interested. Usually that happens when there are a lot of info dumps, or long stretches of incredible detail inside a character’s head with little dialogue. Maybe that’s because I usually read before bed and I’m overtired. But even if I stop reading a book, I leave it on my nightstand for a while, in case I want to give it another chance.

Do you read reviews of your books? Why or why not?

I do. I think maybe all writers read their own reviews, no matter what they say—unless they have so many, it’s a tiresome chore. I wish I had more of them to peruse! My younger sleuth takes some heat sometimes, because she has a lot to learn about life. She’s breaking a few (okay, a lot) of rules by living in an over-55 community as a twenty-something. One of my favorite reviews was from a reader who was also a property manager. Luckily, I have a very nice, long-suffering property manager character in the series!

What do you do that you suspect causes your copyeditor to pull her/his hair out?

I am a terrible formatter. Sometimes I have long stretches where I’ve used two spaces after a period (old habits die hard). Also, I’m always screwing up the line spacing and number of asterisks in my scene breaks. With two sleuths and two point-of-views, I have a lot of them.

When you compare your first draft to your final draft, do you net add words or subtract words? In general, what is it that you add or subtract between first and final draft?

Most often, my final word count nearly matches my first. I’m a precision reviser, probably because I used to write to spec as a writer-for-hire. If I cut, I refill. If I add, I cut—almost to the exact character count.

How did you develop the idea for your most recent work?

I came up with the plot for Permanently Booked, the second title in the Ladies Smythe & Westin series, after observing some cut-throat, promotional competitiveness between two authors (who shall remain nameless). I couldn’t resist! The book club setting came straight from my parents’ former Floridian retirement community.

What language error, when you hear or see it, grates on you like the screech of fingernails on a chalkboard?

Any misuse of it’s/its makes me c-r-a-z-y. I’m also unhinged by constant confusions of where/wear/we’re and there/their/they’re. (Gosh, now that I’ve said this, I hope no one finds any of those mistakes in my books!)

What is a piece of writing advice you think is worth sharing?

Aside from the all-important “Don’t give up five minutes before the miracle,” which applies to every stage of writing and publishing, I use The Revising Rule of Three: If you hear a comment once, consider it. If it comes up twice, take a second look. Three times? Get out that red pen!

To find out more about Lisa Q. Mathews and her writing, please visit her website LisaQMathews.com or her group blog Chicks on the Case.

Here’s a blurb for PERMANENTLY BOOKED:


First rule of the Hibiscus Pointe Book Club: Don’t talk about the murder.

Semi-reformed party girl Summer Smythe finally feels at home at the Hibiscus Pointe Retirement Community. All that's left to do is replace her late grandma's book collection with a TV. Donating them to the community library is the perfect solution—until she finds the librarian buried in books. Literally.

Summer and her sleuthing partner, longtime resident Dorothy Westin, can't imagine who would want to kill poor, dedicated Lorella. Soon, they're on the case…and the Hibiscus Pointe Book Club is the perfect cover for their investigation.

Even outsiders—including an oddball professor and a pair of dueling authors—are eager to join the once-dull group. But one menacing member has Dorothy and Summer bookmarked for the morgue. If the Ladies Smythe and Westin don't nab the killer fast, the Hibiscus Pointe Book Club may read their obituaries next.


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Steve Liskow - Guest Author

Steve Liskow, a fellow member of the Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime, has been a finalist for both the Edgar Award and the Shamus Award. The Nowhere Man, his fifth Zach Barnes novel, is now available as a paperback or eBook.

What is your most recent excellent read (book, short story or essay) and why?

The last book that really rocked me was Tana French’s The Secret Place. She has eight teen-aged girls as POV characters, and each has a distinctive thought process, imagery, and speech pattern. French even manages to conceal important information about the crime that these kids know both logically and fairly so the reader never feels cheated. I love it when a writer does something and you can almost feel him or her saying “watch this, grasshopper.”

Are you a plotter, pantser or something in between and why?

I’m more a plotter on novels because I use subplots that relate to the main theme and I need to figure out how to juggle and combine them coherently. I come up with a list of about fifty scenes in what I hope is the right order, and my first draft is discovering what I’ve left out, repeated, or put in the wrong place. By the time I finish writing the first draft of each scene, that list usually changes ten or twelve times. Once I get events in the right order, I can revise and sharpen, but that sequence takes time because my thought processes aren’t very linear. I just finished my next first draft, and I’m on version Q (as in 17) of the scenes list. I realized last night that the first two scenes are in the wrong order, and neither of them should open the book.

When you start reading a book do you always finish it? If not, what causes you to permanently put a book down?

I finish about half of the books I pick up because I’ll look through them at the library before I check them out. I like the Kindle because I can download a free sample. If that’s by a writer I’ve never read before—or a newbie or self-pubbed author—I order the full book about a quarter of the time.

What causes me to put a book down? Bad writing. Clumsy prose, heavy-handed backstory, illogical plots (especially idiotic character behavior), sloppy research. In this day and age, especially if you’re a Guppy or SinC, there are tons of resources out there so you can get facts right, and there’s no excuse for making a mistake about police procedure, forensics, or computers. I put down a book last week that opened with the police department of a major city asking a private investigator to find the missing witness to a murder! When that investigator found the witness in the first place she looked, I knew the cops were idiots, a clichĂ© that I hate.

Name three not-well-known authors you would recommend and tell us what you like about their writing.

I don’t know if these writers qualify as “not-well-known,” but I love their stuff. Don Winslow has a dozen novels out there, and he writes over-the-top present tense with twisted plots, dark humor, violence, and manic energy. My favorites of his are California Fire and Life, The Dawn Patrol, and The Power of the Dog, which is the first of two massive tomes about the Mexican drug wars. He’s not for everyone, but he’s someone I’d love to sit down and talk shop with.

Lynne Heitman wrote four books that I loved, but I’m not sure she’s still writing. I met her at Crime Bake one year and she was delightful. Her stories feature a strong female protagonist and plots where nothing comes free. Vivid prose, too. I think she does freelance editing now, and I’d love to find an Alex Shanahan story I haven’t read.

Sherman Alexie is a Native American who wrote a few literary novels and stories in the nineties—one became the film Smoke Signals—and then turned to fantasy and YA. Those are good, but he produced one of my favorite crime novels, Indian Killer, in the mid nineties. Angry, disturbing, lyrical, evocative, and criminally unknown. Nobody else I know has ever read it. When I mention it, everyone looks blank.

Do you read reviews of your books? Why or why not?

I get very few reviews because I’m self-pubbed and don’t ask friends to review them. I think most of the reviews on Amazon are bogus anyway (sorry, “I really liked this book” is not a review) and don’t take them seriously. I guess I have a few reviews on Goodreads, but I’m dumb enough to have trouble navigating that site and don’t bother.

When you compare your first draft to your final draft, do you net add words or subtract words? In general, what is it that you add or subtract between first and final draft?

My finished works tend to be several thousand words shorter than the early draft. My first draft is very spare, just basic plot and character, because I hate writing description. The second draft adds lots of that description of people and places, a lot of backstory, and more dialogue. It tends to be the longest version. The next four or five revisions tighten the prose, cut repetitions, use more specific language, and build more tension. The last revision often focuses on dialogue. My final draft usually ends up eight or ten thousand words shorter than the second draft.  The whole process takes about 15 months with breaks of at least six weeks between each draft. During that time, I work on other projects.

How did you develop the idea for your most recent work?

My original protagonist (Woody Guthrie under a different name) was a guitar player (better than I am), and I compiled a list of song titles that might also work for mysteries. Last fall, I was struggling to play “Crossroads Blues,” a classic by Robert Johnson, when I noticed a line on the alternate take of the song: “Sun goin’ down, dark goin’ catch me here.” The image was so powerful I mentioned it to my cover designer, and he liked it. Dark Gonna Catch Me Here, which involves a serial killer, a fifty-year-old cold case, and a teen-aged girl caught between quarreling parents, will be out this fall. It’s the third “Woody” Guthrie story and it developed much more quickly and easily than any other book I’ve written: 90K-word first draft in less than five weeks. Two beta readers are now reading the fifth draft, and I’ll do two more revisions.

What language error, when you hear or see it, grates on you like the screech of fingernails on a chalkboard?

I hate the misuse of “myself” for “me” or “I,” and it seems to get more common every day. I don’t remember encountering it when I taught English until sometime in the 90s but now everyone who thinks he or she deserves a sound byte has that in the arsenal. It bothers me even more than “lie” and “lay,” and NOBODY uses those correctly now. People who add apostrophes to plurals should be flogged. And I still shiver when I see “alot” and “alright.”

Name three writers from whom you have drawn inspiration and tell us why.

Linda Barnes and I both grew up in Michigan and later taught drama, and I liked her Carlotta Carlyle series. When I was struggling to find representation, I took someone’s suggestion to send her a sample chapter and ask her to pass it on to her agent, and she actually thought it was worth passing on. I got rejected anyway, but two years later, she recognized my nametag at Crime Bake. She’s a really generous and kind lady. And her newest book takes her writing in a new direction that I like even more than her earlier series.

Dennis Lehane reinvented the PI novel with Kenzie and Gennaro, and, while he takes writing very seriously, he doesn’t take himself seriously at all. He takes huge chances and demands the most from himself. He’s also a great voice of common sense in writing. And very encouraging to little guys like me.

I’ve never met Laura Lippman, but one of her high school classmates was in a fiction workshop I conducted last fall. Lippman constantly moves the line between literary and genre fiction and takes chances few other crime writers have the skill to try. Every new book explores technique or difficult themes, and they constantly challenge other writers to follow her trail, a lot like Lehane. Writers like these three show just how wide the gap is between the really great crime writers (I can name about a dozen) and everyone else.

What is a piece of writing advice you think is worth sharing?

No matter how awful you think something is, don’t discard it. Put it on a flash drive or separate file. Somewhere down the road, you’ll be able to re-cycle a character, a description, or a line of dialogue. Some of my worst stuff has been bad only because I had it in the wrong place—maybe even the wrong book. Several characters in The Kids Are All Right were recycled from an earlier novel that didn’t work. Kids was a finalist for the Shamus Award.

If your first draft isn’t horrible, you’re not demanding enough of yourself and your writing. The whole reason for a first draft is to give you something you can make better.
To find more about Steve Liskow, his writing, and upcoming events, check his website, www.steveliskow.com and his Amazon Author’s Page. He’s also on Facebook.

A bit of a blurb for Nowhere Man:

Family:  can’t live with them, can’t kill them.

Caitlin Devers dropped out of college to marry a wealthy widower twice her age. When he died, her two step-children—her own age—accused her of killing him for his millions. Now someone is stalking her stepdaughter Joan, and she turns to Hartford PI Zach Barnes for help.

Barnes finds a family full of scars that even money can’t heal, but no proof that the stalker really exists—until someone kills Joan’s boyfriend. When someone tries to kill Adam, the stepson, too, Barnes knows it can’t be a coincidence, and that the man who isn’t there is getting closer all the time.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Sherry Harris - Guest Author

Please welcome fellow Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime member and mystery author Sherry Harris to the blog today. She says: You never know who you are going to meet at Malice Domestic. A few years ago I met Jim, at the time getting published was just a glimmer in my eye. Now, several years later I get to hang out with Jim on his blog! Thanks so much for having me!

When you start reading a book do you always finish it? If not, what causes you to permanently put a book down?

I don’t always finish books. There are several things that cause me to quit, probably the first is not finding the characters intriguing. I don’t have to like them but I do have to want to know more about them. A plot that is too over the top to be believable or a book with lots of inconsistencies.

What is the background noise when you write and why is it there?

Quiet is my background noise and the quieter the better. I’m easily distracted so if I had music on I’d be singing or humming to it.

Are you a plotter, pantser or something in between and why?

I’m a pantser that has had to start doing a little plotting. I have to write a short synopsis for each book to turn in to my editor before I start writing the next one. It’s helpful but it changes a lot during the process. I also do something else that horrifies most of my writing friend. I usually write the beginning of the book and then the end. The end always seems to pop into my head at around 25,000 words and I don’t want to lose it so I write it.

Do you read reviews of your books? Why or why not?

Yes, yes, heaven help me, I do read my reviews. I just can’t not look, I’m a moth to the flame and sometimes reading them burns. It’s great to read the good ones. And it makes me pause every once in awhile and think that complete strangers are reading my books — it seems like a dream. And even the bad ones can be instructive. My daughter shared the best piece of advice that helps deal with the negative. She paraphrased someone: You can have the sweetest juiciest peach but not everyone likes peaches.

What do you do that you suspect causes your copyeditor to pull her/his hair out?

My books are set in the small fictional town of Ellington, Massachusetts and on a fictional air force base, Fitch Air Force Base. So sometimes I use military jargon that I picked up while my husband served. Usually it’s simple things like I’ll say “I’m going to go to base.” It’s how we talk. My copy editor always adds in a “the” before “base.” And I found out that for the most part only military people use the term “goat rope” for a situation that is out of control.

When you compare your first draft to your final draft, do you net add words or subtract words? In general, what is it that you add or subtract between first and final draft?

My first draft is always short usually between 53,000 and 55,000 words. I’ve blogged about this a couple of times over on Wicked Cozy Authors. My contract calls for books between 70,000 and 75,000 words. Usually the first draft is talking heads — no one is grounded in the scene and they don’t move. There’s very little description although I really try to keep description purposeful. I’ve almost always dropped a story line that needs to be fleshed out. And usually I panic at some point in the revision process thinking I’ll go too long. But that hasn’t happened yet.

How did you develop the idea for your most recent work?

An editor at Kensington was looking for someone to write a cozy series with a garage sale theme. He went to an agent, who went to my friend Barbara Ross. She knew I loved garage sales. I hadn’t ever thought about writing a book about garage sales but the first three chapters, the overview, and the characters poured out of me in four days. I wish all writing was like that, don’t you?!

What is a piece of writing advice you think is worth sharing?

My best writing advice is learn the craft. It took me a long time to get published. In between the the first time I started submitting and getting rejections to finally getting published, I took lots of classes, read lots of writing books, and attended lots of conferences. I read at the first writers conference I attended. As I was reading, I was thinking this is the most boring, back story filled piece of drivel ever written. Fortunately the group listening was kind and encouraging. But it’s when I realized I had a lot to learn.

You can find me at sqherryharrisauthor.com and I blog with the Wicked Cozy Authors at wickedcozyauthors.com

Here’s a blurb for All Murders Final:

When Sarah Winston started the virtual garage sale, it seemed like a keystroke of genius and the next logical step in her business. No more collapsing card tables and rainy-day washouts. But what began as a fun way to run garage sales during the long New England winter has become a nightmare of managing people and putting out fires. Online, she can avoid the crowds--but not the crazies.

She certainly never bargained on dealing with frightening threats. When a client is murdered, Sarah searches--online and off--for the killer. But solving this crime before someone else gets tagged seems virtually impossible…