Swiss Vendetta goes audio!

Swiss Vendetta recently released as an audiobook and it’s generated a little curiosity on my part about the recording process. I’m not an audiobook devotee – like many of my friends. However, I might turn to the audio version of a book for a long solitary drive. When I do, I typically select a familiar title since I tend to zone in and out of listening – an unbreakable habit. A familiar book is best for me. I need to be able to fill in the blanks when I miss something. (This may come from listening while driving up and down the California coast. It’s best to not be distracted in LA traffic!)

As an author, I am a firm believer in craft. That translates into respect for the professional narrator’s craft. Because of this, I trusted that the narrator chosen by my publisher would do for Swiss Vendetta exactly what needed to be done. That meant creating the characters’ voices, setting the tone, and invoking atmosphere. All with her voice.

My narrator, Cat Gould, has a long and distinguished resume, particularly with accents, both as varieties of English and foreign. I’m so pleased to have her on this project. She makes the listen feel like they are in Switzerland!

Curiosity about the life of an audiobook’s narrator led me to a great article giving Steve Marvel’s perspective about his ‘reading’ experiences and process. http://bit.ly/2mUCIfk

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Cat Gould

I hope all audio listeners enjoy Cat’s reading of Swiss Vendetta. Hat’s off to our audio collaborators!

Book tour and bookstores. It’s all good!

Week Two of the book tour for Swiss Vendetta!

A few confessions. First, meeting strangers can be daunting, but when the strangers want to talk about books – and possibly your own book – then it’s incredibly fun. I’ve met people in Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, and Arkansas with Tennessee, Virginia, Texas and New York to go, have driven through a snow storm and heard tales of local flooding, crossed the Mississippi River a few times in a car, and traversed the Arkansas River on foot (via a pedestrian bridge in case anyone envisions my walking on water).

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Speaking at Joseph-Beth in Lexington, KY

I’ve met writers and readers and convinced a few people to buy their very first mystery (a special shout out to Josh, a high school senior hoping to go to film school who purchased Swiss Vendetta. I expect to see him walking across the stage to accept his Academy Award in about eight years).

Part of the delight of a tour is visiting so many bookstores. Every time I enter, I am struck by a dozen titles I want to buy, and the sight of familiar covers that make me want to dive in for a re-read.

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Near the Arkansas River dam bridge at Little Rock

With eight stores in ten days I feel like I should have a preference in stores types, but I don’t. Each and every one has its own charm. Tiny and crowded – feels like entering a personal library! Huge and multistory – clearly they have every title I could wish for! I believe that each one plays an important role in our lives as readers.

What’s your bookstore preference?

Celebrating launch day with dinner in Kentucky

bourbon-balls-on-chinaAmazing dinner with friends in Lexington, Kentucky last night to celebrate the launch of Swiss Vendetta! What a pleasure to see old friends and to share such  meal.

As for the rest of ‘launch day’… not as glamorous. A quick skim through the book before tonight’s reading is probably in order. I’ve avoided doing this because selecting a section to read feels like favoring only one child. They are all my favorite parts…. but it must be done.

 

 

Out with the old. Manuscripts that is.

old-manuscriptsEvery writer is on their own schedule. For me, it’s that time of year. The heaping stack of printed paper that is my manuscript will make its way to a box and then to the attic.

I retain the working notebook with the latest draft and, of course, there are a billion electronic files. Each is a backup of various stages and parts. It’s all there!

This house cleaning doesn’t mean that the manuscript is finished, but it’s turned in (hurrah!). From here on out, it has a life of its own….

What do you do with your old drafts? Keep them? Archive carefully? Or pitch?

The joys of community

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Today I’m a guest on Jungle Red Writers. If you read mysteries you will recognize the individual Reds. A stellar group!

It was an honor to guest blog for them, but not a complete surprise because that’s how the mystery/thriller community is. A real community. Supportive and – now that I think about it – inclusive. After all, the ‘community’ extends from cozy mysteries to traditional, up the chain of chills to police procedural and suspense before landing at thriller.

Think about the elements of cozy. I’m not the Webster definer of the type, but sex and violence are typically ‘off the pages’ with the reader learning about it peripherally. That’s doesn’t mean cozies are without tension! Tension is at the heart of moving the story forward. But hopefully not tension that will make the reader keep their lights on all night. (I am reminded of Susan Breen’s Maggie Dove series. Her books are a ‘puzzle’ built around interesting characters. And at the end you are pulling for Maggie, hoping that her search for truth won’t mean a bad end for her! (She’s had some close calls….)

Bruce Coffin’s John Byron Mysteries are police procedurals, and boy does he do it right! Bruce is a retired detective so the details are spot on. There’s more reality, more grit. You might even witness a murder!

Suspense your thing? Then you likely are a fan of James Patterson or Robert Dugoni.

Moving toward the ‘keep the lights on’ end of the mystery continuum and you will eventually get to Stephen King. Never, ever turn your lights off again.

What do these folks share? A love for the puzzle created by what happens when we humans break the law. What happens when someone is killed or kidnapped, or when a bomb is planted and you only have 12 hours to find it and cut the wires? We love people in jeopardy – from the small crime to worldwide intrigue (think Dan Brown)!

The writers in this community must get all of their penchant for violence out in their writing because one-on-one they are the nicest bunch of people you will ever meet. Not a bad group to spend even virtual time with.

What’s been your experience in the writing community?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When that box of books arrives!

What a way to end the month! A box full of Swiss Vendettas arrived. This feels like Christmas in January, which is perhaps simply second Christmas.New Mysteries SV on shelf.jpg

I took one out for a test spin. A preview of what the title looks like in the bookstore in advance of the official February 7th release. Makes me want to send thank you chocolates to all of the designers at my publisher, St. Martins. Gorgeous cover!

Looking forward to seeing it on shelves across the country.

The New Year! and a not-so-clean desk…

It’s the new year and time to start fresh, right? Maybe not. This year, I’m taking a page from one of my MissDemeanors blog colleagues and saying no, I’m not starting fresh. At this time of my life I’m okay with my habits, and even the ones I don’t like, I’ve gotten used to.

desk-photoThis is particularly true when it comes to the state of my desk. Teapot, strainer and cup, those are essential (Even more essential is the Twining’s Lady Grey tea inside the pot). Calendar (yes, I use a paper one) to make sure I don’t forget phone calls, meetings or other deadlines. Pens, tape (for adding thoughts to my big wall outline), Mr Edgar Allen Poe and his nodding raven for inspiration and then…. well, all the rest. Technically “all the rest” could probably find a home somewhere neat and organized but that falls into the category of no resolutions. I’ve lived with the clutter this long…

The only drawback of this organizational style is the other desktop. The virtual one. I would have included a snapshot of that screen but too many people would recoil in horror. Bits and bobs of deleted paragraphs, possible chapters. Copied sections as a back up before a major revision. Thoughts jotted on virtual notes. It’s all there. Somewhere. I know this is a bad habit because tech support has literally recoiled in horror at the number of files on my desktop. They’ve called me later and said they had nightmares about it. Occasionally I start a folder called – things taken from desktop on such and such date. Like a bottom drawer that will likely never be opened again. I may actually tackle this in 2017. A clean virtual desktop. I’ve found my resolution!

“How do you get the work to hold the resonance of its history?” Claudia Rankine

 

screen-shot-2016-12-05-at-5-59-18-pmThat is an opening quote from an interview in the Paris Review with author Claudia Rankine. The entire interview, conducted by David Ulin and published in Winter 2016 is worth reading.

Rankine’s poetry focuses on social issues ranging from micro aggression, to racism to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. To her, words matter. She recounts listening to the recording of the shooting of Philando Castile and hearing the words of the little girl in the backseat of the car say, “It’s okay, Mommy, I’m right here with you.” She talks about the ability of the words to transport her to the point where she is literally experiencing the child and her words.

Rankine is a poet who writes across many formats. She is a writer for social justice. How does that compare with writing mysteries? Should it compare? I’d like to think that it can. Not every page of a 300 page novel will stand up to the scrutiny of a poem. Not every word will achieve a lyrical meaning, but that doesn’t mean we can’t aspire to this.

Words matter has resonated across the country this year for many reasons. Whether high oratory, poetry, or a hastily written note in a lunch box, words matter. As I work on final revisions, where it sometimes feels like there are too many words to care about, I’ll keep this as an aspirational goal even if only means I get it about one third right.

To read the full Rankine interview visit: http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/6905/claudia-rankine-the-art-of-poetry-no-102-claudia-rankine

(This post originally appeared on MissDemeanors.com)

The Betas

(This post originally appeared on the MissDemeanors.com blog)

My Beta readers are the unsung heroes of the writing process. Every author has them, a fixed group or changeable one, dependable or sporadic, they are the kind souls who are willing to read a draft and speak honestly about it.

I have a crew and what a group they are. Scattered around the globe I usually send the chapters to them all at the same time. Then I keep working on something else and wait. Not patiently. After all, shouldn’t they drop everything they are doing – work, family, vacation, other books and read what I have suggested? In all fairness, they are unfailingly excited to receive their email with attachment. And they do read quickly (anything outside of a 24 hour turn around for me feels like a nail biting trip to Mars and back. I have actually Tweeted a Beta reader that she needed to start reading faster. Did that smack of desperation?!).

Some readers are naturals – they read carefully, thoughtfully and don’t hesitate to make ‘suggestions’. Others must be trained. Yes, you really do want their opinion. You may not take all their suggestions, but each and every idea is welcome and plays a part in strengthening the final book.

My Betas fall into two broad types. Some are the nit-picky comma and word choice gurus. Amazing! (I’m always surprised how many typos go undiscovered. Did logic REALLY look like topic each and every one of the 10 times I read it? Yes, it must have.). The other readers are big picture. Their emails critiques start off “some typos and weird punctuation to fix but what really concerns me is….” Honestly, I couldn’t live without either group. Each word and comma is important and needs a second set of eyes. At the same time the words and commas won’t matter if the plot point fails, or if the chapters drag on too long or (there are many ‘ors’ here).

People are busy, your Beta readers are friends, they’re not doing this for a pay check and yet they read something that isn’t as polished as it will eventually be, and then they agree to read it again (hopefully more polished). And, bless them, they read the final version to see how you’ve changed it (even after I assure them that they read was the final version with the exception of a few very minor word changes). More shocking is what they notice. They have read and absorbed and remembered more than I did. Writers are used to reading drafts. Most readers aren’t. Those who take this on willingly should be saluted. It’s a beautiful thing.

What kind of a Beta reader are you?