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Guest Blogger Nancy J. Cohen – Far-Flung Family Ties

November 9, 2015 28 comments
Nancy J. Cohen

Nancy J. Cohen

“Far-Flung Family Ties” by Nancy J. Cohen

As we approach the holidays, we begin planning our family celebrations. These may not always be the joyous occasions we’d like. Disagreements, envy, cultural gaps with married partners, and secrets can keep families apart. In PERIL BY PONYTAIL, my recent release and #12 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries, Marla and Dalton Vail embark on a honeymoon to an Arizona dude ranch.

Dalton’s uncle owns both the resort and a nearby ghost town that he’s renovating. Marla soon learns that Uncle Ray had an ulterior motive in inviting them out there. Mishaps have been plaguing both properties, and he suspects a saboteur. With Dalton being a homicide detective and Marla an amateur sleuth, Uncle Ray figures they can help him catch the culprit. But when a local forest ranger is found dead, the stakes escalate.

Marla is happy to meet Dalton’s extended family, especially since his mother isn’t speaking to his uncle for reasons unknown. Uncle Ray is just as tight-lipped, refusing to mention his past. However, he blames neighboring rancher Hugh Donovan for his troubles. Evidently, their animosity goes back to their childhood. Dalton’s cousins are more warm and welcoming. Annie is a dietician in town and Wayne manages the ranch. It’s a good chance for Marla to get to know this side of the family, but as she digs deeper into Uncle Ray’s secrets, she’s afraid exposing the truth might tear her new family apart.

Some of us may not know our extended family too well. We gather for holidays, exchange superficial news, and go on ourPerilbyPonytail merry ways until the next event. It’s not like the movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, where everyone is in each other’s business but is also there for support. Your old childhood roles might surface when the relatives gather. Were you the shy one? The troublemaker? The lazy kid in school who never studied? It’s hard to surpass those reputations. Getting together more often and in different settings than a holiday dinner might be the answer.

So how often do you see your relatives? Do you feel comfortable around them? Would you rather be somewhere else at those times?

Leave a comment for a chance to win a Kindle copy of Peril by Ponytail.

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Peril by Ponytail (Bad Hair Day Mystery #12)
Marla and Dalton’s honeymoon at an Arizona dude ranch veers from dangerous to downright deadly faster than a horse headed to the corral. With her husband’s uncle—the resort owner—on the suspect list for murder, Marla races to prove his innocence. She hopes her blind trust isn’t misplaced, especially when she learns their relative has secrets he’d rather keep buried. As the bodies pile up, she digs deeper to find the killer. With her new family in jeopardy, she’d better figure out who’s adding to the spirits at a nearby ghost town before someone she loves is hurt.

Excerpt from Peril by Ponytail

Marla and Dalton are invited to dinner at his cousin Wayne’s house in Arizona. Present are Wayne and his wife Carol, Wayne’s sister Annie, and their father who is Dalton’s Uncle Raymond.

After they’d eaten a hearty vegetable bean soup, Raymond addressed Wayne. “Did you get that leaky water heater fixed?”

Wayne’s mouth tightened. “Yes, we did. The plumber said a valve had been loosened. Maybe it got knocked open by a broom that may have fallen over, but I think it was deliberate. At least we were able to clean the dining hall in time for the next meal.”

“I told you to put more video cameras in place.”

“Carol is still waiting for an estimate from the security company. Why do you look like you swallowed a lemon pit? I’ll take care of it.”

Raymond gripped his water glass. “I attended a town council meeting today. Hugh Donovan is stirring up trouble again.”

“What did he want this time? Donovan owns the Dead Gulch Ranch on the other side of the mountain,” Wayne explained in an aside to Marla and Dalton.

“His cattle aren’t doing well, and he blames my renovations,” Raymond said. “The guy’s an idiot. We’ve done the proper environmental impact studies, and they were approved. There’s no way our ghost town project can be contaminating his property.”

“Why does this fellow worry you so much?” Dalton asked, voicing the thought in Marla’s head.

“The man has it in for me, and don’t ask why because it’s nobody’s business but mine. I’ll need more approvals for my construction. If the council refuses to issue even one permit, it’ll put us behind schedule.”

“And how does that benefit Donovan?” Wayne said in a frustrated tone.

Marla figured he must have asked his father before about Hugh Donovan without satisfaction. What had happened between the two men to cause animosity?

“He hopes I’ll run out of money if he delays things long enough. I’ve had offers to buy that property, and I suspect he’s behind them. If the council doesn’t heed him, he’ll find other ways to shut me down.”

Book Trailer: http://youtu.be/T2Vao7yDIVY
Buy at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Peril-Ponytail-Bad-Hair-Mystery/dp/1432830988/
Buy at Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/peril-by-ponytail-nancy-j-cohen/1121698516

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Nancy J. Cohen writes the humorous Bad Hair Day Mysteries featuring hairdresser Marla Vail, who solves crimes with wit and style under the sultry Florida sun. Titles in this series have made the IMBA bestseller list and been named by Suspense Magazine as best cozy mystery. Nancy is also the author of Writing the Cozy Mystery, a valuable instructional guide on how to write a winning whodunit. Her imaginative romances, including the Drift Lords series, have proven popular with fans as well. A featured speaker at libraries, conferences, and community events, Nancy is listed in Contemporary Authors, Poets & Writers, and Who’s Who in U.S. Writers, Editors, & Poets. When not busy writing, she enjoys fine dining, visiting Disney World, cruising, and outlet shopping.

Website: http://nancyjcohen.com
Blog: http://nancyjcohen.wordpress.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NancyJCohenAuthor
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/nancyjcohen
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/91508.Nancy_J_Cohen
Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/njcohen/
Linked In: http://www.linkedin.com/in/nancyjcohen
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Guest Blogger: Jim Cort – The Story of a Story of a Story

April 20, 2015 4 comments
Jim Cort

Jim Cort

THE STORY OF A STORY OF A STORY by Jim Cort

“Before I Wake” had its genesis in my desire to try a story entirely in dialog. A few experiments were enough to convince me that some compromise would have to be made, and I wound up producing a story composed of documents and letters and transcripts that I thought still gave the effect I was looking for.

The story languished for while. I finally shipped it off to a house looking for stories to adapt into audio plays on tape cassettes. I’m not going to give the name of the company, because I intend to say mean things about them shortly. There it found a home, and they offered me a chance to do the audio script myself.

My experience with the audio house was less than idyllic. A little background: “Before I Wake” is the story of a man who believes himself threatened by his own dreams. The threat can reach him only when he is asleep. He winds up causing a disturbance and being held in jail, where he tells his story to a police psychiatrist. The original story had an all-male cast. I thought a female voice would provide variety in the audio version.

When I received the recorded cassette, I ws horrified to find my psychiatrist showing up at the county lockup in a party dress, detoured from the country club cotillion. Her whole professional status was undermined. The whole script had been rewritten and had come out pedestrian, cliché-ridden, clumsy and predictable. I had foolishly sold all audio rights to the house from then until the end of time, so there was nothing I could do about it.

 

So “Before I Wake”, in its radio incarnation, remained a thorn in my side for a long time. However, the story in its original version took off on its own.

before+i+wakeIn 1989 saw a call for submissions for a new anthology to be called October Dreams, put together by Dave Kubicek and Jeff Mason. The reference to dreams in the title made me think of “Before I Wake”, so I sent it along. A month or so later, the familiar rejection letter arrived, but not so familiar, either. Unlike most rejections, I sensed in this one a genuine reluctance to pass this story by. They mentioned their disappointment with the ending. I was moved to do something I had never done before with any story

I phoned them up.

I called the office number on the letterhead. I can’t remember now if I spoke to Dave or Jeff. I pitched a new ending over the phone. I have no idea where it came from. It was as if the words came out of my mouth at exactly the same moment the ideas came into my head. In the end, Dave said (or maybe it was Jeff), “OK, write it up that way, and we’ll take another look.”

I did and they did and they said yes. We all signed the papers, and everybody was happy. But that’s not the end of the story.

Fast forward 10 years to 1999.

I got a letter from a nice lady at Perfection Learning, a house that publishes educational material. They were putting together a middle school anthology to be called Flights of Fantasy. They had taken the trouble to track me down because they wanted to include “Before I Wake”. (Note to self: always be track-downable.) I was flattered. I must confess I did feel a little strange about becoming required reading. But I said yes and we all signed the papers and everybody was happy.

But that’s not the end of the story.

Fast forward 14 years to 2013.

I had been posting some of my old teaching materials on Teachers pay Teachers. (unsolicited testimonial: teacherspayteachers.org is a sort of clearinghouse where teachers, or former teachers like me, can share materials they’ve designed for their own classrooms and pick up a little money as well.) I came across a quiz on the story “Before I Wake” prepared by Marianne Todd of Sioux City Iowa (not her real name) for her Language Arts class. I got in touch with Ms. Todd. She was happy to hear from me, and told me that the story was a class favorite. I’m glad she didn’t ask me to take the quiz. I’m not at all sure I would have passed.

Deaf Dog Press has come out with a special edition of “Before I Wake” through Smashwords. It contains the original published story along with the original radio play. You can find it at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/527874.

Or, if you happen to be in Sioux City, Iowa, drop by Ms. Todd’s class. She might still have a copy.

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Jim Cort has been writing since the cows left home. He is curretly chief cook and bottle washer at Deaf Dog Press. His novel The Lonely Impulse is available at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/337106.

Guest Blogger John Scherber – The Artist Turns Detective

December 8, 2014 5 comments

perf5.500x8.500.inddThe Artist Turns Detective by John Scherber

A lot of people would like to paint, and I’m no exception.  In high school I had a close friend who painted, and I always wondered how well he did with it later in life. I took a run at it myself in those days and bombed badly. Much later I returned to it in a more methodical way and became fairly competent, but I didn’t quit my day job.

What I did learn from painting is that you have to see things differently. There were exercises where, for example, you’d paint a vase upside down. It helped to keep you from thinking of it as a vase––putting a name to it––only seeing the action of light and shadow on the surfaces, which is what you painted. Names come from a different part of the brain and they get in the way.

Later, I wondered whether seeing things differently be any use in solving a crime. My painter character, Paul Zacher, living in Mexico with his historian girlfriend, doesn’t think so when he’s asked to look into a murder by the widow of the victim. He knows he sees the relationships of curves and contours to each other, the different colors within the shadows on human skin. But what would he pick up at a crime scene that the police missed?

That’s the premise of my book, Twenty Centavos, the first of a series of mysteries involving Paul Zacher, his girlfriend Maya Sanchez, and their retired detective friend, Cody Williams. They are mostly set in San Miguel de Allende, a colonial mountain town in the center of México with a large expatriate population. I’ve lived there too for the past seven years.

At thirty-five, Paul is a guy with an irreverent sense of humor who does fairly well as a painter, showing at two galleries, and he likes his life. When the book begins, he is engaged in a series of nudes posed with statues of Mayan Gods against a jungle backdrop. The show he’s preparing for will be called Gods and Goddesses. Getting pulled into a criminal investigation, he finds himself at odds with the local police, and with himself as well, because he sometimes feels like a snoop. As an outgoing guy with an ironic sense of humor, he’s uncomfortable with his new need to be covert and even sneaky at times in order to solve a case.

When I began this book I was on a painting trip, driving down a long curving mountain road outside of Taos, New Mexico, when a scene came to me of a woman coming to pose for a nude portrait at a painter’s studio. She was not an experienced model, but wanted to preserve an image of herself in her prime at the age of twenty-eight. She was also wondering whether it might be fun to engage in a little rendezvous with the painter as well. He was an attractive guy and she knew he liked women.perf5.500x8.500.indd

As it developed, I turned this scene over and over in my mind and virtually memorized it. When I arrived at my hotel in Taos, I immediately sat down at my laptop and wrote it.

Paul Zacher, who already knew he was attracted to his new model, is nonetheless loyal to his Mexican girlfriend. As a painter, he views the naked body as landscape; hills and valleys, outcroppings of bush here and there. But even more, for him the studio is a place of discipline and concentration, and to get involved with a model means chaos. His reaction is complicated by the recollection of an earlier encounter where he had stumbled in the studio. Upon this model’s arrival, a fine misunderstanding follows.

Naturally, solving this case led to others. I found I was already working on the second book of the series, The Fifth Codex, even before I was finished revising Twenty Centavos.

Currently there are twelve published and another in process. They fall into two categories, artifact and relationship. Twenty Centavos is focused on ancient Mayan ceramics, and The Fifth Codex deals with the discovery of a fifth Maya book, where only four had been previously known. The fifth one, Strike Zone, is centered on the recovery of a skull cast from the remaining gold of the Aztecs in the days of the Conquest. These are the artifact books. The ninth concerns an attempt to steal Mexico’s greatest religious treasure, the Virgin of Guadalupe.

Brushwork, the third of the series, is about revenge. Daddy’s Girl, Vanishing Act, and Identity Crisis focus on love, loss and greed.

This is a rewarding series to write. I love the backdrop of the upscale expat community in San Miguel, and the continuity and developing relationship of the three core characters. As with so many successful series books, these are the books I myself want to read.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

DSC_0005-1John Scherber, a Minnesota native, settled in México in 2007. He is the author of twelve Paul Zacher mysteries, (The Murder in México series), set in the old colonial hill town of San Miguel de Allende, as well as his three award-winning nonfiction accounts of the expatriate experience, San Miguel de Allende: A Place in the Heart, Into the Heart of Mexico: Expatriates Find Themselves Off the Beaten Path, and Living in San Miguel: The Heart of the Matter.  In addition, two volumes of the Townshend Vampire Trilogy have appeared, and a paranormal thriller titled The Devil’s Workshop.

His work is known for its fast pace, irreverent humor, and light-hearted excursions into the worlds of art and antiques––always with an edge of suspense. Neither highbrow nor lowbrow, his books are written as entertainments and dedicated to the fun of reading. While he has acknowledged being no single one of his characters, he also admits to being all of them. Find John on Facebook and Twitter, and visit his website at: http://www.sanmiguelallendebooks.com

Guest Blogger Teresa Inge – Why Research is the Extra Element in Writing

August 18, 2014 11 comments
Author Teresa Inge

Author Teresa Inge

Why Research is the Extra Element in Writing by Teresa Inge

I grew up in North Carolina reading Nancy Drew mysteries. Combining my love of reading mysteries and writing professional articles led to writing short fiction and a novel.

I also love it when I research a new story I am writing. Most of the time this means a road trip with my family to the story’s location and most of the time I discover new ideas.

When researching my current story “Wine Country Murder,” my husband and I toured the Williamsburg Winery in Virginia. We elected to do the Reserve Wine Tasting tour, which meant visiting the basement where wines are produced and stored. I took pictures of oak barrels, machinery, and anything else I found pertinent to my research. Soon, the wine was flowing and so were my thoughts. But when a bat flew above our heads, it corked a new story plot. Later, the guide mentioned that bats often fly into their basement. I just never know what I will discover during research.

My family also joined me on a weekend trip to the Cavalier on the Hill hotel in Virginia Beach to research “Guide to Murder,” in Virginia is for Mysteries. As soon as we arrived I combed the grounds where the murder would take place. I took pictures, explored areas not meant for guests, and did lots of snooping!  Since this was a historic hotel, I stumbled across vintage items such as an old sauna that had a large lock strapped across the front. The enormous sauna was tucked in a dark corner on the bottom floor. I could only imagine guests of the 1920′s and 30′s going into the sauna for good health.

We next ventured to the Outerbanks in North Carolina to research a “Milepost Murder.” While driving through Nags Head during a summer storm, I noticed a wobbly street sign. I thought what if I kill a character with a milepost sign. Milepost signs are located throughout the Outerbanks to guide tourists to restaurants, hotels, and businesses. I then based the story on my favorite beach shop in Nags Head, and added a twist by placing a bar next door. My daughter made up the title to complete the story.

Since mystery readers are savvy and intelligent, authors have to conduct Internet research, interviews, and sometimes visit the story’s location to ensure facts are correct. Even though mystery authors write fiction, facts must be real.

Another trip included driving across the Rudy Inlet Bridge in Virginia Beach. I wondered what would happen if a vehicle went over the side. Would it sink? Float? Could a barge fit in the inlet? These questions led to researching “Fishing for Murder,” in the FishNets anthology.

Since I needed answers, I made my way under the bridge and discovered a small barge in the inlet. As I began taking pictures, a homeless woman scurried up the bridge wall and out of sight. I had disturbed her hiding place. Just as I turned, a man on a bicycle with a basket of beer approached me. He asked why I was taking pictures. The situation was daunting but it brought new light to my writing when I discovered an underground of homeless people.

While researching “Shopping for Murder,” in Virginia is for Mysteries, I based the setting on the Great Bridge Shopping Center in Chesapeake. Like most shoppers, I had always pulled into a front parking space and walked into the store. Since a scene in my story required a speeding vehicle behind the center, I drove my car to the back to do my research. Dangerous. Perhaps. But I had to know if a vehicle could fit in the small space.

Since mystery writing can be isolating, I enjoy conducting research since it adds an extra element to my writing process.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Teresa Inge grew up in North Carolina reading Nancy Drew mysteries. Today she doesn’t carry a rod, like her idol, but she hotrods. She assists two busy
executives and is president of Sisters in Crime, Virginia Beach chapter.

Love of reading mysteries and writing professional articles led to writing short fiction and a novel. Teresa’s published stories include Fishing for Murder in the Fish Nets anthology and Guide to Murder and Shopping for Murder in Virginia is for Mysteries.  Her website is http://www.teresainge.com.

 

Guest Blogger: Barb Goffman – Before You Hire a Freelance Editor, Read these Tips

Barb Goffman Author/Freelance Editor

Barb Goffman
Author/Freelance Editor

Before You Hire a Freelance Editor, Read These Tips

By Barb Goffman

Everyone can always use a second pair of eyes. That’s where I come in.

I’ve been editing fiction for several years as a co-editor of the Chesapeake Crimes anthology series. (Stories in the series have won nearly every major crime-fiction award—check ’em out if you haven’t already.) I’ve been editing nonfiction for far longer than that, thanks to training from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. (Go Wildcats!) Finally, last year, I decided to hang out my shingle and offer my services on a freelance basis. And I must say I’ve been pleased with the response, both in terms of clients and promotional support from my friends.

My business’s focus is crime fiction. While I could provide a copy edit for any type of fiction (grammar, spelling, and punctuation don’t vary across genres), the genre I’m most familiar with is crime, as it’s what I write. So it’s crime fiction for which I offer developmental editing services, as well as line editing and copy editing.
Having been immersed in it for a while now, allow me to offer my top ten tips for authors planning to use a freelance editor (also known as: how to save yourself a little money and your editor a little gray hair—and yes, that’s gray with an a).

10. The better shape your manuscript is in when I receive it, the less I’ll charge you. So run a spell-check yourself. And pay attention to American spellings. Gray. Toward. Backward. Canceled. Did I mention gray?

9. Real people use contractions when they speak. So use them in your writing, especially your dialogue and internal monologue.

8. Real people also hem and haw when they speak, but, um, well, you don’t, you know, um, have to include all these tics when you write. They can be distracting. A little goes a long way.

7. No one shouts all the time. So lay off using a lot of exclamation points. You can show a person is excited by what he says or by using the occasional “he shouted.” Otherwise, remember that the period is your friend.

6. Put yourself in your characters’ shoes and consider “how would I react?” as your plot moves along. Then put those reactions in your story. When you get too weddeddontgetmadrevised to moving the plot along, you can miss the chance to bring your characters to life by showing their reactions.

5. Description is great, but it’s not always appropriate. If your character is entering a place for the first time, it’s believable he’ll look around and notice the architecture and décor. But if he’s coming home after a long day at work to a house he’s lived in for ten years, he’s not going to notice that his house is decorated in a certain style, and he’s not going to focus on the fact that he has four windows in the living room with plantation shutters. At most, he’ll notice that his house smells funny because he forgot to take out the garbage that morning. Again.

4. Always keep your main character’s point of view in mind while you’re writing. If Jane hears a car pulls up outside her house, she can’t know whose car it is unless the car makes a distinctive noise or Jane is looking out the window. (Of course, you could create a character who makes a lot of assumptions, but in that case, I would make use of that. Let Jane wrongly assume it’s John who’s pulled up outside so she flings open the front door, allowing herself to be kidnapped by Sebastian.)

3. Every scene should move the plot along. Character development is wonderful, but you shouldn’t create a scene that only builds character. If your plot isn’t moving forward, your story is stagnant, and the reader may start flipping pages. Don’t do that to yourself.

2. Think through your action scenes to ensure they make sense. I know some writers who once acted out a romance scene. They realized that for the scene to work, one of the characters needed three arms.

1. Create a list of the things you often do that you know you shouldn’t, and go through that list after you type The End. If you tend to overuse a certain word, search for it and change some of them. If you tend to write long, complicated sentences, break some of them up. And please, please, please have someone review your work before you send it out into the world. Someone who’ll tell you the truth—not your mom or your best friend. That’s where I can come in. I’d love to hear from you.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Barb Goffman is the author of Don’t Get Mad, Get Even, a collection of short stories published in 2013 by Wildside Press. She won the 2013 Macavity Award for best crime short story published in 2012, and she’s been nominated twelve times for national writing awards—the Agatha (seven times), the Anthony (twice), the Macavity (twice), and the Pushcart Prize once. You can reach her at goffmaneditin[[at]]gmail[[dot]]com . Learn more at http://www.barbgoffman.com and http://www.goffmanediting.com.

 

Volunteering and Writing Conferences – Why Do I Bother?

juggling womanVolunteering and Writing Conferences – Why Do I Bother? by Debra H. Goldstein

I hate wasting time sitting in meetings where people talk to hear themselves heard, fail to stick to agenda topics, or where programs are repetitive of what I’ve heard before. So, why do I serve on civic committees and why do I attend Writing Conferences? I volunteer hoping to make a difference for people and things I care about. My attendance at Writing Conferences is prompted by my secret hope each will make a difference in fulfilling my passion by teaching me things I don’t now and introducing me to people I wouldn’t meet under any other circumstances.

My volunteering can take the form of doing something hands on, writing a check, or brainstorming to put the right people together to accomplish our goals. The writing conferences I attend are equally varied. Some are purely technical or skill oriented while others offer fan interaction or personal networking opportunities. I recently attended my third Malice Domestic Conference.

Although Malice Domestic tends to be one of the largest fan oriented conferences, each time I have come away impressed by the authors I have met there. My first year, Maze in Blue, my mystery set on the University of Michigan’s campus, had just been published so I was invited to speak at the New Author’s Breakfast and assigned to the Academic Mystery Panel. There were five of us on the academic panel – all at different stages in our careers. I came away from that panel with two things that are still with me today: I learned I should listen and stick to the topic without worrying about self promotion (which being nervous and new I certainly overdid) and having made two good friends Linda Rodriguez and Judy Hogan. To this day, I look forward to reading whatever they write. BTW, I already have read Linda’s new book, Every Hidden Fear, and Judy’s Farm Fresh and Fatal and enjoyed both.

By the time I attended my second Malice Domestic, I had developed a real respect for the excellent balancing act of the entire conference, especially Barb Goffman’s programming skills. Not only did volunteers pull things off smoothly, but I truly understood the complexity and delicate maneuvering involved in scheduling programming that fans and authors both appreciated. That year, I was assigned to be an individual speaker on Author’s Alley. Again, I came home from the conference with new friends and a suitcase of books written by writers I continue to follow.

Malice Social Issues Panel-Linda O. Johnston, John Clement, Debra H. Goldstein, Nancy Cohen, & Judy Hogan

Malice Social Issues Panel-Linda O. Johnston, John Clement, Debra H. Goldstein, Nancy Cohen, & Judy Hogan

This year, I moderated the Social Issues panel. Although I knew the social issue contained in my book, my preparation for our panel included reading the newest books written by Nancy Cohen, Linda O. Johnston, John Clement and Judy Hogan. Each book integrated different social issues either as primary or subplots, but what they all had in common was being fun and interesting reads. Once again, I left the programming portion of Malice with new friends.

But at Malice or any conference, it isn’t only the time one spends with people on panels that creates long lasting respectful relationships. It is exchanges that occur at casual Guppy lunches, pick-up breakfasts, informal dinners, formal banquets, Sisters in Crime or MWA functions, visiting in the bar, talking to people one happens to sit next to in the audience at a panel, or by striking up a conversation in the elevator and following-up through emails, Facebook, and seeing each other at subsequent conferences.

New Friends Dining at Malice

New Friends Dining at Malice

The importance of these contacts was best brought out by the relationship between the three 2014 Malice Lifetime Achievement honorees: Margaret Maron, Joan Hess, and Dorothy Cannell. As they gave their remarks and paid tribute to their late friend Barbara Mertz aka Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Michaels and mentioned other friends, it became clear that from meeting at various conferences and building friendships outside of the confines of the structured meetings, the three of them and a group of other talented writers built support networks of respect and trust that endured for decades and helped the three be the writers and people they are today.

I may never achieve even a portion of the acclaim of these honorees, but I already feel that I have been blessed with the type of friendships they spoke of. The same holds true from the work I have done with others on civic committees to accomplish an organization’s or personal mission. That is why I bother volunteering and attending Writing Conferences.

Guest Blogger Linda Rodriguez: What Can We Learn From the Century’s Bestsellers

April 21, 2014 6 comments
Linda Rodriguez

Linda Rodriguez

What Can We Learn From the Century’s Bestsellers by Linda Rodriguez

Matt Kahn is a blogger with an unusual idea. He is reading the 94 books that have been listed as the year’s bestseller by Publishers Weekly for each year of the 100 years since PW began announcing the bestselling book of each year. http://www.kahnscorner.com/2013/02/100-years-94-books.html

The list below comes from his blog. It’s eye-opening, I believe, to see what outsold all other books each year. Fifteen books on the list are books that still live, excepting the most recent years for which we have no real knowledge yet of which books will live on and which will sink into oblivion. If we knock off the last ten years’ books for that reason, that still leaves us with only fifteen out of eighty-four. Most of these books are unknown in the present day. Modern readers may know who H.G. Wells and Zane Grey are, but most will never have heard of Mr. Britling Sees It Through, The U. P. Trail, or The Man of the Forest. Other authors, such as Vicente Blasco Ibáñez, A.S.M. Hutchinson, and Henry Morton Robinson, will be unrecognizable to today’s readers.

What can we learn from this list then? One thing we can learn is that bestseller status doesn’t necessarily mean that the books are the best for their time—or even good. A second is that many great books don’t ever make the top bestsellers list. Missing are all of Faulkner’s and Hemingway’s, and they were both Nobel Prize winners. Also, you won’t find Fitzgerald’s, Willa Cather’s, Henry James’, Edith Wharton’s, Harper Lee’s, Truman Capote’s, and Kurt Vonnegut’s titles, to mention just a few writers with major literary reputations. A third lesson is that—witness the books listed for Wells and Grey—a writer may write his finest books without such success and then find a lesser book on the list by virtue of the quality of those earlier volumes.

The final take-away is that all of this is out of the author’s control. All we can do is write the best books we can. When I get discouraged at the difficulty of bringing my books to the attention of readers, I pull this list out and read and note the significant omissions.every hidden fear (1)

Publishers Weekly Annual Bestsellers List                                                                                                                    

• 1913: The Inside of the Cup by Winston Churchill
• 1914: The Eyes of the World by Harold Bell Wright
• 1915: The Turmoil by Booth Tarkington
• 1916: Seventeen by Booth Tarkington
• 1917: Mr. Britling Sees It Through by H. G. Wells
• 1918: The U. P. Trail by Zane Grey
• 1919: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse by Vicente Blasco Ibáñez
• 1920: The Man of the Forest by Zane Grey
• 1921: Main Street by Sinclair Lewis
• 1922: If Winter Comes by A.S.M. Hutchinson
• 1923: Black Oxen by Gertrude Atherton

•  1924: So Big by Edna Ferber
• 1925: Soundings by A. Hamilton Gibbs
• 1926: The Private Life of Helen of Troy by John Erskine
• 1927: Elmer Gantry by Sinclair Lewis
• 1928: The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder
• 1929: All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
• 1930: Cimarron by Edna Ferber
• 1931: The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
• 1932: The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
• 1933: Anthony Adverse by Hervey Allen
• 1934: Anthony Adverse by Hervey Allen
• 1935: Green Light by Lloyd C. Douglas
• 1936: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
• 1937: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
• 1938: The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
• 1939: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
• 1940: How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn
• 1941: The Keys of the Kingdom by A. J. Cronin
• 1942: The Song of Bernadette by Franz Werfel
• 1943: The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas
• 1944: Strange Fruit by Lillian Smith
• 1945: Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor
• 1946: The King’s General by Daphne du Maurier
• 1947: The Miracle of the Bells by Russell Janney
• 1948: The Big Fisherman by Lloyd C. Douglas
• 1949: The Egyptian by Mika Waltari
• 1950: The Cardinal by Henry Morton Robinson
• 1951: From Here to Eternity by James Jones
• 1952: The Silver Chalice by Thomas B. Costain
• 1953: The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas
• 1954: Not as a Stranger by Morton Thompson
• 1955: Marjorie Morningstar by Herman Wouk
• 1956: Don’t Go Near the Water by William Brinkley
• 1957: By Love Possessed by James Gould Cozzens
• 1958: Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
• 1959: Exodus by Leon Uris
• 1960: Advise and Consent by Allen Drury
• 1961: The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone
• 1962: Ship of Fools by Katherine Anne Porter
• 1963: The Shoes of the Fisherman by Morris L. West
• 1964: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carré
• 1965: The Source by James A. Michener
• 1966: Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann
• 1967: The Arrangement by Elia Kazan
• 1968: Airport by Arthur Hailey
• 1969: Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth
• 1970: Love Story by Erich Segal
• 1971: Wheels by Arthur Hailey
• 1972: Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
• 1973: Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
• 1974: Centennial by James A. Michener
• 1975: Ragtime by E. L. Doctorow
• 1976: Trinity by Leon Uris
• 1977: The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien and Christopher Tolkien
• 1978: Chesapeake by James A. Michener
• 1979: The Matarese Circle by Robert Ludlum
• 1980: The Covenant by James A. Michener
• 1981: Noble House by James Clavell
• 1982: E.T., The Extraterrestrial by William Kotzwinkle
• 1983: Return of the Jedi by James Kahn
• 1984: The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub
• 1985: The Mammoth Hunters by Jean M. Auel
• 1986: It by Stephen King
• 1987: The Tommyknockers by Stephen King
• 1988: The Cardinal of the Kremlin by Tom Clancy
• 1989: Clear and Present Danger by Tom Clancy
• 1990: The Plains of Passage by Jean M. Auel
• 1991: Scarlett by Alexandra Ripley
• 1992: Dolores Clairborne by Stephen King
• 1993: The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller
• 1994: The Chamber by John Grisham
• 1995: The Rainmaker by John Grisham
• 1996: The Runaway Jury by John Grisham
• 1997: The Partner by John Grisham
• 1998: The Street Lawyer by John Grisham
• 1999: The Testament by John Grisham
• 2000: The Brethren by John Grisham
• 2001: Desecration by Jerry B. Jenkins and Tim LaHaye
• 2002: The Summons by John Grisham
• 2003: The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown**
• 2004: The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
• 2005: The Broker by John Grisham
• 2006: For One More Day by Mitch Albom
• 2007: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini**
• 2008: The Appeal by John Grisham
• 2009: The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown
• 2010: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest by Stieg Larsson
• 2011: The Litigators by John Grisham
• 2012: Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James
• 2013: To be determined…

* Publishers Weekly did not include the Harry Potter books in its listings. Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix was the bestselling book for 2003, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was the bestselling book of 2007.

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Linda Rodriguez’s third Skeet Bannion novel, Every Hidden Fear, will be published May 6 and is available for pre-order now. Her second Skeet mystery, Every Broken Trust, was a selection of Las Comadres National Latino Book Club and is currently a finalist for both the International Latino Book Award and the Premio Aztlan Literary Prize. Her first Skeet novel, Every Last Secret, won the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition, was a Barnes & Noble mystery pick, and was a finalist for the International Latino Book Award. Her short story, “The Good Neighbor,” has been optioned for film. Find her on Twitter as @rodriguez_linda, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/LindaRodriguezWrites, and on blogs with The Stiletto Gang http: http://thestilettogang.blogspot.com/, Writers Who Kill http://writerswhokill.blogspot.com/, and her own blog http://lindarodriguezwrites.blogspot.com.