Posts Tagged ‘Malice Domestic’

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.

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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 and



March 26, 2014 2 comments
Harriette Sackler

Harriette Sackler


I recently had a short story, Who Dat? Dat the Indian Chief! published in the Mardi Gras Murder anthology. Of the thirteen stories included in the book, Queen of the King Cakes by Harriette Sackler particularly caught my attention so I decided to interview Harriette.

1. Tell me about your writing and your motivation to write.

Harriette: Of my many interests, writing is close to the top of my list. When I began writing short stories, I was motivated to continue when my first story, “Mother Love,” which appeared in the Chesapeake Crimes II anthology, was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best Short Story.

2. Give me a plot teaser about your Mardi Gras Murder story.

Harriette: “Queen of the King Cakes” is about a young woman who is determined to fulfill her dream of achieving success in an area she is most passionate about. However, one decision changes the course of her life.

3. How did you come to write Queen of the King Cakes? Where did you get the idea for the story?

Harriette: I find that somehow, my stories just come to me. Some of them are based on observations or incidents that have stuck in my mind over time. This story actually revolves around a woman who lived on our block when I was a little girl and the wonderful times I spent with my grandmother who shared a passion similar to my protagonist.MGMFrontCover

4. Did you need to do research for the story?

Harriette: Yes, I did research for this story. I read about the history of King Cakes, the geography of New Orleans, and the Louisiana penal system.

5. Anything else you want to say about the story or the Mardi Gras Murder anthology?

Harriette: I truly hope readers will enjoy my story and would love to hear from them at I also want to give a shout-out to Sarah Glenn and Gwen Mayo for providing short story writers with another venue for their stories.

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Harriette Sackler serves as Grants Chair of the Malice Domestic Board of Directors. She is a past Agatha Award nominee for Best Short Story for “Mother Love,” Chesapeake Crimes II.  “Fishing for Justice,” appeared in the Sisters in Crime-Guppies anthology, Fishnets. “Devil’s Night,” can be found in All Hallows’ Evil,” a Mystery and Horror, LLC anthology. “Thanksgiving with a Turkey,” appeared in a Shaker of Margaritas: a Bad Hair Day; and “The Factory,” was published in Chesapeake Crimes: This Job is Murder.

Harriette is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Sisters in Crime-Chesapeake Chapter, and the Guppies.

She lives in the D.C. suburbs with her husband and their three pups and spends a great deal of time as Vice President of her labor of love: House with a Heart Senior Pet Sanctuary. She is a proud mom and grandmother.  Visit Harriette at:


Musings on Malice by DHG

April 30, 2012 11 comments

Malice Domestic XXIV has ended – amazingly!  As a dedicated cozy mystery reader (and writer), I have long realized that many of my favorite authors are Agatha winners and that the Agathas are awarded each year during the Malice Domestic Conference.  Research, a writer’s second best tool, revealed that Malice is one of the largest fan/writer conferences.  The formal agenda lists three days of informative panels, special breakfasts including Malice-Go-Round and New Authors, the Agatha Awards Banquet, an Opening Ceremony, and a closing tea.  The quality of programming is top notch, but the sub-level interaction is amazing.  No standoff behavior here. 

Often, it is impossible to tell who is a fan and who is a writer.  The smiling woman you start talking to in the elevator or while having coffee might as easily be a fan from Milwaukee as Margaret Maron or Charlaine Harris.  Authors at all levels of their careers could be found sharing tips, encouragement, or “you wouldn’t believe” stories in the hospitality room, the bar, or anywhere a conversation could be held.  The common thread throughout the weekend was that it didn’t matter if one was a reader, an established writer, a newbie, or a wannabe.

As a member of Sisters of Crime, I particularly enjoyed the Sunday morning breakfast and the times that the Guppies got together.  It was nice to put faces with names that I have exchanged messages with through the listserve. 

Leslie Budewitz

Agatha Winner Leslie Budewitz & DHG

There was a special excitement to have so many of them nominated for Agathas for their short stories, first books, fiction, and non-fiction.  All of the Guppies jumped out of the pond when Leslie Budewitz won an Agatha for Books, Crooks & Counselors… 

 I also was very moved by the words and the look on her face when Sarah Bewley, whom I previously met when Carolyn Haines and she ran Daddy’s Girls’ Weekend (another fine conference), spoke after being announced as the winner of a scholarship to Malice awarded annually based upon a partial manuscript.  Bet we see Sarah onstage again as a future Agatha winner.Personally, I was excited that not only was this my first Malice, but I was permitted to be a participant in two events.  I was one of the twenty-four authors who hosted a table at the New Authors breakfast and was allowed to speak for two minutes to the entire room – and yes,  give me a microphone and I had them laughing J.  My turn on the “Well-Schooled Panel” was more serious, but introduced me to five wonderful writers:  Judy Hogan, Linda Rodriguez, Frankie Bailey, Robert Spiller and Ada Madison aka Camille Minichino. 

Well Schooled Panel

Ada Madison aka Camille Minichino, Linda Rodriguez, Frankie Bailey, Judy Hogan, Robert Spiller and DHG

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the operations behind the conference — all of whose names I apologize for not knowing – but that is because this conference is put on by volunteers for the love of mystery writing.  But thanks to a special few:  Barb Goffman (whose touch and she herself was everywhere), Ann Murphy (loved that librarian voice), Rita (your control center blew me away as I helped Velcro signs),Verena Rose, and of course, toastmaster and writer extraordinaire Dana Cameron.

 Would I go back again?  In a heartbeat –  because that is the true measure of the love between the fans and writers who attended Malice XXIV.