Two More Blurbs for STILLWATER!

I promise I'm not going to post a link to every positive review STILLWATER receives. Pinky swear. But, I have to tell you about the blurbs I've received from awesome mystery authors Harry Hunsicker & Diane Vallere.

“Dangerous things lurk beneath the placid surface in Stillwater, Texas. Secrets shunning the light of day, decades-old betrayals, lies that have taken on a life of their own.  Moody and atmospheric, utterly compelling, you don’t want to miss Melissa Lenhardt’s marvelous debut novel, STILLWATER.” --Harry Hunsicker, former Executive Vice President of the Mystery Writers of America, author of THE GRID

“Secrets, lies, and betrayals run through STILLWATER like irrigation through dry land. Melissa Lenhardt’s writing drips with detail to create a story that rushes like a wave toward an ever-twisting ending. Don’t let the name fool you; STILLWATER’s threats lie right below the surface.” —Diane Vallere, bestselling author of the Material Witness, Madison Night, and Style & Error Mysteries

I mean, seriously. How can I not squee just a little bit about these awesome blurbs? Thanks so much, Harry & Diane, for taking the time to read my book.

SAWBONES, Historical Fiction novel, sold in 3-book deal


On June 1, I posted on the Swamp that some news was coming. Last Tuesday, I announced the news to my newsletter subscribers. Today, I'm posting it here for those who aren't subscribed.

If the one-line pitch, "Outlander meets the American West" sounds like a novel you'd want to read, you're going to be very excited about this deal. SAWBONES, the first novel in a historical series featuring a female surgeon from New York who flees out West after being falsely accused of murder, will be released digitally in March 2016. The remaining two novels will be released in six month increments.

This book has been a seven year labor of love. Not only was it the first manuscript I finished but it was also what I worked on after my father died in the summer of 2008. Dad loved watching Westerns, especially Lonesome Dove. All that summer after he died, I read McMurtry's novel, watched the mini-series, and took a deep dive into classic Hollywood westerns. I played around with a few scenes, not liking much of anything except the characters. What put this story into motion to become what it is now was reading EMPIRE OF THE SUMMER MOON by SC Gwynne.

I love all my books, but there's something special about this one. It's my favorite child and I absolutely cannot wait to share it with you all next spring! #Sawbones


Hang on, didn't you tell us about this book? It's coming out in October.

STILLWATER and SAWBONES are two entirely different books set in a different time periods with completely different characters.

I have two novels in two genres being released within months of each other.

It's okay to be shocked.


STILLWATER, my contemporary mystery, will be released in FOUR MONTHS!


I cannot believe it is almost here. Things are about to move fast and furious for this novel so expect the next newsletter to be chock full of STILLWATER news, including the cover and information about the book launches. #BigSecretsRunDeep

If you'd like to read more about SAWBONES, click HERE.

If you'd like to subscribe to my email newsletter and receive news early, as well as get exclusive content and contests, click HERE.

If you share this post on social media, please use these hashtags:



Some news is a'coming...

Palo Duro Canyon

I know it's been a little, how should I say this?, quiet around the Swamp for the past few months, but there's a very good reason for it. Soon, I will be able to tell you the reason. Hopefully, this week. Going forward, news about my books will come first through a newsletter. You may remember I ran a contest a couple of months ago promoting it. If you didn't sign up for it at that time, now is the time to do it! I promised I wouldn't spam you and, true to my word, I haven't sent one since the contest. Now, it's four months from the release of STILLWATER, and news will be coming more frequently and I want you to hear it first!

To sign up for my newsletter, CLICK HERE.

And, watch your inbox for some exciting news! The banner picture above might be a hint. ;)

One more thing: 199 people have added STILLWATER to their Goodreads Want to Read shelf! Have you? If not, go over and be the one who puts it over the hump!

When friends ask what's the hardest part of writing a book I answer, "All of it."

perfection atwood
perfection atwood

This quote by Margaret Atwood was the first thing I saw when I opened Twitter this morning and wow, is it a perfect sentiment for where I've been this week, starting a new MS.

I'm not a plotter. Oh, how I long to be a plotter, but that much organization completely kills my creativity. She's already a timid little thing, the last thing I need to do is murder her with PLANS.

I know, in broad strokes, the beginning, middle and end of every book, but I've never been one to outline chapter by chapter what happens when. One Nano I tried the Snowflake Method. Lasted about a day.

My method is think shit up, and write it down quick, before I forget it.

Have I told you before? I have a horrible memory.

Anyway, not a plotter. That's why my "synopsis" includes lots of parentheticals such as, "she is betrayed by the con-woman (not sure why; will figure out later, probably jealousy but OMG Boring, and Predictable. UGH.)." There's also a few, "blah, blah, blah" and "yada, yada, yadas" in there.

So, it's no surprise I'm an insanely inefficient writer. I will, almost always, write at least 20,000 words that end up in the trunk file. One day, I'm going to hem all those scenes together and publish a seven part, stream of conscious contemporary mystery/historical fiction/women's fiction/erotica epic that will take the literary world by storm. I've jettisoned more awesome scenes than I can count. Actually, I don't want to count them. It's too depressing. I'm an expert at killing my darlings.

So, here I am, starting a MS with the beginning and the middle and the end clear in my mind, but the details of how they get there are fuzzy. Or non-existent. And, this time, I have a deadline. Not a self-imposed deadline I can meet or not meet depending on my inspiration. An honest to goodness deadline where there will be consequences if it isn't met. Which means I can't dither.

I can't check my phone every time a sentence isn't forming right.

I can't get up and switch the laundry over, decide I need to make a cake (I wanted to the other day but didn't *pats self on the back*), clean out the cabinets, organize the pantry or wash the dishes.

I can't wait for the perfect word because now, at 7,000 words, none of them are perfect, but they're all salvageable.

Yesterday, I sat in front of a blank screen, knowing I needed to write at least 2000 words and didn't have an idea to save my life. I ended the day with 3500 words and two damn good scenes under my belt that I hope survive to the end. We'll see.

So, if you asked me today, "What's the hardest part of writing a book?" I'd say, "The beginning." Ask me again in a few weeks and I'll say "The end."

But, I'll be damn happy to be there.

I've yet to master the art of the pithy, clickable post title, so you'll have to click through to see my good news.

Something happened yesterday. A monumental event I knew was coming, eventually, but I wasn't prepared for how absolutely cool and fantastic it was. My debut novel, STILLWATER, went up on Amazon. It is available for pre-order. From mashable.

A couple of things: yes, I know there's no cover image. That will come, hopefully soon, but I don't know when exactly.

Second, the tentative release date is October 6, 2015. That can always change, but for now, that's the target. As long as it is released before November 19, I'll have achieved my goal of getting published by 45.

Third, it will be available in electronic formats before October 6 and hopefully in audio as well.

Fourth, pre-orders are love.

So is sharing.


Friday Twitter Tips - Marketing, Publicity, The Funny and Query Tips, Which Will Never Die

TwitterBirdTaps microphone. Hello? Shields eyes from spotlight. Anyone here?

There's a drunk slumped at a table with an empty bottle of Wild Turkey, a suburban mom with a tiny bit of spit-up on her shoulder and a man whose thousand yard stare can only mean he's at the end of writing a first draft. Thanks for sticking around, guys. Sorry for the delay. Traffic was a nightmare.

Where have I been, you ask? Working on the sequel to STILLWATER (coming Fall 2015), which means I've been procrastinating like a mofo. My favorite form of procrastination has been researching book marketing, which says to engage your readers/fans through social media--Twitter, Facebook, Blog--which I haven't been doing because I feel guilty I'm not working on my sequel.

The good news is, the sequel is coming along. It's still a hot mess, but it's getting there. I've also learned a few things about book marketing. Here's what I've learned:

  • Facebook isn't nearly the marketing dynamo everyone thinks it is. The posts on my page have very little reach, even when I share it on my personal page and my friends share it. Why? Because Facebook wants me to pay for promotion.
  • Heard the "you must have at least 2,500 Twitter followers" stat again this weekend. Apparently, this magic number will be the deciding factor for publisher's sales/marketing departments if they are on the fence about buying your book. Still think its a specious piece of advice.
  • Blogging is more difficult when your posts need to be more than just some random woman on the internet posting her thoughts about books. I have to look at everything I post through the "How Will This Help/Hurt My Book Marketing" lens, which has sucked what little blog creativity I had out the window.

But, there's always Friday Twitter Tips. No surprise my favorite tweets focus on craft and marketing/promotion these days. But, there are still a few query tips because they never, ever die.



Because Query Tips Never Die...

Things Only Writers Find Funny



Article Links Edition

Do Your Homework

More Query Advice

 DFW Writers’ Conference Edition

Query Advice Edition

Writing Advice Edition

One Submission at a Time





One year and counting. Plus, Big News.


We are one year out from the publication of my debut novel, STILLWATER, and things are starting to get interesting. Not only am I writing the sequel, tentatively titled THE FISHER KING, but I'm researching press kits, email marketing and newsletters. In short, I'm educating myself on every possible way to get the word out about STILLWATER to as many people as possible. Blog, Facebook, Twitter, newsletters, print media, I'm going to try it all. But, probably the absolute best way to reach readers is through Goodreads and Amazon. Amazon won't help me until the book is available for preorder, which won't happen for months. But, Goodreads. That's another story.

That's a long introduction to say I am now officially a Goodreads Author.

*throws confetti*

Okay, celebration over. Back to work.

Do you remember when I announced my publishing contract I said I would need your help in the upcoming months?

I need your help.

If you're on Goodreads, you can find my author page here. Click on "Become a Fan."

Then, scroll down a bit and you will see the link for STILLWATER.

Now, this next part is very important. So important I'm giving it it's own line.

Add it to your Want to Read bookshelf.

This is critical. Why? Well, other people who are friends with you will see it on their timeline and maybe they'll add it. You can recommend it to your friends, as well. The more people who Want to Read STILLWATER the better. Why?

Interest on Goodreads and pre-orders on Amazon (when it's available; it's not yet) will give the book buzz, which can then be translated to media buzz, which will be translated to sales, which will be translated to readers, which will be translated to more sales and more readers which will be translated to a happy author!

If you aren't on Goodreads, why aren't you? You can join easily using your Facebook login. Then follow the steps above to Become a Fan and add STILLWATER to your Want to Read bookshelf.

That's it for now. We won't have a cover for a few months, at least. When we do, I'll be waving that baby all over the internet. You won't miss it.

Wife, Mother, Writer, Reader, Ice Cream Lover

A post on Book Riot (my new favorite website about books and reading), The Reasons I Don't Read: Causes of the Dreaded Book Slump, hit home with me this morning because I am in a book slump. In fact, I'm so bothered by my book slump it made the list of things that are pissing me off that I bombarded my poor husband with on Tuesday.

  1. I'm procrastinating.
  2. I'm not writing.
  3. I hate our gym.
  4. I can't lose weight.
  5. I haven't lost myself in a book in months.

I won't bore you with talk about the first four because they are all on me and things I could fix if I put my mind to it. Though, in my defense, our gym isn't a gym, but a rec center with all the weird little quirks that comes with that. That place pissed me off from the word go with their weird childcare hours (at a crucial time in my life when working out was my only avenue to sanity), stupid rules and the fact it didn't have a water fountain on the workout floor. I mean, come on. What the hell kind of design is that?

*takes a deep breath*

Anyway. Reading. I talked to writer friends about this last night at happy hour.

And, can I just stop down right here and say how amazingly awesome is that I'm having happy hour with writer friends? Slowly but surely, I feel like I'm a part of a larger community, an industry, that I'm a professional. Crazy how much I missed that.

Anyway. Reading.

I can't read a novel without analyzing it from a writer's point of view. Without thinking,

"Oh! I should do that!" or

"Good God! I would never do that!" or

"Oh my God! Do I do that?" or

"If I did that, Workshop would cut me off at the knees."

Let me tell you, it sucks the enjoyment right out of reading.

"Come on, Melissa. Not reading isn't the end of the world."

To that I say, "You obviously aren't a reader." It is the end of the world. I love reading. It's who I am. Reading has educated me, comforted me, angered me, inspired me. One of my biggest joys in life is recommending a book to a friend and that friend loving it. It's a Twitter descriptor - wife, mother, writer, reader, ice cream lover - the last of which explains #4 up there. It's not like reading is a bad habit I need to kick. In fact, it's something I have to do to be a good writer.

Therein lies the problem.

I haven't been picking up books that grab my interest, but books I feel like I should read, specifically mysteries.

Here's a little quirk of mine: I write mysteries but I don't read a lot of mysteries. In fact, I write mysteries that I want to read. Fodder for another post.

As a result, instead of focusing on enjoying the story, I've been over-analyzing the text, the writer's style, how it differs from mine, what I can learn. In the last six months, reading has become homework and no one likes homework. My writer friends suggested I should get completely out of my genre which is, of course, the common sense response and one I should have seen myself, and would have if the other four issues up there hadn't sent me spiraling into irritation overload.

Will I continue to analyze everything I read. Probably. I fear it is the curse of being a writer. But, I still believe there are books out there that I will lose myself in, that I will forget to think of scene structure, tension, dialogue and plot. There's only one way to find it.

Keep reading.

News So Big and Monumental, This Subject Line Cannot Contain It. Let's try anyway: My book is going to be published!


After ten years and hundreds of thousands of words, I finally get to write this simple, but monumental sentence: STILLWATER will be published by Skyhorse Publishing in October 2015.

Woo-hoo! It's been a long, somewhat frustrating process. But, the end result couldn't be better. We've found an editor and publisher who are as enthusiastic about Jack, Ellie, Ethan and Stillwater, Texas, as I am. I can't wait to work with the Skyhorse team.

I'm sure y'all have lots of questions, which I will be answering over the next 14 months as we progress in the publishing process. The most important information is THERE IS GOING TO BE A PHYSICAL BOOK IN BOOKSTORES WITH MY NAME ON THE COVER IN 14 MONTHS!!

If you would have told me when I first sat down at a computer and wrote a sentence that I would have a publishing contract in ten years, I would have said, "What's a publishing contract?" Last night, I dreamed about practicing my autograph on my dust-covered dresser. I'm sure Freud would have a field day with that dream.

Thanks to all my family for understanding when I zoned out for hours, thinking about my book. For the times I would cry out while driving carpool when I broke through a story problem. For Mark for mentoring me and being the first one to really believe I could do this. For my friends for their support and encouragement. See, every time I said I couldn't do something because I was writing, I really was writing.

Stay tuned. October 2015 will be here before you know it.

My Writing Process Blog Tour - Dark Fantasy writer Brent Kelly


Continuing with the My Writing Process Blog Tour, today we hear from Brent Kelly, a dark fantasy writer from the Northwoods of Wisconsin.

What are you working on?

These days I’m trying to wrap up my third novel, CHUGGIE AND THE PRISONER GODS. It’s about my pal Chuggie and some trouble he’s gotten into. It’s the third book of his ongoing series, the first being CHUGGIE AND THE DESECRATION OF STAGWATER. The second was CHUGGIE AND THE BLEEDING GATEWAYS. There should be many more to come. In this book, Chuggie’s stuck on a world called Glughu, and he needs to get home to try and stop a war. We also get to see through the eyes of Chuggie’s friend Fey Voletta, as well as young lady named Squip who was born into poverty. I’m even more excited about this next book than the first two for several reasons. The story is amped up, the monsters are more monstrous, and there are going to be pictures. I’ve got an artist named David Starr creating illustrations, and the ones I’ve seen so far are just glorious. The man knows what he’s doing, and his illustrations are going to be a great addition to the story.

How does your work differ from others of its genre?

Chuggie’s stories are in the genre of Dark Fantasy. What you won’t find are dragons, werewolves, vampires, fairies, elves, trolls, centaurs, or zombies. A lot of Dark Fantasy tales are set right here on Earth. There’s nothing wrong with that, but with Chuggie I created a new world. It’s called Mag Mell, and I have a pretty wild time exploring there. On Mag Mell, there is a race of beings called Steel Jacks – basically creatures of living energy who live in 8-foot-tall metal suits. They arrived through the Tetracardi Rift, and they’re not to be trifled with. They also lend a touch of sci-fi to the story. The Steel Jacks want Chuggie to join their team, but he does his best to avoid them. He spends his days trying  in vain to stay out of trouble and his nights telling crazy, boozy tales that may not have happened exactly how he says.

Why do you write what you do?

It’s what I’m best at writing. I dabble in horror, sci-fi, children’s stories, and so on. With Dark Fantasy – particualarly Chuggie’s stories – I feel like I’m home. His adventures are light-hearted, silly, whimsical, profanity-filled, gory, gruesome, creepy, and sexy. I can really let my imagination off its chain when I’m writing about him.

How does your writing process work?

There’s a long period of writing notes. Then I’ll write down every conflict in the book that I can think of. That becomes a basic outline. I don’t spend too much time working on a huge outline initially because it’ll be useless by chapter 4. I’ll outline a chapter at a time, write the chapter, then a quick outline, then write a chapter, and so on. Once I have a completed manuscript, I’ll send it to my editor Kate Jonez at Omnium Gatherum. She’ll read it and send back her editorial suggestions. We’ll edit for two months. Then, if Odin wills it, we’ll publish the book exactly on schedule. CHUGGIE AND THE PRISONER GODS is slated for release this September. Want my opinion? Everyone should get the most excited they’ve ever been and then maintain that level of excitement until the book comes out, star

tiiiiiiing… NOW!

brent kelley
brent kelley

Brent Michael Kelley lives and writes in the Wisconsin Northwoods.



(Mischief Mayhem Want and Woe)



(Mischief Mayhem Want and Woe Book 2)


He shares a home with such things as hairless dogs, a snake named Darth Batman, and the woman he married on Halloween. In addition to writing about his pal Chuggie, he likes writing story-poems, painting monsters, and making wine. Some say late at night, if you’re alone by a campfire, you can summon Brent by closing your eyes and saying his name eleven times. He insists this is not true and there’s no way it will work… yet. He can be found on the web at

Friday Twitter Tips - Article Links Edition

TwitterBirdMonday, we will have another My Process Blog Tour entry but today it's Friday, and that means Friday Twitter Tips. I know how y'all love a schedule, so I'm sticking to my schedule. I don't know about y'all (you know you're from Texas if you use "y'all" in two consecutive sentences), but I'm getting a little tired of the same old query tips. So, today's theme is Article Links. Below are tweets promoting articles as varied as how to plan a blog tour, how to increase  your productivity, how to set up Google Authorship in Wordpress and more!









If you have a helpful or interesting article about writing you'd like to share, please post it in the comments!

Next week, I am going to post the Six Query Tips I've Learned from Compiling Friday Twitter Tips, your one stop post for Six Query Tips.



Do Your Homework

More Query Advice

 DFW Writers’ Conference Edition

Query Advice Edition

Writing Advice Edition

One Submission at a Time






My Writing Process Blog Tour - Fantasy writer Anna Hess


Today on My Writing Process Blog Tour, we hear from genre busting, but mostly fantasy, writer Anna Hess.

Why do you write what you do?

I write because there is a steady stream of characters in my head that I’ve become good friends with. They’ve helped me through hard times and embellished good times, but mostly they have helped me learn about myself. I’d like to share these characters and their stories with others, and if only one other person has as much fun with them as I have, then that was worth it. And if not, well, I still had fun with them. I also write because I’d like to contribute to the children’s/young adult age when I was inhaling any book I could get my hands on.

How does your writing process work?

I’m not sure if my writing process has a pattern, but if it did it would work something like this - I picture something ridiculous happening, build a scenario around it, feather it into a basic storyline, and immediately jot down a series of notes that I spend an inflated amount of time, and many pots of coffee, trying to interpret later. Then, after many months of yelling ‘Just do it already!!’ at myself, I sit down and put a solid string of scenarios on paper. I carry a notepad and a small pencil around with me almost all of the time. Though, it never fails that ideas come to me when I’m in a pitch black theater or have hands full of gooey bread dough and am utterly incapable of writing. More than once I’ve found a shredded and dried piece of a napkin in the dryer and have spent long moments trying to understand what “cave tree orgooo bler” means. I write very quickly (tpyos are common) and with a steady flow, so it’s very difficult to me to go back and change small portions of a story, I mostly have to change a huge chunk of it. Also, you can throw in the usual amount of the author self-loathing cycle, following “This is amazing! This is horrible! I hate myself! *pour coffee*”.

How does your work differ from others of its genre?

My writing probably differs from similar genres because it is fairly advanced in humor, cynicism and relationships and spans across the border of children’s and young adult. I try to write for advanced young readers. When I was growing up there weren’t many books for children 9-15, and after reading everything on the shelves at the local library I read Jurassic Park (I was 9, and the librarian was worried it was too violent) and then started the Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings (admittedly that took awhile). I’m so happy that there are authors adding to the young adult genres, and that I can always see my younger cousins tucked into a corner with a book. If I could contribute to this, I’d consider that a great accomplishment.

What are you working on?

I’m working on at least a dozen different projects ranging from beginning readers to advanced adult. Most of these are fantasy, though I also delve into the horror genre sometimes, but moreso with ghost stories and psychological thrillers. Currently my favorite project is a young adult fantasy series in which my characters are animals and mythical creatures trying to strategize in a non-classic battle of good against evil. I’m also reworking some short stories that were published in newspapers, including a mini-series about a multi-universe bond between two teenagers, and another about a ghost wolverine (which, frankly, is terrifying to me). I am currently publishing a study on butterflies and bison, and at the moment I am editing my answers to Melissa’s blog (thanks so much for including me!)while I wait for a satellite image to process.

anna hess
anna hess

Anna Hess is a chronic daydreamer and musician that finally settled on an enigmatic career in cartography so that she could mix science and art. She fell into a series of job opportunities including saving prairies, surveying powerlines, finding patterns in how floods occur, saving butterflies, and preparing chemistry laboratories. Through her 11 years of college (she did get a doctorate) she worked with theater companies doing everything from acting to props to stage management to substituting for mannequins. However, she enjoys writing fantasy more than anything else. You can find her on Twitter



My Writing Process Blog Tour - YA Author A.M. Bostwick


When I asked A.M. Bostwick to participate in the My Writing Process Blog tour she agreed, with a caveat: she doesn't have a blog. No worries, I said. We'll post it on mine! Then she tagged three more people who don't have blogs. I'm happy to host their answers to the blog tour for the next few days.  First up, Abigail. What are you working on?

I’m on a break from a NA/YA I’ve spent nearly a year on. It was unexpected, but I decided to delve into a sequel to my debut MG novel, THE GREAT CAT NAP, a mystery adventure.  For the longest time, I didn’t know where time would find my feline narrator. All of a sudden, I just knew. I’ve had a lot of fun writing this – I knew all the characters, found plenty of new seedy ones for Ace to encounter and an entirely new mystery for Ace to solve that I hope will appeal to young readers.

How does your work differ from others of its genre?

I flip between YA and MG and sometimes NA! So it depends. As for Ace, it’s different because it’s from the first person viewpoint of a cat, I suppose. He’s sophisticated, smart and sassy – and in a world that’s perhaps a bit more noir and dark than many MG. I think my YA differs in that I face some common dilemmas of that age group, but also some larger-than-life issues that are unique to the character. It’s not so unique, however, that someone couldn’t empathize with the situation and want to know how the character pulls through.

Why do you write what you do?

In MG, I like to write what amuses me. As a kid, I related strongly to books about animals. I grew up isolated, in the country, with a lot of cats, dogs and rescued wildlife. I loved books with animals as the heroes. As I got older, I really found myself in real-life, contemporary stories, however, which are what my YA focus on. So many of my friends found themselves in fantasy, and it took me a long time to get into that genre. Maybe that’s why I write contemporary. It’s still what I gravitate toward.

How does your writing process work?

As much as I try to “think” of ideas, that never works for me. It usually starts with a character speaking to me and suddenly everything catches fire and I write like crazy – scenes, parts of chapters, dialogue. Just to get the feel. Then I like an outline. I always know the end. Maybe not literally, but I know where the character arcs will end. I like to leave enough room to be surprised. Not everything is plotted. Just the main points.


A.M. Bostwick writes Middle Grade and Young Adult novels. An early draft of her young adult novel, “Break the Spell,” was a finalist in the 2013 Wisconsin Romance Writers of America Fab 5 Contest. Abigail lives in northern Wisconsin with her husband, dog and thrill-seeking cat. The Great Cat Nap, winner of the 2014 Tofte/Wright Children's Literature Award from the Council for Wisconsin Writers, is her debut novel.

Thanks, Abigail! For more information about Abigail and her writing as well as a sample chapter of THE GREAT CAT NAP, check out her website or follow her on Twitter @bostwickAM

My Writing Process Blog Tour

My friend and fellow DFW Workshop member, David Goodner, tagged me in the My Writing Process Blog Tour meme. Below are my answers, and the three people who agreed to keep this meme going.

What am I working on?

I'm editing my historical novel, PALO DURO, to ready it for submission in September.


How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I write character driven mysteries with too much cussing to qualify it as a cozy, not enough blood to qualify it as gritty, too much romance to qualify it as a procedural and not enough romance for it to be erotica. The central character is a male instead of a female, a police chief instead of an amateur sleuth, and it's a crime novel instead of a thriller. To me, it's a pretty straight forward small town crime novel, which it turns out is more unique than I thought.

Why do I write what I do?

I love history and historical fiction. I love learning something new when I read and the opportunity to do that for other readers is appealing. Plus, there aren't enough American authors writing about American history. Unless it's the Civil War. Everyone writes about the Civil War. But, there is so, so much more out there to write about. It's getting better, actually. I've seen quite a few unique American historical fiction novels recently: The Traitor's Wife, Orphan Train, One Thousand White Women, to name a few. I love British and European history as much as the next person, but it's time for historical fiction to move on from Nazis and the British monarchy, I think.

Why do I write mysteries? I'm not sure, truth be told. Since my reading habits are so varied, I I don't read a ton of mysteries and when I do it's whatever catches my eye. It might be cozy, traditional, noir, thriller, crime procedural.  This lack of genre focus in my reading probably explains why my novel isn't easily slotted into a sub-genre. I've been influenced by many of them. When I wrote STILLWATER, I wrote a mystery I would like to read and discovered I like writing mysteries.

And women's fiction? That is such a hard genre to define. To me, all of my novels are women's fiction because they have a strong female as a central character. I've dabbled in erotica but haven't written a traditional romance. I might one day, but for now I'm focusing on writing strong female protagonists in male dominated worlds.

How does my writing process work?

My writing process is 60% procrastination, and by procrastination I mean naps, and 40% writing. I'm not kidding.

I start with an idea, usually a character. I'll go through my daily activities, distracted and distant, thinking about this idea; fleshing out the character, the situation, the setting. Then, I start writing. I don't outline, save for one or two word sentences for each chapter, which I usually write once I'm halfway done with the book. It's at the halfway mark that it starts to flow, I realize there's an end to work toward. I finish the first draft, polish it up, then send it to my first reader, Mark. He tears it apart, and I rewrite. He teases me that I write two novels worth of prose for every novel I write. So far, he's right. I keep hoping that as I develop as a writer, I will develop a more streamlined writing process.  So far, that hasn't happened.

If the idea is historical fiction, I try to read as much as I can on the subject and time period before  so I have a good grasp on the feel of the time. Between my first and second draft, I'll do specific research to get the details right. I can't research while I write or I will fall down every research rabbit hole there is and get nothing done.

Three of my writing friends have graciously agreed to continue this little meme.


A.M. Bostwick writes Middle Grade and Young Adult novels. An early draft of her young adult novel, "Break the Spell," was a finalist in the 2013 Wisconsin Romance Writers of America Fab 5 Contest. Abigail lives in northern Wisconsin with her husband, dog and thrill-seeking cat. THE GREAT CAT NAP, winner of the 2014 Tofte/Wright Children's Literature Award from the Council for Wisconsin Writers, is her debut novel.


Anna Davis. Writer. Mom. Wife. Avid reader. Coffee lover. Cyberpunk. Sci-fi nerd. Winner of the DFW Writer’s Conference “Fire and Ash” Short Story Contest. Editorial Assistant at Henery Press.


Jenny Martin is a librarian, a book monster, and a certified electric-guitar-rawking Beatle-maniac. She lives in Dallas with her husband and son, where she hoards books and regularly blisses out over all kinds of live and recorded rock. Her debut YA novel, TRACKED, will be released in 2014 by Dial, an imprint of Penguin.

DFW Writers' Conference: Tuesday Morning Twitter Tips Edition

Since I am writing a full recap of the DFW Writers' Conference for a Sisters in Crime newsletter, I am not going to recap the weekend here. Though I will say it was outstanding. I learned so much and met many wonderful people. I also felt very 21st century. I took notes on my computer and, because wi-fi was free at the conference center, I was able to have Twitter open in the background and to tweet my favorite quotes from Donald Maass, Jonathan Mayberry and Les Edgerton, among others. So, because I'm still a teeny bit brain fried, I'm going to do a Tuesday Morning Twitter Tips, Writers' Con edition.



Friday Twitter Tips: Query Advice Edition

TwitterBirdIf you're a writer at a certain point in your career, you've heard the words "build your platform." In case you haven't,  in short it means engaging on social media, blogs, networking, yada, yada, yada, blah, blah, blah. Though I think too much emphasis can be put on platform building for unpublished writers, specifically those who spend more time blogging and tweeting than writing (you know who you are; stop it right now!), I appreciate the idea and I think in the long run, having a presence on Twitter, Facebook, a blog, blah, blah, blah, yada, yada, yada, will all pay off with greater exposure and more sales. But, that's down the road. For the here and now, what can an unpublished writer really get from these platforms? Besides lots of follows by people who only want to promote their own books? Well, if you're following the right people, you can get some great advice. I follow some wonderful writers (@deannaraybourn being my favorite author Twitterer by far) and they give brilliant advice and encouragement. But, if you want advice that will make a difference right now, i.e. land you an agent or sell your book, you should be following literary agents and editors. Some are more prolific twitterers than others. (I especially recommend Margaret Bail (@MKDB) for her almost daily 10 Queries Tweets.) But, all of their advice is useful. If you read along long enough, you'll have an, "Oops. I've done that" moment. You'll also notice a pattern in their advice, namely they can sound like a broken record. Seems like we writers never learn. Either that or we don't follow them on Twitter and listen to their advice!

In case The Twitter scares you or you're too lazy to bother, every (or most) Fridays, I round up my favorite Twitter #pubtips from the week. It's my very own public service to you.  This week's focus is on querying.

Friday Twitter Tips, Writing Advice Edition


Yes, I've fallen down on my Friday Twitter Tips so much I have a huge backlog of favorites to post. So many, the brilliance of the tips would be lost amid the avalanche. So, I'm focusing this Friday Twitter Tips on one particular subject: writing advice. Because writing advice is like dieting advice: you know it already, but it doesn't hurt to be reminded.



Q&A with NYT Bestselling Author Deanna Raybourn


A month ago, I won an Advance Reader Copy of Deanna Raybourn's new release, CITY OF JASMINE, through a contest on her website. When I sent her my address, I asked if she would do an e-mail Q&A with me and she graciously agreed, which was no surprise. She is one of the most approachable and engaging authors on Twitter (as you'll see in a question below). If you don't follow her, you really should.

How did you get into this writing gig? Was writing something you've always wanted to do or a talent you were surprised to discover you had? 

I have always been a writer. I made up stories as a child, and I remember being absolutely thrilled when I learned how to print so I could get them out of my head and onto paper! I double-majored in English and history since I wanted to write historical fiction, and I wrote my first novel when I was 23. It took me fourteen years to get published, but I wrote the whole time. I have a tidy collection of very bad unpublished novels in my attic.

When I picked up SILENT IN THE GRAVE at the bookstore and read the first line I absolutely fell in love with your authorial voice. Did that line come to you in a flash of inspiration or was it something you labored over for months to get exactly right? 

The first line was in its finished form almost from the first draft—but it took ages for me to find that voice! I had been writing for years and going nowhere. My collection of rejection letters was truly impressive, and my agent finally told me she thought the problem was that I didn’t have a fully developed voice. So she advised me to take an entire year off from writing and just read. I asked her what I was supposed to do after that, and she said, “You’ll know!” She was right. I read for an entire year and at the end of that year I realized the books all had things in common. They were all historical with a British sensibility, a mystery structure, and a bit of romance. That’s when I knew exactly the sort of book I needed to write. About that same time, I ran across a single line in a book of poisons about a fascinating case in France. I took the crime and twisted it up a bit and that’s how I came up with SILENT IN THE GRAVE. That first line is very true to Julia Grey as a narrator, but it’s also very true to me.

Your Julia Gray novels have been very successful. With the publication of A SPEAR OF SUMMER GRASS last year, and with CITY OF JASMINE this week, you've switched heroines and eras. What inspired you to branch out from your Julia Gray series? Was it a book you read about the 20s, a movie you saw, or a vacation you took? Was your publisher resistant to you moving away from a series that had been so successful? 

My publisher actually requested it. They’ve never wanted me to do more than three books in a row in the Julia series, and when it was time to take a second break—we’d already published THE DEAD TRAVEL FAST between books three and four—they told me I had carte blanche to write about whatever I wanted. That was almost too much freedom! I finally had to narrow things down by making out a list of all the topics I read about for pleasure. I circled a few of them I was most interested in to see if I could fit them together somehow. I also had the barest idea of a girl who comes from a privileged background going to Africa. That snippet of a plot had been floating around in my files for awhile, and this was the perfect chance to dust it off and take it for a walk.


During the denouement of CITY OF JASMINE (no spoilers, don't worry!) you revealed Gabriel Starke had a connection to characters from your Julia Gray novels, even mentioning Nicholas Brisbane, though not by name. I absolutely loved that. Are all of your novels going to be connected like this in some way? Can we expect you to go back and forth in time with your novels and novellas, fleshing out events you've alluded to? 

Absolutely—and I’m so happy I can finally talk about it! The prequel novella to CITY OF JASMINE is WHISPER OF JASMINE, and in that story, where the heroine of A SPEAR OF SUMMER GRASS introduces the main characters of CITY OF JASMINE, there are a few minor characters from the Julia Grey series who make appearances. It’s the first chance I’ve had to hint at how everything is tied together. Each fictional world I have created is linked to the others, and readers will get to see more and more of those links as the novels and novellas continue.

Since I finished CITY OF JASMINE, I've been trying to figure out how old Julia and Nicholas would be in 1920 and wondering if they're alive. Can you share that information or would it spoil a future story? 

If they were alive—and I’m not saying one way or another!—they would be sixty and seventy, respectively. I can tell you that the novel I have coming out in the fall of 2014 will give you a definitive answer on what has become of them…

It seems most of the popular historical fiction on the market is set in Europe. Do you think American writers are drawn to the European setting because, like you, that is what they read, or is it because European history is much broader and deeper than American history? Have you ever considered writing a novel set in America, with American characters?

I have! I wrote a contemporary magical realism novel set in the US. It was a sort of palate cleanser after I wrote SILENT IN THE GRAVE and had moved across country. My historical source books were all packed away in storage for a year, so I decided to try something completely different. It was an interesting experiment, but it just didn’t feel as natural to me as a European setting. I think that’s because I read European—and a little Asian and African—history for pleasure, so I have much more exposure to those cultures. And that’s embarrassing to admit since I live in one of the hotspots of colonial history now! I do have a couple of ideas floating around for books set in the US, one about a Texas outlaw ancestor of mine, and another set in my current hometown. European history has a gloss of glamour to it, and you’re quite right about the depth and breadth. It’s just a luxury to have so many different cultures and stories colliding in one place for such a long span of time. You can pick any year, any spot, and there will be a story just waiting to be told.

For me, creating character names and book titles is the hardest part of writing. How do you come up with character names? Do your titles come to you easily or do you leave the title up to your editor?

Titles can be mine, theirs, or ours—it just depends on whether the working title is strong enough to carry the finished book. If I have a character quoting a poem or play, sometimes that will lend a phrase that will work. Other times the publisher and I will bat titles back and forth to find something that fits. Character names are MUCH easier! I keep a running list of interesting names, and if a character stumps me I can usually find inspiration there. Very occasionally, I will name a character in homage to someone else—Nicholas Brisbane’s first name is in honor of Nick Charles, and every novel of mine has at least one name taken from an Agatha Christie book. It’s a subtle way of paying tribute to an author I love

You are one of my favorite authors to follow on Twitter because you maintain a perfect balance between promoting your work, personal observations and anecdotes as well as interaction with your followers. Is the social media aspect of writing something you enjoy or is it something you do because it's part of the job?

Oh, thanks! I do try hard to get it right, and for me that means tweeting as I’d like to be tweeted unto. It can’t all be promotional or people feel used, and frankly that’s not much fun. I love the interaction on Twitter. I’ve connected with lots of readers and writers there, and it’s a huge relief sometimes to be able to get out of the ivory tower and interact with other people. Facebook I loathe, but I do post there since it’s still a place where a lot of people like to get their updates. I also blog and send out monthly newsletters, but Twitter will always be my favorite, I suspect. I love that it moves so fast and you can just jump into a conversation and disappear as quickly as you came.

For the unpublished authors reading this, do you have a road to publication war story or was your path easy? 

After I took a year off to read and then two years to write SILENT IN THE GRAVE, it took another two to place the book with a publisher. All told, it was fourteen years for me from first novel to book deal, and it was not easy. It was grueling. But I was lucky enough to have the support of my family and a wonderful agent—all of whom believed it was going to happen for me. I’m so glad they were right!

We writers are famous for our ability to procrastinate. What's your favorite procrastination activity? 

Reading and researching. I love falling down the rabbit hole and wandering around, learning everything I can about a really obscure topic. I also hang out on Twitter and watch TCM for inspiration. I’m working on not feeling guilty when I do those things because I’ve come to realize that every time I procrastinate, I actually uncover something I end up using! Procrastination is actually one of my very best creative tools.

TCM! I love TCM! It's one of my dreams to sit across from Robert Osborne and guest program a night of classic movies. If you were a guest programmer, what four movies would you choose, and why?

Oh, this is a tough one…there would have to be some Hitchcock, and I think I’d start with SUSPICION. Cary Grant was just perfection in that one, and Joan Fontaine is always fabulous when she’s in peril. I have to have some Peter O’Toole, so next would be THE LION IN WINTER. That’s the first film I saw him in, and I fell irrevocably in love. Besides that, there is nothing more glorious than Katherine Hepburn as Eleanor of Aquitaine. That would be followed by THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL. I prefer the Anthony Andrews version, but the Leslie Howard/Merle Oberon version is the only one to air on TCM and it’s sublime. Percy Blakeney is my most beloved fictional crush, so he had to be on the list somehow! I’d finish up with THE THIN MAN because I adore the Charleses—and Asta. The runner-up would be THE WOMEN for sheer delectable bitchery. This means I had to leave off: ROPE, NORTH BY NORTHWEST, THE AWFUL TRUTH, EVIL UNDER THE SUN, DEATH ON THE NILE, THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, THE PRIVATE LIFE OF HENRY VIII, NIGHT MUST FALL, TOPPER, BERKELEY SQUARE, REBECCA, HOLIDAY, ROMAN HOLIDAY, HOW TO STEAL A MILLION, BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S, LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, TO CATCH A THIEF, ABOVE SUSPICION…I should stop now.

Some people love to re-read books. Others can't imagine it. Are you a re-reader? If so, what book have you re-read the most times?

That one’s easy—REBECCA. I read it for the first time when I was fourteen, and it’s still a favorite. For a long time it was my go-to travel book, the extra book I took on trips in case the book I was reading turned out to be a dud. I was thrilled when it finally came out in a digital format so I can always have a copy on hand! Obvious favorite rereads are Christie and Conan Doyle, but I will also reach for Elizabeth Peters, Mary Stewart, Jane Austen, Anya Seton. If a book is good enough to own, it will stand up to rereading, and I love finding new things in an old favorite.



A week after completing this Q&A, I had the privilege to meet Deanna at a CITY OF JASMINE book signing at Murder by the Book in Houston. She was just as lovely, friendly and witty in person as she is online. Lucky you, I have a signed copy of CITY OF JASMINE (read my review here) to give away. The contest will run until Friday. Leave a comment below and tell me if you re-read books and if you do, what book have you read the most?

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Friday Twitter Tips - Roundup of #pubtips from agents and editors

I love following agents and editors on Twitter. It gives such a great insight into what they like, dislike and what is trending in the publishing world. Plus, some of them are interesting in their own right. When they tweet about the weather, opera, their children, cats, happy hours, well, it reminds us they are human and not robots reading and rejecting our manuscripts just because they can. I see so many good #pubtips on a daily basis. So, as a public service to my fellow authors, and as a way to keep the ones I like best easily accessible on my blog, I'm rounding up my favorites. My idea is for this to be a weekly post. Considering how sporadic my posting as been, and my general inability to follow-up with my Grand Blogging Ideas, I understand if you are skeptical of my ability to do this. At the very least, you'll get this one post, and that ain't nothing.

This should be a no-brainer to writers. That someone had to tweet this advice makes me sad.

I especially love agents who do 10 queries in 10 tweets, or a similar series. You get lots of great tips and advice about what turns agents off. Margaret Bail has been doing 10 queries in 10 tweets consistently for a while now. Great info.