Recently, I attended the breakfast sponsored by Mystery Writers of America Florida Chapter at the Florida Library Association conference. Sixty librarians had signed up for this event. We ate first, and then jumped into Author Speed Dating. Since there were five of us, we had the librarians spaced out at five tables. During the allotted time, we each gave a spiel about our books before the bell rang indicating our time was up. We hopped from table to table this way. The librarians seemed to enjoy hearing from us individually, and it was a great way for us to inform them about our work.
We gave a panel afterward on “From Cozy Cats to Crazy Killers…Investigating the Mystery Novel Genre” with authors Diane A.S. Stuckart, Ann Meier, Linda Hengerer, M.C.V. Egan, Nancy J. Cohen, and Robert Brink.
The following weekend, I gave a talk at an author luncheon at Temple Beth El Sisterhood in Fort Myers. This was a lovely event with a Chinese meal and a booksigning. I met a lot of nice ladies and enjoyed our conversation.
On the way home, my husband and I stopped off at Naples. We got our morning exercise strolling along Fifth Avenue with its historic buildings and tropical foliage. Then we headed home via Alligator Alley.
FLORIDA AUTHORS ACADEMY
If you’re in Florida, take a look at the schedule for classes this summer. Here is mine: Saturday, August 24, 10 am to 12 noon, “Agents, Query Letters, & Synopses” with Nancy J. Cohen, Florida Author’s Academy, Murder on the Beach Mystery Bookstore, 104 West Atlantic Avenue, Delray Beach, FL 33444. Phone: 561-279-7790. $25 fee for class. Advance reservations requested. http://www.flauthorsacademy.com/
FACEBOOK BEACH PARTY – June 6th! SAVE THE DATE! Join Nancy J. Cohen & Maggie Toussaint to celebrate their recent releases at a Summer Beach Party on Thursday, June 6, from 7pm to 8pm. Fun and Prizes! https://www.facebook.com/NewReleaseParty/
GIVEAWAY Enter June 1-18 to win a free mystery from the prize vault at Booklovers Bench.
“Where do you write?” is a common question for writers during book talks. Readers might imagine us toiling away on an old typewriter in some attic with a tiny window. Or perhaps they see us working on a sleek laptop while enjoying the breeze from a seaside veranda. We could be creating our masterpiece in solitude while viewing a lake and sipping tea on a screened patio as crickets drone in the nearby woods. Or maybe we pound away on our keyboards while drinking coffee at the local Starbucks. Don’t you see folks there working on their laptops and wonder if they are aspiring writers?
My work environment is more mundane. I work at home. I have a dedicated home office. I am surrounded by things I love, such as books and memorabilia and gifts I’ve bought myself to commemorate my published works.
I love my corner desk so much that I don’t ever want to leave this house. As I sit here now, straight ahead is my Dell computer monitor. I use an ergonomic keyboard by Adesso that has saved my wrists. On shelves above, I have writer-related gifts from my kids and others, and a collection of trolls to represent the Trolleks who are the bad guys in my Drift Lords series.
Looking to my left, down below are lots of drawers. One extension to my desk serves as a printer stand. Above this are my latest plotting notebooks, some books on writing, and proofs for my latest works in print. On the very top are a collection of novelty pens and a train locomotive from a fan painted with the cover from Murder by Manicure. Most treasured behind a glass door are my Flamingo Award from MWA Florida Chapter and a Lifetime Service Award from Florida Romance Writers. Behind these awards is a signed photograph from Star Trek star Jonathan Frakes.
To my right are how-to writing books in the crime fiction field, copies of all my books in various print formats, a jeweled calculator, a world clock, and a pencil holder from Area 51. Flashlights, emergency radios, and portable lanterns stand at the ready on every surface in case we have a power blackout during hurricane season.
Bored yet? We’re not done! I have a separate mahogany desk for correspondence, and this is where I pay bills and do the household accounts. Above this is a bulletin board and various medals and framed certificates for accolades I have earned.
The closet in this former bedroom had been converted into bookshelves before we moved in and was one reason why we loved the house. The shelves are totally full. Besides my reference books on all subjects and more books on writing, I have a paperweight collection, an onyx chess set, a sword I bought in Spain, and other tchotchkes.
The room is completed by three more sets of plastic drawers from office supply stores, mailing supplies, two tall bookcases, and more reference materials.
I spend all day in this room. It’s my home within a home. Can I work elsewhere? I’ll dabble at marketing and revisions when away from home, but I can only create in this environment with silence for company. No background music or coffee house chatter for me. I need quiet.
I hope you have enjoyed this glimpse into my work space. Now for those stacks of papers that need filing…. Until next time!
My new website has launched! Come and take a look:
I love the colors, artistry, and layout. It’s SO much better than what I had before. Thanks to Dee Tenorio for her amazing talent and design. I highly recommend her services at Laideebug Digital.
So what do you think? I’ve needed this upgrade for a while, so I am excited to have finally done it. Now you can view my books based on series or genre. It’s so much easier to navigate.
Between my book launch for Peril by Ponytail and getting the website up to speed, I haven’t had much time for blogging. And I’m leaving soon for the New Smyrna Beach Book Festival and Bouchercon, so I’ll be gone for the next few weeks. This means I’ll have lots to talk about when I get home, but you’ll have to wait a bit to hear it. In the meantime, you can follow my tweets and posts on Facebook for when I’m able to go online. This hiatus might last until November unless I can squeeze in a post before my next events in Bradenton, FL. For details on these events, Click Here.
So enjoy the beginning of the Fall season, and I’ll talk to you soon. Thanks for your support!
Contest Alert–One More Day!
Enter Now to win a Collectible Handcrafted Porcelain Drummer Doll or one of two runner-up prizes – a pair Arizona crafted earrings and a signed paperback Hanging by a Hair. I bought the doll while in Arizona doing research for Peril by Ponytail. U.S. Residents only please.
As a mystery writer, I’m often asked where I get my ideas. Well, here’s one for you: how about the local newspaper? Consider this story: Celebrity actress found dead at home; no signs of foul play; pneumonia following flu-like symptoms suspected as cause of death. Within months, husband dies from possible heart attack. Strange coincidence or not?
My mystery mind goes into high gear. If I were writing this story, how would it play out? Naturally, the celebrity (and it doesn’t have to be a movie actress. It can be anybody like a famous chef or athlete or stage star) leaves a substantial estate. If someone knocks the husband out of the way, who stands to inherit? I’m not familiar with all the hangers-on of the rich and famous, so I’ll have to make up my own list of fictional suspects. Disclaimer: This is totally fiction and made up from my own devious creative mind:
The Crooked Manager, who wants to cover up that he’s been pilfering from the celebrity’s funds.
The Greedy Relative, who inherits the estate because the celebrity couple is childless.
The Jealous Best Friend, who discovered the celebrity was having an affair with her husband.
The Financial Advisor, who’s in cahoots with the manager, and who needs money to feed his gambling habit or to pay for his insurmountable medical bills for the illness he’s been hiding.
The Makeup Artist, whom no one would suspect but who was always around the couple. She hates the celebrity and is getting revenge for a past wrong.
You get the idea? Who would you add to the list and why?
We have the Motives. Now we need Means and Opportunity. How would someone kill these two to make it look like natural deaths? Poison comes to mind. It would have to be something not detectable in toxicology texts, perhaps a substance that dissipates in the body. It cannot be injected so has to be absorbed either through ingestion or the skin or even eyedrops.
I like this! If my new mystery series gets picked up, you’re looking at book number four.
M. E. Kemp, author of DEATH OF A BAWDY BELLEand DEATH OF A DANCING MASTER, was born in Salem in 1636 — whoops, that’s when the first family baby was born. Her roots do go back to the first settlement of Oxford, MA in 1713, the town where her family still lives. Kemp grew up in Oxford with a strong sense of local history, so when it came time to begin writing her first novel — after a career in journalism — she returned to her early interest and set her first mystery in Boston with two nosy Puritans as detectives. Kemp lives in Saratoga Springs, NY with husband Jack and two kitties: Boris and Natasha.
“Which Witch is Which? – The Salem Trials of 1692”
There is no incident in our history that grabs our attention quite like the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. Even today the topic fills lecture halls and continues to inspire artistic endeavors in film, theatre, poetry and prose. Indeed, the number of books written today on the topic would fill the average person’s bookshelves. Just to recap: 19 people were hung and one man pressed to death as a result of the trials. I like to point out that in Europe at this same period thousands of people of both sexes and ages were being burned at the stake as witches. Kind of makes our twenty victims a dot on the map. To be sure, the jails of Salem and Boston were filled with hundred of the accused, but these people were released as sanity returned. The European victims were not so lucky. Persecutions continued there well into the 18th century. (By the way, the Salem victims were tried with the use of English law books. Judicial proceedings were followed, not that that was any comfort to the families of the victims. I give an actual sample of trial testimony in my book, DEATH OF A BAWDY BELLE.)
In the Colonies we did not burn witches, we hung them. Since one man, Giles Corey, refused to plead guilty or not guilty, he could not be hung; he was pressed to death with huge boulders. This incredibly brave act saved his property for his family. We have to keep in mind that witches were very real to the early colonists, as were ghosts. In fact, when the testimony of ghosts (“spectral testimony”) was finally disallowed, the trials collapsed. How did this whole thing happen in the first place? There are many books and television shows written about the causes. One of them suggested “Ergot” or infected rye bread as the cause. But it hardly seems possible that hundreds of people ate the same ergot-infected rye; most people grew their own.
The French and Indian wars have been blamed; ostensibly the survivors came down from Maine to infect the Salem people with hysteria, but what has that got to do with witches? People already recognized the dangers of the Canadians and their Native allies. The media, even today, often blame Puritan cleric Cotton Mather for the Salem trials, but this is patent nonsense, as Cotton Mather at that time was only 26 years old. The judges were colleagues of his father so he felt he was in no position to criticize these older pillars. There is no evidence that he ever attended any of the trials, although he did ask the Secretary for transcripts so that he could write a book about it. Cotton Mather wrote over 400 books, so this was only to be expected.
Town and village property and family quarrels has been proposed as the cause, and in some cases that may have been a part of the dispute, but hardly the cause. Perhaps there was real witchcraft going on, as one book proposes? They found an old rag doll in the cellar of one of the accused women, and that was enough to set the hounds in motion, but a toy left behind by a child in our minds today is just that: a toy left behind by a child. One cause hits close to the truth — girls without husbands as yet. The accusers were mainly in their teens and early twenties — had these girls been married, home and children might well have kept them too occupied for mischief. As it was, it was a long, cold winter and a group of teen-age girls were bored. They began to accuse some local old women of tormenting them by pinching and choking them through use of the old ladies ‘spirit’ selves. “We must have our sport,” as one of them later said. The village minister cried “Witchcraft!” and the hunt was on. At first the victims were old and poor, unable to defend themselves from the charge, but seeing a chance to wreak more havoc, the “afflicted children” – remember, these girls were mostly in their late teens — began to accuse men and women more prominent in the community. The only real defense was to run away and hide, which is what the son of pilgrims John and Priscilla Alden did. It was either run or confess, if you wanted to stay alive, for if you confessed you were let go. Let go for confessing? Why didn’t the twenty victims just confess? Because that would have been a lie and these were people of great Faith. I’m sure I would have lied like a sneak-thief, like Baron Munchausen, like Pinnochio, if it meant saving my life! Ah, but our Puritan forefathers were made of sterner stuff. It’s not widely known that there was official remorse after the event and compensation was paid to the families of the victims. One of the judges and several of the accusers later confessed their roles in the tragedy and apologized for their parts in the drama. I doubt that ever happened in Europe.
“Kemp paints an entertaining picture of Colonial Boston and its surprisingly high-spirited Puritan inhabitants. Amateur sleuth Hetty Henry is plucky, independent, and a lot of fun.” –Beverle Graves Myers, author of the Tito Amato Mysteries
I awoke to the news there had been a home invasion robbery and murder in my town. Although we’re a western suburb of Fort Lauderdale, our city doesn’t experience violent crime all that often. So when it does occur, it’s scary. What’s even more scary is that I just got a call from a mystery writer friend of mine, and it happened right across the street from her. I hadn’t even connected the addresses. She can see the CSI folks out her front window.
This incident brings home the fact that a random act of violence can happen to anyone. All we need is somebody to follow us home because we drive a nice car, or a nutcase to obsess on us, or else we’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Often these cases end badly. No wonder we want to read crime novels where the villain is caught and justice is served. I’d say this is Reason #1 why we read this genre. Stories may reflect on social ills and grapple with weighty issues, but they still reach a satisfactory conclusion, unlike real life.
An HEA ending (i.e. Happy Ever After) makes us less afraid. These stories force us to confront our fears, especially in psychological thrillers or romantic suspense. In my case, I prefer to read lighter fare, humorous mysteries where no one likes the victim and the amateur sleuth catches the crook. I accept that these are fantasies, because in reality, murder is a somber and sad business. Survivors mourn the dead. The killer may never be caught. So what do you say? Do you get your thrills from gritty crime fiction, true crime, or stories rife with forensic details? Or would you rather confine reality to the news and read a book with an HEA that leaves you with a smile?
We crashed later that eveningat the Holiday Inn Express in Tavares located on the tranquil Dead River. A quaint seafood restaurant, Fin’s, is nearby.It was about fifteen minutes away on 441 which was good, because my workshop started in the morning at nine o’clock back in Leesburg.
I spoke on How to Get Published: The Business of Writing. My talk covered the basics on manuscript preparation, query letters, synopsis, how to get an agent, the value of networking, contests and critique groups, self-editing, and more. We had about forty people in the audience and they asked good questions. I enjoyed speaking to such an enthusiastic crowd.
For a lunch break, my husband and I cruised 441 and settled on the Red Lobster. Then we headed back to the library for my afternoon session, a panel entitled “Murder, Love, and Laughter” with mystery authors Elaine Viets, Mark Schweizer, Elizabeth Sinclair, Delores Wilson, and Nancy J. Cohen.
Kudos to Judy Buckland, Lake Co. Library System’s Program Coordinator, for a terrific turnout and a great event. Thanks, also, to Raintree Booksfor selling our work.
And now for the plug: Support your local libraries! Take out books and DVDs, join Friends of the Libraries, attend their events. I can’t tell you how many readers have written to me to say they first discovered my mysteries on the library shelves. Libraries are more like media centers these days with videos, computers, even digital downloads. Take advantage of this public service and visit your local library. Hugs to all librarians!
Come to Sleuthfest in warm and sunny Ft Lauderdale February 25 – 28, 2010!
Sleuthfest is the largest conference for mystery writing in the US. This year’s theme is Lights, Camera, Write! with a focus on screenplay and script writing. If you haven’t registered yet, here is a very good reason to attend :
Guest of Honor Stephen J. Cannell
Stephen J. Cannell sold his first script to the TV show “It Takes a Thief” in 1968. His first steady job in television was as a story editor on “Adam-12” (1968). He created a character named Jim Rockford for a script he wrote for the series “Toma” (1973), a show he was producing at the time. That script was rejected by ABC, so it was rewritten and eventually became the pilot for the classic NBC series, “The Rockford Files” (1974). From there it becomes nearly impossible to list all of his work. He has either written or co-written over 300 television scripts, and created or co-created over two dozen television series. He has won an Emmy, two Writer’s Guild Awards, two Edgar Award nominations, and has a star on the Hollywood Boulevard Walk of Fame. Despite his many accolades, his first love continues to be writing.
At Sleuthfest, Stephen J. Cannell will be the keynote speaker at lunch on Saturday February 27. At 2:30 on Saturday, he will be participating in a session “Hollywood War Stories: Tales From the Trenches” with Paul Levine, writer of the TV series JAG, and other shows. Then on Sunday at Brunch, he and Neil Nyren, Senior VP, Publisher, and Editor in Chief of G.P. Putnam’s Sons will be interviewed by Oline Cogdil, Mystery Book Reviewer.
If you haven’t registered yet, it’s not too late to get the early registration discount. Tracks on the craft of writing and business aspects of writing are also being offered.