My friend and fellow mystery writer, Judi Ciance, was asked for the second year in a row to exhibit at the Leesburg Art Festival on March 12 and 13th.
Here she is at her booth.
Judi has written four books in her Casey Quinby series:
James’ life was falling apart. How did he allow a sixteen-year-old girl to infiltrate his world? She wanted commitment. It wasn’t going to happen. It was Sunday night. He got home in time to grab a beer before the eleven o’clock news. A young girl, yet to be identified, was found lying face down by the edge of the Scenic Highway … a presumed hit-and-run. He didn’t need a name. He’d left no clues that would lead back to him. It was quick and clean … the way he’d planned it. The name-plate on her desk read, Casey Quinby. She was the head investigative reporter for the Cape Cod Tribune. She worked hand-in-hand with police departments from one end of the Cape to the other. Casey was their ‘Kelly Girl’ detective. Her boss gave her free rein to work with the cops, fully knowing she’d get the exclusive. She got to play with the POs, and then got paid to write about it. Last Sunday night, there was a hit-and-run on the Bourne Scenic Highway. For some reason, Casey wasn’t given clearance to mingle with the cops at the scene. Even her on-again, off-again boyfriend, Sam, suggested she step back from this one. Said he’d get in touch with her in a couple of days. Sam was the chief detective in the Bourne Police Department. Imagine telling a reporter, a nosey one at that, to close her eyes and disappear for a few days. Not going to happen. She knew she had to use her Sherlock Holmes’ nose to sniff out well hidden clues – mix them together – and end up with a perfectly assembled table puzzle. EMPTY ROCKER provides the perfect blend of mystery and suspense, coupled with twists and turns, and infused with a bit of romance.
The body of a young girl found tucked away beside a bed in a closed-for-the-season ocean-front cottage… a boyfriend without an alibi… a rich and conniving widow… strangers and lovers caught in the triangle of an unknown identity.
And then came Casey Quinby, considered the ‘Kelly Girl’ investigator for several Cape Cod Police Departments, and her side-kicks, Annie, right-hand to the District Attorney, and Marnie, a recent law school graduate.
After a near-death experience only four months before, Casey promised her boyfriend, Sam, the lead detective in the Bourne PD, that she’d stay clear of dangers reserved for seasoned police officers. He constantly reminded her she was a newspaper reporter, not a PO. But, her accidental encounter with a very dead Jane Doe draws her back into a world of suspense, mystery and intrigue.
The road from Provincetown to Boston is paved with twists, turns, unexpected dangers and hidden secrets waiting to be uncovered.
Casey Quinby, head investigative reporter for the Cape Cod Tribune had worked with the Barnstable Police Department on their cold case backlog in the past, generating a high success rate in uncovering new details allowing the PD to reopen several cases. When she expressed an interest in working on another cold case, the Chief jumped at the chance for her to examine the Mary Kaye Griffin murder file.
Chief Lowe was a personal friend of Mary Kaye’s and was haunted by the lack of evidence gathered to solve her murder. Against his approval, but because of department policy, it had been classified a cold case five years ago.
According to the reports in the evidence box, the husband, Brian Griffin, made the 911 call from their home to report the murder. When the police responded to the 42 Shady Brook Lane address, he was nowhere to be found … vanished into thin air. He immediately became the primary person of interest. The investigation that ensued didn’t produce any evidence implying anyone other than the husband.
A dead end case filed in the bowels of the police station was about to resurface.
Bones … boats … and bullets come together to create a strange trio.
And her latest book—
A Falmouth fishmonger is found dead in one of his lobster tanks. The Medical Examiner determined Rocco Deluca was electrocuted when he slipped, accidentally grabbed a live electrical cord and fell into the tank that was partially filled with water.
Casey Quinby—now Casey Quinby, Private Investigator—is hired by Rocco’s niece to look into his death. Bella Deluca doesn’t think it was an accident. The ‘fish-market-caper’ is Casey’s first case since leaving her position as head investigative reporter for the Cape Cod Tribune.
A classic who dun it—a disgruntle family member, a dissatisfied customer, a complete stranger just passing by—or could it have been a suicide triggered by the loss of his wife. Rocco had made the decision to close the market. Without Rita by his side, his get-up-and-go, got up and left. His life had taken a turn. It was time to retire—but how …. by accidental death …. by suicide …. or by murder.
A tangled web of deceit, secrets and lies. If only the lobsters could talk, what a tale they could tell.
Judi’s books are filled with local color from Cape Cod. Her fans are always after to her to keep writing more Casey Quinby stories.
This whole recent kerfuffle about Donald Trump re-tweeting a #Mussolini quote is hogwash. Of course, a lot of the so-called “controversies” the mainstream media create are hogwash, so that’s nothing new.
The quote was supposed to be “It is better to live one day as a lion than a thousand years as a sheep.” I don’t know if Mussolini ever said it or not, but the quotation is a lot older than Mussolini. The original quote is “It is better to live for one day as a tiger that to live for a thousand years as a sheep,” and it is a Tibetan proverb.
I first saw the quotation last year painted on a construction fence at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The fence surrounded the area where #Disney is building the #Avatar section of the park. I was there with two of my grandchildren and having a wonderful time. I saw the quote and loved it. It sounded so… Disney that I figured the Disney people had created it. It was just too, too perfect to be authentic.
When I got home, I looked it up online and discovered it was a real honest-to-God Tibetan Proverb. The proverb inspired a whole series of “what if…” thoughts that unfolded into the plot of my latest thriller, Day of the Tiger.
I hope you reading Day of the Tiger as much as I enjoyed writing it.
It’s been said that you can’t tell a book by its cover. That’s hogwash. (I would have used an earthier expression starting with a B, but this is a family blog.) In the real world of real buyers, most people form their first opinion about a book by its cover. While I enjoy the creative process of writing a book and telling a compelling story, I also try to make a good living doing it. Sales in the marketplace are a good measure of how much people like my work. So I want to sell books—lots of books, thousands of books.
My book covers and titles send important messages to potential buyers who are considering my books. You, the reader, may invest five or ten hours to read a book. Your time has a value, and you’re gambling more than the purchase price when you buy my books.
One of the challenging aspects of marketing any book is to choose a title that people will click on. I want my titles to say, “Yes! That looks interesting. I want to learn more about this book.” My books are only available on the internet. On the internet, people don’t read; they scan. I can’t afford to make you, the buyer, work to figure out the meaning of my title. I have to grab you quickly, or you’ll move on to some other writer.
I want my titles to be short, but I want you to instantly understand what my books are about.
For example, I wrote my first novel using the working title of The Accidental Heiress. Bad idea: Too many friends told me that it sounded like a romance novel. One of my sisters-in-law reads a couple of #romance novels a week. Now I would love to tap into a market that deep and rich, but I prefer to write #mysteries and #thrillers. I went back to the drawing board and brainstormed new titles. I even surveyed a few of my fellow writers and readers (including my sister-in-law). I selected Six Murders Too Many. That tells the reader that this is a #mystery. It also says that it has lots of action. And the cover design with the burning house is a real attention-grabber. If I had gone with my original title, it would probably have been a dud seller.
My second novel, Double Fake, Double Murder was originally going to be titled just Double Fake. A title search on Amazon revealed that there were two other books with “double fake” in the title. They were both about soccer. So I added “double murder” to the title. Now anybody can tell that this is a mystery, not a soccer guide. And I love the double outline of two bodies on the cover. Mike Butler, my cover designer, came up with that one. Great idea, Mike!
Quarterback Trap, the third Carlos McCrary novel, was so obvious that the title almost selected itself. The star quarterback of the upcoming Super Bowl game has his fiancée kidnapped by mobsters who have a huge bet on the game. The star quarterback felt trapped. Duh… The title was a piece of cake. And the cover of a gun over-shadowing a football stadium tells a great story by itself.
Dangerous Friends was a tough choice. I’m still not crazy about the title, but at least the word “danger” tells the buyer that this is a #thriller. The “dangerous friends” are eco-terrorists that dupe an idealistic college student into committing a #terrorist act. If you think of better title, let me know. The cover image shows a key scene from early in the book that starts the whole thriller on its whirlwind roller-coaster ride to the finish.
In my next blog I’ll cover my latest book, Day of the Tiger.
I just sent my fifth novel Day of the Tiger to the editor.
I had been chained to my desk, pounding my keyboard until my fingernails bled, for virtually the entire month of January in order to finish the manuscript by the January 31 deadline. This outrageously tight deadline was imposed by the harshest taskmaster I’ve ever slaved under–me. I unlocked the door to my office (where all the magic happens) only when I emerged for another #caffeine fix or the occasional crust of stale bread with crunchy peanut butter and raspberry-jalapeno jelly. Then I would tell myself, “Eat fast, then get back to work.” I pounded out between 2,000 and 4,000 words most days, working from about 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Should be available in March. Egad! That’s next month!
I write for three reasons: First, it’s a lot of fun to create an entire world with people, buildings, climate, cities, politics and so forth, all from my own goofball mind. Second, I like to make the world a better place by giving people something entertaining and uplifting. A place where the good guys win, right triumphs, and the bad guys get what’s coming to them. Ah, if only the world were really that way all the time. Third, I hope to make a pot full of money from my writing.
People often ask where I get my ideas.Some people think that a successful #writer comes up with a good idea, then goes into a black tent, does some magic, and emerges later with a well-crafted, entertaining book for them to read.
Creating the idea is the easy part.
If all it took to write a good book was to have a good idea, then anybody could do it. That’s like saying “Anyone with a set of #golf clubs can play on the #PGA or #LPGA Tour.” It is true that anyone can play golf. In fact, I played nine holes earlier this week. But not just anyone can play golf well. There are a gazillion duffers like me. We hack around from rough to bunker to lake and eventually get the little white ball (or in my case, the little optic yellow ball) in the hole. But there are precious few players like my fellow Texas Longhorn Jordan Spieth. These men and women look at par in their rear-view mirror while they blaze their way around the course with the skills to make it look oh, so, easy. Anyone who’s ever played golf knows that it’s a lot harder than it looks.
Writing is the same as playing golf. Anyone with a computer and an internet connection can write and publish a book. And hundreds of thousands of people have done so. It doesn’t even cost anything. So it’s true that anyone and everyone can write. But to write well… Ah, that’s another thing.
Having a good idea for a plot is about ten percent of what’s needed to write a good book. The other ninety percent is to tell that story in a way that entertains the reader and keeps him or her wanting to read more books by the talented author. Think of Robert B. Parker, Robert A. Heinlein, Mickey Spillane, Agatha Christie, and John D. MacDonald of the fiction world. And those are just a few of the great, but unfortunately dead, writers whom I admire. I didn’t mention any living authors because I have so many favorites and I wouldn’t want to inadvertently leave anyone out. Thousands of raving fans would buy and read everything these fiction giants wrote. I hope someday I can earn half the fan loyalty these men and women earned.
Inside the black tent
I’m going to lift the wall of the black tent and show you how I made the magic happen with my most recent attempt at literary immortality, The Day of the Tiger.
My first draft followed the principal of “Dump it on the page and get the basics of the story right.” I met a fellow writer who wore a tee-shirt that said, “I don’t care if it’s crap; just get it on the page.” That’s my motto because you can’t improve a story that’s not written. Until you have a completed story, you don’t have a product–not even a bad product. Some famous writer whose name escapes me once said, “Every good novel began as a lousy first draft.”
In this case, my lousy first draft ran 77,787 words. That took about four solid weeks chained to my desk.
I finished the first draft, patted myself on the back, admired this work of genius for about three seconds, then plunged into the second draft.
To write the second draft, I read the first draft aloud to see how the words sounded. I know that you don’t move your lips when you read. But even when you read silently, you hear in your mind how the words sound. I want my words to sound well in the reader’s head. I read the first draft aloud and stopped when something didn’t flow just right. I made the changes to the draft and kept reading. That took two days to read, change, and create the second draft.
The second draft ran 79,809 words. That means that I had to add about 2,000 more words to make the words flow smoothly.
And, yes, I did get hoarse reading aloud for over twelve hours.
To write the third draft, I ran the second draft through a piece of software called Smart Edit, available from Bad Wolf Software. Smart Edit is the best fifty bucks I ever spent, if you don’t count the money I spent on my first date with the woman who is now my wife. Smart Edit looks for things like overused adverbs, repeated phrases, misused words (such as their when you mean there), clichés, redundancies, proper nouns (to make sure I don’t call a character Monty one time and Marty the rest of the time), and so forth. One real-life catch: There is one setting where my fearless hero Carlos McCrary drops off the ransom for the kidnapping victim. In one chapter I called it “Fisherman’s Pier” and in another chapter I called it “Fishermen’s Pier.” You might think that’s a nit-picky difference, but excellence in writing is a game of inches.And if you were the reader who noticed the inconsistency, it could affect your opinion of the quality of my work overall. Perish the thought.
The third draft had 78,626 words and took another two days.
The fourth draft was a bitch. It took just over a week to go through my “List of words to restrict use of.” It’s a list of over fifty words or parts of words that writers sometimes overuse: about, almost, also, anyway, can or could, get, going or going to, etc. See my blog of How to be a better writer–words to avoid. That original list had only 41 items on it. Now I have over fifty.
That draft wound up with 74,216words.
Then I print the fourth draft, sit in my easy chair, and read it just like you would (except I have a ballpoint pen in my hand). That was 211 pages of 8-1/2 by 11 paper. I discovered some parts in an earlier chapter that I moved to a later chapter where the flow of the action made more sense. Those corrections took another two days and resulted in the fifth draft, which had 74,166 words.
That’s the one I sent to my #editor.
A word or two about my editor, Marsha Butler: Marsha makes me a better writer. Yes, she does line edits like any other editor, but that’s not all. She also reads the book. She has opinions on what works, what doesn’t, and how to make my manuscript better. Every writer should be lucky enough to find an editor like Marsha. Her website is butlerink.com. Check it out.
It’s not magic after all
So it’s not just getting a good idea and waving a magic wand. It’s hard work, sweat, pacing the floor, taking a break to let my mind unclench, and a lot more. Yes, my mind clenches after a few hours of uninterrupted writing. Thank goodness for lunch and coffee breaks.
Subject: DANGEROUS FRIENDS
A couple of months ago, whilst on holiday in Florida, I was given a copy of your book, Quarterback Trap. Normally, I do not read “fiction” – preferring Biographies, Auto Biographies and reference books in relation to various sports, hobbies and interests that I have.
However, being on holiday and with time to kill, the sun shining and a cold beer, I started to read the book and found it so gripping that I was unable to put it down. What staggered me the most was the way that the theme of the book moved from one scenario to another without the loss of interest and the technical input of the author on so many subjects must have been immense. It was the first work of fiction that I had read for very many years.
Having very recently enjoyed a holiday in #Dubai and #Singapore, I deliberately researched the internet for a further book by yourself and decided to obtain and read Dangerous Friends. Once again, I found this book so gripping that I could not put it down. Dallas, I wish you well with your writing and intend to obtain further copies of your books in the near future.
With very best wishes to a successful writing career.
The Guilty is the fourth novel in the Will Robie series. I haven’t yet read the first three, but, after reading this one, I intend to read the others.
David Baldacci is a master story-teller. The intricate plot of The Guilty involves secrets, betrayals, attempted murder, dark secrets from the distant past—in short, all the goodies that readers have come to expect from Baldacci. And he delivers in full measure.
One slight thing I found annoying is the large number of minor characters and one sub-plot (involving one of Robie’s high school football teammates) that did not add to the overall novel. If this one is ever adapted to a movie, a few of the minor characters will be combined or eliminated for a tighter story.
Despite that hiccup, I give The Guilty five stars.
A few days ago, I attended a speech and book-signing by best-selling author David Baldacci at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida. The speech was part of a book tour promoting his new thriller in the Will Bobie series, The Guilty. Like most of the over 200 people in attendance, I bought a copy to add to the other seven Baldacci books in my personal library. I’m only 136 pages into The Guilty so far, but I know already that it’s another winner for David Baldacci. As soon as I finish the book, I’ll post a review here on my blog.
David was funny, approachable, informative, and thoroughly delightful. He spoke for more than a half-hour to a room full of obvious Baldacci fans and then answered questions for another ten or fifteen minutes. I could tell from the questions that the other attendees had ready many, many of David’s over thirty novels. Then David signed books for another half-hour for everyone who wanted an autograph. Some, like me, even brought Baldacci books from home. He was kind enough to sign three of my favorites. He posed for pictures with anyone who wanted a photo, and he personalized his book-signings. (He signed mine, “To Dallas, a fellow writer, Enjoy: David Baldacci.”) He took the time for everyone and did not rush.
David was a true gentlemen and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting him.
I am happy to say that I have read over a dozen of David’s books, starting years ago before I became a novelist. Once I started writing, I have kept the Baldacci books which I buy in my personal library.
A fast-paced action thriller about ecoterrorism, political corruption, and felony murder.
Chuck McCrary is a wisecracking former Green Beret turned private investigator with a special genius for helping people in trouble—especially if they can pay him for his efforts.
Michelle Babcock, the granddaughter of South Florida’s legendary restaurateur and Chuck’s friend, Hank Hickham, has disappeared. She wakes Chuck with a 4:30 a.m. phone call, desperate for help. James Ponder, her drug addicted boyfriend, has involved her in a double murder that could put her in prison for life unless Chuck can find her a way out.
Michelle only expected free tutoring in college chemistry when she slept with James Ponder, a graduate student obsessed with global warming protests, who has a talent for ecoterrorism. Instead, she is sucked into an unhealthy circle of friendships surrounding an amoral professor whose secret agenda has yielded him millions of dollars with more loot to come. Michelle is swept up in a nightmare of political corruption, terrorism, and mega-million-dollar crimes.
Chuck uncovers a conspiracy involving arson, murder, and the Chicago mob. A mysterious millionaire has masterminded a string of mega-million-dollar stock market scams that reach back for five years. The mastermind intends to cut his losses by murdering anyone who can lead the cops back to him. That includes Michelle, Chuck, and the conscienceless professor, who becomes Chuck’s unwilling ally.
One reason we keep turning pages in Dangerous Friends is to watch the gripping character of Chuck McCrary. The skill with which he handles clients, police detectives, mob assassins, and FBI agents—all while controlling the outcomes of the case—is as remarkable as the clues he uncovers. Chuck seeks justice without regard for the legalities involved and tries to leave the world just a little better than he found it.
One thing that made Invisible so special was that my copy was a gift from James Patterson himself. Now I can’t get a big head over this because Mr. Patterson also gave copies to about 300 of my fellow members of Mystery Writers of America who attended Sleuthfest 2015, the annual convention of the MWA, last February. Patterson was scheduled to give the keynote address. At the last minute, he had a family emergency which required him to cancel. So he sent 300 copies of his latest book to those of us who missed him, along with a letter which said, in part, “Your support means the world to me, and I would be thrilled to say thank you in person one day soon. Until then, I hope you’ll accept this book, Invisible, as a small token of my apology. Yours, J. Patterson”
Now, that’s a class act. Anyway, on to the book.
The opening paragraph grabbed me. “This time I know it. I know it with a certainty that chokes my throat with panic, that grips and twists my heart until it’s ripped from its mooring. This time, I’m too late.” Then, Invisible goes on for 397 more pages of murders, clues, mysteries, and thrills, culminating with an edge-of-your-seat climax and an “Ohmigawd!” plot twist at the very end.
The story is told in first person by Emmy Dockery, who took leave from her job as an FBI researcher to solve her own sister’s murder. The only problem is that the authorities insist that her sister’s death by fire was an accident.
One of the many things I enjoyed about the book is the feminine voice of the narrator. Patterson and Ellis did a great job of writing from a woman’s point of view. From the catty remarks about another woman Emmy was jealous of, to describing her break-up with another of the main characters, I felt like a woman was narrating. My own books are written from the viewpoint of a male private investigator and former Special Forces soldier. I don’t think I could write from a woman’s viewpoint like that. But Patterson and Ellis succeed. Maybe that’s one reason Patterson has sold over 280 million books.
About three chapters into the book I noticed another subtle feature that I hadn’t seen before—Invisible is written in the present tense. Emmy Dockery’s narration occurs as she studies the evidence, investigates the clues, and interacts with the other characters. The present tense gives the immediacy of solving the mystery alongside the heroine. Take this pivotal scene where Emmy proves that the fire was no accident:
Lia Janus [FBI forensic pathologist] looks around the room and releases a heavy sigh…
“I’ve conducted more than a thousand autopsies…,” she says. “I’ve… seen everything, guys. It’s impossible to surprise me.”
“After examining the bodies of [two other victims], you can put me down as surprised,” she says.
I won’t give you the rest, because I don’t want to spoil the story.
Patterson and Ellis have another big winner in Invisible.
On Wednesday, May 13, I had dinner with a dozen or so fellow members of Mystery Writers of America at the Seasons 52 restaurant in Orlando. Our Florida chapter president Nancy J. Cohen picked up the tab for the wine. Thank you, Nancy! We are trying to organize a regular meeting of Central Florida MWA members for educational and marketing purposes. Judi Ciance and I are working up an agenda and a convenient site.