Tuesday, September 26, 2023

VINTAGE TYPEWRITERS

I often see Vintage Typewriters at the Flea Market and Estate Sales. They're really cool. I learned to type on my mother's already vintage typewriter, so vintage typewriters are close to my heart. 

Vintage Typewriters I've come across at Flea Markets.







Sunday, September 24, 2023

MIDWEST MYSTERY CONFERENCE: November 11, Chicago.


Midwest Mystery Conference, November 11, 2023, 9:00-5:00p

Roosevelt University, 430 S. Michigan, 2nd fl, Chicago, IL
Formerly Murder and Mayhem in Chicago

The Midwest Mystery Conference is a bi-annual event featuring some of the Midwest’s top mystery/crime writers and a few of their friends, too. This event is perfect for crime readers and librarians hoping to find new books to read and aspiring crime writers hoping to learn about the mystery community and writing and publishing careers. With a single track of panels and keynote conversations, the Midwest Mystery Conference is a great opportunity to connect with your favorite authors, and meet a few new ones!
The venue is fully accessible and registration includes a tote bag full of books and goodies!

Schedule

8:30a-9:15a: Check in / Registration

9:15a – Opening remarks from Midwest Mystery Conference organizers Dana Kaye, Lori Rader-Day, and Tracy Clark

9:30-10:15a – Starting with a Bang: Thrillers

  • Jen Collins Moore, moderator
  • Tracy Clark
  • Tori Eldridge
  • Mindy Mejia
  • Nick Petrie
10:30-11:15a – Murder Among Friends; Cozies

  • Julie Hennrikus, moderator
  • Juneau Black (Sharon Nagel and Jocelyn Cole)
  • JC Kenney
  • Mia Manansala
  • Mindy Quigley
11:30a-12:15p – First-Time Thrills: Debuts

  • Tracy Clark, moderator
  • Lina Chern
  • Cindy Fazzi
  • Rebecca McKanna
  • Kate Robards
12:15-1:45p – Lunch on your own or with Sisters in Crime Chicagoland and Cheryl Head 1:45-2:30p – The Inside Buzz on Audiobooks

  • Eleanor Imbody, moderator
  • Amy Deuchler
  • Anne Marie Lewis
  • Shaina Summerville
  • Marcus Zarco
2:45-3:30p – The Past Isn’t Even Past: Historicals

  • Susanna Calkins, moderator
  • Dianne Freeman
  • Cheryl Head
  • Anna Lee Huber
  • Mary Winters
3:45-4:30p – From Inside the House: Psychological/Domestic Thrillers

  • Keir Graff, moderator
  • Sean Doolittle
  • Carol Dunbar
  • Lori Rader-Day
  • Tony Wirt
4:30-4:45p – Closing remarks from Dana, Lori, Tracy

Thursday, September 21, 2023

LUPIN: PART 3: October 5 on Netflix

The long wait is over. Lupin, Part 3 arrives on Netflix October 5.  

From Netflix:

France’s most wanted gentleman thief is on the run, but he’s heading back to Paris when Lupin returns for Part 3 on Oct. 5. In the trailer for the new volume, we see Assane Diop (Sy) planning his most intense — and probably most insane — heist yet. The master of disguise is not afraid of danger, and this stunt is a 12 out of 10 on the danger scale. 

When we last saw Assane, he was on the run from the police. While he may have successfully revealed a major insurance fraud perpetrated by mega-rich entrepreneur Hubert Pellegrini (Hervé Pierre) — the man responsible for framing his father and sending him to prison years ago — that wasn’t before Hubert framed him for a murder. Now the most wanted man in France, Assane decides it’s better for his son, Raoul (Etan Simon) and ex, Claire (Ludivine Sagnier), if he falls off the radar for a bit. 

But while in hiding, Assane can’t stand  the suffering his family must endure because of him, so he returns to Paris to offer them a crazy proposal: leave France and start a new life elsewhere. But the ghosts of the past are never far away, and an unexpected return will turn his plans upside down.



JAMES HAYMAN: R.I.P.

Sorry for this late announcement. Sad news. 

James Henry “Harry” Hayman, 82, passed away on June 15, 2023, after a six month battle with glioblastoma.

Obituary Note from Shelf Awareness: James Hayman

James Hayman, who wrote the McCabe & Savage police procedural mysteries that sold more than a half a million copies and were published worldwide, died June 15.

The six McCabe & Savage books featured Portland, Maine, police detectives Mike McCabe and Maggie Savage. The first in the series, The Cutting, appeared in 2009. The next five were The Chill of NightDarkness FirstThe Girl in the GlassThe Girl on the Bridge, and A Fatal Obsession, which appeared in 2018.

Hayman had a long career in the advertising business, including more than 18 years at Young & Rubicam, where as senior v-p/group creative director, he led creative development of TV and print advertising for clients like the U.S. Postal Service, Procter & Gamble, Lincoln/Mercury, J&J, and the U.S. Army. In 2001, he moved to Portland and a few years later, he decided, as he put it, "that if I didn't start writing the suspense thriller I'd been itching to write for years, I probably never would."

Hayman was also a ghostwriter and editor of corporate books, white papers, and bylined articles.

James Hayman: A Short Bio of the Author and His Hero from his website:

Like McCabe, I’m a native New Yorker. He was born in the Bronx. I was born in Brooklyn. We both grew up in the city. He dropped out of NYU Film School and joined the NYPD, rising through the ranks to become the top homicide cop at the Midtown North Precinct. I graduated from Brown and joined a major New York ad agency, rising through the ranks to become creative director on accounts like the US Army, Procter & Gamble, and Lincoln/Mercury.

We both married beautiful brunettes. McCabe’s wife, Sandy dumped him to marry a rich investment banker who had “no interest in raising other people’s children.” My wife, Jeanne, though often given good reason to leave me in the lurch, has stuck it out through thick and thin and is still my wife. She is also my best friend, my most attentive reader and a perceptive critic.

Both McCabe and I eventually left New York for Portland, Maine. I arrived in August 2001, shortly before the 9/11 attacks, in search of the right place to begin a new career as a fiction writer. He came to town a year later, to escape a dark secret in his past and to find a safe place to raise his teenage daughter, Casey.

There are other similarities between us. We both love good Scotch whiskey, old movie trivia and the New York Giants. And we both live with and love women who are talented artists.

There are also quite a few differences. McCabe’s a lot braver than me. He’s a better shot. He likes boxing. He doesn’t throw up at autopsies. And he’s far more likely to take risks. McCabe’s favorite Portland bar, Tallulah’s, is, sadly, a figment of my imagination. My favorite Portland bars are all very real.


 

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Introducing the Lynleys of Law Enforcement & the Fun in Writing a Harlequin Intrigue Miniseries: Guest Post by R. Barri Flowers


As a longtime crime, mystery, and thriller author, it is always exciting to take on a new series that can connect the dots between novels, while also keeping each book as a standalone.

This is the case with my latest romantic suspense thriller miniseries for Harlequin Intrigue, entitled, The Lynleys of Law Enforcement. The Six-Book series centers around the closeknit Lynleys family, with an interesting mixture of siblings, cousins, and ex-spouses as protagonists in various law enforcement capacities across the country.
 
Trying to juggle between active careers in law enforcement, solving crimes, family dynamics, and relationships to one degree or another can be a balancing act, to say the least. But like a pro with many books to my credit, I love taking on the challenge of making it work and giving readers page turning, thought-provoking crime novels to digest and unravel.
 
In Book 1, Special Agent Witness, Detective Russell Lynley and Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent Rosamund Santiago, who is in the federal Witness Security Program after witnessing the murder of her partner, must work together in this small waterfront town in Northern California to stop an assassin from silencing Rosamund for good.
 
In Book 2, Christmas Lights Killer, a serial killer is putting a damper on the holiday season in this Indiana town, using string lights to strangle his victims. Detective Annette Lynley and State Trooper Hamilton McCade, whose niece falls prey to the killer, must combine forces to track down the culprit and make Christmas merry again.
 
In Book 3, Murder in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the discovery of a body along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina, by Law Enforcement Ranger Madison Lynley, reunites her with ex-boyfriend, National Park Service Special Agent Garrett Sneed. The death parallels the unsolved murder of Garrett's mother three decades earlier, bringing the cold case and current investigation on a deadly collision course.
 
In Book 4, Cold Murder in Kolton Lake, FBI Special Agent Scott Lynley and FBI Victim Specialist Abby Zhang investigate a twenty-year-old homicide in the Kentucky town of Kolton Lake. The victim was Abby's aunt and the killer pulls out all the stops to keep the case on ice and identity forever hidden, including a willingness to kill again.
 
In addition to these first four books in the miniseries, all available to buy or preorder, the last two titles in the series, Campus Killer and Manhunt Underway, will be released in the summer/fall of 2024, with the promise of more Lynleys ready to use their law enforcement skills and acumen to solve murders -- or die trying!
 
As a prelude to the Lynleys of Law Enforcement miniseries, a free Harlequin online read, Christmas Peril on the Oregon Coast, will be available on the publisher's website in late September 2023. In it, Sheriff Caleb Lynley and Assistant District Attorney Hannah Brewster investigate the murder of a woman, whom Hannah stumbled upon along the Oregon Coast Trail Could it be a case of mistaken identity with a determined killer hidden in plain view?
 
When it comes to gripping crime fiction, there is no substitute for a compelling mystery series that connects the central characters in a meaningful way, while giving them their own space to get to the root of the wrongdoing, with justice prevailing when all is said and done.
Hope you check out the Lynleys of Law Enforcement miniseries, as well as my equally riveting prior Harlequin Intrigue miniseries, Hawaii CI. You won't be disappointed!
 
***
R. Barri Flowers is an award-winning criminologist and bestselling crime novelist and true crime writer, with more than one hundred books published. He has also edited several mystery and true crime anthologies. His latest thriller novels include Captured on KauaiChasing the Violet KillerDead on Maui, Exposed Evidence, Honolulu Cold Homicide, The Big Island Killer, and Till She Was Done. With attention to detail, the author strives to bring verisimilitude to the characters and stories, to go with plenty of creative juices and a vivid imagination to create enthralling and realistic fiction.
 

Monday, September 18, 2023

Mystery Readers Journal: Animals in Mysteries I

Animals in Mysteries I
Volume 39, No. 3, Fall 2023
Animals in Mysteries I

Buy this back issue! Available in hardcopy or as a downloadable PDF.

This is the first of the Animal Mysteries issues for Volume 39. There will be a second issue in December, so be sure to order both (or it will come with your 2023 subscription!). 

Animals figure in so many different ways in mysteries. They’re pets, they’re sidekicks, they’re victims, they’re suspects, and they’re often main characters. And not just that, there’s a huge variety of animals, not just dogs and cats. I think you’ll find the articles and author essays in this issue illuminating—and fun! 


In this issue of Mystery Readers Journal you’ll find articles, author essays, and reviews of new and older mystery novels that feature animals. Because we had a large number of contributors, we decided to split the issue into two. So thanks to everyone who contributed to this theme. Not sure we received your essay? Send an email to confirm. If you didn’t send an author essay or review, you still have time. Send an email to:  janet @ mysteryreaders . org

And, FYI, we had two other Animals in Mysteries themed issues: 



Check out the table of contents for the past issues. Both are still available. You’ll want to have a complete set!

If you're a PDF subscriber, you will receive download instructions today. Hard copy subscription copies should be received this weekInternational subscribers will receive their issues within two weeks. PDF Contributor copies will go out this week. Thanks to everyone who contributed to this amazing issue.

ANIMALS IN MYSTERIES I

TABLE OF CONTENTS

ARTICLES
  • Agatha’s Ark: Animals in Classic Crime Fiction by Kate Jackson
AUTHOR! AUTHOR!
  • No Wombats Involved by Donna Andrews
  • On Horses and Drug Sniffing Dogs by Anne Louise Bannon
  • Solving Crime From a Dog’s Point of View by Louisa Bennet
  • Dogs Are Supernatural by Jeffrey B. Burton
  • Rescuing Animals Through Mysteries by Cate Conte
  • What The Dog Knows by Krista Davis
  • When Disaster Strikes, Dogs Answer the Call by Sara Driscoll
  • How Tugger Became Boone by Darlene Dziomba
  • Reinventing Max and Thomasina Bug by Elizabeth Elwood
  • The Character of Creatures by Kate Fellowes
  • The Making of a Hobby by Chris Goff
  • Hold Your Horses by Sasscer Hill
  • Beasts in the Garden by Cary Griffith
  • The Strength of Animals by Elle Hartford
  • I Don’t Do Goodbyes by Nancy Lynn Jarvis
  • The Great (Cat) Detectives by Sofie Kelly
  • The Terrier Takeover by Shannon Hollinger
  • A Foot and a Half Long Bundle of Love by Syrl Kazlo
  • A Writer’s Recipe for Happiness: Books and Dogs and Trees by Paula Munier
  • Animals and the Mysterious Ordinary by Priscilla Paton
  • Tale of a Whale by Richie Narvaez
  • Cat Mummies and Other Feline Tales by Mary Reed and Eric Mayer
  • The One Percent Cat by Elena E. Smith
  • Then There Was a Dog by Linda L. Richards
  • Getting To Know Dogs by Leigh Russell
  • Where the Wild Things Are by Wendall Thomas
  • Eight Paws, Two Wings by Lois Winston
COLUMNS
  • Mystery in Retrospect: Reviews by Lesa Holstine, Kathy Boone Reel, L.J. Roberts
  • Children’s Hour: Animals in Mysteries by Gay Toltl Kinman
  • From the Editor’s Desk by Janet A. Rudolph

Saturday, September 16, 2023

2023 McILVANNEY PRIZE & BLOODY SCOTLAND DEBUT PRIZE ANNOUNCED

The 2023 Winners of The McIlvanney Prize and The Bloody Scotland Debut Prize were announced last night at Bloody Scotland. The finalists for both prizes led the iconic torchlit procession from Stirling Castle through the historic old town this evening accompanied by the pipes and drums of the Stirling and District Schools Pipe Band. 

The winner of The Bloody Scotland Scottish Crime Debut of the Year went to Kate Foster for The Maiden (Mantle)

The McIlvanney Prize Scottish Crime Book of the Year went to another debut author, Callum McSorley for Squeaky Clean (Pushkin Press).

Friday, September 15, 2023

Happy Birthday, Agatha Christie!


Happy Birthday, Agatha Christie!

Over the years, I've read just about every novel and story, play, and reference book on or by the Queen of Crime, Agatha Christie. I've taught classes on Agatha Christie at UCB, Santa Cruz, and St. Mary's College, as well as focused on Agatha Christie in my mystery book group. 

Agatha Christie visited the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden and was particularly taken by the Peruvian Lily. Poisonous? Yes. In honor of that long-ago visit, I organized a poison tour for my book group at the UC Botanical Garden. We had a very knowledgeable guide.

For Agatha Christie's Centennial, I attended the CWA (Crime Writer Association- UK) conference in Torquay which included an Agatha Christie Centennial Celebration Banquet. Everyone was there, and by that, I mean all my favorite British crime writers and several of the actors who portrayed Christie's characters over the years. David Suchet sat at the next table. I saw Joan Hickson in the Ladies Room. During that same trip, I went with CWA to visit Greenway. This was long before it opened to the public. The family was in residence at the time, and either they forgot that a group of mystery writers was stopping by or they didn’t care, as the house was in a bit of disarray after what must have been Sunday dinner (lunch to us!). It was a very lovely (and intimate) tour of the house.

When I returned to the States that year, I was on the organizing committee of the U.S. Agatha Christie Centennial. There were reading challenges, library talks, courses, and lectures, and I even wrote an 'Agatha-Christie inspired' interactive mystery event. It was great fun!

And here's a real treat: A Video of a 1955 interview with Agatha Christie from the BBC Archives in which Agatha Christie talks about her lack of formal education and how boredom during childhood led her to write The Mysterious Affair at Styles. She outlines her working methods, Miss Marple, Herculte Poirot, and discusses why it is much easier to write plays than novels. 

Raise a glass today to Agatha Chrisite, the Queen of Crime!
 

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

MYSTERIES SET DURING THE DAYS OF AWE: Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur

According to Jewish religion, the Days of Awe are the days between the beginning of the New Year (Rosh Hashana) and Yom Kippur. 
These are 10 days of repentance and renewal that begin at sunset on Rosh Hashanah and close with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Rosh Hashanah starts this Friday night, but you'll have 8 days to read these books. 

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. That a murder would take place on Yom Kippur (or during the Days of Awe) runs counter to Jewish belief or action. Let's hope murders only take place in fiction!

Here's an updated short list of Mysteries that take place on Rosh Hashana, during the Days of Awe, and on Yom Kippur. As always, I welcome any additions to this list. May you be inscribed in the Book of Life for another year!

Mysteries set during the Days of Awe

Three Weeks in October by Yael Dayan
The Day of Atonement by Breck England
Days of Atonement by Michael Gregorio
The Yom Kippur Murder by Lee Harris
A Guide for the Perplexed by Dara Horn
Day of Atonement by Faye Kellerman
Saturday the Rabbi Went Hungry by Harry Kemelman
The Day of Atonement by David Liss
A Possibility of Violence by D.A. Mishani

Nights of Awe by Harri Nykanen

Yom Killer
by Rabbi Ilene Schneider
Devil Among Us by Jack Winnick

Short Stories:  

Murder is no Mitzvah: Short Mysteries about Jewish Occasions
Mystery Midrash: An Anthology of Jewish Mystery & Detective Fiction, edited by Lawrence W. Raphael
Jewish Noir, edited by Kenneth Wishia

Jewish Noir II: Tales of Crime and Other Deeds, ed. by Kenneth Wishnia and Chantelle Aimee Osman

"The Lord is my Shamus" by Barb Goffman 

Children's Books

Pinky Blog and the Case of the Silent Shofar by Judy Press and Erica-Jane Waters

Non-Fiction

Family Blood: The True Story of the Yom Kippur Murders by Mr. Marvin J. Elf and Mr. Larry Attebery


May you be inscribed in the Book of Life for another year! And, may we have peace in the world!


Monday, September 11, 2023

PUZZLE FOR PLAYERS: THE MYSTERY WRITING PROCESS - Guest Post by Tom Mead


My first novel, Death and the Conjuror, was published in July of 2022. It was everything I had wanted it to be: a vintage-style locked-room mystery set in 1930s London, featuring retired magician and amateur detective Joseph Spector - a character I’ve used in several short stories for publications like Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. I was delighted with the response the book received from readers and reviewers, but it left me with an interesting dilemma that every writer must face at some point: where to go from here? 

I am positively obsessed with Golden Age mystery fiction: the work of writers like John Dickson Carr, Ellery Queen, Helen McCloy, and – of course – Agatha Christie. One factor they have in common is that they wrote successful long-running series. Since I make a point of paying tribute to all those authors in my work, and I look on them as role models, it made sense to try and turn the standalone Spector novel into a series as well. 
 
Rewind two years: summer of 2020. The UK, where I live, was in lockdown. I was stuck at home, working part-time and writing on a freelance basis. But my passion was (and still is) the murder mystery; I love the puzzles, I love the atmosphere, I love the period detail, I love the characters. Basically, I love everything about that “Golden Age” period that covers the 1920s through the 1930s and some of the ‘40s. It was during that very strange time that I decided to channel my love of the genre into the creation of something new, which eventually ended up as Death and the Conjuror. 

But I didn’t stop there. I tend to adopt a “less is more” approach to writing; the books are relatively short, but densely packed with characters, ideas and incident. This means I inevitably have a few leftovers when I’m done. That’s why, when Death and the Conjuror was complete (and before I’d even thought about finding a publisher), I immediately got to work on what would eventually become its sequel, the second book in the Joseph Spector mystery series, The Murder Wheel. I finished the second book before the end of 2020, and before I knew it I had a series on my hands. 

When Death and the Conjuror was accepted for publication in summer 2021, it gave me a major confidence boost. So, I got to work on book three. I didn’t have a contract for it or anything like that, it was written purely for my own entertainment. The book is still going through its final editorial stages, and won’t be published until summer of 2024, but I can tell you that it’s called Cabaret Macabre

So now I’m right back where I started: where do I go from here? 

You might think it would be frustrating, after spending so much time and energy on a book, to suddenly find oneself staring at a blank canvas once again. Personally, though, I love it. It’s an irresistible challenge, and in some ways the earliest stages are the most fun: that’s when I’m assembling the building blocks, before I get caught up in the details. 

When it comes to plotting, I’ve tried two different approaches – it’s tough to say which I prefer, though both have their respective merits. The first begins with the puzzle, the unanswered question. Like for instance: how does a murdered corpse appear onstage during a magic act in front of a packed auditorium? That’s one of the scenarios that presents itself in my new novel The Murder Wheel, and when I came up with it I knew that it would inevitably form a major part of the plot. But how could it have happened? If I didn’t know, how could my sleuth Joseph Spector be expected to untangle the problem? 

The alternative approach is the inverse of the first. It involves coming up with a fun, clever or amusing gimmick that could be employed in a seemingly impossible situation. This is where my research in the world of magic comes into play. I’ve written a lot in the past about how I like to adapt real-life illusions and turn them into devices for mystery plots. My short story “The Indian Rope Trick” would be the most obvious example of this, because the titular illusion becomes intrinsic to a killer’s complicated scheme. 

Essentially, some plots oblige me to come up with a solution to fit the puzzle, while others require the puzzle to fit the solution. But of course, no two plots are the same, and inevitably the finished work is a kind of mish-mash of different approaches. But it’s a method that seems to work – although even after writing three books I can’t claim to understand how it works. 

Maybe that’s why the process of it, the rise and fall, is still such a thrill to me. It’s the reason I keep coming back, and the reason I wouldn’t give up my job for anything in the world. I’m trying to give readers a fun, challenging mystery – and the only way to do that is to challenge myself first. 

***

Tom Mead is a mystery author based in Derby, UK. The first novel in his Joseph Spector series, Death and the Conjuror, was named one of the best mysteries of 2022 by Publishers Weekly and nominated for Debut Crime Novel of the Year at the UK's Capital Crime Awards. The sequel, The Murder Wheel, was published in July 2023. A third in the series, Cabaret Macabre, will be published in 2024. Tom's short fiction has appeared in various publications including Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, and The Best Mystery Stories of the Year, edited by Lee Child.

Sunday, September 10, 2023

A HAUNTING IN VENICE: Kenneth Branagh as Poirot

I have not seen a preview of A Haunting in Venice, so come back for my viewing comments. Personally I think David Suchet's portrayal of Hercule Poirot is the best, but I've enjoyed other actor's performances including Peter Ustinov's. I'm easy. I really enjoy Agatha Christie's books, plays, short stories, and movies. That being said, I did not enjoy the 2022 Death on the Nile with Kenneth Branagh. Not sure if I'm in the minority, but I found the sets off-putting. I think because they were sets and not the real thing. I also recall that the film was slow moving and confusing. Oh well, I'll let you know know what I think after I see A Haunting In Venice. Feel free to post comments about the film.

A HAUNTING IN VENICE, featuring Kenneth Branagh as Agatha Christie's Belgian Detective Hercule Poirot, opens in Theaters on September 15. 

Kenneth Branagh reprises his role in A Haunting in Venice after previously portraying Poirot in the 2022 movie Death on the Nile and 2017's Murder on the Orient Express. The movie is set in post-World War II Venice, where Poirot, now retired and living in his own exile, reluctantly attends a seance at an All Hallows' Eve party. But when one of the guests is murdered, it is up to the former detective to once again uncover the killer. 


Friday, September 8, 2023

Going It Alone: From Traditional to Indie: Guest Post by Jinny Alexander

In 2020, I signed a three-book deal with a small publisher. I was ecstatic, but blinkered, and it fell apart almost as fast as it had happened. The publisher was inexperienced but hopefully also fresh and emerging. I was willing to take the chance, and be part of building something new and exciting. My first book was a standalone, literary book, but the other two were the first of my Jess O’Malley Cozy Mystery Series.

In March 2022 my first book was launched, but a lot of mistakes were made – that the publisher uploaded an early proof version to all the distributors, and the copy that hit the bookshelves was riddled with formatting errors that the publisher had PUT IN during the editing process was probably the worst of the many mistakes. It was, frankly, an embarrassing mess. I wasn’t the only author from this publishing house experiencing problems. I wiped away tears and tried to stay positive. After all, I had a second book coming that October; a cheerful, genre-perfect Cozy Mystery. I’d make it work. I would.

But roundabout the middle of summer 2022, things turned from ‘mistakes’ to ‘nasty’ with the publisher. Mistakes were still being made – not necessarily the same mistakes – some new, some old – but as well as the mistakes, the attitude turned and it went from the initially great working relationship that I'd signed up for, to a very uncomfortable mix of ghosting and bullying and gaslighting. This wasn't my paranoia (trust me, I checked) – other authors were seeing the same things, and we were collectively worried, but my second book was due out that October, so I hung in there and hoped it would get better.

We should have been getting so excited about it – the Cozy market is huge; the book was good – that’s not big-headed smugness; the book was written as part of my Open University degree, and had been well-critiqued and tested – but I could see that its journey to publication wasn't going well. The publisher had stopped communicating; the cover was far from the agreed idea; ARCs weren’t sent out; the street team was given no information. I was given no information.

The worry ramped up from ‘niggling’ to ‘huge’, but it was getting too close to my launch date to make a fuss.

The publisher had done no marketing leading to the launch, so I pulled in a couple of favours from people I know. A local acquaintance of mine is a multi-million selling crime author, with a massiveIrish and UK following, so I asked her to share the launch details of A Diet of Death to her bazillion followers. Which she promptly did.

And then, just days before the launch, it became apparent A Diet of Death wouldn't be available in Ireland, where I live, and where the series is set. When I raised this with the publisher, they (inadvertently? Is that generous?) did ‘something’ that also left the book unavailable in the UK for the week around the official launch. This also wiped out a lot of the preorders.

I'm still very, very embarrassed that I got my best-selling acquaintance to promote my book, and then so many people couldn't buy it – it literally wasn't available to buy across Ireland and the UK, and this combined with zero marketing efforts in the US from my publisher, meant the book completely crashed. I spent launch week in tears, but now certain I had to get away from what had become a very toxic environment.

I decided if I had to walk away and leave my three books behind me, that's what I would do, for my sanity and health. A couple of weeks after A Diet of Death was ‘launched’, I requested termination of my contract with the publisher. To my immense relief, and some surprise, they immediately agreed, with full reversion of all my rights.

Fast-forward to July this year. In the interim, I’d finished my Creative Writing MA, and two other standalone literary novels. I hadn’t given much thought to what to do with the Jess O’Malley series; still licking my wounds and recovering my sanity, but even as I approached a handful of agents for my new books, the tiny whisper in the back of my mind was getting more insistent: You’ve got this cozy series; are you just going to throw it away?

In July 2023, a few things simultaneously happened – not least of which was being invited to join the new Cozy Crime Collective by one of its founders. She’d read A Diet of Death back in its pre-publication review cycle and enjoyed it immensely. A lot of other little things piled up together like building blocks, and I realised the only sensible thing to do with Jess O’Malley was to self-publish the series. With the first in the series being—albeit briefly—previously published, no agent or big publisher would give it a chance.

As this knowledge took root, I did a lot of research very quickly. I asked for help where it was needed, and paid for the things I can’t do myself (a great cover designer being the most important). By committing cold hard cash to the cover, formatting help and software, my own ISBNs, etc, I was both setting a reason to make this work, and a knowledge that if I am going to self-publish, I will do it WELL.

It's been a big turnaround mentally—I’d wanted the trad-publishing dream, but as that had turned into more of a nightmare, I know now I have nothing to lose. One persistent refrain during my time with the rogue publisher was the authors whispering amongst themselves: We could do this better by ourselves. We should have just self-published.  Now I know this is true: every step towards publication last October was filled with fresh dread – “What will go wrong?” 

Now, every step brings “Look what I’ve done right”.

***
Jinny Alexander was first published in Horse and Pony Magazine at the age of ten. The route to publication was so much easier way back then. Her home for now is in rural Ireland, in a village uncannily similar to Jess O’Malley’s fictional Ballyfortnum. While Jinny spends just as much time walking the country lanes with her dogs as Jess, Jinny has yet to stumble upon a murder. Phew. The first book in her Jess O’Malley Mystery Series, A Diet of Death has just been relaunched and its first sequel, A Hover of Trout, will follow in October.

 

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year Shortlist: The 2023 Petrona Award


Crime novels from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland have been shortlisted for the 2023 Petrona Award for the Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year. The shortlist is announced today, Thursday 7 September and is as follows:
Pascal Engman - FEMICIDE tr. Michael Gallagher (Sweden, Legend Press)
 
Anne Mette Hancock - THE CORPSE FLOWER tr. Tara F Chace (Denmark, Swift Press)
 
Håkan  Nesser - THE AXE WOMAN tr. Sarah Death (Sweden, Mantle)
 
Petra Rautiainen - LAND OF SNOW AND ASHES tr. David Hackston (Finland, Pushkin Press)
 
Joachim B Schmidt - KALMANN tr. Jamie Lee Searle (Switzerland, Bitter Lemon Press)
 
Lilja Sigurðardóttir - RED AS BLOOD tr. Quentin Bates (Iceland, Orenda Books)

Gunnar Staalesen - BITTER FLOWERS tr. Don Bartlett (Norway, Orenda Books)

 

The winning title will be announced on October 5, 2023. 

The Petrona Award is open to crime fiction in translation, either written by a Scandinavian author or set in Scandinavia, and published in the UK in the previous calendar year.