Books & Reading, Writing & Life
My newsletter went out for Galentine’s day last Friday but it was all muddled. Sorry! I tore my hair out all weekend! I am now bald!
Not really. But here is the pretty version. Enjoy, and thanks being a subscriber and/or a reader!
Happy Galentine’s Day, Gals (and Guys)
Hey, better than Bad Luck Friday or (gulp) Valentine’s Day!
Every day is a day to love and be loved!
No chocolates required. But accepted with pleasure, if you feel the need to share.
With wine please.
Give Him the Ooh-la-la, Miss M!
“When your car is asked to stop By a handsome traffic cop
‘Less you want a ticket or two
Give him the ooh-la-la”
The Bennett Sisters are in New York for Christmas holidays, buche de noël, and intrigue.
Here’s how a reviewer put it :
“Though the rendezvous with Pascal might be enough to justify the “ooh-la-la”, this is a McClendon story, so romance between the characters is the undercurrent to the larger mystery that includes more wine, more scandal, more intrigue and audacity, and a touch of camp.”
Available as an e-book
AMAZON Barnes & Noble iTunes KOBO
100 pages $2.99
Down the Pike
Exciting projects coming for spring and summer!
I can’t spill the beans yet but I’m involved in two book projects, one original and one a collection.
In the meantime there is still time to enter to win a $250 gift card
over at I Am A Reader.com. [sorry this is no longer true 🙁 Deadline has passed.]
Head over while you’re sending out your Galentines. Or Valentines.
Or catching up on The Walking Dead.
Or eating chocolate you bought for yourself.
Check out the blog for new stories about writing, renovating houses in France,
and why there are so many books that start with “The Girl”?
To sign up to receive my new and IMPROVED! newsletter click here
My guests today are married writers who work on books separately and together. Have you ever tried to collaborate with another writer on a long story or novel? It sounds appealing, sort of, that is the part about not doing as much work yourself. 🙂 But what about working side by side with your own spouse?
Win and Meredith Blevins are old friends of mine from Wyoming. I met Win at one of my first writing conferences, a Western Writers of America confab in Jackson Hole. This year Win (finally!) won the Owen Wister lifetime achievement award by WWA. He has won many awards and was on the faculty of the University of Oklahoma writing program. Meredith is a mystery novelist, travel writer, writing coach, and more. Together they’ve written over thirty books. They continue to write their individual projects but have found a way to collaborate in their new series. ‘Moonlight Water’ is their new novel.
“The ghosts of Mark Twain and Jack Kerouac haunt ‘Moonlight Water’ in the honorable tradition of road stories. To this, the Blevins’s have introduced the themes of spiritual awakening, personal redemption, love renewed – in a thumping good detective story in Navajoland.” – Loren D. Estleman
How exactly do you collaborate with another writer? Here’s the Blevins Way.
• • •
Can you Write Together? Should you?
By Meredith and Win Blevins
Every moment of collaboration is not sublime, but is the entire experience amazing? Yes.
How does it work? Leave your ego at the door, and don’t write in the same room.
WIN: There’s no back and forth. We tried that once, and it was a disaster. I killed a character in an early chapter—
MEREDITH: And I was planning to use that character as the murderer. We got really aggravated with each other and didn’t give it another shot for years. Now we’ve got it down.
S0 far, Win does the first draft, I do the second, and he reads it a final time looking for little stuff, like commas, to set right. Then off it goes.
WIN: We know each other’s strengths and go with that. First, we come up with an idea together, brainstorming. Then I write the draft. I may ask her for inspiration at moments along the way, but I do the actual writing.
MEREDITH: And we talk about the characters.
WIN: I’m good at the structure of a story, the overall architecture. What’s the basic conflict? How can it be heightened? What surprising events can get in the way? How can the ending be the necessary one, yet somehow be surprising?
MEREDITH: Then I do the second draft. We don’t talk about it at all.
WIN: She’s the best dialogue writer in the business, also great with setting—
MEREDITH: and I try to make the language sing.
WIN: I could not have written the first couple of pages of MOONLIGHT WATER with half as much juice.
MEREDITH: And I try to deepen the relationship between the characters.
WIN: Without her, I would do a second draft trying what she does, but it wouldn’t work as well. And most of the time, we really can’t tell who has done what. I don’t remember which nifty sentences are mine and which are hers. We’re in sync, and we respect each other.
MEREDITH: THE ROLLING DARKNESS started a series of thrillers. On the second one, we’re reversing roles—I’m doing the first draft.
WIN: And I’m writing a different book before doing the second draft on hers. We’ll see how this role reversal works. We make each other better writers. The reviews for our first book together, MOONLIGHT WATER, are over the moon and so are we!
Learn more about their writing and editing services at www.meredithandwinblevins.com
Unless you’re one of those annoying people who keep telling the rest of us how 80-degrees it is where you live, Winter is here. With a capital Whoa. I hope you enjoy the snow. I got stuck it in this week and some curse words were said. But generally I love the snow. The family had some serious fun skiing over the holidays. I don’t ski anymore (since I broke my leg skiing ten years ago – bummer) but I still partake in the traditions. I posted this photo on Facebook of my après-ski drink. The “after-skiing” tradition may be French but Americans have certainly embraced it. One of my friends replied he believes in “jamais-ski” (as in Never-ski) to which my son, the powder hound, replied: “Tell him your son is toujours ski.” (Always!) He is a true winter enthusiast, born in Wyoming and raised in Montana.
I hope you have found a way to get through January. Sometimes it’s a struggle. If you haven’t checked out the new Bennett Sisters novella, Give Him the Ooh-la-la, it’s out now for your Kindle, Nook, and iTunes. My readers tell me that sweet-talking Frenchman, Pascal, has been known to warm them up. 🙂
When you’re done with that you might snowshoe over for the Thalia Press anthology, just right for a long winter’s nap: Dead of Winter. Chilling tales indeed, short stories by some great crime writers. Even that scamp Rory Tate who brings back Mimi Raynard from Jump Cut in a story about Seattle getting crushed by winter and some college sports chicanery. You can buy The Honey Trap separately but right now Dead of Winter has been reduced from $4.99 to just 99 cents for Kindle and Nook. Now that’s a winter no-brainer.
Stay cozy, my friends.
The Bennett Sisters novella, Give Him the Ooh-la-la, is ready for the holidays!
☆☆☆☆☆ “It may be a shorter, novella sized story, but it has all the ingredients for a full book sized mystery. It’s Christmas time and the Bennett sisters are all in New York for the holidays, with a surprise visit for Merle. Pascal is there from France and it appears to be a working holiday for him. Highly recommended, especially if you have read either of the other Bennett sisters novels, Blackbird Fly or The Girl in the Empty Dress. You won’t want to miss this one as, it is very much the 3rd in the series!”
★★★★★ “As they are getting ready for the engagement party Pascal surprises Merle by flying in from France. Is Pascal there to woo Merle or work? Relatives, a drag queen, wine, espionage and holiday fun all combine to make this a Christmas to remember. “
☆☆☆☆☆ “An iconic Christmas scene in New York City – thousands of twinkle lights, [a] beautifully decorated hotel lobby – opens this novella, which continues Lise McClendon’s literary suspense foray into the lives of the Bennett sisters, all of whom are lawyers…. The reader is pulled right back into the Bennett family with just enough backstory to remind you of the past wine scandals and dangers and to re-establish the personalities and new developments since we first met them in New York and the Dordogne in Blackbird Fly and followed them through France in The Girl in the Empty Dress.
Though that rendezvous with Pascal might be enough to justify the “ooh-la-la”, this is a McClendon story, so romance between the characters is the undercurrent to the larger mystery that includes more wine, more scandal, more intrigue and audacity, and a touch of camp. Is Pascal in the States just to see Merle and celebrate Annie and Callum? McClendon readers know there will be more to that story line, and it does involve his particular investigative specialty – wine. Who is Bosom Drearie and how does the
“give him that ooh-la-la” lyric help solve this mystery?”
❅ ❅ ❅
At the moment ‘Give Him the Ooh-la-la’ — which is another song title, this time a Cole Porter tune — is only available digitally on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, for Kindle and Nook. The rest of the digital sites will have it shortly and it will be available in paperback too.
Pour a little champagne and enjoy some downtime at this special time of year.
Does setting matter?
Re-play time! Originally posted at Lois Winston’s blog, Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers
As a writer and reader I enjoy the “take-me-away” aspect of new and different places in fiction. Off to a foreign land without all the inconveniences of travel. I’ve used settings as far away as Moldova but my two novels set in France are close to my heart.
The books feature Americans but they rely as much on their setting as almost anything else. This France, far from the stylish boulevards of Paris and the sunny beaches of the Côte d’Azur, is the Dordogne province, originally called the Perigord. This southwestern region is a fertile land known for its wine, foie gras, duck confit, and black truffles. Its back roads wind through deep canyons, with villages clinging to cliffs. Here the Hundred Years War was fought and Nazis laid waste to the land. Remnants of war and violence remain.
Much of the first book, Blackbird Fly, is centered around small village life. In the second book, out this month, the Bennett sisters, all five lawyers, take on a walking tour of the Dordogne. Merle Bennett, the middle sister, is turning fifty. The “girl” in the title of the sequel, The Girl in the Empty Dress, is a law colleague of one sister. Secretive, demanding, and a bit rude, she hasn’t made many friends. Her secrets become the key to unraveling several mysteries.
History really comes alive in these old places where the ‘bastide’ walls are still solid after 800 years. But the delicacies of this area are the real delights. Black Perigord truffles are famous around the world. Difficult to harvest, they are becoming more scarce as climate change alters their natural habitat in these sunny hills and valleys.
Dogs are often trained today to hunt truffles. A highly-trained truffle dog is very valuable to any truffle hunter. In The Girl in the Empty Dress the women come across an injured dog in the ditch. This dog, they soon find out, is famous for its truffling exploits. How it got to be injured and out on its own sets off the mystery.
I went on a French walking tour myself. Six women, a love of wine and cheese, and winding trails through the vineyards made for a fabulous time. Afterward I saw a ‘Sixty Minutes’ story on truffles. One man, a dog owner who had his prized truffle dog stolen, really got to me. He searched for years in vain for his dog. I decided to write about a stolen truffle dog. I couldn’t figure out how to come at the story, then the walking tour came back to me. The dynamics of a small group are always interesting. The sixth wheel, the woman who is secretive and annoying, sets up the conflict. As a writer once you come up with the central conflict you’re off to the races.
A delicious setting doesn’t hurt of course.
• • • • •
Sign up for a chance to win these two suspense novels — and two others.
Hurry, ends October 31
All you need are books & tea. Wouldn’t the world be lovely if that were true?
Books and tea do go together, especially as the nip gets in the air and the leaves fall. So I’m excited to report that I have magically become a Tea Blender! 🙂 Over at Adagio Teas you can make your own custom blends of tea. So I’ve concocted two blends inspired by Blackbird Fly and The Girl in the Empty Dress, the two Bennett Sisters novels.
Blackbird Blend is an Earl Grey tea (black with citrus tones) blended with lavender to take you back to the French countryside. Added to that is white peach and vanilla for a hint of sweet.
The Empty Dress Blend is herbal. As coffee is my morning sip I drink herbal teas without caffeine all afternoon and evening. This one is based on a blend called Foxtrot which is chamomile flowers, rooibos tea, peppermint leaves and natural vanilla flavor. To that I’ve added more mint and chocolate plus cocoa nibs. (I confess a weakness for mint chocolate tea!)
Use this code to get $5 off your first order at Adagio Tea: #5354119060
I’ll be giving out samplers of the two tea blends at Bouchercon, the world mystery convention, in Long Beach in November.
Adagio also has some scrumptious looking seasonal teas: Pumpkin Spice and Holiday Cheer, with tea bags to take you from now through the end of the year.
Start your tea kettles!
Have you signed up for the Fall Giveaway? Four books are up for grabs. Will you be a winner?
Here’s my new newsletter. Are you signed up? One subscriber won a $25 gift card today! Sign up here.
The Quickie Issue
Welcome new subscribers!
For the rest of you, you just heard from me so I’ll make this quick.
Back in olden times (say, two years ago) giving away free e-books was pretty common.
I rarely do it anymore! So enjoy this special from me.
The setting here isn’t England but rural Minnesota, the German-Catholic part, where I visited once with my good friend Susan. Why? Because what could be more embarrassing to a hip young man than growing up in a polka band?! Jonny learned to play accordion at his grandfather’s knee then rejected it all for a career in the Twin Cities. But when the band’s accordionist is out sick Jonny is called back to play at Polka Mass. He meets the women staying at the family motel, working on a field study. Their leader, a grad student named Isabel, is rude and full of herself. And so it begins…
The quirky characters in the novel have been compared to Anne Tyler’s, an assortment of small-town oddballs. One reviewer said: “The family struggles, sad times and funny times were so real to life anyone could enjoy this book.” Another wrote: “Lise McClendon has a gift for writing fully developed, multi-layered characters dealing with the same problems that we all do, and yet seeming so unique and distinctive.”
For the true hard-core Pride and Prejudice fans I found this multi-author e-book that supposedly fills in the gaps in the novel fascinating but a little spotty on quality: Pride and Prejudice: The Scenes Jane Austen Never Wrote.
And if you’ve never read Pride and Prejudice we must remedy that. Here’s a free Kindle version.
Stay tuned later this fall for the Bennett Sisters novella, “Give Him That Ooh-la-la.”
[Drumroll!] We have a winner!
Thanks to everyone who recently signed up for the newsletter, recently and the hardy pioneers, and entered their name in the contest to win a copy of Jeremiah Healy’s first mystery, BLUNT DARTS. The recent death of my colleague was a shocking one and in my small way I’m trying to keep Jerry alive. Hey, maybe someone will do continuation novels, that would be cool. In the meantime there are a slew — by my count fourteen — of John Francis Cuddy mysteries to read, plus the legal thrillers under his nom-de-plume Terry Devane.
Congratulations, Don Cannon! You are the winner! A newsletter will be out later this week with a new giveaway and other juicy tidbits for you to gnaw on, so if you haven’t signed up, I mean — it’s painless! Click here. All it takes is your email address — you can be anonymous! But if you enter your snail mail address I will send you a sticker! Yes, a real live sticker, like none you’ve ever experienced! Or like many you have already on your laptop. But totally unique in that it announces you are a super special Very Noisy Friend.
I hope you’re eking out the last lovely bits of summer where you are, or if not, curled up in a comfy corner with a book.
All my best,
Hunting for precious black truffles is a ancient and fascinating activity in France. The truffle dog, Aurore, is the focus of her own hunt when she goes missing in my new suspense novel, “The Girl in the Empty Dress.” This video explains how dogs are trained. Bonus for French speakers – lots of French!
Thanks to the folks at Viking River Cruises. (Yes I am trying to butter them up to get a cruise!) 🙂 Enjoy.
The death of a mystery writer: it sounds like the title of a novel (and has been used.) But in this case it is Real Life. It’s a sad but expected part of living, part of knowing lots of people a little over the years as well as having your own close clan. Illness, accidents, and tragedy, well, they exist. Like it or not.
Last week a writer I knew took his own life. A heartbreaking part of the human story. I wasn’t close to Jerry Healy – who wrote under his own name, Jeremiah Healy and a pseudonym Terry Devane – but he was outgoing and friendly and like many newbies he befriended me somewhere along the line, at conventions and conferences. Among other things he’d been an MP in the Army and didn’t mind if you gave his bicep a squeeze. He liked everyone and had a big booming voice and a laugh to match. Once a law professor (always a law professor…?) he could lecture on topics he loved, crime writing, lawyering, and tennis.
In 2006 I was in Europe for an extended time and my husband and I joined the International Crime Writers in Zaragoza, Spain. It was a small group, about 25 or 30 writers plus spouses. We had a great time on that trip, visiting Goya’s childhood home and looking at his etchings, eating traditional Spanish food at a fancy winery, and being feted by the governor in the fabulous capitol building with its trumpeting valets and painted ceilings.
It will surprise no one who knew Jerry that he made a few impromptu speeches during that trip. After awhile the Bulgarian crime writer who bore a striking resemblance to Boris Yeltsin would raise a glass and call out, “Jerry Jerry USA,” with a twinkle in his eye whenever Jerry stood to speak. Jerry led the IACW for some five years and was known to crime writers from Iceland to Bulgaria, Italy to Cuba. Naturally his last name sometimes became ‘USA!’ He would have liked that, the old Army MP in him, I think.
In celebration of Jerry’s life and work I am giving away a copy of his first book, the one that introduced him and his private eye, John Francis Cuddy, to the world. Of Blunt Darts the New York Times said, “Mr. Healy writes so well that he tends to transcend the cliches…The plotting is impeccable, and everything comes together to make BLUNT DARTS one of the outstanding first mysteries of the year.” Booklist said, “Healy offers a hard-hitting plot full of clever twists and turns. For readers who like the hard-boiled style shorn of any nouvelle flourishes.”
Jerry will live on through his books. I can’t wait to read them all. Sign up for the mailing list to enter to win BLUNT DARTS. Everyone on the list as of September 7 will be entered.