Author Interview: Cindy Davis

Today I welcome author Cindy Davis to Reade and Write. I met Cindy on Twitter and was drawn first to the descriptions of her mysteries. As I learned more about her, I found that she also writes non-fiction books on topics ranging from self-editing to online dating to small dog breeding and more. She is originally from New Hampshire, but now enjoys living in Florida. So let’s get started.

Tell me about your mystery books.

A Little Murder is the first of my 6-book series set at Lake Winnipesaukee, NH. Angie Deacon is a high-maintenance ER nurse who buys a day of fishing for her husband’s birthday. A murder on the boat causes her to learn things about herself that were probably better off not brought out in the open.

Who is the audience for the series?

I write very complex plots with lots of twists and turns, so people who enjoy that sort of thing like my stories. I’ve never had anyone say they knew whodunit. Well, except that one person who said they knew on the first page, which was impossible because the murderer didn’t show up that early.

Tell me about the setting of your book—how did you choose it, what kind of research did you have to do, why did you choose it?

I lived in New Hampshire at the time. I loved the Lakes Region with its beautiful scenery and small town charm. The setting provided many unique places to set murders. When I say that in mixed company (authors and regular people) I get a mixture of reactions. I was on the craft fair circuit and spent a lot of time there.

What was the hardest thing about writing the A Little Murder?

Deciding to add a police detective. When I set up the series, I determined it would be different from mysteries you buy at the bookstores—the books where you can tell the killer by page 5. I didn’t want police or a detective because they appear in all the stories. But by the time the murder happened in A Little Murder, I’d realized I needed someone to play off Angie—someone who could provide her with legitimate information by which to solve crimes. Detective Colby Jarvis was born. He’s a bit overweight and balding, a widower who works to keep from having to think about his life.

If your book were made into a movie, who would you like to see playing the main characters?

I can’t really answer this because I don’t watch television and I see very few movies. Although I always envisioned Cameron Diaz as Angie. FYI, the series is currently with a scriptwriter for submission to TV.

Have you written any other books?

I have a three-book cozy mystery series which features two thoroughly opposite women Phoebe (don’t call me that unless you have a death wish) Smith & (ex-Susie Homemaker) Westen Hughes. They are high-end insurance investigators. I developed this series to get away from murder mysteries and have some fun. I also have two stand-alone mysteries and two women’s fiction. See links below.

Are you in one or more critique groups or partnerships?

I belonged to a writers group for more than ten years. It was the best thing I ever did for my writing development. We ended up being good friends. The group only disbanded because three of us moved away. The right group can provide mentoring, education, and lifelong friendships.

Do you write every day?

Pretty much. I’m also an editor and sometimes my day job gets in the way. I’m currently working in a whole new genre—New Age. The first book is co-authored with my husband and is with our agent now.

Who are your favorite authors? Favorite genres?

I don’t really have a favorite genre. I enjoy any book that’s well written. Consequently, I have a number of favorite authors. A British author from the 70s, Ruth Rendell does amazing development. Ken Follett and James Michener feature amazing plots. Sandra Brown’s mysteries and Melinda Leigh’s emotion. I especially enjoyed Gone with the Wind because it incorporated adventure, history, romance, and even humor.

Where would you like to go more than anywhere else on earth?

Rick and I have a ginormous bucket list. We’re going to Macchu Picchu, Peru, in December. Book three in the New Age trilogy will be set there, so it’s as much research as fun. We’re checking prices to Italy right now. Since I’ve already been there, I think my biggest bucket list item is to ride the Orient Express.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Two things. Never think you’re done learning. Keep striving to improve your writing skills. And second, get your book edited. Not by an English teacher. I know I’ll take some flack for this and I agree that teachers are awesome for punctuation and grammar, but they aren’t trained in story development or the fine-tuning it takes to bring your story to the next level—things like filter words, head hopping, and show don’t tell.

What is your favorite movie and why?

I stopped watching television and movies many years ago but I guess I’d say Romancing the Stone with Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas. I liked the quirky humor and adventurous, unique plot.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Gosh, so many things. I guess I’ll stick with the topic of writing and say I wish I’d started honing my craft earlier in my life.

Describe yourself in three words.

Youthful, curious, sarcastic.

Is there anything I haven’t asked that you wanted me to?

Where I met my husband: Match.com. LOL. Just kidding, but I always like to talk about that. But no, your questions really made me think.

Where can readers connect with you?

I hang out on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Bookbub.

Where can readers find your books?

My books are on Amazon and my website.

Thanks so much for having me here. It was great fun.

And thank you, Cindy. It was lovely having you here. 

Until next time,

Amy

Guest Blogger Susan M. Toy

This week I would like to welcome guest blogger Susan M. Toy, whose blogs I enjoy very much and who has much to teach writers:

 Kind Readers . . . Thank You!!!

 joan didion quote

Kind Readers,

Since I am an Author, you mean the world to me, because without you the words I write have no meaning at all. So I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you, from the bottom of my heart, for taking the time to read what I write. You make me the Author that I am, and I owe you everything!

You, on the other hand, owe me nothing. You’ve done your bit by reading. You definitely do not owe me a written review on an online site – especially if you’re not used to writing reviews of whatever you read. I’m speaking for myself here when I say that I WILL NEVER REQUEST NOR EXPECT YOU to write a review or rate my book and writing. Whether you’ve bought either of my books or received them in a giveaway or I’ve sent you a complimentary copy – I will never, ever, ever request that you write a review. But, as I say, that’s just my attitude towards the whole review thing. And here’s why I feel this way …

I previously wrote a blog post, Most Read vs. Best Sold – my purple cow, in which I discussed a new idea I’d had for judging a book’s quality based on the number of times it had been read rather than the quantity of copies sold. You see, even though I’ve been both a bookseller and a publishing sales rep, as an Author I’m definitely not all about how well my books are selling or how much money I can make from them. I AM all about finding Readers, whatever way I can, Readers who enjoy what I write. It’s more fulfilling for me to hear directly from a Reader that they have enjoyed one of my books than to concern myself with the almighty dollar (or Euro) or worry about whether my books are selling as well as, or better than, Mr. X’s books. It’s just not worth the time I’d spend checking figures and wringing my hands, feeling all the while I must certainly be a failure. As long as just one Reader tells me they like what they read then I believe I’ve done a good job!

So you won’t hear me asking you to leave a review. (Besides having this attitude that you don’t owe me anything, Readers, I should tell you I generally don’t read those online reviews myself when making book selection decisions, so how can I expect your review of my book will ever be read by anyone else? I also wonder how many of you don’t rely on reviews, either. Hmmm …)

However, what I will ask you to consider doing is personally recommending books you read and enjoy – and not just my books, but all books you read – to your family, your friends, your co-workers and colleagues, your book club, local librarians and booksellers. Even if every Reader only tells just one friend, that’s something, because there is nothing – absolutely NOTHING! – as good as a personal recommendation. And it’s so easy to do: just mention the book’s title in a conversation; send an email to a friend you think may also like the book; post a link to the book on Facebook or Twitter simply saying you read and enjoyed the book; suggest the book to your book club/local librarian/bookseller as something they may all consider discussing/ acquiring/selling. You won’t be doing anything other than what you usually do in life, and that is carrying on a conversation with friends. Make books and reading part of your conversations. I am one Author who will be heartily appreciative if you were to do this!

And, if you wish to take this suggestion one step further, please consider writing to the Author to tell them how much you enjoyed their book. You can’t imagine what this means to me and to many other Authors – to know that you not only took the time to read what we’ve written, but that you’ve enjoyed the book enough to want to tell us, and other Readers, about your pleasure. We Authors can’t thank you enough for that, because it validates what we do by writing the book in the first place.

I received a friend request the other day (we have a mutual friend) and after I accepted, my new friend wrote the most wonderful note, telling me he had discovered my novel through a comment made by our mutual friend, and was intrigued enough to purchase a copy. Then he told me how much he was enjoying reading it! It’s the unexpected ways Readers discover our writing that thrill me, and there is nothing better than a word-of-mouth recommendation like this. So that’s why I hope Readers who feel positive about their reading experience do contact us, in one way or another. After all, most writers don’t bite! And we certainly can’t bite you on social media.

Getting back now to that “word-of-mouth” I mentioned … I’m working on developing a campaign based on this concept (or what we called “handselling” in the book business) and hope that other Readers will consider spreading the word about good books they read, not by writing reviews and posting them online – I know many of you are very shy, after all – but by doing what comes naturally and “conversing” about the books with people you already know. If it means that your friend will only read a copy they borrow from you, so be it … as long as they read the book! And you might also consider offering to purchase a copy for your local library to help them with the expense of acquiring. Or give the book as a gift, for birthdays and other occasions. Nothin’ says lovin’ like handing a friend a book you have enjoyed.

Then, hopefully, once they read it they will in turn spread the word further to their friends. Some of you are old enough to remember this Shampoo Commercial from the 1970s that illustrates my point perfectly. (Or, if you prefer, the Wayne’s World version …)

Consider doing the same for other books you read and enjoy. I’m sure I’m not the only Author who will thank you for your endorsements. I know, reviews do take time and effort to write and not everyone wants to have an online presence; a personal endorsement of anything, though, can be introduced, easily and naturally, in conversation with family, neighbours, colleagues and co-workers, librarians, booksellers – anyone you know who likes to read. As a Reader, your opinions really do matter! Really!

Thank you!!!

Susan M. Toy has been a bookseller, a publishing sales rep, an Author Impresario, and is now an Author of her own books as well as a publisher. She’s always scheming and thinking of new ways to promote ALL Authors and books and to bring Readers and Authors together.

You may contact Susan through her two blogs, Books: Publishing, Reading, Writing  and Reading Recommendations.

 

 

 

 

Farewell to 2014

I have mixed feelings about leaving 2014 behind. There were times when it was great and times when it really wasn’t. I guess every year is like that.

So what were the highlights?

1. My first novel, Secrets of Hallstead House, was published in July. Woo hoo!

2. I finished my second novel, The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor, and started a third.

3. Our family went to Europe over the summer. All things considered, it was an amazing experience and I want to go again!

4. Two of my kids started new schools and love them.

5. My third child got a great score on her first attempt at the SAT.

6. Kayaking!

7. I got a little more involved with Facebook and Twitter.

8. I completed a few of my New Year’s resolutions (more about that next week).

9. I had my first book signing! Thank you again, Corbin’s River Heritage!

10. I ran my first 5K and got to watch my husband finish the Maui Warrior Challenge in September.

And what were the not-so-highlights?

1. I have learned that having a book published isn’t all fun. It’s hard work, very time consuming, and each book, even after it’s published, is a long-term commitment.

2. Our family went to Europe over the summer. Someday, when the memories aren’t so raw and I can laugh at them, I’ll tell you some of my stories.

3. One of our children was hit by a car in August and is still recovering.

I would like to thank all of you for your support over the past year. I have enjoyed blogging and love reading your comments and hearing your thoughts. Let’s grow it in 2015!

The Power of More-Than-One

This past Sunday I had the rare treat of getting together for brunch with some of the members of Women Who Write, a community of women writers based in northern New Jersey.  I had to drive two hours to get to the brunch since I live in far southern New Jersey, but I wouldn’t have missed it.  Within Women Who Write, there are a large number of women with hugely varying interests in writing:  poetry, children’s books, picture books, young adult, middle grade, fiction, screenplays, and the list goes on.

Members of Women Who Write are invited to join critique groups in which members submit pieces of writing for feedback by other writers.  I am a member of the only online critique group in Women Who Write (all the other groups meet in person), and the members of my group write in several different genres.  We are a mix of women of different ages with different careers and interests, but we have one passion that brings us all together…writing.  We submit our pieces of writing once a month and a few weeks later each member of the group submits her critique of each submission.

At brunch on Sunday we got talking about the importance of being in a group, and I was thinking on the drive home that being part of a group, even if it’s just a group of two, can have a huge affect on a person.

First, being in a group makes you accountable to people other than yourself.  There have been times when the women in my group, myself included, have been unable to submit because of other commitments or schedules that are way too full.  But each of us feels like we’re letting the group down when we can’t submit.  We have made a commitment and we know that in order for the group to work optimally for everyone, we all need to submit.

Second, being in a group helps you set and keep goals.  Each November brings the NaNoWriMo challenge.  For those of you who don’t know what this is, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month and it is an opportunity for writers from all over the world to challenge themselves to write a novel in one month.  The goal is 50,000 words.  The great thing about NaNoWriMo is that the challenge is the same for everyone.  Not everyone enters the challenge intending to write a novel; lots of people join just to give themselves a kick-start, to see how many words they can write if they really focus for an entire month.  But the goal of 50,000 words is there if people wish to give it a try.  The amount of online support from the writing community is enormous, and that support is what helps many writers keep pushing towards and even beyond their goal.

Third, being in a group encourages you to meet people you might not otherwise have met.  I am a member of a Pilates studio where I have met some wonderful people in my community that I would probably not normally run into in the course of my daily activities.  They have become an important part of my day, and I miss seeing and talking to them when I can’t get to the studio for a day or two.  They are a diverse group of people with interests and hobbies different from mine, and it’s great to get out of my own world every day and talk to these wonderful people.

Finally, being in a group is healthy!  Whether I’m going to the Pilates studio or a brunch in northern New Jersey (or meeting other people while I’m walking my dog or going to a PTA meeting or the list goes on and on), I’m getting out and talking to others and maybe moving- just a little- out of my comfort zone.  It’s great for my attitude and keeps me from getting bogged down by the things that go on in my own day.  And on the rare occasion that I don’t enjoy my time in a group, well, that just helps me to appreciate the time I spend alone at my desk even more.  And that’s good, too.

Are you part of any groups?  I’d love to hear about your experiences.

Until next week,

Amy