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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

June 4th 2013 New Mystery Release Roundup

As has become our custom here on the MRM blog, here is this month's batch of "first Tuesday" new mystery releases just in case you missed one:

  • Jeffrey Allen's Father Knows Death, the third book in his Stay at Home Dad humorous cozy mystery series
  • Lauren Beukes' buzzed about time travel mystery/thriller The Shining Girls
  • Janet Bolin's Thread and Buried, the third book in her Agatha Award nominated Threadville cozy mystery series with Willow Vanderling 
  • Allison Brennan's Stolen, the sixth book in her Lucy Kincaid romantic thriller series 
  • Alafair Burke's new mystery/thriller If You Were Here
  • Kate Carlisle's A Cookbook Conspiracy, the seventh book in her Bibliophile cozy mystery series
  • Grace Carroll's Murder After a Fashion, the third book in her Accessories mystery series with fashionista Rita Jewel 
  • Anne Cleeland's Tainted Angel, a historical mystery/suspense novel set in Regency England
  • Peg Cochran's Steamed to Death, the second book in her Gourmet De-Lite cozy mystery series
  • Sheila Connolly's Monument to the Dead, the fourth book in her Museum mystery series with fundraiser Nell Pratt
  • Krista Davis' The Diva Frosts a Cupcake, the seventh book in her Agatha Award nominated Domestic Diva series
  • Jeffery Deaver's The Kill Room, the tenth book in his popular series with Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs
  • Alex Grecian's The Blue Girl, a historical mystery short story set in 1889 and featuring Scotland Yard's Murder Squad
  • Beth Groundwater's Fatal Descent, the third book in her RM Outdoor Adventures whitewater rafting mystery series
  • Craig Johnson's A Serpent's Tooth, the ninth book in his acclaimed series with Sheriff Walt Longmire that is the inspiration for the A&E show
  • Linda O Johnston's Nonstop Spaniels, an inexpensive e-book only novella in her Pet Rescue mystery series 
  • Diane Kelly's humorous mystery Death, Taxes, and Hot Pink Leg Warmers, the fourth book in her series with IRS Agent Tara Holloway
  • Stephen King's Joyland, a brand new mystery/crime novel from Hard Case Crime.  For now this one is only in print and is not available as an e-book
  • Allison Kingsley's (aka Kate Kingsbury) Trouble Vision, he third book in her Raven's Nest Bookstore paranormal cozy mystery series
  • Kylie Logan's Mayhem at the Orient Express, the first book in the League of Literary Ladies cozy myster series
  • Carol Ann Martin's Looming Murder, the first book in her new Weaving mystery series
  • Jason Matthews' debut spy thriller Red Sparrow
  • Maggie Sefton's Close Knit Killer, the eleventh book in her Agatha Award nominated Knitting mystery series
  • Taylor Stevens' The Doll, the third book in her Barry Award winning series with the informationist Vanessa Michael Munroe
  • Kate Watterson's Charred, her second book featuring Milwaukee, WI Homicide Detective Ellie MacIntosh
  • CM Wendelboe's Death on the Greasy Grass, the third in the series with tribal cop turned FBI agent Manny Tanno
Let us know if there are any that we missed!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Andrew Peters Guest Post: Breaking the "Fourth Wall"

Mr Must Read mysteries (or Musty, as we famous writers call him) has asked me to write a little something for you all on one of the techniques I use a lot in my brilliant books.  
                           Breaking the “fourth wall”

Goodreads 5 Star review “I really like the way he involves the reader, it’s like he’s sitting in front of you talking to you”

Goodreads 2 Star review “Not really my sort of thing, he keeps addressing the reader directly”

Well, my friends, it appears that you surely can’t please everyone, and one of the things I seem to do which divides opinion on my literary masterpieces is my habit of talking to people. Yes, you. Pay attention.

Maybe it starts with the fact that I’ve never thought of myself as a writer. Before last June I’d never written a story in my life, and certainly never attended a creative writing class or read anything at all about writing technique.  I had done plenty of story-telling, in comedy clubs, folk clubs and when making a living as an entertainer, so maybe that was what influenced me most when I decided to tell some stories via the Kindle machine.

That was what I wanted to do, not write things, but tell stories, and I never really gave much thought to how I should do it. I just thought up a situation, sat down at the computer and told someone about it. You. The reader.

I suppose it’s my Blues Detective stories where the reader's most important, as Otis King the narrator takes you into his world, shares his thoughts with you, helps you along with a clue or two, and quite often expects you to guess the answer before he does.

“Well, you’ve guessed it by now, haven’t you my dears? It’s hardly worth explaining it. What? No? Well, it’s a good thing you’re not trying to make a living in the detecting business. Allow me to elucidate...”

Otis is always at pains to point  out that he’s not writing a book, he’s making a report, and the effect I want is for you to hear his voice in your head, see things through his eyes, maybe even ask the odd question if you’d care to. He’s a helpful narrator too, always happy to gloss over the dull bits, like the coffees, meals and train journeys, but he’ll put them back in if he needs to pad a story out to novel length.

Much the same thing happens in “Joe Soap”, though here the narrator is quite happy to inform you that he’s writing a book, even if it’s one that nobody will ever be allowed to read. He even refers to the clumsiness of some of the construction, since he isn’t able to send it to his editor. Again he tries to anticipate your questions and explain himself to you at critical moments.

No, I don’t always do it, and there are ways to do it without being quite so obvious. In “The Barry Island Murders” the policeman narrator is telling the whole story to a newspaper reporter, who interrupts with questions and points of his own. Not that he’s allowed to speak in the book, you have to infer his contributions from Inspector Williams’ reactions.

I like this technique. It makes the whole story-telling business  a little friendlier. It makes for informality in the narration, and you get to join in with the story a bit. The narrator can use you as a sounding-board for his own opinions.  It can be lonely telling a whole story by yourself. Maybe I should just record them and then you’d really have the voice in your head.

I don’t claim to be the inventor of this technique. I’m not the best-read man on the planet, so I have no idea to what extent other people have used it. Charlotte Bronte did for one...“Reader, I married him”.  PG Wodehouse was prone to it here and there. Damon Runyon too. Maybe most first -person narrations have a little bit of it.

It gets used far more often in film and TV. Any of you remember “It’s Gary Shandling’s Show”? He’d sit down and tell the audience what was going to happen, before walking past the cameras and onto the set. Then there’s “Blazing Saddles”, where Sheriff Bart frequently talks to you.

The important thing about it is to be consistent. Once you start, you have to keep at it, as an occasional one will jar. Remember “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”, where George Lazenby finishes the fight, stares at the camera and says, “This never happened to the other feller.”? Didn’t really work, did it? You think? I beg to differ.

Now, I’m not in a position to give you advice on writing technique, and this one has its limitations. You can really only use it with a first person narrator but then a first person narration is the only logical way to tell a story. The third-person idea is a literary invention.I can’t be doing with those telepathic people reading everyone’s thoughts. I mean, you can’t really describe anyone else’s thoughts but your own, you can only infer them from their actions. And all that dashing across to the other side of town to take a look inside the villain’s head? No, it can’t happen...only in books.

The other limitation, is, as you saw at the beginning, some people don’t like it. They much prefer everything kept impersonal. Me, I love it...to the extent that if I ever write anything else, it’ll take a mighty effort to avoid using it. Still, at least you’ll know it’s one of my books.

Andrew Peters is the author of the Blues Detective series of humorous mysteries, as well as the mystery/thriller novels Joe Soap and The Barry Island Murders.  His short story collections Solos and Monophonic are also available for Kindle.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

May 7 2013 New Mystery Release Roundup

As we have been doing for the past several months after "new release Tuesday", here is a recap of this month's batch of new mystery/thriller releases.  With over 30, there is probably something for everyone:

  • Ace Atkins' Robert B Parker's Wonderland, the latest authorized book in the Spenser series
  • Duffy Brown's Killer in Crinolines, the second book in her Agatha Award nominated Consignment Shop cozy mystery series
  • Emily Brightwell's Mrs Jeffries Turns the Tide, the 31st book in her Victorian British mystery series with housekeeper Mrs. Jeffries
  • Lucy Burdette's (aka Roberta Isleib) Topped Chef, the third book in her Key West Food Critic cozy mystery series with Hayley Snow
  • Alyse Carlson's The Begonia Bribe, the second book in her Garden Society cozy mystery series with Camellia Harris
  • Linda Castillo's Long Lost, an e-book exclusive short story from her Kate Burkholder Amish country series 
  • Marcia Clark's Trouble in Paradise, an e-book exclusive short story in her Rachel Knight legal mystery/thriller series
  • Ann Cleeves Silent Voices, the 4th book in her British mystery series with DI Vera Stanhope
  • Chris Culver's The Outsider, the second book in his series with Muslim detective Ash Rashid
  • Claire Donally's Cat Nap, the second book in her Maine based Sunny and Shadow cozy/cat mystery series
  • Joanne Fluke's Video Kill, a reissue of an early thriller from the author of the Hannah Swensen series
  • Sally Goldenbaum's Angora Alibi, the seventh book in her Seaside Knitting cozy mystery series with Izzy Chambers
  • Chris Grabenstein's Free Fall, the eight book in his Anthony Award winning Jersey Shore series with John Ceepak and Danny Boyle
  • Charlaine Harris' Dead Ever After, the final Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood novel
  • Carolyn Hart's Dead, White, and Blue, the 23rd book in her Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity Award winning Death on Demand series with mystery bookstore owner Annie Darling
  • Tami Hoag's e-book exclusive short story The First Victim, featuring her series characters Sam Kovak and Nikki Liska 
  • Swedish author Camilla Lackberg's The Stranger
  • John Le Carre's latest suspense novel A Delicate Truth
  • John Lescroat's latest mystery/thriller The Ophelia Cut 
  • Liz Lipperman's Heard It Through the Grapevine, the first book in her Dead Sister Talking paranormal/cozy mystery series
  • Karen MacInerney's Brush with Death, the 5th book in her Gray Whale Inn cozy mystery series with Natalie Barnes
  • David Morrell's Victorian historical mystery/thriller Murder as a Fine Art
  • Liz Mugavero's Kneading to Die, the first book in her new Pawsitively Organic Gourmet Pet Food cozy mystery series
  • Kathryn O'Sullivan's Foal Play, the Malice Domestic Award winning new humorous small town cozy with Colleen McCabe, set on the Outer Banks
  • Nancy Parra's Gluten for Punishment, the first book in her Baker's Treat cozy mystery series with gluten-free baker Toni Ryder
  • Ann Purser's The Sleeping Salesman Inquiry, the 4th book in her British village mystery series with spinster Ivy Beasley
  • Linda Rodriguez's Every Broken Trust, the second book in her series with Chief of Campus Police Skeet Bannion
  • John Sandford's Silken Prey, the 23rd book in his popular Lucas Davenport series
  • Joanna Campbell Slan's Picture Perfect Corpse, the 6th book in her Agatha Award nominated Scrapbooking cozy mystery series with Kiki Lowenstein
  • Rochelle Staab's Hex on the Ex, the third book in her highly regarded Mind for Murder mystery series with psychologist Liz Cooper
  • Leann Sweeney's The Cat, the Mill, and the Murder, the 5th book in her Cats in Trouble cozy mystery series
  • Victoria Thompson's Murder in Chelsea, the 15th book in her historical Gaslight mystery series with early 1900s NYC midwife Sarah Brandt
  • Elaine Viets' Board Stiff, the 12th book in her popular Dead End Job humorous cozy mystery series with Helen Hawthorne

Are there any that you missed?  Any that we missed?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

April 2nd 2013 Mystery New Release Roundup

There were a bunch of great new mysteries released on April 2nd, so once again we are consolidating them into a recap post.  Among the new releases are: 
  • Susan Wittig Albert's Widow's Tears, the twenty-first book in her long running cozy mystery series with herbalist and amateur sleuth China Bayles 
  • Laura Alden's Curse of the PTA, the 4th book in her Agatha Award nominated PTA cozy mystery series with divorced mom of two Beth Kennedy
  • Connie Archer's A Broth of Betrayal, the second book in her Soup Lover's cozy mystery series 
  • Kate Atkinson's genre bending speculative historical fiction novel Life After Life, in which Ursula Todd is born and reborn repeatedly during the first half of the 20th century.  From the author of the acclaimed Jackson Brodie mystery series
  • Jessica Fletcher's (aka Donald Bain) Murder She Wrote: Prescription for Murder, the 39th book in the long running cozy mystery series
  • Ella Barrick's (aka Laura DiSilverio) The Homicide Hustle, the third book in her Ballroom Dance cozy mystery series with Stacy Graysin 
  • Pamela Beason's Undercurrents, the third book in her amateur sleuth series with wildlife biologist and freelance writer Summer "Sam" Westin
  • Raymond Benson's The Black Stiletto: Stars & Stripes, the third book in his Black Stiletto series with costumed superhero Judy Cooper
  • Heather Blake's The Good, the Bad, and the Witchy, the third book in her Wishcraft paranormal cozy mystery series
  • Joelle Charbonneau's End Me a Tenor, the second book in her Glee Club cozy mystery series
  • R.B. Chesterton's (aka Carolyn Haines, author of the Sarah Booth Delaney series) gothic suspense novel The Darkling
  • J. J. Cook's (Joyce and Jim Lavene) That Old Flame of Mine, the first book in the new Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade paranormal cozy mystery series with Fire Chief Stella Griffin and her ghostly predecessor
  • Waverly Curtis' Chihuahua Confidential, the second book in her Barking Detective cozy mystery series 
  • Jeffery Deaver's A Textbook Case, a Kindle Single short story (65 pages) featuring Lincoln Rhymes
  • Laura DiSilverio's Malled to Death, the third book in her Mall Cop cozy mystery series with EJ Ferris 
  • Leighann Dobbs' 3 Bodies and a Biscotti, the 4th book in her Lexy Baker Bakery cozy/culinary mystery series (introductory price of 99 cents as of 4/3/13)
  • Harlan Ellison's Web of the City, reprinted by Hard Case Crime
  • Julie James' Love Irresistably, the 4th book in her FBI/US Attorney romantic suspense series
  • Donna Leon's The Golden Egg, the 22nd book in her Silver Dagger Award winning series with Venice, Italy police commissario Guido Brunetti 
  • Jenn McKinlay's Going, Going, Ganache, the fifth book in her Cupcake Bakery cozy mystery series
  • Joanna Campbell Slan's The Death of a Dowager, the second book in her Jane Eyre historical mystery series
  • Dorothy St. James' Oak and Dagger, the third book in her White House Gardener cozy mystery series with organic gardener Casey Calhoun
Let us know if we missed any!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Jeri Westerson Guest Blog: Crispin Guest--A Character Study

BLOOD LANCE is the fifth Crispin Guest Medieval Noir, my own subgenre of medieval mystery. It’s hard-boiled detective fiction set in the Middle Ages. Because of the darker themes, this called for an exceptional detective, one with a delicious backstory and who would be compelling in book after book.  

Enter Crispin Guest; dark, brooding, honorable to a fault.

Now let’s back up a bit. When an author devises a detective for a series, they have to keep certain things in mind: will he be equipped to solve the crimes that come his way? In an amateur sleuth story, it has to be believable when the detective encounters murder after murder (I don’t know about you, but I’m a little suspicious of Jessica Fletcher in Cabot Cove). In something like a private eye story it is a given that the detective will know what to do and how to proceed when encountering the ultimate crime.

But set the story in the distant past where there is little in the way of forensic science to help you, a vastly under-funded and under-trained and, for all intents and purposes, non-existant “police force,” coupled with the fear and superstition of a particular point in time, and you have special difficulties in allowing your detective to be able to solve a crime.

I needed a detective who was able to read and write. Not so easy in the Middle Ages when even some of the nobility could do neither. This is the reason that many medieval mystery protagonists are monks and nuns. The clerical class, for the most part, could read and had a bit of time on their hands.

But I also wanted someone who could move between the classes, someone who was well aware and even knew by name some of those in the upper echelons of society. He needed to be a man familiar with weapons so that he could fight his way out of any difficulty. He had also to be familiar with death so he could recognize an accidental death from a deliberate one, and a fresh corpse from an old one. This meant he had to be a man-at-arms, someone who had seen many battles and their aftermath. But if I was to follow the hard-boiled detective tropes, he had to have a chip on his shoulder, and what better way to achieve that than to cast him from the society to which he had been born? Forced to live among people that he never considered his equal, he would be imbued with ready-made angst and animosity. Throw in a sheriff who gives him grief at his change in station and we have the makings of a darker, character-driven morality play.

Crispin Guest was a man who had everything: a title, wealth, and status at court. A knight, living under the chivalric code. He was a possible candidate for Edward of Woodstock’s privy council when Edward took the throne. He was a protégé under John of Gaunt the duke of Lancaster (Edward’s younger brother). Crispin had fought in battles and even led his own men. He had jousted in tournaments, and was well respected among the elite.

But when Edward died untimely, it left his son, Richard to become king at ten years old. Treason got in the way of Crispin’s ambitions when he followed the cause of putting his mentor the duke of Lancaster on the throne instead, and Crispin lost all but his life and his intense code of honor.

Let’s not forget, that I also wanted to write about a strong, lusty man, a medieval man of his time. I mean, why else write him? Why do the research if not to follow the interesting history and the medieval mindset. Going with the hard-boiled tropes again, Crispin gets knocked around, sure, but he also gets to do some of the knocking. And slacking that lustiness, too, on the occasional femme fatale.

Though Crispin is a character with a chip on his shoulder, he has a strong sense of honor coupled with great wit. He feels a certain sense of obligation toward the weakest in society, fulfilling his chivalric code even if he can no longer be a knight. He’s a lover and a fighter. And, of course, endlessly curious. 

So now I have a detective equipped and ever willing to use his wits to outsmart the murderer, getting into scrapes and causing a few bruises himself. Then I build my mysteries within the framework of the politics, people, characters, and events of the late fourteenth century, taking it down a notch into darker territory, delving into the grit of London, and throwing in a religious relic to complicate matters for our detective.

In BLOOD LANCE, Crispin Guest sees an armourer’s body fall from one of the buildings that line the length of London Bridge. Crispin does not believe the death was a suicide and investigates with his apprentice, former cutpurse and street urchin Jack Tucker. They uncover the theft of a relic that the dead armourer was paid to locate. The customer, the troubled Sir Thomas, suffers battle fatigue and begs Crispin to recover the artifact. But there are other forces looking for this relic as well, including another of Crispin’s former friends, the poet Geoffrey Chaucer. Spaniards, mysterious knights from court, an unsuitable woman, and intrigue in the shadows, make this a twisting tale that culminates in a deadly joust on London Bridge.


See the series book trailer, book discussion guides, and information on the upcoming SHADOW OF THE ALCHEMIST on Jeri’s website www.JeriWesterson.com.    

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Pam Stack Guest Blog: So, What About Those Book Reviews?


Lately there have been a lot of comments made about the quality and quantity of book reviews on sites like Amazon.  There is a general discussion among writers and professional reviewers about authors who may be writing reviews for their own work under a pseudonym.  If this is true, it’s a shame because it diminishes the words of a true book lover who reviews books as a profession and the words of every day readers.  I’ve been wondering then, why do we care so much about reviews and who really benefits from them?  Do we need professional reviewers, or should writers only insist that their customers post book reviews?  Which are more necessary?  Which are more, dare I say it, legitimate? 

Being a voracious reader myself, easily breezing through over 300 books a year, it wasn’t until I began to interact and speak to authors that I recognized that I could write a pretty decent review if I put my mind to it.  So, that’s what I did.  Once I became the host for Authors on the Air, an internet radio talk show, I wrote reviews more seriously, as I wanted authors to know that I had actually read their books and understood their style and POV.  Since my early days of posting my reviews as simply a “consumer”, I have established rules for myself as a more “professional” reviewer.  I will not write a review that won’t garner less than 3 stars; I will always be honest as my credibility is as stake; and I will never review a book because an author simply asks me to.  I ran into an ethical dilemma there and have blogged previously about it.

On my Facebook page for Authors on the Air as well as my personal page I recommend books to my friends and that got me thinking about reviews.  My friend followed my advice to read a Brett Battles book and she loved it.  I suggested that she write exactly that same statement on Amazon, where she purchased the book and thought that her comments might be more appreciated by the author than those of a professional reviewer.  Interestingly enough, Brett posted that he agreed.

So, what do you want, authors?  I know you like those long wordy reviews we love to spout out and yes, they do help, I think, to perhaps guide sales of your books, however marginally.  But does that diminish the impact of the everyday reader who takes the time to write “hey, I’ve never done this before but…I loved your book?” Which would you rather see?

And readers, which review would you reply most upon?  The review that’s rather long and and wordy or would you prefer to see what the “average Jane” has to say about an author’s work?  And, do reviews really matter?
# # #

Pam Stack is the host and producer for Authors on the Air, live radio interviews, at www.blogtalkradio.com/authorsontheair and a motivational public speaker.  She can be reached at authorsontheair@gmail.com.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

March 5th 2013 Mystery New Release Roundup

The March 5th batch of new mystery releases was another very strong one, so once again we are consolidating them into a recap post.  Among the new releases are:

  • Victoria Abbott's The Christie Curse, the first book in her new Book Collector cozy mystery series with Jordan Kelly
  • Ellery Adams' Peach Pies and Alibis, the second book in her Charmed Pie Shoppe cozy mystery series
  • Claudia Bishop's A Fete Worse Than Death, the 18th book in her long running and popular Hemlock Falls cozy mystery series
  • Cara Black's Murder Below Montparnasse, the 13th book in her Aimee Leduc French mystery series 
  • Rhys Bowen's The Family Way, the 12th book in her Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity award winning historical mystery series with Molly Murphy, set in early 1900s New York City
  • Laura Bradford's Assaulted Pretzel, the second book in her Amish cozy mystery series with shop owner Claire Weatherly
  • Laura Childs' Sweet Tea Revenge, the 14th book in her popular Tea Shop cozy mystery series
  • Clive Cussler and Justin Scott's The Striker, the 6th book in their historical mystery/thriller/adventure series with early 1900s private detective Isaac Bell
  • Lila Dare's Wave Goodbye, the 4th book in her Southern Beauty Shop cozy mystery series
  • Stephanie Jaye Evans' Safe From Harm, the second Sugar Land mystery with Minister Walker "Bear" Wells
  • Tricia Fields' Scratchgravel Road, the 2nd book in her Hillerman Prize winning series with small town Texas police chief Josie Gray
  • Elly Griffiths' A Dying Fall, the 5th book in her British mystery series with forensic archeologist Ruth Galloway
  • Victoria Hamilton's Bowled Over, the 2nd book in her Vintage Kitchen cozy mystery series with collector Jaymie Leighton
  • CS Harris' What Darkness Brings, the 8th book in the Regency England historical mystery series with Sebastian St. Cyr
  • Erin Hart's The Book of Killowen, the 4th book in her series with Irish archeologist Cormac Maguire and pathologist Nora Gavin
  • Sue Ann Jaffarian's The Silent Ghost, an e-book only novella in her Ghost of Granny Apples series priced at $2.99
  • K.J. Larsen's Some Like It Hot, the 3rd book in her humorous Cat DeLuca mystery series
  • Joanie McDonell's Bolero, the first book in her series with noir detective Nick Saylor
  • Annelise Ryan's Lucky Stiff, the 4th book in her series with deputy coroner Mattie Winston
  • Denise Swanson's Nickeled and Dimed to Death, the second book in her Devereaux Dime Store cozy mystery series
  • Kari Lee Townsend's Trouble in the Tarot, the third book in her Fortune Teller paranormal cozy series with psychic Sunny Meadows
  • Tina Whittle's Blood, Ash, and Bone, the 3rd book in her series with Atlanta gun shop owner Tai Randall
If there are any I have missed, please let me know!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Mrs. MRM reviews Terri Austin's "Diners, Dives, and Dead Ends"

I just finished another fun cozy mystery read from Henery Press: Terri Austin's Diners, Dives, and Dead Ends, the first book in her series with waitress/sleuth Rose Stickland. Rose marches to the beat of her own drum, much to the chagrin of her very traditional family. Her unwavering loyalty to her friends lands her in a web of crime that is more far-reaching than she realizes and leaves her searching for answers and her best friend. Austin does a nice job of developing Rose as a character, and a good portion of her supporting cast is equally interesting- I even found myself rooting for the "bad guy" a few times. I'm looking forward to picking up the next in the series, Last Diner Standing.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Mrs. MRM reviews Susan Boyer's "Lowcountry Boil"

I just finished reading Susan Boyer's Lowcountry Boil, and I am experiencing a severe case of PBW - Post Book Withdrawal! I haven't had as much time for reading as I would like recently, but this book made me want to steal every minute possible to read. I was a bit hesitant at first as I am not usually a big fan of paranormal story lines, but the depth of characterization made every character (even the ghost) strong and relatable. Plus, if you've ever visited or lived in the Charleston area, you know it is almost impossible to experience the city and its barrier islands without feeling the ghosts of the past looking over your shoulder. Every time I found a minute to read, I found myself slipping into the warm sea air of Stella Maris, and I instantly felt like an island insider. In this fantastic debut, Boyer does a lovely job of maintaining tension while developing sympathetic, identifiable characters. Any small town southerner would be hard-pressed not to see someone they "know" in this book. She kept me guessing right up until the end, but in hindsight all the clues were there. It was smart, funny, and overall a very enjoyable read. I am impatiently waiting her next book and another Liz Talbot adventure!

Friday, March 1, 2013

The End of Free Kindle e-book Promotions, Part 2

As we discussed last week, changes to the Amazon Associates program starting in March are going to have a significant impact on the promotion of free Kindle e-books.  A few things have become more clear since then, so I wanted to update everyone on where things stand with Must Read Mysteries.

The new rules are that Amazon will withhold all of an Associate's earnings for a month if 1) 80% or more of the e-books downloaded after following your links are free and 2) 20,000 or more free e-books are "bought".  Representatives from Amazon have made it clear in emails to and conversations with other Associates that these rules will be followed even if the site does nothing to promote free e-books.  This is particularly scary to most book bloggers and Associates because, irrespective of what gets promoted, the vast majority of e-book downloads are free ones.  It appears likely that some sites that do not even mention free e-books will lose all of their income.

For the past several days Amazon has been providing Associates with reports on the number of free e-book downloads that can be attributed to them.  It is very clear that MRM will be on the wrong side of the 80% rule if we continue on as we have been.  While we might come up a bit short of the 20,000 free e-books to needed to trigger the death penalty, we are too close to take any chances.  So our plan going forward is to:

  1. Minimize and perhaps completely eliminate links to free e-books at Amazon
  2. Start linking to free and inexpensive books at Smashwords.  While the selection there is not as vast, it has the advantage of providing e-books in other formats in addition to Kindle.  It is also a great place to promote indie authors
  3. Redouble our efforts to find bargain mysteries for Kindle
All of this is subject to change as the new stats start to hit in March.  Thank you for bearing with us during the changes.

Friday, February 22, 2013

The End of Free Kindle e-book Promotions?

This morning Amazon announced significant changes to the operating agreement governing their associates program that will go into effect starting in March.  The changes are aimed directly at sites/bloggers/commentators who primarily promote free e-books.  In short, Amazon will not pay the associate commission for a given month if 1) 80% of the e-books bought after following the associate's links are free and 2) over 20,000 free e-books are downloaded after following the associate's links. 

Why do associates promote free books in the first place?  Because by getting a customer to Amazon the associate earns commission on other items that the customer purchases while they are there.  Most people just grab the free e-book and go on their way, but a small percentage will buy something else.  This strategy works for associates when they send people to Amazon in high enough volume, and it works for Amazon because people buy things there that they might not have otherwise.

The impact of this change is potentially far reaching.  The big sites that primarily promote free e-books are either going to have to shut down or completely revamp their business plan.  MRM is small potatoes compared to those sites, but we will feel the impact as well.  KDP select authors are going to have a much harder time promoting their books when they have a freebie promotion, and subsequently are less likely to get the sales boost for paid books that usually comes along with the promotion.  That in turn will make it less attractive for an author to join KDP select.

What does this mean for Must Read Mysteries?  I am not quite sure yet.  Amazon has not provided statistics to associates on how many free books are downloaded (they say they will start to in March), so it is impossible to gauge just how close we are to the thresholds.  My guess is that we are over the 80% threshold, but somewhat below the 20,000 books per month.  I will watch the statistics for the first week or so of March and then decide just how radical the changes are going to need to be.  Free e-books are certainly going to be a significantly smaller part of the books that we feature, and it is possible that we may need to eliminate them altogether.  Even that may not be enough, though, because if people load up on freebies after following a regular e-book link that would still count against us.

This change is certain to cause some short term pain for book promoters and indie authors, but the long term impact is less clear.  The glut of free Kindle books is starting to eat into the sales of regular e-books and books, as some people have hundreds of e-books on their Kindle waiting to be read and are not willing to pay for content.  This may be a way of combating that.  It is going to be an interesting next couple of months.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Pam Stack Guest Blog: What To Do When A Book Isn't All That

Today on the blog Pam Stack, host of Authors on the Air, discusses her dilemma of how to review a stinker when the author is hoping for a positive blurb.

Lately I’ve been thinking quite a bit about reviews I post on the many books that I read during the year.  Most are for novels by writers that I truly enjoy.  Give me murder and mayhem, spies and espionage, romantic thrillers and comedy, paranormal and Steampunk.  These are my favorites.  Rarely do I read, much less review, non-fiction.  And generally, I choose the books I want to read and review and post my ratings on books that garner 3 – 5 stars.  Those that don’t, well, let’s just say I “forget” that I’ve read them.

As Authors on the Air radio becomes more popular I find myself in the position of being asked to read an author’s work in hopes of a positive review to be used as a quote on a book jacket.  At first, I was flattered.  They want me?  Little ole me, who loves the written word and reads 300+ books a year?  Oh yes!  Of course, I agree.  However.  And you know there is a “however” here.
What happens when I read a novel that I feel is a stinker?  What do I say to the author who has poured their heart and soul into this book and is waiting for a quote to place on the jacket to encourage others to purchase their book?  Therein lies the rub.  And my conundrum.

I was recently faced with this dilemma.  I agreed to read, review and offer a pithy yet witty comment on a particular writer’s follow-up book; I enjoyed the first book, but the follow-up was less than satisfactory.  And actually, after the few chapters I realized that either (1) the first book was a fluke or (2) the writer believed that a successful first novel guaranteed the second would be as successful and as well-received without the same hard work. The wrongs would not be righted unless, in my humble opinion, the story was completely re-written. 

So, what to do, what to do?  I consulted with friends and colleagues known for their diplomacy and solicited their opinions.  Most said that I should find a kind and gentle was to advise the writer that their book sucked.  I’m not so good at that.  I want to make people happy; it’s my nature.  I want them to be successful.  I adore books and honor authors.  What to do?

Finally, I decided that in order to maintain my credibility as a reviewer, BETA reader and editor as well as a talk show host, I must be honest with said author and let them know that I found their work lacking and explain exactly what I found missing in their current work that was present in the previous one.  

And I have decided that I will no longer review books in order to have my name conceitedly placed on a book jacket, as though I were some authority, even if asked by the author.  I will continue to review books, talk about them, promote them, have lively and interesting discussions with authors on the radio, but I will decide which books I will read and review.  I can live with myself knowing that I have not hurt anyone’s feelings and still remain true to myself.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Snow Storm Must Read Mysteries

Now that the big snow storm has hit us here in the northeast, I started thinking about mysteries in which snow plays a significant part in the plot and/or setting.  Here are 10 books to snuggle up to and read after digging out:

  • Agatha Christie's classic The Sittaford Mystery (published in the US as Murder at Hazelmoor), set in two small villages in the middle of a snow storm.
  • Gregg Olsen's A Wicked Snow, a cold case mystery with CSI Hannah Griffin
  • Mary Daheim's Snow Place to Die from her popular Bed-and-Breakfast series
  • Bill Pronzini's excellent Snowbound, about a small resort mountain community cut off from civilization by a snow storm and avalanche. Also trapped in the town are 3 professional killers.
  • Heather Horrocks' Snowed Inn, the first book in her Who-Dun-Him Inn cozy mystery series
  • Jo Nesbo's The Snowman from his popular Harry Hole Norwegian mystery series
  • Another Norwegian mystery is Anne Holt's 1222, a closed room mystery set on a snowy mountaintop
  • Jenny Milchman's recently released and highly regarded Cover of Snow
  • Liz Oglivie-Smythe's Provincetown set cozy mystery A Deadly Snow Fall
  • James Thompson's Snow Angels, the first book in his highly regarded Inspector Vaara series set in northern Finland
Do you have any favorites that I have missed?

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