MRM Reviews in the spotlight reviews About MRM Advertising with MRM Contact Us MRM Home Image Map

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.

Contact Form


Email *

Message *