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Monday, April 20, 2015

Musings on Serial Fiction, a Guest Post by Anne Louise Bannon

Anne Louise Bannon, author of Fascinating Rhythm, is joining us today to get your feedback on how readers feel about serialized fiction.  Is it relevant and appealing for today's reader?  Please comment below to let her know your thoughts!

By Anne Louise Bannon

 I'm afraid this is not one of those wonderful posts where I solve the problems of the world with my succinct, yet powerful prose. I'm not going to solve any problems. I'm writing because I have a problem and don't know what to do. So I'm going to throw it out there for all of you to weigh in and see what happens.
   I'm trying to figure out if serializing a novel on a blog is a viable way of publicizing it before publication. Or even another way to publish a novel or story, in general. You see, I've got my nice little cozy Fascinating Rhythm out now, in which my two heroes search the streets and speakeasies of 1924 New York City to find out who killed her boss. But there's a sequel, Bring Into Bondage. Would it make sense to publish it as a serial on my blog before putting it into book form? Or maybe serialize one of my other novels?
            I already have WhiteHouseRhapsody.com, a romantic fiction serial about a single president and his aide trying not to fall in love with each other. Years ago, I decided to do that one as a blog because the novel just wouldn't end. Don't feel bad if you've never heard of it. It hasn't exactly taken off.
            Even though there is a sizable community out there publishing serial fiction, I'm not entirely convinced that it's going to get popular enough to use it as a promotional vehicle.
            On the plus side, folks love novel series. And TV series (yes, that's relevant, I'll explain in a minute). And Charles Dickens did very well by the fiction serial, admittedly over 150 years ago, but the way the Internet works, there are some of the same advantages to reading this way. Fiction serials are published in easy digestible chunks, so that you can read an episode or two while commuting, for example, or during a quick work break.
            On the other hand, it's not like novels are that expensive these days, as they were in Dickens' day. Most folks could afford a penny paper every so often, as opposed to a whole novel, which made reading a story over several editions of a paper much easier. Nor is it that hard to pick up and read a bit of a full novel, especially when you've got e-readers that will hold your place for you.
            But there are two more important reasons why I don't think serial fiction will fly. One is that Amazon tried selling it about three years ago and dropped the program pretty quickly. It's possible they just didn't give it a chance, but methinks there just wasn't enough of a market. The other reason is something that's happening in the world of Television.
            Up until last year, I was a TV critic and had been one for over 15 years. So, as you might imagine, I'm usually pretty up on how people consume media. And the big trend these days is binge viewing – watching all of a series' season in one fell swoop, as opposed to watching week by week. Whether they use a DVR or a streaming service like Netflix or Hulu, more and more people are watching series kind of like they read novels – in large chunks at a time.
            This is interesting. People love investing themselves in a great extended storyline with characters they care about, but now have the freedom to watch several episodes in a row rather than wait for a new one each week. And they're increasingly choosing to do just that.
            That being said, it is possible folks just don't know about the serial fiction alternative. Maybe Amazon just didn't give it enough of a chance.

            So I'm putting it out there. Do you like the idea of reading a story over several months in small bits or would you prefer to binge read, like you would a novel? I think it's a question worth asking, even if I didn't have some personal skin in the game.

About the Author
Anne Louise Bannon is an author and journalist who wrote her first novel at age 15. Her journalistic work has appeared in Ladies' Home Journal, the Los Angeles Times, Wines and Vines, and in newspapers across the country. She was a TV critic for over 10 years, founded the YourFamilyViewer blog, and created the OddBallGrape.com wine education blog with her husband, Michael Holland. She also writes the romantic fiction serial WhiteHouseRhapsody.com. She and her husband live in Southern California with an assortment of critters.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Savannah, the Perfect Place to Set a Mystery...Guest Post and Giveaway by Duffy Brown

Duffy Brown, author of the Consignment Shop and Cycle Path mysteries, is joining us today on the MRM blog to celebrate the release of her latest book, Demise in Denim.  We are pleased to be part of the celebration and to share Duffy's view of Savannah, the setting for the five Consignment Shop mysteries, as well as a giveaway from Duffy.  Don't forget to comment and enter the giveaway at the end of the post!

Savannah, the Perfect Place to Set a Mystery
by Duffy Brown

New York is the place to set a book on fashion or finance, LA is the best setting for stories about the movie industry, Nashville gets the nod for stories about music, New Orleans has their vampires and Savannah is the perfect setting for a murder mystery series.

Savannah is a city where the spirits of the long ago departed still linger in sultry streets and moss-drenched cemeteries. Okay, even if you don’t believe in ghosts the homes, B&Bs, restaurants, bars, town squares where people met their end are still there. The city is built upon its dead. 

Savannah's Historic District is the largest in the country and you cannot walk more than two feet without passing over a dead body because Savannah's dead aren't just in the cemeteries.

Hundreds of victims of the Yellow Fever epidemics of the 19th century lie in mass graves that were never marked. In 1820 there was a huge fire that burned over four-hundred homes. Many of the homes were rebuilt and some of the old occupants are still hanging around trying to get out of that fire. Talk about local color.
The Old Pink House is one of the city’s best restaurants with shrimp and grits so delish it makes a grown man cry. But in spite of the incredible food things have not always been wonderful. James Habersham Jr. built the house in the 1700s and hung himself there because he was distraught over his wife’s death. That’s terrible for sure but what is even worse is that he hasn’t left. 

Servers say Habersham is a bit of a neat freak and likes to straighten table settings and put chairs in their proper place. And he’s not alone, his whole clan still hangs around. His kids like to lock ladies in the downstairs bathroom. Like I said, you may not believe in ghosts but I bet if you got locked in the bathroom you’d be a believer.

Then there’s the 17hundred90 Inn, the oldest inn in Savannah. In the 1700s Anna Powers fell in love with an English sailor while staying at the inn. They married but something went wrong and Anna jumped to her death from room 204. Couples staying in that room write down their experiences…and I’m not talking amorous experiences…in a notebook on the bedside table. If you manage to make it through the night you celebrate with a  peach martini. Personally I’d be on Prozac.

Then there’s the Kehoe House that is now a B&B.  In the 1800s twins died while playing in one of the house's massive chimneys and guests who stay in rooms 201 and 203 still hear the kids playing.

I’ve stayed at the Marshall House. It was used as a Union Hospital during the unfortunate Northern Aggression. When they were rehabbing the place bones were found in the basement where they did the amputations.  While there our cell phone would go off in the middle of the night, the keycard worked then didn’t and the clock alarm sounded and none of us set it.

No one really knows for sure what’s going on in Savannah but something is afoot. I love the city and it’s the perfect backdrop for tooling around in a ’57 red Chevy convertible, walking Bruce Willis…the other Bruce Willis…in the parks, eating sandwiches at Parkers or Zunzies and having drinks at Abe’s on Lincoln. 

So you see, this is why Savannah is a great city for murder mysteries. It’s has tons of history and a lot of dead people already there. Hope you get a chance to visit and check this all out for yourself.

Hugs, Duffy Brown

About the Author

While others girls dreamed of dating Brad Pitt, Duffy Brown longed to take Sherlock Holmes to the prom. Today she conjures up who-done-it stories for Berkley Prime Crime and has two series, the national bestselling Consignment Shop mysteries set in Savannah and the Cycle Path Mysteries on Mackinac Island. Geared for the Grave the first book in the Cycle Path series is a December, 2014 release. Duffy wrote romance as Dianne Castell for Harlequin and Kensington and is a USA Today Bestselling author.

Find out more about Duffy at www.DuffyBrown.com and on Facebook

Enter to Win!

To celebrate the release of Demise in Denim, Duffy is giving away a Demise in Denim lunch tote to two MRM readers!

Please comment below to enter the giveaway!  Share this post on social media for a second entry; just comment and let us know you did so.  Please Note:  If you are commenting anonymously, please leave your full Facebook name or email address so that we may contact you in case you win! Contest is open to US residents only.   Winners will be chosen via random number generator at noon EST on Tuesday, April 14th!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

New Mystery Release Roundup 4/7/15

Today is a really big day for new mystery releases, so let's get right to the summary: 

Let us know if there are any we missed!

Friday, April 3, 2015

On Why I Love Cozy Mysteries

Mrs. MRM here with a quick post on why I love a good cozy.   On a long drive the other day, MRM and I got into a discussion of what defines a "cozy" mystery, and it got me thinking about why I am a cozy fan.  He's a big fan of the grittier side of the mystery genre, and he tends to gravitate toward the hard boiled.  I am more of a  traditional cozy girl.  I love, love, love the puzzle of a mystery.  Throw in a theme like cooking, crafting, or bookshops, and I'm pretty much sold.  (Case in point - Joanne Fluke's Hannah Swensen mysteries!)  The grit, the gore, the dark, intense psychological element of crime...not so much my cup of tea.  

I think it goes back to the books I cut my teeth on growing up - the gracious, if formulaic, regency romances that I devoured by the box full after visits to our local used book store.  Those novels were about experiencing the grand romance between ladies in beautiful gowns and dashing gentlemen dressed to the nines.  They took you  to another place and time and allowed you to enjoy the experience without dwelling on the mundane things like how awful it must have been to have worn a corset every day and to have needed a tussy mussy filled with flowers to sniff when the stench of body odor was too much to bear.  Ick.   

There, my friends, is where my love affair with cozies begins.  You get to enjoy the thrill of the chase, puzzling over a who-dun-it without sinking too far into the disturbing depths of crime.   I will always love the pleasure of relaxing with a book that allows me to just dive into the story and puzzle it out with the protagonist, minus the blood and gore. 

Please comment below and tell us why you're a cozy fan...or not!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

An Author By Any Other Name …. a Guest Post by Lauren Carr

Today we are pleased to share with you a guest post from Lauren Carr, best-selling author of the Mac Faraday and Lovers in Crime mystery series.

An Author By Any Other Name ….
By Lauren Carr (aka Jack’s wife, Tristan’s Mom, Beast Master, Gnarly’s Keeper)

Occasionally, I receive an email from an author terrified of using Facebook, the Internet, or any social media for fear of friends and relatives identifying them. Once, I received an email from an author afraid to promote his upcoming book. “I have relatives out there who I don’t want to find me,” he said. I’m certain there’s a great story behind this, but he refused to tell me.

Last week, I conducted a publishing class on using social media for book promotion where most of those who attended were equally fearful of promoting their books online. So, I offer this solution: Use a Pen Name!

Read on to learn about my not-so-secret identity.

My husband has been the financial director at our church for almost twenty years. Yep, this mystery writer, who spends her days researching how to kill people is a middle-aged church lady. Since I am somewhat a local celebrity, our church’s gift shop carries some of my books. While we don’t endorse murder, my mysteries are clean of profanity, graphic violence, and explicit sex. Therefore, our senior pastor (a fan) allows my titles to be sold in our bookstore.

One afternoon, I was coming down the hall outside my husband’s office when I heard the administrative assistant telling a woman in her office, “You really should ask Terri about that. She might be able to help you.”

“Who’s Terri?” the woman replied.

“Jack’s wife,” Jill answered.

Hearing my name, I stepped into the office and a woman, a church member who I had known for years, turned around. When she saw me she said, “That’s not Lauren Carr. That’s Marilyn, Jack’s wife.”

Laughing, Jill explained, “She’s all three of them. Lauren Carr is a pen name. She’s also Jack’s wife Marilyn, but her real name is Terri.”

The woman’s eyes got wide. “Jack is married to Lauren Carr!” Judging by her expression, you would have thought I was Nora Roberts (another author that uses a pen name) living undercover as a middle aged church lady called Marilyn by her close friends.

The truth is my true identity is not exactly a state secret. Yep, Lauren Carr, Jack’s wife Marilyn (which is another story), Tristan’s Mom, Ziggy and Beagle Bailey’s Mistress—Gnarly’s Keeper–they would all be me.

Pen names are nothing new. Authors have been using them for centuries. Some names are famous: Mark Twain was really Samuel Clemens and Dr. Seuss was Theodor Geisel. Ann Landers was Esther Pauline Friedman. O. Henry was William Sydney Porter.

Why would an author change his or her name to hide his or her identity from the real world rather than step forth and take all the glory they deserve for having completed the daunting task of writing a book?

There could be any number of reasons:

In Mary Ann Evans’ case, she was writing at a time when books written by men were more successful than those written by female authors. So Evans assumed a man's name (George Eliot) to relate better with her readers.

Likewise, award winning mystery author L.C. Hayden, says that when she first started writing by her real name of Elsie Hayden, she received rejection after rejection until she changed her name to L.C. to give publishers and readers the impression that she was a male writer.

Another author I recently worked with used a pen name because his first book, fiction-based-on-fact, said some not so nice things about some real people and he wanted to hide his identity. During my career, I have met more than one writer considering the use of pen names for just this reason.

In the case of Stephen King (Yes, even Stephen King used a pen name!) he didn’t want to risk saturating the market with Stephen King books. At the beginning of Stephen King's career, publishers limited authors to one book a year. In order to increase his publishing, he convinced his publisher, to print a series of novels under a pseudonym, Richard Bachman.

My reason for using the pen name of Lauren Carr is not quite so grand, or even interesting. Frankly, I don’t like the name Terri. I never did. That’s why my husband calls me Marilyn. (No, that is not my middle name. … It’s a long story.) When I was growing up, I realized that since I wrote fiction, which is not real, then I was free to take on a not-real name and I could be any one I wanted.

What a kick!

I thought long and hard about my name. I gave as much thought to it as an expectant mother, because that was who I was going to be, even if only on the cover of a book. I chose Lauren because my sister’s name is Karen. I was convinced that if my mother was thinking straight, that Lauren, not Terri, would have naturally followed Karen. Don’t ask me why or how I came to this conclusion, I just did. Carr was my late stepfather’s last name.

So, I became Lauren Carr, a pen name that I have had longer than my real name. I was Lauren Carr before I married my husband and took on his name. Little did I realize that as my career has grown, that Lauren Carr would become a whole other identity, which is also a kick.

Is it fun? Sure is.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a mystery dinner theater in the small town where we have lived for close to a quarter of a century. I hosted the event. During the performances, I would be introduced as Lauren Carr to the audience. Jaws did drop. Many people in the audience had read Lauren Carr books, written by the local author, but they didn’t know Tristan’s mom and Jack’s wife wrote murder mysteries. She seems so normal!

Other questions that writers considering using pen names ask me:
What about when customers write checks? Do you have to make them sign them under your real name? No. I contacted my bank and explained the situation, which they thought was cool. Customers write out their checks to Lauren Carr. I simply deposit the whole amount into my account, which is under my real name.

Warning: Do let your bank know that you and your pen name are one and the same before you start accepting checks made out to your pen name. Not all banks are the same. When we opened an account at a different bank for Acorn Book Services, they stated that they would not take a check made out to Lauren Carr.

Post Office: Let the post office and your mail carrier know that mail addressed to your pen name is for you. Otherwise, it might be returned as wrong address.

Email Address: Very simple. Many people who don't have multiple identities have more than one email address. I have one email that I use for my personal accounts. Another (writerlaurencarr@gmail.com) for my social media accounts (which I rarely check); and yet another for my publishing company (acornbookservices@gmail.com) (which I closely monitor).

I also have different signature lines set up in Outlook. If it has to do with writing, the signature line is from Lauren Carr, author. If the subject is publishing, then it is Lauren Carr, publisher. If it is a grocery list to my husband, it is Marilyn. Terri doesn’t have a signature line.

Social Media: For book promotion, I have a Lauren Carr account and a separate personal account for my personal life. Not too long ago, a friend said that she had to friend Lauren Carr because I never used my personal account.
However, I don’t put truly personal information out there on the social media. The foremost reason I use it for promotion. Therefore, never—I repeat—never put anything personal out there on the Internet that will reflect poorly on your public image. Example: You have a fight with your husband—don’t go onto Facebook to announce that you married a doofus and then provide a blow-by-blow account of your side of the fight. That’s not going to sell books and will alienate some of your readers. Constantly think about your public image and how you want to present yourself. Don’t upload that video of you wearing the beer hat and dancing naked on the kitchen table while singing “I’m a Little Tea Cup.”

Security is a big thing that most authors are concerned about in using social media. We have all heard stories about maniacs hunting down people who they have been following on the Internet. A couple of years ago, I received a phone call at home from someone who had found my mailing address on the internet. He knew he lived in the same town where I lived and GoogleMapped it. He claimed he lived only a few streets from me. After a few long emails from him and phone conversations, I went on the Internet and removed my address from everywhere I could find it.

Make an effort to not give away too much about your personal life even if you aren’t trying to hide from long lost relatives. I don’t post pictures of my house. I refrain from posting pictures of my son and my husband. Not too long ago a reader who realized she lived in the same town I did posted questions on my timeline on Facebook trying to find out where I lived and if we knew the same people. At one point, when she had put it together, instead of sending me a message off-line, she posted on Facebook “Are you …”   I refused to say yeah or nay. If she had sent a message off-line instead of my timeline where everyone could read it, I would have answered her.

What’s the point, or the fun, of having a pen name if you don’t get to live behind a veil of mystery? As an author, with a pen name, you can be whoever you want to be.

What do I want to be called? Call me anything. Just don’t call me late for ice cream.

About the Author
Lauren & Gnarly
Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday and Lovers in Crime Mysteries. Her upcoming new series, The Thorny Rose Mysteries will be released Spring/Summer 2015.

The owner of Acorn Book Services, Lauren is also a publishing manager, consultant, editor, cover and layout designer, and marketing agent for independent authors. This year, several books, over a variety of genre, written by independent authors will be released through the management of Acorn Book Services, which is currently accepting submissions. Visit Acorn Book Services website for more information.

Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She also passes on what she has learned in her years of writing and publishing by conducting workshops and teaching in community education classes.

She lives with her husband, son, and three dogs on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.  

Contact Lauren or visit her website and blogs at:

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