Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Where's The Dirt?

(This post is appearing simultaneously on Mysteristas.)

Seeds. Some writers can take a seed or two and grow an amazing story seemingly out of thin air.
Me? I need some dirt. Preferably dirt grounded in a social issue. The messier—the muddier—the better.
That's where TRAFFICKED began. I had a list of topics that were interesting to me and I kept going back to one. Human trafficking. At the time I had no idea what I was getting myself into. This dirt ran deep. And wide. And muddy.
My kind of gardening.
In some ways TRAFFICKED was the most difficult story I've ever told. In other ways it flowed from my heart to my head to my fingers to the page effortlessly.
Many readers of this blog are fans of cozy or traditional mysteries, and while this book is neither, it walks right up to the worst of the mud and doesn't get mired in explicit detail. The idea was to deal with the horror of sex trafficking without spelling it out.
Two early cultivators:
Peg Brantley's TRAFFICKED is a heartbreaker, a thriller, and a hair-raising education, all at once. I wish I hadn't already read it, so I could read it for the first time again. — Timothy Hallinan, author of the Junior Bender and Poke Rafferty crime novels
The scourge of human trafficking is worldwide; yet, most Americans clutch the idea that it couldn’t possibly exist here.  Peg Brantley’s chillingly honest, gritty novel moves readers to empathize with lives shattered by modern-day slavery.  Through an accessible, awareness-raising narrative, Brantley spotlights a foul, hidden human crisis.  In Americans’ own back yard, not only can trafficking happen, it does.  — Susanne E. Jalbert, Ph.D., Activist
The bloom:


The dirt:
Sex trafficking.
Not Thailand. Or the Philippines. Or Russia.
Rich or poor, black or white, girls disappear across this country every day, pulled into the nightmarish world of prostitution and drugs.
Mex Anderson is back, tasked with finding three missing girls before it’s too late. Three girls. Three girls who could live in your town, your neighborhood, or in your own home.
Jayla Imani Thomas is fifteen. A smart kid from a poor part of town who has to fend for herself. Jayla is headed for college and a better life than her mother had.
Alexis Emily Halston is seventeen. Money provides everything she wants or needs except functional parents. Alexis has the world by the tail and she knows it.
Olivia Emma Campbell is twelve. She’s a middle child who dreams of being a veterinarian when she grows up. But right now “Livvy” just wants someone to notice her, maybe even to love her.
Caught up in a cruel system fueled by lust and money, all three young women must find the courage within themselves to survive. And Mex must come to terms with his own loss and face his demons head on—or he might not have the strength to save them.

TRAFFICKED is now available for pre-order.

It's all better with friends.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

The 2017 Egar Award Nominations

Best Novel

The Ex by Alafair Burke (HarperCollins Publishers – Harper)
Where It Hurts by Reed Farrel Coleman (Penguin Random House – G.P. Putnam's Sons)
Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye (Penguin Random House – G.P. Putnam's Sons)
What Remains of Me by Alison Gaylin (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)
Before the Fall by Noah Hawley (Hachette Book Group – Grand Central Publishing)

Best First Novel
Under the Harrow by Flynn Berry (Penguin Random House – Penguin Books)
Dodgers by Bill Beverly (Crown Publishing Group)
IQ by Joe Ide (Little, Brown & Company – Mulholland Books)
The Drifter by Nicholas Petrie (Penguin Random House – G.P. Putnam's Sons)
Dancing with the Tiger by Lili Wright (Penguin Random House –Marian Wood Book/Putnam)
The Lost Girls by Heather Young (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)

Best Paperback Original
Shot in Detroit by Patricia Abbott (Polis Books)
Come Twilight by Tyler Dilts (Amazon Publishing – Thomas & Mercer)
The 7th Canon by Robert Dugoni (Amazon Publishing – Thomas & Mercer)
Rain Dogs by Adrian McKinty (Prometheus Books – Seventh Street Books)
A Brilliant Death by Robin Yocum (Prometheus Books – Seventh Street Books)
Heart of Stone by James W. Ziskin (Prometheus Books – Seventh Street Books)

Best Fact Crime

Morgue: A Life in Death by Dr. Vincent DiMaio & Ron Franscell (St. Martin's Press)
The Lynching: The Epic Courtroom Battle that Brought Down the Klan 
by Laurence Leamer (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)
Pretty Jane and the Viper of Kidbrooke Lane: A True Story of Victorian Law and Disorder: The Unsolved Murder That Shocked Victorian England by Paul Thomas Murphy (Pegasus Books)
While the City Slept: A Love Lost to Violence and a Young Man's Descent into Madness by Eli Sanders (Penguin Random House – Viking Books)
The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer 
by Kate Summerscale (Penguin Random House – Penguin Press)

Best Critical/Biographical

Alfred Hitchcock: A Brief Life by Peter Ackroyd (Penguin Random House – Nan A. Talese)
Encyclopedia of Nordic Crime: Works and Authors of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden Since 1967 by Mitzi M. Brunsdale (McFarland & Company)
Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin (W.W. Norton – Liveright)
Something in the Blood: The Untold Story of Bram Stoker, the Man Who Wrote Draculaby David J. Skal (W.W. Norton – Liveright)

Best Short Story
"Oxford Girl" – Mississippi Noirby Megan Abbott (Akashic Books)
"A Paler Shade of Death" – St. Louis Noir by Laura Benedict (Akashic Books)
"Autumn at the Automat" – In Sunlight or in Shadow by Lawrence Block (Pegasus Books)
"The Music Room" – In Sunlight or in Shadow  by Stephen King (Pegasus Books)
"The Crawl Space" – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazineby Joyce Carol Oates (Dell Magazines)

Best Juvenile
Summerlost by Ally Condie (Penguin Young Readers Group – Dutton BFYR)
OCDaniel by Wesley King (Simon & Schuster – Paula Wiseman Books)
The Bad Kid by Sarah Lariviere by  (Simon & Schuster – Simon & Schuster BFYR)
Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand  (Simon & Schuster – Simon & Schuster BFYR)
Framed! by James Ponti (Simon & Schuster – Aladdin)
Things Too Huge to Fix by Saying Sorry by Susan Vaught
(Simon & Schuster – Paula Wiseman Books)

Young Adult

Three Truths and a Lie by Brent Hartinger (Simon & Schuster – Simon Pulse)
The Girl I Used to Be by April Henry (Christy Ottaviano Books/Macmillan)
Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse (Hachette Book Group – Little, Brown BFYR)
My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier (Soho Press – Soho Teen)
Thieving Weasels by Billy Taylor (Penguin Random House –
Penguin Young Readers – Dial Books)

TV Episode Teleplay

"Episode 1 – From the Ashes of Tragedy" – The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime StoryTeleplay by Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski (FX Network)
"The Abominable Bride" – Sherlock, Teleplay by Mark Gatiss & Steven Moffat
(Hartswood Films/Masterpiece)
"Dark Road" – Vera,Teleplay by Martha Hillier (Acorn TV)
"A Blade of Grass" – Penny Dreadful, Teleplay by John Logan (Showtime)
"Return 0" – Person of Interest, Teleplay by Jonathan Nolan & Denise The
(CBS/Warner Brothers)
"The Bicameral Mind" – Westworld, Teleplay by Jonathan Nolan & Lisa Joy
(HBO/Warner Bros. Television)

Robert L. Fish Memorial

"The Truth of the Moment" – Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by E. Gabriel Flores (Dell Magazines)

Mary Higgins Clark
The Other Sister by Dianne Dixon (Sourcebooks – Sourcebooks Landmark)
Quiet Neighbors by Catriona McPherson (Llewellyn Worldwide – Midnight Ink)
Say No More by Hank Phillippi Ryan (Tor/Forge Books – Forge Books)
Blue Moon by Wendy Corsi Staub (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)
The Shattered Tree by Charles Todd (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)

Grand Master

Max Allan Collins
Ellen Hart

Raven Award

Dru Ann Love 

Ellery Queen Award

Neil Nyren

It's all better with friends.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Friday, April 7, 2017

The One, Two, Three Punch

My thanks to friend and reader, Pat Easter, who got my head wrapped around this.

You're in the crime fiction section of your favorite bookstore (physical or cyber), and are trying to find something to read for the weekend. Whether you're on the beach in warm sunshine or in front of a blazing fire, you're looking for a book that can transport you (and make you forget the client who is demanding a full report first thing Monday morning).

FIRST, it's the cover. You should be able to tell if it's a cozy or something darker. If you see pinks and teals and are looking for a thriller, it's a good bet this won't fill your needs. Cover designers are savvy, but some (even professionals) miss the boat. Still, this is the first punch.  Either a book cover wins by ducking it, or the game is over.

But let's pretend you spot a cover that looks promising. What's the SECOND thing you do? If you're me, you flip the book over and check out the BACK COVER COPY. The Blurb. The few words (100-150) that spotlight the novel without giving it away. Whether an author is self-published (responsible for everything) or traditionally published (shared blame) the author often writes these words.

I suck at this part. I've even received a review from a reader who said she enjoyed the book much more than she thought she would based on the description. Yep. I wrote both.

So that's the second punch. Let's get really crazy and pretend the back cover copy didn't totally turn you off. In fact, it sort of intrigued you.

What's the THIRD thing you do? You flip to the first page.

This is where it gets especially dicey. I mean, the cover got you to the back cover. Wow. And the back cover was good enough to get you to thumb to the first page. Sometimes, if you're feeling generous, you read the whole page. But often you read the first few lines. That's all.

Are you gonna like this story? Are you gonna like the way the author writes it?

You decide. That quick. 

What do you think? Is this fairly accurate?

It's all better with friends.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Random Thoughts

In no particular order, here are some thoughts I have tonight about writing, reading, and especially about my newest story:

The moments when the words pour out perfectly describing the character, the scene, the energy, the emotion, the force, the whatever, are rare. They're also the drug that keeps me going back for more.

I've fallen in love with the three young girls in my book. They're too big and real and wonderful not to at least be mentioned in the next story from Mex and Cade and crew. Knowing that I'll find out what happens to them next makes it easier for me to let them go for now.

It can be incredibly hard to take what's in your mind (that movie screen we all have), and what's in your gut, and put it on the page.

One of the markers for me that I'm reading a great story? I'm compelled to stop everything else in my life and find a quiet place to just read. OR (and this is a little weird) keep reading while I'm watching a "must-see" on television. I'll mute the TV during the commercials and read.

If an editor is doing his or her job, I'm being pushed to perform. The lazy bit I didn't write? Well, it's time to address it.

I can come up with the most amazing excuses to procrastinate when the drug mentioned above wears off and my editor is pushing. Cleaning out the fridge or pantry? Done that. Clean bird feeders? Yep. Play one more game of Spider or Free Cell? Oh, yeah.

I'm close to sending my revisions back to my editor so tomorrow I think I'll switch my summer/winter closets. Oh, and go to Jazzercise and get a mani-pedi. Sometimes rewards get all mixed up with excuses.

There's something to reading in large time increments. It helps me feel the story better.  I don't have to constantly "find" it.

What about you? Do you have something to add?

It's all better with friends.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Edits and the Lottery

A little over a week ago I sent my manuscript off to my editor. She told me she'd have notes for me in about a week and I looked at my calendar.

A trip to Tucson to visit my sister.

Did I really want to be angsting over her notes while I was supposed to be sharing memories and making a few new ones? Relaxing ones where I'm in the moment?

My brilliant editor has things going on in her own life right now so I decided to be generous (ahem) and tell her she could wait. She could relax along with me. There was no hurry.

Has it stopped the angstiness? Pffft!

But as long as I don't actually have her notes, there's this teensy little piece of my heart that thinks maybe I'll have won the lottery with this one. It'll blow her away. She'll be sharing it with Big Names in the Publishing Biz.

Yeah, right.

Still, I have a few more days to hold onto that lottery ticket and dream.


Trust me, I'll be checking my inbox daily looking for those notes. Sometimes it's easier to deal with reality than to keep dreaming.

It's all better with friends.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Inching Toward Publication

Two days ago I finished a detailed revision thanks to a beautifully picky beta reader. Today I completed the word search project for thirteen words that reader caught which I tend to overuse.


To be completely transparent, she actually found twelve in this manuscript. One she found in my last story. Apparently I didn't learn.

The new pages are printed out for yet another reading. Once that is done I'll put everything through yet one more wringer before finally sending it off to my editor. Who will, no doubt, find additional troubling aspects I need to work on.

The process, at least mine, is a long one. Hopefully in the end, it will be worth it.

Thanks for bearing with me!

It's all better with friends.