I know.  I’m posting twice today, but I wanted to let you know that I put up a new chapter.  AND, I’m going to be busy this weekend, so I’m posting my blog early.  Maybe I’ll get lucky.  I read online that the best days to post blogs are Thursdays and Fridays.  Guess this time, I’ll find out:)  Anyway, here goes:

I’ve read lots of advice about how to brand yourself as an author.  Write posts and tweets that help readers recognize you.  I’ve changed genres enough, I might have made that hard for them.  When I switched from urban fantasy to romances to mysteries, one thing my books all had in common was food.  Someone in almost every series liked to cook.   Because I do.  So, yes, I tweet and post about food.  I enjoy reading mysteries that include recipes.  But I haven’t really gotten comfortable talking about the mysteries themselves until recently.

My first one, The Body in the Attic, doesn’t come out until November 27, and I guess that felt so far away, it felt silly to talk about it now.  But then my publisher surprised me and posted it on Amazon for pre-sale.  Without a cover.  I don’t even have to turn in the final proof pages until June 4.  But, seeing it for sale somehow made the book and marketing more real.  And then I read Mae Clair’s blog for her upcoming books, the first one due out June 12.  She created wonderful ads and postcards for it and a fewer older books she’s written, and she inspired me.  You can see them here:

Somehow, all of a sudden, I wanted to let the world know I was writing mysteries.  So, I used to make a twitter header and posted it.  I’m not as talented as Mae, but I was happy with it.

bODY IN THE ATTIC twitter header


Every book in the series will be titled The Body In . . .  because every book will revolve around murder.  When I sit down to write a mystery, I always start with a dead body.  Yes, there are other crimes in the world, but they don’t have the gravity of a murder victim.  Once I know who died and what he was like, I ask myself Who killed him and more importantly, Why.  I’ve read and listened to mystery writers who swear they have no idea who the killer is until they write the last few pages of their story.  That would drive me crazy.  How do you add clues and red herrings if you don’t know Who Done It?  They manage to still write good mysteries.  We all approach writing differently, but my brain needs to know the end of a book before I write the beginning.

The next question I ask myself is whom does the victim’s death affect?  Are people devastated, or do they cheer and throw a party?  How many people wished him dead?  And how does my amateur sleuth get involved in the case?  What makes this death so important that she’ll try to investigate it?

It helps to have enough suspects, too.  Readers are clever.  They can practically guess your intentions by intuition.  It’s not the end of the world if they guess the killer before the end of the book, but if everything’s too predictable, you didn’t try hard enough.

Anyway, whatever you’re working on, good luck with it.  And happy writing.

Are you a mystery reader?  What’s your favorite type?  Cozies?  Thrillers?  Suspense or women in jeopardy?  If mysteries aren’t your thing, what do you read?




I went to hear Alice Hoffman speak last Monday night.  The Jewish synagogue near Old Mill Road invites a prominent author to Fort Wayne once a year and the public is welcome.  I fell in love with Alice Hoffman’s writing years ago when I read TURTLE MOON and PRACTICAL MAGIC—before the movie came out with Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman—before I knew what the term magical realism even meant.

I’ve bought many of her books, including the latest, THE RULES OF MAGIC, but you won’t find any of them on my bookshelf because I pass them on to my daughters, who love her writing as much as I do.  So, I didn’t have a book for her to sign, but that’s all right, because I’d rather come away with a feel of the author than an autograph.  And Alice Hoffman was fascinating and charming.  I’m so glad I went to see her.

For a sense of her many interests and wit, she has a beautiful webpage.  It’s stunning, and her blog is as charming as she is.  You can find them here:  Her top blog entry was one of the things she shared with us in her talk.  She grew up with a Russian grandmother who told her fairytales when she was a child to entertain her.  She also told her that life is hard and you can trust potatoes.  Other veggies can be tampered with, but a potato is what it is.

Because of her grandmother, the first books Alice Hoffman cherished and read were collections of fairytales, myths, and folklore.  She said that’s why magic plays a part in so many of her stories.  When asked how she creates her characters, she said that she creates a place, and once she gets that place fully realized, the characters come to populate it.  Sort of like the movie Field of Dreams.  She does all of her own research and that inspires her writing, too.  She usually knows the end of each story she writes, but said that the ending, even though it usually doesn’t change, might not be the way she envisioned it.  Her characters influence the story’s direction, so the same event might happen, but if she envisioned it as happy, it might flip to bittersweet.  Or if she thought it would be sad, it might have hope.

She told us that most people think writers write because they have answers they want to share.  She doesn’t believe that.  She thinks most writers write to find answers to questions they’re asking themselves.  How did this person end up here?  What happened to shape him?  She wrote the novel The Dovekeepers because she visited Masada in Israel and saw a small plaque that said only two women and five children survived the Roman siege there.  She hadn’t known there were survivors, so that made her wonder who survived and how that happened.

I enjoyed hearing the process she uses to write.  That’s one of the reasons I enjoy going to hear other writers.  I’m always interested in how they became writers and how they approach finding ideas and filling blank pages.  Even if his/her process wouldn’t work for me, their passion flames my own.

I hope something inspires you to put fingers to keys, and happy writing!

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Twitter:  @judypost




Finding Balance

I’m a Libra–the sign of the scales, so I thought my life came with some automatic balance.  Come to find out, one of my favorite astrologers explained that being a Libra meant I was constantly SEARCHING for balance.  A whole different thing entirely.  And after I thought about it, aren’t most people striving for balance, too?

The old saying “Too much work and no fun make Jack a dull boy” could apply to too much of anything.   I read a thread on twitter recently where Ilona Andrews and Jeaniene Frost (both New Times bestselling authors) worked so many hours writing their books that Jeaniene Frost ended up in the hospital and both suffered from too much stress and felt everything else in their lives got neglected.  What were they missing?  Balance.

Now, I’d love to be a bestselling author, but not enough to ONLY write.  I like seeing my husband, kids, and grandkids.  I like having family and friends over for suppers.  I enjoy cooking and gardening.  I’m not very exciting, but I’m happy.  Of course, if all I did was play, I’d feel out of sync, too.  I like checking off goals when I finish them.  They give me a sense of accomplishment.  Too much down time, and I get antsy.

As a writer, I strive for balance in my books, too.  I recently finished reading Maria V. Snyder’s POISON STUDY.  I really liked it and highly recommend it, but the book had so much action, with the heroine under constant attack from enemies on all sides, that it felt like too much of a good thing.  For me, the book’s rhythm began to feel repetitive.  She created wonderful characters, and I’d have liked to spend a little more time with them.  Valek, especially, was fascinating.  So were many of the minor characters.  On the other hand, though, I’ve read books where action would be welcome.  It feels like nothing is happening, page after page.  No character development.  No clues to add up.  The pacing’s so slow, the story barely moves forward.

I also recently finished reading Cee Cee James’s cozy mystery CHERRY PIE OR DIE.  I loved the characters, the interaction between them, and the clues sprinkled here and there that teased me to solve the murder.  The pacing took its time, taunting me with tidbits of information and red herrings, like cozies do.  And that’s one of the things I liked about the book.

Great books create a balance between action, dialogue, setting, character development, and building momentum through pacing and tension.  Not many of us get every scene, every page right.  And not all of us can even agree on what’s good and what’s not.  What excites me can make another reader close the book and toss it aside.  But for whatever you’re working on now, I hope you find a good balance.  And happy writing!

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Twitter:  @judypost