Happy Thanksgiving

I wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving! May you enjoy the day with family and friends and may you create wonderful new memories as you all gather around the table.

Thank you to the followers and regular visitors of this blog and my Facebook page. I’m grateful for your support of the Veronica Walsh series and enthusiasm for Cast for Murder, coming in less than three months!

I’m grateful for many things this year, family and friends always, but most of all I’m thankful this lovely lady was my mother. I was blessed with the best.

Have a beautiful Thanksgiving and a terrific weekend!

 

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A Sunday Excerpt

How are you all doing with your fall leaf clearing? I put in a few hours this week on Round One of raking and blowing leaves from the grass into a big pile at the curb. I was quite proud of myself when I saw how neat the lawn and driveway were afterwards and was pleased with the invigorating exercise the task provided. But I’m not done.  It takes one look skyward at the still-loaded-with-leaves trees to know I have more hours to put in with the rake. However, I didn’t expect to wake up the very next morning to a howling wind and a fresh blanket of leaves across the ground. Boo! Am I allowed to say that, post-Halloween?

In celebration of the raking festivities, I thought I’d share an excerpt from Cast for Murder (non sequitur, anyone?) to get you in the mood for the coming winter. The book will be released in February and the mystery takes place between January and March, so the story  won’t provide much of an escape from the short days and freezing temperatures, but just picture yourself sitting by a crackling fire (or the air vent), warming yourself and drinking hot chocolate while reading the latest Veronica mystery. Cozy thought (and story), isn’t it?

*****

We made the short walk to the theater’s office, housed in a cottage fifty yards from the barn. Constructed of the same stone used for the mansion, the one-story building was once the home of the estate’s caretaker. Multi-paned windows on each side of the front door gave the place a cozy feel. An evergreen wreath hanging on the door, adorned with a red bow and small gold ornaments, added charm and brought a burst of color to the gray façade.

Sophie twisted the doorknob and stepped inside, leading me into a small front room warmed by radiator heaters. A desk and a printer stand were under the window on the left. On the white stucco walls hung posters from the theater’s productions of The Sisters Rosensweig and Noises Off. A faded blue rug covered several feet of the hardwood floor. The fireplace on the right-side wall was long out of use.

A short hall led to a kitchenette, bathroom, and storage room, where a rolling clothes rack holding costumes from past productions blocked the back window, obscuring the view of the dense expanse of trees behind the cottage.

The only thing missing from the scene was Gigi. “She might have walked up to the barn for a minute,” Sophie said when I inquired about our director.

We hung our coats on the stand beside the door and sat at the desk. Sophie opened the top drawer, clapping with glee when she found in it a check and a small wad of cash.

“Nice contribution,” she murmured, eyeing the check. “Five hundred bucks from Carlisle Bridal.”

“My friend dropped that off,” I said. “Dusanka’s a seamstress at the salon. She said she was going to buy a ticket this morning.”

“You’re definitely renewing enthusiasm in the BCT.” Sophie gave me an appreciative look.

I let my glance slide over the desk. A laptop computer was open, its screen was black but its power button glowed silver. A vase of tulips sat on the far corner; the pink-and-white striped paper Carol used in her flower shop lay crumpled in a ball in the garbage can.

We sat and chatted for a few minutes. Sophie described the backstage jobs she had done at the Barton Community Theater before becoming stage manager and talked about her graphic design job in nearby Glens Falls. After she remarked on our similar fair-skinned Gaelic looks—she had jet-black hair and sky-blue eyes to my dark-brown hair and hazel eyes—we delighted in learning our families had both come from the same part of Ireland: County Mayo.

“We’re almost Irish twins!” Sophie said, a laugh animating her oval face.

I considered my five-five height and Sophie’s youthful age of twenty-nine and didn’t come away amused. “Except you’re three inches taller and I’m almost twice your age. Almost.”

Sophie checked the time on her iPhone. “Let’s go see what Gigi’s doing.”

We put on our coats and traversed the paved path that connected the parking lot, cottage, barn, and kitchen facilities. Sophie tugged on the barn door, clicking her tongue when it proved locked.

“Maybe she went in the back door.”

We trudged around the side of the barn. A wide, graveled area provided a border between the barn and a football field-size expanse of trees. Birdsong filled the air.

Sophie broke the serenity with an “Oh!” Lurching ahead, she let out a mighty scream that drove the cardinals, sparrows, and juncos from the trees. My glance followed her, and in seconds I saw the cause of her panic and it filled me with dread.

*****

How’s that for a teaser?

Have a great week, everyone!

 

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The Proof Is In The Proof

It’s always exciting to receive the advance copies of a book I’ve written. To hold the book in my hands, admire the cover, and flip through the pages gives me a deep feeling of satisfaction. I felt this fulfillment for a third time when I received the first proof of Cast for Murder.

I made every decision on this book. From the choice of editor and cover designer to the font and font size of the text, and the size of the margins and line spacing. Every element was determined by me. Sometimes the choice was agonizing. How will the Garamond font look? Is 11 pt. too small or 14 pt too large? What trim size should I choose: 5-1/4″ x 8″ or  5-1/2″ x 8″? What difference does a quarter inch make? Even the type of paper used has an effect. I chose cream over white. I like the look and feel of the paper and research indicates print on cream paper is easier on readers’ eyes. The cover’s designer, Keri Knutson, also had to know my paper choice because the cream paper offered by CreateSpace is thicker than their white paper. That specification (along with the book’s total page count) was important for Keri to accurately size the spine for her cover proof.

I also learned much while formatting the manuscript for the advance  e-book version of Cast for Murder I’m sending to reviewers. Where font and font size are important with the paperback, they don’t matter with the electronic version. Readers can change them to suit their preference. Another surprise with the e-book is that blank lines are deleted when converted to the ePub format. I went through the entire manuscript-280 pages-and deleted the blank lines I had between chapter headings and text and between the scene changes within the chapters and inserted blank spaces via the Paragraph-Spacing-Before and After option in Word. Whew!

It continues to amaze me how different the story looks in its final form. I know, of course it does. A physical book isn’t a computer screen or an 8-1/2″ x 11” sheet of white paper. But the story comes alive when I read it in the paperback (or hardcover) format. One downside to the new view: every word stands out, causing me to question many of my vocabulary choices and phrasing. And yes, the typos I had missed earlier become obvious, too!

This brings me to one of the advantages of self-publishing: I will be able to make changes to the text if, let’s say next August someone informs me of a misspelled word, missing comma, or, worst case scenario, plot discrepancy. All I will have to do is update the manuscript and download it to CreateSpace, Kindle Direct Publishing, and Draft2Digital. Once it’s passed a quick review, the revised book will move through the sales channels and become the version available for readers to purchase.

Reaching the proof stage means Cast for Murder is one step closer to publication as we enter the holiday season. Are you all ready for Halloween? Pumpkin carved, costume ready, candy in the bowl? Enjoy the fun!

Have a great week!

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Casting For A Cover

One of the more exciting and daunting tasks of self-publishing Cast for Murder was finding the right designer for the book’s cover. Despite the admonition, people do often judge a book by its cover. The cover sets the tone for your story and gives readers a clue what is contained on the book’s pages.

I had a short list—two or three names—of cover designers to consider when I came across a recommendation for Keri Knutson of Alchemy Book Covers and Design on a writers’ message board. I clicked over to the Alchemy website and, after a few minutes of looking at Keri’s portfolio, knew I had found the designer for Cast for Murder. Not only did I want to read many of the books whose covers Keri had designed, but I also wanted to go live, or at least visit, the places she beautifully depicted.

I contacted Keri and she soon replied, agreeing to work with me. Keri included a list of questions in her email; my responses would help shape her design. I sent back my answers, including an idea of what I wanted to see on the cover and information on the paperback (number of pages, trim size, type of paper used) so Keri could supply a PDF that would meet CreateSpace’s specifications for a proper cover fit.

A month later, Keri sent me a proof that incorporated my idea with her own inspirations. Are you ready to see it?

I’m proud to present the cover for Cast for Murder:

 

Obviously, Cast for Murder is about fly fishing on the Saint Lawrence River in August.

Okay, no. The story under this fabulous book cover is about a stage production of Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit. The bullet hole and blood splatter on the script cover indicate it’s not a carefree theatrical experience. The crystal ball, one of Keri’s clever touches, represents one of the play’s characters, the eccentric medium Madame Arcati. Veronica Walsh, the series’ intrepid amateur sleuth and a retired actress, will play Madame in a community performance of Blithe Spirit. The colors are so rich and I love how Keri used the stage lighting for effect. Note the glow on that crystal ball.

I’m delighted with the cover and give profuse thanks to the talented Keri Knutson for the wonderful design. Thank you, Keri!

What do you think of the cover? It makes you want to buy twenty-five copies the moment the book is available, correct?

Have a great week, everyone!

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Moving Forward

I apologize for my absence over the last seven weeks. I had to take time off in September for a family matter and to start the process of dealing with the loss of my mother.

My mother entered the hospital at the start of the month after she fell ill. After ten days of wonderful care from the doctors and nurses, Mom passed away with the same grace and dignity with which she had lived. Losing a parent is a difficult experience, but I find comfort in my belief that Mom now rests in peace in eternal life. I keep reminding myself of an image my siblings and I described to Mom in her final days: Though many of us were saying goodbye to her, there would be just as many waiting with Saint Peter at heaven’s gate, eager to welcome her for all time.

So September was a lost month and I almost forgot I had a book to publish. Almost, but not quite! Cast for Murder is still scheduled for a February release. February 13, to be exact. The thirteenth won’t be the “official” date, that will be the week before when I give final approval to the print and e-book editions and Amazon starts the process of making the book available through its sales channels. I’ve read the process can take between five and seven days. I’ll start my blog tour the week of the thirteenth and I hope to land on a good number of websites to promote Cast for Murder.

This is a short post, in part because I’m working on another one. The cover reveal for Cast for Murder! I can’t wait to share it with you. Soon, I promise.

Enjoy your Sunday!

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Cast In Progress

Can you believe this is the last week of summer (well, the unofficial end of summer)? One more week and it’s back to school. Time to pack away the white clothing (or do you ignore the No White After Labor Day rule?) and pull out the fleece jackets for apple picking and pumpkin patch wandering. I love the approaching season, with its changing foliage, holidays, football, and cool weather. Autumn offers so much to anticipate, including the early 2018 release of Cast for Murder!

I’ve made progress on my self-publishing adventure since my last post. This past week Keri Knutson of Alchemy Book Covers and Design agreed to create a cover for Cast for Murder and on Friday I received the final edit of the manuscript. Thank you, Bethany Blair, for your deft editing! Bethany rooted out my misplaced commas and semicolons, repaired awkward sentences, and pointed out a few inconsistencies and repetition. For example, I had a few too many characters with eye colors in various shades of blue. Is this a case of not seeing the trees for the forest? Each book brings a new writing lesson; I now know to be on the lookout for the Blue-eyed Madness bug in my future endeavors.

This weekend I’m working on the formatting so I can give Keri the final page count for the paperback. She needs the exact number of pages to calculate the proper width of the cover’s spine. The task has forced me to exercise my Microsoft Word muscles (Word isn’t the best for formatting a book, but the budget is not unlimited). Section breaks, line spacing, and font size, oh my! Who knew odd and even page headers and footers were such a wild bunch and widows and orphans so challenging? The effort is doing an excellent job building my anticipation for the final product.

The weekend hasn’t been all work and no fun. I’ve been enjoying the gorgeous weather here in New York and hope the sun is shining and the temperature perfect wherever you are.

Enjoy the week!

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Veronica Returns

Summer greetings! It’s been a while since I’ve delivered a decent post; I apologize for my absence.

I’ve been busy the last few months finishing the third Veronica Walsh Mystery and searching for a new publishing home for the series (you might remember my January 2016  post announcing Five Star’s decision to end its mystery line). I’ve had terrific literary agent Jill Marsal leading the quest. Jill told me upfront how difficult it is to move a series to a new publisher and the outcome has proven her correct. Despite a tremendous effort, we’ve been unable to relocate Veronica and her friends.

This doesn’t mean the end for Veronica Walsh, my favorite fictional soap opera actress, boutique owner, and occasional amateur sleuth. I’m having too much fun writing Veronica’s adventures to stop. And I know a few of you enjoy reading those adventures.

So I’ll be self-publishing this third book, Cast for Murder. The manuscript is now in the hands of editor Bethany Blair and I will soon choose a designer to create a beautiful cover for the cozy mystery. I’m aiming for a late January/early February release in paperback and e-book formats.

You’ve probably deduced from the title that the storyline involves a performance. Here’s a peek at the third installment of the series:

Retired soap opera star Veronica Walsh makes her acting return in a community theater production of Blithe Spirit. Veronica is a happy boutique owner by day and actress by night in her Adirondack hometown, but soon must again assume the role of amateur sleuth when she finds the play’s director shot dead behind the theater. Teaming with stage-manager-turned-director Sophie Morrissey, Veronica’s hunt for clues to the murder of Gigi Swanson leads her to a cast of behind-the-scenes characters: Gigi’s rich husband who’s pursuing a political career, her partner in an interior design business, an event planner harboring a secret, and an embezzler with anger-management issues. A stunning Act Three conclusion leaves Veronica wondering if her acting comeback was such a great idea.

I’ll keep you updated on the progress of Cast for Murder in the coming weeks and months. Winter 2018 seems far away during these days of humidity and sunburn, but time flies when you have much work to get done.

I hope you’ve all had a great summer and are enjoying its final days. Have a terrific week, everyone!

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Happy Independence Day

Happy Fourth of July, everyone! Enjoy all the pleasures of this beautiful day, from the parades to the barbecues, the patriotic songs to the glorious fireworks!

 

 

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A Major League Day

A very happy Father’s Day to all dads!

This week Nick Clooney (father of George) joked Father’s Day is a “minor league holiday.” Say it isn’t so!

Let’s show our fathers how important they are to us. Give your dad a hug and tell him how much you love and appreciate him. Enjoy the day with your father and make him the best dinner he’s ever had. Watch the U.S. Open together or hit the links for your own round of golf. Spend time swapping family memories and making new ones. Maybe even crack open a photo album or watch home films of great family moments.

Today I remember my father, who passed away nineteen years ago, and am thinking of friends who are in mourning for their dads. Let’s also keep in our thoughts the fathers who have lost a child. To them we send comfort and prayers.

Have a wonderful day, everyone.

 

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Memorial Day

Americans today honor the men and women who gave their lives in service to our country. Let’s pause throughout the day to remember the brave souls who made the greatest sacrifice for our freedom and democracy. Let us also pray for our military families, particularly those who have recently lost a beloved member in the line of duty. The battlefield may be on another continent, but we must keep our heroes close to our hearts.

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