Monthly Archives: September 2013

Member Spotlight: Meet Romance Writer Samantha Jane

Posted by September 30th, 2013

Samantha Jane photoRomance writer Samantha Jane has been on Book Country right from the site’s launch in 2011, workshopping books and eventually going on to publish her first novel, PHYSICAL THERAPY, via the Book Country publish tools. PHYSICAL THERAPY, a contemporary romance, was released two weeks ago. I wanted to chat with Samantha to find out what life’s been like since she published her debut, and what’s next for her writing.

LS: You’ve got a lot of different genre interests as a writer: Contemporary Romance, Regency Romance, Romantic Suspense . . . very impressive! What draws you to these 3 categories, and are there other categories you are planning to try next?

SJ: I have always been big on variety, especially as a reader. While I love to see the struggle of couples of today and how everything plays out, I’m a person who tends to live in the past—and the historical novels with pirates and gypsies and lords and ladies definitely fit that bill.

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Mystery Versus Thriller: How to Tell the Difference

Posted by September 27th, 2013

Quite often, I walk over to Nevena‘s desk at the Book Country offices to ask her what genre a certain book is, such as NIGHT WATCH by Linda Fairstein, which I’ve been reading this week. NIGHT WATCH is one of Fairstein’s Alex Cooper novels: murder mysteries starring a Manhattan District Attorney who specializes in sexual assaults. Seems like it would be pretty easy to figure that one out: Alex is investigating a case, the main characters work in law enforcement . . . it’s a police procedural, right?

Not so fast. Nevena, having fastidiously read her “genre bible” (THE READERS’ ADVISORY GUIDE TO GENRE FICTION by Joyce G. Saricks), needs to know much more information about a book before she can make her final judgment on what genre it is. Once we chat about the book for a while, Nevena deems NIGHT WATCH a legal thriller. Here are some of the major deciding factors when you are trying to decide whether a book is Mystery versus Thriller:


mystery Thrillers, even literary thrillers, tend to have short, simple titles: NIGHT FILM, GONE GIRL, THE HARD WAY, THE FINAL CUT. The titles tell us the story is fast-paced and to the point. Mysteries, on the other hand, often have more complicated or lyrical titles: THE AMERSHAM RUBIES, WHOM THE GODS LOVE, and THE NO. 1 LADIES’ DETECTIVE AGENCY (Alexander McCall Smith has the BEST titles, IMHO!). Cozy mysteries in particular are given to very whimsical titles like DO OR DINER (of the Comfort Food series by Catherine Wenger) and MURDER AT THE PTA by Laura Alden. NIGHT WATCH–two punchy, easily articulated syllables–is a perfect title, then, for a thriller.

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Writing Historical Mystery: Research, Setting, Plot, and Character Development with Author Luke McCallin

Posted by September 26th, 2013

The_Man_From_Berlin_cover Luke McCallin’s debut mystery novel, THE MAN FROM BERLIN, is a deep dive into the shadowy world of the Nazi occupational police forces in Sarajevo in World War II. The story, the first in a series, introduces us to Captain Gregor Reinhardt, a classic lone wolf investigator up against incredible institutional odds: No one–from the higher echelons of the Nazi war machine to the local police force–wants the truth about the grisly murder of a top Nazi officer and a politically active local journalist to come out. I chatted with the author about writing historical mystery: his research process, plotting strategies, and the ways he made his complicated setting easily accessible to the reader.

LS: What was it about Sarajevo that made it such a compelling area to write about? Did you have a formal research process as you wrote?

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Cozy Mystery Guideposts: Start with an Amateur Sleuth!

Posted by September 25th, 2013

cozy_postMystery subgenres are usually self-explanatory: police procedurals feature detectives in uniform and historical mysteries are set in the past. But there’s one category that stops writers in their tracks: “What the heck is a ‘cozy’ mystery?”

Here’s our Book Country definition:

Cozy Mystery is a subgenre of mystery, usually set in a small town or village. Cozies are characterized by their lack of explicit sex and violence. The protagonist is usually a likable female amateur sleuth, who is often viewed as an annoyance by the local police.

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Literary Agent Lucy Carson Reports from Bouchercon 2013

Posted by September 24th, 2013

Lucy Carson-Jacobia Dahm_Photography-001Bouchercon 2013, the world’s leading convention for crime fiction readers and writers, was last weekend! Since we couldn’t make an appearance, we enlisted Lucy Carson, a literary agent from the Friedrich Literary Agency, to be our eyes and ears at the event. 

Here’s Lucy’s report of this year’s Bouchercon. 

You just came back from Bouchercon 2013! What’s new in the world of mystery?

Things are certainly shifting. There was a lot of not-fully-articulated genre discrimination, depending on who is bending your ear. Writers who consider themselves hard-boiled did a bit of cozy-complaining and vice versa. I was amazed at the number of writers who were self-publishing multiple books in a series and then deciding that book #3 or #4 would now be submitted to major publishing houses. Mystery writers are often folks who write quickly and in high volume, so I think there’s sometimes an impatience to publish, which shouldn’t trump strategy. The most common swag items were printed products like bookmarks and basic card stock with excerpts and cover art. A lot of folks were bemoaning the recent closures of some beloved mystery bookstores, but carrying Kindles to solicit author signatures (!). There was an overall atmosphere of excitement, and the “big shot” authors were incredibly gracious with their time in talking to each fan who approached them. It’s a supportive community full of voracious, loyal readers.

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Member Spotlight: Meet Writer Alys Arden

Posted by September 23rd, 2013

alysarden_bookcountryAlys Arden is a Book Country writer from New Orleans. We first came across Alys’s young adult paranormal novel-in-progress THE CASQUETTE GIRLS a few months ago, and it was the first book Lucy reviewed when she joined us in July! We wanted to catch up with Alys and learn more about the inspiration behind her young adult book.

NG: Thank you for joining us. How did you become a writer?

AA: I made a 2012 New Year’s resolution, never thinking that anything would come of it other than a bunch on fancy to-do lists. But once I started writing, it kind of became an addiction, like going to the gym can be if you can just manage the pain of the first couple of weeks.

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Shannon LC Cate’s Release of JACK: It Took a Community

Posted by September 20th, 2013

"Mama doesn't like boys, but Jack's not like most boys."

“Mama doesn’t like boys, but Jack’s not like most boys.”

Today is the book birthday of JACK (Musa Publishing) by Book Country veteran member Shannon LC Cate, who was recently a guest on our member spotlight. A book birthday—the day your book hits store shelves for the first time—is a momentous event in a writer’s life, and Shannon has chosen to celebrate it by acknowledging the people who have helped her along the way.

I will give the stage to Shannon now, but first, on behalf of the entire Book Country team:



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Writing Cozy Mystery: an Author Interview with Amanda Lee

Posted by September 19th, 2013

Amanda_Lee_author_photoWe’ve been talking about mysteries this week, so we turned to author Amanda Lee for insight about writing a cozy mystery. Amanda has two amazing series under her belt: the Embroidery mysteries and the Myrtle Crumb books she’s written as Gayle Trent. Also, hers is our favorite definition of the cozy mystery genre; she calls it: “Desperate Housewives meets Mayberry RFD. Everyone knows everyone, but someone has a deep, dark secret.”

Here, we chat with her about her craft, as well as her most recent Embroidery mystery, CROSS-STITCH BEFORE DYING.

NG: What draws you to writing cozy mystery?

AL: When I was a child, I loved the Nancy Drew books and Enid Blyton’s series, The Secret Seven. As I got older I enjoyed reading Victoria Holt. I was drawn to those types of books–and still am!–because I like to solve puzzles and get caught up in mystery and suspense, but I don’t want to be grossed out with a lot of bloody, gory imagery. I love TV mysteries too. With both venues, I like trying to figure out “whodunit” and why before the big reveal. I like to get it right, but it’s even better if I’m surprised…given that the writers don’t “cheat” the watchers or the readers!

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Before You Query a Literary Agent: Sara Megibow Shares Her Best Tips

Posted by September 18th, 2013

sara_sized_160x240Sara Megibow is a literary agent from the Nelson Literary Agency representing primarily genre including romance, science fiction/fantasy and young adult/middle grade books. Not only has she midwifed some of our favorite books—our own Michael R. Underwood’s GEEKOMANCY, Tiffany Reisz’s THE SIREN and Jason M. Hough’s DARWIN ELEVATOR—but she’s been educating the world about publishing and writing on Twitter for years! Sara runs the fantastic #5pagesin5tweets Twitter series, where she looks at the first five pages of a submitted manuscript and tweets about it. We asked her share advice on what’s needed before you query a literary agent. -NG.


Think of your manuscript as a canvas. A painter steps in front of a canvas to craft a painting. That painter uses different brushes, different colors, different techniques, even different kinds of paint to create her/his art. This is how I think of writing. Same thing–the writer has different tools at her or his disposal to tell a story. That writer can use dialogue, back story, conflict and plot, world building, body language, action/reaction and any number of devices to tell a story. When I’m reading submissions, I’m looking for balance. No one is getting a rejection simply because paragraph two on page three has too much dialogue. Rather, the overall storytelling in the first five pages is what I’m evaluating.

Some words I’d use to describe excellent submissions I’ve read over the years: effortless, authentic, surprising, engaging, unique, balanced.

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Memoir Writing Like You Are Already Dead: Author Interview with Domenica Ruta

Posted by September 17th, 2013

If you’ve spent any time on Book Country’s Memoir writing genre page or on the Discussion Boards, you’ll know that I am mad about memoir. Domenica Ruta’s Spiegel & Grau debut, WITH OR WITHOUT YOU, is billed as a “darkly hilarious chronicle of a misfit ’90s youth,” but don’t be fooled into thinking this isn’t serious work by a serious new writer. Ruta writes with disarming candor about life growing up with her vivacious, drug-addicted mother, Kathi, and also of her own struggles with alcohol and her subsequent recovery. WITH OR WITHOUT YOU is nothing less than the story of a writer claiming the truth of her own life, however subjective that might be.

Domenica RutaLS: It seems to me that the very thing a memoir writer needs to make their work successful—bare-bones honesty—also make the prospect of publishing a memoir terrifying. WITH OR WITHOUT YOU is particularly candid: No one is safe from your gaze, from your mom to your dad to your high school boyfriend to yourself. How did you maintain that level of fearless disclosure as you wrote? Did you ever have doubts about making so much of your life public, and if so, how did you overcome them?

DR: The advice I gave not too long ago to a friend dabbling in memoir was to write the first draft as though you were already dead. What would you say if you never had to hear any criticism from anyone ever? This is a good point of departure for writing the first draft of anything, even fiction, but it is especially helpful with memoir. You cannot censor yourself in the early drafts or you will destroy the integrity of the work. In the process of rewriting the drafts that followed, however, I totally considered audience, both personally–like my family–and the larger public. Through the process of rewriting it became clearer to me what was necessary to say, what was bitterness I needed to let go of, what was harmful to others, what was an essential truth I couldn’t hold back. These are not decisions I could make up front; it’s a process of discovery. Then, when it was all done, I told myself any fire that comes my way as a result of what I’ve written is a fire I’ve earned honestly.

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