Category Archives: Mystery

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A WRITER: Hester Young + Book Giveaway

Posted by October 21st, 2015

THE GATES OF EVANGELINE on PenguinRandomHouse.comRemember in August when Putnam editor Kerri Kolen stopped by the blog and told us about books she was excited to publish this fall? Then you’ll likely recognize the name Hester Young–she’s the author of the supernatural thriller THE GATES OF EVANGELINE. Kerri’s enthusiasm for Hester’s writing is catching, and once you check out Hester’s debut, you’ll see why Putnam eagerly snapped up Hester’s next two books as well.

Here at Book Country, we’re excited to be giving away 3 hardcover copies of THE GATES OF EVANGELINE. Just in time for Halloween, this is a spooky read Publishers Weekly called “haunting, heartbreaking, yet ultimately hopeful.” Enter to win your copy here.

Read on as we spend the day with Hester, going behind the scenes of her life as a celebrated debut writer promoting her first book and hard at work on her second. Continue reading

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Janice Peacock: The Serendipitous Path to a Publisher

Posted by September 14th, 2015

HIGH STRUNGIt’s fabulous to have Book Country member Janice Peacock back on the blog this morning to celebrate the rerelease of her debut cozy mystery HIGH STRUNG, originally workshopped here on Book Country. Read on for the story of how Janice found her publisher, Booktrope.

A new edition of my novel, HIGH STRUNG: A Glass Bead Mystery, was released today. I had self-published my cozy mystery last year, but this time around it has been published by Booktrope—a real publisher—not just me winging it in the wee hours. And while this is exciting news, at least for me, the story behind how I ended up with a publisher is the stuff that good tales are made of: fear, dumb luck, bravery, and ultimately a happy ending.

In January I sat in a cafe drinking coffee with my friend Kim. The San Francisco Writers Conference was coming up in a month and I told Kim I was thinking about going, but that I was nervous about it. I was worried that I wasn’t a real writer, even though I had self-published a book the previous year. I hadn’t been writing for long and was worried that someone would expose me as an impostor or that I’d embarrass myself by being such a newbie.

Kim told me to go and just “breathe the air” at the conference. She encouraged me by saying that I didn’t need to do anything but be there and absorb what information I could.  The next day I sat at my computer, shut my eyes, and I clicked the Submit button on the registration form for the conference. I was going. And I was going to be brave.

A month later I stood outside the Mark Hopkins Hotel in San Francisco. I had arrived ridiculously early, so I sat in the lobby chatting with a couple from out of town, giving them sightseeing advice. When it was time for the first session, I filed into a large conference room with the rest of the attendees. The first thing the moderator did was ask each audience member who had brought a book that they’d written to hold it above his or her head. I held up my empty hand and told the moderator that I had sold the book I had brought to the tourists in the lobby, and received a small cheer.  Maybe the weekend was going to be okay after all.

Janice Peacock at SFWC

Janice Peacock at the San Francisco Writers Conference 2015, holding a copy of the self-published version of HIGH STRUNG.

I hadn’t signed up to do the Pitch-a-Thon, that was over-the-top intimidating to me. For the uninitiated, a pitch-a-thon is like speed-dating with agents and publishers, instead of potential mates. Authors move from table to table pitching their story in three minute sessions with the hope that an agent or publisher will be interested in seeing a full manuscript. The prospect of pitching my book scared me to death. Instead, I went and sat on a bench in the park across from the hotel, soaking in the sun during the pitching session. I had breathed enough conference air for the day.

 In the final hours of the conference, I sat at a round table in a ballroom with some of the other attendees. I’d learned a lot during the conference and I’d met authors like me who had a love of words, books, and stories. There was a raffle and I won a prize—a free pass to go to a Pitch-o-Rama hosted by the Women’s National Book Association in San Francisco. Of all the prizes, this was the one that I didn’t want. I was going to have to pitch my book to publishers and agents, the thing I’d so actively tried to avoid during this conference.

A few weeks later I was standing outside the Women’s Building at the Pitch-o-Rama, armed with my manuscript, business cards, and a look of grim determination. Okay, maybe not that grim, but determined, nonetheless. I’d done my research; I knew which agents and publishers I wanted to pitch my book to.  This event would be good practice. I could learn to talk about my book in a clear, concise, and exciting way. I didn’t need to find a publisher that day, I could continue to self-publish. But still, did I want a real publisher? Yes, I did. Continue reading

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Meet Putnam Editor Kerri Kolen

Posted by September 2nd, 2015

Kerri Kolen on Penguin.comSay hello to this morning’s blog guest Kerri Kolen, Executive Editor at G.P. Putnam’s Sons (Putnam), the Penguin Publishing Group imprint that holds the record for more New York Times hardcover bestsellers in the last two decades than any other imprint. Kerri’s going to be one of the fabulously knowledgeable panelists on the Book Country panel at the upcoming Slice Literary Writers’ Conference talking about “Unconventional Paths to Publishing.” Below she shares insights on what sets apart the books she acquires for Putnam, and what she’s excited about publishing this fall.

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LS: You are in charge of the nonfiction program at Putnam, where you edit books on a huge variety of subjects (including lots of books by famous people!). For the non-famous writers of nonfiction among us, can you tell us what qualities will set a manuscript apart for you?

KK: From Word One, the voice will set a manuscript apart. And then pretty soon thereafter, I will be able to tell if the writing is singular or not, as well. Those two qualities are so incredibly important for obvious reasons, but also because those are the qualities that are very difficult, if not impossible, to teach a writer or tease out in an edit. After that, depending on the type of book, I will always look to the narrative itself. What is the story? Is it new? Is it something that readers will feel compelled to tell all of their friends about? And of course, a platform is always very helpful. You don’t have to be famous to build a nice platform–whether it be on social media, with a blog or website, with a brand, with a voice to a larger community in some way or another. And then attached to that: how engaged is the audience? I’d take a smaller but highly engaged audience over a tremendous number of less engaged readers every time. The platform is not essential (and we would look to help the author with building a platform in the months between acquisition and on-sale) but it certainly helps me value the project.  Continue reading

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Ask a Literary Agent: Amy Cloughley Answers Your Questions

Posted by July 13th, 2015

Amy CloughleyPlease welcome literary agent Amy Cloughley of Kimberley Cameron & Associates to the blog today! Amy’s in the market to acquire the following types of books: Historical; Literary; Mainstream; Mystery and Suspense (all types but NO paranormal); Thriller (legal, grounded, psychological); Women’s Fiction; Adult Nonfiction (pop culture and humor, sports, narrative, memoir–travel). Like Book Country, Amy will be at the Pacific Northwest Writers Association Conference at the end of this week. If you’ll also be at #PNWA15, you’ll be able to find Amy at the Agent Forum on Friday, July 17, at 10:00am, and at Power Pitch Sessions A, D, & E on Friday and Saturday.

When do you need an agent?  How do you know when you are ready as a writer to take this step? – Claire Count

There are a variety of great options for publishing your work, but if your goal is to be traditionally published, your odds of success increase quite a bit if you work with a qualified agent. Although many small/mid-sized publishers will consider unagented work, most of the larger houses will not, and the publishers who do often give priority to agented submissions.

You will know you are ready to take this step when your manuscript (or book proposal for nonfiction) is your best, most polished work. Although an agent will often provide some feedback to clients, an agent is typically looking to take on projects/clients who are as close to ready for the marketplace as possible. So be sure to do your research and due diligence. What is the typical word count for your genre? Is your POV clear and consistent? Are your main characters fully developed? Is your pacing appropriate for your genre? Did you have quality beta readers provide feedback? Did you identify a few current comparable titles to include in your query? There are numerous websites such as WritersDigest or here at BookCountry, as well as countless books and classes, that cover how to prepare your manuscript for publication. Applying this information will help your manuscript get an agent’s attention. Continue reading

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How a Real-Life Murder Mystery in 18th Century New York Led to CITY OF LIARS AND THIEVES by Eve Karlin

Posted by March 18th, 2015

How a Real-Life Murder Mystery in 18th Century New York Led to CITY OF LIARS AND THIEVES by Eve KarlinWhile reading Eve Karlin’s historical fiction novel CITY OF LIARS AND THIEVES, which is published by Alibi, I was struck by Eve’s powerful use of imagery that made me feel like I was living in 18th century Lower Manhattan. The street names were familiar: Spring Street, Bowery Lane, Greenwich Street, Chambers Street, Wall Street. But the detailed description of the boats bobbing along the New York harbor, the gritty and packed city blocks, and the sounds of a growing working-class invoked the spirit of a different era. Eve shares the real-life murder mystery that inspired her to write CITY OF LIARS AND THIEVES and the questions she encountered during her research that led to her novel.

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I did not set out to write a historical novel. Six years ago, while reading a biography on Alexander Hamilton, I came across a reference to a story that reached out and shook me.

In December 1799, a young woman named Elma Sands vanished on the snowy streets of Manhattan. Twelve days later, her corpse was found floating in an abandoned well, and her lover, Levi Weeks, was arrested for murder. The brutal slaying of a beautiful girl rocked the city—as similar crimes do today—but it was the trial that made the case truly sensational: Levi was defended by Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr four years before their infamous duel. Continue reading

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“Everything is hard except for the story.” Interview with SUEDE TO REST Author Diane Vallere

Posted by February 18th, 2015

Interview with SUEDE TO REST Author Diane Vallere

I had a great time reading Diane Vallere’s SUEDE TO REST, the first book in the Material Witness Mystery series! Published by Berkley Books, SUEDE TO REST takes you to the accident-prone life of Poly Monroe as she discovers the truth behind the murder of her great aunt in her family’s textile store. SUEDE TO REST has recently been nominated for the 2015 Left Coast Crime Award for best humorous mystery novel. In this Q&A, Diane reveals what inspired her to write SUEDE TO REST and shares her advice to aspiring writers.

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Janet Umenta: You’ve worked in the fashion industry for twenty years. What was it like writing during that time?

Diane Vallere: I don’t love flying. My job as a buyer took me to some fabulous places, but there was pretty much only one way to get there. I would take my laptop and write as soon as we were allowed to use electronic devices. My first book was mostly written on flights to and from NY. Even today when I fly to a conference, I look forward to that time as solid, uninterrupted writing time.

After I moved from buying to sales, I wrote on my lunch break. I kept a table in the stockroom, sandwiched between back stock and dismembered mannequins! It was good training for being able to write on command. Continue reading

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Member Spotlight: Meet Jean Marie Wiesen

Posted by December 15th, 2014

Jean Marie Wiesen, Book Country Member SpotlightWe are happy to introduce Book Country member Jean Marie Wiesen! Jean is currently workshopping CASE OF THE MISSING LOOK-ALIKES, which was a November Editor’s Pick. Jean shares how she discovered Book Country and tips for building suspense in novels. Connect with Jean on Book Country

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Janet Umenta: How did you discover Book Country?

Jean Marie Wiesen: There’s an interesting story behind how I discovered Book Country. The phrase, “There are no coincidences,” most assuredly comes into play. I have a mutual friend with one of your soon to be published members, Alex Rosa, whose book, TRYST, is being launched by Penguin in March 2015.  Oh dear, is that a shameless plug by moi!  It most definitely is because if it weren’t for Alex, I wouldn’t be here. Originally, I’d planned a trip to the San Diego area right around Labor Day, but due to a variety of reasons, it was postponed until mid-October.  Had I gone in September, our mutual friend Randy more than likely would have been too busy to have chatted with me to discover that I’d written a book, and in turn, not introduced me to Alex. In October, things were far less active, and Alex had the time to spend with me and told me about Book Country and all of her positive experiences here.

Within a few days of my arriving home, my book was up for peer review on Book Country.  Alex stayed in touch with me the entire time via email. Continue reading

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Book Country Will Be at BoucherCon 2014!

Posted by November 11th, 2014

BoucherCon 2014 websiteI’m really looking forward to participating in BoucherCon 2014 in Long Beach, California, this week! If you are around on Thursday, come to the Book Country panel, where I’ll be showing Mystery and Thriller writers how to use Book Country to make their books better at the same time as they are finding their audience. This is a great chance to start building your author platform and online profile!

Lucy Silag photoHow Online Workshopping Gives Writers an Edge in a Crowded Market

Thursday, November 13th, 4-5pm, Hyatt Regency Conference Center, Seaview A

Book Country is Penguin Random House’s online writing and publishing community where thousands of mystery and thriller writers connect to get feedback on their books. Whether you are self-publishing or seeking a traditional book deal, your book is up against stiff competition. How can you improve your work, present it successfully to readers and the publishing industry, and grow your fan base? Please join Lucy Silag, Book Country’s Community and Engagement Manager, for a candid discussion about how online workshopping helps writers to hone their craft and improve their sales success rate once they publish. Go beyond social media to grow your online platform and achieve your writing and publishing goals.

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Bouchercon 2014 : Meet Alibi Editor Dana Edwin Isaacson

Posted by November 10th, 2014

Bouchercon 2014: Murder at the Beach kicks off November 13th in Long Beach, California. Bouchercon is one of the world’s largest crime fiction conventions. Dana Edwin Isaacson, Senior Editor at Alibi, shares what he his most looking forward to at Bouchercon.

ALIBI editor Bouchercon 2014Janet Umenta: What are you most looking forward to at Bouchercon 2014?

Dana Edwin Isaacson: During the e-publishing forum on Thursday, our Alibi authors are doing a virtual eBook signing, using our partner Autography. Interested mystery readers can meet our authors at the signings, get a personal inscription or photograph with the author, and then go and download their personalized eBook. As I’ve yet to see this incredibly cool innovation in action, I’m eager to get my own personalized eBooks!

I’m also excited to be meeting in person for the first time a few of our Alibi authors. When editing a novel, you develop an intimate relationship with the author’s viewpoint. It’s fascinating to meet in person someone whom you feel you already know.

JU:  What new trends do you see in the mystery and thriller genres?

DEI: Cozies are selling well. In online strategies, novels with a female protagonist find it easier to win readers.  Also, there seems to be an uptick of medical thrillers. Continue reading

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Book Country Editor’s Picks for November

Posted by November 6th, 2014

Book Country Editor's Picks for November 2014

We’ve selected 10 new manuscripts to be featured in the Editor’s Picks section on the Read and Review page. This November, we especially wanted to highlight the great selection of mystery, thriller, and NaNoWriMo titles on Book Country. We hope reading and leaving feedback will help you in your writing journey! Continue reading

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