Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Mad March, Edits, And The Most Amazing School Visit Ever


March is certainly for madness—where is this month going?? Maybe it’s the nice weather that’s making time fly, or my giant to-do list…
In any case, on the writing side, I’m almost done with edits on my crime novel for adults. This project has been a long time in the making, but I‘m finally seeing the end. I’m not quite ready to spill the beans too much (I prefer to keep works-in-progress close to the chest, for fear of jinxing stuff), but I’ll say that the working title is 39, and the novel is set in the Deep South. To be continued…
School Visits
I don’t normally talk about school or Skype visits, because it feels too much like I’m tooting my own horn… But man, did I have the MOST AMAZING SCHOOL VISIT EVER!
I was invited to Campus Middle School in the Denver area, where they host an annual event called One Book One Campus. The librarian Derek Phelan and his staff choose a book that they wrap a week’s worth of events around, including games, activities, and book-themed decorations throughout the school. The kids don’t know what book is chosen until the start of the event—this year, I was honored to be the invited author.
A thousand copies of Double Vision were handed out to the kids; I did presentations, and was pretty much treated like royalty. The whole school looked like Paris, which is where Double Vision is set. Super cool. The Villager (local paper) and the Cherry Creek school district both wrote lots of nice things about the event.
School visits are a good reminder that you can really make a difference as an author. What fun, and what an honor…

Mystery Books and TV
I’ve been reading Heartbreak Hotel by Jonathan Kellerman, which I’d say is one of his best. The premise of the story goes back to the 1950s, to crime bosses and Hollywood. My only (tiny) gripe is that I wish Kellerman had shared a bit more at the end of the book about whether any of it was based in real life history; it was fascinating stuff, and his writing always makes the reading pleasurable.
On the nightstand right now is The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware. This title came flew across my radar several times, recommended by various review sites, so I thought I’d give it a go.
So far, it’s a contemporary Agatha Christie with a side of Bridget Jones, on a cruise ship. I’m having fun reading this one. Easy to read, other than the sudden introduction of lots of characters (very Christie).
Mystery TV has me watching Major Crimes on TNT. Mary McDonnell is great, and the cast of characters is always nice to revisit—kind of like hanging out with friends. At Bouchercon (mystery fan conference) in Cleveland, the writers/producers hosted a panel for fans, and I was impressed by how hard they work to get the crime/cop/law stuff right.
For Writers
Come to Pikes Peak Writers Conference! I’ll be on faculty, along with a lot more famous people. It’ll be fun. Plus, Colorado Springs is a great place to visit; with some luck, you’ll catch the spring blooms and a bit of sunshine.
In the book department, I’m reading Be the Gateway by Dan Blank from We Grow Media, which came out earlier this month. I took a class led by Dan a few years ago, and have loved his personal, human approach to reaching readers, and enhancing productivity along with career satisfaction. Buy this book, follow his blog. Dan Blank sends out a newsletter every Friday that always has me inspired.  
What are you reading, watching, writing?


Thursday, February 2, 2017

February brings school visits, good karma, and new mystery TV and books

Welcome to February, the shorty of the months. Here in Colorado, we're getting a few warm days every now and then, which always cheers me up. I hope in your neck of the woods, you get a bit of spring thrown your way, too.

In the writing department, I'm putting a final polish on the crime novel-in-progress for adults before sending it off for edits, plus I'm starting a shiny new middle-grade novel. One of my writer buddies initiated a writing challenge for this month, so I'm joining in for fun. New writing is always good for the spirit.

And February is for school visits, too! Hot dog, the calendar is brimming with Skype visits, in-person visits--those are the best part of my job, honestly. Middle-graders are super cool.

For those of you looking to earn some good karma: author friend S.W. Lothian is building a little library for the oncology ward at the Princess Margeret Children's Hospital in Perth, so kids fighting cancer (and their families) can find a little refuge in a book. Donating is easy, and doesn't even have to cost you in postage (Perth being in Australia and all). Here's the post on S.W. Lothian's blog; contact him to help out!


Mystery Books

I'm reading the Edgar Award nominees for Best Novel this month; so far, they're all really good...

I'm in the middle of Alafair Burke's The Ex, which is having me stay up well past my bedtime. I fear I'll have no thoughts on who will win... What great reading--go check out the nominees here.

Mystery TV

We're Netflix and Amazon binge-watching nutters here in the Bradley house. In the past couple of months, we worked our way through Breaking Bad, Stranger Things, OA, Sneaky Pete (so fun!), Bosch, and now Travelers. I feel like we're living in the golden age of television at the moment, with the best stuff happening on these independent providers. Especially with the current state of politics, I gladly escape to some fictional world, don't you?

Any good TV shows you have to recommend?

Oh, and in recommended music, here's Barns Courtney's Fire. Has a cool, old-school vibe to it.


Thursday, January 19, 2017

Congrats to the Edgar Award nominees!

A quick shout-out to the nominees of the Edgar Awards, announced today (Mr. Poe's birthday) by Mystery Writers of America! This list always send me to the bookstore to add to my ever growing TBR pile...

Here are the nominees for the YA and Juvenile (that's the kid and MG category) mystery novels; you can find the full list on the Edgars website.

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)

Best YA:

Three Truths and a Lie by Brent Hartinger (Simon & Schuster – Simon Pulse)
The Girl I Used to Be by April Henry (Macmillan Children's Publishing Group – Henry Holt BFYR)
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)

Again, congrats to all the nominees!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

January is for new old plans

Most people hate Mondays, but not me. I love that first workday of the week for its promise of a new start, a beginning full of promise. January is kind of the Monday of the year, so I like this month, too. Call me crazy.

I'm making new plans, though most of 2017 will be about finishing what I started, so I guess there more new old plans, which I'd say is a good thing. I'm editing the crime novel project (no title to give yet) this month; here's a picture of the printed rough draft. I literally walk between the chapters, moving pieces around, taking notes, removing elements that don't work. I'm such a visual person... There's nothing like seeing your writing on paper when it comes to editing.

Mystery Books and TV

I'm all about setting this month, since my current work-in-progress has a very strong sense of place. So I'm trying to learn from the masters; one great author who nails setting is Michael Koryta, I think. I'm reading So Cold The River right now, after really enjoying The Cypress House.

I would love to hear it if you have any recommendations of author who are good at setting!

As far as TV goes, we watched both seasons of Bosch and loved it--I even got my not-so-into-mystery husband to like this series. I binge-watched River (British crime show) by my lonesome, it's also recommended. Great character in both these series.

For Writers

I'll be part of the faculty at Pikes Peak Writers Conference this year, very exciting. I'm always honored when I'm asked to speak, and this conference is one of the best for writers, I think (and I've been to a few by now...). If you're in Colorado at the end of April, come join me! There are some amazing authors (Tess Gerritsen, for one) on the faculty, so come and be inspired.

On the Web

I've been off the grid somewhat, since December is such a Sunday kind of month: nothing but holiday stuff and 'best of' lists. So I'll close with a picture I took at Rocky Mountain National Park instead, because I love the outdoors here in Colorado. Doesn't it make you feel all zen and stuff?

Happy New Year, all! I hope it brings you all the best, and good health.


Thursday, November 3, 2016

November Is For Writing


November is all about writing for me—partly because of NaNoWriMo (that’s National Novel Writing Month, in case you’re unfamiliar). I normally don’t join, because writing 50,000 words in one month is a bit much for me, especially since November includes Thanksgiving.
This year, I decided to unofficially quasi-join: I’m aiming to finish the first draft of a crime novel for adults I’ve been working on, plus a few chapters of a middle-grade, and maybe a short story or two. So not quite following the rules, but then I rarely do. I think I’ll get about half of that 50k in words—not bad for this writer.

Also, this November I’m hoping to start a new format for the blog. I considered packing up for a little while; blogging is sort of on the way out, and I sometimes feel like I’ve said everything I wanted to say.
But for now, I still like blogging. So I thought I might try posting the first Thursday (or so) of each month, and talk about more about mysteries in general—books, TV, movies—and about writing and other stuff. And maybe I’ll share a recipe or two. I hope you’ll stick around, guys!

Mystery books and TV

This month, TV and books intersect for me. I’m reading Michael Connelly’s latest novel, The Wrong Side Of Goodbye, and I’m also watching Bosch, the series based on his books. I’m a big fan of the books, so I was reluctant to watch the series. The old cliché is usually true: the books are always better than the movie.
But in this case, I was pleasantly surprised. The Bosch series is doing the character and the books justice, with a solid mystery and good attention given to police procedure accuracy (most of the time anyway).
I’m just starting season two; I’ll keep you posted.

One of my favorite crime writers, Greg Bardsley, has a new book out this month called The Bob Watson.
He told me about the concept of it a few years ago, and I've been awaiting the publication of this novel ever since. Go buy this book now!
Greg Bardsley is a brilliant writer; if you haven't read his first novel, Cash Out, you can start there if you like. Funny, sharp, and great. One of those writers whose books should all be made into movies...


For writers

I picked up a copy of Matt Bird The Secrets of Story, just in time for November’s go-go writing activities. So far, I’m loving it: he focuses on character, and gives lots of clear, practical and down-to earth advice.

I recommend you get yourself a copy if you’re looking for inspiration. 

On the web

I’ve been off the grid a little bit, since we’re remodeling the house and I’m still trying to keep the writing going. But I did find some newsworthy tidbits to share:

For you writer folk attempting NaNoWriMo, here are ten tips over at International Business Times. Hang in there…
Favorite kid author R.L. Stine is writing the story for a Marvel comic; get the story here at GalleyCat
Jessica Haight and Stephanie Robinson, the authors of the great middle-grade mystery The Secret Files of Ms. Fairday Morrow, ran a drawing contest where kids sent in some amazing artwork. Check out these drawings and their great blog over here; they always have something fun going on.
And for you artistic types, Dan Blank of WeGrowMedia has a brilliant post on creating the best environment to be creative, right here. Some great advice for darn near everything in life, I think.

Tip from me this November: unsubscribe from all unwanted emails, especially ones trying to get you to buy stuff (especially as the holiday season nears...). I did that just this week, and my inbox is already much quieter. Less (stuff) is more (time to write).
In the meantime, I hope you have a great November, full of writing, hot cocoa, and a little fall weather!

What are you up to this month..?

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Summer Projects

It's hotter than July here in Colorado, and it's not even July yet... I'm not such a fan of heat. But I will say that summer is good for writing for me, not sure why. Maybe it's the longer days, or that the sun kicks me out of bed earlier? In any case, I'm on a roll with writing, which is nice. 2016 is my year for holing up and writing some manuscripts, so let the words stack up, please.

One of my projects has me delving into music history a little, blues history in particular. So I'm listening to all kinds of oldies to get in the mood. And I also have some new music on the playlist-- this up-and-coming band Kaleo came across my radar. I was sure they hailed from the deep south, from some town in the Alabama or Mississippi mud, because that's the sound. Turns out Kaleo is from Iceland. I kid you not. Check it out:


I like being surprised, and I like it when the universe reminds me that not everything is so predictable. I try to use that little trick in my writing, too, when I think I can get away with it.

I'm not easily surprised anymore when it comes to books. I tried to think of an example, but can't think of a single book where a plot twist blew me off my socks.

Help me out, guys: any books that threw you for a loop?

Monday, March 21, 2016

March Madness

And my March Madness has nothing to do with basketball, just the crazy business that 2016 has brought.

So far, we had to dig our way out of a blizzard, had some family emergencies (now mostly resolved), and the whole house had a bonafide, nasty, more than two-week long flu. Get your flu shot, people, and don't be like me.

In any case, this year (and the end of last year, since I have some catching up to do...) did bring me some pretty cool books, so I thought I'd share.

First, I highly recommend The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow by Jessica Haight and Stephanie Robinson. It's such a cool, fun, classic MG mystery, my kids have already snatched it up and passed it to their friends. And I hear there's a sequel in the works... Go read this one, buy it for one of the kiddos in your life (or just for you :-)

In YA, I have to shout-out to great Alabama friend Carrie Dalby Cox, whose YA novel Fortitude came out recently. I've just started reading it, and it's really good...

One of the coolest parts about being an author is all the books I discover just by making friends. I also try to read beyond my friend book list (it's big!), and I try to keep up with what's written for adults too, so I don't completely stay out of touch...

In the for grown-ups department, I recently read The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood. The cover was so-so, made me think it was a cozy, or maybe not...? But the book is one of the best crime novels I've read in a long time. Check it out, you won't be disappointed.



In the writing department, I'm working on crime novel for adults, as well as brainstorming something new for the younger crowd. 2016 will be the year I curl up in a corner and write, which is very nice. I kind of feel like my cat Chloe in this picture; she's hiding in a paper bag, which is sort of the same thing. We're both observing the world from a safe spot.

How about you? What has been happening in 2016 so far for you?