Arnaldur Indridason: Strange Shores Wednesday, Oct 22 2014 

Strange Shores
Multi-award winning Nordic author sets his Inspector Erlendur series in Iceland, where the detective has had to tackle the ghosts of many other criminals’ lives. In Strange Shores he brings Erlendur to his childhood home to face the ghosts of his own past.

Erlendur’s entire life has been affected by the loss of his only sibling, a younger brother. Beggi’s disappearance in a sudden blizzard whilst the boys were on the moors with their father has left a hole in his heart. No trace of the boy was ever found, and he realizes he must discover what really happened to his brother.

The frozen fjords of Iceland, miles away from Reykjavik, present him with a distinct challenge as he camps out in the remains of his old home. The story of a woman who disappeared years before is brother has caught his interest, and he follows the scent of the two lost people, looking for clues to both of their endings.

It will be a long, plodding time, visiting people who are old and have tainted memories and secrets to hide. But Erlandur will persevere until he finds the answers to the questions he seeks. The ending will have readers riveted as Erlandur chases down a decadeds-old case.

These are moody, brooding novels that echo the chilly landscape, with subtle clues and a bone-chilling climax.

Tana French: The Secret Place Sunday, Oct 19 2014 

The Secret Place
Auntie M is a huge fan of Tana French’s books, so she was excited to read her newest, The Secret Place. And she’s happy to report it’s another incredible winner. This writer just keeps getting better and better, with complex and compelling plots, believable characters, and that gritty realism that has been her forte` all along.

One of the devices French uses is to bring a previously seen character into the new action, and she does just that in using Det. Frank Mackey (Faithful Place) and his daughter Holly as characters when Det. Stephen Moran, working Cold Cases, gets his chance at a murder case, and what a case it turns out to be.

Moran has been wanting to be part of Dublin’s Murder Squad and his chance appears in the form of Holly Mackey, who shows up at his precinct bearing a clue to the murder the previous year of a male student from the neighboring school of St. Kilda’s, where Holly boards.

The Secret Place is a board at St. Kilda’s where girls can leave notes, postcards and other messages of their secrets, a ventilation board if you will, and is usually a place of gossip and innuendo. This message is designed to bring back the stalled investigation, which has frustrated Detective Antoinette Conway, she of the sharp chin, slick clothes and demeanor to match.

Conway grudgingly allows Moran to accompany her to St. Kilda’s to interview the students. It quickly becomes whittled down to two sets of four friends, one including Holly Mackey. And here Moran gets his chance to shine. Conway interviewed all of these girls during the initial investigation. She allows Moran to play questioner and he lets his chameleon personality loose on each girl, divining which approach will lead to the most usable information.

The tension rises as the two detectives, not friends by any means, testing each other as they go along, throw out different theories and dig deeper and deeper into the lives of eight teenage girls. Who has the most to lose? Who would have the courage to whack a lone male teen over the head and leave him for dead? The dialogue is pure teen and yet they girls remain distinct and different. The two sets of four have completely different bonds, too, which in the end will lead to tragedy.

It is to French’s credit that we hardly realize all of these scenes take place over one tense day. She keeps the reader riveted to the page as the girls secrets are torn loose, with an ending so unexpected you will be as surprised as the girls are to find the real murderer. Just how far will someone go in the name of friendship an loyalty? Highly recommended.

Keigo Hiashino: Malice Wednesday, Oct 15 2014 

Keigo Higashino is Japan’s most widely read author and with good reason. His books are internationally translated, and include The Devotion of Suspect X, wihc was a finalist for the Edgar Award for Best Novel and for the Barry Award.
Malice

He’s new to Auntie M, but this won’t be the last of his books that she reads. Hs newest, Malice, features Detective Kyochiro Kaga, a mentally adept man who’s ratiocination rivals that of Sherlock Holmes in modern Japan.

What appears to be a classic locked room mystery turns out to be so much more when a bestselling novelist is found murdered in his home the night before a planned move with his second wife to Vancouver. His strangled body is found in his locked office within his locked house by his wife and his best friend, whom both have solid alibis.

When Det. Kaga arrives at the crime scene, he recognizes the best friend of novelist Kunihiko Hidaka as a former colleagues at the same public school from earlier days when they were both teachers. Kaga has gone on to the police force; Osamu Nonoguchi has left teaching to become a writer, mostly of children’s books. He has not achieved the same high level of success as his friend, the dead Hidaka, but it was the murdered man who introduced Nonoguchi to his own editor and allowed for the transition.

Told in alternating tales of Det. Kaga and the friend, Nonoguchi, the reader is thrust into a creative mind game of cat and mouse. Is Nonoguchi really the good friend to Hidaka that he claims or an unreliable narrator? And when the truth finally comes out, is there still more to be uncovered?

Just when the reader thinks the novel is over, Higashino throws another curve and Kaga must take off yet again. It’s this increasing spiral that will keep readers riveted to the page as Kaga matches wits with an uncanny killer. Fans of a true puzzle mystery will be delighted.

Debut Series: Clare Donoghue and Karin Salvalaggio Sunday, Oct 12 2014 

Never Look Back
Across the pond, UK author Clare Donoghue’s new series features DI Mike Lockyer, racing to find a serial killer in Never Look Back.

Lockyer, aided by a decent team headed by DS Jane Bennett, and burdened with a snarky psychologist he’s forced to endure, has an added motive to stop this killer: the victims bear an increasing resemblance to his own daughter.

As Lockyer and Bennett look for clues to the brutal murderer, a young woman finally makes a report that she’s being stalking by an unseen man. Sarah Grainger’s phone rings, a mysterious van appears on her block, she feels she’s being followed. Is she losing it or are her fears real? And how can Lockyer convince her it’s safe for her to leave her home, which has become her prison, when he can’t know the answer to that question?

With the body count at three murders, the stalker who might or might be the culprit, Lockyer tries to reestablish a fragile relationship with his estranged daughter, all the while fearing she may be the next victim.

Donoghue’s device is to tell some chapters from the perpetrator’s point of view, which adds a chilling layer to the story. But which one is this–the stalker or the murderer?

A convincing debut with its sense of urgency and a well-constructed plot.
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In the US, Karin Salvalaggio takes readers to the cold of Collier, Montana, in her debut Bone Dust White.
The opening has a powerful start that will hook readers immediately. Looking out her window, young Grace Adams sees a woman on the trails behind her house, and as she watches in horror, a man emerges from the shadows, stabs the woman and flees.

After a frantic call to the police, Grace goes out to the woman and is shocked to realize it’s her mother, who abandoned her years ago. Now recuperating from a heart transplant, in a fragile state physically and emotionally, Grace yearns for answer from her mother but the woman is dead.

Enter Detective Macy Greeley, heavily pregnant and not happy to be back in Collier to face some of her own old ghosts. Those include a paramedic she shares a past with, and an unsolved case involving Grace’s mother Leanne. With the woman dead, Macy must try to piece together the answers that eluded her so many years ago.

The setting is as bleak as the future most of its inhabitants face, and adds to the cold and calculating feel of the mystery. This one has gained prominence from readers who enjoyed her portrayal of the gritty town and its inhabitants almost as much as the suspenseful plot. Who is keeping secrets, and why?

Salvalaggio reveals just enough of Macy’s life and issues for readers to want to follow her in the next highly anticipated novel in this series that will entertain fans of Longmire and Craig Johnson.

NEW IN PAPERBACK: These previously reviewed books are all available now in paperback–

THE EDGE OF WATER: Elizabeth George’s second in her YA series featuring Becca, a young girl who can hear people’s thoughts. Set on Whidbey Island off the coast of Washington State.

THE GOOD BOY: Theresa Schwegel’s crime movie with eleven-year-old Joel Murphy and his father’s police dog, Butchie, highlight this thriller set in Chicago.

THE EGE OF NORMAL: Non-fiction author Carla Norton’s debut crime thriller featuring Reeve LeClaire, the young woman who was kidnapped and held captive from age twelve to sixteen. Helped by her therapist and friend, she can’t turn him down when Dr. Ezra lerner asks her to mentor a young girl rescued from a similar madman. A truly original protagonist.

Three Winners: Brown, Berry and Holt Sunday, Oct 5 2014 

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Andrew Brown won the South Africa Sunday Time Fiction Prize with Coldsleep Lullaby, a mix of modern mystery and historical fiction.

The steady pace of this dramatic premise will hold readers to the page. Fighting his own demons after the collapse of his marriage and an addiction to cocaine, Detective Eberard Februarie is handed the investigation into the murder of a woman found floating down a river in the old university town of Stellenbosch. With only a part-time reservist policeowman to assist him, he glimpses the body of the young woman, hit in the head hard enough to cause a skull fracture, her body dumped into the river while she was still alive.

The dead woman’s father is a respected university law professor, probably the university’s next dean, and known for his outspoken views on protection Afrikaans culture on campus. Was this murder a message to him?

Eberard’s investigation will lead him to a world of sexual depravity, and Brown’s parallel story of the town’s 17th century residents becomes a counterpoint to the modern investigation. The ideas of prejudice and redemption are underlined by the lullabies that begin each chapter, and this juxtaposition creates a chilling device.

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Steve Berry’s Cotton Malone thrillers have a juxtaposition of their own, balancing the historical thread of the story that propels the action of today.

In The Lincoln Myth, he successfully creates yet another page-turner from this internationally best-selling author.

In 1861, Abraham Lincoln receives a package from his predecessor, James Buchanan, sending on a secret that has been passed down through all the presidents from Washington.

In the modern world, Cotton Malone keeps trying to run his bookshop in Denmark, but calls for his help keep the former Justice Department agent returning to action.

In Utah, the remains have been found belonging to Mormon pioneers, murdered during their expedition in the 1800’s.

How all of these intersect, and how Malone finds himself thrust into the heart of a secret war over two hundred years old, form the basis for this adventure that will involved the fast-paced action with the skillful mix of historical facts and supposition that is the hallmark of the series.

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Jonathan Holt premiered his Carnivia trilogy with last year’s The Abomination and returns with the second installment in The Abduction.

Featuring the likable and unlikely duo of police detective Captain Kat Tapo and Lt. Holly Boland from nearby Camp Ederle, Venice in all its glory and squalor is the site of the action, with its virtual counterpart, Carnivia, in play. The hacker-proof world will be challenged, and force Carnvia creator Daniele Barbo to confront his ethics when the teenaged daughter of a US soldier disappears in Venice.

Then clues as to the girl’s whereabouts begin to appear on Carnivia’s site, leaving Kat Tapo flailing behind. She enlists intelligence analyst Holly Boland to help her rescue the girl. What they find will bring the darkest secrets to light they’ve encountered yet and have fingers reaching back into wartime Italy.

This is a skillful mix of history and terror that brings out an all-too plausible situation. Mia Elston, the abducted girl, is a resourceful young woman dealing with her kidnappers. The characters and setting are strong and the action is fast and furious as a second kidnapping occurs. An intelligent thriller.

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And switching moods, new from Witness Impulse as an ebook comes this debut lighthearted fare:
Killer WASPs
A Killer WASPs Mystery

Crime really stings in Killer WASPs (Witness Impulse e-book, on sale 9/16/2014, $1.99), a Witness Original from debut author Amy Korman. If you love cocktails, antiquing, parties, shopping and the occasional crime-lite thrown in amid vodka tonics and tennis matches at the club, then you’ll love Killer WASPs. The first installment in this modern and cozy series features crime, romance, and fun amid the classic estates of Philadelphia’s Main Line.

Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, is a haven for East Coast WASPs, where tennis tournaments and cocktails at the club are revered traditions. Little happens in the sleepy suburb, and that is the way the Lilly Pulitzer–clad residents prefer it. So when antiques store owner Kristin Clark and her portly basset hound stumble upon the area’s newest real estate developer lying unconscious beneath the hydrangea bushes lining the driveway of one of Bryn Mawr’s most distinguished estates, the entire town is abuzz with gossip and intrigue.

When the attacker strikes again just days later, Kristin and her three best friends—Holly, a glamorous chicken nugget heiress with a penchant for high fashion; Joe, a decorator who’s determined to land his own HGTV show; and Bootsie, a preppy but nosy newspaper reporter—join forces to solve the crime. While their investigation takes them to cocktail parties, flea markets, and the country club, they must unravel the mystery before the assailant claims another victim.

Fans of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series will enjoy shaking up the Philadelphia Main Line. To learn more, check out the Killer WASPs Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/killerWASPsseries.

Deborah Crombie: To Dwell in Darkness Friday, Oct 3 2014 

One of the issues with writing a series where the main protagonists have conquered their romantic fear and plunged into a committed relationship is worrying if there will continue to be the same chemistry for readers to enjoy.
Dwell in Darkness

Deborah Crombie has successfully conquered this in her series featuring London detectives Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James, married and raising a blended family. In her 16th outing, To Dwell in Darkness, she shows how it’d done: by creating a mystery plot that has tendrils that reach out into other areas, and by portraying the detectives family life with a sense of reality that keeps readers reaching for her books time and again.

Raising young children with parents who are detectives is always a juggling act, and readers see how Kincaid and James handle those demands that crop up in family life, whether it’s the disposition of suddenly acquired kittens or a young teen needing to clarify a house rule about letting strangers into their home.

The action this time centers around a small group of eco-protestors who live together and have decided to carry on a protest inside St. Pancras Station as a crowd gathers for a musical concert. Gemma’s sergeant, Melody Talbot, arrives at the event to watch her boyfriend, Andy Monahan, and his musical companion open the event. Both young musicians’ agents are in attendance when a sudden explosion changes everything.

A man is on fire, burned beyond recognition by what appears to be a bomb and turns out to a phosphorus charge. The results are horrific: besides the charred body of the dead man, Andy’s agent, Tam, suffers burns to his trunk. When Melody rushes to try to put out the fire, she’s momentarily aided by a distraught man who suddenly disappears. And her own respiratory system is affected by the bomb.

Duncan Kincaid will be the senior investigating officer on this case, his first after an unexpected transfer takes him from Scotland Yard to head a new murder team out of Holborn Station. He still questions the move and his one ally higher up the channels has taken a sudden leave and is unavailable. It feels like a demotion, without explanation, and Kincaid must adjust to his new team and how they work together–or don’t.

When it’s determined from the protestors that the dead man is indeed from their group, but was supposed to set off only a smoke bomb, Kincaid must investigate how the bomb was switched and who was behind it, even as he tries to find the other witness, the man who assisted Melody and appears to have vanished into thin air.

There are other threads here, as a good read should have, with Gemma sorting out her own case and missing Melody’s assistance. But the main thread this time is Kincaid’s, and not all of his questions will be answered at the surprising end of this well-wrought mystery.

Auntie M always enjoys reading Crombie’s work, with one of the highlights her chapter epigrams, which contain historical information about the area where that mystery is set. Readers learn about London and its suburbs as they are surprised by the turn of events. Highly recommended.

Four Greats: Hannah, Billingham, Ahmad and Harvey Tuesday, Sep 30 2014 

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Sophie Hannah’s psychological novels are powerhouses for writers, grand examples of ingenuity when it comes to plotting. It’s probably one reason Agatha Christie’s estate chose her to write the new Poirot novel debuting this month. She’s back with The Telling Error, as original as all of her previous novels.

Her Zailer/Waterhouse series is notable for these reasons, and for how she chooses to use a new protagonist for each new novel, despite the married detective duo and some of their family and colleagues being repeat characters. On her way to her son’s school Nicki Clements gets stuck in traffic and sees a police officer she doesn’t want to encounter again. Doing a U-turn, Nicki heads away, only to find herself brought in for questioning the next day about the murder of controversial newspaper columnist Damon Blundy, who lived on that road. While she may not have murdered Blundy, Nicki has plenty of secrets she needs to keep.

The book takes off in a clever, tautly-plotted psychological thriller which explores pertinent issues of our modern lives: the prevalence of the internet’s importance, the influence of the media, as well as the public’s relationship with the police. And of course, the way in today’s world where one can never, ever be truly anonymous.

Nicki’s secrets get her into trouble. She’s an interesting mixed character, evoking sympathy and anger all at once. Her use of a secret ad site is interspersed with the excerpts of the dead man’s columns. And her secrets will bring her under suspicion, but she’s unable to answer the police’s main questions. This killer has used a knife in a way that brings about death without blood, and painted across the victim’s study: HE IS NO LESS DEAD. What, exactly, does that mean?

Nicki’s actions are artfully explained through her history, and the duality of her personality remains intact at the end of this absorbing novel. Highly recommended reading.
bones beneath

Opening about six weeks after The Dying Hours, Mark Billingham brings DI Tom Thorne back in his twelfth novel, The Bones Beneath.

Insisting that he will only deal with Thorne, Stuart Nicklin, the most dangerous serial killer Thorne has put in prison, claims he will reveal the whereabouts of one of his early victims–but only if Thorne is present.

To do so means not only taking Nicklin from prison, accompanied by two guards, but a tense overnight journey to a remote island off the coast of Wales where Nicklin spent time as a youth, and where he will supposedly show them where this body is buried. It smacks of manipulation–and Thorne thinks he’s prepared for Nicklin’s games, but only to a point, for he has no idea just how far this maniac will go.

Thorne knows Nicklin enough to know this and prepares for the worst, but even he could not imagine how devious the prisoner will become–or just how severe will be the choice he will be forced to make. Nicklin’s schemes result in more deaths and leave behind scars both external and internal that will not soon heal.

It is difficult to do this plot justice without revealing too much of the action. Trust Auntie M then when she tells you that you will be swept up in the horror Thorne is forced to endure from the machinations of a manipulative psychopath.

LastTaxiRide
A. X. Ahmad caught Auntie M’s attention with The Caretaker and its intriguing protagonist, newly-immigrated Sikh Ranjit Singh.

He brings Singh back in The Last Taxi Ride, an absorbing and fast-paced follow-up that left author Peter May commenting: “Wow! Barely had tie to fasten my seatbelt. A. X. Ahmad takes us on a breathtaking roller coaster rider through an underworld most of us would never guess existed.”

High praise from a master; well-deserved and to the point. Ahmad brings Singh, now divorced, to New York City to work as a taxi driver, trying to raise enough money to have his daughter, Shanti, join him from India. He recognizes the Bollywood actress Shabana Shah when he gives her a ride to The Dakota.

Hours later, Singh is in trouble: Shah is found dead, brutally murdered, and Singh has eaten dinner in her vacant apartment with his friend, a former solider colleague who works as a doorman at the famed co-operative. With his fingerprints all over the crime scene and the murder weapon, he must lie low while trying to clear his name.

Into this mess, and with his doorman friend and only alibi missing, he turns to a young hostess, Leela, for help from the underworld Shah has become mixed up in–and finds himself once again using his soldiering skills and help from Leela and other taxi friends to clear his name and find out what really happened that night in the apartment.

With it’s noir-type feel, this is a realistic look at a world few of us will know about.

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John Harvey’s twelfth Charlie Resnick novel is the one the author swears will be his last. Darkness, Darkness joins the pantheon of other Resnick novels, along with his Frank Elder series, stand-alones, and many other writings from this prolific and accomplished author, one of Auntie M’s favorites.

This time we revisit the miners strike in England of third years ago, which turned neighbors against each other, and in some households, wife against husband.

Resnick, not enjoying retirement, is forced to recall the days when he was made inspector, and despite his ambivalence about some of the tactics the police used, found himself gathering information at the center of the strikers actions.

When the body of a young woman who disappeared during the strike is found at one of the houses in Resnick’s territory, his familiarity with the miners and residents at the time make him the perfect detective to be asked to join the investigation into her murder.

As he delves into his own past and that of the murdered woman, Resnick hopes to put the case, and his career, to rest. A satisfying and adept ending to a long and storied career for detective and author alike.

Catherine Aird/Dead Heading and Peter May/Entry Island Sunday, Sep 28 2014 

deadheading

With over twenty books in print, Catherine Aird is a master of the country village crime. In Dead Heading she brings her detecting duo of Sloan and Crosby in full form as they search for the reason someone ehas broken into Jack Haines greenhouse and destroyed his crop of specially-grown orchids. And what is the importance of the names of these orchids?

At the same time they become aware of a missing person: Miss Enid Maude Osgathorp travels frequently and is assumed away on a trip. But her deserted home shows signs of being ransacked, with traces of blood on the floors, and their antenna twitch away as quickly as the lace curtains at most village windows.

Aird’s dry wit is on view here as the detectives investigate what turns out to be linked cases.

There will be another greenhouse break-in as the suspects mount up and they learn that dear Miss Enid used to be the doctor’s receptionist and was perhaps not above using her local knowledge to fund her travels.

There’s a suicide, a bonfire, and then a dead body shows up … and there’s still the destruction of hundreds of baby orchids to unravel.

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Peter May is back after the success of the Lewis trilogy with another book that combines the history of a place tangibly linked to the story. Entry Island takes readers to the Gulf of the St. Lawrence and the Magdalen Islands, a rare mix of English and French isles.

His Detective Sime Mackenize, named for a Scottish ancestor, is happy to escape Montreal and his pathetic existence since his marriage fell apart. The insomnia that plagues him represents his loneliness and he’s not in the best frame of mind when he alights on the English-speaking Entry Island, home to less than 130 people, to investigate the murder of its wealthiest inhabitant.

James Cowell had married an islander, the lovely Kirsty, who presence immediately feels too familiar to Sime. It’s a sensation he can’t escape: he knows her. But that’s impossible.

As, it seems, is her story that a masked intruder attacked her in the home with a knife and when James intervened, was stabbed for his efforts. The intruder ran off and Kirsty attempted CPR but was unable to save James from his wounds. Covered in his blood, it’s difficult to establish if there are any other footprints.

With his team and half the island convinced Kirsty killed James over his affair with the Mayor’s wife, she doesn’t stand much of a chance of a fair hearing. Until Sime, convinced he is missing something important, insists on continuing the investigation to almost disastrous consequences.

Chapter of the present are presented with alternates from the past, snatches of memory from Sime’s relatives diary as he remembers stories his grandmother read to him and his sister from it. What connects this past with Sime and Kirsty? The signet ring he wears is the same design as a brooch she’s inherited. Until that brooch is taken and Sime doesn’t know if he can believe Kirsty’s story about her past, her reluctance to leave Entry Island, and her insistence she didn’t kill her husband.

Intricate and compelling, a read that will fill your sense of history. Auntie M always enjoys May’s books because she learns so much from them. And you will, too, while enjoying the intricacies of the plot and Sime’s investigation.

Elizabeth Corley: Grave Doubts Wednesday, Sep 24 2014 

This fall Auntie M is departing from her usual weekly post routine. Instead, every few days there will be new review of a great book or books she’s read all summer long for your fall reading.

First up is a UK writer you should be reading if you haven’t yet: Elizabeth Corley.

Grave Doubts
Elizabeth Corley’s third DCI Andrew Fenwick mystery, Grave Doubts, is every bit as complex and thrilling as the first two.

Described as “part psychological thriller and part haunting crime novel” by Minotaur, the journey she takes her characters and readers on will leave you reading on the edge of your seat.

The story focuses on Fenwick’s recovering Sergeant, Louise Nightingale, who survived and ordeal from a serial rapist who would have murdered her. Trying not to dwell on the case, she finds herself a jumble of nerves, and after the car accident that takes both of her disapproving parents lives, seeks solace in a run-down and remote mill house that has been in the family.

At the same time, DCI Fenwick is coping with the continued coma of his wife while he parents his two young children and tries hard not to let his job interfere with his time with them. With the arrest of horrible serial murderer, he thinks the country is that little bit safer. Then the murders start again, but with the perpetrator behind bars, have they arrested the wrong man?

Despite many colleagues’ and superiors’ misgivings, it becomes clear to Fenwick that Nightingale is the killer’s ultimate revenge. If he can only figure out where she’s hidden herself away and get to her in time …

This has more twists and turns than usual and will keep you flipping pages, with its complicated plot and the feeling that evil people do exist. Chilling and disturbing with high suspense.

Susan Sloate: Author and Writing Coach Sunday, Sep 21 2014 

In the interests of mixing things up and bringing you great information, here’s a post from author and writing coach Susan Sloate for all of the writers and would-be writers who read Auntie M Writes. Welcome, Susan~

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When You Can’t Do It Alone…
By Susan Sloate

If you’ve ever spent time dreaming of being a writer, it’s inevitable that you’ve also begun to collect depressing writer stories. You know the ones I mean. They’re either those terrible stories of writers being disgustingly productive, or worse, writers who produce one book and shoot to everlasting fame and fortune.

About the only thing more awful than productive-writer stories or overnight-fame stories is the meant-to-be-soothing comment from some idiot friend when you point them out: “Isn’t that inspiring? See, you can do the same thing.”

Anyone who has heard such garbage and restrained themselves from reaching for the nearest shotgun, in my opinion, qualifies for immediate sainthood.

In the overnight-fame category is Margaret Mitchell, whose first (and only) novel, Gone with the Wind, became an overnight success, selling five thousand copies on the day of publication and going on to sell a million hardcover copies in less than six months.

Put it in perspective: the little lady from Atlanta wrote her enormous book (1,037 pages) on a rickety card table over a span of ten years, showing it to no one except her husband, who acted as her editor. She then sold it (for a $500 advance) to the first publisher who ever saw it, and to add insult to injury, the publisher had to beg her to let him see it. (True story: Mitchell didn’t think the book was any good, so when Harold Latham of Macmillan came to Atlanta looking for new authors and books, she met him socially but refused for several days to show it to him. Could you just puke?)

As if that isn’t enough to make you gnash your teeth, because of the book’s length, the original hardcover edition sold for $3—which was significant because 1936 was the height of the Great Depression, and a loaf of bread cost six cents. Yet before the end of that year, Margaret Mitchell earned almost half a million dollars in royalties. (God help her accountant.) And she was the leading celebrity in Atlanta, and one of the most famous in the world, for the rest of her life.

Much as that story makes me want to weep, what brings tears to my eyes faster are the productive-writer stories. Consider this (and please, if you have suicidal tendencies, stop reading right now. I won’t be responsible for your actions):
Walter B. Gibson, under the pseudonym Maxwell Grant, was a ridiculously prolific author of pulp fiction, best known for his stories about The Shadow, the crime-fighter Orson Welles famously voiced on the radio show based on Gibson’s character. The Shadow was so popular, and the demand for his pulp-fiction stories was so high, that at its peak, Gibson was writing—gulp—up to 24 books per year, of about 50,000 words each. He actually had to bandage his fingers because they bled from how often they struck the keys of his (manual) typewriter.

When I read that, in Max Allan Collins’ brilliant novel, The War of the Worlds Murder (highly recommended—it’s wonderful), I had to lie down with a cold cloth on my head. Just thinking about someone writing 24 novels in one year (when I’m happy to write one during Nanowrimo), is enough to make you want to smash your computer, burn your notebooks and maybe bite your dog.

So before you slit your own wrists, remember this: these stories are out there because they’re the exception, not the rule. Most of us can’t write that fast, or that well, or for that long. Most of us don’t become fantastically famous, even if we’re genuinely wonderful writers and have well-reviewed books that pick up accolades, awards and move high up on the bestseller lists. And honestly, if Mitchell and Gibson were writing today—I’ll bet even they might have some trouble getting noticed as well. It’s a different era.

As an author who speaks before aspiring authors, I’ve found myself answering a lot of questions: how do you get published, how do you market your books, how do you get noticed, how do you navigate the whole crazy maze of the book world without losing your sanity or your ability (and drive) to write more? How?
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Obviously I can’t answer these questions in a single blog post, and after years of answering them with hundreds of writers, I’ve realized I can’t answer them to anyone’s satisfaction in a brief conversation. But I do feel for all the writers embarking on their paper journeys, and want to help as many as possible. What I’ve learned is that despite the solitary nature of a writer’s life, what we often need as much as inspiration is a coach—someone to lay out a game plan for both publishing and marketing, hold us accountable for working it and encourage us every step of the way. Once upon a time, a writer could just write, and rely on others for the rest. It’s a different world out there today, and you need to be prepared for it.

I took on my first clients as a writer’s coach this past spring and now offer my services (with limited spots available) on a one-on-one basis to writers everywhere. Some writers want help with structuring or revising their novel. Others are looking for practical advice on publishing. Still others have navigated those waters but are now looking for a step-by-step marketing plan to announce their book to the world.

As the author of 20 published books, I’ve been involved in traditional publishing with major houses, small-press publishing and self-publishing. I’ve been through revisions, the editing process, the galley process, creation of the book cover, the writing of the blurbs, the press releases and the book launch. I’ve made two of my books Amazon bestsellers (there’s a whole strategy for that, which is great for enhancing your book’s credibility). As a story analyst for more than 30 years, I’ve helped hundreds of writers with structure, characterization, plot, theme and more.

I may not always know all the answers, but I sure am familiar with the questions.

If you’re struggling and wishing you could be the next Margaret Mitchell or Walter Gibson, and you feel as though you’ve hit a wall and can’t go beyond it without some help, please check out my website at http://susansloate.com and click on the tab ‘Coaching for Writers’, which explains my services. Or send me an email at susan@susansloate.com for more information.

It used to be writers could be solitary. Now they either need a team—or have to become their own. Either way, turning over all the decisions to someone else is no longer an option for us. There’s greater opportunity than ever on the road ahead—if you can avoid the pitfalls and stay on your path to the end. I’d be happy to help if I can.

Best of luck with YOUR journey!
Author photo - Susan

Susan Sloate is the author of 20 published books, including three novels published in a single 90-day span last fall: STEALING FIRE, FORWARD TO CAMELOT (with Kevin Finn) and REALIZING YOU (with Ron Doades). STEALING FIRE became a #2 Amazon bestseller and took finalist honors in the 2014 Readers’ Favorite Book Awards. The original 2003 edition of FORWARD TO CAMELOT became a #6 Amazon bestseller, took honors in 3 literary competitions and was optioned for film by a Hollywood production company. All 3 books earned five-star reviews from Readers’ Favorite book reviewers.

Susan has also written 17 young-adult books, fiction and nonfiction, which have been honored in literary competitions and led to her 2009 TV appearance on The History Channel (as a result of MYSTERIES UNWRAPPED: THE SECRETS OF ALCATRAZ). She has founded an authors’ festival in her hometown of Mount Pleasant, SC and has recently begun coaching writers to success in book publishing and marketing.

Visit her at http://susansloate.com.

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