Monday, February 23, 2015

Sometimes a Big Mouth Can Be a Good Thing

 This morning I met a friend for coffee and we talked about, what else, books. We also talked about promoting said books and creating a buzz, something I’ve posted about in the past. Today I’m focusing on readers, not writers. Yes, most writers are also readers.

I firmly believe word-of-mouth is the best advertising. Think about it. How many times have you read a book or watched a television show because a relative or your best friend, or maybe a neighbor, said it was the best thing they’ve read or watched since sliced bread? They’re enthusiastic and want to share their excitement with you.

Let’s say you read a book recently that you truly enjoyed. Did you tell anyone about it? Here’s something I read, but at the moment I can’t remember where. Think about how many people you know. We’ll use the number fifty for today. What the heck? Let’s make that a hundred people between work, family, friends and acquaintances. You’ve read a book that was both entertaining and memorable. Now imagine you tell every one of those hundred people about the book. They read the book and enjoyed it as much as you did, and they tell every one of the hundred people they know about the book. That hundred reads the book and ends up telling all of their connections, and on and on and on. The word spreads like wildfire.

By the end of the week (or month or two) the author’s name could become a household word. I’ve read some really good books because of word-of-mouth. Honestly? I’d never heard of Janet Evanovich until a friend told me about her books and that they made her laugh. I think she had three of the Stephanie Plumb books out at the time and I’ve been hooked ever since. Rhys Bowen? Can’t get enough of her books, and I heard about her through word-of-mouth.

Authors can be a Big Mouth about their own books, but unfortunately sometimes that makes people crazy because we go on too much (at least in my case). We do what we can to get the word out, from personal appearances to book signings to any event we can attend. We post on the Internet in as many places as possible. We talk to total strangers and find out we may have something on common with them. We make new friends along the way.

A lot of the personal connections happen at conferences. Many attendees go home and tell their relatives, neighbors and friends about what fun it was to meet a real live author. There are a few people I’ve stayed in touch with, and I’ve enjoyed the interaction.

I’m no different than anyone else. When I go to writers events I come home and talk about the people I’ve met and things I saw and heard. Sometimes I see my husband’s eyes glaze over, so I turn to my friends and repeat the stories. I’m excited, and without meaning to, I’m creating a buzz.

I’ve met some famous authors, which is exciting, and I’ve also met some relatively unknown authors whom I liked, and soon found myself trying one of their books. They were enthusiastic and friendly, and that’s what generally makes me take a look at their books. (Don’t forget, readers. That there are conferences who welcome readers as well as authors.)

Let’s not forget reviews. If you really enjoy a book, write a review. It’s just another form of word-of-mouth. In the case of a review, you’re blabbing to strangers. It still creates a buzz, although I’ve heard that some people won’t even bother with reviews. Personally, I tend to check them out. I’ve even read a few books that got bad reviews. The storyline sounded good, even if the review didn’t. I wasn’t disappointed.

As a reader, what do you think about creating a buzz? Do you have a big mouth? Can you recommend a good book? I love it when I set a book aside and sigh, thinking how much I enjoyed it and what a satisfying ending the author gave to the story.

Until next week, if you’ve read a good book, start buzzing about it. Tell a friend, and have fun connecting with other readers.

CLICK HERE to visit Marja McGraw’s website
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What do purple cows and elderly spies have to do with each other? Lots. Please check it out.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Heeding the Call

Have you ever strolled down the street, past a group of stores, and you hear a small voice say, “Stop here. Don’t keep walking. Come in and enjoy yourself, Marja.” You look up and, lo and behold, a bookstore is calling your name. Well, why not stop in and wander through the aisles? You’re not looking for anything in particular. What could it hurt? Uh huh.

If you’re like me, you end up walking out with an armload of books that don’t quite fit into your budget.

My passion is mysteries, especially if they contain a little humor. However, if I’m actually strolling through the store, a lot of mysteries without humor, and other genres, will catch my eye – biographies, history, books on how things work and what they’re called – you name it. A friend, Chris, recommended For the President’s Eyes Only – Secret Intelligence and the American Presidency from Washington to Bush by Christopher Andrew. While I couldn’t use most of what I read in my new book, this was still engrossing research material. The books on the shelves surrounding it looked interesting, too. I had to make myself walk away.

The unfortunate part of this is that now I have a To Be Read stack that boggles the mind, or at least my mind. I’ve got so many books that I want to read, and doesn’t it just figure, I’m at a time in my life when I don’t have nearly as much reading time as I used to.

I have trouble giving books away or selling them. There are many I’d like to reread one day. My bookcases are jam-packed. So is my Kindle.

I just released a new book, How Now Purple Cow – A Bogey Man Mystery. Time to take a brief vacation before starting another book. Maybe I could sit on the couch and eat bonbons and read. Not gonna happen. In addition to the store calling my name, so is my house. Yes, that would be the house that I let go while I wrote. Horrifying, I know, but sometimes when we’re writing we let things go.

In addition to the bookstore and the house, my thoughts keep turning to the next book. Marketing and promotion are calling my name, too. Sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day.

Many years ago my grandmother gave me some ceramic purple cows. They sit on top of the bookcase in my office. One day they started calling my name. They wanted to be in a mystery. Say what? Yeah, that was my question, too, but I couldn’t stop thinking about them. How on earth could I include purple cows in a book?

The unexpected happened. I had a funny dream about two dear friends being spies. Seriously, why would I have a dream like that? I mentioned it to a friend, Evelyn Cullet, and she thought they’d make great characters in a book. She was right. Believe it or not, purple cows and elderly spies make a great combination. Who knew?

I mentioned the basic storyline to my husband, and without a second thought, he said, “How Now Purple Cow.” I started to laugh and knew what a great title that would make. Sometimes he thinks up the best titles. He was responsible for Old Murders Never Die, too.

In the meantime, that To Be Read stack keeps calling out to me. Right now I can’t  talk myself into buying more books. I’ve got to start whittling down the piles of books that threaten to knock me down.

Do any of you have this same time problem? Believe it or not, when I take a peek at my stack of books, I go through guilt for not getting to them. One way or another, I’ll get caught up on my reading.

 (And then I glanced back at the stack and realized one of the books is over 750 pages long. When will I have time for that one?) You can probably hear me sighing all over the country about now. Sorry to disturb your reading time.

Until next time, take blinders with you when you visit your favorite bookstore. You may be able to stay within your budget if you do.

CLICK HERE to visit Marja McGraw’s website
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Don’t forget that A Well-Kept Family Secret is now available in audio format.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Marilyn Levinson, Guest Author

My guest this week is Marilyn Levinson. While I haven’t read all of her books, I’ve read a number of them and I thoroughly enjoyed the stories. Marilyn is here to give us the scoop on her three series – Wow – three series! I can’t wait to read her new and upcoming Ghost book. Welcome, Marilyn!

Marja has invited me to talk about my three mystery series. I’m delighted to have this opportunity to introduce my sleuths and to say a bit about their various escapades as they go about solving murders. All my series take place on Long Island, but the locale of each novel varies, as do the personalities of my three sleuths.

 Lydia Krause, an attractive, vibrant fifty-eight year old woman solves murders and unearths old mysteries in the Twin Lakes Mysteries. In A Murderer Among Us, Lydia embarks on a new life that brings her adventure, new friendships and romance. After her husband dies, she sells her thriving business and moves to Twin Lakes, an upscale over-55 gated community, to be near her older daughter and her family. While attending her first Twin Lakes social event, Lydia’s introduced to a man she knows under another name, that of the man who drove her baby sister to suicide and was sent to prison for embezzlement. The man’s wife verbally attacks Lydia and Lydia responds with vigor. The next morning the wife is found murdered and Lydia is suspect number one.

In Murder in the Air, the bones of a teenaged boy are discovered on newly acquired Twin Lakes property. Lydia’s elderly neighbor infers he knows something about the dead boy, and then he is murdered. Lydia unearths old secrets and new crimes, much to the disapproval of her boyfriend, homicide detective Sol Molina.

 Writing my Golden Age of Mystery Book Club mysteries is lots of fun because these books give my characters the opportunity to discuss the works of my favorite Golden Age of Mystery authors. In Murder a la Christie, book club members talk about books by Dame Agatha. They analyze Josephine Tey’s mysteries in Murder the Tey Way. My sleuth, Lexie Driscoll, is a 48-year-old English professor who is very bright except when it comes to choosing the men in her life. She facilitates book club meetings as she solves the murders that crop up around her. In Murder a la Christie, Lexie is discussing The Mysterious Affair at Styles in her friend’s manor-style home when another friend takes ill and dies. Convinced that Sylvia’s been poisoned, Lexie investigates. More members are murdered and Lexie begins to think she’s living in Christie’s novel And Then There Were None.

Lexie’s estranged sister pays her a visit In Murder the Tey Way. The following morning, the body of a man is found in Lexie’s backyard, and Lexie fears her sister may have killed him. Lexie and her friend, a former FBI agent who’s now a soccer mom, look into the mysterious pasts of the strange pair of sisters living next door to Lexie. Meanwhile, two men are vying for her attention—world-famous architect Allistair West and Detective Brian Donovan. Will she pick the right man this time?

  In Giving Up the Ghost, Gabbie Meyerson moves to Chrissom Harbor, a former fishing village that’s now a popular summer spot for affluent yuppies. Gabbie has taken a position teaching English in the local high school in the dead of winter. She is virtually penniless after having divorced her husband whom she helped put in prison for embezzlement and other white collar crimes. She rents a cottage situated on the buffs above Long Island Sound and discovers she has a housemate—the ghost of Cameron Leeds, the former owner of the cottage. Cam is an exasperating but lovable scoundrel who was a wheeler dealer and a ladies’ man till the day he died. Though his death was ruled an accident, Cam insists that he was murdered, but he has no idea who did it. He nags Gabbie until she agrees to find out who murdered him. Gabbie starts asking questions around town and discovers that several people might have wanted to do Cam in.

In her classes, Gabbie and her students discuss The Great Gatsby. One of her students is being bullied and runs away. Then one of the bullies is murdered. Gabbie learns that the murderer is the same person who threw Cam off the bluff to the beach below.

Though Gabbie has no interest in romantic entanglements, she falls for Darren Rollins, CH’s local lawman who was Cam’s best friend. Right now I’m writing the sequel to Giving Up the Ghost. The working title is Return of the Ghost. In it, Gabbie’s principal is stabbed to death, and Cam returns to Chrissom Harbor because his daughter is in danger.

Thank you for stopping in, Marilyn! I enjoyed reading about your books and I could hear the passion for writing in your voice.

Marilyn’s website is:
Her Amazon page: 

CLICK HERE to visit Marja McGraw’s website
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COMING SOON: How Now Purple Cow – A Bogey Man Mystery
What could purple cows and elderly spies possibly have to do with each other? How do the Bogey Man and his wife, Pamela, fit in? Fun stuff.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Dorothy Bodoin, Guest Author

This week my guest is Dorothy Bodoin (pronounced like Beaudwin), one of my favorite writers and a dear friend. I asked her to discuss collies because they’re a major part of every story, and she’s obliged me with some interesting thoughts. I have to add that her collie, Kinder, is a characters and the real life stories just crack me up. Welcome, Dorothy!

Crazy Over Collies


Dorothy Bodoin

There have been very few times in my life when I haven’t had a canine companion, so it was only natural that when I began writing fiction, I created dog characters to keep my heroines company.
I can’t imagine life without a collie in it.  Well, in truth, I can.  Some years ago, I was hospitalized and afterward spent about six weeks in a nursing home.  During that time, I lost my beloved tricolor collie, Holly, and I didn’t think I could have a collie until six months later.
It was an unhappy time, filled with lingering trauma and, above all, loneliness.
I should mention that the collie is my heart breed.  Maybe it started with the original Lassie movies; maybe with my Albert Payson Terhune books, which I still have.  By the time our first collie, Heather--named for a Terhune collie--joined our household, I was sold.  Committed.  There’s never been a question of going back.
In my novel of romantic suspense, Ghost Across The Water, Joanna loses her collie, Kinder, and feels as if all the color has drained out her world.  She sees everything in monochromatic tones.  Ironically I wrote those passages before the long, lonely months when there was no collie in my own house.
So my real collie, Kinder (Wolf Manor Kinder Brightstar), keeps me company while I write, and supplies me with countless antics for my books.  Which brings me to My Rule #1--Just as you take good care of your real-life collie, you have to take care of the dogs in your books.
In one scene, Joanna, reaches her cottage in a dangerous downpour and neglects to even 
acknowledge the presence of the collie she’d left at home, let alone see to her needs.
I’d never do that with my dogs.  I guess I was so immersed in Joanna’s danger that I couldn’t focus on anything else.
Fortunately my then-critique partner called my attention to Joanna’s neglect, and I hastily rewrote the scene.  Now Jennet, heroine of the Foxglove Corners mysteries, has six collies and I have to make sure that all are accounted for as I take Jennet through her current adventures.  Believe me, that isn’t so easy.
When I wrote my first published novel, Darkness At Foxglove Corners, Holly was a young dog.  She served as the model for Halley, Jennet Greenway’s tricolor collie.  Incidentally, if you’d like to see a picture of Holly (Wolf Manor Dark Holly), you’ll find one on my website:  She’s sitting in her favorite rocking chair and this is my favorite picture.  Kinder has never even thought of jumping into that chair; she’s a larger, longer collie.
            As I write my books, I try to adhere to My Rule #2--A fictitious collie may find herself in peril and often does, but I am never going to kill her.  As a reader, I’ve shed too many tears over dogs killed off by their creators.
With this rule in mind, I hesitated over the opening situation of The Dog From the Sky.  Jennet, now Jennet Ferguson, married to Deputy Sheriff Crane Ferguson, comes across a blue merle collie left to die a horrible death.  Jennet rescues the dog, names her Sky, and from then on, Sky has a wonderful life as part of the Ferguson pack.
This story was inspired by a real-life incident shared with me by my “collie” friend, Judy Kuhn.  In real life, there was a different outcome.  My great desire to change the fate of the blue merle inspired me to write this book.
By the way, Jennet has rescued so many collies during her career as a teacher-sleuth that I decided to have her join the fictitious Lakeville Collie Rescue League.  Our own Tri-County Collie Rescue is an organization after my own heart.  I always make sure they have Foxglove Corners books to sell in the hope that the funds may help their foundlings in some little way.
Rule #3 isn’t really a rule.  I often joke that not only do I have to cook for myself, I have to give Jennet several menu ideas for every book.  I have my own list of Christmas gifts to buy for friends and family, and Jennet has to have one too.  I’ve chosen names for my own collies, and Jennet has done the same.
Ironically I used the name Kinder for Joanna’s collie in Ghost Across The Water, the one in danger of being forgotten during a thunderstorm by a clueless writer.  When the time came for me to name my new puppy, I named her after Joanna’s Kinder.  My little sable pup became Wolf Manor Kinder Brightstar.
My collie, Kinder, lets me write without interruption--usually.  She is just as likely to toss one of her toys at me, and because I can refuse her nothing,--well almost nothing,--I’ll take a break and play with her.  She comes into my office to remind me that it’s time to fix dinner--hers and mine.  She adds joy and color to my life and keeps me from being lonely.
Which is why I give my heroines collies in their lives. 
As a reader, I always gravitate toward books with dogs on the cover.  If they’re collies, all the better.  A paper dog adds joy and color to a writer’s story, too.  If you’re a new writer, if you truly love dogs, you might want to remember that.

Thank you, Dorothy. If I wasn’t so nuts about Labrador retrievers, I’d be looking at the companionship of a collie. Check out Dorothy’s latest book, A Ghost of Gunfire.


CLICK HERE to visit Marja McGraw’s website
CLICK HERE for a quick trip to

COMING IN FEBRUARY: How Now Purple Cow – A Bogey Man Mystery