Author: Connie Berry

Author Swag: Love It or Leave It?

Our topic this week is Author Swag.  What’s that, you ask? Basically, author swag is anything an author gives away to readers to promote their books.  Bookmarks are the most common, but I’ve seen all kinds of creative items–miniature book replicas on a keychain, notebooks, pens, coasters, mugs, tote bags, mousepads–all customized with an image of the book or the series the author is trying to promote. One author I know just posted online that she’s packing an entire suitcase with swag for an upcoming conference. Yikes–should I be doing the same? So here’s my question, actually questions (plural): What is the most creative or useful author swag you’ve ever received? Do you think author swag helps sell books? Keenan: The most creative swag I’ve received was an eyeglass cleaning cloth from Debra Goldstein. I kept that thing long past its usefulness. I don’t think swag sells books but it’s good for name recognition. I read somewhere a buyer needs to hear your name seven times before they will purchase, so the bookmark they take home would count towards that. Connie: I’ve never seen a personalized eyeglass cleaner, but that would be definitely useful!  Alexia: I also got one of […]

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The Question Every Writer Asks

Authors know—once you begin writing, there’s no turning back. You’ll never read a book again without noticing stuff like dialogue tags, metaphors, and plot structure. You’ll never meet someone new without, in the back of your mind, filing away certain physical characteristics and mannerisms for future use. You’ll never read printed material without wielding your metaphorical red pencil. And you’ll certainly never observe life around you without asking the question, “What if…?”

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How Shall I Kill Thee? Let Me Count the Ways

One of the challenges mystery writers face is coming up with new ways of killing people. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of methods. If you’re stuck for ideas, all you need to do is consult the classics [warning: may contain spoilers]. In her sixty-six detective novels, Agatha Christie killed dozens of victims by stabbings, gunshots, drownings, hangings, and even strangulation with a ukulele string. But her favorite was poison. More than half Dame Agatha’s victims kicked the bucket by poisoning—arsenic, cyanide, digitalis, hemlock, nicotine, opium, strychnine, you name it. “They can’t be poisoned all the time,” she is reported to have told her editor at HarperCollins. “But I am happier when they are.” Agatha didn’t like blood and gore—just a neat little murder, usually off-stage, because her real interest was the who and the why. At the other end of the murder spectrum is Christie’s contemporary, the New Zealander Ngaio Marsh. While we admire her elegant prose, her wit, and her puzzle plots, it’s the inventiveness of her murders we can’t forget. While her top four methods are pretty standard—stabbing, poison, asphyxiation, and blunt instrument—it’s the grisly circumstances that set her apart. One of her victims was lured into a boiling […]

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The Pope in the Pool

In my current WIP, I’m writing a scene where my protagonist, an antiques dealer, is shown a number of items found together in an old leatherbound trunk. The items are clues, and the reader needs to know exactly what they are so they can understand what comes next. In fiction writing, this is called exposition, and it’s a tricky thing to get right because it can pull your readers out of the scene. Like saying, “Thank you for your attention, now back to the book.” I’d written and rewritten the scene several times, shortening the exposition, trying to make the details more interesting. It still wasn’t right. Then, in the middle of the night, an idea came to me, as they often do. There’s something about the liminal space between wakefulness and sleep that stimulates the creative side of my brain. Sometimes, with the light of dawn, I find that brilliant idea has flown away. Sometimes I realize that brilliant idea wasn’t brilliant. Every once in a while, though, I remember what popped into my brain, and it’s exactly the right thing. That’s what happened with my problem scene. The idea that came to me was a screenwriting tool called […]

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What Saved Me From a Spot on Hoarders

I come from a family of hoarders. Okay, not the kind that gets you on TV, the kind who leaves dirty dishes, take-out containers, and trash lying about. My parents’ house was always clean, Just crowded. Very crowded. With a double dose of hoarder in my DNA, what saved me from the hoarding hall of fame? Read on…

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Six Book Clubs That Are Looking For You

What could be better than curling up in an overstuffed chair with a steaming mug of tea and immersing yourself in the world of a book? Nothing in my opinion. But a close second might be discussing that book with a circle of friends in a book club. Who was your favorite character? Why do you think Aunt Bertie locked him out? Did you guess the outcome? Have you experienced something similar? I love book clubs. Mine, like so many others during Covid, has been meeting on Zoom. It’s not the same as meeting in person (no wine, no treats), but at least it’s accessible. Yesterday I was the guest author at an online book club. One member Zoomed in from Florida; two others joined from somewhere on their phones. Are you in a book club? I know one that has been meeting for almost fifty years. They have a waiting list. Instead of waiting for an invitation, why not try one of these book clubs? They’re looking for you! 1 BOOK-OF-THE-MONTH CLUB This one is the classic, founded in 1926. My mother was an avid member when I was in high school, and I still remember seeing the latest […]

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Once in a Cold and Snowy Forest…

My husband and I awoke early last Monday morning to eight inches of new snow in northern Wisconsin. It happened silently, overnight—a thick white blanket, erasing details and muffling sounds. For a moment, I marveled at the sight. Then, because I’m a writer, I thought about how snowfall can conceal footprints and other evidence of a murder….

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You Had Me at Jane Austen

Today Miss Demeanors is delighted to welcome mystery writer and teacher Jane K. Cleland, author of books on writing as well as the popular Josie Prescott Antiques mystery series. ONE LUCKY COMMENTER this month will win a signed copy of Jane’s latest book!

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A Good Book for Christmas

Christmas at our cottage in northern Wisconsin has become one of the rare occasions when I allow myself the luxury and pure enjoyment of reading–actually turning the pages, I mean. Let me set the stage: Outside, snow is falling. The Christmas tree is lit and a fire is blazing in the hearth. At my elbow is a cup of steaming spiced tea. The dog is curled up next to me on the sofa. So what am I planning to read this year? Five books in two weeks. Here’s my list.

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