Category: Books


I spent last weekend as a workshop leader at the NY Pitch conference, listening to various editors and agents talk about the importance of the logline. Loglines, also called elevator pitches, are one-or-two sentence descriptions of a novel that are meant to hook the reader. Here’s the logline for my story that was just in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine: Beleaguered middle-aged woman teams up with the ghost of Anne Boleyn to solve a murder. Her own. Almost every writer I’ve ever met has hated loglines, mainly because they force us to boil our 90,000 carefully written mystery novels into something you could spit out in an elevator. Where’s the nuance? However, they do sell books. So my question for my fellow Miss Demeanors was: Do you have a logline? Would you like to share it here? Or do you hate them and never want to hear about them again? Tracee de Hahn  That’s the perfect logline for your story (everyone rush out and read it now in Alfred Hitchcock Magazine)! I want to see more of Anne and her new friend, let’s hope there are more murders in their future. On to your question . . .  I had a […]

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When It’s Time to End a Series

The first thing to say is my Kate Hamilton Mystery series is not ending. But I’ve been thinking about this question lately for two reasons. First because I’ve been developing a possible new historical mystery series, which has been fun. Second, because two wonderful series written by writer friends have recently and unexpectedly ended. Why, when the series were doing so well?

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Memorial Day Reading List

I was going to draw up a list of great books to read for Memorial Day, and then I happened to wander over to the American Writers Museum and saw that they had already compiled a wonderful list. So I thought perhaps I might just borrow/steal/be inspired by it.

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The Locked Room Mystery

Book covers

Later this summer I set sail across the Atlantic on the Queen Mary II, the perfect place for a locked room mystery! While much larger than Agatha Christie’s vessel in Death on the Nile, it has a common essential element – no one can come on or off. If you aren’t familiar with the idea of a locked room mystery, here are a few essentials and a confession.

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6 Surprising Things I learned about Agatha Christie

All I knew about the great mystery writer Agatha Christie was that she wrote many of my favorite mysteries and disappeared for a period of time when she was young. But then I read Laura Thompson’s excellent biography of her and learned these amazing facts. 1. The motive is money Forget about love. Money is the “prime motive for crime” in 55 of Agatha Christie’s mystery novels, and murder for financial gain is at the center of thirty-six,” Thompson writes, Although Agatha Christie wound up making a lot of money from her writing, both her youth and her middle age were clouded by financial worry. She wrote about what she knew. 2. Her favorite movie? Agatha Christie was not a big fan of movie adaptations of her books. She preferred stage productions. But she loved Witness for the Prosecution (the Billy Wilder version with Tyrone Power, Marlene Dietrich and Charles Laughton. ) “It was the only cinematic version of her writing that Agatha ever liked,” Thompson writes. 3. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd This book, published in 1926, was the book that changed her reputation. I won’t give away the twist, but it is a good one, but the idea […]

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Hello World, Here I Come!

Launching a new book always feels a little like watching your child climb onto that big yellow school bus for the very first time. There she goes—your baby—into the big, wide world without you. In exactly a week—on May 10th—The Shadow of Memory, the fourth in the Kate Hamilton Mystery series, will make its debut. To celebrate, I’m giving away a signed copy (plus a few other goodies) to one lucky commenter during the month of May.

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It’s a Mystery: Why I Love Criticism

When I wrote “the end” on the first fiction I’d ever written, I asked my wife to read it. She’s a theater director who has worked with playwrights to improve their plays and I knew I’d get an honest evaluation. She pointed out problems in my writing style and asked questions that got me thinking about the story. I went back to my computer. After several more drafts, I gave the manuscript to friends and a couple of family members to read. Everyone loved it. I felt terrific. But… In my heart I knew it wasn’t good enough. It’s A Mystery: Finding Objective Readers I wanted readers who weren’t invested in my success to tell me what needed to improve to make the manuscript better. But I was new to writing and there was no one in my circle of friends and acquaintances knowledgeable in the art of writing a novel. Lucky for me, I had joined Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime hoping their meetings would provide the knowledge I was missing. And the Mentor Program offered by the New York chapter of MWA was just what I needed. At that time, for fifty dollars an unpublished […]

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