The Power of Yes

Finding your audience doesn’t have to wait for your first novel to come out. Publicists have told me the promotion lifecycle starts months ahead. I started earlier. Years earlier. The first big conference I attended was the California Crime Writers Conference in 2013. On the registration form, they asked for volunteers. I clicked “Yes” without hesitation. I didn’t have a clue what I’d be asked to do. I also didn’t have an agent at the time. What I did have was the first 50 pages of the first draft of my first cyber crime thriller. I also had many years’ worth of experience attending industry events and meetups for my day job and knew the content at conferences is only part of the draw. Networking is equally (perhaps more) important. I really didn’t care what would be asked of me as a volunteer at CCWC, I just cared that I would get to interact with published authors and agents. That was where I first learned that the crime fiction community is filled with incredibly supportive, kind, and funny people. Over the next few years, I joined Mystery Writers of America and Sisters In Crime, and attended more conferences and local […]

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Embracing My Brand

When I decided to get serious about writing, I did all the things – attended workshops online and in real life, joined a writing group, started following authors, editors, and agents on social media. The most crucial step took me the longest, embracing my brand. I wrote stuff. I fought crime in a novel environment (no pun intended). The two parts of my life were distinct. At least in my mind. Then I started talking to agents. The novel I wrote in 2012 was okay. It wasn’t great. It had zero to do with my day job. During those first couple of years of what I consider to be my apprenticeship, every single publishing pro kind enough to speak with me asked the same question: why aren’t you writing about cyber crime? The first couple of times I heard the question, I didn’t think much about it. By the fourth time, I had to ask myself, why wasn’t I? After a short bout of soul-searching, there were 2 answers: I wrote as an escape from my daily grind. I was afraid. While both answers were true, one was much truer than the other. The first one really didn’t apply once […]

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How to Deal with Change

  • February 1, 2019

So, after spending a week thrashing around with the new Miss Demeanor site, I think I’ve conquered it, although I notice one of my posts has a red dot that means, “Needs Improvement.” Even the computer is a critic. So I survived, but as I embarked on this week-long journey, I asked my fellow Miss Demeanors how they dealt with change. This is what they said: Paula: The book business has changed more in the past 15 years than it has since Gutenberg. And the sands are still shifting beneath our feet. This is true of publishing in particular and retail in general. That said, it’s never been easy to be an artist. Our best defense remains flexibility, creativity, and adaptability.  Sounds like yoga! Paula: Ha! Alison: This is me grinning. Just got off the mat from my home practice. Yep. Every day is different.  Robin: The only constant is change, right? I actually crave change, sometimes. It’s a big part of what led me in the direction of computers. It’s a fast-changing landscape so I’m always learning and rarely bored. It’s probably also why I love living by an ocean. The beach is the “same” beach but no two waves […]

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Awards Season

  • January 31, 2019

This is Awards season in the mystery world and several writers close to the Miss Demeanors have been nominated for fabulous awards. First of all, our own Miss Demeanor, D.A. Bartley, has been nominated for a 2018 Reading the West Book Award for her debut novel, Blessed be the Wicked. Then, agent to the Miss Demeanors, Paula Munier, has been nominated for the THE SIMON & SCHUSTER MARY HIGGINS CLARK AWARD for her debut novel, A Borrowing of Bones. Then, two dear friends of the Miss Demeanors have been nominated for Agatha Awards for Best Contemporary Novel: Bruce Robert Coffin for Beyond the Truth, and Hank Phillippi Ryan for Trust Me. Congratulations all! Proud to know you.

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3 things I’ve learned from Michael Connelly

  • January 30, 2019

I can’t say I immediately fell in love with HBO’s Harry Bosch. The man looked like a bullet and it took me time to warm up to him. And then one day Bosch was talking to someone, possibly his daughter, and he said, “Closure is a myth,” and from that moment I was hooked. I thought, this is a man of some good sense. Then I went and started reading the Bosch books from the beginning, and now I’m hooked. Here are three things I’ve learned. Flaws make a character interesting. Harry Bosch is a mess of flaws. He has issues with authority. He has trouble with intimacy. He’s a violent man. But what I like about him is that he is trying to come to grips with it all. He understands he’s flawed. He wants to resolve it. Some of my favorite scenes in The Last Coyote are when he talks to a psychiatrist. That poor woman has to work so hard to earn his trust, but you can see why she comes to like him. He’s earned his flaws, if that makes sense. 2. Connelly isn’t afraid to throw obstacles in Bosch’s path. Such as the fact that […]

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3 things I’ve learned from Louise Penny

  • January 29, 2019

I’ve always been a fan of Louise Penny, but for the past few months I’ve been reading her work in an intentional way, trying to understand what she does and how she does it and how I might do it too. There are probably 100 things I’ve learned from her, but to focus on 3. First, food is important. Reading Louise Penny is like being invited to a feast. The smells and tastes of delicious food fill the pages, as in The Cruelest Month: “Gamache’s coq au vin filled the table with a rich, earthy aroma and an unexpected hint of maple. Delicate young beans and glazed baby carrots sat in their own white serving dish. A massive charbroiled steak smothered in panfried onions was placed in front of Beauvoir….” And so on. 2. Her characters are fun to spend time with, even the evil ones. They’re funny, insightful, honest. Of course at the heart of this all is the great Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, and she never misses an opportunity to show you how great he is. For example, there’s a brief scene in The Cruelest Month when Gamache is playing with his dog, Henri. The dog, unable to […]

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  • January 28, 2019

This is my first post on the new, improved, faster, fabulous Miss Demeanor site. It’s much easier to do than I anticipated. But that did not stop me from lying awake for about five hours last night worrying about it. It’s fine. It’s fine. I just really don’t like change. Sometimes I visualize myself clinging to a cliff, hanging on by my fingertips while wolves circle below. And those are the good days. It just feels like every time I figure out what I’m doing, I have to learn something new. The new minister at my church is an interim minister, which means her specific job is to help churches deal with change. In this case, the fact that our beloved minister of 26 years retired. One of the things I like so much about her is that she keeps acknowledging change is hard. All change is a form of loss, even if it’s good change. I don’t know anyone in the publishing business who has not had to deal with change. Editors leave, publishing houses fold, agents disappear, or occasionally are nominated for fabulous awards. (Congratulations, Paula!) I’ll report back as soon as I figure out how to deal […]

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The Perils of Writing From Home

by Cate Holahan A man died on my dining room table. His blood seeped into the honed concrete slab becoming an indelible stain on the surface. To the untrained eye, the mark might appear red wine, sloshed on the table by some drunken dinner guest. But the spot is darker. Deeper. I see it. Anyone that has ever read The Widower’s Wife and then attends a dinner party at my house sees it too. In truth, there isn’t any stain on the table. (When I host Thanksgiving, I put plastic underneath the tablecloth like the OCD aunt that covers all the furniture). The mark is all in our minds. It got there because I staged a murder scene in that book in my actual house, and a character does die on the table. My real dining room table. Scenes from this book are set in my house. Folks say “write what you know.” Since I work from home, sometimes that entails snatching details from where I live and incorporating them into my work. My protagonist’s apartment in Lies She Told is a copy of the first place my husband and I lived as a married couple in New York City, […]

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Better, Faster, Stronger…

by Cate Holahan Welcome to the new and improved MissDemeanors site, powered by WordPress. Our goal here is to provide mystery readers and enthusiasts a behind the scenes look at how writers create novels in the genre. We share sources of inspiration, blogs we are reading, walks we are taking, and things we are thinking about. Daft Punk … Inspiration of the day We also have plenty of conversations about craft. How much backstory is too much? How can an author effectively vary language without seeming as though she was combing through a thesaurus? What makes a character compelling? How much of the mundane aspects of living should stories include for characters to be believable? How unlikable can a character be for an individual sub-genre? What makes a plot interesting? Red herrings–how to do them right. We’ll provide our opinions, and we’d love to hear yours. But why should you care what we think? Who the heck are we, am I right? Every regular writer and contributor to this site is a traditionally published author that pens mysteries. We run the gamut of sub-genres: intense cyber thrillers, plot-twisting psychological suspense novels, character-rich supernatural tales, emotional mysteries, and laugh-out-loud cozies. There […]

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Staying the Course with New Year’s Resolutions

Week three is always the toughest for me. The first week, I glide on intention and hope. Week two? I can muscle through with determination, but by the time week three hits, temptations beckon. Whether or not I keep my resolutions—to do “x” or quit doing “y”—depends on how I get through that third week. So, I’m dedicating this Week Three of January 2019 to staying the course to victory. I’ve been making New Year’s resolutions since some time in high school. As a teenager, I made very serious ones. They were almost always too difficult for me (learn Russian, this year) and were usually inspired by who I thought I should be (lose ten pounds) rather than who I was. It probably goes with saying that I was rarely very successful. Still, I kept making resolutions diligently every year. No, I haven’t mastered Russian (ya ochen’ plokho govoryu po russki) and I don’t think I ever lost that ten pounds (I decided to stop weighing myself). In fact, it’s been years since I set those as goals at all because in the midst of all that falling short, I refined my process for resolution making. That’s the good thing about failure, it’s a great teacher.  I […]

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