What I Wish I Had Known, Part V: Lucy Burdette

Roberta IsleibThis week I am pleased to introduce you to Lucy Burdette, author of twelve mysteries, eight written as Roberta Isleib. Lucy Burdette is the penname for New Jersey born clinical psychologist Roberta Isleib, an Agatha-, Anthony-, and Macavity-award nominee. She is past-president of Sisters in Crime, International, as well as her local New England chapter.  

topped-chef-309x500Lucy’s most recent mystery series stars Key West food critic Hayley Snow. Topped Chef, the third book in the series, came out in May. The fourth, Murder with Ganache,Roberta Isleib Murder with Ganache hits bookshelves in early February, but can be pre-ordered now [click on link].  

I had the privilege of meeting Lucy Burdette this past September at Seascape Writers’ Retreat—an annual writing workshop in Chester, Connecticut, sponsored by Lucy and pals Hallie Ephron and Hank Phillippi Ryan. The week-end was practical, eye-opening, encouraging–and loads of fun.

Recently I asked Lucy to share the most important advice she would give to aspiring writers, like me. This is what she said: 

When Connie first invited me to share the best advice I had on writing, I thought it would be easy. I imagined a million ways to start—with fifteen years writing fiction and almost twelve books published, shouldn’t I be a font of information?  

How about this: Read a lot, but make sure you include books in the genre in which you’re writing? For each genre, the readers have expectations. For amateur sleuth mysteries like the ones I write, some of the necessary conventions include playing fair with clues, avoiding the trap of the female in jeopardy, not withholding necessary information from the reader, not allowing a gimmick to take the place of a good story… 

But then I thought my words would be better focused on making sure you take time away from writing to live life. Because life feeds fiction, especially after a writer has mined her personal business for the first novel. Travel, exercise, cook, eat, spend time with friends and family…and listen to the people around you, thinking all the while: what if? 

But wait, maybe it’s most important to warn new writers about the importance of friends. Writing and publishing are both difficult, not for the faint-hearted. You’ll need friends who don’t roll their eyes when you talk about your characters as if they were your kids. And friends who can buck you up when you get a rough critique or bad news. And friends who might cook for you or lend you a quiet room when you’re on a crushing deadline. And friends to be happy for your success and come to your booksigning… 

But in the end I decided the best advice is this: Never rush to send your work out. With agents and editors and contests only a mouse click away, it’s easy to hit send before the work is the best it can be. Rewriting is a writer’s best friend—whether a newbie or an old hand. Put the precious words in a drawer, cyber or real, and let them simmer. Get feedback from trusted sources, rewrite again.

Lucy can be found online in “way too many places” (her words): Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Mystery Lovers Kitchen, and Jungle Red Writers. Plus her own websites, as Lucy Burdette and Roberta Isleib.  

Pre-order Murder With Ganache: http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780451465894 

Find Lucy at:

www.facebook.com/lucyburdette

www.pinterest.com/lucyburdette

www.twitter.com/lucyburdette

www.mysteryloverskitchen.com [killer recipes!]

www.jungleredwriters.com

Advice for New Writers from Author Daryl Wood Gerber aka Avery Aames

Girl Writing

Will Rogers said, “A man learns in two ways, one by reading, and the other by association with smarter people.”   

When I started planning my first mystery novel three years ago, I should have taken more time to read about the craft of writing first. I would have avoided a ton of mistakes. But one thing I did right was to seek the advice of smarter people and to learn from their experience.  

Avery Aames (Daryl Gerber)Today I have the privilege of featuring Daryl Wood Gerber aka Avery Aames. As AVERY AAMES, she pens the Agatha Award-winning, nationally bestselling CHEESE SHOP MYSTERY series. As DARYL WOOD GERBER, she writes A COOKBOOK NOOK MYSTERY series. FINAL SENTENCE, the first book in the Cookbook Nook series, debuts on July 2 (Berkley Prime Crime, a division of Penguin Books). Avery Aames Final SentenceThe story features Jenna Hart, a former advertising executive, who leaves the corporate world to help her aunt open a culinary bookshop and cafe. Back with her family in Crystal Cove, California, Jenna seems to have all the right ingredients for a fresh start—until someone adds a dash of murder.  

Daryl’s short stories have been nominated for the Agatha, Anthony, and other awards. As an actress, Daryl has appeared in “Murder, She Wrote” and more. In additional to juggling two mystery series, Daryl also takes time to encourage new writers through the Guppies group of Sisters In Crime. Recently I asked her some questions about her own experience as a mystery writer.  

Q: What is the one thing you wish you had known starting out?

 How long it was going to take. Truly. And how much better prepared I should have been for the business side. I had no idea there would be so much promotion involved. Facebook, Twitter, a website that needs to be constantly updated. I would have liked a shelf filled with how to write books, and I would like to have read them all, front to cover. Check out Chris Roerden’s book, Don’t Murder Your Mystery, and Hallie Ephron’s The Everything Guide to Writing Your First Novel. I wish I’d been part of a critique group from the beginning so I’d had feedback on my writing. 

Q: What is the most important thing you learned writing and publishing your first book?  

How much I have to balance my time with writing, doing PR, and having a life. I need to be very disciplined to get it all done. 

Q: What is the biggest mistake you made? 

My biggest mistake was sending out material before it was ready. As I wrote above, I should have been in a critique group long before I finally found one. I should have been taking more classes and really polishing my prose. I should have truly understood the hero’s journey. 

Q: What advice would you give to emerging writers? 

  • Read within your genre and without. See what’s selling. Get a list of agents and see what they are selling. Submit to agents who sell your kind of book. Don’t waste your time submitting to agents who do not sell your style.  
  • Go to conferences, if you can afford to, where writers meet agents. Learn how to pitch your book. I have made a YouTube video called The Elevator Pitch [Note: there are a few with that title; this is the one with me in a pink jacket, elevator doors open…]. Take a look. It shows you the bad way and the good way to pitch. Hone your pitch to 30 seconds…with a smile and energy.  
  • Don’t get discouraged with rejection. It happens to all of us. Take in the comments, if they are reasonable, and allow your work to grow. Learn. Listen. 
  • Persevere. Don’t give up. If you give up before you are published, you will never be published. It’s that simple. Believe you can. But realize it might not happen with your first or even your second book.

You can visit Daryl & Avery at www.darylwoodgerber.com and www.averyaames.com (where you can sign up for her newsletter to learn about upcoming events and contests). Check out her fabulous recipes on her blog www.mysteryloverskitchen.com. And friend her on Facebook.

Return From Malice

I just returned fromMalicebanner Malice Domestic, the gathering held each spring near Washington, D.C. for fans and writers of the traditional mystery. A recently published compendium of Malice’s twenty-five-year history is entitled, Not Everyone’s Cup of Tea. Maybe not, but traditional mysteries certainly are mine. 

I’ve been reading mysteries all my life, beginning with Nancy Drew and going on to the likes of Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Allen Poe, Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy Sayers, and Cyril Hart. When I’d read all there is to read of these classics, I began to mine gold in more modern practitioners of the craft. Now I’m writing mysteries myself, the kind I like to read, where the puzzle is the main thing and violence and sex are mainly “off stage.” 

Here’s my problem: there are just too many good mysteries out there. My “to be read” pile is now twice as long as it was before Malice. I’m losing ground, but happily so because I can afford to be choosy.  

Here are some of the new mysteries I’ve added to my already extensive reading queue:

   All of the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes books by Laurie King

  All of the Inspector Banks series by Peter Robinson (soon on BBC)          

   A Dangerous Talent by Aaron and Charlotte Elkins 

   The Twelve Clues of Christmas by Rhys Bowen

    Killer in Crinolines by Duffy Brown

    Dandy Gilver and an Unsuitable Day for a Murder by Catriona McPherson

        The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny

          Low Country Boil by Susan M. Boyer

      Fatal Winter by G. M. Malliet

      The Other Woman by Hank Phillippi Ryan

      Artifact by Gigi Pandian

      Whatever Charles Todd writes next 

The interesting thing about mystery writers is that, while they plot ingenious methods of killing off their characters, they are some of the nicest people you’d ever meet. One of the nicest is Carolyn Hart, this year’s winner of the Amelia Award (named after Elizabeth Peters’ most famous creation, Amelia Peabody). In her acceptance speech, Ms. Hart said that the traditional mystery appeals to those who wish the world to be a place where evil good triumphs in the end.  

Long live the traditional mystery! And may good triumph, not just in books but all over our world.