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.mysteryloverskitchen.com [killer recipes!]


Blogs and Bum Glue

    Alice in Wonderland “She generally gave herself very good advice,” Lewis Carroll said of Alice in Wonderland, “though she very seldom followed it.” 

     The best advice I gave myself when I began the long, winding, and shockingly potholed road to publication three years ago was to seek the advice of successful writers. And I found plenty of it. Published writers are, for the most part, a generous lot. Perhaps they remember and are grateful for those who helped them along the way.  

     The problem with advice, however, is that it is often contradictory. Does one use italics for interior speech, for example, or is that frowned upon today? Will beginning with a prologue get you immediately shunted into the sidings? Which “point of view” is best for a first novel—first person, third person, or multiple? Is the “omniscient narrator” passé? Is tension necessary on every page or should you give the reader time to regroup? Are critique groups helpful or are they akin to writing a novel by committee?  What haunts me are the questions I haven’t thought of yet.

     Chapter One ImageSigh. Sometimes it’s a blessing to be naïve.  I began—with a story in my head and no clue how to tell it effectively. One piece of advice has been essential: Keep on keeping on. Persevere. Never give up. Develop what mystery writer Elizabeth George calls “bum glue.” 

     Recently, following a link on Twitter, I found a fascinating blog on the craft of writing. The most amazing part is that the blogger—Ninie Hammon—is married to an old friend.  I knew that Ninie (pronounced “9e” – and yes, that’s her real name) was a successful writer of suspense novels, but I had no idea she had a blog. Or that it would be so entertaining.  

   Ninie Hammon (2)  I just finished reading her wonderful series entitled, “Ten Ways to Create Unforgettable Characters” (Aug 25th through Nov 25th of this year). Check out Ninie’s blog at www.niniehammon.com/blog.

     Ninie knows what she’s talking about. She’s an unforgettable character herself.

Amanda Flower’s Advice for New Mystery Writers

          Amanda Flower photoThis week I have the pleasure of introducing you to a wonderful mystery writer, Amanda Flower (yes, that’s her real name), who offers readers “witty suspense with hope.”

Amanda started her writing career in elementary school when she read a story she’d written to her sixth grade class and had them in stitches with her description of being stuck on the top of a Ferris wheel. At that moment she knew she’d found her calling of making people laugh with her words. Her debut mystery, Maid of Murder, was an Agatha Award Nominee for Best First Novel.

In addition to her work as an academic librarian for a small college near Cleveland, Amanda juggles three series, including one written under the name of Isabella Allen.          

When I asked Amanda how she would advise those hoping to break into the competitive field of mystery writing, she said this: “The number one thing a new mystery writer needs to know are mysteries. You have to know the genre that you want to write. I’ve been a mystery fan since I was a child and can’t tell you how many mystery novels I have read. I’ve read them for enjoyment, but along the way, I learned the norms and elements that are found in all mysteries. I think this made it easier for me to craft a mystery plot of my own. I know there are certain plot points I need to reach as the author. I’m not saying you can’t break with convention when you write mystery; many bestselling mystery authors have with great success. However, the cliché is true: you have to know the rules before you can break them. So visit your local library, load up on all the mysteries you can carry, and start reading!”

Amanda’s latest mystery, A Plain Scandal, is available now. Three new books, coming out in September, are available for preorder:

APlainDisappearanceA Plain Disappearance (Book Three in the Appleseed Creek Mystery series)

Murder Plain and Simple by Isabella Allen (first in the new Amish Quilt MurderPlainandSimpleShop series)

AndiUnexpectedAndi Unexpected (a mystery for children, ages 8 to 12).

Amanda’s books are available at many outlets, including Amazon, B&N, and Lifeway. Look for Amanda on her website: www.amandaflower.com and on Twitter @aflowerwriter. Follow her on Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

Thanks, Amanda! Keep writing!             .                                                                                  

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.