Wednesday, November 28, 2012

THE NEXT BIG THING--blog chain!

The Next Big Thing is a blog chain in which participating authors answer ten questions about their current work in progress and their upcoming publications.

One of my new authorial "finds" and friends is author Susan Furlong Bolliger, who tagged me for this ongoing blog chain. You can read her cozy mystery, MURDER FOR BID, soon on the Kindle!

Susan writes from the Midwest where she lives with her husband and four children. Her articles and stories have appeared in national magazines such as Country magazine and Woman's World. Be sure to visit her website, where you'll find out much more about her work, at www.sfurlongbolliger.com or read her occasional blogs at http://booksgoneviral.blogspot.com/.

Thank you, Susan, for including me in your lineup of tagged authors. I’m always quite loquacious anytime I can get someone buttonholed and make them listen to me blather about my writing methods and projects. Bwaa-ha-ha!

Because it's too creepy for me to interview MYSELF yet again, let's pretend that Grover (yes, from the Muppets--what, ya got something against Muppets?) is asking the questions.



What is the title of your work?

NICE WORK (A Jacquidon Carroll Mystery)

Where did the idea for the book come from?

Over the past couple of years, just about EVERYONE has been laid off or RIFfed (Reduction in Force) out of a job at least once. The experience is depressing and humiliating even if you didn't particularly like the job, and even if you weren't at fault and you were not let go for cause. Anger at those who so callously replaced or deleted you is inevitable. After my worst boss got rid of me, I thought, "Why not give my mystery heroine this experience?" So many readers have written to me crying after reading the opening scene of NICE WORK by Denise Weeks, telling me that I got it spot-on. They often miss all the clues I'm planting and all the groundwork that's being laid in that scene because of the emotional impact. I think that's good, though, because it makes it tougher for them to solve the mystery (GRIN), but also because one of the first jobs of a novelist is to arouse passions and evoke emotional responses in their readers.

My heroine, Jacquidon Carroll, and her intrepid sister Chantal must then clear Jacquidon of a possible accusation of murder . . . because the day after she exited the company "throwing a hissy fit" and making a scene, her ex-boss dies under suspicious circumstances. They uncover an elaborate web of deception involving a BDSM club and community that's not quite fair with all of its members. It's all played for laughs, not for lust, when the innocent (somewhat, anyway) sisters blunder into a couple of real live private sex clubs in order to track down some suspects. The book is a traditional/cozy with an edge--and with lots of Sister Sleuths banter. Remember the old "Snoop Sisters" television series starring Mildred Natwick and Ruth Gordon? (No, you're not old enough--but it was part of the same NBC Mystery Movies series as "Columbo," "McMillan and Wife," and "Banacek." Great classic stuff.) It was a real hoot. Well, this is the same sort of deal, only with twentyish sisters in the modern (and even more confusing) world. It's a romp and a trip!



What genre does your book fall under?

NICE WORK is a traditional (cozy) mystery with an edge.

I couldn't call it a straight "cozy" because of the BDSM substory and the sex club visits, and there's a somewhat larger cast of strangers involved than with the Agatha Christie-type "village" mysteries. We're in big D and its suburbs, not a refined English cottage. But the book has no gore or blood or icky stuff and is safe for those who will not read horrific things or books that snuff out innocent animals or children. No nightmares here!

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Jacquidon and Chantal have to be played by actresses with sisterly chemistry. I guess you don't want me to reach into the past and cast geniuses like Claudette Colbert and Audrey Hepburn, so let's see. Jennifer Aniston for Jacquidon. Reese Witherspoon for Chantal! Aniston was wonderful in the little-known THE GOOD GIRL (a drama) and of course in OFFICE SPACE. Witherspoon has done so many comedies, including the LEGALLY BLONDE stuff. They would really make the film. But of course these are headliner stars, and it could be that I'll have to settle for others.

For Jacquidon, our beloved heroine . . . how about Kaley Cuoco from the Big Bang Theory? Or even the actress who plays Amy Farrah Fowler as Jacquidon and Kaley Cuoco as Chantal. I know they could do drama as well as comedy.

The romantic interest, Fred Gordon, would have to be someone I have a crush on. David Spade could be great in the role, but maybe moviegoers look for a tall hottie when it comes to the romantic lead, so perhaps if Jim Parsons from the Big Bang Theory can play it straight, that's the guy to cast. We could go with Ray Romano, in a pinch--or maybe even Johnny Galecki. Am I glomming too hard on the BIG BANG THEORY? (Bazinga!)

I've always had a special place in my heart for Nick Bakay, the actor who had a bit part in Craig T. Nelson's series "Coach" and who voiced Salem the cat/witch in "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch." I think it would be a real hoot to put him in as Detective Mueller, my heroine's nemesis.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

After being accused of the murder of her ex-boss, Jacquidon Carroll must navigate a maze of BDSM clubs and online sites frequented (and abused) by the late supervisor as she searches for the real killer.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

My agent and I parted company amicably earlier this year, when I decided to go with small/indie presses instead of beating my head against the wall of traditional New York publishing. However, small presses are far from self-publishing. Self-publishing has exploded recently, which has good points and bad points, but has certainly glutted the market with new books to choose from.

I am now under contract with three small presses. Oak Tree Press has more than 200 stellar novelists, many of them writing mystery and romance and producing more than one book a year. Muse Harbor Press is starting up with some of the most edgy young adult fiction around. Pandora Press has branched out from its origins as an occult/New Age house and is now carrying chick lit and romantic suspense as well as traditional mystery and suspense titles. Publishing has completely changed over the past year or two, and nothing's guaranteed today, what with everything in such turmoil. Readers now must be their own gatekeepers, as all those "free" e-books may not be of the highest quality, and it's inevitable that readers will get burned while picking out titles by authors new to them--as well as running across wonderful books that wouldn't have been found by the traditional presses, books readers adore. This is a very exciting time for authors and readers, and I'm looking forward to seeing how it all shakes out.

How long did it take to write the first draft of your manuscript?

NICE WORK took over a year to finish in draft form. That was almost ten years ago. I began by running it through a workshop and having critique partners give me feedback. It then underwent a serious revision and was vetted by my best beta readers. I entered it in the St. Martin's/Malice Domestic contest, where it finaled among the top five entries, but was not chosen as a winner. I let it percolate for a year while I worked actively on the Ariadne French mysteries (beginning with a book that will now be the second in that series, not yet out). Then I went through again to fix details that were outdated (computer-related stuff that had changed, cell phone technology that had improved) and submitted it again to the St. Martin's contest. I got a very nice letter from my judge in the initial round, and the book went to the final round again, but still didn't light their fires. I put the book aside for a while again. Last year I heard about the Oak Tree Press Dark Oak Mystery Contest and entered. The book won! Now the series is in print, and a sequel is in progress. So don't give up.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

It's a longer book like those by Diane Mott Davidson, and is a little like her books in that the characters' lives play an important role. It has a spirit of whimsy like the Joan Hess "Claire Malloy" series. It's like the old Anne George "Southern Sisters" mysteries, and I hope it fills the void left by the ending of her series.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

The idea that in fiction, I could make justice triumph and love conquer all. I like the way that a traditional mystery is actually a morality play, one in which evil deeds and intent get exposed and restitution is made. I also thought that the world needed the banter of the sister sleuths again, and a series that didn't rely on gross yucky scenes to titillate the groundlings, but on an intellectual puzzle and funny romp.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Many people know nothing about the BDSM lifestyle. I teetered on a tightrope as far as balancing the "funny" stuff that I needed to come out of this one and the task of NOT mocking or jeering at the alternative lifestyle, which is all that BDSM is. One of my sleuths keeps reminding people that it's not evil, not a perversion, and so forth--it's just a preference or choice. At the same time, someone inside the lifestyle DOES betray the trust of others in this story, and that can happen in ANY situation where relationships are built on trust. So it's also a cautionary tale about looking before you leap and about protecting yourself without hurting others.

I hope that my portrayal of Jacquidon as a newly diagnosed diabetic will resonate with the many readers who have diabetes. She goes through a period of adjustment (that's a great movie, BTW--"Period of Adjustment") and even experiences some lapses due to her "cheating on eating," both purposely and inadvertently. One plot point teeters around the fulcrum of her having really poor judgment one evening and making a few phone calls that the police later claim point towards her guilt. It makes just one more hassle in her already complicated life, and it's something that many diabetics will relate to.

OH, and she's unemployed . . . and goes to employment counseling, where the additional stress of budding romance threatens her serenity. Everyone likes a nice romantic subplot, and many people will recognize the stages of looking for another job (and accepting that the old one is gone.)

Fin!

I’ve invited several talented writers to participate in The Next Big Thing blog chain. Watch for their posts next week!

James R. Callan is the author of several non-fiction books and four mysteries, including two released in 2012: Cleansed by Fire and Murder a Cappella. Long the leader of the Northeast Texas Writers Group (and their neat-o conference in the Piney Woods of Texas), Jim writes the Sweet Adelines mystery series as well as the Father Frank mysteries. Visit his blog at http://www.jamesrcallan.com/blog, where he posts every Friday (usually with an interview of another published author.) He is a fellow Oak Tree Press mystery authog. Check out www.jamesrcallan.com as well as www.murderacappella.com and www.cleansedbyfire.com (the latter two being sites devoted to each of his mystery series.)

Lesley Diehl is another Oak Tree Press author who also writes for MainlyMurder press and UntreedReads.com. Lesley retired from her life as a professor of psychology and reclaimed her country roots by moving to a small cottage in the Butternut River Valley in upstate New York. In the winter she migrates to old Florida—cowboys, scrub palmettoo, and open fields of grazing cattle, a place where spurs still jingle in the post office, and gators make golf a contact sport. Back north, the shy ghost inhabiting the cottage serves as her literary muse. When not writing, she gardens, cooks and renovates the 1874 cottage with the help of her husband, two cats, and, of course, Fred the ghost, who gives artistic direction to their work. She is author of several short stories and several mystery series: the microbrewing mystery series set in the Butternut Valley (A Deadly Draught and Poisoned Pairings) and a rural Florida series, Dumpster Dying and Grilled, Killed and Chilled (to be released late in 2012). She recently signed a three-book deal with Camel Press for The Consignment Shop Murders including A Secondhand Murder. For something more heavenly, try her mystery Angel Sleuth. Several of her short stories have been published by Untreedreads including one (Murder with All the Trimmings) in the original Thanksgiving anthology The Killer Wore Cranberry and another (Mashed in the Potatoes) in the second anthology The Killer Wore Cranberry: A Second Helping. She invites readers to visit her on her website at www.lesleydiehl.com and her blog at http://anotherdraught.blogspot.com.

Dennis Havens is not only a gifted writer, but one of my oldest (that means "longest-kept," not "older than dirt," even though he's also that!) and dearest friends. His many mystery/thriller novels include COLOR RADIO, FLASH FLOOD WARNING, and REGARDS, B. T.. Most of his books are currently available from XLibris Press. His current project is GINGERS, an exploration of what would happen if someone started stalking and killing all the redheads and strawberry blondes. He guest-blogs here next week!

Lisa Peppan is another of my long-time writing buddies who posts from the great wilderness of Canada. Her novel SOME WHEN OVER THE RAIN CLOUDS is now out from Amazon, and is well worth your attention if you have any affinity for taxi drivers (and their daily woes), time travel, or fantasy/science fiction. You'll encounter new ideas in her work, I guarantee. She will also be guest-blogging here as her entry in the NEXT BIG THING blog circle!

NICE WORK for the Kindle

Live long and prosper!

6 comments:

  1. It's always a thrill to discover the next big thing, and being tagged in a blog chain sounds like a lot of fun! Thanks for introducing it to me, and thanks for the insight into you as an author.

    Btw, I've subscribed by email and hope you'll visit me at http://anne-k-albert.blogspot.com

    Great post!

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  2. Anne--are you tagged in the chain yet? I'm really supposed to have FIVE people tagged, but I could only find four. I'd love to add you to my taggees!

    If you're not already in our web, you soon will be. Heh-heh.

    Thanks for the nice words.

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  3. Hi Denise, a nice interview for "Nice Work." Are you doing a sequel/second book with the characters?

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  4. Sally--yes! Although if sales don't pick up for NICE WORK, then HARK THE HAROLD will have to come out as an independent.

    HARK THE HAROLD tells the wild story of Jacquidon and Chantal in New York City for the Ninth Annual Tree-Trimming Tournament just before Christmas. Jacquidon sent in a video of herself and her "famous" Christmas trees over the past few years, just on a whim, when she heard about this contest, sponsored by a well-known corporation. To her surprise, she is chosen as one of eight finalists and she and a friend are awarded a trip to Rockefeller Center for the final round on December 5th. But when they get to the hotel, they find Jacks' fellow contestants feuding in the lobby, and the conflict continues until the "Welcome" dinner that evening. Then a body falls on Jacquidon's head . . . the body of the contest coordinator . . . and it falls to her to find out what happened and why. I tried to make this one all funny, like the Donna Andrews series, but it turned out to have dark and heavy moments, just like NICE WORK. (sigh)

    The inspiration for this one came out of my own experience in 2008 as a finalist in the Scotch Brand Most Gifted Wrapper contest. I entered on a whim, just like my heroine, and was summoned to NYC as one of eight finalists. While I didn't win that contest (and NOTHING untoward happened--our contest coordinators are alive and well and fixin' to run the 2012 final round even as I type), I got a lot of wonderful ideas by asking, "What if?" I took my husband along because I don't have a sister (LOL). We both consider that trip one of our peak experiences. The prize, for me, was not so much winning the title but that weekend in New York at the Roosevelt Hotel and all the sightseeing we did on our own.

    I was invited to guest-wrap on the morning show on Channel Eight last year because the public relations firm that manages the Scotch Brand contest has me ranked as eighth most gifted wrapper in the USA (!!), and the only one who lives in Dallas. (!!!) I really am not that devoted to gift-wrapping any more . . . it was one of my "fads" where I get excited about being able to do something and then go wild for a while. I'm still good, but I'm not a diva like the others I competed with at that contest. Some of them pulled out ALL the stops and still do! I wish they'd run the contest live on local NYC cable TV or stream it on the Web. They do videotape it and tape interviews with all the contestants. I heard my interview went over big with people who wanted to do publicity with it, but for whatever reason it never went further than the contest people. I coulda been a contendah!

    But of course in my book I've changed the contest from gift wrapping to tree-trimming, and I've changed all the characters from th real people involved to the crazy cast in my mind. I'm working on the first draft of HARK THE HAROLD in between the other writing projects I'm committed to. I should be able to soak up some Christmas atmosphere this year and render the setting of the book properly.

    I eagerly await the next book in your BEATLEMANIAC series. You managed to stay mostly "funny" instead of going all dark like my books tend to do. Gotta work on that. (LOL)

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  5. Love the way you set up your Big Thing blog post, Shalanna! Who wouldn't want to be interviewed by Grover?

    NICE WORK sounds SO interesting. I'm happy to hear it's out on Kindle. I'm hooking up tonight and downloading. Thanks so much for letting me tag you!

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