I'm so happy and honored to say that my third historical novel, The Masque of a Murderer, officially launches today, April 14!
And while I may not be quite as giddy when my first novel, A Murder at Rosamund's Gate (2013) launched two years ago--because nothing can ever compare to the release of a first novel--I'm still as loopy as I was last year, when From the Charred Remains (2014) entered the world.
Recently, in preparation for the launch, I've been answering a lot of fun and interesting questions about The Masque of a Murderer (the historical background, the story and characters, and my writing process etc). So, I thought I'd do a quick round-up here!
I welcome you to:
Thanks so much for sharing this journey with me!!! And I appreciate all the bloggers and reviewers who hosted me, including those through Amy Bruno's Historical Fiction Virtual Blog Tours!
And I'm always so grateful to the wonderful people at Minotaur, especially Kelley Ragland and Elizabeth Lacks, and my agent David Hale Smith, and of course my wonderful alpha reader, Matt Kelley!!
(and now, I turn my attention back to A DEATH ALONG THE RIVER FLEET, due out April 2016!!!!)
Every morning, when I check my email, I'm reminded of a funny (funny-weird, not funny-humorous) thing about book titles. Because I have a daily Google alert on my titles, I get a little summary about how they have used been used on the internet. For my first novel A Murder at Rosamund's Gate and for my third novel, The Masque of a Murderer, I get alerts that actually pertain to my book.
But for my second book, From the Charred Remains, I am treated to all sorts of terrible and strange news stories--usually house fires--of things or people being found after a fire (this gem to the right is one of the better things that's come this way).
Literally, this illustrates the dark side of book titles. There are terrible things that happen in the world--beyond what happened on the mythical Tatooine--and every day those come to my inbox because of how I titled my book.
I shouldn't be surprised--after all, the premise of my book is that a body has been found in a barrel outside the Cheshire Cheese after the Great Fire has devastated much of London.
So as I sort though new titles for my fourth book--the soon to be renamed Stranger on the Bridge--I find myself avoiding titles that reporters might use to describe particularly grisly stuff.
It's ironic really. The title of my first book didn't make it through marketing, but it was originally called Monster at the Gate. I thought the concept of monster fit well with my time period, but that title was deemed too harsh and supernatural. I can only imagine the kinds of Google hits I would have gotten, had I kept that title.
The original title of my third book, Whispers of a Dying Man, didn't make it past my own internal scrutiny. Bleagh. Glad I changed that one. The Masque of a Murderer is a much better title.
But From the Charred Remains sailed through easily. I still like the title, but I'm still a bit wary when I see what Google has sent me.
Now, I'm still pondering the title of my fourth book. Stranger on the Bridge just isn't resonating for me. So at New Year's, after describing the premise, I asked a bunch of my friends to all put single words (nouns and adjectives) into a hat. Then we all picked three or four slips of paper and formed titles. The best of this admittedly drunken endeavor was Across the Misty Divide. Probably won't go over either (sorry Steve!). Maybe the parlor game method of naming books is not the best method.
So hopefully something connects soon!!! I'll keep you posted!
Just a quick note to say that I'm very honored that my second novel, From the Charred Remains, was recently nominated for the Bruce Alexander Memorial Historical Mystery Award. This is a fan award bestowed at the annual Left Coast Crime Convention.
The other finalists in this category are Rhys Bowen, Queen of Hearts (Berkley Prime Crime), Catriona McPherson, A Deadly Measure of Brimstone (Minotaur Books), Kelli Stanley, City of Ghosts (Minotaur Books) and Jeri Westerson, Cup of Blood (Old London Press).
Some other author friends who've stopped by my blog were nominated nominated for the Rosebud, the best first mystery novel set anywhere in the world: Lisa Alber, Kilmoon (Muskrat Press), Lori Rader-Day, The Black Hour, and Holly West, Mistress of Fortune (Carina Press e-book). (I'm really hoping I can vote Chicago-style on this one...early and often!)
We'll find out in March! Fingers crossed!
A little belatedly I am taking part in the September Sisters in Crime Sinc-Up for writers. (There are a few days left of September, right?)
So one of the prompts was this question, "If someone said 'Nothing against women writers, but all of my favorite crime fiction authors happen to be men,' how would you respond?"
Well, someone did say something along these lines to me once...
I was at a mystery conference, and a fellow author introduced me to an older gentleman--I'll call him George--who apparently is a huge history buff. My friend told George that I write historical mysteries set in seventeenth-century London.
George's eyes lit up and he told me that he had just been in London recently. I asked him what he had liked about his trip.
George told me that he had liked seeing the Cheshire Cheese, a tavern that had been rebuilt in 1667 after the original was burnt down during the Great Fire of London.
We-l-l-l-l....the Cheshire Cheese was actually the setting of my second novel--From the Charred Remains. In fact, I have a murder happen there just before the place burns down. So I told George this, and again, his eyes lit up. Then he asked me about my protagonist.
I started to tell him about Lucy, my chambermaid-turned-apprentice, and he held up his hand and said, "I don't read books about women."
I couldn't even begin to tell him about all the wonderful crime fiction that feature female detectives, sleuths, lawyers, reporters and a zillion other investigators that he was missing out on with such a dismissive stance. Patricia Cornwell's forensics specialist Kay Scarpetta. Rhys Bowen's amateur sleuth Molly Murphy. Kerry Greenwood's private investigator Phryne Fisher. Sara Parestsky's kick-ass V.I.Warshawski. Hank Phillippi Ryan's intrepid TV reporter Charlotte McNally. Not to mention the unflappable Miss Marple!
And for anyone who likes strong female protagonists in historical mysteries, I've got a few that you MUST check out: Meg Mims writes the "Double Series" featuring feisty Western heroine Lily Granville; Anna Loan-Wilsey writes a terrific series set in New England featuring Hattie Davish, "a travelling secretary and dillettante detective," and Alyssa Maxwell writes the charming Gilded Newport Series with Emmaline Cross--"a Vanderbilt by heritage, a Newporter by birth, and a force to be reckoned with!" Well-written historical mysteries all!
Hopefully we can turn the Georges of the world around, one fabulous female protagonist at a time!
What about you? Who are your favorite female sleuths, detectives and investigators? Why do you enjoy them?
Recently, I have had a few questions from readers about one of the strange objects that Lucy had discovered on a corpse at the outset of From the Charred Remains.
The item was a signet ring, one of several items found in a pouch on the body of a murdered man (check out what Lucy is holding on the cover). This ring, along with a hodgpodge of other eclectic items, will help identify the victim, as well as his killer.
The signet ring I describe in the book was unusual because it swiveled to allow the wearer to display one of two different images.
I was immediately intrigued by the concept.
I had come across this interesting ring style when I was prowling about on the British Museum's website. The ring featured here is from the early 17th century, and was made in either France or Germany.
When you really think about it, what would be the reason to have a ring with two faces? Boredom? Perhaps. Cost? Unlikely, since a swivel ring might be very expensive to create. Or perhaps, there is something about who you are that you wish at times to keep private, and other times, make public. It is not surprising that certain organizations, like the Freemasons, have used such rings since the early modern era.
This particular ring was probably more ornamental than practical, but I liked the idea that there could be a secret hidden beneath its surface.
In this image, you can see how the ring swivels, from an onyx intaglio of the Greek god Apollo to a sardonyx intaglio of a male and female figure (the website suggests it is likely Bacchus and Ariadne).
This ring is a little more elaborate than I was envisioning though. Not, perhaps, as simple as these more simple masonic rings (a style also found in the 17th century), but somewhere in between.
Pretty cool, hey? Makes you wonder why the wearer might commission a ring like this...doesn't it?
Still reserving most of my imagination and writing time for finishing book 3...so just a few more images from the last two weeks....
Looking forward to this Wednesday...when I am at Mystery One Bookstore in Milwaukee at 7 pm!!! If you'll be around, please stop by!
(That's it for now. I am really really really trying to get this third book done! Egads!...so my posts will continue to be sparse for a while. But I'll be back soon!!!)
Well the last ten days have been fun, fun, fun, and crazy, and I don't know what else. Hence, the reason I am writing a post at four in the morning. (This effect could also be called: "Why Susie should not drink a medium latte at 9 PM").
A week ago, I had the fun of seeing my second novel, From the Charred Remains, out in the world. (From that day 'til now, I also had a class full of essays to grade, several big reports to write for work, a full-day faculty retreat to run, classes to teach, and a plenary on critical thinking to facilitate for 150 law professors, so to say my week was a bit nuts is a mild understatement.)
(*But work is work, and writing is writing, and ne'er the twain shall meet!)
In between, I frantically got one post out for Criminal Element, where I discuss "Crime-Solvers: Forensics of the Past." And, well, I am trying to finish book 3--The Masque of a Murderer--**which I promise, my dear editor Kelley, is nearly done. ***Gritting my teeth while smiling is about where I'm at these days.
But a quick recap of the last ten days in photos:
In a few hours, I will be taking the train down to Bethesda, for the Malice Domestic Conference. It's always so much fun to connect with other mystery lovers. I have a panel on Sunday, May 4, 2014 11:45-12:35, called "One Is Not Amused by Murder: Historical English Mysteries." I'm delighted to be on this panel with fellow historical mystery authors: Kate Parker, Sam Thomas, and Christine Trent. The moderator will be Donna Andrews.
And on Thursday, May 8 at 7 pm, I'll do a talk at ArrivaDolce, the coffee shop where I do a lot of my writing. Someone will win this coffee and book themed basket!
Hope to see you there!
*Disclaimer to work colleagues who might read my blog.
**Disclaimer to my editor and agent, who might read my blog.
***Disclaimer to my dentist, who might read my blog. Okay, now I'm getting the 4 a.m. loopies.
Anyone who knows me, knows I really love doing puzzles. Even when I was a kid, I was always doing puzzles--from word searches to crossword puzzles to substitution ciphers (probably because I felt like I was really decoding mysteries).
But when I was in graduate school, I first encountered the fun of acrostics. In the high Middle Ages, scholars like Alcuin of York (Charlemagne's tutor) used to write short poems that contained clever messages--sometimes hidden--when read a certain way. In their simplest form, the first letter of each line would be carefully selected so that, when read down, the reader could discern a message. However, they could be more complex as well, which always fascinated me.
I just knew that I had to work acrostics and other puzzles into my story, when I came across this acrostic published just after the Great Fire of London in 1666:
London's Fatal Fal, an acrostic.
Lo! Now confused Heaps only stand
On what did bear the Glory of the Land.
No stately places, no Edefices,
Do now appear: No, here’s now none of these,
Oh Cruel Fates! Can ye be so unkind?
Not to leave, scarce a Mansion behind…
Working out my own acrostic--and actually several hidden anagrams within the acrostic (shhh!!!)--was probably the most challenging and fun part of writing From the Charred Remains. But puzzles abound throughout the entire novel. There is even a secret hidden on the cover of the book, which you will understand after you read it!
It's 72 days 'til the launch of my second novel, From the Charred Remains, and I couldn't be more excited.
Yet the process the second time around, while similar, feels a bit different. I know many authors compare launching a book to having a child, and I think the metaphor is apt. (Indeed, there was a wonderful blog, Book Pregnant, devoted to this concept, so I won't dwell on it here).
I have a better idea about what is ahead of me, and yet I don't know with certainty what to expect. I know that some of the people who read my blog are first time authors or aspiring writers, so I thought I'd just share some of my observations.
Some differences I've already noted:
Of course, there are many similarities as well. Mostly in the form of anxious questions that I try not to dwell on too much:
Historian. Mystery writer. Researcher. Teacher. Occasional blogger.