Archive for the ‘Mystery Authors’ Category
Where you can get it:
What it’s about:
Morgan Hart is home. The thirty-six-year-old former Detroit detective has just moved back to Bijoux, Michigan, the lakeside town where she grew up. Returning to take up the reins as the new police captain since her father, Able, retired, Morgan hopes for a fresh start and a welcome change from the gritty police work she did in the Big D. Morgan also hopes she’ll be able to get her life back on track since her husband Ian Daniels, also a detective, was murdered on a case five years ago. Still unsolved, her husband’s death haunts her even as she settles into her new role.
Morgan has mixed feelings about being back home in Bijoux. Her relationship with her dad is complicated, and the townspeople have no qualms about telling her how she should do her job. Her childhood nemesis, Connie Graham, a reporter for the local TV news station, always seems to show up at the worst possible time, and the owner of the local bookstore, Caleb Joseph, is far too attractive and far too nosy. At least she and her deputy, JJ Jones, get along and bond over their mutual love of cupcakes.
The quaint, old town has gone through quite a transformation since Morgan was there last. Quirky new shops are opening up to attract summer tourists. And many of the old stores along Main Street are getting a facelift. Even the historic Firefly Bed and Breakfast, is changing. It’s hosting a romance writer’s conference with some of the biggest names in the biz. But someone else is determined to make a few more changes. Deadly changes that will leave the town reeling and will have Morgan investigating the first murder in Bijoux in 100 years.
Crime and mystery lovers will be flocking to Toronto next week for Bouchercon 2017, the biggest mystery authors convention happening October 12-14, 2017. With that in mind, I spoke with Alison Bruce, the new Executive Director of Crime Writers of Canada (CWC) to see what wonderful events they have planned for Bouchercon, about her new role as ED of the CWC and her much anticipated second book in her Men in Uniform Series.
LB: Can you tell us a little about CWC and what the association does on behalf of crime and mystery writers?
AB: CWC is a national non-profit organization for Canadian mystery and crime writers, associated professionals, and others with a serious interest in Canadian crime writing. Our mission is to promote Canadian crime writing and to raise the profile of Canadian crime writers with readers, reviewers, librarians, booksellers, and media.
Our most important means of fulfilling our mission is our website: Crime Writers of Canada (CWC) . Through the website, readers around the world can find out about our member authors, their books, and their events, as well as what CWC as a whole is doing as an organization and within the larger community.
Through our free monthly public newsletter Crime Beat, subscribers access Author Events and Cool Canadian Crime – our catalogue of our members’ published books, updated quarterly – which are also available directly through the website, and they can get updates on our Arthur Ellis Awards as well as what CWC is doing at events like Word on the Street and Bouchercon.
For authors interested in what we do, I suggest checking out Member Benefits because the list is too long to include here.
LB:How has the CWC evolved as an organization and what does that mean for you and your new role as Executive Director?
AB: One of the strengths of CWC has been its ability and willingness to adapt. My new role as Executive Director is a great example of this. My predecessors played to their strengths and so will I. One of my strengths has been my past involvement with most aspects of the organization. As well as being the Publications Manager, I was the Arthur Ellis Awards Administrator and the ED’s deputy.
Now Ted Griffith is taking on the Arthur Ellis Awards mantle and I have a very able and personable Assistant Executive Director who will be sharing the administrative load so I can continue to be hands on in the publications and website development. We are already discovering where our skills complement each other and I am looking forward to us teaming up for the benefit of CWC.
LB: How did you first become involved with the Crime Writers of Canada (CWC)?
AB: This is one of my favorite CWC stories. It was just after my dad died and for the first time in years, I was able to get to Word on the Street in Toronto. At the time I had an urban fantasy and a mystery novel making the rounds of the publishers so I was on the lookout for professional organizations that I could join. I knew about the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association and found them first, but they didn’t take unpublished authors. A couple of tables over, I discovered Crime Writers of Canada. Not only did they welcome associate members, they had a new category in their awards for unpublished first novels. I joined on the spot.
That year I was longlisted for the Unhanged Arthur Award, I got involved as a volunteer on the board and later went on to become the Publications Manager.
LB: Bouchercon 2017 is taking place October 12-14 in Toronto, can you tell us a little about the event?
AB: Bouchercon is run by the World Mystery Convention, a non-profit, all-volunteer organization. It is named in honor of Anthony Boucher, mystery fiction critic, editor, and author. It is held in a different North American city every year and this year is it being held in Toronto.
It is huge! There will be around 1600 people attending, including fans of crime fiction, along with published authors, aspiring writers, librarians, large and small publishers, editors, agents, and booksellers. There will be panels and special events, exhibitions and a dealers room, and CWC will be part of the excitement.
I’m excited. It’s my first Bouchercon and I’ll be in the thick of things.
LB: How will CWC be participating in this event?
AB: On Friday night, CWC will be hosting a crime-themed pub quiz. All day Saturday we’ll be sponsoring the Refreshment Room. We’ll also have a CWC table outside the dealer’s room where we will be able to sign up new members, and getting those who don’t want to join us but would like our free monthly newsletter CRIME BEAT. Each venue is a great opportunity to get our authors and readers together.
With the impressive list of panels, tours, and authors, what are you most looking forward to at Bouchercon 2017?
I’m going to be relaxed about the panels. There’s so much to choose from and I will be mostly there to work so I reckon I’ll play it by ear. Who knows who I’ll be meeting for coffee?
In addition to being the Executive Director of CWC, you are also an accomplished mystery author. Your book “A Bodyguard to Remember”, the first title in the Men in Uniform Series featured the unforgettable heroine Prudence Hartley. Will readers get the chance to see Pru again?
There is a book two or my publisher would kill me. Book 2 of Men in Uniform will see Pru Hartley getting thrown into the deep end of trouble because of a house guest her ex-husband foists on her. My working title is “Something the Ex Dragged In.”
What other work do you have coming out now?
I have a new book coming out soon. It’s a novel I wrote before Men in Uniform and then forgot about for a while. I’m hoping it will be out in time for Bouchercon so I can read from it at “20 on 20” (twenty minutes with an author every twenty minutes).
I know you have a lot going on with your new role and getting ready for Bouchercon but in the midst of all the chaos what is your guilty pleasure? I am assuming its loads of coffee!
I don’t feel the least bit guilty about drinking coffee. That would be like a car feeling guilty for needing gas. My guilty pleasure is having a treat with my coffee. ******
Now that is something I can also relate to! For anyone interested in attending Bouchercon 2017, the event details and links are below.
When: October 12-15th 2017
Registration Link: http://bouchercon2017.com/registration/
Alison Bruce writes history, mystery, and suspense. Her books combine clever mysteries, well-researched backgrounds and a touch of romance. Her protagonists are marked by their strength of character, sense of humor and the ability to adapt (sooner or later) to new situations. Four of her novels have been finalists for genre awards.
Copywriter, editor and graphic designer since 1992, Alison has also been a comic book store manager, small press publisher, and web designer. Currently, she is the Executive Director of Crime Writers of Canada.
Ludvica Boota is currently in the publishing program at Ryerson University and is an intern at Lachesis Publishing Inc. Prior to her studies, she worked in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors. Her most adventurous experience was working for the Coombe Women and Infants University Hospital in Dublin Ireland, where she was employed as a project officer but was never asked to deliver a baby. Ludvica holds an MBA from the University of Victoria and a B.Com from Carleton University.
When she’s not daydreaming about her next travel adventure, and perhaps her own HEA, she is usually immersed in a romance novel.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT:
Art gallery owner Erin Cameron has a problem. Not only has she lost her way after the death of her parents, she lost a bit of herself as well. Her only solace, is the constant, loving care of her housekeeper, Mrs. Hardy and the beloved family art gallery that she inherited from her father. In order to side-step the limelight and still get her work done, Erin creates an alter-ego named “Penny Boucher” as her assistant. Each day, the beautiful, violet-eyed brunette transforms herself into a brown-eyed, blonde and heads off to work. Her disguise works so well, that her own staff prefers having Penny around rather than Erin.
But a double life has a way of creating double trouble. Especially when a tall, dark, and gorgeous art collector named Tristan Forsyth arrives from Scotland, determined to buy Cameron Gallery. At first, Erin uses “Penny” as a way for her to “avoid” the billionaire and his all-knowing, sexy, green eyes. Until Erin realizes, that not only does she not want to avoid Tristan, she can’t stop thinking about him.
When a valuable painting is stolen, and Erin becomes the prime suspect, can she turn to the handsome, Scottish billionaire for help? And more importantly, can she tell him the truth about her double life?
Cheers! and Happy Reading.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT:
This is what Vinnie Esposito knows: When you see a guy floating in the water, you jump in and save him. You don’t stop to ask if he’s connected to the mob. Unfortunately for Vinnie, he is. And now she’s in trouble. Again.
Her boyfriend, hunky State Trooper Marcus Richmond, is fed up with Vinnie’s misadventures, not to mention that every mobster in town seems to know who she is. At least Vinnie knows she can rely on her best friend Lola Trapezi to whip up some delicious dinner at her deli. She also knows Lola is always ready to help, even if it means getting into some hot water herself.
Everything Vinnie knows and doesn’t know—including how she really feels about her sexy friend and upstairs tenant FBI Agent Aaron Grant, and whether her dad really is connected to the mob—is all up in the air. And what Vinnie doesn’t know, might just get her killed.
Please don’t be dead.
I peered at the floating body as I stripped off my jacket and ran toward the water. Frigid temperatures and freezing waist-deep water numbed my skin, leaving me with uncontrollable shakes as I hauled the body toward shore. Struggling against strong winds and soggy clothing that hugged my skin, I slogged on. His clothing drenched, he grew heavier and heavier as we drew closer to land.
Blood floated halo-like around his dark hair, leaving a trail behind us. While blood is my least favorite thing in the whole world, I doggedly ignored it in order to get this stranger ashore. My stomach hadn’t revolted from the sight of it, not yet anyway, and I guessed I was safe. In shallow water, he became heavier still, and my breathing labored at the strain of his weight. Land was within reach. So what if it just happened to be a cemetery, big deal.
In good physical shape, I stand just short of six feet, tall for a woman, but I take after my aunt Livvy. I’m not a weakling either, though my struggle to pull this inconsiderate fool ashore tested my strength. We finally reached dry ground. Shivering and puffing from exertion, I dragged him by his arms and flipped him onto his back.
Pale, cold skin stretched tight across his prominent features. He wasn’t dead pale, so I dropped down onto my knees and felt his neck for a carotid pulse. Pressing an ear against his chest, I listened for a heartbeat before I checked for breathing. With my cheek near his nose, I didn’t feel any warmth from his breath. I should have known better, I’m never that lucky.
My jacket lay on the ground where I’d flung it before wading into the bitter and still wintry water of the Scituate Reservoir. With fingers stiffened from my recent drenching, I fumbled in the dry jacket pocket for my cell phone. I dialed 9-1-1 and set the phone on speaker mode. In the time it took for the operator to answer, I had started CPR. I’m not trained as a professional life-saver, but I’m certified to perform cardio-pulmonary resuscitation. Besides, I figured the guy had nothing left to lose.
A distant male voice echoed as I counted chest compressions. His voice droned from the speaker as he asked what the problem was.
“I’m performing CPR on a guy who drowned in the Scituate Reservoir. Send me some help. I’m in the cemetery behind the church in Scituate village.”
“What church would that be, ma’am?”
“The only damned church with a full-on cemetery behind it.” I breathed into the man’s lungs and started counting compressions once again.
“Ma’am, that isn’t enough information. What is your name and present location?” The voice was calm. I was not.
“One and two and three and four and five and . . .” I counted and breathed, counted and breathed. Silently, I prayed this man wasn’t beyond help.
The cool, collected dispatcher waited for enlightenment. Of course he wasn’t soaked to the skin, freezing his ass off, performing CPR on a dead guy, and trying to talk all at the same time, either. I could have used a break here.
“Listen up,” I yelled toward the phone, “alert the freaking North Scituate Fire Station and tell them to help me, Vinnie Esposito. They’ll know who, and where, I am.” I ignored the man’s babbling and multi-tasked for another moment.
Seconds later, sirens blared as trucks left the station less than a quarter mile away. Sound carried in the small rural village, edged by the reservoir. Within those same seconds, my victim coughed, spewing water and saliva onto my clothes as I leaned over him.
How lucky could I get?
Turning him on his side, I watched the bedraggled man while blood continued to dribble from his head wound. Folding my legs beneath me, I leaned back and listened to him haul ragged gulps of air into his lungs. His breathing steadied as color flowed into his face. I huffed and puffed, shivered and shook, while watching the man become stronger with every breath.
Fire and rescue trucks halted at the top of the slope. I glanced over my shoulder. The rescue team was heading toward us at a run. Relief spread through me like warmth from a crackling fire.
Bill MacNert, an old timer at the fire station, approached. His lips always held a secret smile and I never could figure out what went on behind his twinkling eyes. I’d known him and his family for what seemed like forever. He drew closer, his eyes on me, while shaking his head back and forth.
Directing the younger men toward the victim on the ground, as though they didn’t already know what they were doing, I moved back and smiled at Bill.
“Leave it to you.” He smirked.
“Hey, I did my good deed for the day,” I said and took the emergency blanket a team member handed me.
The EMS crew knew their stuff. They worked on the floater and then loaded him into the rescue. A large bandage was wrapped around his head, heavy blankets were piled over him, and an oxygen mask covered his nose and mouth. I watched the rescue move away, figuring the stranger was fortunate indeed.
Eyeing me with a keen gaze, MacNert asked, “Ya know this fella?”
“Never laid eyes on him until today.” Shivering, I walked toward my coat where it lay in a jumbled pile on the ground. I glanced around and realized that I’d hardly visited with my dead aunt.
There’s always tomorrow, Livvy.
Visits to Aunt Livvy usually occurred when my life had turned to crap or I’d managed to stick my way too curious nose some place it didn’t belong. I would unload my woes onto her grave and feel better for having done so. Livvy isn’t a ghost or anything. Don’t get me wrong, she’s as dead as they come, but it just gives me comfort to know I can come here and talk. She had always been a great listener. I missed that the most now she was gone.
A local cop arrived on the scene. Slowly, I hiked up the slope toward the road, my feet squishing in soggy sneakers while drenched jeans chafed my skin. Dressed in winter attire, with a heavy jacket and husky boots to keep his dry feet warm, I envied the cop. Knowing full well that he would want a report, I sauntered forward. Gosh, I was cold, shivering so hard my teeth chattered nonstop. After all, it was only the beginning of March, and in Rhode Island, it’s a cold, wet month.
“Are you Lavinia Esposito?” The officer stared at me.
“The one and only.”
His narrowed eyes held a doubtful gleam, but I ignored it. Cops tend to be suspicious about everyone and everything. I know this for a fact, since I teach criminal justice at a local university to cops, or po-pos as they’re called, and to security personnel, nicknamed wannabes by the cops. Often, a few legal students take my classes as well, which, in turn, creates an interesting, yet kindergarten-like atmosphere. The egos alone are a challenge when it’s time for order in the classroom. I know they’re adults, but it doesn’t always seem as if they know it.
“Did you see the accident?”
“No, I heard a splash. Branches snapped, and I went to see what happened. The guy was floating face down in the water.”
His wary expression never left my face. “What were you doing here?”
Like what you’ve read?
Cheers! and Happy Reading.
Book 7 in the Vinnie Esposito Series grabs hold of you on page 1 and never lets go!
E-book is available right here at Lachesis Publishing (all e-book formats).
And on amazon,
What it’s about:
Vacations are supposed to be relaxing right? That’s what Vinnie Esposito thinks, until she spies a dead mobster bobbing in the water at her feet while she’s sipping her morning coffee.
All Vinnie wants is a leisurely get-away on Block Island with her best friend Lola Trapezi. Lola has been going through a rough time since she found out that she isn’t a real Trapezi, but the product of an illicit affair between her mother and a notorious mobster.
Vinnie is determined to support her friend no matter what, but when Vinnie stumbles across more dead mob guys, not even her ex-boyfriend, State Trooper Marcus Richmond, nor her friend, FBI Agent Aaron Grant, can keep her out of the hot seat with the Block Island authorities. And when Lola’s mobster-father shows up, everything goes from bad to deadly. Can Vinnie get off the island unscathed, or will she end up deader than dead?
J.M. Griffin. is the author of two cozy mystery series for Lachesis Publishing. The popular (and sexy) Vinnie Esposito series and the fun (and yummy) Deadly Bakery series and the co-author of the dark and compelling Linty Dragon Mystery Series. Book 1 Dragon’s Touch.
In:amreading, amwriting, blog post, contemporary fantasy, Dark Paranormal, dystopian fantasy, dystopic fantasy, Lachesis Author Guest Blog, Lachesis authors, Lachesis Blog, Murder Mystery, mystery, Mystery Authors, Mystery Novels, paranormal, science fiction, Steam Punk, Supernatural, Time Travel, Westerns
Robert E. Vardeman is the author of more than 100 fantasy and science fiction novels, as well as numerous westerns under various pen names (Jackson Lowry, Karl Lassiter). He’s written gaming tie-in novels such as Dark Legacy for the Magic: The Gathering series and he wrote the Star Trek novels The Klingon Gambit and Mutiny on the Enterprise. He was nominated for the prestigious Hugo Award in 1972 and he named Albuquerque’s science fiction convention Bubonicon. The convention is named because even to this day, there are occasional cases of Bubonic Plague in the area. Fortunately, it’s easily treated by modern antibiotics!
Not only has Bob Vardeman succeeded with traditional, mainstream publishing but he has a long track record of working with small presses and even self-publishing. His short story collection Stories from Desert Bob’s Reptile Ranch which spans more than thirty years of writing was published by Popcorn Press. I’ve been honored to be featured in a few anthologies with him, including the forthcoming Straight Outta Tombstone anthology from Baen Books.
Bob is a longtime resident of Albuquerque, New Mexico, who graduated from the University of New Mexico with a B.S. in physics and an M.S. in materials engineering. He worked for Sandia National Laboratories in the Solid State Physics Research Department before becoming a full time writer. I caught up with Bob at this year’s Bubonicon in Albuquerque.
DLS: As I understand, you started out working in the Solid State Physics Research Department at Sandia National Labs before becoming a writer. How has your background in physics and materials science influenced your writing?
REV: While we call it science fiction, what we enjoy most is actually technology fiction–how science affects our lives (and our characters’ lives). Science moves so fast these days, other than trying to avoid simple mistakes, what I learned back in the days of yore is outdated. Bell’s Inequality, which changed so much, came 15 years after I quit working at Sandia. Nano tech meant ICs then. Hubble and soon Webb space telescopes open the universe to dark matter and energy. I read about new discoveries but mostly I don’t understand them. Instead, I try to put it all into a technology framework and figure out what the effect will be on our lives.
DLS: How did you get started writing? When you started writing for fanzines, did you have an idea that you wanted to be a professional author?
REV: I’m one of the exceptions to the “I always wanted to write” rule. I never did. I wanted to be a nuclear physicist and more or less ended up there, though X-rays and RTGs were as close as I got. I had a few months between quitting Sandia and going to UC Berkeley where I had been accepted to work on a PhD (in ceramic engineering) when I visited my good buddy Geo. Proctor. Geo. was a reporter for the Dallas Morning News, had a couple novels and short stories printed and had always wanted to be a writer. He suggested we coauthor a story. Why not? We did, it sold. (and we never got paid–the magazine folded before publication). Over the years this story sold twice more with the same result. Ironically, the title of the story was “A Killing In the Market.” I enjoyed the process, wrote a fantasy proposal and sent it out. It sold. I was faced with finishing the book or going to Berkeley, so I postponed school by a half year. In that time I sold two more novels and decided this was more fun than designing materials for rocket throat liners. As it turned out, this was a good decision on another front. The prof who would have been my adviser died of cancer 2 years after I would have begun. Such a tragedy easily could have derailed my dissertation, research and career.
DLS: You’ve written under several pseudonyms including Karl Lassiter and Jackson Lowry for westerns, your science fiction has appeared under your own name as well as F.J. Hale and Edward S. Hudson, and I could go on. Authors often build brands around their names. Why have so many pseudonyms? What kind of work do you put into building a brand for each new pseudonym?
REV: The sf pen names came about to keep from competing with myself. One month I had three titles, out, two fantasy and an sf book. Publishers loathe such self-competition. The shift in western pen name from Karl Lassiter to Jackson Lowry came about for the same reason. When I switched publishers, the new one insisted on a different name to keep from supposed promotion of titles from a competing publisher. In a way, this was good. Lassiter did more epic, long form novels while Lowry does short stories, lighter westerns and weird westerns.
DLS: Not only do you have several pseudonyms, but you’ve run the gamut from publishing with New York houses to publishing with small presses to self-publishing. Why work with such a range of publishers?
REV: It took me a while to figure out that I would be terrible doing repetitive assembly line work. After a few minutes, I’d be changing how Part A fitted into Part B. Keeping with one genre (and publisher) is like that. New challenges, new ideas, “what if” always beckons and not necessarily in the same field. I am prolific and varied ideas flow constantly (I am aware of the difference between constant and continuous, alas–the ideas flow constantly). It takes a lot of ink and electrons to keep up.
DLS: Tell us about the Empires of Steam and Rust series. I thought this was an especially innovative approach to self-publishing where several authors write in a single world and help each other market their works. How can we learn more about the books in the series?
REV: Shared worlds aren’t too uncommon, but I decided on a different approach. The basic steampunk framework could be applied in myriad ways–all suggesting myriad authors could contribute. The idea of “holes” into a world consumed by rust gave a world lacking in oxygen and the possibility of invasion from (and into) it. Rather than being the editor for all this, I let trusted authors use the framework to tell stories in their own way and bring their readers to the world. Hopefully that story interests their readers to look at other writers working in the same framework. Each author is responsible for story, editing, publishing, cover, marketing, everything. And the individual author collects 100% of the revenue from their own work. No charge for use of the world. Entries so far have been strong and interesting and varied. I look forward to writing more myself in the world and hope other authors ask if they might join the fun (send me an email to inquire).
DLS: Your career started before we’d heard of things like Twitter and Facebook. How has the world of book marketing changed now that social media has come on the scene? How do you fold social media into your own book marketing campaigns?
REV: I coined the term VIPub a few years ago. Vertically Integrated Publishing. Indie authors have to do it all, think up the idea, write the story, edit it, get a cover, publish and promote. It all rests on the author’s shoulders. This is overwhelming if you try to do whatever is currently hot in social media since it is a moving target and changes in 6 months (or less). In a talk David Morrell said 10% of a writer’s time ought to be spent on promotion. The question arises as to how to allocate that time. From all the possibilities, I say pick three that interest you most. Twitter or Facebook or blogs or Instagram or…whatever else is out there. I have a website I update periodically (www.cenotaphroad.com) and an online store (www.robertevardeman.com). I do post fun stuff on facebook every day and link it with Twitter. I have let blog writing lag since I can’t do it all. One element that is the author’s and no one else’s is a mailing list. Self-selected fans are the greatest. (Sign up for mine via my website or online store) I only send out the n/l when a new book is available or other publishing info comes to light. I don’t like getting inundated so hold down frequency to make each one special (and give special offers of free books, etc)
DLS: What can we look forward to in the coming months from Robert E. Vardeman, or your other identities for that matter?
REV: One novella I am especially excited about is “Jupiter Convergence” in the new anthology Rockets Red Glare. A weird western short story, “The Sixth World”, is forthcoming in the Baen anthology Straight Outta Tombstone. The final volume in a Jackson Lowry weird western trilogy, Punished, is due out in November (#3: Bayou Voodoo joins #1: Undead and #2: Navajo Witches). I am returning to work on an sf book with a different take on first contact and have a major project mapped out set on the moons of Jupiter. And when I get a chance, I have a really strange detective novel in synopsis. Final mention is one of my pen names, Dana Fox. Burning Man Anomaly is joined by a 3-author follow-up Aztec Automaton Anomaly with a 3rd title being sketched out now set in a haunted 1930’s Texas luxury hotel slated for release in 2017.
Romantic suspense author Alison Bruce is a member of a dynamic critique group of very talented mystery authors. She and her group got together recently for a yummy potluck lunch. Among the topics discussed were the following: the making of a good murder, what makes a great sleuth, Original Oreos versus Double Stuffed and of course – the importance of beta readers. We’ll focus on the Beta Readers discussion today – and let the Deadly Dames battle over the Oreos.
These are their stories . . .
Finding beta readers is a bit like matchmaking. It’s not just how good they are, but whether they like the kind of things you write. There’s no point asking thriller readers to beta read your cozy, no matter how mad their editorial skills are. If they don’t know and love your genre, they won’t be able to see if you go off the reservation. Knowledge of the publishing market also helps. For that reason, we often turn to other authors. The first person I turn to is Nancy.
A good beta reader is one who catches inconsistencies, oddities, and spelling/grammar mistakes.
A good beta reader questions things that are puzzling or unclear, or that disagree with something the author had written earlier in the same work.
A good beta reader identifies loose ends that need to be tied up.
A good beta reader provides suggestions to correct/clarify the problems they find. (These suggestions the author can use or disregard)
The beta reader has a fresh set of eyes that see more clearly than the author, who has read the same work so many times through the many rewrites that he/she can’t often see problems or errors anymore.
As a reader, there is nothing more jarring than finding a mistake in a published work. It immediately jolts you out of the story and destroys any momentum the author has built up. Often it is difficult to regain that momentum and sink back into the story. Beta readers help to find and eliminate anything that would impede a smooth and enjoyable experience for the reader!
I made the mistake of reading what Nancy wrote–and I think she covers nearly everything. Maybe I can add this: A good beta reader can be objective and can combine honesty and tact. “They” say not to use friends and relatives, but if they can be objective, then I think it works very well. However, that can be a very big if…
My beta readers are honest, yet encouraging. They all have a sense of story, plot, character and setting so they can give me both general and specific feedback. They comb for as many spelling, grammar and typo errors as they can. They also pick out any inconsistencies: the character would never say/do that! or that guy’s eyes were blue in Chapter 1 and brown in Chapter 2 or the plot wanders too much. They’ll do their own research to make sure squirrels really are awake to chatter in the winter.
I don’t have a lot of experience with beta readers. However – that being said – I think a good beta reader is someone who can put themselves into the mindset of your average reader (if there is such a thing as an average reader) and can sense what will appeal to that reader and what will derail them from pleasant immersion in the story. AND – be able to articulate those things in a way that makes sense to the author.
How important are beta readers to you?
My beta readers are essential to my writing. They nudge me along, correct my route, pick up my characters from the side of the road, and generally drive all of us to our destination. Without them, I’d have a lot of errors both in the text and in the story lines. Without them, my books would have been offal.
One of my beta readers kept me from making a factual error that would have, if my reader knew anything about pharmacology, made my books seem like a mess of intestines too.
Most of my critique partners and I have critiqued chapters as we write them. It can be a long process, but we can prevent one another from writing an entire manuscript based on veering in totally the wrong direction in the first chapter. The first person to read my entire manuscripts all at once was Faith Black Ross, my editor at Berkley Prime Crime. She made excellent suggestions.
As writers, we are perhaps too close to our own work and have our own “darlings”. We need a reality check from someone who is perhaps more objective.
For me, a beta reader goes way beyond proofing. He/she comments on the structure of your story. Does it work? Should things be moved? What’s missing?
I have a specific example re Rowena and the Viking Warlord, a humorous medieval time-travel fantasy. Two of my four beta readers told me that the first half of the book was getting Game-of-Thrones grim. They suggested I move one of the humorous parts forward, to break up the extreme tension. I followed their advice, and am happy to say that the book is much better for it. Tension escalates, and then is diffused by the humor, to give the reader some needed relief. Then tension rises again to make the climax even more gripping. I wouldn’t have made that excellent change, without feedback from my beta readers.
Award-winning author of short stories, novels, novellas, and screenplays. Best known for her Emily Taylor mystery novels and her new Kira Callahan mystery novellas.
Janet Bolin writes the Threadville Mystery Series–machine embroidery, murder, and mayhem in a village of sewing, quilting, yarn, and other crafty shops. Threadville Mysteries have been nominated for Agatha and Bony Blithe Awards.
Author of mystery, suspense and historical western romance novels. Three of Alison’s novels have been finalists for genre awards, including the Lou Allin Arthur Ellis Award for Best Novella.
The Toronto Sun called her Canada’s “Queen of Comedy.” Melodie Campbell has over 200 publications including 40 short stories and ten novels. She has won The Derringer, The Arthur Ellis, and eight other awards for crime fiction.
Joan has had an active career in freelance writing, with over 30 educational publications to her credit. Her short stories have been published in anthologies and online magazines. In 2014, her flash fiction story, “Torch Song for Two Voices” won the Polar Expressions Publishing contest.
Nancy is a prolific reader of many genres but especially crime fiction (in all its sub-genres). Since she is also a retired teacher and many-time judge of literary contests, Nancy is practically a professional-grade beta-reader.
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