Sunday, August 23, 2015
The Sands of Gower Coming Out December 1, 2015
Here’s my new publishing project. I’m going to put all fifteen mysteries I’ve written about postmenopausal poet Penny Weaver and Kenneth Morgan, her Welsh detective lover/husband into print through my own imprint Hoganvillaea Books, using Amazon’s CreateSpace. A little history.
Back in 1990, I was a poet and non-fiction writer. I had been to Russia for the first time, which set off love feelings for my host writer there, and I had come afterwards to the Gower Peninsula in Wales for several weeks of poetry writing. I was struggling with what to do with that love, which was taboo, he being married, and rebelling against it, and I think that rebellion was why I sprained my ankle. I got an ambulance to the Swansea hospital. Bed rest was the prescription, no ice available, and so I was housebound for several weeks and couldn’t range the cliffs and valleys of Gower in search of poems. Instead, I wrote them in my bedroom at Edith Merrett’s bed and breakfast, where I had spent other years relaxing away from my usual responsibilities and writing poems–some of my best.
Edith knew I loved to read mysteries, and one day she said, “Judy, you should write a murder.” So, having a lot of free time, I began to plot one based on my own experiences there on Gower. I actually wrote it the next summer, 1991, when my son was home to work for the summer, and my daughter was getting married, and I thought, with less time for concentrated work, I’d try writing my first mystery for fun. I didn’t know all the categories of crime fiction. I’d been reading all the Golden Age writers, Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Ngaio Marsh, Josephine Tey, and some of the moderns, Paretsky, Sue Grafton, Amanda Cross, and Martha Grimes.
Mine came close to the traditional mystery, which I later heard Margaret Maron describe at a workshop: a group of suspects, the challenge being to figure out whodunnit, an amateur detective, little explicit violence or sex. I later removed the explicit sex, but there’s still plenty of erotic experience in this one.
I wrote it, typed it, and tried some of the publishers who didn’t yet require agents for mysteries, and Ruth Cavin of St. Martin’s read it and sent me a very nice rejection letter. From the late 90s, too, I began entering each mystery I wrote in the annual St. Martin’s Press First Best Traditional Mystery Contest. After I joined Sisters in Crime and their sub-group the Guppies (great unpublished), in 2008, I began querying agents. I had encouragement also in 2008 from one reader/judge for that contest, even suggestions for revision, Ellen Rininger. She wrote to me: “Judy, you amaze me. You have the positive outlook which will get you far. And you just keep going! We know you have a good product, you are getting wonderful critiques from knowledgeable people. You are making great connections, and we are going to see your name in print on book shelves everywhere. Just keep up the good work!”
That was for Formaldehyde, Rooster, the 4th novel written. Then in 2011 I was a finalist in the contest for Killer Frost, the 6th written. That judge said her choice out of the 50 mss she read was a “no brainer.” In the intervening years, with Guppy support, I had queried agents for 3 years, then tried small presses, first for The Sands of Gower, then for Haw (2nd one), then for Nuclear Apples?(3rd), but no luck. When Killer Frost was a finalist, I queried the most encouraging agents, but no luck, then small presses, which I’d already been trying, and Mainly Murder Press in Connecticut, gave me a contract for 2012. Then they published #6, Farm Fresh and Fatal, in 2013. But in 2014, the editor Judi Ivey kicked me loose. She said I wasn’t making enough money, and neither were they. So I again, with several suggestions from “knowledgeable” people, tried other small presses. No luck.
I had noticed that some of my friends, notably Gloria Alden, had gotten five books out between 2012 and 2015, and I had two. She sold them locally mostly, but they sold well at Malice, too. She was using Create/Space. I’m not wild about supporting Amazon, but Gloria found it relatively easy to use their self-publishing tool, and I’m 78, so my time runs short at least for having as much energy as I do now. I rest more, but I do get a lot done in a day, if not everything I wish to. I had also met Tonya Kappes, who self-published from the beginning, four books a year, and recently was picked up by Harper and Row. She’s a fireball, and I thought I couldn’t match her success, but I could find more readers as I got more books out. So I started Hoganvillaea Books. Carolyn Mulford urged me to do four a year, but I think I can do three.
My planned pub dates will be Dec 1, April 1, August 1, each year, starting this December 1. For me putting Sands up on Create/Space was a sharp learning curve. I had asked Anne Kachergis to design cover and bookmarks, and when I was having trouble with uploading the PDF file, or one that would be converted correctly to PDF, I asked Anne’s help, and she did it with relative ease. It cost me more, but now the book is print-ready, and review copies are ordered.
I owe a lot to my two readers: Suzanne Flandreau and Carol Hay, who have read the books in sequence and believe in them, plus caught those little problems and typos, commas, etc., that we all need to fix before we put our books out on the waters of the world.
I’m proceeding as much as possible as a publisher, getting out Advance Review Copies early, and I’m starting pre-sales now.
For $16, including tax, you can order Sands to pick up when Dec. 1 arrives; or you can request it mailed to you for $19, which covers tax and postage. To PO Box 253, Moncure, NC 27559-0253. It’s 194 pages, ISBN-13: 978-1515191063. Dec. 1 there will also be a Kindle available for $2.99 on Amazon. I'll have them in local bookstores, too.
I already have readings in the works plus a launch at my farm on Dec. 6, Sunday, 4-6 PM. Potluck. Then at the Regulator Bookshop in Durham, I’ll read Thursday, Dec. 10, 7 PM, and on Jan 9, Saturday, 2016, 11 AM-1 PM I’ll sign books at Paperbacks Plus in Siler City. Readings at the South Regional Library in Durham, and the Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill are also in the works. I should finish getting all fifteen into print by 2020, and no doubt I’ll be writing a new one or two, also, especially about the coal ash problem I’m working on now.
I had an enthusiastic response to my first two published novels. Julia Spencer-Fleming, a NY Times best-selling author, called Killer Frost “a stellar debut.” Carolyn Hart had this to say: “Farm Fresh and Fatal features an appealing protagonist, an intriguing background, and well-realized characters. Readers will enjoy these characters and empathize with their successes and failures. In the tradition of Margaret Maron.”
Mystery Scene Magazine also praised it: [Farm Fresh and Fatal] is fascinating for several reasons. One, the personal and political infighting that takes place after a murder are indicative of how society at large functions. Two, although the reader first looks at the community as a whole, individuality quickly emerges. And three—but definitely not last—is the fact that vegetables turn out of be a lot more interesting than we’d ever guessed.–Betty Webb.
The Sands of Gower is set in a Bed and Breakfast on the Gower Peninsula near Swansea, Wales. Penny Weaver, luxuriating in her two-month vacation, is disturbed by the murder of a German guest. Penny’s independent, outspoken American lifestyle contrasts with the more conservative ways of the village’s pensioners. In the process of solving the crime, Penny and Detective Inspector Kenneth Morgan are powerfully attracted. This, plus the British post-World War II continuing distrust of the Germans, complicates their investigation.
Carolyn Mulford, author of Show Me the Ashes, says: “Distinctive characters, lyrical writing, and an appealing Welsh setting distinguish this charming tale of an introspective poet’s unexpected immersion in murder and romance.”
I hope you’ll be eager to read The Sands of Gower. If you’d like to be on my book list for updates, it’s firstname.lastname@example.org.