A Nifty Time to Be a Writer

October 18, 2013

My first novel, Down Home Murder–the first Laura Fleming mystery, was published over twenty years ago, but as is more common than not with fiction, it went out of print long ago. I wrote eight books in that series, and there was a never time when all of them were in print at the same time.

Then I moved on to the Where are they now? series, and wrote three books in that series. All of them are out of print, too.

But here’s the nifty thing about being a writer today. Every one of my novels is available again! 

Earlier this year, Audible brought out audio downloads of every one of the eight Laura Fleming novels:

http://www.audible.com/series?asin=B00C2TX018&source_code=SCLGB906MWS082913

As soon as those were up, they put out the Where are they now? books:

http://www.audible.com/series?asin=B00CF04SKG&source_code=SCLGB906MWS082913

Don’t like audio books? No problem. I’m in the process of re-publishing the Laura Fleming books as ebooks. (They were never published in that format before because the format didn’t exist.) The first four books are already out, and with luck the rest will be live by Halloween. You can find links for all of the platforms here:

http://awfulagent.com/ebooks/toni-kelner

I cannot tell you how much this delights me. None of these technologies existed when I started writing, yet now my earlier books live again.

Moreover, in between writing novels I’ve co-edited a slew of anthologies with Charlaine Harris, and they’re all available as paper books, ebooks, and audio books. A Skeleton in the Family, my brand-new book written under the pen name Leigh Perry, is out in all those formats, too. 

Just thinking about it makes me grin.

Now I admit that there are plenty of challenges for the writer today. But right now, I’m really enjoying the feeling of having all my books in print at one time. It’s a nifty time to be a writer.

 


Interviewed by Writers Who Kill

August 7, 2013

That title sounds a bit more provocative than I expected. What I mean by it is that today I’m interviewed by the talented Paula Benson at the Writers Who Kill blog. Paula has read my new book A Skeleton in the Family, and has all kinds of questions about the book, the series, and my new pen name.

To take a look, go HERE.


Games Creatures Play

July 28, 2013

Just an update on Games Creatures Play, the forthcoming anthology from Charlaine Harris and myself. As the cover copy says, “Sports fans live and die by their teams’ successes and failures—though not literally. But these fifteen authors have written spirited—in more ways than one—new tales of killer competitions that would make even the most die-hard players ask to be benched.”

The book won’t be out until April 1, 2014—just in time for some season for baseball season.  Until then, you can check out the all-star team members we’ve assembled and the sport or game they’ve written about.

Jan Burke—Dodge ball
Dana Cameron—Pankration
Adam-Troy Castro—Hide and seek
Charlaine Harris—Softball
Toni L.P. Kelner—Candlepin bowling
Caitlin Kittredge—Darts and other bar games
William Kent Krueger—Hide and seek
Ellen Kushner—Fencing
Mercedes Lackey—Stock car racing
Joe Lansdale—Boxing
Laura Lippman—Ice skating
Seanan McGuire—Roller derby
Brendan DuBois—Lacrosse
Brandon Sanderson—Cops and robbers
Scott Sigler—Baseball

They’re all MVPs to us!


An Open Letter to Nate Bell

April 20, 2013

I haven’t posted here in ages, but here’s something my erudite husband Steve sent to nitwit Nate Bell, who is a blight upon the lovely state of Arkansas. It makes me proud of Massachusetts, and particularly proud of my husband.

***

 

Dear Sir:

Part of my family came over here with the Pilgrims, seeking religious freedom. Another part fought in the Revolutionary War. Another fled persecution under the Tsar and came here during WWI. I am myself a proud son of New England, and without the people of Boston and Massachusetts, especially John Adams, you would not be living in the United States today. Both Washington and Jefferson said that Independence would never have happened without John Adams, truly one of the original Massachusetts liberals, a proud and gutsy man who even defended the Redcoat soldiers of the Boston Massacre, because it was the right thing to do.

That same kind of pride and bravery showed itself on the day of the Marathon bombing, when hosts of those “Massachusetts liberals” you demean ran toward the explosions, to help people. And those same Massachusetts liberals took in those who had no place to go. One Massachusettsian was so tough that after having both legs blown off, as soon as he woke up he wrote a note about the bombers he had seen, and spoke to the cops, in accurate and telling detail. (http://bangordailynews.com/2013/04/19/news/nation/boston-bombing-victim-who-had-legs-blown-off-helped-identify-suspects/)

We weren’t “cowering in [our] homes.” And your so-called apology for the timing and not the content does not satisfy me, nor will it the many brave people of Massachusetts who are wholly uncowed by terrorists, and who, even as I write this, are hunting them down. We shut down our city to go after them. Mess with this city and these people at your peril.

I strongly suggest you apologize for your insults to the people of Massachusetts; whether we share your political views or not, your implication of cowardice is better aimed at the terrorists than our citizens. Perhaps you would have cowered under your bed without your AR-15, but we wouldn’t, and we didn’t.

Shame on you.

Sincerely,
Stephen P. Kelner, Jr.


The Next Next Big Thing

December 6, 2012

As with last week, I’m blog hopping or perhaps, hopping blogs. I was tagged to share the answers to the following questions about my forthcoming book, and will tag another writer to share news about her new book.

My tagger was my good friend Dana Cameron. We beta read for each other, meaning that we read the other’s works-in-progress to make suggestions. I’ll confess that Dana has kept me from making many bad writing choices. (I’m not having her beta read this post, though–she’s taking it on faith.) One thing I beta read for her was her upcoming novel Seven Kinds of Hell, so I can brag that I was one of the first to read it. Don’t worry, you’ll get a chance to catch up very soon, and you’ve got a treat in store for you.

Before I get started, I want to explain something. In her blog hopper, Dana referred to my forthcoming book The Skeleton in the Armoire. That was indeed the title last week. But the publishing world is a dynamic place, and yesterday it morphed into A Skeleton in the Family. With either title, the book will be coming out under my pen name Leigh Perry.

Now for the questions:

Where did the idea for this book come from?

Honestly, I don’t know. All I know is when.

In May of 2004 I sent an email to Dana telling her about this idea I had for an ambulatory skeleton named Sid who would solve his own murder. Dana patiently  gave me background information about skeletal specimens in universities and museums, and I wrote a few passages. About two weeks later, I sent a note to Charlaine Harris, my other beta reader. “I’ve got an idea for a new story or book–don’t know which, yet–and want to see what you think.  It’s probably too silly for works, but since you and Laurell and Dean and Maria have the vampire market by the throat, I thought I’d try something new.  Would you read this snippet and see what you think?” Then I pasted in a piece of what has become A Skeleton in the Family.

Obviously, at some point there must have been a moment when I said, “I think I’ll write a mystery about an ambulatory skeleton,” but I don’t know what led to that moment. Maybe too many daiquiris?

What genre does your book fall under?

Mystery, or to be really specific, cozy woo-woo. In other words, it’s a traditional mystery with paranormal elements. Sid the Skeleton is the paranormal element.

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

The only way A Skeleton in the Family could make it to the screen would be as animation or using serious CGI. So I’m going to pick Andy Serkis, famous for his portrayal of Gollum in The Lord of the Rings. He’s the only one I can imagine playing Sid.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? 

Georgia moves back home and has to deal with the family skeleton–an actual skeleton named Sid. He walks and talks and makes bad jokes, and now he wants to solve his own murder. (I know, that’s two sentences. I suppose I could have faked it with really creative punctuation or CGI…)

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

A Skeleton in the Family will be published by Berkley Prime Crime, and I’m represented by Joshua Bilmes of the JABberwocky Agency.

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

Eight years. Or eight months. It depends on what you count. You see, I wrote bits of the book in summer of 2004, but got pulled away to work on other projects. In February of 2011, I pitched the idea to my editor, Ginjer Buchanan, and included an excerpt an synopsis. But it wasn’t until March of 2012 that I really sat down to write. I finished the first draft in October.

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

I think I’ve got the skeleton mystery market all to myself. In terms of a ridiculous person in a normal world, I think A Skeleton in the Family is more like the Francis the Talking Mule movies, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, and TV sitcoms like Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

See the above overly detailed explanation of where the idea came from. Once I got started, I was inspired by stories I heard of adjunct faculty members and how it can be a precarious way to make a living.

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

Georgia, the protagonist, is a single mother with a teenaged daughter who works as kind of itinerant academic. She’s just started work at a New England college, and in the course of the book visits an anime convention and a carnival, fights with her perfect sister the locksmith, reluctantly adopts a dog, and has a romance. So there’s a lot going on. But the fact is, if the walking, talking skeleton doesn’t grab you, I may as well give up. Ditto if it puts you off.

These are the fascinating people that Dana tagged along with me:

Kat Richardson’s novel Seawitch was #3 on the Locus Hardcover Bestseller list for November! She lives on a boat, which is just nifty.

Christopher Golden is the award-winning, best selling author of (deep breath!) fiction, non-fiction, adult and YA, collaborations, and comics. I don’t think he sleeps.

Elaine Viets has two ongoing series: the Helen Hawthorne “Dead End Job” mysteries, and the Josie Marcus “Mystery Shopper mysteries.”  Elaine and I are both members of the Femmes Fatales (as is Dana), and she’ll be posting her Next Big thing blog there.

And here’s the writer I’m tagging next!

Deborah Meyler and I met online through mutual friends–one of the joys of the internet. The Bookstore, Deborah’s first novel, will be out in August 2013, and sounds like tremendous fun. If you read both The Bookstore and A Skeleton in the Family, you will note that we both use the phrase “enamel chili.” I don’t think we’ll say why that is…


Readercon Bound

July 9, 2012

Readercon, one of my favorite science fiction conventions, starts up this Thursday. My husband Steve and I attended the very first Readercon, and I was in awe of the caliber of writers just walking around. As if they were normal people! There were some admin problems–I seem to recall them passing the hat on the last day to help pay some of the bills. But from those humble beginnings, the con has grown into a much-respected science fiction convention. The organizers were even nominated for a World Fantasy Award in 2010.

This is the twenty-third year, and while I haven’t attended them all–having babies kind of put the kibosh on my regular attendance–I’ve had a fabulous time whenever I have attended. I’ll never forget the feedback from Readercon workshops moderated by Barry Longyear and at one run by the Cambridge Science Fiction Workshop. Meeting Sarah Smith at that second workshop was just about the best thing that happened to me in my early writing career. When I was shopping around my first mystery, Sarah offered to read my manuscript and make comments. Her suggestions were exactly what I needed–thanks to her, I was able to rewrite and sell Down Home Murder, my first novel.

And I’m still in awe of the caliber of writers just walking around.

This year will be my second year actually appearing on panels, and I’ve got some great ones scheduled, including two panels and a kaffeeklatsch with Steve. If you get a chance, come on by. I’ll just warn you that given my renowned co-panelists, I may be awed into silence. (Don’t worry–I’ll have plenty to say in the bar later!)

Just FYI, advance memberships are sold out, so if you haven’t signed up, come early on Friday. They’re probably going to sell out early. However the Thursday night events are FREE!

Thursday, July 12 

8:00 PM  Managing Motivation to Write. Alexander Jablokov, Steve Kelner (leader), Toni L.P. Kelner, Matthew Kressel, Ben LooryKipling (an SF writer himself) wrote: “There are nine-and-sixty ways/of composing tribal lays/and every single one of them is right!” Science fiction writers should know this better than most, yet most people don’t realize just how different the creative process is for different writers. Join a panel of writers discussing how they keep themselves going, the underlying reasons for why a given tactic works for them, and how it might (or might not) work for others.

9:30 PM  
Reading. Toni L.P. Kelner. Toni L.P. Kelner reads from her story “Pirate Dave’s Haunted Amusement Park,” published inDeath’s Excellent Vacation.
Friday, July 13 
11:00 AM  Subversion Through Friendliness. Glenn Grant, Victoria Janssen (leader), Toni L.P. Kelner, Alison Sinclair, Ruth Sternglantz. In a 2011 review of Vonda N. McIntyre’s classic Dreamsnake, Ursula K. Le Guin quotes Moe Bowstern’s slogan “Subversion Through Friendliness” and adds, “Subversion through terror, shock, pain is easy—instant gratification, as it were. Subversion through friendliness is paradoxical, slow-acting, and durable. And sneaky.” Is subversion through friendliness a viable strategy for writers who desire to challenge norms? What are its defining characteristics? When do readers love it, and when does it backfire?

Saturday, July 14 

2:00 PM  No, Really—Where Do You Get Your Ideas?. Samuel R. Delany, Toni L.P. Kelner, Ellen Klages, James Morrow, Lee Moyer, Resa Nelson (leader). All writers have been asked this question. This panel takes it seriously, exploring the roles of accumulated knowledge, reaction, dissent, inspiration, influence, and skill in creativity.

Sunday, July 15 

10:00 AM  The Seven Deadly Myths of Creativity. Andy Duncan, Joe Haldeman, Steve Kelner (leader), Toni L.P. Kelner, Matthew Kressel, Jennifer Pelland, Luc Reid. What is creativity, really? How does it work? Many people think of it as somehow magical, but in fact there has been considerable neuropsychological research devoted to the process of creativity, and current evidence makes it clear that it is inherent in the human brain: everyone is creative; the question is how to harness it. There are many myths about creativity that not only are unhelpful but have actively blocked or inhibited writers. Fortunately, many of these myths are entirely explicable and avoidable. Stephen Kelner, a research psychologist who is also a professional writer, will give an overview of the myths and the realities, and discussion will further explore individual participants’ questions or challenges.
11:00 AM  Autographs. Jeffrey A. Carver, Toni L.P. Kelner.
2:00 PM  Kaffeeklatsch. Steve Kelner, Toni L.P. Kelner, John Kessel.


Easter Egg Hunting

February 2, 2011

Yesterday was the official release date of Blast from the Past, the third of my “Where are they now?” series, which is always a happy event.

Normally I make a point of visiting a bookstore on Release Day to see the new arrival on the shelves, much as you’d go to the maternity ward and peek through the window at a newborn baby, but the weekly snowstorm up here in Massachusetts meant I couldn’t make it this time.

Here’s a shot out my back door, which shows why I decided to wait until later in the week. Or possibly next month.

That is a full-sized swing set, by the way, just to give you a sense of scale. So on the whole, I think it’s better to stay home for the day. And while I’m here, I thought I’d take y’all on an Easter egg hunt.

No, not a real one, because (1) it’s the wrong time of year and (2) the eggs would sink into the snow and not be found until July, given the way the weather has been. The kind of Easter egg I’m talking about are the private jokes hidden in my books and stories.

I confess that I have a weakness for inserting Easter eggs. In “An Unmentionable Crime,” which was set in a lingerie store, all the characters are named for people known for their connection to underwear: a man named Fredericks as in Fredericks of Hollywood, a woman named Vicki as in Victoria’s Secret, and so on. In both “Marley’s Ghost” and Mad as the Dickens, it’s Dickens character names, and in “Lying-in-the-Road Death,” characters are named for types of whiskey. (I was surprised by how many kinds of whiskey there are!)

I put in these private jokes because (1) they make me giggle and (2) I think they’re fun for readers who notice them. But I allow myself to do this if, and only if, it doesn’t distract or detract from the story.

Normally I don’t even tell anybody about them, but since I’m snowbound anyway, here are some of the Easter eggs in Blast from the Past. (And don’t worry–there will be no spoilers.)

  • The action star Tilda interviews at the beginning of the book is John Laryea, who is named for three of the leads in The Bugaloos. (You don’t remember the show that IMDb.com describes as “a rock-n-roll band with bug wings who live in a magical forest.”?)  I.Q and Courage were played by men named John–John McIndoe and John Philpott–and Harmony was played by Wayne Laryea.

  • The fictional Laryea got his start in a kids’ TV show called The Blastoffs, in which was about a pair of  brothers named Sid and Marty Blastoff. Sid and Marty Krofft are best known as the producers of a number of  kiddie shows, including H.R. Pufnstuf, Land of the Lost, and The Bugaloos. (And a tip o’ the hat to Bill Crider, who recognized that pair of names and mentioned them in his review of Blast from the Past.)
  • One thing I do in the Tilda books is to put epigraphs in front of every chapter, pulling snippets from books, web sites, and all kinds of sources. The thing is, not all of those sources actually exist. In Blast from the Past, I quotefrom Teenage Mutant Ninja Artists: The Best of Indie Comics by Jerry Frazee and  Saturday Morning Spree by Charles M. Luce. Neither book is real. The guys are real, more or less, and I drew on their expertise in comic books in researching the book. So I stuck them in as a real cheap thank-you present. By the way, in addition to being good friends of mine, both Jerry and Charles (who goes by Mike) are extremely talented artists and I’ve got plenty of work by both of them hung in my house. Just check out those links for a sample.
  • One of the producers of Pharos, the movie John Laryea is filming, is Joni Langevoort. The character is fictional, but there really is a Joni Langevoort, who I met via the convention Malice Domestic. Malice has a charity auction each year, and twice Joni has paid for the right of naming a character in one of my books. The first time, in Curse of the Kissing Cousins, I named a gospel singer after her daughter Katie. This time was Joni’s turn. (By the way, Joni’s name is misspelled in the acknowledgements for Blast from the Past, which was my mistake, but her name is correct in the text.)

That’s just a sample of what I hid in the book–I spent most of a year writing it, so there was plenty of time to sneak stuff in. I could tell you more, but I think it quit snowing and sleeting. Maybe I’ll make it to a bookstore to see the new book after all!