AudioBook, New Cover, & Fireworks

Last night as I listened to the booms and ka-pows coming from the houses around me in this usually quiet cul-de-sac, I began to imagine that the Independence Day Fireworks heralded a new beginning. I’d already read the Declaration of Independence and the entire U.S. Constitution, the way I do every year on July 4th; I’d already sung America the Beautiful, God Bless America, and the Star-Spangled Banner; I’d already comforted the cat-terror over all the loud noises. Now it was time to reflect.

There’ve been some big goings-on in the world of Fran’s Books lately. I will be eternally grateful to all the people who’ve bought my books, who’ve shared the word with friends, and who’ve helped to keep the book-buzz alive.

AudioBook Cover
AudioBook Cover

Many of you have asked when audiobooks would be available. Well, the first ScotShop audiobook, A WEE MURDER IN MY SHOP, is available now for pre-order from Tantor Media. I have to admit I was surprised at the whimsical nature of the cover when my editor at Berkley Press sent me the notice, but apparently that’s the style Tantor uses for all the cozy mysteries they record.

The great news is that I’m delighted with the voice of Tanya Eby, the narrator. Listen to the sample audio clip from the book (just click on the “MP3 Audio Sample” button). I love what she’s done with this sample of Peggy and Dirk’s conversation. And now I’m confident she’ll do justice to all the voices — Peggy, Dirk, Harper, Karaline, and all your favorite characters in WEE MURDER.

AWeeMurderInMyShopAs I explained to a book club I’d been invited to speak to a few months ago, authors seldom have much input into what the cover of their books look like. Here for comparison is the cover of the print version from Berkley Prime Crime.

Even though this cover looks like a totally different book, I assure you, they’re one and the same!

I can’t wait to hear the finished result of the recording. I have no idea when it will be ready, so I’m not holding my breath waiting for it. I’m just continuing to write books — working on the 4th book in the ScotShop series and the 8th Biscuit McKee mystery.

WEE DOSE OF DEATH CoverDid you know the 2nd ScotShop book, A WEE DOSE OF DEATH, is available for pre-order? Yep! And here’s the (wonderful) cover to prove it.

Thanks for being a reader. Without you, I’d just be talking to myself.




Girls of the Mist Book Club

Yestereen (a word that’s been in the English language for more than 400 years–it means yesterday evening), I was invited the speak to one of the most successful book clubs I’ve ever had the pleasure of attending. Many of the members are teachers, and everyone there was a joy for me to meet.

The Scot-themed book club event began with scones and shortbread, of course, as well as Scotch eggs and a wee dram or two. Someone had even brought Dirk’s favorite oranges, which as you may know (and if you’ve read my book you’ll definitely know) were a true delicacy when Dirk was alive in the 14th century. I was delighted with the thought that had gone into the presentation, and was even more delighted by the enthusiasm of the book club members.

They’d all read A WEE MURDER IN MY SHOP, and had lots of very illuminating questions about it, some of which surprised me. I was intrigued by their predictions as to what had been going on with Gilda, the ScotShop’s assistant manager, and several of them came up with suggestions that had never occurred to me — ones I’ll have to keep in mind for a future book.

They asked, of course, about several loose threads I’d left dangling. Why do I do that? Well, life itself seldom ties up everything with pat answers. In a mystery, it’s important to have the basic questions answered – who did it, how, and why. But sometimes there’s another why out there, and sometimes I like to leave that for people to wonder about.

Then too, there are the ongoing threads that will wind through any good mystery series. Those are the reason most people like to start with the very first book so they can see the threads developing. I love that sort of growth, where the characters change over the course of the series, where relationships develop (or fall apart), where people come and go, sometimes reappearing, and sometimes not.

These nine delightful women were like a gift. Women who read, women who obviously love books, women who teach, women who know the value of other women.

What more could anyone ask?

Me as a Friend

I’ve lost track of a number of people over the years – at first because I was a child growing up in an Air Force family, attending numerous schools, and not really understanding the importance of connections. When I became an adult, people moved through my life, and I had varying reactions to their appearance and/or disappearance.

But there have been two people I’m feeling sad about this morning. After my first few Biscuit McKee Mysteries were published, I met Melinda Cowan at a meeting of the Southeastern Independent Booksellers Association. Melinda and her husband owned Cowan’s Book Nook in Ellijay, Georgia, and she eventually invited me to drive up to the North Georgia mountains to sign books at her store.

We developed a delightful friendship. The Book Nook was such a wonderful place. Melinda and her staff were knowledgable about all the books they carried, and they hosted my book launches and signings–I did a lot of signings there–with grace and verve.  When they opened a second store in Blue Ridge I added that one to my list of favorite places to sign books.

I felt devastated when I found out that they had to close the Ellijay store and, not too long thereafter, the one in Blue Ridge as well. Melinda’s email address was through the store’s website. My emails to her bounced back as undeliverable. Her phone was the store’s phone number; she was unreachable.

The second friend I lost contact with was Patricia Schaefer, an educator with the Gwinnett County Fire and Emergency Services. Again, her email and phone were through the department. Although we’d had a great working relationship throughout the time I volunteered at GCFES, once she took another job, those both became unusable. Patti and her family attended Gwinnett Choral Guild concerts when I sang in them; we laughed together; we were on a hugging basis. And then she was gone.

Now, I understand that people’s work info changes. I get that. But what I don’t understand is why, with all the ways to contact me, they’ve dropped completely out of my life. They both had my home email address. They both could send me a Facebook message through my author page. They both had my phone number.

And I’ve gotten to wondering What does this say about me as a friend? What message does it give me about the value of my friendship?

Have you ever lost someone like this? Do you even know why?

Hank and I

Hank Phillippi Ryan was teaching at the Mystery Writers of America University in Atlanta last week, and she stopped by Eagle Eye Books in Decatur to sign copies of her newest thriller TRUTH BE TOLD. Naturally, I was there (as were other members of the Atlanta Chapter of Sisters in Crime) to buy a hardcover copy and get it signed.

at Eagle Eye Books, Decatur GA
at Eagle Eye Books, Decatur GA

Besides telling us where the name Hank came from (nickname from her college years), Hank talked about how her work as an investigative reporter is a fantastic source of leads for story ideas.

“Where do you get your ideas?” That’s one of the most frequently-asked questions a writer hears. And it’s a great question, because where we get our ideas feeds directly into the stories we create from those ideas.

A hundred people can see one event – but it’s usually only the writer who will ask “what if…”

What if this happened? What if that happened? What if a man walked down this street instead of that one? What if a woman chose to leave for work earlier than usual (or later)?What if the fire had started in the garage rather than the bedroom? What if someone buying a new car found a body in the trunk?

Hank made me think about how I generate my story ideas.

Just as Hank asked what if there’s a dead body in that house where the eviction is happening, I had to ask, years ago, what if there’s a dead body in the library?

With that question in mind, I began to write ORANGE AS MARMALADE.

Why did I create Martinsville GA as the scene of my Biscuit McKee mysteries? And why will Hamelin VT appear as the scene of my new ScotShop series next March? Those two small towns come directly from the fact that I grew up as an Air Force brat. Four different schools in 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th grades.

Still, there was one constant, in every place we lived – Germany, Ohio, Illinois, Colorado, South Carolina, Tennessee . . . a library. I must admit, I never did find a body behind the stacks, but Martinsville is the home town I always wanted, but never had – a feeling shared by many service families.

So, where does Hamelin come in? Well, there’s another question I had to think about: what if somebody bought a shawl in Scotland, and it had a ghost attached to it?

Now there’s a question to start off a book right!

Trip to New York

Part of the fun of being a (very lucky) writer is getting to know a wonderful editor. Last year after I signed the contract with Berkley Press for the ScotShop Mystery Series, I flew to New York to meet my agent and editor face-to-face. I had a great time, enjoyed them thoroughly, and felt like the trip was completely worthwhile.

Recently, though, I received the edits of A WEE MURDER IN MY SHOP back from Michelle Vega, my editor, and I changed from simply liking her, to being eternally grateful that she’s the one handling my ScotShop mysteries. Every change she wanted me to make made absolute sense. I could see that she and I were in sync with the flow of the series, and I now feel so much more comfortable with placing my “babies” in her capable hands.

Last week, my second visit to New York was equally enjoyable, but this time I had the fun of telling her how very much I appreciate the way she’s editing my book. I look forward to many years in association with Berkley Press!