I am a sucker for Kindle freebies, especially those public domain classics. Yesterday afternoon I needed a couple that I didn't already have, so I typed in the general subject and added the word "free" to the search box.
And oh what lovely extras popped up! All of them FREE!
One thing I didn't find were free or even inexpensive editions of specific Nancy Drew or Judy Bolton mysteries. I'm always on the look-out, however, for 19th and early 20th century fiction featuring female main characters, and into my Amazon window jumped Nan Sherwood.
I had never heard of Nan Sherwood, but she was free, so of course I downloaded her. Then I did some sleuthing. Of course.
Seven Nan Sherwood books were written by Annie Roe Carr and published between 1916 and 1937 as one of the many, many series produced by the Stratemeyer Syndicate that also gave us the Bobbsey Twins, the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Radio Boys, Radio Girls, Honey Bunch . . . . you get the picture. (Judy Bolton, Cherry Ames, and Trixie Belden were not part of the Stratemeyer empire.) Since the Nan Sherwood books appear not to have been updated, I think it's going to be interesting to see just how politically incorrect the originals were.
Among the other series was the Motor Girls by Margaret Penrose, with ten titles published between 1910 and 1917. I picked up one of these at a used bookstore in Arlington Heights, Illinois, ten years ago. Maybe I should read it this afternoon to help avoid the Halloween temptations?
And twenty thousand dollars in 1910 was anything but chicken feed!!!!
Oh, wait a minute. It's not chicken feed even in 2016!
I am trying to expand my social network here. First thing is to catch up following all those who have followed me. I'm a bit behind, so I'm working on those who are most recently active first. If you're following me but haven't posted anything in a few months, I'll get to you eventually.
I obtained this book about 20 years ago when I was helping a friend start a mystery review site. My copy is an uncorrected proof, distributed by the publisher. I know none of the editors of the book nor any of the authors whose works are included.
If I were a dedicated mystery reader, I would definitely want a copy of this, even though it's almost 20 years old. There's a great deal of very interesting background information on women in mystery/crime fiction, as writers as well as characters, and in the later parts of the book as publishers and booksellers as well.
But even making allowances for the fact that this was published in 1997, I had to take off points for weaknesses, some of which I'm mentioned in my updates.
Although the history of women as mystery writers was sketched, I felt there could have been a little more meat to it. An updated edition, of course, would have noted that many of those 19th century novels are now available in free digitized editions, but I couldn't hold that against the original.
Some of the interviews were excellent, but many were pedestrian and downright boring. They read as if the authors were interviewed by fifth graders.
Although the book is primarily targeted for readers of mysteries, much of the information was valuable for writers as well. In some of the interviews the authors discussed how they became writers -- several began as journalists -- and how they created their characters. There was little discussion, however, of the processes between "the end" and publication -- the long slog of submitting to agents and editors, of dealing with editors and publicity and marketing departments, or even of cover art.
The fun, personal insights of the very first manuscript were delightful. There should have been more.
So by the time I got to the last few pages, I had pretty much decided on a 3-star rating for this, in terms of its value for today's reader rather than the reader of 1997.
Marlys Millhiser's essay on self-promotion was one of the best, and I'm glad it was also one of the last. I had reached the point where I was just going to skim the last 50 or so pages of the book but was forcing myself to read conscientiously, when I came to hers. In some respects, it salvaged the rest of the book for me.
Millhiser points out that much of the publicity an author does -- and often pays for -- is less about promoting the book in hand than it is about impressing the publicity department of the publisher "who is more interested in pushing bigger names than yours." Hmmm. . . . .
"Makes you wonder if soon only the wealthy will be able to hold onto publishing contracts, and if book proposals will come to include a separate page stating how much authors propose to spend on their own publicity campaigns."
Where have we heard that before?
I realized then that the book contained really very little from the publishing industry, although there would be another article toward the very end by Barbara Peters, who operated both a specialized mystery book store and a niche press. And so it was almost surprising that Millhiser dared to and/or was allowed to say anything negative about the traditional publishing industry. One of the anecdotes she shared was of an author who didn't know his book had gone into second and third printings but still had not earned out its advance five years after initial publication.
On that interview alone, I bumped the rating up half a star.
Life in my house has been very topsy-turvy the past couple of weeks as I've dealt with some personal issues. The bad news is that they've taken me away from my writing. The good news is that they've given me some opportunities for reading.
I had hoped to finish reading this book today, but it's going to have to wait a bit. However, an update is in order.
Much as I've felt through the rest of the book, the unevenness is distracting, at least for someone reading straight through. The interviews became more and more of the same, nothing exciting.
The little snippets on "whatever happened to your very first manuscript" were hilarious, so hilarious and encouraging that I wish there were many, many, many more.
Background on some of the mystery writers' organizations and awards was very informative.
Then I got to Marlys Millhiser's essay on author self-promotion. I decided that was a good place to stop, because I really want to spend some special time with that one.
I'll probably finish this in the next couple of days, simply because I've reached the point of skimming.
The interviews have now taken on a sameness that can't hold my interest. I would rather have known what makes each writer and her books/stories truly unique and worth knowing more about what goes on behind the scenes.
As a resource for someone who wants to know more about a particular aspect of mystery writing and women as writers and characters, this is a great tool. But to just sit down and read cover to cover? Nah, it's overload.
EDITS BELOW FIRST PIC.
Found on aNobii, among a whole lot of others. Please note the word "free."
EDITED TO ADD:
How I found these at aNobii.
Click on Groups.
It shows "hottest groups" and "largest groups."
Click on "see more" of "largest groups."
On right are "popular group tags" and click on "romance."
All of this is what comes up:
And many, many, many pages more.
I don't know what to do about it. The discussion group for aNobii problems is in Italian, and while I can read Italian pretty well because of my background in Spanish, I don't speak or write it.
There are currently 5 pages of librarian requests that I've not been going near (likely nor has anyone else) since the site has been too slow to use without screaming.
I'm going to try to tackle some of them now, but they're going to be the low-hanging fruit variety.
So if you've made requests and they're not getting done, it's not because the requests are being ignored - it's just too slow at the moment to do them.
This book is proving to be a good -- though not excellent -- resource, but it's not something to just sit down and read beginning to end.
And it remains uneven. I feel as if the editors just kind of sent out requests for submissions with no real guidelines or follow-up, and then published everything with no real editing. Even making allowances for the writers' different styles, it's very hit and miss.
Liza Cody's essay "A Heroine for Me" is an excellent analysis of the active nature of reading.
And I liked Elizabeth George's admission that she expected her WIP to come in at about 850 pages, or somewhere between 175,00 and 220,000 words.
By Word Perfect's count, the book is something over 138,000 words long. After a few readers got back to me, we had identified a grand total of three -- three -- errors that escaped my eagle eyes: a missing space between two words, a wrong word, and a missing word. All were easily fixed so the corrected document can be uploaded to Amazon.
The rest is at
Some more good stuff, and some more meh.
The "Conversation with Marian Babson" wasn't a conversation at all.
"Wendy Goes to the Morgue" by Wendy Hornsby was very good.
Barbara Paul's article on "How Cyberspace is Changing the Writer's Life" was pretty much spot on, except for her prediction on the way books will be written. The idea -- it seemed almost like a variation on "choose your own adventure" -- seemed totally implausible and I haven't seen any evidence of its being developed in the past 20 years.
Overall, I'm thinking this whole book is more something a devoted mystery reader would want to have on hand to look up details, but I'm starting to have a tough time getting through it There's an enormous amount of information here, even though there's also a lot of white space. I haven't really found that the information is organized very well, either.
The best parts are the interviews -- questions and answers -- with various authors, even though some of them fell a bit flat. These could have been longer and more in-depth, I thought.
But I'm only halfway through, so we'll see how the rest of it goes.
I'm finding this book very uneven. Some of the articles and interviews are excellent. I enjoyed the conversation with Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Michaels, and the interview with Patricia Cornwell was superb.
The article by Ellen Hart on lesbian detective characters was very good, but waaaaay too short, even as a teaser to further research. And the essay by Kathy Phillips on "political correctness" was mostly just meh, except for this quote from author/editor Joan M. Drury:
"Politically correct was synonymous with being culturally sensitive -- and who would wan to be less than that? These days, the far right, the not-so-far-right, the moral majority, the academic/intellectual nazis, and any number of other folk . . . are all rallying against, railing about the concept of politically correct . . . .'Politically correct' was curtailing their rights . . . was interfering with freedom of speech, freedom of choice, freedom to be all the things these people aspired to be . . . including a racist or bigot, apparently."
And that was in the late 1990s!
The interview with Val McDermid, an author totally unfamiliar to me, was also very well done. McDermid began her writing career as a journalist, then later transitioned to writing mysteries. "It took a while for me to realize the two jobs are about as closely related as a charcoal burner and a wood sculptor -- only the raw material is the same."
I can attest to that!
Still reading. . . .
I was cleaning up and organizing some book-related computer files yesterday and came across this, one of the Goodreads posts related to the whole Lauren Howard, aka Lauren Pippa, fiasco of August 2013. The fall-out from this led directly to the Great Purge of the following month, and ultimately the departure/ouster of a number of us and our subsequent migration here to Booklikes.
I almost discarded these files yesterday, but my OCD kicked in and preserved them. Debbie Spurts's post about the Booklikes broken promises prompted me to post this as a reminder.
There's a part of me that misses the rough and tumble atmosphere of those BBA discussions, because there's a part of me that cringes at the idea of being an enabler to bad writing and bad behavior.
Anyway, I just thought it was interesting, and since it will be three years tomorrow that our dear Lauren distributed those fateful ARCs, I thought we should all lift a glass of something appropriate to toast her. Hemlock, anyone?
When I quit reading the other day, I was in the middle of the interview with Elizabeth Peters, which I have to admit was one of the sections I most wanted to read. Although I had read a good portion of the book years ago, nothing in the beginning of the interview seemed familiar this time around, so I'm pretty sure I had not read it.
After the disappointment I experienced with the Mary Higgins Clark interview, I was prepared for the worst on this one. I was most pleasantly surprised.
Peters, who in real life was Egyptologist Dr. Barbara Mertz, also wrote as Barbara Michaels, and while the Michaels books skew slightly more toward romantic suspense and/or gothic romance than true mystery, several of them do involve the puzzle of solving a contemporary murder (Vanish with the Rose, Into the Darkness) or a much older one (Ammie, Come Home; Be Buried in the Rain). Conversely, most of the Elizabeth Peters mysteries also featured very strong romantic elements. Regardless what Mertz may have considered herself, enough readers considered her enough of a romance writer that she received Romance Writers of America's Lifetime Achievement Award in 1990.
I mention that because this interview in Deadly Women contains a couple of quotes from Ms. Peters that echoed my own sentiments and, perhaps, Dale Spender's as well regarding women's writing, and especially women's popular fiction writing.
Asked about the reception her not-quite-standard female characters got, part of her reply was ". . . and I am still slightly annoyed at being overlooked by feminist critics."
When asked about those characters' "endearing" qualities. Peters concludes her lengthy response with, "Of course the main thing about all three is that though they are ardent feminists, they all adore men. Especially certain men."
Interestingly enough, she also had a long commentary on the state of publishing, especially the pressure on writers to produce blockbusters, and on the burden placed on authors for promotion. And that was in the late 1990s. Gee, do you think it's changed any since then?
I'm enjoying this, and learning a lot, even though many of the articles/essays are much too short. I feel as if the editors tried to cram too much in.
At the moment I'm in the middle of the interview with Barbara Michaels/Elizabeth Peters, which I was really looking forward to. Sadly, I've come to the conclusion that the interviews are the weakest part of the collection.
Overall, my impression is that no one took this project seriously enough to do a really good job of it. Everything feels rushed and superficial.