Just six months ago, in January, those of us who publish with Five Star/Gale, Cengage got the news that our publisher would no longer accept manuscripts for its mystery line. The news hit a lot of us very hard. Some writers watched their first novel turn into the last one. Others waited for their book to show up at a conference, only to learn the pub date had been pushed back. The bad news took many forms, but in the end it was the same for all of us who write mysteries.
In an earlier posting (found here) I wrote at length about how the abrupt ending of the mystery line affected me. It meant basically the end of the Anita Ray novels and the Mellingham books because publishers are unlikely to pick up another publisher’s series. But as I mentioned then, I had one more book in the pipeline with Five Star, another one ready to go, two paperback editions with Harlequin waiting in the wings, and a story just accepted by Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine.
So where am I six months later? The last Anita Ray mystery novel, When Krishna Calls, will be out in August 2016, along with a short story from AHMM (the October issue available in August). The same magazine accepted two more stories, one featuring Anita Ray. I’ve sent another story to Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. The paperbacks of the second and third Anita Ray novels haven’t appeared yet, but they will.
I was about to send the seventh Joe Silva/Mellingham mystery to Five Star when I got the news. After much thought (and professional editing and a cover design), I published the novel myself. Come About for Murder is doing well, and I’m pleased. None of this breaks new ground. For that I have to turn to my effort to create a new series.
In a few short stories I’ve explored life in a rural area I’ve named West Woodbury, a small town in the poorest county in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. AHMM has accepted a story set in this world, and I self-published one (Love Takes a Detour) some time ago. The stories come easily, most of the time, but creating a new series character is proving to be harder. I’m not interested as much in her because I know she’s going to survive every encounter. The ones I’m interested in are the characters who may not, or who will come out of the experience so changed that no one will recognize them anymore.
Still, this is the new series that has captured my attention and my imagination. Six months after Five Star shut down its mystery line I’ve written two novels and am rewriting the second one, to bring it more into line with current tastes (that means more action, according to my ever-supportive agent, Paula Munier).
I tell myself the challenge has been good for me because it has made me give up a secure place and try something new. I should have known this was coming after all the time I spent writing about sailing in the seventh Joe Silva and the short story coming out in August (“Variable Winds”). Taking the safe way is called, by sailors, “hugging the shore.” To really sail, to find out what you and your boat can do, you have to leave the safety of the coastline behind and set out into the vast ocean, where the only markers are the wind and sun and your own ability to chart a course and find your way.
I’ve heard from a few of my fellow Stars, but I’d like to hear from more. What has happened in your writing life since getting the news? Successes? Discoveries? If you have something to share, I hope you will.