An Author’s Responsibility - blogpost on Missdemeanors.com
October 3, 2022
Over the years, I’ve changed how I think about an author’s responsibilities to their audience.
Initially my objective was simply to entertain. After all, the publishing industry is considered part of the entertainment industry. Books are the genesis of TV Shows, movies, plays, audiobooks and other narrative forms. Why does the public watch or read fiction? Generally, it’s for entertainment. Therefore, I paid particular attention to writing mysteries that engaged the reader’s attention with hooks, explanations, surprises and twists. Yeah, the nuts and bolts of our craft.
Crafting a satisfying ending, however, is tricky. It must surprise, yet feel inevitable, or at least logical. To achieve this balance, I realized, an inventive resolution can only work if it is based on some form of truth. Does it need to be a universal truth, something generally accepted? Boy wins girl, girl persuades boy, the crook is caught, the villain dies…experimenting with such endings, I found them somewhat trite. So the ‘truth’ elicited at the end must be a subtler form.
Read more at
Book #3 has arrived! The Spanish Diplomat's Secret
October 3, 2022
It's here! It was such fun to write this book, but it holds a deep message. Captain Jim and Diana are among a host of international passengers on this transatlantic steamship, because our world is full of variety--shapes, colors, races, religions, genders and affiliations! And many have secrets which Captain Jim must uncover. Strange stories filter through the ship, when a diplomat is gruesomely murdered. BTW, the victim J Nepomuceno was in fact an important Spaniard in the 1870s, so it's conceivable that he might be around in 1894. And what if someone remembers what he did twenty years before? Hm...
I love ships, but I'm a terrible traveler. I get terribly seasick. So when Captain Jim is up against a ticking clock, he finds himself laid low with Mal de Mer! Aha. Now Diana has a chance to shine!
I wrote this book during 2022, when Roe v Wade was struck down. Then came horrendous news stories of women struggling with terrible dilemmas. I cannot imagine the trauma that having an unviable fetus would bring. What about girls, barely teens, forced to bear a rapist's child? What cruelty is this, in the world's most advanced country? Sadly I've been watching the country I love gain increasingly misogynistic laws, laws that drive physicians and caregivers from entire states. It's easy to be righteous about what other people should do, what other women should do. Until it happens to you. When you read Dora's story I hope you empathize with a woman in a terrible bind, who makes an untenable choice. There, but for the grace of God...
Each book has a life of its own! The clue is in this image...more to come (pub date Fall 2023)
When our sleuths travel to Liverpool, a murder onboard their trans-Atlantic liner could have global consequences. Captain Jim must solve the mystery before the ship docks. Alas, he's a lousy sailor, and struck down with mal de mer!
Luckily he has a secret weapon, his young bride Diana, who can help him decode the puzzling rules of posh society and also suss out the killer!
Writing this one was a different experience for me. As usual I agonized over the outline, researching the years before the Spanish American war of 1898. What was happening in the years leading up to it? Learning about steamships was an utter delight. And then came the characters, each hiding secrets, much like Christies famous book Death on the Nile! As usual my story evolved away from the outline--those pesky characters! Events in late 2021 also influenced the direction of my book...you'll understand when you read it :) I've spent most of the summer revising and editing it, and hope to get one more pass once my phenomenal editorial team at Macmillan have had a read. Onward!
A few days ago, I got this message from Vik Adam, the fabulous voice actor who narrated my book "The Audies are considered the Oscars of our industry and are gaining a higher prestige each year in the public eye thanks to the hard work of the Audio Publishers Association.
Thank you to the producers and authors and directors who trusted me to bring these to life!! And congrats to my fellow nominees! Being in your company makes me feel like being on THE dodgeball team to beat in gym class!!!!! "
What a thrill! Vik did a phenomenal job with each of the voices, the Anglo-Indian narrator, the Parsees, the women, the kids! Rooting for him to win.
Yes, yes, I admit, Sara Divello got me to 'spill the tea' (or the beans!) in a wonderful fun filled conversation this August. We chatted a bit about Murder in Old Bombay, where the story idea came from (it was based on an 1891 unsolved case) and the characters, then she asked that delightful question--so have you ever done some detecting of your own???? Oh, yes, I had. LINK HERE for that energizing interview! And yes, I know I'm beaming way too hard.... does anyone ever like their own photographs and videos, I wonder? Ah well I had a lot of fun, and so thank you Sara! You were awesome!
To be nominated for a national award is a huge honor. This year readers have welcomed Murder in Old Bombay with nominations for An Edgar, The Barry, The Anthony, The Hammett Award and now the Macavity award. And what marvelous books to be nominated with!
This was a delightful surprise! Thank you Mystery Readers International!
Folks, it is not often I'm speechless. Okay, if you ask my family they will give you dubious looks. Speechless, mom?
But yes, this one took my breath away. Murder in Old Bombay was nominated for an Edgar Award under the category of Best First Novel by an American Author. I'm honored to be in the company of:
- Please See Us by Caitlin Mullen (Simon & Schuster – Gallery Books)
- Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas (HarperCollins Publishers – William Morrow)
- Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden (HarperCollins Publishers – Ecco)
- Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel (Penguin Random House – Berkley
If you're looking for some fabulous reads this winter, you have them here:
Enjoy your journey, with all its twists and turns, detours and derailments. You are where you were meant to be.
OMG. Yes, this is indeed an OMG moment.
My friend Jay sent this in the morning, but I was prepping my roast chicken for dinner and didn't see it until just now!
The NY Times likes Murder in Old Bombay. Yes, THE NEW YORK TIMES! Oh what a marvelous Xmas Present :)
Feeling blessed--wish this feeling for each and every one of you, all through the new year.
Each year Mystery Writers of America and Minotaur books invites unpublished writers to submit their manuscripts for the First Crime Novel Award. This prize is not awarded each year. It’s deferred until both the panel of MWA judges (published mystery writers themselves) and Minotaur’s experienced editors are satisfied they’ve found a new talent.
Therefore, imagine my delight and amazement in 2019 to hear that my novel had won! At the time it was titled The Rajabai Tower Mystery. Chosen from about 600 entries each year, my book won a prize that had not been awarded in three years!
Attending the Edgar Awards was a dream come true. Imagine you’re a struggling actor auditioning for parts big and small, eking out a living, and suddenly you’re invited to The Oscar Awards! You’re not just attending, you’re a winner! You’ll speak in a vast hall filled with all the pros you most admire!
I attended the Edgar Awards feeling like Cinderella, made an acceptance speech and accepted a contract from Minotaur books, an imprint of Macmillan, the world’s largest publisher of detective fiction.
Renamed Murder in Old Bombay, my historical mystery will be published Nov 10, 2020. Based on real events, this tale is about the mysterious deaths of two young Parsi women during the British Raj which sets a young detective on a surprising path.
On sale Nov 10, 2020.
At eight o’clock in the morning I pick up the phone to hear a smiling voice ask, “Is this Nev?” Yes, yes it is, it’s my pen-name, and I’ve started to feel comfortable in the new skin I’ve created, my new role of writer and author. Shelley Irwin of WGVU is a charming professional who gets the job done so comfortably that all my jitters melt away. I’m in competent hands, as we chat about my book.
Ever mindful that this is going to be a short segment in her Morning Show, I keep my answers short, but can’t help being carried away as I answer--of course she’ll edit it, I think, and I keep going.
Her perceptive questions are brief; Do you think people should follow their dreams? How did you research the book? I try to answer with authenticity. Later of course, I will think of brilliant things to say. In the moment, all I can be is me.
Enjoy the nine minute interview here
When I write a good chapter, I’m filled with emotion that blows through me like walking outside after a hurricane. That sense of achievement comes from knowing that something fine now exists that did not exist before. The rush of feeling is difficult to express- -and this is before a single person has set eyes on the piece!
Then I put the chapter aside and pull in a breath, and thank the universe for this moment, this splendid moment that will feed my soul for weeks to come. Joy is difficult to quantify.
Of course, I go back to those pages the next day and tweak them as I start to build the next chapter. I change the piece, and move it about in the book, and it morphs again and again. It will grow as I add description or dialog. It will shrink as I hack out redundancies and explanations.
Yet that kernel is good, so it will be a milestone in my book, a major turning point or an “aha” moment that will propel my story onward, ever onward to the final inevitable crucible, the moment of truth.
There are other joys as well. Reading the chapter aloud to my writing partners (performing the lines!) is exciting and revealing. Now I notice how many times the word ‘foray’ or ‘fleeting’ was used, ugh! Despite their cheerful ribbing, it’s their reaction I enjoy most: the gasps; sighs of relief; the long pause, waiting as they recover; smiles as they start talking all at once. What unfettered delight! I grab my pencil and take notes, savoring it all, this colossal collaboration that is the creative process. Then there is the fun of assembling it for my agent, who is often the first person to read my chapters. With heated discussions we arrive at a fork in the road, to face the quandaries of a decision that will forever drive the story upon that chosen path. Then come my reluctant looks toward the path not chosen, those nail-biting steps of no return.
Agonizing. I wouldn’t give up a minute of it. At last, after what seems like endless tweaking, I send it on to my award-winning editor and her team, to await their considered opinions on what works, and what needs to change. The detailed discussion that follows shows me the depth of this team’s understanding, articulating aspects of the protagonist’s journey that I only felt, but could not, before, put into words.
When the minuet with my awesome staff at Macmillan is complete, the promotions begin. The first reviews start to trickle in, bringing a rush of adrenaline, and panic: can I bear to read my book’s reviews? What if my readers didn’t like it? What didn’t they like? I open goodreads.com and begin to browse—Ah, what joy, what tingling delight to see the words my kind readers have pulled from their hearts and spilled upon the page. They get it. They loved the journey. It’s all been worth-while.
I know I’m not supposed to reply to reviews, good or bad, but I cannot resist writing, “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” And when I post one to my facebook page, I add the words, “This is why writers write.”
The writer’s life is not for all. It’s full of trepidation and self-doubt. But the rewards, my friend, the rewards are unparalleled: To be doing that which you were put on this earth to do.
My article in Mystery Tribune talks about what makes a good detective book, using principles derived from Raymond Chandler's famous essay, THE SIMPLE ART OF MURDER which demonstrates that mystery fiction are a form of art, and not an easy medium either!
Honoured to have my debut historical mystery novel, Murder in Old Bombay, featured in @MacmillanLib
Book Buzz Mystery/Thriller category! Listen in around the 7-minute mark for a sneak-peak of the book’s synopsis.
Link to Book Buzz: http://bit.ly/3aCOyV7
Although I caught an editor’s attention in 2006, my work life and family commitments did not afford the time needed to revise my book as she proposed. And if I’m honest, I didn’t have the writing craft knowledge to pull it off then. So I set it all aside to focus on my analytics job. After all, we had to save enough for our boys to go to college.
In 2015 I got laid off. Anyone who’s had this experience will remember how it shakes you. The shock of it, the uncertainty, the self-doubt. I’d always been a “high performer” so I wondered how come, after the ton of work I’d done, this could happen? Turns out most people who’ve been let go worry about this. It took me two painful days to recover.
Then I began to smile, and do all the things I’d put aside. I played piano. I had lunch with long lost friends. I joined non-profits and filled my life with joy. My kids noticed, saying, “Mom, you look different!”
But I missed the sense of purpose that one derives in a meaningful occupation. When old colleagues began to call, I did project work for a few years as a consultant. However since I travelled frequently to be with my aging parents, it wasn’t possible to take on a full time job.
“When I retire, I’m going back to writing,” I said to my husband one night.
“Why not now?” he asked.
Write? Really write all day, like I had dreamed of? Giving myself permission to experiment with this idea I joined a local writers group, the second smartest decision of my life. (I’ll leave you to guess the smartest one.)
So yes, I’m now a writer. OMG