Bad Blood is the seventh in my Rafferty and Llewellyn mystery series. It should be up on amazon on 4 December 2011. Here’s the blurb:
Investigating the murder of wealthy widow Clara Mortimer, estranged from her family and living alone in an upmarket sheltered apartment, Rafferty t fears his own family estrangement. Because when Abra, his girlfriend, said she might be pregnant, his reaction wasn’t exactly New Man…
Between the grudges of Clara’s estranged family and those of her adoptive ‘family’ – the other apartment residents – Rafferty has suspects and questions in plenty. Why had the sensible Clara Mortimer chosen to open her door to a burglar, for instance? When he considers the awful lies her family tells, how can he not conclude they have something to hide?
It’s priced at $3.99 / £2.44 (roughly!). If you buy it I hope you enjoy it. If you can post a (good) review on amazon I’d be grateful. Many thanks.
My guest today is American writer William S Shepard. William, a career diplomat, seems to have lived a fascinating life and experienced life in an assortment of gorgeous places. Lucky man! His work covers the areas of fiction and non-fiction. He’s a wine buff, too, as you are about to discover. His diplomat protagonist in his novels is Robbie Cutler and Murder on the Danube, his second in The Diplomatic Mysteries series, is due for publication by mid-October 2011. Stay on for the ride!
Dipmacy and Sleuthing
William S. Shepard
I was an American career diplomat, and always greatly enjoyed the mystery novel genre. From Edgar Allen Poe through the great Victorian writers, and then to the mannered interwar writers, Christie and Sayers, each had something new to add. So, for that matter, did Georges Simenon, with his Gallic twist of criminal motivation – not for him crime detection as a strictly cerebral exercise! And then, of course, Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler added greatly to the development of the detective story, although I never did find out who murdered the chauffeur in “The Big Sleep!”
It seemed to me that the amateur sleuth categories had broadened, greatly expanding what was possible. We have now seen sleuths from every imaginable profession, not to exclude the clergy, Indians (both the Wild West and the subcontinent), and retrospective Roman and medieval sleuths, predating the actual invention of the detective story by centuries! The only constant was that the sleuth’s actual profession had to be interesting. Why not, therefore, have a sleuth who was a diplomat? And then, set the crimes in a diplomatic setting, the Embassy world with its receptions, glitter, and betrayals?
The thought occurred to me several times, and probably I was goaded to action one dull evening in the American Department of State, when I was Duty Officer for the Secretary of State. The Secretary was at a meeting outside the building, and so the hours passed, as I scanned various documents, deciding which would be worth his attention. Suddenly it came to me – a diplomat sees all sorts of material, from diplomatic and intelligence reports, to political documents and police reports. He would surely have an advantage over those who did not have access to such material.
Upon retiring from the State Department, I decided to try my hand at the new genre, which I have called the diplomatic mystery. The first novel in the series, “Vintage Murder,” now on Kindle, takes place in Bordeaux and Paris. Since I had served at the Consulate General in Bordeaux, I knew the territory and its politics – including the terrorist Basque ETA group – quite thoroughly.
How could this form the basis for a novel? And if it could, just why would a national police force cooperate with a foreigner, and a diplomat at that?
The first problem turned out to be no problem at all. My sleuth, a thirtyish career officer named Robbie Cutler, is assigned to Bordeaux, and is a wine fancier. The first murder occurs in Washington, at a Bordeaux Vintage Dinner, and Robbie is present. Returning to Bordeaux, he is interviewed by a French newspaperwoman Sylvie Marceau about the murder. Soon their mutual attraction and interest in solving the initial murder and those that follow lead them to join forces.
The second problem was a bit harder. I finally solved it by having the French wine estate owner who was being blackmailed contact Cutler, in the belief that it is an American who is the blackmailer. A search of the official visa records yields important information towards solving the case, and the problem of police cooperation vanished.
I became quite taken with Robbie and Sylvie and their love story. In the second novel in the series, “Murder On The Danube,” Robbie has been reassigned to the American Embassy in Budapest. To his sister Evalyn’s disapproval he flirts with the wife of a married colleague, but soon comes to his senses and is in contact with Sylvie. They meet in Prague, where she is covering the visit of President Sarkozy for her television chain, and at a famous spa, become engaged to be married. She turns out to have a better understanding of people than does her cerebral husband, and from now on, the sleuthing will be a joint avocation.
I wanted Robbie Cutler to have access to high-level information that a midcareer diplomat would simply not be able to access. Enter Great Uncle Seth Cutler, formerly an intelligence officer, and then a nationally respected school headmaster. Uncle Seth has many contacts still, and shares what he finds out with Robbie on occasion. (Somewhat to my surprise, several people who have read the series so far have told me that their favorite character is Uncle Seth!) His past becomes stage front in the third novel, “Murder In Dordogne,” when the Cutlers, now on their honeymoon, have the past thrust on them – the remains of a young woman, an SOE agent who parachuted into the Dordogne in 1943, are found. Around her neck is the silver necklace that her fiancé, young Seth Cutler, had given to her just prior to the mission from which she did not return.
Other characters round out the plots and the series. The British Consul General in Bordeaux is a colleague in the first and third novels, even lending Cutler some wine one weekend when the stores are closed (which the real British Consul General did for me many years ago). And after this thorough diplomatic grounding, at postings in Singapore (alluded to but not yet spelled out), Bordeaux and Budapest, Robbie becomes Special Assistant to the Secretary of State. In “The Saladin Affair,” Robbie helps plan the new Secretary’s initial trip to Dublin, London, Paris, Vienna, Moscow and Riga. Too bad about that murder of the American Ambassador to Dublin at her official Phoenix Park residence! But at least, Al Qaeda’s plans to assassinate the entire diplomatic party on British soil are foiled, rather at the last minute.
And so here are several of my present Kindle books. “Vintage Murder,” first in the diplomatic mystery series, is at http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B004X7F00Q. (“Murder On The Danube” should be available in mid-October on Kindle, with the other two novels to follow.)
My survey of the detective story, “The Great Detectives, from Vidocq to Sam Spade,” is at http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00564HLHU. My thoughts on where the name “Sherlock” came from stem from a course I took at St. Catherine’s College, Cambridge.
While in Bordeaux, I developed a lifelong interest in wines and wine writing. I have now published a 2011 Kindle edition of my 2003 book, “Shepard’s Guide to Mastering French Wines,” which is at http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B005CRQ69A. Take a look at the free sample chapters. I hope it will lead you to explore the world of French wines and develop your own preferences – all for less than the cost of a single glass of wine!
I‘ve just recorded a podcast radio interview with the delightful Kghia Gherardi and Simeon Beresford for their book programme, Off the Shelf. It’s a fairly extensive interview and covers my embrace of epublishing as well as what I’m doing now and planning for the future. Why not click the link and tune in?
Had a book accepted or plan to go the ebook route? Then you want to think about getting your marketing campaign organised. How can people buy your book if no one hears about it?
So what sort of things should you do? And where should you do them? Here are some ideas to get you started:
ORGANISE A BLOG TOUR
I found this the best route to go to increase book sales. I did my Blog Tour back in February 2011 and my sales numbers quadrupled. I know it’s a lot of work writing the posts and approaching possible hosts, but I believe, from the sales increase alone, never mind the name recognition it should engender, that it’s worth it. Put your Blog Schedule on your website so chance visitors can have the opportunity to follow the Tour, too.
I didn’t find this the best way to go. I’ve tried both Kindle Nation Daily and a banner ad on kindleboards and I can’t say I noticedany increase in sales. Of course, you might be luckier and this is far from the definitive guide as I’ve tried such a limited area in which to place my ads. By all means try it. At least, if nothing else, you will be the wiser for it and who knows, it might pay off.
It’s hard to see how much good – if any – trailers do. They’re fun to make and the cost isn’t prohibitive if you do them yourself using Windows Movie Maker. And they’re always available on your website, youtube and other sites for people to see. It’s a big help with planning which pictures to put where if you jot down a synopsis of the book. When it comes to getting royalty-free pictures, there are a lot of sites out there. I use www.istockphoto.com
These don’t have to cost a lot. You’ll get author copies free from your publisher or if you’re going the ebook route you can offer books free using a coupon at smashwords. Goodreads and LibraryThing also allow for book giveaways.
You could alsooffer books as prizes on your own website as part of a contest, though if you hold something like a short story contest with a critique, you must be prepared for a fair number of entries.
This is not a route I’ve ever taken as it’s rather expensive. But if you can afford it, conferences could be the way to go to get your name better known and to promote your new book If you sign up early you can get your name down for a panel. Just make sure you have something to say when you get there. You’ll want to have postcards and bookmarks ready to hand out, possibly business cards. And you’ll need to ensure there are books available for sale in the sales room. You should be able to organise this with your publisher.
With any luck,your publisher will provide advance reading copies of your new release In any case, you’ll want to solicit reviews for your new release. If your book is an ebook there are many bloggers out there who will review your book, some of whom are widely recognised as providing a reliable reviewing service. Some specialize, so make sure you approach an appropriate blogger. ARCs are also handy to give away as prizes in contests.
Try to collect email addresses every time you make a public appearance so that you increase the number of people to whom you can send a regular newsletter with your doings. I use http://www.tmynewsletterbuilder.com and send out a newsletter once a month. What do you tell people? Well tell them about the new release with the book cover, tell them about appearances and panels you’re on at conferences. Tell them how you’re doing on your Work in Progress.
Once you have your cover art, you can design postcards, bookmarks and flyers. You can have business cards designed very cheaply, with either the book cover or your author photo. You can create most of these cheaply yourself or you can take the professional print route.
WEBSITE AND BLOG
Don’t forget to post information about your new release on your website/blog. Don’t forget to add the youtube link to your book trailer. Post an excerpt so your website visitors can read your scintillating prose! Crease a Press Kit page with a picture of you, your book cover, a short bio of you and the reviews when you get them. Interview yourself about the book and add this to the page.
SPEAKING AND SIGNING ENGAGEMENTS
Never turn down a chance to appear in public. Yes, it’s anxiety-inducing, but the more you do it the better you’ll get at it. Never be shy when you have the opportunity to sell your book. Some groups, like the Women’s Institute, require you to do an audition as a speaker before you can get on their approved list of speakers. Daunting, but it’s just another of the many challenges you’ve already faced.
I can hear you thinking that this all looks like a lot of work. You’re right. It is. That’s why the sooner you start thinking, planning and getting stuff organised, the more you can cover. That way, when your publisher/yourself expects you to be working on the next book, you have the time in hand. An hour or two at evenings or weekends with get the work done. Just be sure to get the word out somehow.