It's not unusual for writers to discover that the business of writing is often more difficult than the actual writing part. Elk Grove novelist Elaine Macko considers herself fortunate to have a publisher, but like many new authors has discovered hard truths.
Macko's novel "Armed" (L&L Dreamspell, $15.95, 284 pages) is the first title in her mystery series, to be followed by "Poisoned" (due this fall), "Flossed" and "Mahjonged." Visit her at www.elainemackobooks.com.
Business-wise, what's your biggest challenge as an author?
The actual marketing of the book and getting it out there. Most publishers require their writers to do more marketing than ever before. It's left to us authors to find creative ways to sell our books. I don't have connections to a big local network, but I'm getting things in place.
What about the writing part?
The writing is fun once I get into it. Sometimes I'll think, "I really don't want to do this," but within five minutes I'm totally lost in the story.
Your main character is a single woman who runs a temporary employment agency with her sister.
Alex lives in fictitious Indian Cove, Conn. She's a reluctant sleuth, but quite enjoys it. She comes to the conclusion that she's nosy and likes asking questions, much to her surprise.
She's surrounded by other characters (including) police detective John Vanderbert. There is a kindling romance, which will be more explored in the second book.
Why a temp agency?
Since Alex is constantly sending people out on jobs all over, the settings are tailor-made for things to happen. I don't get graphic, it's not gory, it's meant to be funny and light. It's not about the (murder) per se, but more about the interactions between the people around it.
What's your work style?
So many writers plot everything on index cards, but I never know where I'm going. I know only two things when I start writing: who gets killed and why. It's almost like I'm working backward.
You wrote the first three books in Europe, and set the third in Brussels, where Alex goes for vacation.
In the 1980s I had the opportunity to go to Europe for a week, but I met a man in Brussels, Belgium, and stayed for 12 years. So I know that city well.
Is the beer as good as they say?
It's wonderful. If you don't like one, there are a thousand other brands to try. You could spend your life going from pub to pub.
Calling all Jedi
Legions of "Star Wars" fans are on close terms with Troy Denning. He's a former game designer, fantasy writer and author of "Apocalypse," the latest (and final) entry in the "Fate of the Jedi" series (Del Rey/Lucas Books, $27, 476 pages).
Denning will appear at 7 p.m. Thursday at Barnes & Noble, 1725 Arden Way, Sacramento; (916) 565-0644, (916) 565-0166.
This will be a book signing only. "If you have a copy of 'Apocalypse,' he will sign it and his other books," said a B&N spokesperson.
Bonus: Costumed members of the 501st Legion a "Star Wars" fan club will circulate throughout the crowd, posing for pictures.
We look forward to phone calls from New York-based Strand managing editor Andrew Gulli. That's because he has a knack for coming across lost short stories by famous authors, such as Mark Twain, Agatha Christie, Dashiell Hammett, Graham Greene and Cornell Woolrich, and publishing them in the mystery magazine.
Now he tells this tale: A never-before-published story titled "Bound" by Maurine Dallas Watkins "was discovered a short while ago in an attic of one of her relatives. The estate agent contacted me, I looked at it and we've published it in our spring issue."
Watkins was a journalist and screenwriter in the 1920s and 1930s, best known for her play "Chicago," which became a hit musical. "There is no record of her writing short stories," Gulli noted, "so this is extremely rare."
"Bound" is narrated by "a young farmhand who tells the story of the vicious woman who has hired him and the gentle man who is her husband," Gulli said. "Look for a real twist ending."
Strand, $6.95, is available at Barnes & Noble and other bookstores. To subscribe to the quarterly for $19.95: (800) 300-6652 or www.strandmag.com.
Gulli and his sister, Lamia Gulli, are co-editors of "No Rest for the Dead," a serial by 26 mystery writers (Touchstone, $24.99, 272 pages).
As the hour approached midnight on April 14, 1912, the RMS Titanic collided with an iceberg. The passenger liner was four days out of its port city, Southampton, England, en route to New York City, on her maiden voyage. Within hours, the great ship sank and 1,517 people perished. The tragedy reverberates to this day, as two new books remind us.
In "Shadow of the Titanic" (Atria, $25, 416 pages), journalist Andrew Wilson consults diaries and letters by the survivors, and interviews their family members, to answer the questions: What was it like? How did you cope?
"Unsinkable" by Daniel Allen Butler (Da Capo, $16, 336 pages) is a detailed retelling of the disaster, with a history of the ship and new information on some of the key characters.