Friday, June 11, 2021

Getting into... and out of a book with Connie Berry

CONGRATULATIONS Pat D! You're the winner of Joani Elliott's THE AUDACITY OF SARAH GRAYSON. Please message Joani with your contact info on her website and let her know where to send it. 

HALLIE EPHRON: Connie Berry is an author after my own heart. Raised by antiques dealers who instilled in her a passion for history,  art, and travel, she brings that and an affinity for all things British to her Kate Hamilton mysteries featuring an antiques dealer with a gift for solving crimes.

Her third series novel, THE ART OF BETRAYAL, is just out and garnering great reviews. KIRKUS called it "A delight for lovers of antiques and complicated mysteries with a touch of romance." LIBRARY JOURNAL gave it a starred review. Woo hoo!

We're thrilled to have Connie here today asking: What makes readers stick it out, from PAGE ONE to THE END?

CONNIE BERRY: Have you ever had trouble getting into a book? You’re not alone.

Reader reviews on Amazon and Goodreads often include comments like: “I’m 20% of the way in and struggling—is it worth finishing?” or “Terrific, once you get past the first fifty pages.”

Today’s readers are impatient. If a book takes too long to capture their interest, they might just put it down. Take J. R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones. A masterpiece of modern fantasy. Hard to get into. Last summer I tried reading it. I really tried. One day I might try again.

A good book with a slow start can feel like a ride at Disney World—thrilling as long as you don’t mind the wait in line. Unlike readers of the past, who were willing to take their time getting to know the characters and becoming familiar with the story world, modern readers expect to be dropped into the middle of the action. Beginning a story too early is considered a serious flaw.

Believe me, I know. Before my debut novel was published, I got a manuscript review at one of the writers’ conferences. My reviewer was Neil Nyren. Gulp. He read my first chapter, which began in my protagonist’s normal world, her antique shop in Ohio. It was all set-up until six chapters later when Kate arrived on the fictional Scottish Isle of Glenroth and the story really began. Nyren’s advice? “Just get her to the damn island.”

Nimble pacing is what today’s reader expect—especially in a cozy mystery where a body is expected to turn up in the first chapter if not on the first page. Starting a book in medias res, however, can create problems of its own. There’s so much the reader has to quickly figure out—setting, time frame, essential backstory, rules of the fictional world, POV character—not to mention remembering all those names.

Wait, wait—who are these people?

Diving into a new book requires focus and a good memory. Am I the only one who jots down character names on a Post-it? Like driving into an unfamiliar city with no GPS, the reader initially feels lost. It takes time to figure out the lay of the land, to make friends with the inhabitants, to feel at home.

It's hard getting into a new book. It can be even harder getting out of one.

One comment authors love goes something like this: “I was so sad when the book ended. Can’t wait for the next one!” I feel that way about lots of books. When the fictional world becomes real to me and when the characters capture my heart, I don’t want the story to end. That hollow feeling at the end of a book has been called a “book hangover.” Like breaking up with a boyfriend, you’re not ready to fall in love again. Sometimes, when a book series ends, readers get angry.

Not everyone has forgiven J. K. Rowling for ending Harry Potter. I’m still upset with Caroline Graham for ending the Midsomer series in 2004 to focus on plays and screenplays.

Did you know authors feel exactly the same way about their own books?

Last Monday, after a three-month-long writing marathon, I completed the draft of my fourth Kate Hamilton mystery and sent it off to my editor. The book actually took eleven months to write, but the final three months were intense.

What do I do now? My head tells me to begin plotting out a new book. My heart is stuck in the old one.

It takes time for me to feel comfortable in a new book. Especially when I’m still mourning the previous one. I want to linger in that old manuscript—polishing, revising, tweaking, enjoying the company of old friends—when what I need to be doing is settling down and making myself at home in the next book.

Like life, reading books and writing them requires a series of hellos and goodbyes. Letting go of something so you can take hold of something new.



Do you find it hard to get into a book? Have you ever started one and put it down? Which book or series are you still mourning?

HALLIE: Such a great question. I start many more books than I finish, I am sorry to say. I so admire a reader who takes a chance and sticks with a book that doesn't immediately catch their fancy. And I do wish there'd been more books featuring the girl with the dragon tattoo?

What about you?
One randomly selected commenter will win a signed copy of The Art of Betrayal!

114 comments:

  1. Congratulations on your newest book, Connie . . . could you tell us a bit about the story?

    Occasionally I find it difficult to get into a book, but I always persevere . . . I can’t think of a time that I ever abandoned a book, even if I wasn’t thrilled with it.

    I have to say, I’m not certain I agree with Mr. Nyren. I don’t necessarily need the story to be fast-forward action from the outset. I really enjoy those gentle, quiet beginnings where the author sets the scene and introduces the characters before the story jumps into overdrive . . . .

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    1. Guessing what Mr. Nyren was reacting to was *6 chapters* of setup! I remember once interviewing Val McDermid who said her editor commented that the first 60 pages of her manuscript were setup. Lovely setup. But she needed to dump most of it out and feather what was essential for the reader to know into a story that gets moving much earlier. Val McDermid! I've taken that to heart, though I do think the reader needs to care before I kill someone.

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    2. Joan, here's the set-up: American antiques dealer Kate Hamilton is spending the month of May in the Suffolk village of Long Barston, tending her friend Ivor Tweedy’s antiquities shop while he recovers from hip surgery. She’s thrilled when a reclusive widow consigns an ancient Chinese jar—until the Chinese jar is stolen and a body turns up in the middle of the May Fair. With no insurance covering the loss, Tweedy may be ruined. As DI Tom Mallory searches for the victim’s missing daughter, Kate notices puzzling connections with a well-known local legend. This fiendishly complex case pits Kate against the murky depths of Anglo-Saxon history, a house with a tragic history, the spring floods, and a clever killer with an old secret.

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    3. Val McDermid? I'm in great company! Val was helpful to me in my first book, putting me in contact with one of her sources, the Police Chief on the Isle of Skye.

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  2. Congratulations on the successful series, Connie. They sound like just my cup of tea.

    Yes, I sometimes find it hard to get into a book. Several people whose taste I trust have urged me to read "Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine," which I now have in both hardback and paper. I still can't get into it. And, yes. I'm very familiar with book hangover--that sense of loss that has me wandering the house like a ghost, my mind still with the characters as I make up my own stories about their next steps into the future. Sometimes I go back and read the book again.

    I don't mind a slow start, particularly in the first book of a series, but I think it's best that the main character has a problem to solve from the beginning, even if it's a little problem. I'm not fond of first chapters where the character simply goes about her daily routine, checking in with all the secondary characters, but basically just going for groceries and running by the bank. If she's getting the groceries, she needs to be looking for a particular species of vanilla bean for the ultimate cake, and bracing herself to do battle with the weird guy at the spice store, or some such thing--not merely humming along in the normal.

    However, that slow start can't be too slow. A critique partner of mine, who writes science fiction, once handed me a 600-page manuscript and begged me to help her cut it. When I finished slogging through it I suggested she make it easy on herself and lop off the first 125 pages, where one of her main characters was stuck in a hospital bed feeling sorry for himself and doing nothing about it. In that version, the story didn't really start until he went back to work. She hated me for that suggestion, but her other critique partners came back with much the same advice.

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    1. Gigi, I did finish Eleanor. It was tough to get into because the character simply wasn't appealing. Now that did change, but it's asking a lot of readers to look past that. and PS, Debs said you and she were reading Julie Caplin's books so I read THE NORTHERN LIGHTS LODGE.--loved it and hated to leave Iceland!

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    2. Gigi, I listened to Eleanor Oliphant, and if I'd been reading it the normal way I'm not sure I'd have enjoyed it as much.

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    3. I loved Eleanor Oliphant. I have known quite a few autistic people in my life, and at the beginning I just assumed she was autistic, and could therefore accept the "unlikeable" aspects of her in that way. Of course later I learned that was a mistaken assumption, but it did get me through getting acquainted with the character.

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    4. Gigi, I finished Eleanor Oliphant, too--because my book club was reading it. At the end, I was glad I did. But on my own I probably wouldn't have finished it. I like mysteries! Like Karen, sometimes listening to books on Audible helps get into a book (if the narrator is talented). Lucy--thanks for the Iceland book recommendation! Susan, you might like Redhead By the Side of the Road (nothing to do with redheads, by the way).

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    5. Thanks for the encouragement, ladies. Lucy, I loved The Northern Lights Lodge too!

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    6. It was me who recommended Eleanor Oliphant, which I still think is a remarkable novel. I didn't find her so much unlikable as interesting, and I was never tempted to put it down.

      The Julie Caplin books are a much lighter cup of tea, and such fun! The books are interconnected and I would highly recommend starting that series from the first book, The Little Cafe in Copenhagen. So glad you enjoyed The Northern Lights Lodge, Lucy! I had a really bad book hangover after that one!

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  3. Congratulations! I often have the opposite problem - the new book comes knocking at my brain before I'm finished with the one that's due, gulp, next month! I have to tell it to go home and be patient.

    I definitely have abandoned books I'm reading. There are SO many I want to read, I simply don't have time for a book that doesn't grab me from the start. It doesn't have to be a body, but I need to be hooked.

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    1. Edith, I'm in awe of your ability to write consistently excellent books and get them out there. If you have a great idea knocking at your brain that you can't use, you might give it my address.

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    2. Aww, thank you, Connie! I'll keep you in mind. ;^)

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  4. Allowing myself to abandon a book I'd started was a milestone for me. I couldn't bear to toss a book I'd invested $$ in. I think it was the advent of Kindle that changed things. Being able to read a sample before I invest money let me nuke whatever grabs me not and go on to the next read. Or to shelve that sample for later consideration if I happen to be on the fence. Being no longer a young thing, I can read only so many more books in my lifetime, and there is little room for anything that doesn't suit my mood at the moment.

    I'm with you, Edith. Getting the hook in early is important.

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    1. I agree Ann, how many books can we possibly read--we have to be a little choosy.

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    2. I'm definitely choosey. Probably too choosey. And an awful lot of crime novels seem to me to be too long. It's like they end and then they end again. And again. Or there's far too much investigation moving in tiny steps through the middle, revisiting the same ground over and over. Fortunately most readers aren't as persnickety as I am.

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    3. Ann, I'm choosy too--especially now. And some books may be wonderful, but they're just not my cup of tea. One of the things I like about being in a book club is being encouraged to read outside my area of interest--mysteries set in the UK.

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  5. Hi, Connie! Congratulations on the new book!

    As a reader, I've become horrible about starting a book and never finishing. I need to be hooked by page 25. If the writing is good but the story isn't grabbing me, I'll give it to 50 pages. But if I start dosing off in my reading chair or find I don't care enough about the hero to devote more of my time to it, I give up.

    As a writer, I often have Edith's problem. Or I'm fully involved in the one I'm writing only to be dragged away because edits on the last one come in. Then I get fully involved in the one I'm editing and feel a bit loopy once I turn it back in and have to go back to the one I'm drafting.

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    1. It's like international travel... you go from Spain to France and (yikes) the language changes! Takes awhile to adjust.

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    2. I hate having a first draft interrupted by edits or proofs from another series. But it happens every time.

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    3. Hi Annette! My reply was deleted by blogger earlier. Thank you for the encouragement. I agree with you--I have to care about the characters, especially the protagonist.

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  6. Congrats on the new book Connie!

    It's funny that you mention George (not J.) R.R. Martin since the Game of Thrones book series was mentioned a lot in yesterday's topic. But his books are the prime example of how if you make it hard to get into a book, readers might just not bother. I don't think I made it 100 pages into the first book in that series and I will never pick it back up again.

    Now, when I read the first book in the original trilogy of the Terry Brooks series The Sword of Shannara, I found it very hard to get into. But I wanted to read it because I felt something was there that I would eventually like. It took three tries before I managed to actually finish the book but it opened the floodgates and I spent years reading everything Brooks wrote in the Shannara saga. I guess it all depends on how interested someone is in finishing something that lacks the early hook.

    I have stopped reading books that I didn't like. I hate doing it but why inflict that kind of suffering on myself.

    Series I still mourn for? The Kat Colorado series by Karen Kijewski, the Peggy O'Neil series by M.D. Lake and the White House Chef series by Julie Hyzy are some examples.

    I wonder how people feel NOW about J.K. Rowling ending the Harry Potter series with all her rather ignorant comments coming out in the press.

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    1. I won't read her again. I have no need to support her views.

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    2. and yet... talk about books that hook you from Page 1.

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    3. Thanks, Jay. Ha! My fingers were thinking about Tolkien there. Did you watch the Game of Thrones on TV?

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    4. Connie, I watched and was hooked by the Game of Thrones TV show from the very first seconds of the pilot. It was a great show until the producers stopped caring to make coherent plots after running out of source material. The final season of the show had only 2 good episodes (Episode 2 - "A Knight Of The Seven Kingdoms" and Episode 3 - "The Long Night") The rest of the episodes would have moments here and there but Benioff and Weiss should've been given the ultimatum to tell a good story or they'd find someone who would. They ticked off quite the sizeable portion of the fanbase with the lame-ass way they handled the storytelling in Season 8 (and before in spots).

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    5. I have all seven Harry Potter books and definitely went into book-hangover when seven was read. But I haven't managed to get into any of her books since--not that first one, not the Cormoran Strike ones--not even the play she wrote extending HP. Her involvement in writing the scripts for Fantastic Beasts hasn't left me thrilled with those movies either. As for the views she's expressed, I find those inexplicable. Not something I want to support.

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    6. Flora, while my mother was one of those who would go to the midnight sale openings for the Harry Potter books, I have never read the books. I saw the movies, that was enough for me.

      While I did like the first Fantastic Beasts movie, the 2nd one was not nearly as good. And I didn't bother with the extended Harry Potter book either. Oh, and I did get my mom the first Cormoran Strike book when it was revealed he was actually Rowling. But I don't think she ever read it and I never felt the desire either.

      I guess being practically a (if not actually one) billionaire let her get away with spouting off some really stupid crap.

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    7. Jay, I watched part of Game of Thrones season 1. My thrill was actually finding the Dark Hedges in Northern Ireland! Finding locations for that series would have been the most fun!

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  7. Congratulations Connie! and thanks for a great post. Like Jay, I miss the White House chef series. Also Ann Cleeves' Shetland series. Since I mostly read at night, I am not patient. I want something that will keep me reading long after I should have turned off the light.

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    1. I only read at night and on airplanes. So, like Lucy Roberta, I want something that will keep me awake, at least for a couple of hours. Last month I treated myself to a new mattress and an adjustable bed. It's pure heaven for reading! I can adjust it infinitely to just the right position.

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    2. Thank you, Lucy! I so miss the Shetland series, although I love her new series. Something about those windswept islands...I must confess that lately I've been "reading" mostly on Audible, so I do that whenever I'm doing something mindless like cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, getting dressed. If I really love a book, I'll also buy it.

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    3. Connie, I am a huge Audible fan, too, but sometimes if I get really hooked I have to pick up the print/digital book because I get impatient to see where the story is going!

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    4. Deborah, I buy the books I love on Audible, mostly because I want to read them in print. It's a different experience, and I find I remember different things. Also, I like to see how the words look on the page. How the author handled inner speech, stuff like that. So I read first for the story, then for the craft.

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  8. Connie, welcome to JRW and congratulations on your new book. Your series sounds like something I will enjoy reading so I'll be looking it up this morning.

    I usually do not have a problem getting into books no matter what the genre. Occasionally, I do make notes about characters so that when they reappear I can just remind my self who they are. I am retired and read a great deal these days. Sometimes I will set aside a book with the intention of going back and I usually do. Other times, if I dislike a main character I'll just put the book down. That rarely happens. What is more likely is that I will stop reading a series that I might have been enjoying in the beginning but because of a turn it takes, a character it abuses or eliminates, or the sameness book to book, I'll just move on. There is a lot to read out there.

    Now I am looking for book 1 in your series.

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    1. Judy said: "I will stop reading a series that I might have been enjoying in the beginning but because of a turn it takes," - I do the same thing with TV shows and movies. They take a turn that makes me anxious and I hit OFF (or fast-forward) - I had much more tolerance when in my earlier years. And of course when you've paid for a movie seat, there's a higher bar for getting up and walking out, or taking a popcorn break.

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    2. Judy, I hope you like the Kate series. The first, A Dream of Death, takes place on a fictional island in the Scottish Hebrides--with a backdrop of Bonnie Prince Charlie and clan history.

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    3. Well, this is weird. I'd replied to your comment, Judy, but now it's missing. I said that I do the same thing with a TV that takes an unpleasant turn. Turn it off.

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  9. Congratulations, Connie! I have never had a hard time getting into one of your books.

    If I have a problem getting into a book, I go back and read the reviews. Then I decide whether to soldier on or not.

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    1. Great idea! If only so many reviewers didn't spoil the plot.

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    2. Know what you mean, Hallie. That's when being a writer comes into play - if I decide to continue reading, I'll pay special attention to the progression of the story to the spoiler.

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    3. Thank you, Kate! And I agree with you both--review spoilers are awful. That happened once to me. The reviewer said it right out: "I never guessed the bad guy was the XXXX." I had my publisher contact Goodreads. They took it away somehow.

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  10. Congratulations on the new book -- it looks great!

    I rarely abandon a book, but I did it very recently. Though it was an unfamiliar author, the blurb on it and the setting of the book made me think it was right up my alley. But after slogging through a few chapters, I was just annoyed. I felt like the author hadn't ever decided what kind of book it was going to be, and what kind of person the protagonist was. So the protagonist behaved very inconsistently from scene to scene, and the tone changed randomly. It was a shame, because I had the feeling the author had a pretty good story to tell. I just didn't have the patience to take the ride with her.

    I agree with several before me that this whole "jump right into the action" thing can be overdone. Yes, the book needs to grab my attention in some way. But sometimes I feel like authors have swung so far in that direction, that I feel like I'm picking up the story in the middle. I just read a book that was a great example of getting that balance just right. Called "The Missing Letters of Mrs. Bright" by Beth Miller, the book opens with the protagonist walking out of her 29-year marriage. It's a very dramatic opening scene, and then it makes it easy to get to know the backstory because of course, she is ruminating on what brought her here, why she is leaving, and what to do next. Yet it feels very organic, not like exposition.

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    1. Excellent point, Susan.
      Though you said: "feels very organic, not like exposition"
      I read: "feels very organic, not like explosion."
      Same difference.
      Going to find my glasses now.

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    2. Thanks, Susan. You're so right--it's not hard to grab the readers attention with something spectacular, but the bar is set so high, there's often a drop-off. I'll have to look for The Missing Letters book!

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  11. I need the book to hook me sooner than later. When I find myself just flipping pages, it's time to put the book down. I love first books in the series because you get to know just enough about the characters that you want to invest in the second book in the series to see if it holds up to expectations.

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    1. And SO exciting when it's a really good book and there's the promise of many more from that author.

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    2. I love debut novels, too, Dru. So many talented writers out there. Actually I'm always amazed at the amount of reading you do. Thanks for your support for new (and old) writers!

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  12. Congrats on your new release!
    I liked Eleanor Oliphant from the first page, but I loved Where'd You Go Bernadette?
    I'm simultaneously balancing two books: a complete reorganization for one and complete revision for the other. The process is making both of them better.
    Enjoy your summer walks with Emmie.

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    1. Revising TWO books at the same time?!? Yikes.

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    2. written as stand-alones with the same cast of characters and setting. It works.

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    3. Thank you, Margaret! Wow--two books in revision at once. I was thinking the other day that I might be able to handle writing one while revising another. Realistically it takes me almost a year to write a book from beginning to end. Good luck with both books! Emmie sends her thanks for the reminder about walks, which she loves!

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  13. I used to be patient with books. Now, not so much. Most I give 50 pages. But I've cut off a few sooner if it is obvious it isn't my cup of tea.

    I try to start my own books with a problem - if not a dead body - but I have to keep reminding myself the stakes have to go up from there, too.

    I have felt it hard to start another book immediately as a reader, especially if the one I just finished had a deep impact, but I'm like Edith and Annette. With my writing there's usually another book yammering for my attention by the time I'm finished writing the current one.

    Congrats on the new book!

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    1. Thank, Liz! Starting with a problem--or a question--is what I like more than a dead body on the first page.

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  14. My brother-in-law and his wife were just here for a couple days, and we always talk books. They read almost as much as I do, and we like a lot of the same authors, especially in the mystery genre. (And Pete, who had Don Winslow as a student when he himself was a young history professor, has written a still unpublished book with Don.) One of Pete's comments made me think: He wants the murder by Page Five.

    I'm more patient than that, and unless the book is irredeemably bad I will finish it.

    My youngest daughter and I read as many of Lillian Jackson Braun's Cat Who books as we could together when she was in middle school. I was sorry to see the end of Q and his Siamese. And I so wish there were more Amelia Peabody's. Talk about action!

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    1. And by the way, Connie, I love reading about antiques and antique stores, and am definitely planning to read this series!

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    2. Oh, thank you, Karen! We're both Ohioans! I also love the Amelia Peabody books. Recently I read somewhere that people fall into two camps--those who will ditch a book if they're not interested and those who will finish every book they start. I'm somewhere in the middle. If a book is really bad or uninteresting to me, I don't want to waste time on it.

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  15. Someplace I read or heard that a good rule of thumb is the read the number of pages that is your age subtracted from one hundred. If the book hasn't got you by then it is okay to move on to something else. Sometimes it takes many pages to get into the rhythm of the book. There have been times when I thought I probably wouldn't finish it but I stick with it a little bit longer and the next thing you know I'm really into it.

    But when I have stopped reading a book I don't feel nearly as bad if it is a book from the library instead of one I have paid good money for.

    But if a book starts out with too many characters all at once that can be a problem for me. Very few authors will have a cast of characters in the beginning. I really wish more would do that. But this brings up one reason I dislike reading on a kindle: it is too hard to flip back to the beginning to reread what I maybe should have remembered.

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    1. One of my many 'writing rules' is: never open with a cocktail party. Too many characters to burden the reader with, too early. Not that there aren't writers who've opened with cocktail parties and giggled all the way to the bank.

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    2. Another reply that mysteriously disappeared. Judi, I like that rule of thumb--reading the number of pages of your age before throwing in the towel. Does that mean that older readers have more patience letting the story unfold organically? Maybe. I love a printed cast of characters.

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    3. 100 minus your age means the older you get, the fewer pages you'll wade through.

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  16. Connie, congratulations on the new book. I’m looking forward to reading it.
    I have become more impatient in the last year, probably because I have more time to read. If I own the book I will battle through to the end. But I will give up on library books. Usually because I just don’t find the characters interesting and don’t care what happens to them. I’m still trying to read Eleanor Oliphant.
    I was also extremely disappointed when Caroline Graham stopped writing Midsomer books. When I find a book or series that I like I am very reluctant to leave it, and usually very very impatient for the next one.

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    1. Ann--we are both Caroline Graham fans! That's so fun. I love those books and reread them frequently. My favorite passage of all time is her description of Miss Bellringer in The Killings At Badgers Drift: "She was a wondrous sight, festooned rather than dressed. All her clothes had a dim but vibrant sheen as if they had once, long ago, been richly embroidered. She wore several very beautiful rings, the gems dulled by dirt. Her nail were dirty too. Her eyes moved all the time, glittering in a brown seamed face. She looked like a tattered eagle."

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    2. Yes, that’s exactly it! All my favorite authors use words so beautifully that they stay with you forever and yet you can reread them endlessly. Louise Penny is another who resonates with me.

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    3. Agree completely. I love beautiful language--images, rhythms... We really do have the same taste!

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  17. I, too, am in the "I tried to read GOT" club. I'm also guilty of not having a body show up in my mysteries until page fifty or sixty - shocking, I know. I love the world you've created, Connie, and I can't wait to visit it again, so consider me a reader that is hooked! Congratulations on finishing your latest. I'm looking forward to it!

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    1. Welcome to the Club, Jenn. Yearly dues are expected by our next meeting. :d

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    2. Jenn, I don't read your books for the bodies, I read them for the hearty laughs and fabulous characters. The mysteries are good, but I love your sense of fun!

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    3. Jenn, what a nice thing to say! Thank you. Another author to find quickly!

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  18. I think Judi's formula is something I should have adopted years ago! I always used to finish every book, but recently have abandoned ones that just don't seem to be my cup of tea. Likewise, if I'm not sure I will like the book, I try to get it from the library. I don't care about the crime being in the first pages, but I am totally seduced by the author that is a really good story teller. I can be patient for the payoff.

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    1. Good for you! So many books, so little time...

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  19. Connie, I loved the first two books in your series and have the third on my TBR list--I keep checking, but my library doesn't have it in the catalog yet. Lesa Holstine has given it a great review, so I'm eagerly awaiting reading it! And speaking of the library, that's where I get most of my books, so I'm not at all shy about abandoning a book when I have others clamoring for my attention. It's rare that I only give a book a chapter or two before making that decision, but if it doesn't grab me by page 70 or so, it's a goner.

    Those opening chapters are crucial. If I'm reading a series book where I'm already in love with the protagonist, them I'm willing to wait while I'm brought up to date about what's happening with that character and the supporting characters. A little exposition and description is not a bad thing if it's done well. But if I'm left wondering if the story is ever going to begin, I might give up. On the other hand, if the action starts before there is any character description, that's too soon for me. The characters are why I read a book.

    Much success with your new book, and may the series continue!

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    1. Thank you, Margie! I was thrilled to receive Lesa's review. I so respect her opinions. Hope your library gets The Art of Betrayal soon.

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  20. If the story does not grip me within the first chapter I cannot waste my eyesight and strength. I used to read voraciously but now with so many that do not appeal I am more fussy and want the book to appeal immediately.

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  21. Congratulations Connie! Your novels captivate me and hold my interest. When a story and the writing as well as the characters have no depth I cannot continue to read. That is my taste. Exploring the characters' minds, and giving vivid descriptions of the locales makes the book come alive for me.

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    1. Thank you! I, too, want a book to take me into a new world with interesting characters dealing with unusual and important events.

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  22. Connie, I clearly need to catch up--I don't keep lists of authors/books, so I can lose track of new releases by authors I enjoy. I'll be searching for Art of Betrayal!

    I don't need the action to start on page 1. I do need the writing to make me want to read more. I picked a book to read from one of fantastic fiction's recommendations--the 'if you like this book, here are similar ones.' Ashley Weaver writes the Amory Ames series, which I haven't read. This was A Peculiar Combination--the first in a new series set in England during the beginning of WWII. I was halfway through the book when I realized I'd better stop if I wanted to get any sleep at all. Now I'm impatiently awaiting book #2.

    As for slow starts--I can't think of a better example that Deborah's A Finer End--no one is even hurt until you're more than 100 pages into the story--but the character building, setting, and relationships have been racketing up the tension up to that point. I loved this book--it remains one of my favorites in the series.

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    1. Thanks, Flora! That book was such fun to write! Maybe I should go back and look at what I did in that first hundred pages:-)

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    2. Flora, I totally agree. Deb is a great storyteller. I also love that book.

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    3. Flora, I know what you mean. There are so many great books being written and so little time to read. I agree with your thoughts about Deb's writing. I read every one of her books and then mourn a little because of the wait until the next one. She's a role model for me.

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  23. Congratulations on THE ART OF BETRAYAL, Connie! One of my very favorite structures for a novel, as both a reader and a writer, is plunging the reader in media res and then going back in time to catch up. It doesn't have to be an opening with a shootout (although I did that once) - I'm reading last summer's THE SAFE PLACE by Anna Downes, and she starts with the the heroine arriving, via luxurious private plane, at a magically beautiful (and very inaccessible!) country house. Then Downes takes us to everything leading up to that moment. Since the protagonist is a total sad sack with a life where everything is going wrong, I can see how readers might get discouraged if they didn't know that amazing (yet somehow ominous) place was waiting ahead.

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    1. Thank you, Julia. You are another of my role models. In fact when I was thinking about querying, I'd written that "my books combine Kate Morgan's layered sense of the past with Julia Spencer-Fleming's modern take on the amateur sleuth." You do it so well.

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  24. There's been a few times I've had trouble getting into a book. I always see the question about not finishing books and I find it so weird. I've never not finished a book, no matter how I felt about it. I guess I'm optimistic that it will get better (sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't). I have so many books in my to-read piles, but I'm still going to read the whole book before deciding how I feel about it.
    With series, there's so much setup and introduction in the first book. Some I'm still really into, others I'm not sure so I usually keep reading 2 or 3 books in before deciding if I want to continue with the series.

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    1. Interesting thoughts, Alicia. You are one of those readers who finish what they start!

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  25. There are times that I struggle to get into a book. It's tricky balancing the introductions with the story. You want to start at the true beginning while not starting so late the readers are lost. That can happen to.

    And I don't subscribe to the body has to drop in the first chapter. It can be later than that as long as you have tension before then.

    You did it well in The Art of Betrayal. I really enjoyed it!

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    1. Thank you, Mark. I value your opinion and was thrilled that you liked The Art of Betrayal.

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  26. Connie, welcome to Jungle Reds and Congratulations on your new novel!

    Connie, I am sorry to say that I do not agree with your first manuscript reviewer who said "get on the island already!". For me, it would be HOW the language is written. I've read five star reviews of novels that I struggled to read. I often say "I think that a PhD degree is needed before I can decipher the story". Perfect example is WOLF HALL by Hilary Mantel.

    Yes, there were times when it was hard to get into a book. Believe it or not, I could NOT get into Harry Potter the first time. I think that I was at a different stage in my life at that time. A few years later when my 9 year old relative praised the HP novels and suggested that I give HP another chance, to my surprise, I got into the books! I loved the HP books.

    ANXIOUS PEOPLE by Frederik Backmann was a hard book to get into then I am glad I stayed with the book because it became interesting at the end,

    And sometimes it is the MOOD that I am in. There are times when I am in a reading slump and cannot read anything except children's books.

    Look forward to reading your novel,
    Diana

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    1. Diana, Anxious People was so highly praised that I made myself stick with it. It was memorable but I didn't enjoy reading it. I felt like he took a long time to tell a short story.

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    2. Thank you, Diana. You're right--if the writing is good, readers will enjoy the build-up. Hope you like the Kate books!

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  27. With a mystery, I don't mind the body showing up late, as long as the story starts early. I mean, it's great if we spend the first bunch of chapters meeting people who are begging to be murdered, along with those who just might oblige.

    But overall, life is indeed too short to read bad books, dull books, nasty books ("I don't even like these people, why should I spend any more time with them?") and books that take 50 pages to get into, if ever. And at my age, life is getting shorter by the day.

    I find the acid test is, after I've put it down for a bit, do I find myself thinking about the people and the story, or does it just sit there, forgotten?

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    1. All right, everyone's life is getting shorter by the day, but you know what I mean.

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    2. Me again.

      Josephine Tey's Miss Pym Disposes. No hint of a murder until well past the middle. But totally engaging from the get-go.

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    3. Susan, I read Gone Girl--couldn't put it down, but I was so mad by the end I almost threw the book across the room. Hated the characters. Had to find out what happened.

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  28. Hi Connie! Your series sounds wonderful and I am going to have to add it to my TBR pile. Where in Ohio does it take place? We lived in the Western Reserve for years. You know how varied the population is in Ohio and how different the parts of the state are. I'm pretty picky about what I read so it is rare I start a book I can't finish. I do want that story going forward in chapter one but I also want some background and context. The body does not have to appear immediately. In fact, it can take its time showing up if the plot is ratcheting up the tension to the point you know someone is going to get it.

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    1. Hi Pat, the series takes place in the UK--the Scottish Hebrides in the first book and then Suffolk. But the main character is an American antiques dealer (Kate Hamilton) who lives and has a shop in the fictional village of Jackson Falls--not unlike (as they say) Chagrin Falls. Her late husband was a law professor at Case Western, where Kate got her graduate degree in history. Hope you like the series!

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  29. Hi Connie! How have I missed your books until now?? They are just my cup of tea, fellow Anglophile that I am. I'm going to start with the first one and I'm sure I'll devour the series.

    I'm a little more patient with slow-starting books. If I like the writing, or the setting, or the voice, I'm willing to stick it out for a good while. On the other hand, my nightstand it stacked with half-finished books that I haven't quite given up on. It most cases it wasn't that I didn't like them, but just that I got distracted by something else.

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    1. Having you read the books would be a great honor. I, too, am easily distracted. Shiny objects. New books. Cute animals. Anything, really.

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  30. Congrats Connie! Another book under your belt. I admit I haven't read your previous books. I'm an avid reader, but there are times when I just have to go back and read a favorite. Revisit, so to speak. So yes, I get book hangover, and don't regret it at all.

    I'm not a fan of drop the reader in the middle of the action, as too many times I wonder why I should care what happens to a character when I don't know anything about them. And once a writer makes a huge mistake about medical things, I'm done. Too many years as a flight nurse who knows a great deal about the effects of meds, trauma, and after-effects of even minor head injuries.

    Despite my TBR pile towering dangerously (if virtually, with Kindle) I'll definitely be checking out your books. They sound, as the Brits would say, like my cup of tea.

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    1. Thank you, Diane. We read because we become attached to characters. Hope you find and like the Kate books.

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  31. Congratulations on your new release! I usually don't give up on a book, unless it's really awful. One book I couldn't get into was "The Woman Before Wallis". I just put it up for now, there's a lot going on in the beginning and lots of people and names. I'll try it again when I'm in the mood.

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    1. Thanks! I will say that one time I started a book, couldn't get into it, put it down. Later (years) I picked it up again and loved it. So maybe I'm the problem!

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  32. Congratulations on your new release! I usually don't give up on a book, unless it's really awful. One book I couldn't get into was "The Woman Before Wallis". I just put it up for now, there's a lot going on in the beginning and lots of people and names. I'll try it again when I'm in the mood.

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    1. Thank you! I didn't read that one, but as a history lover, the subject is interesting.

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  33. Connie, I'm anxious to read your series! I used to feel obligated to finish books, even those from the library. Now, I feel differently, although if some are too sluggish or very long, but something holds my interest I'll skim, or just read the ending to see how the puzzle turns out, and/or if I solved the mystery! I don't need immediate action in the first few pages, without really getting to know the characters. And I found out that I don't care as much about certain books if the characters are uninteresting or mostly all unlikable! Too many other great books out there to read!

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    1. Thank you, Lynn! And you're so right. There are a lot of good books out there. Sadly, we can't read them all.

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  34. I had a really hard time starting The Hobbit. I started 4 or 5 times and put it down. Finally, I kept going and really liked it.
    Two series I'm still mourning are the Maggody and Claire Malloy series by Joan Hess. She passed away so I know there will be no more books but I reread them every few years.

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    1. Kathy, I get it about the Hobbit. That's a book I started several times before sticking with it. Then I loved it. And oh, Joan Hess! She is so missed.

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  35. I'm finally getting to check in here today. I have had a book every now and then that is a bit difficult to get into at first, and I usually will give it at least 40 pages. Well, I'm not sure I'll do that anymore because I'm 67 and I pretty much know if I'm going to like a book before that, and I don't have a lot of time to waste reading books I don't want to. I will say that I think that a book not appealing to a reader at one time might at another, but, again, so many books to read. I'm so glad I'm up to speed in the Outlander books, as I don't know that I could read 1,000 page books anymore, don't know if I want t o take that time. I'm a slow reader. However, we'll see, since another one comes out this fall.

    Connie, I think you have a great series in the Kate Hamilton one. I look forward to reading the new one.

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    1. Thank you, Kathy! In graduate school I read what is often considered the longest novel in the English language--Clarissa by Samuel Richardson (1748)--more than a million years. No jumping into the action then!

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