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Five other local authors (Terri Brisbin, Traci Dunham, Patti Sheey, Carol Comegno, Janice Wilson Stridick) and I are being featured at the first Meet the Author fundraiser hosted by the Merchantville Women’s Club, 212 Somerset Avenue, Merchantville, NJ, at 7:00-9:00 pm on Thursday, November 19. (We will be on the lower level of the Community Center. The entrance is on side of building by the parking lot.)

Each of us will have the opportunity to talk about our work, sell and sign books, socialize with the attendees, and have a fun night, which includes refreshments and door prizes.

The entry fee of $10 will be donated to the charities and scholarships supported by the Women’s Club. The program is open to the public.

Please join us! Consider it a pre-Black Friday gift buying opportunity, as well as a night out in support of worthy causes. (Charities and scholarships, not starving authors.)


“If sales were what mattered to me most, I would have written under my own name from the start, and with the greatest fanfare.” – J. K. Rowling on her decision to publish her crime novels under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.

When asked why she hid her identity when submitting The Cuckoo’s Calling to publishers, J. K. Rowling, internationally acclaimed author of the Harry Potter series, explained she chose to write under a pseudonym because she was “yearning to go back to the beginning of a writing career in this new genre, to work without hype or expectation and to receive totally unvarnished feedback.”

The Cuckoo’s Calling, the first of the Cormoran Strike dectective series, sold 17,662 copies in the week following the news that it was written by Rowling. Compare that with the 1,500 print copies that were sold in the U.K. during the three months between its publication and the revelation of its author’s identity. It went from an Amazon sales rank of #4,000+ to #1 during that same week.

When Rowling published her first non-Potter book, The Casual Vacancy, she was quoted as saying that she had thought about using a pseudonym, but “I think it’s braver to do it like this.” The book sold well, but received mixed reviews. Some reviewers had difficulty getting around the idea that the creator of a series of children’s books could write an adult book about adultery, drugs, poverty, and prejudice.

Rowling had proved her point: an unknown author would have difficulty making sales, receiving unbiased reviews (or, for that matter, any reviews), or even being published (at least one publishing house turned down the manuscript of The Cuckoo’s Calling). A known author, however, especially one as accomplished and successful as the author of the Harry Potter series, would suffer only from unrealistic expectations by readers and reviewers.

[In the interest of full disclosure, I have read all four of her post-Potter books. I enjoyed The Casual Vacancy more than the naysayers, but not as much as the cheerleaders. The book began as a sharp, satirical dissection of small town class distinctions, but devolved into a melodrama. And the ending felt rushed, as though she weren’t quite sure how to develop the plot further, so she just stopped writing.

The Cormorant Strike books, on the other hand, are in my opinion, terrific. And each one is better than the previous. I had preordered the latest of the three, Career of Evil, on Kindle, and finished reading all 500+ pages within three days. I literally could not put it down, reading it while at physical therapy, in front of the TV, instead of sleeping.]

Many reviewers may have been prejudiced against Rowling – the “Don’t hate me because I’m a successful author and you’re a wannabe who writes reviews for obscure publications” syndrome – but I wonder if the opposite can be true. During the past few years, I have read several novels by authors previously on my “preorder” and “must read” lists. I wrote “previously” because, after reading these latest books, the authors are now on my “don’t bother” list.

No, I won’t name names in public. It will make me seem petty and vindictive because they are bestsellers and I’m not. But in my opinion, had they not been major authors, these books would never have made it out of the slush pile.

In the past, I’ve written about whether entry-level, poorly paid, just-out-of-college copyeditors are afraid to correct errors made by famous authors. But the problems with the books I’m referring to go far beyond typos or inconsistencies or repeated phrases. The books are poorly plotted, the characters are uninteresting, the incidents are implausible. The authors often make all the “errors” new authors are warned to avoid: prologues which could have just as easily been labeled “chapter one;” reliance on coincidence; too much back story interrupting the narrative flow; introduction of extraneous characters; subplots which have no connection to the main plot. If the manuscripts had been submitted by unknown authors, they would have been rejected without a comment. Instead, they are published and shoot to the top of the bestseller lists.

In fairness, I have to mention that even though these books garner quite a few reviews, the reviewers are often critical. So I am not the only one who has noticed the decline in quality. But the lack of positive reviews does not seem to affect sales. (So maybe I am being a bit petty and vindictive.)

So, my question is: Do we allow established authors to get away with shoddy work, while being overly critical of new ones?

While writing this blog entry, I realized the ultimate irony: J. K. Rowling was an obscure, unknown, unproven, unpublished author when she sold a manuscript, which had been rejected by eight other publishers, about an orphan who discovers he is a wizard to Bloomsbury, an independent publisher in the U.K. The book was then picked up by U.S. educational publisher Scholastic, and the rest, as they say, is the stuff that (authors’) dreams are made of.


Today, a friend – an actual one, not just a virtual one – posted a picture on Facebook of some ducks in a pond near her home in CA. The pictures weren’t too clear, as often happens when taking photos of distant objects with a cell phone. (And I have the blurry Facebook posts I’ve added to prove it.) I tried to identify the species, thinking at first they were mallards. But their heads weren’t green, but were white with a black stripe from crown to nape. I spent all too much time checking images and descriptions of various ducks, teals, and other water birds, and finally posted, “I’m stumped. The pix aren’t clear enough for me to ID them. They’re not mallards – no solid dark or green head on the one on the left – but the rufous breast indicates it may be. I was thinking it could be a hybrid mallard X black duck or mottled duck, but neither species is in CA.”

To which another friend replied, “Shucks, Ilene – ‘duck’ will do!”

To which I replied, “Not for a birder!”

After which I realized (and posted) the observation that I enjoy bird watching and both writing and reading mystery books for the same reason: to find a solution.

When reading mysteries, I try to outguess the author (and, sometimes, the protagonist) by finding out whodunit before the end of the book. If the author has played fair and seeded enough hints throughout the book, I’ll sometimes succeed. But even if I’m surprised at the end, I’ll have the fun of the “ah hah!” moment when I realize what I had overlooked. On the other hand, if there are facts the author has withheld, then not only won’t I succeed, but I’ll be frustrated and annoyed at the end of the book.

When writing mysteries, I have two problems: 1. Confounding the reader without cheating them, while not being so simplistic that there’s no real suspense. 2. Constructing a complex mystery without writing myself into a corner I can’t write myself out of. It happens. Often. Which is why the delete button was invented.

In birding, there’s also the experience of solving a puzzle. (I’m referring now to identifying a bird, rather than recognizing it without any conscious thought.) Both birding and reading and/or writing mysteries involve the same kind of attention to minutiae, plus the unraveling and organizing of details that seem inconsequential at first: when and where and circumstances and shape and environment and the process of elimination and, ultimately, logic.

And in both cases, there’s an enormous sense of accomplishment at having arrived at the answer.

As for the mystery ducks, I used the same set of steps mentioned above, “when and where and circumstances and shape and environment and the process of elimination and, ultimately, logic,” to arrive at the solution that they are immature red-necked phalaropes.

Unless they’re not. In which case, they’re Miss Scarlet in the dining room with a rope.


NJ is the punchline of many mean-spirited jokes. Find out what residents of South Jersey know and why they disagree with the rest of the US – and North Jersey.  Check out my guest blog on Annette Snyder’s site “Fifty Authors from Fifty States” at http://annettesnyder.blogspot.com.

And if any of what I wrote sounds familiar, it’s because I cribbed from my own previous blogs on the topic!


Small but interested audience last night at the Moorestown Library. But my next appearance promises to be a crowded one – if the weather cooperates better than it did last night.

I’ll be exhibiting (and, I hope, selling) my books at BooksNJ 2015, Sunday, June 14, 1:00-5:00 PM, on the grounds of the Paramus Public Library.

And speaking of panels, I’ve been asked to be on one there (time TBA):
Killing in New Jersey:  Murder in the Garden State
Michael Stephen Daigle
Ilene Schneider
Dave White
Maureen Wlodarczyk
Panel Leader: Lori-Ann Quinn

The BooksNJ website (http://www.booksnj.org/) promises:


Friday the 13th (that’s March 13) will be a lucky day for me. At 10:15 AM, I will be on a panel at Crimelandia, the 2015 Left Coast Crime conference in Portland, OR (less snow than Portland, ME). It’s called: How Did That Body Get There?: The Amateur Sleuth.


A nice mention of me in the Feb. issue of South Jersey Magazine, in the “Southern Exposure – Names to Know” section, under the headline “Local people making a difference in in South Jersey and beyond.”

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