Friday, February 06, 2009


Send me your openings

This is only my second Sleuthfest, but I had so much fun last year (and Randy Rawls and his henchmen did such a great job running things) that I had to come back. Besides, I live in New England and grab just about any opportunity to go someplace warm (as did the sleuth in my "Exile" series, who left the northeast for Florida and never came back).

I'll be running the "Openings" workshop at nine AM on Friday February 27th, and I'd like to open this up to as many attendees as possible. I've already got sample openings from several well-known mystery novels to use as examples, but I'd like to ask anyone who's going to be at Sleuthfest to consider submitting an opening of their own. This is open to any writer, published or not, and I promise to keep the group's critiquing professional.

My plan is to put the opening on a slide (two slides max) and then discuss it with the audience (for example: What does this opening accomplish? Is this opening geared to providing the 5 W's or does it have a different purpose?) If you're willing, please send the first page of your opening to me at (not knowing how many responses I'm going to receive, I can't guarantee your segment will be used). Please let me know if you wish to remain anonymous (at least for the duration of the workshop, or until people start raving about your writing) and I will take it from there.

I hope to see you at the "Openings" workshop at 9 AM on Friday February 27th. And don't forget the mock murder trial "Twelve Angry Flamingoes" at 6:30 that evening; Vicki Landis has written a twisted plot and assembled a gifted cast (raffle tickets for jury positions will be sold at the Registration table).

Vinny O'Neil is the Malice Award-winning author of the "Frank Cole / Exile" murder mystery series published by St. Martin's Minotaur. Sample chapters of all three novels are available at his website,

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Win THE AGENCY by "Ally O'Brien" - 1 week only!

Meet Tess Drake. She’s earned everything she has. Now it’s time to get what she deserves…

Sexy super-agent Tess Drake has worked hard to make a name for herself in the glamorous yet cut-throat entertainment industry. Tess works at an international agency, where she skillfully manages some of the world's biggest egos—her company, Bardwell International operates in the thrilling, fast-paced worlds of Rights, wrongs and revenge. Tess has been an agent there for longer than she cares to remember and now she's in trouble. Real trouble. After the mysterious death of the agency's senior partner, Lowell Bardwright, Tess's sworn enemy, Cosima Tate, has taken over and would do anything to send Tess's career down in flames. And Cosima is only one of the rogue’s gallery of agents in London and New York who want Tess to take a fall.

Tess has another little complication, too. She’s sleeping with men on both sides of the Atlantic who are in bed with the women who are trying to sink her.

Can Tess jump ship without losing her clients and breaking her heart? Or will she lose everything before finding out if she really has what it takes to do what she’s always wanted?

There’s risk and reward in this wickedly funny novel that turns the world of agenting inside out and lays bare all the ambition, sex, adrenaline, bad luck, and good luck at the center of one young woman’s success.

"Ally O'Brien" is a pseudonym for two writers (one publishing industry insider and one renowned mystery writer) who have written a funny, sexy book about what else - the publishing industry.

Reviews have been great --

“With an insider’s take on the book biz, and an appealingly foul-mouthed heroine, this debut is fast, funny and a bit nasty—not unlike Tess. A naughty, catty good time.”

“A delicious read! Even more entertaining than Sex & the City and Lipstick Jungle combined… THE AGENCY is one hot, exciting, and sexy book, with a seductive plot that makes those pages fly. Don’t miss this exquisite jewel!”
Publishers Weekly

It's winter, it's cold and miserable outside (even here in south Florida!) so it's the perfect time to curl up with a fun read. To win your own copy, just send an email to with THE AGENCY as the subject by next Wednesday, Feb. 11. Please include your name and snail mail address in the US or Canada only.

The publisher, St. Martins Press, is so excited about this book that they are offering my readers 25 galleys - that's the advance paperback copy for the book that just came out yesterday.

Good luck, and thanks for reading.

Sunday, February 01, 2009


Sleuthfest 2009: "Read Like a Writer"

As a writer, I used to feel guilty about reading, worrying that any time spent reading took time away from writing. But that's the thinking of an amateur - and over the years, I came to realize how much reading other works - any genre - influenced my writing. Deliberately setting out to assess the writing in other works has shaped my own voice and style for the better.

Writing teachers constantly urge their students to read, read, read to study styles and techniques. Not only does reading spark responses and even new ideas - especially when we read non-fiction or new material that tests our assumptions. Reading a range of material also prepares us to think about outlines and organization, offering a drill for our own revisions. Sometimes writers immediately grasp how another writer inserts suspense, tone or motivation, and sometimes they must read a passage two or three times to understand how the writer manipulates words for some subtle purpose.

Writers have the luxury of knowing what they like to read and why, but also understand they must sometimes plow through difficult, odd or horrible passages.

Because practicing analytical reading skills is crucial for rewriting. Reading through a first draft is a humbling experience, worse than listening to a recording of one's voice, and that may be why I spend more time rewriting than I do laying out the original draft. To finish a book, I must read to snip, shape and control my plot.

In attending conferences, I'm always amazed how much I learn from readers and writers alike, those magic moments when everyone in the room is inspired. Despite a vast range of techniques, even in the mystery genre, few people argue and insist that one way, their way, is the best or only way. The best writers are curious about new places, people and ideas, and while I prefer reading the explorers over the preachers, I cannot deny having some of the latter's tendencies.

So, I look forward to Sleuthfest 2009, meeting all, and joining the panel "Read Like a Writer," which will discuss two inextricably intertwined skills that cannot be separated. Think about the reasons you love to read and how you read, shed the guilt, and stop by to say hello.

Susan Froetschel is a journalist and the author of three mystery books, including Royal Escape, published in 2008 by Five Star/Cengage. She has taught writing at Yale and Southern Connecticut State University. Her website is, and more of her thoughts on writing can be found at Poe's Deadly Daughters

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