2nd Annual Suffolk Mystery Authors Festival a Success

The 2nd Annual Suffolk Mystery Authors Festival was held Saturday, August 22nd, at the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts. Hundreds of people attended the event to meet the authors and purchase signed copies of their books, listen to readings from the authors themselves, hear writers’ firsthand experiences during moderated panels, and learn from experts about the topics of publishing and writing. For a video featuring clips from the event, click here.

Mystery by the Sea members were on hand at the festival to sign copies of the group’s latest anthology, Virginia is for Mysteries. Check out some photos from the event, taken by group member Ken Wingate.

Book Signing 1

An eager reader waits for Maria Hudgins to sign her copy of the Virginia is for Mysteries anthology.

The festival offered numerous moderated panels and workshops, including two hosted by Mystery by the Sea members. Group members took part in the workshop entitled How Do I Get Published?, which focused on ways authors can market their work, build their platforms, and handle social media. Another workshop held during the festival explained how to piece together all the parts of a murder mystery. Aptly titled Anatomy of a Mystery, the workshop was led by Mystery by the Sea members Jayne Ormerod, CB Lane, and Yvonne Saxon.

From left to right: CB Lane, Jayne Ormerod, and Yvonne Saxon.

From left to right: CB Lane, Jayne Ormerod, and Yvonne Saxon.

Anatomy of a Murder featured special guest Jane Bones. Jane modeled all of the elements that go into a murder mystery novel and how they help the sleuth solve the mystery and reveal the killer.

Jayne Ormerod, right, goes over the keys to great mystery writing, as modeled by Jane Bones.

Jayne Ormerod, right, goes over the keys to great mystery writing, as modeled by Jane Bones.


Road Trip! Join us in Suffolk for the 2nd Annual Mystery Authors Festival


Mystery by the Sea will not be holding its usual meeting in August. Instead, the group will be attending the 2nd Annual Suffolk Mystery Authors Festival on Saturday, August 22, at the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts.

The event runs from 1 to 6 p.m. and is free and open to the public. The day of books and fun will include book signings, readings by the authors themselves, and workshops, including one entitled “How Do I Get Published?” that will be led by Mystery by the Sea members as they talk about what it takes to compile and publish an anthology, based on their experiences putting together Virginia is for Mysteries.

For up-to-the-minute information about the 2nd Annual Suffolk Mystery Authors Festival, click here to follow them on Facebook.

See you in Suffolk!

Using Social Media to Connect Writers with Readers

social media treeSocial media for writers was the topic at Mystery by the Sea’s July meeting. Group president Teresa Inge led a discussion about what writers should – and should not – do on their social media accounts. Here are some of her suggestions:

  1. Use social media to get your name out there and to get people buzzing about your work. Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr are all great online platforms for writers to use.
  2. Connect with your readers one-on-one through the social media sites of your choice. Don’t be shy! In addition to liking and commenting on what others post, create original content of your own to keep your followers interested and engaged in a conversation. Be sure to write about upcoming book signings, book launches, and other events, but also provide your followers with content that isn’t centered on you or your work.
  3. Strike a friendly tone. When promoting your work, don’t express extreme opinions that may upset or alienate readers. Everyone has a bad day from time to time, but constantly griping on social media may not entice readers to pick up your books. Strive for posts with a fun, professional tone.
  4. Find other writers. Use social media to follow and engage with your fellow writers to keep up with industry trends and publishing opportunities. Be courteous and don’t post announcements about your work on other writers’ social media sites. Use the golden rule for the 21st century: If you wouldn’t want someone adding certain content to your site, don’t add it to theirs.
  5. Keep it up! Neglected social media accounts make you and your brand look bad. Before taking the plunge, make sure you have the time and content to contribute to your social media sites on a regular basis. Posting interesting, relevant content often will keep your followers coming back for more.

July Meeting Will Focus on Social Media Tips for Writers

mouseclickBugged by your blog? Tormented by Twitter? Join Mystery by the Sea on Monday, July 13th, as we discuss how writers can use social media to promote their work, connect with readers, and interact with other writers.

The meeting will be held at the Greenbrier Library in Chesapeake from 6 to 8 p.m. in the upstairs meeting room. Writers of all levels are welcome to attend to ask questions and share their knowledge.

June Meeting Addresses Balancing Life with Craft

clock1Finding time for work, family life, and daily chores is a juggling act for everyone. Writers face a unique challenge in that they have to carve time from an already packed schedule to find inspiration, nurture their creativity, write, and promote their works.


At the Mystery by the Sea June meeting members shared some of their tips for staying motivated, getting inspired, and meeting goals. Here are some highlights from the discussion:

→ Work in intervals. If you struggle with staying focused, commit yourself to a set amount of time – 5, 10, 20 minutes – and write during that time period. When time is up, run an errand or complete a chore and return to your desk for another session.

→ Use index cards to keep your novels or longer pieces organized. Use different colored index cards or highlighters to distinguish between the various plots and subplots. Keeping track of your storylines will ensure all loose ends are tied up at the end of the novel. As ideas come to you, jot notes on the index cards so your thoughts will be available when you sit down to write.

→ Get more out of the time you spend doing routine chores by thinking about your writing as you work. Ruminate on a pesky plotline while loading the dishwasher after dinner or mull over the nuances of a character as you vacuum. When your body is active, your mind can be too.

→ Let music inspire you. Songs can spark an idea or an emotion that could be the beginnings of a novel, short story, or poem.

→ Find time in your day to write. One member told the group about how she writes and eats lunch in her car at work. That time is her time to create and let the words flow. When can you steal a few minutes for your writing?

→ Remember that writing is a privilege. Capturing your thoughts, feelings, and imaginings on paper in words is a joy to be treasured. Everyone has a unique voice that tells a story.

June Meeting to Cover Business Aspect of Writing

home officeHave you ever wondered how published authors handle the business side of their writing careers? Would you love to know the successful ways they have marketed themselves and their work? Join us Monday, June 8th, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Greenbrier Library in Chesapeake for our monthly meeting and ask group members all of your burning questions about the business of writing.

May Meeting Delves into the Three Ds of Writing: Dialogue, Description, and Details

At the May Mystery by the Sea meeting author Jayne Ormerod discussed the three D’s of writing: dialogue, description, and details. In case you missed it, here are some highlights.

Dialogue    Dialogue

1.) Keep your dialogue lean. Although you may be tempted to portray realistic dialogue, complete with “um” and “you know,” leave it out. If the words you are putting on the page are not true to the character or don’t advance the plot, hit delete.

2.) Don’t worry about getting everything right when writing your first draft, especially the dialogue. Get everything out the first time through, then go back to make corrections and add layers to your words.

3.) When it comes to attributes, “said” is not as overused as you may think. There are lots of words to use in place of good old “said,” but use those words sparingly. When using said, don’t fall into the trap of dressing up what you think to be a bland verb with adverbs. Phrases like “he said sadly” or “she said happily” are signs of lazy writing.

4.) Remember rhythm when writing. When emotions run high, dialogue is brief. Shorter sentences increase tension.

Description sunrise

1.) Always remember to focus on only what your point-of-view character can see.

2.) Avoid huge clumps of description. Today’s readers like short paragraphs and lots of white space. Leave the purple prose of 19th century novels in the 19th century.

3.) Keep descriptions, especially those of characters or their wardrobes, to a minimum. Give the reader a few brief clues about how a character looks and then let their imaginations do the rest.

4.) Weave description into the story instead of stopping the narrative to describe a person, location, or item.

5.) Remember to describe who and what your characters interact with through their eyes. The sunrise looks a lot different to a chipper early riser as opposed to a hung over night owl.


When it comes to details, is more really better? Just like Goldilocks, you have to decide what is “just right” for your writing. If you provide too few details you run the risk of losing your readers. If you provide too many, you will be burying your readers in an avalanche of details they may not be able to dig their way out of. Decide what is just the right amount of detail for your writing and stick with it.