I’m Gonna Make You a Deal


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Reviews have started trickling in for A Most Malicious Murder, thank you kindly, and one of them asked a question — “Dare we hope for a sequel?”

Part of me is looking at my collection of ongoing romance series patiently waiting for new volumes and whimpering. Part of me is saying, “Well, if there’s interest…”

So here’s the deal. I do have a vague idea of a sequel set in Richmond, VA, and I will write it IF I sell 250 copies of A Most Malicious Murder. I have currently sold 35 copies (which is not bad for the first week, seeing as I’m a newbie in the field). Once the counter ticks over to 250, I’ll get the sequel started. If you enjoyed AMMM and want to see the continuing adventures of Eddy and Charles, leave reviews for the book at your favorite online bookseller, talk it up to your friends, mention it to podcasters who love true crime and historical fiction (thanks, Rachel!) and help me sell the dickens out of this book.

In other publishing news, the proof for the print version of AMMM arrived yesterday. Apart from a goof on the title page it looked great, so I uploaded the corrected version and pulled the trigger. As of this morning it is now available for purchase, so if you prefer print to ebook I’ve got you covered.

And as the weather here in the clavicle of Texas is downright balmy today, I’m about to move my laptop out to the patio and do some more work in the sunshine, tra la.



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In the last two days I’ve received a five star rating and a five star review on A Most Malicious Murder. Let me tell you why that is a massive, MASSIVE relief.

I know I’m a good writer. That’s not arrogance — that’s me being published since 1995, repeatedly selling stories and novels to publishers (I’m indie now as a financial decision, not because I couldn’t get stuff published the traditional way), and getting reviews from complete strangers saying that they love my stuff. Okay, so I’m competent with words.

But AMMM was my first novel under my own name. Moreover, it was in a genre I had never written in before (alternate history mystery). Mystery has its own set of rules and tropes which I had to learn pretty damn quickly while I was editing, and alternate history requires a buttload of research in order to get it right. So with AMMM I was in real weenie-shrinking territory, to paraphrase Bill Murray — I had to hit all the mystery points and I had to get the history right even as I twisted it out of true. And while I thought I’d done a good job with it and my editor assured me that it was a good story and people would enjoy it, I couldn’t be sure until it was out there doing its job with readers.

Now it’s out there, and I’m getting good feedback, which means I can finally release this breath that I’d been holding since August 31st (you would not believe the color my face turned — I went straight past Rampage Raspberry into “Um, poke her and see if she’s still alive” Umber). Which bodes well for future books (right now I’m torn between the time travel novel with Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell, the novel where an evil Ancient Egyptian queen wreaks havoc on Dallas, or the space opera retelling of Sense and Sensibility).

In the meantime, however, I think I’m going to relax with a refreshing adult beverage. Because I earned it.

Well, this is interesting


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As many of you know, I’m an old hand at the indie author game. Been doing this since 2015, I have lists of reputable reviewers and promoters, I’m running ads, my chops are good, and I know what to do.

But. A Most Malicious Murder is my first novel under my own name, and as a result I’ve had to do things like find non-romance promo groups on FB, use my own Twitter and IG accounts to promote the book, and do other stuff that my public persona hasn’t done before.

As a result, I’m getting offers. You know the kind — book tour companies asking to promote my book, random strangers on FB wanting to message me about how they can help me promote my book, et al. Luckily I’m an old hand at this so I have my promo game lined up, but if I’d been a newbie with no idea of the jackals waiting outside the door I might have handed over a serious wad of cash in the hopes that my book would be promoted.

And I would have been both 1) disappointed and 2) out a serious wad of cash. For one thing, most pro book promoters/reviewers/et al don’t go looking for customers (I say most because I found BookSirens when they followed me on Twitter. But they didn’t contact me or offer anything, and I did due diligence, researched them, and found them to be a recommended outfit). They’re already swamped with people wanting to hire their services — they don’t need to go after you.

And yes, there are small, hungry promotion companies out there that want to build a good reputation and will bust their butts to promote your book, but they’re few and far between. The bulk of the people who have been contacting me this week are some flavor of scammer who see someone they think is a newbie and are throwing their regular scripts at me in the hope of getting money out of me.

Ho ho ho. Yeah, no. Thanks for playing.

Soon, my Precious. Soon…


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For indie authors, writing and editing the book isn’t the last step. We then have to get a professional cover, get it formatted, and upload it to various sites (Amazon, D2D, Smashwords, et al). All that has now been done.

Now comes the marketing and promotion (yes, they’re different) phase. Marketing means figuring out what market you’re trying to target with your book. In the case of MMM, I’m targeting older SF readers who also like historical fiction and romping mystery yarns, as well as Poe and Carroll fans who may like a mystery starring the authors. You also have to figure out the best way of reaching them (SEO, Amazon ads versus FB ads, book tours, ARCs, release day parties, swag, et al). Promotion is taking all of that information and putting it into action.

I am currently in the marketing phase for MMM. I have Amazon ads ready to go (it’s useless to put them up at the moment because Amazon won’t put up the Look Inside feature that gets readers hooked until your book is actually released). I’m currently taking a class on FB ads so I’ll probably get those up in a week or two. I have ARCs up at BookSirens and BookSprout so that reviewers can read the book and leave reviews, hopefully good ones. I’ve been doing pre-promo on Twitter and FB with ad graphics, and I have eighteen pre-orders.

Tomorrow, the book will be released on Amazon, and B&N/iTunes/Kobo/SM/Google Play soon after. I know some people prefer to stay entirely with Amazon, but I make decent sales on other platforms so I like to use them. My Amazon ads will go live, and I’ll retune my ad graphics for “now available” and start using those on social media. I’m also going to hit various Poe and Carroll websites and see if they’re interested in reading the book and posting a link to it somewhere. Finally, I’m going to start a newsletter so that people can be kept up to date on other releases from me (I have an UF series in mind, plus a space opera).

I must admit, all of this has been made much easier by the fact that I’ve been publishing romance as Nicola M. Cameron since 2015. But there are differences, as well — a lot of SF review sites simply will not look at indie books, and too many places still want physical ARCs. So i have to adjust for that, plus the fact that I can’t use 95% of my usual reviewer list who are romance-only. Still, the bulk of the groundwork has been done, so now I just have to dig in and get to promotin’.

And it’s off


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As of 5:00 PM today the final MS for A Most Malicious Murder was uploaded to Amazon, so the seventeen people who were kind enough to pre-order it will get it delivered to their Kindles at 12:01 AM on August 31st.

I may have squeed just a little bit, I dunno.

And boy, do thanks go out to my editor Theresa Havens and the beta divinities J. Kathleen Cheney and Peter White for going over the manuscript because man, I missed a number of things. Like, oh, the whole “Eureka!” moment that a mystery is supposed to have? You know, the moment where House stops in mid-sentence, looks into the distance, and you know he figured out what’s wrong with the patient? Yeah, that. Also kinda skipped the whole part that explains why Poe didn’t die in 1849.

Luckily I had those bits in my Cut Parts file and was able to slip them back in at appropriate points. But dang, Mel. You know better.

Of course, my job isn’t finished. Oh, the writing/editing part is done, yeah. But now I have to compile the .epub and .mobi versions for Smashwords, the .epub version for Google Play, and the print version. And I have to ride herd on promotion and marketing, which means sending the book to reviewers/Bookstagrammers/BookTokers/influencers for review, crafting Amazon ads, checking out promo deals, and figuring out unexpected places that would be interested in an alt-history mystery starring Poe and Carroll. And I have to create more promo graphics. And make a book trailer. Um.

On the upside, I have complete control over every part of the publishing process, and if I do it right I’ll make way more than I would if I’d submitted it to a traditional publisher. So I’ve got that going for me. It’s just a lot of work.

I also really, really, REALLY need to clean this house because my sister’s coming for a visit at the end of September and … yeah. Kinda let things slide. But it’ll be good to get everything washed, dusted, and properly clean for a change. The J Crew will be pissed that I’m removing their hair from everything, but oh well.



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Oops, sorry about the delay in posts! Today’s entry features Eddy, a rather squalid encounter, and a semi-unwelcome rescue. Enjoy!

Following the bank, Eddy found himself on a towpath leading towards what appeared to be an area of working class homes. He realized his mistake when he entered a tiny, dingy square, anchored by a squalid-looking pub. The people here looked more like the poor he remembered from Richmond, the bulk of them malnourished and dull-eyed with drink or depression. There was an occasional flash of color, not to mention cunning calculation, from women whose low-cut bodices, garish toilette and swaggering walks proclaimed their profession.

One of them approached him now, flicking a dyed red lock of hair over a shoulder that hadn’t seen soap or water in a number of days. “’Ello, duck,” she crooned. “Fancy a bit of fun? There’s a crib right ‘round the corner if you want a bed, or a knee-trembler’s a shilling.”

He drew back, bemused by the woman’s effrontery. “I seem to have made a wrong turn. My apologies.”

“Don’t apologize, duck. You ain’t done nothing wrong. Yet,” she guffawed. With a swift motion, she thrust her arm around his, holding it tight. “Go on. A gentlemen like you, I’ll give a good ride, I will.”

With some difficulty, he extracted his arm from the whore’s practiced clutch. “As I said, madam, I made a wrong turn—”

“I ain’t no madam, I work for a living,” she said, grabbing for his coat sleeve again. “Come on, then—”

He yanked it out of her grip. “Don’t touch me!”

“Oy!” A tall, stony-faced bruiser in a loud waistcoat and brown frock coat that had seen better days appeared at the whore’s side. “You giving my Maisie a bit of bother?” he demanded.

“No, not at all,” Eddy insisted. “I simply—”

“You trying to run out on her or something?”

“He thinks he’s too good for the likes of me,” Maisie sneered.

The pimp loomed. “Maybe he needs a lesson in manners,” he growled, flicking open his waistcoat. Inside, something sharp gleamed silver. Eddy stepped back, gripping the handle of his walking stick.

“What’s all this, then?”

The pimp drew his coat shut, glaring over Eddy’s shoulder. He risked a quick glance back and withered when he spotted Constable Furnow and four young men. One of them was Dodgson.

“I believe I asked you a question, sir,” Furnow said politely.

“You’re off your patch, peeler,” the pimp murmured, grinning with yellowed teeth. “This ain’t university property, so you got no right to be here.”

“I’m afraid that’s not quite correct, sir,” Furnow said. “The Oxford University Police are responsible for keeping order in the city between sundown and sunup. In addition, the Oxford University Press, which is considered an official arm of the university, is well within three miles of this square, which puts it in our jurisdiction. What a pity if we have to start patrolling this patch, as you put it, on a regular basis.”

The pimp’s triumphant sneer dimmed. “That would be a shame,” he muttered, pulling Maisie to his side. “But I see you gentlemen have better things to do than talk to a local, so my girl and me will be on our way.”

“Capital idea,” Furnow commented, watching until the pimp and whore had slunk around a corner and disappeared. Only then did he turn to Eddy. “You wind up in the most remarkable situations, Mr. Poe.”

Like what you’ve read so far? Preorder A Most Malicious Murder now from Amazon!



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Man, Sunday is almost over and I haven’t posted a snippet of A MOST MALICIOUS MURDER yet, my bad! Today’s entry features Eddy running into the murdered chambermaid’s sister and a potential suspect. Enjoy!

Eddy slipped inside the doors to the Mitre, glancing around the small lobby. Venables was not behind the desk. Instead, a tall, rawboned young man stood there, staring at the top of the desk with reddened eyes.

He looked up at Eddy’s approach. “Can I help you, sir?” he asked, his voice as raw as his eyes.

“Oh, I’m a guest,” Eddy said, waving in the general direction of the staircase. “I was hoping the worst of the excitement was over by now. I wonder, have the police left?”

The young man’s attention turned back to the desk top, as if hoping to find answers there. “Yes, sir. They took—” He stopped, swallowing so hard Eddy could hear the click. “They’re gone, sir.”

“Ah.” Could this be the mysterious ERS, mourning for his dead love? Or the murderer regretting his actions? “You have my deepest condolences,” he added, trying to look appropriately sympathetic. “Jane struck me as a fine young woman. I take it you were an acquaintance of hers?”

The young man’s throat worked. “We—we were friendly with each other, sir. We liked to talk about books and such. She loved to read, you see.”

“Yes, so I gathered. I was pleased when she asked me to sign a book of my poems.” He decided it was worth a try. “She wanted to give it to someone—you, perhaps?”

A look of pain flashed over the young man’s face. “I—she never said, sir.”

Before Eddy could continue his questioning, a girl in a brown dress and white pinafore ghosted into the lobby, stopping in front of the desk. Her huge dark eyes were swimming with unshed tears.

The clerk came around, crouching down. “Maggie, you need to go home,” he said gently.

She shook her head, dark curls bouncing. “Ma sent me, Will. I’m supposed to get Jane’s things—” Her chest hitched in a soft sob, and tears began trickling down her cheeks.

Eddy caught the names. The little girl had to be a relative of Jane’s, a niece perhaps or younger sister. And she called the clerk Will, so he can’t be ERS.

“I’m so sorry to intrude, young miss,” he said, crouching a bit and keeping his tone respectful. “I take it you’re Jane’s sister?” When the girl nodded he continued, “I signed one of my books for her yesterday. She struck me as a very sweet and pleasant young woman. You and your family have my deepest sympathies on your loss.”

Maggie sniffled. “Are—are you the poet? The American one?”

He essayed a nod. “That I am. Edgar Allan Poe, at your service.”

She sniffled again. He had the bright idea to whip out his handkerchief and offer it to her, expecting her to blow her nose on the snowy linen. Instead, she dabbed at her nose and mouth with surprising grace. “Jane read me some of your poems. She liked them. They scared me.”

The clerk flushed, but Eddy shook his head with a smile. “Well, you may be a bit young for them, my dear,” he admitted. “Tell me, do you know what happened to the book?”

Maggie shook her head. “Jane said she was giving it to her beau.”

From the corner of his eye, Eddy caught Will’s expression go stony. “And who would that be?”

“I don’t know his name. But Jane said he was going to take care of her and—” She stopped, biting her lip.

“Sir, I need to get her home.” The clerk deliberately interjected himself between the two of them. “If there’s anything else you need, I’ll have it sent up to your room.”

“Yes, of course, thank you.” Eddy watched him hustle the little girl into the bowels of the hotel. Judging from the younger man’s attitude, he had been sweet on Jane at the very least. And a clerk would know the layout of the hotel and the chambermaids’ schedules.

Like what you’ve read so far? Preorder A Most Malicious Murder now from Amazon!



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Yay for Saturday! Here’s my latest snippet from A Most Malicious Murder — stuck in class and ruminating over what Poe had told him about the murdered chambermaid, Charles has to dissuade one of his friends from coming with him to meet Poe and discuss their next steps. Enjoy!

Unable to check his pocket watch and frustrated by the lack of visible clocks, an impatient Charles sat through his mathematics lecture only half-listening to the instructor as he tracked the passage of time by the wan afternoon sunlight. A milky square of it had finally reached the opposite wall of Mr. Sisson’s rooms when the mathematics don abruptly barked, “Mr. O’Donnell, am I boring you?”

Next to Charles, O’Donnell straightened out of a dozing slouch. “No, sir,” the undergraduate said, blinking heavily. “My apologies—I didn’t sleep well last night.”

“I see. You might wish to stay away from the public houses tonight. I find that a clear head and a stomach empty of alcohol makes sleep much more achievable.” The don pulled out his pocket watch, studying it. “We shall leave off our exploration of calculus here, gentlemen. I expect you all to do the assigned reading, and we shall continue our discussion next time.” His beady gaze fell on O’Donnell. “I look forward to your contribution, Mr. O’Donnell. Good afternoon.”

Charles gathered his books together, noting the barely restrained yawn that threatened to split O’Donnell’s face. Intellectually he knew that not everyone was as fascinated by mathematics as he was, but it still boggled him to see others nodding off during lectures on algebra and trigonometry. If he hadn’t been distracted with the news he’d learned from Poe, he would have been fascinated by Sisson’s discussion of calculus.

“The next lecture will be a joy,” O’Donnell said heavily as they filed out into the corridor. “Oh, well. Pater already knows I’m not a maths genius. Shall we deposit our notes in my rooms and go in search of afternoon tea? There may be more tidings about that poor chambermaid.”

The news about the murder had spread breathlessly throughout Christ Church by noon. While sawing through gravy-covered beef Charles had heard any number of theories about the murderer, each one more lurid than the next. “Oh. I-I’m afraid I have a prior engagement,” he apologized.

O’Donnell’s mouth quirked at that. “Abandoning me already? Ah, well. I suppose I can’t blame you—Pater always said I was a bad influence.”

“No, it’s n-not that at all.” Poe had intimated that he wasn’t to discuss the particulars of that unfortunate girl’s death. But O’Donnell couldn’t have had anything to do with it—quite apart from the fact that he was with me all evening, he’s not that sort.

Still, he didn’t like to lie, especially to a friend. “I’m going to finish the mathematics reading, and then I’m going to speak with M-mr. Poe about my writing.”

That caused O’Donnell to stop in his tracks. “You’re meeting with Poe? God in heaven, bring me along, please,” he begged. “I’d dearly relish a chance to speak with him about his inspiration.”

Charles wanted to groan in frustration. “I really m-must speak to him alone this time,” he said quickly. “But I promise I’ll d-do my best to get you an interview before he leaves, if you like.”

O’Donnell seemed ready to argue, but capitulated when Charles also promised to share his Mathematics notes. “Oh, all right. But if I don’t get a chance to speak to him before he leaves Oxford, I’ll grumble at you for the rest of the term.”

Like what you’ve read so far? Preorder A Most Malicious Murder now from Amazon!



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TGIF! Here’s my latest snippet from A Most Malicious Murder — Eddy and Charles are puzzling over a mysterious clue left on the chambermaid’s body (and starting to get on each other’s nerves). Enjoy!

The undergraduates of Christ Church were housed in small but attractive rooms, a far cry from the catch-as-catch-can housing Eddy remembered from his time at the University of Virginia. “A pleasant space,” he said, fighting down a surge of jealousy as he studied the paneled walls and leaded windows.

Dodgson shrugged. “I’m more ap-preciative of the solitude, to be truthful,” he said, waving Eddy to a seat at an ancient oak table that doubled as a desk. “Now, if you can show me what needs to be translated?”

He pulled the paper from his breast pocket, smoothing it on the tabletop. “Does this make any sense to you?”

Dodgson studied the scrawled letters. “Hm. The alphabet is indeed Greek,” he said after a moment. “But the words are nonsensical. It’s as if someone simply c-copied down Greek letters in no particular order.”

Eddy felt his hopes sink. “Damn it all.”

The young man glanced at him, mouth pursed in disapproval. “Really, Mr. Poe, there’s no need to curse.”

Just his luck that he’d attracted an Oxford bluenose. “Dodgson, if you’d had the kind of morning I had, you’d be cursing like a sailor as well,” he said, rubbing his forehead. The hangover, held in abeyance by the need to find a translator, was making itself felt once more. “So this note is nothing but arrant nonsense?”

“I’m afraid so,” Dodgson agreed. “Unless someone is in the habit of sending c-coded messages in Ancient Greek, of course.”

A thought bulled through his headache. Coded messages, hidden meanings secreted behind a cryptological wall. “The words themselves may be nonsense,” he said slowly, “but could the arrangement of them form the pattern of a proper sentence, or whatever served as such in Ancient Greek?”

“Possibly,” Dodgson murmured. “You’re suggesting that this could be an anagram?”

“I am indeed. Can you try unscrambling it?”

“I believe so.” The undergraduate bent further over the desk, rapidly scribbling out combinations. “Yes, I think you’re right,” he muttered, writing out a revised version of the original code. “It appears to be a simple enough sentence—”

He stopped. “Oh, dear.”

“What does it say?” Eddy demanded.
Slowly, Dodgson took up the pen again and wrote five words in English underneath the revised Greek symbols. The two men stared at the translation, then at each other.

Catch me if you can.

Like what you’ve read so far? Preorder A Most Malicious Murder now from Amazon!



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Happy Thursday! Here’s my latest snippet from A Most Malicious Murder from now until release day, just to whet your appetite. This snippet follows on a few minutes after the last snippet, and features Eddy trying to figure out how the heck he’s going to get out of Oxford in one piece. Enjoy!

I’m caught, like a rat in a cage.

Eddy rested his forehead against the door’s smooth wood, his gut aching from more than old wine. It was bad enough that he’d passed out in the same room as a corpse. Now he was trapped in Oxford until the police caught the murderer. Gossip flew on the wind; if the other stops on his tour caught word of what was happening, they could very well cancel his appearances, putting an end to his dreams for The Stylus and his career.

Elmira. He closed his eyes, thumping his forehead against the smooth oak with some force. For two years he had remained faithful to his temperance pledge, the only thing she’d required of him. If she learned of the shameful scene in the pub last night, he might lose his marriage as well as his career.

Or worse. They could arrest him for the chambermaid’s murder, and he would hang.

Eyes still shut, he stared at the pulsing starbursts in the darkness as if they could tell him what to do. Should he throw himself on the mercy of the local constabulary? Admit that he’d staggered dead drunk into the room opposite and passed out on the bed? Could he prove without a shadow of a doubt that he had nothing to do with that poor girl’s murder?

On the other hand, if he did stay quiet and they found out where he’d slept, he might as well sign a confession and march into the jail cell. He wanted to curl into a ball and weep. Tomlinson was useless, Ponsonby was in London and might as well be in Timbuktu, and he didn’t dare call on Elmira. Dear God in heaven, he was truly alone in this.

A hysterical laugh bubbled up in his throat. Not alone, no. How could he forget his looming guardian angels Collin and Furnow? His reputation, his marriage, his very life depended on the wit of two provincial police officers, when what he really needed were the services of—

Dupin. His eyes popped open. One of his greatest literary inventions, C. Auguste Dupin was a detective who had starred in four spine-chilling tales of mystery and murder. In each story Dupin had used ratiocination, or the process of logical thinking, to winkle out the killer.

Granted, Dupin was merely a fictional creation. But the brilliant detective was a product of his own imagination, and thus gifted with certain of his own characteristics, wasn’t he? If he used the same process of ratiocination, surely there was a chance that he could solve this crime himself, thereby clearing his name and saving his life in the process?

Returning to the room’s wooden chair, he dropped onto it. So what would Dupin do?

The answer was immediate—he’d start with the body. But I can’t go back and look at it—her.

Then again, perhaps he didn’t need to. Deliberately he closed his eyes again. The horrible image of the girl’s flayed belly with those crimson symbols carved over it came into view. Blindly, he scrabbled for his quill, dipping it into the ink pot by feel and scribbling the glyphs over his partial poem.

Taking a deep breath, he opened his eyes and studied what he’d written. To his surprise, he recognized the symbols he’d scratched out; Ancient Greek letters, arranged in five groups. As if they formed a sentence.

He chewed his lip, trying to puzzle out out the letters. While some of the symbols were familiar, he had no idea what the actual words said. He needed a translator to work out the message. Surely in this center of learning, Tomlinson would know of someone fluent in that classic language—

Tomlinson. Eddy groaned. Ponsonby’s man was supposed to arrive at noon to escort him to the train station for the second leg of the book tour. But if Furnow had already interrogated him about the events of last night, Tomlinson was undoubtedly telegraphing London for instructions on how to handle a writer under suspicion of murder.

Grabbing his coat and hat, Eddy folded the paper and stuffed it into his coat pocket on the way out the door. He had to find Tomlinson, and quickly.

Like what you’ve read so far? Preorder A Most Malicious Murder now from Amazon!