AshEdit—News About Books & Writers

July 3, 2015

What Do Agents and Publishers Really Want? – Free public event

Filed under: Uncategorized — ashedit @ 1:43 pm


I’m going to speak in Claremont, CA July 10th at 6:30PM. Hosted by Coffee House Writers Group​, the talk is titled, What Do Agents and Publishers Really Want? Here’s the promo:


Elaine Ash leads this illuminating workshop that gives insight into how literary agents and publishers select material and talent. What is the first thing an agent does after reading a query? (The answer may surprise you.) Why is it critical that proofreading and grammar are ignored until a story is “locked?” (Reeealllly surprising answer!) What are the pros and cons of writers’ groups and how do you get the best out of them?

Elaine Ash edits, ghostwrites, and produces books for a living. She has signed book deals with four different publishers and
writes crime and horror under the pen-name “Anonymous-9.” Thirty-one thousand copies of her series debut novel HARD BITE sold in April, 2015. Elaine was Editor at Large for Beat to a Pulp e-zine and published many names that have gone on to fame (or were already famous) in the book world such as Hilary Davidson, Chris F. Holm, Charles Ardai, Ed Gorman, Robert Randisi, and many more,.

Elaine Tiny headBuddhamouse

134 Yale Avenue, Claremont, CA

If it’s after 6:30pm, the Buddhamouse front door will be locked, please go around the building to the back door.

June 26, 2015

To MFA or not to MFA—That is the Question

Filed under: Uncategorized — ashedit @ 7:48 am
University of Toronto (in good weather)

University of Toronto (in good weather)

“To be, or not to be, that is the question,” Shakespeare posed back in early 1600 when his play, HAMLET, first appeared. Borrowing from the bard, I  applied that question to the MFA program, the Masters of Fine Arts degree, which many accomplished writers have obtained, and many more accomplished writers have not. Considering the pros and cons of the MFA came to me via Lisa Ciarfella, an MFA student I met in Long Beach, California, at the Coffee House Writers’ Group. Lisa was interested in my opinion of the

MFA degree and I honestly didn’t have one. My own higher education was a Bachelor of Applied Arts in radio and television writing, and then I went on to dabble in political science and economics while I debated competitively and wrote my first bestselling novel, on the



side. (I flunked out of economics, sadly.)



cover_weddleTo get an answer for Lisa and others pondering the same thing, I decided to turn to a few colleagues/esteemed writers from the crime writing world, STEVE WEDDLE, author of NYT bestselling COUNTRY HARDBALL, and holder of an MFA degree from Louisiana State University; and SAM WIEBE, author of the award-winning LAST OF THE INDEPENDENTS, and holder of an MA in English Literature.

Lisa and I are currently asking Steve and Sam the hard questions. Part 1 of the MFA series will debut soon. If you have any questions you’d like addressed I love to hear from you in the Comments below. —Elaine Ash




June 11, 2015

The Black List, June 10, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — ashedit @ 8:37 am

Elaine Tiny headBL logoThe Black List is a well-known screenplay marketing site and once a month they have a networking event in Hollywood. Mercury was still in retrograde and right on schedule: I downloaded only a few photos before they deleted off my camera. But the story prevails! I grabbed online photos and put them up of the writers and producers I met last night.

BL Umbrella ext

The chalkboard outside the door at the Melrose Unbrella Co on Melrose. COME ON IN AND CURE THAT WRITER’S BLOCK. The only place you’ll see a sign like that is Hollywood. Something to love about the place.

BL Umbrella2

Melrose Umbrella Co exterior. “Borrowing” the white picket fence thing from The Ivy. Cute.

BL Zach

Zach Patterson, genial host of the Umbrella.

Colin Costello

Colin Costello‘s screenplay, TRAVELING WITHOUT MOVING is currently shooting in Chicago. He also writes for

Russ Werdin

Russ Werdin of Twinstar Entertainment. Former Sunset Blvd. patrol cop back in the 70s. We shared crime stories but Russ is a family entertainment kinda producer these days. We need him.


The glorious RACHEL PAGET graced our table. Rachel created FAUX SHOW, a half hour series pilot. She’s also writing a book and needs a little help with structure. Email me Rachel!

T.A. Snyder

T.A. Snyder is promoting THE VOLUNTEER, just optioned by two producers who took a whole year to read the script,  then optioned it immediately! (Better late than never.) T.A. also has a DEAD MEN pilot (one hour) available for consideration.

Finally, Liisi Rohumae, a screenwriter from Estonia with perfect English (learned in London) is here in Hollywood. No pics online and the one I had of her is gone BUT we were all impressed by her guts and pluck! Liisi writes drama and can also be found on IMDb.

–Elaine Ash

PS My HARD BITE script has been optioned by Amazon Studios, but FURTHER DEVELOPMENTS, my crime thriller with two juicy female leads, is available.

Elaine '14

June 7, 2015

NOIR @ the BAR – CCWC, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — ashedit @ 7:57 pm

Watering hole: Culver’s Club in the Doubletree Hotel, Culver City, CA

Fight Card: The Cozy Writers vs the Noir Scribes

A full house for down and dirty crime fiction readings, booze, and dim lighting. So dim half my pictures didn’t turn out. But here’s what survived…

Fisticuffs left of center by Holly West and Craig Faustus Buck. Left to right: Connie DiMarco, Sue Ann Jaffarian, Diane Vallere, Josh Stallings, (Holly 'n Craig), S.W. Lauden, Gay Anthony Harwood, Harley Jane Kozak, Samuel Galley, Rochelle Staab and Eric Beetner.

Fisticuffs left of center by Holly West and Craig Faustus Buck. Left to right: Connie DiMarco, Sue Ann Jaffarian, Diane Vallere, Josh Stallings, (Holly ‘n Craig), S.W. Lauden, Gay Anthony Harwood, Harley Jane Kozak, Samuel Galley, Rochelle Staab and Eric Beetner.



DIANE VALLERE was styled for the event just right. Great look for a great read. Co-chair of the conference with CRAIG FAUSTUS BUCK.)

DIANE VALLERE was styled for the event just right. Great look for a great read. Co-chair of the conference with CRAIG FAUSTUS BUCK.)

 Left to right: S.W. LAUDEN who announced his new book deal with Down & Out Books from the podium, ERIC BEETNER, (1940s Hollywood leadng-man looks with a serial killer smile), and our HOLLY WEST, historical crime fiction temptress.

Left to right: S.W. LAUDEN who announced his new book deal with Down & Out Books from the podium, ERIC BEETNER, (1940s Hollywood leadng-man looks with a serial killer smile), and our HOLLY WEST, historical crime fiction temptress.



LISA CIARFELLA, MFA student and emerging crime writer; ANDREW JETARSKI, Derringer nominee; BOBBY MCCUE, friend to writers everywhere.

LISA CIARFELLA, MFA student and emerging crime writer; ANDREW JETARSKI, Derringer nominee; BOBBY MCCUE, friend to writers everywhere.

May 31, 2015

The Passing of William Zinsser

Filed under: Uncategorized — ashedit @ 11:06 am


A great man and exemplary teacher, WILLIAM ZINSSER, left us one week ago.  The New York Times and many others honored his life upon receiving news of his passing. Mr. Zinsser’s book, ON WRITING WELL, is considered a classic on the craft.


May 13, 2015


Filed under: Uncategorized — ashedit @ 8:39 pm


Dacy Edwards lives and writes in Columbia, Maryland.

This is his first published drabble.

Drabble can be defined as  short fiction told in exactly one hundred words.


Dacy pink

Enhanced 2

Dacy red

Hush 3

March 18, 2015

31,005 New Readers. Here’s How.

Filed under: Uncategorized — ashedit @ 7:04 am

Elaine '14On March 9th a “Free” promotion ran for HARD BITE that promised to add 21,000 new readers to the series.

It didn’t.

Instead, 31,005 readers were added to the series. Yes, HARD BITE was downloaded 31,005 times by real, targeted mystery readers. How’d it happen? Via Bookbub. I’m not getting paid by these people to toot their horn. I’m just continuing on my tradition of disclosing inside business (as I discover it)  of the book industry since most writers enjoy talking about their book deals and money like the Puritansbookbub enjoyed talking about sex… That’s a joke… The Puritans didn’t just dislike talking sex, they avoided the issue. Kinda like writers and their contracts, money and deals. But I digress; here are the screenshots. HARD BITE made it to #4 in all Kindle books. It never even made the Mystery bestseller lists, it jumped right off the genre charts and went straight into the Kindle Top 100. Free.



The ad cost around $300. and one week later my reviews jumped to number 85. A couple of one-stars in there to be sure, but the majority are 5-star. Seventy-five people came back immediately and bought the sequel, BITE HARDER. They also bought my self-published titles: CRASHING THROUGH MIRRORS and JUST SO YOU KNOW I’M NOT DEAD. They even bought THE 1ST SHORT STORY COLLECTION. As people continue to read the copy of HARD BITE that they downloaded a week ago on their Kindles, they also continue to come back and buy my other books.Book CoverS

At first, it hurt to think HARD BITE was going to be given away for free. But the benefits have won me over. New readers have made themselves known, contacting me via the website and letting me know they like my stuff. Better than a kick in the pants, no?

Murder PitI’ve also learned that if you really want big numbers write a cozy. See that cheery, colorful cover in the #1 spot? That’s THE MURDER PIT by Jeff Shelby. It stayed in the Top 10 for a long time. It’s still #46 in Free at the time of this writing and it’s a cute cozy about a nice family who buys a 100-year old house only to and find a corpse in the coal chute. By comparison, HARD BITE is hardboiled, it’s a tough, shocking read, and it’s not for everybody. But those who find it and like it are proving pretty loyal. For all his great numbers, THE MURDER PIT has only one review more than HARD BITE. Readers are more frequently making the trip to the HB landing page and weighing in on what they think.

That’s all I can think of to report. Any questions, I’ll answer ’em in the comments. Hope this info is useful. –Elaine

Elaine '14

March 13, 2015

Oscar Case Draws ‘Em Like He Sees ‘Em

Filed under: Uncategorized — ashedit @ 3:54 am

ElaineI’ve known Oscar Case since my days as Editor at Large for Beat to a Pulp. He is possibly the longest-running reader of Ashedit. Currently working on his 9th western novel, Oscar is also a talented and droll cartoonist. The way he captures expressions with a simple line drawing is amazing. After Charlie Hebdo, I decided it was high time to celebrate the cartoonists in my life. So take it away Oscar…

Oscar headshot

OSCAR CASE: The people who were my greatest influence were my high school art teacher and a teen-aged friend up the street. The teacher encouraged me to practice and practice, but the kid up the street showed me how. He could draw about anything and do a great job. He was a natural artist. I wonder whatever became of him? I was also influenced by the people who drew the comic books and strips in the paper. They made it look so easy.

Charles Dickens

I don’t have a favorite cartoonist because I admire anyone who draws, but I have liked certain cartoon strips and books over the years: Joe Palooka, Li’l Abner, Maggie and Jiggs, Dick Tracy, Andy Capp is a favorite, used to read the Superman comics, etc., and all the others because they have kept me entertained and provided comic relief throughout the days and years. Don’t much care for sci-fi or horror comics, or those with a serious note in them. Some editorial cartoonists are excellent, but I have memory loss when it comes to the names.

Bret Harte, 3-8-14

I’ve always had a latent interest in art even before I took an Art class in high school way back, but my interest was re-awakened in the 70’s.  I did some miniatures in acrylics and a few larger items while unemployed. I did these for my own amusement to pass the time and gave most of them away. Other than the high school class, I’ve had no formal training. About five or six years ago, I took up doodling and messing around with cartoons and sketches of famous authors, and that’s where I am now.


As to my writing, I’m working on my ninth western. This one is about a young Indian who wants to become a preacher back in the days when about everyone hated Indians, and his ambitions keep getting diverted. I have been self-publishing on Create Space  after using a vanity press (iUniverse) for the first three or four. I can’t wait for for the publishing houses due to age (82), and have no complaints. I write for the average reader of westerns who may have a high school education or may not.


Javelina 2

Javelina 3

ELAINE ASH: Where have you been published/where can we see more of your work?

I post most of it on my blog and on my page at

Stink Bugs, 1-2015

gila monstuh

gila monstuh2

ElaineOscar thank you so much! Elaine Ash

January 24, 2015

HOLLY WEST – Mistress of the Query Letter

Filed under: Uncategorized — ashedit @ 6:49 am
Elaine head shot


HOLLY WEST landed a book deal for MISTRESS OF FORTUNE with Carina Press (a division of Harlequin) based on a strong, clear query letter–and she’s agreed to share it with Ashedit readers. How open and generous! But that’s Holly. She volunteers for the Mystery Writers of America as well as Sisters in Crime and everybody knows her smiling face. A better team player, networker, and historical fictionista, you won’t find anywhere. Over to you, Holly…



HOLLY WEST: At the time I was querying the title [of my book] was Diary of Bedlam. (Elaine’s note: obviously, Holly and her agent or editor, revisited the title and renamed the book MISTRESS OF FORTUNE before going to press.) Overall, this query letter was successful for me. About 50% of those I sent out received a request for more material, which is pretty good. What I quickly learned, however, is that a request for additional pages is just that–most of those requests ended up in rejections. Ultimately, my agent made an offer of representation after I’d already secured a deal with a publisher. My agent had already requested the full manuscript but it took a long time for her to get around to reading it. Once the publishing deal was offered, she moved it up in her reading queue and offered representation a few days later.

VOILA, the finished book cover. Letter below.


Dear Agent:

I am seeking representation for my 80,000-word historical mystery, DIARY OF BEDLAM, a standalone novel set in 1678 London with series potential.

Isabel, Lady Wilde, a former English spy and occasional favorite in King Charles II’s bedchamber, has a secret: she makes her living disguised as Mistress Ruby, a fortune-teller who caters to London’s elite. Charlatans, rogues, villains, and swindlers lurk in every corner of the city, and Isabel concedes she is one of them. But hard experience has taught her that women have few enough advantages in this world, and her conscience does not often bother her.

Everything changes when Sir Edmund Godfrey, a London magistrate, seeks Mistress Ruby’s counsel and reveals his accidental involvement in a covert plot to murder the King. Shortly after his visit, her diary, the sole record of her illicit activities as a soothsayer, is stolen, and Isabel must locate it before anyone connects her to Mistress Ruby. When Sir Edmund’s corpse is discovered a few days later, Isabel suspects whoever committed the murder also has her diary.

Unwilling to trust the investigation to a royal court infamous for its schemes and intrigues, she begins her own inquiry and learns that Sir Edmund’s murder is only a small part of a conspiracy that leads all the way to the throne. A series of increasingly violent threats against her and her loved ones convince Isabel that her business is not the only thing at stake and that she must find Sir Edmund Godfrey’s killer before she becomes the next victim.

Headshot 2About me: My short story, Once a Loser, appears in the Fall 2011 issue of Needle: A Magazine of Noir. My short fiction has been featured online on Shotgun Honey and is forthcoming in the Shotgun Honey Both Barrels anthology and the Feeding Kate charity anthology. I am an associate member of the Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime.

The complete manuscript is available upon your request. Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.


Holly West

Address and contact info goes here.


This is more or less my first draft. I wrote it based on the successful

"La Lettre" by Delphin Enjolras

“La Lettre” by Delphin Enjolras

query letter of a publishing-savvy friend and had her look it over when I finished mine. She had a few small suggestions, but nothing major. The only change I made to my original query letter happened later in the process. When replies to the query seemed to be drying up, I added this statement right after my first paragraph:

Historical note: On 12 October 1678, a popular London magistrate named Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey left his home in Westminster and never returned. Five days later, two local tradesmen found his slain body in a drainage ditch at the base of Primrose Hill, a London suburb. To this day the murder remains unsolved. DIARY OF BEDLAM is based upon these events and their aftermath.

My thinking was that the fact that the book was based on a real unsolved murder would provide a hook. I didn’t see a noticeable uptick in requests for more pages after I added it, and honestly, I think the letter is stronger without it.

As far as drafts of the novel itself are concerned, there were probably about five (not including my publisher’s edit). After three drafts, I declared the manuscript finished at 106,000 words, which was way too long. But I began querying anyway and soon found that agents were rejecting it based solely on the word count. I stopped querying and revised the manuscript down to 81,000 words and made some changes based on suggestions from agents. After querying this manuscript for about three months with no offers of representation, I decided I would self-publish. As part of that process, I had it edited by a professional freelance editor who said she thought I could get a traditional deal with it. So I did a final edit based on her suggestions and sent the manuscript out into the world one final time.

The query I sent to Carina Press included this query letter and the full manuscript. I received “the call” about four weeks after I submitted it.

Here’s the cover of the second in the series, MISTRESS OF LIES:



Thank you, Holly. This is valuable insight into the process.–Elaine Ash

January 13, 2015

Keith Nixon – International Man of Fiction

Filed under: Uncategorized — ashedit @ 5:49 pm

Keith NixonProlific book reviewer and author, KEITH NIXON lived for a while in the tiny coastal town of Broadstairs in the UK (where Charles Dickens spent holidays and wrote several books). Nixon is considered a top reviewer at the influential e-book blog called Big Al’s Books and Pals. Nixon first became known with a humorous crime novel called THE FIX. Described as “Murder. Theft. Sociopaths. And Margate. Just another day in banking pre-crash 2007…” Most recently, Caffeine Nights publishing released RUSSIAN ROULETTE, Nixon’s second novel in a hardboiled series about a Russian emigre by the name of Konstantin.

ELAINE ASH: Welcome to Ashedit, Keith. Fill us in on the state of Brit Grit these days.

KEITH NIXON: You know what? I hadn’t even heard of Brit Grit until after I published my debut novel, The Fix. I guess the nearest genre to Brit Grit is noir. Ultimately it’s British based crime with a rough edge. Brit Grit is growing, there are so many authors writing really excellent, gritty crime novels. From the best-sellers like Ian Rankin, to the fast risers such as Tony Black, Ray Banks, Allan Guthrie, Charlie Williams and more. It’s a genre I love being part of.

Your series centers around a Russian emigre named Konstantin Boryakov. Why choose a man from this background?

 Initially Konstantin was added as a piece of humour–a tramp who claims to be KGB and hiding from Putin. [1st in the series is DREAM LAND.] He leaves his homeland because of political and internal pressures, the result of internal Cold War hierarchy, politics and threats. He’s an enigma with a dark history and darker future. I have read widely on the subject in books by Martin Cruz Smith.

You self-publish some books but also have a publisher for others.

Yes, I am still with Caffeine Nights. Russian Roulette is my second book with them. Initially I self published The Fix, had it properly edited and went through a couple of covers, the final one by Scottish designer Jim Divine. A couple of author friends read it and recommended it to Darren Laws at Caffeine. I haven’t looked back since.

As a reviewer you cover the whole waterfront! You have a presence in the US and also the UK. 

the Fix


I review for two sites – Big Al’s Books and Pals and Crime Fiction Lover. They’re quite different in their approach. Al, one of the nicest and best guys out there, leans towards indie and self publishing (he also runs the influential Indie View site). Al is US based and not genre specific. Crime Fiction Lover is firmly in the crime genre, UK based and tends towards the larger publishing houses.

I started with Al approaching 2 years ago initially as a way of reaching readers and writers as I’d just self published. What I gained was far more. I really enjoy ‘discovering’ writers who are new to me. What I soon found is that the adage that everyone has a book inside them is only partially correct. Not all self published books are well written. Part of my job is to advise people, with a constructive argument, what to potentially avoid as well as pick up.

So ultimately reviewing has generated many unexpected benefits besides finding great writers and readers. It’s also been about friendships.


Thank you Keith! Elaine HS

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