If I were clever …

Four (!!) years ago, I posted Writing a Series Backwards. In that post, I explained that I was writing a novel about two women called Camille and Mariele, which was set in 1870 Paris.

If I were cleverer or a more experienced writer, I would have written my novels as a series. Planned them out in such a way that novel one would have naturally led to novel two and so on. Many readers love series because they become invested in the characters and like familiar friends, they wish to enjoy their company again and again picking up from when they last met. And publishers appreciate the ongoing reader interest and revenue that comes with it.

But I wasn’t that clever.

Paris In Ruins has taken the long road to publication: rejected by Lake Union Publishing who had published Time and Regret, the nail-biting search for an agent, almost two years with an agent who was unable to sell it, months of deciding whether to toss it out or proceed with self-publishing, and then months of reshaping, rewriting and editing. I even did another editing pass after an author who gave me a wonderful endorsement pointed out a few flaws.

Paris in Ruins was prompted by readers’ questions about an earlier novel Lies Told in Silence. That story begins in 1914, when a young woman called Helene Noisette leaves Paris along with her mother, grandmother, and younger brother to escape the threat of war by moving to the fictional town of Beaulieu in northern France. Helene’s grandmother, Mariele, is a widow in her mid-sixties, a woman whose past holds tragedy and secrets.

To my delight, readers were taken with Mariele and the role she played in Helene’s coming of age. They wanted to know more about her. 

What could Mariele’s story be? I pondered this question for a while and eventually asked: What if I went back to a time when Mariele was a young woman and the historical events that might have shaped her life? I did the calculation and landed in 1870. A quick search led me to the Franco-Prussian war, the siege of Paris and the Paris Commune. Wonderful! War, destruction, death, starvation, and a ruthless insurrection – all that drama. Surely, I could cook up something.

A second character threads her way through Lies Told in Silence – Camille Noisette, Mariele’s sister-in-law. Although Camille died before 1914, she features in that story through the memories of Mariele and through her house, which is located just outside the village of Beaulieu.

Two capable women. A friendship. A siege and an insurrection. Throw in a dash of unscrupulous behavior, some clandestine activities, an element of romance, the desire to protect those you love and to serve your country, and voilà, as the French say.

I’m excited to share Paris In Ruins with readers. Stay tuned for pre-order and publication details.


M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from AmazonNookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

An Amazon Discovery – part 2

Last week, I wrote about Amazon’s best sellers list for women’s historical fiction. Let’s take a look at other fiction categories.


ROMANCE – 8 out of 15 are Amazon Imprints

CONTEMPORARY WOMEN’S FICTION – 6 out of 15 are Amazon Imprints


WOMEN’S LITERARY – 5 out of 15 (interesting to note that this is lower)

ALL BEST SELLERS IN LIT & FICTION – an incredible 10 out of 11 are Amazon Imprints!

Of course, these are point-in-time lists. If you checked the top sellers today they would be different from the ones I tabulated. According to Amazon, these lists are updated hourly.

When the Big Tech companies including Amazon met with the US House Judiciary Committee, Jeff Bezos was questioned on the companies’ use of data collected from third party vendors to sell its own products in competition with them. Does this extend to books?

We might also ask what other sales techniques Amazon is using to entice readers to their imprints. One technique is pricing – new releases for Lake Union novels is usually $4.99 (for the Kindle version), with gradually adjustments to $2.99 and lower. In contrast, traditional publishers offer Kindle versions in the $12.99 to $14.99 range when first released. Other techniques include: ‘Customers who bought this item also bought’,  and ‘Sponsored products related to this item’, which often list novels published by Amazon. And another technique is low author advances. I benefitted from these techniques when Lake Union published Time and Regret.

By the way, if you’re curious to know the names of Amazon’s imprints, here they are.

A reader from last week pointed out that programs like Amazon’s Prime First Reads is only available to books from Amazon imprints. This program gives Kindle copies away for free to Prime Members for an early read before publication date, while others can buy them at a much reduced rate. Perhaps another way to manipulate the top sellers lists? Hmmmmm.

In last week’s post on this topic, a reader provided a link to a letter that the Authors Guild, the AAP and the ABA sent to the House of Representative’s Antitrust committee. You may wish to check it out


M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

8 Tips on Writing Dual-Time Mysteries

Source: Mexperience

As I mentioned on Tuesday’s post, I’m this week’s host over at American Historical Novels. I’ve had a great time talking with readers about the craft of writing and about Time and Regret. Today’s post at American Historical Novels is a condensation of the one below, which I wrote for Elizabeth Spann Craig’s blog.

What do The Ashford Affairby Lauren Willig, The Labyrinth by Kate Mosse, The Light in the Ruins by Chris Bohjalian, The Muralist by B.A. Shapiro, and The Lost Sisterhood by Anne Fortier have in common? Answer: they are all dual-time mysteries. I love reading stories like these. But writing one proved to be a significant challenge and demanded a different approach from my previous historical novels.

So what did I learn? Below are eight tips for crafting this type of story.

  • Are you telling two stories or one?You need to be clear on whether you are telling two stories or one. In other words, the links between each timeline, the character arcs, and essence of the mystery need to integrate seamlessly into one satisfying read. Each timeline must enhance the other. If you conclude that you are telling two stories, you really should write two books.
  • Both timelines have to engage the readers– finding the balance is critical. I once read only the present day portion of a novel because the historical portion was confusing and added almost nothing to the story. In another instance, my review suggested that the present day story was very thin and could have been eliminated.
  • Whether separated by fifty years or five hundred, your novel will have two protagonists, one for each time period. Readers must care deeply about both of them. Furthermore, the present day character should be more than merely a narrator for a story set in the past.
  • Each protagonist must have a distinct voice. Your readers should never be confused about who is in charge of the story at any given point. The thinking, inner dialogue, and perspective of each protagonist should set them apart.
  • Beyond the distinct voices of your protagonists, readers must be clear about which era they’re in at any point in the novel. This requires careful attention to setting, dialogue, behaviours, events of the time period, possessions, attitudes, and other elements that alert a reader to the era.
  • Plotting a dual-time mystery is even more complicated than a regular mystery. Clues will emerge from each time period. I developed a table to track every clue regardless of time period and its relevance to the overall mystery. And if you want your readers to puzzle out the mystery as they read, be careful that the earlier storyline doesn’t reveal too much of the mystery too soon.
  • Avoid jumping back and forth too frequently. Readers need to engage sufficiently in each story before you change the characters and time period. This piece of advice is particularly important in the early chapters when you are establishing characters and setting, creating hooks, and revealing the central questions the story will answer.
  • The rules of excellent historical fiction still apply. In a 2013 reader survey I conducted, readers said that the top three reasons they read historical fiction are: to bring the past to life, because it’s a great story, and to understand and learn without reading non-fiction. To augment that data, in 2015 readers chose immersed in time and place, superb writing, characters both heroic and human, authentic and educational, and the dramatic arc of history as the top 5 factors in favourite historical fiction. (You can find more survey insights on http://www.awriterofhistory.com.)

Mysteries are a favourite genre: 40% of participants in a 2015 historical fiction survey and 55% of participants in a 2018 broad reader survey chose mysteries as one of their top three types of stories to read. Write your dual-time mystery well and it will appeal to mystery lovers as well as lovers of historical fiction.

By the way – there’s a giveaway for Time and Regret over at American Historical Novels 


M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.