Kaitlyn Dunnett/Kathy Lynn Emerson here, today writing as Kathy and plugging my latest effort at an e-book omnibus edition of backlist titles. I’ve just launched the Diana Spaulding 1888 Mysteries, a collection of four novels and three short stories. My amateur sleuth is a late-nineteenth century journalist who writes for a New York City scandal sheet, the Independent Intelligencer. In the first book in this four-book series, Deadlier than the Pen, Diana is assigned to get an interview with an enigmatic writer of horror stories named Damon Bathory, currently on tour to read selections from his Tales of Terror. She ends up following him to his home in Bangor, Maine (where else would a horror writer live?), a trip that ends up putting her life in danger when they are stranded on a train during the infamous Blizzard of ’88.
I initially described my work-in-progress as “Nellie Bly meets Stephen King” and it owes a lot to both the so-called modern gothic novels I loved reading when I was in my twenties and the cozy mysteries I later embraced. The Drood Review made me very happy by understanding what I was trying to do, writing that “Emerson plays with the atmosphere and conventions of gothic romantic suspense” and concluding that it is “a very enjoyable read that will leave you eagerly awaiting Diana’s next adventure.” The other three novels (Fatal as a Fallen Woman, No Mortal Reason and Lethal Legend) are traditional historical mysteries. Diana and Ben Northcote (aka Damon Bathory) solve them as a sleuthing team.
The novel that eventually became Deadlier than the Pen was one of those “books of the heart” most writers are faced with at some point in their careers—the story that insists on being written, even when publication by a royalty-paying traditional publisher seems highly unlikely. From 1991 until 2003, the manuscript went through many versions and several titles and accumulated rejections for all of them. My agent at the time was unenthusiastic. That didn’t stop me from starting work on a sequel. I was ecstatic when both books and two more in the series finally found a home with a small press that was just starting up. Sadly, although the books were beautifully produced and got good reviews, a small press run guaranteed that sales would also be limited. Still, the books were out there. That made me very happy.
Jumping ahead several years, the small press shut down, the rights returned to me, and I reissued them as individual e-books. Meanwhile, a short story that takes place between the first and second books (“The Kenduskeag Killer”) was published in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. A second short story (“The Tell-Tale Twinkle”) taking place in the same timeframe, was published as a special edition chapbook at Malice Domestic in 2014, the year I was the Malice Guest of Honor.
I still love these books and these characters and the nice part of being semi-retired, and no longer subject to any publisher’s whims, is that I can spend time playing with my backlist. For the last few months I’ve been rereading these books and stories, making a few minor adjustments to make them flow more smoothly, and putting them together for this omnibus edition. The plots take Diana from New York City to Maine; then out to Colorado when her mother is accused of murdering her father; back to New York state to meet family members she never knew she had (who just happen to live in the same area where I grew up and where I, as Kaitlyn, set my Deadly Edits series); and finally back to Maine for a deadly archaeological dig on a fictional island off the coast. Writing Lethal Legend required a research trip to Islesboro and an overnight stay in an historic mansion. Such a hardship!
It is my hope that the Diana Spaulding 1888 Mysteries, reasonably priced at $9.99 (the same as each book in my three-volume The Face Down Collection), will draw new readers to the series. I don’t expect massive sales, but it pleases me to know that what began as a book of the heart will live on.
The e-book collection is available in Kindle, Nook, iBook, and Kobo formats. Some, but not all, links to buy can be found here: https://books2read.com/u/3y1M1n
And for those who prefer to read print versions, yes, I do still have copies of the original small press editions and will happily sell them to you. You can reach me here
Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett has had sixty-four books traditionally published and has self published others, including several children’s books. She won the Agatha Award and was an Anthony and Macavity finalist for best mystery nonfiction of 2008 for How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries and was an Agatha Award finalist in 2015 in the best mystery short story category. She was the Malice Domestic Guest of Honor in 2014. Her most recent publications are The Valentine Veilleux Mysteries (a collection of three short stories and a novella, written as Kaitlyn) and I Kill People for a Living: A Collection of Essays by a Writer of Cozy Mysteries (written as Kathy). She maintains websites at www.KaitlynDunnett.com and www.KathyLynnEmerson.com.