The Tell-Tale Treasure

THE BOOK: The Tell-Tale Treasure


THE AUTHOR: Diane Sawyer.

THE EDITOR: Melisa Taylor.

THE PUBLISHER: Terri Gerrell, Southern Yellow Pine (SYP) Publishing

SUMMARY: When Rosie Renard, owner of Rosie’s Treasures, a second-hand shop in St. Petersburg, Florida, explores the contents of an ordinary footlocker she bought at an estate sale, she discovers items belonging to Ivy Chen, a world-renowned musician. Miss Chen went missing from St. Petersburg more than three years ago after performing with the Florida Orchestra, mesmerizing audiences with her exotic instrument, the erhu. Every lead was followed, but no arrests were made and the case turned cold. Rosie reports her discovery to the police and the cold-case detectives in charge of the case race to Rosie’s shop. Wasting no time, they track down new leads that point to a kidnapping, re-examine everything, and re-interview everyone from the original investigation. Rosie’s discovery heats up the cold case, but time is running out. Can ivy still be alive? If word leaks out that new evidence has surfaced and that Rosie is responsible, the kidnapper might kill Ivy, cover his tracks, and come after Rosie. The clock is ticking. Every second counts.


THE BACK STORY: The idea for The Tell-Tale Treasure came about when my husband and I attended a classical music concert featuring a soloist who played a wooden instrument, the erhu, sometimes referred to as a Chinese violin or Chinese fiddle. The erhu was unfamiliar to me. The program noted that many people hear a woman’s voice in the sound coming from the instrument and some insist the woman is weeping. Another interesting detail: A dragon is sometimes carved into the “neck” of the erhu. Convinced this would make an unusual story, I researched Chinese music, culture, dragons, and much more. With Ivy beaten, weakened, and held in a horrible windowless prison, I knew readers would want to see how she survives and would cheer her on as she plans a daring escape. I relied on Rosie—athletic, self-employed and free to go where she pleases, and highly motivated because of a tragedy in her own family—to do everything possible to find Ivy. Readers will cheer for her every step of the way. The undeniable role of music, art, philosophy, and love as survival skills adds an interesting twist to the plot.

WHY THIS TITLE? I named my fifth novel The Treasures of Montauk Cove. The word “treasure” stuck with me. When I decided that Rosie would own a second-hand shop, I named it Rosie’s Treasures (leaving open the possibility of a series, where Rosie could find other treasures that would lead to interesting stories.)

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? The beautiful cover designed by Gina Smith would invite readers to find out what the treasure actually is and what tale it will tell. Some might recall Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart and be curious. Many might wonder what the musical instrument, the erhu, adds to the story. The blurb on the back cover would encourage the reader to answer these questions: Can Ivy forsake her basic beliefs and kill her captor? Can Rosie survive a physical confrontation with him?

AUTHOR PROFILE: Diane Sawyer grew up in Greenport, Long Island. She graduated from SUNY at Albany, Seton Hall University, and Fordham University, where she received a Ph.D. She now resides in St. Petersburg, Florida, with her husband, Robert. Her short stories have won awards. Her novels have been published internationally. She is a frequent guest speaker at writing groups and workshops.

The Tell-Tale Treasure is Diane’s first novel for SYP, Southern Yellow Pine Publishing. Others will soon follow. Her five previous novels—The Montauk Mystery, The Montauk Steps, The Tomoka Mystery, The Cinderella Murders, and The Treasures of Montauk Cove—were published originally in hardcover by Avalon, then paperback by World Wide Mysteries, and recently in hardcover, paperback, and e-book by Thomas & Mercer, the mystery division of Amazon.

When not writing, Diane volunteers as a docent at the Dalí Museum. She also serves as Secretary of the Friends of the South Community Library in St. Petersburg. Diane loves fitness, adventure traveling, meeting people, and spending time with her family.


PRICE: $17.95 +tax

A MESSAGE FROM THE AUTHOR: I would like to add several tips for readers who are writing novels and wish to stand out from the crowd and ultimately be published. (Non-fiction authors can adapt this to suit their work.) Let me point out the obvious. To be published you must submit, and to submit you must have something written. Ask yourself: what will be in your query letter about previously published works? Nothing? A short list? A long list? Please consider working on your novel but at the same time, prepare for that query letter by making time to write short stories—and submit them to short-story contests, following their guidelines precisely. By submitting to contests, you are increasing your chances of acceptance because you are submitting exactly the genre, word count, topic, and so on that is requested. Make no mistake, short stories are very challenging: beginning in the middle of the action, developing characters, and so on. However, every published story that wins a prize, whether first or second or third, can become part of your list of published works that you can submit with your query letter. Already published is the first step in standing out.

Here’s what happened to me. I was getting nowhere, submitting a novel I called Labels, showing how in a small town on eastern Long Island everyone was labeled and expectations coincided with the label. To make it different (the key word here is “different”) I researched local Montauk Indian legends and art and wove them through the plot, lending an archaeological twist. While waiting to hear about Labels, I wrote the best short stories I could dream up, submitted them to contests where they fit and—not bragging, just demonstrating—I won 7 prizes, mostly first prizes. Where? The local library (describing my first library memory, a young girl’s story that captured her independent spirit), local newspaper (The Tampa Bay Times, which was then the St. Petersburg Times,) a story about a hilarious con-artist elderly aunt, for a senior-citizen-oriented story {not your typical heroine in that age group}; a magazine that paid only $5, and several short-story magazines. Then I created girls’ stories set in foreign countries. Eventually, I was published in Cricket Magazine and Girls to the Rescue Anthology. Motivated, I sent stories to “confessional,” magazines and they published six. I didn’t go for the usual romance-style story. Yes, there was romance, but I worked in topics such as vets returning from war, psychological effects of childhood memories, and so on.

Meanwhile, no news about my novel, Labels. And then one day the phone rang and an editor from Avalon Publishing in New York City asked me if my novel Labels was still available. Jumping up and down and pumping my fists I politely replied “Yes.” The editor said the publishers wanted it and she gave their reasons. They were impressed at the number of my stories that were published, especially those in children’s lit, which they considered a tough field to crack into. But the bigger reason was that I was the first person who had ever submitted a story that delved into the influence of the Montauk Indians (and integrated it into the story). So, originality is a good thing for you to consider. They suggested a name change for the novel because “Labels” sounded like a romance. They suggested that I walk

by the mystery section in my library and look at the titles. They were right—the words “mystery” and “murder” were popular and appealed to mystery readers. After several attempts I came up with The Montauk Mystery. Two more Montauk books followed and so did two more that were non-Montauk stories, one with “murders” in the title. Think carefully about the title of your book.

Have I made my point? Getting a novel published might become a reality if you first publish some very winning short stories. Don’t give up. Don’t imitate other authors. Tell your story your way. However, don’t do this alone. Join a writers’ group; work closely with one or two writing partners who will keep you on track and be honest with you (and you will do the same for them); edit your work until it is flawless and “sparkles.” I was published—six novels and counting. The journey has been long and it’s tempting to give up. But one more effort, one more query letter, one more submission, and you could be on the way to a contract. It happened to me and it could happen to you.

Another thought on this subject. Several wonderful movies have come from short stories. Among my favorites are Brokeback Mountain, The Shawshank Redemption, and Witness for the Prosecution. Read the short story (look for it in a collection of the author’s works), watch the movie, and be amazed. (The short story is actually named Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption.) Here are the names of the short story authors: Brokeback Mountain, by Annie Proulx; Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, by Stephen King; Witness for the Prosecution, by Agatha Christie. Happy Viewing… Happy Reading…and Happy Writing!

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: (Please put SNOWFLAKES IN A BLIZZARD in the subject line.)

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Recently retired after 35 years with the News & Advance newspaper in Lynchburg, VA, now re-inventing myself as a novelist/nonfiction writer and writing coach in Lake George, NY.

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