Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Bears, Mountain Lions and Clowns by Marilyn Meredith

Perhaps you've read or seen in the news, or on the Internet, about the clown who has been turning up in various small towns in the San Joaquin Valley. It began on October 1 in the town of Wasco.

Of course copy cats followed immediately. Sightings have been reported in Bakersfield, Visalia and believe it or not, in my little town of Springville. Yes, it's true, I heard in an email message from our local resident sheriff.

And to make life interesting, before we learned about the clowns, our neighbor reported seeing a young mountain lion down by the river that runs behind our houses. We knew there was some sort of predator roaming because the feral cat population has diminished drastically.

That's not all--along with these events came the news that a bear or bears have been sighted under the bridge in town and on one of the nearby roads. Others have reported bear scat in various places.

Of course the mountain lions and the bears have always been here, and that's what makes living in the foothills interesting.

But a clown? There has to be a mystery here.

And if you'd like to read more about what goes on in my little town, all you have to do is read one of my Deputy Tempe Crabtree mysteries, since I've liberally borrowed from my surroundings for the setting of these novels.

The latest is River Spirits. And no, Tempe has never dealt with a clown, but she has had encounters with plenty of other wild life--human and animal.

P.S. I doubt I'll ever run into the clown since he/she only appears at night. I seldom go into town after dark.


Monday, October 20, 2014

Writing the Second Book in a Series

I’ve just put up the e-book of Murder the Tey Way on Amazon. This is the second book in my Golden Age of Mystery Book Club Mysteries. A good deal has been written about writing the first book in a mystery series. I thought I’d say a word about the one that follows.

In many ways, writing the second book is easier. You know your sleuth quite well—her personality, how she thinks and acts and relates to people. You’ve established the setting, the tone of the series, and know some of the secondary characters.

But writing second book in a series presents a challenge. For me, it means exploring new territory that includes a deeper understanding of my sleuth’s character and love life.  In Murder the Tey Way, my sleuth Lexie Driscoll is living in a new neighborhood and meeting a new roster of friends and suspects. Of course, her best friends Rosie and Hal, make a few appearances. Her relationships with world-renown architect Allistair West and homicide detective Brian Donovan undergo changes that affect her life significantly.

A second book is a great time to introduce important but distant characters related to one’s sleuth. Lexie’s sister Gayle, whom she hasn’t seen in years, appears at Lexie’s doorstep. Gayle’s been running away from a dangerous situation. The possibility that someone is chasing her to kill her is a very real. A man lies dead in Lexie’s backyard the morning after Gayle arrives, and Lexie fears her sister has murdered him before he could kill her.

Like all the books in the Golden Age of Mystery Book Club mysteries, the various members have secrets and venal weaknesses that may lead to murder  Secret identities, doing business with criminals are a few of the elements in Murder the Tey Way. Lexie sleuths as she leads discussions about Josephine Tey and some of her wonderful novels.

Murder the Tey Way is available as an e-book on Amazon for $2.99: http://tinyurl.com/n6z973o

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Conference Rationale

by Janis Patterson

I’m packing. I always start packing early, partly in anticipation and partly because I am terrified of forgetting something essential to my well-being, style or comfort.

So what brings about this preparational frenzy? Next Tuesday I’m off to St. Pete Beach in Florida for the NINC (Novelists, Inc) conference. I’m going early, and will be there an entire week, as after the NINC gathering ends a group of us self-publishers are going to have a somewhat freestyle indie un-conference.

Normally I don’t go to many writing conferences, but lately it seems that they’re just about all we travel to. Like RWA National. No, I didn’t go as an attendee – haven’t attended an RWA National for years. Too big, too noisy, too frenetic; some people thrive on that – I don’t. What The Husband and I did do was go to San Antonio during the time of the conference, get one of the 1850-era rooms in the Menger Hotel (one of my three favorite hotels in the world) and see San Antonio again. I also had meetings with some of my publishers and editors, attended some parties, saw lots of people I knew, made contacts, attended the Beau Monde one-day seminar and best of all – since The Husband does lots of work as my assistant – almost everything was tax-deductible as a business expense. Sweet, and well worth it.

Likewise, our ‘winter vacation’ will be the Florida Romance Writers’ cruise conference next February. We did this conference the last time they held it – two years ago – and loved it. It was a first cruise for either one of us – if, of course, you discount The Husband’s Navy duty voyages, and I don’t think Navy ships have champagne bars...

So are these little excursions just ‘tax-deductible vacations’ or work? Of course it’s nice to go to a swell place instead of some dreary ordinary city, which is probably why so many conferences are held in such nice locations, but the main thrust is strictly professional. We’re only a couple of hours from San Antonio, and go there with some regularity just for the fun of it. Likewise, if we were going to take a cruise for the sake of taking a cruise (and someday when we’re planning to when we have time) it would be much longer than a three day jaunt from Florida to Cozumel and back.

No, conferences are much more than just a couple of days in a fancy place. If the conference is done properly, it’s quite possible to go and never want to leave the hotel! One of the blessings of the internet and our interconnected world is that we can work at home, but it is also one of the curses because it separates us, and nice as they are, eloops and the vastly inferior fori are just not the same as face to face interaction. A conference not only allows us to meet editors and agents and make contact with our publishers and agents, it allows us to interact with our peers. Yes, the internet does that too, but personal contact is different, and in many ways much better. Writing is a lonely profession, and personal contact is to be prized.

Especially when it comes with a beach attached.


Believe it or not, my publishing blitz is almost over. Amazingly, it’s stayed on schedule! There were times I doubted I’d make it, but there are only two books to go. 15 October’s offering is a re-release, a tasty gothic romance set in a forbidding house on the Connecticut coast just preceding the Southern War of Independence. A spunky heroine looking for a lost cousin, two handsome brothers, sinister Oriental servants, and the Devil walking in Connecticut abducting young women... it’s a fun tale that I greatly enjoyed writing. Of course, it has been thoroughly re-edited, re-formatted and given a lovely new cover, as well as a first-time paperback edition.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Bits and Pieces By Lynn Cahoon

Life is winning this week. Or should I say the last three weeks. I won't go into my tale of woe, but if I'm not back on today to respond, I beg some grace. :) 

So what's going on in Lynn's writing world?  It feels as fractured as the rest of my life. I pressed SEND on the email for Tourist Trap #5 which will be available in March 2015. Then I started two new projects, hoping to get a generous word count on one before I had to get serious on the next Tourist Trap mystery due the end of the year.  

And when I couldn't write, I spent time editing a third story (romance) that I'll self publish near the end of the year. 

See, fractured.  Three plots in my head, three heroes, and even three different styles. 

I've decided to go back to focusing on one story - Tourist Trap #6. And when I meet my weekly word goal, that's when I can play in the other worlds, but not before. 

Homework first, right?

How do you handle too many projects trying to claim your time?  

BTW, if you haven't checked out The Tourist Trap mystery series, MISSION TO MURDER is on sale now for #99cents at all fine digital outlets.  Amazon/Nook/Kobo

In the California coastal town of South Cove, history is one of its many tourist attractions—until it becomes deadly…

Jill Gardner, proprietor of Coffee, Books, and More, has discovered that the old stone wall on her property might be a centuries-old mission worthy of being declared a landmark. But Craig Morgan, the obnoxious owner of South Cove’s most popular tourist spot, The Castle, makes it his business to contest her claim. When Morgan is found murdered at The Castle shortly after a heated argument with Jill, even her detective boyfriend has to ask her for an alibi. Jill decides she must find the real murderer to clear her name. But when the killer comes for her, she’ll need to jump from historic preservation to self-preservation…

Monday, October 13, 2014


With well intentions, I created a monster. It started innocently enough. I felt sorry for my dog, Rascal, who would eye my people food longingly. Since she's getting older, I thought she may as well live it up, and enjoy what I denied her before. I started slipping scraps into her bowl, along with the dog food. Unfortunately, the result is she's become very picky and won't eat her dog food unless something for people is mixed in with it. And, even then, she's become picky. Only certain kinds of people food meet her qualifications. However, when she's happy with what I've provided, she grunts with pleasure and snarfs it down, like she can't get enough of it.
I couldn't help relating her experience to mine when it comes to books, especially on kindle. Before, when I picked up a book and it didn't meet my expectations right away, I was content to keep reading and wait for at least one good part to turn up. Sometimes, I would read an entire book, not because it was so great, but only because I'd started it and felt obligated to finish it.

Now, I expect the good part to start right from the beginning, and it has to keep being good until the end, or I'll start another book instead. If the next doesn't work immediately, I'll start yet another, until I find one to my liking.

I'm afraid, like Rascal, I've become spoiled. With the proliferation of books available, either free or at reasonable prices for my kindle, it's so very easy for me to be picky.

I suspect a lot more readers have become as spoiled as I am. Are you?

See Morgan Mandel's books on her Amazon Author Page:

Excerpts & buy links at Morgan's Book Links Blog:



Saturday, October 11, 2014

My guest today, Judy Alter, one of my favorite writers

My guest today is Judy Alter, writer extraordinaire. She gives a thoughtful post on Gone Girl and her own The Perfect Coed. --Kaye George

Make Mine Mystery

I’ve been following a lengthy thread on a crime writers’ list about Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, which has been on the best-seller list for two years now. The comments on the thread range from “literary masterpiece,” “wonderful prose and careful construction,” “satire, not mystery” to “I could get into it,” “I gave up after twenty pages,” and “I didn’t like the characters.” The latter interests me most. I’ve not read the book—and probably won’t—but I’ve heard a lot about how unlikeable both the husband and wife in this book are. It leads me to wonder why people read it and why it’s been on the best-seller list so long.
There seems to be widespread consensus that Gone Girl is not a mystery. Several readers classify it as a suspense thriller—but is that not a mystery subgenre? I’m a little confused here.
Many readers will tell you they tire of light fiction—cozies where there are few dark moments, often lots of humor, and usually a satisfying ending. They want deeper, darker stories that challenge them to think about the nature of mankind. I saw one suggestion that we live in such time of turmoil that our reading tastes reflect the times we live in. I’m not sure I buy that argument—certainly, we live in dark times of political dissatisfaction, world terrorism, racism at home, difficult dilemmas for all of us, not just our leaders. But if our reading tastes reflect our times, is the darkness of the Middle Ages what made The Canterbury Tales great? I suspect today, like all ages, it’s different strokes for different folks. The one principle that I find most commentators agree on is that a novel has to have a satisfactory ending with some sense of morality triumphing.
But that leaves another question about Gone Girl.  How important is character to your reading interest. And which comes first—plot or character? Do you get involved in a book where you either don’t like or don’t care about the characters but the plot fascinates? I don’t. I like to feel I’ve been into the world of the characters, that I care about what happens to them, just as I would care about what happens to a good friend. And I want to feel sad when I come to the end of the book because I don’t want to leave the world of the characters. They’ve become friends. If I don’t like the characters or feel some identification with them, plot doesn’t matter. I don’t care what happens. This is not to say that characters should be without flaws. Heaven forbid! Even in the lightest cozy, I want characters to be true to life…and there’s not a one of us without a whole bunch of flaws.
Passing judgment on  Gone Girl when I haven’t read it borders dangerously on arrogance, and I wouldn’t even bring the topic up if it weren’t that I’ve read so much about it, mostly negative, and I’m puzzled about its lengthy run on the best-seller list. It’s set to me to thinking about what I really like in a book when I read, and I confess—I like, and I write, cozies. I identify with the (usually) single female sleuth even if I am a tad older. I dislike violence and am not particularly interested in graphic sex and plain don’t like erotica. But I enjoy a good puzzle, so a well-plotted cozy mystery with likeable characters is my choice for escape reading. Bad confession for one who has written and edited all her life: I don’t want to read a book just to admire the skill of the prose. I want to become involved in the story.
Lest you dismiss me as a lightweight, let me say that my latest book, The Perfect Coed, is barely a cozy, if at all—I’m thinking of promoting cozy noir as a subgenre—and the protagonist, Susan Hogan, professor of English, is likeable but prickly—that’s the best term for it. But I hope you’ll like her.

Judy Alter is no stranger to college campuses, like the one she invented for The Perfect Coed. She attended the University of Chicago, Truman State University in Missouri, and Texas Christian University, where she earned a Ph.D. and taught English. For twenty years, she was director of TCU Press, the book publishing program of the university. The author of many books for both children and adults, she retired in 2010 and turned her attention to writing contemporary cozy mysteries. She is the author of the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries and the Blue Plate CafĂ© Mysteries.
She holds awards from the Western Writers of America, the National Cowboy Museum and Hall of Fame, and the Texas Institute of Letters. She was inducted into the Texas Literary Hall of Fame and recognized as an Outstanding Woman of Fort Worth and a woman who has left her mark on Texas by the Dallas Morning News. Western Writers of America gave her the Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Twitter: @judyalter

Blurb for The Perfect Coed:
Susan Hogan is smart, pretty—and prickly. There was no other word for it. She is prickly with Jake Phillips and her Aunt Jenny, the two people who love her most in the world. And she is prickly and impatient with some of her academic colleagues and the petty jealousies in the English department at Oak Grove University. When a coed’s body is found in her car and she is suspected of murder, Susan gets even more defensive.

But when someone begins to stalk and threaten her—trying to run her down, causing a moped wreck that breaks her ankle—prickly mixes with fear. Susan decides she has to find the killer to save her reputation—and her life. What she suspects she’s found on a quiet campus in Texas is so bizarre Jake doesn’t believe her. Until she’s almost killed.

The death of one coed unravels a tale of greed, lust, and obsession.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Announcing the Debut of River Spirits

River Spirits is #14 in the Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series.


While filming a movie on the Bear Creek Indian Reservation, the film crew trespasses on sacred ground, threats are made against the female stars, a missing woman is found by the Hairy Man, an actor is murdered and Deputy Tempe Crabtree has no idea who is guilty. Once again, the elusive and legendary Hairy Man plays an important role in this newest Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery.

It doesn't matter how many books an author has written, it's always exciting when a new one arrives on the scene.

The book can be obtained from the usual places, and in every format directly from the publisher at http://mundania.com/

Bear Creek is very much like the town where I live with a few big exceptions. I moved Bear Creek 1000 feet higher into the mountains for better trees and the chance of more weather.(You can do those things when you're an author.) 

I've given all the places of business new names because sometimes the businesses don't last long in the real town--but I'd like to keep the ones I have in my fictional Bear Creek. Even our historical inn closed this year--but the one in my book is thriving.

October 13-17th, an earlier book in the series, Bears With Us, one of my favorites, will be offered for Kindle for .99 cents. Of course the idea is to have readers sample the series in hopes that they'll want to try others.

In November I'm having a blog tour and I'll be discussing all sorts of things from details about the characters in the series and some insights into my life as a mystery author.

Of course I'll also be doing several in-person events during October.

On the 11th, I'll be with my Rocky Bluff P.D. series publisher at Taste of the Arts in Visalia, CA--a street fair for artists, with a few authors in attendance.

On October 18th, I'll be at the Great Valley Book Fest in Manteca, CA from 10 to 4.

And on October 25th from 1-4 I'll be on a panel with Central Coast Sisers in Crime from 1- 4 at the Atascadero Library.

Can you tell I'm excited?