Saturday, March 30, 2013

Can You Hear Me Now?

by Kathleen Kaska (Fifth Saturday Blogger)

            It might be a scream, a whisper, an insult, or a humorous comment. It’s what causes me to listen and understand the emotions it needs to convey.            
            It’s a writer’s voice.
            If I can’t hear it, chances are I’m not going to like the book.
            I recently attended a writers conference and listened to a publisher explain her definition of voice. It rang true and clear, so I decided to share my thoughts on this element of writing that is often a challenge to define.
            When I began studying the craft of writing in the early ‘90s, my focus was on plot mainly because I hadn’t a clue how to construct one. I hadn’t given much thought to voice until I picked up a novel by an author I’d never read before. It was his fourth one and it had landed him on the bestseller list. I’d heard so much about the book, I was prepared not to like it. Oh me of little faith. At first, I thought it was the story and characters that grabbed me and whirled me along for the more than four hundred pages. When I finished the book, I rushed out and bought his first three. I struggled through each one and only completed them because I was curious to learn how this author developed his craft. Then I realized that it was his voice that captured my interest in novel four. It was also clear to me that I was unable to hear that voice in his first three novels. Maybe he was still struggling to find it. Who knows? Since then, I’ve read everything the author has written and he’s now one of my favorite contemporary writers.
            So, how do you define voice? What I gleaned from the publisher’s talk was that voice is the emotional thread that connects the writer to the reader. It’s the writer’s unique style of expression, which adds a personal element to the story that character, plot, and setting can’t do alone. Every book I keep has earned its place on my bookshelf because the writer has connected with me on a deep level. Without that connection, even if I finished and enjoyed the story, that book will mostly likely end up in my giveaway box and I will probably not wait in anticipation of the writer’s next one.
            Think about Harper Lee’s voice in To Kill a Mockingbird. Her method and style of telling a story of social injustice and prejudice by having Atticus Finch fail to save the innocent Tom Robinson was so much more powerful than finding him innocent and allowing him to go free. Who doesn’t relate to some sort of injustice inflected upon them? Who hasn’t felt that pain and learned from it? That was the connection for me. I learned something by listening to Lee’s voice.
            Leave a comment and let me know how a certain writer’s voice connected with you.
Kathleen Kaska is a writer of mysteries, nonfiction, travel articles, and stage plays. When she is not writing, she spends much of her time with her husband traveling the backroads and byways around the country, looking for new venues for her mysteries and bird watching along the Texas coast and beyond. Her third Sydney Lockhart mystery, Murder at the Galvez (LL-Publications), was released in December. It was her passion for birds that led to the publication The Man Who Saved the Whooping Crane: The Robert Porter Allen Story (University Press of Florida).

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Polling the Jury

Many years ago, I got a postcard in the mail.  Jury duty.

I called the recorded message each night listening for my number. One night, I got lucky.

The next day, instead of training new hires in the rules and regulations for welfare benefits, I was at the courthouse, reading and waiting.

The pool was sent to the courtroom, and the selection process began. The first question to me was my opinion on the death penalty. Which they quickly clarified that this wasn't even on the table as a possible sentence.  So why did they ask?

After a few more questions about my life, my church attendance, my job, my ability to be fair and impartial  to listen to the evidence, I was chosen for the trial.

The case was a murder that had happened a few counties away from my home. Drugs were involved and several suspects. The trials had been separated so one defendant was pointing the finger at another. We heard from the arresting sheriff  the crime scene guys, local witnesses. We were shown pictures of the crime scene, a homemade afghan covering the bloody body of the victim.

They convinced me. But one woman wasn't as convinced. And we went step by step through the evidence and the testimony until she agreed.  Just like a good jury should. We even were pulled back into the court room to re-hear the court reporters notes on a section that the jury had different opinions on what was truly said.

At the end, the defendant was found guilty. And the defense lawyer, sensing a divide in the jury pool asked for a poll of the members.  Each one of us had to stand and say guilty. In front of the defendant, his family, and the court.

After the sentencing  the judge asked to speak with us.  He asked if we had any questions on the evidence. And then he told us the piece that had been held back from us, being too prejudicial.  The murder weapon had been found in the van with all of the defendants shoved under a baby's car seat as they went to rob a Circle K for junk food. That was how they started putting together the entire case.

A case of the munchies.

Sometimes fact is much stranger than fiction.

Do you have a jury duty story to tell?

Monday, March 25, 2013

W. Soliman's Lethal Business

My guest today is W. (Wendy) Soliman  -

About Wendy:
W. Soliman divides her time between Andorra and the west coast of Florida, sharing her life with her husband and a rescued mutt of indeterminate pedigree. She also writes historical and contemporary romance for Carina Press and erotica for SirenBookStrand as Zara Chase.
When not writing she enjoys walking for miles with her dog, reading other people’s output, eating too much chocolate and is on a one-woman mission to save the wine trade from the global economic downturn. Well, someone has to do it!

Wendy tells us how her book, Lethal Business, came to be:

I learned at an early age that life on the ocean wave wasn’t for me. Not only do I have a healthy respect for the sea, but I’m also a poor swimmer who doesn’t enjoy being cold, wet and constantly afraid. I was brought up in Cowes on the Isle of Wight, the home of British yachting , and had daily visual confirmation of the perils of boating. It’s an eighty per-cent male occupation—something to do with that rogue macho gene they all seem to be born with that makes them do crazy stuff, because…well, I’ve never been able to figure out quite what it is that they need to actually prove.

It says much for the power of lurve that when my husband’s mid-life crisis hit and light aircraft and fast cars didn’t give him the adrenalin rush he craved, I agreed to turn to boats. Not those with a rag and stick (sails to the uninitiated)—I wasn’t prepared to go that far, even for him— but I’d give power boats a try. It was a phase I kept telling myself, an expensive one that would soon bring him to his senses.
In the meantime, I made the best of it and learned more than I ever wanted to know about floating tubs. Never waste an experience, that’s my mantra. Besides, my novelist’s brain had to do something to offset all those endless hours of starting at equally endless expanses of ocean.

And that’s how the Hunter Files came into being. I couldn’t help asking myself, ‘what if,’ at every turn, and I was away. Lethal Business is the third in a trilogy featuring my retired police inspector, Charlie Hunter. A budding jazz musician, his career in music was over before it started when, at age sixteen, his concert pianist mother was gunned down in front of him. Charlie joined the police, looking for answers. Ironically, it’s only when, disillusioned, he takes early retirement twenty years later that he starts to find them. Drawn back into some of his unsolved cases, the enigmatic Kara Webb helps him get over his neurosis with music, amongst other things, and he starts to come alive again.

The plot for Lethal Business came to me when I was watching the results of the last British election and commentators seemed surprised at how well the small parties who stood against Britain’s  ‘open door immigration policy’ had fared. Mind you, I’m sure British politicians wouldn’t really lower themselves to the extent that my fictional English Patriotic Party do in order to get noticed, would they…
Rewind to never wasting an experience. This series gave me a chance to re-enact real experiences. To save Kara from kidnappers, in Lethal Business Charlie is required to sabotage a boat in mid-channel. He does so by pouring water into a fuel tank. I knew this would work because someone accidently did that to our boat when we were in Croatia—at least I think it was accidental. Oh, and in case you’re wondering…it wasn’t me!

Here’s how Carina Press describes Lethal Business -
 Why kill the survivors of a sinking ship?
A speeding boat rams a life raft, leaving no survivors. A man embroiled in an investigation of potential suicide bombers disappears...
Retired inspector Charlie Hunter's belief that the two events are related leads him to accept a job working a charter between England and France. The only way to find out the truth is to be the man on the inside.
But Charlie's life is at risk on the rough Channel. All is not as it seems on the shifting seas, and some players are holding secrets that will change the game...and the sunken life raft is the key.

Lethal Business is the third in the Hunter Files series, following on from Unfinished Business and Risky Business, all available as e-books from Carina Press and
Find out more about the series and my books generally on my website
I can be found on twitter @wendyswriter and on Facebook: (Wendy Soliman – author)
Thanks so much for having me here,
Wendy Soliman

Please leave a comment to welcome W. (Wendy) Soliman to Make Mine Mystery.

Sunday, March 24, 2013


When I finished writing my new book, JUSTIFIED ACTION, I was elated. This book had been around here, alternating between front and back burners, for a long, long time. Finally, I was happy with it.  

Originally, the story centered around chasing and eliminating terrorists planning to take innocent lives.  Over time, it evolved into more of a personal story about Tall Chambers, one of the members of a secretive agency which does that.  I love writing fast-paced action, and I had plenty of that.  When I concentrated more on Tall’s personal life, I added a bit of romance, a murder, the search for a killer, and a lot about how living the kind of life he did affected Tall and those around him. 

Finally, I was happy about how it all came together!  Were I a younger man and athletically inclined, I would have done cartwheels and backflips up and down the streets of Fort Worth. Common sense prevailed over the possibility of broken bones, however, and I settled for grinning big for several days. 

Then I realized I still had a lot of work to do. You don’t simply finish a book and wait for the world to rush to your door. Neither you nor the world are served simply because you have a finished book on your hard drive. You have to publish it. Then you have to promote it.  

By the time I had finished the book, I had already decided I would self publish it. I had a barrelful of reasons for that decision and won’t go into them here.

But that meant I had a lot of work to do.  First, came the final editing. That meant going through the book not as a writer or reader but more like a Nazi stormtrooper looking for escaping prisoners. Yes, I found typos, punctuation and spacing errors, and being a chronic tinkerer, places where I could make little changes to make it better.  The first two times through, I read it from front to back, proofreading each sentence with a hard eye. The third time, I read it from back to front. That’s a trick I learned when I was a magazine editor. Reading the sentences in reverse order, you don’t get caught up in the flow of the story and skim over sentences you’ve already read a hundred times. 

I also had to come up with a cover.  Fortunately, I had a friend who helped with that. She was computer savvy and had experience in graphic layout. The fantastic cover she came up with had me thinking about doing those cartwheels and backflips again.  Again, I convinced myself that would be a big mistake and moved on to the next step – formatting the manuscript for publication. I was fortunate there, too. A good friend with experience doing that stepped up and for that chore. Without those two friends, I would have been totally lost, confused, and befuddled beyond belief. 

After that came the phase of submitting the finished product and getting proofs.  Yes, I proofread it again. 

Now I’m in the final round – promoting.  I have a lot to learn there, too. Self publishing means it’s all on me, and I have to learn to use the social media avenues which have mushroomed over very recent years.  That, in itself, is a lot of work. 

But, you know what?  I don’t mind it too much.  You see, I’m still grinning over the fact that I finished a book I’m proud of having written.  Everything pales in the shadow of a good grin.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Making the Most of Adversity

by Kaye George

When bad things happen to writers, it’s not always a bad thing.

I’m a big fan of taking notes. If you can force yourself to do it--or if you think of it--this can serve you well to write down your feelings and reactions to adverse events. Conversely, taking notes when good things are going on can work for you, too.

I’ve been going over my galley proofs for my book coming out next month, and I’m on my second pass. What’s going through my mind is that I’m glad I remembered some of this stuff. Much of my descriptive and reactive passages are based on things I’ve experienced, much of it from years ago. Some of the characters quirks are based on those of people I’ve known, some of them long ago. The only way I can put them into my stories with such detail is that I wrote them down. I would never be without a pad of paper and a writing implement. I like to carry a pencil in case I get a chance to scribble a Sudoku puzzle or a crossword. (Do I really have to capitalize Sudoku? Word thinks I do.)


Friday, March 22, 2013

Writing a Wyoming Historical Mystery/Suspense Novel

Talk about mixing genres . . .

I was researching a Wyoming centennial history book during the mid-1980s, by reading old microfilmed newspapers. During that period I read about a young woman named Ellen “Ella” Watson, who had been hanged by cattlemen along with homesteader James Averell. The lynchers claimed that the pair had been running a rural bawdy house and taking rustled cattle for Ellen’s services.
They called Ellen “Cattle Kate” after hr death and vilified her by claiming that she was not only a prostitute but a rustler. The Cattlemen’s Association, headquartered in Cheyenne, controlled a local newspaper and reports of the hangings were published worldwide, resulting in considerable condemnation that a woman had been hanged, despite the cattlemen’s claims.

I was mystified by the newspaper reports of 1889, when the murders took place, and decided to write a novel about it, someday. When I learned that Thomas Watson, Ellen’s father, believed the lies, I thought they must be true. A number of authors have written about the hangings from the cattlemen’s point of view, and western films have been produced, portraying Ellen as a pistol packing outlaw. But that didn’t jibe with news reports from the Casper Weekly Mail, which published James Averell’s “letters to the editor,” complaining that greedy cattlemen were gobbling up all of Sweetwater Valley so they could graze their cattle on government land, without paying for it.  There was also a report in the Rawlins newspaper which said James Averell was a good and decent man, who served as justice of the peace and postmaster of Sweetwater Valley.

 James and Ellen had legally filed homesteads under the Desert Land Act, which happened to be located in Albert Bothwell’s hay meadow. Aha, I thought, there’s more to this story than the cattlemen claim. But finding out more about it would require more time and travel than I could spare at the time. Later, George Hufsmith’s nonfiction book was released and I was able to write my novel. Hufsmith had been commissioned to write an opera about the hangings, and was so intrigued that he spent the next 20 years researching and interviewing residents of Sweetwater Valley, who had intimate knowledge of the people involved as well as the real reason for the hangings

To my surprise, Hufsmith discovered the wedding licence that James and Ellen had filed in Lander, Wyoming, and the fact that they kept their marriage secret, so the government wouldn’t take Ellen’s homestead land away from her. Only single women could own homestead land.
I didn’t want to end my novel with the Averell’s deaths, so I mainly wrote the story from a single woman homesteader's viewpoint, a neighbor of the Averells. From my research I learned that some 200,000 single women filed for homestead land. Many of them married before they proved up on their land, but quite a few persevered, and even thrived, alone on their homesteads.

The book was just released on Kindle and will soon be available in print.

 ~Jean Henry Mead

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

How Do You Do?

by Janis Patterson
Every year or so in one or more of my writing groups there is a workshop on how to create characters, usually involving a great long interview sheet full of very detailed questions. Not just questions about height and eye color and place in the family hierarchy, but such minutiae as their favorite flavor of Jello, what they did on their sixth birthday and their maternal great-grandmother’s maiden name. One such questionnaire ran to six single-spaced pages!
Yet another class advises the writer to play reporter and interview the character.
This, say the teachers, allows you to dig closely into the character’s psyche so that you may know him/her intimately.
I say — well, what I say isn’t really suitable for such an august forum such as this. If you know the character so intimately, what keeps him fresh? Shouldn’t you constantly be discovering new things about him, just as the reader does? Familiarity indeed breeds contempt.
Still, there are those who believe in this method and by using it create wonderful characters.
I sort of envy them. They have control over their people. They can actually create their characters to fit their desires.
My characters just stomp in, look around and announce “Here I am.” I have little to nothing to say in the process, not even about their name. My current heroine and I battled for weeks over her name. I wanted it to be one thing, she another, and when I wrote with the name I wanted, she just stood there and became an unresponsive lump of pixels. Only when I gave in and changed her name to the one she wanted did the story come alive and start to work. We’re still wrestling about the exact circumstances of the ending.
Another example is Toby Applegate, the 7’3” nephew on the run from an unwanted basketball scholarship in my cozy mystery BEADED TO DEATH. He didn’t even exist in the original concept of the story. All innocent and unknowing I had my heroine Lilias walking through the dark to a remote woodsy cabin when suddenly the door opened and there was Toby. And he wouldn’t go away, either from Lilias or from me. Which, I suppose, is a good thing, since he has become one of the most beloved characters in my canon.
Another example of a strong-minded character not following my dictates is Flora Melkiot, the elderly and very wealthy widow who wormed her way into the position of co-sleuth in another cozy of mine, EXERCISE IS MURDER. She was in the armature of the story from the beginning, but not in her final form. I had sketched her in as the catalyst, but still most definitely a minor character.
There was never anything minor about Flora Melkiot! From the very first page, Flora was making her not inconsiderable will felt. She morphed almost instantly from a fussy old lady to a determined powerhouse who resembled nothing so much as the dark side of Miss Marple. She was supposed to be the reason for Rebecca’s presence in the exercise salon at the time of the murder and nothing more; she ended up almost taking over the entire book. In fact, the next book in the series is pretty much hers. As a woman raised strictly Southern, I was taught to respect the wishes of my elders, so I guess Flora is going to get her own series!
Now do I truly believe that, as some pundits have posited, that writing is nothing but a benign form of possession?
Not really.
Not completely.
I do believe that my subconscious mind is a powerful force, one that can create what it perceives as reality, and that if I let it run on a very loose leash it can create wonderful characters and situations.
 But – I’m also very careful never let loose of the leash!

          Janis Patterson is a seventh-generation Texan and a third-generation wordsmith who writes mysteries as Janis Patterson, romances and other things as Janis Susan May, children’s books as Janis Susan Patterson and scholarly works as J.S.M. Patterson. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Phew, I'm Doing Another Blog Tour

I say phew because it's been a lot of work. For some reason, this blog tour seemed far more arduous than my others.

For those of you who have never done your own blog tour here are the steps.

1. Find people who are willing to host on their blog. Though I do use some of the same ones, I try to add new blogs and blogs that do have people following them.

2. Come up with dates that work for everyone. If possible, don't have two that fall on the same date. (I dd have on the very first date and it did work out okay.)

3. Find a good way to keep track of the dates, the blogs you're going to be on, etc.

4. Come up with a reason for people to follow your tour--contest of some kind. You can see mine near the bottom of the page. It's a good idea not to give away the  book that you are promoting because the whole reason for the tour is to get people interested enough to buy the book. Always put a link to where you'll be the next day at the bottom of the post, along with all the other links to your website, blog, and where to buy the book.

5. If the tour host give you a topic or send interview questions, that makes it easier. About 2/3 of the people how are hosting me did this. I came up with the rest of the topics. You shouldn't duplicate topics. If someone asks you to interview you main character and you already did it, interview another character.

6. Be sure to send all the information to the blog host ahead of time. (Do a spell check and red it over carefully--it's embarrassing when you find a typo after it's already posted.This includes your post, a .jpg of your cover and one of you. If you can, send different photos of yourself, and if appropriate other photos that go along with the topic. ( I think next time I do this I'll give a prize to the one who finds the most typos.)

7. When the blog tour begins, post the whole tour on your won blog with links.

8. Everyday check to make sure the post is up on the host's blog. Once in awhile you have to remind them--and it's a good idea to remind them the day before.

9. Visit the blog two or three times the day it's up and reply to people's comments. Keep a list of those who comment if you are drawing names for a prize.

10. Everyday promote the blog where you are appearing on Facebook, Twitter, listserves and any place else where you are a member.

And again, "Phew!"

P.S. And one big problem I came up with this year is the hosts giving me the wrong URL. Sometimes it was the name of their blog which was different from the correct link.

Now a bit about Dangerous Impulses:

An attractive new-hire captivates Officer Gordon Butler, Officer Felix Zachary’s wife Wendy is befuddled by her new baby, Ryan and Barbara Strickland receive unsettling news about her pregnancy, while the bloody murder of a mother and her son and an unidentified drug that sickens teenaged partiers jolts the Rocky Bluff P.D.


The person who comments on the most blog posts on this tour may have a character named after him or her in the next Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novel or choose a book from the previous titles in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series in either paper or for Kindle.

Rocky Bluff P.D. Series:

Though each book in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series is written as a stand-alone, I know there are people who like to read a series in order. From the beginning to the end:

Final Respects
Bad Tidings
Fringe Benefits
Smell of Death
No Sanctuary
An Axe to Grind
Angel Lost
No Bells
Dangerous Impulses

F. M. Meredith’s Bio:
F.M. is also known as Marilyn Meredith, the author of the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series. She first became interested in writing about law enforcement when she lived in a neighborhood filled with police officers and their families. The interest was fanned when her daughter married a police officer and the tradition has continued with a grandson and grandson-in-law who are deputies. She’s also serves on the board of the Public Safety Writers Association, and has many friends in different law enforcement fields. For twenty plus years, she and her husband lived in a small beach community located in Southern California much like the fictional Rocky Bluff. She is a member of three chapters of Sisters in Crime, Epic, and Mystery Writers of America.

And I’m on Facebook and Twitter as MarilynMeredith

 Tomorrow you can find me visiting Marilyn Levinson.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Interviewing Bernadine Fagan

Today I interview my friend and fellow mystery writer, Bernadine Fagan, who recently published her new book, Murder in the Maine Woods. 

1.  Very briefly, tell us where you grew up and the kind of work you did before writing novels.                                                                                                               I grew up on Long Island. I was a  science teacher for several years, but also taught English.

2.  What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing?                                        
 Favorite pastime: reading. I used to like indoor “gardening,” but I got tired of killing perfectly good plants so I gave that up and am now into plastic/fabric plants in a big way.

3.  What made you decide to write mysteries?                                                          

I was a failure as a romance writer, so I decided to write the way I think, which is mysterious. I also tend to see the humor in many situations so that pops out in my writing.

4.   How did that turn out?                                                                          
 I got fed up with the “usual” route to publication. It takes so long, too long.

5.  Why do you set your mysteries in Maine when you live on Long Island?        
 I’ve been to Maine. I love it. I have family there.
6.  Tell us about the role that humor plays in your mysteries.                          
Humor plays a big part in my work. Before I wrote Murder by the Old Maine Stream, before I came up with much of a plot, I was thinking about funny scenes. They are the MOST fun to write.

7.   Give us a brief summary of your new book.                                              
Detective work is rarely easy, but if you’re a New York City woman who loves fancy clothes, who fears most members of the animal kingdom, whose field of expertise is computers, and who is in the woods of Maine on the trail of a murderer, rarely easy doesn’t begin to cover it. As Nora Lassiter faces mishaps and misadventures, a trio of lovable aunts provides moral support, and one rugged and handsome sheriff, Nick Renzo, sets the air crackling between Nora and himself.

8.  What advice would you give new writers?                                                          
(1)  Read a lot (2)  don’t force your characters to do something illogical just to  get the plot to go the way you want it to. (3) Easy on the adjectives.

9.  What do you plan to write next?                                                                          
A sequel to Murder in the Maine Woods.

10. Who are some of your favorite mystery writers?                                          
Harlan Coben, Lee Childs.

11. These days writers are expected to market and handle PR for their books. What do you find is the best way to get out the word about your books?                    
I do not know the answer to this one. I’m not a Tweeter or a Facebook person. I tried both for a few months and decided they was not for me. I have not tried any other forms of social media.

12.  In what other genre would you consider writing?                                                
 I’d consider writing for children.


Friday, March 15, 2013

Murder Trial Live on TV

By Chester Campbell

I've been watching a real live first degree murder trial the past few days. It's taking place in Gallatin, TN, in the next county to the northeast of Nashville. One of the local TV channels (called Channel 5+, channel 250 on Comcast) is broadcasting it live gavel-to-gavel. I haven't watched it all, since I do need to accomplish a few things during the day, but what I've seen is often fascinating.

The case involves a young woman in her mid-twenties who is charged with killing her twin babies at birth. She lives in her parents' home, and nobody knew she was pregnant. She was somewhat overweight and wore loose dresses that did not make it obvious. On the day the babies were born, she told her parents she did not feel well and stayed in her room that evening. The twins arrived as she sat on the toilet. After the first birth, she laid on the floor several minutes before returning to the toilet and giving birth to the second.

After lying on the floor again for some time, she put the infants in a laundry basket and cleaned blood off the bathroom floor. She called in sick the following day but went to work the day after that. When her mother went to clean up the room after she left for work, the dead babies were found in the laundry basket. Her husband called 911 and reported what they had found.

After patrol officers came to the home and saw the babies, a detective went to the young woman's office and took her to police headquarters for questioning. The detective testified at length regarding his interview, then a video of the interview was showed to the jury. On cross-examination, the defense attorney hammered away at the detective's conduct during the interview. The lawyer said the officer's questions were misleading and that he had coerced the defendant's answers. According to the video, she admitted that when the babies cried, she placed her hand over the infants' mouths until they stopped breathing.

The medical examiner said the deaths were caused by suffocation, although the defense attorney got him to admit it was possible this could have resulted by the babies' position in the toilet.

The defense's main witness has been a forensic psychiatrist who testified that the defendant suffered from "dimïnished capacity" from mental problems including dissociative disorder. The primary defense appears to be that she could not be guilty of premeditation because of her mental condition.

It has been instructional for a mystery writer and some of its features could appear in future books. One thing I found interesting about the TV coverage was that the judge required they never show the jury.

Visit me at Mystery Mania

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Conference Hangover...

And no, not because I drank too much. 

I attended the NOLA STARS conference in Shreveport Louisiana March 1-2. Besides presenting my workshop on finding time to write, I attended several workshops and even had a successful pitch for a romantic suspense I’ve been writing. 

But the most interesting segment of the weekend was an open panel with four editors and an agent.  Now, the focus of the conference was romance writing – with a definite slant to the inspirational market with one editor and the only agent both focusing on the that aspect, but I thought there were several takeaways that would be of interest to mystery writers as well.

So here goes.

Editors are all in agreement that paranormal is a hard sell right now.  You have to be ultra-original with plot, characters, and world building to catch their eye.

Editors are split on exclusivity to a publishing house.  One editor said she understood that writers need to be writing for more than one house to develop their career.  The agent on the panel agreed that it was to the author’s best interest to be able to write for several houses (If they can juggle a lot of projects.)  The other three editors wanted a writer to commit to their house.  One even said it this way, “Please don’t cheat on me.”

This editor was from a Big 6 house.  And my thoughts are that this attitude has worked for the traditional houses.  Especially when they throw around advances (which isn’t a bad thing.) But I’m not sure it’s as applicable or even appropriate in the new digital world. If I’m not being paid to go steady (with a substantial advance) I feel it’s my duty to my writing career to check out what’s out there. 

The other shocker was the panel’s answer to how many books do you want from an author annually.  One editor said six.  And the room gasped.  But this was repeated during a self-publishing workshop from a successful SP author.  She said you had to get something out every two months to keep your name in the public eye.  Even the traditional publishers wanted two or three manuscripts a year.

The one thing that the conference taught me?  Publishing is changing and as an author, you have to be the queen of your own universe. 

What have you learned lately about the industry?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Freebie Alert - Get Submerged by Cheryl Kaye Tardif

I couldn't resist featuring today's guest, Cheryl Kaye Tardif, who is offering a freebie mystery for you. Come and get it!

FREE March 11-14 (limited time!)
Regular Kindle list price: $4.99

From Cheryl Kaye Tardif, the international bestselling author that brought you CHILDREN OF THE FOG, comes a terrifying new thriller that will leave you breathless…


"Submerged reads like an approaching storm, full of darkness, dread and electricity. Prepare for your skin to crawl."
—Andrew Gross, New York Times bestselling author of 15 Seconds

Two strangers submerged in guilt, brought together by fate…

After a tragic car accident claims the lives of his wife, Jane, and son, Ryan, Marcus Taylor is immersed in grief. But his family isn't the only thing he has lost. An addiction to painkillers has taken away his career as a paramedic. Working as a 911 operator is now the closest he gets to redemption—until he gets a call from a woman trapped in a car.

Rebecca Kingston yearns for a quiet weekend getaway, so she can think about her impending divorce from her abusive husband. When a mysterious truck runs her off the road, she is pinned behind the steering wheel, unable to help her two children in the back seat. Her only lifeline is a cell phone with a quickly depleting battery and a stranger's calm voice on the other end telling her everything will be all right.

*SUBMERGED has a unique tie-in to Tardif`s international bestseller, CHILDREN OF THE FOG.

More Reviews:

"From the first page, you know you are in the hands of a seasoned and expert storyteller who is going to keep you up at night turning the pages. Tardif knows her stuff. There's a reason she sells like wildfire—her words burn up the pages. A wonderful, scary, heart-pumping writer." —M.J. Rose, international bestselling author of Seduction

"Tardif once again delivers a suspenseful supernatural masterpiece." —Scott Nicholson, international bestselling author of The Home

"From the first page, Cheryl Kaye Tardif takes you hostage with Submerged—a compelling tale of anguish and redemption." —Rick Mofina, bestselling author of Into the Dark

"Cheryl Kaye Tardif's latest novel SUBMERGED will leave you as haunted as its characters." —Joshua Corin, bestselling author of Before Cain Strikes

"Submerged will leave you breathless—an edge of your seat, supernatural thrill ride." —Jeff Bennington, bestselling author of Twisted Vengeance

Learn more about Cheryl Kaye Tardif at and follow her on Twitter.

Enter Cheryl’s March Giveaway – 59 Prizes!

Enjoy your freebie! To show your appreciation, it would be a nice gesture if you followed Cheryl on Twitter! See the link above.

If you haven't followed me yet, my Twitter handle is @MorganMandel.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Near Death Experiences

The “Lazarus Syndrome,” or NDE, refers to a near death experience. The name originated with the biblical Lazarus who was said to have risen from the dead. NDEs have been reported throughout history by the Egyptians, Romans and Greeks as well as in the Bible.

People have reportedly heard themselves pronounced dead by an attending physician. Many, including my mother, recalled traveling rapidly through a long, dark tunnel in an out of body experience. Seeing a bright light, they felt a previously unknown warmth and peacefulness. They’ve also reported being met by a friend or relative who has already passed on, and has, in the process, experienced feelings of extreme love and bliss.

In my mother’s case, she was giving birth to one of my brothers, who was born breech. She said that after traveling the tunnel toward a brilliant light, she was met by her deceased father and told her that it wasn't her time. He reminded her of her three small children at home. At that point, she struggled back to life. According to Dr. Keith D. Wilson, author of Cause of Death, some physicians theorize that the experience is nothing more than hypoxia or decreased oxygen supply to the brain’s temporal lobe. Many, however, believe that it’s a forward look into the unknown realm of death.

Carl Sagan believed that NDEs are latent memories from birth. In his book, Broca’s Brain, he says, “The only alternative, so far as I can see, is that every human being, without exception, has already shared an experience like that of those travelers who return from the land of death; the sensation of flight; the emergence from darkness into light; an experience in which, at least perceived, bathed in radiance and glory. There is only one common experience that matches this description. It is called birth.”

Well-known psychic Sylvia Browne has described the process of dying in several of her bestselling books. She claims to have spent numerous lives on earth and recalls her own demise. She says that she also traveled down a long tunnel but that the bright light seemed to radiate from her own body.

Melvin Morse, M.D., in his book, Closer to the Light, reports that the near-death experiences of young children he interviewed in the hospital were identical. Over a hundred children, ages three to nine, who had suffered NDE during surgery, all experienced the same tunnel and light as did their adult counterparts.

Morse concludes that because the children were too young to be influenced by religious teachings or preconceived notions about death, the near-death experiences hold some validity.

What do you think?

(The large print is for those experiencing eye problems.)

~Jean Henry Mead

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Randy"s New Cover

                                                                 By Randy Rawls

Well, since my good friend (until he sees my cover), Earl Staggs is touting the cover of his soon-to-be blockbuster, JUSTIFIED ACTION, I thought I'd take the opportunity and introduce BEST DEFENSE. I received the cover art a few days ago and was WOW'd by it. As you'll see, Midnight Ink (and I agree) believes in bright colors. They did it on my first Beth Bowman mystery—HOT ROCKS—and have done it again.

But the colors, as much as I appreciate them, aren't what knocked my socks off (cliché alert). It was the symbolism. You see, the story is about the kidnapping of a five-year-old girl. Beth is hired to find and rescue her. The father tells Beth money is no object, he'll pay anything; just bring his daughter home alive. Of course, the struggle immediately begins between the father, Beth, and the police, whose goal is to capture the perpetrators.

When I saw the cover, it was obvious the designer had read (or read enough) of the story to understand it. In this world of cookie-cutter copies of any and everything, that impressed me. The symbolism of the doll outweighing the stack of money is right-on with my story. So, while I think Earl's cover is really good (way to go, Earl), mine is better. Darn shame BEST DEFENSE won't be out until sometime in the Fall. Oh, Midnight Ink also selected the title.