Monday, December 29, 2014

The Power of Words

Words are magic. Think about it. A "political" speech. A sermon. A description of anything. Tongue lashing. Threat. A Valentine's Day card.

Words are power. I wonder, can we forget the English teacher, the editor, the "rules" that sometimes govern words we use, words we write? (Actually, I should have written "overly govern.")

Once, at a writers' conference, a multi-published speaker warned us to avoid dialect. "Drop in an odd word or two here or there, but too much dialect makes roadblocks for the reader," he said.

Well, maybe. My second novel in the "To Die For" series was then at my publisher's and would be released in a few weeks. I write stories set in the Ozarks, and though my two protagonists do speak reasonably orderly English, others who appear often do not.  One of my major characters in MUSIC TO DIE FOR is Mad Margaret Culpepper. Can you understand this one example of her language as she speaks out her grief and love for her dead daughter?

"Elizabeth weren't 'special purty 'n' she niver had purties to fix up in, but she done good at school. She were good at poetry 'n' thinkin' up music. Oh my, she loved music--she had the purty things in her head."

No one has ever said they didn't understand everything Mad Margaret says, and I am grateful for that, because I love her as much as many readers have said they do. And yet her language is drowning in dialect.. I guess the main message here is that it's important to evaluate all that experts say about writing. Learn from them, yes, but then be daring enough to explore, expand, and, well, explode your own ideas onto the page or screen.

In some contrast to "no dialect" dictum is an article I just read in the Sisters in Crime magazine, "inSinC."

(Pause. Look how the Internet and today's technology have changed our language. "inSinC?")
The article explained how experts can test language spoken and written by various individuals and tell them  who wrote what. Seems language use, even when it seems alike, reflects our education, profession, family background, and much more. It is possible to solve crimes using this knowledge.  Wow.

In A RIVER TO DIE FOR, Catherine has been abducted by a potential rapist and held captive. At one point, here is what we hear:

She shook her fist toward the ceiling, shouted, "I want you to know I'll sue you if you fall," and felt better, if no safer.

And, later: "I, Catherine MacDonald King, J D., affirm and attest that I refuse to give in. I refuse to die in this mine."

Where is she? What is her profession? Have you learned anything about her personality?

My very most ever favorite use of words is found in one of Verlyn Klinkenborg's "The Rural Life" columns published in the New York Times on July 6, 2009.  Here is one paragraph:

"It is late afternoon as I write. There is blundering beyond the tree line. Soon the tuberous blunderheads trundle over the horizon; they begin to "wampum, wampum, wampum" until at last they're vrooming nearby, just down the valley. Or perhaps they're harrumphing and oomphing, from the very omphalos of the storm. Onomatopoeia is such a delicate thing."

Isn't that wonderful?  How I love the variety of language--and sometimes--its free use.  How about you?

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Party’s Over

Over the holidays, I did something I haven’t done since I started my latest series. I took five days off in a row from writing. That is, I didn’t sit at the computer and put words into the file for Fat Cat #3 (which doesn’t have a title yet). However, it wasn’t completely gone from my mind, except for short stretches of fun with the family.

Things kept popping up in my head and I noted them down. As soon as I could, I would perch on the edge of my office chair and type them into my notes. If that wasn’t possible, I’d stick the paper I had scribbled upon on the stack to the left of my keyboard. That’s my stack for whatever I’m currently working on, for the most part.

I dreaded getting back into the story, but, you know what? It wasn’t that bad. I’m so glad I did take the trouble to jot those ideas down because I used every single one, or will within a day or two.

Friday I did some gift returns, but did manage to get 880 words written. I’ll wait until Monday to do the rest of the gift stuff, I think. Saturday will be a zoo! Besides, I need a whole day to luxuriate in the freedom to write without thinking about the one gift left, the cards to mail, the peanut brittle (which I never did make), and the meal planning.

I love Christmas and love kids and grandkids being here. I also love the relaxation when everything’s over!

Have any of you taken a chunk of time off from writing during the winter holidays? Do you have any tricks for getting back into it?

Monday, December 22, 2014


I know everyone's busy at this time of year, but if you'd like to get into the Christmas spirit, you can still download my book called CHRISTMAS CAROL for FREE through Wednesday, Christmas Eve.


A stranded big time author learns the meaning of life and love from a small town waitress named Christmas Carol.

Blake Dugan's car gets smashed in a snowstorm and he's stranded in a small town. At first, he's annoyed by the tone-deaf singing of a local waitress. That's before he learns the terrible secret compelling her to try and forget the unforgettable.

Can he help her forget? When his car’s ready, should he go, or should he stay? 

As you can guess, this book is not really a mystery, although it does contain a slightly mysterious element. Since this is the Christmas Season, I'm bending the rules, in order to share my Christmas book contribution.

Merry Christmas!!!

Find Morgan Mandel's books at

Excerpts at:


Twitter: @MorganMandel

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

It's Christmas. Again.

by Janis Patterson

Remember when we were children and it seemed that geologic ages crept past between one Christmas and the next? Now it seems that the pine needles from one holiday season are barely swept away before another Christmas is barreling toward us.

This year I’m soft-pedaling the holiday. We have no small ones at home (save for the furbabies, who really don’t care) and all our family get-togethers are at other people’s houses this year. Yea! I don’t have to decorate. Or even dust.

It’s not that I don’t have the Christmas spirit – I’m just tired. A publishing blitz of ten books in four and a half months, four new books written, freelancing and regular blogs, plus the normal things like family, friends, the day to day things of laundry and cooking and the rest… it gets exhausting. Add on Christmas shopping and wrapping and parties and it gets even worse. Plus I’m getting older. (I will have to admit that I have reached the cereal years – every time I move it’s snap! crackle! pop!) Somehow putting up wreaths and crèches and garlands and animated lawn ornaments – though they are beautiful – doesn’t really excite me this year.

The Husband asked me what I wanted for Christmas and I didn’t have a clue. I mean, there are the things we can’t do anything about, like world peace and more sales (lots and lots, please!) of my books (Please, Santa – I would like to earn back at least the costs of publishing) and for Microsoft to quit making us change every few months to new programs that are both unnecessary and overly complicated. Then there are the things I really want but we can’t afford, like a new Herman Miller Aeron office chair (which costs about the same amount as my first car) or an office/workroom built above the garage. We already have everything we need, and a lot of things we want, so this year we have agreed that while there will be a few little trinket packages for Christmas morning, our main presents this year will be our trips. We are planning a lot of trips in the new year – the FRW cruise conference in February, perhaps a trip to Egypt in March, a sometime trip to Vegas we won, NINC in October and Denver in June…

Oh, have I told you about that? The Historical Novel Society is a prestigious international association which is holding its conference in the US this year – in Denver in June, to be exact. And…. (drum roll) I have been invited to appear on a panel on “Egyptology and Elizabeth Peters.” You all know what Egyptomanes The Husband and I are, and Barbara (Mertz, aka Barbara Michaels and Elizabeth Peters) was a friend. That invitation is truly a memorable gift.

While I love Christmas presents and parties and decorations, none of those are the true meaning of Christmas. There are those who can talk with much more eloquence than I about love, and faith, and grace, and all the other real things that Christmas means. Beside such cosmic truths poinsettias and reindeer and all the rest fade into insignificance.

So – this year I am going to try to be a better person, and keep the true meaning of Christmas in the forefront of my thoughts. I will be kinder and try to be a truly better person. I will try to treasure the things that really matter – family, friends, love, beauty and all the rest.

In one thing, however, I will remain the rebel – in gleeful defiance of the cleric Abu Musaab Wajdi Akkari (the one who said that wishing someone Merry Christmas is “worse than fornication, and drinking alcohol, and killing someone”) I will proclaim at the top of my voice “Merry Christmas to all!”

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Value of Fans by Marilyn Meredith

Some of you may have had a sneak peek at this post, since I mistakenly put it up the wrong day and didn't notice until the day was almost over. I ended up deleting the whole thing and starting over.

Recently at a fun and very successful Neighborhood Book Store event, I had a chance to realize how truly valuable fans could be.

The event was in a home in a nice residential district.  A sign in the front yard and at two nearby intersections directed people to the house.

One of the author's husband's took care of the signage. (And as you can tell by the photo, the weather cooperated with our event.)

There were eight of us--one, two or three with our book displays in several different rooms. The house flowed well for this kind of event, with the kitchen in the center where goodies were displayed and eaten.

I shared a table with another mystery writer in a pleasant room with comfortable chairs where folks could sit and chat with us.

Much advertising had gone on in the local area, newspaper article, postcard sized announcements left in a local small theater, several libraries and given out at book clubs and writing groups--plus, of course online announcements on Facebook and Twitter.

One of my fans of both series arrived quite early with a list of the books he already had--and then he bought all the latest that he hadn't read yet. That was an exciting way to start the day.

Other people came and asked about my series and bought one or two books. I also handed out many cards.

A woman I haven't seen since she moved to the town we were holding the event in (she used to live where I do which is an hour's drive away) came because she'd seen the flyer. She had always bought my books locally and caught up at this venue.

The day ended with a young man who has been a fan for years--though I only see him ever so often, came all excited and bought two books he hadn't read yet.

It was a great day--and I sold more books at this event then I do at many other much more public venues with many more people attending.


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Animals Rights Day

by Kaye George

A lot of writers include animals in many of our our stories. A book without animals is kind of like a house without a pet—feels empty.

International Animal Rights Day was the 10th of this month, did you know that? There are many horrific stories I could tell, of course, to convince you that more work needs to be done for the poor creatures who have no words to express themselves, let along cell phones and access to social media. However, I don’t want to bring you a downer in this holiday season, so save those thoughts for January.

This is the season of Good Will to All. I’m sure Santa treats his reindeer well. How could they make it around the world like that if they weren’t in tip-top condition?

You can track the path of Santa and his deer here if you’d like to.

When I was little, I worried that our dog, Skipper, who died while still a puppy, wouldn’t get to heaven. I also wanted there to be horses there, since my parents weren’t going to get me one while I was on earth, evidently. (Sure enough, they never did. It was plain that our back yard was plenty big enough for one little horse, but they couldn’t see that.)

Tommy, who lived across the alley and was Catholic (I was Methodist—still am), assured me that dogs and cats and horses would never be in Heaven. They would go, he said, to Limbo. I would also go there since I wasn’t Catholic. I made up my mind right then that I much rather be going to Limbo, not Heaven. It would be full of superior-sounding boys like Tommy.

I wonder if it’s a coincidence that Pope Francis chose this time to tell the little boy, “Paradise is open to all of God’s creatures.” It’s almost enough to make me want to go to Heaven, after all.

All animal photos from morguefiles

Photo of Pope Francis from Wikipedia

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Planning... and evaluating...and planning some more - Lynn Cahoon

I studied Covey early in my business career and got hooked on the idea of goal setting, evaluating, and re-setting goals.

Probably you're also hearing a mixture of my training experience in that last sentence. Plan, develop, present, evaluate, revamp. What good is a great plan if it doesn't work? I'm also a big fan of continuous education - a term for people like me who are always taking on a new task or theory to learn more.
The Addie Model...

But I think with all that, I learned a new lesson this year. And that's one of focus. If you've followed my writing career, you know I moved from cowboys to warlocks to small town to cozy mystery. It's a logical path, knowing my personal history.

It also confuses the crap out of anyone trying to brand me as a certain type of writer.

So this year, my main focus is to stay focused. I have four series going - one that is one novella away from being complete. That will be done in 2015. I'm taking my unsold Harlequin targeted series ans self publishing them. Look for the Castle View series (an Idaho set trilogy) and the Country Fairy Tales series to arrive in 2015 as well.

On the cozy mystery side, I've got one more Tourist Trap mystery on contract to write in 2015 (hopefully I'll have three more releases in this series in 2015), then hopefully, my publisher will sign on for three more. (If this happens, my writing schedule for 2015 will change dramatically from what it is now. But that's a good thing.)

I have a cozy series with one book written (set in Idaho) which I'd love to see available for readers this next year, but I'll have to see where the Tourist Traps go for book #7.

And, I have this idea floating around in my head....

Juggling the priorities, juggling the writing, and re-evaluating goals and plans as Lynn's writing world changes.

So, I've got my first goal plan for 2015 done. How about you?

Remember, a goal is a dream with a deadline....

Want a chance to win five mysteries from five different authors including me? Check out my author page tomorrow for instructions. Leave a comment to win.

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Mystery is in my Heart by Paty Jager

Today I'm happy to introduce you to award-winning author Paty Jager, who will tell you about Double Duplicity, her first Shandra Higheagle Mystery.

Thank you for having me on Make Mine Mystery. I’ve always gravitated toward mystery books when looking for something to read and when I decided to try my hand at writing it was a given the genre I would pick.

While the first two novels I wrote decades ago were mysteries, I had so much trouble finding writers in the mystery genre willing to help me hone my craft that I jumped ship when the Romance Writers of America embraced me. Their meetings, workshops and conferences were filled with helpful people who taught classes on Point of View, character arcs, plotting, and all the skills I needed to make a publishable book. They also taught me the business side of writing.

And that’s how my career as a western romance author began. I now have 18 published novels, 5 novellas, and three anthologies. My tag line is: “Tales of intrigue and romance starring cowboys and Indians” Not only do I write historical and contemporary western romance, I also have a historical romance trilogy set among the Nez Perce Indians that deals with Native American spirits. A few years back I started an Action Adventure series with a female Indiana Jones/MacGyver character who is an anthropologist who specializes in Native American cultures. This fun jaunt into something other than westerns made me long to write a mystery again.

The yearning wouldn’t die and even though I’d already written in more genres than one author should, I couldn’t let the idea of writing mystery go. Many writing friends said it wasn’t a good idea to add one more genre. I’d lose readers. But my heart, from the first novel I wrote all those years ago, was in mystery. To stay true to my “branding” the female amateur sleuth in Double Duplicity the first Shandra Higheagle Mystery is half Nez Perce. After years of her mother and step-father having her hide her Native American side, she is finally starting to seek her roots only to have the one person who can guide her the most pass away. Her grandmother, whom she’d only visited once as a teenager, had a special request. That Shandra attend her Seven Drum Ceremony after the funeral. Shandra does and when she’s caught up in murder, her grandmother comes to her in dreams showing her clues to the murders.

I’ve had a wonderful time bringing my fictional ski resort town of Huckleberry, Idaho, to life. Adding three-dimensional secondary characters with a few quirks to keep this an entertaining cozy read has been the most fun. Each book (I’m writing book three and book two is awaiting editing) I add a new full-timer and enjoy the way they interact with the rest of the populace. My two favorite secondary characters are Sheba, a dog as big as a bear but a bit like the Cowardly Lion, who is Shandra’s companion, and Lewis, the orange cat that is usually draped around Crazy Lil’s shoulders. Lil is Shandra’s Jill-of-all-trades who, like the stray cat, came with the property Shandra purchased on Huckleberry Mountain. She bought the land because of its good clay pockets. Shandra is a potter who sells her vases as art.

My brother has worked in the art world since getting out of school. He sculpts, pours, welds, and patinas bronze art work. A story he told me about a particular statue he was putting a patina on for another artist stuck in my mind, and I knew one day I’d use it in a story. That information my brother told me was the whole premise that started Double Duplicity.

On the eve of the biggest art event at Huckleberry Mountain Resort, potter Shandra Higheagle finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation. She’s ruled out as a suspect, but now it’s up to her to prove the friend she witnessed fleeing the scene was just as innocent. With help from her recently deceased Nez Perce grandmother, Shandra becomes more confused than ever but just as determined to discover the truth.
Detective Ryan Greer prides himself on solving crimes and refuses to ignore a single clue, including Shandra Higheagle’s visions. While Shandra is hesitant to trust her dreams, Ryan believes in them and believes in her.
Can the pair uncover enough clues for Ryan to make an arrest before one of them becomes the next victim?

Pre-order Sale:
Right now you can purchase Double Duplicity for a Pre-order price of $0.99. When it releases on January 10th the price will go up.

 About Paty:
Award-winning author Paty Jager and her husband raise alfalfa hay in rural eastern Oregon.  On her road to publication she wrote freelance articles for two local newspapers and enjoyed her job with the County Extension service as a 4-H Program Assistant. Raising hay and cattle, riding horses, and battling rattlesnakes, she not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it.
All her work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters. Her penchant for research takes her on side trips that eventually turn into yet another story.
You can learn more about Paty at her blog; Writing into the Sunset  her website; or on Facebook;!/paty.jager , Goodreads  and twitter;  @patyjag.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Diversifying, or Multiple Book Disorder?

by Janis Patterson

I admit it. I bore very easily. It’s rare that I can keep my mind on anything for any length of time, which probably explains why very few of my jobs ever lasted more than two years. It also explains why I write in so many genres – romance, horror, cozy mystery, children’s, scholarly and non-fiction, so far – and why I have been so resistant to doing a series.

When I confess that at any given time I have no fewer than four works in progress many writers blanch and regard me as if I had multiple heads. They ask how on earth can I do such a thing. Then they remark that I must outline very closely in order to be able to switch back and forth.

Well, I don’t. As far as I’m concerned, outlining is – for me – the fastest way to kill a story. Once for a writing class I did a very detailed outline for what would have been a very good book. It will never be written, because by the time the outline was finished I was so bored with the story I could never face it again. No surprises or interest for me, none for the reader.

Now I do have the skeleton of the plot in my head when I start out, basically the beginning, approximately how it will end and a few major plot points along the way. The rest is exploration and discovery.

But the people! some writers have exclaimed. How can you keep up with them? Don’t you get mixed up?

Huh? Do you get your pastor and your plumber mixed up? Could you ever mistake the bag boy at the grocery with the mayor? Why then would you think of mixing up characters? And – for what it’s worth – I don’t create my characters. They walk in, already named and fully formed, and demand that I put them in a story. Sometimes they are quite tiresome about it.

By now my questioners are shaking their heads and giving me covert pitying glances. Poor thing, they’re obviously thinking. She thinks she’s a writer, and she doesn’t follow any of the writerly disciplines everyone is taught.

They’re right, but I don’t care. I am rather prolific, and my books are pretty well received, both critically and financially. My system works for me. Right now I am working on a murder mystery set in a contemporary nursing home, a murder mystery set in 1916 New Orleans, a murder mystery about a fact researcher, a time travel romance and have just completed a gothic romance set in modern England. Another mystery, set at a scholarly Egyptological conference, should be released this month.

How do you keep your stories straight? some ask. As far as I’m concerned, that doesn’t even justify an answer. Each is a complete individual, an entity unto itself.

And no, before you ask, I’ll say that I don’t work on each book a set amount of time every day. Sometimes I’ll work on one story exclusively for a week or more, but with every story sometimes you just hit a wall. If it’s something that demands more than a coffee break or a quick dip in the hot tub, I’ll just switch to another story, where the freshness of it stimulates my creative muse. Then, days or weeks later, when that story temporarily runs aground, I’ll go on to another – or back to the first.

You see, I have always believed that a writer’s brain is always writing. The time we spend at the keyboard is just transcription. The actual writing is done between our ears even when we’re not aware of it. When I run dry on a story and switch to another, the first is still fermenting away in the back of my brain and suddenly there it is, ready to go on. It’s a crazy system, and might never work for anyone but me, but somehow each book gets finished and I don’t think they’re all that bad.

What more could a writer want?

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Some Thoughts About my Recent Blog Tour by Marilyn Meredith

Yesterday was the last stop on my month plus one day blog tour for River Spirits, the latest in the Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series. where I wrote about What Makes A Mystery Writer.

It's too soon to tell you who won my contest(s) and I actually turned it into two. I'm pretty sure who the winner of being a character will be as one person posted consistently on all of the blogs.

On this tour I had far more unique visitors than ever. I think that's a good thing, especially if they decide to buy my book.

I tried really hard to put a different picture of me on every post--though when someone lost what I'd sent them (happened a few times) I hadn't kept a good record of who I sent what photo to.

Some topics seemed to draw more interest than others--and I can only judge by the people who left a comment as I don't have anyway of knowing how many just visited and read.

Was my tour too long? Perhaps, but I don't know any other way of getting the message about my new book out to many different people. I always try to find bloggers who have different followers--and I think I did that pretty well.

I've thought about not doing the tour on weekends, but some of my favorite blogs only have guests on the weekend. I have no idea what I'll do in the future.

Are blog tours worth the trouble? I say yes because I do see an increase in sales during the time I'm touring.

And after all, everyone says name recognition is what's most important.

Because I've cut down on my travel--this still seems to be a good substitute for some of the in-person events I can't do any longer.

Any thoughts about any of the ideas I've shared?

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Just Keep Going

Kathleen Kaska
Fifth Saturday Blogger
Do you ever have days, or even weeks, when writing seems a chore? The passion and enjoyment you usually experience went south? You spend more time online “researching” than writing just one decent sentence?
            My muse must have found something better to do the last few weeks than inspire, encourage, and prod me. I’m not sure, but I think she went to Spain for a vacation.
            Something had to give, so I loosened my purse strings and attended the Write on the Sound Writer’s Conference in the picturesque, waterside community of Edmonds, Washington. Despite signing up early, several workshops that interested me were already closed. I almost didn’t register, but I told myself to be open-minded. As it turned out, I came away with valuable information from every workshop and a fresh attitude toward my writing.
            Here, in a nutshell, is what I gleaned from the conference:  
*    Stay off the internet. Okay, that’s not always practical or possible, but I realized how easy it was to close the document I was working on and rush to Google for a bit of research. Now, I make a list of things I need to look up and do it in one fell swoop at the end of my writing day rather than interrupt the flow.
*    Self-promotion is overrated. I scoffed when I heard this, but the presenter went on to explain how important it was to target specific audiences rather than used the scattershot approach. In other words, promote wisely.
*    Don’t write for free. That was another tidbit I scoffed at. True, the publishing world has changed and we often write for free when we blog. But, it got me to thinking about the freelancing I used to do and the money it brought in. So, I dusted off my Writer’s Market and set a goal to get back to freelancing.
*    Simultaneous submissions are okay. That was a relief to hear, but to be sure, I checked out the current issue of Writer’s Market and learned that most publishers do accept simultaneous submissions. It’s about time. After all, we don’t have five hundred years to live.
*    Don’t set the bar too low, or your writing won’t improve. This is most important. When I was teaching, we had a saying: “If you think you’ve learned everything you need to know about this profession, then it’s probably time for you to retire.” I realized that I’d become complacent about my writing. I decided to try my hand at the new mystery I’d been pondering for a few years. It’s a serious story about a PI suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. I’m used to writing light, humorous stories. This was a real stretch. I started off writing it in first person, and as a challenge, I switched to third person. I now have close to 15,000 words and my motivation level is off the charts.
            My muse is back from vacation, too. She even brought me a gift—a new motto: “Just Keep Going.” Now I’m writing several hours a day. It feels good. I’m happy. Case closed.

Monday, November 24, 2014

A Word to the Wise

Since this week is a busy one, I thought I'd just offer a word to the wise for those who are self-publishing on Amazon.

If you need to update your book, if you can, convert it first for your own kindle by using the Amazon convert feature, after saving the book by using a similar, but not the same name as the real title. When it appears on your kindle, read it over and make sure it's how you want it to be. Do this up to the very, very end.

Also, if you're on the KDP Select program at Amazon, when you do have a freebie promotion, make sure to give yourself a free copy as well. If you don't do freebie promotions, it's a good idea to buy a copy of your book, so you'll see what others are getting. In the manage you kindle section at Amazon, click for an automatic update.

Then, after your update is done, see if the book automatically appears updated. If not, remove the old version from your kindle, and then have the new version delivered to your kindle from the Cloud.

Why am I mentioning this? Well, for some reason, both on my convert version and on the real version, when I tried to go to the next page when there were only a few sentences left in the About the Author section at the very end, I got an error message telling me to remove the book and get it again from the Cloud. I did that, but it didn't work.

Well, after over 3 days, and with the help with the KDP people at Amazon, the error message finally went away. That was yesterday. Today, it was back.

So, this morning, I changed things around at the end of my book, and re-sent it to convert. It looked okay, so now I'm downloading it again to Amazon, and am awaiting the results. Will it be right this time?

One never knows what kind of strange things might happen, so we need to be on guard, and do our best to get a quality product out to our readers.

Find all of Morgan Mandel's romances & mysteries at 
  Twitter: @MorganMandel

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Guest Mary Black with A Thanksgiving Mystery

A fellow prehistory fiction writer has put together a mystery for us. Not a prehistory mystery, but an intriguing one. Please help me welcome Mary Black to the blog. For info on her awesome fiction, please see below.

The Thanksgiving Mystery
Mary S. Black

My family used to spend Thanksgiving at my grandmother’s house out in the cotton fields near Lubbock, Texas, when I was a child.  It was a six or eight-hour drive for my mother, with three kids packed in the back seat.  The night before she would always make fried chicken and butter and lettuce sandwiches on soft white bread for our lunch.  We loved those lunches! 
We knew we were almost there when we passed the Four Sixes Ranch.  Sometimes we would even see a real cowboy riding a horse.  The closer we got to my grandmother’s, the more newly-plucked cotton fields we would see, with white cotton blowing along the road like snowdrifts. Hundreds (or maybe tens) of cotton trailers would be parked around the old metal gins, waiting their turn to be processed.
When we arrived, we jumped out and squealed to meet our cousins, our favorite people in the world.  Soon my older cousin and I would be playing paper dolls or trying on our grandmother’s jewelry, a wonderful secret thing we loved to do. The grown-ups gathered in the kitchen for coffee and were soon down to serious conversation about farm production and politics.
On Thanksgiving Day I loved to set the table. Beautiful china on a worn, white damask cloth. I thought I was chosen especially for this task because I was so responsible. It made me feel grown-up.  Meanwhile my little brother and our boy cousin were running through the house shooting plastic guns at each other, having a great time re-enacting their favorite TV shows.
If there was enough room, we kids could sit at the big table, but otherwise, we had our own table off to the side.  That’s what usually happened. We always had turkey and plenty of giblet gravy, cornbread dressing, home-grown green beans, and pumpkin pie with Cool Whip. And Mrs. Baird’s store-bought white rolls. Delicious!  But the best part came at night, hours after the big mid-day meal.  That’s when we would wander into the kitchen one by one, and make ourselves great turkey sandwiches, complete with dressing and cranberry sauce.  And gravy, lots of gravy.  Yum! Those sandwiches seemed somehow luxurious to me. All was well as the elders played dominoes and we kids enjoyed our own luscious diversions.
Until the middle of the night. That’s when the puking would start, usually with the kids.  Often two or three of us were throwing up all night and into the next day.  I remember lying on the sofa, feeling helpless, while my grandmother urged me to drink some Seven-Up.  I had just thrown up and I didn’t want anything in my stomach ever again. But I would drink it at her urging, and then barf again just to prove I was right.  This “food poisoning,” as my grandmother called it happened year after year. 
Why were the kids always sick at Thanksgiving? Well, they caught something at school, one grown-up would say. Or she’s run-down said another. Too much candy someone would always add.  Just “food poisoning” my grandmother would say. 
There were two kinds of poisoning when I was growing up: food poisoning and blood poisoning. I never have figured out what blood poisoning is.  But about thirty years later it hit me that food poisoning was what we call today “food-borne illness,” caused by a number of different bacteria.   
 It was those wonderful evening sandwiches we’d made. Where did we find all that food when we went into the kitchen at night?  Sitting on top of the stove of course.  There wasn’t room in the refrigerator for all those left-overs, and I’m not sure High Plains women of my grandmother’s generation would have even thought to refrigerate cooked food anyway.
So all that turkey and home-made gravy sat on the stove, reaching the perfect temperature for the nasty bacteria Clostirdium perfringens to flourish.  And flourish it did, right in our digestive tracts.  It’s commonly found in meat and gravies that haven’t been kept hot enough after cooking, or left out too long. Symptoms usually appear with 8-16 hours.  Yep, that was us! 

May you all have a wonderful—and food safe—Thanksgiving holiday!

***Mary has taken an area in Texas and made it her own. She fell in love with the Lower Pecos more than twenty years ago. Since then she has studied the archaeology and related ethnography of the area with numerous scholars. She has an Ed.D. from Harvard University in Human Development and Psychology and lives in Austin with her husband, and archaeologist, and two cats.
Please check out her fiction at! 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

In Praise of Sticky Notes

by Janis Patterson
Many years ago I was living in an apartment on the east side of town. I had been typing (yes, it was that long ago!) a manuscript and the ribbon I had been hoping to nurse along for another day or two simply gave up the ghost. The impressions on the paper were so faint they were almost invisible. I had already tried refreshing the ribbon with glycerin, which had worked fairly well for a while, but there simply wasn’t enough ink left to refresh.

Giving up, I jumped in the car and ran to the nearest drugstore. This was an independent store that carried a little bit of everything and, as it was fairly late at night, I was so grateful they carried a selection of typewriter ribbons.

Next to the ribbon display was a basket full of thin, 3x3 square yellow pads wrapped in cello. I’d never seen anything like them. Obviously they were scratch paper, but the pads could not have been over 10-15 sheets thick. They were called Post-Its. The price was ten cents.

I’ve always liked strange things, so I picked up a couple of pads and went to pay. Over the years I shopped there the store owner had become sort of a friend, so I asked her about these new things. She sniffed disdainfully and said something about them being a market test of the newest thing from 3M, but she was sure they’d made a very expensive marketing mistake. Who would buy a note with sticky stuff on the back?

Truth to be told, I kind of had to agree with her. I had a corkboard beside my typewriter, and a small chalkboard, and a roll of tape with which I could hang notes from other surfaces. Besides, who would pay good money for scratch paper? I had grown up in my parents’ office, and as far as we were concerned, scratch paper was the inside of the envelopes that came in the mail. Matter of fact, one of my very first jobs (I think I was seven or eight) was to take the discarded envelopes, cut them to roughly the same size and stack the resultant slips in a shoebox in the supply closet. Then whoever needed scratch paper could come in and grab some. Recycling did not begin in the ‘80s or the 90s in our family!

Fast forward to today. That wonderful old store has been closed for at least a quarter of a century, typewriters and their ribbons are almost antique artifacts, and sticky notes – now brought out by a myriad of companies under various names – are ubiquitous. From a lukewarm first usage I have come to love them to an almost fanatical degree. I have different colors for different things. Different sizes for different usages. On some days there are so many sticky notes covering my desk it resembles some sort of rainbow-scaled sea creature.

When an office supply store near us closed not too long ago, I bought almost their entire stock of sticky notes. One entire drawer of my desk is devoted to a sticky notes collection of unimaginable variety. There are the shapes – an apple, a daisy, a star, and more – and of course the classic 3x3 square, but it doesn’t stop there. I have long thin ones, little square ones, round ones, some half the size of a sheet of typing paper. Some even have lines or whimsical designs. Some are pastel, some are violently neon. The only color I have never seen in a sticky note is white. I have also discovered one of the great secrets of the universe – a quick print shop has a big paper cutter that for very little money will cut these pads in halves or thirds, giving you a custom size. You can even buy preprinted ones that say “Sign Here” or “Note Change” and other industry-specific things.’

Sticky notes are nice, convenient and have myriads of uses, but they aren’t the end-all or be-all. As with most modern luxuries we could live very well without them, however much we might protest. Cork boards and chalkboards and cut-up envelopes still work, but they are nowhere near as colorful – nor as fun.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Report on My River Spirits Blog Tour Thus Far

I'm a bit over halfway though this month long blog tour for my latest Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery, River Spirits.

Right off the bat I had a problem. The person who had agreed to do the first stop on the tour must've forgot and/or what I sent got lost in cyber space. So my tour started a day late with two stops. I had two or three I had to query because the post weren't up on the slotted day.

Some don't put blog posts up ahead of time.

Other needed to be reminded--though right before the tour I sent out a reminder to each one.

Interestingly, some blogs draw far more commenters than others. I have as yet to figure out why in most cases--though there are some very popular blogs out there that get lots of hits and comments.

I've advertised each day the same--so don't think that's really had much influence at all.

What I do think makes a difference is the topic of the post. Some topics seem to draw people to comment.

I've had many, many unique commenters who have only commented on a few blogs-- and many who only commented on one.

What does this mean? I have no idea. It seems that I am having some increase in sales for the Kindle version of the book.

Here is the remainder of stop I"m making on the tour.

Nov. 18    Promotion Tips

Where Do the Minor Characters Come From?

What Might be Next for Tempe

Nov. 21   Excerpt and links

The Author’s Life (Mine)

How Real are my Main Characters?

Food in my Series

Why I Keep on Writing

Use of Cop Lingo or Not

Nov. 27  Thanksgiving

Deputy Tempe Crabtree as a Mystery Series

Nov. 29  The Hairy Man

Dec. 1  
What Makes a Mystery Writer, particular way of look at things? Looking for Clues? Why? Writing Obsession.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

New release alert... If the Shoe Kills by Lynn Cahoon

Hey peeps,

As you read this, I'm at the day job, my last day for a while. I'm having surgery tomorrow, so if I don't post a response to your comment, give me a few days... I'll be back, better than ever.

"We can make you faster, stronger..."

The sale job on the Bionic Woman had the wrong focus. It was fine for Steve Majors, but the female side needs better promises. They should have said, "We can make you taller, skinnier, funnier..."

Anyway, on to the good news... IF THE SHOE KILLS released November 10th (insert Kermit flail here...) (No, seriously, I don't have the gif, so if you do, post our green friend into the comments.

And, I'm an official Check out the website at :)

See you all next month.

If the Shoe Kills
The tourist town of South Cove, California, is a lovely place to spend the holidays. But this year, shop owner Jill Gardner discovers there’s no place like home for homicide. . .
As owner of Coffee, Books, and More, Jill Gardner looks forward to the hustle and bustle of holiday shoppers. But when the mayor ropes her into being liaison for a new work program, 'tis the season to be wary. Local businesses are afraid the interns will be delinquents, punks, or worse. For Jill, nothing’s worse than Ted Hendricks--the jerk who runs the program. After a few run-ins, Jill’s ready to kill the guy. That, however, turns out to be unnecessary when she finds Ted in his car--dead as a doornail. Officer Greg assumes it’s a suicide. Jill thinks it’s murder. And if the holidays weren’t stressful enough, a spoiled blonde wants to sue the city for breaking her heel. Jill has to act fast to solve this mess--before the other shoe drops. . .

"Murder, dirty politics, pirate lore, and a hot police detective: Guidebook to Murder has it all! A cozy lover’s dream come true." --Susan McBride, author of The Debutante Dropout Mysteries

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Life Imitates Art for Guest Blogger Kait Carson

I want you to meet my friend, Kait!

I was born in New Jersey, lived in upstate NY, southern Florida, St. Thomas, Sint Maarten, Virginia, Maine, the Florida Keys, and now central Florida. Talk about a geographic spread. I ski and scuba dive, run and swim. My husband is a pilot and we own a Cherokee 6 that we love to fly on research and marketing trips. We share our home with eight rescued cats, a cockatoo, conure, and a harlequin macaw. That's the gang of eight - and wings too.

You can visit her at

And now hear what she has to say about life imitating art.

-Kaye George

Life imitates art

Ernest Hemmingway said write what you know. Given the lives most of us lead, Ernest excluded of course, that would make for a boring book. I write mysteries. I’ve had my fair share of adventures. I’ve never found a dead body. My characters do all the time. They lay 120’ below the sea wrapped in an anchor line, hang in garages, and lurk in bathtubs.

Write what I know, not really. Write what my characters know. Now that’s a different topic.

My newest novel, DEATH BY BLUE WATER, released next week by Henery Press is the first book of a new series. It’s set in the Florida Keys and my heroine, Hayden Kent, is both a paralegal and a scuba diver. My day job—paralegal. My favorite hobby—scuba diving. Hayden and I are very different people. She is more methodical. Apt to make a list and check it twice. She’s also a lot more resourceful than I am. Whereas I’ll set out on a wing and a prayer, Hayden has a plan. Always. And she has a way better sense of humor.

I’ve never found a body underwater. To write the book, I needed to know the processes of that, recovery techniques, and how to investigate an underwater death. I also needed to learn how Hayden works at her job and how she dives. Our different personalities make for different strengths and weaknesses. What I know about Hayden’s profession and her hobby are not at all the same as what she knows. Hayden made it extremely clear that BLUE WATER was her story, and I was her typist.

My first series features Catherine Swope. It’s set in and around Miami, FL. Catherine is a woman with a past she’s trying to overcome. Former cop, she quit the force after she shot a teenager. He was shooting at her. It was justifiable. Catherine couldn’t forgive herself though. And she ended up doing some heavy drinking to try to forget. ZONED FOR MURDER starts when her life is getting back on track. She finds the Zoning Commissioner hanging in his garage. Circumstances and events lead to her being the prime suspect.

In MURDER IN THE MULTIPLES, Catherine has accepted that she will not
go back to law enforcement. I was disappointed. I wanted to write a police procedural. Catherine becomes a Realtor. Her first multimillion-dollar sale results in her finding the buyer dead in the bathtub on closing day. Drugs surround the buyer, and the evidence suggests the drugs were in the house.

I’ve never been a cop, never shot anyone, and never had a drinking problem, never been a Realtor, and never been involved with illegal drugs. Hum. Write what I know. No. Write what I research. Yes. Ask endless questions of friends who are in law enforcement. Talk to counselors who treat cops after they are involved in shootings. Talk to Realtors. Read the research and statistics. Once I’ve done all I can, Catherine takes over. The knowledge is hers. The stories are hers.

Write what you know – only if it’s an autobiography. Any writer who has tried to fit a character into a box will tell you, it doesn’t work. They fight back—and they win.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Party's Over....

by Janis Susan May/Janis Patterson

To tell the truth, I kind of halfway believed that this day would never come. On 30 October my publishing blitz ended. Unless you’ve been living under a rock this summer, you probably have heard more than once that I’ve been doing a blitz of one book release (two new works, the rest re-releases of reverted backlist) every two weeks since 30 June.

That’s a heck of a lot of books.

And an insane schedule. Why would anyone do anything so utterly mad?

Back in late May, when this idea first appeared, I had no idea of how much plain old work – and plain old money – would be involved. Each book was re-edited, re-formatted, given a wonderful new cover and released in both electronic and paper versions. Sounds deceptively simple, doesn’t it? It wasn’t. Without the most wonderful team in the world – scanner, editor, formatter and cover artist – behind me I never would have made it. No – without them I never would even have considered it!

In May I did FAMILY OF STRANGERS, a tasty little classic gothic romance set in Victorian Scotland. It took several weeks to get it up and running, and it has done rather well. Deciding to do the rest, I jumped in with both feet, my normal way of doing something. Concentration has always been a problem with me, and after several weeks I had done something on every book, but not one was completely finished and ready for publication.

Some of the older books were so old that no electronic version existed. Appalled at the thought of re-keying them, I had them scanned. My scanner Melynda Andrews is the best in the business, but inaccuracy is the nature of the beast no matter who does it. Age and texture of the paper, ink density, type font and the letters themselves all affect what is translated from paper to pixels, so each letter must be checked. For example, ‘his’ morphed into ‘liis’ and ‘rain’ into ‘min’ and so forth – but never with any degree of predictability. Some of the results were horrific, some were hysterical, but each had to be checked.

It’s not the big errors that get you – it’s the little, almost invisible ones. On getting the scan back, I had to go through the manuscript almost pixel by pixel. Years ago during my magazine editing days I learned to proof by starting with the last word and going backward. That way I was seeing the words and letters themselves and not getting lost in the story. At least, it helped.

After that tiring and sometimes hilarious chore, I started at the beginning and did the editing on the re-releases myself; the two new works went to my wonderful professional editor Laree Bryant, and then through a rigorous round of revisions. As the re-releases had already been edited by their respective publishing houses, I didn’t see a reason to submit them to my editor, but I went through them with a fine-tooth comb, tweaking and doing a little bit of rewriting. No book is ever really finished, you see. As long as we can get our hands on it, we can always find some little something that can be improved.

Then there were the covers. It was by pure blind luck that I was fortunate enough to find Dawn Charles of BookGraphics, one of the best cover artists in the world, who worked tirelessly with me turning what I wanted, what was possible and what I could afford into an elegant cover. She also provided me with a huge banner proclaiming both my names – Janis Susan May for romance, Janis Patterson for mysteries – for when (if) I do signings, and created some positively fantastic bookmarks.

Working with my wonderful formatter Vickie Taylor was the easiest thing. I had already gone through the manuscript, making it as clean as possible (studying those pixels again), taking out any extraneous spaces, returns, etc., and putting the various elements in the order I wanted them for both the electronic and paper editions – copyright page, dedication, other books available, by the author and all that. I would email the files to her and tell her which electronic distributors to program for and in a few days I would have individualized files for electronic and print that only required me to point-and-click to upload. Being a total techno-naif I love point and click!

Yes, I know there are loads of authors who do this themselves. Joy go with them. There is nothing wrong with my brain-box (at least, I hope not) and I could learn do the formatting myself. After all, in the dark ages of computers I wrote a couple of decent COBOL programs. However – I am a believer that one should do what one does best and hire out the rest. It’s only good time management, besides saving my nerves. I frustrate very easily.

Then a couple of days before official release day – so I would have links to hand out on release day – I would upload. First would be the print version at CreateSpace, because I wanted time to order a proof and still get the distributor buy links in time. Then, closer to The Day, I would upload to Amazon, BandN and Kobo myself. iBooks/Apple always went through Draft2Digital. While many people swear by them, I don’t like some of Apple’s practices, and Macs are too expensive for me to consider anyway.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Basically it is, but it is both complex and time-consuming. And, believe it or not, this was the artistic part.

There is also the business part. First I got a DBA for my publisher name. Forming an S corp or an LLC didn’t make financial sense at this point, but I did want the ability to cash any checks that might come in the company name.

I copyrighted with the government those books which had not already been done. It’s the cheapest intellectual property insurance I know, and I advise every writer to do it.

In addition, there was the acquisition, assigning and registration of ISBNs through Bowkers – and Heaven help you if you get two numbers mixed up! Each book had its own specific copyright release on the copyright page, because they need to state if, when and by whom the book had been published before. There were the individual dedications. Print and electronic versions each needed their own special order of contents. Front matter and back matter were different.

Because I wanted to get them all done as quickly as possible so all I would have to do was upload (didn’t work, by the way – every release day was an edge-of-the-seat affair) I worked on a lot of books at once and got very confused. Finally I created a spreadsheet to keep me organized. One row for every book, one column for every action. At one time I had forty two columns. It’s come down a little since then, but it’s still an impressive amount of data. For a while I was so stressed I couldn’t sleep – I’d wake in the morning at some dreadfully early hour and, my mind churning with what had to be done, be unable to get back to sleep, so I’d get up and start work. By the way, writing is my only job, other than looking after The Husband, the animals, the house, the yard, some volunteer work and assorted family and friends.

The Husband became accustomed to eating frozen things for dinner – mainly pizza – and we ate out or got takeaway more than ever before. Laundry became a hit-or-miss proposition. With three animals (two cats and a bossy little dog) we’ve always had a recurring crop of dust bunnies, but they took advantage of my concentration on the books to grow into aggressive dust hares until in self defense The Husband started wielding the vacuum cleaner. At night I was too tired even to read. Writing? Forget it.

But now it is over. I’m glad I did it, because the books are done, and in self-publishing there is no worry about shelf life. For good, bad or indifferent, these stories will be out there forever, hopefully generating some income while I go on to the fun part of creating new books. I say hopefully because my MasterCard is still on life support.

Speaking of money, I’ll admit to being disappointed that sales have been much lower than I dreamed – even lower than I expected. However, on my writers’ loops everyone has been saying that their sales are down as well, so I take faint comfort that I’m not the only one or that it’s not my books themselves being ignored. I’ve spent some money – more than I could afford, really – on advertising, but nowhere near enough to make a real difference. Still, as Scarlett said, tomorrow is another day, and we can only wait to see what it will bring.

Have I given up on trad pubbing? Of course not. At this moment I am under contract to two traditional publishing houses and intend to continue with both. And, if one of the Big 5, or however many of them there are this week, comes waving a contract with a healthy advance attached just watch me jump.

Do I intend to keep on self-publishing? Yes, most definitely. The freedom to do what I want, to tell the story I want without having some little editor girl forcefully ‘suggest’ that my heroine be a deep-sea diver instead of an insurance investigator or another editor that the story take place in the mountains of Montana instead of downtown Dallas. Even if such ‘suggestions’ would strengthen the story (which they most definitely would not have) I know nothing about deep sea diving and even less about Montana. My sense of outrage at such needless meddling was only exacerbated by the fact that I have shoes older than either one of those little editor girls! Now I can tell my stories with the voice I want. Of course, they will be professionally edited, etc. That’s a given.

Not giving up on self-pubbing, however, does not mean I will put my husband, myself or my books through an insane blitz like this again. My future self-pub efforts will be done in a civilized manner, at a manageable speed of one, maybe two releases at a time. I’m too old for nonsense like this, but will certainly admit that this blitz taught me more about self-pubbing than I ever knew possible.

I’m glad I did it, but now it is time to tell myself (in my execrable Latin) Dire, Faire, Taire – loosely translated, Say It, Do It, Shut Up.