Friday, December 23, 2011

Frank, Incense and Muriel

 by Jean Henry Mead

When two former high school antagonists are thrown together in a mysterious setting the week before Christmas, you have the ingredients for romantic suspense, if they’re both attractive members of the opposite sex. Author Anne K. Albert skillfully weaves a story of surprise and deceit when Frankie Salerno, a former classmate shows up on Muriel  Reeve’s doorstep years later and is still calling her Brian. Because of her intelligence, he originally called her “brain,” but a teacher intercepted a note he sent to Muriel when he misspelled her nickname.

Now a dyslexic private investigator, he enlists her help in finding a missing former classmate. And the classmate is not someone Muriel likes so she requires some persuasion. However, when she learns who hired Frankie to investigate, someone she does consider a friend, Muriel decides to aid in the investigation, which nearly gets her killed.

Muriel’s Aunt Val, a quirky character who is constantly baking cookies for the twelve days of Christmas, enters the plot with her crotch-sniffing dog, Big Boy. When Aunt Val is sideswiped while driving Muriel’s car and winds up in the hospital, they wonder if Muriel is the intended victim.
Interviewing the missing woman’s neighbors provides more humor and additional mystery as Frankie and Muriel gather evidence and place themselves in danger.

Muriel realizes that she’s still attracted to Frankie from their high school days but keeps him at arm’s length as he tries to charm her. The plot is filled with intrigue and humor as the pair continues their search for the missing woman.  The book is well-paced and the characters well defined. I recommend Albert’s novel to anyone who loves a good mystery laced with a little romance and humor. My kind of book.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Reading Christmas Books by Christine Duncan

Unlike my blogmate, Mark Troy, I like to read books that are written about Christmas. I don't really care about the mystery, if that's what I'm doing. I just need to get in the spirit and reading is one way I do it.

So what if I figured out the ending of Anne Perry's A Christmas Journey well before the end of the book or if I don't usually read books involving animals like A Cat under the Mistletoe by Lydia Adamson? They got me back in the Christmas mood and I read them on purpose to do that.

I also read books about some place I'm traveling to or places that I miss and can't travel to right now. Different strokes, I guess.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Game Face is here!

Game Face, my collection of Val Lyon short stories, is, at last, available for purchase in ebook or trade paperback. The trade paperback can be ordered from the Create Space estore and soon from Amazon and other stores. (As of this writing, it was in the Amazon pipeline.) The Kindle version can be ordered from the Kindle Store. The iPad, Nook, Kobo, and other ebook formats can be ordered from Smashwords.

This collection contains all of the previously published Val Lyon stories spanning more than a decade of publication. The first story, Drop Dead Zone, was published in Mystery Buff Magazine in 1998 and the most recent, Horns, was published in The Thrilling Detective in 2009. Most of the stories have recently been published in ebook for 99¢ each, so readers can buy the stories separately or, they can get the whole set for the same price as three stories.

As these stories had been previously published, I wanted readers who purchase the collection to receive some added value that cannot be had by purchasing the individual stories or by going back to the original publication. Therefore, this collection contains one original, never-before-published story, Ripper. The collection also contains a foreword that tells how some of the stories came about. As a final bonus, I introduce each story with the cover that was attached to the ebook version. The front cover and the interior art were all done by David Shackelford of Austin.

Mark Troy
Hawaiian Eye Blog

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

So, What Cons are You Going to Next Year?

As for me, I'm planning on attending three.

Mid-March I'm headed to San Antonio for Epicon. My romance with a touch of the supernatural, Lingering Spirit is a finalist for an Eppie. We went to San Antonio once before and loved it.

At the end of March, Sacramento is the destination for Left Coast Crime. Despite the fact that we are flying to San Antonio, we'd kind of decided not to go to any more conferences unless they were close by. Sacramento if plenty close.

In July, we'll be driving to Vegas for the Public Safety Writers Association.Public Safety Writers Associaton

This is my favorite conference of all. This is the place to get acquainted with all the experts: FBI, police, forensic, fire, casino security, airplane security, etc. It's a small conference with one track, so you really do have a chance to network--some are speakers, but they are all here for the conference.

This year we'll have a crime scene developed by a retired cop and a forensic expert--everyone will have a chance to figure it out. You can test your skills against the professionals.

So what have you got planned for 2012?


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Finding time to write in 2012

It can be tough, of course. You’re raising a family, working overtime at the office, traveling on business, doing chores, running errands, changing diapers, carting your children hither and yon—well, maybe not all of those at the same time, but you get the idea. Where can you find the time to write?

Try writing in short bursts if you can’t cobble together longer stretches of time. Children’s nap time might be enough to get in a few paragraphs. If you’re waiting in a doctor’s office or taking a break at work, you at least have a few minutes to think about your novel and how to handle the scene you’re working on. Jot those thoughts down before they’re gone. Back in pre-computer days, I used to write notes and stuff them into my shirt pocket, but now it’s usually possible to send myself an email or write an electronic note on my iPhone. My friend Patty worked in a bank and raised four daughters, so she got out of bed in the wee hours every day so she could write in peace. Goodness knows she has more energy than I ever did, but she made time in her own way.  But any quiet time, however brief, is time you can be either writing a few sentences or thinking through a plot problem. I suggest you not agonize over your first draft. Just get the story written, and address the problems later. To paraphrase various writing gurus, give yourself permission to write junk. It’s okay, because your first draft should be for your eyes only.

Can you do it? Of course you can. All you need is to write a page a day, and you’ve finished a draft in less than a year.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and follow my own advice.

Bob Sanchez is the author of Little Mountain and two other novels, available at They each took longer than a year to write, but he is getting better.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Miracle on Union Street

By Chester Campbell

I saw The Miracle on 34th Street in the TV listings and got to thinking about something almost as miraculous I was involved in at this time forty-nine years ago. We were putting the final touches on the "Premier Issue" of Nashville Magazine, the city's first slick-paper monthly. Since our office was located on Union Street in downtown Nashville, I chose the above title for this piece of nostalgia.

At right is the cover of that issue. That it continued to appear monthly under my direction for six years and three months is certainly worthy of the miracle designation. I had worked as a newspaper reporter for nine years, sandwiched around a sojourn in Korea for the north-south unpleasantness, put in a short time free-lancing for national magazines, then spent two years at a PR agency. When I was "downsized" there, I lucked into a job with the State of Tennessee. That was late summer of 1962. I was told my job would be short-lived as the governor was leaving office at the end of the year. I was hired to write speeches for the governor, and my boss said as long as I got the speeches done, he didn't care what I did the rest of the time.

This sounded ideal as I had come up with the idea of starting a local magazine. Impressed by the highly-successful Atlanta Magazine, published by the Chamber of Commerce, I visited with the editor and learned what all was involved. Unsuccessful at getting the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce to sponsor my project, I decided to pursue it on my own. I was thirty-seven at the time, full of you-know-what and vinegar. I approached the former secretary at the PR agency, and she agreed to join me in m.c. publications, inc. (for Mikie and Chester). We each put up $500, and that was our capitalization. Needless to say, this is not what I was told would be required.

I was referred to a graphic artist at the Methodist Publishing House who agreed to be art director. Since we had decided on a January launch, I needed to put things together in a hurry. Although the Chamber declined to help monetarily, a few prominent members assisted me with recommendations. I've never considered myself much of a salesman, but in retrospect, I must have done a helluva job getting the magazine in print.

I traded advertising for a lot of the necessary services. I found a printer who agreed to be paid after the second issue came out (he also took an ad). My art director was friends with a three-man art studio that did a lot of gratis artwork (one of them painted the downtown view for the cover). An engraver took an ad to cover most of our halftones, and I did an article on a young guy who ran an electronic data service (this was in the days of punch cards). He handled our mailing labels. I also provided an ad for a photographer.

I paid nothing for articles, but called on several friends from my newspaper days to write for me. They were happy to help the magazine get started and found the new venture a unique opportunity. I had worked for the Nashville Banner and talked its sports editor into contributing an article on the city's minor league hockey team, the Dixie Flyers. Fred Russell was a regular contributor to The Saturday Evening Post and wrote its annual Pigskin Preview. I wrote much of that issue, as I did for each subsequent edition.

Subscriptions brought in a small amount of income, but the lifeblood of a magazine is advertising. I had to go after it myself. I convinced a couple of ad agencies to support the new venture, despite lack of a track record. One of them bought the full-color back cover. I also got full pages from the local electric service, the gas company, and a new luxury apartment project. A friend from my Air Guard unit bought an add for his import auto dealership, and the data service guy helped me get a half page from his father-in-law, owner of a finance company. I also wangled an ad out of the savings and loan association that owned our building.

I wound up with seven and two-thirds pages of advertising in that first issue, or a little more than 17 percent of its forty-four pages. Hardly in the ballpark for a break-even operation. It provided the start of many years of running hard to placate our creditors. After a couple of issues, I found an advertising manager and relinquished that part of the business. By the end of 1963, our forty-four-page issue had fourteen and one-half pages of advertising for a much improved 33 percent.

I had a great time with the magazine, despite fifteen-hour days. I came up with lots of great stories to cover myself, in addition to assigning many others. I ran some of my poetry anonymously. We published a few short stories by well-known local authors, without payment. But our circulation never got much beyond 10,000, and advertising was always a hard sell. We were about ten years ahead of our time. When our unpaid accounts got too far out of hand after five years, I turned to a good friend who was head of PR for Life & Casualty Insurance Company, one of Nashville's two large insurers. He talked the head of the company, wealthy former Ambassador Guilford Dudley, into bailing us out. We moved into offices on the twentieth floor of the L&C Tower and had money to pay contributors. But they put a guy over me as manager that I couldn't abide, so after a few months I resigned. The new management didn't fare too well, and the insurance company dropped the magazine in less than a year.

But forty-nine years ago, I was as excited as a kid with a new toy. I was ready to make a miracle happen. And I did.

Visit me at Mystery Mania

Shorts Stories by Earl Staggs

by Jean Henry Mead

Earl Staggs knows his stuff when it comes to short story writing. His collection is not only entertaining, it grabs you and doesn’t let go until you reach the conclusion and take a peek at the next story.  It’s like the former Lay’s potato chip commercial. You can’t just read one of Earl’s stories at one sitting. You’re compelled to read just one more and then another. They run the gambit of humor to crime and my favorite of Earl’s well- drawn characters, Sheriff Molly, outwits crooks and lays down the law in her own patient way.
My favorite of the Sheriff Molly stories is when she encounters Henry Lee, a naked young man standing on the roof of a two-story building, posed to jump to his death. Convincing him that he will only break his legs if he jumps, she manages to talk him down after learning what prompted him to disrobe and contemplate suicide. The author writes convincingly with humor and acquired southern charm which will keep you smiling.
If you’re looking for a great read, I highly recommend the award-winning author’s fictional adventures into the realm of mystery, where good always triumps over evil or at least takes a good run at it. I like Earl’s characters, which he brings to life with just enough description to make them believable. And the settings are varied enough to keep you turning pages.
Short Stories by Earl Staggs will make a great Christmas gift for busy people who have little time to read, although once they start, they’ll make time to keep reading.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Recharging can be really hard, but it’s essential for a writer, or any creative type for that matter. This time of year can be a particular challenge with all the social and family obligations and fun. Add in the extra time (depending on where you live, of course – envious stares directed at those in warm climes LOL) for vehicle cleaning and warming every time you want to go out, all the winter woolies and boots that have to be put on and taken off for each outing. And that’s not even considering regular snow removal from sidewalks, driveways and walkways.

For those writers who use retail therapy as a relaxation technique, even that can be a risky experiment right now. All those frantic men in malls! Some are kind of like the contestants on Survivor in the first couple of weeks – finding themselves in unfamiliar territory, sure they must accomplish something, but not sure how to get it accomplished in time, or who to trust! It does, however, provide some great people watching opportunities, assuming you can find an empty bench.

A quiet evening at home can also help revitalize those storytelling batteries, presuming you can relax with that To-Do list flashing neon headings at you as you try to sink into your favorite chair with a cup of hot chocolate.

All this is supposing you don’t have any deadlines looming, no galleys to review, no edits to look at…

Please share what you do to get those stories flowing when it’s so busy you barely have time to catch your breath, let alone set aside a few hours of writing time!

Libby McKinmer
Romance with an edge

Monday, December 12, 2011

Make It Legal by Morgan Mandel

A word to the wise author -
Take the extra time to make everything legal. I self-published Killer Career, but before doing so, I registered my publishing company, Choice One Publishing Co. with the Cook County Clerk of the State of Illinois.

I also applied for and obtained a trademark from the Secretary of State of Illinois for the use of my pen name, Morgan Mandel.

When I requested the rights back for my backlist books from Mundania Press, I sent and kept a copy of the certified letter requesting the reversion of my rights.

I contacted Mundania and told them I needed written confirmation and received an email verifying I had my rights back.

To busy authors, this may seem like nitpicking,  but it could save you grief in the longrun. Saturday, I received an inquiry from Amazon about my publishing rights for Two Wrongs, which I'm in the process of getting up on Kindle. After rummaging around today, I found copies of all of my documentation and sent it along to Amazon. Hopefully, they'll be quick about clearing this up, since I'd hoped to have this book back in circulation by now under my own auspices at the reduced 99 cents price on Kindle.

Okay, now that I'm through bragging about having all this stuff to at my disposal, I must confess it took a little while to find it. Not as long as I'd thought it would, though. I was lucky this time. I do save a lot of things, and not all of those things come in handy when I need them.

What about you? Are you legal? Have you run into any roadblocks where you had to provide some sort of legal proof?

Morgan Mandel

Morgan Mandel's Books -
Killer Career - 99 cents Kindle, Smashwords
Girl of My Dreams - 99 cents Kindle and Smashwords
Two Wrongs - 99 cents Smashwords, Kindle to follow when
Amazon sorts this out.
Forever Young: Blessing or Curse - Coming very, very soon to
Kindle & Smashwords for $2.99, I promise

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Murder for Christmas

It's that magical time of year when children dream of Santa and writers realize it's too late to send a Christmas mystery story to that anthology or magazine that had issued a call back in May.

I'm going to sound humbuggy on this, but I don't like Christmas mysteries, or any seasonal mystery for that matter. Which isn't to say I don't like stories that are set around Christmas.

This weekend I was in one of our closets pulling out the Christmas decorations and I found an anthology called Murder for Christmas that someone had given me twenty years ago. It's a big volume of Christmas-themed mystery stories. I remember reading a few stories when I got it and then putting it aside because Christmas had passed.

And that's the point. Why read a Christmas story after Christmas? It's like a Santa train set or a book of yuletide recipes. No matter how much you like trains or how much you like cooking neither the Santa train nor the figgy pudding recipe make sense after the season.

So it was with this anthology. There was only one memorable story in it and that one was, ironically, the one story that was not Christmas-themed. The story was called "Mr. Big" and it was written by Woody Allen. It's a good story, written in Woody Allen's distinctive voice, but not what you would call a Christmas story. It qualified for the anthology by virtue of one of the clues—a racehorse named Santa Baby.

As I said, I don't have a problem with stories set at Christmas, but I pass on what I call tinsel stories. Stories with no substance but which use some aspect of Christmas as an excuse. You can usually spot them by the title. (These titles are my own invention, any resemblance to real stories is a shame.)

  • "The Christmas Card Murders." (Pass!) 
  • "Death by Eggnog." (No way!)
  • "Slay Bells Ring." (Not for me!)
  • "Gold, Frankincense and Murder." (Heaven forbid!)

I believe a good story is worth reading or viewing at any time, not just during the season. Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life should be viewed throughout the year, not just at Christmas, because it's not a Christmas story. It's about a man discovering himself, about the sacrifices he makes. And it's about good versus evil, despair and redemption. There's no murder, but it's as hardboiled as any story. Is there anybody more evil than Potter? The Christmas part is only the last quarter of the film. Too bad the movie has been hijacked by the season.

My vote for great Christmas story which stands the test of time and which can be read (or viewed if you prefer) all year round is Dashiell Hammett's The Thin Man. The story begins in a speakeasy the day before Christmas with two of the most engaging sleuths in literature, Nick and Nora Charles.
Nora said, "She's pretty."
"If you like them like that."
She grinned at me. "You got types?"
"Only you, darling—lanky brunettes with wicked jaws."
If you want cute for Christmas, there's Asta the schnauzer who knocks over a table of toys at Lord and Taylor's.

You want Christmas mayhem? How about the scene in the movie where Nick, nursing a hangover, uses a rubber band and paper clips to shoot ornaments off the tree. Or the scene where Nick knocks out Nora while trying to keep her from being shot by Morelli. After Nick revives her, Nora says, "You damned fool! You didn't have to knock me cold. I knew you'd take him, but I wanted to see it." To which the police lieutenant says, "There's a girl with hair on her chest."

If it's holiday excess you're looking for, The Thin Man has that too. When a reporter asks Nora what case Nick is working on, she says, "A case of Scotch. Pitch in and help him."

Afraid this story is another sappy Christmas story? Then wait for it, the best Christmas sentiment in all mysterydom, uttered by the inimitable Nora:
"The next person who says Merry Christmas to me, I'll kill 'em."
That's how I like my murder for Christmas. Lanky brunettes, guys with guns, and six martinis lined up on the bar. A Christmas toast—make that six—to the best Christmas mystery story ever. Hammett published The Thin Man 78 years ago and it's still as fresh as Wonderful Life and fresher than most stories that try to cash in on the season but which are staler than day-old gingerbread.

So do you have a favorite Christmas mystery, one that you enjoy even in July?

Mark Troy
Hawaiian Eye Blog
Check out my ebooks in the iBook, Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Sony and Smashwords stores.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Magical Mystery Tour

For the past week and a half I've been with 14 mystery authors on a 14 day virtual book tour. Each of the writers asked for something different from a list of questions, an interviews, their take on a special subject, a certain page out of their book, plus the usual photos, book cover(s), blurbs and bios.

I asked each one to write something about setting. It was great fun to see the different looks at setting through their minds. You can check it out at and scroll down to read them all if you're so inclined.

Today, I'll be visiting Timothy Hallinan

Though it's been a lot of work, it's also been fun and I've seen a definite drop in my numbers on Amazon so it looks like it might be working.

The writers who are participating are: Beth Anderson, Ron Benrey, Pat Browning, John M. Daniel, Alice Duncan, Wendy Gager, M. M. Gornell, Timothy Hallinan, Jackie King, Jean Henry Mead, Mike Orenduff, Jinx Schwartz, Earl Staggs, Anne K. Albert (who instigated this madness), and of course, me.


Monday, December 5, 2011

Please Welcome Mystery Author, Frank Scully

Frank Scully was born at the end of World War II and grew up in a small town in North Dakota. He remembers a time when radio provided the entertainment and then along came TV with very few channels. While in college getting a Bachelor’s degree in History and a Juris Doctor in Law, TV graduated to color, the Beatles landed on the Ed Sullivan Show, Kennedy was assassinated, and Armstrong walked on the moon. He served in the U.S. Army as a Judge Advocate General Corps officer in the U.S., Vietnam and Thailand before getting his Masters in Business Administration from the Thunderbird School and embarking on a business career. Currently he is a Contracts Manager for a major aerospace and defense manufacturer and an author of a mystery series.

His current book, EMPTY TIME, is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords and other online eBook retailers as well as the publisher’s bookstore

What it's about:
Jim Lang’s life sputtered into a workaholic rut on a middle rung of the corporate ladder while his colleagues, using his business plan, became the international business titans he once aspired to be.

Bad memories of busted marriages and broken promises are all that keep him company in his personal hours so he is more than willing to sacrifice that empty time to his job to make the corporation grow. His bosses have one more sacrifice in mind for him. To die for them.

Deceived, betrayed and framed for murder and massive stock fraud, his bosses plan for him to die and disappear. Disappear, he does; die, he doesn’t.

Lang must face and conquer his old fears and guilt, and live up to the potential within. To save the people he loves he must put his life on the line to turn the tables on his former colleagues in an inter-continental, multi-billion dollar, fast paced and lethal game of corporate intrigue and treachery with bloody traps and deadly counter traps.

Also available are RESURRECTION GARDEN and DEAD MAN’S GAMBIT. Coming soon is BLOOD SINS.

You can find more about Frank Scully's books at:

And now here's some great writing advice from Frank Scully:
Keep the reader turning pages -

Have you ever been reading a book, one you were enjoying with the movie you were producing from it running in your head, and all off a sudden something happens that breaks the whole thing down? The movie stops because the character does something so totally out of character, the narrator gags on something or the pace breaks down.

There you are, staring at the page, the movie projector in your head smoking from the broken reel, wondering what the &*^% you are going to do next. How could that character do that? Nothing in the story line or character development allowed for that. No human being you have ever known who was anything like that character had ever done anything like that. Is there any plot point that justifies what the character did? Can you forgive it and move on? Or is it too far out that you have lost interest in the character and the story?

Perhaps the author’s voice cracks and changes midstream and you go from masculine hard boiled to feminine cozy or something in between. All of a sudden the director of the movie in your head has changed.

Or maybe the pace has shifted or jerks suddenly. You were reading along comfortably enjoying the speed of the story that was unfolding. The movie in your head was running along just fine. Then you hit pages of data and description that bog you down like quicksand. Do you really care if the character is wearing a certain expensive brand of khakis along with an ensemble described in excruciating detail? Perhaps there is a sudden jerk and you are in an unannounced different time and place with seemingly no relation to the story you were reading.

Assuming an author takes care of the basics such as having a good plot, proper grammar, enticing title and cover, and a good hook to draw the reader in, there are certain elements that can make or break a mystery story for a reader. To me the three most important are character, voice and pace.

Character encompasses all of the actors in the book from the protagonist and antagonist and on down to the clerk who only appears on one page. Each needs to be believable and come alive in the mind of the reader. If they are not properly presented and fleshed out so the reader can imagine them, the story will suffer and the reader will get frustrated. At the same time you don’t want to provide too much description. The reader will fill in a lot of the details according to how they want the character to look just as they do for the background. It is impossible to detail every aspect of every background a character acts in front of. All the author needs to do is get the important and distinguishing elements and let the reader’s imagination do the rest.

But character is more than physical description. The actions and emotions and thoughts projected from and onto the character must “fit” like a good suit or the reader will not care, and if the reader doesn’t care about the character, the author risks losing the reader.

I believe very firmly that you must give the mystery reader a primary character that they can relate to and in some way have a desire to follow. There may be a niche for those books whose main character is a despicable, totally unlikeable blackard but it is a small one.

Pace also is important to a reader. As an author we invite readers along for a ride. We need to make it an enjoyable ride. Sometimes fast, scary and bumpy. Sometimes more sedate. The trick is to make sure we don’t jolt the reader out of the car on a fast hard bump or a quick turn or bore them to sleep down a gentle slope. Keep them turning pages with enjoyment and excitement. I’ve seen some masters of pace get by with little or no plot although that is not a good thing and can make the book forgettable soon after it is done.

And finally there is the author’s voice. What does the reader hear in how you tell the story? Is there gravel in your voice from hard miles over bad road? Or are you a young woman just getting started in the world on her own? Authors must find a voice that they want to tell that story with and be consistent with it for the primary narration. Just as a character should not all of a sudden develop multiple personalities, neither should the author.

As with all “rules” there are authors who have broken all of the above and still been very successful. But I, as a reader, have dropped many books that started out well only to lose me for these reasons and now I avoid those authors for fear I will run into another “busted” read.

I work hard to ensure that I follow my own rules carefully and keep the reader engaged and turning the pages.

Frank Scully

Please leave a comment below to welcome Frank to Make Mine Mystery.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Learning from the pros

Have you ever read a mystery and said to yourself, “Wow! I wish I could write like that”? Or maybe you mumble “Heck, I write this well. How come they’re published and I’m not”? That question is a toughie, of course. Most of us realize that there are lots of reasons novels don’t get published, and this post won’t get into them.

Let’s look at that mystery differently. First, finish reading it for pleasure. Then go back through it and take notes. Pick it apart. Why does it work, and what could be better? Mind you, it’s a chore, but do it with at least a couple of novels. Here are a few of the things to look for:

--What is the point of view? Is there more than one?
--How soon does the main character’s name appear?
--How soon does the crime appear?
--Is there a strong plot?
--What do you like or dislike about each character? Is each character distinctive in speech, appearance, or personality?
--How much dialogue is there compared to exposition?
--How often does the author tell instead of show, and does it work?
--Does the pace ever bog down? If so, how and where?
--Are the good guy and the bad guy evenly matched?
--Are there enough twists to keep you guessing?
--Did the story ultimately satisfy you? Why or why not?

Perhaps you have read a few books on writing, and you learned that passive voice is not to be used, that you must show and not tell, and that you must not mix points of view in the same chapter. And then you see that some famous writer has broken every “rule” you thought sacrosanct. Well, you won’t become a good writer simply by mechanically applying rules from a book. Understand them, sure. Then understand that they are really just guidelines that the pros either apply or ignore depending on the circumstances.
Once you take this hard look at a published novelist’s work, you can learn effective techniques for your own fiction. I think you will find it worth the effort.

Bob Sanchez has published three novels, available at

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Back From Texas

Randy Rawls

I've just returned from seven delightful days in Texas. Got to see some friends, had Thanksgiving with my daughter and her family in Austin, did a TV interview in Kerrville a signing in Georgetown, bought a new hat in Bryan, and enjoyed the Texas landscape. Time well spent.

As anyone who knows me is aware, I'm a devoted Texan at heart. I tell folks it's because I grew up as part of the John Wayne generation. Big John was all over the place, putting bad men away. And, of course, in almost every movie was that glorious western background. Yeah, I know much of it was filmed outside Texas, but, for me, it was everything I imagined Texas to be.

I fit the mold of the non-Texan who was not born there, but got there as fast as I could. Then, I moved away, moved to the warm weather of South Florida. Last Monday morning reminded me I made a pretty good decision. A November freeze descended on Austin. Brr. This country-boy was not warm, nor was he happy. And, while it wasn't quite as cold on Tuesday (the day I left), it was close enough to make me yearn for Florida.

Folks in the airport at Fort Lauderdale gave me some funny looks when I walked through the terminal in long pants and a heavy leather jacket. I just smiled at them, knowing it had felt darn good that morning.

So, I'm home again—and warm again—but I already miss Texas. I can hardly wait for my next trip. Maybe I'll wait till Spring though.

To my good Texas friends, Sylvia Dickey Smith (WORLD OF HER OWN) and
Earl Staggs (MEMORY OF A MURDER), I say enjoy being Texans. But keep your warm clothes nearby.

Just sign me "A Texan at Heart Living in the Warm Paradise of South

Randy Rawls

Friday, November 25, 2011

“Mystery We Write” Virtual Holiday Book Tour Starts Today!

by Jean Henry Mead

The virtual tour kicks off today with 15 mystery writers taking part--and a 60 plus novel giveaway. Blog visitors who leave comments at the individual sites are eligible to win mystery novels from writers:  Marilyn Meredith, Earl Staggs, Tim Hallinan,  J. Michael Orenduff,  Anne K. Albert, Beth Anderson, Alice Duncan,  John Daniel, M.M. Gornell, Wendy Gager, Jackie King, Jinx Schwartz, Pat Browning, Ron Benrey and me.  

I’m giving away 14 Kindle or Nook books—one at each blog site--as well as three print copies at the conclusion of the tour. I would love to be eligible to win some of the great books offered by my fellow tour writers.
A lot of good writing advice and interviews are going to be featured, including book excerpts and photos of the writers’ latest books and work spaces. You can win one or more mystery novels by leaving a comment and email address at as many host sites as you have time to visit during the next two weeks. The tour ends on December 8.
My tour schedule is listed at:  "Mystery We Write" Holiday Tour along with links to all the other blog sites.  There's also a slideshow of all our books on the site, created by our tour coordinator Anne K. Albert.

I’m appearing at Marilyn Meredith’s blog site today to talk about the importance of novel settings, and Jackie King is featured on my blog site to tell us why she fell in love with “wordsmithing.”

I’m also signing books today at the Blue Heron bookstore in downtown Casper, Wyoming, from 1-3 p.m., so if you’re in the area, please stop in to say hello (if you can find a parking space on Black Friday).

We wish you the happiest of holidays and hope to see you along  the tour.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving and Everyday by Christine Duncan

It's Thanksgiving so I'm sure you have other things to do--family gatherings, football, and maybe even a little Christmas shopping. So I'm going to make this short.
I am thankful, have always been thankful to be an American. I believe in our country, our values and our freedoms. Freedom of speech is especially important to me as a writer, as I'm sure it must be to you.
I question whether we still have as much of that as we used to when I see what is happening to the Occupy movement. Whatever you think of the movement, you have to wonder about the police tactics. Just what is so threatening about a bunch of people saying, "We are the ninety-nine percent."
So today, while I am still proud to be an American, I am also worried. And I think as writers we all should be.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What Are You Reading....


It’s become the question of the new century. No longer are we reading only hard cover or paperback….now we can read also on our smartphones, computers, laptops, MP3 players, tablets and dedicated readers. Each has its benefits and drawbacks.

Some people still prefer the feel of a book in their hands. A friend was telling me the other day she loves the bindings, the smell of the paper and ink and it’s part of the comfortable feeling of reading for her. Others find holding a traditional book can become uncomfortable or even painful after a while. But they don’t want to give up the joy of reading.

The various electronic ways of reading have their benefits and drawbacks as well. A desktop keeps you sitting in your office chair. A laptop is more portable, but still heavy compared to an ereader. A tablet like an iPad or Playbook is very light and easy to hold, but more the size of a hardcover book. An MP3 player, iPod Touch or smartphone is super-portable, but some find the screen small for reading. All these devices have a lot of glare on their screens if you want to sit outside on a nice day to read.

The new eInk readers like the Kindle, Nook, Kobo and Sony Reader are light, portable, easy to tuck in a purse or commuter bag. They have dedicated bookstores and it’s quick and straightforward to download a new book. However, they’re not backlit, so low light presents a problem. However, there are lots of clip-on lights to get around that. Some people don’t want to have to buy another device to cart with them, so they’re not for everyone either.

Bottom line – find the device that works best for you and whether it’s traditional or the newest thing, keep on reading!!

Libby McKinmer
Romance with an edge
On Twitter, Facebook & GoodReads too

Sunday, November 20, 2011

What Makes A Book GREAT?

Here are some GREATS which, when combined, can make a book GREAT:

1. A GREAT cover - It should be not only eye catching and professional, but also consistent with the image expected for that genre.

2. GREAT back cover copy - Tell the reader about your book in a concise, engaging way, leaving hints and unanswered questions to engender curiosity.

3. A GREAT hook - The first few sentences in a book are terribly important. Since attention spans are so  short these days, get right into the action immediately. As you go along, you can sprinkle in bits and pieces of how your character got into the situation.

4. A GREAT title - Again, as in the cover, the title should be consistent with the image of the genre, but also something that stands out and intrigues the reader.

5. GREAT grammar, spelling, punctuation - Readers get turned off by grammatical errors. Don't rely completely on your word processor to tell you if you've made mistakes. I've found many grammatical errors in spell check, and also found some instances where spell check was correct. Get an editor or someone in the know to go over your manuscript. Authors tend to see what they want to see and overlook the obvious.

6. A GREAT story line - This is subjective, since readers have various tastes. However, there are certain guidelines an author can follow to help the cause;  such as, not making your character too stupid to live, not making the hero or heroine do unheroic things, not giving away solutions along the way, or even the ending, not introducing characters out of the blue just to resolve an issue, and not relying on coincidence. Other than that, I can't say what kind of story anyone should write. That has to come from an author's heart. Remember, though, if you want to follow a current trend, it would help if you're a fast writer, since trends change.

7. GREAT characters - An author needs to get the readers into the characters' heads, hinting through internal dialogue or body language how the characters feel, so the readers can bond with them. It helps to give the heroes and heroines not only some likeable characteristics, but also a few foibles, because no one's perfect. Also, offer a reason or two why or how the villain became twisted. Again, no one's all bad or all good.

8. GREAT dialogue - Dialogue makes a book sparkle. Long, rambling narratives can turn off a reader. Long, rambling dialogue can also. Have the characters say what they need to say to get the plot moving along, yet have them say it in their own way. A teenager should not talk like a Baby Boomer.

9. GREAT description - Readers like to use their imagination, but it doesn't hurt to help them along some. Intersperse various descriptions of physical description, body language, clothes, places, time, weather elements, so the reader doesn't founder along. Imagination can only go so far.

I hope these GREATS will help make your book GREAT!

Can you think of any I've missed? Or, can you think of a book where you were impressed by any of the GREATS I've mentioned?

Morgan Mandel

Morgan Mandel is a past president of Chicago-North RWA,past library liaison for Midwest MWA, belongs to EPIC, and Sisters in Crime.
Find her on Facebook at
Coming soon is her thriller, Forever Young:Blessing or Curse. You can find her romantic suspense,Killer Career,and romantic comedy, Girl of My Dreams, on Kindle and Smashwords for 99 cents each.Two Wrongs will soon follow.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Candles Can Bring Illumination

By the time my day comes around again to blog in this spot I'll have passed the point where I turn 86. It's not a particularly significant anniversary, like 75 or 100, but the year leading up to it has made me wonder about this condition called aging. I have a brother two years older who has complained for years that he started falling apart when he reached 80.

At my annual physicals, the doctor always plunks his stethoscope here and there, thumps around on my knees and elbows, and says I don't see anything wrong with you. The lab lady drains a bunch of test tubes full of blood, and the results show I'm normal.

But this year I've begun to wonder. My ophthalmologist diagnosed me with AMD in my right eye, Age-related Macular Degeneration, a few years ago. She put me on some high-powered vitamin pills, and I've had no problem since. Except for cataracts. I don't see well driving at night. Now she has me scheduled for cataract surgery. But she says I might get back to where I don't need glasses to read. Maybe no more bifocals.

Then there's my mouth. Early in the summer, I had my four lower front teeth pulled and a bridge put in. Of course, I had the same thing done with the upper four when I was a teenager, so that's no big deal.

I walk two miles most days at the mall. Whenever I get a pain in a knee or a twinge in a hip, I think about all my acquaintances who've had knee or hip replacements. But it hasn't slowed my 15-minute-per-mile pace, so I don't worry about it.

I guess as long as my musty old brain can continue creating mysteries I shouldn't complain. And I have lots of them stirring around waiting for my fingers to get them on paper. Speaking of fingers...

Chester Campbell
Visit me at Mystery Mania

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Orphaned Story

Recently I republished a story I had high hopes for, but which didn't go far. Home Wreckers was published in Nefarious-Tales of Mystery webzine in 1999. Nefarious looked like a winner when it appeared. Not only did it publish stories, it had true crime features, movie trailers and such. Home Wreckers appeared in the inaugural edition.

The Nefarious webzine had an up and down history. You couldn't count on it being up, or if it was up, you couldn't count on new stories. As a result few people got to read Home Wreckers and the story ended up as something of an orphan.

Home Wreckers was an early attempt at hard boiled and noir. Everybody in the story does something wrong--which made it a lot of fun to write. Even after a dozen years, I think it still holds up well.

I took the title of the story from an article in Sports Illustrated about the Purdue Women's basketball team beating the Lady Vols on their home court. In my story, "home wreckers" has two meanings, the SI meaning of winning on the opponent's home court and the more common one of adultery. Adultery is the theme of the story and the consequence is murder.

When I prepared the story for republication, I discovered two versions on my computer, the original version and a bowdlerized one. The bowdlerized version had all the F words changed. I don't remember which version Nefarious published, but I decided to leave the F-bombs in this version. I didn't use it a lot in the story, but this story opens with a woman learning that the wife of the man in bed with her has been murdered and the f-word seemed highly appropriate.

I think the cover captured the theme perfectly (although the strategic placement of the title is a form of bowdlerization.) You can get this story at Smashwords and Kindle. If you purchase from Smashwords, use this coupon code at checkout to get a free copy in any format--PC44Q.

Mark Troy
Hawaiian Eye Blog

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Reporting on my cruise and something I found out that I found hard to believe.

Hubby and I went on the ill-fated mystery cruise. I say ill-fated because it was scheduled for last year and had a large group signed up. It would be like a conference with panels and speakers, open to the public and a last day meet the author. The week before we were supposed to go, the ship we were going on caught fire at sea and had to be towed in. Big news--the cruisers were without fresh food, hot water, and electricity.

There was no way the ship could be fixed in time for our cruise so it was cancelled. The mystery cruise was re-scheduled for this year, most of the people signed up again. The price was definitely right. About half way into the year one person decided not to go and said the cruise was cancelled. It wasn't, but that was enough for many to back-out and there were no longer enough people for our events to be listed in the ship's daily calendar.

The price was really good and hubby and I decided to go anyway as did a few others. We had about 10 mystery authors, four members of a group called Citizens Against Homicide, and a some folks just taking advantage of the good price for the cruise. We did get together three times. Once to get to know who we all were, and one of the authors gave a presentation on short story writing.

The Citizens Against Homicide gave a two hour presentation another day. They help people who have lost someone to homicide. I'll write more about the group at another time.

The unbelievable came about when I gave a presentation about blog tours. I had this idea in my head that we mystery authors on the cruise ought to plan a blog tour. I began talking about blogging and a hand went up. No names, but this was an author I'd never met, but I had heard her name. This was the question, "What on earth is a blog?"

I thought she was kidding. She wasn't. And she wasn't alone, except for one other author, none of them not only didn't blog, they'd never heard of blogging, had no clue what I was talking about. I explained along with the help of the other author who did blog. Unfortunately, this particular day the seas were rough and it was impossible to stand up to talk. I did my best from a chair. Finally I offered to send everyone hand-outs I've done for other groups on blogging and blog tours. The day after I got home, I did just that. I hope everyone got them--but I haven't heard a word back from anyone.

So, for those of us who blog regularly, this was a shocking surprise to me.

While I was gone, I had a new blog posting everyday--they were writing tips I'd posted at previous times, but at least I had something new everyday for those who follow my blog.

Is anyone as surprised by this as I am?


Friday, November 11, 2011

Mercury's Rise

by Jean Henry Mead

Mercury’s Rise is the best historical mystery I’ve read this year. Set in the early 1880s in Manatou, Colorado, it’s the fourth novel in Ann Parker’s Silver Rush series; featuring Inez Stannert, whose husband Mark disappeared before the first novel, leaving her with a baby as well as a saloon to run.

In Mercury’s Rise, Inez travels by stagecoach to Manitou, a health resort, to meet her sister, who’s been caring for Inez’s son. When one of the passengers, with his family aboard, dies during the trip after drinking his wife’s tonic, Inez is determined to discover who and what killed him. And why. More bodies turn up at the health resort, including a man attempting to uncover the truth about his brother’s death.

To complicate matters, her husband returns while she’s in the process of divorcing him, having fallen in love with another man in Mark's absence. Against her better judgment, she sends her husband a telegram to aid in the investigation when she fears for her sister’s life.

Suave and charming, he arrives on the next train and attempts to woo her back to their marriage. But his reason for disappearing for more than a year doesn’t set well with Inez and she holds him at arm’s length.

The plot is cleverly woven and beautifully written, leaving the reader wanting more. The author lives in San Francisco and makes occasional trips to Colorado, but her research is impeccable. This is one historical mystery that I highly recommend.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Grammar Rant by Christine Duncan

First off, let me say that I do not believe that I am the person to consult when you have a grammar problem. I don't even like reading grammar posts; they tend to read holier than thou. Yet, I had thought that by now that most writers knew that they had to edit their own writing-correcting their own grammar, making things clear and concise. Unfortunately, lately I keep reading things that are clearly unedited.
Here are a couple of the mistakes that I keep seeing over and over again, even with accomplished writers:

There/They're and Their

If it has to do with place, or location, if it can be replaced with the word here add a T and make there. Example: Put it here. Put it there.
If it can be replaced with the phrase, they are, take out the a and replace it with an apostrophe, and close the gap between the words to make one word-they're.
Example: They are too good to be true. They're too good to be true.
If it has to do with ownership, think of the word, heir. Add a T for their.

One of my English teachers long ago put this one into perspective for me. She said that we don't expect to add an apostrophe to the possessive of any of the other first, second or third persons so why would it be different? Think about this--his, hers, yours, mine, ours; so in keeping with all of that, you have its as the possessive. No apostrophe. (Yes, that is a sentence fragment. I believe in breaking the rules for emphasis.) An example might be: the dog has its own bed.
Whereas, if you can replace the word in your mind with the phrase, it is, then you need the apostrophe. Example: It is going to be a good party. It's going to be a good party.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Who's Afraid of the Big, Bad Wolf?

All writers have a different style – some are plotters, some write by the seats of their pants, some work with a combo of the above or their very own construct. It doesn’t matter how the author creates, but what the author creates – and what the writer creates is a story filled with characters we root for and against.

There is a great deal of information available about heroes – alpha or beta, romantic or hard-boiled. Is he tall, athletic and handsome, or do the ladies adore his geekiness?

Our favorite heroines are generally smart, funny, and accomplished. But then again, there are the Stephanie Plums of the world, too! She’s smart, she’s funny, she’s klutzy!

But villains – where do the villains come from? Are they archetypes, constructs from our days of hearing fairy tales and myths? Are they the product of nightmares or do we pick our boss’ least appealing characteristics and make them bigger than life? Do we build him or her from people we read or hear about in the news? In documentaries? Or are they only a product of the writer's fertile imagination?

As far back as man has created, the villain has been a crucial component of the storyteller’s craft. The villain – or villainess, as the case may be – creates a great deal of stress and angst for our lovely hero and heroine. The villain will thwart them at every turn, for a while, and then their brilliance, bravery and moxie will shine as the villain is conquered.

What was our bad guy’s fatal flaw – hubris, stupidity, inexperience? Whatever it is, it brings him down in the end.

And isn’t that what we all want – to see justice done, the villain stopped and our hero or heroine win the day?

Who is your favorite fictional villain and why?

Libby McKinmer
Romance with an edge
Find me on Facebook, Twitter & Goodreads

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Lumps Were Worth It

I've always had the itch to write. Over the years, I started several books, but each of them petered out after a couple of chapters. That was pre-desktop and laptop computers, and the stubby pencil routine was too tough. Yet, the itch never quit stinging. Then in the mid-90's, with a desktop computer at my disposal, I started another story. This time, I stuck with it and about 130,000 words later, I wrote THE END, then sat back and waited for the riches to roll in. NOT! One of the worst books ever written.
Undaunted, I began a sequel and plowed through to about a 100,000 word BAD book. Not as badly written as my first one, but still bad. Then, a revelation settled around my ears. I read all the time, never went anywhere without a book. Why not learn from what I read?

While my original plan was a three-book series with Bad One and Bad Two, I gave up the idea and decided to write a first person, private investigator story. For a year, I concentrated my reading on such books, absorbing as much as I could from the techniques of many successful authors. The first result of my learn-by-reading program was JAKE'S BURN, an Ace Edwards, Dallas PI, mystery. It wasn't a breakout novel, but I had learned enough to write something readable. JAKE'S was small-published and received good reviews.

Over the next years, as I continued to learn-by-reading, five more books in the Ace Edwards series were small-published. After book six, I decided to move away from Ace and his cast of characters.
Since I now live in South Florida, I invented a female PI. But I've read so many female leads who were little more than men in skirts, I knew I didn't want to write one of those. Or she was a super women who could whip a congress of gorillas while having her nails done—not for me. Or, she was some frail young thing, but always managed to win in the end—nope. With the help of some wonderful ladies in my critique group, I wrote a Beth Bowman, female PI, mystery set in South Florida. I believe Beth can be accepted as a real woman. She's soft when she needs to be and hard as nails when the situation calls for it. I call the book DEATH BY DIAMONDS. When it was finished (and edited and re-finished and edited some more and re-re-finished, etc.), I began to shop it. I queried Terri Bishchoff at Midnight Ink, who asked for the manuscript.
Time passed, and I moved on to another book. THORNS ON ROSES featuring Tom Jeffries, a S FL PI, was small-published in August by L&L Dreamspell, a couple of really nice people who love books. It's another shift in my writing—an avenger story. Tom Jeffries is a hard-edged man with the experience to back him up.

At SleuthFest during the first weekend in March 2011, I was lucky enough to meet Terri, and she told me she liked Beth's story and my writing. I was overjoyed and came home waiting for the acceptance email to arrive. Time dragged on and on and . . . Just when I was ready to give up the idea of being published by Midnight Ink, a company I have the utmost respect for, lightning struck. Terri offered me a two-book contract for Beth.

On, November 1, I signed the contract and mailed it to Midnight Ink via Overnight Express. As I sit and look back over the fifteen years or so of my writing education, I can truthfully say, the lumps were worth it. Without all of those knocks on the head, and my learn-by-reading program, and the wonderful small presses who were willing to publish me, I would not have the contract. I'm proud, yes. But I also realize how lucky I am. There are so many talented writers who are never given the opportunity I have. Now I just have to hope I live up to Terri's and Midnight Ink's confidence in me.

And, of course, when the books are published, I hope they will be loved by readers across the country and, perhaps, in foreign countries.

Randy Rawls

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Mystery of the Missing Blank

Today, I thought we'd try a fun exercise inspired by my losing something this morning. I'll give you my instance, and you can provide yours, real or fictional.

The Mystery of the Missing Password -

Being semi-organized, I have trouble finding items at home, sometimes even important ones. This morning I had to remember where I'd put a new password I'd made up last month. Of course, I couldn't remember the handy, safe spot where I'd put it. Fortunately for me, the site was one where I could click and say I'd forgotten and after a few security questions, I could make up a new one.

If a were writing The Mystery of the Missing Password, I'd specify the password could not be changed if forgotten. Not remembering that password would carry enormous consequences, perhaps over life and death of the main character, or worse, a country or the world.

Your Turn -

In the comment section, fill in your Mystery of the Missing Blank and provide a brief description. It could be about a novel or part of a novel which could be written, has already been written, or maybe you'd like to just provide a real life mystery not writing related.

For romantic suspense, try Killer Career. Only
99 cents on Kindle and Smashwords. Also in
print for $13.95.Coming soon see
Forever Young-Blessing or Curse,
plus the re-release of Morgan's backlist romantic
comedy, Girl of My Dreams,
and Chicago based mystery, Two Wrongs.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Including special days in your mysteries

Honoring a family's dead at
Dia de los Muertos, Mesilla, NM
Sometimes an event of regional interest can provide a great locale for your fiction. In the fall there are lots of county and state fairs, for example. We all just had Halloween, of course, but that's followed on November 1 by All Saints Day. In Mexico and in much of the Southwest, that's known as Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. The tone is much different from Halloween, as people honor deceased members of their families. It's mixed, though. In the plaza in downtown Mesilla, New Mexico, vendors will sell sugar-coated skulls and artwork depicting skeletons, almost with a feeling of thumbing our noses at death. But other people will display pictures of their deceased loved ones, with touching mementos from their lives. Children do participate, but it's not specifically for them at all. Many adults take the day quite seriously.

What events do you know about that can add life and color to your mysteries?

Sugar skull made for Dia de los Muertos
Bob Sanchez is the author of three novels. Check them all out at

Friday, November 4, 2011

Mysterious Weather

Here it is the first week in November and leaves on the oak tree outside my window are still in the process of shifting from green to red. At the moment they're about half-and-half. Normally, they would have been fully red by now. This year's weather has been weird from the get-go. Snow, rain, floods, searing heat, we've had it all in spades. The message is if you want to use weather in a mystery novel, don't worry about it being unbelievable. Anything can happen.

I've used hurricanes to good effect. Also thunderstorms, snows, and torrential rains. Scorching summertime heat as well. William Kent Krueger used a derecho in his latest book, The Northwest Angle. It's a violent, widespread straight-line windstorm accompanied by showers or thunderstorms. I'd never heard of it before, but he made it very believable.

One of the most violent weather phenomena is the tornado. I don't recall ever reading about a tornado in a mystery. They should provide excellent fodder. They can turn a house into kindling and leave its contents spread all over the place. They can kill and maim. What if one of the bodies found in the shambles of a house had a bullet wound? Ah, the plot thickens.

I know what tornadoes can do. I was in one that hit East Nashville back on March 14, 1933. I still remember the day like it was last week. A seven-year-old at the time, I remember how still the air seemed that afternoon on the schoolyard. The temperature had risen to an unseasonable 80 degrees. Early that evening the old Atwater Kent radio on the living room table began to crackle with static, indicating lightning in the area. Chandu the Magician became so difficult to hear that we turned the radio off.

Hail began to batter the roof and around 7:30 p.m., the lights went out and a roaring wind came up. It sounded like a locomotive racing by in the street. Bricks began to fall down the chimney into the fireplace, and my dad herded us into the basement. It was over in minutes but the rain came down in torrents. We made our way to my aunt's house several blocks away that hadn't been damaged.

Fifteen people were killed that night. We were lucky, living in a one-story house between two-story houses, so our damage was mostly to the roofing and chimneys. A large house two blocks away was demolished, injuring a whole family. Down the street, one house had columns blown out on the porch, allowing the roof to swing down and block the front door and windows. At a friend's house, a post had blown through a wall and just missed a baby grand piano. An iron pipe sticking up above a fence in the alley behind us had been bent 90 degrees. All sorts of strange things had happened.

Freaks of the 1933 Nashville Tornado. A. A piece of plank driven through a two-and-a-half-inch limb of a Mississippi Hackberry tree. B. A two-by-four driven through a door panel without leaving splinters. C. Weatherboarding pierced by a cornstalk.

Do you know of any mysteries involving tornadoes?

Chester Campbell
Visit me at Mystery Mania

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


It's Halloween time. Time for something creepy. I'm sure everyone has a creepy tale in their experience, so here's mine. I haven't written about this before. If it ever appears in a novel, it will be highly embellished. What follows here are the bare facts without embellishment.

When we bought the home we currently live in, our real estate agent disclosed that a tragedy had occurred there. A previous owner, prior to the owners from whom we bought, had committed suicide. The knowledge didn't deter us from buying the house. We did not believe the house was infected with bad juju. If there was such a thing, it had not affected the family from whom we were buying. How long does the juju stay? Does it skip owners? It all seemed pretty silly. So we went ahead with the purchase and didn't inquire into the circumstances.

The first indication we had of what had happened was when we hired a steam cleaning service to clean our carpets. The technician said, "I remember this house. I cleaned it after the suicide."

The victim had slit his wrists so there was a lot of blood to clean up.

The creepy part was the shadow. We'd been in the house about a year when we became aware of a shadow on the bedroom wall that never seemed to go away. It was like a smudge that wouldn't wash off. In fact, it seemed to grow and take on more definition over time. I don't know if it actually became more distinct or if our eyes simply became more attuned to it, but eventually my son asked about the heart on the wall. Sure enough, we looked at it closely and were able to distinguish a crude heart followed by a quite distinct letter "U." Both were preceded by a messy spot that we came to realize was the letter "I."

"I heart U." The victim's final message written on the wall in his own blood.

We have since redecorated that room twice and covered the wall with several coats of paint, so the message is no longer visible. If and when I use the incident in a story, you can bet that no coat of paint will keep that message hidden. It will probably reveal itself in smoke and flame like the writing on the ark of the covenant box in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Do you have any creepy stories in your house?

Mark Troy
Hawaiian Eye Blog

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

For All My Good Intentions, I'm Having Trouble Finding Time

"Time for what?" you ask.

"My writing," is my answer. And I'm sure everyone who read my last post about what it takes to be a writer is going to say, "You're a good one to talk."

When this post appears I'll be out of town--on a cruise with hubby celebrating our anniversary. Oh, I'm sure I'll be doing some promotion like handing out my business cards--especially to anyone with a Kindle. I think I'll probably stick in a couple of my latest books too, just in case.

What's been keeping me busy lately is the promotion for Bears With Us. I've been on a month long blog tour and anyone who has done one knows that you need to promote a new blog each day and go back and visit it periodically to see who has commented and to comment back or answer any questions. In my case, I've had to go back and check on earlier ones, because whoever left comments on the most blogs will get to have their name used for a character in a book.

I've also had a couple of writing jobs that bring in money which took quite a bit of my time. And yes, I have to do them to pay for my promotion. I had two in-person events--one at a book store and of course two days with a booth at the Apple Festival. Though I love to do things where I can actually meet the readers in person, they are tiring.

I'm also doing the rewrites on a different book from the one I'm writing. I'm reading a chapter a week to my writers group and they are great critiquers and come up with some great ideas. The day I do those rewrites, I can't work on the book I'm in the middle of writing. Both have very different voices--and I have to think a bit to switch from one to the other.

I'll get it done, though, I always do.

What are the major challenges to your writing?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Friday, October 28, 2011

Ten Things You Should Never Include in a Crime Novel

by Jean Henry Mead

I discovered an article in my files written by Andrea Campbell for The Writer magazine. It’s titled “10 Things Police Wish [Crime Writers would] Omit" and I’m going to paraphrase here so as not to plagiarize:

1. Don’t have your cops eating donuts. Most eat salads while on duty and they drink bottled water. They also work out to stay in shape, so have them at least mention visiting a gym.

2. Policemen and veteran crime writers hate over-dramatization and not many real life detectives fight over a case. Crime writer Daryl W. Clemens is critical of plots such as the film, “Bloodwork,” where cops have a tug of war over a case that’s taken place on their jurisdiction border. They already have more work than they can handle.

3. Revolver silencers are another point of contention, according to crime writer Barbara D’Amato. She says, “Since the rotating cylinder is not closed, you can’t baffle the gases” or muffle the sound.

4. Alcoholic policeman have been overdone and is another sore point for the police department. Former police officer and crime writer Robin Burcell wonders why so many fellow writers inject alcoholism into their plots.

5. Lone female detectives who search isolated areas without calling for backup is extremely foolhardy, according to writer Susan McBride. Make sure your woman detective alerts her partner or dispatcher of her plans and whereabouts.

6. Never tell a suspect to “Drop it, Pal,” because the gun could discharge when it’s dropped or tossed. Have the suspect place it on the ground and back away.

7. Never have police officers pointing their guns skyward, or what is referred to as “aiming at Jesus.” Police are trained to point a gun out and down, and directly ahead in preparation to discharge the weapon. Also, never have an officer jack a round into the gun’s chamber before entering a building. They always keep a round chambered, even in their holsters.

8. Don’t shatter a windshield. When hit by a bullet, there will be a small hole and spider web effect, even when hit several times.

9. Suspects are no longer called “perps,” unless your police department is located in New York, California, or a few other heavily populated areas. The term isn’t generally used anymore.

10. Police officers are burdened with lots of paperwork so made sure your cop does his or her share. According to Campbell, there’s “paperwork related to the Miranda warning before an interrogation; paperwork that police turn over to medical personnel at a hospital before interviewing a crime victim; and still more paperwork for requisitions and reports."

Readers of crime fiction are pretty savvy about police procedure. So do your research and don't depend on what you've seen in films and on TV. Sloppy research may result in readers passing up your next release in favor of writers who have done their homework.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Writing Jumpstart by Christine Duncan

I've been thinking a lot lately about writing jump starts. This time of year tends to throw me a curve ball. I get so busy that writing just...doesn't happen. And yet time after time, the thing that has always gotten me writing again--besides having a critique group that expects something out of me--is just hard to believe in this age of technology.

Because you see, what gets me started writing, when I'm not sure how to write myself out of a scene or where to even go in a story, is simply, to sit down with a pad of paper and a pen and write. It doesn't work to sit at a computer. I can always do something else on the computer even if it's just my bank reconciliation. I can't dictate the story to a microphone. And I can't tell you how often, I can't even articulate to myself where I thought the story should go. But somehow when I sit down with a pad of paper and a pen, the words start to flow.

Turns out, I may have been on to something. I read an article the other day quoting Georgetown University psychiatrist, Norman E. Rosenthal, M.D. the author of Transcendence. Dr. Rosenthal advises the stressed out among us (and believe me, when I can't write, I'm stressed) to "Stop what you're doing and scribble anything that comes to mind. Writing--a left brain activity--can turn off negative emotions occurring in the right side of your brain."

Huh! Take that Techies! I'm not old-fashioned, I'm just soothing my inner self! And productively too!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

What's Your Forecast?

It’s the time of year when I hate -- having to face the cold. I’m not one of those snow bunnies who can hardly wait for the snow…except for the extra, guilt-free reading time it gives me! Really, who can feel too bad about curling up inside when the temp dips below freezing and the wind is blowing? It’s the perfect time to try out some new authors. And I’m actively looking for some writers I’d like to spend time with this winter. A friend has recommended David Rosenfelt – I like dog mysteries, so will give him a read.

I’m also looking at some horse mysteries. I love the Carolyn Banks’ dressage-themed horse mysteries and have read Sara Gruen’s Riding Lessons and enjoyed it as well. So I’m picking up more Sara Gruen, along with Horseplay: A Novel by Judy Reene Singer.

I’m going to explore some more cozy mysteries – I’ve been finding I really like them, too…and for some reason the cooking and tea ones are the ones I’m drawn to. So, I’m looking for authors in that genre as well. Joanne Fluke is one writer I’ve enjoyed trying – she writes very visually and you can almost smell the cookies baking. Laura Childs is another must-read and I love how she makes her characters really feel like friends. Can hardly wait for a new title to come out.

My Kindle has titles by authors I’ve always enjoyed reading and I know I can count on for a good story! I know I’ll enjoy a cold, rainy afternoon defeating the bad guys and finding the guilty parties with these titles, and that’s always fun.

But it’s also very rewarding to find a favorite new author…so, go ahead, load up your ereader or your shopping cart with some “sure-to-please” or some “new-to-me” authors. That way, you don’t have to dread the weather forecast.

Libby McKinmer
Romance with an edge
Also on Facebook, Twitter & Good Reads

Sunday, October 23, 2011


by Earl Staggs

My wife and I don’t care for many of the new TV shows. Vampires? No thanks. Animated characters? Forget it. Lewd, crude, bathroom humor comedy? Yuck. More gorgeous cops with bikini-worthy and chiseled ab bodies? Yawn.

Instead, we watch and enjoy a lot of true crime documentary shows. We have plenty to choose from. There’s Dateline, 48 Hours Mystery, Cold Case Files, Snapped and more. There’s a great satisfaction in seeing real cops track down real criminals in the real world. My favorites are when a cold case squad pulls out a case that may be decades old and solves it.

We saw a good one this weekend. In 1985, a young mother was raped and brutally stabbed to death in her home. To make it worse, two of her three young daughters were also slaughtered. The killer left a toddler alive, probably because she was too young to identify him. The cops were at a loss. They found no evidence to identify the killer.

Fortunately, a passerby got a look at the killer leaving the house and provided a sketch artist with a good likeness. Neighbors reported seeing a strange car in the neighborhood that night. They found a suspect who closely resembled the sketch and drove a similar car. The man, a young Army sergeant, had been to the house two days before to adopt the family dog. The man was arrested, convicted, and sentenced to death.

Two years later, his lawyers were successful in getting a second trial. This time, he was found not guilty due to lack of physical evidence. He went back to the Army and enjoyed a spotless and distinguished career thereafter. The case went cold, filed away in a box on a shelf.

Fast forward twenty-five years. Cold case detectives pulled out the box and found a vaginal swab from the murdered woman. DNA testing was not available or reliable enough in 1985, but when they had it checked this time, they identified the killer.

Guess who. Yes, it was the Army sergeant who had been convicted in a first trial, then cleared in a second trial twenty years earlier.

But could he be tried again for the murder? What about that double jeopardy thing? You’re right. He could not be tried again in criminal court for the same murder. I don’t agree with that law, but I’m not here to rant again about how “The Law” sometimes interferes with justice being served.

Because that’s not the end of the story.

Here’s the interesting part. The man had retired from the Army by then, but the Army stepped in and reinstated him. That made him subject to court-martial. He was tried and convicted of the triple homicide by a military court and sentenced to death.

It took twenty-five years for this man to be made to pay for what he did. In spite of that, you have to feel good about a story like this. I do.

If only I could only come up with a plot this good for my next novel.