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.

Friday, October 21, 2011

What's in a Name?

This piece could be called A Writer's Warning or The Great Awakening. Maybe it just goes back to the old adage that the memory is the first thing to go. The realization of what had happened came yesterday when I was answering questions for an interview tied in with tomorrow's launch of my second Sid Chance novel, The Good, The Bad and The Murderous. I wanted to say something about the character Jaz LeMieux's father and needed to look it up in the first book of the series, The Surest Poison. I keep all my book files in the computer to make it easy to check back on something I wrote earlier.

But first, a little background on Jaz, or to be formal, Jasmine LeMieux. Her father, a French Canadian, came to Nashville after the Korean War and helped start what became a nationwide chain of truck stops, or travel stores, along the interstates. Her mother, an aristocratic Southern belle, disowned her when she dropped out of college and joined the Air Force, where she was assigned to the Security Police. After completing her hitch, she took to the ring and became a champion woman boxer. Since it didn't pay enough to live on, she joined the Metro Nashville Police Department to pay her bills.

On her mother's death, Jaz got back in good graces with her father, returned to school and got her MBA. She inherited controlling interest in the business on her father's death. She now serves as chairman of the board, with no responsibility for day-to-day operations. That gives her time to indulge her interest in law enforcement as Sid's associate on difficult cases.

Which brings us to the business at hand. I decided to look up information on the start of Jaques LeMieux's business by doing a search on the name I had used numerous times  in writing The Good, The Bad and The Murderous. When I entered  "Welcome Home Stores" in the Word search box and clicked on Find Next, I got a message saying the term had not been found in The Surest Poison file.

I opened the file for the new book and did the same search. Welcome Home appeared fifteen times. I went back to The Surest Poison and checked out a chapter I knew would include the business name. And there it was:

Welcome Traveler Stores.

When I did the search on that name, it came up fourteen times. Then I recalled originally using Welcome Home Stores in the first book but changing it to Welcome Traveler before sending it to the editor. That was back in 2008. I wrote the fifth Greg McKenzie mystery before starting on the second Sid Chance. I had forgotten about changing the company's name, thus used the original.

Let that be a warning. If you have a year or so delay before writing the same characters again, read the previous book before you start. It can save a lot of embarrassment. I guess I'll just sit back and wait for somebody to write and ask, "What happened to Welcome Traveler Stores?" Maybe I'll say they had a company reorganization and decided to change the name. Or maybe I'll just admit I goofed.

Chester Campbell
Visit me at Mystery Mania.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Premise by Mark Troy

Alexandra Sokoloff is a writer whose blog I have followed for quite a while. She is a screenwriter and novelist. Her first novel, The Harrowing, a supernatural thriller, was nominated for both the Bram Stoker and the Anthony awards. I had the delightful experience of meeting her at Bouchercon. She is charming and gracious and willing to share her writing expertise with anyone, even (maybe especially), unknown writers. Her blog is full of great writing tips. Now she has put those tips into an ebook, available on Kindle. The book is Screenwriting Tips for Authors (And Screenwriters.)

Sokoloff credits her rapid success as a novelist to her experience as a screenwriter. She says,
While every book sale and subsequent career has a lot to do with luck and timing, I also know that my quick representation and sale had a lot to do with the fact that, even though I was a first-time novelist, I had already written dozens of screenplays, some of which were original scripts that sold to various studios, some of which were novel adaptations I'd done on assignment. In other words, even though I was brand new to publishing, I'd been getting paid to tell stories for years.
The essence of a screenplay is the story. It is the skeleton, stripped of all the other elements. By emulating screenwriting, novelists can elevate their novels from good to blockbuster. That is Sokoloff's premise.

A premise to a novel or screenplay is an easily understandable sentence that tells what the story is about. It should give the sense of the entire story including the protagonist and antagonist, the setting, conflict and tone.

To be a blockbuster, however, a novel needs not just a premise, but a high concept. If the majority of people who hear about the story want to read it, that's high concept. Sokoloff says you know you have high concept when people say, "Wow, I wish I'd thought of that!"

The test of a great premise or a high concept, then, is the reaction of people who hear it. It's not something that can be easily defined, but must be experienced.

So here's the first practical tip I learned from Sokoloff's book. She says to make a commitment to come up with three premises a week and share them with friends. That last part might come as a shock to many novel writers who prefer to follow the Chinese law of secrecy. (Why it's called that, I don't know.) The "law" is intended for creative folks and basically says: Keep your mouth shut as tight as possible. Why? Because, so the thinking goes, anything we leak loses strength with us. Some of the energy we feel for the story drains from us when we speak it.

Sokoloff, on the other hand, is saying we get energy from the reactions of other people. Maybe not to all the ideas, maybe to one in a hundred, but that hundredth could be our blockbuster. And that premise is the one to write. I have to say that Sokoloff is not the first person who has suggested sharing three premises a week with friends. The other person who suggested it to me is also a screenwriter. So maybe there is something novelists can learn from screenwriters. I'm going to try it.

Now for something different. On my last post, I offered a free short story. This time, I'm offering another one. The story is Teed Off. To download it, go to When you go to check out, enter the coupon code, BH39R.

Mark Troy
Hawaiian Eye Blog

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Do You Really Want to be a Writer?

I have good friends who are really good writers, but I'm not sure that they really want to be writers.

Oh, yes, they'd like to be published and they ask me lots of question about all sorts of things. But they only produce a few pages at a time because they are too busy with work, going to club meetings, having dinner out with friends, lunch with lady friends, watching movies, chatting on the phone, and I could go on and on.

Yes I do some of those things too--right now I'm not working, but when I did I still wrote on a regular basis, at least five days a week. I no longer belong to social or service clubs--gave them up years ago as I did my other hobbies because there wasn't enough time in the day to do everything. And I seldom use the phone to just chat--except with my sis and my kids.

I love movies. Hubby and I try to go a couple of times a month. We don't really have much of a social life except when we're attending mystery cons or on a trip for some sort for promotion. What's happened, is some of my best friends are now people I've met while on the road, writers and readers.

Ah yes, and then there's promotion. I've heard everything from I don't think I can put that much time into promoting. I don't say it out loud, but my thought is then you might as well forget about the writing. If you get published you will have to promote. Whether you put the time in by speaking or teaching at writers groups, service organizations, schools, libraries or bookstores or stick to online promotion, it all takes time. If you want people to know about your books and want to buy them, you have to get the word out.

Right now I'm on a blog tour for Bears With Us so when I first get up in the morning I spend time promoting my stop for the day on my listserves, Facebook and Twitter. In November, I'll be involved with another blog tour, this time with other mystery writers and that will take some time.

Oh and I'm also taking the first week in November off to go on a cruise. We're celebrating our 60th wedding anniversary on what once was supposed to be a mystery cruise. Only a remnant of us are left, but I suspect we'll spend some time sharing ideas and I definitely plan to hand my card out to anyone I see reading a Kindle--and anyone else who might be interested. I'll probably tuck a few books in my luggage too, just in case someone is in need of something to read.

Despite all that, I write nearly every day. The only day I don't is Sunday, though I still might do a bit of promoting. Hubby and I both teach Sunday School--he the oldest people at church, I have the 3-6th graders. After church we always go out to lunch.

My calendar for 2012 is already starting to fill up because I'll have another book sometime after the first of the year.

My point is if you really want to be a writer, you focus on your writing.


Monday, October 17, 2011

Stirring Up Dust

This morning I spent some time rearranging my closet for Fall. In the process I moved a bunch of tote bags arround (yes I'm as addicted to them as I am to purses). I also pulled out almost all my summer clothes and stored them in contianers, except for a few to see me through Indian Summer.

So, I moved a lot of stuff around, and the end result looked great. I judge that from the fact I could close the closet door easily without it catching on any inside items, and now I have my Fall clothes within easy reach.

I was pretty pleased with myself until my nose started running and I began to sneeze. Obviously, I'd stirred up dust in the process. Still it was a worthy cause, and the dust will eventually settle and clear.

The dust reminded me of the book industry. A lot of authors are stirring up dust by rejecting traditional publishers and striking out on their own. Many are making it big. They're the ones who take the time and energy to do it right.

Their efforts are looked on with alarm and even scorn by some traditional publishers and their authors, who are scrambling to retain their supremacy.

Once the dust settles and clears, I believe the publishing industry will look different, yet in better shape, kind of like my closet.

Morgan Mandel

Killer Career is 99 cents on
Kindle and Smashwords, and is
also in print.

Forever Young-Blessing or Curse
is coming soon to Kindle and
Smashwords, also the
re-release of Two Wrongs.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Should locations be real?

As a fan of Ed McBain's 87th Precinct novels, I always wondered about the locale he called Isola, which turns out be the rough equivalent of Manhattan. Why wouldn't he just call it Manhattan and be done with it? He created a generic urban setting that never had to be true to reality, so he had the freedom to make that city fit his story needs.

This summer I met a writer who lives in England but grew up my current home of Las Cruces, New Mexico. She hated it, and her recent novel makes that clear. But she gave the town a different name, probably to spare  people's feelings. All of the neighboring towns, though, kept their real names.

On the other hand, a friend wrote a novel set in Lowell, Massachusetts, and he used that name. One reader sent him a letter saying that the story was okay, but didn't he realize that his hero couldn't turn left on Dutton Street because it's one way? I also set a couple of novels in Lowell and kept worrying that someone would fault my descriptions. In my first novel, a javelina travels from near Tucson to the Grand Canyon without explanation, which is hundreds of miles. No reader questioned that, but then the whole story was meant to be nutty anyway.

Is it safer to create their own fictional towns? What do other writers do? Should your locations be real ones?

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Arranger

A book review by Jean Henry Mead

L.J. Sellers’ latest offering, The Arranger, will not only keep you turning pages, it will make you wonder about your own future.

Her protagonist, Lara Evans, takes part in “The Gauntlet,” a serious reality game watched and scored by a global television audience. The games are not only life threatening, the contestants compete with the best and most dangerous of competitors, all of them larger than Lara.

The futuristic mystery suspense novel involves not only Lara’s ability to survive and win the games but to clear herself of the murder of one of her competitors. Along the way she experiences a romantic encounter while she struggles to maintain her rigorous training.

Why risk her life to compete in games she’s likely to lose? The future Sellers paints is one of increased crime due to massive unemployment, corruption, and societal depression. Money is scarce and only the best can live comfortably. Lara’s training and determination are undermined by others in a secondary plot and her life hangs in the balance.

Sellers weaves an intriguing plot that could certainly be prophetic.

Reading through the Year by Christine Duncan

I started reading holiday mysteries to my children when they were young. It helped little kids manage their anticipation about the upcoming holidays.
And then, when they were too old to read picture books anymore, I still searched the library index for holiday books. It helps I learned, to really take the time to appreciate the season. Otherwise, things seem to speed along just a little too fast without me taking the time to really think about what is going on.
And the books I've read along the way have been a lot of fun. I've discovered series books, like Joyce and Jim Lavene's Renaissance Faire series which just happens to have one book with a Halloween theme (Ghastly Glass) and I've found authors like Leslie Meier who writes all of her books around holiday themes throughout the year.
This year I've just started the search. Somehow, my head was stuck in Labor day and I have just realized that we are in the second week of October. But then, that's what reading a holiday mystery is good for. It gets me grounded in the season.
Anybody out there with a recommendation for a good Halloween mystery?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Are You a Procrastinator?

Well, I can be. Never with work, of course…well, hardly ever. But sometimes, when the Muse isn’t pounding down my door with ideas for stories, blogs, articles, etc, I do find it easy to be distracted when I’m sitting at my computer. It’s not just a quick game of Mahjong or Free Cell any more. There are many interesting sites on the web – if you’re interested in tennis, skiing, baseball, horses, flying, cooking – you name it, there’s a site you can find with all kinds of info and some have training videos available – fifteen minutes have disappeared in a blink while you learned how to follow through on your golf swing!

And, of course, those sites often have links to their Facebook page, Twitter, YahooGroups discussion groups. Before you know it, a quick little glance at how to make angel food cake has you signed up for online cooking lessons and you’re fifteen posts into a discussion on the merits of butter cream versus cream cheese frosting.

It’s fine to say, just apply willpower and get to work on that review you’ve promised, the blog that’s waiting to be posted, the first three chapters you told your crit partner you’d have to her last week. Then that email alarm sounds and you see someone has said the only real frosting for a cake is their grandmother’s seven-minute frosting. How can you not look at that recipe?

Here are a couple of suggestions on how to work through the procrastination.

1 – I can write whatever I want on the assignment hanging over my head. I can write the love scene I know is coming up in my WIP, even if my characters aren’t there yet, or the beginning of an article on squirrels or the first paragraph of my column. It doesn’t have to be perfect; it doesn’t even have to be something I’ll end up sending out, but it does get me writing.

2 – I can online browse at a specific time, but not before. That can be tough because you can find yourself watching the time.

3 – This one is a bit of an oddity, but it can work. Tell yourself you’re NOT allowed to write until a specific time. By the time the designated hour arrives, say 7:37 pm, you could be chomping at the bit to get those ideas onto your hard drive.

So…what gets your fingers moving when you’re procrastinating?

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

Monday, October 10, 2011

Worked For Me

I thought I could get lots of editing done on Forever Young-Blessing or Curse during my 12 day vacation in the NorthWoods of Wisconson. I got less done than I'd thought because the weather cooperated too much. With everyday in the 70's, when my husband went out fishing, I found it my duty to sit on the small deck of our cottage with my dog, Rascal, and read from my Kindle. I also went on long walks with Rascal, and enjoyed the beauties of the changing colors of Fall. I saw some gorgeous sights of yellow, orange and rust colored trees reflected on the water. Some of them will only remain in my memory, since I didn't always remember to bring a camera on our walks.

Coming Soon, I promise!
I did manage to squeeze in half an hour or an hour on some days to edit my Forever Young-Blessing or Curse manuscript. When I did, I found better words than I had written before, and also discovered how to correct spots where the pacing blogged down.

I didn't get as far as I wanted in my editing, but my vacation worked for me. I'm more refreshed and ready to tackle anything. What about you? Do you work none, some or a lot on vacation?

Sunday, October 9, 2011


by Earl Staggs

Some of you may know I drive a school bus. It’s only a part time job, two hours in the morning and two in the afternoon, but it gets me out of the house every day and keeps me in touch with other members of the human race. I tried full time retirement, but didn’t like it. I like having to get up every morning, go somewhere and do something. It also helps that I like kids. Most of them.

I also like the people I work with. For the most part, they’re in the mature stage of their lives like me, and we have a lot of hanging out fun when we gather in the bus barn. It’s not really a barn. Maybe they used barns back in the early days and the name stuck. We actually have a rather nice terminal building with boss offices and a large lounge area for drivers. The lounge has a kitchen, coffee and vending machines, and rows of conference style tables and chairs for group meetings. There’s a TV area at one end with comfortable nap-inducing furniture. Some drivers go home between the morning and afternoon routes, some sit and crochet or knit, some watch TV, some nap. Many of them like to read mystery books. Mine, for instance. Me, I plug in my laptop, shut out everything around me, and write.

But we take our job seriously. Our job is to get the kids to school and home again safely every day, even if it means extra time and effort. We’re all connected to “Base” via two-way radio and hear everybody’s conversations with our Dispatcher. Here’s a typical one.

“Bus 117 to Base.”

“Base. Go ahead.”

“We’re at Damien’s house, and there’s no one home to receive him. I’ll do some other stops and come back here in case the parents call and want to know where he is.”

“10-4, 117. If they’re still not home, take him back to school.”


Every morning when we leave the lot, we have to report to the Dispatcher with a “ten-eight” code, meaning we’re in service. There’s a long list of:

“141 is 10-8.”

“135 is 10-8.”

And so on.

Me being me, of course, I have to have a little fun with it, so I might toss in something like this:

“117 is 10-8, out the gate, and looking great.”

Sometimes, accidental humor will occur. Here’s one from last year:

“138 calling Base. I have thick black smoke pouring out my rear end.”

It was all I could do not to jump in with, “Jennifer, I’m sorry to hear about your personal problem, but how’s your bus?”

As I said, though, we take our responsibility seriously. Here’s a recent incident.

“122 to Base. Two of my girls got on the bus very upset. They said there’s a man walking around taking pictures of them.”

“122, do you have a visual on the man?”

“Negative. They said he turned east on Brazos Trail.”

“Let me know if you spot him. I’ll call the police, but I need a description.”


“Base, this is 137. I just turned on Brazos Trail and I saw him. He took pictures of three girls, they yelled at him, and he ran off toward the lake.”

“I’m on the phone with the police, 137. Can you describe him?”

“He’s about 30, medium size, wearing a black ball cap, black tee shirt and khaki pants.”

“10-4, 137. Continue with your routes, everyone. The police are on their way.”

“Base, this is 122. I just turned on Lake Drive and the police were there. They loaded him in their car and took him away.”

“10-4. Good job, 122 and 137.”

I never learned who the guy was, what he was up to, or what happened to him. They may have taken him to the nearest tree and hanged him. This is Texas, you know.

If any of you get a little perturbed when you come up on a school bus with red lights flashing and you have to sit and wait for them to load or unload, just remember this. They’re on the job, getting the kids to and from school safely, and watching out for bad guys.


16 Tales of Mystery from Hardboiled to Humor
Ebook available for $2.99 at:

Friday, October 7, 2011

Rogue Island: Gritty, Witty Thriller

When veteran journalist Bruce DeSilva ended his forty-year newspaper and wire service career to write fiction, he turned out Rogue Island, which won the 2011 Edgar Award for best first novel. Not only that, he also won the Macavity and was a finalist for the Anthony, Barry and Shamus awards. Now the book is out in paperback, which makes it affordable for us peons.

The title is a take off on Rhode Island, where the book is set on the mean streets of Providence. Believing the dictum about writing what you know best, DeSilva made his main character, Liam Mulligan, an old-school newspaper reporter. Best-seller Harlan Coben wrote of DeSilva's maiden effort:

"The Rhode Island of Bruce DeSilva’s imagination is a claustrophobic little state where everyone knows your name, secrets are hard to keep, and corruption has ruled since the first colonial governor dined with Captain Kidd. In this vivid landscape peopled by colorful mobsters, brutal cops and sleazy politicians, a droll hero named Mulligan fights long odds to find a measure of justice."

The story revolves around the systematic burning down of the working class neighborhood where Mulligan grew up. People he knows and loves are dying in the flames. With the cops looking for answers in all the wrong places, Mulligan feels it's up to him to find the hand that strikes the match.

James W. Hall, another Edgar winner, said "investigative reporter Liam Mulligan has the tough-talking charm, the old school street smarts, and sexy chivalry of a Marlowe or Spade. He needs all these skills to navigate a world where vigilantes prowl the neighborhood with baseball bats, and everyone from sleazy politicians to mafia losers are out to slice off their pound of flesh."

If you like gritty, witty thrillers, this one's for you. 

Chester Campbell
Visit me at Mystery Mania

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Keep It Clean-er

Perhaps I'm just an old fuddy-duddy, but the gutter language used in too many modern books turns me off. It's not that I don't understand the words, I do. My background as an Army officer and a wannabe jock have introduced me to about every nasty word any person can dream up—in several languages.
My new book, THORNS ON ROSES, features an avenging PI stalking a gang. I use multiple POVs, including the gang leader's, to tell the story. But what I don't use is gutter language. If anyone reads THORNS and not understand the ruthlessness of the situations because there are no F-bombs dropped, please let me know, and I'll send you a package of them to sprinkle in wherever you think they're needed.
We hear at every level of the writing education process that we MUST not use clichés. Yet, all too often, I open a book and am assaulted by the most common clichés in our language—the F-bomb in all its alterations—noun, verb, adjective, and I'm sure someday soon, adverb. Why? I ask myself. Isn't the author taking the lazy way out by peppering the pages with the most overused of the gutter words?
One of the justifications I hear is we must be realistic in our writing and the use of the F-bomb is part of that realism. It's not a bad argument. I'm not much on fairy-tale writing, so I can accept that argument—up to a point. However when I read, I have an extra eye and an extra ear in my head that translate the words on the page. If, for example, I expect a character to speak in dialect, he/she will—no matter the words the author uses. There is a very popular character who has been around for between ten and fifteen years. When I read one of those books, that character speaks in dialect, no doubt about it. Yet, when I examine the words, they are properly spelled and used with proper grammar. That's my mind's eye and my mind's ear at work.
A couple of years ago, I decided to put my theory to the test. Did I really see and hear words that were not written on the page? I went back and read a few of Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer series. I don't think anyone will argue with me when I say Mike Hammer is one of the nastiest PIs ever written, if not the nastiest. He cuts no one any slack—good guy, bad guy, or beautiful woman. His language is basic, driving straight to the point as he explains what he will do, then does it. When I finished I, THE JURY, I sat back and thought I might be wrong about my beliefs. But when I went back through the book studying the language Spillane used, I discovered I was right. Not one foul word in the whole book. Yet, the writing was so strong, my mind's eye and mind's ear put them into the mouths of the characters.
What I'm saying is when you have the urge to insert an F-bomb, stop and find a stronger way to write it. Don't become a slave to cliché-ridden gutter language to paint your characters.
Again, I invite you read my THORNS ON ROSES. Let your mind's eye see the Thorns on Roses gang. Let your mind's ear listen to them talk. Then look at the words I use. I think you'll see what I'm talking about.

Randy Rawls
THORNS ON ROSES, a South Florida thriller

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

QR Codes

You've seen them everywhere, in the supermarket, on the menu of your favorite restaurant, on posters in schools. They are the the square mash-up of lines and boxes that look like someone sneezed pixels. What are they? They are QR codes. Smart phone users, by which I mean your kids and grandkids, scan these things with the camera on their phones, which takes them directly to a website.

At this point you might be yawning and saying, "so what?" So what? Did you read the previous paragraph? The key words are "smart phone users" and "kids and grandkids." This is the demographic for whom tech is cool, who have disposable income. These are readers you want to reach. Say you're doing a booksigning. A few people stop, those that like the old dead tree products, but a lot of folks just whiz on by. A few might drop the word that they only read ebooks and you say, "I've got an ebook. Go to aitch tee tee pee colon slash slash dubya dubya dubya dot whatever dot com slash mywebpage slash mybooktitle." You better shout it because they are already gone. Another potential sale lost.

So how do you capture that ebook impulse buyer? You need a QR code. Put it on a poster next to your table or on your bookmarks or your postcards. Your young customer pulls out a smart phone. (It's a Pavlovian reflex whenever a QR code shows up in a young person's world.) Quick click and they are at your website buying your book. The phone will need a QR reader, of course, but that is a free app from the android or Apple store. Ask your grandkids if their phones have QR readers and they'll look at you like you've just asked them do they like Captain Crunch (which they're eating, while watching the video they scanned off the box.)

Have a smart phone with a QR reader? Try it now to get a free short story, Drop Dead Zone. Scanning the code will take you to a website with details about the story and how to purchase it. When you go to check out, enter the following coupon code: SW68X  (not case sensitive). No smart phone? No problem. Go to

Creating a QR code is easy.
  • 1. Go to Google and type "url shortener" into the search window. Or go here:
  • 2. Paste your long URL into the box that appears and click the "shorten" button. Your long URL will appear, followed by a short URL and, on the right, an active link labeled "Details." 
  • 3. Click "Details." Voila!. Your QR code is generated. 
  • 4. You can right click on it (PC) or control click (Mac) to open it in a separate window or download it. I like to open it in a new window because I want to do one more thing to it. 
  • 5. After opening in the new window, notice that the URL looks something like this:  I have highlighted the 100x100 because that governs the size of the code block. Change that to something like 400x400 (500x500 is max.) This will make it bigger. 
  • 6. Now download it or capture it with a screen capture and paste it into your book display ad or bookmark or whatever. That's all it is.

You will also want to use the shortened URL on your ads. I prefer the URLs from to Google's because I can add a meaningful tag to it, whereas Google just puts in a bunch of random characters. But that's just my preference.

The idea for using QR codes this way came from a discussion with my daughter-in-law. The middle school she teaches at has a policy of allowing any and all technology on campus. So teachers put these codes all over the school and in their lessons for kids to find school notices, supplementary material, and just interesting stuff. That's the way young people are learning now. If you want to reach that demographic with your stories, get on board with the technology.

If you've read this far, you're hip to technology and anxious to do more QR scanning, so here's another one for you. For a limited time, you can get an ebook of Pilikia Is My Business at half price. Scan this code and enter CZ43W at check out. You can also go to

Mark Troy
Hawaiian-Eye Blog

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Off on Another Blog Tour

Once again I'm stepping out into the blog tour world. Sometimes I wonder why I do these things. Yes, they are fun, but they are also lots of work.

Each blog host has a different criteria for what he/she would like you to write about. That means writing something new and different that I hope readers will find interesting enough to maybe check out my latest book, Bears With Us.

I am having a contest to go along with the tour. The person who comments on the most blogs will have the opportunity to have a character in my next book named after him/her. The winner can choose whether to be a character in a Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery or a Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novel.

Here's the schedule in case you'd like to be a part of this contest:

Monday, October 3rd
Book reviewed at The Book Connection
Tuesday, October 4th
Guest blogging at Lori’s Reading Corner
Wednesday, October 5th
Interviewed at Blogcritics
Thursday, October 6th
Book spotlighted at Books, Products, and More!
Friday, October 7th
Book trailer featured at If Books Could Talk
Monday, October 10th
Book reviewed at Broken Teepee
Tuesday, October 11th
Guest blogging at Hollywood Daze
Wednesday, October 12th
Giveaway at Hollywood Daze
Thursday, October 13th
Guest blogging at Thoughts in Progress
Friday, October 14th
Book reviewed at Thoughts in Progress
Guest blogging at Murder by 4
Monday, October 17th
Book reviewed at Reviews by Molly
Tuesday, October 18th
Guest blogging at Double M
Wednesday, October 19th
Book reviewed at Wakela’s World
Thursday, October 20th
Book reviewed at MysteriesEtc.
Friday, October 21st
Monday, October 24th
Book reviewed at Ohio Girl Talks
Tuesday, October 25th
Book reviewed at One Day at a Time
Wednesday, October 26th
Thursday, October 27th
Book spotlighted at The Writer’s Life
Friday, October 28th

Hope to see one or two of you following me around.


Sunday, October 2, 2011

Check that ARC!

Somewhere, and I won't say where, a proofreader is about to earn her pay. I've had the privilege of reviewing a number of novels over the years, many in the ARC stage. The quality of the stories has varied, of course, and they all have a few errors. Who hasn't read even the best of books and not found a typo here and there? This is an especially dangerous problem for self-published work, but the best publishing houses are not exempt.

In the case I have in mind, the scheduled pub date is early 2012, and the author teaches writing and literature at a reputable college. The story he tells is a good one, full of twists and turns, terror and excitement. But the typos! I have never seen so many typos from a mainstream publisher, even in an ARC. We have many instances of characters pouring over records instead of poring over them, and scrapping when the context calls for scraping. At first it looked like someone over-relied on the spell-checker, which only flags misspelled words, not incorrect ones--and then came "dispite" and "underware," which never should have left the author's word processor. There are many more bloopers, but the worst one involves a character named Kurt. Use your imagination.

Perhaps a diligent proofreader will catch what needs to be caught. Perhaps she won't. My point is not to belittle anyone, but to warn writers to scour your manuscripts and galleys. Don't bet your reputation on someone else cleaning up all of your mistakes. The cleaner the manuscript is to start with, the less a proofreader can miss.