Saturday, December 29, 2012

Do You Call Yourself a Writer?

You Don’t Need Anyone’s Permission 
By Kathleen Kaska (Your Fifth Saturday Blogger)

            When people ask you what you do for a living and you answer, “I’m a writer,” how do those words make you feel: proud, shy, boastful, tentative?
            I feel all of the above in a split second after I give my answer. Even twenty years after publishing my first article and three years after retiring from teaching to write full time, I still experience a moment’s hesitation and my answer sounds something like, “Er . . .  I’m a . . . writer.” I can’t help anticipate that look on the curious person’s face, that look that says, “Yeah, right. You’re a writer; I’m a writer; everyone and his dog is a writer. So?” The anticipation of that look, that answer, often has me stammering.
            Then a few days ago, I read Roy Peter Clark’s article in the Seattle Times, “Change Your Idea of Who’s a Writer.” Clark is a writing teacher at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida. He has written several books about writing including Help! For Writers. I have so many How-To writing books on my shelf, one really has to grab me before I purchase it. After Clark summarized his book, I added it to my must-read list. Here’s Clark’s take on being a writer. I hope he forgives me adding my own twist in a three-part nutshell.
1.  It’s Not All About Me
            Clark reminded me of an important lesson I learned all those years ago when I decided to become a writer. Writing is not always a solitary endeavor and in order to grow and learn, it is important to utilize the “spirit of a writing community.” I had to learn to think and act like a writer so I joined the local writer’s league, signed up for classes, and joined critique groups. Writers have to be willing to accept help when they need it, but assist others who ask. And when we respect others written expression, that respect comes back to us.
2.  It’s All About Me:
            Clark writes that writers do not need permission or approval to be writers. The act of writing makes us a writer. Writing does not necessarily mean pounding out words on our laptops. Pondering and contemplating the ideas and emotions we eventually weave into our stories makes us writers. I get my best ideas when I’m jogging or hiking the forest trails near my house. It’s easier for my characters to get my attention when I’m letting my mind wonder. This solitary time also allows me to work through plotting issues, create new characters, and polish dialogue. So, when I’m by myself on the trail in the woods and having a conversation with the invisible, I’m writing.
3.  It’s All About a Better Me
            And here’s a point I never really considered. Clark writes that the act of writing makes us better individuals; it makes us more attuned to the world around us and empathetic to others.
            So, if we write, contemplate writing, ask for help when we need it and give help in return, and cultivate our craft, we are writers.
            I was always taught not to toot my own horn. I now realize if my tooting results in a pleasant melody and not a loud bugle call, it's perfectly fine. I don't usually make New Year's resolutions. I tend to obsess with daily goal-making, so I pass on that annual proclamation to improve myself. But this year, I think I'll make an exception. When asked what I do for a living, I'll look that person in the eye and say, "I'm a writer," and feel proud of my answer.

I write the Sydney Lockhart Mystery Series and the Classic Mystery Triviography Mystery Series.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Happy Holidays

Since today is Christmas, at least at my house, I thought I'd just wish you all a very merry holiday season and a fruitful and productive new year.  And for those of you without snow, here's a glimpse of what living in the Idaho mountains could bring.

Happy Holiday's.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

New Year’s: Resolutions, Shmezzolutions

by Kaye George

I usually do make New Year’s resolutions, but do I ever keep them? Only if I rig it--make a resolution I already know I’ll do. It’s kind of a depressing practice because it so often sets me up for failure. Never again!

I’m starting a new tradition, beginning this year. It was prompted by one of those funny picture thingies on Facebook. Lots of them make me chuckle a little, some make me laugh out loud, some make me shake my head, but this one made me stop and think. Here’s what it said:

**Start 2013 off with an empty jar and fill it with notes about good things that happen. On new years eve (sic), empty it and see what awesome stuff happened that year.

Writers, we can use these for our successes. A publication, a review, a kind word about something we wrote, or interest in our work.

Being prone to depression, I keep things around that I can review when I feel myself starting to crash--funny books and movies usually. I also have an *attagirl* file with accomplishments so I can remind myself that I can do stuff when I set my mind to it. This is kind of an extension of that. It’s a Good Things Jar, a Feel Good Jar. I think I’ll get a big one.

image from

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

What Day Is It Again?

I love December. I love all the excitement and tinsel and exuberance of the Christmas season, even the tacky bits. (Though I do get a little upset when stores start putting out the Christmas goodies and playing sterile versions of carols before Halloween!) To go into a store smelling of spices and evergreen and see swags of lights and holly and ribbons – Heaven! To drive the darkened streets, oohing and aahing over the brilliantly lit homes and the clever lawn ornaments – how exciting! To enter a church hung with green for a ceremony of carols, both familiar and obscure – delightful!

I just wish it didn’t happen in such a rush. I always need about ten extra days to get ready for Christmas, no matter when or where I start. Maybe I could get everything I want to done, decorations, cards, etc., with enough energy left to really enjoy the holiday if I started earlier – say around July?

This year I have an excuse. Day before yesterday I finally wrote The End on what I have privately called The Book That Will Not Die. Days ago I estimated I had about 2,000 words to go. That was about 10,000 words ago. Some storylines just take longer to wrap up than others. It will need tightening and some good editing – all books do – I’m just glad the first draft is done.

Toward the end that book ate my life. The Husband resigned himself to take-out or frozen pizza more often than any spouse should have to. The laundry lies in ever-growing clumps on the floor and I have been reduced to wearing ancient sweats riddled with holes and indecipherable stains. I did make time to run a washer or two of The Husband’s clothes, as he has to go to work, but I’m lucky – the cats and the dog don’t care what I look like as long as their food bowls are filled on time.

But the book is done! I lifted my head after typing The End and was met by The Husband’s statement, “Maybe now we can start on the Christmas cards.”

“Christmas cards?” I asked in all innocence. “Why so early?”

Then he told me what day it was and how long we had until Christmas. I had been concentrating so hard trying to beat my self-imposed deadline (I write better under deadline, darn it) that neither days nor dates had had any meaning.

So – editing will have to wait until the New Year. I’m going to enjoy Christmas all the way to New Year’s Eve, and I hope all of you do, too. Whatever holiday you celebrate, it’s a magical time of year and deserves our attention and joy.

It would be better if we did have ten extra days to enjoy, though, even if we haven’t been on deadline…

By the way, in case you’re interested the book in question is a traditional Gothic romance. Some most perspicacious reviewer once called me the logical successor to Phyllis A. Whitney and I’ve tried to live up to it! The book is called CURSE OF THE EXILE, set in 1850s Scotland with a crumbling castle, a brooding laird, a prim and shy female librarian, lost gold, a ghost called Mad Margaret and a couple of murders. It is great fun, and I am keeping my fingers crossed it will be available somewhere, sometime, hopefully soon. Agents and publishers, feel free to contact me, but only after New Year’s!

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas!

          Janis Susan May Patterson is a seventh-generation Texan and a third-generation wordsmith who writes mysteries as Janis Patterson, romances and other things as Janis Susan May, children’s books as Janis Susan Patterson and scholarly works as J.S.M. Patterson.
          Formerly an actress and singer, a talent agent and Supervisor of Accessioning for a bio-genetic DNA testing lab, Janis has also been editor-in-chief of two multi-magazine publishing groups as well as many other things, including an enthusiastic amateur Egyptologist.
          Janis married for the first time when most of her contemporaries were becoming grandmothers. Her husband, also an Egyptophile, even proposed in a moonlit garden near the Pyramids of Giza. Janis and her husband live in Texas with an assortment of rescued furbabies. and

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Wishing you the Merriest Christmas Ever

This is the closest to a decorated Christmas tree I'm going to have this year. My husband doesn't like putting it up anymore. The last time we had it up and decorated, our cats thought it was a new play toy and knocked off all the glass decorations which shattered all over. Now we have an 18 month old great-grandson who visits often. His grandpa calls him "Bam Bam." When I decorated, I took that into consideration and only put out the stuff that is unbreakable.

I have a whole array of stuffed moose and he's quite welcome to play with them. He likes the one that sings, "Grandma got run over by a reindeer."

Decorating was so much easier this year with my two excuses: cats and great-grandson.

Plus, I've really been busy. Just came off an intensive blog tour for Raging Water which took a lot of time.
I just send off the 2nd edits for the next book in my Rocky Bluff P.D. series, Dangerous Impulses, and wrote the blurb for it.

The next in the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series is still being heard by my critique group and I'm writing the 2014 offering in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series.

Who has time for holidays?

Me, really I do. I just don't do quite as much as I used to. Went to a fun church Christmas party, and to see The Hobbit with hubby and a good friend--in fact the woman who is really Miqui Sherwood in Raging Water and she's loved every minute of it.

Our critique group is meeting for dinner at our favorite Thai restaurant.

And Christmas Eve three of our grandsons will join us, along with our son, and their lady loves and Bam Bam for dinner and opening of gifts.

Christmas day we plan to sneak off and go see a movie. Afterwards we'll visit daughter and son-in-law and their grandkids and see if they received the gifts they asked for.

So that's how we'll be celebrating.

Oh, and if you want to catch up on my Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, check it out at my publishers:


Monday, December 17, 2012

Ten Mysteries I’ve Read in 2012

I love reading mysteries, which is probably why I write them. Here’s are ten mini-reviews of books I’ve read this past year. Some were published this year, others almost a century ago. They run the gamut from cozy to thriller, and are in no particular order.

1. LAST ONE TO DIE by Tess Gerritsen
I’m a huge fan of the Rizzoli & Isles TV series, which was why I was surprised to find the characters are so very different in the novels. Though LAST ONE TO DIE was the first of the series I read, I never felt lost—only had the urge to read all the previous novels. Fast-paced and intriguing, LAST ONE TO DIE is a great read by a skilled writer.

2. THE BODY IN THE GAZEBO by Katherine Hall Page
I’ve read every one of the Faith Fairchild mysteries, and this book’s a winner. One aspect I like about this series is that some of the novels are set far from the small Massachusetts town where Faith and her family reside. An out-of-town wedding is the setting of THE BODY IN THE GAZEBO.

3. BROKEN HARBOR by Tana French
I was awed by Tana French’s three earlier novels, but found myself wishing BROKEN HARBOR had been considerably shortened. A family is set upon in their home. Three members die and one survives. The question is: who savagely attacked them and why?

4. THE BIG SLEEP by Raymond Chandler
I led a book club discussion of THE BIG SLEEP, remembering how much I’d loved reading this novel forty years ago. To my dismay, this time I was disappointed. The characters struck me as two-dimensional, and I found it almost laughable how people kept pointing guns at Philip Marlowe. But THE BIG SLEEP is a must read for every serious mystery lover because of its importance to the genre.

5. THE AFFAIR by Lee Child
This Jack Reacher novel takes place in 1997, when Reacher is still an army MP. He and a woman sheriff investigate a murder with close ties to the nearby army fort. THE AFFAIR is exciting and a page-turner, as is every Lee Child novel. I’ve discovered  many women are Jack Reacher fans, despite the body count in every book. He’s one of our  modern day heroes.

6. THE SECRET SERVANT by Daniel Silva
I suppose the Gabriel Allon series are spy thrillers, but I’m including THE SECRET SERVANT on this list. Allon is an Israeli intelligence agent involved in intrigues around the globe. In this novel, he has to rescue the daughter of an American diplomat before she is murdered. Like every Silva novel, this adventure captures your attention from beginning to end.

I adore this cozy series that takes place in a Cotswold English village. In AUNT DIMITY AND THE VILLAGE WITCH, a famous artist comes to Fitch in search of information about an ancestor who might have been a witch. Soon the whole village is helping her unravel the mystery.

8. BELIEVING THE LIE by Elizabeth George
In this, the latest Inspector Thomas Lynley novel, Lynley investigates the death of a man, and discovers all sorts of sordid activities going on among the various people connected to the victim. While I’ve enjoyed reading almost all of her earlier Lynley novels, this one is overly-long and too complex.

The Deadwood books are pure delight. Violet Parker--single mother of twins, novice real estate broker, and sleuth--juggles the many aspects of her life. Her zany  relationship with the sexy Doc is the funniest romance going. Then there’s the paranormal element. Charles blends them all together with a deft hand.

10. THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD by Agatha Christie
One of Christie’s most famous and certainly most controversial novel takes place in a small English village. Poirot is asked to solve the murder of Roger Ackroyd. We meet the usual array of Christie characters, learn their secrets and past misdeeds. The ending is most unusual. I loved rereading this book. It holds up as the true classic it is.

Please leave a comment and name a mystery or two you’ve read in 2012.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Should You Care About Your Author Ranking?

In case you didn’t know, authors with books selling on are now ranked according to their sales. If you have books published during  the 1980s that are no long selling well, your author ranking is high. (And we all know that low is much better).

The book I’m most proud of, a 202-page coffee table centennial history book with more historic photos than pages, is currently sales ranked at 4,220,667 in paperback and 11,707,397 in hardcover. (I didn’t realize the numbers went that high.)  The numbers change hourly, creating an interesting graph. My 1987 history hardcover has taken my ALL BOOKS rating as high as 77,061, although my sales rankings for mystery, thriller, historical romance, self-help and genre fiction have been as low as 560 since I’ve been periodically checking the numbers.
Theoretically,  a writer with one book that’s selling moderately well,  with no early publishing baggage, can have a much better  rating than a veteran writer with a great many books online. It makes me wonder why Amazon created this mid list nightmare. Do readers actually care whether an author’s rating is 98,564 or if it skyrockets over a million, if they enjoy reading the author's books?

On the other hand, should writers care if they’re ranked in the higher numbers? Will it lead to lower sales and humiliation when their lack of sales hangs on the electronic clothesline for all to see? Hopefully readers won’t go hunting for ratings before they buy a book.

How do you feel about the ratings and do you judge an author by his or her sales ranking?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Procrastination? Or Promotion?

I'm working on a cozy mystery.  I started this story from what I can see from the file, in February 2012.  Since that time, I've finished a romance, wrote two novellas, and a full length contemporary romance.  

And I still have 29,000 words left on this cozy. 

I've released three books this year.  I spend a lot of time blogging, posting on Facebook, social networking, and, not, writing. Finishing this book has been on my to do list for three months.  And I'm making progress, just not finished. 

I'm good at time management, really.  So what's the problem? I'm not sure, but my goal for this December is to finish the darn book. 

I still have edits to finish before December 15th, my edits for Return of the Fae could arrive any day, and I'm doing a signing one weekend at the beginning of the month.  And of course, I have the day job. (I am taking off days around Christmas that should help.)

Wish me luck.

Anyone got some helpful hints? Ways to stay off the internet? What are your goals for the last month of the year?

Saturday, December 8, 2012

It’s the end of the world as we know it

by Kaye George

If you want to get philosophical, the statement in that title is true every minute, every second. The only constant you can count on is Change. You can work all you want to get everything just like you like it, but you’d better realize it won’t stay that way.

OK for philosophy. Now, for the end of the world! I was asked to write an “end of the world” short story and my first reaction was, “I don’t write those!” But, after three seconds, I realized what a fertile field that could be for--just about anything.

The first thing I had to decide was, how would the world end? I wanted to thing of something that most other people weren’t thinking of. To me, the obvious ends would be nuclear holocaust, death of the planet by pollution or global warming, chemical weapons, meteor strike, super nova--that kind of stuff that you’ve read about. I worked one of my personal phobias into one that I hope is different. I’m scared of all the waves that are passing through me. Waves from everyone’s cell phones, wifis, TVs. Those waves, to get to their targets, have to pass through my body--yours too. What is that doing to us?

The next thing to decide is what would my characters be thinking? After I decide who my characters are.

How would you structure a story like this? Do you have any ideas for the end of the world that you’d like to write?

I love this obsession with the Mayan calendar for giving us this fodder!

And now, my push. If you’re curious about my apocalypse story, check out Expand the description and notice the other authors. It’s a good line-up, beginning with the editor, Katherine Tomlinson!

photo from

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Quixotic Phenomena Called a Review

By Chester Campbell

Book reviews are an interesting phenomena. They are so subjective that you have to evaluate them with care and and in many cases take them with the proverbial grain of salt. There has been a flood of posts on various blogs and listserves recently about Amazon's treatment of reviews. And much of it derives from the fake review exposes of late.

Many writers have complained of Amazon's recent practice of taking down reviews from their book pages for various reasons. There is a lot of disagreement about what is taking place. Some say the massive retail site has removed reviews by other authors. Some say it doesn't like reviews put  up by friends of the author.

Happily I haven't noticed any reviews removed from my books except for one, Secret of the Scroll, my first published book and the first in my Greg McKenzie mystery series. However, it's easy to see what they did. The novel was originally published in 2002 by Durban House. I parted with the company after my third book and got my rights back. I also got a large supply of books from their inventory, which I used to keep the books on Amazon and sell at various venues.

I ran out of Secret of the Scroll copies this year and got it printed in a second edition by Night Shadows Press. The  inside of the book is virtually identical, but the cover has several changes, one of which I had wished was there from the start. With nothing but the title and artwork of an ancient scroll on the original cover, many people thought it was a religious book about the Dead Sea Scrolls. The new cover includes copy identifying the story as an international thriller.

The Amazon page contained around eight reviews submitted back in 2002 and 2003. After the new edition was put up, Amazon gained another batch of reviews when I did three free days for the Kindle edition. Recently I found that the reviews for the 2002 edition had been removed. I thought that was a little picky, but I haven't complained.

Back to my original premise about the subjectivity of reviews, I found it quite interesting to read a few recent reviews for the second Greg McKenzie book, Designed to Kill. Several reviews were added after I ran its Kindle edition free. Here are three that appeared one after the other. First came a 3-star review titled "It's OK":

"In a nutshell, I felt like this story was a little predictable. I figured out early on who the bad guy was. I continued to read it though, hoping that I would be surprised in the end. Sadly, I wasn't."

Under that appeared this 1-star review titled "I Didn't Even Finish It":

"It is rare that a book is so bad, that I don't finish it. I have pushed through some terrible books in the past, but this one was an exception. I didn't like anything about this book. I didn't like the characters. I didn't like the story line. I found it boring, and rambling. This was my first and last Greg McKenzie Mystery."

Following that came this 5-star review titled "Killer out there":

"Greg McKenzie retired and living in Nashville with his wife Jill find themselves as amateur sleuths, after their close friends son is found dead from a head wound in Pensacola Florida, the evidence suggest he committed suicide by a gunshot to his head.
Greg and Jill decide to go to Florida to take a look at the evidence as the family believe he was murdered. So the story begins ranging from Nashville Tenn. to Pensacola Flo. This is an interesting book as it teams up a husband and wife who are retired and in their early 60's. A well thought out and plausable plot that will keep you guessing to the end."

You'd have thought they read different books. Fortunately for my ego, the page contains seven 5 stars, including one from Midwest Book Review that ends with:

"A plot that moves along at a rapid clip with plenty of cliffhangers and well-defined characters. Greg McKenzie and his wife Jill are likeable characters who manage to transform retirement into a series of exciting adventures, all the while dealing with aging bodies and minds. A fine second effort!"

Visit me at Mystery Mania.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Sometimes Old Is Better

Sometimes Old Is Better
By Randy Rawls
   I'm writing this with one eye covered by a patch and a shield. And I'm happy about it. Nuts? Probably, but not because of this.
   It goes back about eight weeks. That was the day I took the plunge and had cataract surgery on my right eye—my reading eye. It wasn't an easy decision to make since my vision is my most priceless commodity. Just the thought of losing it terrifies me.
   My vision began to tank in my early forties. I went from no glasses to reading glasses to bifocals in four years. Yeah, I was scared and provided my optometrist with a good laugh when I asked if I was going blind. He was patient and explained my problem. Vision would continue to collapse until it leveled off. I wasn't happy about it, but not much to do but accept it. As he predicted, it did level out after several years and several sets of progressive lenses. That didn't mean I liked wearing glasses, though. I felt like I was watching the world through a window, a border around everything I saw. Then I met contact lenses and spent many years happy to insert them in the morning and take them out at night.
   Alas, that comfort zone began to collapse when my ophthalmologist started talking cataracts. They weren't bad yet, but . . . At first, the fear of blindness returned, then stubbornness. My contacts are fine, I told myself. I can handle it. But, as I talked to many who had undergone cataract surgery, I discovered that a return to 20-20 vision was not only possible, but probable. So, I swallowed hard and raised the issue of surgery with my doctor. He assured me I was an excellent candidate for resounding success.
   In early October, he did the right eye—my reading eye. BANG! It went from a plus 6.50 contact to 20-20, no correction needed, overnight.
   Today, I had surgery on my left eye. Tomorrow, they take off the patch and shield, and I find out the results. I'm expecting perfect far vision.
   Damn, I'm happy.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

How Soon the Body?

There is a continuing debate in mystery circles about when the body should appear. One camp says that the body should be there no later than the first chapter, and preferably in the first five pages. The other camp, the one in which I am firmly ensconced, is that the body should appear when it is rational and appropriate to the story for the body to appear.
As an exercise, I began a mystery where the body appeared at the top of page two. The book actually turned out rather well, becoming BEADED TO DEATH, my October 2012 release from Carina Press. The poor victim didn’t fare as well, though. He didn’t even get a name until about halfway through the story, and no one at all seemed to care that he was dead. Although I enjoyed writing the book – which turned out to be strangely lighthearted – the dead man was really very little more than a plot device. A prop.
Call me old-fashioned, but I think a dead body – even a fictional one – deserves more respect than that.
In this week’s  release – This Week! Squeee! – EXERCISE IS MURDER, I introduce a range of characters and there isn’t a death in sight until some sixty-odd pages into the manuscript. Of course, if you’ve read the cover blurb or a review, you’ll be able to pick out the victim from the get-go, but by the time of the death you’ll know this body as a person, not just as a device. Hopefully you will feel shock and surprise and outrage, as we all should at all murders. This is a person whom you knew, not just a stage prop lying around to further the plot.
As readers we want to know the people in books; we want them to become ‘real’ to us. There’s nothing more annoying than cardboard characters, even if they are dead when the book opens – or within a few pages thereafter.
I know that for a story to be feasible, it isn’t always possible to have a leisurely ‘get-acquainted’ time. To be strictly fair, though, neither is it always in the best interest of the story to have the body appear so late in the story that the murder seems an afterthought thrown in just to have the book qualified as mystery.
I guess the point of this rant is that the story must be paramount. Very little makes me angrier than pundits who pronounce ‘The body MUST show up no later than page … whatever.’ In storytelling there are no rules except what makes the story work – other than basic grammar and spelling. The finished product must be in a format that is comprehensible to the readers, after all.
Sometimes the victim character becomes known after he is dead. The writer peels back layers to expose the victim for what he was, good or bad. This works if done well,  but then almost anything works if it is done well. That’s the hard part.
Perhaps what I am trying to say is that we should care. Even if it is only in ink or pixels a murder is a horrid, violent crime. It is the untimely cessation of life and should be treated seriously, however lighthearted or farcical the rest of the book. To do less, to treat the victim as nothing more than a convenient prop or a plot device, is to desensitize ourselves and our readers to the enormity of a crime. No sane human being, writer or not, wants murder to be relegated to the status of a petty misdemeanor.
Neither do we writers want to be given rules about when the body should appear. It should appear when it is right for the story – not before, and not after. To do less is to deny the victim his right to personhood.
The character is dead; the least we can do is make them live.

          Janis Patterson is a seventh-generation Texan and a third-generation wordsmith who writes mysteries as Janis Patterson, romances and other things as Janis Susan May, children’s books as Janis Susan Patterson and scholarly works as J.S.M. Patterson.
          Formerly an actress and singer, a talent agent and Supervisor of Accessioning for a bio-genetic DNA testing lab, Janis has also been editor-in-chief of two multi-magazine publishing groups as well as many other things, including an enthusiastic amateur Egyptologist.
          Janis married for the first time when most of her contemporaries were becoming grandmothers. Her husband, also an Egyptophile, even proposed in a moonlit garden near the Pyramids of Giza. Janis and her husband live in Texas with an assortment of rescued furbabies.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Mundania Press Celebrates 10 years with a Sale!

To officially celebrate our 10th year, Mundania is  going to run a sale through the end of the year.

Enter the coupon code HOLIDAY to get 25% off you entire order, ebooks or print.

Mundania is the publisher of my Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series. use this link to go directly to the site where you can find all my Deputy Tempe Crabtree mysteries. They are listed in alphabetical order, but here's the list in the order they were published.

 This is the introduction to Tempe, the Native American resident deputy in the town of Bear Creek and the mountain area. Bear Creek is located in the Southern Sierra and is near the Bear Creek Indian Reservation. Tempe meets Nick Two John in this first book and he sets out to teach her more about her Indian heritage.

Tempe investigates the murder of a candidate for Princess at a Pow Wow.
Tempe's pastor husband, Hutch, has some major problems with her using the spiritual side of her heritage to learn the identity of a murderer.
 When Tempe and Hutch plan a romantic weekend in a mountain lodge, a white-out blizzard and a missing celebrity change everything.
A hidden pot farm and a grandfather's grief keep Tempe busy

Tempe calls back the dead to find out the truth about a murder and a suicide.
Tempe finds out why she didn't embrace her Native American heritage while investigating the murder of a battered wife.
The detectives send Tempe to Crescent City CA to learn more about a murder victim from her Tolowa friends and relatives. Tempe has a brief introduction to Big Foot.
 While investigating the murder of a popular county supervisor which takes her on the Bear Creek Indian Reservation where she nearly loses her life and has an encounter with the Hairy Man.
The murder of a popular Native American once again takes Tempe onto the reservation. During the investigation she has a run-in with a para-military group.

Tempe is kept busy chasing bears out of people's houses and off the school grounds while dealing with a woman with a strange form of dementia.
During a storm Tempe is investigating a night time burglar, the suspicious death of friends, and dealing with the flooding of Bear Creek. A mudslide cuts of the town, trapping everyone including the murderer.

And yes, there is another one in the works.


Monday, December 3, 2012

Marilyn Levinson Interviews Author Pat Hernandez

Fellow author, Pat Hernandez, has become a good friend over the past few years. We met through a mystery writers' listserv, and discovered we have a lot in common. We were both Spanish teachers, we've traveled a lot, we write in various genres, and we're about the same age. Here are some questions I've been meaning to ask her for some time:

You grew up in Oklahoma. How do you think that impacted on your becoming writer and what you write?
I’m not sure Oklahoma had anything to do with my desire to become a writer. However, the first five years of my life were spent on a farm. My mother read many stories to my little brother and me. Those stories instilled a desire to read and eventually to make up my own stories. I've blogged about those early experiences of living on an Oklahoma farm without running water and electricity.

What made you decide to write novels? Did you take courses? Join groups?
I created most of the characters in my Vv Tiger novels when I was a teenager, but didn’t start writing the books until I was in my forties. In fact, the first in the series has not been submitted for publication. However, I've written two prequels that have been published. I never took writing courses in college. I’ve belonged to a couple of critique groups, and was a member of the Dallas chapter of RWA for four years.

You've not only traveled extensively, but you've lived in various countries. Tell us about some of them.
I spent one summer in college taking courses at the Instituto Tecnológico in Monterrey, Mexico. After teaching Spanish for a year in Las Vegas, Nevada, I headed to Mexico City for adventure and romance. I worked for Sears in Laredo, Texas for three years,
then moved to San Juan, Puerto Rico with my young son to work in Sears' Retail Distribution Center as a bilingual training coordinator. Four years later, I transferred back to Oklahoma and eventually taught again in Texas. About twenty years later, a friend and I headed for Spain and Portugal. I have an idea for a novel based on that experience.

After returning to the States, I lived in England for a few months. Several years later I returned to England to spend a vacation with my granddaughters. This was the happiest time of my life.

We both write mysteries, romance, and books for kids. Do you find writing in one genre very different from writing in another?
Yes, they are different. In my mysteries, I tend to kill people right and left, and in my romances no one gets killed. The mysteries are dark comical farces or satires. The romances are sweet and slightly sensual. I’ve written a YA for my grandchildren--The Happy Tigers by Vv Tiger—which is perhaps my favorite of all the books I’ve written.  It's comical and sweet, with paranormal elements. Actually, it’s a family story. Grandmothers are the readers who have given me the best feedback.

Who has published your books? How was your experience with indie publishing?
My three romances were published by Wings ePress. So far I’m very happy with indie publishing. The industry changes so fast that one never knows what will come next. Right now I publish with Kindle and CreateSpace. The most important thing to remember in Indie publishing is to get a great editor.

I loved reading two of your books—Who’ll Kill Agnes? and The Chameleon Chase. Briefly tell us about them.
Agnes is a wacky dark satire on gracious southern living. It’s one of those books that either  you “get it” or you don’t. I also call it a ricochet murder novel. One person kills someone and then someone kills that person and so on.

Chameleon is another of my personal favorites. However, it isn’t a comedy like Agnes or my latest Lea Chan novel Death by Salsa. It’s an adventure in which a dying man wants to find the long lost heir to his fortune.

Why do you have so many pseudonyms?
My first response is because I have multiple personalities. I’m joking, of course, or maybe I’m not. But each pen name represents a different genre or brand.

My Tricia Lee romances are generally sweet, sensual, have a bit of drama and usually a bit of humor. My first published romance, A Caribbean Summer, is a favorite of mine. Lea Chan is satirical and farcical. I originally started writing as Chancey Hernandez but discovered that name was too long for book signings so it morphed into Lea Chan. Vv Tiger is otherworldly, and future novels will be time-travel featuring one of the Tiger sisters.

What are you working on now?Le
Four Lea Chan Twisted Tales that will comprise one book: The Doorbell Rang. Oddly enough, there are no murders, and the few deaths that occur will result  from natural causes.

Thank you so much for inviting me. I have enjoyed the experience.
My website is:

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

All in the name of research.

Guns scare me.

I guess my fear started when I was a kid.  One night, my step brother pulled the shot gun out of his truck to go into the single wide and shoot his wife.  Instead, he got a bullet in the gut when the gun stuck behind the seat and he jerked the gun toward him, barrel first. 

Tough to manage shooting yourself with a shotgun, but he did it. And survived to marry wife number two, three, and four. 

Redneck stories from the wilds of rural Idaho.

I kid you not.

So when I started writing a thriller as part of a Masters of Fine Arts class, and my first scene is a kidnapping at gun point, I needed to research. I needed to know more about guns, what they feel like, and even, what it felt like to fire one.

Going to one of my brothers was an option, but the sane one was out of state and well, see above.

So what’s a girl to do?  I found two gun aficionados at the local watering hole, The Alibi. Recently divorced, I would stop once or twice a week and chat with anyone.  One day, I told a guy my dilemma with my stalled story and he said he owned a gun.

I peppered him with questions until he offered to take me for target practice to the desert (Warning sign #1) on the outskirts of town. 

I don’t know if it was the alcohol or the chance at researching for my craft that made me say yes.  It definitely wasn’t common sense.

The next morning, I met the guy and his buddy (warning sign #2) at the apartment complex. As they stacked an arsenal at my feet, adding duffle bags with ammo, calling out about different types of guns, I started rethinking my bright idea.

Finally, we were ready, but the guys sat on the couch and watched out the window.  When I asked when we were leaving, they informed me that a police cruiser was out front, handling a domestic dispute in a nearby apartment.  So they had to wait for the cop to leave to load the truck.  (Warning sign # 3)

By the time we got to the desert, I knew I was the target, not the shooter. 

Fred, the guy I’d met the night before, pulled the truck over, cracked open a beer, and handed me a gun. 

Not what I’d expected.  Fred carefully taught me how to hold a pistol, how to check to see if it was loaded, we practiced with the safety on, then, he pointed to my target, a can on a rock a few feet away. 

I shot so many guns that afternoon, I have no idea what they gave me.  I tried an AK-47, a shot gun, several different pistols, and a rifle.  When I’d gone through their bag of militia, we sat talking on the tail gate of the truck and had another beer. 

While we talked, I told him my stories plot and what I wanted to happen and they walked me through the type of gun that would be used.  He handed the pistol to me, I checked to see if it was loaded, then shoved the gun in my side.

The boys freaked.  Fred jerked the gun away from me and then I got the lecture about never pointing a gun at myself.

I explained I needed to know what it would feel like to my POV character, but they now looked at me like I was the crazy one.

The ride back to the apartment complex was quiet.  And I never saw Fred at the bar again.  But my chapter turned out amazing.

So what have you done in the name of research?


Monday, November 26, 2012

Why Should I Care?

The other day I saw a kid on a skateboard dart in front of a car near our local food store. Though I didn't know him or the driver, I got mad, thinking he should have known better than to jeopardize his life. Also, what about the driver? Imagine what hell the driver would go through if he'd hit the kid.

I often seen people on bikes with child carriers attached to the back, and I wonder why those parents think so much of their own exercise at the expense of what could happen to the child. Again, I don't know these individuals, but they still aggravate me. I can't figure out why children must be buckled up in special car carriers, yet can be so out in the open in the flimsy ones in back of bikes. It doesn't make sense.

Those are actual examples, and there are so many more, where my emotions are affected by people I don't even know.

Why am I mentioning this?

It leads me to one responsibility of authors. Yes, books should be technically correct in grammar and formatting, correct wording, sparse adjectives and adverbs, and all those other items that spell a quality read. However, a book can look correct, but still not engage the reader.

It's the author's duty to make the reader care what happens to the characters, or the reader will feel cheated and bored. Not only must we get into the characters' heads and think the same, but it's also important to share what we feel with the readers.

There are many ways to do this. Some are:

Dialogue, internal or external - What's said or omitted
Mannerisms - Biting a lip, tightening jaws, frown, smile
Another character's observations about the appearance or mannerisms of one of the characters.

These are some techniques. You may know others. If so, please share.

The main thing is to engage the readers. Make them care!

Morgan Mandel
Morgan Mandel is a past president of Chicago-North RWA,
was Library Liaison for Midwest MWA, belongs to Sisters in Crime and EPIC.

Her most recent releases are: Her Handyman, a romantic comedy,
and the thriller, Forever Young: Blessing or Curse.

See all her books at
Excerpts & Buy Links:
Twitter: @MorganMandel