Monday, September 29, 2014


In spite of the fact all my novels are set at real locations, realistically depicted, and I have to do a lot of on-site research to be sure I "get it right," my primary research tool is quiet contemplation. It's the thinking part of research that makes all our stories unique.

Two of us could choose the same location, talk to the same experts, read the same information, base our plots on a newspaper article we both read. But, when we write, it's what we think that sets us apart and causes us to create two very different stories.

(This thinking is what really intrigues me about writing, and, according to the opinions of several authors I admire, more deep thinking would also help our world today--not to mention democracy.)

Another superior research tool is found in simply living. We observe people, hear and participate in conversations, feel emotions, experience joy, sadness, disappointment, fear, love. We read about current and historical events. We live in--or travel to--various locations on our earth. We use our five senses to understand and label our world, AND THEN WE THINK.

In addition to that, there are, of course, the actions we normally designate as research:

1. Learning what the lives and jobs of people appearing in our story are like, including professional people such as police officers.

2. Reading or hearing history or life circumstances that will have an impact on the story in any way. For example, one of my valued research books for my novel, JOURNEY TO DIE FOR, set largely in the historic district of Van Buren, Arkansas, was the diary of a Civil War soldier who fought in and around Van Buren. It was found for me by an antiquarian book seller in that historic district.

3. And, of course, there's getting to know the story location thoroughly, what we see, and what our senses tell us, especially what we feel as we put ourselves "on location." The location for a story does not have to be a real place on the map of course, though mine always are, but it has to be real for the person writing about it. And that, of course, is something thinking can accomplish.

And this leads me to a caution--not one I thought up myself, but something I have read in different contexts many times over the last couple of years. The Internet, along with smartlphones and television, is actually changing our brains. Think about how very different correspondence by letter is from text messaging or e-mailing. One arrives slowly, and has taken much thought. The other is immediate. One is developed in large, sometimes complex, paragraphs, the other, often composed of a very few single and often incomplete sentences.As a result (I have read) the immediacy and informality of communication today has led to a narrowing of expressiveness and loss of eloquence.

Don't know where I read this, and it was several years ago, but it sure made me think. "When we go online, we enter an environment that promotes cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking, and cursory learning."  Provocative, huh? Whether you agree or not, it is something to think about.

Back to my thesis:  Carefully considered thinking is important for all writers, as well as for people in general. In fact . . . according to Katherine Paterson, thinking may hold the key to the survival of Democracy!

Radine Trees Nehring

Linda Maria Frank Talks About Turkey, the Setting for Her Third Annie Tillery Mystery

In an interview I was asked what I did about “Writers’ Block”. In the first two books of the Annie Tillery Mysteries, I did not experience the dreaded blank brain/blank page syndrome. I attribute that to the settings of both, The Madonna Ghost on Fire Island, and Girl with Pencil, Drawing in NYC.
Because I knew those setting so well and loved them just as well, the story could sometimes just flow on the backs of descriptive passages and historical accounts. The development of characters became easier, because of the placement of plot elements in specific settings in these two novels. The settings helped me to capitalize on specific personality traits that were evoked by the settings.

The third of the series, Secrets in the Fairy Chimneys, set in Turkey, was not as easy. Although I visited Turkey to research the book, the fabulous setting I found there were not a part of my soul. I had to really work hard to achieve a credible air of intimacy with the settings tha
t I had conveyed to my readers in books one and two.

I was excited to have the book set in both Istanbul and Cappadocia. I had come upon a description of the archeological dig, a real place called Catalhoyuk, in an archeology journal, and was fascinated by the fact that it was the oldest known town ever found (9,000yrs.). The area where it exists is Cappadocia, rich with ancient history from Hittites to Christians to the “cave people”, as they like to be known, of the present. “Fairy chimneys” is the name given to the weird geological formations that exist there. The stone is so soft that inhabitants carve them into dwellings.

My tour of Turkey included much time in Cappadocia, allowing me to take many pictures and absorb the atmosphere of the place. As I wrote the book, I was gratified for the notes I took, and even wrote passages of the book and adjusted the chapter outline to make it fit what I saw. My photos were invaluable. I had a super guide book that helped me with words and phrases. I took note of peoples’ names, so that I could use authentic Turkish names in the book. I felt that Cappadocia almost became one of the characters in the book with its dry vegetation, dust, and of course, fairy chimneys.
Istanbul, once Constantinople, was captivating. This city setting can still be conjured up just by closing my eyes. The bazaar exceeded my expectations. It was a total assault on the senses. A surprise was the Cistern, a museum of the city’s ancient underground water system. It was so unusual, and its underground passages and chambers had to figure into the story.

As a writer, the lessons I took from my Turkey setting are: really research the setting. If you can’t go there, study maps, view travelogues, and learn the history of the place. Google maps and images are a great help too. I reviewed the tours we took on my Turkey trip, especially the walking ones, along with my photos and notes.

There needs to be a balance between setting, character and plot, but setting for me can be one of your characters, one that can provide your main characters with endless possibilities.

Linda Maria Frank, retired from a career teaching science, including forensic science, resides on Long Island and is currently writing the Annie Tillery Mysteries: The Madonna Ghost, Girl with Pencil, Drawing and Secrets in the Fairy Chimneys. She also produces The Writer’s Dream, her local access TV show, seen on YouTube.


From Radine Trees Nehring. (With difficulty, since Blogger and my computer seem not to speak the same language. In fact, this is the third time I have attempted to write and post this blog this morning. Yikes!)
In spite of the fact all my novels are set at real locations, realistically depicted, and I have to do a lot of on-site research to be sure I 'get it right,' my primary research tool is quiet contemplation. It's the thinking part of research that makes all our stories unique.

Two of us could choose the same location, talk to the same experts, read the same information, base our plots on a newspaper article we both read. But, when we write, it's what we think that sets us apart and causes us to create two very different stories.

(This thinking is what really intrigues me about writing, and, according to the opinions of several people I admire, it goes way beyond writing. Deep thinkers are important to the world, not to mention democracy.)

Probably the best tool to set off our thinking process is simply living. We observe people, hear and participate in conversations, feel emotions, experience joy, fear, disappointment, sadness, happiness, love.We read about current and historical events. We live in--or travel to--various locations on our earth. We use our five senses to understand our world. And then we think.

In addition, there are of course the actions we normally designate as research that give us something to think about:

1. Learning what the lives and jobs of people appearing in our story are like--including professional people such as police officers.

2. Reading or hearing history or life circumstances that will have an impact on the story in any way. One of my valued research sources for JOURNEY TO DIE FOR, partly set in the historic district of Van Buren, Arkansas, was access to the diary of a Civil War soldier who fought in and around Van Buren.

3. And, of course, there's getting to know the story location thoroughly--what we see and what our senses tell us--especially what we feel as we put ourselves 'on location.' The location does not need to be a real place on the map, of course. It just has to be real for the person writing about it. That's something thinking can accomplish.

These are just a few of my thoughts (!) about how important carefully considered thinking is for all writers, as well as for people in general.

I bet you already thought of this. Right?

Saturday, September 27, 2014

New Release, New Name, New Publisher

I’d like to tell you about where my journey has led me. I also want to tell you who I am now, so you’ll know it’s me.

This month I set out on a new path. Or maybe this month is the culmination of a path started last year. Previously, I’ve self-published a series (that started out at a small press), and have started two more with a couple of terrific small presses, Barking Rain Press and Untreed Reads.

I love working with both these presses. Their approaches are different, but both go all out for their authors. The people who run them are constantly thinking of ways to help us get ahead.

I guess that wasn’t enough, though, because a new series debuted this month. FAT CAT AT LARGE, by Janet Cantrell (that’s me), was released by Berkley Prime Crime. They’ve been extremely generous, too, furnishing books for review and giveaways. (B&N link and Amazon link)

My other series have all won awards, Agatha nominations and a Silver Falchion Finalist. This one, my FAT CAT book, though, debuted as a national bestseller on two different lists—Barnes & Noble and Bookscan. I’ve been to a couple of bookstores that were happy to have me sign the stock. And, let me tell you, that is a thrill and a half!

I consider myself one of the luckiest mystery writers alive, being able to work with such wonderful publishers and editors, and my agent, Kim Lionetti at BookEnds, too! Berkley Prime Crime, Untreed Reads, Barking Rain Press, and Me (Kaye George).

Monday, September 22, 2014

A Quick Tip

I've been busy with a household project of turning a junk room into a bedroom, so I've been off the Internet more than usual.

Still, I'd like to leave you with a quick tip. Consider including something about yourself in your books, but in a devious way.

If you enjoy going to local festivals, make a festival a setting, or give your character a love or hate for neighborly activities.

If you love to exercise, consider giving your character a love or hate for keeping in shape.

If you love chocolate, you could be really mean and make your character allergic to it.

Now you get the idea, go ahead and have fun including stuff from your own life without being obvious about it.

Morgan at a local event
Find all of Morgan Mandel's books at:

Excerpts from all her books are also at:

Twitter: @MorganMandel

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Where Were You?

by Janis Patterson/Janis Susan May

Last week we marked the tragic anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on our country. I can tell you exactly where I was when I first heard the news – sipping coffee and listening to the radio in the back yard after The Husband left for work, appreciating the lovely weather and our hopeful garden. I will wager that every other American of an age to take notice at that time can tell you where they were, too.

It is sad that we must mark the milestones of time with such tragic memories. I wasn’t born when the attack on Pearl Harbor catapulted us into WWII, but my parents’ generation and the ones before it to a person could tell you exactly where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news that changed our world forever.

Same with the assassination of JFK. Whether you loved him or hated him, his death, perhaps more particularly the manner of his death, created an inescapable wound on our national psyche. Everyone I know can say exactly where they were and what they were doing at that fateful moment. I was sitting in my senior English class, disgruntledly worrying with some obscure conjugation problem that seemed dreadfully important at the time. For what it’s worth, I still have never mastered the subjunctive and can barely spell it. I can remember sitting there stunned as the principal, his voice shaking and brimming with incipient tears, read the horrid news over the loudspeaker. We all sat in an unprecedented silence, broken only by some soft sobbing, the heretofore important English exercise forgotten on our desks. School was over for the rest of that week, though we had to sit in silence until the regular release time.

Another memory of a school interruption for a cultural milestone, though a happier one. I remember sitting in my junior high science class listening to the radio broadcast of John Glenn’s spaceflight, the first time man had ever orbited the earth. This was the stuff of science fiction, a perceived gateway to a brighter and better future – one to which we have unfortunately not lived up – and our principal thought we should learn this turning point of history by participating in it through listening as it happened instead of reading about it later. I remember an entire school of youngsters all uncharacteristically silent, hanging on the commentator’s overblown words.

Same thing with the moon landing. My parents and I had been to San Antonio to visit an aunt and, on the way back, listened to the radio as practically every final inch of the space flight was described. Knowing that we would never make it home to see the actual landing on TV, we stopped at a Hillshire Farms café (I think that was the name) and sat there for what seemed like hours, glued to their tv as the space capsule finally settled onto the surface of the moon. History, indeed.
Perhaps less globally impacting but still possessing an emotional punch, I can remember other tragedies and where I was when the news came through. John Lennon’s murder – a party. Princess Grace’s unexpected death – visiting a friend. I was never a particular fan of Lennon, but Princess Grace’s death hit me hard. (She was the icon of my set – an idol to be emulated, though we were all too wise to ever aspire to match her incredible beauty and style.) Likewise I can tell you where I was when the space shuttle Challenger exploded in mid-air and, decades earlier, the submarine Thresher vanished. I can remember the wave of fear I felt when the razor’s edge of the Cuban Missile Crisis was revealed in its naked danger of our own extinction and the moment the first Gulf War was declared.

There are others, and I’m sure everyone has their own ‘right now, right here’ never to be forgotten moments. Some of yours will doubtless be different from mine, but there are always those – 9/11, Pearl Harbor, et al – that are merciless engraved on our collective consciousness. And that is not totally bad, for those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it.

My publishing blitz is going apace, in spite of laggardly distributors and positively malign computers. Enough said on both subjects, or I shall become prodigiously profane. This fortnight’s offering is THE AVENGING MAID, a re-release of a traditional Regency Romance with a shiny new cover and a thorough re-editing as well as a never-before-done paperback. If the publishing gods permit, it should be available on all major outlets, but after this week of slow uploading and sometimes clueless customer help personnel, I’m not guaranteeing anything.

It is, however, a fun read about a fashionable young miss who – in spite of the risk to both her reputation and her life – goes to work as a scullery maid at the school where her brother died in order to find out the truth about his death. She does not expect to fall in love with one of the masters, a mysterious man who may or may not be part of the evil there.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

What is a Cozy Mystery?

Recently, I was a panelist with the LA Chapter of Sisters in Crime and our topic was "Getting Cozy with Sisters in Crime."

 As we gathered and got acquainted.
l-r: Ellen Byron (Moderator)
Lisa Seidman
Tammy Kaehler
Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith

We first tackled the question, just what is a cozy anyway?
 Our answer was a mystery with a non-professional sleuth, living in a small town, probably has a cat, and has some interesting hobby, there is no cussing, on scene violence or sex.

None of us fit the criteria exactly.

Ellen Byron who is a TV writer, playwright and journalist has a first mystery called Realty Check.

Tammy Kaehler's career is in marketing and technical writing--and she now has two books in her Kate Reilly Racing mystery series, Dead Man's Switch and Braking Point. Avoidable Contact is coming soon. Learn more at

Lisa Seidaman is also a TV writer and her novel, Killer Ratings is a novel about murder behind the scenes of a television series. (She's written for numerous TV shows and won Emmy Awards for her work on Days of our Lives and the Young and the Restless.

Holly West is the author of the Mistress of Fortune series set in the late 17th century with a fortune teller sleuth, a mistress to King Charles II.  Mistress of Fortune will be followed by Mistress of Lies.

Here we are again, only this time Holly West has joined us.

The general consensus among us all was that none of our books actually fit the criteria for a cozy.

(Though both my series are set in small towns, the sleuths are professionals.)

It didn't matter, the audience had a great time and so did we.

This was the largest audience I've ever seen at a library event like this.

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith

Monday, September 15, 2014

Beyond the Mystery in Murder the Tey Way

I write mysteries because I love plotting murders, gathering suspects, deciding on methods to kill off my victims. What fun to delve into secrets, create mishaps, and analyze means, motive and opportunity. How satisfying to blend all of these elements into a cohesive story and grand finale where the murderer is revealed. It’s one way of experiencing danger from a safe distance.

As a writer, I also love to explore the larger questions in life, my characters and their relationships with one another. Why do people behave the way they do? What are the consequences of one impulsive action? There are two pairs of sisters in Murder the Tey Way, the second book in my Golden Age of Mystery Book Club Mysteries. How the sisters relate to each other impact on the story. My sleuth, Lexie Driscoll, gets an unexpected visit from her sister, Gayle. The two sisters aren’t close. Gayle is six years younger than Lexie, and they’ve little in common. The morning after Gayle arrives, she discovers a dead man in Lexie’s backyard. Gayle admits she’s running for her life, and Lexie wonders if Gayle has murdered the man, thinking he’s been sent to kill her.

Lexie’s neighbors, Felicity and Corinne Roberts, are an odd pair by anyone’s reckoning. Sweet Felicity is simple-minded and dominated by her older sister, Corinne. Each time Lexie comes to Felicity’s aid, Corinne berates Lexie for interfering in their lives. Lexie and her pal Joy, a former FBI agent, uncover the Roberts’ sisters’ secret past.

The characters in Murder the Tey Way discuss some of Josephine Tey’s wonderful novels. False identities, gender bending, and the psychology of studying faces are some of the subjects that influence Tey’s works. My characters discuss these themes, often wondering if and how they apply to the murders taking place in their own neighborhood. Emotions erupt at meetings, giving Lexie and Joy insight into the book club members’ characters and personalities,
and helps them solve the murders.

What are some of the themes and subjects you write about in your novels?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

What about the Paleo Diet?

by Kaye George

Do you suppose that’s what Neanderthals ate? The Paleo diet does contain lots of protein, but it also includes fresh fruits and vegetables. Neanderthals lived through some extreme cold times and wouldn’t have had ready access to fresh plants year round. The Paleo diet, though, is supposed to be what early Homo sapiens, the hunter gatherers ate. Neanderthals weren’t hunter gatherers! Here’s what I found out when I wrote DEATH IN THE TIME OF ICE.

(This article uses the alternate spelling of Neandertal—not a typo.)

Chapter 17
Question: How do we know what the Neanderthals ate?
Answer: An analysis of the chemicals laid down in Neanderthals' teeth indicates that they ate lots of meat. In fact they were more carnivorous than wolves!

Michael Richards, now at the University of Bradford in England, and his colleagues
recently examined isotopes of carbon (13C) and nitrogen (15N) in 29,000-year-old
Neandertal bones from Vindija cave in Croatia. The relative proportions of these
isotopes in the protein part of human bone, known as collagen, directly reflect their
proportions in the protein of the individual’s diet. Thus, by comparing the isotopic
“signatures” of the Neandertal bones to those of other animals living in the same
environments, the authors were able to determine whether the Neandertals were
deriving the bulk of their protein from plants or from animals.

The analyses show that the Vindija Neandertals had 15N levels comparable to
those seen in northern carnivores such as foxes and wolves, indicating that they
obtained almost all their dietary protein from animal foods. Earlier work hinted that
inefficient foraging might have been a factor in the subsequent demise of the
Neandertals. But Richards and his collaborators argue that in order to consume as
much animal food as they apparently did, the Neandertals had to have been skilled
Scientific American, Special Edition: New Look at Human Evolution, August, 2003, p. 69

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Extreme Unplugging and How I Lived to Tell the Tale

Last month, my husband and I took a road trip to Idaho. 1600 miles in a little over 24 hours on the way out. I was brain dead by the time we reached my mom's house in little Bowmont. After meeting family and spending some time with siblings, we took off for a week in the mountains above Crouch.

No cell reception.

No internet.

No computer as the power drained quickly.

Totally unplugged.

And I liked it. I didn't post to social media. I didn't check my email. I didn't finish the book that's due at the end of September. :)

Instead, I relaxed, took walks, laughed with friends and family, and snapped a lot of pictures.

We played tourist on the the way back home and took a few more days for the return trip.

Are you a fan of unplugging? Or do you like your modern conveniences?

Monday, September 8, 2014

Some Mystery Kind of Pics

Back from the NorthWoods vacation. Power was out for a day here due to a fast storm, so I'm way behind getting everything accomplished. 

Today, I'll leave you with a few Wisconsin pictures to put you in the mood for mystery reading or writing.

Find Morgan Mandel's mysteries and
romances at her Amazon Author Page,
and at her excerpt blog, Morgan's Book Links
Twitter: @MorganMandel

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Holiday? Huh?

by Janis Susan May/Janis Patterson
By the time you read this, the Labor Day holiday will be over, and I say thank Goodness!

Whoever started the canard that Holidays were for a holiday, a respite from work? I work harder on a designated Holiday than just about any other day. Like this last weekend – THE EGYPTIAN FILE officially released on the 30th, so there was all the attendant announcement publicity to do.

A digression - WHY does each book/readers site have different rules on publicity? Different days; different things accepted. Some will accept a post any day; some allow them only on certain days or on one specific day. Some will take only a simple announcement; some want everything – blurb, excerpt, links, cover, websites, everything but your blood type. Some take links, some don't. Some take cover shots, some don't. Some want blurbs, some don't. Some want excerpts, some don't. All seem to want something different in the subject line. Why don't they get together and make one set of rules for all that will be easier for writers and readers both?

Back to holidays. As I said, doing the basic release announcements takes a great deal of time and attention. Plus, The Husband is home, which at the least means more cooking. Plus, we're redoing the garage. The actual hammer-and-nails remodeling is done (thank Goodness, and before there was physical violence) but now we must clean out our various storage rooms and decide what to keep and what to give away. Worse yet, it seems that we each regard our own stuff as precious (mine is mostly antiques, by the way) and the other's as simply stuff, or worse, junk.

My head had barely lifted off the pillow on Saturday before The Husband began prattling about Let's Work On The Garage This Weekend. (When he asked me early in the summer what I wanted for my birthday, I told him two whole weeks in which he neither said nor wrote the word 'garage.' Instead I got a trip to Vegas and a huge kunzite ring. Sigh.) Of course, we were to start working right after I fixed breakfast. Normally cooked breakfasts are reserved for Sundays.

It's late summer in Texas, and ten minutes after dawn the sky is on 'Broil.' Needless to say, our garage is not air-conditioned. Neither are the storage rooms, and neither is our ancient but still (barely) running pickup. I keep telling myself I'd be paying money to use a sauna in some health club to be just as hot. It doesn't help.

The Husband doesn't seem to understand that when I am sitting in a reasonably cool room (who can afford to keep a room truly comfortable with today's abominably astronomical electric rates?) typing on a computer that I am truly working. Believe me, I am. I have blogs to write. I have release publicity to do. I have publicity on previous releases to do. I have future releases to get ready for my formatter and cover artist. And sometime – I don't know really when – I have to write on the next book, whose deadline is galloping steadily closer.

Thank Goodness tomorrow is Tuesday and his job will once more devour The Husband for the better part of the day. Don't get me wrong – I love him, he is the most wonderful man I have ever known and I love being with him, but he does have a fixation. Garage, garage, garage... I'm even coming to hate the sound of the word. I do love being with him. I will love it even more once the garage is finished.

We did work most of the weekend and got a fair amount done. At this rate we should have the job completed just when the weather finally gets cool enough to be outside without my becoming a fountain of perspiration. I do, though, have the dreadful premonition that when that day occurs his repetitive vocabulary will evolve from 'Garage' into 'Yard.' Help me...

Holiday? Phooey.

This fortnight's release is THE EGYPTIAN FILE, a contemporary romantic adventure which takes place in my beloved Egypt. Like THE JERUSALEM CONNECTION, my 30 July release, THE EGYPTIAN FILE is a brand new book, not a backlist rerelease.

I got the idea for THE EGYPTIAN FILE during my last visit to Egypt and it would not leave me alone until I wrote it. Luckily I was blessed with the research help of two good friends, Dr. Stephen Harvey (perhaps the world's most acknowledged authority on Ahmose I) and Dr. Dirk Huyge (Director of the Belgian Archaeological Mission to El Kab). They were both most generous with their time and information, and Dr. Huyge even allowed me to add a tomb to the El Kab site – mainly because things go on in that tomb that should never go on in a real one!

THE EGYPTIAN FILE tells the story of Melissa Warrender, who is sent by a telephone call - which may or may not have come from her dead father - to retrieve a mysterious file in Cairo. Others who are willing to kill for it want the file as well, and Melissa's only ally is a handsome Cairo cabby who may not be what he seems. As they flee across Egypt they know they must translate the cryptic message in the file if they are to survive. An unimaginable treasure is at stake if they can live to find it.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

From Camarillo State Hospital to CSU Channel Islands

From Wikipedia:
California State University Channel Islands (CSUCI, CSU Channel Islands, known informally as CI) is a four-year public comprehensive university located outsideCamarillo, California in Ventura County. CI opened in 2002 as the 23rd campus in the California State University system, succeeding the Ventura County branch campus of CSU Northridge. The campus had formerly been the Camarillo State Mental Hospital. It has been and continues to be the setting for numerous television, film and music video productions. CI is located midway between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles in Camarillo, at the intersection of the Oxnard Plain and northern most edge of the Santa Monica Mountain range. While the main campus is not located on the Channel Islands, the university operates a scientific research station on Santa Rosa Island.[5]
Channel Islands offers 53 types of Bachelor's degrees, 3 different Master's degrees, and 6 teaching credentials.[6][7] It does not confer Doctoral degrees. In the Fall of 2012, the university enrolled the largest amount of students in its 10 year history with 4,920 students including undergraduate and postgraduate. Since its establishment, the university has awarded nearly 7,000 degrees

Years ago, when I still lived in Oxnard, I went to Camarillo State Hospital/Developmental Center several times. When I was working with children with developmental disabilities at a pre-school, I attended some classes on the center's campus.
I also had a Camp Fire Girls group there of grammar school age girls with disabilities. Though the outside of the campus was beautiful with Spanish style buildings and in a beautiful setting surrounded by hills, the inside was not so wonderful. When I went to be with the girls, I was taken to a locked door, put in a small room, the door was locked behind me, the next door unlocked where my girls waited for me, then the person who let me in left and I was locked in. I brought my supplies with me and believe it or not had a great time teaching Camp Fire songs, making crafts, etc. with these young girls. Frankly, I don't remember how I got out, except that someone came and got me--but there was no cell phones in those days and certainly no signaling device in the room. All I remember was the girls and I both had fun.

There are some terrible stories reported about the state hospital back then, particularly the mental health part. However, I had a friend who spent some time there as a patient, and she didn't have anything like what was reported to say about the place.
This past weekend, we made a trip to the town of Camarillo to see relatives and I decided I wanted to see how CSU Channel Islands looked. Wow! What a gorgeous campus.

The bell tower was there back when it was a state hospital.
The new university is beautiful. Most of the buildings are brand new, but it looks like some have been refurbished from the old ones, though I read there are abandoned buildings still there. I did see some old courtyards. 
On line there are some tales of the place being haunted--fun to read about.
Back when it was a state hospital many movies were made there. 
People have written books about what went on there in the areas used for the mentally ill. No wonder Governor Ronald Reagan closed most of these places. Unfortunately, nothing much has replaced them and a good part of our homeless population are the cast-off mentally ill.
When the place was closed, those residents who were developmentally disabled were moved to Porterville Developmental Center and many of the psychiatric technicians relocated to Portervlle and the surrounding areas. Now, most of the residents have been moved into small facilities in the community.
There is a lot of fodder for murder mysteries in the history of Camarillo State Hospital, but I doubt I'll ever write about it.
I am happy to see that they've put that beautiful area to a great use. I suspect that many of the students have no clue about the history of the place--though I understand some are fascinated by all the ghost stories.
Oh, and in case you're wondering about the name of the university, Off the coast of Oxnard and Hueneme, the two beach towns next to Camarillo are the Channel Islands. I can understand why they used that for the name rather than UCSB Camarillo--though that would have made more sense.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Interviewing Pamela Burford

Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to Pam Burford. I've known Pam for many years. She is a wonderful writer and the founder of the Long Island Romance Writers, of which I am a member.

Tell us where you grew up and the kind of work you did before.
I grew up mostly on Long Island and still live there, which is why it’s been the setting for most of my books. In addition to writing, I have a day job: editor in chief of a nonprofit organization that produces a free audio magazine for people who are blind and print-disabled. It’s an incredibly rewarding job and has also been a wonderful education for my writing career.

Tell us a bit about your previous published novels.
Before Undertaking Irene, which is the first book in my new humorous mystery series, I wrote fourteen works of romantic suspense and contemporary romance.

What made you decide to write mysteries?
I knew I wanted to write a series, and my previous books that included mystery were the most fun to write, so it was an easy decision to make!

Give us a brief summary of your new book.
Jane Delaney, the town’s Death Diva, has been hired to surreptitiously liberate a brooch from the corpse during a wake. Before she can manage it, a mysterious man impersonating a priest beats her to it. Throw in a mysterious death that’s officially chalked up to natural causes, and an orphaned poodle with grooming and neurosis issues, and the game is on!

Why did you decide to publish Undertaking Irene yourself? Are you pleased you’ve gone this route?
I wanted total control over the publishing process. In particular I didn’t want to publish it traditionally, pray that I could live with the publisher’s decisions, and then wait years for the rights to revert to me. Does that make me a control freak? Well…☺

What do you think makes your books and your writing style unique?
For one thing, all of my books include some humor—it’s integral to my personal style. Dark, navel-gazing stories are not my thing! I love to entertain, and I love quirky characters and situations.

What advice would you give new writers?
Join a writers’ organization. Never underestimate the value of networking with, and learning from, your fellow writers.

What do you plan to write next?
Book two of the Jane Delaney mystery series, of course! The working title is Uprooting Ernie.

Who are some of your favorite mystery writers?
Tana French, who writes the Dublin Murder Squad books, is my favorite. I also love the work of Timothy Hallinan and the late Elmore Leonard.

These days writers are expected to market and handle PR for their books. What do you find is the best way to get out the word about your books?

I wish I knew! I use social media, price promotions, and a street team, but I prefer spending my time writing the best books I can. I figure if they’re good enough, the readers will find them.

 In what other genre would you consider writing?
I still love romance, and in fact there’s a romantic subplot in Undertaking Irene which will continue throughout the series. Jane is pulled in two directions between the proverbial Good Boy and Bad Boy. Fun times! I’m having such a great time writing this series, I can’t see doing anything else for the foreseeable future.

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