Friday, December 31, 2010

New Cover!

Here's the cover to go with the book trailer below. Love it! Thanks to all the readers who voted and commented on the Turquoise Morning Press Blog site. The book is due the end of January for February 2011 Valentine's Day. Okay, this is a departure from my suspense, but is a great way for people to experience my writing humor.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Short Story Debuting in Valentine Anthology

My story, The Legend of the True Love Angel will be one of twelve delectable reads in Turquoise Morning Press' Valentine Anthology for 2011. Here's a trailer to whet your appetite:

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

RFO-Relinquish, Fight, or Overcome

Last night as I dreamed, I realized that everything that happens to us depends on the way we perceive it. We can react in one of three different ways: 1) relinquish control even though we could affect the outcome, in other words, the cowards’ way out; 2) fight what's going to happen or 3) we can overcome it. Now I don't know about you but I would much prefer to overcome my obstacles than to relinquish control or fight against them. Think of it as making lemonade out of lemons.

How does this relate to our writing? How many of you have written for years, learned your craft, then submitted time and time again, without anything really to show for it? Stop for a minute. Maybe you’re doing the same thing over and over again but not elevating your craft in such a way that it's piques the editor’s curiosity and enthusiasm. Maybe it's time to try something new. Isn't a new year a great time to implement new strategies?

So, today fellow readers I challenge you to try something new in your writing, whether that be a new genre, writing a book in a different tense, or in first-person instead of third- person, identify something new to try with your writing and see if you get a better response than you have in the past.

I'm a firm believer that with enough determination and drive, anything can be accomplished. My mother used to tell me that I had more determination than anyone that she had ever met. I took that as a compliment and proceeded to be as determined as possible towards meeting my goals. I haven't always succeeded in what I want to do, but I believe truthfully that I’ve gone farther as a result of believing in myself. Only when I began to question whether or not I could do something that I falter.
My parting advice to you is to believe in yourself, constantly try to make yourself better, and never give up.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Marja McGraw is an author of mysteries that are lighter with a touch of humor. Her newest work will soon be available from Oak Tree Press.

What is the name of your latest book? And how did you come up with the title?
The most recent book is titled Bogey Nights, A Bogey Mystery, and it’s the first in a new series. It’s a spin off from The Bogey Man (pictured at the right),the latest in my Sandi Webster series. Most of my titles come from something within the book. In this case, it’s the name of a restaurant with a forties theme.

What is Bogey Nights about?

Chris Cross, also known as the Bogey Man, is a dead ringer for Humphrey Bogart and he plays the part well -- when it suits him. He wanted to follow in Bogey’s cinematic footsteps and become a private eye until he discovered just how difficult the job could be. His wife, Pamela, tells this story, and their seven-year-old son and two yellow Labs add to the humor.

Chris and Pamela lose their 1940s-themed restaurant in Los Angeles when a fire destroys the building. Deciding to change course, slightly, they buy a 1920s vintage brick house to convert into the new home for their restaurant, Bogey Nights. Before work can even begin on the remodeling, their two Labs discover a body buried in the cellar. The remains have rested there since 1942.

When the Crosses are approached by a relative of the victim, they begin to investigate the man, the house and the people who lived there in the forties. And then another body turns up, along with the action.

What books have most influenced your life?

Definitely To Kill a Mockingbird, along with every mystery I’ve ever read. I love creating the puzzles for readers to try to solve while the characters are doing what they do best. Solving crimes.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

Harper Lee. With To Kill a Mockingbird, she taught me how to write in first person and make my characters true to themselves and down to earth. She made me realize that the characters make the story, not the other way around. She also made me see that children can add a lot to a story because of their innocence, and at other times because of their different take on life. She only wrote one book, but it’s a story that I will long remember. Coincidentally, I believe that this year is the 50th Anniversary of this book.

What are your current projects?

I just finished a Bogey story that involves a gang of older Church Ladies. At least, that’s the way Chris seems to think of them. It was a lot of fun to write, and I think it will evoke a few chuckles from the readers. I’m about to start a new project; another Sandi Webster story. This one will involve a ghost town.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Coming up with new and interesting characters. Well, that and time. Between marketing and promoting books that are already published, keeping my website fresh and writing a blog, and trying not to neglect my family, time runs short. Although I do have a lot of nervous energy, that doesn’t always keep me going. There just aren’t enough hours in the day.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Actually, I do. The first piece of advice that I give everyone is grow a thick skin. No matter what you do, not everyone is going to like what you’ve written. Let it roll off your back, but don’t ignore the pearls of wisdom that might pop their little heads up from time to time. A few years ago there was a woman who critiqued my work. She’d rip it to shreds, but I always found some small thing in her comments that made absolute sense and that made my writing better. She’s moved on, and so have I.

Before you submit your book, reread it one last time, word for word. You know what it’s supposed to say, and that’s how you read it the first few times. You may have missed typos, so again, read it word for word. This is the voice of experience speaking. You want to submit the cleanest manuscript you can.

Lastly, read authors who write the same type of book that you write. You can learn a lot about format, characterization and all kinds of things by reading the work of others.


“You know your day has taken a turn for the worse when you buy a vintage house to convert into a restaurant, and you find a vintage body buried in the basement.
Chris and Pamela Cross learn that their 1920s building was a boarding house during the 1940s, and they’ve got more suspects than they bargained for. Never deceive yourself into thinking seniors can’t be dangerous.”


“Max,” I said, “I noticed a door outside, near the rear of the house. Where does it lead to?”
“There’s a cellar back there, but it was never finished. It’s pretty dirty down there. Do you want to see it or would you rather wait until you’re dressed for dirty?”
I laughed. “Now is good.”
Chris and Max walked outside and around the house with me. I lifted the door and two large dogs raced past me and flew down the stairs.
“Hey, you two. Come back here!” I had no idea what was in the cellar, but images of spiders and mice ran through my mind’s eye.
“There’s a light down there,” Max said, “but the electricity isn’t on right now.”
“I’ve got a flashlight in the car,” Chris said. “Be right back.”
A cellar would make a perfect place to store things once we finished it off. I wondered how much work it would require. I envisioned shelves for storage and maybe a section for wine and other liquors. It would need sturdier doors though.
“So you and your husband want to convert this house into a restaurant?” Max asked.
“That’s the general idea,” I replied. “It seems like we’d have an awful lot of work to do to make that happen though.”
I waited impatiently while Chris was gone, worried about Sherlock and Watson. I felt really antsy when I heard Watson begin to whine.
“What’s going on down there?” I called, wishing they could answer me. It was too dark to climb down the stairs.
Chris returned with the flashlight and turned it on, carefully climbing down the stairs. I followed closely behind him. “What’s wrong with the dog?” he asked.
“I have no idea, but let’s get them out of here.”
Chris turned the light on the dogs and Watson was scratching at a patch of cement in the corner of the cellar. There was a large old barrel sitting on top of it. I wondered if something might have leaked out of the bottom. I noticed another patch on the other side of the cellar. It appeared that at some point in time someone had thought about finishing off the cellar.
“Watson, leave it,” Chris ordered. Leave it was a command we’d learned when training them, along with take it. It was a good lesson in patience for them.
Not only did Watson ignore Chris, but Sherlock began whining, too, and the scratching continued.
“Out,” Chris ordered. “Right now!” He was using his authoritative voice, but the dogs weren’t listening. He grabbed Sherlock’s collar and pulled. He repeated his command and the dog reluctantly obeyed, heading for the stairs. Watson was more stubborn, but finally obeyed and followed Sherlock.
I felt like all the time and energy we’d spent training them had been a waste, but they truly usually obeyed us.
“I wonder what that was all about,” I said.
“Probably a dead body buried down here,” Chris said.
“Not funny, Bogey Man.”
He smiled at my use of his nickname. “I was joking. Those dogs are always getting into things. If we buy this place I’ll get rid of the barrel and that should solve the problem.”
“I hope you’re right,” I said.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

I am Not a Witch - Nancy Lynn Jarvis

Last week I gave a little talk at a Rotary Club meeting. All the members wore impressive-looking round metal necklaces which stated their name and occupation – everyone but me, of course because I was a guest, not a regular. They gave me a paper stick-on that read, “Hello, I’m…” I filled out my badge so it read, “Hello, I’m Nancy. I kill people.” Funny— quite a few Rotarians did few double-takes.
I’m not a killer by nature. So why would a nice real estate agent like me turn to a life of murder and chocolate chip cookies?

I never intended to write anything other than enticing advertising copy for my listings, but in 2008 when the real estate market tanked and I couldn’t dispassionately tell clients their homes might not sell for what they owed on their mortgage, I decided to run away from the too-real world of foreclosures and short sales, take a time out, and pretend to be retired.

It took less than a month without enough to do to get bored; I missed all the interesting clients and associates I met in real estate and I especially missed hearing their stories. Maybe because of that or maybe because my fallback mode was avoiding reality, as a purely time-filling intellectual exercise, I began to toy with the idea of writing a mystery.

The logic and careful structure of mysteries has fascinated me since the days when I sat in a wicker rocking chair at my grandmother’s house and read Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers, sworn to secrecy in case my mother wouldn’t approve of a young girl reading something other than Nancy Drew.

Writing a mystery would be like solving a logic puzzle—Sudoku on steroids— and if that wouldn’t be fun enough, mystery writing would give me an excuse to delve into a world of fascinating but unsettling things like decomposition, accidental mummification, and how ligature strangulation and death by hypothermia work. Researching those topics would be akin to being a four-year-old playing with rubber dinosaurs: the game would be enjoyable, and I could control what might otherwise give me nightmares.
The idea of writing mysteries kept getting more appealing. I could take my twenty-plus years of situations—that’s a polite term for all those things that happen in the world of real estate that makes agents say, “I could write a book”—and use them for background. I could create a real estate agent protagonist named Regan McHenry who could be kind of like me, only younger, thinner, and more daring, and get back in touch with my favorite agents, clients, and associates by using them as inspiration for characters.

The murders in my books are made up, but the real estate stories are real—yes, Realtors do come across bodies in the course of doing business—so a Realtor who solves mysteries isn’t as far-fetched as it might seem.

And the cookies? Well, Realtors often bake cookies at open houses to entice buyers. It’s an old trick-of- the-trade. In the first book I wrote, The Death Contingency, Regan baked homemade cookies at an almost lethal open house. In Backyard Bones she baked cookies to take as comfort food to a client accused of murder. After Regan’s cookies appeared in two books, there had to be a recipe. When people visit my website they can not only read the beginnings of the books, they can also pick up a free recipe for “Mysterious Chocolate Chip Cookies.” The cookies make a cameo appearance in Buying Murder, the third book in the series, and will be in all future books.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I should warn you that I have a silly sense of humor. During the last political season I made a spoof commercial that mimicked Christine O’Donnell’s ad. (She’s the non-witch who ran for the Senate, remember?) Feel free to take a look at it if you like. You can pretend it’s a book trailer.

Website: http://www.goodreadmysteries.comFacebook:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

And the winner is...

Jacqueline Seewald has won a copy of The Big Grabowski , by Carolyn Rose and Mike Nettleton, for commenting on Carolyn's post, December 9th. Congratulations! Keep checking for more free giveaways. You never know...

Monday, December 13, 2010

Interview with Mike Nettleton

Mike Nettleton is a Co-author of Mystery & Young Adult Fantasy.His newest work Sometimes A Great Commotion is available from Krill Press.

Here’s a brief Bio: Mike Nettleton grew up in Bandon and Grants Pass, Oregon.A stint at a college station in Ashland led to a multi-state radio odyssey with on-air gigs in Oregon, California, and New Mexico under the air name Mike Phillips.In 1989 he returned to the Northwest and in 1994 joined KEX Radio in Portland.He’ll retire in December after 42 year’s in radio. His hobbies are golf, pool, Texas hold-em poker, and book collecting.

Carolyn and Mike have authored a number of mysteries.Surf to for more information.

What is the name of your latest book? And how did you come up with the title?

Sometimes a Great Commotion is the second in our Devil’s Harbor mystery series. We actually had different titles for the books but our publisher Ken Lewis, thought they didn’t say much about the books. As I recalled his exact words were ooooh ick! He likes catchy titles that remind people of something they’re already familiar with. He came up with The Big Grabowski, the title of the first book. Carolyn and I decided that since our book dealt (in part) with a controversy over logging of old growth trees we’d borrow from another, more serious book about logging, Ken Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion.

What is Sometimes a Great Commotion about?

One of the conventions of cozy type mystery novels set in small towns is the premise that everyone has secrets. So, much of the plot revolves around who could have committed a murder to cover up those secrets. In Commotion, things are set in motion when Elspeth Hunsaker, the local holier-than-thou roller orders the crab cake special at the Devil’s Food Cafe and sees what she believes to be a holy image grill-scorched onto the surface of the crustacean pancake. She begins spreading the word through the internet and soon hundreds of pilgrims arrive to see the miracle for themselves. The influx of people taxes the city water system and Mayor Henri Trevelle must mandate water rationing and has portable toilets installed on every corner. To pay for repairs to the citiy’s aging waste water plant, the mayor decides the town must harvest and sell a stand of timber. This brings in environmental protesters, led by a particularly fervid and opportunistic tree sitter named Forest Echo. When someone cuts a tree out from under him and he’s found dead beneath it, the mystery is joined. Dozens of people had motives to kill him but only one protected a secret important enough to have actually done the deed.

What books have most influenced your life most?

In terms of writing humorously, Carl Hiaasen has been a huge influence. His larger-than-life sometimes over-the-top characters have always made me laugh and turn pages. Kurt Vonnegut is another writer whose wry sense of humor changed my way of looking at life. Cat’s Cradle and Slaughterhouse Five were eye-opening.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor? In terms of style?

I don’t really have a good answer. A bookworm since childhood, I’ve read so many books, I’m sure I snitched bits and pieces from many of them. Early on, I greatly admired Ray Bradbury and his book Zen in the Art of Writing was the first thing I read that made me think about the writing process.

What are your current projects?

I’m reworking a hard-boiled mystery called Shotgun Start that features a disgraced ex-cop who’s making a living as a golf hustler, extracting his rent money from rich suckers on the golf courses of Albuquerque, New Mexico. I had the book with an agent a number of years back and she wasn’t able to sell it. I’m trying to tighten it up, make it move faster. Then I’ll begin the marketing process again.

Also, I have a sequel in mind for The Hermit of Humbug Mountain. I’ve always loved the book (the story came from the memory of getting lost in the woods on the real-life Humbug Mountain on the southern Oregon coast), and I’d like to take the characters to the next place in their lives.

That book, by the way is available as a Kindle download at a reduced price through the month of December. If you’ve got one of those great new readers, check it out through Or, if you’re old school it’s available as a book book too.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

My biggest issue is that I have the attention span of a hummingbird combined with the curiosity of a six-month old puppy. Carolyn has a buzz phrase she uses to describe it: “ooh bright shiny thing.” I’m easily distracted. My major challenge is to latch onto something and finish it and not get sidetracked in the process. I’ve written so many first chapters in my life, there’s some talk that I ought to try to release those as a book. Working title: Beginnings Without End.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Don’t forget writing should be fun. Write fast and forget about rules when you’re trying to finish a first draft. We all try to hone our craft and learn tricks-of-the-trade that make our writing smoother, more compelling, and more marketable. But if you let the little critic-guy intrude on your writing process during the first pass, you may find yourself frustrated, angry, and convinced that it’s not worth it.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Interview with Gerrie Ferris Finger

Gerrie Ferris Finger is an author of traditional mysteries and romantic suspense. Her newest work THE END GAME, an award winning traditional mystery, is available from St. Martin's Minotaur.

What is the name of your latest book? And how did you come up with the title?

THE END GAME got its title from chess. Other pieces are used to describe certain characters (bad guys) in the book, i.e., the bishop, the rook, the knight. The end game in chess is the last few moves before the winner captures the king (checkmate), or the players reach stalemate..

What is THE END GAME about?

Dru, the protagonist, and Lake, her lover, are set to share a rare weekend together when Portia Devon a juvenile court judge calls to give Dru an assignment. Dru, a former policewoman left the force and founded Child Trace, Inc. Most of her cases came from Atlanta's juvenile courts. Lake is an Atlanta homicide detective. Judge Devon tells Dru a house fire in an Atlanta community has claimed the lives of Wanda and Ed Barnes, and that their foster girls are missing.

When Dru was in the APD, she partnered with Lake and they had an uncanny ability to solve cases, so Lake's commander agrees with Judge Devon and assigns Lake as lead detective to the case. Thus a romantic weekend turns into a nostalgic time when they were solving cases together.

It's a chaotic scene: emergency vehicles, cops, firemen, curious neighbors, reporters, two search dogs with their handler, helicopter clattering overhead, The fire captain declares the fire an arsonist's work, using a delayed starter. Dru and Lake work the neighborhood. Everybody knows a little something but nobody wants to talk. Before long there's an "eeny-meeny-miney-moe of suspects."

Is the kidnapper Conrad, the universally disliked head of Child Protective Services? Is Doonan, the property-rich architect next door, a child molester? How about Dwight, the ex-con who may or may not have been wrongly convicted of pedophilia? How about Miss Goddard, also known as Gossiping Goddard, who keeps secrets? And who is "Santa," the person the two missing girls were seen chatting with earlier?

After Dru discovers two other foster girls from the area have gone missing in the last eight years, she uncovers an international sex organization that kidnaps American children and ships them around the world for the sex trade. With the Amber Alert sounded and the child traffickers unable to get the two children out of the country, they will certainly kill them and make it look like serial murder – the End Game.

What books have most influenced your life most?

To name a few: F. Scott Fitzgerald, THE GREAT GATSBY; D. H. Lawrence, LADY CHATTERLEY'S LOVER, (sneaked from my mother's book shelf when I was twelve years old); Harper Lee, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD; Kurt Vonnegut, SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE; John Fowles, THE FRENCH LIEUTENANT'S WOMAN; Margaret Mitchell, GONE WITH THE WIND, everything by Dennis Lehane, Greg Iles, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Shakespeare every wrote .

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

I would say too numerous to mention. In mainstream fiction, Joyce Carol Oates and Barbara Kingsolver are two. With mysteries, P. D. James, Patricia Highsmith and Ruth Rendell. Of course, my love of mysteries started with Agatha Christie (whose didn't?). In Sci-Fi, Isaac Asimov, naturally. Peter Straub's GHOST STORY inspired me to write one of my own, to be published one day later this year.

With regard to my writing style, Lewis Grizzard, a colleague and columnist at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution influenced me greatly.

What are your current projects?

Currently working on the fourth in the Dru/Lake series, working title RANDOM ACTS.

What else have you written?

THE LAST BUS TO ALBUQUERQUE, (Longstreet Press) and SOUTHERN BY THE GRACE OF GOD, (Longstreet Press) are the writings of Lewis Grizzard complied and edited after his death in 1994. Grizzard was a humorist and columnist for the AJC.

“Q&A on the NEWS (Longstreet Press) is a collection of the best news columns that I wrote for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

LOOK AWAY FROM EVIL, (Writer’s Showcase, 2000) a mainstream novel that reflects the mystique of the South and its quirky characters.

The Laura Kate Plantation Series Books One, Two and Three from Desert Breeze Publishing: These are romantic suspense ebooks. WHEN SERPENTS DIE, HONORED DAUGHTERS and WAGON DOGS.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Most involve the plot. Once I've created the characters and put them in the setting, which is partly created by the characters, too, I find it challenging to keep them moving toward the grand scheme I have in mind. I always know the ending, the whodunit in a mystery, but keeping the characters from going in directions that doesn't advance the plot often means wiping out pages of action that goes nowhere.
Do you have any advice for other writers?

Only to keep writing. It's hard work and often disappointing when agents and editors reject your work, but stiffen the lip and get on with the story.



Saturday morning in April

Satisfied, Lake and I lay apart on the king bed. The breeze through the window flitted across my skin, fine-tuning the pleasure of cooling down. In a little while, we’d get up, throw on sweats and run the 10-K to Piedmont Park. We’d drop onto a bleacher to watch a pick-up softball game–maybe join in if idle gloves lay nearby. Right now, though, an après snooze was the plan.

Not to be. A train horn moaned into my nap. The bedside clock said the six-thirty a.m. from Birmingham was smack on time, the chug-rumble growing louder by the wheel turn. It’s a miracle how the bricks and mortar of this old cotton warehouse–now lofts– withstands the shakes and has for more than a century. Lake lives on the third floor, and, whenever our schedules give us a weekend together, we alternate between the burbs, where I live, and this place, which I adore.

I also adore train squalling. This behemoth’s air horn warbled loud and long like an off-key contralto. I lifted a finger and tapped Lake’s broad back. “Engineer Number Two.” My brain’s chockfull of useless knowledge, like knowing the signature sounds of seven air horn maestros.

Lake rolled his shoulder toward me. “Your cell.”


“It’s playing your song.”

I got up, amazed at his ability to hear my cell phone tinkling out Mozart with the train screaming by. My cell lay on the window sill. I hoped it was a wrong number, but the display said otherwise. “’Lo, Porsh.”

Portia Devon yelled in my ear, “You in a tornado?”

Cranking the industrial window, I yelled back, “Train. Hang on.” The chill in the room was no match for the cold lump of apprehension beating along with my heart. Last night, Portia and I closed a runaway-girl case. It had taken me three days to trace the sixteen-year-old to San Francisco. Within an hour, I got the call she was a DOA. Portia and I salved our failure with a drink in her chamber. We said our goodnights, and she told me to rest up, we’d talk Monday. “What’s got you up so early?” I asked.

“You and Lake need to put your clothes on. Guess you haven’t been watching the television.”

“No,” I said, looking at Lake who’d raised himself on his elbows. “We haven’t been watching television.”

Lake grinned about the same time his landline rang. He listened for a few seconds, then his face lost its soft edge. He grabbed the TV clicker.

Portia said, “The fire’s in Cabbagetown.” Her voice crackled like the flames leaping on the screen, a replay of the fire that occurred earlier. “Two people dead. Man and wife. Foster parents. Two girls gone. Sisters.”


“They weren’t in the house, dead or alive.”

“How old?”

I watched Lake slam his phone receiver and head for the bathroom.

Portia said, “One’s nine, one’s seven. The seven-year-old is deaf. You’re hired.”
Portia is a juvenile judge, and I own Child Trace, Inc. I search for missing kids, and my main client is the Search and Rescue Division of the Juvenile Court System. “On my way. Which street?”

“Cotton–by the old converted mill. I’ll catch you there with details and bring photographs.”

“Lake’s on the case, too?”

“I talked to the Major Case commander. Thought you’d like that.”

“Yeah, thanks.”

Pressing END, I went for my backpack, slid the cell in, and thought about my poor overworked lover. A big-city detective lieutenant couldn’t count on two whole days to himself unless he escaped to a desert island and changed his name. Neither, it seemed this morning, could an ex-policewoman turned child finder.

I pulled clothes from a wardrobe while I watched the tragedy on the tube. A helicopter hovered above the scene. Video caught firemen tromping through a gutted house and horrified people clinging to each other. The chopper ranged the neighborhood where searchers darted like fire ants. Closer to the ground, the lens tightened on a Search and Rescue dog pulling its handler along an overflowing ditch. Another SAR dog zig-zagged across a playground with swings and see-saws.

Lake came from the bathroom toweling his chest. We exchanged glances. I said, “It was really nice while it lasted.”

“Really nice?” he mocked, flinging boxers and socks from a drawer onto the bed. “You say better things about my wardrobe.”

He’s a tall, broad-shouldered man, but it’s his face that captivates–all angles and irregularities merging to make him beautiful. Then my brain’s devil-voice said, you’re not the only woman in Atlanta who thinks so. I didn’t have the time to dwell on my jealous side and whirled for the shower. I said over my shoulder, “It appears you’re on loan to me.”

“Isn’t owning me enough?”

If only I did. “Portia made sure you got the gig.”

“Lovely Portia.”

As I washed hair and scrubbed body, I said goodbye to an amorous weekend and set my mind on the reality of what lay ahead. Kids going missing after their house burns down. Foster kids. Troubled kids. My kind of kids.

Out of the bathroom, dark hair dripping, I snatched up pants, shoved into them, and reached for my shirt. While I zipped and buttoned, Lake strapped on his cop gear, cell, radio, guns – his police issue in a shoulder holster and his personal Glock in a paddle holster at the back of his waist. He stuck his arms into his blue jacket, strung badges around his neck, and clamped on his trademark panama – a navy straw now it was spring. All the while, his eyes were riveted on the TV screen. “Those wooden houses are tinder boxes," he said, shaking his head. “A spark is all it needed." He flicked off the remote, and I slipped on my backpack–a compact leather thing with enough room to carry my mini-laptop, PDA, cell phone, and wallet. I'm licensed to carry, but my gun's at my house, not that I thought I'd need it.

Our footsteps on the wooden planks resounded like thunder through the hall and down the narrow steps. Apologies to the neighbors later. We bolted across the street to a security fence. Lake flashed his palm across the scanner, the gate opened, and we dashed to the unmarked police car.

As Lake raced through downtown, my heart beat to the pulsating blue teardrop lights mounted on the dashboard. This wasn’t the weekend we’d planned, but I was ecstatic to be working with him again.

As if he'd read my mind, he reached to squeeze my hand. “Me, too, Dru.”

My name is Moriah Dru, and, except for old friends, I’m called Dru, thanks to my cop days and M DRU etched on my metal name tag. I met Richard Lake when we were assigned to patrol the Atlanta Police Department’s Zone Two. Within three weeks, we’d become lovers. When he got promoted to homicide, I couldn’t adjust to another partner, mainly because each man assumed he was taking Lake’s place in my bed. After two lothario-type sidekicks, against whom I could have brought harassment charges, I quit and started Child Trace, something Portia had been pestering me to do since my maternal instincts (ha!) led me to my first lost child.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Who do you kill, when, and why?

When I began writing my first mystery, Consulted to Death, I’d been working as a TV news producer for a decade and was dismayed and discouraged by the control consultants often had over news content and on-air presentation. I channeled those emotions into my sleuth, TV Assignment Editor Casey Brandt, and killed off Richard Plenty, a sleazy consultant out to feather his financial nest at the expense of others. I even had him stabbed in the back. Talk about therapy.

To complicate the plot and pique reader interest, I had the killer frame Casey for the crime, and I gave almost everyone in the newsroom a motive for the murder. Then, to allow readers to invest more in the outcome, I killed off a nice guy. That also muddied the plot waters and sent waves of suspicion out in new directions. With so many suspects, detecting was a challenge.

When I tackled the sequel, Driven to Death, I decided to kill off a nice guy and point the arrows of suspicion at a man who was guilty of so many other crimes it seemed that he must be the one. Separating out real motive from myth also created challenges. Forcing Casey to concentrate too hard on the guy “it has to be” allowed the real killer to get away with another crime.

In the third book of the series, Dated to Death, I used the technique of a murder that isn’t discovered for years. I killed off a snobbish prom queen. (I’m not admitting that was also therapeutic, but I will tell you that I didn’t go to my prom.) Again, there were plenty of suspects because she’d made herself unpopular. She was also living a secret life.

By now, you probably see a pattern emerging.

If I killed off a “bad” person who “deserved to die,” I found myself with a huge suspect pool and an enormous supply of red herrings. But readers might be so delighted that “he got what was coming to him,” that they might not give a fig about motive and method and all the plot points in the middle. They might even skip to the end and then put the book aside.

But, if I killed off a “good” person who “deserved to live,” I could be more certain that readers—outraged by the cruel fate I’d inflicted on the victim—would go along for the full ride. And I could also be certain that there would be plenty of outrage among my characters, and perhaps even some vigilante justice or at least a rush to judgment supported more by emotion than evidence. In addition, in digging for motive, I’d be able to go deeper into both the character of the victim and that of the killer.

More specifically, the character of the first person to be knocked off in each book set the tone for the rest of the book.

When my husband and I wrote the Devil’s Harbor mysteries—The Big Grabowski and Sometimes a Great Commotion, we intentionally killed off people who weren’t well-liked. That had the effect of creating plenty of suspects, lies, and alibis for our amateur sleuth, reporter Molly Donovan, to sort through. And, because these are comic cozies and not deep character studies, those lies and alibis were often outrageous.

When I wrote Hemlock Lake, a mainstream mystery, I took the opposite approach and killed off people who were well-liked or at least fairly harmless. My intent was to make the killer seem even more heartless, vicious, and focused, and to make readers keep turning the pages to see if he would be brought to justice. At the same time, I dove deep into the protagonist’s past and psychology.

Right now I’m working on the sequel and I’m continuing in the same vein. I’ve chosen to take out a man who wanted only to do good but accidentally crossed the path of a killer attempting to keep at least three other murders a secret. When I finish it in the spring, I’ll be ready to kill off someone who had it coming and Mike and I will start on the third Devil’s Harbor cozy.

All those who comment will be entered in a drawing for one of Carolyn's books, so let's hear what you have to say!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Interview with Mary Montague Sykes

Mary Montague Sikes is an author of mystery, suspense, and romance. Her newest work, Night Watch is available in trade paperback from Oak Tree Books and also in Kindle version from Amazon.

What is the name of your latest book? Night Watch And how did you come up with the title?

One element of the story concerns an art theft of Old World master paintings. I thought about Rembrandt and the painting, Night Watch. Since Lily, the heroine of my novel, spends a lot of time spying from her condo on the strange late night happenings along the waterfront, she has her own “night watch” going on. Between the art work and the spy work, the title seemed perfect.

What is Night Watch about?

My story begins with the murder of an NPR reporter, and the rest of the book deals with events connected to the murder. The resort in Trinidad where Lily goes on vacation is an ocean away from the English Channel where the murder took place. At first she doesn’t comprehend the ties the locations have with gun-running and stolen artwork, and she doesn’t know about the murder—only that people keep confusing her for someone else. Trying to become a photojournalist, Lily doesn’t have time to understand her own connection to the past as she deals with fear and danger in caves, a nature preserve, a car chase, and kidnapping in a speed boat heading to the Grenadines. When she “recognizes” a dragonfly necklace she doesn’t understand what the meaning is. Can it be symbolic or is it because she is a “walk-in” who relates to reincarnation? When Kyle Warren comes into her life, she is torn between lack of trust and a deep-seated feeling that she somehow knows him and can indeed trust him.

What books have most influenced your life most?

A few years ago, I was very much influenced by the writings of LaVylre Spencer. I especially enjoyed her book, Morning Glory. I also have liked reading books by Margaret Chittenden. More recently, I’ve found books by Mary Alice Monroe that I’ve enjoyed. Monroe likes to base her stories around an important issue in nature such as the plight of turtles along populated beaches. Lights along the beaches can lead to the deaths of hatching turtles. One of Monroe’s books, Swimming Lessons, is about those turtles.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

The late Jane Deringer was my real writing mentor. She started a wonderful writing program at Rappahannock Community College, near my home in Virginia, and I took as many of her classes as I could. She developed quite a writing community in our area of Virginia. She died more than 10 years ago, and I still miss her.

What are your current projects?

I’m working on a book, Jungle Beat, set in Antigua and in Costa Rica. I also have a project set in the Bahamas. Both are for the Passenger to Paradise series that Oak Tree created for my books with exotic settings.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Finding the time to write is becoming more difficult especially now that I’ve discovered the instant gratification of blogging! I also enjoy playing tennis which cuts into my writing time. However, the tennis is part of the health activities that I consider essential.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

If you want to be a writer, never give up. Keep working at it and improve your skills until something wonderful happens when you least expect it.

Author at a rugged seascape similar to Trinidad

Chapter One
Port of Spain, Trinidad
November 5, 1986


When Lily Henri turned toward the voice, she saw a tall blond man dash out of
the crowd toward her. His hurried footsteps clicked on the gray floor tiles and
resounded sharply above the clamor of the airport terminal.

Her name was not Katherine. She looked around for someone else standing
near her but saw no one. Confused, Lily shrank back from the approaching stranger, allowing her shoulder bag to fall on the luggage stacked next to her.

His tawny gold eyes narrowing, the man paused a few feet away and stared at
her. Lily watched his face pale and his eyes fade to a tarnished color. The man looked as if he were seeing a ghost and she was it.

An involuntary shiver slithered down her spine.


“No. My name’s not Katherine.”

The stranger’s serious eyes and tense voice made her uneasy. She wanted to edge
away, but she could not move far without abandoning her luggage.

As if hypnotized, the man continued to stare.

“I’m sorry, but you’ve mistaken me for someone else,” Lily said in a level voice.

She raked back unruly strands of pale blonde hair that clung to her cheeks.
The man frowned, but he did not turn away. Instead, he continued to study her
with piercing eyes that left her bewildered and confused. He looked confused as

“No. No. I see that you’re not Katherine,” he said after what seemed a very long
time. He shook his head.

Lily detected an English accent to his subdued voice. And it held an edge of
sadness that tempted Lily to reach out and touch him. Of course, she did not, but it took considerable discipline to keep the impulse in check.

With sudden resolve, the man straightened his broad shoulders, and a pleasant
smile replaced the confusion on his handsome face. “My apologies. I didn’t intend to stare. It’s just… It’s that you look so very much like her…


“Except what?”

The handsome stranger had captured her curiosity. Lily wanted to know more.

Before the man could reply, a blue-eyed beauty, long, flaming red hair cascading
over her shoulders, stepped from the crowd and caught hold of his arm.
“It’s time to board the flight.”

Her voice was low and sultry. A green silk dress clung to the woman’s ample breasts and curved tight to her hips. She tilted her face and smiled up at the man. Without looking at Lily, she guided him toward the departure gates.

“Sorry to have bothered you,” the man said, his voice now more deep and
confident than before. He pulled away from the woman, came back, and pressed a
white business card into Lily’s hand.

“If you should need me, do call,” he said. “Sometimes people in Trinidad need
help,” he added, then rushed away into the crowd with the tall redhead on his arm.

The space where the man had stood turned cold and empty. Lily shivered as she
read the name, “Kyle Warren,” in bold black letters. A local number was listed at the bottom, a telephone number, no other information.

She stared after Kyle Warren and the beautiful woman, watching them disappear
into the crowd of people headed toward the gate. Now Lily felt much lonelier than before. To add to her confusion, she sensed someone she knew had left her. But, of course, that could not be.

It was late, and she was tired. Yet something about the tall blond man was familiar…And Lily didn’t quite like the way that redhead latched onto his arm.

She shrugged. She couldn’t be jealous of this stranger’s friend. What was she

The trip—a working vacation—to Trinidad was a big step for Lily. She’d chosen
a foreign destination, completely unfamiliar to her, in hopes the sights and sounds of a new place would somehow enhance her photojournalism career.

The brochure advertising the remote Trinidad resort intrigued her. She needed
to get away from the family and friends she didn’t seem to know anymore.

Things were strange for her since the accident…

©2010 Mary Montague Sikes

Link to purchase from Oak Tree:

Kindle purchase from Amazon:

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Remembering Ted

He was made in the mold of a bad boy hero with the insides of a marshmellow.

After almost a week since Ted’s death, I’m ready to emerge and pay tribute to my husband, cross-posting this on both my blogs. Please bear with me for this, dear readers and then we’ll be on with all things about books, reading and life in general.

Before beginning, I want to again thank the writing community to which I belong for their support and words of condolence. I discovered many have been in similar circumstances as I have and emerged refreshed and recharged. Your comfort has meant the world to me.

Now on to Ted…

I met my husband in 1979 at a small store on Rivermont Avenue called “The Cavalier.” My cousin introduced us. Ted wore a white hat with a feather sticking out of it, and his first words to me were, “Just call me Robin Hood.” I wasn’t sure his head was tied on real tight, but we soon fell into a very passionate and romantic relationship that lasted that whole summer. Near the end of it, he told me on the first day it rained he was taking a bus across country with his bike (big bike enthusiast, biked nine miles to and from work everyday, while climbing electric poles during the day at work). He said he missed California and was going back there but would call me. He did as he said he would and called me a few times cross-country, but then I heard nothing.

Fast forward four years to 1983. One day he showed up again, evidenced by leaving a dozen steamed crabs in a plastic bag around the doorknob of my apartment front door. He called and asked me out that evening for a welcome home party. We started seeing each other again. Then, on Labor Day weekend, we went to the Blue Ridge Parkway to find his brother who was camping out with his wife and newborn son. Ted was sure his brother would never camp in a regular campground (which he had) and insisted on going up a dirt path straight up a mountain to find him at dark.

On the way down, he moved too close to the left side of the road and we went over the sheer side in his truck, rolling two and a half times, with me praying the whole way, until we ended up propped on one side against an oak tree. The truck’s roll bar and the seat belts saved our lives. We emerged laughing in shock that neither of us was injured. A car must have seen us in the distance because it came up as we climbed out and crawled up the hill. We went down the road on the mountain as far as their campsite, where they were staying with a group of a dozen or so people associated with a truck body corporation from Virginia Beach. They offered to let us stay with them. And so we did that weekend until we could get a tow to haul out the truck.

Amazingly, we drove the truck back to Lynchburg. Once back home, he asked if he could stay at my apartment because he couldn’t face his mother since he’s wrecked the truck. He never left.

We lived together for four years, much to my parents’ chagrin and against my faith, but I loved him. During the period, he’d gotten seriously injured, life threatening, and had to go on Medicaid. If we’d married he’d have lost it and his medical bills were almost a million dollars. Once he was through with most of the surgeries, we were married.

Ted never knew a stranger and was generous to a fault. If he thought someone was in a terrible situation, he'd be there to help with is time, his elbow-grease and his money. Even if he didn't have much money, he'd give away his last dime, sure there would be more where that came from. He loved to hunt and fish, tell jokes, pull your leg and exaggerate any story. He made you laugh because of his effervescence.

Ted stayed a happy-go-lucky free spirit until the day he died, although in the last few years, health issues made him less active and more depressed. He never went a day without telling me,"I love you" and complementing me on the way I looked each morning. Although he was unconventional, we had the same values and we loved each other deeply. I will miss him forever, and his memory and the times we shared will replay always in my heart.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving Prayer or Mantra?

As turkey day approaches, I have made out my Thanksgiving prayer, which I will use as a mantra while the day progresses:

Dear Lord,

Grant me the strength to get up and begin boiling eggs, giblets and vegetables in broth and dunking a twelve pound bird in water in my sink because it’s still partially frozen, all before my morning coffee.

Give me the perseverance to keep from killing my dog when I discover she has hunted down something “off limits” in the family room to eat as an appetizer before she receives her morning food.

Bestow upon me the humor to laugh at myself when I overcook the bird and my husband says he thought we were having ham.

Allow me the graciousness to overlook the fact that, even as my husband eats his second plate of food he said he didn’t want to begin with, he still holds on to the remote control tightly and his eyes remain glued to college football on TV.

Control my rising temper as I try without luck to fit the leftovers in the refrigerator and am interrupted by my husband asking if he can have another plate full.

Be still my beating heart as the dog chokes on the wishbone hubby left on the side of his tray and finally coughs it up.

Grant me a few moments to myself to write madly on my computer in an attempt to quell my nerves, thereby writing at twice the speed and making half my normal sense.

Provide me with the energy to wash all the pots and pans and fill the dishwasher while my husband snores in his recliner and the dog sleeps in a curled ball in my chair.

For all in all, I should give thanks for what I have and that I am not destitute, without food, warmth, a shelter over my head and the knowledge that I am secure for tomorrow. For many do not have that.

You see, dear reader, my troubles are really few and my trials are nothing more than the normal ones of the harried married writer.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Interview with Joseph R.G. DeMarco

Joseph R. G. DeMarco is the author of Murder on Camac. His newest work, A Body on Pine, will be published in March 2011 by Lethe Press

What is the name of your latest book? And how did you come up with the title?

A Body on Pine is the second book in the Marco Fontana Mysteries series.
Titles! Ugh. That’s always a sore point. They drive me crazy! A title is probably one of the more difficult things for me to do. Of course, there’s a lot of hard work before you get to a title. But I always have the toughest time coming up with something that seems to fit, that is catchy, and that really works with the book. I keep trying them out as I write the book until something finally gives me the feeling that it fits. (Which usually leaves a long trail of unused titles.)
The first mystery in the series, Murder on Camac ( (Lethe Press 2009) had a few different titles along the way.

And the title I thought I’d stick with, didn’t turn out to be the one we went with. Once we settled on a title that included the name of the street (Camac) on which the murder happened, things fell into place. Now I can’t think of that book with any other title.

We weren’t sure if we’d stick with street names in future titles in the series but, at least for this second outing, it seems to work. Again, I had varying titles as I worked. At one point we thought we had the title but in testing it out, it really didn’t work. Eventually we came up with a title that both mentions a street in Philadelphia and has other meanings as well. (My best friend has a big hand in these things.)

What is A Body On Pine about?

Here’s the summary:
When Marco Fontana enters his friend’s spa on Pine, he doesn’t find the peaceful retreat he expected. Brad, the masseur, is missing. The spa is splattered with blood and a dead client lies sprawled on the floor. After a thorough search turns up more questions than answers, Marco calls the police. They find Brad’s body a short distance from the spa and before long Marco understands that what appears to be a simple case of murder is anything but. The police want Marco off the case. However, when the body of a popular journalist is added to the death toll, Brad’s case gets sidelined.

Marco refuses to allow his friend’s death to be ignored and convinces an overwhelmed young police detective to bring Marco into the hunt for the killer. He finds plenty to keep him busy. Abusive ex-boyfriends, stalker clients, politicians, scheming businessmen, and Eastern European mobsters swirl together in a dangerous mix which finds Marco in some of the most serious trouble he’s encountered so far.

Life at home doesn’t stop for Marco, either. While he searches for Brad’s killer, Marco’s stripper troupe, StripGuyz, brings him face to face with a stripper’s abusive boyfriend and, with Jean-Claude, a new member of the troupe who innocently comes between Marco and Anton, upsetting the fragile balance existing between them.

What kind of guy is Marco Fontana?

Marco Fontana has been with me for a long time now. He seduced his way into my thoughts a few years ago and, being the hottie that he is, I allowed him to stay. I can’t resist his smile.

He’s an Italian-American born in South Philly, Philadelphia’s Little Italy. A mix of Southern Italian and Northern Italian stock, Marco is on the tall side (almost six feet), has brown eyes, and dark brown hair that he keeps short. Sometimes he “forgets” to shave and the three day stubble serves to emphasize his strong jaw line. He works out but is not over muscled. Think Paul Walker or Sebastian Spence or Matt Smith or lots of others.

Although his friends accuse him of being commitment-phobic, he’d disagree. Except, deep down, he knows that commitment is something he’s not exactly certain about. He doesn’t fear it, he’s just not sure if he wants a committed relationship. All this is dismaying to Anton, an Eastern European, blond-haired, blue-eyed hunk and Marco’s right arm in the StripGuyz business. Of course, it doesn’t bother Luke, his Chinese best bud and an elegant entrepreneur, who enjoys playing the field as much as Marco does.

Serious, focused, and intent on the job at hand are terms that describe Marco when he’s working a case. He never likes to leave things unfinished and never makes a commitment he can’t keep.

He’s got his flaws, of course. Stubborn, willing to cut a corner or break the rules here or there if he needs to. He also won’t back down easily, even when he knows it’s the better path to take. His dedication to finding the truth can cut both ways, at times, and this is not always a good thing. He doesn’t trust others easily, if at all, and this sometimes keeps him working alone against his better judgment. If he ever does place his trust in you and you give him a reason to lose that trust, you can probably never regain it.

Marco is an all around nice guy, though. Unless you get on his bad side, then you’re dogmeat.

What books have influenced your life most?

That’s very hard to say. From when I was a child I was a voracious reader. Then, as now, I enjoyed fanciful things, like the Dr. Dolittle books, fairy tales, science fiction, fantasy, and mysteries (and yes, mysteries can be thought to be fanciful for a lot of reasons). I didn’t limit myself to those areas of reading. Historical fiction is a favorite of mine. Some “literary” works influence me as does some comic writing. Vampires, werewolves, and time travel all influence me in some way. I also love reading plays. Drama is, for me, an important part of learning to write.

Nonfiction is another influence in my life. History especially but philosophy and political works give me a lot of insight into things.

I’ve read all the classics and then some (a rigorous Catholic school education will do that). And I believe that very little which we do or see or read gets lost. It’s all there somewhere waiting to be used, to be helpful. It all shapes and molds a person and what they produce.

Raymond Chandler, Issac Asimov, Robert B. Parker, Ray Bradbury, Tolkein, and plenty of others played and still play a significant role in my literary life.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

Another tough question. I’m assuming you don’t mean an actual, sit in the chair next to me giving me guidance kind of mentor. I think some of the writers I mentioned, Chandler, Asimov, Bradbury, and others are writers who, by their style and passion, mentor me in the works they’ve produced. Janet Evanovich is another along with a host of other writers whose works created an impression and a challenge. Surprisingly there are a number of YA authors who “mentor” me with their books. The list is long but I can say that I wouldn’t be the same if I’d never read any of their work.

I think that, especially in writing, a mentor who doesn’t challenge you to do better, who doesn’t spur you on to do more isn’t really worth much. So, the people I’ve mentioned, just through their writing, do that for me. And there are others. I still read widely and I often come across a book or a new writer who challenges me. And I love it.

What are your current projects?

I’m putting the finishing touches on A Body on Pine and thinking about the next installment. (And the title for that one is already playing “hide and seek” with me and driving me to distraction.)
I’m also editing a book of Sherlock Holmes tales, A Study in Lavender, for Lethe Press.

There are the several short stories for which I have deadlines coming up.
I have two YA novels which are essentially finished but need a bit of work to get them in shape.

Of course, there’s Mysterical-E ( the quarterly online mystery magazine which I publish. It’s in its tenth or eleventh year now and doing well. It’s a lot of work but it’s also something I enjoy doing most of the time.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Writing is always a challenge. That’s part of the appeal. It’s work but when you hone and polish and labor over every bit of it and come up with something fine and beautiful, there’s no other feeling of satisfaction that can match it. And if someone else likes it, that’s icing on the cake.

Trying to get wonderful characters and beautiful writing and a good plot into the same mix is one of the greater challenges. Finding the right balance and making it work isn’t easy. But it’s good to remember that nothing is perfect and all you can do is your best. Then you try again with the next thing.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Advice, uh oh.

I know people are looking for rules and formulae that will make their writing sing and make publishers empty out their coffers. You won’t find that advice or those rules anywhere.

Despite all the warnings about advice and rules, here’s some I think will work:
Read, write, and submit your work. Study the basics but do your own thing.

Wow! This has been great. Thanks for stopping by today, Joe.

Friday, November 19, 2010

First Gifts Blog Hop

Learn all about my first gift from my now hubby of twenty-seven years and hop arund to see other blogs on this tour of first gifts.

What’s Better than Practical?

Christmas was just around the corner and my new boyfriend, soon to become my fiancé had gotten me a present. By the glint in his eye, I knew he really liked his choice. He was forever chiding me about how much I’d love it.

Now, mind you, though he was a very loving soul, to date in our relationship he’d brought only steamed crabs, oysters, beer and wine to my apartment. It was obvious he believed the way to my heart was through my stomach. I, on the other hand, was the starry-eyed romantic, thinking of jewelry, perfume, even lingerie. What had he picked that gave him such glee?

I need to also tell the reader that my boyfriend, now husband of twenty-seven years, was a real outdoorsman. He still is, but physical issues have slowed him down. My hubby was the kind of guy who climbed poles for a living, did high-wire splicing, biked nine miles over steep hills to go to work and still wanted to play tennis when he got off. He was the kind of guy who felt at home in a muddy duck blind, hunting.

My cousin lived with me back then and knew I was curious about the gift. She’d badger hubby to tell her what it was, but he wouldn’t say. That is, until the day he was going to give it to me. She called me at work. “Don’t get real excited about your gift.”

“What’s the matter? He wasn’t cheap was he? He’s not the kind of guy’s who’s cheap.”

“Oh, no. The gift is quite expensive, but let’s just say it isn’t exactly you.”

I thought about her statement for the rest of the afternoon. I was a city girl. I wore three-inch heels to work, liked long hot bubble baths and massages. The thought of trudging through the dense woods in search of wild boar or mucking it up for the sake of one scrawny, greasy duck did not and still doesn’t appeal to me.

My thoughts went into orbit. My cuz must have overreacted--after all the gift was for me and he loved me. Although it might not be a great as what I expected, it couldn’t be that bad. Could it?

That night he presented his present, a huge wrapped box complete with bow. Staring at it, I wondered if it were one of those tricks with a box within a box within a box to look like something larger than it really is. But when I picked it up, the weight convinced me otherwise. What did he give me?

Just look below:

Identical to his so we could go into the woods matching. You know what they say: "You can't always get what you want, but you get what (he thinks) you need."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Living with Writing

Our guest today is Clark Lohr, mystery author of the book, Devil's Kitchen, soon to be released by Oak Tree Press, Welcome!

Our art won’t save us from addictions or failing brain chemistry. Get professional help for those; however, writing, like exercise, becomes its own kind of high. ~Clark Lohr

In my senior year in high school I asked a classmate what she was going to do for a living. She said she was going to be a harpist. Okay, I thought, that’s weird. There ain’t a lot of call for harpists out there. She became a harpist. They paid her to play a harp. I myself wanted to be a tough guy. I went to Vietnam. Oops. I’m still not a tough guy.

Years later, I’m reading Julia Cameron and doing what she suggests. I’m starting to write a novel. I fix on a quote from The Artist’s Way which is better known now: “Leap and the net will appear.”

So, I start, and my novel gets done and redone. Eventually, I get lucky. At least that’s what Sunny Frazier, crime writer and acquisitions editor for Oak Tree Press, told me when I asked her why she picked my novel out of the slush pile. Frazier said it was luck. Kismet.

If getting published all depends on luck, why write? One answer: Because we have to write. We have to express ourselves.

The authors of The Artists Way note few persons getting college art degrees continue to make art after graduation. Not many of your college art friends kept at it after graduation, either. You can bet it’s about the same with those who receive creative writing degrees.

Another gem from Art and Fear is a story about perfectionism stalling the work. A pottery teacher told one section of his class that their grade depended on one perfect pot. He told another section of students that their grade depended on the number of pots they made—on quantity, not quality. At the end of the course the quantity people had learned to make great pots. The quality people were still living in fear. Stories like that illuminate our predicaments. They help show us what to do to cope, to keep on, to see the scope of the task all artists experience.

If you’re considering college and thinking about a creative writing degree, I’d say go for a journalism degree instead. Journalism teaches fluency. Journalism teaches you how to write fast. You’ll also have company, and more likely will be writing in a classroom with a lot of other people who will instill you with energy.

I have a creative writing degree. It taught me neither true fluency in writing nor how to cope with the problems of being a writer while surviving the challenges of ordinary life. Most of the working writer friends I know and know about have either journalism degrees or degrees in something else altogether. My author friend Susan Cummins Miller is a geologist. Rocks. Well, she’s also written a string of crime fiction novels using her heroine, Frankie McFarlane, who is both a geologist and a detective.

About writing workshops: I’d say use them. Even if you’re still in high school, pay for workshops and go to them. Adult learners want information that’s to the point. Good writing workshops tend to be intense and focused. They’re also short. You learn a lot in one weekend. Your college creative writing professor has to string it all out over a semester. The people who teach writing workshops don’t.

I started my crime novel (Devil’s Kitchen, soon to be published by Oak Tree Press) in a writing workshop taught at a YMCA by Paul Fouliard, an ex-Marine and a novelist. He told us to, effectively, take the hill. He said he wanted us to have a novel underway by the next class meeting and he was talking about writing whole chapters. I just started writing.

Along the way, Fouliard mentioned that comparatively few people under forty years of age write a novel successfully. He cited lack of life experience, not ability.

If you’re under forty, don’t worry about it. Google legendary young novelists on the internet. You’ll find that literary fiction writers tend to be in their thirties and they have MFAs. Not every young writer goes that route. Google Susan Eloise Hinton or Arthur Rimbaud.

How do you piece a novel together? William Faulkner said that writing a novel is like trying to build a chicken coop in a hurricane. What does the structure of a successful story look like? It’s damn sure more complicated than Acts I, II and III.

Syd Field, in his book on Screenplay (cited below this article) gave us a model, step-by-step, for making a story that works. Today, writers will tell you there can be a problem with that: Everyone tries to write to Syd’s model and the writing lacks originality. Yes, but originality happens. You can veer off in the right direction and come up with a unique structure that works.

I suggest you look at Fields’ book, then play some films, use your pause button, and start watching how the writer makes it work, bit by bit. For example: In White Heat (classic noir, 1949, stars James Cagney) there’s a plot point where the good guy gets outed as an undercover cop by a gang member who has just come on the scene. The gang leader, James Cagney, a sociopath who’s already killed a couple of people in this movie, points a 12-gauge shotgun at the good guy. Hit the pause button. Ask yourself: What’s going to save the good guy? Hit the play button and find out. Then start thinking how you’ll adapt it to your own writing. Maybe you’ll decide to write a screenplay instead of a novel. Why not?

Good luck.

Clark Lohr

My Books for Learning About and Crafting Your Writing:

Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande. This novelist and writing teacher published her book in the 1930’s. She has a strong writing voice and good ideas. I came to believe that, if I put a picture of Dorothea Brande on my wall, her eyes would follow me around the room. She’s decisive. She’s tough. She knows who writers are. You don’t want Dorothea Brande chasing you down the street. She’s faced the blank page and won. She’s viable today. She lives through her words. Hear and act on Dorothea Brande’s advice. Things will get better.

The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron with Mark Bryan. This is a workbook for “discovering and recovering your creative self.” Published in the 1990’s, this book is about transforming yourself into someone who can and will create. Cameron inventories the expectations the world puts on us. Did your parents encourage you to make fiction writing your first priority in life? No? Neither did mine. Cameron gives us strategies for beating our own sloth, apathy and despair.

Art and Fear: Observations On The Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles and Ted Orland. This is a thin but deep book about making art of all kinds. Although it’s concerned primarily with the visual arts, writers will recognize the problems and gain perspective.

In Film: Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting. We all want our book to go to movie. Syd Field wrote the granddaddy of how-to books about screenwriting. What does this have to do with novel writing? Syd Field teaches story and story structure. I don’t know any creative writers who don’t watch a lot of films. Films and books run together. They feed each other. We feed on them both.

On Crime: How to Write a Damn Good Mystery: A Practical Step-by-Step Guide from Inspiration to Finished Manuscript. James N. Frey is the author. He favors a Five-Act story structure. Frey claims that using the tools he explains and writing full time can get you a finished mystery novel in three to five months. I don’t doubt it.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Interview with Jack Everett

Jack Everett is an author who writes in several genres including historical thrillers, medieval mysteries, WW2 stories and Fantasy and Sci-Fi. He lives in rural Yorkshire in England with his wife and pet cat, Meaow.

His newest work ‘1/1:Jihad-Britain’-a modern day thriller- is available from ( tells all about it.

What is the name of your latest book? And how did you come up with the title?

1/1:Jihad-Britain tells of a possible outcome to a happening several times larger than 9/11. Starting with bombs going off in St.Paul’s Cathedral and Trafalgar Square in London, large football stadiums in Scotland and Wales and aboard the world’s largest cruise liner just berthing in Southampton docks. All on or around midnight one New Years Eve. Thus the 1/1 is the 1st day of the new year, Jihad is what it is all about and Britain is where it mainly takes place.

What is (1/1:Jihad-Britain) about?

As the story progresses from its explosive start we find that most of the ruling socialist party died in the cathedral and a new government has to be formed. The man appointed to be the leader of the UK is Francis Raike an MP who was injured in the bombings. The book is written so that the reader follows the day to day happenings of the Prime Minister(the first divorcee ever to be elected) the bombers, members of the security forces, Muslim prisoners sent to a prison island off the coast of Scotland and ordinary members of the public who have been affected by the happenings.

What books have influenced your life most?

Probably the hardest question I will ever be asked because from an early age I was a vociferous reader and read anywhere and at any time. But in each of the genres I enjoyed I suppose I had favorites; in Sci Fi and Fantasy the works of Jack Vance affected me most. In crime fiction it had to be Peter Cheney and Raymond Chandler in my early days and latterly, William Diehl and John Sandford.

I could go on at length but the list is endless and I have to say I cannot choose a particular book rather my leanings have come as the result of many varieties.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

I would have to say Jack Vance; I liked him that much that I wrote two novels currently available as e-books; ‘The Faces of Immortality’ and ‘To Rule the Universe’ as a homage to him.

What are your current projects?

A thriller set in the UK and Austria about a retired MI5 cryptologist whose wife and son have died in a car crash being approached by someone purporting to be his son. This is in final copy editing phase. A murder mystery set in York in the old snickelways and a werewolf story entitled ‘Silverlands.’

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Every book for me is a challenge because each so far has been in a different genre there is no time to grow accustomed to the same hero or heroine, therefore all research is totally fresh and can’t grow stale.

In other words I could never grow sick of my characters because they are as new to me as to you.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Only that if you want be a writer go for it but do not give up your day job. Only around one in a thousand authors make enough money to live on and most of them find it costs them money. I say this because there is a commonly held belief that writers earn a fortune. Oh if it were only true.


‘You’re right to be concerned, Foreign Minister, absolutely. It is going to land in your back yard; you will have to deal with the home states of deportees. As far as the EU goes, we intend to repeal the Human Rights Act – I said that in several of the interviews I’ve given to news channels, there’s nothing secret about it.’

‘Not every country is going to take their citizens back.’

‘No,’ said Raike and then nodded. ‘We shall have to find other places to take them. Those countries, those states that don’t co-operate will find that we reciprocate their attitudes; their citizens will no longer be welcome here.’

Florence pursed her lips and let Thomas Eddington in.

‘What of the illegal immigrants?’ He asked.

‘They’re going to face a much harsher regime. There will be what I’ll call a Charter of Intent that will list what we require of future immigrants. Any who come from countries who will not agree to repatriation will be shipped back to the state from which they entered Britain, immediately.’ Raike grinned, as engagingly as he could manage. ‘Florence is going to spend many happy hours with her French counterpart.’

‘It’s going to take an army of guards or whatever to do that.’ Eddington said.

‘I don’t think so. There will be far fewer coming in, in the first place. Our borders are going to be far more secure than they have ever been and since one of our tenets is going to be “charity begins at home” there will be no more free accommodation, free hospital treatment, free education, no more cash and clothing handouts to anyone who hasn’t contributed to taxes and NI. You should see my mail sack every morning; it’s always filled with complaints from my constituents about this sort of thing. Is there any coffee left in that jug?’

Bill Winterbottom reached over and lifted it. ‘Sure. Pass your cup Francis – sorry, pass your cup Prime Minister.’ Most of the gathering laughed but Raike got his coffee.

‘Refill your cups, anybody who wants some,’ said Raike, ‘but call me Prime Minister first.’

‘There are a lot here already though.’ Venables said as they all sat down again. ‘Illegals.’

Raike pulled his chair forward and steepled his fingers together, elbows on the table. ‘Those who want to go home, can. We’ll pay their fare. Those who don’t can stay if they’re holding down a job, if they speak English and if they’ve no criminal record and no ties to terrorists or terrorism.’

‘Does that policy hold for Muslims?’ Malachi Owumbi asked, putting his coffee down with a slight chatter of cup against saucer.

‘Now that’s an interesting point, Malachi.’ Raike sat back and tapped the table lightly with the coaster his cup and saucer had been resting on. ‘What do the Muslims want? Does any of us know? There’s a lot of talk about turning Britain into a Sharia state, do they really want that and if so, why did they come here instead of staying where they already had one? Hmm? Do they want their children educated to be British or to be Asian, African, Middle Eastern?’

He threw the mat down in a gesture of disgust. ‘We don’t know, do we? We’re guessing. The only thing that I know,’ he tapped himself on the chest, ‘is that Britain is presently at war with various Muslim groups. There are British cities being ruled over by Ayatollahs, not the British Government, by tin-pot little upstarts who don’t even share a common heritage or viewpoint among themselves.’

‘It’s time we took control back.’ Said Keith Broadhead quietly. ‘It’s either that or start immediate wholesale enforced repatriation for the sake of the real British people.’

‘I am a real British person.’ Said Owumbi.

‘Of course you are.’ Broadhead replied immediately. ‘British is not a skin colour or an accent or a religious creed.’

‘Hear, hear.’ Added Raike followed by several of the others.

‘So, taking back our cities,’ said Robert Carey. ‘How?’

‘Putting it simply, we need our troops back here,’ Florence Levin answered. ‘We must start that process today, now.’

‘The Foreign Minister has it,’ said Raike. ‘Florence, one of your early tasks will be to inform NATO that we shall be cancelling our commitments to the Middle East with immediate effect. Our troops are required here, in fact…’ Raike frowned. ‘In fact, Florence, you are so right that you have my permission to leave this meeting and put that into immediate effect.’

Florence left to find an office with a computer link and a telephone.

Robert Carey put a tentative finger in the air.


‘These extra measures are going to cost, PM. Any ideas where it’s going to come from?

‘Now why do you think I appointed you Chancellor, Robert? It depends on the outcome of the referendum; I have to admit that – depends on the British Citizen himself. However, let us assume that the results are as we expect them to be. In that case, we shall have billions to play with – that’s flippant, I’m sorry. We shall have billions to work with. Or you can always put ten pence on the tax rate.’

Everyone laughed nervously at that one. Raike took the opportunity to lean behind Broadhead’s chair. ‘What would our payments to the EU be worth to you?’ He stage whispered.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Blog Hop coming

Join The Mojito Literary Society as a participant in their Blog Hop, November 19-21. See for details.

Book Review

Too Many Clients
By David Walker
ISBN: 9780727869302
Published by Severn House,2010, 214 pgs.

Another sparkling crime novel in the Wild Onion series. It’s always a pleasure to open a book knowing you are in the hands of an experienced storyteller. Author David Walker has been around the block a few times and he has the accolades to show for it. His latest does not disappoint. Here we have a pair of wise and witty practitioners who are married to each other. In less sure hands, the marriage of two characters often lets a lot of steam out of a relationship and sends readers searching for other divertissements.Not this time.

Private investigator Kirsten, married to uber-relaxed lawyer Dugan, takes on her husband as a client, after a bad cop is found murdered. Dugan, never a careful person, has blundered into the thing in such a way he becomes a suspect. And while Dugan can act odd at times, almost the antithesis of the hard-driving lawyer of many crime fiction novels, he is far from the only character. There’s Larry. Larry Candle is a partner in Dugan’s office. He just doesn’t come off as someone whom you’d want to represent you in court for anything more serious than a mistaken parking ticket. Yet Larry manages to get the job done all the while irritating nearly everyone around him.

As the days pass, Dugan and Kirsten continue to collect new clients who somehow all want them to locate the killer of this bad cop. To Kirsten and Dugan’s collective thinking these new clients don’t seem to be entirely above suspicion, either. Meanwhile the cops continue to zero in on Dugan. Gradually, as Kirsten digs deeper into the people who knew or knew about the dead cop, the story takes on wider and wider implications, tangling mob figures with international activities, a prominent churchman and….well, you get the idea. Twists on top of fascinating complications.

The novel is well-paced, complicated, and a truly fun read. I look for more cheeky stories in Walker’s wild Onion series.

Carl Brookins,,

Thursday, November 11, 2010

What in the World is an Ecclesiastical Thriller?

Today we welcome Donna Fletcher Crow to discuss her new novel and tell us about the world of clerical detectives. Welcome, Donna!

Thank you, Bobbye, for inviting me over to introduce your readers to my Ecclesiastical Thriller A VERY PRIVATE GRAVE, book #1 in my Monastery Murders series.

And if I’ve lost some of you right there and you’re wondering “What kind of thriller did she say?” Let me assure you you’re not alone. I was a little taken aback when a columnist in Canada requested to review my book and then asked, “What’s an Ecclesiastical Thriller?” Oh, my goodness, I not only have to worry about her liking my book, I also have to worry about her liking, or at least understanding, my subgenre. So before I tell you all to rush out (or rush to my website) to buy A VERY PRIVATE GRAVE it might be useful to discuss my subgenre of choice.

You’ll notice I say “discuss” not “define” because like so many labels, Ecclesiastical Thriller is a fluid one. Even among practitioners of the craft. Kate Charles, who in my mind is the Queen of the genre, prefers the term Clerical Mystery. And Phil Rickman, one of my all-time favorites, refuses to label his Merrily Watkins. He says, “I absolutely did not want to go there. Too cosy, too safe, and too... well, too religious, I suppose.”

Many, beginning with G. K. Chesterton’s Father Brown, simply write their series and let others label. Perhaps that was easier before Amazon wanted everything tagged so they could say “if you like that book, you may like. . .” Susan Howatch frames her psychological thrillers in terms of Anglican history and P. D. James wrote DEATH IN HOLY ORDERS, to my mind the best clerical mystery of all, as one of her Adam Dalgliesh series.

A most useful website “Clerical Detectives” ( lists more than 210 clerical detectives including priests, ministers, rabbis, a Shaker, the clerk of a Quaker meeting, Buddhists and a Muslim.

Okay, that’s some of the “who” but it still doesn’t tell us “what.” I asked the question on GoodReads some time ago and my friend Sheila said, “I'd say all that's required is that the church (or synagogue, monastery or convent) or clergy, rabbi, nuns, or monks should be prominent in the story.” That seems like a good start, although I think the ecclesiastical setting needs to go further so that it actually forms the thoughts and actions of the main characters. They need to be more than simply photographed against an interesting Gothic background. Or as the Clerical Detectives website puts it, “characters whose lives really were influenced by their faiths.”

Julia Spencer-Fleming’s Clare Ferguson stories are an excellent example of this where everything Clare does and thinks is formed by the fact that she is a priest.

Sheila also said, “It seems to me that all the mysteries I think of as ecclesiastical do more or less have a spiritual theme.” And here it seems that we are getting close to the heart of the matter. Until I begin trying to define more sharply and realize that all mysteries are about the clash of good versus evil and strive for the triumph of right over wrong— What P. D. James calls “bringing order out of chaos.”

And so, at the end of the day it gets back to “Showing, not telling.” The best I can do is invite you to my website where you can see my trailer on the home page and pictures of some of the churches and monasteries I’ve visited under Research Albums. At least it will give you an idea of how I defined and went about crafting my Ecclesiastical Thriller (A term I prefer to Clerical Mystery because it connotes more action. As Phil Rickman said, this isn’t a cozy) wherein:

Felicity Howard, a young American studying for the Anglican priesthood at the College of the Transfiguration in Yorkshire, is devastated when she finds her beloved Fr. Dominic brutally murdered and Fr. Antony, her church history lecturer, soaked in his blood.

A Very Private Grave is a contemporary novel with a thoroughly modern heroine who must learn some ancient truths in order to solve the mystery and save her own life as she and Fr. Antony flee a murderer and follow clues that take them to out-of-the way sites in northern England and southern Scotland. The narrative skillfully mixes detection, intellectual puzzles, spiritual aspiration, romance, and the solving of clues ancient and modern.

And Kate Charles was kind enough to say: “With a bludgeoned body in Chapter 1, and a pair of intrepid amateur sleuths, A Very Private Grave qualifies as a traditional mystery. But this is no mere formulaic whodunit: it is a Knickerbocker Glory of a thriller. At its centre is a sweeping, page-turning quest – in the steps of St. Cuthbert – through the atmospherically-depicted North of England, served up with dollops of Church history and lashings of romance. In this novel, Donna Fletcher Crow has created her own niche within the genre of clerical mysteries.” – Kate Charles, author of Deep Waters