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 apr├Ęs 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.