Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Mystery We Write Virtual Book Tour is over but the articles written by the authors who took part in the tour are still available. If you haven't read them, please scroll down the page at Mysterious Writers blog site. You'll be glad you did.

Books are great Christmas gifts, not only for kids but their parents and grandparents as well, especially during the winter months for those of us who live in the northern states. There's nothing like a good book to escape inclement weather or problems that come knocking at our doors.Whether print or electronic versions, we hope you'll consider the novels featured here and that you will buy books for Christmas for those on your gift list.

Studies have shown that reading to young children increases their desire to learn and to excel in school and graduate. What more can we ask of Christmas gifts that will last from one generation to the next?

Wishing everyone a warm and happy holiday season and productive New Year!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Mystery We Write Holiday Virtual Tour

You won't want to miss the holiday "Mystery We Write" Virtual Tour. Visitors to the various blog sites who leave comments will be eligible to win mystery novels on December 11, at the conclusion of the tour. A list of the authors and their sites are listed below:

Collin Kelley
Earl Staggs
Evelyn Cullet
Jean Lauzier
Joyce Lavene  
Larissa Reinhart 
M. M. Gornell 
Madison Johns
Marilyn Meredith
Patricia Gligor
Rionna Morgan
SR Claridge 
Wendy Gager
Anne K Albert
And yours truly.
A list of appearances and the dates are available at:

Friday, October 12, 2012

Jacqueline King loves books, words, and writing tall tales. She especially enjoys murdering the people she dislikes on paper. King is a full time writer who sometimes teaches writing at Tulsa Community College. Her latest novel, The Inconvenient Corpse is a traditional mystery. King has also written five novellas as co-author of the Foxy Hens Series. Warm Love on Cold Streets is her latest novella and is included in the anthology The Foxy Hens Meet an Adventurer. Her only nonfiction book is Devoted to Cooking. She's a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, Oklahoma Writers Federation, and Tulsa Night Writers.

Jackie, how did you conceive your novel, The Inconvenient Corpse?

Oddly enough, The Inconvenient Corpse was birthed in its setting, a charming Bed and Breakfast Inn. I plotted the book by playing every writer’s favorite game: ‘What if?’

What if I’d found a dead man in this bed? What if he were naked? What if his clothes were nowhere to be found? What if the police thought I was the killer and told me that I couldn’t leave town? And then, what if I then learned that I had no money, no available credit, and no resources at all? What if I’d been born with a silver spoon in my mouth and had previously spent my days as a Junior League member? Could I survive on just my own moxie? I felt impelled to answer these questions.

What in your background prepared you to write?

My mother was a natural born storyteller. One night (at the end of the great depression) there was nothing for supper. Mother never told us this grim fact. She smiled (bravely) and said, “Let’s have stories for supper!” My brother, sister and I clapped our hands with joy. Stories for supper? What could be more wonderful? I must have been close to three at the time. After that, I think stories (and later books) became a part of my DNA.

What’s your writing work space like?

Shabby, overflowing with papers and magazines and books, and writing supplies. Probably sounds awful, but for me it’s heaven on earth. I’m living my life’s dream and am happy beyond belief.

Do you have a regular writing schedule and do you outline your work?

I write every day that it’s humanly possible, but not on any particular schedule. I’d love to write first thing in the morning, but this goal seldom happens. I do outline my work, sort of. I start a spiral notebook for each novel and jot down anything I can think of that comes to mind about my new project. I play a lot of “what if?” as I described earlier. I’m envious of outliners who stick to their exact outline, but I seem to be totally incapable of such a plan. I’m a “panster.” (As in flying by the seat of your pants.) It requires a huge amount of rewriting, but luckily I love what I fondly call, word-smithing.

Who taught you the language of fiction?

Although I’ve had many excellent teachers of fiction (mainly Peggy Fielding) I think I absorbed the language of fiction by reading and reading and reading. Mentally inhaling other writers wonderful novels, also helps improve my own writing.

Have any of your children followed in your keystrokes?

My youngest daughter, Jennifer Sohl, coauthored my only nonfiction book, Devoted to Cooking. This is a collection of family stories and their very own special recipe. My two granddaughters Lauren Keithley and Morgan Sohl are also writers. (prepublished.)

How do you feel about the ebook revolution?

Guess I’m a book rebel, (I’m American, after all) because I love e-readers and e-books. I also love paper books. If you wrote good prose on the sidewalk in front of my house, I’d read that, too.

What’s the best way you’ve found to promote and market your work?

I love promoting my books in the CyberWorld! What a joy it is to become acquainted with readers who live all over the world. Readers are extremely smart, witty, and interesting folk and I can ‘talk’ to any of them who own a computer. Lucky me, I can promote worldwide, day and night (if I choose) in my jammies.

Advice for aspiring writers?

Don’t let anyone discourage you. I hate to go to a writer’s conference where a well-known writer tells how hard it is to get published at this time, thus intimating that those poor souls who have not yet found a publisher will probably be left out in the cold. THIS IS A LIE! You can do it if you follow the tried and true recipe of success: (1)Write every day. (2) Submit what you write. (3) Never give up.

Your social media links and bio.

I’d be thrilled to hear from readers about this post, or about what you’re thinking about today, or even your supper menu. Let’s all get acquainted so we can talk about books and writing. This has been fun, Jean. Thanks a million.

It's been great having you here, Jackie.

You can visit Jackie at her website: Website:
and her blog site:

She would like to have readers ‘friend’ on Facebook:!/Jacqking
and her book is available at: and

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Senior Sleuths Facebook Group

I've started a new Senior Sleuths Facebook Group page as an extension of the Senior Sleuths Forum. Since Monday evening, we  have forty charter members who are sharing their their lives, writing successes, blog articles and thoughts about growing older.

You don't have to be a senior (over 55) to join or even write senior sleuth mysteries. If you love reading mysteries, romantaic suspense or thriller novels, or would like to communicate with some of your favorite authors, sign up at: and join in the fun. :)

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Finding Time to Write

Because I began my writing career as a news reporter, I could probably write in the middle of a traffic jam, but there are distractions that bring me to an exasperating halt. Phones ringing when you have a help wanted ad in the paper is a major distraction here. Good help is hard to find, and you can’t trust your luck to answering machines because so many messages are garbled, or callers forget to leave a phone number.

According to Carl Honore, who wrote In Praise of Slowness, it takes our brains eight minutes to return to our creativity mode whenever we’re distracted. Telephone interruptions require a fifteen minute recovery time. With email, one message delays your creative train of thought for more than a minute, according to Lois J. Peterson in her article, “May I Put You on Hold?”

Peterson says, “High tech interruptions come with built-in controls, if only we would use them.” We have answering machines, caller I.D. and email programs that alert us to messages if we leave the program open. Shutting down the Internet while we write is one solution as well as unplugging the phones, especially if you're fortunate to have broadband service.

What if? would always be on my mind if I shut off all forms of communication. What if there’s an accident at the job site, what if one of our adult children needs our help? What if my husband has an accident or breaks down on a long drive home?

We have a large home office which I share with my husband and our business. Although background music helps, I’m often interrupted by not only the phones but my husband wanting to share something with me. Many husbands don't understand that writing isn’t just a hobby or an excuse to avoid housework. Bestseller status would undoubtedly cure the problem.

My husband reads more than I do, including my own books. I’ve talked to other writers whose spouses don’t read their work, and resent the time they spend writing instead of with the family. Countless women writers have said their husbands’ resent their creativity. Writers, artists and entertainers comprise only 5% of the population, so that places us in a special category, of which I cannot think of anything comparable, with the possible exception of rocket science and brain surgery. I’m not advocating that writers be placed on a pedestal, but regardless of how much money we earn, or how little, our talents should be respected by family members.

Few of us have our own private office or cubby hole where our writing time is sacred. I've gotten out of bed in the middle of the night to write something that was rattling around in my brain, without phones ringing or people barging in. I was tired next morning and probably more than a little cranky, but as every writer knows, if it's not written down or typed into the computer, we're going to lose that "brilliant" passage.

Writing isn’t just an avocation, for me it’s a source of joy and feeling of accomplishment, like nothing else. I’d rather write than attend a party, sell books at a signing, or stay in bed all day to read.

Although most women writers have said, “I need a wife to do the chores so I can write,” the obvious solution is to marry another writer who cooks, cleans and edits. And while we’re at it, make sure he looks like George Clooney. :)

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Congratulations to Arletta Dawdy!

Artetta, you've won a copy of Gray Wolf Mountain. I hope you enjoy the book. Please send your mailing address to

Thanks to everyone who left comments.. They're greatly appreciated. I hope you'll get a chance to read the book in print, on Kindle or Nook. I also hope you'll become a regular visitor to this site.

My best wishes to everyone.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Grand Encampment Cowboy Gathering

I rarely do book signings any more but because I've written some western-based books, including one titled Wyoming's Cowboy Poets and Their Poetry, I decided to attend a three-day festival in Encampment, Wyoming, near the Colorado border. Yep, that's me behind the oversized sunglasses and hat. Although my husband and I only stayed one day, it was an enjoyable experience meeting the nice people of the small community as well as cowboy poets, musicians and artists from the area as well as out of state. I wish we could have stayed longer.

I sold some books and talked to people who love not only cowboy poetry but ranching and anything western. I've been a member of Western Writers of America since 1979, so I sat under the WWA tent, which came in handy because rain and a thunder storm burst upon the scene in early afternoon. Fortunately, the audience was also seated under a tent, so few people left during the afternoon performances of cowboy poets, singers, guitar pickers, banjo players and fiddlers, which included Jon Chandler, John Nesbitt, Rhonda Sedgewick Steanrs, Chuck Larsen and Andy Nelson to name a few.

Other activities were a chuck wagon breakfast, stick horse rodeo for the kids, historic building tours, campfire jam session and cowboy song workshop.

Yee haw! A good time was had by all.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

A Visit with Bette Golden Lamb

Bette Golden Lamb and her husband, J.J. Lamb, are the co-authors of four crime novels: Sin and Bone, a medical thriller that brings back RN Gina Mazzio, who gets caught up in the illicit trade in human body parts and murder; Sisters in Silence, a medical thriller about a fertility counselor who goes on a mercy-killing spree of barren women; Heir Today, a fast-paced suspence-adventure featuring a husband-wife team that combines fraud, mayhem, high-seas piracy, murder, and a touchof romance; and Bone Dry, a high-tension medical thriller about theft and ransom of critical bone marrow featuring RN Gina Mazzio; described as “not for the squeamish.”

Bette, how did a nurse from the Bronx meet and marry a journalist from the Hoosier state?

On a summer break from my nursing program, I drove from New York to Albuquerque to see my brother. He and J.J. (I didn’t know him then) were journalists in the Associated Press office there. People talk about time standing still, and it sounds romantic, even poetic to talk about love-at-first-sight. But that’s how it happened. It was a beautiful summer night at an impossibly crowded, raucous party when the two of us found each other in a single glance. That was the moment a girl from the Bronx and a boy from Fort Wayne became one.
P.S. Our first date lasted a full 24 hours, and J.J. asked me to marry him on our second date.

Your name suggests a Native American background. How did it come about?

Actually, my parents emigrated from Russia when they were in their teens. I’m first generation American. But it’s funny you bring that up because an uncle of mine looked exactly like a picture of Chief Joseph; I mean a dead-on image.

When did you and J.J. decide to collaborate on crime novels?

I had this greatidea for a novel, so I passed in on to J.J., the writer. He seemed to like the idea, but he sure as heck wasn’t going to do anything about it. I brought it up now and then, like every week for two years. One day he dropped a ream of paper on my drafting table. “You like it, youwriter it.” You don’t need to hear the rest of that conversation. But his challenge did start me on the road to writing. Several years later I had the idea for Bone Dry, and the RN Gina Mazzio series was born, along with our collaboration.

How do you resolve differences while co-authoring a book?

Well, we duke it out, of course :-) Truthfully, it was very hard in the beginning. There were many, many, many conversations about everything. And I mean everything! When I think back to our early collaboration, I have to admit that J.J. was a saint. Some of things I came up with were really off the wall. In fact, they were so weird, I refuse to remember any of them. J.J. must have laughed himself to sleep every night. Now, when we have a disagreement about an in-progress book, the answer always lies within the characters and the story. That resolves most issues. Any ego trip, by either of us, always defeats the work and the collaboration.

Your job as an RN is obviously great background for your medical thrillers. Have you based any of your plots on true life experiences?

In Sin & Bone, our second Gina Mazzio book, the story is about a killer calling a hospital advice center. I’ve been an advice nurse for many years. But realistically, everything in our medical thrillers has its roots in my career as an RN. The mood, the rhythm, the lingo in medical situations is almost impossible to replicate without having that specific experience. Being there reveals so much about the heart and determination of the people in that special environment. It’s what gives the stories reality, and above all, immediacy. When we wrote Bone Dry, I’d worked with cancer patients but never on an oncology unit. Still, when I spoke to the nurses in that specialized field, I found them generous with their time. They even invited me onto the unit where I was able to see and absorb everything we needed for a tense, scary story.

How do you find time to write when you’re also a ceramist and sculptor as well as a nurse? You must be very organized.

I used to take my laptop to work with me and during my lunch break, I would rush out to my car and write -- every single day. On weekends, I would dive right into my art work. It did take tremendous organization, dedication, and plain old compulsive nuttiness. I don’t know why I’m so driven to create. I just am.

If you had to choose just one of your pursuits, which would it be and why?

I did make that choice a while back -- I left nursing. However, I stay as up to date as I can with what’s happening in the nursing and overall medical fields. I loved nursing -- it was a privilege to help people, to be a vital part of their lives. So even though I was reluctant to give it up, I finally did. But writing and art are passions that I could never give up. They give me the precious freedom of expression, and provide a vision of life that can’t be replicated by anything else. Being able to create something beautiful to behold, or write something exciting, not only nourishes my soul, it makes me feel like one of the luckiest people in the world.

Advice for novice writers.

If writing is your thing, you’ll need a day (or night) job doing something that makes you feel worthwhile, something that gives you satisfaction at the end of a long day. It’s just too difficult, or almost impossible, to survive on what you can earn form creative writing. Sure, sure, some writers immediately make it to the top. And sure, talent is always an issue. But all too often luck is what drives success in the creative arts. In case you’re not one of the ones who strike it rich, or have some of that rare publishers’ fairy dust fall on your brow, be prepared to support yourself and live to write another day. As I said, if writing is your thing, you’re already one of the luckiest people in the world.

Thanks, Bette.

You can learn more about Bette Lamb at:, and

Monday, June 25, 2012

Jonnie Jacobs is the author of the Kate Austen suburban mysteries and the Kali O’Brien novels of legal suspense. Her newest book, Paradise Falls, is a stand-alone about the disappearance of a teenage girl. Jonnie is a former practicing attorney, a founding member of SinC Norcal, and the mother of two grown sons.

Jonnie, tell us about Paradise Falls.

With Paradise Falls I wanted to write a suspenseful mystery, but I also wanted to explore the effects of crime on families and the doubts and suspicions that ensue. Grace Whittington is married to her second husband with a happily blended family of teenage children. When Grace's daughter disappears and Grace suspects that her teenage stepson is to blame, the fault lines of a seemingly typical family crack. The investigation also takes a toll on the detective as the case becomes increasingly personal for her.
Why did you decide to leave the legal profession to write full time?

It wasn’t so much an actual decision as something that sort of just happened (like so many things in my life.) I was working at a large, high-pressure firm and I had two very young children. I took a leave of absence to spend time with my family, fully expecting to go back, or to at least go back to the practice of law. At the same time, I started writing (something I’d always wanted to do“someday.”) Initially, I was writing for the sheer pleasure of it, but one thing lead to another and I began to take my efforts seriously. My first Kate Austen book was published, followed by a Kali O’Brien book. I never did go back to practicing law.

How do your Kate Austen and Kali O’Brien series differ?

Kate is an amateur sleuth, a single mother with a cop love interest, and the tone is much lighter in this series. When my first Kate book came out, there wasn’t really a category for this type of book. Now, it fits as well into the “mommy lit” or “chick lit” category as it does into mystery. Kali is a lawyer, never married (although she’s had her share of romances and relationships) and her approach to investigation is much more direct and professionally focused (most often on the defense side, but working with the police and DA’s office in Cold Justice.) I do, however, give Kali some personal stake in each case because I think that adds depth to the story (and this is the sort of book I like reading and writing).

Which do you prefer, writing series or standalone novels and why?

They each have their advantages --- and drawbacks. With a series, you’re working within certain, already established, parameters. Many of the character decisions are already made, and that often limits plot possibilities. But since each book is a chapter in the life of the main character, there’s room to reveal more and dig a bit deeper with each book. With a standalone, it’s a fresh slate. Not only can I create characters from scratch and make them into whatever I need for the plot, I also get to decide about voice and tone and point of view and all the other little considerations that go into crafting a novel. As to which I prefer - I’m usually drawn to whichever I’m not working on at the time. I think I suffer from “grass is always greener” syndrome.

Have you based any of your novels on previous legal cases you’ve handled?

None of my novels sprang from my work professionally. I was a business attorney, not a criminal attorney, so the cases I was involved with were hardly the stuff of drama (which may be why writing fiction has such appeal to me.) That said, there is something in each book, usually something key to the impetus in the story, that is personal to me. That doesn’t mean it’s something I experienced firsthand, but rather an experience or problem that involved someone I know or that I read about in a way that touched me.

How do you promote and market your books?

That has changed greatly over the years. When my first books came out, independent and mystery book stores dotted the country, and many were eager to host author events. I did signings and readings and gave talks, and often travelled with other writers covering several states on a tour. My publisher also sent me on tour. What’s more, newspapers had regular book review sections that brought new books to readers attention. Things are different now. Although I do occasionally do presentations, I find I do most of my promotion online or through “human interest” stories in local newspapers and web sites. I’m not nearly as devoted to this as many other authors, or as I probably should be. I don’t have a blog, but I do guest blog now and then. I contribute to interest group sites and lists, maintain a web site, and reach out to readers whenever I have the opportunity.

What’s the most difficult aspect of writing for you?

It’s all difficult on some level. Probably the hardest for me is getting into a book. I might have a vague idea for a story but working it out to sustain 300 or so pages is pretty daunting. Some authors can plot the entire book from the beginning. I can’t, although I wish I could. I’ve tried and tried over the years, but until I am with the characters, experiencing what they’re experiencing, I have no idea what will happen next. So getting through a rough draft can be quite painful. Once the story is down on paper, I do lots and lots of rewriting, but that involves far less hair-pulling and angst.

You have an advice page for beginning writers on your website. Which of your suggestions do you consider most important?

Oh, gosh. They’re all important, but you asked for the most important. I guess I’d have to say actually writing and writing and then rewriting. And doing so critically. Authors don’t write for themselves (that’s a journal), but to communicate to readers. So you have to examine what you’ve written and how you’ve written it in light of that goal.

Your social media links?

I’m one of the last people on earth without a Facebook or Twitter account. I have a website –, and email – I love to hear from readers and make a real effort to answer every single email (or letter) I receive.

Thanks, Jonnie. You can also visit Jonnie Jacobs at Mysterious Writers:

Saturday, June 9, 2012


The Mystery Writers is a free Kindle download today and Sunday (June 9-10). Sixty writers of twelve subgenres have been interviewed from as far away as South Africa, Brazil, Thailand, England and Canada. Their writing advice is invaluable to not only fledgling writers of any genre but those of us who have been writing for years.

Among those interviewed are Sue Grafton, Lawrence Block, Julie Garwood, James Scott Bell, Vickie Hinze and J.A. Jance.

The Mystery Writers may not be offered free again so take advantage of this download:

Excerpts from the book include:

"A writer is someone who has written TODAY! Those are words I clung to when I was a pre-published writer and that still resonate with me today." ~ J. A. Jance

"In the past 30 years I've wired myself with hidden cameras, chased down criminals and confronted  corrupt politicians--and had many a door slammed in my face! But the idea that I can change lives and even change laws is so gratifying." ~ Hank Phillipi Ryan

"Don't follow the crowd. Today's hot ticket will have gone out of favour by the time you finish your effort." Geraldine Evans (England)

"Get yourself established in the 'old-fashioned' way by getting an agent who will find you a 'legacy' publisher. Are the odds against you? Sure.They always were. Can you do it? Yes, you can." Leighton Gage (Brazil)

"What's the best way to become a bestselling author? Produce consistently high-quality work for a targeted, established genre and market it as though your life depended on it." ~ Vickie Hinze

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A Conversation with Bestselling Author Craig Johnson

An hour-long television program based on Craig Johnson’s Western contemporary series, Longmire, debuted June 3 on the A&E network. And his eighth novel in the series, As the Crow Flies, was released last month by Viking. from Penguin.

Craig, have you always been a writer?


Nope, my father says I just come from a long line of bullslingers and I’m the first one to be smart enough to write them down… Honestly, I came from a family of readers and I think it’s a short step from there to writing books. I built my ranch myself and finally settled into the life with the thought that I’d always wanted to write a novel. I guess what basically happened was that I ran out of excuses.

When and where did you make your first sale?

Viking/Penguin picked up the first in my Walt Longmire series six years ago, and it’s been off to the races since then. Kathryn Court, the president of Penguin USA shoved a copy of The Cold Dish (a novel I considered to be a stand-alone) across the lunch table in New York and said, “We’d like some more of these…” Do you believe I argued with her? Thank goodness she won. My agent asked me who I wanted to be with and I thought of all those Steinbeck books I’d read as a child (and still do) and chose Viking/Penguin. It’s been pretty wonderful working with a literary press that gives me a lot of leeway. My last two contracts stated that the books had to be mysteries and have Walt in them… That’s a lot of freedom.

What made you decide to settle in Wyoming to write your first book?

I grew up in the Midwest, but my grandparents lived in Kansas and New Mexico, so I wasn’t completely unaware of the American West. When I was eighteen I loaded up an old Army pack, a thousand bucks and lit out for the territories. I think Louis L’Amour would’ve approved. Anyway, in my journeys I was working for a rancher up in Montana and delivered some horses down to Wyoming where I inevitably built my ranch near Ucross.

Your western contemporary mysteries and articles have received quite a few awards. Which means the most to you?

Getting pulled over by a highway patrolman between Basin and Otto in the Red Desert and being told, “I read you books, Mr. Johnson…” He let me off, so I guess he liked them. I get a lot of emails from law enforcement telling me that they think I get it right, and that means a lot to me.

You latest book tour encompassed quite a few towns and events. Do you enjoy meeting readers and talking about your books, or do you prefer to stay at home on the ranch and promote your work via the Internet? And which methods of promoting your books have been the most effective?

Oh, I like living on the ranch and writing or else I wouldn’t have chosen this as a livelihood. I like meeting people and talking about the books though. They say that print ads, commercials, Internet and all that sells books, but I still think the old hand sale buzz of somebody saying, “Hey, have you read..?” Still works the best. Maybe it’s because the nearest town to my ranch has a population of 25, but I genuinely like people and enjoy talking to them about my books. I also think that the book sellers are the best friends an author can have. I do events in every one-horse book store on the High Plains because those people are important not only in the sense of sales, but their ability to tell me where I got it wrong and where I got it right. It’s an occupational hazard in living in a state with only a half-million occupants, that folks recognize characters in the books.

What do you enjoy most about writing and what chaps your hide?

As stated above, I really enjoy the isolation of writing. Heck, in any right-minded country they’d lock me away for sitting in a room by myself and typing about my imaginary friends. Dislikes..? Oh, people who I meet that proudly proclaim, “I don’t read.” That just worries me… Somehow I bet they find time to sit in front of a television for four hours a night. I think reading is a good habit for your mind, it keeps you alert and engaged unlike a lot of other activities.

What’s life like on your ranch near Ucross, Wyoming, and what’s your writing schedule like?

Well, I have a ranch so I get things sorted out at daybreak, make a big pot of coffee, and sit down to write. Sometimes I break for lunch, sometimes I don’t. I came to this wonderful life in my mid-forties, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let them find out I shouldn’t be doing it. I attempt to only work six days a week, but I eventually end up in my writing loft with ideas that can’t wait, or trying to fix up mistakes I’ve made.

Tell us about your protagonist, Walt Longmire? And how much of him is autobiographical?

More than I’d be willing to admit. Walt’s probably who I’d like to be in about ten years, but I’m off to an incredibly slow start. In my experiences with law enforcement, I tried to put together my version of an ideal sheriff. Not that Walt’s perfect by any means, but the kind of guy I’d want pulling his cruiser in behind me; kind, patient, tenacious, intelligent and with a sense of humor. He’s no Captain Marvel, but he’s very good at his job. I think the humor is important, anybody that’s ever done the job knows how important a sense of humor is in getting you through the day.

Advice for fledgling western mystery writers?

Keep it real, do your research, and be honest to the place you love. Don’t have your protagonist running around on a cruise ship. One of the things I try to do is pull the seminal information for my novels from local newspapers, which keeps the books grounded in the social and cultural problems my neighbors and I face. I could just come up with wild plots, but I think that’s a disservice to the modern mystery reader, they tend to be looking for something more than just a ‘who dunnit’. There’s so much out there that needs addressing, I don’t think you have to go off looking very far away. That’s the advice I’d give.

Thanks, Craig.

Craig's website:

© 2010 Jean Henry-Mead

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Betty Webb is the author of the popular Lena Jones mystery series: Desert Cut, Desert Run, Desert Shadows, Desert Wives, Desert Noir and Desert Wind. She also shows her softer and more humorous side in a series set in a fictional California zoo. The first book in the Gunn Zoo series, The Anteater of Death, was released in November 2008.

Betty, you’ve received some great reviews for your latest release, Desert Wind, including a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly.Why did you decide to write about the uranium mining which led to the deaths of John Wayne, Susan Hayward and many others?
Here in Arizona the newspapers have been full of articles about people protesting the uranium mining at the Grand Canyon. One part of the Canyon is already radioactive, which I consider an outrage – and as you know, the feeling of outrage is what leads to all the Lena Jones novels (as in“Desert Wives,” where the treatment of women and children in the polygamy compounds had me frothing at the mouth). After doing some research, I realized that the uranium mining problem also connected up with the nuclear testing program in Nevada, and then –horribly enough – to the filming of “The Conqueror,” which starred John Wayne. Almost half of the film’s stars, extras (including around 150 Paiute Indians) died of cancer after they’d been exposed to concentrated nuclear fallout during one of those tests.
Tell us about your writing background and the presidents you’ve interviewed.
I wrote my first novel when I was 14. It was called “Desert Mane” and was about a horse. Although it was too amateurish to get published, it taught me that even if you only write one page a day, in a year you’ll have completed 365 pages – an entire book! Many years later I became a reporter, which I absolutely loved, and some of the stories I covered made me want to start writing novels again. Reporters uncover a lot of scandals involving the rich and powerful, and that material is simply too rich to confine to a short newspaper article.
Over the course of my newspaper career I was able to interview many powerful people: actors, rock stars, comedians, and politicians (odd, isn’t it, that I mentioned politicians right after comedians). Among the rich and famous were presidents Richard Nixon (surprisingly genial), Jimmy Carter, and once even (for a brief couple of minutes) Bill Clinton. Other big “gets”were Newt Gingrich (highly articulate), John McCain (the guy’s a hoot, a side of him most people don’t get to see), astronaut Buzz Aldrin (I was so impressed I slobbered all over him), Bob Hope, Charlton Heston (very gallant), Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld, Walter Cronkite, Patrick Swayze (he kissed me!), Norman Mailer (every bit as irascible as you’d think), Tony Bennett (major charmer), the great Joan Baez, and just about every rock star out there.
You’ve tackled some serious social issues in your desert series. Did the plots originate from stories you covered as a journalist?
I either covered those stories or some of my reporter friends did and I went chasing after them for more information. That was the case with “Desert Cut,”which exposed the fact that our goofy immigration policies have brought the horrific practice of female genital amputation to America. One of my friends on another paper let me know about that one, then I followed up with my own research. Same with “Desert Run.” I heard the reporter in the cubicle next to mine interview one of the prison guards at a German Prisoner of War camp that existed here in Arizona. The rest of the books emerged from my own reportage.
Do you ever worry about repercussions from local and federal authorities when you expose crimes they would prefer to keep under wraps?
Let’s put it this way – since “Desert Wind” came out, my computer keeps crashing. And my phone is making clicking noises. Call me paranoid, but…
Something similar happened to me, Betty. Soon after my book, Murder on the Interstate, was released (concerning homegrown terrorists in Arizona), my computer crashed three days in a row, for no apparent reason. Makes you wonder, doesn't it?

Why did you decide to write a light-hearted series about zoo animals?
I needed the comic relief. Plus, my volunteer work at the Phoenix Zoo was just too interesting not to use. The animals I feature in those books (“The Anteater of Death” and “The Koala of Death” and now “The Llama of Death,” which comes out next January) are animals I have personally known.
Which of your awards means the most to you and why?
I’ll have to go with the Silver Medal for “Desert Wives”which I received from Women Writing the West. The gifted Barbara Seranella and I both shared that one, and since I’ve always greatly respected her work (“No Human Involved,” etc), it was an honor to for one brief moment, to have my book judged equal to hers.
How do you feel about the e-book revolution? Has it helped your own book sales or simply decreased print sales?
I have mixed feelings about it. I love bookstore and libraries, and there’s little doubt that e-books are hurting them. However, I also love to see people get published; everyone has a story to tell – some just tell it better than others. As far as sales go, my hardbacks and paperbacks are still outselling my downloads, but I have noticed from recent royalty statements that sales of downloads are increasing. So we’ll have to wait and see on that.
Advice for fledgling writers.
Write. Every. Day. Creativity is a muscle – and like all muscles, use it or lose it. And whatever you do, don’t wait around for“inspiration.” Inspiration only happens when you’re already hard at work writing.
Thank you, Betty.

You can visit Betty Webb at: her website
and Her blog site and writing tips:

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Choosing the Right Critique Group

by Jean Henry Mead

I recently formed a mystery writer's critique group with authors whose work is similar to mine. I hadn’t taken part in one since 1999, when I joined a large online group comprised of novice writers. As a journalist for more than a decade, making the transition to fiction was a real challenge. My years as a police reporter was a plus when I began writing mysteries but my prose was too terse and lacked description. So feedback from the group made the difference. The downside was that there were so many members in the group that my writing time consisted of critiquing their manuscripts. My lesson learned was to find a few like-minded writers whose work I admire.

How do you form a good critique group? If you write mysteries, don’t invite a science fiction writer to critique your work. It’s obviously not a match because the genres are so different. Even someone who writes mysteries may not be compatible. If you write cozies, a crime writer is not a good choice and you run the risk of boring your critique partner(s). Choose a small group of writers who are experienced with your subgenre and who enjoy it. Many books are genre specific, such as commercial romance novels, which have a common structure.

Select critique group members who can be flexible. You need reactions to your work, not what someone else thinks you should have written. And don’t join a critique group if you're sensitive to criticism. Some critique members insist on stark realism while others demand strong female characters and happy endings. Some may think you write too much dialogue and not enough narrative. So you must take criticism with a grain of salt. Toss whatever doesn’t apply over your shoulder.

Above all, choose fellow critiquers who don’t have an axe to grind or envy your publishing successes. Writer Nancy Kress has said that some people are less objective than others, “due to stubborn personality traits. Some people must find fault with everything in order to bolster their own superiority. They’re a bad source of constructive feedback. Conversely, others have such sweet natures that they hate to offend anyone. They will tell you everything in the novel works beautifully, even if it doesn’t.”

It’s your manuscript and you don’t have to accept every tidbit of advice, but at least listen with an open mind. Your fellow critiquers haven’t spent months with your characters and plot, and can be more objective, so take advantage of their expertise.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Diary of Murder is a free download today (Sunday). Who killed mystery writer Georgi Turnsby? Was it her husband or a woman selling door-to-door alternative medicine? It could have even been her brother-in-law, the sheriff or any one of her husband's girlfriends. Dana Logan and her friend Sarah Cafferty rush to Wyoming through a Rocky Mountain blizzard to learn what happened? In the process they nearly lose their own lives when  they discover a vicious drug ring.

Download a free Kindle copy today at:

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Going Digital and Getting There

by Robert Fate, author of the Baby Shark series

It was sad news when Capital Crime Press, my honest, hard working publisher, decided to throw in the towel, but more than that, it was scary. How about the agreements with the distributors? Where were readers, bookstores, and libraries going to find my books? And what made it the scariest was how fast change was happening all around me. But how could I be surprised, though, with major bookstores going belly up and taking their WiFi and coffee bars with them? Larger publishers than mine were calling it quits; eStuff was replacing dead tree stuff so fast it just felt rude. Okay, maybe books must go, but why not with a little more dignity? Nope, no time for that––the future had arrived.

The truth is, I wanted to go all Pollyanna and believe that things would take care of themselves, after all, folks weren’t going to stop reading books––were they? So I let much more time slip by than I ever should have before reading some altruistic Joe Konrath rants and seeing the light. Joe has a way of throwing that switch. No more dragging my feet, I had to go digital or I would be the last writer in the neighborhood to do so.

For me, going digital, meant penning 2nd editions of the first four Baby Sharks and releasing them on Kindle Select. This was the beginning of the “process” part of leaving one world and entering the next.
Okay––making the books available for Kindle readers was step one. But how about all those folks who like holding a “real” book in their hands? After all the badmouth that has been given Print On Demand (POD) by the traditional publishing guys (to serve their own purposes, I fear), I was happily surprised to learn that POD books look EXACTLY the same as the book traditional publishers print. Hooray! That meant all readers would be served.

So, new covers for the PODs would need to be arranged, as well as some other details, since I was now the publisher, but it was all within reach. I think it is fair to say that Amazon (Kindle) makes it easy to self-publish, but that’s relative. If you want to go this route, be prepared to exert some effort. It ain’t rocket science, but there are many niggling details that must be addressed. Patience and perseverance are required, and also some thick skin, since there is still a lot of resistance to “going it alone,” even if it is the American way.

The final stage of the “process” is the marketing, of course––the Sisyphean task of making folks aware of your books. Amazon offers help, but as in all things, you must help yourself, as well. I am now in that final stage.


 Baby Shark will be offered free for five days on Kindle –– Click HERE on May 18 thru May 22, 2012 for your free book. The other books in the series will also be offered free in the near future––go to for that information.

 Watch for the summer 2012 publications of Baby Shark’s Showdown at Chigger Flats, book five in the Baby Shark series. And, Kill the Gigolo, a contemporary standalone with a male protagonist and a femme fatale that is one dangerous piece of work.

If you TWEET, on May 18th, please Tweet this: Free Baby Shark on Kindle

Robert Fate, author of the Baby Shark series, is a Marine Corps veteran who studied at the Sorbonne in France, rough necked in the oilfields of Oklahoma, fashion modeled in NYC, sold show scenery in Las Vegas, and has been a chef in Los Angeles. As a Hollywood special effects technician, he won an Academy Award for Technical Achievement. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, a ceramic artist, and his daughter, a cum laude graduate of USC. A regular guy, he has a dog, two cats, and a turtle named Pharrell.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A Review by Pat Browning

Meet the mystery writers -- who they are, what, why and how they write. Jean Henry Mead edited this worthy collection from interviews and essays she published on one of her blogs. Entertaining and instructional, the collection is available as a trade paperback and the e-book version is on sale this week for $2.99 on and Barnes and Noble .

On the list are working journalists such as Vincent Zandri whose experience includes bribing his way out of West Africa. A prolific author, in the spring of 2011 he sold more than 100,000 Kindle E-book editions of his noir novels. He does a lot of work for Russia Today TV and is a part-time rock drummer for the punk band Blisterz. He advises beginning authors not to get married: "For the first ten years of your working life, the writing will be both spouse and mistress."

Ohio journalist/author Craig McDonald's ROGUE MALES was nominated for a 2010 Macavity Award and his newest novel, PRINT THE LEGEND, asks: Was Hemingway murdered? He picks Hemingway as the 20th century's most important author: "He liberated the language and reinvigorated the American novel."

Then there's broadcast journalist Hank Phillippi Ryan, who has won 27 Emmys and 12 Edward R. Murrow Awards. Her current Charlotte Mcnally series features a broadcast journalist, and her new series launches this fall with THE OTHER WOMAN, featuring a Boston reporter tracking an ex-governor's secret mistress. Small wonder that this fearless journalist/author keeps a Zen saying on her bulletin board: "Leap and the net will appear."

Bruce DeSilva is a retired journalist whose first book ROGUE ISLAND made PW's list as one of the 10 best debut novels of 2010. His advice: "Read books the way boys of my generation tinkered with cars, taking them apart and putting them back together again to see how they worked."

J. Michael Orenduff's background as an educator includes a stint as president of New Mexico State University in the 1990s. In his popular POT THIEF series, the protagonist is part-thief and part-social critic, who finds popular culture unfathomable.THE POT THIEF WHO STUDIED EINSTEIN won the 2011 Lefty Award.

Timothy Hallinan, who has three series going - the Poke Rafferty series, the Junior Bender e-book originals and the Simeon Grist reprints - calls this a golden age for mysteries and thrillers. "... And in one of the most remarkable shifts in modern marketing history, women became the driving force in mystery writing ... The e-book has broken New York's stranglehold on what we read -- and what we can write, too."

Randy Rawls, a retired career Army officer and ghostwriter, is the author of the Ace Edwards series and currently working on new series with a Florida-based PI named Beth Bowman. He says: "I believe that one of the successes of writing is knowing when you've bombed. I've bombed on several efforts. They rest on my hard drive, waiting to be saved. Maybe someday I'll get back to them. There are few bad stories, just bad writing."

Another author who retired to write crime fiction is Leighton Gage. He wrapped up a stellar international career in advertising before settling in Brazil and publishing his first book at age 65. Gage comes from a line of Yankee sea captains, which might explain his wanderlust and curiosity about the world.

Of his popular series about Mario Silva of the Brazilian Federal Police, he says that after learning most mystery fans are women, he toned down graphic violence and added an element of romance. "As to why I write, remember what Samuel Johnson said? `Anyone who writes for anything except money is a fool.' Yeah, that's what I thought, too. I wish it were true. But with the pittances we writers earn, I gotta admit, I do it for glory."

Equally frank is Shane Gericke (pronounced YER-key), who gave up a 25-year editorial job at the Chicago Sun Times to write fiction. His advice: Get the writing habit by writing something every day, even if it's a blog or a letter to your mother. "Commercial fiction is, at base, factory work, as you're putting out product for people to buy, and your production line needs to run smoothly. If you love to write, that shouldn't be a problem. If you don't love to write, find another business." Gericke's latest thriller TORN APART was a national finalist for Thriller Award for Best Paperback Novel of 2010 and named a Best Book of 2010 by Suspense Magazine.

Alafair Burke grew up with a father who was writing and a mother who was a librarian. "We were a family that not only told stories, but thought it was perfectly natural to write them down. My mother would take me to the library every Saturday for a new stack of books. The rhythms of storytelling and character creation become ingrained when you read all the time."

A former prosecutor in Portland, Oregon, Burke teaches criminal law and procedure at Hofstra Law School in New York, and writes two crime series -- the Samantha Kincaid series about a Portland Deputy D.A., and the Ellie Hatcher mysteries about a NYPD Detective. In LONG GONE, Burke's first stand-alone thriller, an art gallery manager finds her boss dead and the gallery stripped bare.

Ever the pro and perfectionist, Burke writes that after she finished her eighth book, she "... paused a moment to celebrate having a beginning, middle, and an end. Then I opened a new, blank document on my computer and I started again from the beginning. Yep, I rewrote my book."

THE MYSTERY WRITERS is chock full of good advice and interesting personal tidbits. In all, there are 60 mystery writers within 12 categories.
The categories and authors are:
SUSPENSE: James Scott Bell, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Joan Hall Hovey, Ellis Viler, Cheryl Kaye Tardif.
CRIME NOVELS: Lawrence Block, J.A. Jance, Bruce DeSilva, Diana Fanning, Craig McDonald, Geraldine Evans.
POLICE PROCEDURALS: Leighton Gage, Alafair Burke, Martin Edwards, Pat Brown, Marilyn Meredith, Bob Sanchez, Maryann Miller.
THRILLERS: Robert Liparulo, Vicki Hinze, Shane Gericke, Timothy Hallinan, Lise Glendon.
PRIVATE EYES: Sue Grafton, Randy Rawls, Mark Troy.
NOIR: Vincent Zandri, Roger Smith.
TRADITIONAL MYSTERIES: Sandra Parshall, Gerrie Ferris Finger, Madeline (M.M.) Gornell, Earl Staggs, Holli Castillo, Alan Orloff.
HISTORICAL MYSTERIES: Julie Garwood, Ann Parker, Nancy Means Wright.
CONTEMPORARY WESTERN MYSTERIES: Vickie Britton and Loretta Jackson, Curt Wendleboe.
HUMOROUS MYSTERIES: Lois Winston, J. Michael Orenduff, Rebecca (R.P.) Dalke, Marja McGraw, Susan Santangelo, Ann Charles, W.S. Gager,Chris Redding.
COZIES: Elizabeth Spann Craig, Anne K. Albert, Ron Benrey, Maggie Bishop.
AMATEUR SLEUTHS: John M. Daniel, Margaret Koch, Jacqueline King, Lou Allin, Karen E. Olson, Pat Browning, Leslie Diehl, Sunny Frazier, Jinx Schwartz.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

FREE Download of ESCAPE, A Wyoming Historical Novel

Ever wonder what really happened to Butch Cassidy and his gang members? A free download of Escape, A Wyoming Historical Novel tells all in this historically based novel of a young woman kidnapped by a Wild Bunch member and taken to the infamous Hole in the Wall outlaw hideout. There she manages to hide her gender (disguised as a 12-year-old boy). She listens to  the outlaws plan the ill-fated Belle Fourche bank robbery and falls in love  with the youngest outlaw, whom she attempts to reform of his errant ways

A ten-page epilogue details the actual fate of Cassidy, the Sundance Kid and other members of the gang. The novel was heavily researched and is generously laced with humor, suspense and romance.

Download the book now FREE through Monday at: 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

AND THE WINNERS ARE . . . (Drum Roll, Please)

Winner of the print copy of The Mystery Writers is Tricia Lee.

And the winner of a Kindle or Nook copy of The Mystery Writers is Jake (no last name listed).

Please email me at:

Friday, April 27, 2012

Madeline (M.M.) Gornell Talks About the Art and Craft of Writing

Madeline, welcome to my mountaintop on the last day of our Mystery We Write Spring blog tour.. It's great to have you visit here from California's Mojave Desert. 

Jean, so glad to be here today. I’ve so enjoyed our previous conversations! You’ve asked me to talk about the craft of writing—a BIG topic—and thought provoking. That’s one of the things I’ve really enjoyed about our blog tours, making the time to think about what I’m trying to do, and why. In my eyes, the “craft” of writing is two pronged—“craft, and art.”

I love reading fiction novels (mysteries mainly) that have a strong sense of “place,” with characters I like, and in the case of mysteries—a tricky plot I can’t figure out, but makes sense at the end. I also like reading work that has a good sense of language—using just the right word (I’ve spent hours rewriting until it’s “just right” for me—or pressing the DELETE button!). I even like long sentences, and don’t mind being sent to the dictionary a couple times.

All that being said about what I like to read, the art and craft of writing for me is my telling a good story, in an enticing and suspenseful way, with interesting and appealing characters, a murder that needs to be solved (with all the emotional baggage that entails), and using language and style that will appeal to readers and is also satisfying for me to write. A mouthful, I know.

And it’s a really big mountain to climb—but writing a book you’d love to read, I think, is key. So, in today’s writing world, one of my main challenges is balancing all those elements in an artistic and well crafted way. And a key activity for me in trying to “get there,” is rewriting. On a practical/technological level, word processing software has been a tremendous enabler for me. And the author I take inspiration from to achieve those goals, and enjoy reading the most—is P.D. James. To me, she balances all the “craft, and art” elements I most admire.

Thanks, Jean, for inviting me back on this tour and letting me spout-off!
Sure enjoy visiting with you.

My pleasure, Madeline. Thank your for your good thoughts.

You can buy Madeline's books on, Barnes and and Smashwords in print and e-book editions. And you can visit her online at her website or her Blog. You can also email her directly.

Book Giveaway:

Madeline will be giving away 3 copies of her latest book to visitors who leave their email addresses with their comments.

About the Author:

Madeiline (M.M.) Gornell has three published mystery novels—PSWA awarding winning Uncle Si’s Secret (2008), Death of a Perfect Man (2009), and Reticence of Ravens (2010and her first Route 66 mystery). Reticence of Ravens is a 2011 Eric Hoffer Fiction finalist and Honorary Mention winner, the da Vinci Eye finalist, and a Montaigne Medalist finalist. In 2012 Lies of Convenience—Book One of a Margot Madison-Cross Route 66 Trilogy, and Pronouncements of Ravens—a sequel to Reticence of Ravens are being released. Lies of Convenience is a tale that fictionally connects murder, truths untold, and Chicago’s Lake Michigan with California’s high desert on the opposite end of The Mother Road. Pronouncements of Ravens takes Hubert James Champion III one step forward in his quest for peace and solitude in the Mojave. But before Hugh can come to terms with himself and his desert home, new obstacles rear their ugly heads—one being a heart wrenching murder. No, there is no easy path for Hugh in the Mojave.Madeline is also a potter with a fondness for stoneware and reduction firing. She lives with her husband and assorted canines in the Mojave in a town on internationally revered Route 66.

Click here to buy her novel, Reticence of Ravens:

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Anne K. Albert: Sites, Settings and Scenery

Welcome, Anne, to my mountaintop.  It's always great to have you here. Please tell us about "Sites, Settings and Scenery."

Beginning writers spend considerable time and energy creating believable characters, writing snappy dialogue and developing action packed plots. It’s understandable, therefore, their tendency to ignore setting, but they do so at their own peril.

By definition, setting is the locale or period in which the action of a novel takes place. It can be urban, rural, tropical, wintry, foreign, indigenous, and/or everything in between. A sleepy English village on a clear, crisp winter’s day for example, is a profoundly different setting from a bustling Asian city of fifteen million battered by a category five typhoon.

Setting, however, is more than just scenery. It establishes mood. It creates conflict and causes turmoil. It impacts and changes the characters. A great setting can solve a sagging middle. 

It can (and should) move the story forward.

 For my romantic suspense series, the Piedmont Island Trilogy, I created a fictional island community in northeastern Minnesota near the Canadian border. It’s surrounded by Lake Superior, the largest body of fresh water in the world. It’s four seasons, tall pines, rugged rock cliffs and panoramic vistas are the perfect backdrop. This is a small island community where troubles outnumber residents. It allows for a small cast of characters who would naturally know each other. The setting fits the requirements of the genre, and resonates with readers.

Niagara Falls in western New York State is a very different place. It’s urban, hectic, touristy, and echoes the colorful characters and mayhem in Frank, Incense and Muriel, book one of the Muriel Reeves Mysteries. Readers around the globe are already familiar with the region. They think of Niagara Falls as a natural wonder and a romantic destination.

The homes, office buildings, and businesses frequented by the story people, however, are of my own creation because cities, like humans, are in a constant state of flux. Nothing stays the same forever. To retain authenticity in this series I provide a taste of Niagara Falls without being slave to its current reality. The city and surrounding area may change over the years, but its amenities, eccentricities and flare will remain consistent throughout the pages of each book.

Setting isn’t just scenery. It’s a vital tool in every writer’s tool kit. Use it wisely, and happy writing!

Blurb: FRANK, INCENSE AND MURIEL is set the week before Christmas when the stress of the holidays is enough to frazzle anyone’s nerves. Tensions increase when a friend begs Muriel to team up with a sexy private investigator to find a missing woman. Forced to deal with an embezzler, kidnapper, and femme fatale is bad enough, but add Muriel’s zany yet loveable family to the mix and their desire to win the coveted D-DAY (Death Defying Act of the Year) Award, and the situation can only get worse. This cozy, comedic mystery is recipient of the prestigious 2011 Holt Medallion Award of Merit.

Thanks so much, Jean. It’s always a pleasure to drop by and chat! I’d like to remind readers I’m giving away an e-copy of FRANK, INCENSE AND MURIEL at the conclusion of the Mystery We Write tour. Leave a comment to automatically be entered in the draw. The winner will be announced April 28 at

Thank you, Anne. It's always a pleasure to have you visit here.

Anne K. Albert’s award winning stories "chill the spine, warm the heart and soothe the soul…all with a delightful touch of humor." A member of Romance Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and married to her high school sweetheart for more than a quarter of a century, it's a given she'd write mystery and romantic suspense. When not writing she loves to travel, visit friends and family, and of course, read using ‘Threegio’ her cherished and much beloved Kindle 3G!

You can visit Anne at her website: Anne K. Albert. and her blog site.
You can buy her novel, Frank, Incense and Muriel at