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

Monday, April 23, 2012

Marilyn Meredith's Sense of Place

F. M. Meredith aka Marilyn Meredith

It's a pleasure to welcome Marilyn Meredith during the Mystery We Write Spring Blog Tour. Marilyn is a member of EPIC, Four chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and serves as the program chair for the Public Safety Writers of America’s writing conference. She’s been an instructor at many writing conferences.

Marilyn, tell us about  the importance of  "Sense of Place."

While reading several books by new authors, I’ve discovered a few with an important element missing, the sense of place. Some of my favorite books are those that I feel like I know exactly what the area looks like where the characters are living, working, talking, and experiencing the things that are going on with and around them.

What I try to do when I’m writing a scene is to see it through the eyes of my point-of-view character. (In my Rocky Bluff P.D. series the POV character may change from scene to scene.) I want to be sure that the reader knows where that character is, what the place is like, perhaps the smells, and of course the weather.

In No Bells fog plays a big part in what is going on. Fog is wonderful for setting a mysterious scene. It swirls around, it hides what’s coming, and it can be frustrating. I’ve lived in a beach community much like Rocky Bluff and the fog is relentless at certain times of the year as it rolls in from the ocean and sometime seems to swallow everything around.

Driving at night in the fog is particularly difficult, especially if you are trying to follow someone without being noticed—which is something Officer Gordon Butler must do. The salty scent of the ocean pervades everywhere.

Rocky Bluff is not a real town, but I can see what it looks like in my imagination. Situated on either side of the 101 highway in Southern California, it’s north of Ventura and south of Santa Barbara. A stream bed runs beside a rocky bluff that rises up like a cliff, giving the town its name. In this particular area there is a lot of wild growth including eucalyptus trees which have a most distinctive odor. This is an undeveloped area favored by young people for partying. It is also where the body is discovered in No Bells.

On top of the bluff are expensive homes where the richest people in the town live. They have no beach access, but many have spectacular ocean views. It is also the location for the Rocky Bluff Community Church.

In the older part of town, beach cottages, many in disrepair, are closest to the shore. The downtown areas with businesses, shops and restaurants are located on and near the main drag, Valley Boulevard. The rest of the town rises up the hillside with the freeway passing over. In one of the homes on the hillside, Officer Gordon Butler’s new love, Benay Weiss, lives in an old Victorian that has been divided into a duplex. Orange groves and ranches are on the other side. When the orange blossoms bloom, their sweet smell adds to the many other scents of Rocky Bluff

The police department is not only understaffed but hasn’t been upgraded with any of the new equipment the larger police departments have access to. Even the Chief’s Office is shabby, furnished with items the Chief has brought from his own home. (This whole situation makes it necessary for the RBPD to solve crimes the old fashioned way—investigating and asking lots of questions.

As things happen in the story, I hope that I’ve given enough of a description of the places that the reader can imagine much the same as what I envisioned in my mind as I wrote.

Even if an author is writing about a real place, not everyone has visited so it’s necessary to describe enough that the reader can visualize what the area looks like the characters inhabit. Sometimes, the setting can almost seem like another character. I hope that’s what I’ve done in No Bells.

No Bells is available at the usual places as a trade paperback and an e-book.
F.M. Meredith aka Marilyn Meredith

No Bells Blurb: Officer Gordon Butler has finally found the love he’s been seeking for a long time, but there’s one big problem, she’s the major suspect in a murder case.

F.M. Meredith, also known as Marilyn Meredith, is the author of over thirty published novels—and a few that will never see print. Her latest in the Rocky Bluff P.D. crime series, from Oak Tree Press, is No Bells. Rocky Bluff P.D. is a fictional beach community between Ventura and Santa Barbara and F. M. once lived in a similar beach area.

Visit Marilyn at her blog, and if you would like to get in touch with her by email.

CONTEST: The person who comments on the most of my blogs on this MMW Spring Blog Tour will win a copy of No Bells so be sure to leave your email too, so I can contact you if you win.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Craft of Writing by Marja McGraw

Welcome to Mead Mountain, Marja McGraw. It's great to have you visit here now that the snow's finally melted. Please tell us how you feel about the craft of writing.

A craft is a skill, which would mean the skill of writing a story. However, being crafty means you’re adept in the use of subtlety and cunning or marked by subtlety and guile. What wonderful words for a mystery writer; cunning, subtly, and with guile.

As a mystery writer I think being crafty is more appropriate than having a craft. After all, my skill requires that I dazzle the reader with twists and turns, and supply clues and red herrings. The craft part of this equation is making it all come together while making sense. Including some humor in my stories adds an extra degree of skill.

Writers, in general, put a lot more of themselves in their books than people realize. While a character may not be based on me, I still have to know what I’m talking about. Whether it’s personality traits, appearance of an individual, or purpose and reason, you can’t just pick stuff out of the air and hope it works. I’ve had to study people and their reactions to all kinds of situations. In a way, a good author is part psychologist. I need to be able to “read” people and situations. If I hadn’t learned to do this, then my characters would come across flat and unrealistic.

I had to learn all kinds of things. Writing an action scene can make or break a part of the story. The action needs to be quick and generally intense in one way or another. It can’t drag on with long sentences or you lose all sense of action.

 Even writing a romance scene can be tricky. Writers have to decide if they want the romance to be graphic and heavy duty or subtle and intimate. Do you want the romance to overwhelm the mystery? Or do you want the mystery to be the main focus of the story?

 The craft of writing a mystery involves so many facets, and as an author I want the reader to feel they’re right there, watching what’s happening. The protagonist has to be someone readers can relate to on some level, whether they like the individual or not. Actually, the reader should be able to relate to the antagonist as well, even if they’re reaction to the bad guy is, “Ick” or “Eewww”.

What about sub-characters? They’re important, too. Whether it’s a one-time client or a repeat friend, foe or relative, they need to be as real as the main character(s).

 So, in the end, the craft of writing involves so much more than the readers realize. It takes study, research, planning and crafting a story. No matter how outrageous the storyline is, there has to be some kind of reality to keep the reader grounded and reading.

From learning how to format a page to writing the story, I had a lot to learn, including how to turn out a good story. Don’t sell your favorite authors short, because they’ve had a lot to learn before writing the story that still lingers in your memory.

 Thank you for having me in today, Jean. I’ve really enjoyed talking about writing, but then it’s one of my favorite subjects.

 My pleasure, Marja. Come back anytime, espeially when you don't need snowshoes.

Just released: Bogey’s Ace in the Hole (See my book trailer)

You can visit Marja at her website, and her blog site.

Her books are available at

At the end of this tour two names will be randomly selected from those who've left comments and they'll each receive a copy of Bogey's Ace in the Hole. Be sure to leave your email address. with your comments.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Mary Martinez: I'm a Panster

Welcome to my mountaintop, Mary. It's great to have you visit here today during the Mystery We Write Spring Blog Tour. 

Thank you, Jean, for hosting me on your blog today. You’ve given me a challenge! Jean has asked me to write something on the craft of writing. So here goes:

 Do I plot? Do I outline? Do I do a storyboard? None of the above. So how do I write? I’m a panster, mostly. My characters like to write their own story.

I’d gone to a workshop on plotting, outlines and storyboards and it was very interesting. The presenters (there were two well known authors giving the workshop) actually had pictures of the characters, their homes, their apartment layouts, etc. While I found this interesting—what was running through my mind was; When do they find time to write? Because it would have taken me months just to set up.

 Hey they were successful writers and I was a beginner, what did I know? So I decided to try my hand at plotting—the story board would never work, well that’s another story on craft. Anyway, I was going on vacation and we would be taking many trains, so I decided to plot my next book on the train rides.

 I began to plot each chapter, and after about four chapters—nothing. My characters, the ones that had been talking in my head and telling me to write their stories, shut up. Wouldn’t speak to me. And to this day, that story is still not written.

 I found out that I can’t change the fact that I’m a panster. I like to find out what my characters are going to do, just as if I were reading my story. But still these authors were successful and I hadn’t been published yet. So what I did was took everything that I could use from that workshop and made it my own. Kind of like when Randy on American Idol tells one of the contestants to make the song their own.

 Over the years, I’ve been writing, I’ve developed my own method. When I have that germ of an idea I open a file and name it background_Working title and write the blurb. This could be one paragraph to a page. And then I do a list of the current characters rattling around in my mind.  I do a brief set up of the town, if it’s a major city, I usually have a map, and I figure out where they live. Then I open a new file and start writing.  

 As I write and I get to know my characters, I write things in my background file. How tall they are, their hair color, eye color. Any little quirks they have. When I can see their home or apartment, I hop on a real estate site in the area, and find a picture and put it in my background file.

 The Beckett’s I actually visited NYC while writing the first story. I made my husband and friends walk the murder area. And I made notes for my background file.

 So what I’m saying about this is, you have to come up with your own method of plotting or outlining. Take a lot of workshops, go to conferences, do everything you can to get information on the craft of writing a novel, then MAKE IT YOUR OWN!

Disappear (Book I of The Beckett Series)

After two years undercover as an FBI agent to infiltrate a crime organization and discover the identity of a hit man, Tyler Beckett’s cover is blown. Tyler’s new assignment is to protect the only witness who can identify the mysterious killer. If only he didn’t find her so attractive. Each day it becomes harder to keep his objective, especially since he knows the interest is mutual.

Keira Cavanaugh is the only witness to a hit ordered by a crime boss.  The safe house is compromised and the same hit man shoots Tyler. Fearing Tyler is dead, Keira plans revenge on the crime organization. She must fake her own suicide in order to survive.

 When Tyler discovers what Keira plans, he realizes he must stop her before he loses her for good.

Disappear is available in eBook now at:

Print available May 2012

 During the blog tour Mary will be throwing all the people’s name who comment about the content of her posts, at each stop, into a hat for a drawing. She will be giving away to two lucky winners, one copy of any of her books (winner’s choice). Winners will be announced at the wrap up at the end of the blog tour, April 28th.  

 Mary’s web site:

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Write Who You Know by Earl Staggs

Welcome to my mountaintop, Earl. It's good to have you here from the Texas plains. Tell us about defining   characters.

There’s a lot of advice out there for writers. One common piece of advice is:  “Write what you know.” That one was put out there a long time ago to keep writers from making fools of themselves by getting  facts or details wrong.  Great advice at the time, but with so much information available via the Internet now, writers can learn about virtually any subject in a short period of time.  All we have to do is “Google” it and we can write about it like an expert.

 But what about our characters?  We can’t simply Google them, can we?  We have to come up with realistic people to write about on our own.  No search engine will do it for us.  We may say we create them entirely from imagination, but don’t believe it.  If we honestly look at every character we’ve ever written, we’ll have to confess to stealing them.  If we look long and hard at everyone in our families and circle of friends, we’ll find ourselves guilty of ripping off bits and pieces of them to create our characters. Or, we may have pinched them from someone we’ve seen on TV or read about in a book.

 Admit it, ladies.  That broad-shouldered, square-jawed hero you claim you dreamed up is really George Clooney.  Or if you want more boyish charm, Brad Pitt.  The silly old busybody you put next door to your heroine is in fact your Aunt Margaret.  For us men, that long-legged, sexy woman in jeopardy pleading with our PI for help is in reality. . .well, we won’t reveal who she is in case our wives read this.  And let’s be honest, guys. When we needed a ruggedly handsome, courageous and bold man-about-the-world, all we had to do was look in the mirror.  And delude ourselves.

When we need someone for a story, why start from scratch when there are so many walking, talking, breathing models to choose from?  We’ll make a modification here and there and change the name, of course, to protect the innocent as well as ourselves.  

The guy down the street, for example, may have the perfect build and face we need, but he’s nearly bald and too short.  Easy fix.  Give him some hair and some height.  The waitress at The Cheesecake Factory may have the exact femme fatale smile and come hither eyes we want, but she has mousey brown hair and is flat-chested.  No problem.  Make her a flaming redhead and give her bigger. . .you know.

So we’re all thieves when it comes to creating characters, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  

It’s not like bank robbery or breaking and entering.  We won’t have to do any jail time.  We won’t even have a rap sheet.   Our only crime is that when we need a character, we look around and write who we know.

 Thank you, Jean, for hosting me today on this exciting blog tour.  And thanks to everyone who stopped by.  Leave a comment while you’re here if you’d like to win a free book.  On April 29, I’ll put the names in a hat and draw two of them.  The first one drawn will receive a signed print copy of my novel, MEMORY OF A MURDER.  The second name drawn will have a choice of a print version  or ebook of my collection, SHORT STORIES OF EARL STAGGS.

You’re also invited to visit my website at  You’ll find Chapter One of MEMORY OF A MURDER there.  You’ll also find a short story called “The Day I Almost Became a Great Writer.”  Some say it’s the funniest story I’ve ever written. There’s also one called “White Hats and Happy Trails,” about the day I spent with a boyhood idol, Roy Rogers.

Thanks, Earl. I didn't realize until just now that I killed off my George Clooney character in Diary of Murder.

Derringer Award winning author Earl Staggs has seen many of his short stories published in magazines and anthologies. His novel MEMORY OF A MURDER earned a long list of Five Star reviews. He served as Managing Editor of Futures Mystery Magazine and as President of the Short Mystery Fiction Society. He is also a contributing blog member of Murderous Musings and Make Mine Mystery and is a frequent speaker at conferences and writers groups.  Email:  Website:

Sunday, April 15, 2012


Lou Allin with Zodie, Friday and Zia
"Layering the landscape" by Canadian novelist, Lou Allin:

It's my pleasure to welcome Lou Allin of Vancouver Island, my first guest of the "Mystery We Write Spring Mystery Tour." Born in Toronto, Lou grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. She received a PhD in English Renaissance Literature and spent three decades in Northern Ontario as a professor of English. With a cottage on a frozen lake as her inspiration, she started her Belle Palmer series, featuring a realtor and  her German Shepherd, beginning with her first novel, Northern Winters Are Murder.

She has since moved to Canada's "Caribbean," Vancouver Island, with Friday, a mini-poodle and Zodie and Zia, her border collies, where her home overlooks the strait of Juan de Fuca. Her island series features Royal Canadian Mounted Police corporal Holly Martin.

Welcome to my mountaintop, Lou. Tell us about layering the landscape.

Prtega y Gasset said, "Tell me the landscape in which you live and I will tell you who you are." Setting is critical. I traverse, transpose, and then by working in layers, tranpsort the reader to my world once the wilderness of Northern Ontario and now Vancouver Island.

My first visit covers the bare essentials. Who and what. Conversation is at a minimum. Next comes scensory details, starting with sight. I don't write inch by inch, perfecting one sentence before moving on to the next. I visit and revisit the scene until layer by layer, the painting emerges. Each draft adds about ten percent.

Having four sessions enriches a territory. Northern Ontario has severe winters, but during the winter the lands opens for travel by snowshoe, skiis and snowmobile. Summer is humid and frantic with high temperatures and murderous bugs. Solid walls of rain during Vancouver Island's winters balance the forest fires of summer. The seasons change as I go through my drafts. Usually I come full circle. I always live where I write. The one exception was my standalone novel, Man Corn Murders, which took place in the red-rock desert of Utah. For that I depended on a month-long trip to the canyons.

My reference library includes  books on birds, animals, plants, fungi, geology, history, astronomy, fossils, everything important about my landscape. I've even bought topographic maps., I'd rather not construct a road where there isn't one or stick a river in the middle of a bog. Once I made an old brewery into a grow-op near an abandoned rail line designed to carry shipments of marijuana. I got a big laugh out of the aptly-named Budd car (a single coach with engine on board used in the far north).

My Clintonians don't bloom in early September when the yellow flower has become a purple fruit. April is the time for skunk cabbage. Salmonberries ripen before blackberries. Keeping a monthly plant diary helps. Nor do I want to make a mistake about local animals. There are no foxes on Vancouver Island, nor are there moose or grizzlies, but you may see elk and black bears.

Instead of the devil the angel is in the details.

The reader feels sweat evaporating on skin and the parch of desert wind, sees marten scat on a rock, hears warbles in the stillness, sniffs the reek of rotting seaweed, notes trees leafing in nature's  order, watches melting snow on branches turn into sinuous snakes and caresses granite. When the sensory experience is complete, the final process begins, suiting the mood the scene. Trees rub wounds on each other like two people in a distructive marriage.

Thank you, Lou.

At the end of the tour a name will be randomly selected from those who've left comments. One lucky vistor will receive a copy of Lou Allin's book, On the Surface Die, the first of her Vancouver Island series. Be sure to leave your email address with your comment.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Diary of Murder

Diary of Murder can be downloaded today on Kindle at It's the second novel in my Logan & Cafferty mystery/suspense series and features two baby boomer women amateur sleuths who are traveling in Colorado in their motorhome when Dana Logan receives a call from her brother-in-law telling her that her sister Georgi has committed suicide. Dana knows her sister would never take her own life and, with her friend Sarah Cafferty, drives through a Rocky Mountain blizzard to Wyoming to prove it was murder. They find a diary written by Dana's sister and place their own lives in danger by investigating Georgie's death. Along the way they discover more bodies as well as a vicious drug ring. Humor, light romance, mystery and suspense.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

William S.Shepard to Take Part in Friday the 13th Kindle Giveaway

The author pictued on his book cover
William S. Shepard is an award-winning writer who created a new subgenre, the diplomatic mystery. His series is comprised of four novels set in American embassies. Shepherd's novels mirror his own career in the U.S. Foreign Service, when he served in Singapore, Saigon, Budapest, Athens and Bordeaux, in addition to five Washington tours of duty. His books explore the rich, insider background of high stakes diplomacy and government.

Shepard is also wine editor for French Wine Explorers ( as well as the author of Shepard’s Guide to Mastering French Wines.

William. why did you decide to take part in the Friday the 13th free Kindle giveaway?

I have taken part in four Kindle Select free book offerings. In general, I found that the mystery series books had the best response, both immediately and over the medium term. Nonfiction, on the other hand, did not fare as well. . . except my book "Maryland In The Civil War," which was downloaded in huge numbers!

When did you decide to publish independently?

I decided to try the indie publishing route because the mid list publishing prospects were not favorable. Every time a publishing house gives away millions to another politician for memoirs, that means dozens of mid list authors who will not be published. Besides, good results in indie publishing help build a reputation. But all that aside, I enjoy telling stories, and any storyteller wants an audience!

I invented the diplomatic mystery genre because I was a professional diplomat for 25 years. The old advice, write about what you know, still rings true. There are now three Kindle e-books in the series. The latest is "Murder In Dordogne," but many readers might prefer to start with the first in the series, "Vintage Murder," which takes place in Bordeaux. The second novel, "Murder On The Danube," is set in Budapest, against the background of the heroic Hungarian Revolution.

I understand that you're a wine connoisseur.

I have always enjoyed good wines, but when I was fortunate enough to serve as Consul General in Bordeaux, I learned more about them. The result is "Shepard's Guide to Mastering French Wines," which as you point out ranks as a #1 Kindle e-book. I am very pleased by the response, and hope many more readers will share my enthusiasm for these fine wines.

Tell us about your protagonist, Robbie Cutler.

Cutler is a mid level career diplomat. He is logical but not always people smart (like myself a bit?).He is very good at languages, and has fine cultural empathy. He knows what is going on in a foreign environment without needing many explanations. Fortunately, his girl friend Sylvie Marceau (in the first book), fiancee (in the second) and bride (in the third) possesses in abundance the people skills that he lacks.

Robbie Cutler, by the way, is a collection of family names - Robinson was my Dad's first name, and Cutler is the maiden name of my Mother-in-law!

Advice for novice writers?

Set a time for writing each day, and stick to it. First, get to know your main characters very well indeed. As you assemble their character traits, they will surprise you!

Shepard's book, The Southeast Asian Quartet, will be free on Friday the 13th along with my novel, Diary of Murder, and 11 others. You can view the list at:

You can learn more about William Shepard at the following sites: