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: