Tuesday, December 24, 2013

My Best Christmas Present

My best Christmas present this year is three of my books recorded on audio. Listening to some excellent narrators read them is akin to watching actors perform one of my plays. I write in a number of genres and I'm thrilled to have more books in production for the coming year.

My Wyoming historical mystery, The Sweetwater Tragedy, required more than 20 years of research and writing because it was a mystery.I came across the story on microfilm years ago while researching a centennial history book, and was angry when I read the story. I still can't imagine how rich cattle barons got away with hanging an innocent young couple for the sole purpose of confiscating their land. Witnesses to the murder disappeared or were also killed although the case
was dismissed for lack of evidence. Films have been produced about the case that made worldwide headlines in 1889, portraying Ellen Watson-Averell an outlaw called "Cattle Kate." Songs and poems have been written and performed, and people to this day still believe the cattlemen's lies that the young people were cattle thieves who ran a rural bordello (called a "hog ranch" by the locals). I had to write the true story after years of research. And because I didn't want the novel to end with their deaths, I added a young, single woman from Missouri who wanted to homestead on her own in Wyoming Territory. Susan Cameron represents some 200,000 single woman who tried their hands at homesteading. Dennis Redfield, a southern California actor, did a terrific job of narrating the book, which is now available at Amazon, Audible.com and iTunes.

Westerners: Candid and Historic Interviews contains some of the fascinating people I've had the pleasure of talking to over the years. Among them Louis L'Amour, country singer Chris LeDoux, attorney Gerry
Spence, infamous grandsons of Bill Cody and Presidents Benjamin and William Henry Harrison, who left their own imprints on society, among many others. During my years as a news reporter and freelance photojournalist in both California and Wyoming, I've met some great people whose accomplishments were more than I could fathom, among them the gifted writer Will Henry, Governor Ed Herschler, Wyoming Secretary of state Thrya Tompson, novelist Peggy Simson Curry, artist Conrad Schwiering, U.S. Senator Alan Simpson and his unusual family, and the country's oldest radio station owner and talk show host, to name a few. Humor abounds in this volume of interviews and most of them didn't take themselves too seriously, which I found refreshing, but you can determine that for yourselves. Narrator Paul McSorly deftly brought the interviews to life, and I know you'll enjoy listening to them.

My first audio book, which I wrote about in my previous post, Mystery of Spider Mountain, has been well received and I'm happy that middle-grade readers will be listening to the adventures of the Hamilton Kids this holiday season and into the new year. Chelsea Ward did a great job narrating the novel for 9-12 year-olds and will also narrate the following book in the series, Ghost of Crimson Dawn, which is based on an actual ghost who is said to haunt her former homestead land on Casper Mountain. A summer solstice celebration, which she founded during the 1970s, takes place each year on the first day of summer, with city residents dressed as witches and warlocks to the delight of area children. People have come from as far as the East Coast to take part in the festival, which I attended to research the novel.

Click on the blue title links for more details. Mystery of Spider Mountain is currently on sale for only $1.99.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Childhood Mystery on Audio Book

My first audio book was just released, an adventure-packed Christmas gift for 9-12 year-olds. Mystery of Spider Mountain is a semi-autobiographical novel based on my childhood, growing up in the Hollywood Hills where, if you climbed high enough, you could see the Pacific Ocean.

Spider Mountain was home to all sorts of crawling creatures, including trapdoor spiders which my brothers and I watched spin hinged doors to hide their homes in the ground. There were also a few tarantulas that had escaped Central American banana boats that docked at southern California ports 

But Spider Mountain isn't a mountain at all, although it appeared so from the vantage points of my four younger  brothers and me. We lived at the foot of the large hill and wondered who lived in the mysterious house at our mountain's summit. It was surrounded by huge evergreen trees and we could hear dogs barking at night, imagining them the size and temperament of wolves or maybe a St.  Bernard. Some nights we'd sit around making up stories about the strange house's inhabitants. Perhaps they were aliens or bank robbers hiding from the police. Kids had vivid imaginations in the days before television and electronic devises.

One day, while our parents were at work, we climbed the hill to spy on the people who lived there. A narrow, winding road wound its way to the top but it was choked with weeds and debris, so how could anyone drive to the summit? A tall eucalyptus tree stood  halfway up the hill complete with a long looped rope that we kids used to swing on. We called it "Dead Man's Tree" because the rope resembled a hangman's noose.

All these things and more are incorporated into Mystery of Spider Mountain, the first novel in my Hamilton Kid's mystery series (the second, Ghost of Crimson Dawn). The three and a half hour recording is also available in print and ebook editions, but I'm most excited about the audio book version, which was skillfully narrated by Chelsea Ward. 

The book may be ordered at Audible.comAmazon.com (soon on iTunes) in time for Christmas.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Realm of Mystery

A ouija board introduced me to the realm of mystery. As a young teen, my cousins and I also discovered table tapping. Sitting around a small table with our hands lightly resting on its top, we asked the table questions. The room was dark with the exception of a burning candle.

After the question was asked, the table would lift high enough to tap two legs on the floor, once for yes, twice for no. Each of us swore we weren't causing the table to move, but tap the floor it did, causing some of us to run from the room screaming. But that didn't stop us from repeating our spooky game every chance we could.

The ouija board was supposed to predict the future, but my cousin Mary didn't marry Sam Gufstason, the name spelled out on the board more than once. It was during this period that I discovered my psychic ability. One night before spending the night at Mary's house, I dreamed she would be waiting to scare me in a dark, L-shaped hallway.

The following night, after leaving the bathroom to return to bed, I knew that she was there in the hall, although I couldn't see her. From then on, I had premonitions of things to come. Once, unbeknown to me, my sister-in-law gave birth to a premature baby. When the phone rang, I grasped the receiver, saying, "It's a boy." When I put the phone to my ear, I heard my brother-in-law say exactly the same thing. I always seemed to know who was on the phone years before caller I.D. was available. I have to admit it was a bit unnerving.

A news reporter during the Vietnam War, my beat was the nation's largest Naval Air Station, in Lemoore, California. I instinctively knew which pilots would never return home. I didn't want to know and did my best to block out any psychic revelations that came my way. Eventually, I was successful. Now, I welcome them and the premonitions are beginning to return.

I also found that I could accurately read palms and people appeared at my door asking for readings. I obliged them and probably could have made a career of it, but foretelling unfortunate events really takes its toll.

I haven't read a palm since visiting my brother at his coast guard station years ago. One night at the base in Neah Bay, I conducted  an impromptu reading at the NCO club. A young man asked if I knew when he had been born. When I told him, he backed away, yelling, "You're a witch." Another reason I blocked my psychic power. I don't look good in tall, black, pointed hats. And I now realize that I was probably responsible for the table taping as a teen. 

Years later I actually met Sam Gufstason, who was married to a woman named Mary. . .A good plot for a future novel.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Polishing Your Manuscript

I’ve rewritten a first chapter many times before progressing to the second, only to find that it had to be rewritten to fall in the line with the rest of the novel. I finally learned to write it once and forget it until the first draft is finished.

I’ve never been able to outline a novel because I literally give my characters free rein. And they rarely submit to what I’ve planned for them. They have minds of their own and I wouldn’t want them doing something out of character. In my current Logan and Cafferty series, my feisty 60-year-old senior sleuths surprise me by doing things I’d never consider before sitting down to write. Dana Logan and Sarah Cafferty live with me 24/7 while I’m writing about them, and they have their own plans for what should happen that day. Sometimes I have to retreat to chapter one to include some of their "brilliant" ideas.

In my latest release, A Murder in Paradise, the fifth Logan and Cafferty novel, Dana and Sarah decide to vacation in a northern Texas RV resort with millionaires and other affluent travelers. Until the third quarter of the book, even I didn’t know who the killer was, and I had to return to early chapters to flesh out the characters by adding inner monologue. 

In the second novel in the series, Diary of Murder,  I take my sleuths out of California and place them in a motorhome in the middle of a Rocky Mountain blizzard. Fortunately, that had happened to me, so I could write convincingly about the life and death experience. The blizzard starts the novel off with a bang, but they face a similar situation later in the plot, so I had to swap some snowy details between the first and later chapters so that they didn't appear too similar. Weather plays a large role in any northern state, and gives the plot an element of suspense.

In A Village Shattered, the opaque San Joaquin Valley tule (too-ley) fog hides the serial killer, but I didn’t even think about the fog until I was writing chapter three. Having lived there for a dozen years, I know the horror of trying to drive in pea soup fog, so I switched seasons and went back to chapter one to add it to the plot. In doing so, it tied all aspects of the story together. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Congratulations to Marilyn Levinson, who won a copy of A Murder in Paradise!

The fifth novel in my Logan and Cafferty mystery/suspense series was released this week on Kindle. The print edition will be available next week. The series features Dana Logan and Sarah Cafferty, two feisty, 60-year-old amateur sleuths who travel in their motorhome, discovering bodies along the way. Not that they want to stumble over victims, but they seem to be murder magents.

During their vacation trip to northern Texas, they discover a woman's body floating in one of the RV resort lakes not long after they arrive. Immediately the sheriff's prime suspects, they attempt to prove their innocence while the killer continues to plant incriminating evidence against them. During their own investigation, they learn that the woman was hated by nearly everyone in the resort and that she was blackmailing wealthy resort residents. So many suspects and so little time to prove their innocence. . .


Leave a comment with your email address to win a print copy of A Murder in Paradise. Or sign on as a blog site follower.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

On Writing Dialogue

While cleaning out a closet, I found an old copy of The Writer magazine, which contains an article titled, “Your Ultimate Fiction Workout.” I thought I’d paraphrase the section on writing dialogue and pass along some tips that took me years to learn.

Dialogue is the illusion of real conversations, a distilled yet genuine version of how people actually speak. It’s also what isn’t spoken.  If someone says, “Of course I don’t mind,” and throws something to the floor, you know he’s lying.  The old adage that ‘actions speak louder than words’ is true and combining action with dialogue creates a more vivid image.
Dialogue should be precise and to the point. Skip the pleasantries and any unnecessary chit chat. Unless a tornado’s on its way, don’t have your characters discussing the weather, or ask how someone’s feeling unless she's swaddled in bandages.  Skip the speeches and keep dialogue short. A little goes a long way.
Dialogue tags should be kept to a minimum as well as low key.  “He saids” and “she saids” have a way of disappearing into the text, if not used too often, while “he growled” or “she yelled” seem to stand out like stripes on a Hereford.  Few tags are necessary when two people are talking, but three or more speakers need occasional tags.
As for punctuation, a rare exclamation point doesn’t need he emphasized or she shouted following the statement any more than she asked is necessary following a question mark. But most writers, including myself, write unnecessary tags.
Each speaker deserves his own paragraph, and should have a distinctive voice, which includes word choices, accents, cadences and slang.  A reader should be able to determine the character’s age, education, and background from the way he speaks, without writing his words phonetically.
Reading dialogue aloud or tape recording and listening to how speak patterns sound is a good way to learn how to write believable dialogue.  

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Invisible Ink by Tim Hallinan

Timothy Hallinan is the Edgar- and Macavity-nominated author of the traditionally-published Poke Rafferty Bangkok thrillers (most recently THE QUEEN OF PATPONG), and the Junior Bender mysteries, which are ebook originals. The newest Junior book is LITTLE ELVISES. Earlier this year, Hallinan conceived and edited a volume of original short stories by twenty first-rate mystery writers, SHAKEN: STORIES FOR JAPAN, which is available for the Kindle at $3.99, with every penny of the price going to the 2011 Japan Relief Fund. (Please buy it.) He lives in Santa Monica and Southeast Asia, and he is lucky enough to be married to Munyin Choy. His website is www.timothyhallinan.com.

Jean asked for a short piece on “the craft of writing,” and the first thing I did was summon up the questions people ask most often at fan events and bookstores.  And then I thought, no, let's write about the thing nobody asks about: prose style.

Much of the time, I think people confuse fine writing with fancy writing.  (I know I do.)  The phrase that stops the reader in her tracks, the perfectly structured paragraph, the word used in such a striking way the reader thinks, “I want to remember that.”

Well, I'm a contrarian.  I don't like that stuff very much.  I think the ideal prose is pretty much invisible; it's a clean, transparent window through which the reader sees the characters and the action.  Enjoying a book, I believe, is a one-on-one relationship: reader and book.  When the prose calls attention to itself, I think it reminds the reader that there's a third person present, a writer, and that reminds the reader that this world she's caught up in is actually something that someone, probably caffeinated to the gills, sat down and made up for hours and hours.

In other words, these people are just marks on paper.

This was brought home forcefully to me when I heard someone—a professional actor—read the audiobook of my first Poke Rafferty thriller, A NAIL THROUGH THE HEART.  In the first chapter, just as all heck breaks loose on a crowded Bangkok sidewalk and and Rafferty realizes his adopted daughter has disappeared after bolting across the street, he pauses and takes stock, and this is what I wrote.

“When in doubt, Rafferty thinks, stop.

“The sky is low enough to scrape a nail against, that peculiar sullen gray that usually precedes one of Bangkok’s frequent rainstorms.”
When the actor got to the line about the sky, he became Orson Welles:  “The sky is low enough to scrape-a-nail-against . . .” and I winced with shame.  The sky was gray and low, okay?  It was gonna rain.  The rest of it is all showing off.
This kind of stuff comes easily to me.  I'm Irish.  I can turn anything into greeting-card poetry, and I do, if I'm not careful.

That's not to say that writing should read like assembly instructions for a barbecue.  It needs to have energy, I think, and personality—but it should be the characters' personality, not the writer's.  When I'm reading something in third person and there's a really snappy description in the narrative, I always think, “Who said that?”  And you know what?  It's not that difficult for the writer to attribute the thought to a character:  “The sky looked to Rafferty as though it were low enough to scrape a nail against.”  It's still not good, but at least we know where it comes from, and the perspective tells us something about Rafferty.

I'm not going to beat this to death.  I think the best prose in fiction is prose that stays out of the way.  The author may be able to turn handstands, but I'm actually interested in the characters, not the author, and the last thing I want when I'm enjoying a book is some five-year-old with an inferiority complex continually yelling, “Look at me.”

When I want to look at you, Mr. or Ms. Author, I'll check out your photo on the back of the book.
I'm appearing today at Mike Orenduff's site: http://thepotthief.blogspot.com/
I'm appearing

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Class Reunions Can be Murder

It’s been said that the secret to a long life is to go to bed early, eat healthy, and drink in moderation. Now, I ask you, what kind of fun is that?

 More than you’d think. No kidding.

 My fourth Baby Boomer mystery, a July 2013 release, is Class Reunions Can Be Murder. Here’s the back cover blurb: Baby Boomer Carol Andrews has no interest in her upcoming fortieth high school reunion. Her memories of days at Mount Saint Francis Academy are mixed, to put it mildly. But BFF Nancy convinces her to join the reunion planning committee, so she’ll have some say in how the event is organized. All is going smoothly until the dead body of one of their classmates is found the night before the reunion – in Carol and Nancy’s room.

Since this is the class’s fortieth reunion, committee chairman Nancy insists on calling the event the Ruby Reunion, since ruby is the stone which represents a 40-year anniversary. And also because Nancy doesn’t want to admit how old they all really are. (Any resemblance between Nancy’s vanity and the author’s is purely coincidental.)

 Of course, the Ruby Reunion in this mystery is a lunch (none of these chicks drive at night if they can help it), and the food is served buffet style. I wanted to include recipes in the back of the book, and since I’m not that familiar with my kitchen any more (just ask my family), I turned to chef Paulette DiAngi, whose television show,  Love On A Plate, airs weekly on Cape Cod Community Media.

 Paulette came up with an ingenious idea. She prepared a menu for the book two ways –first, the way the dish would have been prepared back in the 70s, and then the way the dish would be prepared today – low fat and healthy.       

 Here’s an example:

 Veal and Mascarpone Stuffed Mushrooms (The Old Way)

 Serving of two stuffed mushrooms

Chicken Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms (Healthier Version)

Two mushroom caps

There’s quite a difference in fat content, cholesterol, and calories between the two versions. And both are delicious. Trust me, I know what I’m talking about. I never lie when it comes to food.

There’s also a recipe for a Pink Squirrel cocktail that plays a key role in Class Reunions Can Be Murder, but I’ve been sworn to secrecy so I can’t tell you any more than that. Suffice it to say that squirrels can pack quite a punch in their cute little pink claws. Who knew? Everyone can find out the secret by buying the book from indie booksellers, or in e-book format, in just a few more weeks.

 And, yes, I tested that recipe, too.      

 Thanks for letting me blog today. Hope you had as much fun reading this as I did writing it.

Susan Santangelo

Friday, October 11, 2013

Judy Peterson, Amazing Outdoor Photographer

I'm happy to welcome Judy Peterson to my mountaintop. Judy is a talented photographer who captures beautiful outdoor scenes, despite the fact that she's confined to a wheelchair.

Judy, when did you develop an interest in photography?

My parents gave me my first camera when I was 10 years old. I'll never forget. It was a Kodak Instamatic and had a green button on it. The flash bulbs clicked on top of the camera. What fun I had with this camera! The fun hasn't stopped!
Why do you prefer to photograph birds and outdoor scenes?  
My first love is taking photos of those precious to me. Always will be. I have been the family historian ever since I can remember. Taking photos of the family and friends has been my first passion. Looking back at the photos of when our son was born and other important moments, brings a smile to my face. I'm glad I have all of the photos.

As far as taking photos of birds and outdoor scenes, it calms me. Each time I go outside, I see something new. We live in a beautiful world. The birds that inhabit our part of the world, sing and add a new dimension. Going out with my camera and enjoying the glorious world we live in has taught me patience. Can you sit or stand and watch a bird or butterfly for minutes on end so that, when it moves, you see how it moves? Does it return to where it was? This is animal behavior. I have learned a lot of animal behavior. It's been a moving experience. A calming experience.

How are you able to photograph wildlife when you're confined to a wheelchair?
I sit and take photos whenever possible. Sometimes, my husband helps me stand and move. If I see a bird coming or in a location that is impossible to see in my chair, my husband supports me while I shoot. Being able to take photos has helped me stay relaxed in a body that's filled with physical pain.

If you were teaching photography to youngsters, what would you tell them are most important aspects of the art form?

Photography is what you make it. It's what you see when you look around you. Your camera is a tool. No matter what camera you have, you can take beautiful photos. Knowing your camera is all it takes. All cameras have limitations. Work within those limitations to take photos.


How do people get in touch with you to order your prints? Do you have a website?
 I do not have a website. If you would like to order prints or blank note cards made with my prints, simply email me:  judithsparkles@gmail.com. Or visit my website: http://judylovestoread.blogspot.com.

Thank you, Judy, for allowing me to share a few of your beautiful photographs!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Carolyn Hart's Ghost Gone Wild

Image of Carolyn Hart

Carolyn, what prompted you to write about Bailey Ruth, a redheaded ghost?

I grew up loving Topper and Blithe Spirit. I always wanted to write a book with a happy fun ghost.

I had an idea about a young woman, rather prim, who was in the attic not long before her wedding. She finds an old trunk and while exploring it, discovers that she was a twin but her twin died at birth. This realization brings back her twin, who is feisty, unconventional, and a bit on the wild side.

I was sure that I could write a delicious story about the tug of war between the twins over the future and the feisty twin decicing her sister had picked the wrong man.

But then I realized I needed to think about ghosts. Who are they and how could this ghost appear? I pondered the fact that a ghost is the spirit of someone who has died and gone to Heavan. That led to thinking about Heaven and before I knew it, I'd popped in my mind to Heaven and around a cumulous cloud came a freewheeling redheaded ghost and her name was Bailey Ruith Raeburn and she wasn't anyboy's twin and here was her story . . .

That was Ghost at Work. Now Bailey Ruth appears in her fourth adventure and she's still having fun. 

Thank you, Carolyn. Here's what
Thank you, Carolyn. Publisher's Weekly has this to say about Ghost Gone Wild:

Carolyn Hart’s “irresistible cozy sleuth” is back—good-hearted ghost Bailey Ruth Raeburn just can’t say no to an earthly rescue, even when maybe she should.

Bailey Ruth loves to return to earth as an emissary from Heaven’s Department of Good Intentions. Problem is, she’s a bit of a loose cannon as far as ghosts go—forgetting to remain invisible, alarming earthly creatures—so she’s far from the top of department head Wiggins’s go-to list for assignments.

That’s why she’s surprised when the Heaven-sent Rescue Express drops her off at a frame house on the outskirts of her old hometown, Adelaide, Oklahoma, where a young man is playing the drums. What kind of rescuing does he need—drum lessons? But when a window cracks and a rifle barrel is thrust inside, only Bailey Ruth’s hasty intervention saves Nick Magruder from taking a bullet. When she materializes to reassure him, she finds she can’t go back to vanishing. What gives?

It turns out she’s been tricked by Nick’s late aunt—Delilah Delahunt Duvall—to come to the young man’s rescue, which means she isn’t back on earth in service of the department. Wiggins has no idea where she is—and now she may be trapped in Adelaide forever. Unless she can help Aunt Dee snare the person who wants her nephew dead.

Nick's doting Aunt Dee engineered this mission on the sly, Bailey Ruth must operate on earth without her otherworldly powers. When Nick is accused of a murder, she must rely on her wits alone to clear him. Though not fully developed, the secondary characters have some amusing quirks, and even the villain, who's not readily identifiable, has a certain charm. The well-constructed plot offers an ample supply of red herrings. Fans of benign ghosts such as those in Blithe Spirit and Topper will find a lot to like.  

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Catch and Release

by Lawrence Block

Subterranean Press has begun shipping hardcover copies of my new short story collection, Catch and Release, and a beautiful book it is. While the entire edition is essentially sold out, you may be able to secure a copy, if not from the publisher then from an online bookseller or mystery specialty store. But don’t drag your feet; Subterranean’s printing is a small one, and when they’re gone, well, they’re gone.

I’ve just published the Catch and Release eBook, expertly formatted  by Jaye Manus, with Ken Laager’s great cover art. It’s eVailable right now at Amazon (for Kindle) Barnes & Noble (for Nook) and Smashwords (for virtually everything else—Kobo, Apple, Sony Reader, and your pop-up toaster.)

This is the book that led Publishers Weekly’s reviewer to enthuse, “If Block were a serial killer instead of one of the best storytellers of our time, we’d be in real trouble.” The book’s a big one, with 17 previously uncollected explorations of the dark side, including 13 short stories, two novellas, a one-act stage play, and a newspaper op-ed piece, and I have to say I’m pleased with it.
Will there be a paperback?

There will indeed, same size as the Subterranean hardcover, same cover as the eBook, and it’ll be coming soon to an online bookseller near you. Rest assured I’ll let you know about it.
http://cts.vresp.com/c/?LawrenceBlock.com/ceb0d9da1e/6bc7d62231/322288e009And that’s all for now. I’ve got packing to do, I’m off to Bouchercon in Albany in the morning, but I wanted to get this to you first.


LB's Bookstore on eBay
LB's Blog and Website
LB's Facebook Fan Page
Twitter:  @LawrenceBlock

You can receive Lawrence Block's newsletter by sending a blank email to lawbloc@gmail.com with Newsletter in the subject line.

Monday, September 9, 2013

A Guest blog by K. M. Rockwood

I’ve worked in a variety of settings, including a steel fabrication plant, a fiberglass manufacturing facility, correctional institutions and alternative schools. In my writing, I try to give a voice to some of the people I’ve known who struggle to live on the fringes of society. Protagonists in popular fiction are the beautiful people, and often the villains are those who never had a good chance at a middle class life or who made mistakes early on and will pay for them for the rest of their lives.

Sendoff for a Snitch, released in e-book by Musa Publishing on August 22, is the fourth in the Jesse Damon Crime Novel series. After nearly twenty years in prison on a murder conviction picked up when he was sixteen, Jesse Damon has been released, a home detention monitor strapped to his ankle. Determined to make it and mindful of his parole restrictions, he struggles with life outside prison. He finds a basement apartment, a job on the overnight shift at a steel fabrication plant and a few people who treat him like anybody else. With a murder conviction already under his belt, Jesse is a natural suspect whenever a crime is uncovered anywhere around him.
Jesse is a fictional character, but he is based on prison inmates who were on my work crew when I was employed at a large state prison. Many of them were convicted as adults at ages 14 through 17, and worked hard in an attempt to become decent people and have a future when they are released. The deck is stacked against them, especially if they have no family or support system when they are released, and just earning a living is an uphill battle.

In Sendoff for a Snitch, Jesse's trying to make it, but nothing comes easy. He's always broke and the police figure he's a natural suspect for almost anything, even without his coworker Aaron trying to set him up.

Jesse can't catch a break. His forklift at work is wrecked. His sometimes-girlfriend is furious with him. Heavy rains and snow melt have flooded the rustbelt riverfront city. His basement apartment has a few feet of water in it. And it's still raining.

Wait until his parole officer finds out he's been caught driving Aaron's pickup truck. Without a license. That alone might violate his parole and send him back to prison. Then when Aaron's body is found floating in the flooded stairwell of his apartment, prison looks like a foregone conclusion, unless Jesse can manage to steer the police in another direction.

Jesse is first introduced in Steeled for Murder, when a forklift driver at the steel fabrication plant where he works is found dead in the warehouse, and he is the first suspect. In Fostering Death, he goes to a funeral home to pay his last respects to his foster mother, only to discover she has been murdered and the police think he had something to do with it. His sometimes-girlfriend Kelly is assaulted in Buried Biker, and he has to convince Kelly's father's outlaw bike club that he was not the rapist, then, when the real culprit is found dead, everyone is sure he is responsible.

In Brothers in Crime, the police tell Jesse he has been caught on video surveillance committing crimes he did not do, including breaking into an ATM and killing a man Kelly has grown close to. It is due to be released in spring of 2014.
KM Rockwood draws on a varied background for stories, among them working as a laborer in a steel fabrication plant, operating glass melters and related equipment in a fiberglass manufacturing facility, and supervising an inmate work crew in a large medium security state prison. These jobs, as well as work as a special education teacher in an alternative high school and a GED teacher in county detention facilities, provide most of the background for novels and short stories.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Carolyn Hart Revisted

A bestselling author with more than three million books in print, Carolyn Hart is best known for her Henrietta O'Dwyer Collins (Henrie O) series. Her most recent series features red-haired ghost Bailey Ruth Raeburn of Adelaide, Oklahoma, who returns to earth to help solve murders.

Carolyn, your latest book, Escape From Paris, which will be released this coming week. Was it actually thirty years ago that you originally wrote it?

This month, to my great delight, Oconee Spirit Press is publishing the original manuscript, which has a newly amended copyright. It has been 30 years in coming but now Escape From Paris is available as it was written.

A war story?

I was a child during WWII and the war dominated our lives.Two American sisters risk their lives in Nazi-Occupied Paris to save British fliers from arrest. Family members served in the Army or Navy. We followed the faraway course of the fighting in  huge black newspaper headlines. Food and gasoline were rationed. The war remained vivid in my memory and, as an adult, I wrote several WWII suspense novels. To sell Escape from Paris, I cut the book from 93,000 to 55,000 words. That  version was published in 1982  and 1983.

I hope readers will share the struggles of brave men and women who defied the Gestapo during the bitter winter of 1940. They knew fear, found love, grieved loss. Their lives and deaths remind us that freedom survives only when the free are brave.
 I hope you may be interested to remember a year of war when England awaited invasion and the Nazis devoured Europe. I believe this is a book that will appeal to book club readers, highly intelligent women, often of a certain age, who will bring their own memories or memories of their parents into play.  

I look forward to reading it. You also have a recent Bailey Ruth Raeburn novel out, Ghost in Trouble. Please tell us about it? 

Bailey Ruth Raeburn has the best of intentions when she returns to Adelaide to save a life but she never counted on that life belonging to a woman she loathed when she was in the world. Moreover, her charge stubbornly insists on playing hunt-the-killer. Bailey Ruth deals with young love, a mother's heartbreak, a fraudulent psychic and a dog's rawhide bone in her quest for a wily murderer.

Your ghost series is my favorite among your books. How did your impetuous red-haired ghost Bailey Ruth Raeburn of Adelaide, Oklahoma, come about?

 I loved the Topper books and films when I was growing up. I see ghosts as reflections of the person who lived. I always wanted to write about a fun-loving, energetic, impetuous ghost returning to earth to help someone in trouble and Bailey Ruth answered the call.

When did your Death on Demand mystery series originate?

In 1985, I attended a meeting of the southwest chapter of MWA in Houston and visited Murder by the Book. I had never been to a mystery bookstore and I was enchanted. I had just started a new mystery set in a bookstore. I immediately decided to have a mystery bookstore named Death on Demand.

Tell us about your latest Death on Demand mystery,  Dead by Midnight.

Annie Darling refuses to believe in her new employee's suicide. To save a woman from a false charge of murder, Annie unravels the mystery of a towel hidden at midnight in the gazebo, the lack of fingerprints on a crystal mug, blood on a teenager's blue shirt, and the secret of a lovers' tryst.   

You’ve received an amazing number of awards including the Malice Domestic Lifetime Achievement Award. Has the recognition resulted in increased book sales and reader awareness of your work?

I hope that the awards, which I very much appreciate, help to attract readers. It’s hard to know whether such awards increase sales but any mention of a book or books is helpful to an author.

What's your writing schedule like and do you aim for a certain amount of words each day, no matter how long it takes?

I try to write five pages a day (approx. 1,500 words) when working on a book. Some days I meet that goal. Some days I don’t. When I am stuck, I take a long walk and usually something will occur to me.

 Tell us about your writing background.

I worked on school newspapers and majored in journalism at the University of Oklahoma. When we started a family, I didn’t return to reporting but decided to try fiction. I wrote juvenile fiction, then YA, and in the 1970s began writing adult suspense and mystery.

How much research do you conduct before you begin a novel and do you always visit the locale?

The novel dictates the amount of research. I wrote several early novels, preceding the Death on Demand books, which had World War II backgrounds and required extensive research. I’ve visited the locales of all the books written since Death on Demand. Once I set a book partly in the Philippines which I have never visited and a woman who grew up there asked me how many years I’d spent in the islands and I knew my library research had been successful.

Advice for novice writers?

Care passionately about what you write. If you care, somewhere an editor will care.

Thank you, Carolyn.

You can visit Carolyn at her website: www.CarolynHart.com

Monday, June 24, 2013

Sandra Ramos O'Brient's Sandoval Sisters' Secrets of Old Blood

Sandra Ramos O'Brient

On May 30, 2013, The Sandoval Sisters' Secret of Old Blood received two awards from the ILBA in NYC: Best Historical Fiction and Best First Book.  Fifteen years ago I wrote the following line in an Introduction to Fiction class at UCLA:  Human dreams had been written in archaic Spanish, and terrible sins described in faded brown ink on whisper-thin paper.” The journey to completed novel was chock-full of twists and new beginnings.       

My maternal ancestors were Sandovals. In my grandparent’s home in Santa Fe hung a giant portrait of a tall aging man with flaming red hair. My blue-eyed great great grandfather stared down at me throughout my childhood. The story goes that the Sandoval sisters, both spinsters and reputedly witches, adopted two Anglo boys who’d been orphaned when their family was crossing into New Mexico on the Santa Fe Trail. The boys were Anglo, but they became Sandovals.  How would la gente, the people, react to an Anglo Sandoval?             

Surnames have played a role in my life: I was bullied in school for being a gringa, even though my mother is Hispanic.  It’s the O’Briant surname (Ramos is a pen name.)  Initially, I tried to find an answer to why cultural and ethnic antagonisms existed in Santa Fe.  In the process I learned more about New Mexico and America than I'd ever been taught in college. But my goal was not to indict anyone, just to understand.  My book originally told the story of those descendants with flashbacks to their ‘aunts’, the Sandoval Sisters.  My agent said I had the makings of a family saga. I refocused all the flashbacks and brought the past into the present to tell the story of the sisters who were already a blended family: the eldest sister, Oratoria, was a peasant from Mexico, captured by Apaches and bought for a sack of flour by the Sandovals.  She’s the only one who has read all the Sandoval diaries and is compiling a history of her adopted family while parenting her younger sisters, Alma and Pilar.
Witchcraft and superstition floated in the crisp mountain air we breathed in Santa Fe. My mother didn’t hesitate to tell me scary demon stories at my bedtime as if they were sweet fairy tales. The parish priest asked my aunt to stop conducting séances, and rumor had it that my grandmother became paralyzed because a friend who brought daily tasty treats to her was a witch who desired my grandpa. Where I grew up, religion and superstition walked hand-in-hand.         

 The novel reflects Santa Fe's unique position in history: it was the first foreign capital conquered by the U.S. The war is the backdrop for the sisters' individual love and coming-of-age stories in which they cope with racism, sexism, political intrigue and the power of  superstition in that time and place.  Thousands of Anglo soldiers entered the town, but not a word has been written from a female perspective. Until now.

 Book Summary:

When Alma flees with her young lover to Texas to escape an arranged marriage with a much older man, she sets in motion a drama that will put the sisters and their legacy at risk. Pilar, a 14-year-old tomboy, is offered as a replacement bride, and what follows is a sensuous courtship and marriage clouded by the curses of her husband’s former lover, Consuelo. She will stop at nothing, even the use of black magic, in her effort to destroy the Sandoval family. The Mexican-American war begins and the Americans invade Santa Fe. The sisters are caught in the crosshairs of war from two important fronts--New Mexico and Texas. Their money and ancient knowledge offer some protection, but their lives are changed forever.


Sandra Ramos O’Briant's short stories and creative nonfiction have appeared in both print and online.  A complete list and excerpts from the novel can be found here: www.thesandovalsisters.com

Read Chapter 1 by clicking on the BookPulse tab on my Facebook Author Page.  Please give my page a Like while you’re there: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sandra-Ramos-OBriant-author/435665283128378

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/sramosobriant/boards/