Thursday, May 28, 2015


My name is Kathy Stevens.  I am a retired teacher with a passion for herbs.  Twenty-four years ago I planted my first backyard herb garden.  Small specimens of lavender, mint, rosemary and thyme were nestled in a raised bed not far from my kitchen window.

Watching those herbs grow and prosper, I wondered... what shall I do with them?  To answer this question I read books, journals, took classes, and joined an herb society.  Lots of useful information.  I learned dozens of ways to use herbs in the kitchen and throughout my home.  They scent my linen closet and infuse the water in both my teacup and bathtub.  I sprinkle them on popcorn and in salads and they flavor both honey and butter.  Sometimes I tuck a little bundle of them inside my pillowcase to sleep peacefully until morning.

Today I continue to grow herbs and learn all that I can about them.  During my years as a classroom teacher, I planted a school herb garden with students.  Now in retirement, I continue to visit and care for the garden.  Fourth and fifth graders join me on Wednesday afternoon for the herb garden club.  Together we explore the countless ways we can use the thirty plus herbs growing in our garden.

Last year I wrote and published a book entitled The Herb Garden Club.  It is available for purchase in my online store.  The book details all that my students and I have learned about seven of our favorite herbs: lavender, lemon balm, rosemary, chamomile, thyme, and rose.  There are stories, tasty recipes, herb crafts, and lots of ideas to inspire readers of all ages to enjoy these herbs every day.

About the author

Kathy Stevens is a certified Master Herbalist, educator, and speaker.  She lives in Visalia, California with her husband, Stan, and orange tabby George.  In addition to the work she does with the Crestwood Elementary Herb Garden Club, Kathy also gives lectures and workshops about herbs.  She enjoys teaching others to live a healthy, herbal lifestyle.  Kathy is past president of the San Joaquin Herb Society. The Herb Garden Club is her second book.  In 1990, she published Going Beyond Words, the art and skill of visual thinking with Zephyr Press.

Visit to purchase the book or to see a slideshow of the Crestwood School herb garden.

(Note from Marilyn: Years ago, Kathy was in a writing class I taught at a nearby bookstore. And recently, she came to a book event I participated in, and showed me the finished product of what she'd been working on way back then. The book is wonderful to read and look at.)

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Interviews Spark Novel Ideas by J. L. Greger

Have you noticed characters in some novels are boring? Be honest. Do a couple of your characters need more pizzazz?

Try interviewing others to get fresher characters. As a fiction writer, you aren’t held to the same standards as a journalist doing an exposé. However, good interviews take effort. Maybe, these suggestions will be helpful.

1. Explain what you want to achieve to the interviewee at the start of the conversation. Most people are open about past experiences, if you guarantee you won’t use their names. As a fiction writer, you can also assure them that you’ll change the facts enough so no one can identify them.

2. Determine your goals before the interview. Do you want to obtain specific information? On what? Are you trying to get a “mood?” I found little details help me catch the “mood” when I write. Accordingly, detailed descriptions of a favorite toy, a city park, or a grandmother’s parlor are helpful.

3. Be organized and control the flow of the interview. Plan your questions and arrange them into a logical sequence. A list of topics to be covered is usually more helpful than a written list of specific questions.

4. Vary your questions to fit the personality of the interviewee. A loquacious person could talk for thirty minutes in response to a totally open-ended question (“Tell me about your childhood.”) and not give you enough specific details to write an interesting story. On the other hand, a taciturn person might “clam up.” A more focused, but still open-ended, question (“Tell me about an incident in your childhood that made you proud of your mother?”) is apt to elicit a better response. Follow-up questions should be tailored to fit the interviewee.

5. Be conversational.

6. Avoid distracting subjects with your recording (whether by taking notes or taping) of the interview.

7. Thank your subject but don’t promise them editing rights to your story.

I hope these suggestions help you get “novel” ideas and perspectives for your next novel. Maybe you’d also like to read my medical thrillers/mysteries.

Blurbs: In Ignore the Pain, Sara Almquist couldn’t say no when invited to be the epidemiologist on a public health mission in Bolivia. Soon someone from her past in New Mexico is chasing her through the Witches’ Market of La Paz and on to the silver mines of Potosí. Unfortunately, she can’t trust her new colleagues, especially the sinister Xave Zack, because any one of them might be under the control of the coca industry in Bolivia.

In Malignancy, men disguised as police officers shoot at Sara Almquist twice in one day. The Albuquerque police suspect a drug czar, who Sara tangled with in Bolivia, will order more hits on her. Thus when colleagues in the State Department invite Sara to arrange scientific exchanges between the U.S. and Cuba, she jumps at the chance to get out of town and to see the mysterious Xave Zack. Maybe, she should question their motives.

P.S. The background of Xave Zack in my novels is based on interviews with a real man.

Bio: J.L. Greger is no longer a professor in biology, but she likes to include tidbits of science in her medical thrillers/ mysteries — Malignancy, Ignore the Pain, Coming Flu, and Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight. Her two great passions are her dog Bug (who is a character in all her novels) and travel. Accordingly, the locations in her novels, include Bolivia, Cuba, Washington D.C., and Miami, as well as her native New Mexico. Website:

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Am I Over Scheduling?

Or should the question really be, can I keep up the pace?

Maybe when I write it out, you won't think what I've got planned amounts to much, but the question is, will this old lady be able to do it all?

The first of June we're spending five days in Wildomar visiting our eldest daughter, two grandkids and their families. Though it sounds like a mini-vacation, when we're with family, it gets pretty busy--and fun.

On June  16th, I have a radio interview--that one's easy, I'll be doing it from home.

On June 20th at 10 a.m., I'm speaking to the Tulare-Kings Authors at the Tulare County Main Library in Visalia. Topic: How to Create and Sustain a Mystery Series. I've done this one before, so expect no problems--as long as I can get to the library, got lost the last ime I went there.

From July 15-20, we're headed to Las Vegas to the PSWA Conference (conference is from the 16th- 19th) but we'll also spend one afternoon and evening with my sister and family. 

Right now, August is free--of book events, that is.

On September 20th from 10 to 4, I'll be at the Central Coast Book and Author Festival at the SeaCrest Oceanfront Resort, Pismo Beach. CA.

Saturday, October 10th from 10 to 4 you'll find me at the Great Valley Bookfest at the Promenade Shops at Orvhard Valley in Manteca CA.

And that's it for now.

Sounds like a lot to me, but I know from experience, even though it is a bit of work, it's also a lot of fim and a chance to get my books into the hands of readers.

Maybe I'll see some of you while I'm out and about. Be sure and stop and say, "Hi."

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith

Friday, May 22, 2015


 by Steve Daniels

In 2006, after 26 years in the criminal justice system, I retired from my position of high-risk parole agent with the Wisconsin Department of Corrections.  As virtually every offender on my caseload had at least one homicide on their record, my interest in this category of crime was deep-seated and hard to cut loose.

In approximately 2009, I approached a local publisher with an idea to write a book about some of my more egregious, eerie and high profile cases, of which there were many. The publisher offered that she would be interested, but wanted me to tackle her project of interest first. This began the journey that lead to my first book: HARRY: A Study of Teenage Mass Murderers. There was actually a hook to writing Harry as my father was the lead investigator on the case way back in 1963. Briefly, Harry Hebard, a 17 year old high school student murdered his family of five on a cold February day. This could very well be the first documented progeny mass killing in modern Wisconsin history.

At our first meeting, the publisher and I agreed to co-author the book. (Mistake #1). I would write the majority of chapters, and she, claiming a great ability to write about crime scenes suggested she would pen two chapters. As I maintained a excellent relationship with the district attorney's office, as well as the city police, I had no difficulty obtaining records, reports, transcripts, etc. After obtaining documents, the publisher and I met face-to-face to research the copious amounts of paperwork. This happened once, and we never met again. (Mistake #2).

After I trudged through boxes of reports, met with those in-the-know about the murdered family as well as the perpetrator, and made numerous trips to the library, museum, and the neighborhood surrounding the death house, I began writing in earnest. I would write in fits and starts as moods came and quickly vanished. But, I made progress, virtually hearing nothing from the publisher. Then, out of the blue, an e-mail arrived informing me that an ISBN number had been assigned and Harry was born.

Feeling I had written all I could without her chapters, I sent e-mail after e-mail, after e-mail with virtually no meaningful reply. Bizarrely, release dates were set, then moved back, then canceled. I would get e-mails from the publisher indicating reasons for the delays such as she was working on a blockbuster hard cover book with another author and that was her priority. Not knowing the business, I accepted reasons, but begrudgingly. Then, if what I believe to be attempts to assuage my trepidations, I would get e-mails indicating her plans for a multi-city book tour, a first check should be coming soon. This was strange as we had never discussed money, nor did we even have a written contract or agreement. (Mistake #3)

This cat-and-mouse game went on for about four years. Finally, I contacted the publisher, indicated I wanted some answers. Feeling pressured, she indicated she had not written the two chapters, so, in essence we had no finished product, and the book could not be released. I informed the publisher I was going to seek another person to assist me, I wanted out of our "non" agreement, and I would finish the book, alone. I luckily found a great publishing firm in M & B Global Solutions, and the rest is history. In about four months with these professionals, we had a written release from the first publisher as well a signed contract. Everything else fell into place. I wrote the remaining two chapters, the work was edited, the book was formatted, cover designed, and Harry was reading for a December 6th, 2014 book signing.

I learned much from this experience. Find a professional publisher. Have a written contract. I shouldn't have waited 4 1/2 years to make a move to help myself. But, Harry is "in the books", and I am in the early stages of researching my second, a true crime story of a serial killer currently in our prison system.

So, best of luck to all authors, both publishing and aspiring.

Steve Daniels


Steve Daniels

About the Author:

Steve Daniels retired after twenty-six years in the criminal justice system, the last twelve as a high-risk parole agent working with extremely violent and dangerous offenders. During that career, Steve and a colleague interviewed and researched nearly 200 murderers in an effort to develop a working profile for criminal justice professionals.

Steve is chair of the Cold Case Review Team for the Wisconsin Association of Homicide Investigators, assisting agencies with old, unsolved homicides. He is also the author of numerous articles on various types of homicide, and is the coordinator of a nationally recognized annual homicide conference.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Am Crowing about a Dead Bird... by JoAnne Lucas

(In way of introductions, JoAnne Lucas is a friend and a fellow Sister in Crime in both the San Joaquin and Central Coast chapters.)
   . . . and I’m cackling with glee. My 2013 entry, “An Object Lesson,” will be published in Darkhouse Books’ new anthology, DESTINATION: MYSTERY, coming out this summer.
     “Object Lesson” has had an interesting journey. In 2013 Bird Boss Mary Redmond decreed the theme to be Water Rights and Wrongs. Water had to figure into the tale and of course it had to be set in the San Joaquin Valley. I wrote out a story that’d been buzzing in my brain a while, a tale interspersed with lines from the Preposition Poem I had to learn in 8th grade. Going back to junior high memories, I finally offed my old nemesis, but I had to move the story here to a nearby lake. Voila! Bass Lake. The entry didn’t win but it took honors in a new category made up just for my story – The Bricolage Award for construction or creation from a diverse range of available things. Really sounds like a sink full of dirty, greasy dishes before they’re finally rinsed off and put away, don’t you think?
     When Andrew MacRae (last month’s speakerat the San Joaquin Sisters in Crime meeting) put out the call for his newest anthology, “An Object Lesson” came to mind. Andrew was very specific that the story must take place in a definite location usually used for vacations. Hmmm, somewhere vaguely at Bass Lake wasn’t going to cut it. I needed a lake with a very small town of year-round residents and not so well to do. After researching less affluent resorts, I hit upon Lake Hughes in the high desert near Palmdale, California. It was perfect and it even threw in an extra lake in the middle of the town of Lake Hughes, Lake Elizabeth and its famous monster.
     Oh, boy!
     So I expanded my 2,255 word “An Object Lesson” to a 3,004 word “To Put A Monster In Its Place” story and made the final cut. The anthology, DESTINATION: MYSTERY, is looking at the end of June/first of July publication date.
     I’m jazzed.
     What am I going to do now? First I’m working on a special board at Pinterest where you can follow the first part of the story pictorially. So, go to   It’s the last board listed and it’s not without the usual Pinterest copy (sorry). It’s listed under the name Jay Lucas, but – hey! – it’s free.    
   And second, I’m adding another silver charm to my bracelet. It’s a special charm bracelet just for story sales. I’ve ordered a knight charm and can’t wait until it gets here. Why a knight? Read the story and/or visit my Pinterest board and find out.
   Now, if only I would hear something favorable from those other two stories I have out there, I could add a crown and a hamburger.

The photo is of JoAnne Lucas and Cora Ramos, both past presidents of SJ SinC.

Bio: JoAnne Lucas is a multi-published and award winning author of short stories. She is an Active Member of Mystery Writers of America, a founding member and 3 times past president of the San Joaquin chapter of Sisters in Crime, as well as a member of Private Eye Writers of America and the Yosemite Romance Writers of RWA.

She resides in Clovis, CA -- where a full size colored statue of Festus from Gunsmoke stands outside the downtown bank.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Last of Ways to Please an Author

Use your connections. We’re all six degrees of separation from someone famous. (Or, in my case, infamous.) Maybe one of them can help your favorite author!  Who do you know who might want to help your favorite author?

Ask your local library to invite the author for a reading.  We authors LOVE to talk about our work with readers.  Readers are, after all, what make our work come alive!  And why should library patrons miss out?  If your favorite author lives in your region, as your library to invite them in for a book discussion. You’ll get to hang out with them in person and introduce other library patrons to their work!

Ask your favorite store (book, grocery or drugstore) add a dedicated ‘local author shelf to their books and magazines section. It will highlight the many fabulous local authors, including your favorite, if they’re from your area.

Tell your Facebook groups what you’re reading!  Reading-related Facebook groups often ask what you’re reading at that moment.  Post a comment with the title and author, and tag the author if you can. That way if someone double clicks the author’s name it will take them to their Facebook page. Easy and a way to build your connection with your groups while giving your favorite author a high five!

Invite them to speak at non-writing events! At a recent signing, one of my fabulous readers asked me to speak at a women’s networking event.  They’re giving out my books as prizes and I’ll have a chance to tell about 40 professional women about my journey from being an executive to teaching yoga and writing.  Are there similar events that might connect your favorite author with new readers?  Invite them to come.  You never know what might happen and you demonstrate your love just by asking!

Ask for their Authorgraph!  It’s a total kick for your favorite author when a reader asks for their autograph.  But what if you read on an e-reader or can’t see your favorite author in person?  Authorgraph to the rescue!  Check it out and see if any of your favorite books are listed.  If you ask for an authorgraph, your favorite author will get an e-mail and oblige.  And what a kick for them to know a reader is looking for them!

And that's it. If you have any ideas to add, be sure to put them in a comment.

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith

The latest in my Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

And Even More Ways to Please and Author

Remember I got all these ideas from Tracy Weber.

 Say hi to them at a conference! There are fan conferences worldwide at which authors and their fans can gather, learn from each other, and basically have a good time.  If you attend a panel with your favorite author or see them schmoozing at the bar, go up and say hi!  Trust me, it’s not an intrusion.  Nothing is better than knowing someone appreciates your work. (I love meeting readers at conferences and conventions.)

Add them to your circles on Google Plus!  I have to admit, I’m not a Google Plus user, but many authors are, and it’s a “circle” of friends that may not already know about their next favorite author! Share news about your author to your circles, and invite your favorite author to join you. Any way you can connect is nothing but goodness!

 Follow them on Twitter.  I’m not the world’s best Tweeter, but many authors think Twitter is a great way to build and connect with a following.  Show them some love by becoming one of their followers.  Who knows what goodness may come your way? You can follow me at

Donate their books to fundraisers.  Trying to come up with a good auction item for your favorite charity?  How about a gift basket with some of your favorite books?  If you contact your author, they may even be willing to send you some cool swag to put with it.  Autographed bookmarks, bookplates….I know some authors that hand make really cool bookmarks and book related jewelry!  You’ll support your author by gifting their books to the charity, help a favorite cause, expose others to your author’s work, and get a tax write off all in one.  It doesn’t get much better than that!

Let them know when you see articles about their book.  See a positive review of your favorite author’s work on a website or in a newspaper?  Stumble across an article about their work?  Let them know, with a link, if possible.  Your favorite author may not have any idea the article exists, and learning about it may well make their day!