Sunday, June 25, 2017

A Library Visit Close to Home--Exeter

Exeter Library, 230 East Chestnut, Exeter, CA. Tuesday, June 27, 6:30 p.m.

This library visit came about a totally different way. The librarian asked for local mystery writers--and of course I responded, as did my friend, Gloria Getman.

Something most interesting has come out of this--the library has a book club and they chose to read the first book in the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series, Deadly Omen. I gave them the books, and the librarian told me to expect the book club members to ask questions about it. That should be fun.

The only problem I see is that I've written so many since I wrote that book--and I believe my writing has improved substantially. Hopefully, one or two will buy one of the later books that I'll bring with me.

I've always loved the cover, and it's all about an Indian Pow Wow. One of the Indians from our local reservation called me after he read it and told me I'd gotten all the Pow Wow stuff right. 


Friday, June 23, 2017

Sandra de Helen Gives Insights into Her Mystery Series

My mystery series featuring Shirley Combs and Dr. Mary Watson is set in modern day Portland, Oregon. Shirley and Mary met at an EST-like Forum in Seattle and became fast friends when Shirley declared her dream of becoming the world's best detective, and Mary introduced herself. Several years have passed, and they are now working together in a downtown office with a receptionist named Lix. When they go to the Portland Police Bureau to consult -- or to gain information -- they frequently bring along a pink box of Voodoo Donuts.

Readers are treated to the Pacific Northwest scenery, culture, and politics as they follow Shirley and Mary on yet another case. The first case to result in a novel  (The Hounding) involved the timber industry and the loss of old-growth forests. A rich heiress had declared she would use her money to save old growth, and she died a mysterious death. In the second book of the series (The Illustrious Client) the women are handed a case of a wealthy international pop star whose parents fear an older nouveau rich lesbian is taking advantage of her. Mary hopes for exciting international travel, but their trip to France is a brief one, followed by a complicated case of murder on the home front.

I'm currently writing A Valley of Fear, in which Shirley Combs meets Dr. Moriarty. But first, she falls down a well in a ghost town, where Mary has to rescue her.

Throughout their journey, Shirley Combs remains asexual, acerbic, and analytical. Their friendship evolves, as does Mary. Mary discovers to her surprise that she is a lesbian when she falls in love with her realtor in The Illustrious Client. They are engaged at the opening of A Valley of Fear. 

The books are peppered with characters all along the LGBTQQIA scale, as well as the usual number of cis gendered heterosexual folks. Sex is not the focus of the books, murder and mystery are. Some of my biggest fans are Sherlockians, who read everything Sherlock. I have been a Sherlock fan myself since I was about nine or ten years old. We had the Complete Sherlock Holmes in the house, and I read the stories and novels many times growing up. I love every Sherlock movie, television show, and hat I see. I have my own deerstalker and magnifying glass. I wish I had the coat, although as I now live in Southern California, I wouldn't get to wear it often.

I hope my readers enjoy the mystery as much as they do the references to the original Sherlock canon. Each book I write is descended from the original stories but is a story of its own.

Please leave your email address in the comments if you'd like a free copy of The Illustrious Client, and I'll send you a link to Book Funnel where you can pick it up.

More about The Illustrious Client:

Book Two of the Shirley Combs and Dr. Mary Watson series, The Illustrious
Client, shows us the private investigator and her sidekick sharing an office, and
introduces their receptionist, Lix. They are hired to influence a young international pop star, Oceane Charles, to pry her away from her older, richer, player of a girlfriend. The cast is made up of people with various ethnicities and backgrounds, and of course the job soon includes solving a murder mystery. Along the way, Mary discovers her latent lesbianism. Set in Portland, Oregon on a super yacht, in a hospital VIP room, at Rose Festival, and other fun places.

Sandra de Helen, author of the Shirley Combs/Dr. Mary Watson series and the lesbian thriller Till Darknes Comes is a produced playwright, as well as a poet. Her full-length play A Missouri Cycle garnered her a residency for fall of 2017 at Firefly Farms; her play A Grave Situation was produced in 2017 by Athena Cats as part of their theatre festival in Santa Monica. Something's Got to Give was produced in Oregon in 2015 as part of the 365 Women A Year Playwriting Project. Singer Clashes with Cougar was produced in New York in July, 2014 by{Your Name Here} A Queer Theatre Company. Her poetry chapbook All This Remains to be Discovered is available at Another Read Through Bookstore in Portland, Oregon or online. Samples of her work are available at her website,

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Making a Visit to the Paso Robles Library

This is my year for library visits. I have many lined up.

It all began with the Clovis Book Fair sponsored by the Book Barn and the Fresno Library. One of the librarians stopped by my table and asked if I'd like to speak at a library. I must've been the one most willing or exuberant, or who  knows why, but he emailed and asked me to go to several. I've already visited the first one.

Another library speaking engagement came through the Central Coast Sisters in Crime group of which I am a member. I love going over to the coast, so I quickly agreed to be a part of a panel speaking about Writing a Best Seller. We will each be talking about different phases of writing and my main topic will be setting. And yes, I'll have handouts.

I'll also touch on the fact that age has nothing whatsoever to do with writing.

My fellow panelists are Diann Adamson and Cora Ramos.

We will be at the Paso Robles Library, 1000 Spring St., Paso Robles on Saturday, June 24th from 11-1. 

If you live in the area, do drop by and see what we have to say.

I'll have my book, Not as it Seems, with me. It's set in the Central Coast area, Morro Bay and surroundings. I'll bring some of the other of the latest Deputy Tempe Crabtree books too. 

And I'll also have a couple of the Rocky Bluff P.D. series mysteries as they are also set on the coast.

Hope to see some familiar faces.


Monday, June 19, 2017


by Robert L. Bryan

My latest book, Dark Knights, weaves together twenty years of funny cop stories to chronicle my career from patrol officer to captain.  Writing this book was fairly easy because of the dearth of available material to pick from.  After all, there is nothing quite like a cop’s sense of humor – or is there?  

When I was almost finished with the book I let a non-cop friend read a chapter to get his feedback.  I know I am a bit biased, but I thought the chapter I gave him was hysterical.  I was somewhat stunned when he told me that he found the story disturbing and sadistic, but not the least bit funny  So  how does this dark, non-mainstream, gallows sense of humor develop?  Do police officers bring this anything goes propensity towards perverse humor with them to the job, or is it a byproduct of the job?  The answer lies in the emotional and psychological challenges of being a cop.

Being a police officer is akin to constantly riding an emotional roller coaster, involving moments of intense action followed by emotional crashes marked by exhaustion and isolation.  Cops see people at their worst, operating in the chaotic and depressing underbelly of society.  Domestic violence, drug overdoses, fatal car crashes, child abuse, and an assortment of other criminal activities are on a cop’s daily menu for consumption. The dangers cops perceive is not limited to public interactions.  

It is very common in police culture to develop negative feelings and attitudes towards the government and department hierarchy due to a perceived lack of support.  Furthermore, there can also be a perceived lack of support from the law abiding public, as well as a perceived media bias against police officers.  Even family cannot fully comprehend the daily grind, social isolation and stress involved with police work.   This atmosphere cultivates the “us vs. them” attitude present in much of the police culture.

To cope, cops put on emotional armor through the development of a cynical, dehumanizing and hard-edged sense of humor that is an attempt to insulate themselves from the pain and suffering being witnessed on a daily basis.  This attitude and sense of humor is not callous.  To the contrary – it is necessary.  Police officers have to resist their natural revulsion to what they see and must do. Empathy must be held back too, since it can divert too much energy from apprehending suspects and restoring order. Developing gallows humor helps in this process. Through exaggeration and irreverence, they break the connection between a terrifying stimulus and an unwanted emotional response.

These tactics work very well on the job.  There is ample empirical data that supports the physiological aspects of laughter as being an excellent stress reliever.  The delicate balancing act cops perform, however, is separating the job and personal life, and keeping the dark humor exclusively for the job.  This is no easy task, as the usage of dark humor becomes automatic and unconscious, causing problems in private life. 

Soon, nothing is sacred. No working street cop, detective, crime scene investigator or emergency worker can function effectively without denial, suppression and black humor. Unfortunately, what works so well on the job can adversely affect communications with loved ones. Emotional issues are commonplace in relationships. Hiding normal feelings means not recognizing them when they arise and not talking about them. Avoiding, dismissing or laughing them off on a consistent basis means that many important issues may go unresolved.

Robert L. Bryan is a law enforcement and security professional with over thirty-five years of experience.  Robert spent twenty years with the NYC Transit Police and NYPD, retiring at the rank of captain.  He worked a wide variety of patrol, administrative, and investigative assignments, including police academy instructor, narcotics division squad commander, and internal affairs bureau squad commander.  Prior to the NYPD, Robert began his career as a member of both the United States Coast Guard and the United States Border Patrol.  He is currently the chief security officer for NYC Transit’s division of revenue.  Dark Knights is Robert’s third non-fiction book.  C-Case, chronicles his two year assignment as a squad commander in the internal affairs bureau, and Conductor, traces the history of one of America’s most storied professions – the railroad conductor.


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Am I the only Crime Writer out there Addicted to Spider Solitaire?

Am I the Only Crime Writer out There Addicted to Spider Solitaire?

I can sit at my desk with the current mystery I’m working on open in one screen, and all too easily switch screens, and say that I’m going to allow myself only one game. Then two. And so it goes. I’m addicted.

When I’m feeling generous to myself,  I call my obsession with Spider Solitaire a kind of thinking, plotting, planning, letting my mind run on idle while I think up the next brilliant twist in my new Santa Monica mystery.  But I know different. I’m addicted. Something about lining up the cards in an orderly row soothes me.

After all, it’s not as if I feel the world is breathless with anticipation for my next mystery.

My brain gets itchy and restless after I’ve focused down hard on writing. I’ve already twitched back and forth from my Facebook pages to Twitter to email just to see what’s going on. Like there’s ever anything going on with Twitter.

In an effort to limit my Spider Solitaire addiction, I placed a five minute timer on my desk, the old fashioned kind where sand runs through from one compartment to another. Of course, you have to set it to run. And remember to do it.

Yes, I know there is software which helps you limit the amount of time you spend on internet gambling, cybersex, video game addiction, and surfing for porn.  But I’m not that bad!

I tell myself Spider Solitaire is a procrastination tool. And so is Facebook and Twitter. I must have some modicum of self-discipline because I’ve stayed away from Pinterest and any other latest internet craze.

Anything to delay the agony of writing. Perhaps you’re familiar with that great yawning space on the page below your last good sentence?

While I’m trying to work the plot kinks out of my next crime fiction novel, I’ve written
5 10-20,000 word EBooks on the topic of “Writing Your First Mystery. They include Plotting, Editing, Creating Killer Characters, Finishing…and now “Writing Backstory in Your Mystery Fiction.”

I’m working on a first draft of two mysteries; one set in Santa Monica, one set in the tranquil village where I live in the mountains in Central California. I’m working on two at once because the theory was that when one got hard I could turn to the other. That’s what they say at least.

Guess what?  They’re both hard.

In the end, after three or four games, it all comes down to self-discipline, rooting myself in my chair, opening the document file and reading over the last horrible bit of stilted writing that lays there inert on the page. I poke at it for a while.

I know that if I dig through the mess long enough, something will catch fire. I will find myself inserting a comma. Then I’ll rearrange a sentence, and maybe the next paragraph isn’t that bad.

Oh! Something twitched in my brain. Ah, an idea. And sometimes off I go. If I can just drag my fingers back from Spider Solitaire.

I’ve written six mysteries now. I can do this again. It’s not hopeless.

See, what--despite my nasty little Spider Solitaire addiction--I’ve accomplished so far. Visit my page and check me out.

Thursday, June 15, 2017


Creating A Buzz (Building A Platform)

Branding yourself as an author—highlighting the types of books you write—can help you increase book sales. Create a campaign message and write a synopsis of your book tailored for marketing and PR activities in order to create buzz about your book.

Author Branding
Determine what distinguishes you as an author. Consider promoting yourself as an expert on a particular subject. For example, if you are a mystery writer, share information about police methods of a murder investigation or the science of forensics. Develop two or three speaking concepts that focus on a topic rather than just your book. Also, identify personal contacts who might refer you to potential speaking venues.

Book Launch
Start to execute your book marketing actions at least three to four months prior to publishing date. Determine the best day/time to have an in-person launch; consult bookstore owner. Invite people you know: friends and family, co-workers, the media, librarians and fellow authors to celebrate the launch. Consider offering an advance purchase discount.

Orchestrate online launch actions on Goodreads, Amazon, Personal Facebook and Facebook Author Fan Page (See “Social Media/Online Marketing” section.) Promote a mystery book to mystery book stores and mystery book reading groups.

Publicize all speaking/book-signing events through the media and on your website. Incorporate public-relations actions including media outreach. (See “Public Relations/Advertising” section.)

Send a book-launch announcement to your email list, including personal and professional connections. Ask your connections to forward the launch announcement to their contacts.

Utilize cross marketing, which can be very successful. For example, work together with other authors, particularly in your genre. This can be effective and cost saving.

Be consistent with your message and image and maintain a continued presence in front of your target audiences through the various actions and opportunities available to you as an author.

“Dying To Be Beautiful” Mystery Series Books 1-4 
Available at Amazon, B&N, and Independent BookStores

“The Senior Sleuths” 
(Dick and Dora Zimmerman with Zero the Bookie) Fall, 2017
M.Glenda Rosen 

Marcia Rosen
Award Winning “My Memoir Workbook”
“The Woman’s Business 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

My First Library Visit This Year

Saturday, June 17, at 11 a.m., I'll be visiting the Gillis Library, 629 W. Dakota, Fresno CA.

This is the first of a series of library visits.

If you come--and hope some of your will--this is what some of what might happen.

I'll introduce myself--hopefully I'll make some people laugh.

Next, I'll want to learn how many in the audience are writers, and who are strictly readers.

I'll tell about my two series--including about some of the books I brought with me.

And I'll answer any questions anyone has about me, my books, or writing.

The books I'll bring, will be the latest in both series, though I'll bring more of the Tempe books than the Rocky Bluff P.D. books.

No, I won't be doing a reading as I don't really like to do those--or listen to them either. One exception, I probably will read the best first line in any of my books.

If you are in the area, do come and visit me.

This month, I'll also be going over to Paso Robles for a group presentation at the library there, Saturday, June 24--11-1 p.m. More later.

And in my own neck of the woods, Tuesday June 27, I'll be at the Exeter Library with good friend, Gloria Getman, at 6:30 p.m. 

Hoping to see some familiar faces.