Sunday, January 31, 2010

Morro Bay Photos and CCSinC

These photos show the surf, in one picture you can see the spray coming over the sea wall, in the others, it's the surf on the other side of the rock. We watched surfers as the caught the waves that were coming one right after another.

Because of standing out in the wind and spray, all the work I did fixing my hair was for nothing--but most of the time my hair looks like I didn't do much anyway.

After our night in the cheap motel we found a wonderful place to have breakfast--The Coffee Pot, right on the beach. We've eaten their before and knew we'd get a good meal. I had a California omelet with avocado, artichoke hearts and mushrooms. Outstanding. Then we drove out to Morro Rock where we wandered around and I took my photos. Sure love my iPhone. Takes far better pictures then any camera I've ever had.

Finally it was time to head to the Morro Bay Library and the Central Coast Sisters in Crime workshop. We had six author instructors and seven attendees. When we divided up to critique 5 pages, it was nearly one on one.

Afterwards, some of us went to lunch together and did a little brainstorming about promotion, but it was time for hubby and me to head home. We followed Mrs. Magellan's directions and took the a crooked road (41) all the way to where it joined 46.

Home now and mighty glad to be here.


Saturday, January 30, 2010

How I'm Spending My Saturday

I'll be in Morro Bay when this blog posts. I'm going to participate in a writing workshop put on my the Central Coast chapter of Sisters in Crime, one of several chapters that I belong to. I'm especially fond of the members of this group and I've done several events with them.

It's at 10 a.m. at the Morro Bay Library.

The one today will have several published authors helping critique aspiring authors work (5 pages apiece.) We'll start with each of us giving a 5 minute talk about some aspect of novel writing, my topic is characterization. Of course I could do an hour or more on the subject, but I'll have handouts which the participants can take home and peruse.

Afterwards, we'll be lunching together.

Hubby and I love driving over to the coast--besides the gorgeous scenery we know we'll have a great meal with some kind of seafood.

We do have to come right back later in the afternoon as we both have commitments on Sunday.

February is a much less busy month--except I'll be doing taxes.


Friday, January 29, 2010

Meet Dennis Griffin

Today I'm interviewing Author Dennis Griffin.

Marilyn: My husband and I met Denny Griffin and his wife Faith (better known as Bear) at the PSWA conference (It was Police Writers back then) right after 9/11 in Orlando FL. I'm delighted to have him visit my blog. Tell us a bit about your background, Denny.

Denny: Thanks for having me, Marilyn. I was born and raised in Rome, New York. That’s upstate between Utica and Syracuse. I served in the Navy from 1962 through 1966. After that I did some factory work and sold cars and insurance. And then in 1975 I was hired as an undercover investigator for Pinkerton’s. That led to a law enforcement career as a deputy sheriff, village cop, and finally as a NYS health care fraud investigator. After retiring in 1994 my wife Faith and I moved to Las Vegas.

Marilyn: When did you decide you should be a writer?

Denny: Shortly after moving to Vegas in 1994 I got the urge to tell the story of an investigation I’d conducted of a medical examiner’s office in upstate New York. It was a very odd case involving illegally harvesting research tissue and body stealing. Although I’d never written anything other than reports before, I decided to give it a try. I produced a fictionalized account titled The Morgue. That’s when I learned there was a lot more to the writing business than spending some time at the keyboard. I ended up self-publishing the book, but I was hooked on becoming a writer.

Marilyn: When first I met you, you were writing mysteries. Would you like to tell us more about those books?

Denny: After The Morgue I wrote two more books based to some degree on personal experiences. They were Red Gold and Blood Money. Then I started a trilogy of Vegas-based murder mysteries featuring a male and female team of homicide detectives. Killer In Pair-A-Dice was first, followed by One-Armed Bandit and Vegas Vixen. In between I wrote Pension, a fact-based story about corruption in a California retirement system.

Marilyn: What was the transition from fiction to fact?

Denny: In 2001 I was becoming frustrated with by the lack of progress with my writing career. That’s when I attended the Police Writers conference in Florida. Among the great people I met there were you and Hap, and Marilyn Olsen. While chatting with Marilyn I told her that I seemed to be treading water as a writer and that I was thinking about finding a different hobby. Marilyn suggested that because of my background I might want to try my hand at non-fiction police history and true crime. I took her advice and wrote the history of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. Policing Las Vegas was published in 2005. That book led me to write The Battle for Las Vegas – The Law vs. the Mob, and CULLOTTA – The Life of a Chicago Criminal, Las Vegas Mobster, and Government Witness. I’m currently working with a former Gambino crime family soldier writing Surviving the Mob.

Marilyn: Now, you are hanging out with all these reformed gangsters which seems rather ironic. Tell us about that.

Denny: Through my writing and Blog Talk Radio shows I’ve met several former Mobsters. Three of them, Frank Cullotta (Chicago Outfit), Henry Hill (Lucchesi family) and Andrew DiDonato (Gambino family), had switched sides and become government witnesses. Two more, Tony “Nap” Napoli (Genovese family) and Anton Hosney (LA Mob) are now “retired” from organized crime. I have good working relationships with all of them, and we’re involved in multiple projects.

Marilyn: And now, new, exciting things are happening in your life, please share with us.

Denny: I certainly will. Several associates and I are putting together a proposal for a true crime-themed TV series. Filming for the pilot will be completed by mid-February. I’m also working on a screenplay with one of the actors who had a small role in Casino. And a live production that I’m involved in called The Mob Chronicles will debut at the Stratosphere Hotel and Casino in Vegas on February 18. If the opening goes well it can lead to a number of other opportunities. I’m very excited about all these things and looking forward to a successful 2010.

Marilyn: Anything else you'd like to add?

Denny: Yes. If anyone wants to contact me with a question or comment, I can be emailed through my site at

Thank you so much, Denny. I'm thrilled to hear what is going on with these days. Congratulations!


Anyone interested in joining Public Safety Writers Association go to

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Mysteries in Real Life

Though I'm a mystery writer I don't have too many real life mysteries to solve. However, one came up the other day.

I received a check in the mail from a bank for $13 and on the check it said a person's name (one I don't recognize) and that it was for a book purchase. There was another name and address on the check. First I tried calling the 1-800 number listed for the bank--but it had been disconnected. Many of my books cost $13--but there was no title on the check. So, I did what anyone would do, I wrote a letter to the address, we'll see what happens.

The other mystery that crops up often when I'm writing a book is where do I go from here? I'm not an outliner. I write descriptions of my characters--the new ones being introduced, do a little research into whatever subject(s) I'm going to be introducing that have something to do with the crime or incidents that I want to happen, then I begin writing.

Once in awhile I get stuck and am not quite sure where I need to go from there, or what should happen next. That's about the biggest mystery I have.

And of course, there is the mystery of "Why did I come in here?" You know, when you go into another room but can't remember what you were after?

What kind of real life mysteries do you face?


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Friend and Fellow Author, Kit Sloane

Kit Sloane and I met at a mystery conference, not sure which one, but we got together at several others after that as well as at the L.A. Times Book Festival at UCLA. I've read all her books and followed along with her career, and now we share the same publisher, Oak Tree Press.

Marilyn: Tell me a bit about your background and personal life for starters.

Kit: I've always been a "reader," including reading mysteries from a very young age. Much, much later I was a research assistant for a bunch of historians (that's where I met my husband!) and then I became a medical office manager for many years when we had children PLUS husband in college and needed the money. When my husband finished his Ph.D at age 50, I decided to take a year off from work to see if I could write a book, just for fun. Little did I know what was to come!

Marilyn: Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Kit: I've always written; poems, short stories, long letters to my family. (As a "Navy wife," I was usually 3,000 miles away!) Writing and reading have always been a big part of my life. My mother was an editor for a large newspaper and writing and editing and laughing about typos were continuing parts of family conversations.

Marilyn: How did you first get published?

Kit: fter five agents (none of whom sold a word), I became first fiction editor for Futures Mystery Magazine that Babs Lakey published. This had begun as the newsletter for the Guppy newsletter, the Sisters in Crime chapter for "pre-published writers." (Babs and I called the Guppies "the great unpublished," but that created some ire).

Through the magazine I met a lot of terrific people, all of us working at getting published. But it was the Internet and email that allowed us to utilize NETWORKING, at last! I sent a short story to Margo Power who was then publishing Mysterious Intent Magazine. She accepted the story but stopped the magazine publication before it ever came out(!) in order to start her too-short-lived small independent
publishing company, Deadly Alibi Press. I submitted the first 4 of my series to her and she eventually published all four. The first one was delivered to my door on my 60th birthday. What a thrill!

Marilyn: Tell me about your series and how it came about.

Kit" Earlier, I had done another series that my agent was unsuccessfully trying to sell. She finally gave up and suggested I start a new series. A rather daunting thought! My best friend was studying film editing in Berkeley and I'd meet her for lunch at the studio. I saw the other editors, all women, who were rather shy, reserved, and far from the glitz of Hollywood working in their quiet editing spaces. I thought those self-effacing characteristics would be interesting for the protagonist in a mystery story and Margot O'Banion was born.

My daughter Annie (who does my covers) is an art director in Hollywood and her significant, Marc, is a production director. (They just returned from 4-months on location in Georgia, the nation, not the state!) I listen to them talk about what they do, what they want to do, the obstacles in their way, and the people they work with. Fascinating conversations that trigger my imagination! Marc's story of "where the money goes" on a drive to Hana, Maui, became number 6, LOCATION LOCATION.

Marilyn: What is the latest book and what gave you the idea for it?

Kit: My latest (number 7 in the Margot & Max series) is titled THE FAT LADY SINGS. I've always been a big fan of Gilbert & Sullivan operettas and thought how fun if I could maneuver Margot into directing one and then I could take the group to England. Having Margot and Max as film people is a real asset to my series. I can logically take them absolutely anywhere, and I have!

Marilyn: Where is the book available?

Kit: FAT LADY is available online at all the usual places, from Ingrams and from Barnes and Noble orders direct, and also from Oak Tree Press at

Marilyn: Do you have a website?

Kit: Yes, I've had a webpage for years. Lisa Logan is my webgal and she is
so fun to work with. We try to change it monthly, and keep it nice
and updated. She's full of good ideas. The URL is

Marilyn: What kind of promotion works best for you? Describe some of
your favorite book events.

Kit: My favorite book events are speaking engagements. I really enjoy interacting with audiences. My least favorite are bookstore signings. I had a high-powered PR gal when the 5th in the series, EXTREME CUISINE, really took off. None of us could figure why, but it sold a lot. But after a year of doing everything possible booksigning-wise, we couldn't see that those gigs had anything to do with the sales.

The book just kind of took off by itself. So I stopped doing the signings! It seems to me that unless you have a VAST extended family and hundreds of faithful friends and are truly famous, most booksignings tend to be small affairs (not counting the ones you see in the movies or if you're the 5% of mystery writers who actually make good money for their books!) My middle publisher used to refer to my readers as my "cult fan club," meaning small, but loyal.

Marilyn: Is there anything else you'd like my blog readers to know?

Kit: I've read reviews of my stories where they're labeled "off-beat." That's fine with me and certainly the reason I've always been with Independent publishers. Independent publishers want a good story, not a formula, which is a plus since a couple of my stories don't actually contain a murder, or even a body.

I feel that suspense can be created by good characterization of problematic people and good description of marginal events. I am not a fan of "the body in the first chapter" sort of plot, or any other contrivances that some agents/editors suggest.

After all no one KNOWS what will sell. And with that in mind, I encourage writers to write the story THEY want to write. Following a trend will get you nowhere since the writing and publishing take so long, the trend will be over with by the time your book comes out! Just write a terrific story!

Marilyn: Thank you so much, Kit, for telling us about yourself, your books, and giving us some terrific insights. Hope I run into you again sometime soon so we can share a good laugh.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Latest and Last Addition, Holly McClure literary agent

I'm happy to announce we've signed on Holly McClure, literary agent with the Sullivan Maxx Literary Agent for the PSWA Conference.

Holly is also an author of four published books, fiction and non-fiction.

She holds a degree in cultural anthropology and is a frequent speaker and writing instructor.

For anyone who has been teetering as to whether or not to come to the PSWA Conference, this might change your mind.

We will offer one-on-ones with Holly and the three small press publishers.

For more information about the conference, go to

Monday, January 25, 2010

How to Tell When Someone's Lying

An addition to our line-up of speakers for the PSWA Conference is Mark Bouton who will be telling us how to tell when someone's lying.

Here's Mark's Bio:

Mark Bouton earned degrees in sociology and law, then joined the FBI, nabbing killers, kidnappers, and bank robbers across America for 30 years. He played a key role in identifying the Oklahoma City bombers. He uses his background in tracking down real criminals to write suspense novels. He has four published books, the latest being The Second Savior. He’s also written a non-fiction book entitled How to Spot Lies Like the FBI. He lives on a horse ranch north of St. Mary’s, Kansas.

I am so proud of this line-up of speakers. You don't want to miss this conference. Even if you are only a reader and not a writer, you'll love this conference. Check it out at

Sign up before March 31 for the lowest price and if you would like to be on a panel.


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Some Photos from the Clovis Library Book Club Talk

This gives you an idea of what happened at the Clovis Book Club talk. Of course one is of Sunny and me together, Sunny broke her shoulder and I'm the older lady.

Hubby goes with me often and takes charge of selling books and that's him by my book display. Our book selling went on in the lobby of the Chamber of Commerce. The one where I'm waving my hand around is the chamber and where Sunny and I talked.

We had a great time and so glad we were invited.


Saturday, January 23, 2010

Hell's Kitchen Homicide by Charles Kipps

Hell's Kitchen Homicide by Charles Kipps was sent to me by Simon and Schuster.

I read a lot of mysteries and I'm partial to police procedurals and have read many over the years. This one was outstanding and kept my interest throughout. The author did a terrific job of making the hero, Conor Bard a most realistic character and cop.

Conor Bard is a homicide cop with a partner who is retiring--though reluctantly. As with many of these stories about partners, though bantering between them is believable and sometimes funny while they try to figure out who the murderer of a well-known lawyer might be. Of course there are plenty of suspects as Conor and his partner investigate each one. The story begins with a bang and end with a surprise.

I enjoyed it from beginning to end and recommend it to anyone who likes a good mystery.


Friday, January 22, 2010

Interview with PSWA Member, Madeline Gornell

Marilyn: I'm so happy I've had the opportunity to really become acquainted with you. For the readers of this post, I first met Madeline at a book fair in Hanford, then again at the Sisters in Crime/MWA conference in Pasadena, and she came to last year's PSWA conference, and she came to my booksigning at my family reunion in Barstow and we were next to each other at a book fair in San Luis Obispo.

My first question is, when did you first become interested in writing?

Madeline: Hi, Marilyn, great being able to “talk to you” on your blog. Some of my earliest memories are of reading, and wanting to become a writer. Admittedly, there was probably some childhood fantasy type of thinking going on then, because I also remember wanting to be a firefighter, teacher, doctor, and magician. But for sure, the genuine desire to write started very early, and has remained throughout my life. But even with that lifelong desire, and having a couple short stories published “way back when,” I didn’t put all my efforts into writing novels full time until a few years back. I love writing and feel extremely lucky to now have the time to pursue my dream non-stop.

Marilyn: I know that you have two books published, I've read them both and enjoyed them. Please tell us about both of them and where they can be purchased.

Madeline: Thank you for the kind words! Every time I hear someone say they enjoyed reading my books, I’m simultaneously pleased, surprised, and so grateful.

My two novels are set in fictional communities located in real areas. My debut mystery is Uncle Si’s Secret. It is set in the Pacific Northwest, and focuses on the inhabitants of Cedar Valley Residence, which is a fictional establishment similar to a B&B, rooming house, or hotel—yet none of them exactly. It’s a many character tale, with several story lines, and of course, several murders. My intent was to have complicated characters, a strong sense of place, back-stories upon back-stories, and several character agendas being played out. I was extremely honored when PSWA awarded Uncle Si’s Secret a 2009 Published Novel award.

Death of a Perfect Man is set in California's High Desert, my new home, and I think brings with it a strong sense of place—the Mojave desert. In my second effort the heroine is escaping Puget Sound and the publicity that surrounded her husband’s death. She nearly runs out of gas in the middle of nowhere, but finds the “Red Rock Inn & CafĂ©,” a lost, creepy old resort where a strange emerald-eyed woman materializes and convinces her to stay the night. Before she can leave, a not-so-perfect potter is murdered.

Both novels are published by Aberdeen Bay Publishing, and are available at (paper and Kindle), Barnes and Nobel, Aberdeen Bay, my website, and at signing events.

Marilyn: How did you come up with the idea for these books?

Madeline: Places grab me. I lived in North Bend, WA for a long period of time, in a fairly rural area east of Seattle, WA. One of the activities I loved doing was walking my dogs on the local trails. One particular spot always caught my fancy, and the idea for Uncle Si’s Secret was born on the Snoqualmie Valley Trail.

Then when looking for a new home, my husband and I (and two dogs) lived in the Ridgecrest, CA area, and while house-hunting, there was a particular spot on Interstate 14 we would often pass by. It was an odd collection of rag-tag dwellings that just seemed to speak to me. That turned out to be the inspiration for Death of a Perfect Man. I’m also a potter, and finding a new home where I could have a studio was additionally very much on my mind. Not surprising, my heroine and the first murder victim are potters.

Marilyn: What are you working on now?

Madeline: I’m well into the editing/rewriting phase of Reticence of Ravens, my third completed standalone mystery. I’m so lucky to have three very good editors, and I’d be lost without them. Somehow they’re able to get ahead of grammar, spelling, and punctuation gremlins (which I think multiply overnight). All their help is invaluable in re-writing, which I actually like doing. It seems like my stories get “richer” in the rewrite phase. I sure hope Reticence of Ravens will be polished and published by this spring, or summer at the latest. I’m also lucky enough to have a wonderful agent!

My protagonist in this book is male, a psychologist, rather morose, on the verge of a mental “something” himself, and has to confront murder, the daunting Mojave Desert, several villains (past and present), a possible desire for a relationship, and a haunting past failure. The inspiration for this tale was a semi-defunct mini-mart at an I-15 exit which I call Joey’s. I enjoyed writing it very much.

I’ve also started my next two novels, Do No Harm, another stand alone with roots in Chicago and the Mojave, and Deadly Amends, my first sequel to Uncle Si’s Secret. To me, novel beginnings are one of the best parts of writing.

Marilyn: What kind of promotion works best for you?

Madeline: So far, in-person Book Festivals and Art and Craft Fairs. I like talking to readers and fellow authors. I also think an Internet presence and getting my name out there is vital, but I’m not yet sure how to measure my Internet-time results.

Marilyn: Where are you going to be next?

Madeline: My plan is to write all January and February! Then from March through year-end I’m scheduling events. My first conference will be in March at Left Coast Crime 2010 in LA. I keep my schedule on my website. This year I'll also be attending something new in November, Mystery on The High Seas-A Cruise to Die For, an event/conference out of LA on Carnival Cruise Line.

Marilyn: I know you've signed up for PSWA, which is my favorite conference, and I'm looking forward to seeing you there. What do you like best about PSWA?

Madeline: I joined PSWA last year (when I saw it mentioned on both your and Sunny Frazier’s websites) because it sounded interesting and like a group that would have a lot to offer a mystery writer. I went to my first conference last June, and this is going to sound phony, but it’s the truth—there’s not one bad or disappointing thing I can say about the PSWA conference. The location was great, the food good, the classes unique and informative, and most of all, the people I met were warm, friendly, and encouraging. It was just so darned “comfortable!” I learned a lot, and have never regretted joining. Can’t wait for this year’s conference. I even have a PSWA page tab with a 2009 group photo on my blog.

Marilyn: Is there anything else you want to tell my blog followers?

Madeline: I very much like hearing from readers and fellow authors, so please visit me at my website, or on my blog I wrote a recent blog regarding my new title Reticence of Ravens that included a review of Ruth Rendell's wonderful An Unkindness of Ravens.

Marilyn: Thank you so much for giving me and my blog readers the opportunity to get to know something about you and your books. I'm not going to LCC this year, but will definitely see you at the PSWA Conference and also on the cruise.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Combining Work with Pleasure

I often try to combine work with please or to use a cliche, kill two birds with one stone.

While we were in Ventura at the PSWA Board Retreat, we also managed to spend time with our two daughters and their husbands who live in the area.

The night we arrived we had dinner at our eldest daughter's home (Dana) with her hubby, Mike, and youngest daughter, Lori, and her husband Rick.

The next day while I was off to the meeting, hubby spent the day with Dana and toured the Air Museum on the former Oxnard Air Base. (When we lived in Oxnard it was still an Air Base.)

Hubby came back to the hotel in the evening and joined the group for dinner. He hung around the next day and that last night the board went to dinner at a hotel on the beach and our daughters and husbands along with granddaughter Alyssa (no picture here) met us there.

The next day we had breakfast with the same family members before we left.

I love doing events of any kind in the Ventura County area because it gives us an opportunity to see our kids and our old stomping grounds.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

PSWA's Board Retreat

For two full days in Ventura CA, from 9 to 5, PSWA's board worked on by-laws and made plans for the future of PSWA. The picture was taken at the end of the two days and our last meal together. Toast us is our president, Marilyn Olsen. Another photo shows Tim Dees and Lynn and Keith Bettinger. Nancy Farrar and Michelle Perin is in the other photo. Nancy's husband, AJ was present and so was I and my husband. For some unknown reason, I didn't get a photo of us. (Lynn and Hap didn't attend the meetings as they aren't member of the board, but joined us for meals.)

We took time out for lunch at two of Ventura's interesting restaurants and we had dinner together in the evenings--walking everywhere.

On Saturday night, after dinner in a Thai restaurant we headed up to the old Ventura court house, reported to be haunted, and took a tour of the grand old building. Part of our tour was in the dark--ask Keith Bettinger's wife how exciting that was.

I've only attended two of these board meeting and I always wonder what on earth we're going to talk about for two whole days. Believe me, we could have used one more day. We were all given tasks to perform as soon as possible after our return home.

It was great to see everyone and I'm looking forward to seeing them again in June at the PSWA Conference.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Action Scenes

How do you write action scenes?

In order not to stop the excitement, how do you add all the stuff that goes along with it? Sights, sounds, colors. etc.

For me, the best way to do it is to plow right ahead with what's happening and how it is affecting my heroine. Later I'll go back and add the other things that need to be there.

My biggest problem always is moving along too fast--but it's difficult not to when you are attempting to put into words what you are seeing in your head.

When writing a mystery, there are always action scenes to be written. One thing I've found happens to me, is when I'm through, I feel tired, like I was the one who did all the stuff I wrote about.

What about you? How do you go about writing action scenes? How do they make you feel?


Monday, January 18, 2010

Book Club Talk a Success!

We drove to Clovis and managed to arrive about an hour before we needed to be there so stopped for a sandwich.

Once we arrived at the library, then we had to figure out where the City Council Chambers were--fortunately, Jean Yamamoto, who arranged the whole thing and runs the Clovis Library's Mystery Book Club, spotted us and pointed us in the right direction.

(It began sprinkling. Heavy rains were predicted.)

She'd arranged two tables in the lobby for Sunny and me to display our books. I began my setting up process. Sunny Frazier arrived soon after and did the same.

People soon began arriving--and so did the rain. Fortunately, most folks carried umbrellas.

It was terrific to see so many familiar faces. Many who came were members of San Joaquin chapter of Sisters in Crime, the one I belong to. Some purchased books from us at that time.

I didn't count, but I suspect we had between forty and fifty people in attendance.

Jean introduced us. Sunny and I had decided ahead of time to focus on the settings of our books since hers are in and around the Fresno area, and my Deputy Tempe Crabtree mysteries are in the Southern Sequoias--areas the attendees are familiar with.

We both described the books we'd brought with us and I included No Sanctuary even though the setting for that one is on the coast.

Sunny and I have given presentations together before and we do well playing off one another--and it was a good give and take. Everyone seemed to enjoy what we had to say and at the end they asked lots of questions.

Afterward we went back to our tables and both of us sold a lot of books. What a great day!

The skies had really opened up by this time, so we drove back in the pouring rain. We stopped off for dinner at Red Lobster and used a gift card we received at Christmas.

Except for it being hard to see at night in the rain, everything was perfect.

So nice to have such a great turnout and fun time. Thank you, Jean, for inviting us.


Sunday, January 17, 2010

My Favorite In-Person Events

Today I'm heading to Clovis to speak to the Clovis Book Club. I'll be there at 2:30 along with friend and fellow writer, Sunny Frazier, to talk about our books. I love book clubs, because you are speaking to people who love to read.

The same with a library event--those who come are likely to be book lovers. I have a couple of library events scheduled for this Spring and am looking forward to them.

Mystery and writers conferences and conventions are fun, but unless you can give a presentation or be on a panel, it's hard to connect with readers. My favorite conference is the Public Safety Writers Conference because it is small enough that you can really connect with people. If an author signs up before March 15 of this year he or she will be on a panel if they want to be.

Mayhem in the Midlands in Omaha is another favorite. It is also fairly small and if you published by a legitimate press (can be a small one) that gives royalties, you will probably get a panel too. We've gone to this one faithfully and made so many friends, it's like going to a family reunion.

Because I'm also an e-published author, I love Epicon. This year it will be in New Orleans. I'm giving a presentation about How to Write a Mystery.

Of course there is always Left Coast Crime and Bouchercon. Both will be in California this year. LCC in Los Angeles. I've chosen not to go this year because I'm signed up for Bouchercon in San Francisco. Both of these cons are large and can be overwhelming if you don't know anyone who is going, but they are also exciting because the top names in the mystery world are always in attendance.

What are your favorite in-person events?


Saturday, January 16, 2010

A Writer's Time--Where Is It?

Not sure what I really want to say here except that I wish I had more time for my actual writing.

This is where I am right now:

I'm up to chapter 12 in my latest Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery--the one I'm now reading to my critique group chapter by chapter. I have an editor going over the manuscript of my latest Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novel and suggestions and changes are coming in.

Sometime this month, An Axe to Grind, which is the latest to be published in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series is coming out. I haven't set dates yet for the two launches I've planned because I always like to make sure I'll actually have books to sell when the time comes. I have contracted for a blog tour though which will be in March. Soon I'll have to do interviews for those blogs--that also takes away form the writing time. But, if you are going to promote you must do these things.

I feel like I need to do a blog a day--sometimes it's hard to think of what someone else might be interested in reading.

One of my author friends gets up and 4 a.m. every day to begin her writing. I get up around 5:30 or 6, but seems a lot gets in the way before I can actually begin the writing process. Other of my author friends write late into the night. Since I've gotten old, my mind shuts down around 8 and all I'm good for is a couple of TV shows.

Having a big family does create some added interruptions--and since I love my family, I can't avoid those. (And truly, I feel blessed that I do have so many kids, grandkids etc.)

Years ago, time didn't speed by quite so fast, I used to cram a lot more into a day and an evening.

Mornings are my most productive writing times, but if I'm really caught up in what I'm writing, I can write into the afternoon, but usually quit when it's times to cook dinner.

So what is your writing schedule? How do you work around life?


Friday, January 15, 2010

Interview With Kurt Kamm

Author Kurt Kamm is a new member of the Public Safety Writers Association. I will be interviewing various members, hopefully every Friday on my blog. Following is the interview:

Marilyn: I always like to know how a new member found out about the PSWA organization. Would you share with us? Because we've had mostly members who are connected to law enforcement, we are thrilled to be joined by those in other public safety fields.

Kurt: I learned about PSWA from a small press, Aberdeen Bay. They have a mystery author (Madeline Gornell) who recently won a PWSA award.

Marilyn: Do you want to tell us a bit about yourself and your fire-fighting career?

Kurt: I am not actually a firefighter. I had a career in finance and was a semi-pro masters bicycle racer. I retired to Malibu and shortly thereafter one of the frequent firestorms swept through the area and almost destroyed my house. I got the idea of writing firefighter novels.

Since then, CalFire and LACoFD have been incredibly helpful. I have been through a number of their training academies as well as attending El Camino Fire School. In connection with my second novel, Red Flag Warning, I was privileged to attend CalFire arson investigation training classes. Living in Malibu, I have been on the scene of several very scary wildland fires, and have full wildland turnout gear at my house for "stay and defend." I am active in the Malibu CERT and have search and rescue training.

Marilyn: When did you become interested in writing?

Kurt: When I moved to Malibu in 2005, I discovered that within a couple of miles from my house, LACoFD has two fire camps in the hills.

Camp 13 is a female inmate fire camp which trains women to assist wildland fire crews.

Camp 8 is a wildland Helitack fire camp with aFirehawk (Blackhawk) attack helicopter. All of this sounded like something I had to find out about. When I had 15 minutes to evacuate my home at 4:45 AM during a 70 mph wind driven firestorm, my neighbor's home was already on fire, and there was a fire crew outside my front gate, I decided firefighting would be something I wanted to write about. The rest is history. Camp 8 and its (fictional) crew are at the heart of One Foot in the Black.

Marilyn: Please tell me more about One Foot in the Black and where it can be purchased.

Kurt: "The Black" is an area on a (wildland) fire line which has already been burned. One foot in the black is at once the most dangerous spot - close to the flames - and the safest - offering an escape into a burned area. One Foot in the Black is a coming of age story about an 18 year old from an abusive family who finds a new family in his fire crew. The story traces the excitement and tragedy of life as a wildland firefighter in the West. The title is a metaphor for the life of the young protagonist who finds emotional and physical security and also high risk in his new life as a firefighter.

The book is for sale on Amazon or can be purchased through my website I recommend my website which has some spectacular pictures of fires.

Marilyn: You have another book being sent out for publication I understand. Would you like to tell us briefly about it?

Kurt: Red Flag Warning is a mystery story about a serial arsonist setting wildland fires in Los Angeles County.

In a two-week period during peak fire season, you will go behind the scenes of a fast-moving serial arson/homicide investigation to follow the interrelated lives of firefighters and arson suspects. You will plunge into infernos in the hills of Southern California, and face the smoke, heat and danger with the men on the fire lines. During a Red Flag Warning and Santa Ana winds, an incendiary fire destroys homes, kills people, and threatens the city of Malibu.

While “NiteHeat” prowls the hillsides in the darkness, setting fires and taunting investigators, the Fire Department’s Arson Unit struggles to find the fire setter and stop the devastation. I've got some wonderful characters, including a frustrated 911 emergency dispatcher, a kid who steals fire gear and thinks he is a firefighter, and a fake priest who claims the arson fires are the work of the devil.

I expect Red Flag Warning to be published in the summer of 2010.

Marilyn: Is there anything else you'd like my blog followers to know?

Kurt: My website has a blog called "Firefighter's Words" I have 225+ entries from firefighters all over the world telling funny, sad, frightening experiences. It is an incredible window into the lives of firefighters.

Marilyn: Thank you so much! When you come to the PSWA conference be sure and bring copies of your books with you.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

PSWA Conference: R.J. Buckley Publishing

Rebecca Buckley is the editor and publisher of RJBP since January of 2008. She has been publishing novels, anthologies, memoirs and non-fiction.

A small house, RJBP is accepting 6 manuscripts a year and is looking for authors who are passionate about the craft and take pride in the product they submit. Buckley says, "Submitting a flawless manuscript (to the best of the author's ability) and following the publisher's guidelines is of the utmost importance. This comes second to writing a page-turner with content or characters that captivate the reader."

A member of IBPA (Independent Book Publishers Association) and SPAN (Small Publishers Association of North America) as well as holding memberships in other writers association and organization. RJBP is an independent publishing house, royalty paying, with worldwide distribution.

Rebecca Buckley will be on the publishers and editors panel and she will also be taking one-on-one interviews. For more information about RJBP go to

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

PSWA Conference: Lee Emory, Treble Heart Books

Treble Heart Books is owned and operated by publisher, Lee Emory. THB publishes, mysteries,suspense, paranormal, action/adventure, westerns, romances, science fiction, fantasy and inspirational books in both e-book and trade paperback. Mystery and suspense category boasts several award-winning authors--including this writer's own mystery, Guilt by Association.

Lee Emory is also a published author, her latest book is the thriller, Night Freeze.

Submissions are open the first two weeks of every month only. Visit the website for submission guidelines and the preferred style sheet.

She will be taking one-on-one appointments at the conference. Sign up now at:

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

PSWA Conference: Publisher Oak Tree Press

The photo is of Billie Johnson (far right) and some of her authors who attended the PSWA Writers Conference last year.

She will be in attendance again to tell you what she is looking for in a manuscript. She'll be on a panel with two other small press publishers.

Billie Johnson has a B.S., Business and spent more than twenty years in Corporate America. Since its launch in 1998, Oak Tree Press has released more than 50 titles, mostly mysteries but also in the romance genre, self-help and a high-concept picture book. Twelve titles are scheduled for 2009, and we are shooting for twenty in 2010.

OTP books meet all standards of the industry with professionally-designed covers (our designer’s day job is on Madison Avenue in NYC!) and handsome interiors. Our retailer’s discount meets industry norms, and our books are fully returnable. OTP sponsors three annual writing contests—Dark Oak for mysteries, CopTales for true-to-life law enforcement stories and Timeless Love for romance, and the top prize is a publishing contract. Winners have gone on to larger publishing houses and been nominated for national awards. Details are on the website

Always on the look-out for new ways to support OTP authors, Johnson launched three client-centric features in the summer of 2008. A company blog, gives authors and friends of the company a spot to share triumphs, trials, tips and techniques with colleagues. July 2008 saw the premier issue of COLOPHON, our in-house newsletter filled with insider information on the book business and a crash course in book marketing. At this same time, OTP made the decision to step into Amazon’s Kindle program.

You can sign up for a one-on-one with Billie Johnson if you register for the PSWA Writers Conference.

Monday, January 11, 2010

PSWA Conference: Steve Scarborough

Steve is going to be presenting on "The Detective, Then and Now." A lot of early fiction detectives were taken from real people, but of course it went way beyond reality. Some of those early detectives had problems living up to the ideal created in fiction. There were some interesting real characters in the early days of detective work. The concept and the public's perception of a detective has changed greatly over the years making for some stark contrasts.

Steve Scarborough is a Forensic Scientist with over 30 years experience in Law Enforcement with Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (yes, home of CSI) and the FBI. He has a B.S. degree in Police Science and has testified in court and presented scientific evidence in almost 300 cases.

Steve has given lectures and/or presentations at many law enforcement conferences as well as the previous PSWA conference.

He's written almost 30 articles appearing in numerous publications including; The IAI Journal of Forensic Identification, Law Enforcement Technology, Forensic Magazine, Silver State Journal of Identification, The Print (SCAFO), California Identification Digest, Evidentiary Science & Technology News, Cal Assoc. of Criminalists News and is a regular contributor to the CLPEX website(see article archives).

Steve has been recognized in the Scientific Sleuthing Review, and on the Science & Law Blog, referenced in lectures and writings by Simon Cole and other "skeptics" of Fingerprint Science. He has been recognized for his contribution to Forensic Digital Imaging by INTERPOL in Review Papers at the 14th International Forensic Science Symposium in Lyon, France.

Steve appreciates the value of humor and has written two books, including "The Hired Defense Witness Joke Book" and "Not Tonight Dear I have a Computer."

His Introduction to Fingerprint Science class is P.O.S.T certified. Among Steve's accomplishments are bringing Digital Imaging to his Department, developing a web-based digital image viewer and devising an innovative (one-of-a-kind) workflow for an advanced AFIS system design and advocating the advance of comparative analysis by promoting On-Screen Comparisons.

He is a member of the Public Safety Writers Association as are many of our speakers.

Because Steve is a forensic expert and as such has testified in many cases for the Las Vegas P.D. and for the FBI, if you have questions about forensics and in particular fingerprints, this is the guy to ask.

If you haven't yet, do sign up for the PSWA Writers Conference.


Sunday, January 10, 2010

PSWA Conference: Morgan St. James

Morgan St. James is going to speak about "What's the Point of Point of View?"

POV is probably the most troubling concept for new writers. Don't miss out on this.

MORGAN ST. JAMES co-authors the comical Silver Sisters Mysteries series, which began with the award-winning “A Corpse in the Soup.” “Seven Deadly Samovars” was released in October 2009. “Vanishing Act in Vegas” is in work. Find her short stories in multiple anthologies, with new novels and stories scheduled for 2010. Memberships include Sisters in Crime/LA and Henderson Writers Group. She is a founding member and Vice President of Sisters in Crime/Southern Nevada, and edits “On The Prowl”, the SinC/SNV newsletter. She is a frequent panel member, speaker and presenter.

Websites: and

Don't miss out, register now at


Saturday, January 9, 2010

PSWA Conference: Kregg Jorgenson

“Targeting Articles to Particular Magazines”

Kregg Jorgensen served in Vietnam as a LRRP/Ragner and Recon Platoon Leader and the recipient of three purple hearts. He was an Army Journalist where he wrote for various Army publications.

From 1978 to 1980 he wrote training programs and radio commercials. Random House published five of his books on the Vietnam War, including the best seller Acceptable Loss. It received the Bernal Diaz award for best military non-fiction. He also received press awards from the Washington Press Association for various writing projects. He also self published four books.

He’s had over 1,000 articles published in various publications (short stories and poetry in Literary magazines as well as commercial publications) and presently write for Cop to Cop News (out of Vancouver B.C.) and sold articles to Special Weapons and Tactics Magazine and others. He also writes travel articles.

He’s been with Customs for over 25 years (former Inspector and K-9 officer) and now sits behind a desk. He works part time as an Instructor for the Tactical Tracking Operations School training law enforcement agencies and have helped train the Royal Canadian Mounted Police tracking team, SWAT, and several Native American Tribal Tracking Police teams.

When you read all of Jorgenson's past experience, if you are writing about any of these subjects, this is the expert to ask. You'll have that chance at the PSWA Writers Conference. Sign up today:


Friday, January 8, 2010

PSWA Conference; Michael and Lai Orenduff

We all know the old saying "Don't Judge a Book By Its Cover" but it's a fact that covers do sell books. Michael and Lai Orenduff will be telling and showing us "A Good Cover is Worth a Thousand Words."

Lai is an art historian who specializes in the poser of images. Michael is going to be operating the projector as they review the best and worst of covers and explain what a cover ought to do for the book and how a cover can do it.

Michael Orenduff is the author of the most wonderful POT THIEF series that is available from all the usual places--and published by Oak Tree Press.

Sigu up now for the PSWA Conference to learn about good and bad covers.


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

PSWA Conference: Michael Black

Michael A. Black is going to tell us "How to Plot Your Novel in An Hour."

Michael earned a BA in English and a Master of Fine Arts in Fiction Writing. He also is a former Army MP and for the past thirty years has been a police officer in the south suburbs of Chicago. He's the author of over forty articles ranging from police work to popular fiction and also has over thirty short stories published in various anthologies and magazines, including Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine.

He's had several mystery novels published also including HOSTILE TAKEOVERS.

He's been a SWAT team leader and held many other law enforcement jobs. His hobbies include weightlifting, running, and the martial arts and holds a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. You can visit his website to learn more about him and his books at

Think of all the questions you could ask him that will make your book more authentic.

Don't miss out. Sign up now!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

PSWA Conference:Sunny Frazier

Sunny Frazier is always a hit at the PSWA conference. This year she's speaking about How Much Sex is Too Much! Wow! What a topic. This one was asked for by last year's participants. Sunny is a good friend of mine and I know she'll keep everyone interested.

Sunny Frazier has been publishing both fiction and nonfiction since 1972. She is a Navy veteran, earned a BA in Journalism, and wrote for a newspaper before joining the Fresno County Sheriff's Department. During her 17 year career in law enforcement, 11 of them were spent working with an undercover narcotics team.

Frazier is also an amateur astrologer. She has been involved in astrology for 35 years.

Her short mystery fiction has won over 30 awards and trophies, as well as publication in mystery magazines and law enforcement magazines. Her first novel in the Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries, FOOLS RUSH IN, received the Best Novel Award from Public Safety Writers Association. WHERE ANGELS FEAR came out in April, 2009 from Oak Tree Press.

Frazier is a member of the Central Coast Chapter of Sisters in Crime, as well as the Public Safety Writers Association. She currently resides in Lemoore, CA.

Be sure and register before March 31, 2009.


Monday, January 4, 2010

Simon Wood, Keynote Speaker for PSWA Conference

As the program chair for the Public Safety Writers Association annual conference, I am so proud of the great caliber of speakers we're going to have. Every day I'm going to tell you about one of them.

Today, I want to tell you about our keynote speaker, Simon Wood.

His topic will be: “Creating Suspense.”

Simon Wood is an ex-racecar driver, a licensed pilot and an occasional private investigator. He shares his world with his American wife, Julie. Their lives are dominated by a longhaired dachshund and five cats.

He's had over 150 stories and articles published. His short fiction has appeared in a variety of magazines anthologies, such as Seattle Noir, Thriller 2 and Woman’s World. He's a frequent contributor to Writer's Digest. He's the Anthony Award winning author of Working Stiffs, Accidents Waiting to Happen, Paying the Piper and We All Fall Down. As Simon Janus, he's the author of The Scrubs and the forthcoming, Road Rash. His next thriller, Disgruntled, will be out next April. Curious people can learn more at

I've met Simon and he's a most friendly author.

Be sure to sign up before March 31 for the lowest registration rate.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The What to Pack Dilemma

Whenever I'm going on a trip I agonize over what clothes I should take. No, not the essentials, I have that down pat.

Because I only like to take one pair of shoes (if I don't have to dress up), then I need to decide if I'm going to go with blue and black (black shoes) or browns and greens (brown shoes.)

Where I'm going and what the weather is going to be also is a deciding factor. If I'm going to be inside with air-conditioning I'll need long-sleeves and maybe even a sweater of some sort. Layering, they call it.

I'm also big on what jewelery I should pack. I love jewelry--not the expensive kind, just fun stuff and I have lots of it. Of course it has to go with whatever I finally decide to take for clothes.

Once I've made up my mind, I always throw in one extra outfit just in case--or at least an extra top or two that will go with the pants I've chosen.

When we're driving somewhere I can take more--when we're flying, I try to pick out things I can change around that will look like more outfits than there really are.

All of this worrying if probably foolish, most people don't pay any attention to what you are wearing unless it's outlandish or weird.

Since we're going on a trip this coming weekend, I need to start my planning.

Let's see now...should I take my blue pants and things that will go with them? Or would the brown be better?


Saturday, January 2, 2010

Next on the Agenda

Next weekend hubby and I will be heading for Ventura. That's our old stomping grounds since we lived in Oxnard for over 20 years. We still have a daughter in Oxnard and one in Camarillo. So we do go back there periodially.

However, though we hope to see both girls while we're there, we have another purpose for going--or at least I do.

Public Safety Writers Association is having a board meeting for two days and since I'm the conference program chair and the newsletter editor, I need to be there. The last board meeting we had was in Reno. Not sure that Ventura is quite as exciting, but for me it will be much easier to get to. When I flew to Reno, I had to fly to Phoenix first and then on to Reno. We can drive to Ventura.

Prime on my mind is the conference of course. We have such outstanding speakers that I'm anxious for there to be plenty of writers to hear them. If you are writing mysteries and want to make sure they are authentic, don't miss this conference. We have law enforcement, forensic experts, FBI, DEA and just about anyone you can think of. The conference is small enough that you can network easily.

For more information, check out the website at


Friday, January 1, 2010

Greeting 2010!

Some people think having black-eyed peas is what you need to eat in order to have a good New Year.

At our house, it's seafood gumbo. Yes, that's been our tradition for years. When my mom was living with us it was something she really looked forward to eating.

This year our guests will be one of my granddaughters and her husband and two of her kids--they are the only ones in the family, besides hubby and me, who love seafood.

I use the turkey carcass from Thanksgiving and cook it to get all the meat off and make a nice broth. After the bones are discarded, I cook chopped onion and lots of celery in the broth, then add frozen sliced okra. A couple of cans of tomato pieces go in next. (Flavored ones are good.) I like to season with Seasoned Salt and Garlic and a bit of hot (could be a couple of shots of Tabasco or some chili powder). At the very end I add medium sized shrimp and crab legs. Neither has to cook very long. Serve over cooked rice in a bowl.

You need something to crack the crab legs for everyone--nutcrackers work the best for us. And of course a place to discard the shells.

This is messy but very good eating and a great way to start 2010.