Showing posts from January, 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…

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--…

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…

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 …

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 …

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

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.


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.


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.


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 di…

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 opportun…

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 t…

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?


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 f…

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 pro…

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 interes…

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 ha…

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 …

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:

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 t…

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 Id…

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


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 s…

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.


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!

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…

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, wi…

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 …

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 l…

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 th…