Monday, February 28, 2011

Interview with John Desjarlais, author of Bleeder and Viper

Marilyn: Please tell me a bit about your background.

John: I was a Radio/TV/Film major at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and worked in radio and video production for nearly twenty years. When I was let go by Wisconsin Public Radio in the recession of 1993, I returned to grad school for a master’s degree in English/Writing so that I could teach at the college level and continue to write.

Marilyn: When and why did you start writing?

John: I wrote spy novels in junior high and high school for my entertainment and perhaps because I fancied myself becoming a TV scriptwriter someday. I worked on the high school newspaper and literary magazine. In college, my attention turned to radio and TV.

After graduation, I worked for a small media company writing scripts for training videos and fundraising material for non-profit groups. 

My serious fiction writing came in my 30s, after a documentary I produced on the history of Western Christianity got me interested in Irish monasticism. In the process of research I discovered Columba of Iona, a hot-headed monk who went to war over a book, and in remorse over the thousands slain, exiled himself among the Picts of Scotland where he dueled the druids, miracles versus magic. It sounded like material for a historical novel – and it became “The Throne of Tara.”

In the course of writing that, I learned about the rich trade in relics across medieval Europe and the Middle East, and this prompted the next stand-alone, a Crusades-period thriller titled “Relics.” I kept going from there.

Marilyn: What prompted this particular book?

John: VIPER is the sequel to BLEEDER (Sophia Institute Press 2009), featuring a minor character from the first mystery as the protagonist in the second, Latina insurance agent Selena De La Cruz. 

In BLEEDER, my hero Reed Stubblefield is disabled in a school shooting and retreats to a rural town in Illinois to recover. There, he becomes involved in the mysterious death of the local parish priest, reputed to be a healing stygmatic. Along the way, given his insurance and disability issues, he encounters a local insurance agent, the feisty Selena De La Cruz, who assists him with his claims.

I wanted a strong, positive Latina character as part of the ‘local color’ where this little town is struggling with the huge influx of Mexican immigrant farm workers. As soon as she walked on the stage with those red heels, that 69 Dodge Charger and that attitude, I knew she had a story of her own. She played a larger role in BLEEDER than I had anticipated.

In thinking about the second story, I came upon the Catholic Church's tradition of placing a "Book of the Dead" in the sanctuary on All Souls' Day where people can write in the names of relatives who have died that year. I wondered: what if there were names in the book of people who hadn't died yet? At the same time, I learned about the Mexican holiday called "The Day of the Dead," celebrated nearly concurrently with All Souls' Day. It's a major fiesta where deceased relatives are honored with elaborate home altars and families go on picnics in cemeteries, among other things. I knew then that Selena's name had to be in the Book of the Dead, and the story took off from there.

Marilyn: I think your subject matter is fascinating. What kind of research did you do to write this?

John: VIPER was my most challenging book so far mainly because I had to become (in a sense) a 30-something Mexican-American woman. It’s hard enough to write from a woman’s point-of-view, as I did in parts of “Relics.” But I had to come to a heart-and-gut-understanding of what it means to be a second-generation Mexican daughter, sister, niece and professional working single woman who is trying to come to terms with her bi-cultural identity in a man’s world. 

So this involved a great deal of research about Mexican-American culture: families, food, customs, religious practices, language, the works. I was anxious about getting the cultural material both right and respectful, always concerned about someone asking, “what right do you have, a middle-aged Anglo man, to write our stories?” 

I read Latin American literature widely in addition to all the other book research. I subscribed to Latina magazine (for information on fashion, cosmetics, relationships, music, social and racial issues, all that) and browsed Latina blogs. I asked real Latinas to review the work-in-progress to make sure I was getting Selena and her family right. A professional translator worked with me on the Spanish. At one point she wrote me to say, "I am SO into Selena!" That's when I knew I was getting it right.

The rest of the research – Aztec religion and mythology, Mexican Catholicism (especially devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe), The Day of the Dead, the drug cult of Saint Death, Mexican immigration, DEA undercover operations, crime scene processing, police interrogation procedures, snake handling and the workings of a 69 Dodge Charger were all easier to manage, thanks to the Internet and the Illinois library system. Making Selena culturally authentic and fully-layered as a person, though, was the real challenge.

One last thing: Selena uses a P226 SIG Sauer pistol, and so I took lessons in handguns and practiced shooting her gun to feel its kick in my hand, to smell the powder, to hear its report. Golly, it’s loud – like her car, “The Beast.”

Marilyn: I’m always interested in what kind of promotion an author plans for a book; what all are you doing?

John: As you probably know, the bulk of marketing depends on writers these days and publishers – especially small houses – aren’t doing much. My publisher does more than most: an email blast to loyal customers, posters and bookmarks to use at trade shows, ads on Facebook. I have a Virtual Book Tour this Spring and Summer on a fair number of blogs like this; some are secular and mystery related, and some Catholic (given the Mexican-Catholic and Our Lady of Guadalupe angle in the story).

I’m working to get blurbs and reviews from a variety of sources (both print and web-based, both secular and Catholic), too numerous to name here. I have a web site and a blog, “Johnny Dangerous,” where Selena has been a guest blogger (see her 6 entries in March 2010, for example). I’ll set up some book store and library events as I did with BLEEDER, though these tend not to be very productive (at least they get your name in the local newspapers).

I’ll attend some mystery conferences such as “Love Is Murder” in Chicago, “Magna Cum Murder” in Muncie, Indiana and “Bouchercon” (The World Mystery Convention, in St. Louis this year). I make postcards and sell sheets and mail them to a number of different mailing lists, including mystery book clubs, Independent Mystery Booksellers and regional libraries who (according to Mystery Writers of America) are crime-writer-friendly and might be open to an appearance. I send a Press Kit to regional media (radio, TV and newspaper, both daily and weekly shoppers – especially if there’s an event to promote). By ‘regional’ I mean my Chicagoland ‘region’ – Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Iowa. 

When I travel, I distribute bookmarks and visit stores to sign stock or to leave a sell sheet behind. I’ll arrange radio interviews (a publicist helped with this for BLEEDER; she left the business recently but I’ve saved all the contact information). I have a presence on most of the social networking spaces: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Crimespace, DorothyL, ShoutLife, Good Reads, Shelfari. I’ve teamed up with three other area mystery authors and we do some school and library appearances together as a panel. I write book reviews for The New York Journal of Books and so every review has my little bio at the end, which gives me some visibility there. There’s more, but I’ll stop here. As you see, this is very time-consuming and has the potential to sap one’s energy and prevent one from writing.

Marilyn: Have you thought about what’s up next for you?

John: I am in the planning and research stages for the third entry in this mystery series featuring Selena De La Cruz and Reed Stubblefield. I also have some mystery short stories in mind with these characters. I have a body of short literary fiction that I might make available through the Kindle store. I think that is ‘what’s up next’ for all writers – figuring out how to work with the revolution of ebooks and e-readers.

Marilyn: Where can my readers find your book?

John: All my titles are available at; some are at (Barnes & Noble). BLEEDER and VIPER are distributed by Ingram and so they can be ordered through any bookstore. BLEEDER was placed on Kindle late in January.

Marilyn: Why do you write in the mystery genre?

John: Mysteries - classic murder mysteries, I mean - connect with something deep inside us. They are the modern form of the medieval morality play, where the sleuth is Everyman who works against time, big money, a determined antagonist, daunting odds and his own flaws to expose evil and to restore the balance of justice. At the end, readers who identify with the successful hero or heroine feel a little better about the world and about themselves. 

A critic might say that mystery novels are escapist, since they offer a fantasy world in which justice prevails, right always wins over wrong, and love finds a way. But what’s wrong with that? That’s healing. Mysteries are a good platform to explore social issues, too (as I do with immigration and Latin American themes). But they must be careful not to preach.

Lastly, I think that mysteries, close as they are to the barest human motives and fears, have a built-in opportunity to explore life's higher mysteries, such as the mystery of undeserved suffering. Like all literature, mysteries try to make some meaning out of the frighteningly short dash between the birth date and departure date on our tomb stones. They try to understand what it means to be fully human, in both our high dignity and tragic fallenness. 

Marilyn: Thank you so much, this was truly an interesting interview. And by the way, the covers for you books are spectacular.

Bio: A former producer with Wisconsin Public Radio, John Desjarlais teaches journalism and English at Kishwaukee College in northern Illinois. His first novel, The Throne of Tara (Crossway 1990, re-released 2000), was a Christianity Today Readers Choice Award nominee, and his medieval thriller, Relics (Thomas Nelson 1993, re-released 2009) was a Doubleday Book Club Selection. Bleeder (Sophia Institute Press 2009) and Viper (Sophia Institute Press, forthcoming Spring 2011) are the first two entries in a mystery series. His work has appeared in periodicals such as Student Leadership Journal, U Magazine, The Critic, On Being, Student Soul, Apocalypse, The Upper Room, The New Pantagruel, The Karitos Review, Dappled Things and The Rockford Review.  A member of The Catholic Writers Guild, The Academy of American Poets and Mystery Writers of America, he is listed in Contemporary Authors, Who's Who in Entertainment, and  Who's Who Among America's Teachers.

About Viper:

Haunted by the loss of her brother to drugs and a botched raid that ended her career with the DEA, insurance agent Selena De La Cruz hoped to start afresh in rural Illinois. But her gung-ho former boss needs her back to hunt “The Snake,” a dealer she helped arrest who is out of prison and systematically killing anyone who ever crossed him. His ‘hit list’, appended to a Catholic Church’s All Souls Day ‘Book of the Deceased,’ shows Selena’s name last. Working against time, prejudice and the suspicions of her own Latino community, Selena races to find The Snake before he reaches her name while a girl visionary claims a “Blue Lady” announces each killing in turn. Is it Our Lady of Guadalupe or, as others believe, the Aztec goddess of Death

Investigate Higher Mysteries

Sunday, February 27, 2011

And a Trip to Ridgecrest is Planned

I enjoy speaking to writers' groups and there are several that I always hope will ask me back. Ridgewriters, a branch of the California Writers Club, is one of my favorite places to visit. The group is located in Ridgecrest which is way out on the high dessert with it's main claim to fame, the China Lake Naval Air Station. During the spring, the desert fills with colorful wildflowers--wildflowers you don't see in other places. When I contacted them about coming again to speak this year, they already had a speaker for March. As it turned out, that speaker was my good friend, Willma Gore. Willma taught me so much about writing during the years she lived in Porterville and we both attended the writers' critique group.

Willma has a new book out, a memoir, and she planned a book tour in California beginning with the Ridgewriters group. Something happened though, and the dates got muddled. Ridgewriters expected her on March 2 and she thought the date was March 9. She made her traveling plans, one that included bus tickets that couldn't be changed, and she couldn't make the March 2nd date. So she thought of me to fill in for her.

Ridgecrest Writers and I exchanged emails and I offered to take the March 2nd date. Then the Internet Provider for Ridgecrest went down and all my emails bounced back to me. So I wasn't sure whether I was supposed to go or not, especially since I heard that they were going to host Willma on the 9th anyway, wasn't sure they'd want me the week before.

All was resolved when I received a phone call from one of the officers of Ridgewriters and in the old fashioned way of communicating by actually speaking to someone, the problem was resolved. I'll be going to the group on March 2nd and they'll get to hear Willma on the 9th.

I'm looking forward to seeing this great group of people once again and seeing the wildflower display.


Saturday, February 26, 2011

In Memory of Mike Cole

My son-in-law, Mike Cole, died 20 years ago today. He was on duty as an El Dorado County sheriff’s deputy at the time. He had been a cadet, explorer and reserve officer with the Oxnard Police Department, donating more than 1,200 hours, before he was appointed a regular officer at OPD where he served for 10 years. He was only 33 when he got into a fatal car accident and left behind his wife, my youngest daughter, Lori, and three sons - Robert (9), Gregg (5) and Christopher (3). Our family had always commented on how Mike packed so much into his life. Besides being a law enforcement officer, a good husband and father, he had a cabinet-making business and loved to pilot small aircraft. Maybe he had a feeling he didn’t have long to live.

Of course Mike is the one who got me started writing about law enforcement because he shared with me so much of what was going on after his shift when he came over for coffee. He even took me on a ride-along and impressed me with his skill in calming down irate citizens.

During the time I knew him--as a box boy at the commissary on the Seabee base, my daughter's suitor, her fiance, her husband, my son-in-law, a daddy who loved and spent time with his sons, a cop and then a deputy sheriff--I loved him like a true son.

We miss you, Mike, but we’re glad you were a part of our lives, even it it was only for a short while.

P.S. His middle son followed in his dad's footsteps and is now a police officer in Aspen, CO. The eldest has his own business, and the youngest is a wonderful carpenter and also has his own business.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Meet Geraldine Evans and Learn About Her and Deadly Reunion

Overview of my Rafferty & Llewellyn crime series.

Detective Inspector Joseph Aloysius Rafferty is an ordinary ‘Joe’ – a working-class, lapsed Catholic Londoner who moved to Essex (England) as a child. He is cursed by coming from a family with a love for dubious ‘bargains’ and other pursuits on the fringe of illegality. Some of his family are of the opinion that – if they must have a copper in the family – he might at least have the decency to be a bent one. He is partnered by Detective Sergeant Dafyd Llewellyn, a university-educated Welshman who is Rafferty’s moral, intellectual and social superior. Although they no longer have the clashes their new partnership evoked in the first book in the series, they still have their moments.

What inspired your latest book, Deadly Reunion

I suppose it was the proliferation of social networking sites nowadays.I’ve succumbed and joined several as well as Friends  Reunited.  Although we’ve all read in the press about the young love that has been rekindled  through such sites, being a crime writer, my mind immediately turned to thoughts of murder. So I came up with a school reunion where murder, rather than love, is evoked.

My Background

My background is Irish-Catholic working-class. I was born and brought up on s London Council estates, like Joe Rafferty. I went to a basic secondary school and left at sixteen. A series of dead-end jobs followed.

When I knew I wanted to be a writer

My ambition to write came about, I suppose, because after all the boring dead-end jobs, I yearned for something else. I had always been a reader, so I was naturally inclined to the written word. It was a comment by Morse author Colin Dexter that pushed me in a writerly direction. He said that he became a writer after he read a particularly poor crime novel during a wet weekend in Wales and thought that he could do better. Thus began a whole career. My path has been the same, only, so far, without his great success, alas!

Path to Publication

When I started writing I aimed for the romantic Mills & Boon market. Failure followed failure. After six books and six years of rejection, with only one romance published (and not by Mills & Boon), I turned to crime and was almost immediately sprung from Macmillan’s slush pile and published both in the UK and the States. But when they were taken over by a firm of German publishers, I and about a third of the list were dropped and it was to be another six years before I had any novels published again. In the interim, as well as several novels, I wrote and had published articles on a variety of subjects.

What advice would you give an upcoming writer?

This is advice I have given before, but it is very pertinent to new writers. And the advice is to never be easily satisfied with your work. Do not make the common mistake of thinking a first draft means the book’s finished. That’s only the first stage. To write the best book you can several more drafts should follow where you round out the plot, the characters, the backstory, etc. You need also to weed out repetitions, awkward phrasings and poorly-chosen, strained metaphors. Writers, myself Included, seem to go for similar names; my weakness is having surnames ending in the letter ‘s’, which, in the possessive form, can make for more awkwardness. It goes without saying that you should present a ms that has correct spelling and grammar.

What do you do to promote your books?

I give talks and interviews. I do signings if asked. I have a website, of course and a blog. I have a monthly newsletter. I hand out flyers and bookmarks to the audience at talks. I send out postcards to libraries and booksellers. I send out news releases. I make video book trailers. I’ve just finished a 17-date Blog Tour where I have visited the blog sites of other authors and posted about a variety of things to do with a writer’s life, such as how I created my first crime series and how I set about publishing my out of print novels as ebooks and how I created my own video book trailers, as well as tips for writers and other things. I hold contests with books as prizes. One I had that ended at the end of January was to write the first 250 words of a crime novel. The winner won three signed copies of my books as well as a critique of her entry and the promise of a free critique of the whole novel if she finishes it. I keep so busy with all of this that I scarcely have the time to write the novels!

What do you do for fun?

I paint portraits. I garden, growing vegetables and flowers from seeds or cuttings. I like photography and have even sold a few pictures. I like to dance, if I get the opportunity. I taught myself to play the keyboards though I’m afraid I’ve forgotten how as I haven’t touched them for ten years.


Deadly Reunion
A Rafferty & Llewellyn crime novel by Geraldine Evans
Publication: 24 February 2011 (UK) 1 June 2011 (US)


Detective Inspector Joe Rafferty is barely back from his honeymoon before he has two unpleasant surprises. Not only has he another murder investigation - a poisoning, courtesy of a school reunion, he also has four new lodgers, courtesy of his Ma, Kitty Rafferty. Ma is organising her own reunion and since getting on the internet, the number of Rafferty and Kelly family attendees has grown, like Topsy. In his murder investigation, Rafferty has to go back in time to learn of all the likely motives of the victim's fellow reunees. But it is only when he is reconciled to his unwanted lodgers, that Rafferty finds the answers to his most important questions.


ebooks on

ebooks on

Geraldine Evans’s website:

Geraldine Evans’s blog:


The draw of all the comments throughout the Tour will take place at the end of the Tour (end-Feb). There will only be three winners, each of whom wins one signed copy of Deadly Reunion, my latest hardback (fourteenth in my Rafferty & Llewellyn crime series), one copy of each of two ebooks that are the first and second novels in my Rafferty & Llewellyn crime series, that is, one of Dead Before Morning and one of Down Among the Dead Men. They will also receive a subscription to my blog (which they can let lapse when it  runs out).


Crime Author, Geraldine Evans

Geraldine Evans has been writing since her twenties, though only began to get novels published halfway through her thirties. As well as her popular Rafferty & Llewellyn crime series, she has a second crime series, Casey & Catt and has also had published an historical, a romance and articles on a variety of subjects, including, Historical Biography, Writing, Astrology, Palmistry and other New Age subjects. She has also written a dramatization of Dead Before Morning, the first book in her Rafferty series.

She is a Londoner, but now lives in Norfolk England where she moved, with her husband George, in 2000.

Deadly Reunion is her eighteenth novel and fourteenth in the humorous Rafferty & Llewellyn crime series. She is currently working on the next in the series.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

C. J. West's E-Book Gamble

 Last fall I moderated the e-books panel at Bouchercon in San Francisco. I had dabbled in e-books before then, but my research for the panel convinced me to dive into the fray. My change of heart began when I went to my local Barnes & Noble and shopped for books from the six authors on my panel. Only one of those authors was represented on the shelves.

The authors were all multi-published and had careers spanning several books each. All seven of us (including me) had books available for download in seconds. Getting our books from B&N would take days at best. It was then I understood that e-books level the playing field for lesser-known authors and give us an inexpensive way to reach readers globally.

My books were already available at most e-book stores thanks to Amazon and Smashwords, but they weren’t selling because readers didn’t know about them. Inspired by friends who had been selling very well on Kindle and Nook, I engaged readers on forums and boosted my sales.

Before Christmas I decided that the key to selling more books was to get more readers to read my books. Sounds like a catch-22, but one of the great things about e-books is that they don’t require the expense of printing and shipping. When Amazon created the Kindle, they gave authors a platform to deliver their books. That platform works whether the customer is buying the book from Amazon or receiving it from the author’s website free.

There are now millions of readers walking around with Kindles and my goal is to give my latest book, THE END OF MARKING TIME to as many of them as I can. Many industry experts say that giving away books is a bad idea, but so far my results have been encouraging.

Since the week before Christmas I have given away 1,535 copies of THE END OF MARKING TIME. I encourage readers to forward the book to anyone they like. Some have sent it to 20 or more readers. Some have made the book available for download and shared hundreds of copies.

Sounds crazy, but it is working. I have received 94 reviews on Amazon which means people are reading and enjoying the book. Even more surprising, THE END OF MARKING TIME is my bestselling book. Hard to believe because it is free from my website, but after I began offering the book free my sales multiplied six fold. Sales for my other books are increasing as well, totaling just shy of 2,000 e-book sales this January alone.

So far my gamble is paying off. You can help me by visiting, requesting your free copy of THE END OF MARKING TIME, and sharing it with your friends!

 * * *

CJ West is the author of 5 thrillers. His latest, The End of Marking Time has been called “a modern 1984 meets Prison Break.” CJ interviews thriller authors monthly on Blog Talk Radio and hosts The Indie Author Book Group. His first novel, Sin & Vengeance is in development for feature film by Beantown Productions, LLC. (

The End of Marking Time on Amazon Kindle:

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Author Photos

For a long time the photo I used for the back of my book and blog tours was a glamor shot where I had not only my hair done but make-up too. People would look at the photo, look at me and frown. That's when I decide to use pictures that had been taken recently that looked like me.

I've seen some wonderful photos of authors on the back of books that did look like the author--the difference being the author was young and good-looking, something I'm not.

I'm a great-grandma who could use some exercise and go on a diet. (I'm probably not going to do either.)

So, whatever photo you find on a book cover or inside, it's going to be what I looked like at the time the book went to press.

I love my most recent one take by my daughter at my granddaughter's wedding. I look happy because I was. All of my children were at the wedding. My son was the father of the bride, and all three of my girls came to see their niece married. The wedding was beautiful and everyone had a great time.

What you see is what I look like. The plus to all this is when people who've seen my photo spot me at a large conference or convention, they know immediately who I am and come up and speak to me.

So, what do you think about author photos?


7 Facts Award

I need to thank Tribute Books Mama  for this award.

Here are 7 facts about me, and I'm going to do what Tribute Books Mama did and list 7 facts about my life in the last week.

1. Every chance I got I stopped at McDonald's a got a vanilla flavored iced coffee with an extra shot. That's how I reward myself when I'm doing errands or grocery shopping. I don't enjoy doing either.

2. My daughter-in-law died my hair for me. I'm not a natural redhead and I never have been. I just like the color a lot better than my natural gray.

3. I love to eat at the Thai Kitchen in Porterville and we went there on Sunday. This time I had the seafood soup and the sweet potato fries.

4. Despite the fact everyone says there's no such thing as a free lunch, we had one at Red Lobster. They were a bit slow with hubby's lunch, believe me we didn't complain, and the manager came over and said he was paying for our lunch. We didn't argue.

6. Watching movies is one of our favorite recreations--whether at the movie theater or at home. Last week we saw Unknown. Plenty of twists and turns. We took middle daughter with us and enjoyed her company.

7. Ate Sushi at Tokyo Bowl. I love to try new things and am working my way through their Sushi offerings. Too bad I don't know how to use chopsticks.

And now I pass the award on to the following blogs:

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Resurrection Garden by Frank Scully

Official Blurb for Resurrection Garden by Frank Scully

Jake Turner, a scarred veteran of the charge up San Juan Hill, has been a lone drifter through
much of the settling of the west. Opportunity was growing out of the newly turned sod of the
North Dakota prairie in 1904 when he stopped to take a part time job as a Deputy Sheriff,
expecting to move on again when the dark parts of his past catch up to him.

An investigation into a murder of a man hated by everyone has threads that lead to his best
friend, Isaac. Jake is ambushed and almost killed, but is nursed back to health by Isaac. While
Jake follows the clues into a labyrinth of hatred, sordid crimes and missing money he becomes
attached to an eight year old orphaned boy named Andy and falls in love with Isaac’s sister,
Alice. After being alone for so long with no hope or care for what tomorrow might bring, Jake
finds it difficult to accept these new emotional attachments.

Jake believes in Justice, but before he had only his own life on the line. When Andy is
kidnapped and almost killed, Jake knows the killers will do anything to stop him. In order to
protect Alice and Andy, he must break their hearts and leave them and North Dakota behind.
Jake knows he’ll be back. So do the killers. Trap and counter trap are laid. Jake knows there
will be graves. He just doesn’t know who will be in them.

My review of Resurrection Garden:

Resurrection Garden by Frank Scully

As most good mysteries do, this one begins with a dead body. The big difference is this tale is set in 1904 and starts in North Central North Dakota, making it an historical western mystery. Before I tell much more, I have to say I loved everything about this story. Deputy Jake Turner is a reluctant hero, a single man who knows something is missing in his life despite his faithful horse, dog and cat.

The historical details are perfect and enhance the action—of which there is plenty. Deputy Turner is wounded more than once while tracking down the clues to find the identity of the murderer and all the other complications and revelations that develop. The relationship between Jake and an orphan boy, Andrew, is realistic and heart-wrenching, as is Jake’s friendship with a dying man.

Before the book is over, a romance develops—one that doesn’t seem to have a happy ending in sight, but you’ll have to read it to find out what happens.

Author Scully has done a fantastic job in creating this very realistic mystery in a by-gone era. I loved this book and I highly recommend it to all mystery lovers and those who enjoy a good Western.

--Marilyn Meredith

I also had the pleasure of interviewing Frank.

Marilyn: Please tell me something about your background.

Frank: I was born and raised in a small town in North Dakota.  Without giving away my birth date, I will say that I remember when radio was the primary source of entertainment. Jack Benny, Amos and Andy and The Shadow. Then Eisenhower became president and black and white TV came along.  Jack Benny made the transition. The Ed Sullivan show ruled Sunday night.  The Cold War was real and scary.  We practiced hiding under our desk in the event of a nuclear attack. Not that it would have done us any good but it made the teachers feel better. In the 60’s I went to college during the Age of Aquarius. After I got my law degree I went off to Vietnam as a U.S. Army Officer. There ducking for cover did come in handy. After I got out of the service in the 70’s I got an MBA and started a career.  I’ve worked as an executive for large aerospace companies and owned my own small business.  I’ve been well off and broke and learned how to survive both.  I am married to a wonderful and understanding wife who gave me twin sons, both of whom have gone on to become lawyers and businessmen.

Marilyn: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Frank: I think I always wanted to be a writer from the first time I started reading books for pure enjoyment.  That happened the summer when I was ten years old and came down with Rheumatic Fever and had to stay in bed for ten weeks.  Books not only saved me from terminal boredom but also opened my mind to a greater world.  Later when I was in college I had a professor who encouraged me to write since he felt I had some talent.  But life and work and responsibilities came along and I put it aside the writing for a long time.  But not the reading.  Finally, my wife got tired of me saying I would do it “someday” or that I could write a story better.  She challenged me to do it and not put it off any more.  I sat down and started.  It took me almost twenty years to get published but it was worth it.

Marilyn: What gave you the idea for this book?

Frank: I got the basic idea for the plot of this story while I was driving through a particularly nasty North Dakota blizzard.  From there I started doing my research and developed the background and setting.  I always wanted to do a story set in North Dakota during the early part of the 20th century and was looking for the right story to tell. From somewhere in the blizzard a special scene came to me and from that I put the rest of the story together.

Marilyn: How close do you identify with the hero?

Frank: Any similarity between me and my hero is wishful thinking on my part.  I try to understand them as much as I can while writing.  While I am writing a scene it is almost as if I am watching it like a movie or a witness to a real event and I am trying to get it down.  The characters take on a life of their own and sometimes go in directions I didn’t plan but I soon find they know better.  They have to be true to the character rather than follow any script.

Marilyn: What was your path to publication?

Frank: It was a long and bumpy road with flat tires, washed out bridges, detours, bandits, and just about every possible mishap possible.  I started writing at a time when computers weren’t on every desk.  I had a dedicated word processor that I used.  At the time it was considered state of the art.  Now even the cheapest laptop is better.  When I had my first manuscript and I went about seeking publication, I soon realized that this was going to be more difficult than expected.

I got rejection after rejection.  A few were encouraging and I managed to avoid the worst traps and scams.  I continued and wrote another book.  More rejections followed.  Then I had an agent but no luck with getting a publisher.  I moved on to another with the same lack of success.  Another manuscript and more rejections. 
Then an acceptance with publication due shortly only to be orphaned and left on the street again.  I don’t know why I never got discouraged through all the rejections and disappointments along the way. Incorrigibly stubborn or incredibly stupid are both possible and not mutually exclusive explanations. I do know if I sell as many books as I got rejections I will be on the top of the best seller list for a long time.  I learned along the way that a lot of very good writers have shared the same journey.

Through the grapevine I heard about Lea Schizas starting her own publishing company called MuseItUp. I sent her an email to congratulate her and query whether she would be interested in my book.  She asked to see it and soon after offered me a contract.  Now I have five books under contract with her and am very happy to be with MuseItUp and Lea.

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

Frank: I would like everyone to know that I am writing a series I call the Decade Mystery Series.  The five books under contract to MuseItUp are all a part of that series.  I am writing at least one novel set in each decade from the beginning of the 20th century to the current time set in different locales with both continuing and new characters in each one.  There is something unique in each decade that marks it as separate from what went before or what follows.  I shall explore aspects of what is unique as it is expressed in the locale chosen and how it affects the culture, characters and the tenor of the times and yet also see the common humanity that never changes.  Resurrection Garden is unique among the books in the series in that it is set where my grandparents settled.

My website and blog are at:
It’s a work in progress but I welcome all to come and visit.

I want to thank you, Marilyn, for inviting me on your blog.  It’s been a pleasure.

Marilyn: I thank you for coming today. I think we're probably around the same age and I too had rheumatic fever when I was a kid, 11 years old, and had to stay in bed.
Official Frank Scully Bio:

Frank Scully was born and raised in a small town in North Dakota and received a Bachelor’s
degree in History with Phi Beta Kappa Honors and a Juris Doctor degree in Law from the
University of North Dakota. He then served more than five years as a Judge Advocate General
Corps Officer in the U. S. Army in the U. S., Vietnam, and Thailand. After that he attended the
prestigious Thunderbird School and received a Masters in Business Administration with honors.
In his professional career he has worked as an executive with large aerospace and defence
manufacturers and also owned his own small business.

Depending on the vagaries of the universe he has been well off at times and broke, but never
broken, at other times. Blessed with an understanding wife who gave him twin sons, he has
remained through it all a dreamer whose passion is writing stories that will entertain readers.

Resurrection Garden is available for purchase at and

Monday, February 21, 2011

Review of Blacklands by Belinda Bauer

Blacklands by Belinda Bauer is a compelling book despite the premise of Steven, a young boy looking for the body of his uncle who was sexually attacked and murdered when he was a boy. This murder and the fact that the body was never found changed the life of the family. It is also the story of the pedophile/serial murderer who has been imprisoned but is not the least bit sorry for his horrendous deeds. As the story progresses, the boy and the man become entangled. Bauer is able to create an atmosphere that compels the reader to continue turning the pages despite the threat of what is to come.

Though the plot is dark, the author is a master at creating believable scenes and a most original plot.

Though this book won the Gold Dagger Award for Crime Novel of the Year, it isn't a book I would've chosen to read. It was sent to me by the publisher, Simon and Schuster. However, once I started reading, I couldn't put it down.

Marilyn Meredith

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Writers of Kern

Friday night, or early a.m., I dreamed about my visit to the WOK group in Bakersfield. It went horribly, there was hardly anyone there and they were not at all receptive to what I had to say, even argued with me. I didn't tell my husband about the dream until I ate my cereal because my mom always said if you tell a dream before breakfast, it'll come true.

We had a wonderful drive down to Bakersfield, arriving a few minutes before the meeting started. Two other published writers were there, one I knew from long, long ago and they each bought a copy of Lingering Spirits.

The room was packed, close to 40 people. I hadn't brought enough handouts because every time I've gone before there were between 12 and 17 people and I thought 25 handouts would be more than enough.

I spoke after their business meeting. I love speaking to writers. My topic was blogging and blog tours--I certainly know plenty about both. What an attentive group--nothing like my dream. At the end I answered a few questions, sold a couple more books and hubby and I left.

I had a coupon for $s off at Red Lobster, so I plugged Red Lobster into my handy Magellan and there was one about 5 miles down the road. We found it, ordered our lunch. Our drinks, salad and biscuits arrived. We were really close to the kitchen and I had fun watching the cooks and the wait staff rushing around. First time I'd ever seen inside a Red Lobster kitchen. Everyone was so young, including the cooks. I also read my email, answered some, and looked at Facebook on my iPhone.

The waitress brought my plate but said hubby's wasn't ready yet, did I still want mine? Of course I did, it looked and smelled wonderful. It wasn't long before hubby's plate arrived. The waitress apologized for the wait. Right after her came the manager and he said, "I'm buying your lunch today." Hubby and I both said, "Why?" He said because it took so long for hubby's lunch to arrive. (It really wasn't that long, and hubby didn't complain.)

So, we got a free and very delicious lunch. Thank you, Red Lobster.

And that was my great day.


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Writing About Small Towns

I've touched on this subject before. What can you do when you have a series (or two) that are set in a small town so that it doesn't become like Cabot Cove? Those who watched Murder She Wrote joked about the fact that so many died that perhaps Jessica might be the killer. It didn't get much better when she traveled, no matter where she went someone died.

In my Rocky Bluff P.D. series, even though the beach town is small it is on the California coast between two larger cities, Ventura and Santa Barbara. There is direct access to the town from the 101 freeway. This makes it much easier for bad guys to come in from somewhere else--though the town itself has it's share of not so wonderful inhabitants. Though I write about a police department and crime, my books border on being cozies as the focus is as much on the families of the police officers as it is on them. And as I said yesterday, I don't use bad words; I also shut the bedroom door.

It's a different story in my Deputy Tempe Crabtree series--oh, I still don't use bad words and keep the bedroom door shut, but the small mountain community is based on a real town--the one I live in. I've changed the location a bit by moving it higher into the mountains, but much of locale resembles where I live. The entire time I've lived here there have been only two murders and one high-profile one before we moved here. There are two deaths that I think could possibly have been murders, but were not investigated as such. I'm using that right now in the book I'm working on. Fortunately, the mountain area is large so I can have different locations for the crime Tempe investigates, including the nearby Indian reservation. Yes, it's based on one near me, but I've changed the name and the name of the tribe. Because the area is so big, it gives me so leeway as to where and how people are murdered.

In my latest, Invisible Path, much of the action takes place on the reservation and in the high country.

Angel Lost, available in March, takes place in Rocky Bluff, on the beach, in the main part of town, in the older residential area, and in the orange groves. I had a great time writing this book, I hope people enjoy it.

Books by Marilyn

Friday, February 18, 2011

Bad Words In Books

On DorothyL for the past few days there's been a brouhaha about swearing in books. It got so heated at one point a regular poster quit the list.

It was about whether or not profanity and guttural language should be in books or not.

Some said they absolutely would not read a book with such or use any of the words (and some were mentioned) when writing their own book.

Others said a book wouldn't be authentic without the language of the street.

I stayed out of the argument. I don't use profanity or gutter language in my books--most of the time. I might include an occasional "sh**" if it is the only word that fits the occasion. (It's the only bad word I say when I'm really upset.) However, I've read plenty of books with this kind of language and in most cases, I wasn't offended because I knew that's how those particular characters would speak.

When I'm writing though, I know my audience prefers the absence of swearing and crude language so I avoid it. Those who want it can think the missing words if they like.

By the same token in a lot of movies, the language could be cleaned up and the movie would be better.

If you have an opinion about the subject and would like to share, go ahead and leave a comment--just don't give me examples of the bad words you like to use.

Books by Marilyn

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Visiting Other People's Blogs

Today I'm visiting over at Kaye Barley George's blog talking about how it takes guts to write about people in law enforcement. At least how it takes guts for this 70 plus year-old great-grandma to write about this topic.

If you want to know more, hop on over to Kaye's blogspot.

We authors do this a lot as you may have noticed, we host other authors on our blogs and go visiting other authors blogs and even more fun when we get invited to someone's blog who just love reading and authors and that describe Kaye.

I have another connection to Kaye in that she grew up in the same little town my husband did, Cambridge MD. Cambridge is the actual place where I married my husband and I lived there for nearly a year. I've been back to visit with hubby a few times. It's a beautiful place located right on the Chesapeake Bay.

Help me let Kaye know I appreciate my visit with her by leaving a comment on the blog at


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Realizing a Dream, Debra Shiveley Welch

Realizing a Dream

As a child, my favorite authors were Taylor Caldwell, Belva Plain, Nora Lofts, John Savage, and at 17, I feel in love with James Michener.  I loved the way they used words to paint a tapestry of sight, smell, touch, taste and sound.  I also admired the way they kept me turning the page, devoting hours to each reading session. But, the author that stands out most in my memory is Taylor Caldwell.  You can see her influence in my writing, and although she never knew it, she was my teacher.

Mrs. Caldwell instilled in me a love for the novel, and because of that love, I wanted to be an author someday.  It took a while, but I finally made it with my first traditionally published children’s book, A Very Special Child, published in 2005; I was 53.

Published in 2006, Jesus Gandhi Oma Mae Adams, a murder mystery, written with my cousin, soon followed. In 2007, Son of My Soul – The Adoption of Christopher debuted in October, two weeks before National Adoption month.  I wrote it for my son, remembering how I regretted not asking my mother more about her life.

My duty to my son complete, I decided to have some fun.  I wanted to write something about the original settlers of the Americas.  I contacted my sister, Julie Spotted Eagle Horse, and asked if it interested her.  Ahan! (Yes!) she answered, and I began my first draft.

It involved two years of research, writing, rewriting and editing, and finally, in 2010, just seven days after my 58th birthday, Cedar Woman was unveiled.

I wanted to write Cedar Woman for a few reasons: one, I wanted to honor my sister.  Her wisdom, patience, kindness and love, inspired me on many levels.  I wanted to show her how much I love her, and her example to me and my son.

Two, I wanted to show my readers the real Native American.  Not the “woo woo woo” (very offensive – by the way) “Indian” shown on television and movie screens for so many years, but the true American who happens to be Native to this land.

When Abraham Lincoln named our original settlers Native Americans, he tried to send a message, which stated, these are our brothers and sisters.  They were here first. Respect them.  Unfortunately, the message didn’t come through until just recently.  In fact, it still hasn’t reached much of our population.

At a recent powwow, members of a church picketed the event, trying to stop attendees from entering.  I was confused as to why they would do this.  Did they picket the recent Greek Festival?  Did they try to stop people from enjoying the Irish Festival?  And what about the Italian?  It just didn’t make sense to me.  Here was a group of people, ethnically identifying with each other, whole families, wanting to celebrate their culture, dance, food and artisans.  The only thing different that I could see, was that a part of the powwow was set aside to honor their veterans…a nice difference, one that I admire with all of my heart.

Three, I wanted to celebrate the language of the American Plains Lakota.  It is a beautiful language, rich in its structure, tone and meaning.  A devotee of words, I savored the language, enjoying such offerings as sni (schnee – no), gleska (glay-shkah – spotted) and wopila (woe-pee-lah – thank you). 
I reveled in the writing, my hands flying across my keyboard as I wove a tapestry of a Native American family, their trials, and their triumphs.
Slowly, slowly, Grandfather Sun began his ascent.  Gliding, floating, he moved above the horizon as blue and lavender and mauve filled the sky.
 Birdsong married with fragrant air, as Wakan Tanka[1]  stretched His fingers across the sky, pushing back the night, heralding the dawning of a new day.

July 18, 2010
6:00 a.m.

          Sonny Glass walked briskly along the slowly awakening street.  He enjoyed the sound of the heels of his cowboy boots against the hard concrete of Uptown Westerville’s sidewalks.  Soon the area would be busy, as the small but vibrant Central-Ohio city came to life.
       Evalena was barely seven-years-old when she electrified friends, family and neighbors with a single act so poignant, it soon became legend within the entire county.  Walking home from the small general store, where she had gone to fetch a sack of cornmeal for her mother, the corner of her eye was caught by a splash of vivid color within the shadows of the single, white, steeple church situated in the center of the small village.  There, in a crevice where the portico of the church joined with the main building, a hummingbird lay struggling within a spider’s web, its bill pressed to its crop, and its wings glued to its body, imprisoned by the tough fibers of the web.  Floundering, fighting for its life, its frantic heartbeat visible beneath its jeweled breast, the tiny animal’s struggle became evident to the young child.  Bending over, she gently released the small creature from its death trap, ripping the web from the foundation of the church.  Imprisoned still within the deadly embrace of the web, the bird thrashed, panic-stricken, within her tiny palm.
       Cupping the small bird gently within the protective shelter of her hands, Evalena, called Lena for short, walked to a large boulder, which lay close by.  Squatting upon the ground, and leaning against the stone for support, she slowly ripped away the gooey strands that held the hummingbird captive.  Working quickly, she gently removed the sticky threads until he was free.  Opening her hands to release him, she rejoiced as he soared into the air, wings beating in a blur of motion, fascinating the child who remained crouched beside the massive rock.
       This, in and of itself, would have stirred the imagination of the villagers, but what impressed them further was the continued presence of the tiny bird.  Whenever Lena ventured along the dusty streets of the village, a brilliant jeweled flash of color would be seen, darting about her head, her shoulders, and occasionally, lighting in the palm of her hand, as if to say, “Here is my protector; here is my mother.”
It has been a fascinating adventure – one that has only increased my addiction to the soul-satisfying genre to which I have become devoted – the novel.
And so, I continue.

[1] Wah-kah Than-kah – Mysterious Creator

Cedar Woman Blurb:
Born in Southern Ohio to parents of the Lakota Sioux, Cedar Woman travels to Columbus, Ohio after tragedy befalls her family.  In the capital city, she meets the woman who will change her, and her family’s, destiny, and because of Cedar Woman’s determination and extraordinary talent, she brings prosperity to her small family.
At age 17, Cedar Woman travels to Keokuk, Iowa and to powwow, where she meets her half-side and learns more of the ways of her people. Upon her return to Columbus, she begins the pursuit of her dream: the opening of the first high-end Native American restaurant in Central Ohio – Cedar Woman.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Night Shadows available today from Echelon Press!

 Today is the launch day for Night Shadows by Stephen L. Brayton from Echelon Press.

When I asked Stephen for some background information, this is what he told me:

I’m intoTaekwondo. In fact in a couple of weeks I’ll be heading off to a black belt camp. I’ve also attended many tournaments and am an instructor here in town. 

Other things: two parents in Centerville (Dad works part time for a funeral home and I went with him one time to collect a body). Mom works for the government part time. One sister and three nieces (the twins’ basketball team, as of right now, are undefeated). I have a 13 pound cat. I live in an apartment house and I’m the only tenant within the last seven years who hasn’t been a criminal. (Okay, I’m not sure about the current tenant across from me, but he works for the landlord and HE’S has been arrested).

I’ve written short stories (four of which have been accepted for publication from Echelon), a couple of novels. Am working on sequels. 

From the above, it's easy to see that Stephen has quite a sense of humor.

About Night Shadow:
Des Moines Homicide detective Harry Reznik teams with F.B.I. agent Lori Campisi to investigate a series of gruesome murders. While dealing with personal problems, the unlikely pair find themselves battling malevolent creatures from another dimension.

And for more about Stephen:

I'm a Fifth Degree Black Belt instructor in the American Taekwondo Association. I started martial arts training in 1991, earned my black belt in 1993, and gained my instructor certification in 1995.

In 1996, I opened up my first taekwondo club in Grinnell, Iowa.

In 2003, I assumed ownership of the club in Oskaloosa, Iowa.

I've written stories for many years, but started seriously while working at a radio station in Kewanee, Illinois. After I moved to Oskaloosa, Iowa, I started attending a writers' group in Des Moines. So much knowledge about writing and critique came out of that group and the others I've enjoyed.

I attended my first conference in 2007, Love Is Murder, In Chicago. Mike Manno introduced me to 'pitches' and we discussed writing and history and law while sharing the drive.

In 2009, while attending the Killer Nashville conference I was fortunate enough to meet Mary Welk of Echelon Press. Subsequent to the conference I submitted two novels to Echelon and in October, they BOTH were accepted for E-publication in 2011.

I'm a reader; a writer; an instructor; a graphic designer; a lover of books, movies, wine, women, music, fine food, good humor, sunny summer days spent hiking or fishing; and I'm a catnip drug dealer to my fifteen pound cat, Thomas. and

And I want to thank Stephen for visiting my blog today and telling me all about himself and a little about his new book.

Stephen Brayton