Friday, September 30, 2011

Guest Review from Carl Brookins/Danger in Deer Ridge

Danger In Deer Ridge
by Terry Odell
e-book available at all the
usual retailers.
released in 2011

All right, so there’s a big fat coincidence at the beginning of the novel. These things happen in real life so why not in crime fiction? The coincidence does not, however, make things easier at the beginning for Elizabeth Parker. Even late into the novel the woman has understandable trust issues. Paranoia is always nearby.

Elizabeth is running from an abusive marriage and has taken her son deep underground. The problem is, that isn’t all she took with her when she disappeared from the relationship and from her home city.

The characters in the novel are well-written, and develop in reasonable and meaningful ways within the fabric of the story, and that includes most of the relatively minor ones. The setting, rural mountainous Colorado is both beautiful and menacing at times. Two major threads, often in conflict, wind through the novel. In order to remain free and see her son develop a normal life, Elizabeth must try to set aside all-encompassing suspicion and mistrust. Beyond that, she has to develop some real relationships. No one can live in society without relating to others, even if it’s just arms-length situations. For Elizabeth, a healthy woman with normal drives, that is difficult. To return to anything approaching a normal life, she also needs to resolve the dangers still associated with her former husband.

Odell has a good handle on Parker character and the themes of the novel.  I look for more worthwhile reading from her.
Carl Brookins Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky

Thursday, September 29, 2011

BETA by Stephen L. Brayton

About Beta: Mallory Petersen, private investigator/martial artists usually finds herself taking cases from the nuttier side of life. However, when she’s hired to find a kidnapped eight year old girl, she steps into a dark world of unspeakable crimes. The trail leads her around the capital city of Des Moines, to the Quad Cities, and back again.

Bio: Stephen L. Brayton owns and operates Brayton’s Black Belt Academy in Oskaloosa, Iowa. He is a Fifth Degree. He's a Black Belt and certified instructor in The American Taekwondo Association.

He began writing as a child; his first short story concerned a true incident about his reactions to discipline. During high school, he wrote for the school newspaper and was a photographer for the yearbook. For a Mass Media class, he wrote and edited a video project.

In college, he began a personal journal for a writing class; said journal is ongoing. He was also a reporter for the college newspaper.

He’s been a radio broadcaster, graphic designer, Echelon Press Editor. He lives in Oskaloosa, Iowa, with his cat named Thomas.

Links: Website:


Book review blog:

Stephen Brayton Interview:

Marilyn: Congratulations, you have a new book out! I always like to know what was the inspiration for this particular book.

This is a tough question and I know I’m going get asked it a lot. Unfortunately, the short answer is – I don’t know. A long time ago when I was na├»ve and clueless, I had written a story featuring Mallory Petersen, private investigator / martial arts instructor, where she tracks down the murderer of her boyfriend. Around 2000 or 2001, the idea for Beta hit me and wouldn’t go away. Maybe I’d heard something on television or the radio or possibly I got inspired by another critique group member’s material. I remember since I already had the character fairly developed, the other characters came pretty easy, the outline flowed fairly smoothly and all I needed was hours of research and several revisions.

Marilyn: Are you planning on doing anything different for the promotion of this book than for your last one?

Ideas such as skywriting and advertising on the New York Times Square marquee flash through my mind, but those might be a tad expensive. I’d love to get actress Maggie Lawson (who I envision as the part of Mallory in the movie) wearing a Sam Spade trench coat and hat accompanying me wherever I go, but I doubt that’s too feasible either. Sigh!

Actually, I’m planning on a book trailer to post on YouTube. With the last book, I had difficulty getting media attention. Since the story is based in Des Moines, Iowa, I’d love to get on the premiere radio station WHO for at least a short segment on one of the morning shows. A nice feature in the Register would be nice, too. I’ll have to focus my efforts on the correct media people.

Marilyn: Something my readers always like to know is, what was your journey to publication?

A bunch of missed flights, lost luggage, rude stewardesses, bad food, hard motel beds…no wait, that was my last vacation.

The road really started in 2006. My critique group was planning on attending the Love Is Murder conference in Chicago in February of the next year. A friend, Katherine Hinkson, and I were the only two in our critique group with stories ready to pitch to the attending agents. Unfortunately, they all accepted submissions, but then subsequently rejected them. So, jump ahead to 2009. The former critique group had faded into nevermore but Katherine hears about a conference in August in Tennessee called Killer Nashville. So, we polish up our pitches (I had two books ready by then) and off we go. It’s a wonderful conference. I meet Mary Welk from Echelon Press who wasn’t originally scheduled to accept pitches, but she ended up talking with authors about short stories and novels.

Throughout September, the three agents I pitched to all rejected me. In October I received an email from the senior editor of Echelon Press saying they wanted not one but both of my books.

Marilyn: Did you always want to be a published fiction writer?

Well, not in the womb, but shortly thereafter, sure, why not?

I wrote a fantasy type story while working my first job out of college but really hadn’t thought about getting published. I also wrote an introductory trilogy for a comic book character but that didn’t go anywhere. Not until I finished Beta did I start seriously considering seeking out publishers. I’ve written for many years off and on, whether short stories, journals, a poem or two. After attending critique groups, I started learning about the writing process, picking up tidbits here and there, and honing my craft. Even after I was accepted by Echelon I still had a lot to learn, i.e. the dreaded editing!

Marilyn: How much of you is in your hero?

Mallory Petersen is the type of person I’d love to be…okay as long as I can remain a male.

Mallory really started out many years ago as Sam P. Petersen, Quad Cities police detective. Then when I started taekwondo in 1990, and the writing bug infected me again, I reconstructed (if that is the correct word) the character. I gave her my height, blonder hair than mine, so many more excellent martial arts skills, a warm and romantic heart, my good sense of humor, and a very sincere sense of empathy.

Marilyn: What advice would you give anyone who wants to be a writer?

Check into the nearest mental health facility, because you are completely, one hundred percent insane. If you don’t think you are, you will be after taking a few steps down this path. However, should you choose to ignore my warning, and rush headlong into the deep, dark, and mysterious world of writing, you will find it the wildest trip you’ve made. Especially if you meet fellow writers along the way. If you’re serious about writing, find a critique group. Start up one yourself. Find people who are focused on improving their writing. In time, you’ll weed out the wannabes and the dabblers. Attend conferences. Killer Nashville has seminars for the beginner to the published wanting more marketing tips. Make contacts because they are invaluable.

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

Don’t let your mother comb your hair when she’s mad at you.

Sorry, old joke. I want to thank you for having me as a guest. I hope everyone checks out my book (ahem, buy it, it’s only $2.99 for heaven’s sake. Lol). May I pass along a warning? Please don’t let the kids read it. The subject matter is sensitive. If you don’t like the book, please tell me, but be gentle, I bruise easily. If you do like it, tell a friend. I also enjoy reading comments because I collect them to feed my ego. Wait, scratch that last part. I mean I collect them to post on my websites.

Oh, and that first story regarding Mallory and her murdered boyfriend? I rewrote it and looking to get it published.

Marilyn: Thank you so much, Stephen, I love your sense of humor. I wish you the best of luck with this latest book.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

More Photos From the Mitchell Family Reunion

At the talent show, Great-grandson, Aaron, showing off his basketball tricks.

Great-granddaughter Peyton doing her Irish dancing--and she's really good.

Great granddaughters Jaslyn and Kay'Lee dancing

Front row, Flossie (100 yrs old), me (niece) Back row, Dixie (daughter), Margie (niece)

Piercy, brother-in law; Margie, my sis; George; cousin, me, Bonnie, George's wife

A lot, but not all, of the females at the reunion.

My daughters, Dana, Lisa and Lori who pulled off and did all the work for our surprise 60th celebration.

A little known fact about the Mitchell Family reunion, no one with the last name of Mitchell has actually come. We do have two cousins with the Mitchell last name and they have offspring. They are always invited but have as yet to make an appearance.

My sister and me and my cousin Barbara were all Mitchells. Lots of Margie's family shows up--all four of her kids were there (only three of mine), and like me lots and lots of grands and great grands. Barbara's one son and her daughter and one grandkid made it.

Not everyone stays until the bitter end and that's when most of these photos were taken.

I promise I'll get back to interviews, writing tips, etc. starting tomorrow.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

What Else Happened at the Family Reunion

We had a great 100th birthday part for my Aunt Flossie. We talked about her life in 10 year segments--put together by my cousin, Dixie and read by her, my sis and me. Dixie's son, Gary, supplied the information about historical facts in history that happened during each decade and different members of the family covered those. Of course we also had wonderful birthday cake. (This was after a lunch of pizza and salad.)

During this time family members were getting their photos taken in the adjoining room, and later the whole bunch of us went out by the pool for a group photo.

Chili I made was for supper as well as chips and a great fruit salad by cousin Dixie, and we all ate again. (Our family reunion includes a lot of eating.) After supper was the talent show. Kids sang and danced, demonstrated karate, did a cheer, and a even a boxing demo.

Then, the grown kids got up and began moving the partition into the next room which was all set up theater style. Two thrones were in front next to a big screen. I had no idea what was going on. One of our girls announced we were celebrating hubby's and my 60th wedding anniversary. We were given royal robes to wear and a crown and told to sit in the throne.

Daughter Lori had prepared a story board about our married life that contained all sorts of candy bars that fit into the tale. How she managed to find all those candy bars is amazing.

Then a slide show of our life from our wedding on--prepared by grandson-in-law Mark. Wow, have we aged.

It was really something and I have no idea when they fixed the room up because it was the same room where the photography happened. I guess while we were taking care of feeding people our evening meal.

A table was set up at the side with huge "diamonds" and we were all served a root beer float. A tradition in our family when all the kids were growing up, root beer floats were how we always celebrated special occasions.

What a grand surprise!

Marilyn, who is still amazed that I had no inkling about what was going on.

P.S. we ended the evening playing a rip roaring game of Estimation--another family tradition.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Just in Time for Christmas

A bunch of us mystery writers are going on tour together from November 25th through December 8th. It's quite an eclectic group--and this time we're being joined by some new author including a few men.

Each of us will have a new author on our blog every day and we will be appearing on another's blog that same day.

This is the schedule for who will be on my blog during that time period:

November 25  Jean Henry Mead
November 26  Jackie King
November 27  Timothy Hallinan
November 28  M. M. Gornell (Madeline)
November 29  Wendy Gager
November 30  Alice Duncan
December 1 -John M. Daniel
December 2  Pat Browning
December 3  Ron Benrey
December 4  Beth Anderson
December 5  Anne K. Albert
December 6  Earl Staggs
December 7  Jinx Schwartz
December 8  Mike Orenduff

And I'll be visiting the following blogs:

November 25 Mike Orenduff
November 26  Jinx Schwartz
November 27  Earl Staggs
November 28  Anne K. Albert
November 29  Beth Anderson
November 30  Ron Benrey
December 1  Pat Browning
December 2  John M. Danile
December 3  Alice Duncan
December 4  Wendy Gager
December 5  M. M. Gornell (Madeline)
December 6 Timothy Hallinan               
December 7  Jackie King
December 8  Jean Henry Mead

Of course when the tour is really on, I'll have clickable links to these various blogs.

If you have readers on your Christmas list, this would be a good chance to do some Christmas shopping, or even to buy yourself a book from an author you haven't read before.

I promise that you'll find out interesting tidbits about these mystery writers and their books.


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Family Reunion

While my posts have been appearing, I've actually been enjoying the Mitchell Family Reunion. I think this is our 4th. We're also celebrating my Aunt Flossie's 100th birthday! She outlived her sister, my mom, by three years.

Two of my great-granddaughters and a niece are in charge of this event. We have lots of cousins who come, my sister and my cousin Barbara are the eldest of the clan now--not counting Margie's and my husband.

We all have lots of offspring and some of them have offspring too. Of course not everyone comes, but enough to make for a rousing crowd.

We meet in Barstow (that's in the middle of the desert on the way to Las Vegas) at a great Holiday Inn Express. We enjoy their great breakfast in the a.m. Two of my daughter's do Friday night's dinner and do my chili for Saturday night. We have all sorts of goodies to eat. This time we'll be spending some time honoring and celebrating the birthday. We always have a talent show--some good talent from the kids and lots of crazy antics from the others. And of course we play games, our favorite being Estimation--my mom's favorite and it always makes us think of her. It's lively and easy and even the kids can play, but even if they don't there are lots of other things for them to do.

I'll post some pics if I can get the camera on my Blackberry to work.


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Central Coast Book Festival

Another early day. Everything went really smoothly and we were all set up by the time people began arriving.

Because it was so beautiful weather wise, lots and lots of people stopped by and talked to me about my books, and many bought one or two.

We were sitting right across from the steps to the San Luis Mission and because it was Sunday, watched everyone going to Mass--and got to hear the old mission bells as they clanged away. We could also hear some of the singing. We were also in a place where we could see and hear all the author readings.

I gave a talk at 11:30, but my knee was still bothering me and going and coming was not easy. I've decided if I attend this event again, I won't bother giving a talk. (I don't even remember signing up for it this time.)

One of the best things about any of these book festivals is talking to people. Because of my knee I didn't stand up to talk--something I usually do--but it didn't matter, many, many folks stopped by. I had lots of business cards on the table and they were all scooped up.

At four o'clock we packed up and headed to the parking garage dragging our two pull-alongs. We got back to the hotel just in time to freshen up and then head out to the Great American Fish Factory at the bay front where we met good friend, Karen Kavanaugh, for dinner. As usual, we had great food and wonderful conversation.

When we returned to our room it wasn't long before we were both asleep. Great weekend, but a bit wearing. When I woke in the a.m., my knee was nearly back to normal.


Friday, September 23, 2011

A Little More About the CC Writers Conference

That was one busy weekend--and because the hotel was in one place and the conference in another--Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo, once we got to the conference spot, that's where we stayed for the day/evening.

It all began finding the La Serena Hotel. It's a great place and we'd stayed there once before. That evening we met Victoria Heckman and her hubby, Dave, and Sue McGinty, and her fellow, for dinner. Thank goodness for my GPS or we'd never have found the place. Good food and great conversation.

We headed over to Cuesta College before noon the next day so I could check my books into the conference book store. Again the GPS guided us, but after we got there we wandered all over the place trying to find the location of the conference--and it's one mighty big campus. Books checked in, checked in for the conference, we ate lunch in the college cafeteria and were joined by friends from Exeter--Gloria and Mary.

The first session in the afternoon was all about Tech Toys and Tools with demos. Also Mark Coker of Smashwords spoke as I wrote about earlier.

The conference chair, Judy Salamacha, introduced folks and began the conference. (She did a wonderful job with this most smoothly run conference.)

The keynote speaker was Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author. He was great and truly impressed me when he said he writes 3 books a year plus a lot of other writing for publication.

There were classes that evening, but I was exhausted and we headed back to our hotel.

The hotel had a free breakfast and we took advantage of it.

Saturday was a busy, busy day. I taught a class at 8:45 to 10:15 on Mystery Writing 101--fun and lots of great people attended, then right after from 10:45 to 12:15 I taught another class on setting, again I loved doing it and the attendees were responsive and fun.

The downside of all this is I'd wrenched my knee some how and it was painful to walk. Fortunately, the college has little carts and volunteers drove people like me up and down the hills to the classrooms and back.

We had box lunches that had way too much food in them. (Most of the time while I was off doing things, hubby was reading a book which he managed to finish by the time the conference was over. He did go with me to some of the main sessions.)

I attended Lauire Mc Leans' workshop in the afternoon as I reported in an earlier blog.

Mark Coker also did the closing session also included in an earlier blog.

From 4:45 to 5:50 was table talks. All the speakers sat at their own table and those who wanted to speak to them did. That was fun. I enjoyed the personal talks with people who had come to my classes.

At 6 p.m. there was a party at a local bookstore--near enough for us to walk from the hotel to the party. Lots of good food, wine to taste, and of course visiting with everyone. (I had to walk slow, but my knee was a bit better.) We didn't stay long, I was absolutely pooped.

Sunday a.m. we were up early once again, grabbed a bite in the breakfast room at the hotel and then jumped in the car to head over to the Central Coast Book Festival. GPS guided us right there. We were able to drive right up to my table and drop everything off. Hubby went off to park the car while I set up my table. More about that tomorrow.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

CCWC Report #3 More from Mark Coker

Print books have lost ground because they are too expensive and the big publishers have archaic business practices. And they are making the problem worse by judging books on their perceived merit.

Big publishers have monopolized the business, they were the deciders, the ones at the pearly gates deciding who got in and who didn't. Bean counters run the publishing business. Unfriendly policies. Broken supply chains.

Books are precious. Books are vessels for cultural preservation. Books are endangered.

Multiple cross-currents of technology are colliding with traditional publishing.

Technology is transforming publishing: faster, smaller, cheaper.

Print books are unaffordable for the rest of the world--the global market.

Mark Coker was great--most definitely a mover and shaker and he sees what the future holds for writers.

Having been e-pubbed for years, I loved hearing all that he had to say.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Report #2 from CCWC, Your Digital Marketing Plan

Laurie McLean, an agent with Larsen Pomada Agency, had a lot to say about promotion and the promotion of e-books. She also helps people with their promotion plan.

Here are some of the tips she gave:

Decide what your goals are. Check your publishing contracts. See if you have back lists title, books that you wrote but never got published that could become ebooks.

Develop your brand. Decide what you unique brand is. Make yourself stand out. Always put your name in the labels or tags on your blog.

If your going to prepare your ebook manuscript for posting on Smashwords, Amazon's Kindle and Barnes and Noble PubIt, format your book correctly for each ebook distributor. Select the best ebook sites. Create POD copies for printed books.

Be sure to have a good cover--pay for someone to do it.

Create cover and inside blurbs.

Solicit endorsements.

Post your ebooks. (Can take a long time.)

Use effective online and offline marketing to increase sales potential.

You must have your own blog and website.

Book reviews especially form online reviewers.

Guest blogs.

Comments on others' blogs.

Video book trailers

Use social media.

Boodreads/Library Thing, be an active part of these communities.

Business Cards.



Press Release--she said this was old school and prefers HARO.

Amazon Author Central

Kindle Boards

Be flexible.

You decide where you are going to do your marketing.

Be yourself, be nice, be a friend, don't spam, just interact.

If you ever have the chance to hear Laurie McLean speak or take a workshop from her, do it, you won't be sorry.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Central Coast Writers Conference Report 1

Here we are in all of our glory. I'm in the first row--2nd from the left, Mark Coker of Smashwords is the fiest one in that row. I'm going to tell you a bit of what he had to say at the conference.

First, look at how young he is--young, and I can tell you that he is very smart and articulate.

Here are some bits from Mark Coker's presentations:

Smashwords is an e-book publisher with a distribution platform.

The author must finish the book, edit it (Smashwords does not edit anyone's work--it's going to be a what you give will be what you get), prepare the cover image.

The author should liberate the text from any complex formatting and layout, designing for flowability.

Leave behind old ideas of book design.

Download and use Smashwords' Style Guide.

The cover image is important because it's the first impression to the buyer.

Should look professional and look good in thumbnail and gray scale.

It's usually best to hire someone to do the cover.

Don't be lazy.

Smashwords formats and converts into e-reading for all devices. It's fast and it's free.

PDF is not e-flowable.

Text needs to shape-shift so the customer can enjoy the book his eay.

Gather the Meta-data.

Title, Book Description, Tags, Category, Price, Cover image, ISBN, Language, Formats

Don't price it too high,

Quality is important.

Smashwords provides the ISBN.

Publishing is Changing.

Reading is Moving to Screens

Bookselling is moving to the Web.

Amazon is wiping out bricks and mortar stores

E-books are replacing print faster than most realize.105 e-books being sold for every 100 printbooks.

Lower cost, more convenient, lots of choices.

Most books sold through word-of-mouth.

Write the best book you can.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Rock Hole, by Reavis Z. Wortham, review by Carl Brookins

Rock Hole
by Reavis Z. Wortham
ISBN: 978-1-59058-884-0
2011 release from Poisoned
Pen Press. HC, 284 pages

A sensitive, suspenseful debut crime novel. Full of twists, wry and earthy humor, it epitomizes the grit, the patience and the perseverance, of middle America.
Folks who grew up in Texas, where the novel is set, or anywhere in the belt that runs from the northwest angle of Minnesota to the Padre Islands and from the middle of Pennsylvania
 to Cody, Wyoming, will recognize themselves in this novel. Their humor, their practicality, their keen natural observations, are all here to savor.

Welcome to 1964. In Center Springs, Texas, farmer and part-time constable Ned Parker is faced with a puzzling series of animal deaths. That they are brutal, atrocious unnecessary
 killings, only adds to the tension and suspense. Across the river, the black deputy, John Washington, is trying to find reasons for the same killings, while also dealing with
 the added difficulties of racism in the county. All these factors entwine to create a real and growing calamity for the small communities in the county surrounding Center Springs.
 As the killings continue, strange footprints are found near bedroom windows and citizens begin to carry weapons and look suspiciously at their neighbors.

Laced with forthright humor, the novel proceeds at a racing pace through event after event as suspicion grows and plot twist after twist keeps readers off-balance
 until the stunning climax is reached. Ned Parker is a real character who carries the story in an authentic and realistic manner.

The novel is not without its problems. Abrupt and annoying changes of points of view are occasionally confusing, but the writing,
 like the stories within the narrative is solid. This is an eminently satisfying novel. I look forward to the next.
Carl Brookins Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Central Coast Book Festival

We'll be up bright and early heading to San Luis Obispo and the Central Coast Book Festival. I've done this one for several years. After all that I've done the past two days, I hope my stamina is up for this. The festival is help right behind the San Luis Obispo mission, right down town. It runs from 9 to 5.

This has always been one of my favorite book festivals. I'll also be giving a talk about "Where I Get My Ideas" I think at 11:30 a.m. in the basement of the museum.

What I like about this festival is the people who come love books.

Again, I know I'll see lots of people I know. If you live in the area, or will be visiting, please stop by and say "hi."

When the day is over, hubby and I will be going back to our hotel for a much needed rest.


Saturday, September 17, 2011

My Presentations at Central Coast Writing Conference

I will be giving two classes--when I last saw the schedule, one was right after the other first thing in the a.m. I function best in the morning so it's really okay.

I'm going to be presenting on "How to Write a Mystery" and "The Importance of Setting--or Where the Heck Are We?"

We are having box lunches at noon and then more presentations in the afternoon, but I can just enjoy them.

I think there's a time when people can just talk to authors, but I'm not sure when that is.

I will have my books for sale, though I must take them to the bookstore myself--that's nothing new for me. That's what happens when you with a small press.

At the end of the day, the conference is having a great party back in Morro Bay for all the staff and volunteers. Looking forward to it--though know my husband and myself--we'll probably poop out early.

It'll be fun to see how all this turns out.


Friday, September 16, 2011

First Day of Central Coast Writers Conference

The conference begins today with a presentation on Tech Toys and Tools at Noon. (This one people had to pay extra to attend.)

I'm going to head over there sometime to get my books into the conference bookstore.

From 5 to 6 is registration and buffet refreshments. The conference beings at 6, and the conference keynot speaker is Jonathan Maberry, New York Times Best Seller.

His topic: Writing: It's All About the People

Because I attend so many conferences that focus on mystery, this is going to be a bit different. I'll be posting on Facebook about the conference. If you don't already, be sure and Follow Me.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Headed to Morro Bay

As you're reading this we'll be driving over to the coast, Morro Bay to be exact. Our first destination in La Serena Hotel, which is the designated hotel for instructors who will be teaching at the Central Coast Writing Conference which begins tomorrow, September 16 at Cuesta College

We've been told that the views are of the bay--but the last time we stayed her, our view was of an upper level parking lot. Hoping for different this time.

Anyone who has followed my blog knows that we really love the central coast and head that way on many occasions. One reason is because I belong to Central Coast Sisters in Crime and I love to join them for their various promotion activities--combining business with pleasure.

Over the years, hubby and I have become good friends with members of that chapter of Sisters in Crime. This evening we'll be having dinner with two of them and their significant others.

Sue McGinty has been a friend for many years and I met her first when I came over to a bookstore in San Luis Obispo to give a talk to the CC sisters.

Victoria Heckman is the other sister we'll be visiting with. I met Victoria at mystery conference in Plano Texas when her boys were in grade school. We've run into each other at other conferences and cons, been on panels together (dangerous), and we were roomies in Anchorage AK at Boucheron.

Both women are fun and excellent mystery writers.

Looking forward to good food and lots of fun conversation.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

On Writing a New Novel

I'm working on a new Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery. No title as yet, but besides the murder, here are the things I want to do.

The RBPD is still under staffed, will that be a factor in what's going wrong in town?

Learn more about Barbara Stickland's pregnancy. Things are not going to go smoothly.

Though Felix and Wendy Zachary's baby girl, Ruby, is perfect, not all is perfect.

A new hire, a female, is paired with Gordon Butler. Does it mean he'll have a new love interests?

Vaughn Aragon is back though on limited duty.

Stacey Milligan will play an important part in an investigation apart from the murder--or is it?

Instead of talking about it, I need to get down to writing.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Killer Nashville Photos

These photos were taken by dear John Nehring.

The first in my panel on POV.

Second photo is my panel on Promotion.

Last photo is of me and some of my favorite writing friends who I seldom get to see but am able to keep in touch thanks to the Internet.

Left to right: Randy Rawls who I met for the first time in Monterey at my very first Bouchercon. And we've been at several other conferences together.

Next is me.

Dear, dear friend Radine Tree Nehring. We had such a delightful time catching up at Killer Nashville. We've met mostly at the now defunct Mayhem in the Midlands, but we also got together at other cons.

And the couple is Chester Campbell and his lovely wife. We've bumped into each other at several Bouchercons.

The best part of any convention or conference is running into old friends.


Monday, September 12, 2011

Planning an Author Event

This was another panel I attended.

Some of their ideas:

Let people know you're having an event through Facebook and E-mail.

Have food. (Never underestimate the power of food.)

Invite the press.

Blurb about yourself and the book.

Join organizations-not just writers groups.

Find the large online book clubs like Goodreads and promote yourself and event there.

I was a bit disappointed in this panel. Here are some of my ideas:

If a regular bookstore isn't interested, have your event in any of the following places:

used book store
senior citizens center
recreation center
coffee shop
local gift shop
art gallery
hotel, bed and breakfast, inn
your own home or someone else's

Find a tie-in with your book to a local place.

Serving food is good--but you could just have coffee and cookies
A cake with your book cover on the top.
You can plan to give a talk, or just visit with the folks as they come in.

Do send out e-mails and even written invitations to those you know who like your books.
Twitter as well as Facebook about the event.

Have plenty of books on hand and be sure to have a couple of pens for signing.

Have a guest book for people to sign and give their email address especially if you have a newsletter.

Anyway, those are some of my ideas.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11 Thoughts

Today we'll all be remembering what happened on 9/11 at the Twin Towers, in the Pennsylvania countryside and the Pentagon. We'll be thinking about all the lives lost on the terrible day.

No matter how tough things may get in our own personal lives, this is a good time to consider how much worse it was for all those who lost their lives and the families and friends who mourn them and miss them.

This is a time when each one of us should tell our family and friends how much we love them because we never know when they could disappear from our lives.

I've been blessed to have a wonderful family and many dear friends and I thank God for each and everyone of them.


Saturday, September 10, 2011

What a Publicist Can Do For You

This was another Killer Nashville panel that I went to mainly to see if a publicist could really do anything for me I wasn't already doing for myself.

The publicist works between the publisher and the reviewer.

Most publicists are hired by the publishing company and/or the author.

An author should expect nothing from the publisher and be surprised by whet they do.

The publicist pitches to local media.

The charge and hourly rate. They will discuss with you what you want and what you are trying to accomplish. The publicist needs to know about the book.

They will work both on the platform and the brand.

They have long term clients and new and emerging writers--and they will think about your career.

They make sure the author does the right thing.

The publicist does not need to be in the same area as the author.

Will coordinate with the author.

My comment, I'm sure they do the job, but I can't afford to hire one, so I'll continue to do what I'm doing.


Friday, September 9, 2011

Fighting in Your Books

One of the panels I attended was about fights in books. Panelists were authors Rick Reed, and Mike Black (also former police officers), Ernie Lancaster, a police sniper, and Stephen Brayton, Marshall Arts Expert.

Think of the violence you can do to hurt your oppoenent.

A person with a knife can hurt you if they get within 21 feet. Knives penetrate Kevlar vests. Kevlar won't stop arrows either.

Pick up on the person's body language. Police are trained to anticipate and react immediately.

The goal is to incapacitate your opponent.

Most policemen are killed b their own guns.

Don't pull a gun unless you're going to shoot--then shoot between the eyes.

A police officer is responsible for every one of his bullets.

Give your characters tough choices.

Do what you can right there, right now.

Dumb to use only your hands. Save your hands. Use whatever you can get into you hands to use as a weapon.

Remember where the characters are fighting--they will be hurt and their clothes will be ruined.

This was a great panel.



Thursday, September 8, 2011

Some Writing Tips from Killer Nashville

Not necessary to write your story in sequence. If a future scene comes to you, write that one then go back.

You need to keep on writing, no matter what.

Think of how the words sounds, do they have coherence and smoothness?'

Don't wait for the muse to show up, write the same time, same place everyday.

When you really get going the time will disappear.

Be thankful that you have the time to write.

Take care of each problem as it comes up--one at a time.

Spend enough time in revision so you really get the feel of the story.

Must be some tension in each chapter.

Write it first, you must do the first draft and then you go from there.

Read it aloud.

Vary the sentence structure.

Forget what your English teacher told you--people speak in fragments.

Look at how writers you like put words together.

Find a critique group to hear your words.

All good advice.


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

My Schedule for the Rest of the Year

Though it may change, this is what's on my calendar now:

Friday and Saturday, September 16 and 17. Central Coast Writers Conference. I'm really excited about this as I'm giving two seminars--one of Setting and the other on How to Write a Mystery.

(We have lots of friends who live in the Morro Bay, Los Osos, and San Luis Obispo area so are looking forward to seeing many of them.)

Sunday, September 18, I'll have a booth at the Central Coast Book Festival in front of the Mission. I'm also giving a talk about Where My Ideas Come From at 11 ish. My focus will be on where the ideas came from for my own books.

The following weekend, September 23-25 we have our annual Mitchell Family Reunion. We're also celebrating my Aunt Flossie's 100th birthday. I'll be taking books and having a mini-book signing.

Saturday, October 8th, is the official book launch for Bears With Us at Books Off Main, on Oak Street right behind the Subway Shop on Main St. I'll be there from 1-4.

Next up, is the Springville Apple Festival, October 15 and 16. I'll have a booth somewhere.

Saturday, October 22nd, I'll be at the Gillis Library in Fresno, CA at 2 p.m.

From October 30 through November 6th, I'll be on a cruise. We're celebrating our 60th wedding anniversary, but plan to talk writing and promotion with the other authors I know who are coming. I'll also take along cards to give to people reading their Kindle.

November 12th it's back to the Central Coast to help the Sisters in Crime chapter celebrate the Sisters in Crime birthday, 11 a.m tl 3 p.m. at the San Luis Obispo, Main Library on Palm St. SLO

On line, I'll be on a Mystery Writers Blog Tour from November 25 through December 8th. More about that to come.

I don't have any firm dates for events in December, but suspect I'll be joining the Porterville Art Association's big Christmas Boutique on one of the early weekends.


Actually, I enjoy doing all these things. Maybe you can visit me at one of these events, and if you live too far away be sure and come to our blog tour.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Meet Morgen Bailey from the UK

Like I do with many folks, I met Morgen through the Internet when I learned about the great interviews she does. I thought it would be fun to turn the tables on Morgen and find out something things about her, so here goes:

Morgen, except for the fact that you do terrific interviews I know very little about you. So here goes with my battery of questions. First, tell me something about your background, including where you live.

Thank you Marilyn. I live in Middle England really; Northampton. About as far away from water as you can get (3 hours) which I don’t quite understand as I love water; every picture (actually subconsciously until a friend pointed it out) in my house contains water. I’m one of two siblings, I have an older brother who’s an IT project Manager and lives in Zurich, Switzerland so I see him 2-3 times a year (birthdays, Christmas; the latter spent in my mum’s kitchen / diner with opposing laptops). My father died September 2011 so she potters while my brother and I chat / type. He’s my IT guru who finally made me buy a Mac and like dieting, I wondered why I didn’t do months ago (the diet hasn’t started yet by the way). Oh and I share my house with my 11-year old Jack Russell / Cairn cross dog who’s very used to me clapping when I’m particularly proud of a line or growling when my website software plays up.

Tell me something about your beginnings as a writer.

I loved English at school and it turned out to be my best subject (to be fair the sciences were never going to be high on my list, especially after my physics teacher told my parents at the first parents' evening that I should give it up!). I was also rubbish at history but enjoyed geography and art (I still have a head I made).

And I do go off at tangents, perhaps I should have said that at the beginning. Writer, beginning, yes. I moved to Northampton in 1990, didn’t know anyone so went to evening classes; computing, languages then in 2005 spotted creative writing on the prospectus. I took a Monday night workshop with crime writer Sally Spedding (can I tout her? - we still keep in touch) and was hooked. In 2008 she moved to Wales and I took over the group and it’s been going ever since; split into critique and writing (with some doing both) it works really well. We all get on well which is so important – and we’re all firm but fair; complimentary alongside “but if you just changed…”.

What genre(s) do you prefer to write in?

I can’t say “all” here can I? I’ve come to think more seriously now about the genres I concentrate on. I like quirky dark and humour and read crime and chick lit so I’m sticking with those really, although I tend to verge to the dark side more, especially when writing second person viewpoint; it just seems to lend itself to gloomy. So I’m sort of thinking of writing humorous crime and watched ‘Mad Dogs’ ( recently and thought “oh yes, I’d love to write this” except I’d write it as prose. I tried in April 2010 and didn’t like the format of script one bit. I liked the story though and have since converted it into the start of a novel, so definitely worth doing. I prefer - the 50,000+ word novel in November project (this year will be my fourth time). Even though I plan to stick to short stories I’d still keep doing it as I’m best with deadlines. If I’m told to do something then I just do it.

What was (is) your path to publication?

Technically it was very easy. I sent out a sheet of 60-word stories to Woman’s Weekly (back when their Fiction Specials were taking 60-worders) and they published the first one on the page (I saw it in the magazine, which I bought anyway, before they sent me the £10 cheque which looked too colourful to cash so I never did). I then thought they would print all the others but it didn’t happen and they’ve rejected everything (which to be fair hasn’t been much) I’ve sent them since. As have Take a Break and My Weekly… and a few others. But hey, that’s part of being a writer. I’ve had some articles published with NAWG (National Association of Writers Groups) – including ones the editor asked me to write – which is great, but is done for free, which is fine as it still gets my name out.

I’ve also had a couple of novels rejected by agents (by email and in person) but now we have the facility of eBooks I’m really excited by that. This sounds like I’ve had hundreds of rejections for appalling writing but it’s less than 30 and pieces I’ve had online recently have been well received so I’m pleased with that. Besides time’s moved on since the rejections and I know now that I wasn’t presenting the best I can do. Whilst it may seem that I was wasting the editors’ / agents’ time, and mine, it was a learning curve. Now I employ an editor who, like me, is firm but fair so I’m confident with the books I’m getting together to go online. That’s it’s… they’re ‘me’.

What do you most like to do for promotion?

Twitter is fun and it’s amazing how pared down you can be (140 characters) when you have to. I’m also on Facebook which is more of a ‘family’ atmosphere but useful for posting photos and having longer chats (the initial limit I think is 450 characters but then replies can be longer). I’m a fair newcomer to LinkedIn but belong to over half a dozen different writing groups and have got to know some great people. Really I’d say that I’ve gained interviewees, spotlighters etc from all three sources. The test will be when I have something for sale. I’ve built up the contacts and I’m sure they’ll help spread the word but I’m very conscious of not outstaying my welcome and plan to chat / provide info 90+% of the time, tout 10% max. The quickest way to lose followers on Twitter is by touting. Besides I’m a rubbish saleswoman. You don’t want it? Really? Oh, OK. That kind of thing. :)

When you aren’t writing, what do you enjoy?

Sadly I do little writing… at the moment anyway. I do in my fortnightly workshops and in another monthly group I belong to but it’s things like NaNoWriMo and that I do my chunks of writing – see earlier reference to being good at deadlines. :)

What would you like my blog readers to know about you?

That I can flip a dozen coins from the back of my right elbow, bark like a seal and always seem to have a sunburned nose? Oh, OK, not that sort of information. Ummm… OK well, I assume that your readers will enjoy writing so I’d just say that I live and breathe it and whilst I should get more sleep than I do, I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else… perhaps somewhere a little warmer would be nice (it’s August bank holiday weekend and I’m sitting here with 4 layers, jeans, socks and fleeced slippers, considering putting the heating on except that it’s nearing midnight and I should be going to bed). Having left school over (coughs) years ago not knowing what I wanted to do “when I grew up” I finally feel that I have… and I couldn’t be happier (OK, with a few eBook sales under my belt, my smile may be a little wider).

Is there anything you always wished someone would ask you but no-one ever has? If so write the question and answer it.

This is funny. It’s a question I’ve asked twice. The first time to novelist Marika Cobbold at a Bloomsbury panel event when I was volunteering at the November 2010 Chorleywood Literature Festival (my old stomping ground) – from memory her answer was why she hasn’t won the Booker… or it might have been the Nobel (we kept in touch so I could ask her) and then via an online Q&A with that year’s Booker winner Howard Jacobson and his reply was, from memory, about why he’s so dashingly handsome (which is why he won the Booker for his comedic novel).

I suppose the first thing that comes to mind is “Will you marry me?” No-one has, although I’ve had a couple of near misses (pardon the pun). Actually it turned out for the best as these things often do. I suppose if I was approached by a top agent or publisher to see my work now I wouldn’t have to hesitate long before clicking on ‘send’.

Do you have a goal that you have yet to achieve?

In the short term it would be having my eBooks online. So far my writing has made me very little money (no, really VERY little) – do I hear the sound of violins in the background? But to me it’s not about the money (really, it’s not). I just want people to read what I write which is the whole point of being a writer isn’t it. And as I’m planning to list everything at 99p I hope that a few will take the risk. Yes, I’d live to give up the day job but I’m luckier than most as I do 2.5 days with a job sharer so I get 4.5 days a week to do exactly what I want and 99% of that is writing-related. I think we all dream of paying off the mortgage, maybe even having a second house by the sea (Brighton or Norfolk for me; yes, I’ve thought about it… a lot) but who knows what the future holds but at least with eBooks we have some control over it and in that respect, I can’t wait. :)

And sort of a P.S.:

A group of girlfriends and I saw a clairvoyant recently (their idea although it was fun) and other than a couple of things that haven’t panned out, some of the things the lady said were spookily accurate (my love of water, she said “having swum the Channel”… actually she said the Channel as she said it felt a long way, it was actually a mile but it was 132 lengths of a 25m pool which is quite a way, especially as I couldn’t touch the edges or put my feet down – and at the end I expected a trophy but got a little black square cloth badge, which is in my loft somewhere, sitting in a box with a swimming medal presented by the late actor Sir John Mills so I can’t complain!). I’m still not sure about the hieroglyphics she mentioned (but didn’t know what they were) but I guess I’ll find out or not… maybe I’ll have a book signing by the Pyramids. :) She also said that August 2012 would be a turning point in my artistic career and a load of us (all but three of us are writers, the rest are readers) are going to Edinburgh Book Festival that month, which will also be my 45th birthday so we shall have to wait and see. Well, not ‘wait’ because I’ll be too busy with my eBooks. :)

Thank you Marilyn. It was fun to be on the receiving end.

And thank you, Morgen, it was great fun learning so much about you. When you have your books ready to promote, let me know!


Monday, September 5, 2011

Happy Birthday, Hubby!

Today is my husband's birthday. We've been a pair for nearly 60 years.

His childhood was far different from mine: brought up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland in a small town, only child raised by a grandmother and a maiden aunt and widowed aunt, mother passed away when he was 5, father visited, had lots of cousins. Left home when he was 18 and joined the Navy.

I grew up in the big city of Los Angeles, had a sister, raised by my mom and dad. Had some cousins but not nearly as many as my husband.

When I was a senior in high school, I was called by a friend and asked if I'd like to go on a blind date. Of course I would--my friends walked half way to meet me and that was the first time I saw this cute sailor. He kind of looked like Frank Sinatra with sleepy eyes like Robert Mitchum.

Stationed at the Hueneme Seabee Base, he came to visit me almost every weekend after that.

We married back in his home town that same year. The following year, in August, we had our first child--the only one born on the East Coast.

We had four more kids after that, all born in California.

We've been through a lot, he was startioned all over the world--places I couldn't go, and he served three tours of duty in Viet Nam.

He's a great piano player and singer.

He retired after 20 years in the Seabees. Worked at Sears for 15. We moved to where we live now and together ran a home for developmentally disabled women for over 20 years.

I've always known he loves me. He's always been a good provider--and he can do just about anything, though he's slowed down a bit.

Happy Birthday, dear hubby and best friend.

Love you so much,


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Some Comments the Future of Publishing

One of the panels I attended was on the topic of what was going to happen with publishing in the future.

The moderator was definitely against e-publishing--the others had some interesting comments.

Mass-market is disappearing and being replaced by Trade Paperbacks.

E-books are definitely making a dent in the brick and mortar books stores. I though it was interesting, the manager of Barnes and Noble who manned the book store was reading on his Nook during most of the conference. He said the Nook is saving Barnes and Noble.

One woman warned about flipping prices on your e-books, that the readers may object.

Some folks are said to read the e-book and if they like it, buy the paperbook.

Overall book sales have risen.

Big publishers are unrealistic about the price of a hardcover which might be anywhere from $25 to $30.

E-books are bringing in more readers.

What publishers bring to the table is quality control.

It was mentioned that some of the e-books are drek because they haven't been edited.

Some agents are becoming rights managers--others have turned into e-publishers.

Change is going on, that's for sure, change is always inevitable.

Since I've been writing and getting published I've seen major changes think:

Carbon paper/Copiers
Snail mail/E-mail
THE INTERNET--brought on the biggest change in so much.

None of the panelists really new what the future of publishing would bring.


Saturday, September 3, 2011

Happy Birthday, Little Sister!

My sister was born when I was five. Up to that time I'd been a spoiled only child--first grandchild for my mom's parents. Despite the fact that I was born during the depression, life seemed wonderful.

I remember nothing about my mom being pregnant, what I do remember is the tiny baby that she brought home with lots of dark hair. I was no longer quite so special.

My sister was darling. As a little girl, she reminded everyone of Margaret O'Brien--a famous child star of the time period. I told everyone at school she was a princess and a refugee from the war (World War II was going on at the time) and that she was living with us to keep her safe. I doubt anyone believed that since I was known for telling "tall tales." Everyone, but my sis--for years she thought she was adopted.

We didn't really get along all that well. For a long while we shared a room which we divided down the middle. I was neat--she wasn't. She loved to throw stuff over on my side.

Once she stole my diary and shared it with everyone she could find.

I left home to get married right after high school so I missed out on a lot that was going on in her life. When I had my first child, my parents and sis drove all the way across country to visit. I was happy to see them all.

She married right out of high school too, but I missed the wedding.

I had two children before this happened. After that every time she was pregnant, I became pregnant three months later. I can assure you it wasn't on on purpose.

She had three kids, I ended up with five. All of her natural born children were boys and she desperately wanted a girl, so she adopted one.

As time went on, we because good friends. She was so helpful to me when I first started writing. She went to a critique group with my manuscript because I couldn't find a group where we lived.

Our children all grew up, married and started homes of their own, and we moved to the town where we live now--and not long after so did my sis and her entire family. For awhile, we had a great time doing all sorts of things together.

Mom and Dad moved up here too. Dad wasn't in good health. Mom, my sis, and I all went to Hawaii on a wonderful tour, a time we'll all remember. Dad passed away. We had a huge party for mom's 80th birthday, What a hoot, over 100 people came.

My sis's kids all moved to Las Vegas to find jobs taking the grandkids with them. My sis couldn't stand it so she and her hubby moved there too. Once they got settled, they took mom too.

We visit often, even though the drive to Vegas is horrendous and keep in touch via the phone and email.

For the last three years we've had a family reunion in Barstow which is a good middle meeting ground. We both have lots of grandkids and great-grandkids. Cousins come too. The next one will be the end of this month.  And in November, we're going on a cruise together to celebrate my husband's and my 60th wedding anniversary. I'm really looking forward to the cruise and spending a lot of time with my sis.

Happy, Happy Birthday, Margie

Love you,


Friday, September 2, 2011

Walking a Different Beat by Kathy Bennett

Most police agencies have sections, grids, or areas where officers are assigned to work. It might be something as simple as being assigned to work ‘Beat A’, or assigned the ‘south’ beat. In the LAPD, patrol beats are broken up into Basic Car Areas. The last Basic Car area I worked was 17A67. The terminology isn’t the same – but the mission is.

I’ve been seriously writing novels for about thirteen years. When I was working patrol as a Los Angeles Police Officer, I didn’t have much time to write. I worked twelve-hour shifts from six at night until six-thirty in the morning. Often I’d have court after work. If I had any free time, it was spent sleeping and not writing.

I worked other assignments, but family responsibilities caring for my brother who was handicapped after a near-fatal stroke, and later, my mother who has Alzheimer’s disease, left me little time to write. In fact my retirement, in part, was to give me more time to care for my mother.

But over the years I’d managed to complete a couple of novels. One of them was, in my mind, good stuff and publishable. I’d sent the book to a couple of publishers and agents and received positive feedback. Several requested to see the whole book but ultimately decided the book wasn’t for them.

About nine months ago I began to hear a lot about writers doing well by self-publishing their books on Amazon and at Barnes and Noble. Intrigued, I investigated – after all, I WAS a cop! However, I kept my investigation to myself. In all of my writing ‘career’ self-pubbed authors were not thought of as ‘real’ authors and were quietly ridiculed.

Making a long story short, what I discovered was that the idea of self-publishing my book held great appeal. The biggest factor for me was having complete control…and what cop doesn’t like having control? The more I learned, the more I was sold on the idea of self-publishing my book. I opted to publish A Dozen Deadly Roses as an e-book only. I knew if the book was a success, it was a testament to my hard work. If the book tanked – I had only myself to blame.

I published my book in June of 2011. As of this writing (in August 2011) I’m currently on the Barnes and Noble Top 100 Nookbooks list. I’m also currently #15 on Amazon’s Top Police Procedural Stories list. I’ve popped on and off of Amazon’s Top 100 Suspense books list…and I’m hoping with some extra promotion, I can get a good footing there too. But that’s been my experience. There are many other self-published authors doing better. There are many others not enjoying that level of success.

By the same token, there are traditionally published authors in both large and small publishing houses who have achieved a high level of success, and those who have not. My point being…

There are a number of ‘beats’ you can walk to achieve your mission of putting your stories in a stranger’s hand. You just have to find the shoes that fit your feet so you can walk that beat and be comfortable while doing so.

Many thanks to Marilyn for letting me visit and tell my story.

And I want to thank Kathy for coming on today. Do read her bio below:

Kathy Bennett is no stranger to murder and mayhem. After twenty-one years as a Los Angeles police officer, this recently retired cop’s authentic crime experience results in arresting stories.

As a police officer, most of Kathy’s career was spent working patrol in a black and white police car. Prior to retirement, Kathy was assigned as a Senior Lead Officer, with approximately five square miles in the San Fernando Valley her responsibility regarding crime and quality of life issues.

Kathy also served as a Firearms Instructor at the LAPD Police Academy, a crime analyst in the ‘War Room’, a Field Training Officer, and worked undercover in various assignments. She was named Officer of the Quarter twice, and Officer of the Year once.

She’s married to a Los Angeles Police Officer, Rick and they have one daughter and one granddaughter.

Kathy likes to go hiking with Rick and their three Labrador Retrievers, incorporating photography into many of their adventures. Attempting to recapture some of the excitement of working the streets, Kathy can periodically be found in Las Vegas risking a few bucks on a slot machine or at the blackjack tables.

Kathy is currently revising her second book – a suspense novel. That book, Deadly Blessing, is expected for release either late 2011 or early 2012.

A Dozen Deadly Roses - Top 50 Nookbook at Barnes and Noble!

A Dozen Deadly Roses - Top 25 in Police Procedurals at Amazon!

(Kathy attended the PSWA conference for one day and unfortunately, illness caused her to have to cut short her attendance. I was so sorry not to have the opportunity to really get to know her. Maybe next year?)