Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Alice Duncan Discusses the Settings for her Novels

Award-winning author Alice Duncan lives with a herd of wild dachshunds (enriched from time to time with fosterees from New Mexico Dachshund Rescue) in Roswell, New Mexico. She's not a UFO enthusiast; she's in Roswell because her mother's family settled there fifty years before the aliens crashed. Alice no longer longs to return to California, although she still misses the food, not to mention her children, one of whom is there and the other of whom is in Nevada. Alice would love to hear from you at And be sure to visit her Web site at
Settings are very important to me as an author, perhaps because I write historical novels. I want my readers to immerse themselves in the period during which my stories takes place, and they can’t do that if I don’t make the settings clear from the get-go.
At the moment, I have three historical cozy series going. One (my “Spirits” series) is set in Pasadena, California (my home town) in the early 1920s.
The second is the “Angels” series, set in Los Angeles, California, in 1926.
The third is the “Pecos Valley” series, set in Roswell, New Mexico (where I now live) in 1923, although I call Roswell Rosedale in the books.
I particularly enjoy writing books set during the ‘twenties (can you tell?) because so much was going on at the time. The Great War, also called the War to End All Wars (ha), had just ended; many young people felt jaded and helpless to affect their lives in any substantive way (hence, the “Lost Generation”); women were beginning to assume more freedoms—we females here in the USA got the vote in 1920 (Turkey allowed their women to vote in 1918, but who’s keeping track?); Prohibition was supposed to be the law of the land; motion pictures were all the rage, as was spiritualism; there was a financial depression going on (yes, in the ‘twenties); older people despaired of the youth of the day; anarchists seemed to be running wild here and abroad; and skirts had taken a shocking hike upward. “Bright Young Things” routinely drove their parents wild; pretty much everyone had an automobile; radio was just beginning; baseball truly was America’s pastime; and most towns had both a baseball team and a brass band. An absolutely fascinating decade!
Naturally, although I am very familiar with Pasadena, having been born and reared there, I had to do tons of research into Pasadena in the 1920s. But that was just fun. Every time I visit Pasadena, which I do as often as possible, I spend at least a day or two downstairs in the Periodical Room reading magazines from the ‘twenties. Daisy Gumm Majesty, protagonist in my “Spirits” books, is a child of her time, but since she has to support her war-injured husband, she had no use for folks who fritter their time away in speakeasies and so forth. I love Daisy.
I had to do a lot of research about Los Angeles, too, but I enjoy research. Mercedes Louise Allcutt, protagonist of my “Angels” books, is a transplanted Boston Brahmin who wants to learn about the “real” world (as opposed to her ivory tower in Boston). In doing this, she actually takes a job, something no female in her family has ever done before, thereby earning the wrath of her family. She works for a jaded ex-cop, current P.I., Ernie Templeton. Mercy’s aim in life is to become a private investigator’s assistant and write gritty crime novels.
My Roswell/Rosedale books were a bit easier when it came to research, since my mother was born in Roswell, NM, in 1913 and spent her youth here, only leaving in the early ‘thirties to live with her sister in Altadena, California, and get a job. Jobs have always been hard to find in Roswell. Anyway, she told me all about Roswell as it was when she was a little girl, and it sounded kind of like a rugged western town in the 1880s. Roswell is still, as it was then, isolated from any larger city by at least 200 miles. Poor Annabelle Blue, my protagonist in the “Pecos Valley” books feels her isolation keenly, and really wants to have an adventure or two before she gets old and gray.
Anyhow, here are links to my three books that were published this year, one from each series:
· PECOS VALLEY REVIVAL (featuring Annabelle Blue and set in Roswell, NM, in 1923):  
· FALLEN ANGELS (featuring Mercedes Louise Allcutt and set in Los Angeles, CA, in 1926):
· GENTEEL SPIRITS (featuring Daisy Gumm Majesty, and set in Pasadena, CA, in 1922):

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

W. S. Gager's Take on Setting as Character

            Can setting really be a character in a book? A year ago I would have said no, at least not in my books. I’m a minimalist when it comes to setting. You won’t find long paragraphs of description or colorful prose. I try to layer elements of setting among dialogue and action scenes. My goal, if successful, is to have a line or two or description and then the reader’s imagination fills in the blanks. That’s what I want to happen because when I’m reading I skip long passages of description. With such small bits and pieces of places, how could a setting take on a bigger role?

You create a town that is out to get you main character. In doing so, I’ve had to revise my view on setting a bit. In A CASE OF HOMETOWN BLUES the town itself rose from the pages and seemed to be attacking my sleuth, Mitch Malone, at every turn.

To understand this, I need to give you a bit of the plot. Mitch is forced to return to his hometown to teach a seminar then stumbles into the local watering hole and into his class reunion in full swing. Problems start when the former Homecoming queen takes a shine to the crime beat reporter and Mitch, with a chip the size of the town on his shoulder, rubs it in his bully cousin’s face that he lost the beauty and she now prefers the man with the famous byline. The queen is found dead the next morning and his cousin’s best friend is now the police chief who wants to throw Mitch in jail.

The town dredges up memories of the reporter’s past that he had buried long ago including the death of a childhood friend and his parents. As he walks down Main Street he feels all eyes on him and he can still name all the establishments from his youth including the Malone Hardware store that his uncle owns. As he tries to clear his name, the town begins to close in on him. People come to his aid without asking and he doesn’t know how to handle it. He wants to run back to the city but can’t go without the story and pending charges. As Mitch faces the bullies that made his life miserable as a child, he realizes the adults are much different and this murder is no childish prank and his name is next on the list.
Okay, that was a long synopsis but Mitch doesn’t know how to accept the kindness of his classmates or former neighbors. He knows he must visit where the beauty’s body was found but the local park carries memories he’s buried deep, or so he thought. The good ones where he played cops and robbers and the bad where his best friend leaped off an embankment into the river on a dare and Mitch’s CPR wasn’t good enough to save him. For the reader to understand Mitch’s anguish, the trees need to come alive and reach out to grab him figuratively as he struggles against the demons he has tried to forget.
While writing A CASE OF HOMETOWN BLUES, the struggle to add the description warred with my minimalistic attitude. I went through and added and deleted several times trying to make the descriptions seamless as if I was describing someone’s hair and eye color. Did I succeed? Jury’s still out. What do you think about setting? Can it hijack a book?


A Case of Hometown Blues

By W.S. Gager

“A Case of Hometown Blues” Synopsis

When Pulitzer-winning reporter Mitch Malone's editor presses him for a favor, Malone breaks his vow to never return to his hometown. It seemed simple enough--lead a seminar for Flatville, MI's newspaper, keep a low profile and get back to the city post haste. But memories of his parents' death swarm him, and, to avoid solitude, he stops for a beer. In the crowded bar, Mitch is dismayed to see many of his former classmates--including the still-lovely Homecoming Queen, Trudy. Once the object of his teenage crush, Trudy joins Mitch. He quickly realizes she is upset and inebriated. Always the gentleman, Mitch sees her safely home, and returns to his B&B, still trying to shake memories of his parents' sad demise. The next day, he is stunned to learn Trudy was murdered and he is the prime suspect. The locals treat the murder charge as a slam dunk, and Mitch realizes he must track down the real killer to keep his butt out of jail. As he investigates, facts he thought he knew about his family unravel, and danger ratchets up. Can Mitch discover the truth that will allow his parents to rest in peace, or will he be resting with them?

Author Bio
W.S. Gager has lived in Michigan for most of her life except when she was interviewing race car drivers or professional woman's golfers. She enjoyed the fast-paced life of a newspaper reporter until deciding to settle down and realized babies didn't adapt well to running down story details on deadline. Since then she honed her skills on other forms of writing before deciding to do what she always wanted with her life and that was to write mystery novels. Her main character is Mitch Malone who is an edgy crime-beat reporter always on the hunt for the next Pulitzer and won't let anyone stop him, supposedly.


"A Case of Hometown Blues" by Jackson author W.S. Gager (Oak Tree Press, $14.95) is the third in her series about Mitch Malone, who was twice nominated for a Pulitzer Prize Investigative Journalism Award. This oversized paperback is set in the small fictional town of Flatville, Mich., where Malone grew up. He's returned to give a seminar on investigative journalist techniques.The seminar is the same weekend as Malone's high school reunion, but he really doesn't want to participate. A classmate's body is found and Malone becomes the prime suspect.While Gager's highly entertaining tale wraps up a little too neatly, it's still solid escapism by a promising new talent.

Ray Walsh

owner of East Lansing's Curious Book Shop,

has reviewed crime novels and noir thrillers since 1987.

In A Case of Hometown Blues by W.S. Gager, Mitch Malone is forced to return to his hometown of Flatville to conduct seminars for a sister newspaper’s staff regarding finding big stories and working sources. This is the last place Mitch wants to visit; it holds too many memories, and they aren’t things he wants to dwell on--ever. Unfortunately for him, sometimes life forces us to look back and face the past. Coming up against resentment from the local reporters, he accepts a challenge to find a big story in this small town. It turns out to be a life-changing challenge he’ll never forget.

When an old high school classmate is murdered, Mitch becomes a murder suspect and he begins to learn that this sleepy little town holds some surprisingly huge secrets. He has to put all of his expertise as a big city reporter to the test while setting aside his personal feelings about the people who reside in Flatville. W.S. Gager has created some twists and turns in this story that kept me glued to each page. I don’t want to give away any of the secrets, so let me just say that this is a “must read” book. I recommend adding it to your library at the first opportunity.

--Marja McGraw

Author of Bogey Nights and Sandi Webster Mysteries

A Case of Hometown Blues finally explains why you can’t go home again - It could get you killed. In this third installment of the Mitch Malone series, Malone doesn’t actually get killed, but it isn’t for lack of people trying. Mitch returns to his home town just in time for the class reunion from hell. The reasons he left never to return bubble up from his memory along with corpses both old and new. Our intrepid reporter has to confront a death he had buried in his subconscious, prove he didn’t commit the current murder he is charged with, and reconstruct a personal and town history worthy of a Tennessee Williams story.  A Case of Hometown Blues is fast-paced and full of surprises as Malone ties to unravel the sordid past of Flatville before he becomes unwound himself.

J. Michael Orenduff

Author of “The Pot Thief” Series & Winner of the Lefty and EPIC awards

Contact Information                                 Available At




Facebook keyword: wsgager                        Robbins’ Booklist, Greenville

ISBN:  978-1-61009-017-9                         Country Squire Pharmacy, Fremont

Barnes & Noble, Norton Shores &

    Grand Rapids area stores

Schuyler’s Books, Grand Rapids


A Case of Accidental Intersection

By W.S. Gager

 “A Case of Accidental Intersection” Synopsis

Mitch Malone hates hospitals, but when a suspicious traffic accident lands a comatose victim in the hospital, he must put that aside to find the truth. The surface looks smooth but the more the crime beat reporter looks the more bodies pop up, including a private detective and his own editor.  Can he get to the truth before the surviving victim is murdered in her hospital bed and an elderly witness has a heart attack? Will he get his exclusive printed before he's the next victim?


“W.S. Gager has a winner with the second in the Mitch Malone series. Full of well-written twists and turns, and a double shot of suspense. Gager’s experience as a reporter shines through every page as she weaves a compelling murder mystery. A smart and entertaining jewel of a novel.”

--Holli Castillo, Author of Gumbo Justice


First Place - Public Safety Writers Association Writing Contest – 2010

Author Bio
W.S. Gager has lived in Michigan for most of her life except when she was interviewing race car drivers or professional woman's golfers. She enjoyed the fast-paced life of a newspaper reporter until deciding to settle down and realized babies didn't adapt well to running down story details on deadline. Since then she honed her skills on other forms of writing before deciding to do what she always wanted with her life and that was to write mystery novels. Her main character is Mitch Malone who is an edgy crime-beat reporter always on the hunt for the next Pulitzer and won't let anyone stop him, supposedly.

Contact Information                                 Available At




Facebook keyword: wsgager                        Robbins’ Booklist, Greenville

ISBN:  978-1-892343-70-3                         Country Squire Pharmacy, Fremont

Barnes & Noble

Schuyler’s Books, Grand Rapids


A Case of Infatuation

By W.S. Gager

A Case of Infatuation Synopsis

Crime Beat Reporter Mitch Malone's rules are simple: He never lets the blood and guts he covers bother him. He always works alone. And he hates kids.
Mitch breaks all three rules when he unwittingly agrees to smuggle a potential witness out of a suburban Michigan home while police investigate a mob-style hit that's left two dead bodies. Mitch sends his intern (a real hottie, but nonetheless an interloper) to interview neighbors, hoping to throw her off, but when he finds the pint-sized survivor the killer overlooked, he decides she might be helpful. When the FBI accuses him of the murder, Mitch goes into hiding with the bombshell intern who doesn't talk and the precocious preschooler. Mitch works his contacts to regain his freedom from his roommates only to find they each hold keys to a bizarre story of disappearances, terrorists and the perfect hamburger recipe.


“Great combination of gritty prose and sparkling dialogue along with a most intriguing and unusual plot makes W. S. Gager's debut crime novel a true page-turner. Highly recommended!”

F. M. Meredith, author of No Sanctuary


First place in the Dark Oak Mystery Contest

Second Place - Public Safety Writers Association Writing Contest – Published, Fiction-Judges Comments – 2010

“A Case of Infatuation was refreshingly fun, yet still suspenseful. I absolutely loved the main character, newspaper reporter Mitch Malone. The writer did such a good job of making him a likable guy, despite his quirks, that I was in his corner, and by the end of the novel, wanted to read more. “

“The plot moves along at a good pace, revealing just enough details and facts to keep you from putting the book down. The writer has a unique writing style, reminiscent of the Hollywood film noir of the 40's and 50's in keeping with the plot and characters, and kept me entertained and reading along until the very end.”

“This is an excellent first novel by W.S. Gager, and I can't wait to see what crazy antics and trouble Mitch gets himself into in the next one.”

ISBN:  978-1-892343-58-1

Monday, November 28, 2011

M.M. GornellTalks About Setting as it Applies to Her

Thank you, Marilyn, for hosting me on your blog! As you know, I enjoy reading your books very much—and your writing and promotions activities have been guiding lights for me. So, I’m especially pleased to be here and participating in this Mystery We Write Blog Tour.

I’m also pleased to have the opportunity to talk about setting. As a reader, a key ingredient for my enjoyment of a book (along with characters) is being “taken away.” For example, my favorite author is P.D. James. I just love being transported to her wonderful locations in Britain. And seeing London through the eyes of her protagonist Adam Dagleish (and others) are the most enjoyable reading experiences I’ve ever had.

In my own writing, the first excitement and kernel of an idea for each of my books has come from a location that has reached out, grabbed me, and wouldn’t let go. I know that sounds “over the top,” and it’s not the whole story, but so far, my novels have started because a location said, “Me! Me! Write about me.” From there, my writing goal is to make the location also come alive for the reader. Have them see, taste, smell, hear what’s unique about this particular setting.

I lived in North Bend, WA for a long period of time, in a rural area east of Seattle, WA. While walking my dogs, one particular spot always caught my fancy, and the idea for Uncle Si’s Secret was born on the Snoqualmie Valley Trail. Then when looking for a new home, my husband and I (and two dogs) lived in the Ridgecrest, CA area, and while house-hunting, there was a particular spot on Interstate 14 we often passed. It was an odd collection of rag-tag dwellings that just seemed to speak to me. That turned out to be the inspiration for Death of a Perfect Man. Then came Reticence of Ravens which was born in the Mojave, maybe a mile down the road from where I live. My inspirations for Lies of Convenience were a tiny building near my local Post Office (also a tiny little building!), and a ramshackle Quonset hut, again down the road a bit. I can say with certainty, Route 66 has “locations” galore begging to be written about and brought “alive” for my readers through my characters eyes and experiences.

Marilyn, it’s been fun posting on your Blog, thanks for the visit!

Madeline (M.M.) Gornell has three published mystery novels—PSWA awarding winning Uncle Si’s Secret (2008), Death of a Perfect Man (2009), and her latest release, Reticence of Ravens (2010)her first Route 66 mystery. Reticence of Ravens is a 2011 Eric Hoffer Fiction finalist and Honorary Mention winner, the da Vinci Eye finalist, and a Montaigne Medalist finalist.

She continues to be inspired by historic Route 66, and has recently completed Lies of Convenience, which hopefully will have a 2011 winter release date. It is a tale that fictionally connects murder, truths untold, and Chicago’s Lake Michigan with California’s high desert on the opposite end of The Mother Road. Madeline is also a potter with a fondness for stoneware and reduction firing. She lives with her husband and assorted canines in the Mojave in a town on internationally revered Route 66.

Madeline’s books are available at, Barnes &, and Smashwords, in paper and e-book formats. You can visit her online at her website, or her BLOG, or email her directly at

Buy link for Reticence of Ravens:

P.S. from Marilyn:
Madeline has become a special friend to me and my husband. We met at a book fair, saw each other again a a mystery conference, then the Public Safety Writers Conference--since then we've been neighbors at book festivals and other places and learned to enjoy one another's company. That's one of the pluses of being a mystery writer.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Setting the Scene by Timothy Hallinan

Marilyn asked that we write about setting, which is lucky for me because it's something I think about incessantly.  I want to open with a generalization: The same setting is different to different people.  That's one of the most wonderful things about it

Specifically, I'm fortunate in that I write two series, both of which have rich settings.

The Poke Rafferty mysteries, the most recent of which is THE QUEEN OF PATPONG, center on an American “rough travel” writer who's settled in Bangkok and is trying to build a family with the former bar worker he married and the little girl he and his wife have adopted off the streets.  Bangkok is one of God's gifts to a writer looking for a setting, one of the most energetic, contradictory, exotic (and sometimes surprisingly ordinary) places on earth.

My other hero, Junior Bender, on the other hand, lives in the San Fernando Valley, which, at first sight doesn't seem as promising as Bangkok; I doubt that few people would call the Valley, which is essentially one big, declining suburb, fascinating.  But Junior is a crook—he's a top-of-the-line burglar who moonlights as a private eye for other crooks—and the Valley he experiences is not only fascinating, but also occasionally hair-raising.   The little stucco house on the corner, the one with the dusty ivy surrounding it, looks quite different to someone when he's walking up to the door with no idea whether he'll be alive a moment after it opens.  Quite a lot of the new Junior book, LITTLE ELVISES, happens in the richest, whitest, dullest part of the Valley, the expensive streets above Ventura Boulevard.  But to Junior, this is where the crime lords live.

Let me go back to that opening generalization.  The same setting is different to different people.

To Poke Rafferty, trying to create the first real home he's ever had, Bangkok is endlessly surprising, often threatening, and frequently bewildering.  As a middle-class American, he's keenly aware that he doesn't really know the rules.  To his wife, Rose, it's the city she ran to when she had to abandon her small village in the northeast to make money for her family, both bitter and sweet at the same time.  To their daughter, Miaow (like the sound a cat makes), who was abandoned on a Bangkok sidewalk at the age of three, it's a city she learned at knee-level, and a city full of escape routes.  Small, unprotected children need a lot of escape routes.

But the two continuing themes in the series are the main characters' effort to make their mismatched little family work, and Poke's attempt to really enter the world of Bangkok.  He's written books on The Philippines and Indonesia, but he's aware that he saw those cultures as though they were on the other side of a department-store window; and now, to make his marriage work (and, at times, just to stay alive) he has to find a way through the glass.

Junior grew up in the San Fernando Valley, but he didn't begin to see the crook's map until he was about eighteen.  Different kinds of people superimpose different maps on the same place, and Junior's map is a map of opportunity and risk.  And also sadness; he has a failed marriage that's separated him from his 13-year-old daughter, Rina.  The fact that he has Rina to worry about gives him yet another map of the Valley—the map of potential peril for a teenage girl.

So in my books,  whether we're jostling through the crowds and smelling the street food on a hot Bangkok sidewalk or driving down Ventura Boulevard in the curious isolation imposed by the automobile, I'm trying not only to present the setting, but also to present it as my character—whichever character it is—experiences it.  If I don't succeed at that, I'm wasting one of the most valuable assets a writer has, which is, of course, setting.  It's not just where your characters are. It's a reflection of your characters.

One final thought, on a practical level for writers.  My first editor, who is now my agent, used to send my manuscripts back to me all marked up, and one of his most frequent questions was (and still is),”What are we seeing?”  It's a great question, and asking it frequently will often give me the entry point to a scene.

In the Poke book I'm writing right now, THE FEAR ARTIST, I've finally gotten to the scene in which the past will open up and Poke will begin to understand the threat of the present.  We're in the one-room Bangkok apartment of two fugitive Vietnamese women who have good cause to fear that something ravenous is after them, because it is. 

I decided to open the scene with a look at the room, and this is what came to me.  (I wrote this only yesterday, so it may not actually wind up in the book, but for now it'll make a point.)

The room is a sickly green not found in nature, pale and spectral in the overhead fluorescents.  All the way around the room, about three feet from the floor, as though left by an army of invisible children, are hundreds of tiny, grimy handprints.  They seem to jump and twitch in the fluorescents' flicker.

Rafferty can't keep his eyes off the handprints.  He keeps asking himself where the children are.

I have no idea yet where the handprints came from, but these women have lost their entire world, and it makes perfect sense for them to live surrounded by the marks of vanished children.  It's just the setting for a conversation, but it will probably end up being part of the conversation.


Timothy Hallinan is the Edgar- and Macavity-nominated author of the Poke Rafferty Bangkok thrillers, published traditionally, and the Junior Bender mysteries, which are ebook originals.  Earlier this year, he conceived and edited a volume of original short stories by twenty first-rate mystery writers, SHAKEN: STORIES FOR JAPAN, which is available for the Kindle at $3.99, with every penny of the price going to the 2011 Japan Relief Fund.  (Please buy it.)  He lives in Santa Monica and Southeast Asia, and he is lucky enough to be married to Munyin Choy.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Jackie King Discusses Creating Setting for the Grace Cassidy Mysteries

Good Morning Marilyn. I’m delighted to once again visit your blog and discuss fictional settings. Next to writing, my favorite thing is talking about writing, so thanks for inviting me.

The setting for my cozy mystery THE INCONVENIENT CORPSE is a bed and breakfast on the northern California coast. Oddly enough, the setting picked me. While vacationing in the area I stopped at a picturesque B and B in a neighborhood filled with Victorian mansions. The air was crisp and called for a walk, but I got carried away and wandered too far. After a couple of hours trekking to the beach and back, I sprawled on my bed, completely pooped. Suddenly, as though I’d turned on the TV, the opening scene for THE INCONVENIENT CORPSE flashed through my mind. What I imagined seemed so vivid that I was compelled to create a character named Grace Cassidy and to write her story.

The book opens just as Grace’s life has self-destructed. While it was horrible to find a naked dead guy in her bed, her greatest fear was getting a roof over her head so she didn’t end up on the streets. That’s how she becomes, much to her own surprise, an inn-sitter.

I decided upon this occupation for my protagonist so I could move her from one scenic location to another. I love to travel, but to my regret, most of my wanderings have been vicarious. Since Grace is much younger, slimmer and prettier than I am, she and I have agreed that I’ll visit her locations for research and for a few days of luxurious living. When Grace follows later, she’ll be required to work her butt off, since I’m told that’s what inn-sitters usually do.

Grace is one of those gals who become emotionally attached rather easily. In the first book she adopts a stray cat named Trouble, who travels with her as she moves from job to job. (Trouble works too, he’s available to ‘lap sit’ for guests who miss their felines back home.) Grace also has acquired a sidekick called Theodora, plus a teenaged son. Both characters tend to drive Grace bonkers, even without the littering of dead bodies.

The third book will be set in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where Grace will deal with her divorce and other legal problems. Oh…and those pesky murders, of course.

Many thanks for letting me share.

Happy reading,

What Marcia Preston says about The Inconvenient Corpse:

“A naked corpse in her bed is only the first surprise for our heroine in Jackie King’s charming bed-and-breakfast mystery. Cozy readers will be happy guests among these lively characters.”
--Marcia Preston, winner of the 2004 Mary Higgins Clark Award

The story in a nutshell:
…No credit cards, no cash, no resources, no job skills. Fleeced and abandoned by her husband, Grace Cassidy learns she is the prime suspect in a bizarre murder.


Jackie King

Blogsite: Cozy Mysteries and Other Madness:

Available on Amazon (including Kindle for $2.99)

Barnes & Noble (including Nook for $2.99)

I’d love to have readers ‘friend’ me on Facebook. I’m listed as Jacqueline King

Jackie King loves books, words, and writing tall tales. She especially enjoys murdering the people she dislikes on paper. King is a full time writer who sometimes teaches writing at Tulsa Community College. Her latest novel, THE INCONVENIENT CORPSE is a traditional mystery. King has also written five novellas as co-author of the Foxy Hens Series. Warm Love on Cold Streets is her latest novella and is included in the anthology THE FOXY HENS MEET A ROMANTIC ADVENTURER. Her only nonfiction book is DEVOTED TO COOKING. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, Oklahoma Writers Federation, and Tulsa Night Writers.

Marilyn: Thanks for visiting, Jackie. What a great idea for a series!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Settings by Jean Henry Mead

Setting is always an important element of mystery writing. Marlys Millhiser chooses settings before her characters. She once said that she spotted an old Victorian house and thought it needed a ghost, so she wrote a novel about it. Phyllis Whitney also planned her novels around a setting. She wanted a place that gave her fresh and interesting material, although it may have been in her own backyard. For her first mystery novel, Red is for Murder, she went to Chicago’s loop to get behind-the-scenes background on the window decorating business. But, because the book only sold 3,000 copies, she returned to writing for children. Years later, the book was reprinted in a number of paperback editions as The Red Carnelian.
For my own first mystery novel, A Village Shattered, I decided to set my story of a serial killer’s revenge in a San Joaquin Valley retirement village where retirees were dropping dead in the Tule fog. I lived in the valley for more than a dozen years and thought it was a great place to hide a murderer, although an unlikely place for a retirement village. However, I’ve since discovered several.
Diary of Murder, the second novel in my Logan and Cafferty series, is set in Wyoming, where I now reside. The state’s severe winter weather and isolated areas make it fertile ground for mystery novels. Unfortunately, it’s becoming one of the methamphetamine capitals of the nation and that serves as the background for my book.
Murder on the Interstate begins along I-40 in northern Arizona, where my protagonists, Dana Logan and Sarah Cafferty, discover the body of a young woman in her Mercedes convertible. The plot takes them to the Phoenix-Scottsdale area and the Pima-Maricopa Indian Reservation, where a chemical spill contaminates the Arizona Canal as far west as Sun City. I set the novel in Arizona because of the state’s problems with illegal emigrants, murders, home invasions, kidnappings and the ever present drug problem. Again, fertile ground for mystery/suspense novels.
I write about areas where I’ve lived or visited and later Google them to ensure accuracy although I may be familiar with the setting. I’m currently working on an historical mystery based on an actual event, which took place here in Wyoming in 1889. I’ve visited the area often and have taken copious pictures, but will return again before I write the conclusion. It’s a breathtaking setting not far from Independence Rock, where hundreds of thousands of travelers stopped to carve their names along the Oregon Trail. A great many of them died along the way, which lends the area an eerie feeling—at least for me. I hope I’ll be able to convey that feeling to my readers.
In some novels, settings hold an equal footing with characters and subject matter. What would Hemingway’s Old Man have done without the Sea? Or Sherlock Holmes without Baker Street? A mystery set in a New York tenement has an entirely different tone than one set in a Beverly Hills mansion. So, when plotting a novel, consider where best to place your protagonist in order to produce maximum mystery, emotion, conflict and suspense. 
Novelist Jean Henry Mead has written mystery/suspense novels for adults as well as children. She’s also an award-winning photojournalist with 15 books to her credit, both fiction and nonfiction. She served as a news reporter, editor and photographer as well as news, magazine and small press editor. Her articles have been published domestically as well as abroad.

Mysterious Writers:
Writers of the West:
Murderous Musings: Murderous Musings
Make Mine Mystery:
I'm also on Facebook and Twitter.

Jean's latest Logan & Cafferty mystery/suspense novel, Murder on the Interstate, is available at: (print and Kindle) and
Barnes and Noble: (Nook)
She's giving away one of her mystery ebooks at the end of each of her 14 blog appearances as well as three print novels at the conclusion of the tour. Be sure to leave a comment and email address to be eligible for the drawings. Her blog tour schedule is listed at:

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Prizes for the Mystery Writers Blog Tour

 The 2 week long Mystery Writers Blog Tour is offering all sorts of prizes to people who follow along on the tour:
ANNE ALBERT  is giving away 3 e-copies of Frank, Incense and Muriel
BETH ANDERSON--  1 copy each of Night Sounds, Murder Online, and Raven Talks Back, by drawing at the end of the tour from people who comment at my blogsite over the two weeks.  Winners can choose either e-book or print.
RON BENREY- We'll give away paper copies of Dead as a Scone and The Final Crumpet.
PAT BROWNING -- 1 surprise print copy at end of tour.
JOHN M. DANIEL - 1 print copy of Behind the Redwood Door, and 1 print copy of
Generous Helpings
JEAN HENRY MEAD- 1 print copy of A Village Shattered, Diary of Murde, and Murder on
the Interstate
ALICE DUNCAN - I’ll give away a copy of any of my books, either hardback or Kindle. What
the heck. Whatever the winner wants.
WENDY GAGER - I will give away a copy of A Case of Hometown Blues from all the comments on my blog from guest interviews.
M.M. GORNELL -  3 copies of Reticence of Ravens. Selected by Buster at the end of tour from comments on my blog.
TIM HALLINAN-- One set of all four Poke Rafferty hard-cover books, plus one each of the two Junior Bender books, for a total of six.
 JACKIE KING  - 1 hardback  copy of THE INCONVENIENT CORPSE and 1 hardback copy of FOXY HENS AND MURDER MOST FOWL.  Winners will be drawn from all readers who left a comment.
MARILYN MEREDITH -  one copy of Bears With Us, either paper or Kindle—whichever the winner prefers.
MIKE ORENDUFF- I'll give away copies of my second book, THE POT THIEF WHO STUDIED PTOLEMY, because that is the one I happen to have copies of.  I'm willing to give away 14 - one for each place I blog.
JINX SHWARTZ -  I will only be able to give ebooks, as I will be in Mexico after Dec 1 (except in one blog where I noted a giveaway...can't remember whose it was!).
EARL STAGGS  - 1 copy of MEMORY OF A MURDER, print copy, a mystery novel which earned 13  Five Star Reviews on Amazon and BN online; 1 copy of SHORT STORIES OF EARL STAGGS, ebook, Mystery Tales from Hardboiled
to Humor, containing 16 of my best short mystery stories.
 This will be an interesting journey, I do hope some come along for the ride.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wishing Everyone a Happy Thanksgiving Tomorrow

Tomorrow I'll be busy getting my turkey in the oven and doing all the many things it takes to get a big Thanksgiving dinner on the table for my family and anyone else they might bring with them. Do check my blog tomorrow because I have more about the big Mystery We Write book tour that begins on November 25th. Fourteen mystery writers are going to be on one of the fourteen's blog for each of the next 14 days.

Lots of prizes are to be had and that's what I tell about tomorrow. So be sure to check and see what's being offered. It's really easy too, just hit each person's blog everyday and leave a comment. You'll find out lots of interesting tidbits about these authors and their books.

I'm wishing each and everyone of you a wonderful holiday. Enjoy your family and think about everything you'r thankful for.

I'm thankful for living in a country like ours (the U.S. for those who are elsewhere), for having such a great family, for my marriage to a wonderful man for all these years, for all the adventures I've had and the memories. I also am thankful for the invention of computers which changed my writing life and the Internet which has given me so many more friends.

Happy Thanksgiving to each of you!


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Brookins Reviews Damage Control by Denise Hamilton

Damage Control           
by Denise Hamilton
ISBN: 978-0-7432-9674-8
a 2011 hardcover release from
Scribner. 372 pages.

More than just romance can often flower under the hot desert moon. In southern California, a lot more. In the artificially irrigated hothouse of perfectly sculpted bodies, overabundance of wealth, aggressive power and overweening ambition are a dangerous combination that leads, almost inevitably, to corruption. And it is corruption that’s at the heart of this complex, lyrically written tale, along with a strong dose of murder and mystery.

Maggie Silver grew up on the far side of the tracks. Now in adulthood with a mortgage, a failed marriage, and an ill mother, she’s scrambling for a place, if not in the sun, as near as she can get without singeing her fingers. Her values are aspiring middle class. She’d like to be one of the beautiful people, and for a while in a private school with a rich girl friend named Anabelle Paxton, the giddy, youthful exuberance of unsupervised teenaged life seems to point to a life to come of luxury and happiness.

Fast forward to today. Having lost that youthful connection to the good life, Maggie is establishing herself as a fixer. Working for the powerful public relations firm, Blair Company, she find herself once more entangled with the Paxton family, Henry, now a powerful U.S. Senator, Luke, the golden son and Anabelle, once her very best girl friend. A murder has happened and the situation must be managed. The Blair firm gets paid a great deal of money by wealthy clients to do exactly that. What happens then, to Maggie, the Paxtons, to other members of the firm is enthralling, complicated, and almost a Greek tragedy.

The author has taken a common theme, power, wealth and their corrupting influences, and infused the story with a strong dose of both good and evil. and while she carefully and fully illuminates much of the evil that resides in Los Angeles and its special culture, there is  at times, a faint but fascinating aura of envy, as if the author yearns, however ruefully, for just a little taste of the life she writes about. The genius of the novel lies in part in the complex and convoluted story and the way the author infuses this story with life.

Hamilton has not penned a polemic against the culture of southern California. Rather she holds up the citizens, and the organizations to a searing light and lets readers judge the actions and the influences that result. Unlike Raymond Chandler, with whose writing she is compared, her sympathies clearly lie with all the characters, while never condoning their actions, or trumpeting the consequences. So in the end, readers, themselves having perhaps experienced a little bit of envy for the characters, can close the book and ponder the questions we all may ask ourselves, to whom do we really owe the greatest loyalty?

Carl Brookins, Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky

Monday, November 21, 2011

Countdown to Thanksgiving

This is a Thanksgiving morning long, long ago. Kids are in bed with my mom. From l. to r. my eldest daughter Dana (who is now the grandmother of 5, my nephew, Doug, he's the grandpa to 5 also, my son Mark who is no longer with us, second daughter Dana and they most happy Grandma. No one loved their grandchildren as fiercely as my mom.

And there's my dad attacking the turkey with a stainless steel knife he mad with his own hands. He made us one too.

I've been thinking about past Thanksgivings. We often traveled from Oxnard to Los Angeles to my parents for Thankgiving. In those days except for helping set the table, and putting the food on, helping with dishes afterwards, I really didn't have any responsibilities at all.

When more kids arrived in my family, I had some Thanksgivings at my house with all the family coming to Oxnard. I did most of the cooking, but my Auntie, who is now 100, brought wonderful green beans with mushrooms and candied sweet potatoes. Later, when we moved to Springville, where we are now, I continued to be the cook for Thanksgiving.

When my sis moved to Las Vegas and took mother with her, things changed. I was still the cook, but only my family came for dinner. (Plenty of people, I can assure you.)

The last few years I've cooked one Thanksgiving and then hubby and I traveled to my daughter Lori's for the other. (Great, because she's a wonderful cook and I didn't have to do anything but stuff myself.)

This year I'm cooking again. Not sure exactly who all is coming except my middle girl and her husband and their two daughters and off spring, my son and maybe we might see his two sons, not sure. Think it comes to around 15 people more or less. Daughter is bringing some of the dishes as is one granddaughter. I do everything much simpler these days. No fancy dishes--paper plates work just fine and no one has to wash them. There's enough to do with the clean up afterwards.

On Saturday we took another granddaughter and her husband out for a Thanksgiving dinner. They are getting ready to travel all the way to North Carolina to start a new life. He's been offered a great job and she hopes to go to school full-time to achieve her goal of becoming a 3rd grade teacher. I'm going to miss her a lot because she's always been a part of our holiday celebrations--but I'm happy for her to have this new adventure. Isn't that what makes life exciting, new adventures?

I have always had a lot to be thankful for, not just on Thanksgiving. I grew up in a loving family. We weren't rich by any means, but we had nice house and enough to eat, lots of friends, and went to great neighborhood schools.

Now I'm a great grandmother with a loving a supportive husband, have traveled to many interesting places, had several careers, and my dream of being a published author came true in 1982. I've got wonderful memories and hope to create more.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.