Saturday, September 28, 2013

Blog Tour for Spirit Shapes


September 30  
October 1

October 8 

October 24 

October 30


The person who comments on the most blogs on this blog tour will have the opportunity to have a character named after him or her in the next Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Meet JoAnna Senger author of Betrothal, Betrayal, and Blood


Around the age of four, I fell in love with the letters of the alphabet. Following the philosophy of the day, my parents would not teach me to read but spent dutiful hours reading to me. The letter “y” and the “w” with all its syllables sounded so exotic.  I would hear my parents spell out words (y-e-s spells “yes”), but I didn’t know which of the squiggles in my books was a “y” or a “w.”  Fascinating and frustrating.  

            Then…school!  I remember being so surprised at the appearance of a “y.”  What a disappointing letter!  It was squat and had an appendage hanging down below the line.  I thought it should look more like a “b” or a “d.” As time went on, I got used to its appearance and forgave the “y” for laying down on the job, so to speak.  I learned all my letters.  Letters began to make words, words became stories, and then teachers were asking me to write!  

            Was I a big girl or what?!

            Since those grade school days, I have written skits, essays, stories, policies and procedures, legal documents, books, anything else assigned to me, and other stuff just for fun.  

            Writing is so self-indulgent that I often wonder why everyone doesn’t spend their free time with a pen in hand (or a keyboard at their fingers).  Don’t like someone?  Bump them off.  Someone is a pompous jerk?  Hold them up to ridicule.  Spouse is an affront to the human race?  Take a lover…between the pages.

            Finally, serious fiction called to me.  At least, I was serious about writing it, primarily mysteries and horror.  Distinct genres in the bookstores, they are just slants on real life as far as I am concerned.  Mysteries have entertained me all my reading life, so I try to return the favor.  The analyst in me loves the precision of mystery plot development, clues appearing all along the way but in a manner to elude or mislead the reader.  The clues have to be there, the author must play fair.  Without the clues, the book becomes crime detection, another entertaining genre but not a mystery.  I particularly like mysteries in which the reader figures out “who dun it” but the characters don’t, plodding on in dull ignorance of the carnage all around them.

            Like garlic, horror is a strong flavor best introduced slowly until the reader is saturated with its odor.  Of all the literary genres, horror has the most difficulty in achieving respectability, yet its power is the least diminished over time.  Only the romance is as enduring.  The fear of darkness, the sinking despair of betrayal, the panic of confinement and torture, the irresistible urge to open the locked door, these are all horror literary devices and still effective when done skillfully.  

            I prefer horror which is just one step outside of daily life, a small but jarring detail only slightly out of place, like a piece of glass in your ice cream cone.  Oh well, remove it and keep on eating.  Licking.  Enjoying all that creamy coldness until you find another piece of glass, and this one cuts.  You look around and everyone in the ice cream parlor is looking at you, and all of them are bleeding from the mouth.  And smiling.

            You get the idea.

            Regardless of what we write or how we write it, those words on paper are our ticket to the grand show: the unbroken human story-telling tradition that began on cave walls, got chiseled into stone tablets, engraved and painted on pyramid chambers, copied laboriously by armies of scribes and monks, and now flies through the ether according to physical principles that most of us poorly understand if we understand them at all.

            Why do we do it?  Paid or not, published or not, successful or not, we just want to tell a story.  It’s the story that matters, not the method or the language or even the writer. 
And we all know it.

I asked what inspired her to write Betrothal, Betrayal, and Blood.

Here is her answer:

 I was inspired to write Betrothal, Betrayal, and Blood by a setting: the Central California Coast, one of the least known regions of the best known state.  Depending on who's talking, the Central California Coast starts just north of Ventura, California and continues north up to Santa Cruz, a few hundred miles.  This beautiful coastline includes the cities of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo, both little more than small towns by California big-city standards.  It has been my pleasure to drive this region many times, and I know it well.  For two years, I lived in the Santa Barbara area.

Insular regions with long-established families and education institutions turn inward, finding sufficient opportunities and cultural expression in their immediate locale.  The movie "Sideways" took place in the region's vineyards, rapidly gaining national prominence.  Certain kinds of eccentricities are widely tolerated, and ranks can close quickly against outsiders who "wouldn't understand."

That's the setting, now for the characters.  Writing a paragraph for each character including physical appearance and personal history works well for me, even if I don't explicitly use the detail in the narrative.  Typically, a given character has a central aspect, a dominant trait, and I add other attributes, like decorating a Christmas tree.

As for the plot, I outline in a general way, generally ignore the outline, and wait to see what happens.

 JoAnna Senger

                        Currently volunteers in the City of Surprise Prosecutor’s Office.  Previously volunteered in the City of Surprise Victim Assistance Program, Police Department.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

I'm Struggling.

With what, you ask?

No, not money or health. Maybe it's my age catching up with me, I'm not sure.

The problem is writing the next Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery. Part of the problem could be because I don't even have copies in hand of #13 in the series--Spirit Shapes. Oh, I know it's getting close, if I haven't heard by the time this post is being read, I will be able to order copies soon.

When I get them, I'll be offering some free for people to read and offer reviews.

And maybe that's my problem because I found a not so wonderful review of #12 in the series, Raging Water. It was the first 2 star review I ever received. I shouldn't even pay any attention to it was there are nine 5 star reviews and one 4.

What happens I think, even if it is only one, it has rattled my confidence a bit.

What I need to do is forget it. After all, we don't all like the same books. Some of the things the reviewer criticized me for are elements that are in all of the Tempe books--a touch of the supernatural. And wow, Spirit Shapes is all about a haunted house full of ghosts and bad spirits and more. I hope my naysayer doesn't pick that one up--she said she wouldn't and I hope that's true.

Ideas are forming for the one I need to be writing. It will be set in Bear Creek as usual and on the reservation again as a movie is being made there. Because the tribal council will not allow the stars or the movie crew to bring their motor homes and trailers onto the reservation, they have set up at the campground on the lake, renting rooms at the Bear Creek Inn, and the female star has her huge motor home in the parking lot of the Inn.

Oh, and guess what, Miqui Sherwood has done it again--she's sheltering the director and his assistant.

Though I know there will be something about the trickster--not necessarily the coyote, and perhaps a flap over a sacred campground--I really haven't thought it all through. But the ideas are coming. And that's what has to happen.

The more I think about what may happen, and the more I start writing, the less I'll struggle. At least that's what I'm counting on.


Monday, September 23, 2013

A Visit from M.M. Gornell, Author of Cousel of Ravens

Thank you, Marilyn, for asking me over! I’m always honored to visit, especially since you’ve been such an inspiration to me.

For this post, Marilyn so kindly said I could talk about whatever aspect of writing I liked. What fun—and my thoughts eventually landed on “doing a sequel,” then moved on from there to the larger concept of “the winding-road-of-writing.”

As you all know, Marilyn writes TWO series—but for me and my few books, it’s been standalones until my latest. So, I’m talking about only one little sequel, and that may seem like not such a big deal, but for me, it was huge. I didn’t realize how huge until about the middle of writing Counsel of Ravens. I’ve mentioned on blogs before how certain locations seem to reach out, grab me, tell me there’s a story there. And from that initial spark, my mind moves on to characters, plot, etc. Intertwined in that process—I think—is also a liking for dropping in on characters, not only at a particular spot, but in a particular point in their lives. Then drop out. Move on. Leaving all the “what if” possibilities in the rest of their lives unanswered and left to the reader’s imagination.

Well, writing a sequel with Hugh et al., I’d have to deal with what came next, tie up some lose ends, even kick-start the next chapter of his life. At first, and for quite awhile in the writing of Counsel of Ravens, I didn’t want to do that. Doesn’t make much sense, but it’s true.

It was hard making what I’m calling “second-wave” decisions for Hugh. And with that kind of mindset and difficulty, how could I possibly ever write a series, which was one of my initial goals way-back-when? And now, even with Counsel of Ravens published, I’m still not sure I can actually write a continuing series. 

Though, somewhere during the storytelling part of my latest I began to enjoy developing Hugh’s future, and his friend’s futures—including his ravens—who moved in this story from being reticent, to butting-in. And I did very much enjoy tying up the loose ends with a secondary, but one of my favorite characters in Reticence of Ravens—Marsha Portson.

Which leads me to the “winding-road-of-writing.” My love of P.D. James’s style, her books, her protagonist, her approach to writing—led me to start off using M.M., wanting to emulate my rock-star author and because I planned on writing a series with a male protagonist—again, just like P.D.
Things have changed for my characters in several ways (indeed, two of my books have female protagonists)—and for me. My writing-career-plans seem to have their own plan—taking me on a winding road somewhere…

A very wise author once told me, “Enjoy the process,” and I say, “Hear! Hear! I sure better.” So here I am back on the winding road, and what  seems to be next for me is writing a thriller sort of/mystery sort of/mainstream fiction sort of/ novel called Rhodes. It’s a standalone—BUT, I’ve given it a secondary title—The Mojavestone, just in case! (I’m rereading (audio) The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins—wonder if that has something to do with my title?)

Oh, Marilyn, thanks so much for inviting me—loved being here!

Synopsis for Counsel of Ravens:

In the dark of night, murder strikes on Route 66, and once again Hubert James Champion III finds himself having to face realities he’d rather run from. Indeed, within two days, Hugh finds himself embroiled in murder on a national scale, seeking justice for petty-crimes of a local nature—and very close to home, reviving his skills as a psychologist to help people who have become friends. Indeed, his friends need him.
In addition, there are troubling mysteries of the personal kind still tucked away in the recesses of Hugh’s subconscious. He may still be “hiding out” in the desert, but East Coast ties continue to haunt and thwart his building hopes for the future.
Fortunately, he has his ravens to counsel him, and through it all—the Mojave winds continue to blow…


Madeline (M.M.) Gornell has five published mystery novels—including PSWA awarding winners Uncle Si’s Secret and Lies of Convenience (also a Hollywood Book Festival honorable Mention), Death of a Perfect Man, and Reticence of Ravens (a finalist for the Eric Hoffer 2011 fiction Prize, the da Vinci Eye for cover art, and the Montaigne Medal for most thought provoking book). Her latest is Counsel of Ravens, her first sequel and a continuation of Hubert Champion’s Mojave saga. She continues to be inspired by historic Route 66, and expects to release in 2014 Rhodes.

Madeline is a lifetime lover of mysteries, and besides reading and writing, she is also a potter with a fondness for stoneware and reduction firing. She lives with her husband and assorted canines in the Mojave High Desert near the internationally revered Route 66 (Newberry Springs).

Contact and Buy Info:

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

Thank you so much, Madeline, for stopping by. I loved, loved, loved Counsel of Ravens and I'm really looking forward to Rhodes