Thursday, January 30, 2014

Some Deputy Crabtree Mysteries Available as Audio Books

These are the Deputy Tempe Crabtree books that are available as audio books:

Unequally Yoked is available here:

Calling the Dead is available here:

Judgment Fire is available here:

Kindred Spirits is available here:

Dispel the Mist is available here:

Bears With Us is available here:

The audible versions are also available on iTunes.

Of course these books are also in paper and on Kindle as ebooks.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Illustrious Client by Sandra de Helen

Marilyn, thank you so much for hosting me today. I'd like to talk a bit about what inspired my latest book.

 I'm currently flogging: The Illustrious Client.

My first mystery novel launched a series about a private detective modeled on Sherlock Holmes.
Shirley Combs became interested in A. Conan Doyle's books when she was just a kid because her name (said fast) sounds like his protagonist. That led to her passion for solving whatever seemed mysterious in her life. She became ultra-observant, and she found she could actually deduce solutionsfor life's little mysteries around home. (Who ate the last piece of that pie? Where do socks go when they go missing? How did that burn hole get there?)

Shirley got serious about becoming a private investigator after she met Dr. Mary Watson, a
naturopath, at a self-help forum. They live in Portland, Oregon where the weather often matches that of Sherlock's stomping grounds. But they also live in present day. Their first documented case is The Hounding, and deals with a suspicious death of a descendant of the original Baskervilles.

The Illustrious Client was inspired by The Adventure of the Illustrious Client by Doyle. A friend hires Shirley and Mary to try to pry a young woman from the grasp of a rich player. That player is an older woman raised as a man in Afghanistan. The young woman is an international pop star named Oceane Charles. This tale takes Shirley and Mary to France and back, and has them inspecting every inch of a super yacht. Before long a murder happens, and they must find the true killer after Oceane is accused of the death.

All stories with Shirley and Mary will be inspired by the adventures and tales of Sherlock Holmes, but will take place in modern day. They are written in the style of the Holmes stories, and often use Sherlock's methods. Many of my readers are Holmes fans, as I am. I hope your readers will consider taking a peek. Amazon has the "Look Inside" feature.

Both books are available in paperback and eBook at bookstores and online. The Hounding is also
available as an audio book at, Amazon, and iTunes.

Book Two of the Shirley Combs and Dr. Mary Watson series, THE ILLUSTRIOUS CLIENT, shows us the private investigator and her sidekick sharing an office, and introduces their receptionist, Lix. They are hired to influence a young international pop star, Oceane Charles, to pry her away from her older, richer, player of a girlfriend. 

The cast is made up of people with various ethnicities and backgrounds, and of course the job soon includes solving a murder mystery.

Along the way, Mary discovers her latent lesbianism. 

Set in Portland, Oregon on a super yacht, in a hospital VIP room, at Rose Festival, and other fun places.

Sandra de Helen’s books as well as short stories are available at bookstores, libraries, and online. Her poetry and plays are published in several journals. Samples of her works are on her website 

Even though she says she isn't a "joiner," de Helen is a member of the Dramatists Guild, Oregon Writers Colony, the Golden Crown Literary Society, and International Centre for Women Playwrights. Like her at , follow her on Twitter @dehelen, and read her blog at She lives with her cat Stanton in Portland, Oregon where they both type.

Other Links:

Buy links:

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Demons of Gadara by John Cassara

Why I wrote the book:

After writing my first non-fiction books, Hide & Seek: Intelligence, Law Enforcement and the Stalled War on Terror Finance (Potomac Books, 2006) and On the Trail of Terror Finance: What Law Enforcement and Intelligence Officers Need to Know (Red Cell IG, 2010), I continue to be concerned about the intertwined threats of what the U.S. military calls “asymmetric warfare’ and “threat finance.” 

I do a lot of consulting and training and understand that many relate better to stories rather than power points and “white papers.”  So in searching for a new teaching medium, I decided to write a novel.
Demons of Gadara takes place in various locations in the Middle East, South Asia and Europe. I have traveled, lived, and worked in most the locations described.  

Although the book is fiction, many of the incidents in the book are based on fact, personal knowledge and experience. The story and characters are not James Bond fantasy.  The heroes, villains and cultures, including cultures of the bureaucracies involved, are all too real. This unique novel can be best categorized as narrative fiction based on fact.

The story takes place in the very near future. The protagonist, Joe Costa, is an investigative Special Agent working for the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Investigations.  He is based in the U.S. Embassy in Rome. Investigative jurisdiction frequently sends him on travels to the Middle East, an area undergoing turmoil in-part by events unleashed by the 2011 Arab Spring.  

His work intersects a terrorist plot. The Pakistani Taliban has obtained sufficient radioactive material to construct a “dirty bomb.” The explosive material is secreted in a 40 foot shipping container and sent to Rome. The terrorists plan to detonate the bomb at a G-20 conference in Rome attended by heads-of-state, including the U.S. President.  By following the “value trail,” Costa and other officials race to intercept the terrorist plot.

While telling the story, I concurrently try to explain some of the history, complexities and interconnectivity of international events, diverse beliefs and terror finance. Moreover, much of the narrative describes the terrorists' cultures and perspectives. Terror is not always good guys versus bad guys.  There are diverse motivations and subtle nuances.  The story explores topics that have not yet broken into the mainstream. I also wanted to present real world bureaucratic challenges.  I am confident that we will be facing many of the issues surfaced in Demons of Gadara in the not too distant future.

Many ask if the book was difficult to write.  I knew the subject matter and I had a good idea for the story line.  The aspect of writing that was initially difficult was writing dialog.  This is my first book of fiction and my previous writing and career in intelligence and law enforcement didn’t involve character development and discussion.  So I decided to write from the perspective of the protagonist.  As soon as I put myself “in character,” the writing flowed.

About the Author:

John Cassara began his 26 year government career as a covert intelligence officer during the Cold War.  He later served as a Treasury Special Agent in both the U.S. Secret Service and US Customs Service where he investigated money laundering, trade fraud and international smuggling.  He was an undercover arms dealer for two years.  Assigned overseas, he developed expertise in Middle East money laundering, value transfer and underground financial systems.  He also worked six years within Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).  Mr. Cassara's final assignment was with Treasury's Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence (TFI). 

Since his retirement, he has lectured in the United States and around the world on a variety transnational crime issues.  Mr. Cassara has authored or co-authored several non-fiction articles and books, including Hide and Seek, Intelligence, Law Enforcement and the Stalled War on Terrorist Finance (2006 Potomac Books) and On the Trail of Terror Finance – What Intelligence and Law Enforcement Officers Need to Know (2010 Red Cell IG).  Hide & Seek won the Public Safety Writers Association 2006 award for non-fiction.  More information can be found at his website:

Demons of Gadara - book “blurb”:

Demons of Gadara is a haunting and realistic suspense thriller. Set against a backdrop of the next intertwined Middle East crisis, a U.S. Special Agent assigned overseas happens upon a terrorist plot.  Two terrorists are sent to Europe with plans to detonate a “dirty bomb” at an international economic summit that will be attended by the President of the United States.  The Agent battles the bureaucracy as he races to intercept the plot.  His only clue is to follow an underground “value trail.” 

The first novel to focus on terrorist finance, Demons of Gadara is written with passion and authenticity. The book is best categorized as narrative fiction based on fact.  By telling a compelling story, important issues are surfaced that must be confronted in our on-going War on Terror.

Snippets of Reviews Posted on Amazon:

“Told with authenticity that can only be achieved by one that has actually done the job.”

“Former federal agent John Cassara both entertains and educates, masterfully, annoyingly so. Why annoying? Because Demons caused me to lose sleep. This book--packed with critical information about how terror cells are funded and how they can be dismantled--is a page-turner.”

“As in many great pieces of writing, it may be difficult for the discerning reader to know precisely where in Demons the fiction ends and the non-fiction begins.”

“What makes this novel so realistic and gives it great credibility is that the author actually "lived" the very life portrayed in his book.”

“The author is no doubt an expert on terrorism finance, but to explain such complicated subject matter in the form of a suspenseful thriller is a brilliant approach - an approach that is executed to perfection in Demons of Gadara.”

“The reader definitely gets the feeling that if a plot like this were to happen in "real life," this is EXACTLY how it would happen.”

“This book is an act of sheer courage.”

“As for the story itself, I found it to be exciting, compelling, and well-written.”

“You will put down this book knowing a lot more how the world works - much more than your average book in this genre.”

“This is a really good book to read. Kept me guessing what was going to happen. I do not read many books but this is a must”

Saturday, January 25, 2014

In The Throes of Writing

Really, that is where I am. I'm on Chapter 5 of my next Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery.

And I've also been writing post for the blog tour for Murder in the Worst Degree, due out in March.
Fortunately the blog tour itself isn't until April because I'm headed to Left Coast Crime for several days in March. From experience, I know it's difficult to promote a blog tour successfully when you are away from home.

Back to my work-in-progress, it has not been easy going. I'm not an outliner--wish I were because I might know where I'm going. The plot has taken a different twist than where I thought it was going when I began. I shouldn't be surprised, because that happens to me often.

I've had many distractions (health, family, the holidays, meetings, newsletters to write, a couple of projects that actually bring in money) so I'm woefully behind in my output. I need to at least be a chapter ahead to read to my critique group--and I suppose that kind of gives me a deadline.

Yes, and I like to keep by own blog up-to-date.

Marilyn aka F.M. Meredith

Thursday, January 23, 2014

A Peek at the Cover of Murder in the Worst Degree

 This is the cover for the ARC for Murder in the Worst Degree, number 10 in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series.

When the book comes out the Rocky Bluff P.D. police badge will be in the space where the oval is.

This is the blurb for this latest entry in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series:

The body that washes up on the beach leads Detectives Milligan and Zachary on a murder investigation that includes the victim’s family members, his housekeeper, three long-time friends, and a mystery woman.

Of course the cover depicts the wave that brings in a body.

These ARCs will go out to reviewers.

The book is due to surface in March.

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Day is Getting Away From Me

I am determined to get some writing done today. I mean writing on my next Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery. But time is getting away from me.

Started the day answering emails that needed to be answered.

Did my Bible study--the day doesn't go right unless I begin that way.

Had three blogs to promote.

I'm the guest here today and talking about what prompted Spirit Shapes.

 And of course I needed to promote the blog.

and today is my day. Found a typo right off and had to fix it.

I'm also a regular on and my post is up there today.

So you can see I've been busy, but not necessarily doing the writing I need to be doing--so I'm heading there right now.



Sunday, January 19, 2014

Planning Another Blog Tour

Planning a blog tour is a lot of work.

In March my latest Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery will be available, Murder in the Worst Degree.

I decided to do the tour during the month of April to be sure that I'd actually have books for sale on Amazon and other places--and books to send out for review.

Next, I had to find 30 people willing to host me and get the dates lined up. I always ask if they have something in particular they'd like me to write about. Since I try to have something different on each post, if the host gives me an idea that helps. 

(And I've already had one host drop out--but since I've got two lined up for one day near the end of the tour, I'm going to leave it like that.)

Four of the hosts offered to review the book--and that's great. Of course it means hoping that they like the book.

Because it takes a long time to write or put together 30 unique and hopefully clever or at least interesting posts, I've started already. Of course nothing can be sent off until I have a copy of the cover--which I don't as yet. Usually I send the link to buy the book after I've sent everything else, since that probably won't be available right away.

This might be fun if I didn't have other things I need to be doing.

One of the biggest is to be writing my next Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery and I'm afraid I'm not moving very fast on it.

Back to the blog tour. 

Once again I'm going to have a contest for someone to have his or her name used as a character in the next Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery. The winner will be the one who leaves a comment on the most blog posts.

And yes, last year's winner is a prominent character in Murder in the Worst Degree.

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith

Friday, January 17, 2014

Once Again Answering the Question, How Do You Get So Much Done?

First, I'd like to say that I don't get nearly as much done as I used to, though I still follow the same practice. Chalk it up to old age slowing me down.

My biggest advice to anyone is, don't procrastinate. If you have something that needs doing, do it. Get it over with.

Long ago, I realized that I liked the feeling I got when I accomplished a task.

So I don't forget what needs to be done or what I want to do, I make lists. I jot down what needs to be done right away and in another column I write what needs to be done eventually.

For example, what's been on my list for today and tomorrow, is write a program design. I've actually got it almost done--just waiting for more information for the people who want it.

I've done everything I wrote yesterday except start a newsletter that I need to work on.

On the side of tasks that need to be done--but not in any big hurry is writing blog posts for my upcoming blog tour for my next Rocky Bluff P.D. book. I have all the hosts lined up and two for the next to last day.

I've promised to write a hand-out about Income Tax deductions for writers for the next PSWA conference that doesn't happen until July. I'll probably work on it while doing my own income tax.

And I'm going to be doing the PSWA newsletter again, so will start on that fairly soon. Also on my list.

While all this is going on, I'll be working on my next book in the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series.

By evening, I'm not good for any mental work and usually watch a movie.

During the week, I also do the usual things like laundry, cooking, grocery shopping.

And once in awhile, hubby and I take off to see a movie in the theater and lunch out.

As you can see, I don't really have a mysterious formula--I just do it.


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Where Did HAVANA LOST Come From?

After finishing reading Havana Lost, I couldn't help wondering what prompted Libby Fischer Hellmann to write this most intriguing thriller. So like I've done before, I asked, and this is what she told me.

After I finished writing A BITTER VEIL a historical thriller set during the days of the Iranian revolution of the late Seventies, I was talking to my sister on the phone. I was already about 60 pages into my next Georgia Davis thriller, but something kept me from investing in it. I briefly considered writing a World War Two thriller instead of Georgia—I’m continually drawn to periods of extreme conflict in which some people are heroes, others cowards, and you never knew who to trust. However, I quickly realized there was probably nothing I could write about World War Two that hasn’t been done better by someone else.

Our phone conversation turned to other time periods and settings of extreme conflict, and my sister brought up Cuba. As soon as she mentioned it, I started to get that itch—the kind of itch that can only be scratched by diving into a subject. We both remembered how my parents flew down to gamble in Havana. This was when Batista was still in power. I must have only been about 7 or 8, but I remember being jealous that they were going to a foreign country and culture. I wanted to go. Of course, they didn’t take me.
A few years later Fidel took over and Cuba was suddenly off limits to Americans. Soon afterwards it turned Communist, and Communism was our enemy! Because of that, Cuba seemed even more mysterious and exotic, and I wanted to know more about it. A year later came the Bay of Pigs, followed fifteen months after that by the Cuban Missile Crisis, both of which made Cuba even more impenetrable and threatening. So close and yet so far.

Finally, and I’m not ashamed to admit it, I remembered one of the Godfather films where Al Pacino (Michael Corleone) and Lee Strasberg (Hyman Roth aka Meyer Lansky) are on a rooftop supposedly in Havana discussing how they’re going to own the island. Shortly after that, Michael sees a rebel willing to die in order to overthrow Batista. Michael changes his mind about doing business with Roth.
That clinched it. I realized I had most of the elements for a terrific thriller: revolution, crime, conflict, an exotic setting. And while I knew it would be a stand-alone story, rather than a series, there is a thematic link between HAVANA LOST, and the two previous stand-alone thrillers I’d written: A BITTER VEIL and SET THE NIGHT ON FIRE. That theme is revolution and what it does to an individual, a family, a community, a country, a culture. In fact, I consider HAVANA LOST the noir leg of my “revolutionary trilogy.”

There was only one other element I needed.  I enjoy—actually it’s more than that… it’s probably an obsession at this point—writing about women and the choices they make. I needed a female character I could insert into the middle of the volatile situation. It would be fascinating to see what she did and how she coped. How would she survive? What kind of a woman would she become? I found that woman in Frankie Pacelli, the daughter of a Mafia boss who owns a Havana resort. She’s eighteen when we meet her but in her seventies by the end of the book.
The rest was, as they say, is history.  

Btw, I finally did make it to Cuba in 2012 with my daughter, and it was just as fascinating as I thought it would be. I want to go back. In the meantime, I hope you’ll take a look at HAVANA LOST. It’s in paperback, ebook, and audio.
But is also available on audio and in print.
Chicagoan Libby Fischer Hellmann is the award-winning author of ten compulsively readable thrillers. They include the Ellie Foreman series, which Libby describes as a cross between “Desperate Housewives” and “24,” the hard-boiled Georgia Davis PI series, and three standalones: SET THE NIGHT ON FIRE, A BITTER VEIL, and HAVANA LOST, a historical thriller set largely in Cuba. She also has written nearly twenty short stories and novellas. A transplant from Washington DC, she says they’ll take her out of Chicago feet first. More at



Monday, January 13, 2014

Oak Tree Publisher Gives Advice

Recently, Billie Johnson, Oak Tree Press Publisher, spoke to the San Joaquin chapter of Sisters in Crime.

For a query, she prefers three paragraphs:

1. A recap of the story in three to five sentences.
2. How you plan to market the book.
3. Something about the author. (My advice: any writing credits and why you are the one to write the story)

Read the publisher's guidelines so you aren't wasting time by querying a genre the publisher doesn't publish.

Once you've queried, don't bug the publisher or the acquisitions' editor. This process takes time.

Billie says she's not opposed to making a few adjustments to the contract, but will pass on publishing if the author wants too many changes.

She prefers working with authors who don't have a lot of delusions about the book business, stating that there are many layers to selling books.

Every author should prepare a marketing plan ahead of time that will show the author's depth of commitment.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Edith Maxwell Visits and talks about A Tine to Live, A Tine to Die

Marilyn, thanks so much for inviting me over today!

I wanted to share my new project with your readers. I wrote a short story called “Breaking the Silence” last year. It came out in Best New England Crime Fiction 2014: Stone Cold from Level Best Books in November, and also won an Honorable Mention in the Al Blanchard Short Crime Fiction contest. 

In the story, I imagined a young Quaker woman in 1888 in my small city of Amesbury, Massachusetts. She walks to Friends Meeting on Sundays, where she worships with John Greenleaf Whittier and a hundred other Quakers, and during the week she works as a mill girl. A real fire burned down much of the town’s carriage industry, and in my story Faith Bailey solves the mystery of who the arsonist is. I am also a Quaker and I walk to the same Friends meeting as Faith did. Faith and her family live in my  house, built in 1880. The mill buildings she worked in are a block away, but now house a hardware store, a Flatbreads pizza restaurant, and offices.

When I finished the story, the characters didn’t want to go away. I imagined more of Faith’s family. Her friends. Other mysteries in town. Now I’m proposing a series. Faith’s aunt will be the protagonist, because she’s a bit older and can be edgier than the sweet  but resourceful girl that Faith is. Here’s the first paragraph of the proposal.

The historical Carriagetown Mysteries feature Quaker midwife Rose Carroll in Amesbury, Massachusetts. Her elder and mentor in the late 1880s is the actual Quaker poet and abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier, who lived in Amesbury and attended Amesbury Friends Meeting until his death in 1892. Rose resides with her late sister’s husband Frederick Bailey, his daughter Faith, and four younger siblings in a house built for the mill workers in 1880. Rose is in her mid-twenties and is unmarried, although over the course of the series she becomes fond of a young doctor who works at the newly built Anna Jaques hospital in the nearby city of Newburyport. She attends births of the rich and poor alike, being called to attend the wife of the richest carriage maker in town as well as the impoverished French-Canadian mill workers who live on the Flats by the Powwow River. This gives her the opportunity to listen in on the business of the town from behind the scenes as well as to the stories women tell during the travail of giving birth.

I write two other mystery series that are contemporary: the Local Foods mysteries and the Speaking of Mystery series. But I’m a full-time fiction writer now and am looking forward to starting this new effort. I’ll be starting to write the manuscript of the novel also called Breaking the Silence next week. And I can’t wait!

Readers: do you like to read historical mysteries? What are some of your favorites? Or do you prefer your stories set in the issues and environment of today?


Edith Maxwell's A Tine to Live, a Tine to Die in the Local Foods Mystery series (Kensington Publishing, 2013) lets her relive her days as an organic farmer in Massachusetts, although murder in the greenhouse is new. A fourth-generation Californian, she has also published short stories of murderous revenge, most recently in Best New England Crime Stories 2014: Stone Cold (Level Best Books, 2013) and Fish Nets (Wildside, 2013). The Stone Cold story, “Breaking the Silence,” won an Honorable Mention in the Al Blanchard Short Crime Fiction contest.

Edith Maxwell's alter-ego Tace Baker authored Speaking of Murder, which features Quaker linguistics professor Lauren Rousseau and campus intrigue after her sexy star student is killed (Barking Rain Press, 2012). Edith is a long-time Quaker and holds a long-unused doctorate in linguistics.

A mother and former technical writer, Edith is a fourth-generation Californian but lives north of Boston in an antique house with her beau and three cats. She blogs every weekday with the rest of the Wicked Cozy Authors ( You can also find her at @edithmaxwell, on Facebook (, and at



Thursday, January 9, 2014

Advice to New Writers

Don't become the writer from hell.

Unfortunately, over they years I've seen authors who have become their own worse enemies. Often it's because they don't understand the publishing business. And more often, they don't understand what goes on in a small publishing house.

Make sure the small publisher you've submitted to has a distribution source like Ingram.

First off, the author needs to write a good book. It also is a great idea for the author to have someone other than relatives or friends edit the book. It should be someone who actually knows what editing means. Many small publishers don't have the money to hire in-house editors and do the editing themselves.

If your book needs lots of editing, the whole publishing process will be slowed down.

Even in this day and age with all the electronic help, there are many upfront costs for the publisher. He or she may or may not hire a book formatter, a book designer, and a cover artist. Many do farm out this kind of work.

Once your book has been submitted and you're offered a contract, read it carefully before you sign. See what the publisher has promised to do for you and what you are expected to do.

The publisher is working with more than one author at a time. Your book is not going to the top of the list. Getting a book ready for publication takes time. Granted with a small press, that time will be much shorter than a big publisher who may take up to two years.

Bugging a publisher, sending endless emails, will slow the whole process down. Limit your contact only to important issues--and make sure they really are important.

Be sure you have a promotion plan--no matter who publishes you the greater part of the promotion of your book will be up to you. There are thousands of books published each year, it's up to you to let people know about yours. You should have a presence on the Web, people should recognize your name when they see it.

Once the books is out get even busier with your promotion.

Understand the royalty process. Before your publisher even sees a dime, a cut will be taken by the various distributors, the share that is then divided among the publisher and you will not be much. Sometimes there are returns that have to be figured in and will cut down the royalties. You probably will be disappointed in what you make unless something miraculous happens.

Understand what the Amazon rank numbers mean--the higher it is, the less books you've sold. Join Author Central at Amazon and you can get a more realistic picture of how many print books were sold.

If you are unhappy with your publisher--or he/she with you, the contract can be terminated.

If that should happen either by you or the publisher, you are much better off to keep the details private. Don't broadcast them all over the Internet. Why? You do want to get another publisher, right? Publishers all know each other and they converse with one another, and yes, they do pass the word about a writer from hell.

Maybe you think I've always had it good, believe me I've been through my share of less than honest publishers--but other than saying that, I never broadcast who they were, or why I thought they were dishonest. (Remember, I've been published since 1982.)

What I have seen over the years though, is promising writers who destroyed their own careers. Of course, nowadays, with the ease of self-publishing, there is a solution for an author who can't find another small publisher.

Frankly, I don't want to go through the hassle of publishing myself and if you don't either, pay attention to my advice.

Written from my heart.

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith