Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Reading Books Outside Our Preferred Genre

by Elaine Faber

We all have specific genre we prefer to read, whether it be romance, western, sci-fi, cozy mystery or thriller. As authors, our novels are likely written in our own preferred reading genre. But, we also have author-buddies whose novels are written in another genre, completely contrary to our specific interest.
It is customary to attend our author-buddy’s book launch and purchase their book as a means of showing out support. Our few dollars also help finance their next book. We’ve come to expect them to reciprocate and support our efforts, come to our book launch, even knowing our titles may not be their preferred reading genre.

So we’ve bought our friend’s book, lugged it home and placed it on a shelf where it draws dust and fly-specks over the next few months.

So here’s the question. Was it enough to support our author-buddy and buy her book? Do we actually have to read it now, too?

I think we do.

Sooner or later, our dear author-buddy, whom we wouldn’t hurt for the world, will ask, “Did you finish my book yet? How did you like it?” Her heart will stop for a quarter of a beat, hoping for a compliment but dreading our answer. She’s heard it too many times before. Your face goes pale and you say, “I haven’t had time yet.” What your author-buddy hears, is, “Wasn’t it enough that I went to your stupid launch party with kittens and balloons, spent my hard earned money, lugged home your stupid (fill in the blank with correct genre_____cat--vampire--drippy romance–ghostly killer-- poetry--Shoot um’ up cowboy--kiddie picture, etc.) book? Did you really expect me to read it too?”

“Well, yes,” she answers,” I had time to read your stupid book and write an Amazon review.”
So, it’s time to get out the glass of wine, grit your teeth and crack open your author-buddy’s book. You know and I know it isn’t going to be nearly as clever, interesting, humorous, thrilling, romantic or as well-crafted as OUR novel, but what the heck. Do it for your friend.

You might be surprised when you actually enjoy another genre. Like trying a new food you thought you’d hate, or dyeing your hair a different color, or going to a ballet or a drag race or anything else you didn’t think you’d ever like, but forced by a loved one to try something new, you found you actually liked it.
Maybe her book will make you laugh, or you’ll learn something new about the themed concept behind the story, or you’ll shed an unexpected tear over a particular phrase or description. You finish the book and come away with a new appreciation for your author-buddy.

When did she say the sequel was coming out? Maybe you’ll just take a quick peek… Not because you LIKE that genre, but just to be supportive, you know, like a good friend is supposed to be.

Black Cat’s Legacy, Book Blurb:

New divorcee Kimberlee returns with her young daughter to Fern Lake, her childhood home. Long forgottenmemories of her father’s murder surface. With the help of an author set on writing about the cold case murder and a lovely homicide detective, they set about to solve the cold case murder, but a three-way attraction can only lead to trouble. 

Part of the story is presented from the perspective of the lodge cat, called Black Cat, until he is renamed 

Thumper by Kimberlee’s daughter. For generations, the Fern Lake Black Cats have watched as secrets are hidden at the lodge. With Kimberlee’s return, Thumper knows he must help unravel the mysteries. With the aid of his ancestors’ memories, he knows where the bodies are buried and sets about to point out the clues to Kimberlee. But, Kimberlee and her child could be in danger when too many secrets from the past are revealed and it is apparent that someone will stop at nothing.

Full of danger, romance and feline wisdom, the novel presents a captivating visit into a small town and its secrets. The story will satisfy mystery lovers while the romance within the story will please romance lovers. 

Cat lovers will be entranced by the resourcefulness and insightful Thumper as he presents his ‘take’ on dealing with humans who often can’t spot a clue even when it’s put under their inferior noses. Nor do they realize the wisdom of much that he tries to point out.


Elaine Faber is a member of Sisters in Crime, California Cat Writers, and Inspire Christian Writers, where she works as an editor on an annual  anthology. 

Elaine enjoys writing short stories and speaking on author panels, sharing highlights of her debut novel, 

Black Cat’s Legacy, a tale of intrigue and murder. With the aid of his ancestors’ memories, Thumper helps pursue a cold case murder, but someone will stop at nothing to keep the Fern Lake secrets. 

The sequel, Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer, to be published in the fall, 2014, takes Thumper’s family to a horse ranch near the Mexico border where they confront wild horses, embezzling, false identities and attempted murder. 

Elaine is putting the finishing touches on a WWII humorous mystery. Eccentric Mrs. Odboddy gets involved with a missing fortune from Hawaii, a casket company, six roosters and the reappearance of an old lover. 

Elaine lives in Elk Grove with four cats, and a husband of 52 years…that’s a marriage of 52 years, not the husband.

Her short stories have appeared in multiple magazines and anthologies and can be found on Facebook and

Black Cat's Legacy is available in kindle version at Amazon for $3.99 or paperback.   

Monday, July 28, 2014

Speaking Anxiety by Gerrie Ferris Finger

 I make these plans months in advance — or my publicist the wonderful Patti Nunn does — to speak at conferences or festivals like the upcoming Decatur Book Festival in the suburb of Atlanta on August 30-31. The festival — the largest in the Southeast — is sponsored in part by The Atlanta Journal Constitution. I’ve lived and worked in Atlanta for over thirty years, twenty of which I spent as a reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. So I’m looking forward to giving a twenty minute speech, right? Well, I’ll be happy when I step off the podium, hoping that I have conquered the foremost of my fears.

Fear of speaking in public

Fear of what people think of me and my presentation

Fear of losing control

Fear of looking foolish

 Internet speech experts are good sources of advice, unless you’re a blithering case and then you  need a shrink. I’m not there yet.

For my next big presentation,  I’m going to take my cues from the Mayo Clinic:

Preparation is everything:

 I write my speeches and condense into bullet presentations. Nothing is more boring than reading a script. I’m not good at memorizing so I wing it between bullet points — knowing, of course, what my subject is — like introducing the characters in my latest novel, which is a series. Obviously, I know them very well. I know what my book is about, but sometimes my mind scrambles and I get carried away with “what comes next.”

I am as prepared as I can be, before anxiety overtakes me. So what do the experts recommend?

Exploit nervous energy:  

Nervous energy isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, research has shown that good stress helps the mind to focus more clearly. Also, getting the blood pumping sharpens the senses. Energy helps to engage audiences and exhibits passion. So if I turn my negative energy into positive energy, my audience will sit up and pay attention, unless I start pacing like a caged tiger.


If you can, find a speech coach, otherwise, a friend or family member can be your audience. Even practicing by video recording yourself and playing it back makes a difference. I made a critical error which contributed to my continuing anxiety. I did a presentation that was the first I’d given out loud. I was never comfortable during that time and that experience sticks in my mind.

Here’s the bottom line, everyone feels some anxiety before a speech.  Use these techniques to calm your nerves and don’t let speaker’s anxiety stop you from being an engaging speaker.

Cotton Mouth:

The more nervous I am the more water I need. The experts say drink water, take a few seconds to wet your whistle, but I hate to constantly sip from water bottles. Besides, I’m easily distracted from the nit I want to pick.

Be Calm:

The experts at the Mayo Clinic recommend exercise. They always do, no matter the day’s issues. They say even a quick stroll will help by alleviating anxiety in that it release endorphins that make you feel better.


At everyone you make eye contact with. Tell jokes if appropriate, look at happy photos. Social interaction calms anxiety and builds confidence. The day of the speech, I wake up nervous and get really anxiety-ridden right before it’s my turn to speak. So if  I can find a few happy photos of myself, those that have gotten my right side in profile, I’ll put them on the lectern next to my bullet point cards.

Breathing can cure self-awareness and self-consciousnesses:

Practice discreet, deep breathing while keeping a smile on your face, while looking relaxed.

Visualize yourself as happy:

Picture yourself walking up to the podium, smiling, calmly giving your speech, and then visualize the result you want afterward, such as people coming up to volunteer or congratulate you on your passionate speech. Hmmm.

Don’t put negative thoughts in your head:

Don’t dwell on past inelegant performances. Enough said.

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare:
If you don’t prepare for your speech, you’ll end up stressed and anxious beforehand. Make sure you know what you’re going to say. Then, practice. Practice your first words more than any other part so that you can relax and focus on the audience instead of yourself. 

Have a good time. 

Conquer that need to be near an exit.

Bio: Retired journalist Gerrie Ferris lives on the coast of Georgia with her husband, Alan Finger, and their standard poodle, Bogey.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Working Narcotics Undercover- David Cropp

One of the most dramatic presentations at the PSWA conference was David Cropp giving an in-depth insider's view of what it's like to work undercover in the war on drugs. Cropp is a 32 year veteran of the Sacramento Police Department, holding many positions. He retired in 2008 as a detective sergeant.

He correlates the high crime rate to heroin addiction.

To be undercover, the person needs to build his character as a bad guy. He has to be flexible in order to be safe.

He needs to understand the client and have a Plan BE, knowing when to call it off.

He needs to appreciate different perspectives without accepting them.

Everyone needs food and shelter. Maladaptive environments create maladaptive behaviors.

If you're undercover, must have a cognitive filter.

When undercover, you must always be looking for rip-offs and weapons without looking like you are.

Listen to how the other person communicates.

You must understand the person you are dealing with.

Must have the smarts to go along with the flexibility. Must also have patience.

The more research done the better the  job. Take pictures of people and learn their behavior.

Learn who is on probation and whose on parole.

On the streets, no one is on time. No bed, no three meals a day. No getting wrapped up on schedules.

Everyone wants to make money or score.

Heroin users are predictable. Meth users are unpredictable.

You have to be a risk taker and thrive on excitement.

Need to be a team player, know what your back-up is thinking. What do they need you to do?

Some undercover cops may turn to alcohol. Some have ruined the lives by becoming alcoholics, turning to drugs. Some commit suicide.

Drug dealers are turned in  by friends and relatives, neighbors who are fed up.

There was lots, lots more, but that's enough for this blog.

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Mystery and Intrigue Book Signing

In case the printing is too small, the event is this Saturday, July 26 from 1 to 4 at the Clovis Book Barn on Clovis Ave., Clovis CA. (You did get that it's Clovis, right? I'm smiling, of course.)
Featuring several highly acclaimed local authors who specialize in tales of mystery and intrigue – including Tim Desmond, Marilyn Meredith, Garner Scott Odell, and Gary Wayne Walker – we’ll have an afternoon of discussion, reading, book signing, mingling and refreshments. The event is free and open to the public, so stop by, beat the heat, and enjoy the festivities! Clovis Book Barn, 640 Clovis Ave., Clovis CA.

Meet the Authors!

“The Doc” by Timothy Desmond

Retired high school science teacher Tim Desmond is an artist and author in Fresno. He has been writing since the 1970s and his first novel, For Thou Art With Me, published 2006, is a World War II love and war story. He was raised in Madera and on a rural California grain ranch. His scholarship to attend California College of Arts and Crafts, in Oakland, was the first art scholarship in the history of Madera. His influences were Heinz Kusel and Bob Trestrail. Later he received a Bachelor of Arts degree from California State University Fresno, with a major in zoology, and has since taught at various middle school, high schools, and colleges throughout the Central Valley. The Doc is his second novel.

“Murder in the Worst Degree” by Marilyn Meredith

Marilyn Meredith is the author of over thirty-five published novels, including the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, the latest Spirit Shapes from Mundania Press. Writing as F. M. Meredith, her latest Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novel is Murder in the Worst Degree from Oak Tree Press. Marilyn is a member of three chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. She lives in the foothills of the Sierra.

“Emerald” by Garner Scott Odell
Garner Scott Odell, retired after fifty years as a clergyman, therapist, and chaplain on cruise ships. He and his wife have traveled over a million ocean miles to 175 countries, and now turns his passion to writing. After writing a successful historical novel, Sir David: The Life and Loves of a Welsh Knight, his written pages now open to thrillers surrounding the lust and intrigue that surround beautiful “rocks”. The first novel in this series, Emerald, is just off the presses. Garner lives in California with his wife Grace, also a published writer, surrounded far and wide with children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. In between pounding away on his computer he eats Hagen Daz ice cream, prunes his roses and thinks up more chaos to commit to print.

“Vengeance Is Mine” by Gary Wayne Walker
Gary Wayne Walker was born in Los Angeles in 1941; the third of three sons, Gary grew up in North Hollywood where he attended public schools through the eighth grade. Following the death of his father in 1955, Gary was awarded a competitive four-year scholarship to Black-Foxe Military Institute in Hollywood, from which he graduated with honors in 1959. In 1963, he graduated from Occidental College with a BA degree in political science. Now retired in Fresno and writing full-time, Gary is a member of the Valley Writers and Artists Association. Gary’s debut novel, Vengeance Is Mine, has been available on since July, 2013 as a trade paperback and Kindle download. He is currently writing a sequel, Vengeance Unbound, which is scheduled for publication in November, 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

PSWA Panel on Weapons for Writers

Unfortunately, I didn't get a photograph of this panel. The participants were:

John Schembra, Rich Wickliffe, Dave Freeland, Mark Bouton and Ron Corbin. Mike Black moderated.

Mike began the panel by pointing out that Americans have a fascination for guns.

When one of the retired officers was in the LAPD, everyone carried a .38 special.
Detectives changed to Glocks.

These are the weapons that were described:  Smith and Wesson Semi-Automatic with 10 to 18 rounds.

Smith and Weston 357 Magnum

Shot Gun

45 Caliber pistols

FBI carried Glocks

Glocks are light and often carried by female officers

Officer learn to count the round.

Problems with movie and TV depictions:

A 2 oz. bullet doesn't fly through the walls.

Chambering rounds when there should have already been one in the chamber.

Poor weapon handling.

It only takes 2 seconds to empty an AR 15.

On the show 24, cellphones always has bars and a charged battery.

Guns still kick. There's a heavy drag on the first round.

Tailor the weapon to the character you are writing about.

When writing about a character in a different era be sure he/she carries the right weaon.

Not every police officer knows about every type of gun.

Police officers guns are inspected on a regular basis.

There is no safety on a revolver.

Mafia hits use 22s, the bullet bounces around inside someone.

This was an excellent panel--full of great information for writers.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Explanation of the Many Investigative Organizations of the Department of Defense

Mike Angley, a retired UAF Colonel and career Special Agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigation (the USAF version of NCIS of TV and Mark Harmon fame). He is the author of the Child Finder trilogy.

He gave a great presentation on all the various investigative organizations within the Department of Defense--what they do and what they don't do. 

They respond to all felonies, murders, rape, etc. under their jurisidiction and do some counter intelligence.

Their are special operatives such as Navy Seals, Green Berets, and civilian special agents who can arrest both military and civilians.

They have concealed carry authority.

NCIS is all civilian.

None of them have a mortuary or crime lab. The Army runs the crime lab for all services.

(This means there is no Abbie or Duckie.)

They all do have forensic agents.

They all work together much better than they used to.

Of course there was a lot more--but if you want to know things like this, you should attend the Public Safety Writers Conference--all the experts attend.

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith

Friday, July 18, 2014

Using Dialogue

This was one of the panels at the PSWA conference.

Moderator: Mike Black

Participants: Frank Hickey, Thonie Hevron, Ilene Schneider, Janet Greger, Barbara Hodges

Set the tone in dialogue

Eavesdrop to see how people talk

Try to put as much of the story into dialogue as possible.Give your characters tics and tells.

Use a light touch with dialects

Read the dialogue out loud

Must move the plot forward or reveal character

Leave out the mundane things we say.

(They talked about setting too, but I didn't take any notes on it. Have no idea why, possibly because someone was talking to me about something.)


P.S. There also was a panel on point-of-view which I've discussed several times on this blog.

Another topic was working with an editor and here's a few tips from that one:

Everyone needs an editor. 

Belong to a critique group and use a content editor.

An editor can make you a better writer.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Tips for Writing Your Novel

After earning degrees in sociology and law, Mark Bouton joined the FBI and nabbed killer, kidnappers, and bank robbers across America for 30 years. Now he writes mystery and suspense novels and is willing to share his expertise with fellow members of PSWA,

Here are a few of his tips about writing your novel.

Characters: Need to know more than the physical description, also important are their upbringing, needs and goals, education, habits, gestures, ticks, personality, how they dress, posture, and their moral character.

Begin you novel with conflict. Show tensions, action, disbelief, wonder, fear. Remember a plot may be man against nature, man against evil, and/or man against himself.

Grab the reader with fascinating sentence, idea, question, situation. Make the reader wonder what will happen next.

Dialogue is an excellent way to show character--and remember, the dialogue may include lies.

Scenes are the building blocks of the novel--followed by the sequel or reaction to the scene.

Voice is each writer's individual style of writing.

Setting should set the stage for the action.

Be sparing in minor character's description.

Narration used to give important information.

(Great tips, Mark. And of course there was much, much more.)

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith

Monday, July 14, 2014

Sunday a.m. Wrap-up of the PSWA Conference

As usual, the day began with the Jeoprady contest.

The first panel was about Interrogation and Interview.

What's the difference? During an interview, the person being interviewed can leave, during an interrogation, the person can not.

Pete Klismet moderated and the panelists were George Cramer, John Schembra, Joe Haggerty, Frank Hickey and Dave Cropp. What a great bunch with vast experiene and knowledge which they are willing to share.

The last panel was about writing a series.  Marilyn Olsen asked some great questions as the moderator, and the panelist were Sharon Moore, Barbara Hodges, Ilene Schneider, Virgil Alexander and me. I thought we did a good job of answering the questions.

We had the final round of jeoprady followed by the last of the book sales--lots of books were purchased, by the way.

Next was our awards luncheon (and believe me, all the meals were great). Michelle Perin handed out the awards to the thrilled winners who were in attendance. The others will receive the news and their certificates later.

And now I'm looking forward to next year!


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Saturday at the PSWA Conference

We began with CSI Jeoprady--so fun.

Next came writing articles in today's competitive market--geared toward trade magazines (mainly those on the Net.) Participants were Doug Wyllie, Tim Dees, Kathy Ryan, Dave Freeland, Michelle Perin and Rayne E. Golay.

Weapons for Writers was about all different kinds of weapons law enforcement used in the past, and preferred weapons of today. One fun segement was when the panelists discussed mistake TV, movie and writers make. Participants were: John Schembra, Rich Wickliffe, Dave Freeland, Mark Bouton and Ron Corbin. Mike Black was the moderator and had a lot to offer too.

Dave Cropp gave an outstanding presentation on Working Narcotics Undercover.

We learned about the Medical Side of Wounds and Forensics. Thonie Hevron did a great job moderating the panel of experts: Gloria Casale, Steve Scarborough, Janet Greger, Sam Bradley, and Rayne E. Golay. This covered lots of topics from poisons to gun shot wounds.

The last panel of the day was about firefighting and arson investigation. Terrific information was imparted by Michelle Perin, Rich Wickliffe, Robert Haig, and Sam Bradley.

We ended the day with another round of CSI Jeopardy.

(Later blogs will go into more details about these topics.)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Friday at PSWA

Anyone who follows me on Facebook has seen photos of the various events. 

Though I am no longer the program chair, I could hardly wait to get up to the conference center. After visiting with Madeline Gornell while waiting for our breakfast, and then having Joe Haggerty and Ilene Schneider join us for breakfast, the day started great. (I had crab cakes Benedict and they were wonderful.)

We are slightly down in numbers due to illnesses and other unexpected events, but it hasn't mattered--those who are here are learning lots and having a great time.

AJ Farrar is looking great and doing is job as Master of Ceremonies. Our Queen, Marilyn Olson, is wearing a couple of crowns as she's also representing Oak Tree Press. 

All through out the conference we'll be having rounds of CSI Jeopardy, with the first round beginning the day. Contestants are:  Pete Klisment, Joe Haggerty, ThonieHevron, Diane Krantz. And so far, it has been a hoot!

We've had panels tackling Point of View, Working with an editor, revision and editing yourself, Setting and Dialogue.

Mark Bouton, retired FBI, spoke on Plotting and Writing Your Book.

And, Michael Angley who is a retired USAF Colonel and career Special Agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. He filled us in on all the Defense Criminal Investigative Organizations.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Yesterday at PSWA

We were on the road by 5:15 a.m. Made our first stop at McDonald's in Bakersfield. Love the drive to Tehachapi, saw a long, long train just coming off the loop. That is so fascinating. I also love to see all the railroad tunnels through the mountains. Years ago passenger trains from L.A. came through those tunnels. As a little girl I used to go to Bakersfield that way, by myself, with a note hanging around my neck telling the conductor where I should get off. My grandparents lived in Bakersfield and grandpa worked for the railroad.

Nothing like digressing. We actually had quite a pleasant though long, long drive through the desert. Getting to the Orleans Hotel was a cinch. First people we saw were Nancy and A.J. Farrar. Then on our way to the conference center, Michelle Perin and her beau.

Like I said yesterday, waiting for people to come and greeting them is much like a family reunion. Met some new folks too--and have a bit of trouble remembering names. The food at the reception was great--tried to visit with everyone but I missed a few. 

Had to leave early, just too tired and sleepy. More later.


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Heading for my Favorite Writing Conference

My computer is in the shop as I'm writing this. A program I downloaded purported to be helpful and make my computer faster, turned out to be a virus. It really loused up my computer.

I do have Moby which backs-up my computer everyday. However, it seems that the programs themselves are corrupted. 

Because I'm a writer, of course I'm hoping all those manuscript files are safe. But I also have other things that I hope can be resurrected. 

Since I know you don't want to hear all my woes, you ask, how are you writing this post?

I'm using my trusty iPad. It does come in handy for several things.

On a happier note, today hubby and I are traveling across the desert to Las Vegas. No, we will not be gambling or seeing the sights, we're headed for the Orleans Hotel and the PSWA Conference.  

This year's conference will be a bit different because after being the program chair for many years, I turned the task over to Mike A. Black. This means I don't have to be in the conference area foyer to check people in. However, because I like to see who comes, greet my friends and meet those who I only knowfrom the Internet, I'll head upstairs as soon as we get settled in our room.

For those of you who don't know, PSWA stands for Public Safety Writers Association. It is a group for those who write about any of the public safety fields, including mystery writers. It's a great organization for mystery writers to become friends with experts in law enforcement and fire fighting.

I'll attempt to post everyday, and give you a taste of what's going on.

Tonight will be our get acquainted gathering. I can hardly wait.

Marilyn aka F.M.  Meredith

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Report on Offering Angel Lost E-book Free

For two days during Angel Lost being offered as free for Kindle, it was the #1 free book and the #1 police procedural.

At the last report from the publisher, 53,000 copies were downloaded.

The reason anyone offers free copies is to get more readers. And when someone has a series like I do, the hope is that those who read the free book and like it will buy other books in the series. That seems to be happening.

Last report from my publisher:

Besides the freebies, 20 copies of Angel Lost were sold at full price.
An Axe to Grind, 17 copies.
Bad Tidings, 24 copies
Dangerous Impulses, 14 copies
Fringe Benefits, 15 copies
No Sanctuary, 28 copies
No Bells, 13 copies
Smell of Death, 10 copies,
Murder in the Worst Degree, 10 copies
And the first book in the series, Final Respects, 86 copies

Another plus is that Angel Lost is getting more reviews, though there is a downside to this.

One of the reviews gave away some plot points.

One said that it was a Christian book--well, I didn't plan it to be though some of the characters are Christian--a main character is a devout Catholic, another family go to a protestant church, some don't go to church at all--just like people in real life. And yes, there is an angel that appears in a window--a similar thing happened in a nearby town and it seemed to fit for this plot.

Another reviewer gave the book 3 stars and he said he didn't read it all the way through because he only liked science fiction not stories.

Am I glad I did it the freebie? Sure, it was great seeing my book being #1 and fortunately most people liked it.

It is a lot of work and time consuming finding places to promote the freebie--and I did use BookBub which has many subscribers and is expensive.

Will I do it again? Sure, though I'm not sure when or what book. And maybe I'll go the .99 cent route next time.

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith

    Sunday, July 6, 2014


    By Diane Gilbert Madsen

    Launching a new book under normal circumstances is a challenge. I’d already launched two.  My first, “A Cadger’s Curse,” about Robert Burns, the Bard of Scotland, was launched at an MWA Raven Award winning Chicago based bookstore, Centuries & Sleuths.  The second, “Hunting for Hemingway,” about --- you guessed it -- was launched at the Hemingway Museum in Oak Park under the auspices of the Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park.

    My third book in the DD McGil Literati Mystery Series, “The Conan Doyle Notes: The Secret of Jack the Ripper,” has a new publisher -- MX Publishing.  This innovative publisher is based in London, whereas me and my office - known as The Bat Cave - are based in Southwest Florida.  I also have a fan base in the Chicago area, my hometown. My challenge was how to work out the logistics of the When, Where and How among all these sites for the book launch.

    Luckily, communications between me and Steve Emecz, the Managing Director of MX Publishing were excellent from the start.  The first issue we resolved was that the date of the launch would be May 22nd 2014 -- this being the 155th anniversary of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s birthday. Once we’d decided on the “When,” we moved on to the “Where.”

    Of course, I wanted to be in London for the launch.  In fact, my husband Tom and I had friends from Cincinnati who wanted to join us on the trip across the pond, and we made some initial plans.  However, my husband developed some back problems, making the trip unfeasible, so I had to be here in the US and not in London for the launch.  The “Where” would be two locations – the US and the UK.  Steve and I agreed to work out a joint international launch between us using Skype and a live facebook feed to connect our two locations and make it one big party.  As for Chicago, I decided that a week after the launch, I’d go there for a signing at Centuries & Sleuths and attend the Printers Row Book Fair to meet my Chicago based fans.

    Work then began in earnest on all the details of the Florida-London launch.  I selected a favorite bookstore in Southwest Florida – Copperfish Books – as my venue.  The owners, Cathy & Serena, are very author friendly, and they have a base of loyal readers who love the store and the many interesting events continually offered.  I’d done several very successful presentations and signings there, so I knew the layout well.  They jumped at the opportunity to help plan a joint international event. 

    My publisher chose the Sherlock Holmes Hotel on Baker Street in London as the venue – a perfect location.  The Hotel was extremely accommodating.  They baked a Sherlock Holmes/Conan Doyle Birthday Cake and even devised a special cocktail for the launch called “A Scandal in Bohemia” a la the Sherlock Holmes Hotel. The drink recipe is on my website
    Copperfish Books and I talked often, and we coordinated times with London.  Our FL event would begin at 2 PM and London at 7 PM.  We decided how many books to order and planned e-mail announcements to the press and to their customers as well as to my fan list.  We ordered a birthday cake and wine and cheese.  We planned some Sherlock Holmes decorations, and we developed an advertising poster for the event that could be distributed in the weeks prior at the bookstore, at libraries and at various retailers. We met at the bookstore several times pre-launch date to work out specifics. We did a trial Skype run; decided where to best place the Skype camera and where to set up and play my book trailer video; how to showcase the Conan Doyle Birthday cake; and the best arrangement for podium and seating. 

    Meanwhile in London, Steve came up with some creative ideas to help make the launch memorable. He turned it into an “event” publicizing both my book launch and the 155th anniversary of Conan Doyle’s birth.  He organized a live interview, via satellite, where Stephen Seitz, Sherlockian, journalist, author, media consultant and film critic, would interview me about my new book directly from my launch in Southwest FL. He also secured a performance of "The Singular Exploits of Sherlock Holmes" by Jonathan Goodwin of the famous Don’t Go Into Cellar theatre company.  The program also would update the status of the fight to Save Undershaw - the home of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes.  Steve sold tickets to the event, giving attendees entry into a raffle that included signed first editions of my book, "The Conan Doyle Notes."  Raffle proceeds were pledged to the Undershaw Preservation Trust.

    Before the launch date, I sent out e-mails to potential readers on several occasions, highlighting different aspects of my new book.  I continually tweeted, put information on my facebook page and on some additional facebook page opportunities that my publisher provided for me.

    We scheduled a 60 day “Goodreads Giveaway” for 3 copies of my new book for US, UK and Australia. It was amazing to see over 1,500 readers sign up for this promotion. I tweeted the promotions and put them on facebook

    During this time I signed on for some blogs relating to my book launch.  Also I wrote an article for PBS Expressions Magazine due out in June 2014 entitled, “The Secrets of the Underground: Jack the Ripper, Sherlock and Ghosts.”   Additionally, I submitted an article to “The Baker Street Journal” which was accepted for publication.

    My publisher and I worked to get reviews and endorsements on the new book. They were all excellent, including one from the Sherlock Holmes Society of London. 

    Finally we drew up our co-ordinated agendas for the events.  Here’s the London agenda:

    6.30pm              Guests arrive & Cut Doyle Birthday cake
    7.00pm               Performance of ‘Singular Exploits of Sherlock
    8.00pm               Save Undershaw Presentation, Doyle’s home
    8.30pm               Diane Gilbert Madsen Book launch & Interview by
    Stephen Seitz via Skype on her new book “The
    Conan Doyle Notes”
    9.00pm               Draw Raffle Prizes

    Here’s the Florida agenda for Copperfish Books:

    2 PM            Guests Arrive & Refreshments Served

    2:20              Cathy Introduces Diane
    2:22-2:50      Remarks: Diane
    2:50 – 3:00             Q & A
    3:00              Toast Conan Doyle Birthday & Cut Cake
    3:05- 3:25             Sign Books
    3:25 –4:00     Skype Interview with London at Sherlock Holmes Hotel
    Steve Emecz, MX Publisher, talks about the London bash &; Steve Introduces Diane-
    Diane introduces Carl Patrick and Marcus Goodson, real life people who are characters
    in the book.
    Steve Emecz introduces Stephen Seitz 

    3:35-4:00              Diane Interviewed by Stephen Seitz w/ Q & A for
    London & FL audiences
    So how did the joint launch come off?  Fabulous.  Both in Florida and London we had standing room only enthusiastic crowds.  We sold lots of books and the audiences in both locales were interested in the interview. London & Florida both sang “Happy Birthday” and enjoyed the unique Conan Doyle birthday cakes.  And I understand that the “Scandal in Bohemia” drinks were a hit at the Sherlock Holmes Hotel. In fact, many guests in FL were disappointed we didn’t serve them as well. 

    We did run into two minor hitches.  First, the lighting at the Sherlock Holmes Hotel venue was too minimal to be able to Skype much of the party there. Instead, each locale enjoyed its own birthday celebration.   Secondly, Stephen Seitz had kindly agreed to interview me about the new book.  He was based in Springfield, Vermont, which meant that our Skype connection was a 3-way connection between London, Vermont and Florida.  Before the launch, we practiced a three-way trial run on Skype, and it worked perfectly-- we were ready for business. But the unforseen often knocks at the door, and it did so in the shape of the weather.  There was a horrendous thunderstorm in Vermont at the time of the interview that knocked out one of the two computers I had at Copperfish Books to run a facebook live stream.  Then it knocked out the 3-way video during the interview.  We still had sound, and both audiences stayed with us all the way through and asked a lot of good questions. Never take a hitch like this as an ill omen.  Quite the reverse. People are still talking about the event – including the thunderstorm, which in the final analysis made it even more memorable.

    This event involved a lot of work and coordination, but I learned two important things. One is that you must have good partners to pull it off, and I was very fortunate in this regard.  Two, planning is essential, but always expect the unexpected.   Twitter - @DianeMadsen 

    Wow! What an amazing idea! Sounds like all went well!

    Wednesday, July 2, 2014

    The Sea Grape Tree, a Review

    First off, this book was sent to me by the publisher as an Advanced Uncorrected Proof, and it's not the kind of book I would have chosen for myself.

    Mostly, as your probably know, I mainly read mysteries. My time is limited, so I stick to what I know I'll enjoy.

    However, when I have a book arrives in the mail, I'm compelled to read it--or at least begin reading to see if I'll like it. 

    The Sea Grape Tree is not a mystery, though there is some mystery in it, plus an exciting kidnapping and rescue. I won't tell you any more about that because it might spoil the plot.

    The book is not a romance, though there are a couple of romantic threads that are important to the story.

    As the cover says, The Sea Grape Tree is a novel--but so much more.

    Set in Largos Bay, Jamaica the entire story is rich with depictions of the sumptuous beauty contrasted by the poverty of and the struggle to make a living of most of the inhabitants of this particular part of the island.

    The story centers on the possibility of the rebuilding of a hotel destroyed by a ferocious storm, the investor, a visiting female artist with a hidden past, a popular but run-down bar, those who frequent the bar, the bartender and his family, 

    The characters are wonderful, the author, Gillian Royes, is an artist with words.

    I loved the story and everything about it.

    Marilyn Meredith

    Tuesday, July 1, 2014

    An Interview with Author Sue McGinty

    Is there a momentous event, or theme, that drives this series?

    Absolutely. Bella is both haunted and driven by the murder of her sister on Bella’s doorstep in Detroit years ago. Like many family tragedies, Bea’s murder destroyed her family. It led to the premature death of her father and Bella’s estrangement from her mother.

    As “Murder in Mariposa Bay” opens, Bella’s terminally ill mother has moved in with Bella and Mike. She and Bella strive to repair their strained relationship. It’s tough going because of deeply embedded old wounds. The themes that propel the series forward are Bella’s need for reconciliation and her passion for justice.

    I know your covers have become a family affair. Is there a story behind this one?

    You bet. My granddaughter, Katherine McGinty Loughman, posed for the cover of “Murder in Los Lobos” when she was an undergrad at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. 

    Son Patrick and daughter-in-law Diane did the honors for “Murder at Cuyamaca Beach.” Granddaughter Julie, scheduled to pose as “the wandering nun,” a mythical character in “…Mariposa Bay,” moved to Portland for graduate school and became unavailable for the cover shoot. Fortunately, Victoria Heckman, fellow Sister-in-Crime member, actor and good friend stepped in and saved the day. She even provided the photographer, Pat Siemer. One more reason to love my Central Coast Sisters in Crime chapter members. 
    Tell us about the benefits and challenges of writing a series character.

    With two successful series of your own, Rocky Bluff and Tempe Crabtree, there’s probably not much I can tell you, Marilyn. However, I find the main benefit is knowing the character so well. She’s become an alter ego, and I pretty much know how she’ll react in any given situation. Sometimes she surprises me and I love that. I welcome these moments as growth opportunities for Bella and for me as a writer.

    The main challenge about writing a series character is to keep the situations and characters’ perspective fresh and exciting. That way I’m not telling the same story over and over.

    The timeline at first presented another common challenge—how much to allow the characters to age between books. The series starts in 2007 to mirror events in Los Osos, the real town upon which “Murder in Los Lobos,” is based. “Murder at Cuyamaca Beach” takes place in 2008. “…Mariposa Bay” and the fourth book, now in development, take place in 2010, again to reflect events happening at that time. This has actually proved to be a benefit, as the characters age naturally, from a few months to a year in each book. 

    Some series characters don’t change from book to book, such as Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, and of course, the redoubtable James Bond. Tell us how Bella has grown over the span of three books.

    Bond, Reacher and their ilk don’t change because they’re larger than life, kick-butt kind of heroes. I always find a series where the protagonist grows as a result of life’s experiences more satisfying, and certainly more realistic, than one where the character remains static book after book.

    Bella spent 25 years as a nun, putting her needs second to those of her church. She went directly from religious life to marriage under the thumb of Mike, her strong-willed detective husband. This left her no time to sort out life as a newly secular and single human being. Now they drift apart as Bella becomes more her own person and Mike resists her changing.     

    How about her sidekick, Chris? How has he changed? 

    Chris, her nephew and teen “Dr. Watson,” has grown and matured beyond my wildest expectations. When he first arrived on the scene, it was a challenge for Bella to keep him out of jail. Now in “Murder in Mariposa Bay”, he’s graduated from the Culinary Academy in Napa and working as a San Francisco sous chef. He even has a serious girlfriend whom Bella adores. (Though she does maintain, at least on the surface, a separate bedrooms policy when Chris and Milly spend the weekend.)

    What are you working on now?

    I’m in first draft agony on “Murder in a Safe Place,” which takes Bella back to Detroit her hometown, to sell the family home and obtain documents critical to Mike’s future—and the future of their marriage. But things happen to Bella that don’t happen to other people: soon she stumbles over a massive cover-up that extends to the highest reaches of Detroit government. She suspects the person at the heart of this conspiracy knows things about her sister’s unsolved murder. 
    The Central Coast settings are such an essential element in your books. What are the challenges of taking Bella out of her environment?

    Many and varied, as I’m finding out. You’re right, Bella has lost her physical landmarks, and she finds Detroit has changed beyond her wildest dreams. Without Mike, her husband, Chris, her nephew, and her mom, who has just died, she finds herself rudderless in a dangerous and volatile setting. Bella’s tough, and in this story, she needs to be.   

    So, if Bella finds her sister’s killer in “Murder in a Safe Place,” is that the end of the series?

    Absolutely not. Like life, one door closes, another opens. And don’t forget, she has the ongoing challenge of keeping Mike in line.

     Where can we get copies of your books?

    Murder in Mariposa Bay” in print and e-book is available on Amazon at, not surprisingly, Murder-in-Mariposa-Bay I’m in the process of republishing “Murder in Los Lobos” and “Murder in Cuyamaca Beach” on Amazon. In the meantime, you can order copies from me at:
    All three books are also available at Volumes of Pleasure in Los Osos and Coalesce Bookstore in Morro Bay. 

    I also invite you visit my website: and friend me on Facebook.

    Murder in Mariposa Bay:

    Seeking relief from the care of her ailing mother, Bella Kowalski, former nun, now Central Coast Chronicle obituary editor, and her husband Mike, spend a camping weekend in the Mariposa Bay State Park. They wind up their getaway with a romantic night at a local inn overlooking the bay. The next morning, looking for coffee in the lobby, they find the body of the desk clerk. Mike’s reaction puzzles and alarms Bella.

    Things go from bad to worse when a Detroit mobster comes to town looking for more than drop-dead views of the ocean. Sensing there’s some connection between Mike and the mobster, Bella launches an investigation. The ill-considered caper soon lands her in a firestorm of malice and mayhem. Even more disturbing, Bella is forced to seek answers to deeper questions about her sister’s unsolved murder.


    Sue McGinty has had a love affair with California’s Central Coast for more than twenty years. She has chosen to set her Bella Kowalski mystery series there, in the unique and funky towns that hug the shore of the Pacific Ocean. Books in the series include: “Murder in Los Lobos,” “Murder at Cuyamaca Beach,” and the latest, “Murder in Mariposa Bay.”

    When not writing, she works at ticking items off her bucket list, including seeing Willie Nelson live. Sue and Willie share the same birthdate, April 30. Sue is quick to point out she is much younger.

    Thank you, Sue, this was a fun interview! And I love the new photo!

    Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith