Monday, June 29, 2015

Being Nice Goes a Long Way

That title seems rather simple--but recently I witnessed someone that I like attack another person that I like via the Internet. I'm not going into detail because the less said about the actual incident the better.

Unfortunately, the whole thing blew up with others in on it, and possibly more consequences to come--though I certainly hope not.

In our lifetime we run into people we don't care for, but it's best to keep our opinions to ourselves. We aren't going to like everyone who crosses our paths.

Years ago, I thought that everyone should like me, and if they didn't I could work harder and change his or her opinion. Wrong. The truth is there are folks that you are going to rub the wrong way no matter what you do to change their opinion.

My philosophy about this, is be kind no matter what. It isn't going to hurt you, and not being kind will. You ask how? Because others will see how you act and judge you. As the old saying goes, "Don't shoot yourself in the foot." And just for your own sake, you'll feel better if you are nice instead of being nasty.

I've seen too many people get their feelings hurt by someone being mean when it wasn't necessary. It certainly didn't make me like the one being mean.

To bring this around to the subject of writing, I'm asked to read a lot of books and review them. Do I like everyone? No. If the book has nothing whatsoever going for it, I won't do the review. However, there haven't been many of those. Everyone has different tastes when it comes to books. Even if the one I'm to review isn't to my liking, I can always find something that I did like about it to write in my review.

One of the reasons I do this is because someone else might love the book--and I certainly wouldn't want to be the one to discourage him or her from reading it.

No, I'm not perfect, and I know I've been guilty of not being as nice as I should at times.

A good rule is what the Bible says, "Do unto others as you'd have them do unto you."


Saturday, June 27, 2015

Writing About Older Women by Jean Henry Mead

When I wrote my first mystery novel, after five nonfiction books and a Wyoming historical novel, I agonized over my protagonist. How old should she be and what should she be like? Then a phone call from an old friend, who likes to reminisce about our single days, helped me decide. The two of us had a lot of fun together and she could always make me laugh. I reasoned that now that we were no longer young, why not write a book about two senior women who reluctantly decide to solve the murders of their friends and club members.

Dana Logan and Sarah Cafferty were born on my computer screen and came to life in the Valley Retirement Village in California’s San Joaquin Valley, where I lived for more than a dozen years and met my friend Marge. I call my two amateur sleuths seniors but they’re actually baby boomers in their early sixties. Feisty and adventurous, they claim to be able to compete with younger sleuths, with the exception of roller blading and scaling tall buildings.

In their first adventure, A Village Shattered, their Sew and So (needlework and gossip) club members begin dropping dead alphabetically, and the newbie sheriff, a former dog trainer, can’t seem to solve the murders. Realizing that their own names are on the killer’s list, Dana and Sarah decide to solve the killings themselves, but not without consequences.

In book two, Diary of Murder, both women have sold their homes and purchased a motorhome to travel the West. They then learn that Dana’s mystery writer sister Georgie has died and her husband claims it was suicide. When they arrive in Wyoming, they discover Georgie’s diary, which details her husband’s infidelities and her miserable marriage. They further discover Georgie’s husband’s involvement in a vicious drug gang along with his brother, the sheriff.

Murder on the Interstate finds the two women traveling northern Arizona in their motorhome, where they discover the body of a beautiful young woman in her Mercedes convertible. Determined to discover why she was killed, they find themselves kidnapped by a homegrown terrorist group who plan to take down the government. Sheriff Grayson, who botched the serial killer murder case in A Village Shattered, has fallen in love in Dana and insists on helping to solve the murder, but winds up complicating it.

The two women move into Dana’s sister’s Wyoming mansion and are on a picture taking trip on Gray Wolf Mountain when someone shoots out a tire and causes a rollover. A quirky old man in a rusty pickup comes to their rescue and they learn that he rescues wounded wolves and nurses them back to health, because someone is shooting them. The shooter is soon targeting people as well. Dana’s journalist daughter Kerrie shows up to help in the investigation, as she has done in the three previous books, and falls in love with a Vietnam veteran who volunteers to help catch the killer.

Murder in RV Paradise takes place in northern Texas at an exclusive resort where Dana and Sarah discover the body of a woman in one of the small lakes the day they arrive. The woman, they learn, has a bad reputation and there are over a thousand suspects who might have killed her. The two amateur sleuths are suspects themselves when someone plants evidence against them. Sheriff Grayson arrives to help, despite Dana’s protests, and persuades her to marry him. And Sarah lassos herself a Texas cattlemen. But danger continues to stalk them all.

Book six was recently released. Murder at the Mansion finds Dana a widow and Sarah unhappily married in Texas. When Dana’s gardener is murdered in her yard, Sarah flies back to Wyoming to console her friend and investigate the mysterious killing. When the mansion is destroyed, the two women flee to Texas and the Alaskan outback, where they find themselves in even greater danger.

Bio: Jean Henry Mead is a former news reporter and author of 21 books, half of them novels. She writes the Logan & Cafferty mystery/suspense series as well as the Hamilton Kids’ mysteries, Wyoming historical novels and nonfiction books. Her magazine articles have been published domestically and abroad, and she has served as a news, magazine and small press editor.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Truth is More Twisted Than Fiction by Velda Brotherton

Believe me, I can attest to that. Spending nine years working as a feature writer and city editor for a rural weekly newspaper has shown me some pretty twisted things. Stuff, if you put it in fiction, folks would snicker and say it was too twisted to happen.  All those stories and marvelous characters I met during that time are filed away. Frankly I never thought I’d use them. Writing Western Historical romances didn’t call for most of these modern day happenings here in our Ozarks.

But then one day, it occurred to me that I wanted to write something else as well. Since I like reading mysteries, the sexy, dark, and gritty kind, I navigated in that direction. Why not write about a reporter working for a rural weekly newspaper? Inspired, wasn’t I? And as for the sexy part, we needed a tall, dark and handsome hero. One with secrets and special talents. So Jesse West, my reporter and Dallas Starr, my Cherokee ex-narc who visits with those killed violently were born.

As for stories, I never covered a murder, but if my stories were to be dark and gritty we needed murder most foul. Considering suspects naturally drew me to the true story of “Caveman Jake,” not his real name. He lived in a cave above the river of the small town where our paper was located.

He came to the local store occasionally to cash his SSI check and buy food. His long black beard and tangled mop of hair hid all sorts of critters, everyone was sure, and so they steered clear of him.  As far as I could find out, he never spoke to anyone, just bought cans of potted meat, tuna and Spam, which he would often open in the store and dig his dirty fingers in to scoop up bites as he waited in line.

Caveman became a suspect in my first mystery, The Purloined Skull, #1 in A Twist of Poe series.

On the outskirts of our small town also lived The Snake Man. He spent the winter with his wife in a lovely cabin set deep in the bluffs above the highway and river. In the summer he took his entourage – reticulated pythons, cobras, rattle snakes, and a great mixture of smaller varieties of snakes – to Florida where he made his living from tourists wanting to see his offerings.

As a reporter, I decided one day I wanted to interview him. My boss was all for it, said no one else would go near the place. I figured, what could happen? I’d just sit in his cabin and talk to him, ask to take pictures of a few snakes in their cages, and leave. Yeah. When I arrived, parked and walked past a trailer advertising all varieties of reptiles, I shuddered. Inside the house, he introduced me to his wife, who was carrying a shoebox.

“Want to see some of our babies?” he asked. Without waiting for my reply, he nodded and she lifted the lid, reached in and took out a small white snake that coiled around her fingers and I swear, stared me right in the eyes. What appeared to be hundreds of others of several colors writhed about each other in the box. They were absolutely beautiful.

“This is an albino reticulated python,” he said. “It will grow up to thirty feet in length. I have some of those, as well.” He tilted his head toward the bluffs. “Want to go in the snake house?”

His expression challenged me, told me if I didn’t this, it might be the end of the interview. I took a deep breath and said something I immediately wanted to take back. “I’d love to.” My voice quivered, but this man wasn’t going to feed me to his snakes.

Surely, they’d be in cages and I could get my pictures.

Uh huh. Camera in hand, I followed him up the sloping yard to what looked like a rather large storm cellar butted into the bluff. At the door, he unlocked a padlock and opened the door. Stepped through. I had visions of many things in that moment, but wasn’t about to back down.

One step inside and I heard them breathing. I smelled a feral but not unpleasant odor, not as strong as barnyards, nor as foul as chickens cooped up, just an aroma that said wild. It was so dark inside it took a while for my eyes to adjust, when they did I stood in the center between two huge shelves hanging on the walls and enveloped with huge coils of snakes.

They were not in cages.

“Would you like to touch them? They really like to be touched.”

I prayed to every God I’d ever heard mentioned in this world, and gently lay one hand on a coil that rippled a bit under my touch. It was cool, smooth, and absolutely stunning. I swear for a moment I was transformed to the deepest jungles, surrounded by wildness.

I got my story, I held one of the huge pythons, I walked among snakes loose in the tour trailer, and I returned one day in reply to a phone call that a box of python eggs were hatching and I might want to take pictures. I did and they ran in the paper.

I expect The Snake Man and his wife will one day be characters in my Twist of Poe Series, as will their menagerie about which I have several tales, including rattlesnakes that escaped in his house while my grandson was with me.

Writing about the wonderful people I’ve met and some of the far out experiences I’ve had is like living them over again. And to this day it’s difficult for me to believe I got paid for this job.

In the second Twist of Poe, there is murder and a diamond heist and an abandoned  radioactive plant where the heroine is …. Well, you’ll need to read A Tell-Tale Stone to find out what happens. These are not your mother’s cozy mysteries.

Twitter: @veldabrotherton

A Tell-Tale Stone blurb: Follow Dal Starr, the sexy Cherokee criminal investigator who touches spirits of those involved in violence and Jessica West, a reporter who touches Dal Starr every chance she gets. These two can fight like badgers over a kill and make love like wild bunnies. They solve some pretty tough crimes, too.

Teaser from A Tell-Tale Stone: “There's a lot goes on over at that dreadful place. Folks hadn't ought to be messing about over there, but they are. Liable to make all their hair fall out. Since you wrote that blamed story, some nights there's flashlights all over the place.  A long while back pickups came and went at night. In and out, in and out. Stopped a few years ago. Now we've got ghosts wandering around."


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Writing a Cozy Mystery by Joyce Ann Brown

What, no detailed violence or bloodshed in my mystery—in this day of Mission Impossible XIV (or whatever number they’re up to) and CSI morgues in living color? And what about including a hint of romance rather than steamy, explicit sex scenes? Would anyone read it? Shades of Gray was made into a movie, for heaven’s sake.

I started writing my first mystery at a workshop. It was love at first write. Mysteries have always been one of my favorite genres. Agatha Christie, Lilian Jackson Braun, Nancy Pickard, Nora Roberts, John Grisham, Diane Mott Davidson, Carl Hiaasen, Tony Hillerman, and on and on. That there are sub-genres within the mystery genre didn’t give me pause. Until—people started telling me I needed to include sex scenes and gory details of the murders in my stories to appeal to today’s readers.
I struggled to include some gratuitous sex and violence in my otherwise strategy and clue-driven first mystery. It sounded unnecessary and even distracting. It was then I dug deeper into the varieties of mysteries. A revelation—I could write a cozy mystery, or a cozy. I looked back at my bookshelf. Sure enough, the definition of a cozy fit my most beloved mysteries.

Besides being G or PG rated, cozies often have an amateur sleuth, like Beth Stockwell, the protagonist in my Psycho Cat and the Landlady Mystery series. Details about the sleuth’s profession or hobby become part of the story (newspaper reporter, baker, librarian, house builder, knitter, bookstore owner, etc.) Beth is a landlady with rental properties that become crime scenes. A cozy mystery takes place in an intimate village, town, or neighborhood that is visited throughout each story in a series. Readers learn to know the town as well as the characters. My stories take place in Brookside, a quaint neighborhood of Kansas City, Missouri.

The converted Trolley Track Trail meanders through Brookside. The hiking/biking trail serves as a symbolic path Beth takes between her everyday home life and her dangerous investigating. Beth argues with herself internally while taking her daily walk, and she encounters different folks on the trail, both good and evil.

Pets. I can’t imagine Clive Cussler’s hero, Dirk Pitt, spending time with a cat. By no means all, but many cozy mysteries include a cat or a dog as a character. The pets provide humorous interludes, willing listeners, and avenues for foreshadowing clues or danger to come. Sylvester, the Psycho Cat in my series, makes brief, but important, appearances in each book. Although he’s typical cat at all times, he is the catalyst for discovering the mysteries and some of the clues.

The structure of a cozy is essentially the same as any mystery—three acts with plot points, climax, and wrap-up. The challenge faced by the cozy writer, in my opinion, consists of creating characters, plot, and climax that are intriguing and exciting for today’s readers without depicting grisly murders and titillating sexual encounters in detail. That’s okay by me. I love my mysteries to be mysterious and suspenseful, not clinical.

Joyce Ann Brown ( owns rental properties in Kansas City with her husband, but none of their tenants have so far been involved in theft, kidnapping, or murder. Her two cats, Moose and Chloe, are cuddly, not psycho. Besides being a landlady, Joyce has worked as a story teller, a library media specialist, a Realtor, and a freelance writer. Her writing has appeared in local and national publications.  

FURtive Investigation: Psycho Cat discovers a trunk containing a human skeleton in a duplex attic. Beth, the landlady, detects on her own when, on orders from higher-ups, the cold case investigation is curtailed by law enforcement. She must discover the identities of victim and perpetrator without becoming a casualty herself. The story moves back and forth between the present and the past as the reader learns the truth.

CAtastrophic Connections: Beth, a klutzy Kansas City landlady, with the help of a psycho cat, searches for her missing tenant, who is also her niece. Adrianna has been framed for embezzlement and murder. To vindicate her niece, she must bring the true evildoer to justice.

Joyce Ann Brown
Link to CATastrophic Connections or FURtive Investigation on

Sunday, June 21, 2015


I'm delighted to welcome my friend, Thonie Hevron, to my blog today. I met Thonie at last year's PSWA conference.

Thonie Hevron

Marilyn suggested I write about how I got published. It’s a great idea and may offer the unpublished writer some hope to be published!

I’ve been writing for years—since I could hold a pencil. About fifteen years ago, I got serious and decided to write a novel. It took several years but I completed Probable Cause which became By Force or Fear eventually. 

Getting serious included joining a professional writing association-Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA but in those days it was known as Police Writers Association). One of the perks of membership is a free manuscript evaluation by a professional editor. I sent Probably Cause in and was encouraged to submit it as an unpublished manuscript in the PSWA annual writing contest. I tied for third place in the unpublished fiction novel category. Woohoo! This made me an award winning author!

During this time, I continuously submitted query letters to agents and publishers with nothing to show for it but a growing rejection pile. In fact, until I signed my publishing contract in January 2014, I kept this up. This was the path of traditional publishing and for a long time, this was the route I thought I should follow. In early 2013, I began to feel the clock ticking and decided to independently publish. It was a cumbersome effort but in June 2013, I published By Force or Feat on Amazon. I had moderate success.

By now, I had a second book in the final stages, Intent to Hold. Following in my first novel’s track, I decided to enter Intent in the PSWA contest. Again, I won third place for unpublished fiction novel.
Yay! Okay. So, I’m getting tired of searching for agents. I’ve won two book awards on two books so there must be some merit to my writing. As I had earlier changed directions of my plan, I decided to hold off on agent queries and concentrate on contests.

In 2013, PSWA put out their 2013 Anthology-Felons, Flames and Ambulance Rides, in which a short story of mine was included. I found the publisher of the edition—Oak Tree Press—and looked up their website.

Ohhhh, Oak Tree Press was sponsoring a contest! And in my genres—mysteries and cop stories. The winner would get his/her manuscript published in print and e-copy, (To date, By Force or Fear was only published in e-format) and provide editing and covers, plus public relations opportunities. Winning this prize would achieve my goal—to have a book published. So I entered and months later, found out I won—first place!

The road to getting Intent to Hold was not easy street. Editing proved to be a problem as I was so excited that I let many boo-boos slip through the galleys. Working with Billie Johnson, the publisher, was best when I did my job. It took a few printings to get all the mistakes corrected, but I’ve learned my lesson. Billie does her job and I do mine. 

The promised promotion opportunities have been consistently provided to venues I would not have found otherwise. I’m thankful to Jeana Lomprez of Oak Tree Press for her help. A huge part of what I consider my “success” is the marketing plan that OTP required up front. In doing research, I learned many places where I could market my book, plus organized my plan. OTP also published my first book, both debuting mid-July at the PSWA 2014 Conference in Las Vegas.

Fast forward to 2015: I’ve missed the PSWA contest deadline as With Malice Aforethought (my third Nick and Meredith Mystery) is not yet complete. When I do, I’ll be sending it to OTP’s Acquisitions Editor, Marilyn Olsen—the very person who recommended I submit my first story to PSWA.

At this writing, I do not have an agent, nor will I seek one.

--Thonie Hevron

Intent to Hold  Blurb:

Sonoma County Sheriff’s Deputy Nick Reyes enlists the help of his partner, Meredith Ryan, to negotiate the ransom of a kidnapped family member. They fly to Mexico, where they are plunged into a morass of intrigue and betrayal which threaten the lives of the entire family. They battle nature, the Federales, a crime cartel, and even Nick’s wife to solve the crime.
--Thonie Hevron
Author of By Force or Fear Intent to Hold, award winners in 2012 and 2014
Website: Thonie Hevron

Friday, June 19, 2015

Karen Rose Smith shares a recipe for Blueberry Bread

I came from an Italian heritage of sitting around the table—talking, laughing and arguing—and making each meal at my grandmother's house an event. Dessert was always a meal extender whether it was cannoli for Christmas, fried dough balls dipped in honey for Easter or Sunday dinner chocolate cake. Dessert gave us extra time to sit at the table and enjoy each other's company. My mother followed the tradition. She was a third grade teacher. Often she would bake layer cake or sponge cake in the morning before we caught the school bus! We'd either use it that night or freeze it for dinner with company on the weekend. Just as she served a salad and crunchy bread every night for dinner, she would serve dessert.

I've followed my mother's and grandmother's traditions because I like to cook. When my son was small, we baked and sold fruit breads at craft fairs. I entered cooking contests. He helped me make at least a dozen different kinds of cookies for Christmas to give away. Each meal was topped with something home-made. Now, of course, life and diets have changed. Fruit is often our dessert of choice. But once in a while I bake for us besides company desserts because we need something special to remind us of traditions I'll never forget.

Speaking of desserts...

My sleuth Caprice De Luca also likes to cook (along with home staging, taking in strays and finding them homes, and wearing retro fashion.)  In DEADLY DECOR, the second book in the Caprice De Luca Home Staging series, her neighbor encourages her to pick fresh blueberries and this bread is what I and Caprice created.  I hope you enjoy it!

(From the Book DEADLY DÉCOR by Karen Rose Smith)

2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons sour cream
4 teaspoons imitation vanilla extract
3/4 cup milk (2%)
2 large eggs
1 cup finely chopped pecans
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries, de-stemmed, washed and well-drained.  (I put a paper towel in a bowl and let them roll around on that before adding to batter.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour two 8 1/2 x 4 x 2 1/2 inch loaf pans.

Beat all ingredients except nuts and fruit in mixer bowl (scraping bowl often) on mix or blend until batter is smooth...1 to 1 1/2 minutes.  Stir in nuts by hand and then fold in blueberries.

Pour even amounts into 2 pans.  Bake 60 minutes at 350 degrees until toothpick comes out clean.

Karen Rose Smith

Bio: Award-winning and best-selling author Karen Rose Smith will see her 87th novel published in 2015. Although she has written romance novels for over twenty years, she has now branched into mysteries as well as women's fiction. In addition to writing, she saves time for her four rescue cats, gardening, cooking and photography.

Karen's Mystery Website:

Karen's Romance Website:

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Keeping a Series Alive by Carola Dunn

 When I first proposed the Daisy Dalrymple mystery series to my agent, I'd chosen my period (1920s), my setting (England), and my protagonist (Daisy). I had decided Daisy would be of an aristocratic family, so she could question a duke about why he was in the library at the stroke of midnight, but impoverished, so she had to work for a living. And I made her a journalist to give her an excuse for finding bodies all over the country, thus avoiding St. Mary's Mead/Cabot Cove syndrome.

In Heirs of the Body (just out in paperback), for instance, she's staying at her family's estate in Worcestershire.

Beyond that, all I knew was that I didn't want to have to think up titles. I had already written over 20 Regencies and I was tired of coming up with good, eye-catching, memorable titles. I decided my series would be Death in January, Death in February, Death in March, etc. Each plot would be related to the month. Thus the first would have a body in a frozen lake.

Well, St. Martin's Minotaur, who bought the story, had recently done an anthology based on months. They nixed my series titles, hence the utterly unmemorable Death at Wentwater Court (just reissued 20 years later).

It turned out lucky that the "death of the month" idea was killed, so to speak, as the series might otherwise have died after 12 books. There are now 22, with a 23rd contracted for.

What has kept the series going for so long? Judging by what I hear from readers, the main factor is Daisy herself. She's a friendly person. People come to think of her as a friend and want to spend more time with her. They want to find out what happens next, not only as regards her adventures in detection but in her life.
Second in importance is balancing change with the kind of predictability readers want in a series. I couldn't—and wouldn't want to—introduce graphic blood and guts, for instance, or a mad serial killer, or "mean streets." That's not what people are looking for in this kind of series, whether you call it cozy or traditional.

What changes is the setting, most of the characters (besides Daisy and Alec, some reappear in most or a few of the books), and the where, what, when, how, and why of the murder, and its outcome.  Thus every story is familiar yet fresh.

The 22nd in the series, Superfluous Women, has just come out.

The review in Library Journal says:
"The 22nd entry...proves that Dunn just keeps getting better."

Can't beat that! 

Carola Dunn

Carola Dunn is the author of 22 Daisy Dalrymple mysteries and 3 Cornish mysteries, all published by St Martins Minotaur. She has also written 32 Regencies, now out of print but available as ebooks. Born and raised in England, she has lived in the US for more decades than she cares to count, presently in Oregon. She loves reading, gardening, classical music, and walking by the Willamette with her rescue dog, Trillian.

You can find Carola on Facebook (personal and 4 author pages) as well as her website, She also blogs regularly on She enjoys hearing from readers.

Monday, June 15, 2015


Networking is a word that holds profound importance for anyone marketing anything. From the insurance salesperson vying for your dollar to the author boosting sales, networking is essential.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary describes it as a noun meaning “the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups or institutions; specifically: the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business.”

For an author this means building a network of authors, other publishing professionals, readers, fans and people who still haven’t discovered that you even exist. In today’s lexicon, networking also relates to building a platform.

Building a platform

Most writers already do many of the things necessary to build platforms. We just may not have lumped them together in a box with that label. Here are some activities that build a platform while networking:

The web

Personal websites: There are various ways to build a network on the web. Set up your author page, and if possible include your name in the URL. List everything a visitor would like to know about you such as classes you teach, articles you’ve published, public speaking topics you offer along with the standard stuff like bio, links to your books, etc.

Consider setting up a special website for your books or for a new book about to be released, then keep it active.


If you are good at blogging, set up a blog as well and add content that makes subscribers and visitors feel like they know you. Make it conversational and not always about your books. Your website and blog should have links to each other.

Visiting the sites of others:

Network with other authors and organizations as a visiting blogger. Try to make the guest blogs informative without constantly repeating the same things for every blog you visit.

When you visit the websites of others take the time to leave a comment. Quite often people you don’t know will add their comments to yours with the benefit that they have now become aware of your name and what you do, and you have supported another author.

You should be reading what others in your field write. When you review books in your genre, always give a fair evaluation. However, if you didn’t like the book, be careful not to be snarky about it or post mean comments.

Attend conferences, join groups and speak to strangers

Don’t be shy about letting people know what you do. Use discretion so you aren’t perceived as a braggart, but always have a bookmark or high-quality business card ready to hand to new acquaintances at your church or temple, to co-workers, and even the server in a restaurant or the person you sit next to on a plane. If they buy and like your book, they are likely to tell their friends about the author they met.

Here is an example. I was at a basketball game in Portland, Oregon and saw the person next to me wearing a Lakers sweatshirt. Well, I was from L.A. at the time, so I struck up a conversation. When the woman asked what I did, I said I was in Oregon editing a mystery book in a series I write with my sister.

That led us to talk about the books. I gave her a bookmark and she sent me an email a few weeks later saying she bought one of my books for her mother who loved it and was now telling all of her friends about the author her daughter met at a basketball game.

Finding followers

What does your protagonist do for a living or hobby? This is a little easier to identify for non-fiction writers, but if your books involve protagonists in a profession or hobby that generates organizations, research some of them and attend meetings. Become involved and let it drop that you write books with a protagonist or focus in that particular field. This won’t work for everyone, but it is worth considering.

Turn networking into connecting.

Attend functions and meetings. Not everyone is a born networker. If the mere thought of breaking into groups of people you don’t know and immediately establishing a rapport makes your knees turn to jelly and your heart do a tap dance, dial it back a bit. All you have to do is show up at an event. Strike up a conversation with the person who is sitting or standing next to you. Sure, it’s possible you will hate every minute simply because it’s not your thing. On the other hand you might find some people you really like. Ease into the conversation about what you do. Unless you live in towns or cities like I do where half the people you meet are published writers, there is always a mystique attached to the fact that you have a published book.

If the person says, “Oh, are you an author, too?” just smile and say yes, then proceed to ask about the other person’s books. It is always good to share ideas and experiences, and you never know who they know that you would like to meet.


Many literary events around the country put out calls for volunteers. If you plan to attend, consider also volunteering to help in some capacity. This will put you right in the middle of the action, bring you into contact with the organizers, give you the good feeling of helping, and you never know what type of contacts might result.

Look for opportunities to do public readings. This is the time to step forward whenever you have the opportunity. Learn to read with passion and feeling rather than a dull, monotone. Look at your audience frequently and project your voice as well as you possibly can. Smile often. After the reading, depending upon the situation, be very approachable and always be armed with bookmarks or other promotional material.

Share what you’ve learned. 

This is a personal comment. I give workshops at conferences and meetings covering topics I knew nothing about when I began writing fiction. Tap into your teaching or speaking mode. This won’t be for everyone because you’ll need the ability to project enthusiasm and, of course, knowledge about your topic. Think of how hard it might have been for you to learn certain things. Simplify your information so that it is easy to understand, even for the beginner. This is a way to give back while building networking contacts. I love it when someone who heard me speak tells me they really learned from my presentation.

Morgan St. James


Former interior designer, MORGAN ST JAMES lives in Las Vegas, is on the board of Writers of Southern Nevada and belongs to multiple writers’ groups. In addition to the Silver Sisters series, she also collaborates with other writers in addition to writing her own novels and short stories. Morgan currently has 14 books in publication plus over 600 articles about the business and craft of writing, with more slated for 2015.

She frequently appears on the radio, author’s panels and is an entertaining speaker. Published short stories include contributions to two Chicken Soup for the Soul books, many anthologies including the single author anthology The Mafia Funeral and Other Short Stories, . Her workshops are presented at writers’ conferences, writers groups and other venues.

In November, 2014 she and true crime author Dennis N. Griffin launched the Writers’ Tricks of the Trade Show on Blog Talk Radio, and she is also the publisher of the Writers Tricks of the Trade eZine.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Jesse Damon Interview

Jesse, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Why do you think you were chosen for the main character in a crime series?

Hadn't thought about it. Maybe 'cause you don't hear from people who live on the edge of society like I do. You know, kind of give us a voice. And Mr. Ramirez, my parole officer, told me he thought it would be a good idea if I came. Your PO says he thinks something's a good idea, if you’re smart, you do it.

Tell us a little about yourself.

Ain't much to tell. I picked up a murder conviction when I was sixteen. What you might call a defining moment in my life. So I was locked up for almost twenty years. Now I'm just trying t o make it on parole. Not be one of those recidivism statistics. You know, all those people  who get caught up in the revolving door of prison/parole/back to prison. But y'know, they don't make it easy.

Did you kill somebody?

Not directly. I mean, I wasn’t the triggerman. My older brothers got me to stand lookout while they robbed a drug dealer. I thought they were just going in for a buy. But somebody shot the dealer. I was outside, so I don’t know what happened.

But you were convicted of it?

Yeah. Both my brothers had pretty good rap sheets. I was a juvenile, so we agreed that, if we got caught, I’d go down for it. But I didn’t know anybody’d been shot. And I didn’t know m
urder charges ended up in adult court if you’re fourteen or older.

That doesn’t seem fair.

Well, there’s this crime called felony murder. There’s only two questions to ask. Were you involved in felony? And did someone die as a result of the felony? Since the answers to both questions is yes, for sure I’m guilty of felony murder.                                               

How old are you?

Thirty six. Sixteen when I go locked up, just about twenty years ago.

Where do you live? What is it about the area that drew you there?

Rothsburg. That's a small city in western Maryland, up in the hills. Used to have a lot of heavy industry in town, but now the state prison complex is the biggest employer. When I was gonna be released, I got an okay job in one of the factories still open. They get a tax break for hiring parolees. So I just stayed. No reason to go anywhere else.

What do you wish people would know about you?

Not much. Just wish everybody'd leave me alone.

In how many books are you featured?

Right now, five. Steeled for Murder, where a forklift driver at the place I work is found dead. Of course I’m the primary suspect. Then Fostering Death, when I try to go pay my last respects to Mrs. Coleman, who was my foster mother. When I decided to go, I didn’t realize she was murdered. And Buried Biker, when my some-times girlfriend Kelly is attacked. First they think maybe I did it, then they think I killed the guy who did. The Sendoff for a Snitch, and Brothers in Crime. Y’know, when you already got a murder conviction under your belt, every time somebody gets killed or something, they think maybe you done it and come looking for you.

Do you think we’ll be seeing you again?

Yeah. Abductions and Lies is almost done.  After that,  who knows?

Let’s talk a little about you. What is your perfect evening?               

Sometimes I hang out with this lady Kelly who works in the same steel factory I do, same midnight to eight shift. She's got these two kids. Some weekends we go to her place, fix supper. I help the kids with their homework, watch TV, maybe read to them. Makes me feel like a regular guy, not just an ex-con. Then sometimes, after they're asleep, if Kelly's not been hitting the bottle too bad, we go to bed. As close to perfect as I can think of.

Do you feel you are portrayed fairly in the books?

It is what it is. Ain't nothing fair or unfair about it.

Tell us about Kelly. What drew you to her?

She don't treat me different than anybody else is the main thing. And she's all woman. I mean she's built. She works hard, like I do, so she's strong as an ox. And she got curves in all the right places. Long dark hair--I love to get my hands in it. She's the only woman I ever slept with. But she drinks too much. That’s not good for her, it’s not good for her kids, and it’s not good for me. But she’s going to AA right now.                                                                                              

What really pushes your buttons?

People who act like they don't trust me or are afraid of me. You don't got to like me. Just leave me alone. And I'm not gonna kill you.

What's your biggest turn on?

When I get to the door of my apartment have a key in my own hand to unlock it. I don't got to wait for someone on a control panel to hit the door to open it. And no CO's standing there, watching to make sure I don't mess up. Sometimes I just go out and walk, mile after mile, just cause I can.

What's your biggest turn off?

Parole. I got to report every week. I got to watch where I go and what I do. They can yank me in any time they feel like it, don't need no warrant or even probable cause. It sure beats being locked up, though. And for a while I was on home detention--that was worse than just parole, had to be in the apartment most of the time I wasn't working. And a lot more expensive, too. The parole fees eat up a fair amount of my paycheck.
What's your perfect day?

Any day I'm not locked up.

What's your biggest fear?

That I'm gonna get my parole violated. Prob'ly for something stupid or something I didn't do. I know damn well I only got the one shot. If I get sent back to prison, with all the backup time I got, I'll never see the street again in this life.

Why should readers be interested in your story?

I dunno. Why should they be?

Author Bio:
KM Rockwood draws on a varied background for stories, among them working as a laborer in a steel fabrication plant, operating glass melters and related equipment in a fiberglass manufacturing facility, and supervising an inmate work crew in a large medium security state prison. These jobs, as well as work as a special education teacher in an alternative high school and a GED teacher in county detention facilities, provide most of the background for novels and short stories.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

#0 in a Mystery Series

Counting on our fingers, we all start “one, two, three.” Right? So what’s up with a mystery series, like the Seamus McCree Novels, that starts with zero?

Perhaps I should have been as smart as George Lucas, who labeled his first Star Wars movie “Episode 4.” But I was not. When I first decided to write a series about a financial crimes investigator, I thought long and hard about his name and finally decided on Seamus McCree. His first name is a double play with words:

Seamus is the Gaelic equivalent of my first name, James. Since this character was in a sense standing in for me on the fictional page, a variation of my name had a certain irony that I appreciated. Even better was that Seamus is a homonym for Shamus: Yiddish for a detective. Mystery readers would appreciate that inside joke.

After choosing a first name, I decided on the last name McCree so when anyone Googled the name, they would likely come up with my character. And with an Irish name like that, I gave him South Boston as a birthplace.

I also decided that I would follow Sue Grafton’s alphabet approach (“A” is for Alibi, “B” is for Burglar), but a bit more subtlety. I would name the books in the series alphabetically. Unfortunately for me, the first in the planned series, Actuarial Gains did not find a publisher, even though it did garner agent interest.

Bad Policy was the first published (2013), followed by Cabin Fever (2014). While wrestling with rewrites on Doubtful Relations, I took my better half’s advice and reread Actuarial Gains, which I had consigned to the digital equivalent of a bottom drawer. It had good bones: the story was strong; the characters had proved interesting to readers. The writing, however, was not up to my standards. (Good thing it never sold—I would have been embarrassed).

In between Doubtful Relations rewrites I tore Actuarial Gains apart, retained the basic story with a few important tweaks, rewrote the entire thing, and rechristened it Ant Farm. I self-edited, hired an editor (Dr. Julie Spergel) to find the problems I was missing, rewrote again, and polished the book for publication.

I thought I would self-publish this prequel to help promote the rest of the series (rather than have to work hard to convince my editor to put a book up free on Kindle as my hostess did with Final Respects). Then the Kindle Scout program came about (click here is you want to know more about that). I submitted Ant Farm and it won a Kindle Press contract, resulting in them publishing the ebook in June. The print edition is already available.

Ant Farm Blurb:

Financial crimes consultant Seamus McCree combats the evil behind the botulism murders of 38 retirees at their picnic outside Chillicothe, OH. He also worms his way into the Cincinnati murder investigation of a church friend’s fiancé and finds police speculate the hit may have been the mistake of a dyslexic killer. Seamus uncovers disturbing information of financial chicanery and in the process makes himself and his son targets of those who have already killed to keep their secrets.

You can check my website for all the places where Ant Farm is available.

Jim’s Bio: 

James M. Jackson authors the Seamus McCree novels. ANT FARM (Spring 2015), a prequel to BAD POLICY (2013) and CABIN FEVER (2014), recently won a Kindle Scout nomination. Ebook published by Kindle Press; print from Wolf’s Echo Press. Find more information about Jim and his writing at

So happy you stopped by to visit,