Friday, January 30, 2015

WHY I Wrought THE RED PATH by Robert W. Walker

WHY I Wrought THE RED PATH – Indian Brigades in the Civil War

A frequently asked question:  “Mr. Walker, you now have 5 YA historical novels, 6 large adult historical novels, and 2 alternate historical novels published, but you are best known for your 13-book Instinct Series and your Edge Series of suspense novels. So why have you turned to writing historical novels late in your career?”

It has all to do with an author’s insides, I suppose, that and what size canvas and tools he/she wishes for the moment to lift and put to use. The writer must challenge himself/herself no matter the genre the author chooses to work in, and I see the choice of genre as important as any other choice a writer makes.

I see color or colorless setting as a tool, character-building like thin or thick lines, character as another brush in the toolbox. Dialogue as an instrument of voice, pacing, and revelation. I see all the choices an author makes as similar—if not identical—to the choices and tools that an artist lifts from his array of instruments to render a lifelike or hugely expressive painting. Art and writing have a strong kinship.

Why choose to write the historical novel if you’re known for the medical examiner as heroine vs. the serial killer psychological suspense novel?  This is a question posed to me often both at the conference bar and on social media.  As a result, I have given thought to an answer. The short, ready-made answer is the same as the one offered up by the proverbial mountain climber:  “Because it is there.”  In other words, I do it because it challenges me. It requires another set of tools, instruments of ‘torture’ so to speak, and a different, perhaps larger canvas. Not that writing a suspense thriller is without challenges of its own, only that the level of research and thus commitment of time, blood, sweat, and pain to my backside will go up and up incrementally.

Devoting everything to an historical moment is perhaps more challenging for this author, and in beating back a challenge, a certain personal reward is at the end of that chase for the answers to questions your characters face inside their world.

However, researching and writing historical novels is nothing new to me in the first place. I began my career in the firm belief that YA historical novels would provide my place in the world of writing. I wrote two YAs which were published early, but I found it economically unfeasible to make a living at pursuing this genre. Before I made that starting discovery, I had penned several more by which time my YA publisher had gone out of business. I was orphaned as they say in the business.

So I turned to genres that were doing far better commercially—horror and mystery of the adult variety, and I quickly learned I not only had a fascination for the macabre all along, but that I had a talent for it. Forty novels later with NYC publishers, I came to two conclusions thanks to what I call the Kindle Printing Press Age. One was to publish my next works as Kindle ebooks, and two was to revisit historical fiction.

I had been moaning to close friends and relatives that I was losing my passion for writing. Specifically writing the same genre with Instinct and Edge titles both ongoing, along with a horror series, and so when people I trust told me I should go back—decide why I began writing in the first place—and then determine what I wanted to do, I began to seriously ponder such questions.

Of course, staring me in the face—actually staring from my bottom desk file drawer—historical novel manuscripts that had never seen the light of publication. YA historical manuscripts that had not been completed, along with several adult historical novels. One was Children of Salem, another was ANNIE’S WAR, the other THE RED PATH. Frankly, all these manuscripts were works I had done in the 80s and they were always at the back of my mind begging for me to revisit them some day.

I had first tackled the City for Ransom trilogy for HarperCollins, and I had a wonderful time with the character of Alastair Ransom. Imagine the pageantry of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair as backdrop to a police procedural sans forensics. After doing this series for HarperCollins, I realized what was lacking in my Children of Salem, which was also in that bottom file drawer. I have never been more passionate to see a book come to fruition than Children of Salem (as we are all in a sense children of Salem). I published the novel as a kindle ebook and Createspace title a few years ago.

With the success –success as measured by the author’s sense of achievement—I then tackled the complex Annie’s War.  After the success of getting that YA done to the best of my ability, I moved to tackle the far greater challenge of seventeen-year-old Annie Brown’s story – a three volume adult historical novel featuring the daughter of John Brown with the backdrop of her romance being her father’s attack on a US Arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. Gunfight at the OK Corral before there was an OK Corral and the stakes being the abolition of slavery or not.

The Canoneers – Ben Cross & The Guns of Ticonderoga, which is now a kindle ebook and a wonderful wrought audiobook followed, and with my sense of pleasure in reviving this great story based on fact, I returned to Animiki & The Keepers of the Fire, a YA American Indian novel, followed quickly by Ragnar & The Battlestormer, a Viking YA novel.

In between the YA titles above, I truly wanted to do something with The Red Path, an adult historical novel that I had long attempted to write as a nonfiction history title. I had had many stops and starts with this research, and my purpose was to create a story that would honor the Five Civilized Tribes—whose participation in the American Civil War has never truly been dramatized to any level matching the story of Black soldiers in the Civil War. I wanted to do a “Glory” styled story for the Native Americans who gave their lives to both North and South. The sub-title is Indian Brigades in the Civil War. As with Salem Witchcraft, I felt the real story has never been given its due, and I have been struggling to get it right for decades, and now it is a kindle ebook.

I hope now the answer is clear to the original question posed—a writer writes from passion. Just as an artist who lifts the canvass to work with ask as question one: Do I want to commit to a large or a small canvass? A horror novel needs doing, a mystery is crying out to be painted, a young adult historical begs for its time, no…the loudest blank slate screaming to be heard now is The Red Path.  In other words, no book before its time.

Here is a list of my historical titles:

Young Adult Historical Novels:

Daniel Webster Jackson & the Wrong Way Railroad
Gideon Tell & the Siege of Vicksburg
The Canoneers – Ben Cross & The Guns of Ticonderoga
Animiki & The Keepers of the Fire
Ragnar & The Battlestormer

Adult Historical  Novels:

THE RANSOM MYSTERIES featuring 19th century detective Alastair Ransom
City for Ransom
Shadows in the White City
City of the Absent

Children of Salem – Love Amid the Witch Trials
Annie’s War – Love Amid the Ruins
The Red Path – Indian Brigades in the Civil War

Alternate Historical Novels:

Titanic 2012 – Curse of RMS Titanic
Bismarck 2013 – Hitler’s Curse

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

DO SOMETHING--LIVE! by Alina Adams

True confessions time: I like plot. No, strike that. I LOVE plot.

Yes, yes, I know, character is king, and poetic language is queen. But I prefer stories where stuff… happens.

Call it pulp, call it melodrama, call it whatever the opposite of literary fiction is, but when you ask someone what a book is about, that usually means you want to know, what’s the story? And a story means something happens. Preferably something interesting and surprising.

I love plot twists, too.  The more the better. Preferably ones that I didn’t see coming, but, upon reflection, make perfect sense.

Common wisdom holds that character drives plot. But, conversely, doesn’t plot define character? After all, isn’t the best way to find out what a person – imaginary or real – is made of, by seeing their reaction to stressful situations? Do they rise to the occasion, or shirk? Do they handle setbacks with grace or present their worst selves? I don’t want to learn about a character by being told – no matter how poetic the language may be.  I don’t want to leaf through pages of internal monologue about their thoughts and dreams and hopes and plans. I want to see them DO something. And then I’ll make up my own mind about what kind of person they are.

For those wondering, why, no, I didn’t do particularly well in high-school English class. And I dropped out of my college Creative Writing program when I realized that the kinds of stories I wanted to write – and read – were not the kind considered acceptable by serious literary types.

Which is why I’ve started a program of my own. Kind of. And it fits in perfectly with my writing and life motto of DO SOMETHING.

Instead of telling aspiring authors how to write a book, I am going to show them.


By writing my next novel live online at, with readers being able to watch every key-stroke, every typo, every dead end and every deletion of entire paragraphs at a time.  They’ll be able to comment on the action, too. (After all, what’s the point of criticizing a book after it’s published? It’s too late for me to do anything about it, then.)

Am I out of my mind? Quite possibly. After all, writers are strictly told that they must never, ever, ever show anything but their best work to the public, lest a twenty year writing career (my first book was published in 1994) be swept down the drain by one, ill-chosen word.

But, remember what I said above? I love plot and plot twists. I like not knowing what’s coming up. (The other day, I wrote a scene live where I didn’t even know what the characters were going to say until they’d said it.  They didn’t just surprise themselves, they surprised me, too!)  I like being pushed to the edge of my seat, and that’s just what this latest project of mine is doing. I can’t wait to find out what happens next, and I hope that sense of excitement permeates my writing.

Meanwhile, I also hope that it might be truly instructional to people wondering how a book comes together, from first draft to publication. Already, I’ve explained my reasons for deleting two entire chapters (I figured if the character was boring me to write, he had to be even more boring to read).  I’ve confessed about how I froze up the first time I had to write a sex scene – with readers watching.  And I’ve spent hours polishing a single paragraph, going back and forth with my choice of words, only to dump the entire thing the next day and start all over again.

But that’s the writer’s life for you. I don’t want there to be any sense of mystery about it. I want to fling back the curtain and expose the unromantic reality, warts and all. Besides, you might feel better about your own first draft if you see what a mess mine is. Then you can chuckle as you watch me try to wrestle it into submission.

Could I be making a horrible, strategic career mistake? It’s possible. But, at least something is happening!

Got an opinion about plots, plot twists, or writing live for the world to see – and comment? I’d love to hear all about it!

Alina Adams is the “New York Times” best-selling author of soap-opera tie-ins, including “Oakdale Confidential,” “Jonathan’s Story” and “The Man From Oakdale,” Regency and contemporary romance novels, including “When a Man Loves a Woman,” “Thieves at Heart” and “Annie’s Wild Ride,” and Figure Skating Mysteries, “Murder on Ice,” “On Thin Ice,” “Axel of Evil,” “Death Drop,” and “Skate Crime.” She has worked as the Creative Content Producer for the P&G soap operas, “As the World Turns” and “Guiding Light,” for ABC Daytime, and as a writer and producer for televised figure skating broadcasts on ABC, NBC, ESPN and TNT. She lives in NYC with her husband and three children. Currently, she is writing her next book live on the web – and inviting readers to comment as she does. Visit her website at:

Monday, January 26, 2015

Partnering in Writing by Janet Lynn

When I started writing in 2000, I always wanted to attempt ‘50s Noir, but I couldn’t figure out how to get into a man’s head and make it sound real. My husband is a published author too. We edited each other’s work. He consistently changed the dialogue for my male characters stating, “A guy wouldn’t think that.”

One day I mentioned how I’d love to write a Noir Murder Mystery. He turned to me and said, “So let’s do it together.” I almost broke into tears.

People warned us it would tarnish our 43 year old marriage. They insisted it wouldn’t work. Concerned, we took a business approach and set rules of professionalism, respect and overall patience. 

We started with a deadline schedule and we met every two weeks to discuss character development, subplots and fight scenes. We discussed what was working and what wasn’t. It turned out a lot of fun, we took field trips to old L.A. and Hollywood, and night clubs, all to get the feel for the 1950s music, lives of period actors and actresses, clothes and news headlines. We interviewed retired police officers, about LAPD procedures and equipment of 1955.

The result-SLIVERS OF GLASS and a wonderful partnering experience for both of

Summer 1955: The body of a woman thought to be killed three years earlier is found behind a theater in Hollywood.  Movie stuntman Skylar Drake, a former LAPD detective, is dragged into the investigation. He can make no sense of the crime until he discovers a dirty underworld and unearths deep-seated… greed.  

The hunt takes Drake to places he’d never expect.  He’s anxious to close this case and get back to his business in L.A., but he’s constantly haunted by the memory of his wife and young daughter, killed in a mysterious house fire.

With more than enough dirty cops, politicians and crime bosses to go around, Drake can trust no one including Martin Card, the cop assigned to work with him. 
Buy link: website:
Janet Lynn

Saturday, January 24, 2015


Someone recently asked me why I wrote romantic thrillers. At the time, I explained that when I sent my first novel to an agent, she had told me I needed to add romance or it would never sell. Which was true as far as it went. But as I thought about it later, it occurred to me that romance itself is probably one of the most difficult things to get right, both in fiction and in real life. If you do it right, romance can be beautiful, thrilling, and unforgettable. Of course, if you’re like me, it’s more often a comedy of errors. Oh, my brushes with romance have definitely been unforgettable, but not for the reasons you might think.

I’ll never forget the time I went out with a foreign diplomat. He was from Germany and he took me to an embassy party. We had a very nice time at the party. I met a lot of interesting people and heard a lot of interesting stories. The food was delicious and the alcohol flowed like water. Now I have never been much of a drinker—that stuff is fattening, after all—but my date had no such inhibitions. He drank like a fish. When it was time to leave, he was in no condition to drive.

“But I have diplomatiisssh immuniteesse,” he proclaimed.
“That’s great,” I replied. “But diplomatic immunity won’t keep you from smashing into a tree.”

I finally convinced him to let me drive, but as I had never been to his apartment and had no clue where he lived, he had to give me directions. If you have ever gotten directions from someone who is extremely inebriated, you can sympathize. If you haven’t, don’t try it. Needless to say, it wasn’t long until I was pulled over by a cop, who thought I was driving erratically because I had been drinking. “No,” I assured him. “I’m just getting directions from someone who has been drinking.” All the while, my date is hollering from the passenger seat about his diplomatic immunity, which of course, didn’t apply to me at all, and since I was driving…

Luckily for me, the cop was understanding. Not only did he not give me a ticket, he gave me directions I could actually follow. But the time I got my date home, up to his apartment, and onto his couch, where he promptly passed out, I still had the problem of getting myself home. And now it was three a.m. As you can imagine, the next time this guy called and invited me to an embassy party, I conveniently had other plans.

Then there was the time a guy invited me to go for a boat ride with him. It was a beautiful night—a full moon, soft cool breezes. Romantic, right? Well, it could have been if the boat hadn’t been a rubber Zodiac with too much horsepower in the outboard motor, or if my date had known how to handle the boat without capsizing it. Trust me, when you are soaked from head to toe, your clothes are plastered to your skin, your hair is plastered to your head, and the cool breezes just make you shiver, it takes all the romance right out of moonlight boat rides.

So when I added romance to my latest novel, Black Ops Chronicles: Dead Men Don’t, I had to rely a lot on my imagination, as I didn’t think most of my own experiences would suffice. I got some help from my female friends, but never try asking a man about romance. All you’ll get are hmmms, ahs, and cleared throats. Do you think their experiences could have been similar to mine?

Pepper O'Neal Bio:

Award-winning author, Pepper O’Neal is a researcher, a writer, and an adrenalin junkie. She has a doctorate in education and spent several years in Mexico and the Caribbean working as researcher for an educational resource firm based out of Mexico City. During that time, she met and befriended many adventurers like herself, including former CIA officers and members of organized crime. Her fiction is heavily influenced by the stories they shared with her, as well her own experiences abroad. When she’s not at her computer, O’Neal spends her time taking long walks in the forests near her home or playing with her three cats. And of course, planning the next adventure.
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ISBN-13: 9781626941533
Black Opal Books
Trade paper, 304 pgs.
June 2014, $11.99

A strange man has come to save her...but is he friend or foe? Anderson Merritt’s been kidnapped, but when a stranger comes to rescue her, she isn’t sure he is who he says he is. He claims to work her father’s boss. But someone close to Andi set her up, and now she doesn’t know who to trust. Every man she’s ever known has seen her only as a tool to get to her father or his money, so why should this one be any different?

As the sparks between them ignite, and the danger escalates, Andi has to choose—go off on her own, or trust that some men really are what they seem. He doesn’t want to hurt her…but he may have to if she doesn’t come willingly. Ex-CIA black ops specialist Levi Komakov doesn’t believe in hurting women, but when the place is set to blow and Andi won’t cooperate, he has no choice to but toss her over his shoulder and carry her out of danger, determined to keep her safe in spite of herself. But the beautiful little spitfire doesn’t make it easy for him. With her abductors seemingly always one step ahead of him, Levi suspects there’s a rat in the woodpile, but who? Could it be someone close to Andi’s father, someone in the FBI, or someone in the family Levi works for? When a new threat appears, and even the CIA can’t help him keep Andi safe, Levi puts everything on the line—but will it be enough?

Other Books by Pepper O'Neal

Love Potion No.; 2-14; 2/11/2011; ebook: 9781937329877; print: 9781937329884; large print: 9781626940376; $1.99; $7.99; $10.99

Blood Fest: Chasing Destiny; 5/3/2011; ebook: 9780983268154; print: 9780983268161; large print: 9781626941564; $2.99; $11.99; $15.99

Blood Fest: Cursing Fate; 12/1/2011; ebook: 9781937 329235; print: 9781937329242; large print: 9781626940390; audio: 9781626940208; $2.99; $11.99; $28.50; $15.99

Black Ops Chronicles: Dead Run; 8/25/2012; ebook: 9781937329600; print: 9781937329617; $2.99; $11.99

Blood Fest: Running Scared, coming out early in 2015, Black Opal Books (coming in 2015)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Over There: A Doughboy in France 1918

            My father’s notebook from World War One has long been a prized possession, together with his dogtags, and a photo of his billet on the front lines. Dad enlisted in the Signal Corps, U.S. Army, was on a July, 1918 convoy to Great Britain from Halifax, and spent several months being assigned ever farther east until reaching his front line position in the American Sector at Mousson Hill, Meurthe-et-Moselle (Lorraine). 

We all knew about his notebook entry for Armistice Day, November 11, 1918, as he described intercepting messages from both sides, and finally, the guns falling silent. But with the centennial approaching, it seemed the right time to look at the entire notebook, and see what it contained.

            It wasn’t an easy task. Some of the notebook was in pencil, and the handwriting wasn’t always clear. The references, too, were sometimes difficult. I just didn’t have the same frame of referfence that he had, in 1918. Whoever spoke of the past as a different place was quite right. One needs a guide, for 1918 was a different world, and certainly, a different series of battles, than I had understood it to be.
            The essential first step was the decision to transcribe the notebook. It was something like giving up smoking! The notebook and its entries fought me for weeks, for one thing. But from time to time there were small victories - when Dad’s writer’s slang or shorthand started to become familiar, for example. It also helped a great deal that I have lived in France, and understood many of his references. But the important thing at this early stage, having made the decision to transcribe the notebook, was – like ceasing to smoke – just keeping at it through the inevitable difficulties.
            I made discoveries as the work proceeded. An offhand reference to a fire at Halifax, Nova Scotia, for example, led me to google “Halifax fire,” and discover the cataclysmic explosion and fire that occurred in Halifax harbor in December, 1917 – said to be the largest man made explosion before the development of atomic weapons. Dad was transported across the North Atlantic in a 23 ship convoy, in the HMT Durham Castle, and I was able to find a period photograph of that very ship. Little by little, I had moved beyond transcribing, and was adding details that enriched the text for today’s reader – details that someone from 1918 would already have known.
            I did a lot of reading to get some context for the notebook. One recent author of a Doughboy history struck me as quite right, when he said that he had decided to write about officers, because enlisted men left out so many details, probably for security reasons, that officers included in their diaries or notebooks. That was quite true in my father’s case as well. However, some 55 years later, while recuperating from a heart attack, he reread his notebook and dictated several memoranda, adding details and depth. I then had this material as well, and included it with the notebook entries at the right dates. I also included information on Father’s whereabouts for each day, which became of particular interest when he and his Signal Corps company moved to the front.
            This movement to the east became understandable thanks to a very readable book about the American Sector and General Pershing, written by General John Eisenhower (“Ike’s” son, also a West Point graduate). It described the American Sector, the communications and railway lines that were built to sustain it during 1917, as the American military buildup took place. The overall picture finally made sense, and I had the feeling that 1918 was no longer foreign.
            There were photographs from the time to be included, and maps, and a moving elegy by my daughter to be included. She realized that he had gone to war at 22, exactly her age. She called him “my quiet hero,” a rather Victorian gentleman who saw more than anyone should have to at that age.
            It was wonderful to discover shared interests and experiences with my father. He wrote of their disembarkation at Wales and welcome in Cardiff by cheering crowds, with welcome by the Lord Mayor. I remembered a trip to Ireland some ten years ago, when to our surprise the airport passenger waiting room was suddenly filled with American troops, on their way to Iraq. Other passengers at the airport stood and cheered the American troops as they filed past. And his time in France, related over the years, surely was instrumental in my interest in learning French, and teaching in a French school not far from where he had been stationed.
            Was the transcription hard work? Absolutely. Was it worth doing? I’ll leave that to the readers. But I did get to understand his experiences more fully, and appreciate the sacrifices of those who fought, “Over There.” And 1918, while still distant, was not such a foreign country after all. I hope that with this centennial, others will find the notebooks and memorabilia of their relatives who served in the Great War and nearer conflicts, and share them. We will all be the richer for these shared experiences.

William S. Shepard’s Series of Diplomatic Mysteries

            Now residents of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, the Shepards enjoy visits from their daughters and granddaughters, fine and moderate weather, ocean swims at Assateague, Chesapeake Bay crabs, and the company of Rajah and Rani, their two rescued cats.

            Prize winning mystery writer William S. Shepard is the creator of a new genre, the diplomatic mystery, whose plots are set in American Embassies overseas. That mirrors Shepard’s own career in the Foreign Service of the United States, during which he served in Singapore, Saigon, Budapest, Athens and Bordeaux, in addition to five Washington tours of duty.

            His diplomatic mystery books explore this rich, insider background into the world of high stakes diplomacy and government. His main character is a young career diplomat, Robbie Cutler. The first four books in the series are available as Ebooks. Shepard evokes his last Foreign Service post, Consul General in Bordeaux, in Vintage Murder, the first of the series of five “diplomatic mysteries.” The second, Murder On The Danube, mines his knowledge of Hungary and the 1956 Revolution. In Murder In Dordogne Robbie Cutler and his bride Sylvie are just married, but their honeymoon in the scenic southwest of France is interrupted by murders.

            The Saladin Affair, next in the series, has Robbie Cutler transferred to work for the Secretary of State. Like the author once did, Cutler arranges trips on Air Force Two – now enlivened by serial Al Qaeda attempts to assassinate the Secretary of State, as they travel to Dublin, London, Paris, Vienna, Riga and Moscow! And who killed the American Ambassador in Dublin?

            The Great Game Murders is the most recent of the series. There is another trip by the Secretary of State, this time to Southeast Asia, India, China and Afghanistan. The duel between Al Qaeda and the United States continues, this time with Al Qaeda seeking to expand its reach with the help of a regional great power nation. And Robbie Cutler’s temporary duty (TDY) assignment to Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, carries its own perils. Fortunately, Uncle Seth helps unravel his perilous Taliban captivity in time!

                 Over There: A Doughboy In France 1918 eBook: William S. Shepard: Kindle Store

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Charlie Manson and the Rocky Bluff P.D. series

Charles Manson is a convicted serial killer who has become an icon of evil. In the late 1960s, Manson founded a hippie cult group known as "the Family" whom he manipulated into brutally killing others on his behalf.

What on earth has he to do with my next Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery, Violent Departures?

You'll  have to wait and read the book.

Of course I followed the news about the murders the Manson family committed.and read the book about them when it came out.

Some little tidbits, while the family lived on the Spahn Ranch (and we lived in Oxnard), the followers came down and scavenged for groceries in the bins behind our local supermarket.

One of the scarier aspects of the family's antics (before the murders) was when they'd go into people's houses and crawl around the floor where the owners slept. That gives me the creeps to this day.

F. M. aka Marilyn

Sunday, January 18, 2015

How Much Does the Weather Influence What You're Writing?

The question could be taken two ways--the actual weather going on outside while you're writing, or the weather that's happening in the book.

I'm going to go for the second one--how much does weather influence what's happening in the tale that you're writing.

I use weather a lot to enhance suspense.

In my Deputy Tempe Crabtree series, I've had a white-out snow situation, (Intervention), hot,dry weather that causes forest fires (Kindred Spirits), and too much rain causing a massive mud slide (Raging Water.)

(So you don't get confused, the e-book has a different cover.)

The big weather component in many of the Rocky Bluff P.D. series is fog. Rocky Bluff is a beach community in Southern California. Fog is nearly an everyday reality first thing in the morning and at night. Fog is a fun weather element to add varying degrees of suspense. 

Weather in a book will also predict what a characters is wearing: Is it appropriate for the weather, or is there some reason it's not?

In Murder in the Worst Degree, an act of nature is one of the big elements that affects the story. 

Tell me how weather influences your writing?

Or readers, tell me about a book where the description of the weather affected you?

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith

Friday, January 16, 2015

Hearts Beneath the Badge by Karen Solomon

When I asked Karen Solomon what inspired Hearts Beneath the Badge, this was her answer:

Ferguson. Seeing so much hate extended to all of law enforcement in the aftermath was troubling. It hurt my heart to read the news. Mainstream media isn't willing to take a neutral stance until all of the facts are out.

Viral posts become those that are the most inflammatory as opposed to the ones that are most flattering. This book will show you some of the happiness, and some of the heartbreak.

Although I suspect my biggest audience will be law enforcement families, this book isn't for them. They live it. The book is for the guy that is pissed off because he was speeding on the way to work and will now be even later, the gal who couldn't get out of a DUI so she wrongly accused the officer of misconduct, and the next person armed with a gun who thinks that killing a police officer will somehow help the world become a better place. Those are the people who need to read this book.

I spent my lunch hours interviewing officers and writing their stories, it was much easier than I thought it would be. The writing anyway, the interviews were difficult. Many times we were both brought to tears, there is a lot that isn't included because this wasn't the book for it. The purpose was to focus on the officer and their feelings, not society or the politics involved, just them. I hope I did them justice. Although each officer has been very happy with their chapter, I feel it isn't enough, and never will be. Not for what they do.

Karen Solomon is a graduate of Eckerd College and blogs as The Missing Niche. Her writing has been featured on and To Write Love on Her Arms. She lives in New England with her husband, 2 children and 2 dogs. Heart Beneath the Badge

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Swap, by Nancy Boyarsky

The Swap: A Mystery is my first novel. The plot was inspired by a month my husband and I spent in England, swapping houses with a London couple.

Before our house swap, I spent months thinking about what might go wrong. Would the other couple be respectful of our property or would they trash the house? They’d agreed to care for our two cats, but would they really make sure Molly and Edna stayed inside, safe from the busy streets of West Los Angeles? Clearing out a few bureau drawers and closets for our guests turned into a massive spring cleaning in anticipation for the exchange. Surely I couldn’t leave my cupboards and closets untidy. By the time we left for England, the preparations had been so extensive and disruptive that my husband vowed we’d never do another house swap.

As it turned out, my worries were for nothing. The house in Chiswick was quite nice with just as many amenities (TV sets, kitchen appliances, a car for our use, etc.) and messy closets as we had at home. Still, there was something a little spooky about the place, which I could never put my finger on.

We had a great time seeing what life was like in London from the native’s point of view: grocery shopping, using the tube, making arrangements and enjoying the wealth of cultural events available in that great city. And, to my great relief, the arrangement went smoothly on both sides — except that we broke one of their collection of teapots, and they broke the top of our lone teapot. After we arrived home, I began wondering what would have happened if the London couple had failed to turn up in Los Angeles. Thus began The Swap. It took a couple of years for the plot to gel, and I actually began putting it down on paper.

"The Swap: A Mystery"
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I was born in Oakland, California, and grew up with my parents and two sisters in the flatlands of East Oakland. When I was around eight—in a world that was a lot safer that today— I was allowed to roam the neighborhood by myself, and my visits to the tiny Alandale Public Library were the highlight of my week.

I attended public schools in Oakland. My father opposed the idea of sending girls to college, being of the opinion that they would be better off working as waitresses to prepare them for their life’s work as housewives. I ignored his advice and went on to UC Berkeley, where I supported myself working in the campus library. In addition to the pleasure of working around books, the job had an added benefit of allowing us student clerks to disappear into the stacks and read when work was slow. I was married at 19 between my sophomore and junior years of college. I majored in English literature and graduated from Berkeley with honors.

My first job was as an associate editor for a small, long-vanished publishing house in San Francisco. When our two daughters were born, I stayed home and began writing freelance articles for a local paper, as well as teaming up with my husband on magazine articles.

We lived in Sacramento for ten years, then moved to Los Angeles when my husband joined the staff of the Los Angeles Times. Once my girls were in their teens, I gave up freelancing and returned to full-time work, first as associate editor of Los Angeles Lawyer magazine and later as communications director for political affairs for ARCO. I quit ARCO when the first of our two granddaughters was born. Since then, I have devoted myself to writing and editing. 

My primary hobby is painting portraits and images from old family photos dating from the early 1900s. I love reading fiction, the theater, films, and travel, especially to the UK, where the theater and books are a national passion.

I have just finished a new book, Family Recipes for Gastroenteritis, a tragicomic memoir of growing up in Oakland in a family at the far end of disfunctionality. Family Recipes will be available on Amazon early next year. I am now working on a sequel to The Swap, which follows Nicole’s further mishaps and adventures.

Nancy Boyarsky 

My review of Swap.

I received a copy of the book from the publisher and definitely enjoyed it. It is the story of a house swap, with as much excitement as any thriller. Nicole, the heroine, is a rather naive young woman who after moving into the house in London suspects her husband of straying and gets caught up in a twisted path of murder, starting with a car bomb that might have been meant for her. From that time on she becomes suspicious of many, finds herself in peril many times, doesn't know whom to trust and often misinterprets what is happening. I suspect that if any of us ordinary folks found ourselves in the same predicaments as Nicole we might make some of the same mistakes. This was a fast moving adventure, and definitely a page turner.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Characters in My Cozy Mysteries by Connie Knight

When you’re putting your cozy mystery together, you have a number of characteristics to consider—a bloodless murder, the small town for a setting, and motives of greed, jealousy, or revenge. You need an amateur sleuth good at snooping and picking up clues to catch the villain in the end. You need other characters, too. I like to start my book by creating the setting and the group of characters to develop the story. When I’m writing, new characters arrive, or old ones change, and sketches of them occupy my time. My two cozy mystery novels are set in Texas ranch land near San Antonio. Cemetery Whites and Chances Choices Changes Death comprise the Caroline Hargrove Hamilton Mystery Series, with Caroline as the amateur sleuth.
            In both books, Caroline’s life is changing. She grew up in Houston, but her husband died in a car accident two years ago. Her Houston life disintegrates, and she decides to move to the country where her father’s family lives. She remembers visiting them in childhood when her father was still alive. She hopes to establish a new life with relatives she remembers. Her cousin Janet welcomes her and drives her around the complex country roads. Caroline takes up genealogy, and a trip to the family cemetery opens the first novel. They find a dead man, just shot, and drive to Uncle Cotton’s house to call the local police. Elderly Uncle Cotton and Constable Bob Bennett, introduced early, become important characters to Caroline.
            Caroline attends a family meeting at Uncle Cotton’s house. Everyone is upset about Professor Harrison’s death in their cemetery. Why was he there anyway? Caroline volunteers to check it out, and Janet agrees to assist her. That’s the beginning of making trips to San Antonio where an old grave is found, a funeral attended and documents turned up; going to a gamecock fight to see about gambling; and interviewing Professor Harrison’s teaching assistant. She finds out oral history from Great-Aunt Hettie, who knows family secrets. In the sequel, Chances Choices Changes Death, Caroline has already established herself as the person to talk to. She hears a lot from different friends, finds a lost little boy, and sees what is happening with various young couples on the Robinson Ranch. A romance with Bob Bennett is underway, and that’s another source of information.
            In addition to the amateur sleuths, there must be good men, bad men, victims and villains. Other interesting characters, too. Donny and Danny Harrell, identical twins with different characters, start in the first book but develop in the second one. They made different choices in high school. Danny fell in love with Myra Cade who caused so much trouble he never fell in love with anyone again. Donny stayed with Grandma Hettie and helped her on her little farm. Later, he found Cathy Robinson to love and a little boy to adopt. Danny regretted the murder of Myra Cade, but he didn’t miss her. His heart had hardened years ago when she left him on his own.
            In Chances Choices Changes Death, three bad men occupy different levels. Brian Atkins isn’t a monster. He’s a sleazy dude, portrayed in the book’s prologue. He’d dated Myra a few times years ago when she had dumped Danny. Now, he found out, she was looking for her little boy’s father. It maybe could have been me, he thought. He’d just lost another job and didn’t have much money…He was willing to marry Myra, if she could provide a place for them to live.
            He persuades her to go with him to dinner in San Antonio, then stop by his friend Jimmie Garrett’s on the way home. That was a mistake. Brian quivered while Myra screamed. Then her body was put in the trunk of his car and he was instructed to dump her in a ditch on his way home.
            So Brian was eventually arrested and helpfully lied to the police. Jimmie left his house and pursued criminal activities, waiting for a code that he hoped would make him rich. Caroline located a very bad man, and Brian saw him in jail. Guess what he told the police?
            In my cozy mysteries, neither of the victims are bad. Professor Harrison is arrogant and greedy, and Myra Cade is trying to obtain paternal support at last. They don’t deserve to die. They don’t deserve to be arrested and tried for any crime, either. They get in some bad person’s way, and lose their lives as a consequence.
            Both books are turbulent with choices to be made. Who does what and why? Creating the major characters opens the door. What the characters are like, what they do, what they choose—that sets you down with pen and paper to outline the plot, and more.
---Connie Knight

Myra Cade is a single mother, living with her father, Doug, and raising her son, Scott. She mostly keeps to herself and really has no time for anyone else. But shortly after serving paternity papers to Danny, the suspected father of Scott, she’s found dead at the side of the road in the country. Caroline and her cousin Janet, who are taking Western riding lessons at the nearby Robinson Ranch, find themselves drawn into the murder investigation and looking for the missing boy and the murderer.

Maple Creek Media

EBook, $4.95
March 2014

Bio: Connie Knight grew up in San Antonio, Texas with many childhood visits to her family in the DeWitt County area nearby. Her debut mystery novel, Cemetery Whites, is based on memories and stories shared, but all characters in the book are fictional and so are the events.

Knight began writing in junior high. College includes a B.A. in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University followed by a year in the master’s program, then a year of journalism classes in San Antonio. Writing history includes work as a newspaper reporter and magazine editor.

Her interest in Texas history is reflected in Cemetery Whites. Murders in 1875 and 2010 are solved, with the detective’s family history unraveling to reveal information. Knight’s hobby of gardening produced the title Cemetery Whites. The victim’s body is found sprawled in a patch of white irises in an old family cemetery. The flowers with that name still exist today, at old homesteads and in current gardens, including Connie Knight’s.

Connie Knight now lives in Houston and has just finished a second mystery, Chances Choices Changes Death, a sequel to Cemetery Whites. She is now working on her third mystery novel in the Caroline Hargrove Hamilton Mystery series.

Twitter @conniejs59
Buy links:
Chances Choices Changes Death
Cemetery Whites

Saturday, January 10, 2015

An Abandoned Cabin

This photo of an abandoned cabin got my imagination churning out ideas I knew I wanted to use in Violent Departures. That's the title of the Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery coming out sometime in March.

So here are the questions that popped into my head.

Where could this cabin be in Rocky Bluff?

How did it get there?

What significance will it have in the story?

Even without the answers, I knew I had to write about it.

F.M. Meredith aka Marilyn Meredith

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Downstream by Betty Jean Craige

Thanks, Marilyn, for inviting me to contribute to your Musings today. I just ordered your book Final Respects, and I am excited to get into your mystery series.

Ever since my childhood in El Paso, Texas, I have read mysteries. I started with Nancy Drew, Judy Bolton, and the Hardy Boys, and went on to Perry Mason as I grew older. When I finished all of the Perry Mason books at the age of thirteen I worried that I'd never find another series I liked as much. Then I got busy studying literature and teaching literature—difficult literature, like "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"—and forgot the pleasure I'd once had figuring out who dunnit in mysteries that engage the reader in the sleuthing.

In 2011, after thirty-eight wonderful years, I retired from the University of Georgia as professor of comparative literature and director of the Willson Center for Humanities and Arts. While writing a biography of the ecosystem ecologist Eugene Odum, I had become interested in the effect our environment has upon the health of us humans and our fellow creatures. When time allowed me to resume reading mysteries and to write one of my own I decided to explore the effects of pharmaceutical pollution upon all of us who drink our planet's water.

So I wrote Downstream, the original title of which was "We All Live Downstream." Because I live in Athens, Georgia, and love the north Georgia mountains, I situated my novel in a town I called Witherston, about a half hour north of Dahlonega. Dahlonega was the site of the Georgia Gold Rush in 1828, and north Georgia was the home of the Cherokees people whom the government force-marched to Indian Territory (in present-day Oklahoma) in 1838 because white settlers wanted their gold and land.

In Downstream, the centenarian billionaire Francis Hearty Withers has benefitted from the crimes committed against the Cherokees here almost two centuries ago. He has inherited his wealth. His great, great grandfather got rich panning for gold on Cherokee land and got lucky winning forty acres of Cherokee land in the Georgia Land Lottery. He passed his wealth down through four generations of Withers men. No male Withers ever had to work.

At the celebration of his hundredth birthday, Withers announces to the people gathered on the front lawn of Witherston Baptist Church that he has finalized his will. In it he bequeaths $1 billion to his north Georgia hometown of Witherston and another $1 billion to be divided up equally among the town's 4,000 residents in recognition of their support of a Senextra pharmaceutical factory. Senextra is a drug that enables individuals taking it, such as Withers himself, to lead healthy lives well into their second century. But it has some unanticipated consequences. The group assembled to hear Withers's announcement do not all applaud. One person carries a sign that says SENEXTRA VIOLATES MOTHER NATURE. Another, KEEP SENEXTRA OUT OF OUR SYSTEM. A third, WE DON'T NEED MORE OLD MEN. Withers flies into a rage. He vows to change his will and disinherit the community. Two days later he is found dead.

That's the beginning of the story.

The obvious question the reader will ask is: Who dunnit? The less obvious question is: What will happen to our whole society if individuals keep themselves alive indefinitely? As one character asks, "Which do you prefer: old-growth forests or old-growth men?"

I had a whale of a good time writing Downstream. I liked inventing the town of Witherston, imagining all its slightly odd but nonetheless delightful residents, seeing what those characters would do when confronted with perplexing problems—such as the dead body, the five-legged frog, and the pregnant middle-aged women—and developing the story. I hope that my readers smile a lot when they read my novel, but I also hope that they think a lot too.


At the celebration of his hundredth birthday, local billionaire Francis Hearty Withers announces to the people gathered on the front lawn of Witherston Baptist Church that he has finalized his will. In it he bequeaths $1 billion to his north Georgia hometown of Witherston and another $1 billion to be divided up equally among the town's 4,000 residents—in recognition of their support of a Senextra pharmaceutical factory. Senextra is a drug that enables individuals to lead healthy lives well into their second century, but it has some unanticipated consequences.
The group assembled to hear Withers's announcement do not all applaud. One person carries a sign that says SENEXTRA VIOLATES MOTHER NATURE. Another, KEEP SENEXTRA OUT OF OUR SYSTEM. A third, WE DON'T NEED MORE OLD MEN.

Withers flies into a rage. He vows to change his will and disinherit the community. Two days later he is found dead.
In Betty Jean Craige's first murder mystery a few humans die in unusual circumstances. (A few others live in unusual circumstances.) Who dunnit?

Betty Jean Craige

Betty Jean Craige is University Professor Emerita of Comparative Literature and Director Emerita of the Willson Center for Humanities and Arts at the University of Georgia. 
She received her B.A. in Spanish Literature from Pomona College (1968) and her M.A. (1970) and Ph.D. (1974) in Comparative Literature from the University of Washington.  She taught at the University of Georgia from 1973 to 2011.
Dr. Craige has published books in the fields of Spanish poetry, modern literature, history of ideas, politics, ecology, and art.  She is a scholar, a translator, a teacher, and a novelist.
In 2010, Dr. Craige published in both hardback and audiobook Conversations with Cosmo: At Home with an African Grey Parrot. In 2011 and 2012 she published a weekly Sunday column in the Athens Banner-Herald titled “Cosmo Talks.”
Dr. Craige’s essays have appeared in PMLA, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and The Athens Banner Herald.
Dr. Craige has received the University of Georgia Alumni Society Faculty Service Award (1994), the Albert Christ-Janer Award for Creativity in Research (2003), the Blue Key Service Award (2010), and the Women's Studies Faculty Award (2011).  She has also received awards for teaching, including the Honoratus Medal from the Honors Program.  The title “University Professor” was granted to her in 1995 as “highest recognition for significant impact on The University of Georgia.” On May 13, 2004, she received the Governor’s Award in the Humanities.
On December 20, 2003, Dr. Craige delivered the graduate and professional schools’ commencement address at the University of Georgia. On January 27, 2012, she gave the University’s Founders Day Lecture. On September 17, 2013, she accepted the Jeannette Rankin Fund Founders' Award. In March of 2014, UGA's Comparative Literature Department honored her by establishing an annual lecture in her name.
Dr. Craige was Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Delta Prize for Global Understanding.           
Most recently she has written a murder mystery titled Downstream, published by Black Opal Books on November 26, 2014.

Dr. Craige's website is under construction