Showing posts from November, 2015


"How do you do it?  I could never write a mystery."  I'm sure most mystery writers hear this question often.  I teach a mystery writing course at a women writers' retreat in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York -- a perfect setting for a murder, with mountains, a lake and an island a short canoe-ride from the old Lodge.  In fact I've written a short story called "Murder in the Boathouse" to be published soon in the Retreat Anthology.  I teach my writing students that it's not so intimidating a task if you just break it up into its natural sections.  Any mystery must have five ingredients.
  (1.) a Detective, with or without a sidekick.  The detective may or may not be a human.  Dogs and cats make popular detective series and I've used a pig named Priscilla in some of my stories -- pigs are really smart animals, particularly the old heritage breed of pig I use.  (Yes, I did my research on a heritage pig farm - this breed likes to take off…

I'VE GOT MAIL by Camille Minichino

I've been a fan of the US Postal Service since I was a kid. It could have been the uniforms that got my attention. In my working class neighborhood, uniforms were a rarity. The men, most of them laborers like my father, wore nondescript "work clothes," usually in olive drab or khaki; the women wore housedresses and aprons.
The mailman, however, wore a snazzy blue-grey outfit with an Eisenhower-style jacket—banded waist, two pleated-patch breast pockets, and buttoned cuffs. The round patch on the sleeve, of a pony express delivery, couldn't have been cooler. A matching safari-style hat topped it off. What was not to like?
My sixth-grade teacher also contributed to my interest when he assigned a special project: We were to write a "business letter" and ask for information through the mail. The who and the what were wide open, leaving us to our own imaginations. (Thanks for that, Mr. D.)
I'd certainly never been on an airplane, but for some reason I chose to …

Happy Thanksgiving

This is a photo of my father getting ready to carve the turkey, many Thanksgivings ago. That is the kitchen of our home in Los Angeles. My father built all the cabinets. It wasn't a big kitchen, but it was an easy one to work in.
So, a list of my thanks:
I"m thankful:
--that I grew up with a wonderful family, a mother and dad that loved  my sister and me so much. We enjoyed every holiday surrounded by family members. They took us to Sunday School and church, nearly every Sunday, and through example, showed us how important loving and worshipping God is.
--that even though I grew up during WWII everyone was patriotic and did all the things we were were asked to do, from blackouts, to food and gas rationing, And despite what was going on in the world, it was as a simpler time.
--that they taught us the basics in school as well as having wonderful electives in the arts and music.
--that I survived early adulthood, married a good man who served our country for 20 years and who l…


Marilyn, Thank you for having me on your blog today!

the very first Shandra Higheagle book I wrote I knew there would come a point when I would need to know more about reservation life and especially life on the Colville Indian Reservation. Shandra’s paternal side of her family are Nez Perce Indians who live on the Colville Reservation. It was fortuitous for me that I’d have several book signings in Clarkston, Washington with a woman who was married to an Arrows Lake descendent and who lived on the Colville Reservation. She is a wonderful, open and giving woman who not only answers my questions and sends me photos, but she also took me on a tour of the reservation so I could see the different agency buildings, where people lived, and get a feel for the atmosphere.
While touring and seeing the reservation was great, the most valuable asset to having this woman who lives on the reservation give me a tour was learning the dynamics of the twelve tribes who live on the reservation. There …

ON A DESERT SHORE, by S.K. Rizzolo

I never know where a novel will take me. My mystery series, set in Regency England, requires copious research that has a way of sending me off on byways and detours. One hard lesson learned has been that I have to trust the process. Sooner or later the logic and, more importantly, the heart of a story emerge. Often this happens later rather than sooner. Basically, there’s a lot of floundering involved. Sometimes I stumble on magical tidbits that seem to shout, “Pick me! I’ve been lying here in this dusty book for centuries” (or nowadays hiding in Google Books).  And that’s really fun.
Context is especially crucial in a historical mystery. Historical novelists ask readers to believe that our characters inhabit a world that is long gone yet still echoes down the years into the present. It’s tricky. If a writer tells everything she knows, the book sags under the weight of the research. I try to write from within that early 19th-century mindset without ever forgetting that the characters…

LET'S EAT by David P. Wagner

Thanksgiving is next week, so why don't I write about food?  It will get us ready for the stuffing, and you can interpret that word any way you wish, since on Turkey Day we are first the stuffers and then the stuffees.  But my entry here will not be about the traditional dishes of that day, as much as we love them.  My culinary theme here will be more international, and specifically Italian. 
I write mysteries that take place in Italy, a country where I spent nine wonderful years.  And you can't set your characters down in Italy without writing about food.  It just can't be done.  In crime fiction both sleuths and suspects have to occasionally stop for a meal or a snack.  They're people, after all, and that's what people do.  (Have you noticed in British mysteries they're always stopping to drink tea, but nobody ever has to use the loo?  Do the Brits have large bladders?  But I digress.)  So there is always the occasional lunch or dinner in regular mysteries,…


Miko Johnston is my guest today and she has some great ideas for authors.

Two years ago, my husband fulfilled a decades long dream – we left California for his home state, Washington, and settled on Whidbey Island. Thanks to a local writers group, I found a community here and made a new circle of friends. During that time I too fulfilled a decades long dream – signing a two-book contract with a publisher. My first novel was published last year and the sequel was just released. Happily ever after? No way.
Nowadays publishers, including Amazon, expect the author to handle publicity and sales. Like many writers, I struggle with how to promote my books and find venues to sell them. If you’re with a small publisher like I am, bookstores treat your work as if it was self-published; they’ll only carry it on consignment, taking a substantial percentage for themselves, often charging an additional ‘shelving’ fee. Who can afford that?
Time to get creative. Other writers in my group had similar exp…


My good friend--well we haven't actually met, at least I don't think so--Jackie Houchin has decided to share her "Field Trips for Writers". Jackie is a book reviewer and retired journalist. She is also a member of the Writers in Residence critique group and blog. We've been friends on Facebook and exchanged emails and I've been a guest on the blog and I certainly consider her a real friend.
This is what she had to share with us:
"WinR" authors take research seriously. We read voraciously. We consult experts. And we occasionally get hands-on experience by going on "field trips."
One time five of us met at a nearby indoor shooting range for basic instruction in handgun use and safety. Our instructor took us to a small classroom where several open-chamber revolvers and semi-automatics lay on a table.  During the two-hour class we covered safety rules and procedures, and were personally introduced to each of the weapons on the table. After ha…

Dogs in Stories and Life, by Kathleen Delaney

It’s been a year since Maggie came to live with me. She is an Italian Greyhound and when she came, weighed less than 10 pounds. IG’s are shown in the toy group and are small, but 10 pounds is grossly underweight even for them. She was turned into a rapid kill shelter by the people who had her because, the lady said, she snapped at her five year old child.
I sympathize with the woman. The dog was wrong for their family and placing her somewhere more appropriate was called for. Setting her up for almost certain death, wasn’t.
Maggie the mop also lives with me. She is a small black bundle of hair with endless energy who was suffering from heart worm and chronic hunger when she arrived . The heart worm is gone and she is no longer underweight. She was, however, when she was thrown out of a car behind Tractor Supply in a small South Carolina town. Luckily for her, someone saw what happened and called rescue. Not a kill shelter. A close friend, who rescues dogs, sent me an email with a pictur…


For the mystery reader, it’s all about the suspense and the twist, and outguessing the author who’s doing their best to carefully design those words so that the reader doesn’t guess the secret until the author wants him to. Author versus reader.
Killer Nashville is a conference devoted to enabling and supporting those authors so that the readers receive the best game the genre can offer. For four days, this conference presents classes, panels, and hands-on crime-solving to authors, readily involving famous names and law enforcement experts.

This year represented a ten-year anniversary for Killer Nashville. Founder Clay Stafford applauded the life of the conference, and honored the genre, by creating Killer Nashville Noir: Cold-Blooded, an anthology he carefully filled with stories from greats like Jeffrey Deaver, Donald Bain, Robert Dugoni, Steven James, and Heywood Gould, then added stories from highly respected contemporary authors and Killer Nashville alumni like Catriona McPherson,…


As in the creation of mosaics, in writing it's details that help make up a fuller picture.
Consider the type of food characters are shown preparing, being served, or eating. Even casual references tell something about their culinary tastes and, with historical fiction in particular, their station in life.
But not always! For although our protagonist John, Lord Chamberlain to Emperor Justinian, is one of the richest men in Constantinople, his food preferences have remained simple. Thus he is occasionally seen eating boiled eggs or bread and cheese, although from time to time we permit him his two favourites: grilled swordfish, sometimes purchased from a street vendor and so eaten from a skewer outdoors, and the sweet honey cakes his elderly servant Peter makes for him.
We've also utilised food in more extended sequences to throw light on the nature of a given character or to provide a touch of pathos or humour to the narrative.

For example, in Seven For A Secr…