Friday, January 29, 2016

A Short Break in Guest Posts

Hasn't this been great? An opportunity to meet so many authors and read about their great books? What's that great saying: "So Many Books, So Little Time", it truly fits in this situation.

While all this has been going on, I've been working on my next Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery and gearing up for the launch of my next Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery, A Crushing Death, which will appear in March--not sure exactly when.

I can't believe it's #12 in this series. I'd found a great photo for the cover, but didn't know where I got it, so we had to go for another--but this one fits. There is a condemned pier in the story, and this pretty much gives the impression of having seen better days.

And yes, I've been planning another blog tour--more about that later.

I've also been slowly, but surely getting some in-person events lined up.

The first one will be in March--fingers crossed that I'll actually have books by then--when I'll head over to the coast to speak to the Central Coast Sisters in Crime about, drum roll please, Putting Together and Promoting a Blog Tour. That's scheduled for March 26 at 10 a.m. at the Nipomo Library.

I belong to the Central Coast Chapter but don't live near there so I don't get to meetings often.

A high school teacher emailed and asked if I'd come speak to a couple of her classes about writing--of course I said "yes." I only know it'll be in April.

I'm also going to have a booth at the Jackass Mail Run here in Springville--it's only a half day affair--also an April event.

The only conference I'm planning to attend this year is the Public Safety Writers Association's which is always held in July in Las Vegas.

I'm sure as time passes, I'll have a lot more appearances to add to my calendar.

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Keeping a Series Alive, by Amy Bennett

It's hard to believe that just three years ago, the Black Horse Campground mystery series was just getting its start with the first book, “End of the Road”. Corrie Black, Rick Sutton, and J.D. Wilder were about to make their debut into the world and no one knew where their adventures would take them in future books.

Four books later, I'm still trying to figure out where they'll be next!

In “End of the Road”, a newcomer to Bonney County arrives in time to be suspected of murdering a long-time guest at the Black Horse Campground. Not only does J.D. help solve the mystery, he finds himself being accepted as a member of the Black Horse—and Bonney County—by Corrie and Rick and other lifelong residents. Over the course of three books, J.D., and my readers, have come to know and love life in Bonney and enjoy a relationship with its most interesting residents.

In the fourth book, “At the Crossroad”, due out soon, J.D. is firmly established as a resident of Bonney and his fierce sense of protection and loyalty come into play when he suspects that a killer has walked free for many years among the community that has become his haven from his former life. As J.D. feels more at home in Bonney, secrets from his past begin to come to light and he finds acceptance and peace despite the mysteries he helps to solve.


Trouble often comes in threes. It's no different at the Black Horse Campground.

On his first day as detective with the Bonney Police Department, J.D. Wilder finds three cold case files on his desk—three women who have disappeared over a fifteen year period at five year intervals. It seems that no one has ever taken the cases seriously... or even properly investigated them.

Then J.D. receives a visit from two former colleagues who inform him that he's about to receive another visitor; a woman from his past who is in trouble and needs his help. Again. The timing couldn't be worse, since he's finally about to ask Corrie on a date, but then Corrie also has a visitor from her past show up... someone who's hoping for a second chance with her. In the meantime, Sheriff Rick Sutton has his hands full dodging his ex-wife, Meghan, who insists on discussing personal business with him... business that has to do with digging up a painful past.

When three bodies are discovered that prove the missing women were murdered, J.D.'s investigation reveals that all of their visitors have some connection to the victims. But which one of them killed three women... and is prepared to kill again?

When trouble comes to Bonney County, Corrie, Rick, and J.D. band together to protect each other and their community. But can they solve the mystery before the murderer strikes again?

Excerpt from Chapter 14

J.D. returned to the Black Horse more wide awake than he had been in days. Amato's words rang in his ears, while a voice in his head warned him that if he didn't get some rest, he was going to be completely useless when the time came to have his wits about him and his energy. Still, a night spent in mostly inactivity wasn't going to allow him to rest. He went into his cabin and changed into his running clothes. He needed to release some tension and energy if he was going to rest at all.

He slipped out of the cabin, casting a glance toward the campground store. It was almost six thirty a.m. and Corrie's apartment light was on but the store's lights were still out. He had missed the Friday night fish fry dinner, but he hoped to be back once she was open and be able to talk to her more. And get a decent breakfast.

He started out, following the path he'd taken a couple days earlier. The cool morning air was amazingly refreshing, helping clear his mind while invigorating and relaxing him at the same time. His breathing eased as his strides became more purposeful. He was near a breakthrough in the cold cases. He could feel it. Officer Amato had information that could help reveal the truth about what happened to the three women. After that... he'd have to wait and see.

He rounded the curve where he had seen the small cemetery the last time he had run this path and he slowed to a stop. He had pushed it to the back of his mind and had all but forgotten about it until this moment. Now was as good a time as any to pay his respects. His run had already accomplished its purpose. He knew he'd be able to sleep when he got to his cabin and he'd probably stroll back to the campground after this. He allowed himself a grin as he left the path, picking his way through the tall grass and brush to where the grave sites were.

Unlike most small cemeteries he'd encountered, there was no fence surrounding this one. In fact, there were only three wooden markers, crosses, all of them uniform but in different stages of weathering. He stopped when he got close enough to make out the lettering and suddenly the breath rushed out of him, leaving him feeling weak and dizzy with shock.

The first marker, the most faded, bore the name Carla Sandoval. The second, Rosalie Edwards. The third, the one with the least amount of weathering and the least faded lettering, read Benita Rojas.
Beside the one for Benita Rojas was an open grave. A plain wooden cross lay nearby. Both looked recent. Only a few days recent.

J.D. stumbled back, afraid that his eyes were playing tricks. He fumbled for his cell phone and let out an expletive when he realized he'd left it in his cabin when he changed his clothes. He reached the path and took off at a dead run back to the Black Horse Campground.

He'd been right; there had been more to the disappearances than what was common knowledge.

He hated it when he was right.

Author Bio

Amy Bennett's debut mystery novel, “End of the Road”, started as a National Novel Writing Month project in 2009.  It went on to win the 2012 Dark Oak Mystery Contest and launched the Black Horse Campground mystery series, followed by “No Lifeguard on Duty” and “No Vacancy”, which have both been awarded the Catholic Writers Guild Seal of Approval. “At the Cross Road” is the fourth book in the series.

When not sitting at the laptop actively writing, she works full-time at Walmart of Alamogordo (not too far down the road from fictional Bonney County) as a cake decorator and part-time at Noisy Water Winery in Ruidoso (where you can find some of the best wines in the state of New Mexico, including Jo Mamma's White!)  She lives with her husband and son in a small town halfway between Alamogordo and Ruidoso.  Visit her website at  and The Back Deck Blog at

Monday, January 25, 2016


I recently heard a presidential candidate make a statement in a debate that has stayed with me. In justifying his qualifications for the office, he said, "I know what I don't know."

To most ears, that would sound like an oxymoron, but the implication was that, as the leader of the free world, he would do his due diligence before deciding on any course of action. He was willing to admit that he had a lot to learn. In other words, he knew what he didn't know, and he was willing to admit it—and to seek out the best sources to round out his knowledge base.

I soon began thinking about applying his comment to writing. From personal experience, I know about rodeos, horses, llamas, hospitals, and libraries.  That was a good start when I began to plan Checked Out, the second book in my Aimee Machado series. As I started filling pages, I sometimes found myself needing to know something that was not a part of my personal knowledge base. When that happened, I knew what I didn't know.

As a former library worker who spent many hours on the Reference Desk, I've developed great respect for the concept of primary sources. That background has served me well and saved me from embarrassing myself in print. At least so far.

The Internet world gives us easy access to resources. It's hard to imagine anything that could not be found there. The trick is to know what we need to know. If we see another crime writer describe the "smell of cordite" after a gun battle, do we assume that we can use that same sense of smell in one of our own scenes? No, no, no! A quick search of cordite will tell you that the smell of Cordite in the air is erroneously mentioned in modern fiction. Turns out cordite hasn't been made for the past seventy years and hasn't been used in firearms for several decades.

Unfortunately, too many contemporary writers don't know the difference between cordite and gunpowder. In a recent TV episode of Elementary, Sherlock Holmes mentioned smelling cordite. But don't blame the actor who spoke the line. The writers obviously didn't know what they didn't know about cordite.

This faux pas is a perfect demonstration of why we writers mustn't blindly trust secondary sources for details that are not in our personal knowledge base. An Internet search may be a start, but many Internet sources are unreliable, so when in doubt, drop in at your local library and consult a reference librarian. Or go to a primary source. How is a full body mount of a horse constructed? I asked a taxidermist. What are the pros and cons of a vegan diet? I consulted a medical professional. If you need to know something specific, someone out there can tell you. But first, make sure you know what you don't know.

Sharon St. George Bio:

I spent an idyllic childhood in a small northern California town, riding horseback and camping with my family in the nearby mountains. One of my favorite pastimes was reading fiction, and a trip to the library was always an occasion of great excitement. I’ve since traded horses for llamas, but I still trek to the high mountain lakes near my home—always with a mystery novel in my backpack.

My love of reading led me to earn dual degrees in English and Theatre Arts and to try my hand at writing. Before my Aimee Machado Mystery series was published by Camel Press, I had written advertising copy and feature stories too numerous to count, three plays, and a book on NASA’s space food project. I’m a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America, and I serve as program director for Writers Forum, a nonprofit organization for writers in northern California.


When rodeo cowboy Cody O'Brien is found dead in his horse trailer, it appears that his horse, Game Boy, is the culprit. Aimee Machado, health sciences librarian at Timbergate Medical Center, has no reason to doubt the preliminary finding—at first. Cody had been in the hospital awaiting an operation the night he dies, but his checked himself out. Had he reason to believe his surgeon, Dr. Phyllis Poole, was incompetent? Or is his death related to his complex relationship with his family? It turns out his father is dying, and four people other than Cody stood to inherit: his young trophy wife, Echo, his son James, his daughter Keely, and her fiancĂ©, Tucker.
Aimee is highly motivated to investigate. She once had a crush on his brother, James, who has now set his sights on her. The missing nurse, Laurie, left Aimee a desperate phone message the night she disappeared. Moreover, Aimee's friend and co-worker Cleo has elicited her help to discredit Dr. Poole.

Aimee is already confused romantically. Although it pains her, she is trying to keep Nick, the pilot she loves but does not trust, at arm's length. But his help proves too invaluable to refuse. Can Aimee ferret out the truth without losing her job and her life?
Checked Out is the second book in the Aimee Machado Mystery series, which began with Due for Discard.

Saturday, January 23, 2016


Writing a fictionalized account of a true story presents some unique challenges. I realized this after I decided to write a historical novel based on an experience my father had while stationed in Rennes, France with the 127th General Hospital in 1944. He met a little French girl named Jacqueline who took a liking to him. She began following him to and from the military hospital where he worked, and a lovely friendship blossomed. My dad knew very little French, and Jacqueline knew even less English, but they managed to communicate using the few words and phrases they were able to teach other peppered with lots of exaggerated gestures.  

When the 127th was transferred to Nancy, Jacqueline appeared at the hospital. Sleet was falling, and she was shivering with cold. She carried a loaf of bread and a small book about St. Bernadette of Lourdes; farewell gifts for my dad. Knowing how little she had, my father was profoundly touched by her kindness.  Wrapping her in his woolen overcoat, he made her a promise: if he ever had a daughter, he would name her Jacqueline.

This was the only war story my dad ever shared with us. He never tired of telling the tale of how I got my name, and as the years passed, it became part of our family lore.  He loved showing us the faded pictures in his photo album that showed a smiling little girl with dark curls; the time-worn book about St. Bernadette, written in French, with the neatly-written inscription to mon cher ami Bernardo; the medal he was later awarded by the French government to thank him for his service.

When I set out to write Jacqueline’s story, I knew it so well that it nearly wrote itself. Jacqueline had lived in my imagination for so long, she felt like an old friend. But it was the rest of the story that presented the biggest challenges – and opened my eyes in ways I’d never expected. Even though I’m a Baby Boomer and only one generation removed from the horrors of WWII, I never realized how little I really knew about this seminal event in our national story.  

Never having written a historical fiction before, I was intimidated at first by the exhaustive amount of research it required. But the more I read, the more fascinated I became. I learned about the enormous hardships that Nazi occupation imposed on the French; how they learned to endure through food shortages, rationing, air raids, curfews, and grinding oppression. I marveled at their resilience and strength and how they managed to survive with so little and keep despair at bay.

Since I wanted to include the Holocaust in the story, I learned about the treatment of the large population of French Jews. I read accounts of the “transit camp” in Drancy that was nothing more than a way station between Paris and the death camps of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. I was awed by the bravery of the clergy and other compassionate French citizens who risked their lives to hide Jewish friends and neighbors from the Nazis. I truly began to appreciate how important it was that this never be allowed to happen again.  

When I finally typed “The End,” my entire perspective had changed. When I started writing Jacqueline, my purpose was to share a beloved story as a tribute to my father. By the time I’d finished, I’d set a new goal.  As a former teacher, I’m painfully aware of the lack of historical knowledge that characterizes most of today’s students.  My hope is that Jacqueline will, in some small way, help to fill that gap. I also hope young readers will come away from the book with an appreciation for the valor and selflessness of the Greatest Generation and a true understanding of how blessed they are to live in a land where they enjoy the gift of freedom – a gift their great-grandparents won for them at tremendous cost.  I learned this by writing what I didn’t know, and for that, I will be eternally grateful.

Jackie Minniti brief bio and links:

Jackie is currently a columnist for The Island Reporter in St. Petersburg. She is a member of the Florida Writers Association, the Bay Area Professional Writers Guild, and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Several of her stories have been included in Chicken Soup for the Soul collections. She lives on Treasure Island with her husband, John, and two noisy macaws and enjoys reading, walking on the beach, boating, and visiting her three children and six grandchildren in New Jersey. Jackie has been a featured speaker at schools, book clubs, women’s clubs, and libraries and writes a blog featuring Florida writers ( She can be reached through her website:

Skype: jackie.minniti

Jackie Minniti bio: 

Jackie is currently a columnist for The Island Reporter in St. Petersburg. She is a member of the Florida Writers Association, the Bay Area Professional Writers Guild, and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Several of her stories have been included in Chicken Soup for the Soul collections. 

She lives on Treasure Island with her husband, John, and two noisy macaws and enjoys reading, walking on the beach, boating, and visiting her three children and six grandchildren in New Jersey. Jackie has been a featured speaker at schools, book clubs, women’s clubs, and libraries and writes a blog featuring Florida writers ( can be reached through her website:


Skype: jackie.minniti

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Birds of a Feather by Gloria Getman

Gloria Getman is a good friend, and one of my first writing students, years ago. We both belong to the San Joaquin and Central Coast chapters of Sisters in Crime. We've often shared a table at a book event.

Petite fours, lemon drops, tea, and a deadly stabbing normally don't go together, especially at a colonial high tea.

Deena Powers is back in Four Creeks to attend the annual event put on by her aunt’s chapter of the Women of Colonial Heritage. But when her aunt’s closest friend is murdered, Deena finds herself drawn to investigate a tangled web of misappropriated chapter funds, adultery and long-held secrets and she soon discovers that sins of the past are never left behind, no matter how carefully the trail is covered up. 

Helping Lieutenant Avis “Buzz” Walker acquire vital evidence leads to rekindled feelings, but when a killer steps in, it might just be too late.

Birds of a Feather is the second book in the Deena Powers series. People who read the first book, Lottie’s Legacy, often told me they liked the characters and the location and asked if there would be another book. How could I resist? Deena’s Aunt Madge and her problem initiated Deena’s return to Four Creeks in the first book, so naturally it became the setting for the sequel.

I really like the character of Madge. She’s active in the social life of Four Creeks and knows a great deal about the people and their secrets. I’m an avid genealogist, and so I figured Madge would be too. And as such, she’d join an organization like the Women of Colonial Heritage. It seemed likely that a group with links to colonial history would put on a colonial high tea. And what better place to have a murder?

It followed that the ladies of the WCH would not as nice and refined as they seemed on the surface, so Deena was going to sleuth her way to the bottom of the mystery as well as figure out her true feelings toward Lt. Avis “Buzz” Walker. Stir the pot a little and out comes a story with a bit of a surprise in the ending.


Gloria Getman is an active member of San Joaquin and Central Coast Sisters in Crime, Tulare-Kings Writers and SLO Nightwriters. Her work has been published in national magazines as well as local publications. LOTTIE’S LEGACY, her first Deena Powers mystery is available at Amazon and as a ebook for Kindle. Some of her short stories can be found in the anthology, LEAVES FROM THE VALLEY OAK. She lives in Exeter, California.


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Checking In by Marilyn Meredith

I've been so busy with guests I haven't had a free space to post on my own blog.

I gave a talk in December to the newly formed Bakersfield chapter of Sisters in Crime. Met some wonderful women and sold a lot of books.

We had a fun Christmas Eve with relatives including three great grandkids. There's nothing like seeing little ones open presents.

We don't do anything special New Year's Eve, but New Year's Day we have relatives over for my special Seafood Gumbo and for those who don't like seafood--Chicken Posole. After stuffing ourselves, we played a rollicking game of Estimation. Always fun.

I've been working on a new Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery and putting together a blog tour for my next Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery, A Crushing Death, due out in March. The blog tour will begin in mid-April.

After not being able to attend too many meetings of the San Joaquin chapter of Sisters in Crime, I was able to start the New Year out right by going to their first meeting in January.

I gave a talk to the Tulare Kings Writers group about promotion on Saturday, 16th, and I've made appearances on other people's blogs.

I'm looking forward to a productive year and spending lots of great time with family. 

I'll be posting my schedule for the blog tour here and I do hope some of you will follow along. I'll name a character in my next Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery after the person who comments on the most blogs 

See you soon. 

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith

Sunday, January 17, 2016


I find it almost endlessly fascinating; the discussions we readers and authors have about various aspects of the characters that people our stories and how they come and go—or don’t go. Can a male write an effective female character and vice versa? Are your characters based on real people? Do they recognize themselves? How do you come up with the evil that infects some of your characters? How much do you obsess over finding just the right names for your characters?

Is there a formula, do you think, that moves agents/editors to be more or less receptive to certain names? Do you even think about the characteristics of names. Are they clues? Is any of this the least bit important?

There are a number of on-line sites that offer interesting information about names. Do writers actually use such sources to help them decide on character names and does it really help? The history of model names in the automotive world is an enlightening thread to follow, as is the sound of the name and the number of syllables. All of these are or can be factors in whether readers “take to” or reject characters in a book. I wonder how people feel about the characters on some of my stories? If you’ve read them, or even if you’ve just read about them, what’s your opinion?

The names of characters in my books sometimes suggest themselves, but more often than not I go looking for a name that seems right for the character. I consider many factors including the race, religion, age and geographical background. Visiting my daughter in Colorado last year, we went to a small-town cemetery because I requested it. The cemetery is situated on the crown of a windswept bluff overlooking the Colorado River. Yes, THAT Colorado River, not very wide, not very deep and not very fast at this point.

Examining the gravestones on that lonely barren plot of land, I found names that could have come from every other part of the world. Then I noticed that there was a preponderance of names that clearly had Eastern European roots. Why, I wondered and later learned that many young men from Eastern Europe had come to this part of Colorado to work in the coal mines. Interesting small facts a writer can file away for use another day. When I wrote my most recent detective novel, “The Case of the Yellow Diamond,” I used information provided years ago by my uncle from his years stationed in what was then called Rangoon, and obituaries from the Des Moines Register, the major Iowa newspaper. Small facts that often help to produce the proper atmosphere for the reader.

Buy Link:

The Case of the Yellow Diamond
By Carl Brookins

North Star Press
Trade paper, 180 pgs
 September 2015 $14.95

A dead man on the floor of his office in Minneapolis won’t lead P.I. Sean Sean to journey to Yap Island to protect his new client. Bombs in lawyers’ cars only jostle him. This short investigator knows the value of research and asking questions in the right places. World War II, Asian diamonds and concrete in Des Moines combine to almost destroy a Minnesota family. In the end, Sean detects flaws in the plans and brings down a criminal enterprise.

Brief bio and links for Carl Brookins:

Before he became a mystery writer and reviewer, Carl Brookins was a counselor and faculty member at Metropolitan State University in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Brookins and his wife are avid recreational sailors. He is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and Private Eye Writers of America. He can frequently be found touring bookstores and libraries with his companions-in-crime, The Minnesota Crime Wave.

He writes the sailing adventure series featuring Michael Tanner and Mary Whitney. The third novel is Old Silver. His new private investigator series features Sean NMI Sean, a short P.I. The first is titled The Case of the Greedy Lawyers. Brookins received a liberal arts degree from the University of Minnesota and studied for a MA in Communications at Michigan State University.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Our Search for Plots and Settings by Loretta Jackson and Vickie Britton

The High Country Mystery Series: Our Search for Plots and Settings

Inspiration can strike unexpectedly, sparked by some account in a museum or news article or by stories related to us by local people.  As authors of the High Country Mystery Series, we are always on the lookout for new plots and settings for our books set in the fictional town of Durmont, Wyoming.  This series features Jeff McQuede, a modern-day sheriff with old time values derived from his Old West namesake.
We have explored Wyoming in depth in our search for plot ideas. We have found it strange how some perfectly good events or plot ideas never develop while others almost instantly take hold.

The second book in the series, Whispers of the Stones, was inspired by tales and newspaper clippings about a tiny mummy discovered in the 1930s by miners working in the Shirley Basin.  The little man, sitting cross-legged in a cave, became an object of curiosity and scientific speculation until his disappearance in the 1950s.  Later on we found that a wealthy collector had offered a large huge for any information about the mummy’s whereabouts.  After reading these accounts, questions filled our minds.  What happened to the mummy?  Does he still exist?   Would his appearance prove or disprove once and for all the Native American tales of the “Little People?”  What would happen should it resurface—would a scientist or private collector kill to own such a rare piece of history? 

An Icy Death was inspired by nature.  In Wyoming the snow can become a formidable enemy.  Every year, many reports our made of people stranded on back roads or hunters of who have died from hypothermia.  In this novel we used this idea and made the weather a possible cover-up for murder.

Our latest Jeff McQuede mystery, Crying Woman Bridge, began with a legend.  The Southwestern tale of La Llorona has always intrigued us, the numerous accounts about a woman who sacrifices her child or children by drowning them.  She commits this horrible act for the sake of her lover and ends up crazed with regret.  Throughout the United States this story surfaces in many forms, all concerning bridges haunted either by weeping women or crying babies.  We used a fictional variation on this legend and blended it with a modern tale.
We are planning another trip to Wyoming this summer…and hope to come across material for another Jeff McQuede mystery.
Blog link mummy
Blog link bridge
                                           AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY

Loretta Jackson and Vickie Britton, sisters and co-authors, are drawn to out-of-the-way places, old mining towns, and vast rangelands where the legends and history of the past live on.  Inspired by the rugged mountains of Wyoming and Colorado, they find the lonely, high country region a perfect setting for their novels.

They are authors of the High Country Mystery Series:  Murder in Black and White, Whispers of the Stones, Stealer of Horses, The Executioner’s Hood, An Icy Death, and also of A Deal on a Handshake, an anthology that also features Wyoming sheriff, Jeff McQuede.
They have written fifty novels, including the eight-book Ardis Cole Mystery Series and the Luck of the Draw Western Series: The Devil’s Game, The Fifth Ace, and The Wild Card.  Listed among their work are the The Vanished Lady, Death Comes in Pairs, and The Lost City of the Condor,

Both sisters live in Kansas, Loretta in Junction City, Vickie in Hutchinson.

They invite you to visit their blogs:   
Vickie Britton and Loretta Jackson’s Writing Tips and Fiction:
The High Country Mystery Series Blog:

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Avoid the January Writing Blahs by J.L. Greger

I like to curl up in January and forget my writing. Big mistake! Do you lose energy during the cold days of winter? Maybe these tips will encourage you to make progress on your writing projects in January.

1) Write every day. My definition of writing includes: researching topics, composing text, editing, and publicizing the work. The advantage of writing a bit every day is I’m forced to think about my plot, characters, and style frequently.

2) Organize your writing. I’m more of a pantser than a plotter, but I keep a running list of characters (with short profiles) and a timeline. These tools make it easier for me to quickly pick up my writing every day.

3) Edit. I know a few authors claim they only need to edit their work once; I'm not that good. I find the editing task less daunting if I break the process into three steps and do each after I complete a chapter or two. (Of course, I still have to edit again after I complete the first draft.)

These questions should be considered during a content edit. Are the facts (scientific, historic, geographic) correct? Are locations described vividly and accurately? Are the characters interesting and consistent? Do major character "grow" during the arc of the story? Is the timeline realistic?

 The style edit is hard to define but important. Novels are generally more interesting if dialogue, action sequences, and psychological development of characters are interspersed so that the pace of the novel varies. The point of view should be clear in each scene.

The edit for word choices, grammar, and typos often seems like an endless process. I try to reduce the use of "overused” words, replace weak verbs with action ones, tweak sentences to be active not passive, and check for spelling and grammar errors (which I euphemistically call typos).

4) Read. When I’m stumped on how to present a scene or develop a character, I read someone else’s fiction—short stories or novels. As I read their work, I try to imagine how they would handle my “problem.”

I hope you’ll want to check out, my latest thriller, I Saw You in Beirut. It’s available at Amazon:

In I Saw You in Beirut, a mysterious source of leaks on the Iranian nuclear industry, known only as F, sends an email from Tabriz: Help. Contact Almquist. Intelligence sources determine the message refers to Sara Almquist, a globetrotting epidemiologist, and seek her help to extract F from Iran. As Sara tries to identify F by dredging up memories about her student days at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her work in Lebanon and the Emirates, groups ostensibly wanting to prevent F’s escape attack her repeatedly. She begins to suspect her current friendship with Sanders, a secretive State Department official, is the real reason she’s being attacked.

Bio: JL Greger’s thrillers and mysteries feature a middle-aged woman protagonist, Sara Almquist. She includes travel to exotic places, tidbits of science, and lots of action in her novels because she is an inveterate traveler and a biological scientist. Her novels include: Malignancy (winner of 2015 Public Safety Writers’ annual contest), Ignore the Pain, Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight, and Coming Flu. Bug (shown in the picture) rules their house and is a character in all her novels. Her website is:

Goodreads Giveaway:


Monday, January 11, 2016

Books for the Times by Bob Doerr

With all the horrific actions carried out by ISIS and its sympathizers in the past few months, it's easy to see why many of us believe the world is becoming a more dangerous place.   The violent, random assaults on our nation’s police in retribution for a few bad cops, while despicable itself, has added fuel to the ISIS propaganda that is already being used worldwide via social networks to target new recruits. With no end of violence in sight, the conflict between more security and our privacy is sure to reach a new apex in the next year or so.

Most of us believe that another major terrorist attack on US soil is inevitable.  Only the timing is in question, and hopefully our intelligence and law enforcement communities can keep our enemies at bay for as long as possible.

It is in this hostile environment and reflecting back to 9/11, that I came up with Clint Smith, the main character in my book The Attack.  My publisher released The Attack in 2014, and in the first months of 2016, the second book in the series, The Group, will be released.

Clint Smith is a “Hunter” employed by a very small and extremely secret government agency.  Only a handful of people within the government have knowledge to what Smith and the other eleven hunters do. 

When an individual is deemed to be a viable, imminent threat to the United States, Smith is sent out to find him or her.  With guidance from his superiors, Smith shadows the work of other US and allied agencies without their knowledge. Where possible he gets ahead of the other agencies efforts.  Once the target is located, that data is passed on to the appropriate law enforcement or security agencies. If for whatever reason, another agency can’t respond in time to capture or kill the target, Smith is given the green light to eliminate the threat, before departing the area and leaving no trace that he was ever there.

In The Group, Smith is sent on the trail of a seemingly invisible group of assassins set on murdering the world’s richest men.  The trail takes Smith to Switzerland, Spain, and back to the U.S.  As he pursues this new world “league of assassins”, he gets the strange sensation that they have begun to look for him.   If you like fast moving thrillers, please check out The Group when it becomes available in the next month or two.  

Award winning author Bob Doerr grew up in a military family, graduated from the Air Force Academy, and had a career of his own in the Air Force.  Bob specialized in criminal investigations and counterintelligence gaining significant insight to the worlds of crime, espionage, and terrorism. 
His work brought him into close coordination with the security agencies of many countries and filled his mind with the fascinating plots and characters found in his books today. His education credits include a Masters in International Relations from Creighton University.  
A full time author with ten published books and a co-author in another, Bob was selected by the Military Writers Society of America as its Author of the Year for 2013. The Eric Hoffer Awards awarded No One Else to Kill its 2013 first runner up to the grand prize for commercial fiction. Two of his other books were finalists for the Eric Hoffer Award in earlier contests. Loose Ends Kill won the 2011 Silver medal for Fiction/mystery by the Military Writers Society of America. Another Colorado Kill received the same Silver medal in 2012 and the silver medal for general fiction at the Branson Stars and Flags national book contest in 2012. 
Bob released an international thriller titled The Attack in May 2014, and more recently, Caffeine Can Kill, his sixth book in the Jim West mystery series.  Bob has also written three novellas for middle grade readers in the Enchanted Coin series: The Enchanted Coin, The Rescue of Vincent, and The Magic of Vex. Bob lives in Garden Ridge, Texas, with Leigh, his wife of 42 years, and Cinco, their ornery cat.


Saturday, January 9, 2016

Two Secrets to Writing Success in 2016 By Patricia Skalka

Writer, know thyself. With apologies to Socrates, I would say that sounds like good advice with which to start the New Year. So, as the world turns to the opening weeks of 2016 and I finish up the third book in my Dave Cubiak Door County mystery series, may I humbly offer two suggestions for success in the coming months.
            The first is very much in line with knowing thyself as a writer. I interpret this adage as knowing what works for you. Many successful writers start with an idea and little else. They jump in with both feet, work hard and months later have the first draft of a book-length manuscript to show for their efforts. That’s a fantastic approach but one that doesn’t work for me. Every time I’ve tried being a “pantser” (one who writes by the seat of her pants), I’ve ended up stuck in dead ends or getting lost in a knotted maze of plot lines that refuse to come untangled.. And I use up precious writing time fussing over that pesky now whatquestion.
Through trial and error, I’ve learned that I am a “plotter.” I need to know the story before I begin writing. I need a step-by-step road map that carries the action through from the beginning to the end. Doesn’t that dilute the thrill of writing? I was once asked. No, not at all.
I view writing as a two-step process: first I develop the story line, a laborious process that can take three to four weeks to complete. Then I sit down to write and when I do, I don’t have to spend time or effort worrying about what comes next because I already know. This knowledge frees me to focus on the writing or the telling.
Perhaps one of these techniques works for you or you use a method that falls somewhere in the middle or outside the bounds of either. If you follow a technique that works for you then you’ve completed the first crucial part of knowing yourself as a writer. If not, then perhaps this is the year to experiment.
My second nugget of advice: write at your own pace. Some authors routinely produce three, five or even occasionally seven thousand words a day.  Not me. Just thinking of writing at that kind of pace induces brain freeze. 
On a very good day, I can write one thousand words. Last spring, I met the goal consistently for weeks on end and felt fantastic. Then summer came and my work discipline evaporated. Suddenly, I had other demands on my time. Friends to meet for coffee, walks to take, lake-front bike rides that beckoned.  Aiming for the one-thousand word mark, I’d write six or seven hundred and walk away from my desk feeling disappointed and frustrated. This continued until I decided to try a more realistic “summer” goal and lowered the bar to five hundred words a day. The transformation was amazing. Every day I easily met and surpassed the goal. Suddenly, the seven hundred words that meant failure translated into elation and made me feel empowered about my work.  Same quantity, different expectations.
The ultimate goal of any novelist is to write a good book.  Shooting for, say, a seventy-five thousand word manuscript, how long will it take? At one thousand words a day, working six days a week, you’ll be finished in twelve and a half weeks. That sounds both remarkable and exhausting. Scaling back to five hundred words a day, while working six days a week, you will produce a completed manuscript in twenty five weeks, or roughly six months.  Think of it: six months to write a complete novel. Still remarkable, and not exhausting at all.
Late winter or early spring, I will start the fourth book of my mystery series. I’ll spend approximately four weeks developing the plot and creating the detailed story road map that will guide me through the process. When I start to write, I’ll aim for five hundred words a day, working five days a week to allow time for readings and other events to which I’ve already committed.  Even with a modest yield of twenty-five hundred words a week, I’ll have ten thousand per month. And that will add up to a finished draft in seven and a half months. Add in the month of planning, allow a couple of weeks for vacation or life’s inevitable interruptions and I will still have the new book written in approximately nine months.  That’s a goal I can readily embrace and one that perhaps will work for you as well.
Please, join me, as we raise a toast to the New Year -- and write on.


Patricia Skalka's Bio:

A lifelong Chicagoan, Patricia Skalka is a former Reader’s Digest Staff Writer and award-winning freelancer, as well as one-time magazine editor, ghost writer and writing instructor. Her nonfiction book credits include Nurses On Our Own, the true-story of two pioneering, local nurse practitioners.

Twitter: @PatriciaSkalka