Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Merit Badge Murder on Sale March 28-April 3!

Thank you so much for hosting me today, Meredith! My name is Leslie Langtry and I'm the author of the Bombay Family of Assassin Series and most recently, Merry Wrath Mysteries. I've been writing contemporary, humorous cozy mysteries for ten years now. 

I came to writing later in life than most (because I'm kind of lazy). I'd been writing since the 2nd grade, but didn't actually attempt a book until I was 38. And I didn't sell a book until I was 40 - and even that was my fourth novel (the first three will never, ever see the light of day because they are AWFUL – I should probably destroy those disks if I can find them).
My first book was 'SCUSE ME WHILE I KILL THIS GUY, a mystery about Gin Bombay - who's family business has been assassination (of baddies only) since 2000 BCE. Even that character was older - a widowed mom in her late 30's. I liked writing a heroine that age, because Chick Lit was huge then and most characters were in their 20's, tottering around on stilettos and drinking soy lattes. I couldn’t relate to that because 1) stilettos hurt my feet, and 2) I’m not even sure what a soy latte is.

Currently, at a few months away from 50, my Merry Wrath series is about to welcome it's 3rd book - MARSHMALLOW S'MORE MURDER - which comes out on March 29. The first book - MERIT BADGE MURDER is on sale for 99c, now through April 3. 

Merry Wrath is an 'accidentally' outed CIA spy who retires to Who's There, Iowa to run a Girl Scout troop. This is a fun series for me to write because I am from a small town in Iowa (Hello DeWitt!) and I had a Girl Scout troop for ten years. And believe me, those girls gave me LOTS of material.

I write the kind of things I like to read: cozy mysteries that make me laugh. Why? Because life is too short not to have a little fun now and then.  Why cozy mystery? Well,  Nancy Drew, Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot were my idols growing up - which made me seem strange to the other girls who worshiped Shaun Cassidy and Leif Garrett (for you kids out there - they were the equivalent of Justin Bieber and One Direction).  I spent most of my childhood with a book in my hands - something that drove my mom nuts, especially in summer when she thought I should be outside playing (which, now that I have kids of my own, I totally get now). 

The people I know figure heavily into my books. Besides the girls in my own troop, I've cast neighbors, friends and family as characters in my stories. Some of them know that - others don't. Some people mistakenly think that I've used them for characterization, such as the PTA President of my kids' elementary school - who was worried that the villain PTA President I'd written in one of my books was her. It wasn't. Actually, that villain is from someone else in my past who I refer to as She-Who-Will-Not-Be-Named. And no, I won't tell you who she was. Suffice it to say she was horrid.

If you take advantage of the current sale of MERIT BADGE MURDER – I hope you enjoy it. And I hope it gives you a few laughs and a chance to escape. After all, you deserve a little fun now and then too!

Leslie Langtry
Bestselling Author of 

Merry Wrath Mysteries book #1 
When CIA agent Merry Wrath is "accidently" outted, she's forced her into early retirement, changes her appearance, and moves where no one will ever find her—Iowa. Instead of black bag drops in Bangkok, she now spends her time leading a young Girl Scout troop. But Merry's new simple life turns not-so-simple when an enemy agent shows up dead at scout camp. Suddenly Merry is forced to deal with her former life in order to preserve her future one. 

It doesn't help matters that the CIA sends in her former, sexy handler to investigate…or that the hot new neighbor across the street turns out to be the local detective in charge of her case. And when Merry is forced to take on a roommate in the voluptuous form of a turned KGB agent/bimbo, things become trickier than wet work in Waukegan or cookie sales in the spring. Nothing in the CIA or Girl Scouts' training manuals has prepared her for what comes next…

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Monday, March 28, 2016


 Many authors need a day job until their books accrue enough royalties and renown to quit working for someone else, and my ghostwriting career was flourishing. I’d not yet begun writing my own mystery series and was freelancing at magazines. I first started taking on alternate personae when one editor informed me that a reader was looking for a ghostwriter to churn out a business book.

“Impossible”, I said. “Too many words”

“Imagine each chapter as an article”, she suggested.

Since then, I’ve ghostwritten more than a dozen memoirs and autobiographies that required transforming myself into a U.S. ambassador, a Las Vegas croupier, a Texas  oilman, a taxicab fleet owner, a triathlete, and sundry others. One was quite an experience. Here it is.

I am hovering just to the rear and right of Jonathan as his sits at a table happily signing his name on the flyleaf of my new crime novel. We are at Dutton’s bookshop on the edge of Hollywood.  Jonathan does not disguise the fact that he’d hired a ghostwriter for his book. He is introducing me as “my writer” as one would airily wave a hand and say, “Oh, this is my butler.” Very classy but a bit confusing to the crowd. With Jonathan claiming me, it is obvious that this time my ghostwriter jig is up.

Jonathan told me during my initial visit to his Beverly Hills mansion that he had always wanted a book with his name on to display on “this coffee table”, he said, patting it. His dilemma was that he had no idea how to write. Reminded me of the time I was at an airport shop in Indonesia and picked up President Sukarno’s biography, a heavy red leather hardcover, only to find it full of blank pages (he was still living at the time).

Now, at Dutton’s, I help Jonathan set up his customized pens, business cards, and bookmarks. Two tables almost sag under the weight of a huge champagne and caviar buffet catered by the Beverly Hilton, much to the bewilderment of the manager who has never seen such largesse from a first-time, unknown author. I also spend a ridiculously long time deciding exactly where to position myself. As a ghostwriter I am always absent from “my” book signings. As soon as I finish a project and bank the check, I slink away. But this time is different. The client insists I attend, and I’m curious to see what kind of crowd Jonathan will attract as a result of the gilt-edged invitation cards.

Initially, he envisioned a family drama about a typical insurance scam of which his father had been the true victim. A little tame, I said, and persuaded him we should add a couple of murders to spice up the story. He agreed, and said the characters must include his parents, two brothers, six ex-wives, four mistresses, and three daughters. I told him, No, far too many. I would take three wives, two mistresses, and two daughters, all the while struggling to explain to him that in the book they’d be fictional and would not resemble the real people. He stopped complaining when I asked which of his family he’d like to be the killer.

Occasionally, during the writing, my client threw a spanner into the works such as calling from Belize or Paris and asking me to add even more murders to the mix now he’d got into the swing of things. Luckily, he was pleased with the various twists and turns, especially when I included thugs from a Bel Air branch of the Russian Mafia (honestly, it really exists).  I gave the murderer my great-grandfather’s revered Scottish name for some inexplicable reason, honored Keats by sprinkling quotes throughout, courtesy of the sleuth, and withheld adding Cornish cuss words but was sorely tempted. Instead, I saved them for a crime novel I published last year.
For my part, I enjoyed creating a series sleuth, a forensic accountant, on someone else’s generous dime, hoping to continue the collection (Jonathan never did ask me to write another book but he owns copyright so I can’t use the sleuth, of whom I had grown fond). 
An inveterate traveler on both business and pleasure, Jonathan was absent a lot. In fact, most of the time. He told me to basically just carry on, and he’d read the book after it was finished. As it turned out, he preferred me to read it aloud to him, which I did, leading to an unexpected part-time career in voice-over and narration work.
Jonathan pronounced himself satisfied. But then he said his third daughter was going to be very upset that I’d left her out. He insisted on her inclusion. Fearing my final fee in jeopardy, I had her join the Peace Corps in Chapter One and whisked her off to Somalia, never to be heard from again.
However, when it came time to querying agents Jonathan refused to spend longer than two weeks on the search and quickly self-published with an expensive hardcover POD press. For which I was grateful, nevertheless. Saved an awful lot of work and having my client possibly suffer from the rejection syndrome, for which he’d understandably blame me.
Now, at Dutton’s (sadly, since closed) my client is having a grand old time chatting to the two hundred or so clients, colleagues and neighbors he’s invited to congratulate him. As his eyes keep darting to the door to see who is arriving I just know he’s hoping it’ll be a Hollywood producer, a director or an actor who’ll slap an option offer on the table within the next three days. He’s begun to like this author thing. I decide to phone a film producer friend and invite him over to put Jonathan out of his agony.
“Hi, Brandon, how about coming along to a book signing right now? It’s not far from your place”.
“Who’s the author?”
“Oh, no one you know”.
“So why would I come?”
“Well, I wrote it”.
“Why didn’t you say it’s your book signing?”
“It isn’t”.
 He snorts and hangs up.
Still undecided where to stand I continue to hover, ghostlike, all the while admitting to myself that Jonathan’s book looks very, very nice.


Like Tosca Trevant, the amateur sleuth in her crime series, Jill Amadio hails from St. Ives, Cornwall but is nowhere near as grumpy or unwittingly hilarious as her character. She is a true crime and thriller ghostwriter, and was a reporter in Spain, Thailand, Colombia and the United States.  She writes a monthly column for the UK-based MysteryPeople ezine, and freelances for My Cornwall magazine. She is a member of Crime Writers Association (UK), Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and the Authors Guild. She lives in Southern California where it hardly ever rains, much to Tosca Trevant’s annoyance

Saturday, March 26, 2016

How Long Did it Take you to Write by Channing Whitaker

Though my first novel has been out for less than a year, I’ve already noticed there are a few questions that seem to arise over and over again from the prospective readers I meet while promoting the book. 

“Where’d you get the idea?” “Is it a series?” “Where is it set?” All are straightforward questions which are easy enough to answer. I believe, going forward as an author, I should expect to answer those same questions every time I step out into the world intending to push my stories onto the public. But then there’s another frequent question: “How long did it take you to write,” which isn’t quite so straightforward to answer. If you’re an author, is this one you hear often?

It’s not that I can’t remember when I first sat down and opened that new Word file which would become my manuscript, or that I can’t calculate the length of time between then and when the book came out. That’s simple. The difficulty in answering is in the implication the question gives of the asker. It is almost certain that they have an idea they’ve been harboring for their own novel, but have actually written little or nothing of it, and they’re trying to gain perspective on the work ahead of them if they move forward with it. Like a person standing at the bottom of a big hill, shouting to another who’s standing on top: “How far is it up?”

Knowing that a mountain of work lies ahead when one undertakes writing a novel, I feel obligated not to mislead a prospective writer, nor do I want to dissuade them. Writing a novel is likely to be measured in months and years, not days and weeks. On top of that, for a first time author, after they’ve finished they’ll likely spend more months, if not over a year hunting for a publisher, and should they find one, their publisher will likely spend months, if not a year, preparing the material and the book’s marketing before it is finally released.

That said, not all months are created equal. One author might spend 18 months writing their novel, but still be working a day-job at the same time, while another author might spend 6 months writing their novel, working on the book full-time. Sometimes the writing process involves waiting time. An author might finish a draft and have to put it down for a few weeks, or a few months, to return to it with fresh eyes. An author might also be using the services of an editor or a critiquing group between drafts, and be subject to weeks or a month, waiting for those notes, before digging in on the next draft.

I am personally working away on my next novel, with the intent of working on it full-time, but I find that having another book already out means organizing and traveling to personal appearances every few weeks, interviews, blogging and keeping up with social media to cultivate my audience, plus reading and reviewing fellow authors, which all take time. Thus, even full-time writing only allows for a part-time schedule of actually composing the words on the pages of my next manuscript. All of this makes telling that eager but inexperienced writer “a year,” “eighteen months,” “two years,” at best incomplete answers.

“How long did it take you to write?” Recently, I’ve stumbled on a relatively simple way to answer which fellow authors might find helpful to respond effectively, and which might truly impart accurate perspective to the asker. Measure the effort in hours.spent about 1,500 hours on my first novel, from page one of my first draft through the end of the polished manuscript that actually found me a publisher. (Though that is not the end of the process, mind you.)

Of course every author and every project are different, but now the prospective author can calculate a realistic approximation. If they can spend 40 hours a week on their manuscript, they might expect about 8 or 9 months for writing a novel similar in length to mine. If they can spend 50 or 60 hours a week, they might cut that down. If they work full-time elsewhere and raise a family, and can only spare 10 hours a week, they might realistically expect the project to take 3 years. In any case, hopefully the process will streamline with successive books.

To all you prospective authors, it’s a lot of work. I hope this helps. Good luck.

To all you established authors, how do you answer this question?

Bio: Channing Whitaker is a novelist, screenwriter, and filmmaker originally hailing from Centerville, Iowa. An alum of Indian Hills Community College, Channing went on to study cinema, screenwriting, literature, and mathematics at the University of Iowa.

Post graduation, Channing began his career in the production of television news, independent films, and commercial videos, as well as to write for websites, corporate media, and advertising. His 10-year career in writing has taken Channing from Iowa, to Alaska, Oklahoma, and currently to Texas.

Channing has written five feature-length screenplays, co-written another feature screenplay, and penned a novel. In that time, Channing has also written and directed over 50 short films.

The April 2015 publication of Channing's debut novel, “Until the Sun Rises – One Night in Drake Mansion,” comes in tandem with the first production of one of Channing’s feature screenplays, “KILD TV” - a horror mystery. “KILD TV” has already filmed, and will premier in March 2016 release.

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Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Unexpected Benefits of a Passion for Research by Janis Patterson

For far too many writers the word ‘research’ brings up unpleasant images of slaving away in dusty library stacks taking notes or endless hours at the computer tracing down esoteric and difficult to find sites. Some love both, but most don’t. Far too many novelists don’t like research at all, which is a pity, both for the reader and for the writer.

Research can bring new knowledge, new friends and some fantastic adventures. When I was doing THE EGYPTIAN FILE (written by my Janis Susan May persona) I needed some exact information about a graffito in a tomb at the necropolis of El Kab. I had been there some years earlier (which is how I found out about the graffito) but could not remember in which tomb it had been.

I appealed to Dr. Dirk Huyge, the Director of the mission to El Kab, and he very kindly answered my questions and – after finding out just what went on the tomb in my story – gave me permission to invent a new tomb. Thus began a friendship. After a while he suggested that I set a story in the dig house of the El Kab excavation – formally known as Bayt Clarke. The house was built in 1906 by an English Egyptologist named Somers Clarke for his home in retirement. He loved his home, to the extent of being buried in the courtyard. There are many recorded sightings of his ghost, too.

Dr. Huyge then suggested that The Husband and I come stay at the dig house so I could research the book. Believe me, civilians never get to stay at dig houses – Dr. Huyge had to work his way through three levels of Egyptian bureaucracy to get us permission to do so, but he did and so we went. The result is A KILLING AT EL KAB, written by my Janis Patterson persona. It was released on 20 March (a year almost to the day from our stay there) and is a book I am so very proud of.

But adventures in research don’t always end in trips to exotic locales; in fact, I wish that happened more often! Usually the results are closer to home. I’ve observed an autopsy (not for the faint of heart, but nowhere near as gruesome as I had feared), gone riding in a helicopter, shot several incredible weapons, danced to the music of the waves on the deserted prow of a moon-washed cruise ship in the tropics, been up to my knees in mud while rockhounding, driven a car at horrifying speeds on a test track, sat in a WWI era plane (on the ground, darn it, though I still cherish dreams of flying in it), piloted a float in an enormous parade, driven on a tiny rocky path through a Mexican jungle… well, you get the idea. There’s almost nothing you can’t do if you put your mind to it.

But, I can hear you saying, how do I get to do these things? There aren’t any rules – many times I haven’t even had a story in mind when these adventures come up, but that doesn’t stop me! The poster that says “It’s all research” is very true. In fact, some of my books have come from some of my adventures – THE EGYPTIAN FILE being a case in point. That book’s genesis came from a simple tour of Egypt The Husband and I were making with friends.

The secret? It’s not really a secret, but people are fascinated by writers. I remember at El Kab sitting at the dining table (all the office desks were filled) working on the book when two of the archaeologists walked behind me. One whispered to the other, “She’s writing a novel while we watch!” Now I was in awe of these young people – so well educated, so good at their difficult jobs – but it was a shock to discover they were in awe of me, and just for writing!

You don’t have to go halfway around the world to do research either… or to use your writerly credentials. Need information about a gun? Go to your local gun shop or shooting range, or the police information officer or – if you have one in your town – the local ballistic lab. Explain that you’re a novelist and like to have the information in your books accurate, then ask if they can help. Most people in any field will be delighted to help, though you might run into a curmudgeon or two. Don’t let that slow you down; there are lots more people enthusiastic about helping a writer than those who turn you down.

And the best thing is, your books will be accurate, which is always a good thing! Research can be fun.


Formerly an actress and singer, a talent agent and Supervisor of Accessioning for a bio-genetic DNA testing lab, Janis has also been editor-in-chief of two multi-magazine publishing groups. She founded and was the original editor of The Newsletter of the North Texas Chapter of the American Research Center in Egypt, which for the nine years of her reign was the international organization’s only monthly publication. Long interested in Egyptology, she was one of the founders of the North Texas ARCE chapter and was the closing speaker for the ARCE International Conference in Boston in 2005.

Janis and her husband live in Texas with an assortment of rescued furbabies.


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

LET'S HAVE A PARTY! Jamie Cortland


Your first book was just released! Your shipment is on its way and should arrive next week!  Have you sent out galleys to reviewers, to radio shows and announced it on Twitter, Face-book and to everyone you know?

Why not have a party? More than likely, it took you at least two and a half years, more or less, to write the book, not to include the time you spent researching it, forming characters, writing and re-writing once the editor had looked at it. Now, you have corrected any errors there might be. It's as polished as you believe it can be. It's your baby!

Not all authors have their own editors go over their manuscripts, but I do, at least, before I send it to an agent or a publisher. I realize that any traditional publisher, no matter how large will have their own editors on staff, but I want my book to be just as perfect and polished as it can possibly be. 
Now, it's time for the book release party, the first thing to do is to decide on your budget and the venue you want to have. If you want a small party, a cozy party at home is always nice, but a party thrown in a trendy bar on at a restaurant would be great. 
You will need books, books and more books unless it’s held in a bookstore where normally they order them. If your books are printed as POD (print on demand) there is a good chance you will have to order your whatever, you decide upon, you want to establish a theme or an atmosphere to go along with your story. Why not dress as one of your characters? Offer for favors or giveaways to match.
I love music and flowers. For me, they are a necessity for any party, but then my latest book has a ballroom dance background. Not only will I tell my audience about my book, but if my dance partner and I gave a hot tango demonstration, that would be really special.
Invite not just all of your friends and family, but also the press and newspapers. The object of the party is not just to celebrate months and years of hard work, but also to make a profit and spread the word.

Making it easy to purchase your book is really important! You will need to take a lot of change, and take credit cards. Better to have someone else handle this. You focus on your book and your guests.
You want both your party and your book to be unforgettable!

Brief bio and links for Weslynn McCallister

Weslynn McCallister, pseudonym, Jamie Cortland was born in Evansville, Indiana and raised in Roswell, New Mexico. Today, she lives in the southwest.

A published novelist and an award winning poet, she is a member of Sisters in Crime, the Mystery Writers of America, and is a founding member of the Florida Writers Association.

Website URL: Weslynn McCallister, Author
Facebook URL: https//
Twitter: Weslynn McCallister@twitter
LinkedIn: Weslynn McCallister, Author

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Sunday, March 20, 2016

Oh My Goodness!

When I learned Left Coast Crime was going to be in Phoenix, even though I'd decided not to fly to any more conferences--going to Phoenix would be an easy one. Fly out of Bakersfield directly to Phoenix.

I even registered and made a hotel reservation. Then I began to add up the cost. Wow, what a lot of money just to have a great time. Never before had this bothered me, but I had strong compulsion to cancel and I did. Oh, at times as I read about people planning to go, I nearly changed my mind. Thank God, I didn't.

The week before the conference both hubby and I had a ferocious cold. His was worse than mine, but I certainly didn't feel good. Then Saturday a.m., he complained of feeling strange and very dizzy. My daughter and I took him to the ER. He was seen immediately and his heart rate was only 30 beats a minute. The ER doc said it was amazing he was conscious!

Imagine if I'd been in Phoenix or even traveling home while that was going on? Or what if I hadn't been there when he started feeling bad? He would have been by himself, and I'm not sure if he'd have called anyone to take him to the hospital.

All I can say is, though I had no idea this was going to happen, I truly believe God did and helped me make the decision I made to stay home.

Getting old is not easy. 

Hubby is doing well, he has a pacemaker now and it is helping a lot.

In between doctor visits, and there's been a bunch, I'm carrying on with my writing and promoting my next Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery, A Crushing Death.

Friday, March 18, 2016


Occasionally readers ask me where I find the weird characters that populate my novels. I think they’re wondering if I’m a little nuts myself.

We can assume I have a few screws loose because I choose to write novels. That confessed, let’s move on to my characters.

Several years ago, my daughter, an environmental activist, invited me to breakfast with an activist friend of hers whose “forest” name is Roadkill. Roadkill wears the skins of animals he finds beside the road and tans himself. He was (and is still) truly a character, who teaches brain tanning and friction fire starting. My daughter, by the way, is known as Frog. 

That delightful meal and introduction led to my first novel, Mustard’s Last Stand, set in North Idaho. I love that part of my former home state. The lakes are deep and the forests majestic and the populace is sprinkled with plenty of loons. The human kind.

In Mustard’s Last Stand, a failing screenwriter joins his oddball brother Roadkill to save safari animals on land once owned by the Mustard family. A serendipitous meeting with a unique individual inspired an entire novel.

The premise is admittedly absurd: No one would think of establishing a safari camp filled with African animals and retired zoo animals in chilly North Idaho. It made for a lot of fun, however, and believe it or not, some folks have asked me if zebras really live in Idaho. (They don’t.)

“Canned hunts” for elk, deer and many kinds of wild birds do exist in Idaho and other states, and in my book I try to point out, with a little humor, some of their drawbacks. 

Roadkill played a smaller part in my second novel, Foul Wind, but he will be the protagonist in the third novel, that I’m setting in my new state of Arizona. 

It’s not often that characters appear that ready for fiction in real life, but keeping our ears and eyes open can help. In Mustard’s Last Stand, a character gets in trouble in Sears. Big trouble, involving a pair of Vise-grips and a sore tooth and far too many uppers (and I’m not talking upper teeth). I once worked at Sears, selling vacuums and sewing machines. During a slow period another salesman told me about someone who came into a Sears store with a toothache and left with a lot more pain.

Most of the other characters I dream up are products of my imagination—I don’t name them after my family members and I don’t pattern them (at least not consciously) after family or friends. But sure enough, my daughter announced that she knew who she was in Mustard’s Last Stand. Really? I’m planning to use her as the model for a character in my third book and I have no doubt she will wonder why she was left out of that book.

HINT TO WRITERS: You can use the personality traits of that former boss or ex you want to kill off in a novel as long as you disguise them in another physical body: the opposite sex or a different ethnicity, for example. Most readers won’t recognize themselves because we all see ourselves differently than others perceive us.

Bio Information:

Kathy McIntosh is a reformed hi-tech marketer and former columnist on words and writing for The Idaho Statesman’s Business Insider. She grew up in the San Fernando Valley of Southern California and spent 30 years in Idaho, so she’s familiar with both urban and rural kookiness.
Kathy’s irrepressible wit and writing helped her be chosen one of Idaho’s top three emerging fiction writers in 2014. Since then her wanderlust and a few pratfalls on ice landed her in a sunnier clime in Tucson.


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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

What if My Mother Didn’t Love Me? – Writing the Opposite of What You Know by Debra H. Goldstein

My mother loved me, but what if she hadn’t?

Writers write what they know, but sometimes what a writer “knows” isn’t particularly interesting and definitely couldn’t sustain an engaging novel. That’s when writers do what they do best – creative thinking.

For example, I was my mother’s miracle baby – her first successful pregnancy, her brilliant beautiful bubbly daughter (she saw what she wanted to see). She taught me to read, was my Girl Scout leader, cheered me on in whatever activity I chose to try, and beamed with pride when I graduated from college and law school. Even if something didn’t quite go the way I hoped, I always knew my mother was there for me.

In just a few sentences, I’ve summarized enough of our relationship for you, a reader, to know our story and realize it lacks the conflict necessary to build a plot around. But, what if our interaction had been different? Would you find it more interesting if she hadn’t been loving and supportive? If she’d walked out of my life when I was a child without telling me why? What would be the impact of such a family dynamic on the woman I became?

Once these questions crossed my mind, the endless story possibilities intrigued me. Consequently, when I began writing the mother/daughter subplot in my new book, Should Have Played Poker: a Carrie Martin and the Mah Jongg Players Mystery, I chose to reverse what I know and give Carrie a mother who appears out of the blue, twenty-six years after abandoning her family. Within hours of returning and leaving Carrie with a sealed envelope and the knowledge that she once considered killing Carrie’s father, Carrie’s mother is murdered. Compelled to find out why her mother is dead and unravel why she abandoned her, Carrie soon learns that what she was taught to believe and the truth may very well be two different things.

I’m glad my mother loved me. I’m also happy to be a writer who deliberately creates characters and situations opposite to “what I know.” This method may require me to use my imagination and do a bit more research that is never actually seen in the story, but it certainly makes for a far more entertaining read. Don’t you agree?

Judge Debra H. Goldstein is the author of Should Have Played Poker: a Carrie Martin and the Mah Jongg Players Mystery (Five Star Publishing, a division of Cengage – April 20, 2016) and the 2012 IPPY Award winning Maze in Blue, a mystery set on the University of Michigan’s campus. Her short stories and essays have been published in numerous periodicals and anthologies, including Mardi Gras Murder and The Killer Wore Cranberry: a Fourth Meal of Mayhem. Debra serves on the national Sisters in Crime, Guppy Chapter and Alabama Writers Conclave boards and is a MWA member. She lives in Birmingham, Alabama.

Should Have Played Poker introduces Carrie Martin and her fellow sleuths, the Sunshine Village retirement home Mah Jongg players, as they work to uncover the mystery behind her mother’s murder.

Carrie’s life as a young corporate lawyer who is balancing her job and visiting her father at the retirement home is upset when her mother unexpectedly returns 26 years after abandoning her family. Her mother leaves her with a sealed envelope and the confession that she once considered killing Carrie’s father. Before Carrie opens the envelope, she finds her mother murdered and the woman who helped raise her seriously injured.

Instructed to leave the detective work to the police, Carrie and the ladies in the retirement home’s Mah Jongg circle attempt to unravel Wahoo, Alabama’s past secrets, putting Carrie in danger and at odds with a former lover – the detective assigned to her mother’s case.

e-book 9781432831530 also available - April 20, 2016)

Monday, March 14, 2016

Five Common Mistakes Made By New Writers by JJ White

All good authors have a story to tell whether they’ve been at it for years or are new to the game, and like anything else in life, the more you write, the better writer you become. Writing is like a video game. It took me years of practice to save Ms. Pac-man and almost as long to learn how to write. There are a few literary geniuses out there who have a natural talent for writing and need little or no experience to pen the great American novel but they are the exception. Most nascent writers make the same mistakes over and over and only change with help from writing groups or editors.

With the glut of self-published books in the market today, both story and craft sorely lack the quality of a well-edited traditionally published book. Many mistakes are left in the finished self-published book and will forever embarrass the author in the future. Memo to yourself: Don’t publish anything without a good editor ripping it to pieces. It’s the only way you’ll learn how to write.

Here are five common mistakes I’ve seen in many of the manuscripts and debut novels I’ve read and reviewed:

1.      Sentences starting with words ending in “ing”.

“Walking toward him, she touched his shoulder.”
So, what’s wrong with that sentence? A lot. If she’s walking toward him then she can’t touch his shoulder at the same time. Why not change it to, “She walked to him and touched his shoulder.”

Another example: “Unlocking the door, she walked out.” Change that to, “She unlocked the door, then walked out.”

Sentences with first words ending in “ing’ make the language seem too passive. The reader will say they’ve read a couple of chapters and just couldn’t get into it, but what they really mean is that the story moved along too slowly and they’re bored. Get rid of too many “ing” words at the beginning of your sentences. Now read your edited version out loud and you’ll see the improvement.

2.      Filtering

Okay, what is filtering? A simple example would be when the protagonist sees something pertinent to the story.

Filtering sentence: “He looked across the room and saw Mary’s ring on the dresser.” The author is telling the reader that the protagonist sees the ring. This isn’t necessary. The book is already in the protagonist’s point of view.

Write instead: “Mary’s ring was on the dresser.”

The reader knows the protagonist is looking at the ring so you don’t have to explain it to them. Stop doing that. Again, it slows the pace.

3.      Thoughts

When your character has a thought it is appropriate to put the thoughts in italics but most editors will say that reflects an inexperienced author and should be avoided. Keep italicized thoughts to a minimum.

4.      Exclamation points in dialogue

Exclamation points become a crutch for authors. If editors see them all over the book it tells them the author lacks the confidence to write dialogue expressing anger or excitement or loudness and so they have thrown in exclamation points instead of emotional dialogue. Avoid using them.

5.      Too much use of the character’s name in both narrative and dialogue.

Say your character’s name is Wendy and your writing in third person, past tense P.O.V. Most new authors constantly use the character’s name throughout the book instead of an appropriate pronoun. A poorly written paragraph might read something like this:

It was time for Wendy to rethink the project. Wendy had always worked hard but this was too much. Wendy walked over to ask Paul a question. “Do you think I should get out, Paul?” Wendy said.

“I don’t know,” Paul said. “Maybe you should, Wendy.”

Okay. So like I said, too many names. It slows the pace. Here is a better way to write it:

It was time for Wendy to rethink the project. She had always worked hard but this was too much. She walked over to ask Paul a question.

“Do you think I should get out?”

“I don’t know. Maybe you should.”

I’ve made all these mistakes myself and have inadvertently left a few of them in my novels, Prodigious Savant and Deviant Acts, but I believe if you work at eliminating or reducing these and other similar mistakes in your writing, you should have a better chance of landing an agent and publisher.


J. J. White is an award winning novelist and short story writer who has been published in several anthologies and magazines including, Wordsmith, The Homestead Review, The Seven Hills Review, Bacopa Review, and The Grey Sparrow Journal. His story, The Adventures of the Nine Hole League, was recently published in The Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, #13. He has won awards and honors from the Alabama Writers Conclave, Writers-Editors International, Maryland Writers Association, The Royal Palm Literary Awards, Professional Writers of Prescott, and Writer’s Digest.

His crime fiction book, Deviant Acts, was released by Black Opal books in November, and will be followed by his Historical Fiction book, Nisei, in 2016. He was recently nominated for the Pushcart Prize for his short piece, Tour Bus. He lives in Merritt Island, Florida with his understanding wife and editor, Pamela.


Saturday, March 12, 2016

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