Thursday, September 29, 2016

Eavesdropping as a Writing Research Skill By Karen McCullough

I frequently give talks and workshops on writing dialogue and among other tips for learning to do it well, I include a suggestion that you eavesdrop on various conversations to get a feel for how people really talk.

I know your mother taught you that eavesdropping was rude and even wrong—at least my mother did. But this is important writer research so go ahead and do it.  But, please, be discreet about it.

Restaurants are a great venue for eavesdropping, as are movie theaters, stores, almost any public place. Pretend to be reading or watching something else but listen to the way people talk. If you can do it discreetly, take notes and write down snatches of dialogue.

Yes, I’ve done this myself. A few things jump out at you.

A lot of conversation is pretty bland and fits into the category of social nicety. Most of that can be ignored in your writing unless there’s something unusual or compelling about it. 

Then there will be some that is completely incomprehensible. Can be useful in certain situations in a story where your character is in a particular situation, such as a job or mission that include specialized vocabulary and terminology.  But it has to be done carefully or it can lose the reader entirely when they don’t understand what’s going on.

In the rest of the talk, you should find your inspiration. Listen carefully to how different people talk, the rhythms of their speech and the actual words used. It can be fascinating. I like to sit in a booth and try to identify the ages of the people in the seats behind me just from their conversation. Sometimes it’s worth trying just to listen to the words and ignore the tones or rhythms, because word choices are so key in making dialogue ring true.  But those word and sentence sounds, rising and fall inflections, and emphases also play a part in making your dialogue soar.

Finally, read the dialogue aloud yourself and you’ll begin to hear if it works or not. Sometimes the very words will force you to read a sentence in a certain way. When that happens, you’ve nailed it.

And when readers are sure they’re listening to real people talk, you know you’ve done your job as an author.

Karen McCullough is the author of a dozen published novels and novellas in the mystery, romantic suspense, and fantasy genres as well. She has won numerous awards, including an Eppie Award for fantasy, and has also been a four-time Eppie finalist, and a finalist in the Daphne, Prism, Dream Realm, Rising Star, Lories, Scarlett Letter, and Vixen Awards contests. Her short fiction has appeared in several anthologies and numerous small press publications in the mystery, fantasy, science fiction, and romance genres. She has three children, six grandchildren (plus one on the way) and lives in Greensboro, NC, with her husband of many years.


Blurb for Wired for Murder: Most of the time, Heather McNeil loves her job as assistant to the director of the Washington DC Market Show Center. Because she’s a good listener and even better at solving problems, her boss assigns her to handle a lot of the day to day issues that arise during the shows, exhibits, and conferences being held there.  When Heather becomes an unwilling audience to murder during the Business Technology Expo and later finds the body, she’s willing to let the police take care of it. But she soon learns more than she wanted to know about the victim and all the people who really didn’t like him very much.


·         Smashwords:

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

DESERT ICE-- In search of 1955 Las Vegas

When people found out we were taking a week long research trip to Las Vegas for our next book, Desert Ice, everyone insisted we visit the Mob Museum. So, we decided to take them up on the suggestion and made it our first stop.
Even before we went to our hotel, we interviewed the curator. She was very helpful and answered some of our questions regarding of the inner workings of the 1955 mob era.

The next day, after breakfast we toured the museum, housed in the old Post Office in the old part of town, 1940-50's music is played as you ascend the broad steps. With four floors of mob history and memorabilia, they suggest you plan two hours. We found it extremely enlightening with displays showing the very beginnings of the mob in the US and how the organization grew and spread.

Great technology, presentation and staff on each floor very knowledgeable about the history of the mob, particularly in the Las Vegas area.

We were very surprised to learn how normal the families of the mobs were during their heyday in the fifties. I had the opportunity to interview a the daughter of a mobster who lived in the area in 1955. In her younger years, she rode her bike to school, swam in the community pool and shopped at Sears, of all places.  

As a kid who grew up in New York in the 50's, our lives were very similar, except, of course for her access to big name stars such as Pearl Bailey, Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra, etc. Quite often they were dinner guests in her home!

Since Las Vegas was an "Open City" there was no one gang or family calling the shots. Mobsters who were operating illegal businesses like gambling and prostitution in other states found a haven in Nevada and became “legitimate businessmen.” These were very savvy businessmen who know how to take the opportunity and make it work and grow for them. It was interesting to find people on both side of the law and their role in history.

There is nothing left of 1955 Vegas, so our research week in Las Vegas was full of interviews and research at libraries. We did squeeze a dinner at the Luxor though. We "just had" to schedule it. 

Published authors Janet Elizabeth Lynn and Will Zeilinger had been writing individually until they got together and wrote the SKYLAR DRAKE MURDER MYSTERY Series. Their next novel Desert Ice to be released January 2017. These hard-boiled tales are based in old Hollywood of 1955.  Janet has published ten mystery novels and Will has three plus a couple of short stories. Their world travels have sparked several ideas for murder and crime stories. This creative couple is married and live in Southern California.

Janet Elizabeth Lynn

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Stickler for Accuracy by Paty Jager


There are times I wish I didn’t have this need to make sure people learn something from my fiction books. But growing up, books were how I learned about the world. People and places that I didn’t hear about in school or see that much on television. I believe all books whether they are non-fiction of fiction should take the reader to a place they’ve never been or show them a place they’ve been in a different way. 

Because of that need to teach, I always try to bring something I didn’t know about into my books so I learn about it and then add it to the story.

My Shandra Higheagle Mystery is such a series. I had to learn about finding clay and making it “pure” so it could be used in making pottery. I’ve learned different pottery techniques from magazines and online. I’ve had to research Idaho county law enforcement and the state law enforcement. And most of all, I’ve had to learn about the Colville Indian Reservation in Washington state.

I made my main character in the series half Nez Perce. Her family ancestors fled with Chief Joseph to Canada when the army tried to put them on a reservation. Their punishment for outwitting the army for so long was to be shipped to Oklahoma for seven years and when they were finally allowed to come back to the Pacific Northwest, they weren’t allowed to go the Nez Perce reservation in Idaho where their people had lived for centuries. They were placed on the Colville reservation. And that is how Shandra Higheagle has relatives at that particular reservation. You can find out more about how I shaped this character here.

Lucky for me, after I’d decided to make this her family’s home, I met Carmen Peone, an author, who lives on the reservation. She’s not Native American but her husband is and she’s taught in the schools and is friends with nearly everyone on the reservation. She’s learned some of the language of the Arrow Lakes and her young adult books are about the culture.

For my latest release, Reservation Revenge, I had to call upon Carmen many times when I’d write something and then wanted to make sure it was correct and not something that would upset the people living on the reservation. When I’d started the series, she took me on a tour of the reservation. One of the places she took me was Buffalo Lake. I immediately tagged it as a place for a murder to happen.  She told me it was a place the young people liked to go to party.

When I needed photos for the cover, Carmen, came through with the background photo. She has been my lifesaver with this series and a true friend.

Through her knowledge, I was able to bring the reservation life to others and build a mystery that I hope gives people a moment of contemplation and takes them on a journey they would not have had before.

Reservation Revenge
Book six of the Shandra Higheagle Native American Mystery Series


Upon learning a cousin is suspected of murder, potter Shandra Higheagle travels to the Colville Reservation to support her family in any way she can, including the insight she receives from her Nez Perce grandmother in dreams. When the tribal police and FBI refuse to look for additional clues or suspects, Shandra becomes even more determined to uncover the truth.

Detective Ryan Greer knows Shandra’s snooping could cause more harm than good. He joins her at the Reservation and in her pursuit for justice. However, he soon discovers his own hidden secrets could be as dangerous as century old feuds, jealousy, and the drug running that is connected to the murder.

Paty Jager is an award-winning author of 25+ novels and over a dozen novellas and short stories of murder mystery, western historical romance, and action adventure. She has a RomCon Reader’s Choice Award for her Action Adventure and received the EPPIE Award for Best Contemporary Romance. Her first mystery was a finalist in the Chanticleer Mayhem and Mystery Award and is a finalist in the RONE Award Mystery category.  This is what Mysteries Etc says about her Shandra Higheagle mystery series: “Mystery, romance, small town, and Native American heritage combine to make a compelling read.”

blog / websiteFacebook / Paty's Posse / Goodreads / Twitter / Pinterest

Friday, September 23, 2016

And the Winners of my Blog Tour Contest are:

Drum Roll Please!

The prize is the winner's choice of any of the earlier books in the Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series in paper, or e-book.

The winners are:

Linda Thorne
Lorna Collins
Terrell Byrd
Sky Caitlin

All they have to do is contact me either by e-mail or message me on Facebook.

How fun is this!

Hoping to hear from the winners soon!


And this is the latest in the series, and not one of the prizes.


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

SKIN OF TATTOOS by Christina Hoag

Since I’ve been a journalist (a newspaper reporter, which almost sounds quaint these days!), I get a lot of ideas from news events and people I’ve covered. That’s how “Skin of Tattoos” was born. I was sent to El Salvador back in 2000 to do a magazine story on gang members deported from Los Angeles to San Salvador, which most of them really didn’t know because their families had emigrated when they were infants or small children. It was a classic “fish out of water” story. They neither belonged in El Salvador or in the United States. Some barely spoke Spanish. It’s really a strange take on the immigrant experience. 

By the way, this was before the scourge of gangs became a pandemic in the northern countries of Central America. When I was there, the gangs had formed, spurred by these deported Angelenos, but they were nowhere near as strong as they are today.

The story of these young men I interviewed resonated with me. I could relate to them because I had moved around the world as a child, so I also feel I don’t really belong anywhere; I straddle numerous cultures. Although my novel is not about deported gang members; it’s the tale of rival homeboys in L.A., the book was inspired by those interviews in El Salvador, although I didn’t sit down and write an outline until maybe six years later and started writing it in 2008. It’s been a long haul!

But I confess I have a general interest in gangs as a subculture within our larger society. I first encountered gangs again as a journalist in New Jersey, where I was working as a reporter for The Times in Trenton. The editor assigned me to write a story about a notorious motorcycle gang delivering Christmas toys to a local hospital. I went to interview them in a small suburban house. It was all very normal-looking apart from the bunch of Harley choppers out front and its rather gloriously hirsute occupants, who insisted they belonged to a “club” not a gang. However, a couple years later, I saw one of them at a New Jersey prison where I’d gone to interview an inmate for another story. So much for the “club,” I thought.

I also covered gangs and related issues when I was a reporter for the Associated Press in Los Angeles and later co-wrote a nonfiction book on gang intervention called “Peace in the Hood: Working with Gang Members to End the Violence” (Turner Publishing, 2014) with a South Los Angeles gang interventionist. It’s now being used as a textbook in various courses at UCLA, USC and the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, a fact which I’m very proud of.

Christina Hoag is the author of Skin of Tattoos, a literary thriller set in L.A.’s gang underworld (Martin Brown Publishers, August 2016) and Girl on the Brink, a romantic thriller for young adults (Fire and Ice YA/Melange Books, August 2016). She is a former reporter for the Associated Press and Miami Herald and worked as a correspondent in Latin America writing for major media outlets including Time, Business Week, Financial Times, the Houston Chronicle and The New York Times. She is the co-author of Peace in the Hood: Working with Gang Members to End the Violence, a groundbreaking book on gang intervention (Turner Publishing, 2014). She lives in Los Angeles. For more information, see

Los Angeles homeboy Magdaleno is paroled from prison after serving time on a gun possession frame-up by a rival, Rico, who takes over as gang shot-caller in Mags’s absence. Mags promises himself and his Salvadoran immigrant family a fresh start, but he can’t find either the decent job or the respect he craves from his parents and his firefighter brother, who look at him as a disappointment. Moreover, Rico, under pressure to earn money to free the Cyco Lokos’ jailed top leader and eager to exert his authority over his rival-turned-underling, isn’t about to let Mags get out of his reach. Ultimately, Mags’s desire for revenge and respect pushes him to make a decision that ensnares him in a world seeded with deceit and betrayal, where the only escape from rules that carry a heavy price for transgression is sacrifice of everything – and everyone - he loves.

Available in ebook and paperback from Martin Brown Publishers on Amazon:

Monday, September 19, 2016

And My Blog Tour Winds Down

On the blog tour for Seldom Traveled  I did a couple of different things.

This tour was shorter, only 20 stops, in the past I've done a full months worth.

Instead of offering to use someone's name in a book for a contest prize, I offered a choice of one of the older books in the series. Having one's name used is definitely a bigger draw--but I'm at the age where it's possible there might not be another book.

There were fewer glitches this time. Only one person didn't get the post up on the right day, but it appeared on the next day. One poor host had a virus attach her website and nothing could be done. I used that post for another blog I'm doing later in the year, with someone I didn't use for the tour.

Today's post and the last one in the tour is here:

Though I really enjoy doing the tours, it is a lot of work. Some bloggers have lots of followers, others not so many.

Do I think it worked--yes, Amazon showed some sales during that time period.

What's next up?

I'm offering one of my older Tempe mysteries as a freebie. More about that later.


Saturday, September 17, 2016


Like Marilyn Meredith, my host today, I write a contemporary crime series about small town police, their families and friends.

Shares The Darkness is the seventh in my Sticks Hetrick series. Sticks is the primary character, but readers seem to like that solving the crime is most often the result of a team effort (as it is in real police work) and that I devote equal time to making other members of the team fully detailed characters.

Chief among these other characters are Hetrick's proteges Officer Flora Vastine and her boyfriend Corporal Harry Minnich and Hetrick's friend and successor as police chief, Aaron Brubaker.
Marilyn's characters are usually guided by their religious convictions (and she uses those without sounding preachy). Some of my characters are religious as well, others not so much. But the major characters all have a genuine sense of morality. The crime novel is a continuation of the morality play of medieval times. Without morality (whether imposed by religious convictions or reason) we would live in a state of anarchy.

Police in recent days have come under fire because of the actions of some 'bad apples.' I say bad apples, but don't wish to judge these men and women. With all the stress the job and daily life imposes, who's to say what any of us might do under similar circumstances.

Here's the blurb for Shares The Darkness:

Jan Kepler and Swatara Creek Police Officer Flora Vastine were neighbors and schoolmates, but never close.

When Jan, a school teacher, avid birder and niece of a fellow officer, goes missing and is found dead in a nearby tract of woods Flora finds herself thrust into the middle of an examination of the other woman's life, as she searches for clues.

As usual, the police have more than one crime to deal with. There’s illegal timbering and a series of vehicle thefts taking up their time. And there are other issues to deal with. Flora is concerned there’s some shakiness in her relationship with Cpl. Harry Minnich who seems to be making a lot of secretive phone calls.

Still Flora maintains focus on the murder. Despite evidence implicating other suspects, the odd behavior of another former classmate rouses Flora’s suspicion. Flora’s probing opens personal wounds as she observes the cost of obsessive love and tracks down the killer.


Linked In:

I'm a member of International Thriller Writers and the Short Mystery Fiction Society, where I've recently turned over the duties of vice president to fellow writer Larry Chavis.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

My Blog Tour is Winding Down but that Doesn't Mean I'm Not Promoting

The last blog for my tour will be on September 20, but I have lots more going on to promote Seldom Traveled.

I've book fairs and festivals coming up and a couple of speaking engagements--and I'm always ready for more.

I had a great time writing this book and once I started it kind of went it's own way. I had no idea there would be a forest fire that would become a most important part of the book--or an eagle that would help Tempe. But that's what's so much fun about writing.

Didn't the artist do the perfect cover for this book? I'm so pleased.

I'll report back on some of the things as I'm doing them an how they turn out.


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

One Big Reason I Keep Writing by Marilyn Meredith

Today I got the sweetest letter from a reader in New York.

She printed in capital letters, "I Love Your Books!" and underline her words.

She copied by hand the order form I have on my website and checked off the books she wanted, added the total and enclosed a check for the books and postage.

Now I know I need to order some books--I only have one book available that she wanted. I'm sending that one right off to her, but the other two will have to wait until I can get them ordered. That may be a problem.

I would like to order them from my publisher, but at the moment this isn't possible. I ordered from Amazon, but I don't know how long it will take to get a copy. I'll do my best, and if I can't get them, I'll refund the money for those two books.

When you receive a letter like that, you know that it's worthwhile to keep on writing.

Frankly, I was thrilled.


The books she wanted that I don't have copies of right now are:


Hoping to get copies soon!


Sunday, September 11, 2016

9/11 We Must not Forget

Of course I remember--I was at home, horrified as I watched what was happening.

We must also remember all the lives that were lost--those that died in the attack, the first responders who rushed in to try to save people, many of whom died.

And we must not forget all those unsuspecting passengers who died on the airplanes--including the one that was diverted from the terrorists target and crashed into a field, and the one that crashed into the Pentagon.

So many victims to remember that day including those who were near enough to actually see what was happening, and all the families and friends of those who were taken so brutally away.

As we are remembering, we should all realize that we can make our own small part of this country better by being kind and loving to those we live with and meet every day. We can make a difference.

For those of us who pray, we should be praying for our country every single day.

Lord, I live this United States of American up to you and I ask you to protect us from the evil of the world. I also ask that you help us to care for those around us, to offer a helping hand when needed,

I ask this in your Son's name and thank you for the answer. Amen.

Friday, September 9, 2016

The Continuing Saga of Promoting Seldom Traveled by Marilyn Meredith

For some reason, and maybe it's for the best, I haven't any guests for a few days, so thought I'd write about what I've been doing to promote Seldom Traveled.

My latest blog stops are here:

Yesterday's: http://mmgornell.wordpr/ and I wrote about Deputy Tempe Crabtree's backs story.

Today's: The topic on this one is how writing has influenced me.

Tomorrow's:  And Barbara asked me many questions about Seldom Traveled and me. 

That's not all I've been doing though-I signed on for a book fair on Saturday, September 24 from10 to 3 at the Oakhurst Community Center. Because that's quite a ways away, I also booked a room for the night before. I also agreed to speak for about 15 minutes on keep characters fresh in a series.

I checked on a book fair I'll be participating in on Thursday, September 29th from 3-8 in front of the mission in San Luis Obispo. Since it is about 21/2 hour drive from here, I wanted to make sure I was on the list.

And today I'm being interviewed for a Visalia magazine. Should be fun.


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

My Blog Tour Marches On by Marilyn Meredith

So far this is where I've been:

I started out on John Wills blog on September 3:

And next I visited:

If you haven't visited these blogs yet, please do. It's a lot more fun if people make comments on the blog posts.


Monday, September 5, 2016

Today--the 5th--is my husband's birthday

We've been together a long, long time. He's the cute sailor I went out with on a blind date way back when I was a senior in highschool.

We really didn't know each other well at all when we got married--but we've had 65 years to get well-acquainted. No, not all the years were easy, but we made it. 

We have a wonderful and huge family, 5 children, one gone on to Heaven, many grandkids and great grands--and one great-great with another on the way. 

Hubby spent 20 years in the Navy as a Seabee--then 15 working for Sears, then together for over 20 years we owned, operated and lived in our residential care facility. We worked together, treated those in our care as family, and it was hard work but very rewarding. 

We had some adventures too, getting to travel to many different places as we attended different Bouchercons and Left Coast Crime cons and we met lots of wonderful people that we still count as friends. We've gone on several cruises--to Mexico with various stops here and there. 

We've learned a lot about each other along the way--and for the most part, it's been a blessing.

And I've got to say, he's been very supportive of my writing, and for years hauled my books, put up tents and all sorts of physical chores. He can't do that anymore, but he's still cheering me on.

Today is the 3rd day of my blog tour for Seldom Traveled.
and I wrote about how a mountain setting defines character.

If you missed yesterday's, the 2nd of my tour, you can check it out here:
The topic is about writing fiction that comes to close to fact.

I do hope you'll follow along on this tour.


Saturday, September 3, 2016

Native American or Indian?

This is the first day of my blog tour, be sure and visit

Everyone I know who has Native American blood flowing through their veins prefers to be called Indian. 

It does cause some problems though, because many people in our area are Indians from India. 

In our family we have several American Indians: my daughter-in-law is half Yacqui, which of course means her daughters and their children have some of this DNA.

Another granddaughter is about 1/4 Tule River Indian (Yokut.)

The Indians I borrow a lot from for my Deputy Tempe Crabtree mysteries are also Tule River Indians (Yokut.)

I had a very good friend who was Tolowa--and that's what she wanted to be called. Wrote about her and the Tolowa tribe in Kindred Spirits.

In my opinion, using American after whatever ethnic background we come from seems weird. We should all consider ourselves Americans and leave it at that. Most of us so-called caucasians are such a mix-up of races, it would be pretty dumb to list them and add American at the end. 

Why I even brought this up is because when I'm promoting my Deputy Tempe Crabtree books, I want people to know that Tempe is an Indian, and there is always some sort of Indian mysticism in the books. 

So, what to do, I still don't know, and I'm sure everyone's opinions are varied.

In any case--Tempe is an Indian with ties to the Bear Creek Indian Reservation which very much resembles the Tule River Indian Reservation.


Thursday, September 1, 2016

SELDOM TRAVELED Blog Tour by Marilyn Meredith

Blog Tour for Seldom Traveled

Having Different Publishers

Fiction Too Close to Fact

How Does a Mountain Setting Define Character?

How Real Life Propelled me into Fiction

Promotion Over the Years


September 13 –

Power of Words for Story Telling

September 16 –
A Day in my Life Writing a Tempe Crabtree Mystery

Excerpt of Seldom Traveled


Seldom Traveled Blurb:

The tranquility of the mountain community of Bear Creek is disrupted by a runaway fugitive, a vicious murderer, and a raging forest fire. Deputy Tempe Crabtree is threatened by all three.

Marilyn Meredith’s Bio:

Marilyn has had so many books published, she’s lost track of the count, but it’s getting near 40. She lives in a community similar to the fictional mountain town of Bear Creek, the big difference being that Bear Creek is a thousand feet higher in the mountains. She is a member of Mystery Writers of American, three chapters of Sisters in Crime, and is a board member of Public Safety Writers of America.

New Contest:

Winners will be randomly picked from those leaving the most comments on the blog posts. Each winner can choose one of the earlier books in the series as either a print book or e-book.