Saturday, March 25, 2017

Why I became a mystery writer

by Patricia Gligor

My Malone mystery series has been an important part of my life for many years. The release of the first book, Mixed Messages, and the subsequent publication of Unfinished Business, Desperate Deeds, Mistaken Identity and, finally, Marnie Malone, has been a dream come true. My characters are people I’ve come to know and love.

My series is character driven. What that means (for non-writers) is that my characters are the most important element in my books. Plot is important, of course, as is setting but, to me, knowing why my characters say and do what they say and do is of utmost importance.

Which brings me to the topic of this post: Why I became a mystery writer. What motivated me to choose to write in the first place? And, why mystery/suspense novels?

To answer those questions, we’re going to take a trip back in time.
I grew up in a big, old house with lots of nooks and crannies to explore and a woods behind it stretching as far as the eye could see. There was a small cemetery at the top of the hill in those woods. So eerie and mysterious! The perfect setting for a young girl with an active imagination who loved to read Judy Bolton and Nancy Drew mysteries.

I used to make up stories about what was happening (and had happened) in the house and the woods and I told them to my brother and two of our playmates. They were all younger than me and I know I frightened them with my tales of mystery and suspense.

When I was ten years old, I wrote a poem called “The Night” and submitted it to my Sunday school magazine. To my amazement (and delight), it was published! When I saw my name printed under the title, I was hooked for life. I didn’t know how and I didn’t know when but I did know that someday I would be an author. Deciding which genre to write in wasn’t a problem for me. I knew I wanted to write mysteries.

A lot of years have passed since then but I remember myself as a child who was excited to write mysteries and who would go off to be alone to daydream. That little girl is still inside me and she still sees mystery everywhere!

Blurb for Marnie Malone

Someone is stalking Marnie.

It’s Marnie’s last week at the law firm of Cliburn & Reeves and she feels like she’s riding an emotional roller coaster. Up when she wins the divorce and custody battle for Callie Jackson against her abusive husband, Jed. And plummeting down when one witness after another decides not to testify against Mark Hall, an attorney at another Charleston firm and an “alleged” serial rapist.

Marnie receives one threat after another and she constantly feels the need to look over her shoulder, convinced that someone is stalking her. With Sam out of town on business, she’s alone in the big, old farmhouse and strange things are happening. Noises in the attic, creaking floorboards and someone watching her from the woods.

As she tries to determine the identity of the stalker, the list of men who have grudges against her grows longer each day. In her line of work she’s made enemies. Is the stalker someone from the past or one of the men on her list? And, how far will he go?

About the Author:

Patricia Gligor is a Cincinnati native. She enjoys reading mystery/suspense novels, touring and photographing old houses and traveling. She has worked as an administrative assistant, the sole proprietor of a resume writing service and the manager of a sporting goods department but her passion has always been writing fiction.
Ms. Gligor writes the Malone Mystery series. The first three books, Mixed Messages, Unfinished Business, and Desperate Deeds take place in Cincinnati but in Mistaken Identity, the fourth book, her characters are vacationing on Fripp Island in South Carolina. Marnie Malone, the fifth book in her series, is also set in South Carolina.

Her books are available at:

Visit her website at:

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Having a Great Crime -- Wish You Were Here

by Marja McGraw

You never know what might inspire a story. In the case of Having a Great Crime – Wish You Were Here, it was a small, friendly town – Battle Ground, Washington. I’ve lived here for almost two years and enjoyed every minute of it. The town is beautiful and the people are friendly. However, the town wasn’t crime ridden, until I came along and created an old crime.

“1936 – In the small farming community of Battle Ground, Washington, a scream is heard and actress Bonnie Singleton is found dead. With no evidence or suspects, the crime goes down in history as an unsolved murder. The only one who knows the truth is Bonnie Singleton, and her voice has been silenced.

That is, until many years later when Sandi Webster-Goldberg and her husband, Pete, go on a belated honeymoon to a new Bed and Breakfast in the small community.

Plenty of surprises await the couple when the proprietor of the B&B asks for their help. She doesn’t want her business to be known as the local haunted house.

Have Sandi and Pete ever been able to turn down a challenge? The request to find the truth has been made and once again they’re reluctantly on a cold case.”

I guess I should have mentioned the treasure. What’s a good story set out in the country without a treasure? And maybe a ghost? After a vintage body is found, you have to wonder whose ghost (if there is one) haunts the B&B. Is Bonnie Singleton still walking the halls of the house or is it the woman who was buried on another part of the property?

Needless to say, I write fiction. However, I’ve learned that when you create your location, if it’s not a fictional town, you’d better stick to the facts as much as you can. Research can be fascinating, and sometimes (as in this case) it can be difficult. Have you ever tried researching through old newspapers only to discover that in “those days” the local paper was almost purely social? Not helpful. Because this is a small town, you won’t find many reference books on its history, either.

One thing I discovered is that it’s almost like this area jumped from the 1920s straight into the 1940s, practically skipping the 1930s. It became a prime era for me to fictionalize. It was a farming community with little in the way of law enforcement.

This area is gorgeous, and lots of rain helps keep it that way. I mean lots of rain. Moss is an ongoing battle, but if you’re just passing through, it enhances the scenery. There are forests to walk through, and fields galore.

The way the town looks isn’t everything though. The people, the businesses and even the frogs add to the story. At certain times of the year you can open the door and hear what sounds like thousands of frogs chirping, or is it croaking? You might even find a snake wriggling through your yard, but it probably won’t be a poisonous critter.

Can an old murder have ramifications in today’s world? Why not? It can happen.

So if you’re looking for a story with a little humor, a little romance and maybe a murder or two, this is the one for you.

Jean, thank you so much for inviting me to your site. I hope one day you’ll visit mine.


Marja McGraw has worked in both civil and criminal law, state transportation, and for a city building department.  She’s lived and worked in California, Nevada, Oregon, Alaska, Arizona, and Washington.

She wrote a weekly column for a small town newspaper in Northern Nevada, and conducted a Writers’ Support Group in Northern Arizona. A past member of Sisters in Crime (SinC), she was the Editor for the SinC-Internet Newsletter for a year and a half.

Marja writes two mystery series: The Sandi Webster Mysteries and The Bogey Man Mysteries, which are light reading with a touch of humor. She also occasionally writes stories that aren’t part of a series.

Marja says that each of her mysteries contains a little humor, a little romance and A Little Murder!

She now lives in Washington, where life is good.

You can visit her website at
Her blog can be read at

Sunday, March 12, 2017

A Western Mystery by John Lindermuth

I've always been interested in history and few eras are more interesting than that of our American West. I'm also intrigued by mystery. So what could be better than combining the two?

As trappers, gold-hunters and settlers expanded into the West they ran head on into people they often regarded as less than human but who had cultures as diverse as their own. When conquered, these people were forced onto reservations where it was hoped they might be controlled.

Like most other reservations in the United States, San Carlos in Arizona was established by politicians ignorant of native cultures and relationships. The process forced both friends and enemies to live cheek by jowl in a harsh environment made worse by cheating agents and abusive soldiers while constantly being spied upon by tribal police and scouts who assisted the Army in hunting down renegades.

The conquered Yavapai and Tonto bands of the Apache people, formerly hunter/gatherers, turned to farming and were becoming near self-sufficient on their first reservation on the Verde River. This didn't sit well with contractors who profited from supplying the reservation. Orders came down for the Army to march these Indians 180 miles on foot to San Carlos in mid-winter, a move General George Crook called "cruel and greedy, the foulest blot in Indian history."

John Clum, who had been appointed agent in 1874 (after twice turning down the job), appears to have been a decent man who attempted to treat the people fairly and gave leaders more autonomy than they'd had under other administrators. He embarrassed and inspired the wrath of the Army when he and a small group of scouts brought in Geronimo and his band to San Carlos in 1877 without a single shot being fired
Despite Clum's best efforts, San Carlos was bleak, rations were short, there was animosity between the various bands and disease afflicted the people. No wonder then that many chose to break out, seek freedom in the mountains and over the border in Mexico.This is the background for Geronimo Must Die.

My protagonist is Mickey Free, based on an actual scout who served as a translator under Al Sieber in the Yavapai/Tonto campaign and then at San Carlos. His mother was Mexican, but his father has not been definitely identified. As a boy, Mickey was kidnapped by Pinal Apaches and an Army officer blamed it on the Chiricahua, igniting a decade-long war. Mickey was adopted by Nayundii, a White Mountain Apache, and he and his foster brother John Rope both joined Sieber's scouts.

As Mickey says in the book: "History's like an old mirror, distorted, smudged and fly-speckled. It don't always reflect things the way they are." This gave me the liberty to play with fact and fictionalize to suit my story.

There's a plot to kill tribal leaders in the hope Apaches can be convinced to leave the reservation in a great runaway. Sieber suspects Geronimo is behind it. But when Geronimo himself becomes a target of the sniper it falls upon Mickey to save him and discover who is behind the plot.

I love research and fortunately there are a ton of books, government reports and other sources for information on the period and the people involved. Incidentally, the San Carlos reservation stills exists. Despite formation of a Chamber of Commerce, a casino, a language preservation program and other efforts by the people, it is one of the poorest Native American communities in the

Here's a blurb for Geronimo Must Die: 

Geronimo and rascally half-breed Indian scout Mickey Free have never been friends.

Yet, Mickey has already saved Geronimo's life twice (without acknowledgement) and is the only one who can keep the great Apache leader out of the sniper's sights now. The sniper has already murdered several tribal leaders and Mickey believes it's all a plot to prompt a great runaway from the hated San Carlos reservation.
Mickey's efforts are stymied by Al Sieber, head of scouts, and John Clum, reservation agent, as well as suspicion of other Indians. Adding to his problems, Mickey is in love with a girl whose name he keeps forgetting to ask and who may be allied to the plot.
Only perseverance, risk to his life and, eventually, Geronimo's help will enable Mickey to resolve this dangerous situation.

Geronimo Must Die will be published March 28 by Sundown Press.

A retired newspaper editor, J. R. Lindermuth lives and writes in a house built by a man who rode with Buffalo Bill--which may have helped inspire his interest in the West. His 15 published novels are a mix of mystery and historical fiction. Since retiring, he's served as librarian for his county historical society, assisting patrons with genealogy and research. He is a member of International Thriller Writers and a past vice president of the Short Mystery Fiction Society.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Writing Advice from Some of the Best

Pulitzer winner, A.B. Guthrie, Jr., had this to say about the business of writing:

“I would give one piece of advice to would-be writers: if you don’t love the language, forget it! And second, study the established authors. Learn how they get their effects. Study the craft of fiction, know what it means, what it is.”

Loren D. Estleman, bestselling crime and western novelist:

“For me, a good mystery places story and character ahead of all else, yet never loses sight of the simple truth that in order to be a mystery, a question must be asked. It needn’t be a whodunit, and might be something as simple and maddening as why the murdered man had three left shoes in his closet and no mates. If the writer has done his job well, the reader will forget the questions as the story draws him in. But there had damn well better be a mystery involved if he’s going to call it one.”

Elmore Leonard, bestselling author:

“The worst thing a novice can do is to try to sound like a writer. The first thing you have to learn is how not to overwrite” He also said, “Write! Don’t talk about it, do it. Study the authors you like, pick one and imitate him—the way a painter learns fine art by copying the masters. I studied Hemingway, as several thousand other writers have done. I feel that I learned to write westerns by reading and rereading For Whom the Bell Tolls.

“To me, the characters are everything. I begin with them, and if a story doesn’t come out of their incarnations, I don’t have a book. I imagine a type of character in a particular setting—South Miami Beach, Atlantic City—adding other characters in a very vague idea of a plot situation and making it up as I go along. Characters audition in their opening scenes. Some, who I think at first are going to be main characters, end up playing minor roles, while a walk-on character will now and again talk his way into a part that becomes the third or fourth lead.” Every writer I interviewed agreed that novice writers must read a wide variety of literature. No writer can succeed without extensive reading.

Will Henry, multiple award-winning author and screenwriter, offered this advice:

“Keep at it. That’s all. If it’s in you to write, it will come out. If it’s not, you will have a lot of fun thinking it is.” When asked how much money a young writer can earn, he said, “Not much! Not enough to keep life in the body of a single human being. You must have another source of income.”

Jeanne Williams, award-winning historical romance author:

“Write constantly and find a qualified writer to critique your work.” Emphasizing the importance of rewriting and revisions, she said new writers should expect to be as dedicated to their craft as a surgeon is to his. “Determination is all-important, for first-time writers do manage to sell. Write what you care about most and give it your best shot.”

Marlys Millhiser, mystery novelist:

Strange and exotic places trigger ideas for her novels. "I’ll look at a house and think, ‘That place needs a ghost. I like to travel because new places turn me on, and once I find a place, the characters kind of wander into the opening scene. So I normally know how I’m going to begin a book, but I don’t know where I’m going from there." Millhiser has rewritten the first ten chapters of several books before finding her direction. "Writing instructors tell young writers to outline their stories before they begin writing, but some of us—myself included--still sit at the computer with only a vague idea of what we’re going to write that day."

Irene Bennett Brown, award-winning novelist:

“A writer shouldn’t broadcast a story’s theme or wave it in front of a reader like a banner,” she said. “That’s too much like teaching and preaching, which readers hate. I give my characters strong goals, and tough problems. Theme isn’t something you plan, it just is. It’s what your story proves and falls into place when you’ve done everything else right.”

Chris Roerden, editor and author of Don't Murder Your Mystery:

The Agatha Award winning author says: "Dialogue is a form of action, a potent technique for expressing conflict. It is the mightiest power tool on the writer's workbench for making characters come alive. Instead of your stepping in like an overbearing parent to tell us about your characters, dialogue lets you let them reveal their feelings, attitudes, and personalities through their own words." (This book is a must read for all aspiring mystery novelists.)

Louis L’Amour, bestselling author:

L’Amour advised fledglings to “read and write everything you can. Keep writing, putting words on paper and learn to express yourself. One difficulty I find of people who write is that they don’t read enough. And our schools aren’t giving us enough background in American literature. I think you should have a pretty good idea of what’s been done before you try to do it. And you can learn some very valuable things by writing. I really learned how to write from Robert Louis Stevenson, Anthony Trollope, and de Maupassant.”

Janet Dailey, bestselling novelist:

“It’s not as free as it once was for new writers to break into print. Probably the greatest way for a writer to break into the business is to write in category, whether it be western, romance, mystery, or science fiction; that’s the place where the publisher has already learned there is an audience. That’s where fledglings can establish themselves and become a Stephen King, Mickey Spillane, Louis L’Amour or Agatha Christie. Excel and go beyond the so-called limits of the categories.”

Benjamin Capps, award-winning author:

Capps believed that a writer should imagine one reader and write for him or her, much as a television newsman speaks to one envisioned viewer. His own reader is like him, he said; “just about as realistic and romantic, cynical and sentimental, dumb and intelligent, simple and sophisticated, optimistic and pessimistic,” and who shares similar interests. “Do I manipulate the reader?” he said. “I sure do, for I’ve studied the fictional techniques of writers from Sophocles to Chaucer to Melville to Steinbeck for decades. However, probably no reader of mine ever felt so strongly or dropped a small tear unless I had already done so in the writing.”

Beth Franzese, mystery novelist, emphasized experience and research:

As a writer of amateur sleuth novels, I am always interested in the psychological experience of being a crime fighter. For my [work in progress], I have had the luck of being close to a detective who has constantly checked my work for authenticity. Also, questions about what death looks like, how a body falls when shot, etc. I have much martial arts experience, so I love writing my fight scenes, but I think a lot of authors need help with that, too.”

Brian Garfield, screenwriter and author of “Death Wish:”

Echoing reading and writing “a lot,” he said, “Make sure that you have a good command of the technicalities of the English language. I don’t care about spelling, but you’ve got to be able to write good sentences. You’ve got to be able to write them with a certain amount of grace. The main problem, I think, today is that everyone wants to be on the bestseller list without the apprenticeship first. No matter how boring, writers must learn the craft along the way, because “it does have to be learned.”

Bill Pronzini, bestselling author:

“Read as widely as possible in your chosen field, both fiction and nonfiction, then write something fresh with an unusual approach or slant. A Louis L’Amour imitation isn’t likely to launch any new writer these days . . . I learned my craft by writing stories for a score of different magazines. Today there are very few fiction magazines left—in effect, no real training ground for young writers to develop and hone their skills, which is very unfortunate.” 

Parris Afton Bonds, bestselling romance writer:

“Talent is cheap. The difference between a professional and an amateur writer is persistence. Selling is a matter of luck, really. If one has enough money (determination) to remain at the gambling tables, the dice will eventually roll in his favor. If a fledgling writer is aiming his work toward the market in demand at the moment, then the sky is the limit—assuming that he has perfected his craft and read a great many novels of that genre.” In other words, “persistence, patience, and all the while perfecting your craft.”

John Mantley, novelist, script writer, actor (and early actress Mary Pickford’s first cousin):

Mantley produced the “Gunsmoke” TV series for ten years and wrote scripts for “Rawhide,” “Kraft Theatre” and many other televised programs. He said, ‘’You have to be thick-skinned to survive as a script writer, because having your work rewritten by producers is bad enough, but you also have to expect to have it rejected for the most inane reasons.”

Don Balluck, television script writer:

Balluck, who wrote scripts for a number of TV shows, including “Magnum PI,” talked about the personality traits necessary for a successful script writer. “Courtesy and a sense of humor” are paramount, he said. “We have to deal with a lot of bleeding egos and it’s just plain prudent to maintain a certain amount of equanimity. There’s strength in getting what you want without hurting or humiliating anyone.”

Calvin Clements, television script writer:

Clements wrote for many well-known episodic programs and warned would-be script writers not to “protect the script” by registering it. “It’s the mark of a novice who registers the script with the Guild on a [certain] date.” When, as a producer, Clements received “such material and saw the Guild stamp, the writer’s ability—in my mind and other editors—suffers. Two writers, even three, can come up with the same idea and go to work on it. That’s when the accusations start if they are newcomers, that someone stole the script.”

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Cheryl Kaye Tardif Revisited

Cheryl Kaye Tardif's work is called Canadian suspense with a killer twist. The bestselling suspense author from north of the border tackles sensitive and terrifying scenarios that most people wouldn't want to consider. From psychic investigations to serial  killers and assisted suicides, she delves into the human psyche and spotlights our worst fears.

Cheryl, how did your first novel, Whale Song, come about and had you written/published anything prior to it?

Whale Song was in my head for two years before I ever wrote down the title. In fact, I wasn't even sure I was going to write it. At the time, I had pretty much given up hope of getting published; I had tried for years. But the story of Whale Song haunted me. I couldn't shake the characters or the plot. Finally, a friend said, "Cheryl, don't worry whether it gets published.Write it for yourself. Write it because you have to." That was the best advice I've ever been given.

Since Whale Song, which was first published in 2003, I've had six more novels published  (Children of the Fog, Devine Intervention, Devine Justice, The River, Lancelot's Lady and Whale Song: School Edition), as well as Skeletons in the Closet, Other Creepy Stories, and Remote Control, a novelette. All my works are available in ebook editions and all but the novelette are out in trade paperback. I've also had a short story published in What Fears Become: An Anthology From the Horror Zone.

You've written in a number of genres and under a pseudonym. Which genre do you prefer and which has been the most successful?

Suspense is my forte. And any combination of suspense, mystery, paranormal has been  successful for me.

Why do you think all your novels have made the bestseller lists?

In general, readers don't like predictable, formulaic works. They'll never have that with my novels. I strive to be unpredictable and I don't use any kind of formula when writing my books. My stories are a mix of plot-driven and character-driven tales. And I bring emotion into each story, whether it's fear, sorrow, happiness, excitement or another emotion. I want my readers to feel  like they're right there in the story, seeing everything, feeling everything.

How do you promote your work?

I have two main websites and a blog, plus I belong to various social networks. Most of my marketing is done online through various websites and promotions. And my books are promoted via Imajin Books, my publishing company.

Why did you decide to go the indie route with your own publishing company and how long was it before you began publishing the work of other writers?

I began my career as an indie published author, self-publishing three titles from 2003-2005. With their success I was able to secure a New York agent and a traditional publisher. I recognized a lot of serious problems with my publisher early on and ended up removing my books just before they went under. My experience wasn't entirely negative though; I learned a lot from them--especially what NOT to do as a publishing company.

After leaving my publisher, I decided to return to indie publishing and set up my books again under my publishing company, Imajin Books. Over the next year or so I was approached by other authors who asked me if I'd consider publishing them. I said no, but it made me think. I realized there was a need for what I could offer.

So, on January 15, 2011, I opened Imajin Books to accept other authors. We now have a great group on board; some will be publishing their second book with us this spring/summer.

How does your publishing company differ from other small presses?

Imagin Books is an innovative company. We offer a hybrid form of publishing, kind of a cross between indie publishing and traditional. We offer a small advance and much higher than average royalties on ebooks and trade paperback sales. We consider ebooks to be primary rights, with print a subsidiary right. We only secure these rights so authors are free to purse film and other rights.

Our authors have more input into the creation of their books. We go through various editing stages, which they're part of, and they have input into their cover and trailer as well. We treat our authors like partners. Yet they pay nothing up front. We are NOT a subsidiary publisher. We focus on ebooks sales and market accordingly.

How do your print books sales compare with ebooks? And when did your ebooks begin outselling print editions in Canada?

Print sales are a small percentage of what we sell. Our ebooks far outsell our paperbacks. Last time I looked at the numbers we were selling 50 ebooks for every paperback. We have always sold more ebooks than print.

What's your work schedule like?

I work six to seven days a week. My hours vary, but I rarely work less than eight hours a day and often more. I love what I do and I take frequent breaks, so it doesn't really seem like I'm working that long. The great thing is that I can take days off when I need them.

My schedule is divided between answering email, reading submissions, coordinating editors and authors, assigning covers to designers, checking back with everyone, arranging our promotions, updating the website and blog, and anything else that comes up.

Advice for novice writers?

Facebook account BEFORE you query a publisher or agent. A book won't sell without consistent marketing on the part of the author.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Louise Penny Revisited

New York Times bestselling author Louise Penny lives and writes in a small village near Montreal, not far from the U.S. border. She's the multiple recipient of the Agatha Award as well as other honors for her work.

Louise, you've had a long career as a journalist and radio host in your native Canada. When and why did you decide that you would rather write novels?

Well, I've wanted to write since I was a child, and tried every decade of my life. But the sad fact was, I had nothing to say. I was way too callow and self-absorbed. And while I feigned interest in others, I really wasn't listening. These are not promising traits for a writer.

There's a wonderful line from Auden's elegy to Yeats in which he writes, 'Mad Ierland hurt him into poetry.' How searing, how true must that have been? And I feel the same was true of me. Not poetry, of course, but writing. I was finally buffeted and bruised and hurt enough by life that I started to empathize with and feel the pain of others. I understood loss and sorrow and aching loneliness. What it felt like to make dreadful mistakes. And what it felt like to be forgiven. And to forgive. And to love with all my heart. How friendship really felt.

And then I was ready to write.

Your work has taken you from Toronto to Thunder Bay to Winnipeg, Quebec City and Montreal. Have any of those cities served as a backdrop for your books?

My books are actually set, for the most part, in the fictional village of Three Pines, which is south of Montreal, near the border with Vermont. It's the area of Quebec I live in, called the Eastern Townships. However, Chief Inspector Gamache and his wife Reine-Marie live in Montreal, so I'm able to use my familiarity with that gorgeous city. 

I know that you’re a fellow dog lover. Have canines inhabited your novels?

Yes! I love writing about dogs, and have given almost every character, including Clara and the Gamaches, dogs. Clara has a Golden Retriever, like us - and the Gamaches have a German Shepherd. Both are adoption dogs. 

What did you find the most difficult when you made the transition from journalism to fiction?

There were actually a lot of challenges. In radio journalism I was used to a story being half a page long. Just the facts. No plot, no character development. Few adjectives. I was convinced that when I set out to write my novel it would be a page and a half long. What I found quite easy, though, was dialogue, since when I wrote for radio I wrote for the spoken word. And I had 20 years of listening closely to how people talk.

Did marrying later in life influence your work in any way?

Certainly finding love influenced it. My books are about murder and the terror that comes from a crime of such violation, but mostly they're about love. My husband is the first and only man I have loved. With all my heart. I know how Reine-Marie loves Gamache, and he her, because of how I feel. And Michael has also served as an inspiration for Gamache - a mature man, who is happy and content. Not because he's never known sorrow, but because he knows exactly how terrible the world can be, and chooses to stand in the light anyway.

What’s the best part of mystery writing and the worst? And what's your writing schedule like?

One of the great things about a career hosting a daily live radio show is I learned discipline. And perseverance. Two qualities I think are more important even than creativity. I write from January through until the book is finished...generally eight months for a first draft and re-writes. Though I am thinking of a book, and making notes, for about a year before I actually start writing.

Everyday I write at least 1,000 words. Even if they're stinkers...I can always take them out afterward. But I know myself. I can be very, very lazy. So I can't afford to even think about flagging!

In terms of mystery writing, there are so many great things beginning I think with the community of writers, editors, booksellers, bloggers like Jean and of course, readers. It is unbelievably supportive. What a relief not to be around people who smile to your face but stick a knife in when your back is turned.

And the people who read mysteries are the best! Genuinely interested in other cultures, in emotions. They're smart and thoughtful.

There really isn't a downside to writing mysteries--not that I've seen.Though the slight thorn might be when people - some other writers and some readers-look down on the books as 'simply genre' and don't see the depth and power of a well-written mystery. It saddens me a bit, and sometimes it angers me. But mostly I don't notice.

How did you celebrate your first New York bestseller?

First, I shrieked! My publisher and editor called on a conference call from New York to tell me. But Andy Martin, the great publisher at Minotaur, started by saying, 'Do you know why we're calling?'

I, of course, immediately presumed the book, A Rule Against Murder, which had just come out, was such a failure they were about to fire me. And it took two to do it.

When he said, 'You've made the New York Times Bestseller list!' I think there was a moment of silence - then a scream. Poor Michael, in another room, came running. Wow. I will never, ever forget that feeling. Then Michael took me out - we were in Quebec City researching an upcoming book-to a wonderful restaurant for dinner.

Advice to fledgling writers?

Believe in yourself. Never give up. Make sure your 'critic' isn't trying to write the first draft. And a bit of advice I got from an editor who turned down my first book. He said, 'New writers commonly make three mistakes, and you've made all three. The book is too long, too many characters and too many ideas.' I decided he was right. I'd tried to put everything I'd ever learned or thought into that first book. Every character I'd wanted to write showed up. And as a result, it was WAY too long.

But mostly, never forget what a privilege it is to write. I once heard a writer, after she'd won a huge award (not a mystery writer) say that writing is the hardest thing you can do. And I thought, Good Lord, has the woman never waited tables for minimum wages, serving people who sneer at her? Does she realize there are coal miners, daycare workers, teachers, firefighters, doctors who sit by sick children.

Writing is a blessing and a gift, and if you forget it you might win awards, but lose yourself.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

J.A. Jance Interview

Bestselling novelist J.A. Jance knew from an early age that she wanted to become a writer after her teacher introduced her to Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz series. But, because of her gender, she was denied creative writing courses, and was forced to learn to write on her own. Determined and resourceful during her difficult life, she eventually made it to the bestseller list.

Judy, how did the J.P. Beaumont, Johanna Brady and Ali Reynolds series come about?

The first Beaumont book was published in 1985. When I wrote it I thought I was writing a one-time book. I was new to Seattle but the character was a Seattle native. I had to do a lot of research to write  that book, and writing from a male first person viewpoint was challenging. After writing nine Beaumont books in a row I was growing tired of the character.

My editor suggested that I come up with some other character so I could alternate. When I wrote the first Johanna Brady novel, Desert Heat, I knew that I was writing a series, but I could use my experiences of being a single parent and living in the Arizona desert, and working in a non-traditional job to create her character. 

Ali Reynolds grew out of seeing a longtime female newscaster pushed out of her job due to age factors.

What in your background prepared you to write grisly crime novels?

I have the dubious honor of spending sixty days of my life during the early seventies being stalked by a serial killer, someone who is still in prison. During that time I wore a loaded weapon and was fully prepared to use it. I used some of what I learned from that experience to create the background for Hour of the Hunter, Kiss of the Bees, and Day of the Dead.

Who influenced your own writing?

I started out reading Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene. I later read John D. McDonald and Mickey Spillane. Those were the people who showed me it was possible to write a series of books for adults.

What’s your writing schedule like and do you aim for a daily amount of words?

Since I’m on a two-book a year schedule, I write every day. I don’t have a set amount of words. I’m also a wife, mother and grandmother. I like having a life.

What are the basic ingredients in a bestselling novel, and how long did it take you to reach the list?

Characters and plots. As for when did I make the list, it was probably fifteen or twenty years ago, but making the list is entirely arbitrary and decisions are made far away from the author’s effort. I don’t think the books I wrote before making ‘the list’ were of any lesser quality than the ones that have.

When did you begin donating your bookstore earnings to charities?

Very early on. I don’t remember exactly. I’ve been involved with the YMCA, the Humane Society, the Relay for Life and ALS research.

Advice for fledgling writers?

When I bought my first computer in 1983, the guy who installed my word processing program fixed it so that every time I booted up the computer these were the words that flashed across the screen: A writer is someone who has written TODAY! Those were the words I clung to when I was a pre-published writer and still resonates with me.Today I am a writer.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

A Visit with Richard L. Mabry, MD

Richard L. Mabry writes medical suspense novels and was a semi-finalist for best first novel from International Thriller Writers; Medical Error; a finalist for book-of-the-year in its genre, by American Christian Fiction Writers; Diagnosis Death. He was also a finalist for RT Book Reviews Readers Choice in its genre; and Lethal Remedy, winner of the Selah award from Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference.

Dr. Mabry, how would you categorize your novels and what motivated you to write your series?

My tagline is “Medical suspense with heart,” by which I mean that the novels have a medical setting or feature medical personnel, there is an element of danger or uncertainty that threatens the protagonists, and the story line contains a certain amount of romance. Although the books bear the label of the “Prescription For Trouble” series, bound together by some aspect of therapy that causes the conflict, they are freestanding, rather than having the same cast of characters.

Because my background includes thirty-six years in practice, the last ten as a medical school professor, I felt competent to write about doctors and medicine. However, I must confess that I still have to research all the medical aspects of my books carefully, lest I slip up. I’ve learned by experience that there’s always someone among my readers who knows enough to catch my mistakes.
Each of the books began by my asking the question, “What if?” For instance, in the first one I wondered, “What if a doctor fled to her hometown when her life was falling apart, only to find that some of the people there didn’t want her back, and one of them wanted her dead?”
Tell us about your recent release, Lethal Remedy.
Lethal Remedy addresses the question, “What if a wonder drug proves more dangerous than the disease it’s supposed to cure?” On rare occasions, I read in professional journals retractions of published data, and wondered what would happen if someone—a researcher, a pharmaceutical company, some person or entity—falsified research data to emphasize the great potential of a drug while hiding severe side effects, in this case, possibly lethal ones.  And lest my readers throw away all their prescription bottles, I’ll hasten to add that in all my years of performing clinical research and serving as a consultant to various pharmaceutical companies, I have never personally encountered the manipulation of data I describe in Lethal Remedy.

How do you balance the thriller and Christian aspects of your work?
I don’t see these as mutually exclusive goals. Those with deep faith, those who have fallen away from their faith, those with none are all subject to problems. I simply try to weave the make-up of my characters in regard to their relationship with God into the fabric of the story. I don’t have altar calls and conversion scenes in my works, but do try to show how faith is demonstrated by some characters and rejected by others. Situations in which the characters are put in danger—and that’s the backbone of thrillers—are ideal for doing this.
Why did you decide to make your protagonist female?
My first four (unsuccessful) novels featured a male protagonist. As one of my medical school professors told us, “Hey, you can teach a white mouse in three times.” After I found that the vast majority of readers of Christian fiction are female, and most of them identify with female protagonists, I wrote a novel whose lead character was a female doctor. It clicked with a publisher, so I continued the practice with the next three. I have to quickly give credit to my wife, Kay, who is my first reader, for helping me write authentically from a female standpoint. Without her input, I’d be lost.
I am departing from this practice with my next novel, Stress Test, due for release by Thomas Nelson Publishers next spring. In it, a male doctor is kidnapped, escapes at the cost of a head injury that requires emergency surgery, and awakens to find he’s charged with murder. Of course, I’m hedging my bet, with a female co-protagonist, a fiery redheaded attorney who has just declared herself through with doctors forever when she gets the call to defend him.
You’ve received some great reviews. Which means the most to you?
I suppose I’m most pleased by the 4 ½ stars given my novels by RT Book Reviews, mainly because these are objective ratings by seasoned reviewers. I’ve also been fortunate enough to have rather glowing endorsements from some well-known authors, and this means a lot to me as well. However, probably the ones that count the most are the reviews that come from readers, because they are my true audience.
How do you react to undeserved one-star reviews?
I was fortunate enough to avoid one-star reviews for a while, but, as happens with every author, they eventually popped up. Most of these have been from people who took advantage of free e-book downloads of one of my books made available by my publishers, and their complaint was almost universally that there was a Christian element to my writing. I took those for what they represented—people who had no idea what the book was about, but were happy to get it free.
That having been said, if I see one or two low ratings that mention something in my writing that wasn’t up to par, I make a special effort to address that area in subsequent novels. No writer is perfect, and I think we all strive to get better with each book. If I defend myself against criticism instead of listening to it, I’m never going to improve.
And are you retired or still practicing medicine?
I retired from active practice almost ten years ago, but still maintain my license and work to keep up with the field. My practice was in the field of ear, nose, and throat and related allergic disorders, but my training before that was in both medicine and surgery, so I have an understanding of the broad field of medicine. Some of the scenarios I describe are loosely based on experiences of mine or my colleagues, some are products of my imagination as I wonder “what if?” but all are feasible.
Advice to fledgling authors.
Learn, write, revise, learn, write, revise, lather, rinse, repeat. I’ve read various statements that it takes a writer three books to “get it,” that writers have to put so many thousand words on paper to learn the craft, and I tend to agree. Beyond learning the basics of the craft, practice, based on valid critiques, remains the best way to improve. In my own case, it took me four years, writing four unsuccessful novels that garnered forty rejections before I got my first contract. During that time, I read books on writing, attended conferences and classes, but the most important thing I did was write, have my work critiqued by someone knowledgeable in the area, revise, write some more, and on and on.
The ease of publishing e-books has tempted many unpublished writers to rush their work into publication this way. I would encourage them to resist the temptation. Make sure the work is the best you can do. And if you choose to self-publish, get a professional to edit the work and another to do a book cover. If it’s going to carry your name, do it right.
You can visit Dr. Mably at his blogspot:, his Facebook page:  and his Twitter account:

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Finding Time to Write

by Camille Minichino 

Everything in my life, from my day jobs, to volunteer work, to book touring, (both virtually and in person), takes large chunks of time. I'm sure it's the same with you—by the time you get through all the necessities of life, it seems there's little time left over. In fact, the older I get, the busier I get.

So when is there time to write? For those who might still be struggling with how to fit it all in, I have some tips to share.

1. Think small. No, not only in miniature, as I do for my hobby, but in terms of the time available to you. The best thing I've taught myself is to use small amounts of time productively.

If I have as little as a ten-minute window of "free" time at home or away I open my writing project notebook, or my computer file and make some progress. Even if it's just to tweak one sentence, change that character name I haven't been happy with, or flesh out those random scene ideas I had on my way to work. It's a way of keeping the story at the front of my mind no matter what else is going on.

Waiting for the perfect long stretch of quiet (which might be necessary at times), with the perfect temperature, and the perfect snack food, can stall the process. Any loss of momentum makes it harder for me to get started when that quiet evening does come along.

2. Sleep through household chores. I never use prime time for tasks like folding clothes or waxing the kitchen floor. (Does anyone do that anymore?) Those are labors for times when I'm least alert. So you might hear my clothes dryer going at one in the morning, which, by the way, is also better for the power grid.

3. Embrace technology. I know it gets a bad rap, especially when it's in the hands of rude cell phone users, but how great is it to be able to access calls on my home answering machine while I'm in line at Safeway? Headphones allow me to iron or write thank you notes while I'm on hold for my doctor. I say thanks to the geniuses who make it possible for me to screen my calls and TiVo my favorite crime dramas (for research of course!) for viewing at my own convenience.

Albert Einstein said, “The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once.” I interpret that as: take everything ten minutes at a time. Divide the day up like that, and I don't have only 24 hours, I have 144 ten-minute blocks of time to do something with!

Okay, so I'm only fooling myself, but isn't that all that matters?

(Excerpted from Mysterious Writers, Poisoned Pen Press)

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Planning a Mystety Novel from Start to Finish

by Marilyn Meredith

That’s the topic Jean asked me to write about. I’ll modify the subject a bit because I’m going to tell you how I plan a Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery from start to finish.

I’m fortunate because I already know who the characters are going to be. The series follows the men and women who work at the Rocky Bluff Police Department. Though they each will show up in a book, a different person may play a more prominent role. That’s something I usually don’t decide in the beginning, it just happens as I’m writing.

 Because I keep newspaper clippings and notes I’ve taken at Sisters in Crime meetings and from the Internet of intriguing crimes, I go through them and see if anything pops out at me that I’d like to write about. Of course, what I write is never exactly what the original story was about. I think things like “What if it wasn’t the wife that killed him, but his very best friend?” and then I go from there. 

Though I don’t outline, I do write down a lot of notes. I think about things like who the murder victim is, who might have wanted this person dead, and alibis. More characters are being added to the story which means finding the right names and descriptions for each one. 

I know exactly what the town of Rocky Bluff looks like—but I need to describe new people’s homes, where the victim is murdered, all the details that make a mystery fun to read. Though I may not write all this down at first, I will keep notes. 

Beginning the story with a bang is important. The first sentence, first paragraph and first scene set the tone and often will be the reason a person keeps reading. 

I begin writing, and as I write more scenes and situations occur to me and I continue taking down more notes. Sometimes the characters themselves suggest what should happen next. I always want the reader to make the discovery of every clue right along with the detectives and other police officers. Of course, often things aren’t quite what they seem. 

In between the crime solving, my officers (yes, this is my police department so they are my officers) and their families have other problems that crop up just like it is with all of us. I need to be sure to continue something that has been going on in a previous book and has yet to be resolved.

I always like to have an exciting scene at the end, sometimes nail biting, where everything comes to a climax.

 As I’m writing, I’m often reading the manuscript chapter by chapter to my critique group who help make sure the dialogue sounds realistic, letting me know if what I’ve written needs more clarification, and mistakes I’ve made. The next day, I edit the chapter carefully, not always taking my group members advice, but usually fixing what they pointed out one way or another.

When the book is completed, I go over it again, looking for more mistakes including continuity errors. I do use the editing tool on WORD—though sometimes I ignore what it tells me.

When I’m sure I have the manuscript as clean as I can make it, I send it off to the publisher. In time suggestions may be made, and I’ll have a draft of the book to check for mistakes. I’ll send back a list of what I’ve found. Once they’ve been fixed, I’ll have another chance to check. Despite going over a galley proof carefully, sometimes mistakes still pop up in the book. I’ve decided there are gremlins out there whose only job is to plunk in an error or two, and sometimes more, in any published book.

Then I wait for a glimpse of the cover to give my approval. After that, the books are printed—and then it’s on to the promotion part.

That’s the way I do it, start to finish, it’s what works for me.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

A Conversation with Bestselling Author Lorraine Bartlett

Lorna Barrett is the nom de plume of bestselling novelist Lorraine Bartlett. Lorraine's other alter ego, L.L. Bartlett, writes psychological suspense and the Jeff Resnick mystery series. She's done it all, from drilling holes for NASA to typing scripts in Hollywood, and lives a life of crime in western New York. Her first sales were to the confession magazine market. In all, she's sold nine short stories, including one on Amazon Shorts.

Lorraine, why do you write under three names?

I write under the name L.L. Bartlett for my Jeff Resnick/psychological suspense series, because my agent at the time felt it would be better to disguise my gender. She felt (and it’s a known fact) that men often will not read books by women.

I write under the name Lorna Barrett because my publisher asked me to take a pseudonym. Some cozy readers don’t want to read books by authors who write darker fiction (like psychological suspense).

I’ll be writing under the name Lorraine Bartlett (yea! my own) because enough people now know that I write cozy mysteries under the name Lorna Barrett. What goes around, comes around.

Tell us about your three mysteries series and if you write them concurrently?

My Jeff Resnick series is currently on hiatus while I concentrate on writing cozy mysteries and building that audience. The first book, Murder on the Mind is out of print in hardcover and paperback, but is available as a Kindle download and on audio from Books in Motion. The second book, Dead in Red, is still available in hardcover. (It’s easiest to buy it from Amazon.)

The Booktown Mystery series features Tricia Miles, who owns a mystery bookstore, Haven’t Got a Clue, in the little village of Stoneham, also known as Booktown because of all the bookstores.

The Victoria Square Mysteries feature Katie Bonner, who takes over as manager of an artisans arcade after its owner has been murdered. The first book, A Matter Of Murder, was be released on Feb. 3, 2011.

You’ve had a varied background. Tell us about drilling holes for NASA.

After I got laid of from my first job as a secretary, the State of New York sent me out to a machine shop. I worked production for 18 months. We did contract work for NASA and I drilled and tapped holes on parts for the Shuttle. I was very picky about drill sharpness and didn’t let my parts go out of tolerance--so I got to do a lot of those NASA parts! Very boring work, but I had lots of time to plot out stories in between pieces.

Which genre of scripts did you write in Hollywood?

I didn’t write them, I typed them. I worked for 20th Century Fox in their Script Department. We broke down scripts, retyped them, and sometimes collated them. This was before computers. I’m sure one person now does the work of about 20 people. We worked on "Mash," "Trapper John MD," and typed lots of movie scripts. (This tells you how long ago that job was!)

What’s your writing schedule like and do you aim for a certain amount of words per day?

I try for (and often don’t make) 1250 words a day. Some days are better than others. When the writing is going well, I take weekends off. When it isn’t, I try to write seven days a week.

What’s it take to get on the bestseller list?

At least 10,000 sales the first week a book is out.

My second Booktown Mystery, Bookmarked for Death, made it to the extended Times list--starting at #33 and rocketing all the up to #30. My third Booktown Mystery, Bookplate Special, was #20 on the in-print list, which is a bit more impressive.

While I can't be certain how I made it at all, I have to believe it was the support of Barnes and Noble, and hundreds of independent booksellers that made it possible--and of course, my readers. Bookstores took to the series because the protagonist is a bookstore owner. A lot of handselling happened, and I will be eternally grateful.

How important is social networking online?

I’ve gained a lot of new readers because of social networking, so I consider it an important tool for promotion. That said, you can get sucked in and waste a lot of time. I try to log on in the morning, post something, and then log out. (Although I do go in to answer questions readers ask, or comment on their comments.)

How do you promote your books?

I don’t travel a lot, so I rely on the Internet and snail mail. I send out bookmarks, bookplates and postcards, I belong to a number of reader loops, I network with other authors, and I belong to several social networks. It all takes a lot of time, but it’s worth it if I can expand my reader base.

Advice to fledgling writers?

Read, write, rewrite. And rewrite a lot. Also, have patience--a lot of it. Surgeons don’t operate their first day out--most first manuscripts aren’t publishable, either. Don’t take the easy way out. Decisions you make because you’re antsy to be published can come back and bite you later. (Says she who has been severely bitten.) Join a writers organization. If you’re writing mystery, there’s no better place to be than the Sisters In Crime Guppies Chapter.