Monday, December 10, 2012

The Next Big Thing: Another Sassy Gal

I was tagged by Linda Reilly to participate in The Next Big Thing, a blog event asking writers to talk about their works in progress.  In turn, I have tagged other writers who will blog next week about their manuscripts.  You can find their answers to the ten questions by going to their blogs.  These are the authors I tagged for next week:
Gregg E. Brickman, author of ILLEGALLY DEAD, IMPERFECT CONTRACT, and the upcoming IMPERFECT DADDY, featuring clever and edgy nurses.   Find at

Glenn E. Nilson, author of Murder on Route 66.  Visit his blog at

I’m happy to talk about my newest project.

1.What is your working title of your book?
A Secondhand Murder

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

It came from two sources.  First, in 2009 I wasthe winner of the Mystery Writers of America Florida Chapter Sleuthfest short story contest.  The story was entitled “Gator Aid” and featured a protagonist named Eve who was tall, skinny, blonde and very in-your-face.  Her sidekick Madeleine was a polite, shy, laid-back writer of children’s stories.  I loved the two of them so much I felt their partnership merited a full-length story, so I moved Eve permanently to Florida from Connecticut and made her Madeleine’s business associate.

Because I love consignment shops and yard sales, I chose to put them in the consignment shop business, but with a twist.  They run a shop in rural Florida where the matrons of West Palm go to see the country life and to buy and sell their clothes at a place where their friends won’t know they’re earning a little extra money, necessary because of their husbands’ losses to Bernie Madoff and his like.

3. What genre does your book fall under?

This is a cozy mystery.

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

This is a difficult one because the ole of Eve necessitates someone with real sass, and mst of the actresses like that are older.  I guess the only one I’d suggest would be Angelina Jolie.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Selling clothing of once-wealthy, Madoff-injured society matrons to the thrift-conscious in her rural Florida upscale consignment shop seems like Eve Appel’s kind of therapy until she discovers the body of one of her West Palm clients on the dressing room floor.

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

It will be published by Camel Press in 2013.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

The first draft took about six to nine months.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Maybe Janet Evanovich’s series—Blush, Blush.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Winning the short story contest happened before any of my other books had been published.  It convinced me I could write and gave me the confidence to find a small press for my brewing series.

10. What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?

What woman doesn’t like bargain hunting especially with someone who has Eve’s impeccable taste?

Friday, November 23, 2012

Why I Became a Writer

Today, a number of professional writers with blogs have gotten together to write the same post “Why I Became a Writer.” Please stop by any or all of their blogs to comment and find out what drives us in our favorite obsession.  My post follows the links.

John Brantingham and Sunny Frazier








Chris Swinney



Stephen Brayton




Why I Became a Writer or
Why What’s Good for the Writer is not Always Good for the Reader
If I tell you I was a psychologist and college professor before I retired and took up writing murder mysteries, you won’t be surprised if I admit I did so for purposes of revenge, that cathartic release that comes with venting.  Psychologists embrace catharsis because it’s assumed to be good for the psyche, cleans out the cobwebs of anger, disgust, and dislike and allows the person to move on emotionally.  My first manuscript was one in which the bad guys were the administrators and professors who “done me wrong” all the years I was in higher education, a place that shares the competitiveness and back-biting with most large businesses, but disguises those unsavory elements by purporting to be a learning environment.  We educators try to keep all that bad stuff a secret.

That manuscript didn’t even try to disguise the identities of the people I sought to pillory.  It was never published (I’m so grateful).  I did learn from it, however.  First, I found killing off people you don’t like on paper is quiet satisfying, the more so because you never have to pay for your crime.  After over one hundred thousand words of bile that I was wise enough to bind in humor, I felt a sense of catharsis, but no feeling of accomplishment.  Catharsis for the writer is not always good reading.  It’s selfish.  When I finally had the sense to wrap my characters in reality, give them reasonable motivations for their behavior, forgive them their flaws by playing them up to be funny and disguised them as characters, not the original perpetrators of my anger and disgust, I realized the most important lesson of all—I had a story.  It was a tale where I trusted readers through my descriptions of events, characters interacting with one another and a spritely plot to arrive at their own conclusions about how much drawing and quartering should be directed at the now not-so-bad as misdirected folks.  Oh yeah, the killer was still a despicable person, but you’d never recognize the murderer as anyone of my former colleagues.

Here’s the second big thing I learned.  You’ll always find there is someone in your life who will treat you unfairly and you’ll find unpleasant.  So why hold a grudge?  Simply write those situations into a story and bump off the guy.  There’s no need to identify him as your next door neighbor or the woman in your exercise class.  Allow, as I do, an alligator to death roll the witch from the checkout line.  Whatever you do, transform your most hated enemy into a most unforgettable character, but do it in such a way that all the anger is gone, and the character is unrecognizable as someone you know or hated to know.  You’ll have a heck of a good time writing it all, and your reader will love you for it.

No more catharsis for me.  Just fun writing.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Happy Halloween from Fred

I wrote this last year, but in honor of Halloween and to placate Fred, whom I have ignored all summer, I thought it was worth sharing now.

A Ghost Gone Wild!

Some of you may have met my resident ghost and literary muse Fred.  Glenn and I were told when we moved into our 1874 cottage on the Butternut Creek that a ghost inhabited the old house, but we were mostly unaware of his presence until his pranks came together one summer evening.  He ran the stove out of gas, started my husband’s truck, and, when we ran back into the house to get a fire extinguisher (Fred didn’t know the first thing about engines and shorted out the starter motor) to put out the engine fire, he made the doorknob fall off in our hands so we could not get into the house.  I thought Fred was quite the little prankster.

To be honest it was easier for me to assume a good-natured ghost than to believe the tricks he played were the outcome of an unpleasant and perhaps malevolent personality.  Did I say that across the creek from us is the local cemetery?  Live across from dead people with an unsettled ghost as a house guest and you kind of need to lighten things up when it comes to unexplainable happenings.

We close down the cottage for the winter, so I don’t know what Fred does those months, but I think he goes to visit relatives in the south because my next door neighbor, who checks on the house while we’re gone, has seen no evidence of him.  Fred is shy, and I’ve heard ghosts could care less about temperature swings, but I think he’d get very lonely in the house by himself all winter, and I can’t imagine the folks planted across the stream are much company for him.

Since that summer night of Fred’s perfect storm, things have been quiet around here.  I’ve tried to include Fred in my life by mentioning him often on my blog and when I guest on others.  I also was under the impression that Fred and I were friends, well, if not friends, then friendly or tolerant of one another.  Perhaps I’m wrong to think one can share housing with a ghost, call him my muse, and think there’s no price to pay for cohabitation with a disembodied entity.  I’ve assumed the ongoing battle with high water in the creek might have scared the ectoplasm out of Fred, because he hasn’t been up to his usual tricks.  Or so I thought.    

Every now and then, usually on the warmest nights of this past summer, I’d come downstairs it the morning and find the electric fireplace on, heating the living room to near ninety degrees.  I blamed the cats for stepping on the remote.  Cats are desert animals, I told myself.  They like it hot.  Glenn and I laughed at how clever they were.  Looking back now, I think the giggling and assumption the cats were to blame, made Fred mad.  But we continued to think our felines were the culprits.  We found we were wrong when Glenn was sitting next to the fireplace, and it came on!

The incidences came with greater frequency.  We woke up to a hot living room often.  Fred was getting annoying.  And then things began to go wrong, very wrong. 

At lunch last week, Glenn and I sat in our living room having our noon tea and sandwiches.  The digital camera lay on the hand carved Chinese bar behind Glenn.  The lens began to telescope in and out, over and over again.  When Glenn picked it up, it was turned off, yet it continued the lens movement as if an unseen finger was manipulating the lens button.  There was nothing we could do to stop it.  It was off!

The other day I flipped on the fireplace because it was cold in the living room.  I left and, when I came back, the fire was off.  No, it wasn’t broken because I tried the remote on button, and it worked.

I’m certain I’ve somehow offended Fred, and I’m at a loss for how to make amends.  Perhaps I’ve taken him for granted.  I’ve been writing away all summer with little thought of whether Fred was happily sitting on my shoulder inspiring me or not.  I just forgot about him as my literary muse.  Perhaps he’s more sensitive than I realized.  If the impending flood frightened him, perhaps I was remiss in not comforting him, but how was I to know ghosts find water as threatening as do people.  Maybe they don’t. 

I know I’ve avoided getting to know him.  I’ve assumed his sense of humor defines him, but I wouldn’t say that about a living person, would I?  My entire relationship with Fred has been built upon my sketchy of knowledge about his kind and, I’ll admit it, my suspicion he really doesn’t exist.  I simply used him, then dismissed him.  Ghosts may not take well to this kind of insensitivity especially since they are here because they probably have unresolved issues from their own past lives.

At dinner last night while our favorite jazz album was playing, a horrible sound emanated from the CD player.  It had to be Fred.  In the past I would have said he wanted to sing along and just couldn’t carry a tune.  Now I wonder if he’s trying to scare us.  I need to find a way to cohabitate happily with my ghost.  I don’t want to lose his companionship, but his unpredictability is creeping me out.  I want Friendly Fred back in my life.   

Note:  As many of you know, early last fall, we experienced two tropical storms that left over three feet of water in our basement.  Ghosts may ignore cold weather, but I think they must hate floods because Fred has been unexpectedly quiet this summer and fall.  Oops, I spoke too soon.  Someone has been leaving the locked front door open for the last few nights.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

How stupid was that!

 Cover of my mystery Angel Sleuth

I've just returned from two book events at local libraries where my print books got their deserved attention, but my ebook did not.  So you see the cover above and, yep, there's a pig there.  And Untreedreads has also published my short story in their anthology The Killer Wore Cranberry: A Second Helping.  And I must not leave out Grilled, Chilled and Killed, the second book in my Big Lake Murder Mystery Series after Dumpster Dying.  There are pigs in there also.

On the way to the event, while hubby was driving, I let my mind wander.  That's always dangerous, but before I could help myself I started thinking about stupid things I've said over the years.  Most of them are about writing.  Because I have an exhibitionist soul, I thought I'd share them with you:

1. Circa 1974  "I do"  That lasted two years.  No other comment necessary

2. Circa 1979  "This computer thing will destroy a writer's creativity."  Sorry, sorry, sorry.

3. Circa 2009  While pitching to an agent at a conference  "I don't care if I make money.  I just love to write."  Her reply, " I do care because I want to make money."  Oops.

4. Circa 2000 plus sometime  "Ebooks?  I love the feel of a book in my hand.  Others may not."  Now I wish I could wrest the ebook rights away from my publishers.

5. Circa 2010  "Platform?  I don't need a platform.  I write fiction."  Now I say I write about sassy country gals.  Sorry, sorry, sorry.

6. Circa 2011  Talking to hubby while he's in Gallup,NM while I'm in upstate New York.  "How high can this water go anyway?"  Basement pumped of three feet twice the next day.

Still blushing, I'd like to know what you've said.  Awe, c'mon,  Do it.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Blog Blast: Blonde Demolition!

Today I have something special for you.  Meet author Chris Redding and read an excerpt from her newest book, Blonde Demolition
Author Chris Redding

Mallory Sage lives in a small, idyllic town where nothing ever happens. Just the kind of life she has always wanted. No one, not even her fellow volunteer firefighters, knows about her past life as an agent for Homeland Security.

Former partner and lover, Trey McCrane, comes back into Mallory's life. He believes they made a great team once, and that they can do so again. Besides, they don't have much choice. Paul Stanley, a twisted killer and their old nemesis, is back.

Framed for a bombing and drawn together by necessity, Mallory and Trey go on the run and must learn to trust each other again―if they hope to survive. But Mallory has been hiding another secret, one that could destroy their relationship. And time is running out.

Read an excerpt (very sexy)

"You find anything?"
     "Maybe, we'll have to say our goodbyes. How was Stanley?"
     "One kick and he'd have been off the balcony."
     "Was he looking for wife number four?"
     "No just my chest. When I asked about a bigger role in the foundation, he might as well have told me not to worry my pretty little head."
     "And you didn't kick him for that?" Trey chuckled as he put an arm around Mallory. He pulled her into another room and pushed her against the wall. His lips came down hard again as his hands traveled the length of her.
     Her hormones betrayed her and chose that moment to come alive. So her hands did an inventory of him. He was as hard as she remembered.

Read more .  Go to

Amazon in print:

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Saving the Whooper

author Kathleen Kaska
Let me introduce you to a multi-talented writer, Kathleen Kaska. Kathleen writes fiction, nonfiction, travel articles, and stage plays, and has just completed her most challenging endeavor. The Man Who Saved the Whooping Crane: The Robert Porter Allen Story, a true tale set in the 1940s and 50s, is about Audubon ornithologist Robert Porter Allen whose mission was to journey into the Canadian wilderness to save the last flock of whooping cranes before encroaching logging and mining operations wiped out their nesting site, sending them into extinction.
            She also writes the Sydney Lockhart Mystery Series and the Classic Triviography Mystery Series (LL-Publications) and is a frequent contributor to Texas Highways magazine.
  Today I've asked her to talk about her newest book, a nonfiction story about the man who saved the whooping crane.  It is an amazing story of a dedicated man.

In Search of the Last Flock

            Prolonged serendipity, beginning almost twenty years ago, led to my book, The Man Who Saved the Whooping Crane: The Robert Porter Allen Story (University Press of Florida). I won’t bore you with all the details, except that my passion for whooping cranes began the first time I laid eyes on those majestic birds. It was at their winter home, the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the Texas coast. A boat tour had taken me through the Intracoastal Waterway and into the refuge for a closer view of these giant white birds, which stand five-feet tall and have a seven-foot wingspan. I could have sat there all day, watching the cranes’ methodical movements as they probed for blue crabs in the shallows. Listening to the tour guide’s narration and learning that in the early 1940s the population had plummeted to only fifteen, I was moved by the story of the cranes’ slow comeback—and the National Audubon Society ornithologist who helped saved them from extinction. I left the refuge that day knowing I wanted to make a difference in wildlife conservation. Being a teacher and a writer gave me two starting avenues.
            At that time, the life science curriculum at Lake Travis Middle School near Austin, where I was teaching, included a unit on environmental science, so I wrote a few lessons using the whooping crane as the focal point. A National Geographic video in the school library turned up. It told story of Audubon’s ornithologist, Robert Porter Allen. After showing it to my classes, I was surprised at how it grabbed those seventh graders’ attention (was no easy task). I knew that if those youngsters were intrigued by the story, others would be, too.
            Two of my articles about the whooping cranes and Robert Porter Allen were then published in Texas Highways magazine. Researching those articles made me realize there was much more to this amazing story. I dug deeper and the publication of my book resulted.
            What intrigued me most about Bob Allen was his ability to change the minds of his staunchest opponents. After moving to the refuge in 1947 to begin his research, he found out what he was up against. Practically no one in Aransas County, Texas would appreciate a newcomer preaching protection at all costs for what they thought were useless birds. So Allen took a different approach and played the role of a novice needing local help and advice about the whooping crane. They eagerly told him all they knew.
            What follows is an excerpt from the book, which tells one story of Allen’s influence over the old-timers who lived near the refuge back in the 1940s. He was beginning his second year of work, and he and his young son, Bobby, had visited a local hangout in Austwell, the nearest town. 
   The next morning, Allen and Bobby dropped by the town’s gathering place, Cap Daniel’s, a general store, beer joint, and garage. Covering the walls and shelves were Cap Daniel’s odd collection of firearms and war relics. Also hanging in a prominent position on the wall was a Judge Roy Bean ‘Law West of the Pecos’ poster. Allen remembered his friend and refuge manager, Jim Stevenson, telling how the locals gathered around Cap Daniel’s coal-burning stove and complained about the government’s proclamation of Blackjack Peninsula as a whooping crane reserve. He often overheard comments such as, “If you can’t shoot them [whooping cranes], what blankety-blank good are they?” or “They tell me they [whooping cranes] ain’t bad eating but there’s no open season on them.” Allen was surprised to see that the attitude surrounding saving the whooping cranes was changing. A new sign on Cap Daniel’s front door announced the establishment as the Whooping Crane Information Center.
         Cap Daniel remembered Allen and was happy to see the ornithologist. A few days later, he asked Allen to do him a favor. “Mr. Allen, I wonder if you couldn’t get ahold of some whoopin’ crane pitchers I could put up on my wall. People ask me about ‘em every day an’ I oughta have a pitcher or two.” When Allen brought in a large drawing of a pair of cranes, Cap Daniel removed the Judge Roy Bean poster and proudly replaced it with the whooping crane picture. He rolled up the Bean poster and presented it to Allen as a gift.
         While interviewing Allen’s daughter, Alice, I was pleased to learn that the poster is one of her most cherished items in the collection of her father’s memorabilia.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Our Fascination with Serial Killers

author Patricia Gligor
Today my guest is Patricia Gligor who has written an exciting mystery thriller about a serial killer.  I first met Pat when she asked me for some input on the synopsis she was preparing for the publisher of Mixed Messages.  I knew when I read it that she had a terrifyingly great book, one that readers would love.  Read what she has to say about her work.

Our Fascination with Serial Killers

The blurb on the back of my mystery novel, Mixed Messages, begins: “It is estimated there are at least twenty to thirty active serial killers in the United States at any given time. There’s one on the loose on the west side of Cincinnati.”Actually, according to many articles I’ve read on the subject, that’s an extremely conservative estimate but even the FBI can’t give us actual statistics. No one knows for sure.

So, why did I write a novel where a serial killer is attacking women in their homes? Because the subject intrigues me and, from the responses I get when I tell people what my novel is about, a lot of other people feel the same way. I say “serial killer” and their eyes light up. Why?

There are lots of theories offering answers to that question. Some say it’s a throwback to the legends of vampires, which existed since the dawn of time. Those legends were romanticized and offered nineteenth century writers a way to capture the interest of Victorian society. From Dracula to Jack the Ripper to Hannibal Lectern in Silence of the Lambs, serial killers offer exciting forays into dark worlds.

Others speculate that the intrigue lies solely in the fact that, most of the time, serial killers look just like our brothers, friends, neighbors. People have a difficult time believing that someone who is described by co-workers and neighbors as “a nice guy, a sweet, quiet, awkward bachelor who lived with his mother” could be responsible for such horrendous crimes as the notorious Joel Rifkin and many of the other infamous serial killers throughout history. The fact that a killer could live next door to them, although chilling, adds a little spice to their otherwise hum-drum lives.

But, surely, there are common characteristics of serial killers. A way to identify them, to separate them  from the rest of us. Yes and no. Mostly no. The majority of the research on the childhood backgrounds of these monsters reveals that many serial killers suffered either a severe psychological trauma and/or physical or sexual abuse. Also, many future serial killers are known to have tortured small animals but many SKs didn’t and, strangely enough, some people who exhibit that behavior as children, grow up to be “normal.”

Then, why do some people who endure psychological and/or physical abuse as children grow up to be relatively mentally healthy adults who contribute to society while others become serial killers? Many experts agree that serial killers lack adequate coping mechanisms. Think of it this way: while some people get the flu, others don’t because they have a strong resistance or tolerance. Serial killers, lacking this resistance, as they grow older, are unable to deal with the stress everyone has at some point in their life. They have defective emotional immune systems. 

Are you fascinated with serial killers? If so, why?

To order Mixed Messages

Link to book trailer for Mixed Messages
Link to Pat's blog

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Remembering Woodstock

Michael Murphy, Author of Goodbye Emily

Today my guest is Michael Murphy, author of a new book entitled Goodbye Emily. According to Michael, "My return to Woodstock novel captures the music, the rain, the mud, but  Goodbye Emily focuses on two people who meet and fall in love at Woodstock and their love lasts a lifetime. Forty years later, well, I don’t want to give too much away."

To celebrate Woodstock's anniversary this month, Michel is providing us with some interesting trivia about the event.  Read on... 

Woodstock wasn’t the first big multi-day rock concert of the sixties. In 1967, The Monterey Pop Festival featured sixties greats Jimi Hendrix, The Who, The Mamas and the Papas, Ravi Shankar, Janis Joplin, Simon and Garfunkel, and Otis Redding and others. The event was memorialized in a 1968 documentary, “Monterey Pop.”

Emboldened, Woodstock organizers wanted an event near Woodstock, New York because Bob Dylan and other folk/rock stars lived nearby. They wanted to raise enough money through ticket sales to create a permanent recording studio in Woodstock. Organizers secured a location in nearby Wallkill, secheduled acts, printed tickets and publicized the event. Then things began to go wrong. Very wrong.

Local residents feared an influx of drug-crazed hippies. Authorities in Wallkill rescinded the permit just weeks before the scheduled event leaving organizers to scramble for an alternative site. After stumbling upon a beautiful lush dairy farm owned by Max Yasgur near Bethel, New York, they secured the location and prepared for the festival.

When August 15 came, construction hadn’t been completed. There was no way to keep the crowds out, so the concert quickly became a free concert, virtually ensuring organizers would not meet their financial goals.

With the popularity of the 1968 Monterey Pop documentary, word had spread about Woodstock. Roads were jammed. Nearly a half a million made it to Yasgur’s farm, but the scheduled acts didn’t arrive on time. 

With an impatient crowd, organizers talked Richie Havens into taking the stage. After his initial performance they talked him repeatedly into returning to the stage to stall until more acts arrived. After nearly three hours, he’d run out of material.

What followed was Woodstock history. Havens took an old spiritual, “Motherless Child” and improved a song that’s become known as his famous Freedom song. As he stated later, “When you see me in the movie tuning my guitar and strumming, I was actually trying to figure out what else I could possibly play! I looked out at all of those faces in front of me and the word freedom came to mind."

Country Joe McDonald, scheduled for day three as part of Country Joe and the Fish, was talked into performing an acoustic set. Before his famous anti-war song, “I’m-Fixing-to-Die-Rag,” he gave the “Fish Cheer.” For those who’ve seen the documentary, the four letter word he and nearly a half million shouted, was not fish.

I’m honored two Woodstock icons, Country Joe and Wavy Gravy like my novel. “Michael I just finished reading your novel and found it a fantastic read and wonderful story! It would make a terrific movie. Thanks for letting me see it. cheers, Joe.” Country Joe McDonald
“What we have in mind is a sweet look back at the good old days. We must have been in heaven, man.” Wavy Gravy

Find out more at

Sunday, August 5, 2012

My guest, Marilyn Meredith

I'm excited to have Marilyn Meredith as my guest.  Marilyn is the author of over thirty published novels, including the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, the latest Bears With Us from Mundania Press. Writing as F. M. Meredith, her latest Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novel is No Bells from Oak Tree Press. Marilyn is a member of EPIC, three chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America.  

Today she talks about authors using their own experiences, especially their fears, in writing.
Marilyn Meredith

Do Any of Your Fears or Experiences Show up in your Mysteries?
I’ve often wondered if mystery writers ever incorporate their own fears or experiences into the stories they write. It certainly would be a way to reach inside oneself to bring up the emotions the hero or heroine might feel when coming across the same object or situation that the author himself or herself fears.
For instance, if spiders make your skin crawl, would you have your hero or heroine be confronted by a horde of spiders? What if snakes in habit your nightmares, would you put a deadly snake in the path our protagonist must take in order to find a clue?
This gives you the idea of where I’m going. I wonder when I’m reading a chilling mystery, if some of the horror that main character must confront or overcome is one that the writer harbors.
Someone who is afraid of spiders, scorpions, lizards or snakes should never live where I do. We have lots of all these unsavory critters. I can easily dispatch the first  two without a qualm, I’ve swept many a lizard out the door, and have learned to make enough noise when traipsing around outside, that a nearby rattler will sound its warning.
What am I afraid of? Frankly, the older I get the less frightened I am of most anything. I can get around in the dark pretty darn well. I’m not afraid of things that go bump in the night. I live in an old house and it makes bumping noises all the time. And no, I’m not afraid of ghosts either. My grandkids all say my house is haunted, and it may well be. Doors open and shut on their own, but who cares? Ghosts can’t hurt you—especially if you’re not afraid of them. Frankly, I love writing about ghosts and they’ve been characters in several of my books.
What I might confess to being a bit afraid of is a catastrophe like a forest fire like what has been going on around my state and others, or a major earthquake which is always a possibility in California. I am not anticipating either, but who knows? Both of these disasters do make good fodder for a mystery. We’ve had some major flooding at times where I live, and I’ve used what could happen in the Deputy Tempe book that’s due out in the fall, called Raging Water.
My latest Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery, No Bells, revolves around a loved one being accused of murder. That would be a horrible experience for anyone and fortunately not one I’ve had. In this story, it’s the woman that Officer Gordon Butler has fallen for. He’s determined to clear his name even if it means losing his job.
What about experiences?
If you’ve ever been burglarized you know the feeling of being violated even though you weren’t home when the burglar was going through your belongings.
A death in the family is always traumatic, but it does give you the insight and knowledge if what one goes through when a loved one dies. Sometimes I think writers (books and movies) don’t spend enough time showing what a tremendous effect death has on all the loved ones left behind.
I’ve barely covered the surface of our own fears and experiences that could turn up in a mystery.
How about sharing your fears? Or an experience that would make good fodder for a mystery.

The Deputy Tempe Crabtree series can be purchased from the usual places and also directly from Mundania Press at

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Writers' Groups

On Friday Glenn and and I visited our local writers’ group to talk with them about writing and getting published.  The Pig Tail Alley Writers’ Group has been in existence for eighteen years, quite a record.  Seven writers now make up the group and they have a wide range of interests from mysteries to YA.  One of the topics we discussed was writing groups themselves.  I thought I might cover some of the information here since I rarely see writers’ groups discussed anymore.

My writing critique partner and I began a group in Okeechobee about five years ago.  We decided from our experiences with other groups that the first thing we needed to do was come up with a set of guidelines, one not so rigid that it wouldn’t allow for writers with different goals, but would lay out critique etiquette as well as the manner in which the group would proceed.

Here’s a run-down on what we developed:

Provide constructive feedback to writers serious about developing their craft with the goal of writing something for presentation and publication.

Bring manuscripts in professional format: double spaced, indent, pages numbered, spell-checked.

(The goals of the writers may be different from one another, some may wish to get published, others not, but we believed one goal for all should be improving their writing.)

Listen graciously

Offer courteous, constructive criticism.

Help others improve their writing without rewriting their work.

Respect the person’s own writing voice.

(No one can improve with vague input such as “I liked it” if there are no specifics why it worked or what didn’t work and why.  We were adamant that others should not write for the person, however.)

Accept feedback as well intended.
Try to find something positive to say first.
Stay on track during discussion.

(Since we met only once a week and rarely saw one another between times, we found it necessary to take a few minutes at the beginning to catch up on news, both personal and professional. It was easier to stay on track during the readings and critiques.)

Respond to reader’s work after they’ve read. Do not interrupt during the reading.

Read five pages (double spaced) or less of your original work unless otherwise indicated.

(It’s necessary to provide your writing members with your work to be able to give precise feedback.  It’s difficult to critique writing if you only hear the work.)

If you’re bringing a guest, please let us know.

(We thought this was only polite.)

Groups may develop different guidelines especially with respect to number of pages read, but there are points here that can be applied to all writing groups especially with respect to feedback

Not all writing groups work equally well.  I suspect part of the problem may be that the members have not agreed upon a way to proceed.  Written guidelines help.

Have you joined a writers’ group, several?  What have been your experiences?  What have you found makes a group work well?