Janet Lynn and Will Zeilinger and a ’50s Big Band Leader

If you like old-school noir, you’ll probably like the Skylar Drake series, by my friends Janet Elizabeth Lynn and Will Zeilinger. More fun is that they love doing the research, and you can tell because they come up with fun bits like the below.

My husband, Will Zeilinger and I co-write the Skylar Drake Murder Mystery series, a hardboiled  series that takes the reader to 1950s Los Angeles and other areas of the west. Our new book, Slick Deal, begins News Year’s Eve 1956 at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, The first murder and clues lead to Avalon, Catalina. During our research we find the most amazing historical pieces we try to use in our books.

Donnell Clyde (Spade) Cooley was an American Western swing musician, big band leader, actor, and television personality. He was also sentenced to life in prison.

Spade Cooley played fiddle with one of the groups that performed at the Venice Pier Ballroom in Venice, California, led by Jimmy Wakely. When Wakely got a movie contract at Universal, Cooley replaced him as bandleader.

Cooley’s 18-month engagement at Santa Monica’s Venice Pier Ballroom in the early half of the 1940s was record-breaking. His recording Shame, Shame on You, was recorded in December 1944, and was No. 1 on the country charts for two months. The song was the first in an unbroken string of six Top Ten singles including Detour and You Can’t Break My Heart.

Cooley appeared in 38 Western films, both in bit parts and as a stand-in for cowboy actor Roy Rogers.

June, 1948, Cooley began hosting a variety show on KTLA-TV in Los Angeles, broadcast from the Santa Monica Pier Ballroom and the show won local Emmy awards in 1952 and 1953. The Hoffman Hayride was so popular that an estimated 75 percent of all televisions in the L.A. area were tuned into the show each Saturday night. However, by 1956  Cooley’s ratings dropped and was eventually replaced with Lawrence Welk.

His career came to a halt when Cooley beat his second wife, Ella Mae Cooley, to death on April 3, 1961.

Cooley was indicted for the murder and convicted of first-degree murder. He was sentenced to life in prison.

Cooley had served nearly nine years of a life sentence, and was in poor health from heart trouble. When, on November 23, 1969, he received a 72-hour furlough to play a benefit concert for the Deputy Sheriffs Association of Alameda County. During the intermission, after a standing ovation he died of a heart attack.

For a trip down memory lane, listen to Shame, Shame on You by Spade Cooley on YouTube

You can find Slick Deal at BarnesandNoble.com and Amazon.com. Enjoy!

Terri Gregg on Finding Time to Write (Or Not)

Terri Gregg

Please welcome author Terri Gregg, who’s working on finding the time to write. Who said retirement would make it easy?

During most of my adult life, I’ve had a strong desire to write fiction.  I spent 9 years as a science writer for an encyclopedia and wanted to try my hand at something more creative.  But as has been said before, life has a way of getting in the way of your best-laid plans.  Three children to raise (we had a child under the age of 8 for 21 straight years) and a series of demanding jobs left a shortage of time for creative writing. The six months I spent in Australia with my husband while he was there on an exchange teaching post did allow me to complete my first (but probably never to be published) novel.

Ah, I thought as the children launched into their own adult lives and retirement loomed, now I will have all the time I need to write book after book.

Silly me. The first years saw us traveling full time around the country in an RV. My husband is also a writer, so we sat with two laptops facing each other across the dining table in the RV trying to be creatively productive.  Not much of any value was accomplished.

After two years we settled down, bought a house in Sarasota, Florida, and prepared to get some serious writing done. But part of my platform for my first series is archeology. (I got my M. A. in Archeology at age 60 partially for background for the books and partially because it fascinates me.) That lead to travel—Stonehenge, Machu Picchu. Great Wall of China, Great Pyramid of Egypt and of course Cahokia, the great Mississippian Indian city in Illinois where the first book of the series, Bones Unearthed, is set. (Photos of some of the sites appear in the gallery on my website, terrigregg.com.)

So here I am.  One book out. The second in the series moving slowly along. For those of you that are not familiar with Sarasota, Sarasotans are surrounded with a myriad of distractions—golf, tennis, concerts, theater, not to mention beautiful beaches and a huge number of restaurants.

So here I am.  I keep working, even though slowly.  Maybe someday, my life will settle down to the point where I can join the ranks of other mystery writes who manage to get one or two books out a year.

Hope springs eternal.

Terri Gregg’s books is available at Amazon, and you can find out more about her on her website, terrigregg.com.

Peggy Gaffney On Dog Shows and Mayhem

mystery writer, dog showsI’m kind of a dog person, so when Peggy Gaffney offered to feature her dog show mysteries, I had to say yes. Here’s her take on them and what you can look forward to in her books.

As a writer, I often draw on real life. I have been showing purebred Samoyed show dogs for fifty years so when I write my series of suspense novels with a protagonist who is a knitting designer, (a career I once had) who also shows Samoyeds, I come prepared with many story ideas. The only major researching I do goes into the crime and the criminals as well as the operations of police, FBI, and other branches which fight crime.

Kate Killoy, my protagonist, draws many of her dog showing skills from my background. She shares my enjoyment of the sport of dogs including conformation, and obedience.

National Security takes place at the Samoyed club’s National Specialty, a week-long competition where exhibitors bring Samoyeds from all over the US and other countries to compete for best. Though the competition is fierce, the friendships formed among these dedicated dog breeders often last a lifetime.

The shows in recent years have had over 600 entries giving them a huge party-like feel with a lot of shedding dog hair. My job as a suspense author is to take this normally cheerful event and introduce a threat which could completely destroy it. Weaving the threat into the events surrounding the normal interaction between longtime dog show friends builds tension to the story broken occasionally by the dog’s antics.

The cast of characters includes Kate’s fiancé, Harry Foyle, a former FBI math genius with his own cybersecurity company, her great-aunt Maeve who though retired still occasionally works for Britain’s MI-5, her breeder friends, her math-loving family her former super-model cousin who has serious skills of her own and her very talented Samoyed Dillon.

My background gives the stories reality; pulling the reader inside the world of showdogs. The first book in the series is Fashion Goes to the Dogs involves mistaken identity and international intrigue in NYC during the dog show and the second Puppy Pursuit starts out as a simple trip to get a puppy but has our heroes running for their lives.

So if you like a suspenseful story and have always wondered about the people you see showing dogs on television, get the Kate Killoy Mysteries. They’re best read in order.

You can find out more about Peggy and where to buy her books at her website, www,peggygaffney.com.

F.M. Meredith on the Old Becoming New Again

I know F. M. Meredith, the author of the Rocky Bluff mystery series, as Marilyn Meredith, virtual friend. She’s re-releasing some of the earlier books in her series through a new publisher and she generously offered to share with us what that was like.

F.M. Meredith, Marylyn MeredithWhen the publisher of my Rocky Bluff P.D. series suffered a series of debilitating strokes, like many of her authors, I hoped and prayed for a complete recovery. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. I waited for nearly two years, but knew it was time I moved on.

Aakenbaaken and Kent published the next in the series and contracted with me to publish the rest. Because it had been so long ago when I wrote the first book, Final Respects, a decision had to be made. Since much has changed both in policing and the world since the publishing of this first book, should it be updated? The publisher decided, no, but that each one of the mysteries should be re-edited.

Because there are so many in the series, this was a big task, but one I was ready to take it on. Yes, I found typos, some inconsistencies and errors which I fixed. But I was happy to find that the stories and overall writing held up.

To bring those who don’t know about the Rocky Bluff P.D. series, it is set in a small fictitious town on the California coast between VenturaMystery writing, mystery series, mystery fiction and Santa Barbara. There is an ongoing cast of characters, the members of the RBPD and their families. Though it is a series, each book stands on its own with the mystery solved by the end.

My interest in writing about a police department and those who work there was brought on by my son-in-law, a police officer, who shared what went on at the job. He also took me on a ride-along. I later went on other ride-alongs with officers in another small town police department.

I’ve had a lot of help along the way from my law enforcement friends in the Public Safety Writers Association. http://policewriter.com/.

My new publisher has decided to make a major change in the covers of the books so they reflect the fact that each one belongs to the series.

Needless to say, I am delighted about the resurrection of my Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery series.

Marilyn Meredith who also writes as F. M. Meredith is the author of forty published novels, 13 in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series and the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, the latest A Cold Death from Mundania Press. She taught writing for Writers Digest Schools for 10 years, and was an instructor at the prestigious Maui Writers Retreat, and has taught at many writers’ conferences. Marilyn is a member of three chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and serves on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. She lives in the foothills of the Sierra, a place quite similar to Tempe Crabtree’s patrol area. You can find out more about her on her webpage http://fictionforyou.com, or on her blog  https://marilymeredith.blogspot.com/ and you can follow her on Facebook.

Missye K. Clarke on Becoming a Writer

Misyye K. Clarke

It’s always interesting to me how many of we writers started in our teens. Missye K. Clarke is yet another one. Here’s how it happened.

My writing life began with my coming into the world a true smartass. That happens when you’re born and raised in old-school New York City. Flushing, Queens to be precise. Strong assessment? Sure. But it got your attention. And, hey, old-school Big Apple residents often use strong anything.

But first, a bit of backstory.

I remember, for as long as could remember—with family stories backing said recollections—I started writing when I was four, that word “Freedom” in a fat green crayon on orange construction paper. Between that moment and when my being that smartass got me suspended for a month from riding the bus one way and in school, I hated writing.

Okay . . . hate’s too strong a word, as my late Granny would say. More like detested and dreaded writing. Book reports, that is (Aha! I see heads nodding in agreement and hands shooting up in solidarity with me!). Don’t get me wrong—reading was my strongest suit, my vocabulary reflecting as such in those school percentile tests and when I read the Macmillan Children’s Dictionary during weekends at my Granny’s whenever I got in trouble or told her I was bored. I loved getting lost in stories of boys watching an independent mouse work his toy motorcycle, or a little shy black cat with a red scarf discovering she had a skating talent to be part of her neighborhood cat club—or a sweet little girl channeling a jealous dead girl similar in age because the girl’s ghost was restless, the connection, a glass globe on a stone pedestal. What I didn’t like was summarizing these stories in writing, jotting my thoughts of said stories in these essays.

It wasn’t so much the writing that bothered me; if that were the case, I’d hate drafting sentences to use my newly-learned vocabulary words in. It was the drafting book reports of someone else’s imagination that, as a teacher discovered, was what I argued hard what the point was to prove I’d read the book. She tried an experiment when I didn’t turn in said detestable assignment: she let me orally summarize the story I’d read, since I was more expressive in this vein than most. And in other aspects, I couldn’t shut up.

The first oral report worked. A dozen others followed. She graded me in her marking book, happy for one less thing to read from a class of twenty-something students, sending my book report writing days to the cartoon graveyard at the ripe old age of eleven.

“And this all has to do you’re being a smart-aleck lead to writing, how, exactly Missye?”

Patience, Grasshopper (**she says sarcastically through a wry smirk**). Every good storyteller has a decent setup before the payoff.

Fast forward five years. I’m sixteen, well ensconced in northern Arizona—another blog post for another day, perhaps—and my younger sister and I are on the bus on a typical school day, which quickly went atypical.

The driver, an angry lumberjack bull lesbian female (which she honestly was, but insensitive to say nowadays), was either tired of trying to antagonize me or fed up with not breaking me with her instigation, began to pick on my sister. Sister started crying, the other kids were laughing at her for the rain, and I got super-pissed from this (only I’m supposed to pick on her, nobody else is! I’m kidding, but you know what I mean). So while “Marie” was still driving, I popped such a hot remark to and about her of her girlfriend dumping her, I think I saw cartoony sparks fly from me that could’ve set her plaid shirt on fire.

“Marie” slammed the brakes, radioed dispatch she’s not moving that bus one more inch until this kid—me—is off her bus IMMEDIATELY! In crocodile tears, too, I’ll add, but hey, I was in the wrong for wising off to somebody in authority. But she’d antagonized me one time too many—and as an afterthought too late to head off, that was her way to antagonize me. Adding insult to injury: not even my sister came to my defense in my defending her. Such was the hell of high school life.

Ironically, my sister got to stay on the bus, but while one of my parents drove me into school that morning, the kids whooped and hollered over so what I’d said, it hit the gossip mill all day plus two more. I was an anti-celebrity of sorts—then tagged a smartass and since—until one of my favorite people in authority—Assistant Principal James MacLarney–really lowered the boom. The impact his truthful statements made while he yelled at me in the first place, and his intoned, truly-giving-a-damn words broke me. I always hated on myself when people I liked and respected a whole lot did that, and I sure did then.

Sigh. I faced a choice: in-house suspension of one of my favorite music classes for a month, since my parents had to work when school let out and they weren’t making an extra stop for my butt to get home—morning bus privileges and weekend babysitting privileges concurrently suspended, too—or hard labor for three hours a day after school for a month on someone’s nearby horse and cattle farm.

I opted for the in-house.

Homework completed the nights before, all the books I had were saved for home, forty-five minutes of the first two days dragged—until I began writing longhand on day three. Something clicked. Now again, don’t get me wrong, I liked writing—loved it, actually. Just not summarizing somebody else’s imaginative results; if that wanted to know about it, as I often wrote at the end of those silly reports, READ THE BOOK! And I wrote two pieces, two long-shorts when I was fourteen and fifteen based on writing prompts from an English teacher at the time (I was the lone one in class taking all three prompts, since they individually weren’t calling out to me).

But the study hall time opened my untapped strange new world in a wardrobe. First person, Le Pen in left hand to spiral-bound notebook, my MC was a guy named Alex “Ponyboy” McCormick, blond, grey-eyed, my age, and he and five other buddies—three dudes, two females, one of which he was interested in, but she was one of his wingdude’s boo—found themselves in a Josie & The Pussycats In Outer Space-type situation in then the Space Shuttle Challenger. Admittedly, I borrowed heavily from everything I’d read, absorbed from Saturday morning cartoons, dreams, and made this rough start of a novel into the gumbo of my imagination. But it was those “But what happens next, Missye?” moments every day and every night that pushed me to keep writing. It made the forty-five prison minutes of daily in-house speed by, my grades improved . . . and I kept writing over the weekends to divert my mind from losing out on extra babysitting cash (my parents relented occasionally when the family needing a sitter didn’t want my sister minding their kids due to her being twelve to my sixteen. She howled a pluperfect fit, but couldn’t do much more past that.).

Find the magic, however you can, if it’s gone wayward or long asleep. It’s inside you, but will surface with the right scent, or touched by the perfect angle of sunlight, or maybe free-writing by full moonlight or firelight to gently coax Mr. Sandman from its eyes. Or, as was my case writing during that in-house of hell, I did to stave off sheer boredom; they wouldn’t let us even sleep then, can you imagine? But even through all this, my mind, imagination, curiosity—alongside Alex, Zak, Little Joe, Allyson, Kris, and Mickey at the time–never quit asking what comes next. Even my present Casebook and Threesome of Magic mysteries, the same “what comes next” drumbeats come from Casper, Logan, Alex, Missye Maroon, and Jay Vincent today. And I don’t believe I, or they, ever will stop asking. They know where the magic truly lies. They and I all know even the snarky smart-alecks have that glow of story-magic, too.

Time to dust a new trail of imagination fairy dust and plumb more magical lands of possibilities.

Did I ever give “Marie” an apology? Sort of. I was wrong for wising off, I told her—and dropped it. Once school authorities realized the technicality I exploited—I never said I’m sorry for what I’d said, because I genuinely wasn’t—there was little they could do to remedy it.

Happy writing, everybody. 🙂

Missye K. Clarke’s novel JERSEY DOGS, the first of the McGuinness/Pedregon Casebooks, is set for release this spring in e-book and print editions.

Suzanne Adair and The American Revolution From the Other Side

Suzanne Adair

Ever since I read Suzanne Adair’s first book in her Michael Stoddard series, Deadly Occupation, set during the American Revolution, I’ve been wondering why she made the insanely interesting choice to have her hero be a Redcoat. Yeah, that’s right. The good guys in her books are the folks we’re used to thinking of as the bad guys. So I put that and a couple other questions to her, and we’ve got the answers below.

1) So why did you make Michael Stoddard a Redcoat rather than a rebel?

The rebel point of view has been explored so often in film, novels, and non-fiction that I’m not sure what more I could contribute to it. But step into the “enemy’s” boots, and your perspective shifts. You see the history from an angle that doesn’t involve tired clichés, and you gain new insights. You also realize that this character who wears the enemy’s colors is faced with the same dilemmas that you’ve faced and is making the same decisions (sometimes errors) that you make. Finally, you get around to asking yourself, “How different are we, really?” Which is the question I’d hoped you’d ask, since you’re curious about a redcoat protagonist.

2) How “religious” do people get about the American Revolution? I mean, it is our American myth and there are those who get fussy when folks mess with it.

Some people get very fussy over those myths about the American Revolution. The irony is that by the time the Centennial celebration in 1876 rolled around, the majority of our Great American Myth had been hammered out in the form of anecdotal “stories” that weren’t grounded historically. Across the generations, many teachers and scholars have accepted these anecdotes as fact, and that’s why most Americans believe that Paul Revere completed his midnight ride, and that just about everybody in America during the Revolution was Protestant, and that all British soldiers were “recruited” from prison.

People who have believed the wrong version of history for most of their lives don’t easily change their minds. They’re also more inclined to believe cinematic balderdash like that scene in “The Patriot” where the British barricaded civilians in a church and set fire to the church. Such a thing never happened. Don’t you think the soldiers and civilians who hated the Crown would have reported it if it had? However Nazis—yeah, burning civilians in a church was quite their style.

The Relevant History feature on my blog, created in 2011, is a place in cyberspace where writers of historical fiction and non-fiction can trot those myths out and discuss the real history behind them, and inquisitive readers can learn. Come on over and discover history that’s relevant to events in the 21st century.

3) Part of the fun of writing historical fiction is that you know when the stock market is going to crash or what’s going to happen in the future. How fun (or not) is it to play with the reality that Stoddard’s cause is going to lose?

It’s a lot of fun! And since my series follows the actual history of the British occupation in Wilmington in 1781, the path for the series background is laid out for me.

However, after researching the American Revolution for almost two decades, I’m not sure that “lose” is the correct term here. When the last of the British sailed for home in 1783, Britain was still the most powerful country on the earth. If that weren’t so, in the conflict with France in the following generation, Napoleon would have emerged the victor.

You see, Britain was fighting on multiple fronts, making our American Revolution one part of a world war. It wasn’t a popular war across the pond. American Revolution, historical fiction, historical mystery, historical mysteries Civilians griped noisily in pubs and coffeehouses about how politicians were wasting their money. (Sound familiar?) Several historians have told me that Britain’s most seasoned soldiers weren’t even in America; we got something like the third string. That Atlantic-wide supply line was an absolute beast to maintain and protect. So a lot of civilians in Britain weren’t exactly heartbroken when the powers-that-be decided to cut the hemorrhage of resources into America and either bring soldiers home or send them elsewhere, where they could be more productive. (That strategy might sound familiar, too.)

I haven’t given redcoat Michael Stoddard any special abilities to predict the future. However, almost a decade in the British Army has definitely stomped out his idealism. Astute and practical, he looks for ways to get as much experience as possible while the King is picking up some of the tab. He’s kept his eyes and ears open, so he knows that his commander (Major Craig) has advised his commander (Lord Cornwallis) to stay in the Carolinas and not go to Virginia. When Michael hears how it goes down at Yorktown, of course, he’ll be disappointed, but he won’t be terribly surprised. And when it’s all over, he’s grateful to have taken part in a campaign in North Carolina that was, for many months, a success—instead of being on that bloody battlefield in Virginia.

Suzanne Adair is a Florida native who lives in North Carolina. Killer Debt is the fourth in her series featuring Michael Stoddard. Here’s the fun part – it will be available for pre-order on March 1, through her Indiegogo crowdsourcing campaign. And because this is going (has gone) live two days before the campaign starts, please click through to her website to find out more. You can also find her on Facebook at Suzanne.Adair.Author or on Twitter @Suzanne_Adair.

You can also find links to buy the rest of the Michael Stoddard series from your preferred retailer on her site: www.suzanneadair.net/books/michael-stoddard-american-revolution-thrillers/.

 

Unusual Book Promotions with Jill Amadio

Let’s face it, we writers are always looking for interesting venues for book promotion. This week, my fellow Sister in Crime Jill Amadio writes about some of the different venues she’s pursued to promote her two mysteries Digging too Deep and Digging up the Dead.

Book promotion

Author Jill Amadio

After promoting my debut crime novel to the usual online, broadcast, and print mystery media where I hoped (okay, begged) for reviews and interviews I realized:  there are many other publicity outlets worth approaching that are outside-the-box and often neglected by many authors.

“Yes, indeed,” I wrote to a gentleman in Virginia. “I believe I am definitely qualified to join your organization. My family played an active part in the St. Ives community when we lived there”.

What was that all about? This conversation with the president of the Cornish-American Heritage Society came about after my book, “Digging Too Deep: A Tosca Trevant Mystery,” was published. I had endowed my amateur sleuth with a vocabulary of Cornish cusswords and a penchant for brewing tongue-curling medieval mead from the land of the piskies (Cornish elves). My initial reason for seeking out the Society was to get back in touch with my roots and because my main character is a Cornishwoman. But I had an ulterior motive.

The Society has a newsletter that reports on various goings-on in Cornwall, UK, and on ex-pats. One delicious news item that caught my eye was that the Duchy of Cornwall was contemplating opening up an embassy in London now that the Cornish are finally recognized as an official minority. Lower the drawbridge! Tosca can have fun with that in her next book in the series, I thought. Then, Lo and behold, I noted that the newsletter also ran book reviews. Well, icing on the cake. The review and a blurb of my book appeared in the next issue. I noted, too, that with the Society holding events all over the U.S they provide signing opportunities. Their next meeting was in San Diego, California where I was invited to talk. When I attended their international Gathering of the Cornish Bards in Milwaukee, Wisconsin I had a book table and sold out.

On my website, www.jillamadiomysteries.com, I added a page about St. Ives that includes a photo of its 1312 pub, The Sloop Inn, which is still selling pints. A topic for a future article for the brewing trade publications? I also sent a copy of the book to the St. Ives Archive which maintains an online site as well as a gift shop that sells books. (Shouldn’t I be hired by the Cornwall Council as a roving ambassador?)

Another Venue for Book Promotion

Another avenue for publicity came from a friend in New York, a leading classical music critic. He writes an internationally-syndicated column for ConcertoNet.com distributed in the U.S., Europe, Asia, and on the island of Karguella for all I know. He’d helped with research for the classical music details in my book and surprised me with a lengthy review. After it appeared in the Bangkok Post, Thailand I heard from a reporter I’d worked with years ago. She now owns a specialty museum that I’ll include in a future book. Again, grist for the mill, and an addition to her Facebook page.

Some authors combine their non-literary careers with the fiction they write and are able to pursue marketing on both fronts. Psychological suspense writer Sheila Lowe, a certified forensic handwriting examiner and president of the American Handwriting Analysis Foundation, bases her protagonist in the Claudia Rose series on her daily job. Lowe’s expertise and testimony in court cases gains her entry and access to legal publications, legal blogs, and online sites where she can discuss real cases involving forensic graphology and at the same time promote her novels.

Author Diane Vallere spent over 20 years in the fashion industry and her passion for shoes, clues and clothes encouraged her to base the fashionista sleuth in her Material Witness crime series on her own life.

The list of custom blogs for just about every subject on the planet is growing by the week and looking for content. If you write about wine, gourmet cheese or other foods are you or your publicist sending review copies to bakers’ and grocery organizations for their blogs and newsletters? Have a knitting protagonist? Query crafts magazines. How about an ARC to women farmers’ associations if your setting is in rural America? The Internet is chock full of hobby newsletters that probably one of your characters enjoys although I doubt there is a milkmaids fellowship.

I used to write an automotive column and sent my book, which features a vintage Austin-Healey sports car, to my pals at car magazines, and got reviewed. Alumni and club publications, too, welcome notices of new books. Hit them up for a talk and write on their blog. Platforms such as these provide ideas for finding new and unusual opportunities to promote your book. Turn over that stone!

Yes, promoting books is time-consuming and often frustrating but it’s the road we’ve chosen to trek, and there are often wonderful, unusual, and unexpectedly rewarding results when we keep putting one foot in front of the other.

You can find out more about Jill and her books at  www.jillamadiomysteries.com.

Pauline Baird Jones Explains How a Duet Came to Be

Pauline Baird Jones has an unusual offer for us today: science fiction romance. Hers is one of two stories published as a duet with her friend Genie Davis. If you’ve ever wondered how an author comes up with ideas, well, this is an interesting twist on the process. You can find out more about Pauline here.

Like many of my ideas, Open With Care began with Genie, the other author in our duet, and I at lunch, talking.

“Why haven’t we written something together?” One of us asked. I don’t remember which one. It was a question because we’d been friends (online first and after some years, some face-to– face meetings) for a long time. So then and there, we decided to write “something” together.

Soon.

By the end of the year.

We did some kicking around of idea via Facebook Messenger and decided our “duet” would have these elements:
1. Wyoming
2. In the science fiction romance genre.
3. Holiday (Christmas)
4. Be triggered by an unusual gift.

So separately, we took these elements and started writing. Because you have to write holiday stories ahead of the holidays, I found myself working
on my story, “Up on the Rooftop,” in August. Luckily, I was also in Wyoming, but that didn’t help as much as you’d think it would. Because it was August.

My story idea was further refined by a couple of personal triggers:
1. That spring I was at the Romantic Times Convention in Las Vegas and involved in the Intergalactic Bar & Grille party. We decorated with blow up, green aliens.
2. My real life experience with aging parents.

How I brought all of these elements together into a single short story, well, frankly, it puzzles me, too. Apparently, I poured them into my brain, turned on the brain blender, and out came a quirky tale of aliens on the rooftop, Men in Black in the yard, and a long shot chance to rekindle an old romance.

Genie’s story is quintessentially hers, too. It is evocative, a little dark, but ultimately a hopeful story about love and the power of Christmas. Hers has aliens, too, but not the little green men variety.

The Stories:

Gini knew Christmas in Wyoming would be challenging as she headed
over the frozen crick and through the woods to the family cabin. The lights
are going out in her mom’s attic, the guy who broke her heart is on the
porch…and there are aliens on the roof.
According to her mom, it’s going to be the best Christmas ever.
And then dive into a mesmerizing tale of interstellar time travel and
romance!

Jane MacKenzie, visiting her grandfather’s abandoned ranch,
discovers something in the snow. When she opens the ribbon-wrapped
box, it mysteriously returns Sam Harrington, who “disappeared” in an  1885
blizzard.
There’s nothing alien in this enduring tale of holiday homecomings and
the hope of a love that lasts a lifetime.

You can buy Open With Care at BarnesandNoble, Google Play, Kobo, Amazon, and iTunes, or just go to the link for Open With Care.

Lois Winston on the Mystery of Crafts

Lois Winston

My guest post today, Lois Wilson, writes one of the funniest series out there, featuring amateur sleuth Anastasia Pollack, a craft editor at a major magazine. If you’ve ever thought that a mystery with crafts or recipes had to be tooth-achingly twee, come meet Anastasia. Trust me, it takes real talent to mix mop dolls and scrapbooking with gangsters, communists, and spies – and those are the good guys! 

I started my career as a romance author, but in my day job I’m a designer. For several decades (more than I’m willing to admit at this stage in my life!), I’ve designed needlework for kit manufacturers, magazines, book publishers, and the world’s leading producer of embroidery floss. One day about twelve years ago an editor told my agent she was looking for crafting mysteries. My agent immediately thought of me and asked if I’d be interested in trying my hand at writing one. I jumped at the challenge, and the rest is history.

First, I did a bit of research to see what types of crafting mysteries were being published. I discovered all of them featured one particular craft and most took place in craft shops or a crafter’s studio. With just about every craft already covered and many crafts represented in multiple series (yarn and knitting mysteries galore!), I decided to break from the pack. I came up with Anastasia Pollack, the crafts editor at a women’s magazine. That way, rather than my mystery centering round a single type of craft, I could feature different crafts in each book. No other crafting mystery author had done that.

When you write a crafting mystery series, readers expect you to include craft projects, just as authors who write culinary mysteries are expected to include recipes. Recipes are easier. They don’t require charts or diagrams or step-by-step how-to photos the way many crafts do.

Right off the bat I was presented with a dilemma. Knowing the chances of a publisher agreeing to include photos in the books were slim to none, I had to come up with crafts that could be made with only written directions. This is easy if the craft is knitting or crochet. It’s far more difficult for other crafts.

For Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, the first book in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, I chose to feature general crafts. Anastasia is working on two different magazine features in this book, one for June weddings and one for Fourth of July celebrations. I included directions for appliqué embellished bridal tennis shoes and birdseed roses for the wedding crafts. For the Fourth of July crafts I featured recycled jeans placemats, clay pot candles, and a decoupaged flag tray.

After the first book, I settled on one type of craft for each book. Death by Killer Mop Doll includes directions for making mop dolls and string doll ornaments. Revenge of the Crafty Corpse features projects made with fabric yo-yos, and Decoupage Can Be Deadly includes (what else?) decoupage crafts. In A Stitch to Die For I went with knit and crocheted baby blankets. Scrapbook of Murder is the newest book in the series. For this book, rather than include a specific craft project, I’ve featured a series of scrapbooking tips.

Now I have to start thinking about a plot and a craft for the next book in the series. Any suggestions?

You can find out more about Lois Winston at her website, www.loiswinston.com or read Anastasia’s blog. You can find Scrapbook For Murder at Barnes and Noble, iTunes, Kobo, and Amazon.

Nancy Cole Silverman on Writing Herself – Or Not Herself

Nancy Cole Silverman impersonating Carol Childs (or is it the other way around)?

As somebody who otherwise leads a pretty boring life, it’s always amazed me when I run into novels written by folks who bear an uncanny resemblance to their characters. So when Nancy Cole Silverman, who has more than a little in common with her character Carol Childs, agreed to do a guest post for me, I had to ask about how and where she draws the line. And she did!

Anne Bannon believes my protagonist has been impersonating me.  Or maybe it’s the other way around, since on more than one occasion, Anne, and a number of friends, have referred to me as Carol Childs.

Allow me to set the record straight.  My name is Nancy Cole Silverman, and I created Carol Childs, she was a figment of my imagination.  A strong, take no prisoners type of now-gal, who believes, no matter what the situation, “Brains Beat Brawn, and a Mic is more Powerful than a Forty-five.” In short, as an investigative reporter for a Los Angeles talk radio station, Carol doesn’t carry a gun, she carries a microphone.

Idealistic?

You bet. But then I spent twenty-five year in news and talk radio, and saw first hand where the power of the mic got the last word on more than one bad varmint in this town. OJ Simpson and Robert Blake may have not been found guilty of murder, but by the time their trial ended, the court of public opinion–the chatter on the airwaves–had cast a very different light on both the man and the crime.

The truth is, Carol Childs is my alter ego. And why not? I’ve taken my experiences, both those from inside some of Los Angeles’ busiest newsrooms, and those from my life as a single mom and bled them onto the page, in an attempt to make Carol feel real to the reader.

Similarities aside, however, Carol Childs is not me. Creating a character, particularly a powerful and believable protagonist requires a little distance and few rules; Writing What You Know, Research, and Romance or Writing From the Heart. I call them the three R’s.

Write what you know.  Everybody has experience in something and pulling from that can be an invaluable resource when writing.  Nora Ephron said, “Everything is copy.”  For me, that experience was working in a newsroom.  It helps when I sit down to write a scene to remember the world I came from; the non-stop deadlines, the constant chatter from the news desk to reporters and that adrenalin rush a reporter feels when uncovering a breaking news story. Along with all the facts and stats of the newsroom, I also pull from my own experiences as a single, working mom. Like I was then, Carol Childs is a single mom, struggling to establish herself in a tough competitive field and the clock is always ticking.

Research. I certainly haven’t had any first-hand experience with any of the crimes involved in my books.  Like most mystery writers I may write about murder, but poisons, sex trafficking, international jewelry theft or vigilante killings, like those I have exposed Carol to in my books, I’ve no first-hand knowledge.  Instead, I did a lot of research. Admittedly, research can lead a writer down a lot of rabbit holes, but in the end, when well-researched information is blended with real-life scenarios we get a ripped-from-the-headlines type of feel to the story.  I love when readers ask me if I really encountered such things while working in radio.  It’s my gotcha moment, my reward for a job well done.

Romance or Writing From the Heart: I believe it’s important for a writer to take note of their emotions.  Psychologist have categorized six basic emotions; happiness, sadness, fear, anger, surprise, and disgust, but writers know telling isn’t showing.  It’s important for a writer to note if a character is surprised to be able to recall their own physical and psychological reactions to such an emotion.  Equating that to the character’s feeling on the page in a way the reader can relate to helps to make the character real and memorable.

If readers recognize me on the page, I suppose I’ve nobody to blame but myself. Sometimes writers put more of themselves into their work then they know.  Hemmingway was accused of it in his Nick Adams short stories. Some literary critics suspect that Charlotte Bronte may have lived vicariously through her characterization of Jane Eyre, and I’ve often wondered if Janet Evanovich is more Stephanie Plum than she lets on.  Whatever the case, my name is Nancy Cole Silverman, I’m the voice behind The Carol Childs Mysteries, as for any similarities, I’ll leave that for you to decide.

Nancy’s latest book, Room for Doubt, is now available at Barnes and Noble and Amazon. You can find out more about her and the other Carol Childs mysteries at her site, www.nancycolesilverman.com.