Category Archives: The Writing Life

Oh, So You’re a Marshal

Please welcome Elaine Cantrell to the blog today. She’s talking about marshals.

Here’s Elaine!

Are any of you in law enforcement? If so, you probably already know a lot about the US Marshals, but if not, you’re probably thinking of marshals like you saw in old TV westerns. In fact, the US Marshal’s Service is the nation’s oldest and most versatile law enforcement service. They were established in 1789, and since that time they’ve been involved with virtually every federal law enforcement imitative. At present there are about 4800 deputy marshals and career employees.

Okay, so what does a marshal do? First, they protect judges and courthouses. Second, they apprehend fugitives. Third, they transport prisoners, and lastly they’re involved in witness protection, asset forfeiture, and operations support of various types.

My hero in Never Trust a Pretty Wolf is Andy Bryce, a US Marshal. Andy’s on vacation, so he agrees to take his brother’s place in a charity game. He never figured on getting a partner like Liesel Wolf. She’s beautiful, abrasive, and she has secrets that floor him once they come to light.

In this excerpt, Andy ponders his attraction to the beautiful Liesel.

He paused as he reached for her hand. He had often heard the old, overworked phrase, ‘she looks like an angel’, but Liesel really did. Her hair fanned across the pillow in a red‑gold flame that accented her smooth, creamy complexion. Her thick, lush eyelashes looked too pretty to be real. They made him long for her to open her eyes, just so he could see how they’d look in the morning while she was still vulnerable from sleep, before she’d had a chance to don the prickly armor that irritated him so much.


Involuntarily, he reached for her, but he jerked his hand back as though she had hissed at him. Being beautiful did not change her character. She had married a monster. Who knew what bad habits she had picked up from him? Hadn’t he taken a gun away from her two days ago?



A gun? Why do you need a gun to play a charity game? Who is the monster that Liesel married? Are they still married? What’s this charity game all about? How did a US Marshal get paired with a beautiful yet secretive woman? Has Liesel picked up bad habits? All very important questions!

Never Trust a Pretty Wolf is now available at and most other retail outlets.

Visit Elaine on her website: and her blog:

Cindy here!

Thanks so much for being here, Elaine. Loved the excerpt. Sounds like a great book! I do love the idea of a marshal. How about you guys?

Until next time…



Speaking of Murder with Edith Maxwell

Please welcome Edith Maxwell (writing as Tace Baker) to the blog today. She’s talking about her book Speaking of Murder. It sounds very intriguing.

Here’s Edith!

At several author events since Speaking of Murder came out, people have asked me how I came up with my main character in the book, why I set it in the town where I did, how I dreamed up the story.


My protagonist in Speaking of Murder, Lauren Rousseau, is a linguistics professor at a small college. We find out that she speaks Japanese and Bambara, a language spoken in Mali. We see her teaching a class on Japanese phonology and learn that she’s writing a paper to present at the East Asian Linguistics conference. She’s pretty good at identifying regional and foreign dialects and accents, and in fact uses that ability to help solve the murder. She pops up with a smattering of greetings in languages like Russian and Greek.


She’s also a Quaker, and uses her own quiet form of prayer to guide her through a couple of tricky situations. We see her sitting in Friends Meeting and read about her holding her friend “in the Light.”


Lauren’s boyfriend, Zac, is a video forensics expert, and helps solve the murder through his expertise at clarifying surveillance video.


As it turns out, I am also a Quaker, and several decades ago earned a PhD in linguistics, although I didn’t end up teaching in a college. I have lived and worked in Japan and Mali. I write technical documentation for my day job and in fact wrote the user guides for the video-editing product that Zac uses in his work.


The book is set in Ashford, a small town very much like Ipswich, Massachusetts, where I lived when I wrote it (I have recently moved a few towns north but still live in the area called the North Shore), as well as in a small city I made up called Millsbury.


So in terms of the characters, I incorporated a lot of what I know and have experienced in my life. The characters are fictional, of course. Lauren is taller and younger and fitter than I am and the only character closely modeled on a real person is her colleague and friend Ralph Fourakis.


As for the place, I had first used the actual town of Ipswich. But when I started to write the second book in the series, Bluffing is Murder, I addressed a real conflict that was going on in the town at the time and decided I’d better change the name of the town and some of the landmarks to protect the innocent, or rather, to protect myself against lawsuits!


But where the story in Speaking of Murder came from? That’s a great question. I don’t plot ahead. I just sit down and write down what my characters do. Lauren’s star student is killed. Her best friend goes missing. A mysterious Frenchman keeps showing up. And her department chair behaves suspiciously.


What experiences do you have with linguistics or video editing or, for that matter, Quakerism? Do you prefer to read books set in real places? I’ll be stopping back in to answer questions all day.

 About Edith:

Edith Maxwell is the author of SPEAKING OF MURDER (Barking Rain Press, under pseudonym Tace Baker) featuring Quaker linguistics professor Lauren Rousseau. Edith holds a PhD in linguistics and is a member of Amesbury Monthly Meeting of Friends. The book was first runner up in the Linda Howard Award for Excellence contest


Edith also writes the Local Foods Mysteries.  A TINE TO LIVE, A TINE TO DIE introduces organic farmer Cam Flaherty and a colorful Locavore Club (Kensington Publishing, June, 2013).


A mother and technical writer, Edith is a fourth-generation Californian but lives north of Boston in an antique house with her beau and three cats.


Find her at , @edithmaxwell, and . Tace Baker can be found at , @tacebaker, and

Cindy here again!

Thanks so much for being here today Edith. The book sounds fascinating. I do like books set in real places. It’s especially interesting for me if I’ve been there because then I can picture it much better.

Until next time…



Judy Alter talks about her Kelly O’Connell Mystery Series

Hi everyone! Happy Hallowe’en! Today I’ve got Judy Alter on the blog today talking about her Kelly O’Connell mystery series.

Here’s Judy!

Is Halloween a big deal at your house? It sure is for Maggie and Em, the daughters in my Kelly O’Connell Mystery Series. But every year, murder and lurking danger seem to curtail the girls’ activities on that special, scary night.

In Skeleton in a Dead Space, when the girls are four and seven, Kelly’s house is being vandalized and Officer Mike Shandy, who takes more than an official interest in Kelly, insists he will babysit the house while she takes the girls trick-or-treating. But he makes her promise to stay on their block. Kelly’s ex-husband arrives while she’s gone and tries to dismiss Mike, who refuses to leave. An awkward but humorous scene ensues. And the girls come home with bags of candy, having apparently enjoyed their limited outing.

But in No Neighborhood for Old Women, Kelly’s Fairmount neighborhood is living in fear of a serial killer who preys on older women. Mike tries to cancel Halloween because he’ll be on duty, but Kelly outsmarts him. Keisha, her oversize and highly capable office assistant, takes the girls, now seven and ten, around the neighborhood while Kelly and her mom stay home. At Mike’s insistence, she has a baseball bat handy, but there’s no need for it. Because of the neighborhood fear, few trick-or-treaters come by and Halloween is a distinct disappointment.

By Trouble in a Big Box, things are much more serious. Someone is stalking Kelly and threatening the girls. Mike, injured in an automobile accident, cannot protect them or take them trick-or-treating. He really does cancel Halloween until their young friends, Theresa and Joe, come to the rescue, and Theresa takes the girls to the YMCA where Joe works for the Halloween party. Maggie and Em come home reporting a good time. They bobbed for apples, ate caramel apples, played pin the tail on the donkey, ran in a sack race. Kelly, left at home to pass out treats while Mike sat nearby with his service revolver, feels downright sorry for herself because she missed all the fun.

Who knows what will happen on Halloween in the fourth Kelly O’Connell Mystery? Somehow though I think this darkening atmosphere around an evening that used to signal fun and treats for children is a symptom of our changing society. I don’t mean to be a crepe hanger, but we often no longer feel free to let our children roam outside their own yard alone, even during the day. And because I live on a busy city street, my six-year-old grandson cannot even be on my porch without an adult out there. Maybe that’s part of the theme of the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries—danger lurks even in seemingly peaceful neighborhoods. Bleak thought, isn’t it? I hope it’s balanced by the joy Kelly gets from her girls, her extended family and her wonderful older neighborhood. And I hope if you read the books, you’ll share that joy.

About Judy:

An award-winning novelist, Judy Alter is the author of three books in the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries series: Skeleton in a Dead Space, No Neighborhood for Old Women, and Trouble in a Big Box. With Murder at the Blue Plate Café, due out next February, she will move from inner city Fort Worth to small-town East Texas to create a new set of characters in a setting modeled after a restaurant that was for years one of her family’s favorites. But look for more Kelly O’Connell novels to come

Follow Judy at or her two blogs at or




Cindy here!

Thanks for being here today, Judy. These book sound great! I’ll have to go check them out.

Until next time…


Artful Dodging: the Torpedo Factory Murders

I’ve got M.S. Spencer on the blog today talking about a very unique setting for her book.

Here’s Ms. Spencer!

You’ll encounter misdirection, misfits, and miscreants in my contemporary romantic suspense novel Artful Dodging: the Torpedo Factory Murders. Set in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, I chose the setting for a number of good reasons, one of which is it’s my home.


Although I grew up in a small Maryland town that proudly declared itself the first summer resort for Washington, DC and then a hundred years later the first nuclear free-zone in the U.S., when I returned to the area years later, I settled in Virginia. This rattled my mother, who believed the only inhabitants in that other state bordering DC were Gog and Magog. Nonetheless, I found Old Town Alexandria to be a charming colonial city on (and sometimes under) the Potomac River. Packed with historic houses, cobblestoned streets, and ghosts, it’s a tourist’s dream, especially attractive at the end of a long day when the sidewalk restaurants beckon.


Old Town is sprinkled with oddly shaped, often unmarked structures, some of which cried out to be included in a story. For instance, Milo and Tristram meet in O’Connell’s, where the bar and booths are salvaged from Irish churches, monasteries and castles. A sunken circular wood trail where Milo and Tekla walk is the roundabout for a railroad that ran right through the town past the Torpedo Factory Art Center (where Milo discovers the victims). The strange brick tunnel to nowhere on Wilkes Street near Tristram’s house is the spot where the tracks made a ninety-degree turn and headed south to Orange, Virginia.

The Torpedo Factory itself has a remarkable history. Originally a Naval torpedo factory, the building, which sits smack dab on the main waterfront, lay abandoned after World War II. In the 1970s an intrepid band of local ladies convinced the City of Alexandria to lease it to them for an art center. Today it houses 82 studios, the Art League, the Friends of the Torpedo Factory, and an Archaeology center. Not to mention a couple of torpedoes and a few eccentric souls. In Artful Dodging, I introduce you to Milo Everhart and her merry band of artists. Milo makes beautiful needlepoint and her friend Tekla Spirikova makes large metal cones. Together they fight City Hall (literally) when it wants to give their beloved Torpedo Factory Art Center away. Things get complicated when their greatest adversary turns out to be the man Milo loves, and even more complicated when too many murder victims turn up. Read all about it in my best selling Artful Dodging: the Torpedo Factory Murders.




Waiting out the rain, Milo Everhart takes stock of her widowhood and the handsome man standing in the door to the bar.  Little does she know she will meet that man again and again under both passionate and terrifying circumstances.

Tristram Brody waits for his date, too conscious of the beautiful woman sitting by the door. Little does he know that she will hate him for trying to destroy her beloved art center, and even suspect him of murder. Nor that she will be drawn inevitably into his arms.

Little does either of them suspect they will be embroiled in not one, but two murders, in which the fate of the Torpedo Factory, an art center housed in an old munitions factory on the waterfront in Old Town Alexandria, will be decided.

EXCERPT (PG): The First Meeting


The bartender backed out past the man, who made no move to get out of his way. Milo frowned. The fellow appeared oblivious to the fact that his position inconvenienced everyone. At first she’d assumed he was waiting out the rain, but his body language said expectant. Every minute or so he’d poke his head out and look up and down King Street.

For lack of anything more exciting to do, she fell to observing him. The top of his head brushed the door jamb, making him about six feet three inches. His bulk didn’t jibe with his height though. She guessed him to weigh in at maybe 175 pounds stripped. He was undeniably her type—lean, trim, tall, clean-shaven—none of that painted-on five-o’clock shadow male celebrities sported nowadays. And old enough for once. Maybe forty? She could only see his profile at the moment, which revealed thick black hair curling over his ears, slices of silver gray relieving the dark waves at the temple, a straight nose, moderately rosy—from drink? Or the cold?—and a forceful chin. Without warning he pivoted and Milo caught the full impact of a deeply masculine face right in the kisser. Whew. Even with the Armani suit, definitely not gay.

He tapped a highly polished Gucci loafer with impatience and pulled out a pocket watch. By this time Milo had dropped all pretence and openly scrutinized her subject. He thrust the watch back in his pocket with a scowl and spun around toward the bar, almost colliding with Tony. He took Milo’s glass from the startled bartender. “Thanks, just what the doctor ordered.”

Milo began to rise in protest. Tony looked at her and the man followed his gaze in surprise. He held up the whiskey. “Er, I take it this isn’t for me?”

Milo tried to come up with a flip response but his rich baritone rattled her. Tony stepped between them. “Yes, Sir, that drink belongs to the lady. May I get you something?”

The man didn’t answer. He stared at Milo more or less the way she was staring at him. Flustered, she plopped back down on the narrow bench, barely avoiding an embarrassing slide to the floor. He continued to stare. She resisted the impulse to pat her short fawn-colored ringlets which always appeared tousled no matter what she did, and blinked. He blinked back. Finally she blurted out, “Would you care to join me?”

He shook his head as though to clear it and replied, “Thank you. Forgive me—I’ve never seen such lovely eyes…I mean, eyes that color…I mean…sorry, what would you call them? Mahogany? Bronze?” His admiring gaze did wonders for Milo’s discomfiture and her mood took a decided uptick.

“I just call them brown. But thank you.”

 “I’m sorry about purloining your drink. Can I buy you a freshener in restitution?” 

“Okay. Did you want to sit down?”

“I’d better not. I’m waiting for someone.”

“Oh.” His plight, though not unexpected, depressed her. Of course Armani man had a date. He probably always has a date, even during Lent.

Tony brought another glass. The man paid him, then hesitated as though considering. “You know, she is awfully late. Since you’re right in the window seat with a commanding view of the entrance, may I change my mind and sit here until she arrives?”

Ulp. “Not at all.” Good—got that out without stuttering.

“Thanks.” He pulled a low barrel stool next to the bench and clinked her glass. “Cheers.”

 They sipped their whiskies in companionable silence. The rain pummeled both the sidewalk and the pedestrians with barely concealed antagonism. Milo decided her heart had settled down sufficiently to ensure a quaver-free sentence. “I’m Milo Everhart.” And I’m Gorgeous George. You don’t mind if I seduce you, do you? No, wait—he didn’t say that. I did. Hopefully in my head. “Um, I didn’t catch your name?”

“Tristram Brodie. Pleased to meet you.”

Artful Dodging is available in both eBook and Print (Full-length, M/F, 2 flames, published by Secret Cravings Publishing, 2012).

Buy Links:
Amazon print:




Although M. S. Spencer has lived or traveled in five continents, the last 30 years have been spent mostly in Washington, D.C. as a librarian, Congressional staff assistant, speechwriter, editor, birdwatcher, kayaker, policy wonk, chair of a large volunteer program, and non-profit director.  She is blessed with two fabulous grown children, and the company of Iggy Pop the cat.

Ms. Spencer has published five contemporary romance novels. Lost in His Arms is set in the spinning world of 1991 when countries fell like flies and a CIA fixer had his hands full. In Lost and Found we follow a desperate wife searching the wilds of Maine for the husband who disappeared. Losers Keepers is a tale of love, lust and treachery set on the island of Chincoteague. In Triptych legend, history and romance intertwine in a triptych of suspense high above the Potomac River. Her latest release is Artful Dodging: the Torpedo Factory Murders. Look for her upcoming release Mai Tais and Mayhem: Murder at Mote Marine. Set on the Florida Gulf coast, it follows the adventures of Tessa Diamond as she deals with new love, old love, murder, sea turtles, big fish, smugglers, parrots, pigs, and the Russian mob, not necessarily in that order.


She’d love to hear from you~



Facebook Author Page:



Amazon Author Page:


Cindy here!

Thanks for being here, Ms Spencer! The torpedo factory sounds fascinating.

Until next time…



Changing Times

Please welcome Lois Winston to the blog today talking about the changing times in publishing.

Here’s Lois!

I’ve often heard authors refer to their books as their “babies” and the road to publication as “labor pains.” There’s a big difference between birthing a baby and birthing a book, though. With each progressive baby, the birthing process generally becomes a lot easier. I remember being in labor with my first son and resolving that I’d NEVER go through that pain again. Nearly three years later, I was giving birth to his brother when I remembered that I’d vowed not to go through labor ever again. I’m convinced nature makes us forget the pain of childbirth in order to keep our species from going extinct. In truth, though, that second delivery was a lot easier and less painful than the first.

Then there’s birthing a book. Ask any multi-published author, and he or she will tell you it never gets any easier. Or less painful. We sweat and worry over each sentence, each page, each scene, each chapter. When we type “THE END,” we continue to worry.

Will my editor love the book or hate it?
What will the reviewers say?
Will readers buy the book?
Will I earn out my advance?
Will sales be good enough to secure my next contract?

The worries never end. But maybe it’s the act of worrying that spurs us to continue to hone and improve our writing, knowing that with each book more is expected of us, making readers clamor for the next book even before they’ve finished the current one. One of the greatest compliments an author can receive is when a reader says, “I can’t believe I have to wait a whole year for your next book!”

Of course, that’s assuming the author has a contract for the next book. These are tough times in publishing, and often instead of publishers and authors working together to produce books readers clamor for, a more adversarial relationship is beginning to grow in the industry. Contracts are changing, and authors are suffering because publishers fear that the industry as they once knew it won’t be around much longer. Another worry has been added to the author’s list of worries.

Over the past few years advances from many houses have gone from halfway decent to pathetic to nearly non-existent. Those paltry advances are now being broken up into three payments – a third upon signing, a third upon delivery, and a third upon publication – instead of half upon signing and half upon delivery. Or the old-fashioned way of paying the author 100% of the advance upon signing the contract. Does any publisher still do that? I doubt it.

Royalties have gone from being based on cover price to net selling price, meaning the more steeply discounted the book, the less the author receives. Most troubling, though, is that publishers are inserting all sorts of language into contracts that are causing agents and literary attorneys to warn their clients against signing unless they want to wind up as indentured servants.

And yet the public thinks authors are rolling in money. Some still are – if their names are Patterson, King, Roberts, Evanovich, Collins, Meyer, James, or Rowling. The rest of us would be living out of cardboard boxes if we had to depend on our writing as our only source of income.

All we want to do is write our books and get paid a fair amount of money for them. Is that really too much to ask? Apparently so. No wonder so many authors are turning their back on traditional publishing and doing what would have been considered sacrilege five or ten years ago: they’re self-publishing their books. And many of them are doing so well that when the traditional publishers come calling, cash in hand, the authors are laughing at them.

As Bob Dylan once said, “The times they are a’changing.” For better? For worse? Only time will tell. The one thing I do know is that as much as the publishing world has changed in the past five years, we ain’t seen nothing yet. Check back with me five years from now.

Blurb for Someone To Watch Over Me

Dori Johnson’s life is built on lies and deceit. Six years ago she committed a series of felonies in order to flee Philadelphia and save herself and her siblings from a ruthless Russian crime boss. They’ve lived under the radar ever since. But now Dori’s been offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that her siblings insist she take. Within days her carefully constructed world begins toppling around her, and when her life is threatened, the one man who can help her is the one man she doesn’t dare trust.

You can buy Someone To Watch Over Me at:

Amazon: Someone To Watch Over Me

Barnes and Noble: Someone To Watch Over Me

Apple: Someone To Watch Over Me

Kobo: Someone To Watch Over Me

Smashwords: Someone To Watch Over Me

About Lois:

Award-winning author Lois Winston writes the critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries series featuring magazine crafts editor and reluctant amateur sleuth Anastasia Pollack. Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, a January 2011 release, was the first book in the series and received starred reviews from both Publishers Weekly and Booklist. Kirkus Reviews dubbed it, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum” Death By Killer Mop Doll was released this past January. Revenge of the Crafty Corpse will be a January 2013 release.

Lois is also published in women’s fiction, romantic suspense, and non-fiction as well as being an award-winning crafts and needlework designer and an agent with the Ashley Grayson Literary Agency. She has also recently embarked on an indie publishing career, releasing some of her earlier romance, romantic suspense, and chick lit books under the pen name Emma Carlyle. Throughout August, September, and October, Lois is donating $500 to breast cancer research for every 1,000 Emma Carlyle books sold. Links to the books can be found on Emma’s website.

Visit Lois at , visit Emma at, and visit Anastasia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers character blog, You can also follow her on Twitter @anasleuth and at Pinterest:

Cindy here!

Thanks for being here, Lois. Publishing times are definitely changing and changing fast. It will be interesting to see where things are five years from now.

Until next time…


From Eve Dallas To Lisbeth Salander or

Why We Love That Romantic Suspense Heroine 

Today on the blog I’ve got Lynn Romaine talking about romantic suspense heroines. I love a good kick ass heroine.

Take it away, Lynn!

I was a gangly, uncertain thirteen-year old when I discovered my first romantic suspense novel and fell for that sweet young thing, Charity Shelbourne, in Madam, Will You Talk? (Mary Stewart, 1955). From then on my heart belonged to the romantic suspense heroine who, in the face of demands from society to bend to the female conventions of her time, she confronted danger and solved eminent threats to survival even as she fell for the hero.

Who are they, these heroines? From Charity to Eve Dallas (from J.D. Robb’s gritty series) to Lisbeth Salander (Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), they have one thing in common at least…they refuse to step down and let the men handle their problems.

Mary Stewart’s Charity was written in 1955 and may have outwardly have fit the model of that era, but like her later sisters in suspense, she chased after and confronted danger, even as she was being chased down by a killer.

And it even gets better these days!

Today our romantic suspense heroines are tough, badass women who are unwilling to dress to please a man at the expense of their individual self expression. They are unwilling to sit in fear, waiting to be rescued and instead opt for being in action.  They are fighting not only the wrongs done to them, but also fighting for the rights of all women.

The long, lean, brilliant but confrontational Eve Dallas may look gorgeous, but she refuses to have her clothes or make-up dominate her life. She throws on something comfortable, combs her hair with her fingers, and is out fighting crime in a futuristic world where things have gotten far more chaotic and out of control.

Lisbeth Salander, child-like in stature and appearance, who would normally be overlooked, demands that no one will miss with those eccentric, studded black leather clothes, her spiked shoes and her multiple piercings. But she is more than just someone rebelling against the traditional female dress. She is also the best computer hacker in Sweden, has a photographic memory and a complete lack of caution when it comes to righting a wrong. She refuses to back down when confronted with immoral or evil actions and never waits for some man to protect her and save the day.

What captivates us about those heroines? I’d have to say they are women who refuse to conform to the standards of being female, waiting to be saved by some passing male. They are women who can represent the hero and the anti-hero, with actions ranging from noble to almost fatally flawed, living by their own standards in order to achieve good endings for all of us. We admire them and we want our daughters to be just like them. At least I do.

So all I can say is, thank you, romantic suspense authors past, present and future, for finally bringing women into their own time, powerful, self-expressed and unstoppable.

Cindy here!

Thanks so much for being here, Lynn.  I love a heroine who doesn’t need a man to save them.

So who’s your favourite romantic suspense heroine?

Check out Lynn’s books on Amazon. And don’t forget to visit Lynn at her website

Until next time…


What do you know?

Thanks for stopping by the blog today! I’ve got Susan Muller here talking about writing what you know and research.

Here’s Susan!

First, I’d like to thank Cindy for inviting me to join you today.


I’ve read several books on the craft of writing, and they all start with the same advice. Write what you know. Unfortunately, I don’t seem to know much. Oh, I know plenty of things, they just aren’t that interesting.


At one time, I could recite an extraordinary number of nursery rhymes. I can make a fair flower arrangement and whip up a mouthwatering dressing for Thanksgiving dinner. I can even fold a fitted sheet. Not exactly fodder for breathtaking suspense.


For the last thirty years, I’ve worked as a volunteer at a local hospital. There are plenty of stories there, I just wouldn’t tell them.


That leaves research. When I first started writing, I took classes and read books on self editing and making your prose shine. Later, I moved into learning about police procedures, forensics, and the use of weapons and violence. I hope no one ever checks my computer to see what I’ve been reading about.


Now I have a problem. Many of the ways things are portrayed in movies or on TV aren’t correct. Should I tell the story the way the reader expects or the way most police operate?


Near the beginning of my novel, The Secrets on Forest Bend, Detective Adam Campbell is talking to a man who discovered a dead body. At the time, the man is considered a witness, not a suspect, and Adam is questioning him, not interrogating him.


The man begins to spill all kinds of incriminating information. Any detective worth his salt would let the man keep talking. I entered this story in several contests. Without fail, every judge deducted points because Adam didn’t read the man his Miranda rights immediately. When I changed the story and had Adam read the man his rights, I won two contests and was offered a contract.


In this excerpt from The Secrets on Forest Bend, Adam is questioning Eddy. You tell me, should I have left the reading of his rights until later or put them in where I did? Leave your email address for a chance to win a free download of The Secrets on Forest Bend.


     Eddie spotted him and called out, “Thank goodness it’s you. You know I wouldn’t hurt nobody. Sure, I told the other officers I didn’t recognize the guy, but that’s ‘cuz he didn’t have no face. I’ve known Manny for years. In fact, I was driving around looking for him. He disappeared from his room a couple of days ago and I was worried about him.”

      “You were innocently driving past and spotted your good friend’s body beside the road.” The absurdity of the statement made Adam smile.

     “Yeah, I didn’t see nothing. I didn’t even know it was Manny till they told me. I guess that shows I was right about it being dangerous to live here. I heard a gunshot, drove around the corner, and saw him there. I was only checking for a pulse when the officers drove up and found me leaning over him. I woulda called 911 myself, but I don’t have no cell phone.”

     If Eddie was in a talkative mood, Adam wanted all his bases covered.  He grabbed a card from his pocket and read Eddie his Miranda rights before continuing. “What about the gun? Have you seen it before?”

     “Manny showed up with it a few months back. I mighta touched it, just to move it out of the way.”

     “Okay, but I understand you had one pocket full of Ecstasy and the other bulging with cash, and both were covered in blood.”

      “I musta cut myself shaving.” Eddie squirmed and sat in the patrol car. “I did take the X, but only to keep it outta the way of kids till I could turn it in to the proper authorities.”

     “You haven’t shaved in a week.” Adam sank into the front seat as Eddie’s aroma hit him. Or taken a bath. “And you could have given the X to the first officers on the scene.”

     Eddie shrugged. “Hey, they pointed a gun at me. I got a little nervous. Is this what I get for trying to be a good citizen?”

     “Eddie, if your story holds up, and I honestly hope it does, I’ll buy you a medal myself.”

Me again!

Great excerpt, Susan! Don’t forget to leave a comment and include your email address if you want to be in the draw to win a copy.

If you can’t wait to find out if you won a copy you can buy her book at Barnes and Noble or Amazon.

Until next time…


A Fall Challenge

Today I have IC Enger on the blog talking about her series and a challenge that I think I’ll take her up on.

Here’s IC!

Last week I was sitting on my usual stool at a local Mexican restaurant for my social group’s Margarita Monday gathering. We were talking about my book, Blue Ice, which was published in July. Most of them were already pretty familiar with the storyline from hearing every week where I was in the script for an entire year, or at least what the Homeland Security Special Agents were up to as the story progressed. I mentioned having just returned from the Police Writers Conference in Las Vegas and one man, was new to the group, and asked an interesting question.

“Are they a bunch of writers?”

OK, I get that not every person is a big fan of authors, or even books, but honestly, how do you answer that? I found myself explaining that yes, they are all writers, but most of them are also from law enforcement or firefighting careers. No, not all of them. No, I don’t have any law enforcement or federal agent experience. Yes, a lot of them are published authors.

How did I get on the defensive here? Then came the crowning question, “Have any of them written anything I might have read?”

Well now, hmmm. Hard to say since I don’t know what he has read. What kind of books do you read, I asked. “True crime,” was the answer. All right then, I was able to tell him that yes, indeed, some of the writers wrote in that genre. Whew, I was glad we made the grade.

The real issue underlying his question is different though. It would presume that in the eyes of an individual, the “good” writers, the legitimate authors, write books in the genre that person prefers. That might be military history, literary sagas, romance, science fiction, westerns, or any other category of stories that exist out there. I am as guilty as any, preferring mystery stories and espionage tales to any other. I would go as far as to say that I prefer them to the exclusion of any other, and therein lies the challenge.

A fall challenge. I propose that I, and anyone out there who wants to play, read at least one book this fall selected from a different category or type. The farther away from your usual comfort level story type the better. If you normally read mysteries, choose a book from Russian literature. If you prefer romances, select a spy story. If you read spy stories, select a young adult adventure. One book. I can do this.

My favorite books deal with law enforcement agencies solving crimes, all kinds of crimes. They use experience, resources and just plain hard work to get the bad guys. I love those books, I write those stories. I don’t know what I’ll choose for my out-of-the-usual type book, maybe a non-fiction biography. I’ll probably have to visit a part of the library I don’t usually browse. At the very least, it will broaden the “kind of books I read,” and who knows? I might actually like it.

About IC Enger:

IC Enger lives and writes in the Seattle area, the best kept secret in the country. No kidding. Next time they show the national weather map, look up and to the left – the place usually showing green as in moderate temperatures. Yes, it usually shows rain too, there is that. You have to love rain and clouds to live there. On the plus side, no tornados. Seattle does have volcanos, earthquakes, flooding – but really, aside from that, it’s a perfect place.

Her first book, Blue Ice, is one of a series of three books that feature Homeland Security Special Agents, including a Native American Shadow Wolf. Homeland Security Investigations, HSI, is a part of federal law enforcement that is unique in the breadth of geographic territory they work within and in the scope of authority they have. You will learn things about HSI that you never knew before, that she promises.

Blue Ice also features Brooke Breckenridge, a Seattle out of work city planner, and Goldie Silverman, her friend and attorney. Together they spell trouble, and keep the special agents busy. The story revolves around bio-terrorism, foreign operatives, smuggling and greed. The perfect stage for a relaxing fall at the lake house.

Me again!

Thanks for blogging with me, IC. I like the idea of the challenge. I’m all about writing outside my comfort zone but I rarely read outside of my comfort zone. Now I just need to pick a book and start reading.

What about you guys? Is anyone else up for the challenge?

Until next time…


Cozying Up to Mysteries

Hi everyone! Thanks for stopping by. Today I’ve got Nancy Haddock on the blog talking about cozy mysteries.

Here’s Nancy!

About a year ago, my hubby became interested in reading again. He’d read all of Dick Francis’s series in the rather distant past, and he’d read Joan Hess’s Maggody series. But with all the traveling he did for his job, he didn’t have tons of time to enjoy books.

Well, when he announced he wanted to read some of the mysteries I’d been reading, an ant could’ve knocked me flat. Baseball season was still in full swing, football season was about to hit hard, and Hubster wanted to read?!?

While the choir of reading angels sang in my head, I explained his options and the differences between cozy mysteries and grittier work—wherein, for instance, murder victims might be described in more graphic terms. I mentioned Robert Crais, Robert B. Parker, Jan Burke, and other authors, but, no. Hubster wanted cozies. He even specifically told me he was up for the romantic interest elements.

Let me tell you, I went nuts picking out books for him— those I’d read but hadn’t yet recycled to the library. Hubster started his new reading frenzy with the Aunt Dimity series by Nancy Atherton, and flew through most of those. However, he liked the Dimity books so well, he decided to space out the last four in my stock pile. Immediately, I stacked more of my favorite cozies by his reading chair. Some of those selections packed the pages with humor, others were more serious. Some books held paranormal elements, others were set in mundane worlds. Some of my saved favorites were decades old, some were brand new, first-in-the-series books. Know what? He enjoyed them all.

By now, we had our own little cozy mystery book club going. Hubster would tell me what he did and didn’t like about the stories, and, wow, was he picky! He’d also tell me if he deduced the identity of the killer (or perpetrator), and we began discussing the plots, methods of murder, and characters.

Which brings me to a specific point. It’s been said in the past that romance is written in a pat formula. It’s also been said that mysteries are even more formulaic than romances. To those statements, I say, yeah, yeah, whatever. A good plot is important, but truly, in any story, isn’t it all about the characters? Are the characters drawn as relatable? Are they interesting, quirky, consistent, compelling? Do they grow—within a single book and within a series? The biggest question of all is: Do we enjoy the characters enough to come back for future visits to their story world?

After a year now, it’s not just me eagerly awaiting bookstore coupons. Hubster is right there, going over the list of read books we created (and that he, bless him, put on a spreadsheet). We haul our coupons and list to the bookstore to find new releases by authors we like, and to search for new series—those just beginning, and those we’ve overlooked. (Hubster’s found several previously overlooked series by paying attention to author quotes on covers!)

It’s actually painful when we go a few weeks without store coupons, but we also scour used bookstores and online bookstores for inexpensive reads, and have found yet more authors/ series new to us in these ways. In fact, though I have a Nook and quite like it, Hubster is getting a Kindle for Christmas. That way if Amazon has a book on sale we want but Barnes & Noble doesn’t, we still score!

I continue to read grittier mysteries than Hubster, and enjoy thrillers as well. Then again, I read a great deal faster than Hubster, so I also read romance, urban fantasy, nonfiction, and anything else that catches my attention. But in the realm of cozies, I’m having more fun than I could’ve imagined with my Hubster and our little book club. More, his comments about the authors we most love have inspired me to pay even more careful attention to my own writing—to the plots and to those all-critical, keep-the-readers-coming-back characters!

As I close, I send a big thank you to Cindy for hosting me, and I pose a question to Cindy’s readers. If you read cozies, who are among your favorite authors? Do you have a favorite series? Inquiring minds want to know! Whatever your genre of choice, happy reading!

Nancy will give away a signed copy of one of her books (winner’s choice) to one lucky random commenter within North America.

Nancy’s books are available here:

Nancy’s books on Amazon

Nancy’s books on Barnes and Noble

Entangled, A Paranormal Anthology, is also available at Smashwords

You can find Nancy in the following locations.
Twitter ID: @nancyhaddock

Cindy here! Wow, Nancy’s everywhere! Don’t forget to comment for your chance to win a copy of one of Nancy’s books.

About Nancy

Nancy Haddock is a national bestselling, award-winning author who writes paranormal mystery romance with a comic touch. Her Oldest City Vampire trilogy, La Vida Vampire, Last Vampire Standing, and Always The Vampire, and her short story “Medium Rare” in the charity paranormal anthology Entangled, all showcase the history, sites, ghosts and events of St. Augustine, Florida—the city she loves and prowls for more stories every chance she gets. Visit Nancy’s web site at

Until next time…


Who did you want to be? – With Molly Kate Gray

Today I have Molly Kate Gray visiting the blog talking about everyone’s favourite amateur sleuth.  I grew up reading her. I collected all the books until I was about 15.


Here’s Molly!


I wanted to be Nancy Drew when I grew up.  Really.  I didn’t just want to read about her – I wanted to be her.  Who wouldn’t?


She had a doting dad, a housekeeper, two friends who were more faithful to her than Golden Retrievers…and a boyfriend who was always there just when she needed him most.  On top of that, she had the time, resources, and a cunning eye for detail that Sherlock Holmes would find up to his standards.


Whenever someone was in trouble, Nancy was there.  No matter how tricky the villain or how desperate the situation, she always knew exactly what to do.


In fifth grade, we had to do a book report on a fictional character we admired.  Who else would I pick? No one would do other than my teenage sleuth heroine…but the “costume” part of the assignment proved to be problematic.  I couldn’t show up in jeans and a cardigan sweater, so I had to fudge on Nancy’s preferred outfit just a bit.  I donned my grandfather’s fedora and trench coat and hoped for the best.


No one recognized me as Nancy Drew.  All my friends knew that one of the best parts about the teenage detective was just how normal she was.  She was always able to step in and save the day without superpowers or a smart phone.  She was a regular person with an eye for detail…and a great car.


That’s what I try to bring to my heroines.  No one with superpowers need apply.  None of my characters are psychic or mediums.  They’re just brave, good at what they do, and have a guy at their side who’s hot enough to melt chocolate.


Didn’t you want to be Nancy Drew too?


Molly’s bio:


A fan of things that go bump in the night, Molly Kate Gray writes romantic suspense with a Southern drawl. Now raising her two children in the same town she grew up in, she knows just how difficult it can be to escape a small town’s gravity.  When the Texas heat gets to be too much, it’s time to cool off with sweet iced tea and a good book.


Blurb from Small Town Secrets:


Miller’s Grove’s most eligible bachelor, Josh Owens, could have a different date every night of the week, so he doesn’t understand why he’s drawn to Tara since she’s obviously not interested in him. Tara Sullivan is angry that he’s stolen the coveted prime-time anchor position she’d been promised.

A stranger begins preying on the single young women in Miller’s Grove, and the story’s assigned to Tara. As the number of victims grows, Tara reluctantly accepts help from Josh. As he researches his top suspect in the assaults, he unearths events in the past that more than one resident of Miller’s Grove wants to keep hidden.

Together they discover a web of conspiracy and lies involving the most powerful family in town. Josh and Tara put their reputations at risk in the hope of exposing the truth and, perhaps, finally bringing Tara peace.


Me again!


Thanks for blogging with me, Molly. The book sounds really good. It’s going on my TBR pile. Be sure to visit Molly’s website to find out more about her. And follow her on Twitter @mollykgray. You can buy her book on Amazon: Small Town Secrets on Amazon


Until next time…