Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Best Writing Advice by R. T. Wolfe

Thank you, Chris, for having me on your wonderful blog today. Happy Halloween!

The Best Advice Anyone Ever Gave Me and Why.

The best advice anyone ever gave me was to publish my work. I’d never thought of publishing. It’s not why I started writing.

I am a writer. I write because I can’t not write. The creating, the research, the editing, the revising…I love every part of it. I call it my crack cocaine. I have no recollection of sitting down and typing out the first few lines of Black Creek Burning. A few lines turned into a few pages that turned into a few hundred pages. I was in a tunnel of focus for months. When I came out the other end, I had a completed romantic suspense in my hands (or on my flash drive).

I copied the novel at a local Kinko’s and had them tape bind it. There, I thought, I have a book. I gave it to a friend to see if it made any sense. She read it in one day, then gave it to a friend who gave it to another friend…in a few months time I had a small army of readers who mutated into pushy, hounding, persistent nags ordering me to submit. I’m so lucky to have them!

Writing is still my first love, but the feel of having a reader buy my work and leaving me a thoughtful comment is something I can’t accurately describe. My favorite is the mom who left a message on my contact form telling me her kids had to eat frozen pizza for dinner because she couldn’t put my book down. Or when readers message me to tell me they cried at this part or at that scene. I love it.

By the time I was partially through Black Creek Burning, it turned itself into a trilogy. I’d hardly put Black Creek Burning aside before To Fly in Shadows starting pouring out on my keyboard with Dark Vengeance following close behind. Publishing is a crazed world. I can’t believe I’m here and am thankful for the advice I was given to get me here.

Black Creek Burning
R.T. Wolfe


Brianna Chapman learns to handle just about anything. Witnessing the murder of her parents had that effect. Knowing the unsolved arson had been meant for her isn’t as easy to overcome. Instead, she stuffs her guilt soundly into her subconscious through diving into the teaching job she loves by day and the dirt of the landscaping business she owns by night. Her habit of remaining aloof to personal relationships is, well, working.

Will her guilt be as easy to keep buried if the killer comes back to finish the job?

In the midst of juggling a scorched yard, dead animals on her doorstep and her vandalized car, the one thing she didn’t count on was the staggering Nathan Reed. A nationally renowned woodworking artist, Nathan and his two priceless nephews move into the run-down historical house behind her and over Black Creek. They have a canny way of maneuvering around her aloof demeanor and into her heart. Will they still want to be part of her life when they discover she is haunted by past memories and hunted by present dangers?


As she meandered up the path to their house, she felt queasy, like she’d done this before. Nervously, she glanced over her shoulder through her mass of wavy brown hair as she kept moving toward the front door. Two people were walking along the street. She stopped and wondered what reason anyone would have to take a walk at this time of night in such an early bird neighborhood.

It was then she heard the shrill of the smoke detectors. Chest tightening, she bolted for the door.

“Mom! Dad!” she screamed and tumbled inside, spotting them almost immediately as they ran down the long upstairs hallway.

Not again. Please not again, she begged, as she fought her frozen legs to make them move up the stairs. The smoke detectors shrieked in her ears. Or was that the shrieking coming from her lungs? Her parents yelled her name as they reached for the bedroom door. She couldn’t stop gasping for air long enough to tell them to stop. She wasn’t in there. Didn’t they know? They needed to get out of the house. Couldn’t they smell the smoke?

Just like each time, her viewpoint from the middle of the stairs showed her the yellowish air sucking under the door to her bedroom. Although trying to use the railing to give her momentum, every part of her felt like it was in molasses. She cocked her head to the side, drawing her eyebrows together. Her gaze locked on the eerie breeze.

Almost simultaneously, her mother rotated the knob as her eyes turned and met hers. For that fraction of a second, her mother understood the fear on Brie’s face, but it was too late. It was always too late. As she opened the door, Brie had just enough time to witness her parents engulfed in flames before the explosion blew her back and everything went dark.

* * * *

“Brie, wake up. Wake up, Brie. You’re dreaming.”


R.T. was born and raised in the Midwest, the youngest of six children. She married at a young age and decided early on she wanted a family herself. With three small boys in tow, she and her husband flipped two houses with R.T. in charge of the landscape design and install. Now, she is rooted in the final home they designed inside and out.

Now that her boys are nearly grown, R.T. spends much of her time on the road traveling from one sporting event to another serving as mom and cheerleader. When at home, she enjoys Pilates, working with her Golden Retriever and digging in the glorious dirt of her landscaping plots.

During one of many busy and restless nights, R.T.’s first novel began to pluck its way onto her laptop. It was a drug, an instant addiction that only grew with time. Moments borrowed and stolen at her laptop are, now, between all of the travel and work and many of those busy, restless nights. After several edits, revisions and versions later R.T.’s first novel, Black Creek Burning, will debut September 24th.

Twitter: http://www.twitter.RT_Wolfe (that's an underline, not a space)

Monday, October 29, 2012

Free Books

THE TRAZ ~ Eileen Schuh
Free for 2 days only: Thursday, 1 November 2012 and Friday, 2 November 2012
Amazon UK:

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Authorsday: Mary Reed and Eric Mayer

2. How long have you been writing?

EM To me writing means making up stories and I was doing that long before I learned the first letter of the alphabet. My grandfather used to supply rolls of adding machine paper on which I drew epic adventure stories, mostly involving animals with guns and bombs. Lots of murders, no mystery.

3. How did you pick the genre you write in?

MR: As far as the novels are concerned, we both enjoy reading about various historical periods and would probably have chosen historical mysteries in any event. However, we were pointed to the Byzantine era when Mike Ashley, master anthologist, rang up one afternoon and asked us if we could write a short story at very short notice -- about three weeks or so -- for an anthology he was editing. Eric being interested in the Byzantines, there was plenty of research material on the bookcase and the rest is history, no pun intended.

4. Do you plot or do you write by the seat of your pants?

MR: I would far rather just sit down and start typing but writing requires discipline, so we produce an outline from which to work. It's helpful both to our editor, who is able to provide suggestions for tightening the plot line, and to us when writing the novel, since we have a set of skeletons on which to hang the encrustations that flesh each chapter out regardless of who does the first draft.

7. What was the name of the first novel you wrote? Did you try to publish it?

EM: The Body in the Reentrant. It was set at an orienteering meet. Mary and I had written several short stores about our sixth century Byzantine detective, John, Lord Chamberlain, and wanted to give him some elbow room in a novel. Since I'd never written anything longer than a short story I felt I needed to stretch out with a practice book. I chose an orienteering setting because I was involved with the sport so it was easy for me to write about. We have never made any particular effort to get it published. We immediately went on and wrote One for Sorrow, which Poisoned Pen Press brought out in 1999.

9. How many rejections have you received?

EM: I have no idea. When I first seriously attempted to sell my writing I figured I'd keep track. After six rejections I sold an essay. That seemed pretty good. Forty rejections later I decided keeping records was for the birds and I never have since!

12. Why did you pick the publisher that ultimately published your book?

MR: Poisoned Pen Press had only just been founded when they were nominated for an1998 Edgar for their non fiction A-Z Murder Goes...Classic. We sent a note of congratulations and asked if they intended to also publish fiction. It happened that editor Barbara Peters had not long before been musing on the fact that no Byzantine mysteries had appeared, so it was a case of the right query at the right time -- and underlines my theory that Fortuna often plays a part in publishing, as with other ventures. Thus it came about that One For Sorrow, John's first novel-length adventure, was the first fiction Poisoned Pen Press published.

20. What’s your favorite quote?

MR: They change often but currently it's from the X-Files episode entitled Jose Chung's Doomsday Defense, in which the titular character observes "Unlike profiling serial killers, writing is a lonely and depressing profession". I do not find it so myself, but the sentiment makes me smile.

24. What place that you haven’t visited would you like to go?

EM: I've never been to Constantinople despite all the time Mary and I have spent roaming its alleys and palaces in our minds. So I'd love to visit Constantinople (not Istanbul) which doesn't exist any longer. I'd need a time machine.

29. Who is your greatest cheerleader?

EM: Mary. I don't feel I have much of a knack for fiction. She had to drag me kicking and screaming to co-author our first mystery story (The Obo Mystery, published in Ellery Queens Mystery Magazine) and with every new book she has to, how shall I put it? Kick start me.

30. What would you like to learn to do that you haven’t?

MR: To drive and to read Latin and Greek!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Writing as Community

John Brantingham

Depression is a narcissistic and solitary game. All too often, failure is too. One of the most surprising revelations that I had when I was a new community college professor was that when people dropped out it usually wasn’t because they were too poor or busy, and it wasn’t even because they were intellectually inferior.

People drop out of college because they feel that they don’t belong.

It’s the same reason people drop out of sports teams, musical bands, churches, and marriages. Not surprisingly it also the reason that people stop writing.

Now, after having taught at the community college fulltime for fifteen years, I’ve realized that one of the most important parts of my profession is helping to foster that feeling of belonging. I do it with my new students who have just transferred into college, but I also do it with my creative writing students.

We writers often have the romantic notion that we should be solitary artists apart and above the rest of society, peeking in and commenting on it, but that’s an incredibly foolish way to conduct your life for three important reasons.

  • 1. Seclusion leads to narcissism which leads to depression. If the only thing you are focusing on is yourself, you are going to start wondering why you aren’t as successful as you might have been. There is no way to be so successful that you can outrun this kind of self-doubt. Once you enter this kind of depression, you can say goodbye to your writing.
  • 2. Writers need to be a part of society, not apart from it. We need to write about real people doing real things, and there’s no way to do that unless you are actually taking part in life and soaking up other people’s stories.
  • 3. Other people’s excitement about their writing will get you focused on your own writing. Spending a few hours with writers who are dedicated and interested will infuse you with the kind of energy you need to come home after work, cut out the distractions, and just write. These do not have to be Ernest Hemingways and Stephen Kings. They just need to care about art and craft.

I’ve had a number of students go on to MFA programs or go on just to be writers. The most successful of these have created community in a couple of key ways.

The first is that they have been a part of the writing community of Los Angeles, which is where I happen to live. Los Angeles isn’t the important component here, the community is. Just about every part of the country, whether it is urban or rural has a fascinating and vibrant arts community. You just have to look.

The second is they have formed their own critique group of four to seven writers who are interested in coming together once a week or once a month to talk about where they are, what they have written, and where they should be going.

Staying focused is often as simple as staying social. Depression might be narcissistic and solitary, but art should never be.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

ExcerpTuesday: Eileen Schuh

FATAL ERROR: New Release

The much-anticipated second book in Schuh’s BackTracker series is now available on Amazon. This action-packed, character-generated crime novel hit cyberspace to a chorus of rave reviews.

"In Fatal Error, Eileen Schuh gives us a wise, haunting, deeply moving sequel to The Traz. The very best in today's motorcycle gang stories just got a little better. Her character of Katrina is the Scarlet O'Hara of the new generation. Unforgettable!" —Betty Dravis, best-selling co-author of award-winning Six-Pack of Blood/

Here’s a quick peek at how the story begins....


Northern Alberta Police Detachment, Edmonton, September 1996

Katrina shivered, curled her feet under her on the chair and wrapped the afghan tighter around her. She'd not felt warm since the cold wash of the rescue chopper had whipped about her on the ridge.

It had been a long flight. When they'd finally set down, someone had hustled her through the deepening cold of the September dusk and had sat her in this small corner office.

She shivered again. The intense chill reminded her of that frigid October night a long time ago. Ages ago, it seemed.

Or perhaps that night had never existed.

Perhaps what had happened in that dark Quonset was just a shifting, circling, recurrent nightmare. A wordless collage of violent images. A dream thing she'd always be able to stifle by concentrating on other matters.

Beyond the wild beating of her heart and the chattering of her teeth, she heard ringing phones, radio static and clacking boots. The familiar police station sounds reminded her of her father—and of Chad, the undercover officer who had promised to meet her here tomorrow and find her a safe home with a real bed.

A shadow appeared, pooling darkness at her feet. Katrina looked up. An imposing, heavyset, grey-haired man, absorbed in a file of papers in his hands, stepped into the room. Stiff, starched and formal, with sergeant stripes on his shoulders, he looked so much like the father she'd lost. He was a lot heavier, but had the same soft blue eyes and the same uniform.

"I understand you're—" His eyes met hers. A look of shock cut across his face. "How old are you?"


"In Fatal Error, author Schuh creates a compassionate tale of human behaviour and consequences. Writing with her trademark depth and intelligence, she draws us into the compelling world of teen-runaway Katrina Buckhold." —Donna Carrick, award-winning author of The First Excellence

"Eileen Schuh weaves a subtle plot where nothing is quite what it appears. Katrina’s continuing journey is a painful one as she lays old ghosts to rest and tries to find her place in the adult world." —Joanna Lambert, author of Between Today and Yesterday

"Fatal Error held me as captivated as The Traz. A great sequel." — Jacinta Zechariah, book reviewer for World Literary Café

Eileen Schuh is the author of THE TRAZ and FATAL ERROR (the first two books in the young adult BackTracker series), and SCHRÖDINGER'S CAT—a sci-fi novella.

Eileen lives with her husband in the remote northern boreal forests of Alberta, Canada. Drawing inspiration from the wilderness, she creates entire universes populated with fascinating characters doing intriguing things.

Eileen recently retired from a life of careers that varied from nurse to journalist to editor to business woman. She remains active in her adopted community of St. Paul and basks in the love and loyalty of an entire flotilla of family, friends and fans—virtual, imaginary and real ones.

She invites you to visit her online:

Twitter: @EileenSchuh

Buy or Sample FATAL ERROR



Amazon Prime members borrow for FREE!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Authorsday: Kris Bock

How did you pick the genre you write in?

I write in multiple genres. As Chris Eboch, I write children’s novels and nonfiction work-for-hire for kids. I also write a lot of articles about the craft of writing, offer critique services, and teach writing workshops.

A couple of years ago, I wanted a change, so I decided to try writing for adults. I’d been reading a lot of romantic suspense, so I started writing mystery/adventure/suspense novels with a strong romantic element, set in the Southwest and usually involving the outdoors.

I now have three novels for adults published under the name Kris Bock: What We Found, about a young woman who stumbles on the body of a murder victim; Whispers in the Dark, about an archaeologist who discovers intrigue among ancient southwestern ruins; and Rattled, a treasure hunting adventure.

Do you plot or do you write by the seat of your pants?
I’ve always worked with outlines, but in the early days they were sketchy, just a list of ideas, and the actual novel might go in other directions. As I’ve gotten more experienced, I’ve learned to plan better. I typically do an extensive outline with plot details, character arcs, and theme. I figure this saves me at least two drafts. I even wrote a book about plotting, Advanced Plotting (written as Chris Eboch), where I share some my tips and advice from other authors. I know some people prefer to simply write and see where it takes them, but even then, I think making an outline after your first or second draft and analyzing it can help pull the book together.

What was the name of the first novel you wrote? Did you try to publish it?
I went to graduate school and got a degree in Professional Writing and Publishing, planning to write for magazines. After I graduated, I tried writing a middle grade novel (for ages 8 to 12) for fun, while looking for work. A children’s novel seemed less intimidating than a longer adult novel, and I’d always enjoyed reading children’s books. I wrote an adventure set in Mayan times, because I’d recently traveled through Mexico and Central America and gotten interested in that culture. By some astonishing stroke of luck, the novel turned out well and sold. The Well of Sacrifice, written as Chris Eboch, is still in print 13 years later and used in schools when kids study the Maya.

That’s not to say I’ve published every book I’ve written. I probably have 10 novel manuscripts I couldn’t sell. Some didn’t sell because they were terrible; I made all the mistakes I’d somehow avoided with my first novel. A few were victims of market forces. One of those, The Eyes of Pharaoh,, is a mystery set in ancient Egypt for ages 8+. I chose to self publish it, because I believed there was a market traditional publishers weren’t seeing. It’s selling 50 or 60 copies a month, mostly POD, and some teachers have picked it up for the classroom.
How many rejections have you received?
Too many to count. Many hundreds, probably over 1000, if you count rejections for novels, nonfiction books, short stories, and articles. I used to save the “favorable” rejection letters, but now I just update my records and move on.
Describe your book.
What We Found: When Audra stumbles on a murdered woman in the woods, more than one person isn’t happy about her bringing the crime to light. She’ll have to stand up for herself in order to stand up for the murder victim. It’s a risk, and so is reaching out to the mysterious young man who works with deadly birds of prey. But with danger all around, some risks are worth taking.
Whispers in the Dark: A young archaeologist seeking peace after an assault stumbles into danger as mysteries unfold among ancient Southwest ruins. Can she overcome the fears from her past, learn to fight back, and open herself to a new romance?

Read excerpts at or visit my Amazon page.
For information on my books for kids, visit my Chris Eboch website, or my Amazon page.
What drew you to the subject of What We Found?
Murder. (Cue dramatic music.) Specifically, two friends and I were hiking when we discovered a dead body, a woman who had been murdered. As you might expect, this was a dramatic, even life-altering experience. I blogged about it here. Although What We Found is fictional, I was able to draw on some of those experiences and feelings.
I also included an element of falconry, something I’ve gotten interested in since meeting a master falconer. I love animals, especially birds of prey, and falconry not only added an unusual element, but also worked with the story thematically.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
What We Found is in many ways my most personal novel to date. Although it’s fiction, it drew on many real experiences and feelings. That was a challenge, but an exciting one.
What do you consider your strengths in terms of your writing? What do you consider your weakness and what strategies do you use to overcome it?
I think I’m good with plotting. I can be quite analytical, and that helps with analyzing a plot to figure out where the weak spots are, where you need a twist, how subplots are balanced, etc. That’s also why I can outline ahead of time, and I can use learned techniques like cliffhanger chapter endings and altering paragraph lengths for pacing.

Characters are more of a challenge for me. My unsold books are often weak because I didn’t have a good grasp of the character before I started writing, so the heroine didn’t feel real. I’ve learned that I have to do more character development before I start. You can find lists of character questions to help you develop a character, such as what’s her favorite color or what did she eat for breakfast. But those aren’t as important as the big questions – what does she think she wants, and what does she really need? What’s keeping her from getting what she wants and needs? I sketch out scenes in my head and when the character feels real to me, like someone I would greet as an old friend, then I can feel comfortable starting the novel.
What do you do when you are not writing?
I love to read, and if I had the time, I’d read a book a day. Of course, then I wouldn’t get my own writing done, so I only allow myself to read fiction when I have a relatively free week ahead.
I enjoy hiking, and since I live in New Mexico I can get outside pretty much year-round. I’ve also been rock climbing on and off for over a decade. I took a hiatus due to an injury, but my husband and I are getting back into it now. It’s a great way to spend a Saturday hanging around outside, exerting yourself a little and then visiting with friends and enjoying the beautiful scenery.

Author Bio:
Kris Bock writes novels of suspense and romance involving outdoor adventures and Southwestern landscapes. What We Found is a mystery with strong romantic elements about a young woman who finds a murder victim in the woods, Rattled follows a treasure hunt in New Mexico, and Whispers in the Dark involves intrigue among ancient Southwest ruins. Read excerpts at or visit her Amazon page.
Kris writes for children under the name Chris Eboch. Learn more at or her Amazon page, or check out her writing tips at her Write Like a Pro! blog.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Value of Critique Groups

When I decided to try writing a novel, I sat down and carved time out of my busy life to do it. I wrote for an hour a day, 5:30 to 6:30 a.m., keeping my head down and slogging onward until I’d produced nearly half a book. One Saturday I read through what I’d produced, and judged it to be pretty damn good! Time, I thought, to find an audience, a group of people to affirm my opinion, a place to accept the accolades I was due after writing 150 superb pages.

So off I went to the Southside Writers Group in Minneapolis. It’s an open, eclectic group of about twenty writers and, like every critique group, it has its own process. Each member reads aloud for five to ten minutes, then accepts comments and critique before the next person begins. I listened for a meeting or two, then decided to take the plunge and read my novel’s first several pages.

When I’d finished, I looked up, grinning, waiting for the attagirls that would surely follow. Betty, a lively, opinionated 70-year-old who was working on a memoir, smiled at me. “Honey,” she said, “you have the makings of a writer, but you need to lose the first four or five pages. Start at the explosion.” I felt the heat rise up my neck and into my face. What?!? Toss the beginning? The beginning where I introduced my character? Where I described her in detail? Where I set the scene (and what an unusual scene it was)? I clamped my jaw shut, nodded graciously, and vowed never to return.

Funny thing, though: Betty was absolutely right. I slept on it for a couple of nights and rewrote the whole first chapter. It now starts with a bang (literally) rather than several pages of boring exposition. In the new version, the reader gets to know my character on the fly, learns about the setting as the action unfolds. It’s a MUCH better beginning. You can judge for yourself: Just use the “Look Inside” feature.

Accepting critique is hard work. It threatens, sometimes, to overwhelm me, to make me think that all my work is crap. But in the end, my writing is almost always better for it. Here are a few of my own “rules,” though, that have helped me to get the most out of critique:

Rules for Critique
  • 1. Always try to phrase criticism neutrally. Remember: it’s always about the WRITING, never the WRITER.
  • 2. If you work hard for your critique group, they will work hard for you. Be thoughtful and thorough. In your critique of others’ work, consider all—or most—of the following elements, even if you focus only on one or two:
    • • Plot
    • • Character
    • • Point of View
    • • Dialogue
    • • Setting
    • • Pacing
    • • Voice
    • • Mechanics (grammar, punctuation, format, etc.)
  • 3. Begin with the good: what about this manuscript is excellent?
  • 4. Don’t just criticize; offer suggestions for improvement and provide examples if you can.
  • 5. Understand that critique is offered, not mandated; listen carefully, then choose what to use, what to discard. Remember: it's YOUR manuscript.
  • 6. Never argue; nobody ever wins and people go away mad.
  • 7. Acknowledge that fresh eyes will see things you cannot; things you take for granted may not be as clear as you think they are. (If somebody asks a question, explain, but understand that if you have to explain, you may have a problem in the writing.)

For everybody out there who’s writing, alone at the computer day after day, I’m urging you to find a critique group. If you can’t find one that already exists, start your own. Find some serious writers, preferably some experienced writers as well as novices. Find people who want to learn, who’ll work hard, and who share your passion for the written word. I guarantee you won’t regret it!


Bio: Karen E. Hall

Karen Hall, environmental engineer and writer, lives with her husband Jeff Nelsen (and their orange tabby, Junior, who really owns the house) in the Black Hills outside Rapid City, S. D. Her first Hannah Morrison mystery, Unreasonable Risk, a thriller about sabotage in an oil refinery, was published in 2006 and the second in the series, Through Dark Spaces, set in South Dakota’s mining industry, followed in 2012. Karen is currently finishing a novel about infertility and working on the third Hannah Morrison mystery. She is also a member of the Pennington County Planning Commission and is currently president of the Black Hills Writers Group.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

ExcerpTuesday: Mary Cunningham

Cynthia's Attic: The Legend of Lupin Woods (Book 5) Book Blurb

Cynthia and Gus have solved a lot of mysteries across time, but something is seriously wrong and things are beginning to unravel.

Aunt Belle is missing…again! Cynthia’s great-grandfather, Beau, was never found! And now they are wondering if Blackie is still making life miserable for Lilly and Annie.

This time, the twelve-year-old girls journey into a strange woods full of frightening creatures and dark secrets in search of answers.

From Aunt Belle's cottage to a small village in France, they meet new friends and discover a connection to New Orleans that may lead to the devious source behind these alarming developments. Or bigger trouble.

Excerpt from Cynthia's Attic: The Legend of Lupin Woods (Book Five)

Gus slips through a portal in an old French monastery and finds more trouble than she ever imagined.

Covered in darkness, tree branches slowed my fall until one foot became ensnared, halting my descent. I pulled up–thanks to my expertise on the uneven bars during Phys. Ed–onto the branch of a large tree. I twisted my foot free and wondered how far I was from the ground. My eyes adjusted to the darkness and I spotted two thick shapes–bushes I guessed–a mere ten feet below. I swung down and dropped with a thump praying the sound didn't alert some wild animal.

Clearly, this was not another brightly colored fairyland like the one Cynthia and I discovered during our previous trip. For one, very little light filtered through my squeezed-tight eyelids. Animals trampling through dried brush and howling in the distance made for a less-than-welcoming setting.

I forced my eyes open once again, and my first impression was validated. Blackness everywhere. I wanted to scream, but fear of signaling every horrible beast known to man, kept me silent. Were those eyes behind that bush? I hoped not because they were yellow, and therefore, not human.

My back pressed against a small tree as I peered over one shoulder, then the other. More blackness. I pulled my knees tight to my chest to create as small a target as possible. If I could keep still until morning, this place might be less formidable.

Those eyes …did they just move? Hair stood straight up on my neck as a low growl inched ever closer. I sucked in one last breath and hid my face waiting for a fatal blow or bite.

"Well, well. What do we have here?" My head jerked skyward. Yellow eyes hovered over me. "Cat got your tongue?"

The creature bent down and poked my upper arm with a furry finger, then chuckled. "I'm not planning to hurt you, but what are you doing in Lupin?"

Lupin? Dryness gripped my throat as if I'd swallowed an entire sandbox, and an ominous word jumped into my brain. I'd heard something that sounded a lot like lupin once before, at the movies! Wolfman. Lupine is another name for wolf!

My eyes scanned the treetops. I might be saved if the sun rose soon, but light would have to pass through the dense canopy, and from where I sat, that seemed doubtful.

"If you're waiting for sunrise, you'll be disappointed." It smiled–or made a weak attempt–revealing huge, pointy teeth. "Instead of night and day, around here we have night and black."

Thanks, Chris, for hosting me!

Mary Cunningham, author
    Cynthia's Attic Series
  • The Missing Locket
  • The Magic Medallion
  • Curse of the Bayou
  • The Magician's Castle
  • The Legend of Lupin Woods
  • WOOF: Women Only Over Fifty

Bio: Like Cynthia and Gus, my childhood best friend, Cynthia and I grew up in a small, Southern Indiana town…the setting for the series. Not one summer day passed that we weren’t playing softball, hide and seek, badminton, or croquet with friends in the vacant lot behind Becky’s house.

In my attempt to grow up, I joined The Georgia Reading Association, and the Carrollton Creative Writers Club. When giving my fingers a day away from the keyboard, I enjoy golf, swimming and exploring the mountains of West Georgia where I live with my husband and adopted furry, four-legged daughter, Lucy. Together we’ve raised three creative children and are thrilled with our 2 granddaughters.

At last count, I’ve moved 9 times to six different states (all after the age of 36), and aside from the packing and unpacking, it’s been a great experience, having made some very dear and lasting friendships. My non-writing time is spent showing power point presentations on gathering ideas and the writing process to schools and libraries.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Kristen Lamb and her Dead Bodies

I thought his blog post was brilliant. cmr

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Authorsday: Marian Allen

What was the name of the first novel you wrote? Did you try to publish it?

My first completed novel was a paranormal suspense, SOME DISPUTED BARRICADE. An agent took it under her wing, but couldn't sell it. I've rewritten it extensively since then, and it's currently under consideration by a small press publisher.
How many rejections have you received?

So many, I don't have time to count them! They range from stock rejections (with postage due!) to three-page, single-spaced diatribes. On the other hand, some were very helpful, some were very kind, some invited me to send them something else or to rewrite and resubmit.
What was the best writing advice someone gave you?

The late mystery writer, Dick Stodghill, said, "Don't take yourself too seriously, but always take your writing seriously. Gently insist that everybody around you take your writing seriously. This isn't some toy you're playing with; this is your work." That advice changed my life.
Describe your book.

SAGE is a sort of Taoist fairy tale. It combines fairy tale elements (lost heirs, unimportant turns out to be important, talismans, magic) with mythology (the Four Divine Animals of Chinese mythology, the smith who forges objects of power, stories of origins) and a bit of sword and sorcery. I drew from many, many sources, and gave it all my own spin.
What do you consider your strengths in terms of your writing?

I've been told I'm strong in characterization and dialog. I know I enjoy those elements.
What do you consider your weakness and what strategies do you use to overcome it?
What three things would you want with you on a desert island?

A Swiss Army Knife, an unending roll of duct tape, and a waterproof copy of HOW TO SURVIVE ON A DESERT ISLAND.
What would you like to learn to do that you haven’t?

To yodel and to dance the can-can. Seriously.
What is your favorite writing reference book and why?
Who is your favorite character in your book?

That's a tough one. Maybe Moder Zglaria edges everybody else out by a hair's breadth. She has tremendous personal power, just by virtue of knowing exactly who she is. Some people find her frightening, some people find her comforting, but nobody in the story finds her dull.
Author Bio:

Marian Allen writes science fiction, fantasy, mystery, humor, horror, mainstream, and anything else she can wrestle into fixed form.
Allen has had stories in on-line and print publications, on coffee cans and the wall of an Indian restaurant in Louisville, Kentucky. She has a novel, FORCE OF HABIT, available through Echelon Press, and a fantasy trilogy, SAGE, coming soon from Hydra Publications.
Book Blurb:
Yes, yes. Unrightful ruler. Lost heir. Runaway bride. But plots go astray when the Four Divine Animals get involved: Unicorn, Phoenix, Dragon, and ... Tortoise? The land of Layounna is in disorder. Rumors are growing that the regent murdered his wife, the true ruler. Elsie, the girl he demands as his second wife, vanishes from the castle, and no mystical arts can find her. Elsie's daring escape into the wilderness sets off interlocking events that lead directly to Kinnan, who claims Layounna as the illegitimate son of the dead ruler. And they say a unicorn has been sighted.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Marja McGraw

Authors Supporting Authors

When I started writing there was no doubt in my mind about what I would write. There was nothing I enjoyed reading more than mysteries, so why would I go in any other direction? What I didn’t know or expect was how many friends I’d make in the process. Mystery writers are a unique group of women and men.

I have two friends that I share a unique… Well, I have more than two friends, but for purposes of this comment, I’ll stick with two. When something good happens to any of the three of us, we have a very simple conversation. It goes like this: “I just received a contract for my new book,” and the others say, “EEEEEEEEEEEEKKKKKKKK!!!!!!!!!!!!” Now how’s that for support? (Can you tell this conversation takes place via emails?)

I’ve met a few of the Big Girls, and by Big Girls I mean the ones who sell a lot of books. I’ve met many less well-known authors, too, but I can’t stand a name-dropper so I’ll leave it at that. They were all memorable. Now that’s funny because most of these women wouldn’t remember me, but the point is, I remember them because they were pleasant and friendly, and took the time to be sociable.

I may never be one of the Big Girls, although one can always hope, but I do have a relatively nice fan base. When I wonder if I should be doing something other than writing, my mysterious friends remind me about that fan base, or a fan letter I received, or a good review. If I do something right, they’re right there to tell me, “Ya did good, kid.” Okay, so they don’t call me kid, but I’m sticking with that tag. I’ve seen these writers constantly support each other with writing, marketing and promotion ideas, and with comments on what a good job each of them is doing. They’ve even offered their homes to authors when they were visiting from another area. It doesn’t get much more personal than that.

It’s a two-way street though. If a mystery writer needs something from me, I’ll do it if I can, no questions asked. If I can’t help, I’ll try to offer an alternative suggestion. I’ve joined several groups made up of mystery writers, and I’ve never regretted one moment of time spent with them. The happiest moments are when I have the opportunity to meet these friends in person.

I’ve never met a group of people with so much in common who are always there for each other. Mystery writers rock! (Do people still say things rock?)

I’m just a simple person with simple needs, and every so often I want to say Thank You to a great group of “co-workers”, because in many ways that’s what we are. If it takes a village to do anything, then I hope that village is inhabited by mystery writers.

Thank you for inviting me to visit today, Chris.

Blog Blitz:
Where I am today.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

ExcerpTuesday: Murder @ Play

Yvonne Walus

Chapter 1

Anonymous letters are always a cliché. In South Africa, they can also be deadly.

This one would contain no explosives or wires. Just a plain envelope and a photocopy of words cut out from newspapers.

How many copies?

Five. One for every guy at the Election Day after-party.

Or perhaps only four?

Yes, that would be truly brilliant. Only four.

Chapter 2

"Every marriage needs a glaze of mystery," her husband had said last night. "Even ours could do with a secret or three."

Christine Chamberlain thought theirs could do without.

Whoever said jealousy was green, must have been colour-blind. Black. That was the colour. The pink and yellow sunrise was black, the sound of birds pecking at the apricot tree outside was black, and black was the smell of warm dusty soil. African black was the new, well, black.

Although, in the New South Africa, perhaps it was not politically correct to think that way. Perhaps she should stick to green. Green jealous thoughts, green sunrise, green birdsong, green smell of parched soil…yeah, right.

Christine's gaze shifted to Tom. They had fallen asleep together, as usual, entwined like lovers. This morning they woke up apart. As usual.

* * *

She ran her bath on the cool side of tepid. It was going to be another scorching South African summer day.

Reclining in the water, Christine made a mental list of the weekend tasks.

One, vacuum the threadbare carpet of their start-up home. Most white South Africans employed a daily domestic cleaner, of course. Most white South Africans had a swimming pool too, and didn't have to rely on tepid baths in order to start the day cool and refreshed.

So, one, vacuuming.

Two, grocery shopping.

Three, finish reading that mathematics article….

Is that how much fun other married couples had every Saturday?


Tom's broad-shouldered form, clad in a summer bathrobe for decency's sake in case the neighbours developed x-ray vision, appeared in the bathroom door. His 'hi' was automatic, his kiss programmed into his subconscious routine.

"Yesterday's post, Dr Chamberlain."

He placed the envelopes on the edge of the tub and busied himself with the comb.

Yep, this was exactly how much fun married couples usually had on Saturday mornings. A naked wife and a semi-naked husband, in the bathroom together, gelling their hair and reading the previous day's post.


In the new free South Africa of 1994, men are still boss, women carry handguns for self-protection, and some mistakes can change your life forever.

When a body is found during their weekend away with friends, Christine Chamberlain must use her brilliant mathematical mind to prove her husband's innocence...

... whether he's innocent or not.

When it comes to your loved ones, is it possible to know too much?


Yvonne Eve Walus, a novelist and poet, is a member of the X generation. Born in the communist Poland, she grew up in the apartheid-time South Africa and now lives in New Zealand with her family.

Although writing has always been a big part of her identity, Yvonne obtained a PhD in Mathematics and currently works for an innovative education company as a project manager, business analyst and general trouble-shooter.

Her books, MURDER @ PLAY and MURDER @ WORK, are set in South Africa and published in USA by Echelon Press.

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Best Advice I've Ever Received

Brandt Dodson

When I first decided I was going to write, the first piece of advice I was given was to 'write what you know'. The problem was that I didn't know anything. Not much anyway.

John Grisham was an attorney and knew the inside of a court room. Robin Cook was a physician, able to lace his medical thrillers with a realism that would take years of research to duplicate.

How was I going to compete with that?

But the advice was sound and it still holds true.

Write what you know.

Stephen King was a struggling novelist, working as a high school English teacher when he wrote Carrie.

Lee Child was an out of work television producer when he wrote his first Jack Reacher thriller, and Mary Higgins Clark was working as a flight attendant when she penned her first novel.

So what about them? What did they know?

The chances are they knew the same thing you and I know. They knew life.

All of us have experienced the pain of a relationship gone sour. We've all felt the sorrow of betrayal; the anxiety of loss. We've all felt the passion of love and the thrill of achieving a goal.

We've all been terrified, wet, hungry and cold. We've all had times when we felt secure. We've all had times when we felt threatened or helpless

True, most of us will never perform a heart transplant or sail on the Titanic or fire at a line of advancing Red Coats, but we can all imagine what it would be like. And we can do this by writing what we know.

Stephen King, arguably one of the greatest writers of the last century, sets most of his stories in rural Maine. But he populates them with aggressive automobiles, rabid dogs, and cemeteries that bring the dead to life.

Has he ever seen a car do the things that Christine did? Probably not. But he can imagine it. Does he know what it's like to be afraid? Undoubtedly. And using that fear - along with his imagination - he is able to transport us to his story world. He shares his fears with us. The same fears we've all experienced. It's write what you know that make his stories come alive.

Does this mean there is no place for research? Of course not. Research, particularly if we're writing a period piece, gives the story a verisimilitude it wouldn't - couldn't - have otherwise. But fiction isn't about transmitting information. Nonfiction does that well enough, thank you. No, fiction is about emotion; about making the reader feel the thing you want them to feel; it's about placing them in the story world and letting them live, vicariously, through the characters.

Write what you know?

You bet. Do that, and you'll move your readers to tears. Or laughter. Or heartache. Or sorrow. Or …

The Sons of Jude
Detectives Frank Campello and Andy Polanski battle corruption while investigating the homicide of a young woman.

Author Bio

Brandt Dodson is the creator of the Indianapolis-based Colton Parker mystery series and is the author of several crime novels and short stories. He comes from a long line of police officers spanning several decades and was employed by the Indianapolis office of the FBI.

The Sons of Jude is his most recent novel and was published in September 2012. You can find Brandt at:

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Jerold Last


1. How long have you been writing?

About 1.5 years with respect to fiction, but I spent a lot of time thinking about it before I actually tried to write my first novel. However, I've been writing scientific papers for my entire adult life.

2. How did you pick the genre you write in?

My lifelong hobby has been reading mystery novels, especially the California mystery novels of my favorite authors, Raymond Chandler, Ross MacDonald, Michael Connelly, Walter Mosley's Easy Rawlins series, and Robert Crais, and wandering out of California, Robert B. Parker's Spenser series and James Lee Burke's Dave Robicheaux stories. My interest in writing my own mysteries came from reading the masters and from teaching a Freshman seminar for many years at the University of California's Davis campus on California Mystery Novels.

3. Did you encounter any obstacles in researching it?

No. The settings and locales for all of these novels are authentic; I've lived previously in Salta, Argentina and Montevideo, Uruguay during a sabbatical leave, and have ongoing collaborations with local scientists in Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, and Peru. The Matador Murders, set in Montevideo and Santiago, Chile, is the fourth book in this series, following The Empanada Affair, set in Salta in Northwest Argentina, The Ambivalent Corpse, set in Montevideo, Uruguay and the surrounding region, including Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay, and The Surreal Killer, set in Peru and Northern Chile's Atacama Desert region. I try to write books that are fast moving and entertain the reader, while introducing the readers to a region where I've lived and worked that is a long way from home for most English speakers.

Montevideo, Salta, Machu Picchu, and Iguazu Falls are characters in these books, and I hope that some of you feel that you'd like to visit these places because they seem so vivid and real.

4. What was the name of the first novel you wrote? Did you try to publish it?

"The Empanada Affair". Your readers can buy a copy for $0.99 from Amazon. Smashwords, Apple, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, or any of the other usual e-book outlets. In my opinion it's not nearly as good as anything else I've written, but you can certainly see me looking for my voice and characters, which are much better done in the subsequent books, and basically learning how to write a mystery novel.

5. How many rejections have you received?

It depends on how you keep score. If we're talking about mystery novels, due to the wonders of self-publishing as an Indie author on Amazon, the answer is none. If we include my larger body of more than 200 peer-reviewed scientific papers in biochemistry, toxicology, and pulmonary medicine, the number of rejections received is a whole lot higher than that. There are some similarities between scientific writing and writing fiction that have allowed me to learn a lot about the mechanics of writing before I ever tried to write my first novel.

6. If you have a day job, what is it?

I'm a Professor of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at the University of California's Medical School at Davis, near Sacramento in Northern California. I have a Ph.D. degree in Biochemistry and do research in asthma and health effects of air pollution on the lungs, as well as teaching and administrative stuff.

7. What’s your writing schedule?

When you have a full time job in a profession, as I do, and the constant need to be your own publicist as a self-published author, the writing schedule is whenever I can.

8. What other time period besides your own would you like to experience?

I think at or near the top of the list would be the Wild West of the USA of 1870-1895. I could have been a gunfighter, stagecoach robber, or U.S. Marshal, since I'm a very good shot with a handgun and an excellent marksman with a rifle.

9. What do you do when you are not writing?

When I'm not writing, working, trying to sell books by social networking, or editing novels and short stories, I enjoy walking (and hunting) with the German Shorthaired Pointers my wife breeds, playing with our children and grandchildren, eating ethnic foods, and curling up on the couch with a dog or two to watch TV.

10. Who is your greatest cheerleader?

My wife, Elaine. She also helps edit everything I write. Honorable mention should go to some of the experienced writers on Facebook who have been generous with their advice and support.

Author Bio

Jerry's South American Mystery series includes the newest novel, The Matador Murders, set in Montevideo, Uruguay and Santiago, Chile, The Empanada Affair, set in Salta in Northwest Argentina, The Ambivalent Corpse, set in Montevideo, Uruguay and the surrounding region, and The Surreal Killer, set in Peru and Northern Chile's Atacama Desert region. All of these mystery novels are available as Kindle books from Amazon; the first two books are also available from Smashwords, Apple, Nook, and Kobo. A fifth book in this series, The Body in the Parking Structure, is an 11,600-word novelette set in Los Angeles available from Amazon.

Book Blurb

The Matador Murders, a new South American mystery novel, is set in Montevideo, Uruguay and Santiago, Chile. With apologies to reality, the Montevideo of this novel is much like the lawless Chicago of the prohibition years. That’s part of the fun of writing fiction----an author can turn one of the most law-abiding and civilized big cities in the world into the wild, wild west of the 19th century American frontier with the stroke of a pen (that’s a metaphor; it's more the click of a keyboard these days).

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

James R. Callan


Cleansed by Fire

The lock yielded in less than five seconds. He picked up the metal container, slipped inside and eased the door closed. He stood motionless, his eyes adjusting to the darkness, his ears searching for any sound that might indicate danger. He smirked. I am the danger.

Faint light filtered through the dark windows on one side of the building. He shifted his stance and his shoe scraped the floor. His head jerked, startled by how loud it seemed in the complete silence that engulfed him. He held his breath, straining to see or hear anything he might have disturbed.

The quiet and darkness remained unchanged. Too bad for anyone who came in now. The church would burn tonight. It would crash down into ashes. Crash to ashes. He liked the sound of that.

Bad break, building. Not your fault. But it’s gotta happen.

His eyes had adjusted to the minimal light. Shapes and features of the building came into focus. He could make out the pews, gauge the length of the aisle, and see the pulpit.

Time to get to work, take care of business.

He walked deeper into the darkness, stepping carefully, trying to make as little noise as possible. About halfway down the aisle, he stopped and unscrewed the top from the container he carried. He began splashing the pungent liquid on the floor, as he backed toward the door he entered.

When he finished, he screwed the lid back on, and set the can on the floor near the entrance. Carefully, he cracked the door and peered out, scanning the area, making sure no one had driven up. All clear. He eased the door closed.

He pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket, rolled it into a thin tube about the size of a drinking straw, then gave it a twist in the middle to hold it together. He fished a match from his shirt pocket, struck it and lit the paper.

For a moment, he watched the flame crawl along the napkin, creating shadows that danced on the floor. When most of the paper tube was aflame, he tossed it on the floor a few feet in front of him. With amazing speed, the diesel caught and exploded to life.

He stepped back and watched as the fire spread, his eyes reflecting the growing flames. Satisfied, he grabbed the can, ducked out the door, pushing it shut.

Already, the windows were glowing.

About the Author

James R. Callan took a degree in English, intent on writing. He went to graduate school in mathematics to support a family and mathematics became a thirty-year detour from writing. He has received grants from the National Science Foundation, NASA, and the Data Processing Management Association. He has been listed in Who’s Who in Computer Science, and Two Thousand Notable Americans.

But writing was his first love. He has published a number of books, both fiction and non-fiction, and picked up several awards along the way. Cleansed by Fire, 2012, is the first of the Father Frank mysteries. Murder a Cappella, a Sweet Adelines Mystery, was released in April by Wayside Press. Callan wrote this mystery with one of his daughters, Diane Bailey, a well published YA author.

Callan lives with his wife in east Texas and Puerto Vallarta. They have four grown children and six grand children.

Cleansed by Fire blurb

Churches are burning and a man is murdered, plunging a small Texas town into a state of fear. Father Frank DeLuca, pastor of Prince of Peace Church, is thrust into an impossible dilemma when he hears that another church will be burned. But the disturbing information comes to him via the confessional, and church law forbids him from telling anyone—even the police.

He doesn’t know which church, when, or by whom. Still, he can’t sit idly by, and no law prevents him from looking into the matter himself. The crimes have set the town’s residents on edge, fraying the bonds of trust. Is the mysterious newcomer with ties to the drug scene involved? What about the man who says maybe the churches deserved to burn? Or the school drop-out into alcohol and drugs who attacks the priest with a knife?

Countering this are a young widow whose mission is to make others shine, and a youth choir determined to help those whose churches have been destroyed by the arsonist.

Father Frank’s investigation leads him dangerously close to the local drug scene and he soon discovers the danger has come to him. Can he save his own church? Can he save his own life?

In paperback and Kindle editions on at: