Mystery Readers Only


is on sale!

By Thonie Hevron

Today, my publisher, Rough Edges Press, has put BY FORCE OR FEAR, book one of the Meredith Ryan Mysteries, on sale for .99 cents on Amazon! This great deal is only available on Amazon through September 26th.

The shocking end to a hostage situation brings Meredith Ryan, a courageous Sheriff’s Deputy, to the attention of a powerful young judge.

As the magistrate’s obsession grows, he continues exercising his considerable influence, and Meredith is stuck juggling the inner workings of her career—all the while tracking down a violent killer in the Sonoma wine country.

After losing almost everyone close to her, Meredith realizes that she must take a stand. Even if it costs her. But as Meredith is finally closing in on the Sonoma murderer, she gets snared in a trap that she may not walk out of alive.

By Force or Fear is a police procedural thriller about a brave, young deputy who identifies and faces her enemies—both within herself and the real world. Unlock its gripping pages today and experience book one in a thrilling series readers can’t put down!

Look for the five adventures of Meredith Ryan on Amazon.

Mystery Readers Only Writer's Notes

Free book!

Last November, CKN Christian Publishing launched Sniffing Out Murder, book one in a clean, cozy mystery series written by Leanne Baker. Now you can own the Kindle version for free from August 16th through August 20th. Click on this link for the free eBook!

When a baker is found murdered, her cousin must rise to the occasion… Sarah Murray is moving back to her high desert hometown of Bishop, California after the end of her marriage. On the highway south of town, she finds a dog on the side of the road. Unable to leave the poor animal, she pulls over—and finds it guarding an unconscious woman lying in the sand. Realizing that the woman in peril is her cousin, Melody Charters, Sarah calls for help.

Unfortunately, she’s too late, and Melody dies before she can identify her attacker. To make matters worse, the county sheriff deems Melody’s husband prime suspect number one. Knowing that he isn’t capable of such violence, Sarah sets off on a mission to get to the bottom of her cousin’s untimely demise.

Along the way, she meets Melody’s brother-in-law, Jake, and Libby, the troubled young girl Melody hired on a few months prior. As they—along with Melody’s guard dog, Fido—follow a deadly trail of crumbs around town, Sarah must trust her instincts like never before…if she’s to ever sniff out the true murderer.

Books two and three in the Layers of Mystery series—Sniffing Out Trouble and Sniffing Out Scandal—are available to purchase on Amazon. Book stores can purchase though Ingram or by emailing

Mystery Readers Only Writer's Notes

First place!

Without Due Caution, the latest Meredith Ryan Mystery, was awarded first prize in the unpublished fiction (longform or novel) category on July 16th, 2023 in Las Vegas at the Public Safety Writers Conference Writing Contest. The novel was entered in the unpublished category as it had not yet been published. The closing date for contest entry was April 1st but the pub date was June 27, 2023. This book was the final in a five-book deal with Rough Edges Press (REP) an imprint of Wolfpack Publishing. My thanks to Jake Bray, Patience Bramlett, Rachel Santino, and the whole team at REP.

Without Due Caution

When Deputy Sheriff Meredith Ryan’s nemesis calls in an old debt, she undertakes a mission to find a missing thirteen-year-old girl—uncovering a dark world of human trafficking along the way.

With time running out and the missing girl’s life on the line, Meredith enlists the help of a trusted colleague, Deb Lang, to help her navigate the treacherous terrain of the criminal underworld. But as they pursue the truth, they encounter numerous obstacles—including a manipulative mother intent on using her daughter’s disappearance for her own gain and a fledgling crime boss who sees Meredith as a threat.

Danger lurking at every turn, Meredith and Deb must push themselves to the limit to find the missing girl, uncover a murderer, and bring a dangerous criminal to justice.

Where to find Without Due Caution: Amazon eBook free on Kindle Unlimited or $3.49   Or Amazon paperback $14.99

James L'Etoile, winner of the Marilyn Meredith Award for Fiction, Longform
James L’Etoile, winner of the Marilyn
Meredith Award for Fiction, longform
and me, first place longform
unpublished fiction
John Bluck and Thonie Hevron
John Bluck, author of Mayhem at Sea,
second place unpublished fiction,
longform and me–both Rough Edges
Press authors.
Mystery Readers Only Writer's Notes

By Force or Fear for $0.99

By Force or Fear

I’m happy to announce that Rough Edges Press is running a $0.99 Kindle Countdown Deal for By Force or Fear!

The promotion will run from 6/14/23 to 6/20/23, so if you’ve been interested but not gotten around to purchasing, now’s the time to buy!

Buy below:

By Force or Fear

Mystery Readers Only Writer's Notes

Felony Murder Rule

Now available!

Today is publishing day.

Felony Murder Rule, Book 4 in the Meredith Ryan Mysteries promises mystery, adventure, and twists and turns as you follow Meredith Ryan while she chases down a killer from the past.

After Deputy Sheriff Meredith Ryan is unable to apprehend an intruder leaning over her baby’s crib one horrifying night, she launches an investigation to protect her family.

When she uncovers her father’s hidden involvement in a robbery and homicide years ago, she begins to put the pieces of a long-thought-dead puzzle back together. But vicious criminals are desperate to find the infamous hidden loot, and they are eager to use Meredith and her family as bargaining chips.

With just 24 hours before the criminals close in again, Meredith and Nick must find a way to safeguard their family—before it’s too late.

Felony Murder Rule is a police procedural thriller about a brave, young deputy who identifies and faces her enemies—both within herself and the real world.

Felony Murder Rule eBook for $3.49

Felony Murder Rule paperback for $14.99

Mystery Readers Only

Meredith Ryan Mysteries

Rough Edges Press has re-released the Meredith Ryan Mysteries

This is the bulletin from Redwood Writers Club (a branch of the California Writers’ Club) June 2023 newsletter.

Rough Edges Press is re-publishing the Meredith Ryan Mysteries following a brave Sonoma County deputy detective, all set in Sonoma County (Intent to Hold veers off into Mexico for some of the story).   

By Force or Fear tells of an obsessive judge who stalks a deputy and is the first in the series. 

Intent to Hold follows Meredith as she helps her partner free his kidnapped relative in Mexico. 

With Malice Aforethought finds Meredith Ryan investigating a homicide in the Sonoma County hills but is hindered by a dangerous white supremist militia with a deadly agenda.    

Felony Murder Rule available for pre-order on Amazon here  

Without Due Caution available for pre-order on Amazon here    

Learn more at
Mystery Readers Only Writer's Notes

News from Rough Edges Press

By Thonie Hevron

I feel fortunate to have landed such a pro-active publisher. Jake Bray at Rough Edges Press makes all the years of “backyard publishers” worth it. I thought I’d share the promotional email they sent out for With Malice Aforethought (published 5/16/2023) that includes an author article from me about how creepy it was to write this novel. Be sure to scroll down the newsleter for the two other just published Rough Edges Press mysteries as well as blurbs about my first two books. You can sign up for the weekly newsletter and/or sign up to be an advance reader and read new books free!

Writer's Notes

With Malice Aforethought Now Available

Rough Edges Press has re-published the third Meredith Ryan Mystery with a snappy new cover. Today is the release date meaning it is available on Amazon in eBook format or print copy. $3.49 on Kindle and $14.99 for paperback.

With Malice Aforethought follows Meredith Ryan and her partner Nick Reyes into the remote Sonoma County Hill to investigate a homicide. While on scene, they discover a nefarious militia intent on creating havoc. Join them in their quest to stop the disaster and neutralize the evil army.

Remember to leave an Amazon review after the last exciting page.

Writer's Notes

5 Things to Know About Publishing Your Book

5 Things to Know about Publishing Your Book: True or False?

By G.P. Gottlieb

One: After writing and rewriting your manuscript thirty-seven times, you submit your final draft to 150 agents and/or publishers. You finally got a publishing contract, congrats! Now you can relax, scroll the internet looking for new boots, and read a juicy mystery set in Door County. True or false? False. Don’t be ridiculous – now you must start a list of followers, begin sending out a monthly newsletter, make sure your blog is up to date, and come up with a marketing plan!

Two: You start engaging with other authors, reaching out to bloggers about writing a guest post, seeking book groups and bookstores interested in a presentation, attending conferences, and sending out requests to be on podcasts and radio shows. You spend a couple weeks doing all that and scheduled 15 events, so you’re done! Now you can lie in bed after dinner and read a delicious historical mystery set in 1870’s England. True or false? False. It’ll take you two or three months, not just two weeks to reach out to at least thirty blogs and podcasts, and then you might have to wait weeks for responses.

Three: You’ve arranged to write 17 guest blogs and do 4 interviews on other writers’ blogs, so you list your characters and write about 500 words about what kind of pet each one has, how they like their coffee, and what their favorite kind of cookie is. Then you answer the interview questions for each blog, trying to sound cute and fun to be with. And that’s it. Now you can sit outside on the first warm day of spring, reading about a clever maid who solves mysteries in New York City. True or false? False. What makes you think that every one of those blogs gets thousands of viewers or that those viewers will whip out their credit cards to buy your book just because you wrote a cute blog post about how much your cats enjoy hearing you read out loud?

Four: You’re invited to participate in a panel discussion about music and literature because your latest book is about a psychopath who murders anyone who sings under-pitch. You can’t tell when the singing isn’t perfect, but your best friend takes it seriously and criticizes nearly every performance she’s ever attended. She loved all three of your books and has no idea that the murderer is based on her because you cleverly turned her into a man. When interviewers ask for the origin of your story, you tell them all about your friend and how her constant patter about “poor intonation,” and “scooping” inspired you to write the series. True or false? False. Absolutely not. Take that secret to your grave. Make up something about how your mom always said certain performers should be dragged through the mud, and you extrapolated from that.

Five: Your cousin introduces you to her author friend who self-published eight books in a cozy mystery series set in Skokie. You agree to read each other’s latest books, and hers turns out to be about a jittery Brittany Spaniel who solves murders in and around Oakton Park. Still, you agreed, so you write a brief review about how fun it was to walk down memory lane and give it 3 stars on Amazon even though it wasn’t worth more than 1. She gives you 3 stars even though your novel is complex, nuanced, and on a completely different level than hers, but at least it’s another review. True or false? True, but don’t worry about it, because Amazon will remove both reviews – they hate author swaps.

G. P. Gottlieb
Author of the Whipped and Sipped Mystery Series
Host, New Books in Literature, New Books Network
Mystery Readers Only

Location, Location, Location

Nancy is a wonderful author. Even this post about about her new book is fun to read. All about Bushwhacked in the Outback is right here. Enjoy!


By Nancy Raven Smith

If you’re buying a house or opening a new business, you’ll hear location, location, location constantly. For me, it’s an important choice to consider when I write a cozy mystery. I love finding unusual, interesting sites as the stage for my characters to explore. It’s my hope that those places will make the stories more interesting for the reader.

I chose Lexi Winslow as the protagonist for my Land Sharks series. She’s a bank fraud investigator for a small private bank in Beverly Hills. When the bank’s wealthy and international traveling customers have money problems, it’s often her job to fix things. That lets me send her all over the world.

My newest book in the series, Bushwhacked in the Outback, takes Lexi to Coober Pedy in the Australian outback.

I learned about the area from my husband who’s an international jewelry design instructor and some of his friends who live and work there.

Here are some of the things that drew me to choose Coober Pedy and are included in my book. World wide, it’s considered the opal mining capital of the world. Opals can be worth more than diamonds per carat. You can even find opals on the surface of the ground. Large deposits of both gold and oil have also been discovered there recently.

The town has a population of approximately 1,762. Not a big number, but because it is a rich mining area, it includes people from over forty-four different countries.

Coober Pedy sounds like a great place to make your fortune. The only problem is that most people wouldn’t want to live there. It’s located in the middle of the continent of Australia and in the middle of the desert. It’s mid-February as I write this and the temperature is 105 degrees. Temperatures there range from 122 F to sub zero. Because of the extremes, most people choose live underground in homes called dugouts. Dugouts are literally old mines converted into homes because the median temperature underground is a steady 73.4 degrees Fahrenheit. There are even stories about people enlarging the rooms in their homes and discovering rich veins of opals.

Another problem with living in Coober Pedy are the critters. Australia is famous for its venomous animals. Many of them live in the outback. One of the biggest dangers of the Outback is venomoussnakes. Multiple snakes lurk in the desert bushes and rocky areas, including the inland taipans, Stimson’s pythons, orange-naped snakes, mulga snakes, curl snakes, desert death adders, and speckled brown snakes. Then there are the venomous spiders, etc.  

All of these things, even the snakes, made Coober Pedy a fascinating place to use as the setting for my book. If you read Bushwhacked in the Outback, I hope you’ll enjoy the location, too. 

 Bushwhacked in the Outback 

“If you can’t follow the money, follow the body.”

Lexi loves her job as a Beverly Hills bank fraud investigator. It lets her pursue scam artists and con men – known in the business as land sharks.

Sadly, one crook left her with a broken heart and a destroyed reputation. And the bank’s president is looking for any excuse to fire her.

Yet she risks everything when she follows a dead embezzler’s casket to Coober Pedy in the Australian outback. She knows it’s a gamble, but it’s her last hope to recover the bank’s stolen money. Unfortunately, she’s persona non grata in that country. She needs to get in, find the money, and get out before the Australian police discover her presence. But will the unexpected appearance of an ex-lover make her linger too long?

If you like cozy mysteries in exotic locations with deadly secrets and touches of humor, then you’ll enjoy the multi award winning Land Sharks Cozy Mystery series.

Available on at

About the Author

Nancy Raven Smith

Nancy Raven Smith grew up in Virginia, where she ran and participated in horse sport events. On their farm, she rescued horses, dogs, and cats and is an advocate for animal rescue. Later in California, she traded her event experience for film work. Her screenplays and novels have won numerous major awards. When not writing, Raven Smith enjoys her family and friends, travel, art, movies, and white water rafting. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and Women in Film.

Visit her at:




Buy links for

Bushwhacked in the Outback available on at

Swindle in Sumatra available on at

Mystery Readers Only

New-Stories from the Badge

To Serve, Protect, and Write

This just dropped on Kindle! I’m honored to be in such illustrious company. My Australian cop-writing colleague, Andrew Patterson’s long-awaited short fiction anthology is finally out!

If you like crime stories written by the good guys, this book is right up your alley. Thanks for suggesting me, fellow Public Safety Writers Association member Michael O’Keefe!

To Serve, Protect, and Write

Gritty and unflinching morsels of crime fiction rage across these pages. There’s nothing warm and cosy here, but then that’s not the reality of policing: cops deal with the darkest aspects of humanity and then have to live with that exposure. Some of those cops become writers.

When crime fiction is penned by authors who have worked and risked their lives as cops at the coalface, the stories that emerge deliver exquisite realism and brutally honest emotions.

The fifteen authors featured in this first-of-its-kind anthology have variously worn their uniforms and carried their badges across law enforcement in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia, as they have served and protected their communities.

These short stories are as varied and vivid as the hard-earned experiences of their creators. The settings include the past, the present, and the future. The plots have murder aplenty, corruption, drugs, paedophilia, mental health, and suicide. The line-up of protagonists includes uniformed officers, detectives, and criminals, amongst others. The actions, the observations, the reminiscing, and the self-reflection of these fictional characters bring the reality of the police experience alive on the page. It is those brushstrokes of daily police life that bring a special and unique flavour to this assortment of crime fiction.

Mystery Readers Only Writer's Notes

Coming up for Sonoma/Marin shoppers!

Great shopping for your holiday gifts with no supply chain worries!

This will be my second in-person event in the past many months. The day after Thanksgiving, Nov. 26 and Nov. 27 (Black Friday/Saturday), I will be at the Rohnert Park Holiday Arts and Crafts Faire (admission is FREE!) signing books from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Faire is at the Rohnert Park Community Center on Snyder Lane. With over 75 vendors, this is a wonderful way to do your holiday shopping. Local handmade goods to choose from, light lunch fair will be available. I’ll have my new release, FELONY MURDER RULE, for sale. It features a wild chase scene set in Petaluma!

Nick and Meredith Mysteries by Thonie Hevron
Writer's Notes

Exploring Your Character’s Closet?

By DiAnn Mills

September 10, 2021

Do you grab your readers by the hand and lead them into your character’s closet? What will you and the reader find? Is the character messy? Is the closet organized according to the type of clothing and color? Does it smell? What kind of boots or shoes does the character buy? Are they worn? Purse, backpack, or wallet? What’s their favorite color? Are the shelves layered high with memorabilia or collectibles? Does the character not have a closet?

A writer’s goal is for readers to experience our story vicariously through the characters and form a sympathetic bond. That means all of the assigned traits ensure the character comes alive. One way is to study the items their personal items. Stepping into the character’s closet allows the writer to explore—physically, mentally, and emotionally.


Glimpsing the choices made in clothing enlightens the reader to income, values, priorities, personality, and individualism as well as careers and hobbies. Those items are seen, touched, smelled, heard, and sometimes tasted. (A stash of chocolate hidden in a closet sounds good to me.)


Venturing into our character’s mental world after viewing a closet’s contents can reveal motivation, how the character processes life, more about their personality, and the inner secret-world not often visible to others. A character, unless suffering from a mental disorder, will not lie to themselves. The mental workings are a treasure chest of information.


Showing realistic emotions adds credibility to the story. A closet often shows how the character internalizes events and happenings through the seven universal emotions: surprise, fear, anger, sadness, disgust, happiness, and contempt. Study how items are arranged, even hidden.

Symbolism can represent the emotional realm when the character uses a tangible item to represent the intangible. Why has the character kept trophies from high school sports? A great-great grandfather’s rifle? His/her first dollar earned at a full-time career?

Look at an example below of how to incorporate the physical, mental, and emotional world of a character and write a deeper, developed story.

A female character’s closet is divided into two parts: business attire for an office job and camouflage from head to toe on the other. She believes in her job, but she is also an ex-marine. Discipline, training, and structure guide her thoughts and mindset. She prefers camouflage and misses her role as a marine. What’s holding her back from re-enlisting? What emotions have her in chains and why?

Every seen and unseen item in a character’s closet reveals more of the inner character.

Flip on the light in your character’s closet and see what’s inside. Every seen and unseen item in a character’s closet can reveal more about the inner character and insight into writing a deeper more developed story.

Besides a visit to the closet, how else can we writers enhance our writing by getting inside our character’s world?


Facebook: DiAnn Mills

Twitter: DiAnn Mills

BookBub: DiAnn Mills

Buy Link Amazon: Trace of Doubt


DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She is a storyteller and creates action-packed, suspense-filled novels to thrill readers. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests.

Author DiAnn Mills

DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She is the director of the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference, Mountainside Retreats: Marketing, Speakers, Nonfiction and Novelist with social media specialist Edie Melson where she continues her passion for helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country.

Connect with DiAnn here:

Mystery Readers Only

Guest Post: Temecula, What’s Real and What’s Not

The Trash Harem by Marilyn Meredith

By Marilyn Meredith

The Trash Harem mainly takes place in the city of Temecula. I am fond of Temecula having family who live there and in the neighboring town of Murrieta. I’ve visited there a lot, but haven’t done many of the touristy things and there are plenty of them.

The biggie is the Pechanga Resort and Casino—but it’s not in my story, though there is mention of the Pechanga native people. The ancient oak tree, which also plays a big part in the mystery and decorates the cover, is real.

Old Town Temecula is full of intriguing shops and restaurants, including an Olive Oil tasting shop. The olive oil is mentioned, as is one of the restaurants, though I don’t use its correct name.

The Temecula Valley Museum is mentioned, especially the great Erle Stanley Gardner display. And yes, he does appear in this tale in a most unusual way.

Other tourist attractions are the Sunrise Balloon Flight, the Outdoor Escape Room, the Haunted Cable Car Tour, and the Old Town Scavenger Hunt, none of which are in this story.

Of course what Temecula is really famous for is its wine country with many beautiful wineries, a multitude of tasting opportunities including several wine tasting tours. Yes, the wineries do make an appearance in The Trash Harem—but the winery where Tempe, Hutch and their hosts have dinner with the murder victim’s son is not real.

Though there are many gated-communities for folks fifty-five and over, Moon Glow Village is strictly fictional, though I have borrowed bits and pieces from similar gated-communities.

Though the whole idea for this tale came from my daughter and son-in-law’s experiences living in their gated-community, very little is real except the trash containers and what happens with them.

Like most mysteries, there are always bits and pieces of real people and places woven alongside the made-up folks and places.

If you’ve never been to Temecula, it’s a great place to visit, plenty to do and see, and it has some restaurants with great food. You can get a taste of Temecula by reading The Trash Harem.


Official Blurb:

Deputy Tempe Crabtree has retired from her job in Bear Creek when friends, who once lived in Bear Creek and attended Pastor Hutch’s church, ask her to visit them in Temecula. The husband, Jonathan, is a suspect in what might be a murder case. The retirement community includes many interesting characters, any of whom might have had a better motive than Jonathan. There is also a connection to Earle Stanley Gardner as well as the Pechanga Old Oak. What is a trash harem? You’ll have to read the book to find out.

To purchase The Trash Harem

Marilyn Meredith:

She is the author of over 40 published books including the Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, and writing as F. M. Meredith, the Rocky Bluff P.D. series. She’s a member of two chapters of Sisters in Crime and the Public Safety Writers Association.




Writer's Notes

Guest Post: The Road to Rejection

The Spirit Woman of Lockleer Mountain by Elaine Faber

By Elaine Faber

Some years ago, I typed and mailed multiple query letters for my novels to traditional publishers. Some were returned with rejection letters, some actually with three to six handwritten words, e.g. Sorry! – Not interested! – You’ve got to be kidding! Many didn’t reply at all. Perhaps they just steamed the stamp off my self-addressed, return envelope to save and use again.

As time progressed, publishing houses preferred query by e-mail. No more opening envelopes, steaming off stamps or licking envelopes to return snide rejection slips for them. Now, my auto-rejection notices came by return e-mail.

Eventually, I found a couple of editors at small presses who requested the entire manuscript. One editor told me it contained too much romance, another, not enough romance. One editor loved the story, and suggested if I removed all the exclamation points and fragmented sentences, she’d reconsider. Another suggested I have it professionally edited. After I made all the suggested changes, paid to have it professionally edited and resubmitted the manuscript, none of the editors offered a publishing contract.

As I traveled this Road to Rejection, all those rebuffs forced me to re-examine my goals, re-evaluate my skills, and devote time, investment, and energy to improve my craft. Three different teachers taught me more about writing craft than I ever thought was possible to know. Surprise! You ‘don’t know what you don’t know.’ Which is to say, the early version of my novel probably wasn’t worthy of publishing in the first place. I revised, edited, re-edited, cut the story line in half, and fleshed out the characters and plot.

Looking back, I’ve come to believe that the Road to Rejection is not necessarily a pothole-riddled, mud-filled, weed-infested sticker-path meant to trip up and discourage new writers, (though it certainly does). Rather, it is a road of lesson-learning, character building and knowledge-testing meant to wean out the weak, ill-equipped writers, (of which there are many).

The Road to Rejection forces the committed writer to polish her skills and master what you ‘don’t know what you don’t know.’ This can be done by accepting critiques from knowledgeable writers, studying with individual teachers, and reading scores of books on the subject.

Your first novel is published? Congratulations. You’ve vanquished the Road to Rejection.  You now begin to market your baby. Fame and fortune must be right around the corner.

Wait! There’s another signpost up ahead? It’s called the Road to Frustration.

Synopsis of The Spirit Woman of Lockleer Mountain by Elaine Faber

I intended The Spirit Woman of Lockeer Mountain, a story about a woman who drives a sewer truck, to be a humorous cozy mystery with funny circumstances. Overflowing toilets─ septic tank mishaps ─ a haunted bathroom fixture warehouse. Perhaps she’d unwittingly locate a rural marijuana farm.

Then an owl smacked into Lou’s window and the characters took over the story and completely changed its direction. Nate’s sister disappeared three months prior, following a minor MVA, but mysterious sightings of a woman and a mountain lion are reported. Nate’s constant obsession that his sister is amnesic, living wild in the woods with a mountain lion, is taking a toll on his budding relationship with Lou. Is the woman Nate’s sister, or is she the Native American Spirit Woman come to life, to help solve the town’s troubles?

There are troubles aplenty. Without input from the town, the government announced plans to build a mysterious medical facility nearby, along with a 100-unit housing tract, and a Wallynet big box store. Lockleer Mountain merchants are in an uproar, sure that such actions will alter the quaintness of town and destroy their small businesses. They intend to stop the government at any cost.

Then, a tragedy reveals that someone is selling illegal drugs to the local teenagers. Nate and Sheriff Peabody are challenged with a life and death decision when the reservation’s chief, White Cloud, threatens to take matters into his own hands. Can Nate and the sheriff resolve the troubling issues, or must the Spirit Woman and her feline companion help bring peace to the troubled town?

Author Elaine Faber

About Elaine:

Elaine Faber lives in Elk Grove with her husband and four feline companions. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Cat Writers Association, and Northern California Publishers and Authors. Her short stories have appeared in national magazines, have won multiple awards in various contests, and are in at least 16 anthologies. She leads a local writer’s critique group.

Elaine’s ‘Mrs. Odboddy mystery series’ has won annual awards with Northern California Publishers and Authors. Black Cat and the Secret in Dewey’s Diary, and All Things Cat, an anthology of cat stories, won Cat Writers’ Association 2018 and 2019 Certificates of Excellence.

Elaine enjoys sharing highlights of her novels and her writing experience at author venues. She is currently working on two fiction novels to be published in 2021 and 2022.

More About Elaine’s books and where to find them:

Black Cat Mysteries: With the aid of his ancestors’ memories, Black Cat helps solve mysteries and crimes. Partially narrated by Black Cat, much of the story comes from a cat’s often humorous and poignant point of view.

Mrs. Odboddy Mystery/Adventures: Elderly, eccentric Mrs. Odboddy fights WWII from the home front. She believes war-time conspiracies and spies abound in her home town. Follow her antics in these hysterical, historical novels as a self-appointed hometown warrior exposes malcontents, dissidents and Nazi spies…even when she’s wrong.

The Spirit Woman Mystery/Paranormal/Adventures

The Native Americans believe the legendary Spirit Woman ‘protects the community.’ When Govt. demands create social unrest in a small mountain town, and drugs threaten the lives of their youth, the Spirit Woman and her mountain lion companion come to their aid.

Black Cat’s Legacy

Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer         

Black Cat and the Accidental Angel

Black Cat and the Secret in Dewey’s Diary

NCPA Cover and Interior Design Silver award 2019

All Things Cat (anthology of short stories)

Mrs. Odboddy-Hometown Patriot      NCPA 1st Fiction 2017

Mrs. Odboddy – Undercover Courier NCPA 3rd Cover and Design 2018  http://tinyurl/com/jn5bzwb

Mrs. Odboddy – And Then There Was a Tiger      NCPA 2nd Fiction 2019

The Spirit Woman of Lockleer Mountain

Mystery Readers Only

Jacqueline Vick Interview

Deadly Decorum

Today, I’m interviewing mystery author Jacqueline Vick. I’m sure you’ll find her as entertaining as I did. We thought it would be fun to cross-post, so check out her blog for my interview on Jacqueline Vick’s blog. Feel free to leave a comment.

  • Name:

Jacqueline Vick

  • Where are you from:

Santa Clarita, CA

  • Tell us a little about yourself, like your education, family life, etc:

I was born in Aurora, Illinois, the second oldest of many, many grandchildren. When I was 29, I moved to California with my husband. After writing some screenplays, I tried my hand at writing a mystery and fell in love with the genre and mystery writers. They are a supportive, friendly bunch. I wrote my first mystery, FAMILY MATTERS, for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Competition and was a semi-finalist. It went on from there.

  • Do you have a blog/website? If so, what is it?

My website is I blog there, mostly interviewing authors. In fact, aren’t you there in a The Authors Behind the Books interview now?

Question: What inspired you to write your first book?

My sister was the victim of a drunk driver. Her ankles were crushed in the accident, and she spent months in this humongous wheelchair recovering from surgery. She became Vanessa in Family Matters. While Andrea did develop powerful arms lifting herself in and out of the chair, she is much nicer than Vanessa. And before you write me off as a sick, sick person for finding humor in the situation, my sister thought my portrayal of “her” in the book was hysterical.

Question: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?

I have discovered so many great mystery authors this year, and I’ve also delved into historical gothic novels, such as AFTER ALICE FELL by Kim Taylor Blakemore, and A FEIGNED MADNESS by Tonya Mitchell. In the humorous mystery category, I just finished my first Dandy Gilver mystery by Catriona McPherson. A riot! Unfortunately, they are difficult to get in the US, but I’m not giving up.

Question: What are your current projects?

I’m working on the next Frankie Chandler Pet Psychic mystery, which will be the fifth in the series. The featured animal is a Fiji Crested Iguana. The book should be out by late November/early December this year.

Question: Do you see writing as a career?

Writing is a career if you treat it like a career. Aside from regular writing, there’s marketing, networking, budgeting, advertising, checking the return on investment of advertising, researching markets and sales trends through professional organizations and industry magazines and websites, keeping up with the competition (reading), social media, continuing education, and future planning. All the things you would need to do in “real” career. It takes an entrepreneurial mindset.

Question: Do you have any advice for other writers?

Keep writing. You only get better with practice.

Question: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music

When I was a kid, my favorite color was black. Everyone told me it was not a color, but I didn’t care.

Tell us your latest news:

Deadly Decorum came out on May 19. It’s the third in the Harlow Brothers mystery series. A vague outline of the next Harlow Brothers is in my head. Edward will have his chance to mingle with sports writers, but after twelve years writing etiquette books, he won’t quite fit in. The release date should be around the same time next year. I like to get out at least one novella a year. I’d like to get a Frankie Chandler novella out around Independence Day.

Blurb and link:

Jacqueline Vick

When Edward Harlow, ghost writer of the Aunt Civility etiquette books, is guest of honor at a costume ball for charity, the fun ends when his Zorro sword is discovered buried in the back of an obnoxious guest. While Nicholas Harlow scrambles to clear his brother’s name, he comes up against suspects and motives he’d rather not reveal. Then he discovers a secret that could mean the end of Aunt Civility.  

Mistaken identities, romantic rivals, and a host of misunderstandings make this third Harlow Brothers mystery a fun read. Universal book link

Writer's Notes

A Chat with Author George Cramer

By George Cramer

The Mona Lisa Sisters is a tender journey into the making of a family. The novel is full of careful historical detail and the pleasure of European trains and cities and plenty of mystery to keep the pages turning, but the greatest delight is Lura Grisham herself.

– Ramona Ausubel, author of Sons and Daughters of Ease and Plenty

An enrolled descendant of the Karuk Tribe of California, George Cramer, brings forty years’ investigative experience to crime and historical fiction. He holds an MFA-Creative Writing Program from the Institute of American Indian Arts.

George conducted and managed thousands of successful investigations throughout the Americas, Europe, and Asia. He kept his investigative skills honed by volunteering as a Missing Person’s investigator at the San Leandro, California Police Department.

In addition to the Public Safety Writers Association, George is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and the California Writers Club. He is a contributing author to several anthologies and the Veteran’s Writing Project. Other than writing, his love is long-distance motorcycle riding his 2001 Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic.

George’s debut novel, The Mona Lisa Sisters, was published in 2020.

When and how did you begin your writing journey? Before my sixty-eighth birthday, I was laid off from a fantastic job when H-P bought out Palm, Inc., beginning a journey through the world of age discrimination. One day, I saw a note about a writing class at the Dublin Senior Center—whose doors I swore never to cross. I took the class and fell in love with writing. Overcoming forty-five years of report writing was difficult. One day, the instructor randomly passed out photos to the class. “Take fifteen minutes and describe the scene.” I did not do as instructed. The second I saw the image of two young girls staring up at the Mona Lisa, I knew I was going to write a novel. In fifteen minutes, I had a rough sketch of what began an eight-year ride to The Mona Lisa Sisters.

I knew I needed help and formal training. For help, I joined the Tri-Valley Branch of the California Writers Club, followed by the Public Safety Writers Association. I went to the local community college for formal training, Las Positas, and pursued an English degree. I followed by the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) in Santa Fe, New Mexico, for an MFA.

Writing at sea

IAIA introduced me to a group of superlative authors and mentors. My cohort mentors were Ramona Ausubel, Ismet (Izzy) Prcic, and Marie-Helene Bertino. These fantastic people guided my writing throughout the program and remain in my life.

Thonie asked about projects and what book I’m reading. That’s tough. For pure enjoyment, I just reread Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley. Two book clubs selected The Mona Lisa Sisters, so I’m reading eleven of the other books selected for the year. I’m reading a half-dozen other novels for a project I’m excited about.

When I began work on Mona Lisa, I set aside a thriller/police procedural spread over forty years, 1930 to mid-1970. I hope to have it published by the end of 2021. I’m also working my way through a crime trilogy. I never knew retirement would be so hectic.

The Mona Lisa Sisters is available through Amazon and the IAIA Book Store. You can reach me at and visit my blog at If you stop by, please leave a comment and follow.

Street Stories When Pigs Fly

When Pigs Fly: The View From Above

By Ron Corbin

When Pigs Fly

Flying for Air Support Division (ASD) is probably one of the premier job assignments for LAPD… other than for obvious reasons working “beach patrol” in Venice Division. It’s one of those cases where for a position to become available someone either has to die or retire. There could be a lot of reasons for this choice assignment, including good pay (Beach Patrol officers would probably work for free or even pay the Department for their assignment.). But most officers seeking to be a pilot or observer did it for the thrill and desire to fly. In any case, I’ll mention a few perks of the job.

If we had the time, slowly orbiting the perimeter of Dodger Stadium or the LA Coliseum on game nights was a frequent activity to check the score, and see if the “Boys in Blue” or Trojans of USC were winning. After a couple of orbits, we would have to depart the area to avoid a disgruntled fan’s complaint who thought we shouldn’t get to watch the game for free.

One of my favorite times to fly each year was PM Watch (swing shift) on the 4th of July. About a half-hour after the sun dipped below the Pacific’s horizon, I would climb up to about 1,000 feet above the ground, and slowly cruise over the LA Basin where I could also view the San Fernando Valley. As darkness appeared, a magnificent aerial display of fireworks began popping-up everywhere; at city and county parks, from hundreds of family backyards, Marina del Rey, the Rose Bowl, LA Coliseum, Dodger and Anaheim Stadiums. It was a memorable sight.

Naturally, it never seemed to fail that before the patriotic display ended, my observer and I would get a call of a palm tree fire. The typical cause was that juveniles had shot a bottle rocket into the dry fronds (usually on purpose), just to see how big a “torch” they could create. Their mischief’s glee was not only dangerous from embers landing on house roofs, but it also sent hundreds of rats scurrying down the palm tree from nests that were formed in the upper branches. People would scream and run as these rodents scampered into surrounding gutter drains and across neighborhood lawns.

Responding at 500 feet above the ground, which was the normal patrol orbit, someone would often shoot a bottle rocket at our helicopter. Being a federal crime (shooting at aircraft), this gave us probable cause to call for ground units to assist and arrest the “idiot” … er, I mean … suspect. All the arrestee’s fireworks were taken as evidence. Of course, the patrol officers were glad to respond, as many of the confiscated fireworks went home with them after end of watch for their own enjoyment.

In the movie “Blue Thunder,” starring Roy Scheider, it begins with him and his observer hovering outside a high-rise window … “observing”. Okay, okay…if you want to nitpick, they were peeping. I don’t know of any ASD crews who actually did this, but being the friendly “Mr. Policeman,” we would occasionally fly or hover beside a downtown skyscraper and wave to the office workers.

For responding to business burglaries and other calls for service in a commercial district, owners and/or occupants were encouraged to paint the address number of their building in large contrasting numerals on the rooftops. Even though the address code in LA requires “even numbers on the south and east sides and odd numbers on north and west sides of streets,” the helicopter observer could get to the correct street and block number of a call for service but finding the exact mid-block address was nearly impossible. Therefore, painting address numbers on rooftops assisted in this effort and considerably reduced response time.

Not many homeowners practiced this address ID technique. However, frequently aircrews would spot a different type of identifying number; a telephone number painted on the roof of a private residence. I probably don’t have to explain what this meant, other than there must have been some lonely females and cop groupies in “La La Land.” Usually, these houses also had a swimming pool, which meant nude sunbathers. Enough said. What can I say…it’s just a perk of the job.

One of the most famous private residences that aircrews would be sure to give extra aerial patrol was Hugh Heffner’s Playboy Mansion. A few orbits on each shift was to ensure that all was well and that his “guests” around the pool were safe and secure. Just because we were airborne cops didn’t mean that we couldn’t still hold to the Department motto…To Protect and To Serve, right? Besides, why should all those Beach Patrol officers working in Venice Beach have all the fun?

Police Helicopter Pilot … It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it.

Street Stories The Call Box

The Call Box: Lady Hamilton

This installment of Ed Meckle’s recollection of this particular case is longer than most, but worth the read, I promise you. Knowing there are policemen and women like him out there who strive for victim’s justice is consoling. –Thonie

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

Before I begin let me apologize for the lapses in my story. Time has taken the victim’s and suspect’s name together with the street name. I remembered my partner and (irony) name of the bar. Timewise the best I can do is a hot weekend in 1966/67. 

I thought about this for a long time before sharing. In the past I have begun many of my stories with, “most officers do this” or “a lot of them do that.” But here I tread carefully and can only speak for myself and hope others feel as I do. 

No matter how much time you have on the job, how much experience, or how cynical you think you are I hope that somewhere maybe deep down you did something “special” that stands out in your mind; that you occasionally remember that special thing or things. Maybe you don’t talk of it but there are incidents you can really be proud of, when everything came together, the stars aligned, and luck was in your corner. And you thought “damn, that’s why I became a cop. That’s what it’s all about.” I really hope you have it, because I have one I want to share with you.

I take pride in the fact I never held a staff job. No graphs, no crayons, no colored pencils, no calculators, just street time out where the wild things are.

I am one of approximately forty-five detectives assigned to Wilshire Division and one of six working robbery. About every tenth week I catch weekend duty with three others. If it is a quiet shift you can catch up on your paperwork, watch a game on TV, play cards or just snooze. This was not to be one of those.

It was a hot holiday Sunday and just after noon when a phone call comes in from a radio car at the scene of a homicide. As the senior sergeant I am de facto watch commander. There are no homicide detectives among the four of us. 

I take the call along with Sergeant Jim Horkan. I knew him from Metro, never as a partner but he was a good street cop, former Cleveland P.D. and like myself a former marine (this will become a factor).

The scene is a well-kept, unremarkable, three-story brownstone in the 900 block just north of Olympic. As far as we can determine the entire populous of the building were elderly retired singles and couples. 

Our victim was third floor rear and discovered when a neighbor saw her open door. At this point in my career, I had handled two homicides, both related to street robberies, one successfully and one not.

I remember as a uniform at a homicide scene I watched the detective carefully place a kitchen chair in the crime scene and sit without moving for about ten minutes. Nobody had to tell me was burning every detail into his memory. 

Our victim was female, 80+ and had lived alone. She is in a supine position slightly to the right as you enter. Feet toward the door. Her simple house dress with button front has been ripped open. Her bra pulled above her breasts, panty hose pulled down and inside out still clinging to her right foot. 

Her hands were at her sides palms down, head turned to the left, legs 12-14 inches apart. There appears to be blood and skin under her fingernails. A dime-sized crescent shaped wound was between her eyes. She had been strangled and later tests would show raped. (D.N.A. then stood for “does not apply”) 

The rooms were what I suppose you would call an “efficiency” apartment—one large room doubles as living/bedroom. Bath to left, small kitchen to the right. 

The apartment appears to have been quickly searched, drawers open, items scattered. Notable is an empty watch box, home to a “Lady Hamilton.” Back in the day, watches especially ladies, came in large ornate boxes resembling clam shells. They were so fancy you did not throw it out even though it had no secondary use. 

The watch was gone. 

The residents tell us she was very proud of the watch, receiving it along with a plaque (hanging on the wall) when she retired from the Department of Water and Power in 1949. 

Along with a couple of uniforms we did a canvas and determined a stranger had been in the building not long before she was found. Described as early to mid-20s, husky and appeared intoxicated, he had walked into one apartment and approached a lone woman. Leaving when her husband appeared, he had also knocked on several doors and tried to talk his way inside without being obvious. Here was a promising person of interest. 

I got to thinking about the intoxication angle and told Jim I was going to play a hunch. I walked the 100 or so yards to the corner where stood a bar, the Jade Room. As luck would have it, I had on occasion, enjoyed a cool refreshing beverage or two. 

The only person present was the female owner/bartender with whom I was acquainted. Like waitresses/manicurists/beauticians everywhere bartenders are good witnesses, observant and good listeners.

“Yes, he was here. Drank Oly beer from the ice tub.” The ice water put any chance of prints from the bottle to rest.

Your impression, I asked?

“A sailor from Oklahoma.” 

I shared this with Jim and as former service members we knew where he would be heading on a Sunday afternoon. While I wrapped the scene up Jim took a radio car and went straight to the bus depot downtown. 

Standing in line to board a San Diego-bound bus was a tall husky 20-something sailor. He wore a ring with a crescent shape, had scratches on his face and a Lady Hamilton watch in his pocket. Hello.

At the station he admitted everything except for being in the victim’s apartment. He had no answer for the watch in his pocket. 

I was in before daylight the next day to talk to the Hamilton people at their Pennsylvania H.Q. when they opened.

  • The watch in his pocket had been sent to a local jewelry store in 1949 (good)
  • The store was no longer in business (bad)
  • By noon we had the owner’s phone number in Sun City, Arizona (good)
  • The son answered the phone; dad died some time ago and all sales records, serial numbers, etc. are long gone (bad)

Before hanging up the son actually said, “I thought things like this only happened in the movies.” 

The victim’s fingernail scrapings turned out to be consistent with human skin, beard stubble and blood but were not conclusive. There was trace blood in the ring, not enough to type. The lab however made a nice overlay match with the ring and the head wound. 

We borrowed five watches from Sears next door and did a “show up” with her friends and neighbors.  “It looks like it but I can’t be sure.” “Maybe it could be but…” Not a lot of help. 

We had to go to the D.A. soon for filing and still could not nail the watch down.

Think dammit, think. Ok the neighbors said the watch was a retirement gift from D.W.P. in 1949 right? Longshot but nothing to lose.

At the D.W.P. Personnel counter, her file had been retrieved from the archives and does not, repeat does not, contain the receipt for the purchase of the watch.

Last chance. “Was there a luncheon or some sort of formal presentation?”

“Yes, a luncheon.”

“Was there a photographer?”

“Yes, there was.”

“Thank you, Jesus.” There in the file were at least two photos of her holding her watch up for the camera.

L.A.P.D. Photo lab blew up the negatives as much as possible without losing context. Looked good.

Well folks, that was our case and the District Attorney (DA) filed murder one. We were also assigned a “special DA” Marsh Goldstein, whom I knew and respected. Special DA meant he would shepherd the case personally to conclusion.

We were assigned a liberal female judge who hated cops and would toss a case at the drop of a comma. Normally you would put on a “bare bones case” at the preliminary hearing. just enough to hold the defendant.

We gave them everything and hold him we did. Several months later Marsh called and asked if I had any problem with a murder one plea from the public defender’s office if the DA took the death penalty off the table. I thought it was a fine idea.

The public defender’s office very seldom pleads to murder one.

Somewhere I remember reading or hearing an old homicide cop who said something memorable…

                                                   “We speak for the dead.”

Writer's Notes

6 Must-Know Online Resources for Writers

Desiree Vallena’s Online Writing Tools

By Desiree Vallena

Desiree is new to Writers Notes but is a welcome addition. I’ve been writing for many years but all of these tools are new and very exciting! I’m sure no matter how long you’ve been at the keyboard, you’ll find something interesting. ~~ Thonie

Whether you’re looking for educational content or a community, there’s never been a better time to be a writer — all thanks to the good ol’ World Wide Web. From the most granular details of craft (we’re talking word choice and comma placement) to the big picture of how to become a professional writer, there’s help out there for every step of the writing process.

With that in mind, today I want to introduce you to some tried-and-tested online resources that have helped me over the course of my writing career — from technical tools, to creative stimuli, to my productivity essentials.

1. OneLook’s reverse dictionary

If you’re anything like me, you sometimes find yourself completely unable to conjure a particular word you’re thinking of. The perfect word can be right on the tip of your tongue — or should I say fingers, since it usually happens while writing — but will somehow still evade you.

If this affliction troubles you too, I recommend trying out OneLook’s reverse dictionary. Just type in what you can recall (whether that’s a definition, a related word, or the vague idea) and OneLook will provide you with a group of suggested words, organized by relevance. A great quick fix for when you’re struggling to come up with the perfect… oh, what’s that word again?

2. Story Planner

There’s a lot of debate among writers over the best practice for how to plan a novel. From “pantsers” to “Snowflake Method” devotees, you’ve probably had enough of other writers trying to sell you on their way of doing things.

Luckily, Story Planner helps you wade through the sea of planning methods by letting you try them all on for size. Their different planning routes (which all come with a handy indication of how much time they’ll take) provide you with a framework to guide your process. It’s a straightforward, no-nonsense approach that will help you figure out what works best for you.

3. Grammar Girl

You’ve almost certainly heard of Mignon Fogarty’s powerhouse of a blog, Grammar Girl — and for good reason. If you’ve ever stumbled over a piece of grammar, or wondered what the rules actually are for using a question mark with parentheses (seriously, inside or outside?), Grammar Girl will lead you through it in an easily digestible format. Be sure to check out her podcast while you’re there!

4. Plot Generator

For the more fortunate among us, story inspiration can strike spontaneously, and in the most unexpected places. But what if an idea doesn’t just magically fall into your lap? Even the most creative writers can go through dry spells inspiration-wise, and that’s where the Reedsy Plot Generator comes in.

This page will automatically generate tons of unique story ideas for you. A word of warning: the ideas can be pretty random, so while you may not always find an oven-ready plot among its suggestions, this plot generator is a super-entertaining tool to get your creative juices flowing. You never know what might spark off your next big idea!

5. Critique Circle

One of the best parts of being online as a writer is the opportunity to access huge communities of like-minded folks. Critique Circle is one of the corners of the internet that provides just that. This online critiquing platform connects writers with fellow writers (and readers) who give constructive feedback, free of charge.

You have to provide three reviews to be eligible to post your own work for criticism, meaning the community consistently pulls its weight — and while the level of detail you receive from your critique does vary somewhat, Critique Circle is still a great place to get eyes on your work if you don’t have writing pals in real life. If you’d like to join this type of platform, be sure to check out Mary Feliz’s tips on how to be an asset to your critiquing circle here.

6. SelfControl

As Susan McCormick points out in her excellent guest post, there are ample sources of  distraction for the work-from-home writer: “the view outside the window, the dog angling for a tummy rub, the children clamoring for a snack or a game” and so on. And since we’re all stuck at home for the foreseeable future, how can we overcome these little daily disturbances? While it’s difficult to control external distractions, one thing we can do to maintain focus is limiting our online distractions. And there’s a tool for that: SelfControl.

No, I’m not just being passive-aggressive. SelfControl is the actual name of a browser extension and app, which lets you block certain sites for the set periods of time you choose. If you’re a chronic procrastinator like me, you can block out your main time-suck sites, whether that’s Facebook, YouTube, or cute puppy Pinterest boards. Fewer distractions equals more focus, so eliminating online noise should help you write faster and get more done!

I sincerely hope you’ve found these recommendations helpful, and that they’ve inspired you to explore new ways of using the internet to help you on your writing journey. Good luck!

Desiree Villena is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects self-publishing authors with the world’s best editors, designers, and marketers. In her spare time, Desiree enjoys reading contemporary fiction and writing short stories. She tries her best to take her own advice when it comes to writing, but couldn’t get by without her secret seventh tool: a strong cup of coffee.

Mystery Readers Only

Guest Post: How to Decipher a Cozy Mystery

Smothered A Whipped and Sipped Mystery

By G.P. Gottlieb

I usually pay close attention to the first few characters introduced in a cozy mystery, and I assume that the nicest and friendliest one is probably the murderer. The book might start out with a description of a donut shop, for example. It will be written in first person by Joyce, the shop’s owner, who was tragically widowed and recently started keeping company with Bernard, a heavyset, divorced pharmacist. Felice, who owns the antique shop next door, will pop in for a donut, and might complain bitterly about Larry, their bad-tempered landlord. I think to myself, ah ha, the landlord is either going to bite the dust or murder someone.

Then Felice will tell Joyce about Fred, a man from her past who’d shown up in her antiques store that very morning. They’d been madly in love a decade ago, but he’d suddenly disappeared while they were traveling together in Thailand. She’d been stunned and hurt, had a difficult time getting back to the states, and spent years getting over him. It turned out that he’d been bashed on the head by muggers and had suffered from amnesia. He’d somehow gotten back home and had been working at the local high school for the past nine years but hadn’t remembered his and Joyce’s relationship until the previous day. Ah ha, I think this Fred character is either going to get whacked, or murder someone.

Then Megan and Nancy, two of Joyce’s employees, weigh in about Fred, Felice’s newly resurfaced paramour. Megan is a sweet eighteen-year-old heading to Wellesley in the fall, and Nancy is Joyce’s twenty-year-old, bespectacled daughter, who attends the nearby community college. Nancy tells Megan that Fred had been her soccer coach, and she’d heard rumors about an inappropriate relationship with a younger girl in the school. At that moment, Joyce will bring out a tray of misshapen donuts that they certainly cannot sell, and they’ll each have one, but I only like apple fritters, so I won’t be impressed by the caramel, butterscotch icing, and chocolate glazes. Megan will burst into tears because it turns out that she was the younger girl at Nancy’s school whom Fred had sexually assaulted. She’s probably not going to be murdered, because it’s rare for beautiful young girls to come to harm in cozy mysteries, but ah ha – she has a motive to murder Fred.

Enter Ian, a dashing grad student, and Colin, his younger brother, who is in a wheelchair, and whom Ian is watching while their parents take a 25th anniversary trip to Thailand. While Megan bats her eyelashes at adorable Colin, Nancy smiles at handsome, square-jawed Ian. Just then, Larry, the bad-tempered landlord, comes pushing into the shop, threatening that he’s going to sue Joyce for damages because she tampered with the HVAC system. Joyce explains that the donut glazes would drip if she didn’t have air conditioning in this hot, sticky southern climate. Larry shouts that she should have called him instead of tinkering with the system, and his loud, scary voice causes antique store owner Felice to have an asthma attack. She falls to the floor, gasping for air, but Ian, Colin’s dashing older brother, finds her inhaler, helps her get it to her mouth and holds her head on his lap. Larry the landlord rushes out in a huff. Ah ha, I think, the author is not fooling me. Ian will turn out to be the murderer.

Two shots are fired from outside the donut shop, narrowly missing Nancy, but hitting young Colin. It’s only a graze, but everyone is shaken. And Larry the landlord is lying dead in front of the donut shop. Ah ha – the murderer is either Fred, the amnesiac sex offender, or Bernard, the portly divorced pharmacist. See how easy it is to decipher a cozy mystery? Suddenly, I’m in the mood for Thai food. And an apple fritter for dessert.

I love cozy mysteries!

BIOG.P. Gottlieb ( has worked as a musician, a teacher, and an administrator, but she’s happiest when writing recipe-laced murder mysteries. Battered: A Whipped and Sipped Mystery and Smothered: A Whipped and Sipped Mystery take place in the spring and summer of 2019 and a third book in the series will center on a murder that occurs during the city of Chicago’s lockdown in May 2020. G.P. Gottlieb has always experimented in the kitchen and created her delicious vegan cookies and cakes in direct opposition to what she learned in courses at Chicago’s French Pastry School. She is host for New Books in Literature, a podcast channel on the New Books Network, the mother of three grown children, and lives with her husband in a Chicago high-rise that is strikingly similar to the building portrayed in the Whipped and Sipped Mystery series.

Click link below for 30% off from the publisher
Smothered by G.P. Gottlieb

Mystery Readers Only

Guest Post: The Inverted Detective Story

by Frederick Weisel

The Silenced Women
by Frederick Weisel

The classic mystery saves the big reveal—the identity of the guilty party—for the last chapter or even the final paragraph. As readers, we rush through the book to learn how the puzzle is solved. Agatha Christie was, of course, famous for this. Even current writers like the Irish mystery writer Tana French keep the reader guessing until the end.

But the mystery genre also includes a different kind of plot—the so-called “inverted detective story.” Here the crime and the identity of the criminal are described at the outset. The story then shows us how the detective uncovers the evidence to figure out what the reader already knows. If the classic mystery is the whodunit, the inverted detective story is the howcatchem.

According to Wikipedia, the inverted detective story was invented by a writer named R. Austin Freeman in 1912. But anyone old enough to have watched TV in the 1970s will remember Peter Falk’s Columbo. The first few minutes of that show always began with the commission of the crime and the identity of the guilty person. The rest of the show was about how Columbo found a way to prove the killer’s guilt.

My mystery/police procedural The Silenced Women follows the inverted detective story format. No spoiler alert is necessary. Chapter 3 introduces Ben Thackrey and his friends Victor and Russell. The chapter doesn’t actually tell you they are killers. But, given their conversation about how to dispose of a bloody trunk liner in their car, you know all is not right in their world.

So—as readers, what do get in an inverted detective story in exchange for not being able to guess the killer? In my novel, readers are able to spend time with the killers throughout the novel, not just at the end. Many chapters show them trying to cover their tracks and even threatening the police detectives. Equally, the plot shows the detectives gradually collecting clues that close in on the Thackrey and his friends.

In Columbo and, hopefully, my novel, the plot puts readers in a different place from the classic mystery. Readers aren’t trying to catch up to the detective; they are ahead of the sleuth. As the shorthand phrase above notes, it puts the emphasis not on the who but the how. In that sense, it’s a profoundly different kind of story.

The structure also shifts the focus more on character than plot. As readers, you’re not reading to find out who the killer is, you’re reading to observe who the detective and the killer are. That was clearly true with Peter Falk’s Columbo character. What we remember about that show are not the plots but Lieutenant Columbo’s way of speaking and moving.

When you read my novel, I hope you’ll find some pleasure in getting to know Eddie Mahler, the lead detective who suffers from migraine headaches; Eden Somers, the smart former FBI analyst who is haunted by serial killer case; and the other detectives on the VCI team. And I hope these characters will keep you turning the pages even though you know the killer before the cops do.

About the Book:

A debut novel, The Silenced Women, introduces an exciting new police procedural series, set in Santa Rosa and Sonoma County, about a team of homicide investigators led by the enigmatic detective Eddie Mahler. The novel follows the detectives as they investigate a recent homicide and several similar cold cases. The book will be published by Poisoned Pen Press on February 2, 2021, and is available for pre-order now. The second book in the series, The Day He Left, is a missing person case, and will be published in February 2022. More information about the book and the series is at:

About the Author:

Author Frederick Weisel

Frederick Weisel has been a writer and editor for more than 30 years. He graduated from Antioch College and has an MA in Victorian Literature and History from the University of Leicester in England. The Silenced Women is his debut novel. He lives with his wife in Santa Rosa, California.




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Writer's Notes

Guest Post: How NOT to Pitch Your Book to Bloggers and Reviewers

Click here for a 30% off deal from the publisher:
G.P. Gottlieb’s Smothered
A Whipped and Sipped Mystery

Today’s guest is a prolific author/blogger, G. P. Gottlieb, who shares her tips for pitching. Great pointers here!Thonie

By G. P. Gottlieb 

“I would be delighted to be interviewed for the New Books Network. Thanks. Here’s my email.”

I just deleted that message. I am host for New Books in Literature, a podcast channel on the New Books Network. Although I interview authors of both commercially and independently published fiction, I focus on independent presses, which I believe deserve more attention. My purview is contemporary literary fiction and I have recently also started interviewing one literary mystery writer each month. To find authors, I review pitches from publishers and publicists, read journals, get recommendations from other authors, and scroll through my social media groups.

I am also an author (my first culinary mystery was released in 2019) and know how hard it is to find readers, so I’m surprised that so many authors and publicists don’t take the time to prepare before contacting me. They don’t look me up on the NBN website or listen to any of my podcasts, all available on the site for free. If they checked, they’d see that there is a place to pitch their books, they’d notice that there are many different NBN channels, and they’d learn that I’m the host for New Books in Literature.

For my own marketing purposes regarding my soon-to-be-published second culinary mystery, I’ve spent hours researching potential mystery book reviewers, podcasters, bloggers, and other sites. Before sending a request, I check the host’s review policy, I triple-check the spelling of the host’s name, and I confirm that the host is interested in culinary mysteries. I bet that most people who accept pitches would rather get books that interest them, presented thoughtfully, than three pages of blurbs about a book they won’t read or shot-in-the-dark messages which, like me, they’ll just delete.

I like to think of it as creating a relationship instead of asking a favor of someone I’ve never met.   Thonie Hevron, a mystery author who posts guest essays and book reviews on her website and in all the usual places, talks about professional courtesy. “Don’t waste another’s precious time. This business is about relationships, not what you can get from another,” she says, adding, “Some of the most satisfying professional and personal relationship I have are with authors I’ve met online.”

She’s way friendlier than me, but I finally figured out how important it is to become Facebook friends with authors I’ve interviewed and with bloggers and reviewers who have helped me publicize my culinary mystery. Even if I just follow them and they don’t follow me back, I get more of a feeling that we’re all in this together.

There is no guarantee that these suggestions will assure you a successful book launch or wonderful sales, but maybe they’ll help you establish a better relationship with bloggers, bookstore owners, and podcast hosts who just might dedicate some time to helping you publicize your book.

Be clear and upfront in the subject line. Type: “Book Review Request,” or “Guest Blog Post.” Remember that your e-mail could be one of hundreds in their inbox. One of my colleagues always responds, even if the subject line says, “You Must Read My Amazing, Award-Winning Novel.” That colleague is a sweetie-pie. I’d delete it in a heartbeat.

Acknowledge a human being in your greeting. Don’t start blabbing about your book without some kind of greeting. “Dear G.P.” is fine, or “Hi, Best Blog in the World.” Being friendly goes a long way.

Acknowledge the site before launching into a pitch, maybe say something about it. “Brilliant questions in your penetrating interview with W. Shakespeare. My novel is also set in England!”

Don’t give a host work to do. If it’s a mysterious title, explain it. If you message my Facebook page, say you’re requesting an interview and give me your FB link and email address. I’m not going to take the time to google you. And one message will be sufficient – I hate how FB Messenger interrupts whatever I’m doing.

If you don’t hear back, don’t send a follow-up request. Just put that host/blogger/reviewer in your ‘Not this time’ file. You can try again with your next book. Or the one after that. For this book, I sent out nearly 100 requests for reviews and received about 25 responses. It’s a numbers game. Just send out a lot of requests.

Don’t argue with a potential host/blogger/reviewer: If I tell you I’m not interested in ‘Mystery of the Lost Shoe,’ don’t tell me that it’s completely different from anything I’ve ever read. As my NBN colleague, C.P. Lesley, the friendly host for New Books in Historical Fiction writes, “If the host tells you she has no time in her schedule, don’t write back demanding to know when space might be available.”

Make sure to ask what format the host prefers: Don’t add attachments until they are requested. And if the host prefers reading a physical book, don’t go into a lengthy explanation about why it’s only available as an eBook. Yup, that happened once. You are asking someone to invest time in helping you market your book, so offer to send the format they prefer, even if it costs more.

Follow the host/blogger/reviewer on social media: Denise Fleischer, who reviews books and offers book promotions at Gotta Write Network says, “This is the single best way of thanking someone who helps publicize your book.” Denise also suggests that you consider the nominal fee sometimes charged for coordinating a blog tour and thank the host/reviewer/blogger on your social media.

I’m sure, or relatively sure, that I don’t need to mention this (I can ‘hear’ you rolling your eyes) but it would be nice if you conclude your request with a “thank you.”  

Good luck, fellow authors!

About G.P. Gottlieb: (
G.P. has worked as a musician, a teacher, and an administrator, but she’s happiest when writing recipe-laced murder mysteries. Battered: A Whipped and Sipped Mystery and Smothered: A Whipped and Sipped Mystery take place in the spring and summer of 2019 and a third book in the series will center on a murder that occurs during the city of Chicago’s lockdown in May 2020. G.P. Gottlieb has always experimented in the kitchen and created her delicious vegan cookies and cakes in direct opposition to what she learned in courses at Chicago’s French Pastry School. She is host for New Books in Literature, a podcast channel on the New Books Network, the mother of three grown children, and lives with her husband in a Chicago high-rise that is strikingly similar to the building portrayed in the Whipped and Sipped Mystery series.

Smothered A Whipped and Sipped Mystery

Click here for a 30% off presale price from the publisher!

Mystery Readers Only

Guest Post: Setting’s Importance

Not as We Knew It


By Marilyn Meredith

My hostess, Thonie Hevron, made the suggestion for this topic, and it’s a good one.

Though there is no real town of Rocky Bluff, it is similar to another town set on the Pacific coast between Ventura and Santa Barbara. It is only vaguely similar however, since Rocky Bluff is a much smaller community, and the geography is different in a major way.

Both towns are divided by the 101 Highway, with the part near the beach being where the business and most of the homes are situated. The other side is more rural with ranches and orange groves. A big difference is the bluff which gives my town its name and where the homes are larger and far more expensive.

When I first began writing this series, I lived in a beach town not far from my fictional setting. I know what the weather is like, the ocean often bringing in a blanket of fog, and the only time the temperature rises is when an East wind strikes.  Living close to the ocean, means being able to smell the saltiness on the breeze, and when close enough, to enjoy the glorious differences of the blues in the water, and watch the waves come into shore. I try to put in words what the characters in my mysteries experience through sight, sound, and smell.

In my latest, Not As We Knew It, number 16 in the series, the intersection of the 101 highway plays a major part in one of the subplots. The fact that Rocky Bluff is between Ventura and Santa Barbara is important to one of the mysteries.

When writing one these mysteries, I transport myself to this fictional town in my mind, and picture what is going on around the characters as the story plays out. How the weather is affecting what is going on, when one must travel what he or she sees along the way, and how other factors that are important to the story are being affected.

About Not As We Knew It: The challenges come one after another for the Rocky Bluff P.D. to handle―from a missing woman to a fatal house fire. Detective Doug Milligan is faced with new and unusual problems to solve, some on the job and others related to his family. With the department shorthanded because of the Covid virus, Chief Chandra Taylor must make some hard decisions in order to protect the town of Rocky Bluff.

To buy:

Marilyn Meredith

About Marilyn: Marilyn Meredith is the author of over 40 published novels, including the Rocky Bluff P.D. series, which she writes as F. M. Meredith, and the Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series. She is a member to two branches of Sisters in Crime, and the Public Safety Writers Association. Over the years she’s taught writing for Writers Digest School, and at many writers and mystery conferences. She now lives in the foothills of the Sierra with her husband and other family members.

Mystery Readers Only

Today’s the day!

The Annual Rohnert Park Holiday Arts & Crafts Faire is here!

Do your Christmas and holiday shopping from unique, one-of-a-kind vendors—this year online!

The Nick and Meredith Mysteries will be featured Friday at 12:30 and 3:30 and Saturday at 12:30 and 3:30 but feel free to check them out anytime during the Faire.

All three books are for sale with free shipping or arranged (through Rohnert Park’s Parks and Rec Department) curb-side pick-up in Rohnert Park. The real deal is 30% off for all three personalized books. eBooks are also available on through Amazon.

Mystery Readers Only

Guest Post by J.L. Greger: When Murder is All in the Family

By J.L. Greger

Dirty Holy Water
by J.L. Greger

Gang members, drug dealers, and robbers are the most common murderers in novels. Yet, the FBI has reported nearly a quarter of the 13,000 murder victims in the U.S. in 2010 were killed by family members. An additional 28% were killed by someone they knew. Does that surprise you?

Now here’s more surprising statistics from the Department of Justice for 1998-2002. Most family violence offenders were white (79%), and most were thirty or older (62%).

Should more authors of murder mysteries focus on family violence?

You have to answer that question. I can tell you once I decided to write about family violence in DIRTY HOLY WATER, I quickly realized I was creating psychological mystery. It was hard to distinguish victims from villains. What’s more the mystery seemed much more personal to me (and I hope readers) than most mysteries. Although I don’t know any convicted robbers or sex offenders, I (and I suspect everyone else) know at least one pretty obnoxious family member who given the right circumstances could be pretty violent.

Now read this opening excerpt from my new novel DIRTY HOLY WATER. Does Lurleen appear to be a victim or a perpetrator of family violence?

Lurleen Jansen must have been a pretty woman once. Now Sara Almquist could see little attractive about Lurleen, except her expressive green eyes. Lurleen had called Monday and almost demanded that Sara drive her to El Santuario de Chimayó this week. Sara had hesitated but finally agreed to the field trip because Lurleen needed a friend.

Although Sara had pushed the front passenger seat of her Subaru Forester back to the maximum, Lurleen looked like she was a piece of pimento stuffed in a green olive. Her face was red as she tried to close the clamp shut on the seat belt that strained around her green camouflage cargo pants and T-shirt. “Should have brought my seat belt extender along. Too much work to walk back inside for it.”

Sara felt a twinge of guilt. She considered volunteering to get the seat belt extender but knew she wouldn’t. Lurleen had been her neighbor in the adults-only community of La Bendita until Lurleen and her husband Pete decided about five years ago that the two- and three-bedroom houses of the gated neighborhood were too small to meet their needs. It wasn’t jealousy that kept Sara from looking for the seat belt extender in Lurleen’s large house. Her reasons were simpler—she knew it would be difficult to locate something small, like a seat belt extender, among the stack of boxes and piles of junk in the house. She was also afraid what she might find. Lurleen didn’t waste time cleaning her house and only hired someone to clean it when a new infestation problem appeared. Some sort of pest, usually bigger than ants, appeared every year.

Lurleen appeared to hold her breath and clicked the seat belt shut. “Pete’s being tight with me.” She smiled. “But I’ll get what I want.”

Before Sara could make a catty comment, such as you must have asked for the moon this time, Lurleen changed the subject. “Thanks for agreeing to take me to Chimayó to get some holy dirt for Matt. He’s talking less these days.”

Sara gave a soft sigh because Lurleen had reminded her why they were making this trip. Lurleen’s daughter Mitzi had become a foster parent for a one-year-old girl named Kayla almost twelve years ago. About that time, Kayla’s biological parents had another child Matt. He was born addicted to cocaine and quickly displayed developmental delays. The New Mexico Children, Youth, and Families Department, better known as CYFD, had decided the two children must be kept together, and Mitzi had reluctantly agreed to become Matt’s foster care mother, too. When she was five, Kayla had been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder. Eventually Mitzi had adopted both children. Lurleen had been supportive of Mitzi and her two adopted children during the long adoption process.

Sara admired both women because it took guts to adopt special needs children. Although Sara doubted the holy dirt dispensed from a small pit at El Santuario de Chimayó had curative properties, she recognized faith was sometimes effective in helping patients.

Chimayó was north of Santa Fe, almost a two-hour drive from La Bendita. Since 1816, pilgrims had claimed the dirt there had healing powers. Now the adobe chapel built around the pit with holy dirt was probably the most important pilgrimage site in the United States.

Sara had visited Chimayó several times because the drive in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains was scenic and a nearby restaurant was excellent. Sara also recognized Lurleen needed a chance to vent her feelings more than Matt needed the holy dirt. So, she drove north and mainly listened.

(The rest of Chapter 1 of Dirty Holy Water).

Buy DIRTY HOLY WATER (paperback or ebook) at:

About DIRTY HOLY WATER: Life is complicated for Sara Almquist in this romantic and psychological mystery. She’s about to become engaged and leave for a vacation in India when she becomes the chief suspect in the murder of a friend. Only the friend and her family, well to put it politely, have a couple of dark secrets. Sara soon realizes the difference between a villain and a victim can be small – alarmingly small, especially in a dysfunctional family. 

The Kirkus review is: “A thought-provoking, disturbing, and engaging mystery with a likable, strong-willed female lead”  

Bio: J.L. Greger is a biology professor and research administrator from the University of Wisconsin-Madison turned novelist. She has consulted on scientific issues worldwide and loves to travel. Thus, she likes to include both science and her travel experiences in her thriller/mystery novels in the Science Traveler series. Award-winning books in the series include: 

The Flu Is Coming

Murder: A Way to Lose Weight


Riddled with Clues

A Pound of Flesh, Sorta 

Learn more at:

Mystery Readers Only

Between the Covers

By Thonie Hevron

Who has the nerve to charge $30.00 for a mass market novel?

Plenty of best-selling, award-winning authors, that’s who.

Why the heck should I spend thirty of my hard-earned bucks on a book?

Because there is so much more between the covers than mere pages. How long did it take the author dream up the plot? Outline? Characters? Setting? Dialog? All this takes research. Romantic Bronte hero Edward Rochester doesn’t dress or talk like Phillip Marlowe. The setting must be realistic with sights, sounds and smells of real terra firma (unless it’s the ocean). Even visiting a local requires research into soil types, geography, demographics, weather and so on. If I told you how long it took to cull this information to distill into one scene, you’d grab your wallet and willingly hand over the cash.

That’s just preliminaries. After all the above is set in your head (or hard drive somewhere), a writer must do what a writer must do—write! Getting words down on a page may sound simple but fighting the temptation to edit as you go along, warring with distractions and generally motivating your bad self into the chair, take a lot of work. It’s not unusual for prolific authors to write 1,000 words a day. For an 80,000- word mystery, that’s a lot of days.

Typing “The End” isn’t the end for the author. There are edits. I’ve gone through rounds of seven with editors before it’s proclaimed “readable.”

You might think that’s really the end but it’s not. Whether your author is traditionally, small press or indie published, he/she bears the burden of most PR. Sure, the big houses will set up author events at book stores, but it’s up to the author to have bookmarks, swag, a captivating topic on which to speak and generate much of his/her own audience.

Social media platforms would’ve begun the moment the contract was signed. Again, the burden is on the author. There might be some technical help in the form of a custom website but Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, et al, is done on the author’s time.

All this for one book? Well, the goal here is to produce many books. A website will be helpful for marketing, especially if it’s already set up. Social media will have generated interest and sales but to keep momentum the author must be active on the platforms.

All this is work. It’s labor of love, granted, but I know of few (introverted, the lot of us!) authors who like getting in front of an audience and talking about themselves. We authors know to acquaint readers with our work (that’s the whole point) we must stretch out of our comfort zones—or not ever put our words in front of readers.

Whew! All this takes a lot of energy. Authors don’t get paid by the hour and couldn’t begin to figure billing. So, we put a price tag on our darlings and hope others find them as captivating as we did.

Mystery Readers Only

Guest Post: Radine Nehring- Yes to Success as an Author

Solving Peculiar Crimes by Radine Trees Nehring

By Radine Nehring

Hmmmm. If you are not a New York Times best-selling author with book sales in the thousands–or even in your own, more local, venue—counted in hundreds (I am including myself here) you can still say “I am a success.”

Of course there are gazillion other kinds of success, from making a delicious meal in the kitchen to feeling good about a work project not related to writing. That’s great, if it’s a helpful definition of success in your life.

But, how about success as a writer on a day when words simply aren’t working, when no agent or editor has responded to your query, or some “knucklehead” gave your latest book a mediocre review? Plus today, worry about pandemic, climate change, and political fighting can mess with peace of mind. Success through all that, too?

For me, the answer is yes, and is found in my interaction with other people in person, as well as spending more time on those connections via computer these days. For a number of years, being able to set up for weekly day-long book selling in grocery stores near my home area gave me a big boost toward happiness. Most of those who stopped at my table were not writers themselves, and their curiosity and even awe were springboards to a feeling of success, even when they did not choose to buy a book. Their friendliness and interest still fill me with gratitude and I hope, when things open up, I can go back to this work again.

Connections with other writers via conferences around the country, plus activity in a local book critique group, (even via Zoom) also make people-power an important way to experience a feeling of success. I know, this depends on how you think about it, but don’t forget, you are in charge of your thoughts and reactions. Be grateful.

Now, while spending much more time at home, there are newsletters, blogs, and social media locations for authors, plus special places like DorothyL’s review posts, and the Authors Guild daily posts covering conversations between authors about all kinds of ideas.

I guess what I am saying, is that, because you are a writer, one kind of success can be measured in friendships related in so many ways to that profession.



Amazon-Solving Peculiar Crimes

Radine’s website featuring all her books is Radinesbooks

Radine’s Author’s Guild Profile

About Radine:

Radine Trees Nehring’s award-winning writing career began when she fell in love with the Arkansas Ozarks and wanted to tell people why. She began by writing articles and essays for magazines and newspapers, sold a non-fiction book about life in the Ozarks to a New York publisher, then began writing her “To Die For” mystery series featuring Carrie McCrite, Henry King, and their friends in the Ozarks. “Solving Peculiar Crimes” adds intriguing and unique Carrie and Henry short stories to that series. Radine is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, Ozark Writers League, and Authors Guild. She was chosen as the 2011 inductee into the Arkansas Writers Hall of Fame.

Mystery Readers Only Writer's Notes

Guest Post: Maris Soule’s Take on Coming Up With Ideas

A Killer Past by Maris Soule

By Maris Soule

I’m often asked, “How do you come up with your ideas?” Well, Mary Harrington took form during a walk with my husband. We’d just watched the TV show Nikita (A rogue assassin returns to take down a secret organization) and I said, “I wonder what she would be like in her seventies?”

Hmm. I had a character. A woman in her seventies who regularly works out at the gym and has kept a low profile since moving to Rivershore, a small, rural town in southwest Michigan. She’s a widow whose grown son thinks, for her safety, she should move out of the two-story house she’s called home for almost forty-four years. A woman with secrets.

Mary Harrington became real to me, but now I needed an event to change the course of her life. I came up with two. First, she’s featured in a magazine article about the mental and physical advantages of older people staying active. Her picture is included, showing Mary working out at the gym, and the article goes out on the Internet, where it can be (and is) seen by people from her past. And then, the night before Halloween, Mary’s car breaks down two blocks from her house, and two gang members see her as easy prey. When one of the punks grabs her, Mary discovers old habits are hard to forget, and the gang members are the ones who end up in the hospital.

Of course, I needed a foil, someone intent on discovering why Mary isn’t willing to admit she bested the boys. Enter Sergeant Jack Rossini, Rivershore’s lone investigator. He’s a widower and younger than Mary by over a decade, who finds her fascinating, especially when he discovers there’s no record of her life prior to her arrival in Rivershore and is told by the F.B.I. to drop his investigation.

I loved writing this book. It was fun verbally pitting Mary against Jack, creating a son who thinks his mother can’t take care of herself, and a snobbish daughter-in-law who wants to trace Mary’s family tree. To the mix, I added a drug pushing gang and a man from her past who want her dead.

As an older woman myself, I hate being classified as “elderly.” The word conjures up images of feeble and weak. Yes, I can’t do everything I used to do when I was younger, but I still remember some of the Judo I learned in my teens. Don’t try grabbing my arm and pulling me somewhere I don’t want to go. And I may not see the target as well as I did in my younger years, but I can still put some bullet holes near the center. I never learned how to use some of the weapons Mary had hiding in her basement, but it was fun doing the research.

So, what would a woman who was an assassin in her twenties be like in her seventies? Meet Mary Harrington who has A KILLER PAST.

Maris Soule

About Maris:

Maris Soule has had thirty books published, ranging from romance and romantic suspense to mystery and thriller. Over the years, her books have won and placed in more than a dozen contests. Born and raised in California, she was working on a master’s degree in art history when she met and married her husband. She taught high school art and math for eight years before turning to writing full time. The Soules, who have two grown children and two granddaughters, now live in Michigan in the summer and Florida in the winter.

Visit her at:

Mystery Readers Only

Guest Post: Are You Inspired?

By Susan McCormick

Inspiration is a funny thing. As a cozy mystery writer, I need inspiration for the murders that anchor the stories, inspiration to sit myself down and write for hours on end, inspiration for the big ideas of the characters and the books, and, most importantly, inspiration for the magic that happens on the page.

I am attuned to murder possibilities in everyday life. A cutthroat music competition that comes every four years with only one scholarship awarded? I see a mom who will do anything to help her child succeed. An arguing couple in a National Park? I see a husband who might lean too close to the edge and “fall off.” I am kind, sedate, and boring in my real life, but my imagination is full of mystery.

Authors need inspiration for the actual process of putting pen to paper, minute after minute, hour after hour, day after day. In many cases, the writing happens after coming home or before heading off to work. And, at home, so many distractions! The view outside the window, the dog angling for a tummy rub, the children clamoring for a snack or a game, the tea kettle ready to warm, the outdoors calling for a walk, the bedside table stacked with fully formed books that someone else has toiled over: grit and determination are the only antidotes. For me, with a day job as a doctor, the preciousness of time forced me into that chair before the sun came up each morning.  

The fun parts of inspiration, though, are the wisps of inspiration we collect and add together over time. My book series, The Fog Ladies, deals with old ladies, senior sleuths who have plenty of time on their hands and plenty of suspicion. The inspiration came when I lived in an elegant apartment building in San Francisco, and I was a busy medical resident with no time on my hands, so busy and tired I envied the sick patients lying in their hospital beds. In my apartment building were many older women, and I pictured them, incorrectly, as living the life of leisure I so coveted, sitting in rocking chairs looking out at the beautiful view and reading murder mysteries. My Fog Ladies’ characters took shape over the years as a conglomeration of older women I met in my building, in my practice as a doctor, at my mother’s retirement community’s dinner table, and anywhere else spunky ladies gather.

Inspiration for me also involves dogs. My gigantic Newfoundland dog, Albert, was my faithful writing companion, slipping downstairs with me in the early morning hours which are so good for writing and lying silently by my side as I typed. Looking at his large, black, solid, calm presence, I created his antithesis, a tiny, white, high-strung, fidgety Bichon Frise, who yips through the book, creates chaos and trouble, and ultimately saves the day. My dog, Albert, makes a short, sedate, and dignified appearance in Book 2, but in Book 3 he will finally shine, with a Newfoundland front and center in the action.

The final and best type of inspiration, however, comes from the inner recess of my mind, unplanned, unanticipated. Without this, there is no magic. With my doctor work, sometimes a diagnosis or a concern about a patient will come to me in a dream, and these messages from my brain have always been accurate. Writing is the same. Though I try to plot and plan, my favorite part of writing is when characters I’ve created do unexpected things and get themselves into trouble. One of my characters, Enid Carmichael, discovers Starbucks lattes at the ripe old age of eighty. She loves the bitterness, the froth. I wrote that. Then she craved more, and the next thing I knew, she was stealing Starbucks coupons from her neighbor’s newspaper to feed her addiction. She did that. Not me. I have learned to give my characters a little space to be themselves, because the surprises they bring are a delight.

Inspiration is around and within us. As a cozy mystery writer, I love to twist real life into murder, twist bits and pieces of people and dogs into rich, feisty new characters, and twist secrets from a part of my brain that is hidden.

The Fog Ladies: Family Matters (A San Francisco Cozy Murder Mystery, Book 2) synopsis:

Till death do us part, with kitchen shears. When a family man kills his wife, the Fog Ladies—spunky senior sleuths and one overtired, overstressed and newly suspicious young doctor living in an elegant apartment building in San Francisco—set out to discover the truth. Their probing finds the threat is perilously close to home, endangering another troubled family struggling to survive. Marriage can be deadly.

About Susan:

Susan McCormick and Albert

Susan McCormick is a writer and doctor who lives in Seattle. She graduated from Smith College and George Washington University School of Medicine, with additional medical training in San Francisco and Washington, D.C. Susan served as a doctor in the U.S. Army for nine years before moving to the Pacific Northwest. In addition to the Fog Ladies series, she also wrote Granny Can’t Remember Me, a lighthearted picture book about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. She is part of The Cozy Mystery Quartet, with YouTube podcasts about all things cozy, for authors and for readers. She lives in Seattle with her husband, two sons, and, until recently, a giant Newfoundland dog, Albert.

Social media links:

Buy links:

Mystery Readers Only

Guest Post: What’s in a Murder Mystery, Anyway?

The Lethal Legacy by Jeannette de Beauvoir

Due to a scheduling glitch, you are seeing Jeannette de Beauvoir’s post on the ingredients for a murder mystery this afternoon instead of this morining. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. –Thonie

By Jeannette de Beauvoir

My favorite genre, whether reading or writing, is mystery. There’s something that’s intellectually and morally satisfying about seeing justice done—and having a go at figuring out how to get there.

Most murders originate long before they come to the reader’s—or the sleuth’s—attention. The body is both the ending of one story and the beginning of another. But unless there’s some sort of flashback in the prologue, the murder mystery proper begins with a body.


In a cozy mystery, one that doesn’t follow the investigation from the police point of view  (those are called police procedurals), generally the murder itself is glossed over. Its brutality doesn’t intrude much into the drawing-room or garden; instead, that’s all abstracted and presented to the reader as a puzzle. Readers are generally not attached to the victim, though as the mystery deepens the victim may be fleshed out and presented as more of a person; right now, though, we’re just looking at a body.


In a mystery in which the protagonist is a detective (either police or private), that person now enters the scene. Although not always, this is also the point where the amateur sleuth enters the scene, though generally with less deliberation; most amateurs stumble over bodies—literally or metaphorically—or get drawn in by someone else. In a detective novel, there is sometimes a dark past or present (for example, Sherlock Holmes’ cocaine habit), while amateurs often handle their pasts and foibles with humor.


The obvious suspect is, of course, rarely guilty. Agatha Christie pioneered using the least likely suspect as murderer; but there are all sorts of options between those extremes. It’s generally not the butler (though to be honest, I long to read a mystery in which the butler did do it!). Suspects all present a motive for murder, and most of these motives are established by the author to lead the reader astray.


The weapon used reveals the level of planning—or lack thereof—involved. Murder weapons (or methods) in novels tend in general to be more creative than those in the headlines; one can only assume that when real criminals use creative methods, they’re not caught.


There’s lots of it. The weather, people’s habits, gum wrappers left behind… nothing is too small for the author to include. It’s up to the reader to figure out what’s relevant and what isn’t. The author has a duty to the reader: all the information necessary to solving the crime must be given to the reader in the name of fair play—so a lot more of it needs to be there in order to distract!


Just as superfluous information must be included, along with a plethora of possible suspects, the author includes possible false trails for the reader to fall in love with and follow.


It’s no fun to solve a murder if you can’t reveal your solution as dramatically as possible! Remember Hercule Poirot’s “you may wonder why I’ve called you here this evening”… this is possibly the most annoying part of the classic Golden Age mysteries, as the detective (professional or amateur) takes the suspects through the entire case, throws about the red herrings, and finally reveals the culprit.

And that’s pretty much it! Of course, I hope you see more than this bare-bones structure in my novels… but I am writing them in conformity to an old and venerable writing tradition.

Happy sleuthing!

About the book: 

Despite a slew of weddings to coordinate, Sydney Riley refuses to miss the Women’s Community Dinner—the high point of Women’s Week. During the festivities, she meets vocalist Jordan Bellefort, a direct descendant of a fugitive slave whose diaries suggest the Race Point Inn was a stop on the Underground Railroad. Then Jordan’s wife, Reggie, is murdered while Jordan performs onstage before a crowd of adoring fans. When Sydney probes Reggie’s death, she uncovers a tainted legacy that may provide a motive for the killing and place her own life at risk.

The Lethal Legacy explores the past’s influence on the present in a world-famous seaside resort with a rich history of diversity and acceptance. This seventh book in the Provincetown Mystery Series maintains the masterful blend of gripping suspense and unique characters Sydney Riley readers have come to expect.  

Amazon link:

About Jeannette de Beauvoir:

Jeannette is a bestselling novelist whose characters uncover truths and occasional dark secrets via mystery, historical, and literary fiction. Her work has been translated into 12 languages and she has been a Booksense Book-of-the-Year finalist.

As you can imagine, she loves to write. All the time.

Writer's Notes

Guest Post: Where I Get My Ideas From

By Debra Sennefelder

As a published author, I get many questions about the writing process, and one of the most common questions is where I get my ideas from. The answer is that ideas are everywhere. That’s the easy part. The challenging part is being able to identify whether an idea can sustain an entire book. There are times when an idea hits, and an author instantly knows that it can carry a book, and I have to say it’s a great feeling when that happens. Luckily, that happened for my new release, THE CORPSE WHO KNEW TOO MUCH.

For the fourth book in the Food Blogger Mystery series, I was inspired by my curiosity about cold cases and my interest in podcasts. As I listened to these shows, I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to listen to a podcast about a crime that I was familiar with. Perhaps one that happened in my town or to someone I knew. That started the wheels spinning for me, and ideas began to flow.

Some of the best true crime podcasts I listened to had a foreboding vibe, atmospheric music, and a well-written script that drew me into the case. I wanted to bring that ambiance into the book by inserting snippets from the podcast, Search for The Missing.

When I sat down to write up a summary of this book, I knew I wanted it to revolve around a true-crime podcast focused on a twenty-year-old missing woman’s case. Hope Early, the amateur sleuth in my Food Blogger Mystery series, was a teenager when Joyce Markham went missing. Joyce was the mother of Hope’s friends. A hum of anxiety rippled through the town at the disappearance because no one knew what to expect next. Would another wife and mother disappear? Was it an isolated case? Or, had Joyce had simply walked away from her life?

There are other times when a real-life incident serves as inspiration. For the second book in the series, THE HIDDEN CORPSE, the unexpected visit of a neighbor’s elderly mother to my house started that ball rolling. By the end of the day, I had the book’s opening and an essential thread for the story all planned out.

Then there are news stories that can spark an idea. Most recently, there was an intriguing, almost unbelievable story on the news, and my ears perked up immediately. By the time I found the report on the news channel’s website, I had the story’s base already formed, and I can’t wait to write it.

Earlier I noted that it’s a part of our job as an author to determine whether an idea can carry a novel. Another aspect of our job is the manage our active imaginations. It’s very easy to be lured away from a work-in-progress to something new, shiny, and full of potential. The struggle is real, and I’ve found keeping a trusty notebook always within reach a valuable tool.

I hope this insight into where this author gets her ideas helps you better understand the writer’s brain. Sometimes it can be a scary place, but it’s always entertaining.

Novel Synopsis:

Food blogger Hope Early takes on a cold case that’s heating up fast . . .
Building on her recipe for success with her food blog, Hope at Home, Hope is teaching her first blogging class at the local library in Jefferson, Connecticut. She’s also learning about podcasts, including a true-crime one called Search for the Missing, hosted by Hope’s childhood friend, Devon Markham. Twenty years ago on Valentine’s Day, right here in Jefferson, Devon’s mom disappeared and was never found. Finally Devon has returned to solve the mystery of what happened to her mother—and she asks Hope to help.

The next day Hope discovers Devon’s apartment has been ransacked. Her laptop with the research on her mother’s cold case is missing, and Devon is nowhere to be found. When her friend’s body is later discovered in a car wreck, Hope is convinced it’s no accident. Clearly, Devon was too close to the truth, and the cold-blooded killer is still at large in Jefferson. Now it’s up to Hope to find the guilty party—before the food blogger herself becomes the next subject of another true-crime podcast . . .

Includes Recipes from Hope’s Kitchen!

About the Author:

Debra Sennefelder is an avid reader who reads across a range of genres, but mystery fiction is her obsession. Her interest in people and relationships is channeled into her novels against a backdrop of crime and mystery.

Her first novel, THE UNINVITED CORPSE (A Food Blogger mystery) was published in 2018.When she’s not reading, she enjoys cooking and baking and as a former food blogger, she is constantly taking photographs of her food. Yeah, she’s that person.

Born and raised in New York City, where she majored in her hobby of fashion buying, she now lives and writes in Connecticut with her family. She’s worked in retail and publishing before becoming a full-time author. Her writing companion is her adorable and slightly spoiled Shih Tzu, Connie.

Buy Link:

Directs to Kensington’s website for retailers.

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Writer's Notes

Getting it Right-Technical Advice for Novelists by Danny R. Smith

Police and detective stories have withstood the test of time, and they are not going away anytime soon. If you’re writing crime novels but have no law enforcement experience, how do you get it right?

Most crime writers have no personal experience with the crimes about which they write, nor with the resulting investigative processes and procedures. If you don’t know the subject matter of which you write, you somehow need to learn it.

It is not enough to rely on what you have read or watched for entertainment as your main source of expertise. If you do, you will inevitably get it wrong. Maybe you’ll be close, but for me, personally, close doesn’t cut it.

Authors Who Get it Right

One of my favorite authors has always been Elmore Leonard. Unlike most, the “King of Dialogue” had the remarkable ability to write as a twenty-year veteran cop, and as a twenty-year convict, though he was never either one. Clearly, he spent a tremendous amount of time studying both, and he probably had great technical advisors along the way.

Joseph Wambaugh is a cop-turned-author, the trailblazer of authentic police procedure novels. Now, as decades have passed since he worked a beat himself, Wambaugh consults today’s cops so that his writing is authentic and true to the time.

Michael Connelly has a host of LAPD technical advisors, and he gets the details right most of the time. (He could use an advisor from the sheriff’s department because he has made glaring mistakes when speaking of my former department.) As a former cop-beat reporter, Connelly knows the importance of being technically correct in characters and scenes, and I give him credit for that.

How to Find Experts

One great resource for crime writers who have no police experience is Writer’s Detective, a website and blog hosted by a California police officer named Adam. (He uses the pen name B.A. Richardson, as he is still an active duty law enforcement officer.) He also has a Facebook group where he and other experts will answer questions. If you join the group, you will learn who has true expertise and learn to rely upon them and ignore some of the others who love to answer every question, though they have no experience themselves.

Many writers use Adam’s services, and I can personally tell you that his advising is always spot on. He also now hosts a podcast, and it is my understanding he will be releasing a book that will offer even more technical advice for writers.

Another great resource is a recently-retired Milwaukee PD sergeant named Patrick O’Donnell. He published a book on the topic as well: Cops and Writers. Though I haven’t read the book, it has good reviews, and I contributed to some of the material he used to write it.

Along the lines of Facebook groups, there are other great resources for writers. Legal Fiction, which is hosted by an attorney, and Trauma Fiction, a group hosted and attended by medical experts, are both worth joining for writers who need direction in those areas.

Lee Lofland’s book Police Procedure and Investigation: A Guide for Writers is another great resource for writers. Lofland is the founder of Writers’ Police Academy-MurderCon, “a special training event for writers of all genres, with a specific focus on solving the crime of murder,” and is a highly regarded consultant for writers.

My Experience

I have personally served as a consultant on several books. I’ve been mentioned in a couple, including one by a best-selling romance author. She had found me through a friend and asked if I would be willing to answer questions and provide some guidance while she wrote her book. I made myself available to her for several months as she worked on her novel.

Some consultants charge for their work, which is completely appropriate. However, many authors don’t make enough (or any) money on their books and do not have a budget that would allow them to pay for technical advisors. My technical advising thus far has been without compensation, but I wouldn’t do it again unless the person asking for help was a friend or associate, and the commitment was minimal.

Are All Cops Experts?

If you do find a cop or someone retired from law enforcement who is willing to help, make sure he/she has expertise in the area you seek. Not all cops are investigators. (In fact, most are not.) Not all cops are experts in traffic enforcement, or gang enforcement, or arson investigation. If you want an expert, find someone who could qualify in a court of law as an expert in the field of whatever it is you are seeking information.

A word of caution: There are those who have “supervised” and claim expertise in the field to which they were assigned. In some cases, this may be true. But most often, at least in the field of homicide investigation, supervisors do not conduct investigations themselves; rather, they oversee the work of their staff. That does not necessarily make one an expert. Many of the supervisors who were selected to go to the homicide bureau at LASD had no investigative experience because it was not necessary that they did. Their roles as supervisors had nothing to do with being investigators.

What Does it Cost?

The aforementioned Facebook groups are examples of where to find free advice. Just make sure the person offering the advice has some level of expertise and didn’t Google the answer to your question. (You could have done that yourself.) Books can be inexpensive, and of course, podcasts and blogs are free.

If you do find someone with expertise who is willing to help you without compensation, you should be very appreciative of his/her help. The knowledge they share with you was hard-earned, and likely has a greater value than even they know. The romance author I mentioned thanked me in her book. I didn’t expect anything more than that, but you might consider sending a gift certificate for a coffeehouse or maybe a steakhouse as a way of showing your appreciation. Most importantly, don’t use them and move on. I reached out to that author I had helped when I published my first book, and she never responded to me.

Writing Advice for the Cops

Conversely, if you are a cop who is determined to tell your story, you, too, should get it right — the writing part of it. Learn to write so that your prose is enjoyable to read. Writing to entertain is far different than writing police reports and affidavits. I learned that valuable lesson the hard way, having submitted some of my early work to an editor and an agent at a writer’s conference only to have it returned peppered with red ink. The harsh reality was that I had a lot to learn (and still do) about writing. Since I didn’t take college courses on creative writing, there was much I didn’t know, such as identifying and slaying as much passive voice as possible and paying attention to proper sentence structure.

Hire an Editor

Lastly, I have an editor. She is invaluable to me. Every published author has at least one. If you are self-publishing, you need to find a qualified editor (or two) and submit everything you write to her for review. Doing so has freed me to write more and worry less about commas and trying to figure out that whole lay, lie, lain, and laid thing (my greatest grammatical nemeses).

Best of luck to all of my fellow writers, authors, novelists, dramatists, bloggers, scribblers, and other assorted and glorious wordsmiths.

About Danny R. Smith:

Danny R. Smith spent 21 years with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the last seven as a homicide detective. He now lives in Idaho where he works as a private investigator and consultant. He is blessed with a beautiful wife and two wonderful daughters, and he is passionate about his dogs and horses, all of whom he counts among his friends.

He is the author of the bestselling and award-winning Dickie Floyd Detective Novel series, and he has written articles for trade publications. He publishes a weekly blog called The Murder Memo, which can be found at

He is a member of the Idaho Writers Guild and the Public Safety Writers Association.

Blog: The Murder Memo

Books: Dickie Floyd books

Thonie: I thought I’d add my comment to Danny’s post.

As a LE veteran, it galls me to find gross inaccuracies in the novel I’m reading. Some errors I can put down to the author using a municipal agency procedure applied to a state agency. They can be vastly different. Here in NorCal, I never heard “vic” or “perp” except on TV. A cop character’s language can speak volumes to their make-up. Danny’s list goes a long way to helping the author with resources. Another is Citizen Academies. My local police and sheriff’s office do academies (including one in Spanish) which help introduce the cop culture to the public.
Also an agency Public Information Officer may be able to help. If nothing else he/she could point you to a department or individual who may be able to answer your questions. Authors can make contacts via these two above avenues.
One last thought: cops are suspicious by nature. Cold-calling seldom bears fruit. If you need assistance, do your research first. Find out what you can from the internet, etc. about the organization. Cops also hate wasting their time. If you are professional (make an appointment, business cards, etc.) they are more likely to help. The trick is simple: build a relationship. As Danny said earlier, the romance author he helped didn’t return the “favor” when he reached out. He probably won’t help her again.

Mystery Readers Only

Guest Janet Dawson: Write What You Know–or Find Out


by Janet Dawson

That piece of advice is usually attributed to Mark Twain. Writing what you know is useful, but it’s limiting. As writers and readers, we don’t want limits. I find that I work better if I add two sentences to the quote: If you don’t know, find out. The search will lead you in all sorts of directions.

As the author of 19 books and a dozen short stories, I’ve found out some interesting things and traveled in many directions.

My latest book, Death Above the Line, is the fourth in my historical mystery series, which features protagonist Jill McLeod and the train known as the California Zephyr (the original, not the Amtrak version). The books are set in the early 1950s and Jill was introduced to mystery readers in Death Rides the Zephyr, followed by Death Deals a Hand and The Ghost in Roomette Four.

Jill is the only female member of the train crew, something like the train equivalent of a stewardess. Other rail lines had similar roles and called them by different names. On the California Zephyr, they were known as Zephyrettes.

I decided a Zephyrette would be a perfect sleuth. After all, her job was to make sure the passengers had a wonderful journey and that involved being observant, ready to solve problems as soon as they happened, if not before. Zephyrettes had to be intelligent and resourceful, and my protagonist Jill is all of that.

Write what you know. Well, I didn’t know much about Zephyrettes and I had to find out what it was like to ride the rails on the California Zephyr, both as a passenger and a member of the crew.

I’m writing about the original California Zephyr, not the Amtrak Version. The old California Zephyr (CZ) was sometimes called the Silver Lady, because of its sleek stainless-steel cars. The CZ began in March 1949, created in the heyday of luxurious train travel after World War II. It was a joint operation of three railroads—the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy (CB&Q), the Denver & Rio Grande Western (D&RGW), and the Western Pacific (WP)—with two trains daily, one westbound from Chicago, the other eastbound from Oakland, California.

CB&Q locomotives and crews operated the train between Chicago and Denver, where the D&RGW took over. From Salt Lake City west, it was the WP. The last stop was the Oakland Mole, a two-story train shed on the bay shore, where passengers bound for San Francisco would board ferries. For payroll purposes, the Zephyrettes were considered WP employees.

There was a lot I didn’t know, but I found out. I used all sorts of resources—books, articles, casting my net on the Internet. The research libraries at railroad museums in California and Colorado provided a trove of information. I also rode on trains and climbed around on railroad cars. I even drove a locomotive!

Best of all were the personal contacts—rail enthusiasts I met on several train trips, people who own and restore private rail cars, and the Zephyrettes themselves. I discovered that two retired Zephyrettes lived in the area, and one of them had worked on the trains in the early 1950s. One evening I took them to dinner, started my recorder, listened to them talk for over two hours. Oh, what stories I heard! Especially the one about the clandestine poker games in the baggage car. Invaluable!

Novel synopsis:

Zephyrette Jill McLeod rides the rails on the California Zephyr, but in Death Above the Line, she’s on a movie set, playing a scripted version of her real-life role. This temporary stint as an actress would be fun—if it weren’t for the emotions and conflicts swirling around the cast and crew. Secrets and hidden agendas abound. And nobody likes the visiting studio executive. When someone winds up dead, Jill takes on the role of detective. Can she expose the killer before the real-life villain catches up with her?

Buy links: and Noble

Janet Dawson is the author of two mystery series. The first features Oakland, California private eye Jeri Howard. The first book in the series, Kindred Crimes, won the St. Martin’s Press/Private Eye Writers of America contest for Best First Private Eye novel and was nominated for several awards. Jeri usually sleuths in California. Her territory is the Bay Area, but she ranges farther afield, heading for Monterey and San Luis Obispo in Don’t Turn Your Back on the Ocean, and Sonoma County in Bit Player and Cold Trail. The thirteenth book in the series, The Devil Close Behind, finds Jeri even farther from home, as a vacation in New Orleans turns into a case.

Author Janet Dawson

Janet has also written four historical mysteries set in the early 1950s. The California Zephyr series features protagonist Jill McLeod, who is a Zephyrette, the only female member of the crew of the sleek streamliner that runs between the Bay Area and Chicago. Her job is to see to the passengers’ needs and be aware of any problems that interfere with a smooth journey. Problems such as murder! Jill began sleuthing in Death Rides the Zephyr, which was followed by Death Deals a Hand and The Ghost in Roomette Four. Now arriving in the station is Death Above the Line. Jill, who has been roped into playing a Zephyrette in a film noir, finds yet another body.

Other publications include her suspense novel, What You Wish For, a novella, But Not Forgotten, and numerous short stories, including Shamus nominee “Slayer Statute” and Macavity winner “Voice Mail.”

Janet recently finished a novel titled The Sacrificial Daughter, which will be published in January 2021. She has just started a historical novel.

Find out more about Janet and her work and sign up for her newsletter at:

Her Facebook page is:

Follow Janet on BookBub:

Street Stories When Pigs Fly

When Pigs Fly

By Ron Corbin, retired LAPD, LVMP

LAPD Bell 206 Jetranger

Can You Say…Guilty Conscience?

I was flying Air-3 one day, which basically had responsibility for everything south of the Hollywood Hills and the Mulholland-Sepulveda Pass. Of course, even with responsibility for assistance to 12 patrol divisions, most of our calls involved those over Southwest, Newton, and 77th St Divisions. These three divisions were generally considered “South LA”, and were some of the busiest for active police work in all of the 17 divisions that were in LAPD’s’ jurisdiction at that time.

Southwest was originally known as University Division since the USC campus resided in the northeast corner of the area. It consisted of a potpourri of cultures, Asian, White, Black, and Hispanic. And each had their gang influence. 77th St Division was infamous for the 1966 Watts Riots and demographics that made it a “hotbed” for police work. Newton Division was known as “Shootin’ Newton”, and was famous for the Black Panther Shootout in 1969, and the SLA Shootout in 1974.

While slowly patrolling the skies over downtown LA, my observer and I monitored a radio call of a “211 Just Occurred” at a liquor store in Newton’s area, with the dispatcher giving a brief follow-up description of armed robbery suspect and his last direction seen running from the store. The suspect was a light-skin Black male, approximately 6’5, and had red hair. Oh, and to disguise his identity, he wore a red bandana over his face (sounds kind of silly to be that race, that tall with red hair, and attempt to hide your face, don’t you think? Just ADC- Another Dumb Criminal)

 My observer responded via the radio that we were en route for aerial assistance. I banked the aircraft and headed southbound at VNE (pilot talk for maximum allowed airspeed for that particular aircraft) toward the scene, calling LAX ATC (Air Traffic Control) for clearance to enter their TCA (Terminal Control Area). This was necessary due to the fact that our call was going to be under the flight path of the large commercial jets approaching both west runways for landing. Our little helicopter would be no match for a jumbo jet, and a midair would make a bad day for everyone. Even causing a passenger-filled commercial airliner to have to make a “go-around” because of our air space intrusion would certainly generate (at the least) an angry phone call to Chief Ed Davis. However, following MOUs with FAA, LAX controllers worked well with us ASD (Air Support Division) pilots in our priority needs.

Arriving over the general area of the crime area and since ground units were already on the scene, we began a wide orbit several blocks from the incident, searching backyards and anyone running. It’s amazing how well you can see physical descriptions, clothing colors, and certain distinctive patterns of people from 500 feet above the ground, our standard altitude for orbit.

It didn’t take long for my observer, who was using gyro-stabilized binoculars, found the suspect. He was trying to “blend in” with the people on the street. But it was easy for us since we could not see another 6’5″ Black male with red hair and a red bandanna neckerchief tied around his neck…at least for miles around in our bird’s eye view.

While the observer was directing ground units to close-in and make an arrest, I thought that I could “buy some time” and maybe not cause the suspect run, which meant a foot pursuit for our officers. I activated the PA system and yelled, “You’re Under Arrest! Get On The Ground”!

Wow! Was I surprised when not only our suspect complied, but 6-7 other people also immediately dropped to the ground with their arms prone-out to their sides. (Hmmm, maybe I should have been a little more specific to my person-of-interest.)

Possibly I just located several crime suspects and cracked a bunch of unsolved cases, or these individuals had been through the process before. In either case, when the first officers drove up, they looked confused to see several individuals lying on their stomach ready to be searched and cuffed. My observer was laughing hysterically as he directed the ground officers to the right suspect.

As the Code-4 was broadcast, we left ground officers to explain and pacify those other citizens who had apparently had guilty consciences about something else.

“We turned and flew off into the sunset on our blue and white steed. I just wish that I could have left a silver bullet for those to ponder… Who were those guys in the air?”

Writer's Notes

Guest Post: Raising the Stakes

Airborne by DiAnn Mills

DiAnn Mills

Every writer strives to keep readers turning pages, and that means raising the stakes in every scene. We want the reader to endure sleepless nights, forego cooking meals, forget to pick up the kids from school, and whatever else it takes to keep them engrossed and experiencing our stories. Every line of the story must build suspense.

The following are a few ways to help writers raise critical stakes for tight, emotive scenes.

Caught in the Crucible

Are the characters caught in the middle of something they possess, either mentally or physically, in which both refuse to let go? The crucible is greater than the characters’ desires, like two children who want the same toy.

Sol Stein suggests using the “crucible” as a means to drive the plot forward. He defines the technique as an environment, either mental or physical, that bonds people together. The crucible is greater than their desires, and neither is willing to give it up.

Choices and Doubts

Have you ever given up on a goal or decided the challenge wasn’t worth the trouble? Considered quitting? Abandoned the dream for a while? We want our characters to mirror our emotions, and we want them to overcome their fears to succeed.

Consider the choices confronting a character. Have him/her choose between two rights. Which one? Why? Still looking for more conflict? Force the character to choose between two wrongs. Imagine the guilt, the responsibility, the consequences, and the circumstances surrounding the dilemma. Make the character’s life messy, with a believable storyline and characters who embrace unpredictable yet realistic behavior.

Chapter hooks are as vital to the story as the hook in the beginning. End each scene with high stakes, an outer or inner struggle that spins with emotion. This technique will keep the reader up all night turning page after page to discover what happens next.


How can a writer seriously affect the plot and the characters’ lives to raise the stakes? This can be done by:

  • New information
  • Unexpected complications
  • Changes in relationships
  • Eliminating a character
  • Subplots
  • Opposing goals
  • Problems: physical, mental, spiritual

A “Whoa, I didn’t see that coming!” scene foils readers who think they can read the beginning of a novel then skip to the climax and resolution.


Readers want to experience what a character is feeling and understand why. A character’s personality dictates reactions, and the greatest emotion comes from facing a conflict head-on. This is an area where word choice and body language collide and add depth to the suspense.

Imagine a scene where a character’s loved family member is in danger. The character’s emotions are on one level, while the logical side of the character must find a way to remove the danger.

Don’t cheat the reader by failing to use every ounce of emotion and action to build higher stakes.

Fears and Weaknesses

This forces the character not only to struggle but also to face an inner and outer antagonist. Research the character’s backstory to incorporate fears, blind spots, betrayal, and weaknesses. Weave these traits into the character’s goal or problem, then show how the quest is impossible without overcoming the fear or weakness.

Point of View

The point of view selected by the writer is crucial to the story’s rising stakes. The POV choice is best made by “who has the most to lose” if a goal isn’t reached. The person who has the highest stakes will be the one whom the reader forms a sympathetic bond.


Provide the character with more than one role in the story and make life difficult for the protagonist and/or antagonist. For example, a police officer may wrestle with arresting a drug dealer if the suspect is his best friend’s spouse.

Antagonistic Setting

Tension, conflict, and suspense explode when a setting is unfamiliar and hostile. Not only do the stakes raise for the character to survive, but it may also force the character to grow into a better person. How does a writer accomplish an antagonistic setting? Begin by concentrating on a few traits of a villain: determined, powerful, an outward appearance of beauty or charm, and the ability to deceive. The adversity of setting can be obvious or hidden but include it in ways that force the character to make tough decisions and then accept responsibility for those actions.

Raising the Stakes is not an engine additive to a story. It’s a process that begins long before the first line is written. High stakes are a mindset that influences every technique of novel writing and coincides with character goals. Look at your story. Where can you raise the stakes?

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She is a storyteller and creates action-packed, suspense-filled novels to thrill readers. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests.

DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She is the director of the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference, Mountainside Retreats: Marketing, Speakers, Nonfiction and Novelist with social media specialist Edie Melson where she continues her passion of helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country.

Connect with DiAnn here:





Mystery Readers Only

Guest: David E Knop-An Excerpt

Dead Horses

Excerpt from Mining Sacred Ground by David E. Knop, coming soon!

“You ain’t the only policeman ever killed a cop,” Sal Montoya said from the bedroom at the back of the singlewide.

The remains of the night blew down from the Mogollon Rim, crossed the Verde River Valley, scraped dust from the White Hills, and banked skyward off the Black Hills. New Mexico-born Cochiti tribe policeman Peter Romero slouched in his cousin Sal’s kitchenette and stared south at the Bradshaw Mountains shadowed by the low sun. The wind buffeted the trailer, reminding him he’d slept all night in Sal’s driveway in the bed of a pickup. He welcomed the morning heat through the window, and cursed the painful bump on his chin, his life, and everything about Camp Verde, Arizona. Sal’s coffee tasted like plastic, but it warmed him after a shivering night.

“You know another one?” Romero asked, pressing his temples to ease the pounding. When Sal walked into the kitchen, he looked up and asked, “Why’d you punch me?”

“I didn’t. You knocked yourself out when you fell on your drunk ass,” Sal said, opening, then banging a cabinet door shut. He poured coffee, dragged a chair to the table. “Never seen you that drunk, man. What’s gotten into you?”


“Bullshit, you been moping around here feeling sorry for yourself for two weeks, and now you drink yourself to the point I had to go and drag your ass home.”

“It can happen to anybody. Get over it.”

“Not my problem. I want your ass outta here, but first, I got work for you.”

“You got a funny way of askin’.”

“I need help.” Sal sucked coffee. “Do this one thing for me before you go.”

“Go where? I can’t go home. I’m banished and Costancia is really pissed. No, I need to stay away from there. Too many bad memories.”

“Your banishment is crap. You did the right thing and the elders are wrong. You need to be with your wife, not here.”

Romero shrugged, stared at the table. “What do you need?”

“I been workin’ two shootings. So far, I been striking out, but I got some ideas and need to know more about the bikers that been hanging around. They don’t know you, so you can get close. Here, I made a list.” He removed a notebook from his pocket, tore out a page, and dropped it on the table. “These are my prime suspects. Look at those names.”

“Why don’t you just bring ‘em in?”

“I have. They lawyer up.”

Romero scanned the list. “I came here to look for stolen pots.”

“Forget that, I got something big here, and with all your military police training, this is right up your alley, Jarhead.” He gripped Romero’s shoulder. “Those bikers are involved in both shootings and I need you to make the connection.”

Romero inspected the tabletop and didn’t answer.

Montoya shook his head, buttoned the notebook in his breast pocket, grabbed his Stetson, and banged through the screen. “Get some leads or get out.”

The diesel started with a click and a rattle.

Crack! A shot rang out.

Name: Dead Horses (A Peter Romero Mystery) Book Blurb: 

Who is leaving dead horses across the Southwest? New Mexico tribal police officer Pete Romero must find the answer. Simultaneously, a brutal double murder involving his childhood friend on his own reservation complicates the investigation. Romero’s skills and loyalties are stretched to the breaking point when he trails a mysterious stranger who is cultivating extremists to escalate long-brewing tribal hostilities into a shooting war. Romero tightropes between the natural and supernatural while battling wolves, dirty cops, and a murderous grizzly in a race to save hundreds of innocent lives before they, too, become part of the dark, hidden side of Southwest history.

David E. Knop is a retired Marine officer with twenty years of service saw two tours in Vietnam as an artillery forward observer and naval gunfire support officer. Dave also worked in the intelligence and logistics fields. As a staff officer, he wrote and edited numerous military operations plans.

David E. Knop

In civilian life, Dave produced many electronic and automotive technical manuals for industry leaders such as ViaSat, SAIC, and Computer Sciences Corporation. His work for the Eighth Air Force received an award of excellence in a Northern California Society of Technical Communications competition. 

Dave’s four thrillers featuring a former Marine tribal police officer bring the role of spirit warrior to the subgenre of Native American detectives. Dave’s novels, The Smoked MirrorMining Sacred GroundPoisoned by God’s Flesh, and Animal Parts have been honored by the Maryland Writers’ Association, Killer Nashville, New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards, Public Safety Writers of America, Military Writers Society of America, the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest and the Eric Hoffer Book Award. Dave’s fifth novel, Dead Horses, will be available in six weeks.

Dave earned a BA from the University of Colorado, Boulder, an MS from the University of Southern California, and is a lifelong student of military and Native American cultures.

Website: David E. Knop

Mystery Readers Only

Guest Post: Mixing It Up: Why I Love Mysteries that Mash Genres Together

Singularity Syndrome by Susan Kuchinskas

By Susan Kuchinskas

I think the greatest pleasure in reading genre fiction comes from the tension between fulfilling my expectations for the genre and surprising me by breaking them in some way. I love mysteries for the puzzles and the assurance that justice will probably be served. I love science fiction for its trips away from reality—and I love nothing better than a book that smushes together science fiction and crime.

I’m also guilty of perpetrating this mashup. For my two novels, Chimera Catalyst and Singularity Syndrome, I chose the detective/science fiction hybrid for two reasons. First, I’ve covered technology and the Silicon Valley scene as a reporter for many years, and I wanted to take off from all the skewed attitudes and over-the-top behavior I’d witnessed. (For example, in Singularity, a tech titan wants to force humanity to serve an artificial intelligence; in real life, a tech guru founded a church to worship AI. I kid you not.) Extrapolating what could happen from current breakthroughs is part of the fun of science fiction.

Second, I suck at plotting. I mean, really. I can spend hours flummoxed by the question of what should happen next. So, the conventions of classic detective stories provide a ready-made structure: A crime happens, and the detective visits scenes, questions people and, eventually, gets somewhere. Voila, plot.

Shaking up a mystery with science fiction can provide a fresher milieu. Beth Barany told Mystery Readers Only she sets her mysteries in a hotel/casino on a space station because it would be an exotic location.

A science fiction element can also up the stakes. Charlie Huston based Sleepless on a real malady. In his novel, a policeman works to uncover a conspiracy while everyone in the world—including his wife and daughter—dies around him.

Adding in romance—or even sex—is another way to up the stakes and add some heat to a mystery plot. Heather Haven’s Christmas Trifle marries romance to a cozy mystery. She says she wanted to write a book about a couple’s journey into becoming better people together. “But rather than be preachy (good grief, so not my style), I chose to use food, humor, warmth, and, of course, a dastardly villain,” she says. “Love makes the world go round. Throw in a good murder, and you have a win-win situation.

While many of us are faithful to a genre, few of us cannot be lured by a great mashup. Just look at Outlander—historical fiction with a glorious brew of suspense, romance, horror and time travel. Romance and horror? Jane Eyre and Zombies.

I could go on, but instead, I’m going to start reading This Body’s Not Big Enough for Both of Us, described as, “a mind-blowing, gender-bending, genre-smashing romp through the entire pantheon of action and noir. It is also a bold, tautly crafted novel about family, being weird, and claiming your place in your own crazy story.”

Now, that’s a juicy mix!


Susan Kuchinskas

Susan Kuchinskas’ novels and short stories travel through crime, fantasy, science fiction and erotica, often in the same piece. When she’s not hacking words, Susan digs in her organic garden, stares at her beehive, makes pottery and walks her dog through El Cerrito. Find out more about her here:

Chimera Catalyst and Singularity Syndrome are available in paperback or Kindle formats. 

Chat with Susan on Twitter ( or Facebook ( Follow her on Amazon ( or Goodreads (

Mystery Readers Only Writer's Notes

It’s here!

Without Due Caution, the latest (and fifth) adventure from Meredith Ryan Mysteries has arrived!

Without Due Caution is a suspense police procedural thriller about a brave, young deputy who identifies and faces her enemies—both within herself and the real world.

When Deputy Sheriff Meredith Ryan’s nemesis calls in an old debt, she undertakes a mission to find a missing thirteen-year-old girl—uncovering a dark world of human trafficking along the way.

With time running out and the missing girl’s life on the line, Meredith enlists the help of a trusted colleague, Deb Lang, to help her navigate the treacherous terrain of the criminal underworld. But as they pursue the truth, they encounter numerous obstacles—including a manipulative mother intent on using her daughter’s disappearance for her own gain and a fledgling crime boss who sees Meredith as a threat.

Danger lurking at every turn, Meredith and Deb must push themselves to the limit to find the missing girl, uncover a murderer, and bring a dangerous criminal to justice.

eBook available on Kindle for $3.49

Paperback available on Amazon for $14.99

Mystery Readers Only Writer's Notes

Article of Interest

Last week, I sent out what I thought was a newsletter from my publisher, Rough Edges Press. It featured my article about why writing With Malice Aforethought was so creepy. However, the link didn’t actually go to the site. The correct link is below. If you click on it, you’ll see the three releases from last Tuesday (this includes two other authors’ works) and links to my first book, By Force or Fear. My article is below the three featured new releases in the Author’s Corner section.

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