Tuesday, October 16, 2018

MIDNIGHT INK: Shutting its doors

Sad news. Terri Bischoff posted the news that Midnight Ink will be shutting its doors after the Spring/Summer 2019 season. Midnight Ink has published so many wonderful authors. I had the privilege to sit at their table at Left Coast Crime one year. What a great family! The demise of Midnight Ink is such a loss to the mystery community. Sending love and support to Terri and the other editors and staff at Midnight Ink.

More information to follow.

Cartoon of the Day: Chat Room

Monday, October 15, 2018


Happy Halloween! Halloween so lends itself to crime fiction! Here's my updated 2018 list of Halloween Mysteries. Let me know if I've missed any titles. I'd like to have this list as complete as possible. Boo!!


Behind Chocolate Bars by Kathie Aarons
The Root of All Evil by Ellery Adams
The Pumpkin Killer by Stacey Alabaster
Green Water Ghost by Glynn Marsh Alam
Witches Bane by Susan Wittig Albert
Antiques Maul by Barbara Allan
In Charm's Way by Madelyn Alt
Lord of the Wings by Donna Andrews
Strange Brew by Mary Kay Andrews
A Roux of Revenge by Connie Archer
Far to Go by May Louise Aswell
Killing Time by Amy Beth Arkaway
Ghouls Just Want to Have Fun, Calamity Jayne and the Haunted Homecoming by Kathleen Bacus 
A Haunting Homicide: Halloween Cozy by Kathy Bacus and Sally J. Smith   
Trick or Treachery: A Murder She Wrote Mystery by Donald Bain and Jessica Fletcher
The Ghost and Mrs Fletcher by Donald Bain, Renee Paley-Bain, & "Jessica Fletcher"
Punked by the Pumpkin by Constance Barker
In the Spirit of Murder by Laura Belgrave 
The Long Good Boy by Carol Lea Benjamin
Spackled and Spooked by Jennie Bentley 
Watchdog by Laurien Berenson
The Ginseng Conspiracy by Susan Bernhardt
A Haunting is Brewing by Juliet Blackwell
Dial Meow for Murder by Bethany Blake
Ghost of a Potion by Heather Blake (aka Heather Webber)
The Scent of Murder by Barbara Block
Under an English Heaven by Alice K. Boatwright
Witches of Floxglove Corners by Dorothy Bodoin 
Night of the Living Thread by Janet Bolin  
Death of a Trickster by Kate Borden 
Post-Mortem Effects by Thomas Boyle
A Graveyard for Lunatics, The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury
Rebel without a Cake by Jacklyn Brady
The Cat Who Talked to Ghosts by Lilian Jackson Braun
Death Overdue by Allison Brook
The Hunt Ball, The Litter of the Law by Rita Mae Brown
Death on All Hallowe'en by Leo Bruce
The Big Chili by Julia Buckley
Halloween by Leslie Burgess
Death Goes Shopping by Jessica Burton
Wycliffe and the Scapegoat by W.J. Burley
Death Goes Shopping by Jessica Burton
Scrapbook of the Dead by Mollie Cox Bryan
Wolf in Sheep's Clothing by Ann Campbell
The Wizard of La-La Land by R. Wright Campbell
The Charm Stone by Lillian Stewart Carl
The Murders at Astaire Castle by Lauren Carr
The Halloween Murders by John Newton Chance 
Death with an Ocean View by Nora Charles 
Frill Kill, Tragic Magic, Photo Finished, Bedeviled Eggs The Jasmine Moon Murder, Fiber and Brimstone, Bedeviled Eggs, Frill Kill, Gossamer Ghost, Ming Tea Murder by Laura Childs
Hallowe'en Party by Agatha Christie
Haunted Hair Nights by Nancy J. Cohen
PoisonBuried Punch by Lyndsey Cole 
A Holiday Sampler by Christine E. Collier
Lost Souls by Michael Collins
A Gala Event; Search for the Dead by Sheila Connolly (aka Sarah Atwell)
Under the Hill by Sheila Connolly
Not in My Backyard by Susan Rogers Cooper
Night of the Living Deed by E.J. Copperman
Deadly Magic by Elisabeth Crabtree
Trick or Treat by Caroline Crane
A Catered Halloween by Isis Crawford
Newly Crimsoned Reliquary by Donna Fletcher Crow
Silver Scream, Bantam of the Opera, The Alpine Uproar by Mary Daheim
Halloween Hijinks, Pumpkins in Paradise, Haunted Hamlet, Legend of Tabby Hallow, Ghostly Graveyard, Costume Catastrope, Count Catula; Trick or Treason,  by Kathi Daley by Kathi Daley
The Dracula Murders by Philip Daniels
The Diva Haunts the House, The Ghost and Mrs Mewer by Krista Davis
Fatal Undertaking by Mark de Castrique
Farmcall Fatality by Abby Deuel
Throw Darts at a Cheesecake by Denise Dietz
Trick or Treat, The Halloween Murder by Doris Miles Disney
A Map of the Dark by John Dixon
Ghostly Murders by P. C. Doherty
Died to Match by Deborah Donnelly
Cat with an Emerald Eye by Carole Nelson Douglas
Cupcakes, Bats, and Scare-dy Cats by Pamela DuMond
Not Exactly a Brahmin by Susan Dunlap 
Vampires, Bones and Treacle Scones by Kaitlyn Dunnett 
A Ghost to Die For by Elizabeth Eagan-Cox
Be Careful What You Witch For by Dawn Eastman 
The Bowl of Night by Rosemary Edghill 
The Frozen Shroud by Martin Edwards
Ghost Story by K.J. Emrick
Death by Pumpkin Spice by Alex Erickson
Door of Death by John Esteven 
The Witchfinder by Loren D. Estleman 
Plum Spooky by Janet Evanovich 
Dead Ends by Anne C. Fallon 
Sympathy For The Devil by Jerrilyn Farmer
Dead in the Pumpkin Patch by Connie Feddersen 
It's Your Party Die if You Want To by Vickie Fee  
Blackwork, Hanging by a Thread, Blackwork by Monica Ferris
Scary Stuff by Sharon Fiffer
The Lawyer Who Died Trying by Honora Finkelstein 
Trick or Treachery by "Jessica Fletcher" and Donald Bain
The Fudge Cupcake Murder by Joanne Fluke
Halloween Murder, Foul Play at the Fair, Trick or Deceit by Shelley Freydont
Broke by Kaye George
Stirring the Plot by Daryl Wood Gerber
Trick or Treat by Leslie Glaister
Mommy and the Murder by Nancy Gladstone
Haunted by Jeanne Glidewell 
Blood & Broomsticks by Jean G. Goodhind (aka J.G. Goodhind)  
A Few Dying Words by Paula Gosling
The Black Heart Crypt by Chris Grabenstein (YA)
Monster in Miniature by Margaret Grace  
Hell for the Holidays by Chris Gravenstein 
Nail Biter by Sarah Graves 
Deadly Harvest by Heather Graham 
Trick or Treat by Kerry Greenwood 
Halloween by Ben Greer 
The Snafued Snatch by Jackie Griffey 
Quoth the Raven, Skeleton Key by Jane Haddam
A Crime of Poison by Nancy Haddock
Hallowed Bones, Bone to Be Wild by Carolyn Haines
Muffin but Murder by Victoria Hamilton
Black Light by Elizabeth Hand
Delicious Mischief by Marianne Harde
Southern Ghost, Ghost at Work by Carolyn Hart 
Sweet Poison by Ellen Hart
Hide in the Dark by Frances Noyes Hart 
Revenge of the Cootie Girls by Sparkle Hayter
Town in a Pumpkin Bash by B.B. Haywood
Asking for the Moon by Reginald Hill  (SS)
The Fallen Man, The Wailing Wind by Tony Hillerman 
Death of a Pumpkin Carver by Lee Hollis
The Color of Blood by Declan Hughes  
Murder on the Ghost Walk by Ellen Elizabeth Hunter 
From Bad to Wurst by Maddie Hunter  
Already Dead by Charlie Huston
Long Time No See by Susan Isaacs
Murder on Old Main Street, Dirty Tricks, Dying Wishes by Judith K. Ivie
The Pumpkin Thief, The Great Pumpkin Caper by Melanie Jackson
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Murder Among Us by Jonnie Jacobs
A Murder Made in Stitches by Pamela James
The Widow's Walk League by Nancy Lynn Jarvis
The Devil's Cat, Cat's Eye, Cat's Cradle, The Devil's Kiss, The Devil's Heart, The Devil's Touch by William W. Johnstone  
The Violet Hour by Daniel Judson
Muffins & Murder by Heather Justesen
A Charming Voodoo by Tonya Kappes
The Sacrifice by Karin Kaufman
Day of Atonement by Faye Kellerman
Saturday the Rabbi Went Hungry by Harry Kemelman
Wed and Buried, The Skeleton Haunts a House by Toni L.P. Kelner
Verse of the Vampyre by Diana Killian
Pumpkin Roll by Josi S. Kilpack 
The Animal Hour by Andrew Klavan 
Paws for Murder by Annie Knox
The Spirit in Question by Cynthia Kuhn
Murder in the Neighborhood by Janis Lane 
Ghastly Glass by Joyce and Jim Lavene 
The Stitching Hour by Amanda Lee (aka Gayle Trent)  
Death of a Neighborhood Witch by Laura Levine 
Death Knocks Twice by James H. Lilley
The Legend of Sleepy Harlow by Kylie Logan (aka Miranda Bliss & Casey Daniels)
Smoke Screen by Marianne MacDonald
Pumpkin Pied; Deadly Brew by Karen MacInerney 
Poisoned by Elaine Macko 
Halloween Flight 77 by Debbie Madison
The Haunted Season by G.M. Malliet  
Baby Doll Games by Margaret Maron
Satan's Silence by Alex Matthews 
Tricks: an 87th Precinct Mystery by Ed McBain 
Poisoned Tarts by G.A. McKevett 
Death on All Hallows by Allen Campbell McLean
A Sparrow Falls Holiday by Donna McLean
Witch of the Palo Duro by Mardi Oakley Medawar  
Trick or Treat Murder, Wicked Witch Murder, Candy Corn Murder by Leslie Meier 
Dancing Floor, Prince of Darkness by Barbara Michaels
Monster in Miniature by Camille Minichino 
The Violet Hour by Richard Montanari
A Biscuit, a Casket by Liz Mugavero
Send in the Crows by Julie Mulhern
Bread of the Dead by Ann Myers 
Dead End by Helen R. Myers
Nightmare in Shining Armor by Tamar Myers 
Hatchet Job by J.E. Neighbors
Oink by Judith Newton
What Doesn't Kill Here by Carla Norton
Retribution by Patrick J. O'Brien
Deadly Places by Terry Odell
Halloween House by Ed Okonowicz
The Body in the Moonlight by Katherine Hall Page 
Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge
Caught Dead Handed; Grave Errors by Carol J. Perry
The Skeleton Haunts a House by Leigh Perry
Flight of a Witch by Ellis Peters 
Twilight by Nancy Pickard
Pumpkin Spice Murder by Summer Prescott  
Murder at Witches Bluff by Silver Ravenwolf
Poltergeist by Kat Richardson 
Death Notice by Todd Ritter 
Spook Night by David Robbins 
A Hole in Juan by Gillian Roberts
Murder in a Nice Neighborhood by Lora Roberts
Magnolias, Moonlight, and Murder by Sara Rosett
Scared Stiff by Annelise Ryan
Death of Halloween by Kim Sauke
Mighty Old Bones by Mary Saums 
Murder Ole! by Corinne Holt Sawyer
Tracking Magic by Maria E. Schneider
The Tenor Wore Tapshoes by Mark Schweizer
Phantoms Can be Murder by Connie Shelton
A Killer Maize by Paige Shelton
Dance of the Scarecrows by Ray Sipherd
The Sterling Inheritance by Michael Siverling
The Lawyer Who Died Trying by Susan Smily
Recipe for Murder by Janet Elaine Smith
Town Haunts by Cathy Spencer
Carbs and Cadavers by J.B. Stanley
In the Blink of an Eye, Halloween Party by Wendy Corsi Staub
Ghost Story by Peter Straub
Ripping Abigail by Barbara Sullivan
Murder of a Royal Pain by Denise Swanson
Mourning Shift by Kathleen Taylor
Halloween Homicide by Lee Thayer
Inked Up by Terri Thayer
Charlie's Web by L.L. Thrasher
Gods of the Nowhere by James Tipper
Death in the Cotswolds by Rebecca Tope
A Room with a Brew by Joyce Tremel
A Dash of Murder by Teresa Trent
Strange Brew by Kathy Hogan Trochek
Bitter Harvest by Wendy Tyson
Masking for Trouble by Diane Vallere
Pineapple Mystery Box by Amy Vansant
I Will Fear No Evil by Debbie ViguiƩ
Dangling by a Threat by Lea Wait
How to Party with a Killer Vampire by Penny Warner
Murder by the Slice, Trick or Deadly Treat by Livia J. Washburn 
Five-Minute Halloween Mysteries by Ken Weber
The Scarecrow Murders by Mary V. Welk
Goodnight Nobody by Jennifer Weiner  
Killer Mousse by Melinda Wells
Ghoul of My Dreams by Richard F. West 
All Hallow's Eve by Charles Williams
Mayhem, Marriage, and Murderous Mystery Manuscripts by J.L. Wilson
A Stitch to Die For by Lois Winston
Killer See, Killer Do by Jonathan Wolfe
All Hallow's Evil by Valerie Wolzien

And here's a list of Halloween Mystery Short Story anthologies:

Homicidal Holidays: Fourteen Tales of Murder and Merriment, edited by Donna Andrews, Barb Goffman, & Marcia Talley
Deadly Treats: Halloween Tales of Mystery, Magic and Mayhem, Edited by Anne Frasier 
Trick and Treats edited by Joe Gores & Bill Pronzini
Asking for the Moon (includes "Pascoe's Ghost" and "Dalziel's Ghost") by Reginald Hill
Murder for Halloween by Cynthia Manson
The Haunted Hour, edited by Cynthia Manson & Constance Scarborough
Murder for Halloween: Tales of Suspense, edited by Michele Slung & Roland Hartman.
Mystery for Halloween (an anthology), edited by Donald Westlake
Halloween Horrors, edited by Alan Ryan
All Hallows' Evil, edited by Sarah E. Glenn
Chesapeake Crimes: Homicidal Holidays, edited by Donna Andrews, Barb Goffman and Marcia Talley
Halloween Thirteen-a Collection of Mysteriously Macabre Tales, by Bobbi Chukran
Happy Homicides 4: Falling into Crime, edited by Joanna Campbell Slan et al.

Want some Chocolate Treats to accompany your reading? Head on over to my Chocolate Blog  DyingforChocolate.com.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Cartoon of the Day: Self-Help Books for Dogs

From the very funny Off the Leash. I know my dogs have a library of these books, especially How to Make their Bed Your Bed.

MYSTERY BYTES: Interesting & Quirky News and Mystery Related Postings

Here's my weekly Round-Up of interesting and quirky mystery-related articles and postings on the Internet. Just wanted to share in case you missed these. Click on the link to read the entire story.

TSUNDOKO: The Practice of Buying More Books Than You Can Read. This is a real word with a history. Are you guilty? I know I am. Read more at Treehugger

TANA FRENCH on How to Write a Red HerringVulture
Tana French is an author of murder mysteries who is less concerned with whodunit than with the inner lives of her detectives. In her first book, In the Woods, which came out in 2007, she let what actually happened to a pair of vanished children remain a mystery because she didn’t think her detective was equipped to face the truth.

BOOKSELLING is the most over-romanticized job in the World by Sian Cain.  The Guardian.
Readers around the world cooed last month when a Welsh bookseller announced he was giving away his shop to a regular customer. It was a lovely story, but as an ex-bookseller of five years, I could only dwell on the harsh realities this unsuspecting man would inherit: slow days, stocktaking and, unavoidably, a few regular oddballs.


The author of Frankenstein always saw love and death as connected. She visited the cemetery to commune with her dead mother. And with her lover.

There’s a certain kind of thriller, or detective story, or other kind of mystery, that doesn’t focus on violence or the Whodunnit?—aspect. At times, there isn’t even a clear “it.” Instead, the story draws the reader in by creating a haunting atmosphere. Often it seems this is done through usage of the suggestive qualities of things like memory, identity, or nature—or perhaps rather the boundlessness between a human being and her surroundings—as well as a more obvious spiritual presence.

TV Writers Who Started Out as Novelists. Includes video clip of Megan Abbot. Vanity Fair
At Vanity Fair’s New Establishment Summit, the scribes described the writers’ room learning curve: “invisible rules,” advocating for “female characters,” and endless licorice.

I'm a big fan of The Rap Sheet. One of my favorite themes is Revue of Reviewers. 
Critiquing some of the most interesting recent crime, mystery, and thriller releases. Read more HERE.


There’s a secret war raging on the internet. The stakes are high. The warriors are fierce. The battleground is your bookshelf. Do you alphabetize? Do you color-code? Do you have no system at all? You’ll have to pick a side.

And a 'hypothetical' solution to a disappearance. HOW JAMAL KHASHOGGI'S APPLE WATCH COULD SOLVE HIS DISAPPEARANCE Wired.


And, of course, be sure and scroll back to read other mystery items posted recently on Mystery Fanfare.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

How I Met My Publisher: Guest Post by Christopher Huang

Christopher Huang:
How I Met My Publisher 

I think I first became aware of Inkshares in late 2014 or early 2015, when a writer of my acquaintance, one J.F. Dubeau, began researching possibilities and alternatives in publishing. Inkshares had an exciting new concept, he said, involving the sale of pre-orders to justify the publication of a book. No more slush piles, no more agents; these were people who really loved books, and he had high hopes for their platform. I hadn’t a very clear idea of how I hoped to deal with my writing yet, at the time, so I simply nodded and smiled.

To be honest, I didn’t really know anything about publishing, period. In my mind’s eye, one simply submitted a manuscript to a publisher and waited for them to accept or reject. I knew nothing about querying agents or even about who the publishers were. I knew only that I had no stomach for marketing a book myself, as would be the case if I self-published, and that therefore I needed a traditional publisher to handle that aspect for me.

I’d been dreaming of writing and publishing for a while. Working in an architecture office, I often felt as though every ounce of my creative energy was being spent on my day job, leaving me with nothing left over to fuel the novel I wanted to write. I counted my money and calculated my yearly expenditure and said to myself, “Self, you live cheaply enough that you could probably retire at fifty; then you could get into this writing lark full-time and it wouldn’t matter too much whether you succeeded or failed. Barring some major emergency, you’d be safe.”

I was laid off in late 2015. I wasn’t quite forty yet.

Well, then. It appeared that my retirement plans were going to get an early start, and that brings me back to J.F. Dubeau and Inkshares.

J.F. was, by now, nearing the end of his pre-order campaign for The Life Engineered. The system seemed simple enough: you set up a project page for your book on Inkshares’s website, including any excerpts or details as might make the book more attractive to buyers, and then you began selling pre-orders for the book. This was the campaign, and you were free to set its time limit; but you needed to accrue 750 pre-orders within that time before Inkshares would publish your work. These 750 pre-orders represented 750 votes to see your book in print, with money to back them up — after all, anyone could hit a “like” button, but when money’s on the line, people get unaccountably skittish. Further safeguards to the process involved limiting each person to pre-ordering a maximum of ten copies of any one book, and barring authors from pre-ordering their own book. It wasn’t that they wanted the money, in the end: rather, it was that they wanted proof of viability. Everyone got their money back if you failed, but if you succeeded ... what followed was everything you could expect from a traditional publisher. Including sales and marketing.

I pre-ordered a copy of The Life Engineered, of course, but I admit to being initially suspicious. 750 pre-orders ... that could be gamed, I thought. All it wanted was some dishonest person with seventy-five friends willing to put down a hundred dollars each for ten e-books, and you could publish any sort of rubbish. (I’d learn later that getting even ten friends on board for a single book each was enough of a challenge, never mind seventy-five friends for ten books each.) It was the fine print that reassured me: Inkshares reserved the right to reject a book if they deemed it to have made the campaign on bad faith. They were a business, after all, and they couldn’t afford to publish rubbish if they hoped to publish anything else.

The Life Engineered debuted in March 2016. That same month, I started the pre-order campaign for A Gentleman’s Murder, giving it nine months to make the required 750 pre-orders rather than the customary three months because I am a rank pessimist who doesn’t give a fig for his abilities as a salesman. Remember, for me, a big point of getting a traditional (or traditional-ish, as the case may be) publisher was to have someone else handle the marketing aspect.

2016 was definitely the year of “what on earth did I just sign up for” as I e-mailed and pitched and advertised and then did it all again.

As it so happened, winning a contest (Inkshares holds contests from time to time, to encourage new projects) meant I “only” needed more pre-orders than most of the other participating projects, rather than the full 750. But the simple outcome was that I made it. There is a certain thrill in having your first manuscript accepted for publication, however it happens, and if I had any champagne on hand, I’d pop the cork right then and there. (Then again, if I were the sort to keep champagne on hand, I probably wouldn’t also think I could retire at fifty.)

A Gentleman’s Murder was finally published back in July 2018 to the sort of media attention I could never have managed on my own. Score one for letting the professionals do the marketing. And now, here I am, a little over two months later ... running a pre-order campaign for my second book, a somewhat darker suspense novel I’m calling (for now) Cat’s Paw. Because Inkshares is running a contest for new mystery novels, and I swear I have no stomach for marketing. 

Christopher Huang is a Singaporean-born Canadian with a background in architecture and interactive fiction. His first novel, A Gentleman’s Murder, was released to critical acclaim in July and his second novel, Cat’s Paw, is now open for pre-orders at https://www.inkshares.com/books/cat-s-paw 

Cartoon of the Day: Crime Scene

Wednesday, October 10, 2018


Sad news. MaryAlice Gorman, founder and longtime owner of the Mystery Lovers Bookshop in Pittsburgh, PA, has passed away. She was a great supporter of the mystery community and a mentor, role model, and friend to so many.  Love and condolences go out to Richard, her family, and her many friends. May her memory be a blessing.

Mary Alice Gorman was a native of Pittsburgh. She earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Secondary Education and a Master’s in Counseling from Duquesne University. She taught in the Pittsburgh Public Schools and received a fellowship to CMU for Graduate work in Linguistics, Literature and Curriculum Development. Following her career in public education, she established her own consulting business, Gorman & Coopersmith and became the Executive Director of the Pittsburgh ACLU. As Executive Director of the Allegheny County Center for Victims of Violent Crimes and President of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, she lead the expansion of service to victims throughout PA funded by fines and penalty assessments.

MaryAlice and her husband Richard Goldman opened Mystery Lovers Bookshop on Halloween in 1990 in Oakmont. They were honored with Pittsburgh Magazine’s Excellence in the Arts Award in the category of Spoken Arts in 1996 and Pittsburgh Magazine Bests also listed the bookshop in 2008. The Mystery Writers of America awarded Mystery Lovers and the owners in their 20th year for outstanding achievements and leadership contributions to the mystery genre with the Raven Award.

Cartoon of the Day: Sherlock Holmes

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

PARTNERS IN CRIME: Rosemary and Larry Mild

Today Rosemary Mild joins me in our continuing feature: Partners in Crime, collaborating writers. Rosemary and Larry Mild, cheerful partners in crime, call Honolulu home. They’ve published six mystery novels; two Hawaii suspense/thrillers; a sci-fi novella; and two books of short stories—with settings reaching from Hawaii to the Far East. Visit the Milds at www.magicile.com.


When a husband and wife write as a team, how do they create fiction that comes out seamless, sounding like one author? Big question.

Larry and I came from different worlds in 1986. We met on a blind date. He had lost his wife to cancer, and I had been divorced for eight years. In the car on the way home from dinner, he said, “When I retire I’m going to write a novel, and I want you to help me.”

Now neither of us had ever written fiction. I was an editor; Larry was an electrical engineer, and we’d only known each other for four hours! Still, I chirped, “Okay!” We’d gotten along so well that I knew he was Mr. Right. We married a year later.

True to his word, when Larry retired he wrote the first draft of Cry Ohana, Adventure and Suspense in Hawaii. Then he handed it to me—the halt leading the blind! After umpteen drafts, three titles, and a critique group, we published it. It’s always been our most popular book.

Our newest work is the long-awaited sequel: Honolulu Heat, Between the Mountains and the Great Sea, the continuing saga of the Cry Ohana families.

Many readers ask how we started writing together. Early on, with hot-headed arguments and wounded feelings. For example:

Larry: “You cut that whole paragraph. I worked for hours on it.”
Rosemary: “Less is more, darling.”
Larry: “Oh, yeah? You gave a back story to the grocery bagger.”

Somehow we survived as we both improved our writing—and respect for each other’s.

Larry considers himself more devious than I, so he conjures up all our plots and writes the first draft. He’s at the computer writing five to six hours most days. He has a much longer attention span than I have. Then he turns the manuscript over to me. And waits.

Larry rolls his eyes. “Rosemary could work a little faster. We’re getting behind by the day. Her strength as a writer? She has this wonderful feel for human nature. She breathes life into my minimalist characters: physical appearance, sharpening the dialogue, and often adding a defining trait.”

I admit that there are times when his elegant passages don’t work for me; they can stop the action. So I’ll do “judicious pruning,” an expression I learned as an assistant editor at Harper’s. Larry calls it “slash and burn.” But you know how it is. Stephen King said, ‘To write is human. To edit is divine.’ Then, with sleeves rolled up, we negotiate.

According to Larry, “The best thing about working as a team is that we’re never writing in a vacuum. There’s always someone close by to listen to your story’s direction and your choice of words. The helping hand when you can’t find that ever-so-right word or story twist is a godsend. After we agree on the final draft, we read the entire book aloud to each other. Amazing the inconsistencies we discover.”

So what’s the toughest thing about writing as a team?

Larry says, “If you’ll excuse my Latin, there’s this co-writus interruptus thing. Working back-to-back in the same bedroom-turned-office. it’s too easy to stop her and ask: “Does adrenaline have an e? rather than look it up myself.

Writing together does have its tough parts. For starters, I don’t interrupt. I disrupt. I was fishing a hammer out of his toolbox. He asked me, “Where are you going with that?” I told him I was going to discipline the vacuum cleaner; it was stuck on High. He said, “Bring it here.” He turned the vac upside down and in five minutes had it fixed. I asked, ‘Would I have broken it if I had given it a few whacks?’ Larry was quick to reply, “Definitely!”

As a team we do face a potential snag working together. I have my own nonfiction life—personal essays and memoirs. Love! Laugh! Panic! Life with My Mother is my newest. Miriam’s World—and Mine is my second memoir of our daughter Miriam Luby Wolfe, whom we lost in the terrorist bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. She was 20 and my only child; Larry’s stepdaughter. Larry published an op-ed piece in the Baltimore Sun, “Six Ways To Prevent Airline Terrorism.” Our Maryland congresswoman wrote it into the Congressional Record.

Somehow, we manage to juggle our separate interests. Recently, we gave talks at the University of Hawaii’s Lifelong Learning Institute. Mine was “From Hurt to Healing: Writing Your Personal Story.” Larry’s was on “Engaging Elements of the Mystery.

In our second series, the Dan and Rivka Sherman Mysteries, we created a Jewish couple very much like ourselves (but younger). Dan and Rivka buy the fictional Olde Victorian Bookstore in Annapolis, Maryland, and become reluctant sleuths.

Larry says, “Rivka is a lot like Rosemary: feisty, super-smart, affectionate, and addicted to chocolate.

Dan, like Larry, is analytical and practical, a born problem-solver—and an incorrigible punster. On our blind date he made a pun and told me he was born in the year of the Zaniac.

We love using our own experiences in our fiction. In Hot Grudge Sunday, sleuths Paco and Molly are on their honeymoon out West. Their itinerary is based on a tour we took, but with hair-raising consequences ending at the Grand Canyon. In Death Steals A Holy Book, the Menorat ha-maor (“Candlestick of Light”) is based on a rare Yiddish book that Larry inherited.

We currently have a series of stories called “Copper and Goldie” in Mysterical-E, an online mystery magazine. Sam, a disabled Hawaiian ex-cop, is a cabbie and P.I. He and his rescue golden retriever (with a dash of Doberman) always land in trouble in Honolulu and still manage to solve crimes. Sam walks with two canes. Larry gave Sam his own chronic back trouble; he too walks with two canes. Sam’s Auntie Momi asks: “You still walkin’ wit’ dem giant chopsticks?”

Larry and I really enjoy working as a team. With more books to come, life is mysteriously good.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Cartoon of the Day: Childhoods of famous authors: Little Agatha Christie

BEHIND THE SCENE: Writing a Personal Organizer Mystery: Guest post by Mike Befeler

BEHIND THE SCENE: Writing a Personal Organizer Mystery

The saying is “write what you know.” This is good for a beginning writer. But it’s also important to “write what you don’t know.” This is called learning.

Mystery writer Elaine Viets took jobs so she could learn the occupations for writing a mystery series.

There’s a debate, and some authors have been criticized for writing characters that are of different races than they are.

So can we write about people in jobs we have not held or other races or different genders?

Here’s my experience:

Most of my protagonists have been men, but in my latest mystery, Unstuff Your Stuff, it’s a sixty-eight-year-old woman. I’ve been sixty-eight, but I’ve never been a woman, so how can I write about one? By listening, observing and putting myself in her position. I’ve also benefited from the feedback from my wife and women critique group partners .

Three of my mystery novels are set in Hawaii and have some Asian characters. I’m not Asian, but I grew up in Hawaii and have many Asian friends from high school days.

I have a historical mystery set in 1919. I’ve never lived in 1919, but I learned a great deal about 1919. How? Research: Studying the time period and reading microfilm copies of newspapers from that era.

I have a scene in one book from 1895 New York. Again, the secret is research.

I have a book set on an Alaskan cruise. I had to take an Alaskan cruise with my wife and daughter for research.

I’ve never been in law enforcement, yet I write about police. How can I do this? Research: I attended three Citizens’ police academies and participated as a volunteer role player to help train police officers. A hostage scene in Unstuff Your Stuff is loosely based on my role playing a hostage for SWAT training. In addition to a hostage, I’ve played roles involving illegal camping, traffic violations, drunk and disorderly, spousal abuse, assault, victim of an active shooter in a high school and hostage taker.

I’ve never murdered anyone, yet I write mysteries that have the villain being a murderer.

Regarding my latest mystery novel, Unstuff Your Stuff, that features a professional organizer, here’s my disclosure: I’ve never been a professional organizer – I’m a professional disorganizer, but my wife has been squaring me away. Here’s a typical conversation:

My wife: Throw away that threadbare shirt.

Me: It’s just getting comfortable.

My wife: You have plenty of other shirts but look at it.

Me: You can almost make out the LA Ram’s logo.

My wife: But the holes.

Me: They’re only half an inch in diameter, and there are only three of them.

My wife: It goes!

So what gives me the ability to write a professional organizer mystery? Answer again: research. At the time, I belonged to an organization of people providing services to seniors. I met several professional organizers who were kind enough to let me tag along on some of their gigs. One example that I loosely included in Unstuff Your Stuff was an estate that included an extensive doll collection. When I say extensive I mean that every surface in a multi-bedroom house was covered with dolls. The estate agent estimated that the owner had spent over two hundred thousand dollars on dolls, but the estate would be lucky to recoup ten cents on the dollar.

In Unstuff Your Stuff, my protagonist has a mantra: GRR—group, reduce, reorganize. This is the philosophy I’ve learned from my wife and professional organizers.

The litmus test of needing a professional organizer is when someone, says, “I know it’s good for nothing, but I’m keeping it until it’s good for something.”


Mike Befeler is author of fifteen books including six books in the Paul Jacobson Geezer-lit Mystery Series and recent books The Tesla Legacy, Death of a Scam Artist and Unstuff Your Stuff. On most days he can be seen taking his three-year-old grandson to the park or library. He resides in Lakewood, CA, with his wife Wendy. http://www.mikebefeler.com

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Cartoon of the Day: Books

MYSTERY BYTES: Interesting & Quirky News,Interviews, and More Mystery Related Postings

Here's a Round-Up of some interesting and quirky mystery-related articles, interviews, and postings on the Internet recently. Just wanted to share in case you missed them.

Val McDermid on how Josephine Tey opened up the possibility of unconventional secrets. CrimeReads.

Ian Rankin interview: The return of Rebus and examining murder in Sheffield - "It's still the most shocking crime imaginable." The Star.

Lamenting the Growing Length of Books. The Guardian.

Rachel Gould on The Hoax Art Movement That Fooled the Art World Establishment. Artsy Magazine.

Laurie Lowenstein writes about Mom & Pop Jails in America and the strange intimacies these setups created. CrimeReads.

Ever wanted to live in a Library? The 'secret' apartments in New York's early library buildings i 6sq.com

Sean Carswell on How the West Virginia mine wars inspired James M. Cain to become a crime Writer. The Los Angeles Review of Books

I'm a huge fan of Ravens, so I was definitely interested in this article on the pet ravens of Charles Dickens (and other writers). LitHub

Conserve the Sound is an online museum for preserving vanishing and endangered sounds such as typewriters, rotary phones, and more. Listen to them here.

Fancy a trip to the British countryside? Let these 14 mysteries be your guide. Charles Todd on 14 mystery series that serve as tour guides to the British countryside. CrimeReads

I loved Kate Atkinson's Transcriptions. Kate Atkinson talks with Daneet Steffens about her new spy novel and why she loves a good secret. CrimeReads. 

25 Writers on Writer's Block. LitHub

Looking for the best mystery sites? J. Kingston Pierce of The Rap Sheet lists his updated personal choices of mystery-related sites that deserve recognition. The list now runs to 95 sites. Something for everyone. TheRapSheet

Friday, October 5, 2018

Lou Berney Literary Salon: October 24

Join Mystery Readers NorCal in Berkeley for an evening with award winning author Lou Berney

When: Wednesday, October 24, 7 p.m.
Where: RSVP for venue address (Berkeley, CA)
This is a free evening, but YOU MUST RSVP to attend. Address sent with acceptance. Space limited.
RSVP: janet @ mysteryreaders.org

Lou Berney is the author of November Road (October 8), The Long and Faraway Gone (winner of the Edgar, Anthony, Barry, Macavity, and ALA awards), Whiplash River, and Gutshot Straight, all from William Morrow. He’s also written a collection of stories, The Road to Bobby Joe, and his short fiction has appeared in publications such as The New Yorker, Ploughshares, and the Pushcart Prize anthology. He teaches in the MFA program at Oklahoma City University.

November Road is my favorite book of the year, so I'm thrilled to have Lou Berney as our Literary Salon guest on October 24. November Road is smart, edgy, historical but of today. Berney's characters are well formed, his writing amazing, and his setting so real. I especially love his intro with a salute to his mother. You're going to love this book!

November Road:
Set against the assassination of JFK, a poignant and evocative crime novel that centers on a desperate cat-and-mouse chase across 1960s America – a story of unexpected connections, daring possibilities, and the hope of second chances. Frank Guidry’s luck has finally run out. A loyal street lieutenant to New Orleans mob boss Carlos Marcello, Guidry has learned that everybody is expendable. But now it’s his turn – he knows too much about the crime of the century: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Within hours of JFK’s murder, everyone with ties to Marcello is turning up dead, and Guidry suspects he’s next. 

With few good options, Guidry hits the road to Las Vegas, to see an old associate – a dangerous man who, maybe, hates Marcello enough to help Guidry vanish. Guidry knows that the first rule of running is “don’t stop,” but when he sees a young housewife on the side of the road with a broken-down car, two little girls, and a dog in the back seat, he sees the perfect cover for his escape from the hit man on his trail. Posing as an insurance man, Guidry offers to help Charlotte reach her destination, California. If she accompanies him to Las Vegas, he can help her get a new car. For her, it’s more than a car – it’s an escape. She’s on the run too, from a stifling existence in small-town Oklahoma and a husband who’s a hopeless drunk. 

It’s an American story: two strangers meet to share the open road west, a dream, a hope – and find each other on the way. Charlotte sees that Frank is open-minded and kind; he discovers that she’s smart and witty. He learns that she’s determined to give herself and her daughters a new life; she can’t know that he’s desperate to leave his old one behind. Another rule: fugitives shouldn’t fall in love, especially with each other. A road isn’t just a road, it’s a trail, and Guidry’s ruthless and relentless hunter is closing in on him. But now Guidry doesn’t just want to survive, he wants to really live, maybe for the first time. Everyone’s expendable, but now Guidry can’t just throw away the woman and children he’s come to love. And it might get them all killed. 

NOIR CITY D.C.: October 12-25, 2018

Mr. Muller and Mr. Rode Go to Washington
NOIR CITY returns to the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center in Silver Spring, MD, October 12-25. Taking attendees back to the golden age of film noir, NOIR CITY will present this year's films as they were experienced upon original release––pairing a top-tier studio "A" with a shorter, low-budget second feature or "B" film. In addition, there will also be a teaming of both versions of The Killers: Robert Siodmak's 1946 classic with Burt Lancaster and Ava Gardner, playing with Don Siegel's 1964 reimagining with John Cassavetes and Angie Dickinson, which puts more emphasis on the killers, played by Lee Marvin and Clu Gulager. The FNF's latest restoration, The Man Who Cheated Himself (1950), shot on location in San Francisco, will screen along with Paramount's new digital restoration of Byron Haskin's I Walk Alone (1948), featuring a trio of powerhouse players: Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, and Lizabeth Scott. 
Opening weekend screenings, Friday, October 12–Sunday, October 14, will be introduced by author and FNF board member Alan K. Rode. Eddie Muller will take over hosting duties Friday, October 19–Sunday, October 21. The full NOIR CITY: D.C. schedule and tickets––plus the all-access NOIR CITY Pass––are available on the AFI Silver's website.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

MWANorCal MYSTERY WEEK: October 20-28, 2018

October 20-28, 2018
Mystery Week: 
A week of events across the NorCal chapter area

Saturday, Oct. 20, 6:30 PM: San Francisco/ LitCrawl
Amnesia, 853 Valencia
Noir at the Bar with Laurie R. King (moderator), Heather Haven, Terry Shames, Mary O’Shaughnessy, Pamela O’Shaughnessy, Gigi Pandian, Kirk Russell, Sheldon Siegel & Jacqueline Winspear

Sunday, Oct. 21, 2 PM: Belmont
Belmont Library, 1110 Alameda de las Pulgas
The Mystery of Writing Mysteries with Laurie R. King & Ellen Kirschman

Monday, Oct. 22, 6 PM: San Lorenzo
San Lorenzo Library, Greenhouse Community Room, 395 Paseo Grande
As You Like It: Mysteries Across Genre with Terry Shames (moderator), John Burley, Reece Hirsch, Camille Minichino, Ann Parker & Nancy Tingley

Tuesday, Oct. 23, 6 PM: Fremont
Fremont Library, 2400 Stevenson Blvd.
Getting to Know Your Protagonist, or, Did We Really Write That? with Heather Haven (moderator), Susan Bickford, John Billheimer, Mary Feliz & Vinnie Hansen

Wednesday, Oct. 24, 6:30 PM: Petaluma
Petaluma Regional Library, 100 Fairgrounds Drive
With Randal Brandt (moderator), Bill Pronzini, Bette Lamb & J.J. Lamb

Thursday, Oct. 25, 6:30 PM: Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz Library, 224 Church Street
The Case of the Mystery Panel with Laurie Sheehan (moderator), Sandra Balzo, Alan Jacobson, Leslie Karst & Laurie R. King

Saturday, Oct. 27, 2 PM: Sacramento
Pocket-Greenhaven Library, 7335 Gloria Drive
With Robin Burcell (moderator), Pat Canterbury, James L’Etoile, Catriona McPherson & Eileen Rendahl

Monday, October 1, 2018

Cartoon of the Day: Book Club

Steve Brewer is opening a Bookstore!

Here's some awesome positive news.

Mystery writer Steve Brewer is opening a bookshop. Steve writes on his blog that he and his wife signed a lease for space in the historic Nob Hill Business Center on Route 66 in Albuquerque. The independent bookstore will be called Organic Books. His two sons will work the store, but Steve says it will be a family business.

Steve Brewer is the author of 31 books and has been on many book tours all over the country, so he plans to have a busy calendar of events at Organic Books. The store will feature New Mexico authors as well as a curated slection of thousands of used books.

Grand Opening planned for early November.

Good luck, Steve!!

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Cartoon of the Day: Escape Key

The Inspiration Trap: Guest Post by Dennis Palumbo

Dennis Palumbo:
The Inspiration Trap 

The novelist Peter DeVries once said, “I only write when I’m inspired, so I see to it that I’m inspired every morning at nine o’clock.”

On the other hand, playwright Mary Chase, when asked how she got the idea for her famous play, Harvey, replied: “I looked up from the breakfast table one morning and there he was.”

This latter comment is the kind that can give new (and not so new) writers a heart attack. It reinforces the belief that a great idea just “comes to you,” that the lucky few are visited by the spirit of creativity and originality. Even Shakespeare, in his prologue to Henry V, implores the gods to inspire him: “O for a Muse of Fire, that would ascend the brightest heaven of invention---”

Most of us, when having breakfast, rarely encounter an invisible six-foot rabbit. Or, for that matter, a Muse of Fire. Instead, we encounter the blank page, the empty computer screen. The damned cursor blinking impatiently. Waiting.

And that’s when we fall prey to what I call “The Inspiration Trap.” In my view, the idea of “inspiration” does a great deal of damage to a writer. For one thing, it devalues craft, which I think is the most crucial aspect of writing. It also affirms the notion that the writer him- or herself is somehow not enough. That some special talent or knowledge or divine gift---something outside of the writer---is necessary to create a compelling story.

Not that this belief is difficult to understand. Writing is a strangely contradictory process, in that it’s both fragile and back-breaking, elusive and demanding. Moreover, it’s work. It takes time. And it’s hard.

Thus the understandable yearning behind the myth of inspiration. It just shows up, as if by magic. Does the creative heavy lifting. Shines a light down a thorny narrative’s winding, dark path.

But think about it: By its very nature---hell, by definition---inspiration can not be grasped or looked for, and certainly not commanded to reveal itself.

Which means that whenever a writer hits upon an exciting concept, an intriguing character, or an unexpected plot twist, it’s tempting---but wrong---to chalk it up to divine intervention. Instead, I think these surprising ideas or plot turns arise from the efforts the hard-working writer’s already expended. That, unbidden, they emerge from the deepening levels of craft a writer develops after long years of writing.

(Or, as Hemingway once advised aspiring authors, “Write a million words.” Today we’re more inclined to refer to Malcolm Gladwell’s “Ten thousand hours.” Same thing.)

Here’s how I conceptualize inspiration. Learn the writer’s craft, write regularly, grow to love the practice of stringing words together for its own sake---and inspiration will either come on a particular day or it won’t. But, regardless, you’ll have done the most important thing: you’ll have prepared the way for it.

I think author Albert Morovia said it best: “I pray for inspiration…but I work at the keyboard four hours a day.”

Given the shifting winds of fortune that accompany any writer’s life, the smart money is on craft, practice, the doing of the thing.

If inspiration shows up, so much the better.


Formerly a Hollywood screenwriter (My Favorite Year; Welcome Back, Kotter, etc.), Dennis Palumbo is a licensed psychotherapist and author. His mystery fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, The Strand and elsewhere, and is collected in From Crime to Crime (Tallfellow Press). His series of mystery thrillers (Mirror Image, Fever Dream, Night Terrors, Phantom Limb, and the latest, Head Wounds, all from Poisoned Pen Press), feature Daniel Rinaldi, a psychologist and trauma expert who consults with the Pittsburgh Police. For more info, visit www.dennispalumbo.com

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Cartoon of the Day: Stress Level

It's been a stressful few days (weeks? years?) here in the U.S (World?). Here's something for your stress level.

Setting The Scene for BAR NONE: Guest Post by Cathi Stoler

Cathi Stoler:
Setting The Scene for BAR NONE

When I sat down to write, BAR NONE: A MURDER ON THE ROCKS MYSTERY, I already had a cast of characters swirling around in my head. I saw then as real, flesh-and-blood people, and how I planned to portray them was very visual. I wanted my readers not only to get to know them through the storyline, but also to see their faces, bodies, personalities and quirks, as well. Wow, I thought. This book would make a great movie—at least in my mind.

I know, I’m not the only author who feels this way; the lure of film seems to beckon us to try and create memorable characters that will jump right off the page and onto HD screens everywhere. And really, what better setting than a New York City bar and restaurant on the Lower East Side to make this happen? It’s a neighborhood with a rich film history. The Gangs of New York, When Harry Met Sally and Moonstruck are just a few of the movies set there. Could BAR NONE be next? I could only hope!

With that in mind, I decided to make it easy for any producer or director to just pick up the book and go with it, so I did my own, pre-casting for the main characters.

Jessica Biel as Jude Dillane, co-owner of The Corner Lounge, working the bar that is her pride and joy. Tall, willowy thin with spikey black hair and gray eyes. A character more goth than glam, thirty-something Jude has had some trouble in her past. The Lounge has been her salvation, at least up to now, until she gets involved in murder and fraud, thanks to her pal, Thomas “Sully” Sullivan, who recruits her for an undercover assignment.

Alec Baldwin as Thomas “Sully” Sullivan, a former Lieutenant Commander in the Marine Corp. Sully has brush cut gray hair, blue eyes and is in good shape for a man in his fifties. Sully is Jude’s landlord and friend. He usually keeps her company at the bar, knocking back a glass of Jameson, then turning the empty glass over and rapping his knuckles on the bar to signal he’s done. If Alec Baldwin isn’t available—although I can’t imagine he’d turn down such a great role—there’s always Bruce Willis or Kevin Costner.

Scott Eastwood as George Ramirez, the hot guy at Big City Food Bank, who Jude meets when she goes undercover there to ferret out a murderer. George is dark and handsome with heavy-lidded, sexy brown eyes and full, sensual lips. Is romance on the horizon? You’ll have to read the book to find out. If Scott Eastwood is otherwise engaged, Chris Pratt would fit the bill, as well.

—Tom Hiddleston as Dean Mason, the tall, blond-haired, blue-eyed bartender at The Lounge who women can’t seem to resist. He’s Jude’s main man at the bar and a would-be actor using this gig to prepare for stardom. As you might imagine, Cocktail, is his favorite movie. This was a hard call. James Norton also would be perfect. Maybe I’ll let the director decide this one.

That’s my story and the option is still available. Just let me know if you’re interested.

Cathi Stoler was an award-winning advertising copywriter until she turned to writing mysteries and stories. She’s received The Derringer for Best Short Story for “The Kaluki Kings of Queens. Her latest novel, BAR NONE A MURDER ON THE ROCKS MYSTERY is available on Amazon at https://amzn.to/2piisqA. Find out more about Cathi at www.cathistoler.com.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

BURNING RIDGE: Guest post by Margaret Mizushima

Margaret Mizushima: 
Burning Ridge 

Burning Ridge is the fourth book in my Timber Creek K-9 mystery series that features Deputy Mattie Cobb, her patrol dog Robo, and veterinarian Cole Walker. Years ago, before I began the research for this series, I knew I wanted to write a mystery that included two things—a Colorado mountain setting and a veterinarian who ran a mixed practice (one that serves both large and small animals). As I started to flesh out the myriad details that make up a book, I realized I needed to make decisions about things that I knew, and things that I didn’t know.

Things I Know 
I’ve been married to a veterinarian for over thirty-six years, so I know that life. I’ve also assisted my husband countless times during after-hour emergencies, so I’ve observed his work. When we made stable calls, I noticed that everyone wanted to watch him take care of the animal, and I hoped that readers would feel the same way. So I pulled from my experience to create veterinarian Cole Walker, and I fashioned some of his traits after the vet I live with: his workaholic nature, his love for dogs and other animals, the way he runs his rural practice.

But then I hit a wall. I wanted to write a police procedural, not an amateur sleuth mystery, so this book could not exist with a vet alone. I needed another protagonist, one involved with law enforcement. My husband and I had trained dogs for Search and Rescue, so again I knew how to do that work. But K-9 handling and training? Not within my realm of experience. Lucky me, my husband connected me with one of his clients who trained patrol and protection dogs, and that helped me discover what I didn’t know.

Things I Didn’t Know 
My husband’s client allowed me to shadow him while he worked with K-9 handlers and their dogs. I observed training a dog to bite and hold a fugitive who wore a bite sleeve on his arm, training to track and find a person hidden within a structure, and training a dog to release a bite or abort an attack. This last skill is not exactly a dog’s favorite, and it appeared hard to train. When a dog is charged up to bite, that’s what he wants to do.

I attended police dog trails to watch dogs compete in obedience and agility performance. A friend who is a retired K-9 officer/trainer used to compete in trials like these, and she allowed me to shadow her while she trained her German shepherd in two other skills—evidence detection and following a scent trail. She also shared tales of one dog’s prowess, her late partner named Robo who was nothing short of a wonder dog. She had cross-trained him to do almost everything in the book, and I gained her permission to use his name in my series.

Finally, in order to write accurate law enforcement procedure and not stray too far off track, I connected with a retired deputy sheriff who once worked in a mountain setting similar to my fictional Timber Creek, and he reads my manuscripts before I submit them for final edit. It’s amazing the things my characters do wrong during first drafts—thank goodness he keeps them on the straight and narrow!

My experience is nothing new. Authors typically combine what they know and what they don’t to create characters and plot. A novel is a perfect beaker in which to mix fact with imagination, stir, and then see what erupts.

Margaret Mizushima lives in Colorado where she assists her husband with theirveterinary practice and Angus cattle herd. Margaret Mizushima is also the author of Killing Trail, Stalking Ground, and Hunting Hour.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018


Join Mystery Writers of America NorCal & Lit Quake for NOIR AT THE BAR 
October 20:  San Francisco

This great event is part of MWANorCal's Mystery Week! More info to come!

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Cartoon of the Day: Mummy Problems

Nurturing a Farm and Its Farmer: Guest Post by Susan Oleksiw

Susan Oleksiw: 
Nurturing a Farm and Its Farmer

When my family purchased a farm in central Massachusetts forty years ago, I knew almost nothing about the area. My mother described her first view of the property as "dreamy," and listed the reasons she and Dad were drawn to. The first time I visited the area, I knew the real reason they'd chosen it.

The Franklin County landscape looked a lot like southwestern Connecticut where they'd had their first farm, in the 1930s and 1940s, and where my brothers and I were born. In their retirement years they were going back to their roots, or at least some of them. For me, the attraction was different.

The Berkshires have the mountains and pretty tourist resorts, the coastal areas have the ocean and access to Boston, but the central part of the state has a sense of time past, of small farming communities straddling the age of the decline of light industry and growth of bedroom communities. Life eddies along the border with New Hampshire and Vermont, and Boston is no longer The Hub. These towns have a sense of rooted authenticity, now fading.

This is the kind of setting that seems perfect, in my view, for stories that explore different ways of life and contemporary issues. Farmers are certainly at the forefront of environmental concerns, with questions of pesticide use, fluctuating markets, and political winds swirling. And yet, despite being remote from urban centers, such areas struggle with some of the same problems, such as a diversifying population seeking work, an influx of well-educated workers looking for cheaper housing, and an aging population worried about the next generation of workers. At present, the average age of farm owners in this state is in the mid-fifties.

The idea of a woman who had the gift of healing came to me when I realized I knew someone who was a healer in a Spiritualist church in the area. Feeling very ignorant and uninformed about all this I began my research, beginning with reading about the cunning folk of Ireland, practitioners of magic and considered wise men and women who counterbalanced black magic and aided in solving crimes. Active up to the nineteenth century, the cunning folk gradually faded along with fears about witchcraft. A history of the occult in America, including the rise of spiritualism, was fascinating, and very informative, and I was slowly inching my way toward a clearer identity for Felicity O'Brien, my protagonist.

Though I had listened to my parents and older brothers for years talk about the Connecticut farm, I didn't know a lot about farming. I turned to memoirs by farmers, and decided not to take up beekeeping or open a small mill. I also discarded the idea of apple orchards, pigs, and horses. I quite liked the idea of goats and chickens--for a while.

Even though I grew up doing a lot of handwork, I discarded the idea of making my sleuth a quilter, knitter, or other craftsperson. I preferred having her outdoors, and often in the woods. With an unexplained gift of healing inherited from her mother's line, Felicity would be a regular farmer coping with the stresses besetting a traditional way of life in a modern world.

I located my fictional town of West Woodbury in Franklin County, considered the most rural county in Massachusetts as well as the poorest. Home to 71,000 people, 26 municipalities, and over 700 farms, the County is one of three defining The Pioneer Valley, running along the Connecticut River. Both towns and farms are small; the average farm is about one hundred acres, and only four municipalities have more than five thousand residents. Felicity's property, Tall Tree Farm, is on the large side, at 500 acres, and my fictional town, West Woodbury, is closer to four thousand people.

The cliche of dozens of murders occurring in tiny fictional towns has never bothered me. If I try to justify it at all I think of all those murders as a literary manifestation of the normal conflicts that arise between people when they're fighting for what they care about. Farm communities and small towns may seem quiet, but plenty of dark feelings seethe beneath green corn stalks and baskets of shiny red apples.


Susan Oleksiw is the author of the Mellingham mystery series and the Anita Ray mystery series. Beyond the Treeline, her first installment in A Pioneer Valley Mystery series, debuted on September 8 from Midnight Ink. 

Born and raised in New England, Susan Oleksiw has long been fascinated by the traditional New Englander and the way of life found there. She is the co-founder of Level Best Books, which publishes an annual anthology of the best New England crime fiction. Her writing has appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, and she has served as coeditor for The Oxford Companion to Crime and Mystery Writing

Before she entered into a life of crime, Susan studied at the University of Pennsylvania, where she received a PhD in Asian studies. The author has also spent time living in India, and her fondness for the country lives on through her passion for photography. You can see more on all of her mystery series, as well as featured snapshots of her travels to India at SusanOleksiw.com.