Saturday, July 27, 2013

Your Book Release

by June Shaw

I'm excited because the first book in my series of humorous mysteries has just been released -- again!

Initially I sold RELATIVE DANGER to a publisher that put it out in hardcover and large print. At first I thought the sale was a fluke; maybe the editor who bought it was having a great day and accepting everything that crossed his desk. Soon I was shocked and grateful when my debut garnered praise from readers and reviewers, including these:

"Best Mystery of the Year nominee" - Deadly Ink
"Suspenseful" - Publishers Weekly
"An absolute winner!" – Author Hailey North
"Keeps you guessing" - Kirkus
"Refreshing twists" - Romantic Times
"Way fun!" – Author Alice Duncan
"Sexy" - Armchair Interviews

Someone compared it to Janet Evanovitch's books, which I enjoyed. Harlequin gave me another surprise and bought mass market rights and reprinted my book in paperback.

And now an electronic publisher, Untreed Reads, just released it for ereaders. Next month and the following month, they will be releasing my second and third book in the series, which I'd previously sold and were released in hardcover. What fun to see my books coming to life once more -- in a new format!

My series features spunky widowed Cealie Gunther, who tries to avoid her hunky lover Gil Thurman so she can rediscover herself. But he opens Cajun restaurants wherever she travels. And she is so bad at avoiding tempting dishes and men.

Cealie is a woman of a certain age whose zeal for adventure keeps her in the thick of things—like trouble. She pops up in town early to watch her motherless granddaughter Kat graduate, only to discover that because of a custodian's death—accidental—or murder?—graduation might not take place.
Determined to find the truth, Cealie snags a job as a substitute teacher, exposing much violence, lurking menace and more disturbing questions than answers. The only thing certain is that a killer has decided Cealie and her grandchild need to be expelled—permanently.
I hope you'll check out RELATIVE DANGER. It's available at Amazon, BN, and other retailers, although orders though Untreed Reads now let readers pay one price and get all three major formats, which are directly sent to their devices. They also allow gifting of ebooks.
With its various formats, my book has had many covers. Here's the newest. 
Relative Danger (A Cealie Gunther Mystery, #1) by June Shaw - Click Image to Close
Have you ever sold different rights to your books? How was the rerelease experience?
Thanks so much for dropping by!

Friday, July 26, 2013


by Earl Staggs 

Tall Chambers is the main character in my Mystery/Thriller novel JUSTIFIED ACTION.  The book came out this past March in print and ebook and is alive and well.   After his Army career as a Special Forces Officer ended, Tall joined a secret agency which tracks terrorist groups.  If they determine a group has definite plans to strike and kill innocent people, the agency steps in and eliminates the threat before it happens.  But that’s only the backdrop for Tall’s personal story.  When someone close to him is murdered, he puts the agency business aside and uses his wits and weapons to find the killer. 

Recently, I decided to use Tall in a short story.  First of all, because I like him.  Maybe it’s because he’s exactly like me.  Well, not exactly like me.  He’s younger, smarter, better looking, taller, tougher, and more adventurous than I could ever be except in my dreams.   

Another reason for writing this short story is to introduce new readers to Tall and his world.  I plan to offer it as a free Kindle ebook to anyone who wants it.  If they like Tall, they may want to read more of him in the novel.  

The short story already has a title and a cover.  My good friend Carole Ryan, the same lady who designed the fantastic cover for JUSTIFIED ACTION, did it for me.   I’m calling the short story JUSTIFIED RESPONSE, and you can check out the cover below. 

The story begins with Tall and his crew on a mission in a Middle Eastern desert.  A busload of armed terrorists is on its way into town where a street festival is going on.  The terrorists plan to join the crowd, open fire, and kill as many people as possible.  Tall’s plan is to intercept the bus and make sure that doesn’t happen. 

When the bus is stopped and both sides have guns drawn, Tall feels his cell phone vibrate, he checks Caller ID and decides he should take the call. 

“Uh, hello, Mr. President.”

“Tall, I’m sorry to bother you, but we have a nasty situation and need your help. Is this a good time to talk?”

“Actually, Mr. President, I. . .uh. . . “

The woman with the knife turned her attention to Tall and started walking toward him, shouting obscenities in Pashto dialect.

“. . .I’m in the middle of something right now. . . .” Tall said into his phone.

The woman raised the knife above her head and ran at Tall.

“. . . can I call you back in a few minutes?”

Tall let his Uzi dangle on a shoulder strap, pulled a Glock from his waistband, and shot the woman in the chest. She staggered backward a few feet, then forward, and fell face down in front of him.

The voice on the phone hesitated, then said, “Uh, sure. Yes. Do that, please.” 

(Just so you’ll know, Tall’s shooting of the woman isn’t what it appears to be.) 

After the bus incident is settled, Tall returns the President’s call, and he and his crew are given a new assignment.  This time, the mission seems impossible, but the circumstances are so dire, Tall has to try.

I’m excited to be back with Tall Chambers and having fun writing him in this short story.  It should be out there and available within a couple weeks.  After that, I need to get back on the sequel to the novel.  Or maybe more short stories.   I’ll have to make that decision soon.  Right now, I have a more timely decision to make:  what to have for breakfast.  

Here’s the cover of JUSTIFIED RESPONSE.  What do you think of it?
Now, you're invited to visit my Homesite where you can:
Read Chapter 1 of JUSTIFIED ACTION
Read Chapter 1 of MEMORY OF A MURDER
And more.  Here's where:




Thursday, July 25, 2013

Is It Required for Writers to Own a Cat?

By Jackie King

It’s been said that every writer should own a cat. Since I’m a writer, I’ve been pondering these words all morning, wondering about its veracity. (For one thing, I already know that you never own a cat. The cat owns you.)
Pawley's Family including pet cousins
Pawley not included--she's very shy!

Now before cyberland-cat-lovers (and I know there are myriads) stop reading this post in anger, let me hasten to say that I absolutely adore cats. I always used to have one, and I’m happy to say that each one lived to be quite old. My last cat, a Siamese named Fletcher, was so dear to me that I almost bankrupt myself with daily trips to the vet. He required regular IVs to keep him hydrated and comfortable. I just couldn’t bear to let him go to Kitty Heaven. Finally, the lovely lady vet told me that it would be much kinder to help him make that final crossing. And I did, holding him in my lap with tears flowing.

Fletcher was so special that I couldn’t bear to replace him, and got my kitty-fixes from cats of friends and relatives until they grew weary of my showing up at their front doors.

However, I now live in the best of all cat-worlds. I have a GrandKitty named Pawley, who spends her vacations with me. This is so great! I get to keep her at regular intervals while her family travels. However, someone else is responsible for her health and for taking her to the evil vet, whom this cat hates and despises.

Most of the time Pawley lives with her sister Lauren, who is my granddaughter and her parents, Susan and Rick. She was a rescue cat who fortuitously landed in heaven-on-earth. She has been spoiled and pampered by her sister for five years now. She has toys, clothes and even a special kitty stroller that Lauren uses to take her for walks. Every Christmas Santa fills a decorated stocking with her name emblazoned across the top in glitter. And one thing that is always included is a can of Vienna sausage, her favorite people food.

But back to the saying, “Every writer should own a cat.”

This saying must have been coined before computers. Because even thought I adore my GrandKitty to distraction, I can’t convince her not to sit directly in front of my computer screen, and/or on top of the current manuscript I’m trying to edit.

As any cat fancier worth her or her salt knows, cats do not recognize the word, “No.” Or at least not when a person says the word. She, of course, can communicate this word quite well when she wishes, with the swish of her tail.

So for the last three weeks I’ve been holding her in my lap reaching around her furry body so I can stretch forward in order to reach the keys. A little distracting, but what can I do? She’s such a sweet and tiny little thing.

And while I’m mentioning her petite size, I should remark about my confusion; how can a 4-pound cat need over 50 pounds of equipment for just a three-week stay? Luckily her big sister is an athlete who is a competitive swimmer. Strong arms are needed to carry all of Pawley’s stuff to my third floor apartment.

Lauren Keithley, Pawley's big sister, at OK State Meet with coach
Having done all of this complaining, isn’t it surprising that I’m not eager to see the last of her furry little body? I’ll miss her company. So I guess it is true that every writer should own a cat.

Hugs to all book and animal lovers out there in cyberland.


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Curiouser and curiouser

by Bill Kirton

It’s easy enough to imagine how Stone Age people started making their stuff. Ugg probably stood on a stone, cut his foot, swore, felt sorry for himself but at some point made the connection between the flint being sharp and therefore just the thing to shave with – so stone tools were born. What isn’t so easy is to conjure up how Bronze Age people started doing whatever you have to do to make bronze. It isn’t as if their equivalent of the media started saying it was the dawn of a new era – the Bronze Age – which made everybody want to be trendy so they all got bronze-making stuff from their Wal-Mart. It needs heating and pouring and things.

And then, when the Iron Age arrived, it was even more complex because at least with copper, it flowed when it was heated and it was a nice colour so you could see it, but iron ore looks like rubbish, and there’s no melting and flowing and prettiness. And yet they somehow knew or found out that if you added it to a mixture of tin and copper and lead (I think – I don’t have to be meticulous with my research for musings such as this) it made it all less brittle, you could hammer it into shape, shrink it onto wheels to make tyres, and the ingredients were all nearby anyway so there was no need to spend hours stuck in traffic jams on the trade routes to get copper.

So what has this got to do with anything? Well, recently, I was listening to a podcast of a great BBC programme as I was riding my bike. It’s called In Our Time and it deals with all sorts of subjects and is proof that dumbing down hasn’t yet penetrated every corner of life. They were talking about the Iron Age and there are so many mysteries about how some things came about that it made me wish I could go back and see what was happening.

And that in turn made me think of these celeb questionnaires which ask questions like ‘What was the best kiss of your life?’, ‘How would you like to die?’ and ‘If you could go back or forward in time, what period would you like to visit?’ I could answer the first two easily, but for the third, there’d be too many possibilities. Even if you just restrict it to travelling back in time, there are so many things to witness, to learn, to marvel at. We could see who had the idea of riding horses and how they set about doing it, watch people daubing stuff on cave walls, find out just how sophisticated the Greeks and Romans were and what Stonehenge was really for. Then going the other way, we’d meet extra-terrestrials, see babies being born with their iphones and ipads already charged and wired into their brains – all sorts of stuff.

And what it all boils down to is that, while everyone lists the same sort of characteristics when it comes to writers – a way with words, good observational skills, the ability to empathise, a vivid imagination – they don’t use the word ‘curiosity’ nearly as frequently. While we remain curious, we’re still alive, we still engage with our surroundings and with other people. I can’t imagine a state in which being curious about something wasn’t part of the equation. Books telling people ‘How to write’ should always encourage readers to ask ‘What?’, ‘Who?’, ‘When?’, ‘Where?’, ‘How?’.

And perhaps most of all, ‘Why?’ – because it’s usually the hardest of all to answer.

Monday, July 22, 2013

How Much I Learn As a Writer

One of the perks of writing mystery novels is that I get to poke at a wide variety of interesting subjects. Although I never enjoyed research that much in high school and college, I’ve now become a research junkie. When I get involved in a new writing project, I typically collect books on relevant subjects, often visit certain locales and meander through the Internet.

Along the way I’ve learned about retirement homes, care homes (assisted living), nursing homes, water treatment facilities, stamp collecting, match book collecting, police procedures, martial arts including cane fu, art dealers, money laundering, synesthesia, shape-shifters, vampires, Indian casinos, scams, dinner theaters, the Switzerland Trail Railroad in Colorado, cargo cults, terrorism, serial killers, paranormal activities, historical mysteries and mystery writers, pickleball, platform tennis, city council proceedings, Athenasius Kircher, Nikola Tesla, seventeenth century Rome, World War II and prisoner of war camps, to name a few..

Places I’ve visited for research include Venice Beach and Los Angeles; California; Honolulu, Kailua and Kaneohe, Hawaii; Seattle, Washington; Victoria, BC, Canada; Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay and Ketchican, Alaska; Boulder, Denver, Golden, Buena Vista, Colorado. The Pacific Northwest, Canada and Alaska locations also involved taking an Alaskan cruise—a tough tour of duty. I’ve also researched locations I haven’t visited including Bali, Karachi, Afghanistan, Dubai and Mombasa.

Also along the way I get to read cool books on these various topics as well.

All in all, I have to say that the writing is a good profession. In addition to the research, I get to meet interesting people. It’s all fodder for the writing.

Mike Befeler

Friday, July 19, 2013

A Great Villain

While I was researching the criminal mind, I came across the narcissistic personality disorder, which I thought would conger up a great villain for a future novel. I had no idea that the disorder was so complex or that it bordered on psychosis.

A person suffering from the disorder is characterized by an excessive need to be admired as well as feelings of grandiosity—probably what used to be called “The Napoleon complex.” I couldn’t quite picture my villain running around with his hand stuffed in his shirt, so I looked for further symptoms.

This is what I found:

~People with the disorder have achieved great things because they consider themselves so special that they can’t possibly fail.
~They confine their relationships to only those people they feel are worthy of them.
~They have no qualms about taking advantage of others.
~They’re so self absorbed that they have no empathy for anyone.
~They feel that everyone envies them.
~They’re preoccupied with fantasies of power and success.
~They think they deserve adoration from everyone.
~They have a sense of entitlement to everything they desire.
~They’re arrogant in the extreme.

Know anyone with some or all of the above characteristics? Before I began writing mystery novels,  I thought that narcissistic people spent a lot of time in front of mirrors, totally in love with themselves. I didn't think of them as perfect villains until the "aha" light bulb snapped on.recently.

Psychologist Phyllis Beren revealed red flags that alert her to someone with the disorder: a desire to control other people, excessive lying, running other people down, an attitude of “my way or the highway,” sadistic behavior and over development of one area of the personality at the expense of others.

So, if someone values himself over others, has little empathy, grandiose ideas and little self-awareness, he wouldn’t hesitate to commit a crime to achieve his goals. He’s like Raskolnikov’s extraordinary man in Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, and above the law.

I think I’ve found the perfect villain.

~Jean Henry Mead

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Old cars

by Carola

I've never been particularly interested in cars--I've been happily driving used Toyota sub-compacts for 25 years--but it's fun choosing vehicles for my major characters.

In the Daisy Dalrymple series, when Daisy first met DCI Alec Fletcher of Scotland Yard, in 1923, he was driving a yellow Austin Seven, a car familiarly known as an Austin Chummy. It was his own, not a police vehicle.

I've just found a video of a slightly later version--driving in the snow, as Alec was in DEATH AT WENTWATER COURT.

The trouble is, it's a small car and Alec's sergeant, DS Tom Tring, is a large man. Though Tom never attempted to fit behind the steering wheel, you can see in the following video the effect on the springs of his simply climbing into the car: (don't bother to watch the whole thing)

A notable sports car that makes an appearance in DAMSEL IN DISTRESS is the duck's-back Alvis belonging to one of Daisy's friends.

In the course of the series, Daisy learns to drive, and between ANTHEM FOR DOOMED YOUTH and GONE WEST, she buys a small car of her own. What I chose for her is a sky-blue Gwynne Eight.


Meanwhile, Daisy and Alec having married in TO DAVY JONES BELOW, the family has grown as toddler twins have joined Daisy's stepdaughter, Belinda. Alec decides he needs a larger car, and with his inheritance from his great-uncle he can afford one. What he buys is an Austin Twelve, royal blue, with room for the whole family--and room in the front passenger seat for Tom Tring.

Image created by Simon GP Geoghegan

Here (in the interests of chronology, though nothing to do with my books), I'm going to insert the car my mother had in the 1950s, a 1934 Morris:

I can't swear this is exactly the same model, but it was very like this.

My second series, the Cornish Mysteries, is set in the late 1960s. My protagonist, Eleanor Trewynn, a widow in her early 60s, needs a car to drive around Cornwall collecting donated goods for the charity shop on the ground floor of her cottage. For her I chose a Morris Minor, another small car. There's plenty of room for her and her Westie, Teazle, but she has great difficulty fitting in some of the larger donations.

1958 model
 For some reason, the Morris Minor is affectionately known as a Moggy. Eleanor's car is older than this one and pea-green, punningly nicknamed the Incorruptible.

I think my brother once had one of these, but his passion is the Morris Minor "Woodie."

The car I learned to drive in was just like this!

This is what parked next to me today:

A Triumph Spitfire--I'm thinking that Nick might decide to buy one in the next Cornish Mystery.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Tragedy in Florida

By Chester Campbell

As mystery writers, we're accustomed to delving into the finer points of criminal law, or criminal activity, to prove why our bad guys are guilty. Sometimes our protagonists are involved in proving one  of the good guys is innocent. In contrast to real life, there's rarely any doubt as to what actually happened when it's all over. We control the action.

What happened in Florida a year ago is different. There are doubts in many minds as to what transpired that night, but it's difficult to imagine unless you've been caught in a similar situation. George Zimmerman has told his story, and there has been nothing offered to prove otherwise. It was enough to constitute self defense.

Lee Lofland, in his The Graveyard Shift blog yesterday, analyzes the case and why the jury returned a verdict of not guilty. As for the main charge of second-degree murder, Lofland, the retired lawman who runs the Writers Police Academy, had this to say:

"Second-degree murder in Florida is defined as a killing carried out with hatred, ill will, or spite, but is not premeditated. Basically, the only thing separating this charge from 1st degree murder is the lack of premeditation. There absolutely was no indication of Zimmerman having any hatred, ill will, or spite toward Martin. None. Unfortunately, it appears that the special prosecutor succumbed to political pressure and charged Zimmerman merely to…well, I’ll leave opinion out of this and stick to the facts I know. And that means I have no way of knowing what Angela Corey was thinking when she brought the charges, no more than she could’ve known what thoughts were zipping through Zimmerman’s mind on the night he shot Trayvon Martin."

Lofland points out that despite the lack of evidence to prove Zimmerman was guilty of the charges, many people across the country believe the shooting was racially motivated and are taking to the streets. The young man's death was a tragedy, and I agree that Zimmerman made a poor decision in choosing to follow Travon Martin rather than merely observe his passage through the neighborhood. But the tragedy has been heightened by being blown all out of proportion by the media.

I learned from Lofland's blog that the initial impetus for turning it into a racial circus came from an NBC news report that edited out portions of Zimmerman's call to the police dispatcher. He was reported as saying, "This guy looks like he’s up to no good….He looks black.” That makes it sound like profiling. What actually occurred in the call was this:

Zimmerman – “This guy looks like he’s up to no good. Or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.”

Dispatcher -  “OK, and this guy – is he black, white, or Hispanic?”

Zimmerman - “He looks black.”

Lofland points out this is standard procedure in police work to narrow down a description of a suspect. It had nothing to do with racial profiling.

I spent several years as a newspaper reporter back in the forties and fifties, at a time when reporters concentrated on presenting the facts of a story and left opinions up to the reader or editorial writers. Unfortunately, too much of what appears these days as "news" is merely the writer's or speaker's take on what the story really means.

As a law professor quoted in the local paper yesterday pointed out, the real tragedy is the large number of black youths being killed every day by other blacks. There has to be a change in the culture regarding the value of a human life. Gun control laws won't do it. Concerned parents, families and communities need to act.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Where Have All The Flowers Gone?

By Mark W. Danielson

Before I begin, please take a moment to read Pete Seeger’s lyrics to Where Have All The Flowers Gone: 

Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing?

Where have all the flowers gone, long time ago?

Where have all the flowers gone? Young girls pick them, every one.

When will they ever learn?  When will they ever learn?

Where have all the young girls gone, long time passing?

Where have all the young girls gone, long time ago?

Where have all the young girls gone? Gone to young men, every one.

When will they ever learn?  When will they ever learn?

Where have all the young men gone, long time passing?

Where have all the young men gone, long time ago?

Where have all the young men gone?  Gone for soldiers, every one.

When will they ever learn?  When will they ever learn?

And where have all the soldiers gone, long time passing?

Where have all the soldiers gone, a long long time ago?

Where have all the soldiers gone?  Gone to graveyards, every one.

When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?

Where have all the graveyards gone, long time passing?

Where have all the graveyards gone, long time ago?

Where have all the graveyards gone?  Gone to flowers, every one.

When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?

Seeger wrote this song at a time when the nation was on the brink of civil war.  As the US continued to throw everything it had against the North Vietnamese, anti-war protests occurred throughout the country.  Seeger’s song has been recorded numerous times by artists including The Kingston Trio, Peter Paul and Mary, and Joan Baez.  It is as timely today as it was in the 60s and 70s, and in spite of suffering staggering physical and economic losses in Vietnam, we continue to play the role of the word’s police.  The first question one might ask is why?  The bigger question is why do we allow it when we cannot take care of our own? 

Never once have I considered myself an activist, but I do believe every citizen has an obligation to express their views.   As such, I express mine frequently.  For anyone to think we are saving the world by bribing countries that hate us is ludicrous.  To believe the billions of dollars we send overseas is aiding the population rather than supplying our enemies is absurd.  At some point we must come to terms with the fact that we cannot save the world.

It has been said that those who fail to learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them.  Seeger’s song echoes that anthem at the end of every chorus.  In the end, our graveyards are overflowing with soldiers who died because their country sent them off to war.

As a former military man, I can say first-hand it is one thing to defend our country and quite another to occupy foreign soil.  Vietnam should have taught us that while we can invade and destroy, our military might’s influence is limited to turning others against us.  Our “war on terror, now nearly thirteen years in the running, continues to prove that point.  We spend billions on anti-terrorism, and yet we ignore intelligence that is handed to us.  The NSA may have the technology to monitor every phone conversation, but it cannot stop a determined suicide bomber. 

If our country fails, it will be from apathy, not terrorism.  Our short memories are short, our stomachs weak, but those who wish to harm us have neither.  Rather than bring our troops home and concentrate on national defense, we expand our overseas bases, clinging to the belief that we can change the world.  I cannot imagine a more flawed policy.    

Ironically, the unwavering anti-war protestors from Seeger’s heyday are now part of today’s “silent majority.”  Our young people aren’t tuned in about overseas events because we no longer have a draft.  It seems the only way to get their attention is to take away their cell phones.  You know it’s true if you’re smiling.     

I do not support any protest that destroys property or injures anyone.  However, I do believe every citizen should express their opinions to their elected officials.  Encourage them to stop funding the Middle East war and our overseas bases.  Remind them that their priority should be on rebuilding our infrastructure and placing their own citizens first.  For those who have lost loved ones, send them photos of where their soldiers have gone.  When will we ever learn?  When will we ever learn? 


                                          BRING THEM HOME ALIVE.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Soldiering On

Discipline has been the subject for my last two posts, and the point of my on-going topic is to preach myself a little sermon about persistence. Persistence is a necessary quality for a writer. My hope is that I will listen to my own good advice, and work regularly to finish the novel that I have taken such an embarrassingly long time to finish.

My excuse is that I seem to suffer from a total lack of energy. As a possible solution, I recently moved to a retirement center. Here my meals are prepared, my apartment is cleaned and I have an on-call handyman. It’s great, and now I’m left with no excuses and intend to work diligently. I’m keeping track of my progress with this Discipline Journal.

My new schedule is to come in from breakfast, exchange shoes for slippers, then sit down and write. The last month I’ve been doing much better. I’ve been writing each day and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m reading through my first draft and making notes as I go. Later I will go back and connect the dots (i.e. clues, red herrings, etc.) as I go.

The first three-quarters of the book seems okay to me. The last quarter needs work, but that’s okay because I love rewriting. Yesterday I spent two hours honing one page, but it was worth the effort. Today I’m beginning with Chapter 20 and intend to soldier on, one word at a time. The important thing is that I’m working every day. This is such a good feeling.

My goal is to finish the book by the end of this August and send it to my first readers. I’ll keep you posted on my progress. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

I’m still struggling to find the right name. Currently I have a list of four possible titles.

Thanks for listening.



Tuesday, July 9, 2013


I’d written lots of stage and radio plays which were produced and broadcast and a few short stories, but it never occurred to me that I should try a novel until I read about a competition and decided to enter. This was so long ago that blogs, Facebook and the rest didn’t exist and even PCs were scarce and definitely unaffordable. So I wrote it in longhand and typed it up. It didn’t win the competition but I sent it to an agent and he took me on. That novel was The Sparrow Conundrum. In terms of awards, it’s my most successful novel so does that mean that, once I’d finished it, I went downhill? Well, that’s for others to judge but I don’t think so. I’ll explain.

When I give talks or hold workshops, I tell the would-be writers there that you don’t ‘write a novel’, you write some words, then some more words, then some more – and eventually there’s a substantial pile of paper on the desk and you realise you actually have written something that’s a lot longer than a short story. That’s making it sound easy and unstructured – it’s not, and I have great respect for the form and conventions of novel-writing, but that was my experience with the Sparrow. I invented the characters, had a great time with them and actually looked forward to getting back to the writing to see what happened next.

In the end, the agent didn’t manage to sell it, but the important thing was that it had shown me I could sustain and control an extended narrative, so I started writing the next one, which was an early version of The Darkness and which led me to another agent and my first published novel, Material Evidence.

So now you’re yawning and asking ‘So what?’

Well, I’m suggesting that ideas, words, even apparently unwanted stories can be successfully recycled. The Sparrow Conundrum has been through so many changes I can’t put a figure to them. It started as a spoof spy story, moved to a spoof crime story, changed locations several times and titles even more – but its personnel and central story were there from the start. I’ve always had a soft spot for it because it’s intended to be a frankly comic novel which I wrote purely to entertain. It’s the only book I posted on Authonomy in the brief period I spent on the site and there’s no doubt at all that it benefitted enormously from the reactions and constructive criticism of the other writers there.

The Darkness, too, has changed significantly since its first draft. As I said, it was the second novel I wrote but, after many, many rewrites and changes of title, personnel, and themes, I think it’s become one of my best. The original book was about unthinking revenge but it turned into an examination of what we mean by ‘good’ and ‘bad’. So ‘recycling’ doesn’t just mean you keep sending it off to one agent and/or publisher after another, it means keep working on it, rewrite, edit, polish, improve. OK, some ideas don’t work and should be discarded, but give them a chance and only throw them out when it’s obvious they’re rubbish.

But don’t throw anything away until you’ve given it a second, third or even more chances.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Getting That Latest Book in Hand

I’ve just published my sixth novel. It may not have given me the same rush as touching my first published book, but it was certainly a great feeling to once again open a box from the publisher to receive and touch the first copies of Care Homes Are Murder.

This is the fifth book in my Paul Jacobson Geezer-lit Mystery Series (I also have one other book published, The V V Agency). Octogenarian Paul Jacobson returns to Hawaii for a vacation with his family and becomes involved in a series of crimes, while struggling with the problems of his short-term memory loss. He faces a number of strange coincidences involving acts of vandalism, drug dealers and two murders. Paul puts all the pieces together, escapes a watery grave, and with the help of his friends, solves the murders.
In this era of multiple forms of publishing (paper, audio, e-books), I still find it enjoyable to hold a book. I don’t agree with the doomsayers who believe printed books will disappear. I feel we will continue to have a world of diverse forms of reading.

So fellow writers, do you still get a kick out of holding a printed copy of your latest book?

Mike Befeler

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Daisy po polsku

by Carola

The first ten books of my Daisy Dalrymple series are coming out in Polish. This is the cover of the first, Death at Wentwater Court.

Cute, right? But wait... They're putting them out as compete boxed sets, each set with the cover of one of the books, and all with a clever and even cuter motif on the spines:

You may note that Daisy's last name has been dropped from the series title--because Poles can't pronounce Dalrymple, I wonder?

These three are all I've seen, so I'm just assuming the rest also feature the black cartoonish cat. To me, it brings to mind the Pink Panther, and the theme of the movies comes into my head every time I see it.

The odd thing is that, as far as I remember, there are no cats in any of Daisy's adventures. Me, I'm a dog-person!

Now that's more like it...

 Find Daisy (in English) on Amazon

And read about Cornish Mysteries release in UK here 
Amazon US  Amazon UK

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Epic Tale Needs Reviews

By Chester D. Campbell

The final segment on my post Cold War political thriller trilogy is about ready for the Kindle store. Titled Overture to Disaster, it's an epic tale that follows two widely divergent plot lines until they merge in Mexico. The story opens in 1991 just prior to the dissolution of the Soviet Union. One thread begins with a Soviet Army bivouac on a collective farm in the Ukraine where chemical weapons are to be displayed. The other takes place at the same time in Washington, where a secret Special Operations helicopter mission to Iran is ready to launch.

The fallout from the two events begins to surface a few years later for two of the central characters, a chief investigator for the city prosecutor in Minsk, Belarus and the former Air Force colonel who piloted the ill-fated rescue mission to Iran. They meet in Guadalajara as a diabolical plot by dissident Russians and world-order capitalists begins to unfold.

The book will appear first in the electronic version for the Kindle. Since I need some reviews to get it noticed on Amazon, I thought I would try something new. Any readers out there who would like to review Overture to Disaster can contact me by email (chester@ - after closing the space following @) and I'll send you an ebook copy, PDF or some other format.

The book is of epic proportions, running a little over 160,000 words, but my editor thinks this trilogy is my best work. You can decide for yourself.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Welcome to Hell!

By Mark W. Danielson

The mountains are a war zone, the enemy Mother Nature.  From the Rockies west, everything is at risk.  I have seen many wildfires while living in or flying over mountain areas and I have never seen a fire season start like this. 

One particularly bad fire, known as the West Fork Fire in south Colorado, has destroyed thousands of acres and sent billowing smoke clouds above 41000 feet.  Countless smaller fires surrounded the area with wind-whipped flames.  Although this region between Alamosa and Durango is relatively remote, homes and ski areas are either in jeopardy or have been destroyed.  The West Fork Fire came only days after the Black Forest Fire near Colorado Springs consumed some five hundred homes.  I happened to be flying abeam the West Fork Fire on my way across the country and snapped these shots from 38,000 feet.  I have never felt so helpless. 
For years, the Japanese beetle has been killing western pine forests.  Now, drought and extreme heat have turned these timberlands into kindling.  While lightning is responsible for many fires, some, like the Black Forest Fire, were man-made.  Regardless of how they start, every wildfire requires massive resources that we can neither afford nor have.

Of course, wildfires are not limited to the United States.  In the Australian outback, wildfires branch out in concentric circles.  From 35,000 feet at night, these fires resemble large cities.  Unless they threaten habitats, Australians leave it up to nature to extinguish them.  In some remote areas of the United States, the U.S. Forest Service also elects to do this because fire clears the underbrush and spawns new growth.  While this is not practical in developed areas, not allowing such burns has increased the risk of conflagrations such as the West Fork Fire.  These firestorms create their own weather patterns, often generating fire tornadoes that turn steel into butter and vaporize animals.  Extinguishing such fires in mountain regions is extremely hazardous, time consuming, and dependent upon Mother Nature’s cooperation.    

When the smoke eventually clears, a fire’s cause is only relevant to criminal proceedings.  No words can adequately describe an evacuee’s stress, especially when the fate of their pets or loved ones is unknown.  This summer promises more of the same – heat, drought, lighting, wildfires.  As in sports, our best defense is a good offense.  Please report all smoke.  Do not discard lit cigarette butts.  Only set off fireworks over water.  Most importantly, thank your first-responders for all that they do.  Firefighters may have down time, but when everything hits the fan, they lay down their lives for us.  Happy Independence Day!