Saturday, October 27, 2012

When We Aren't Writing Mysteries....

by June Shaw

Lately I've been fairly happy and annoyed, actually about the same things. There's too much to do -- even though I've left my teaching job and am now a full-time writer. Or so I'd like to think.

There are lots of times, though, when I really enjoy just doing my thing, whatever that happens to be at the moment.

I've joined various clubs in town. Many groups keep asking me to speak to their groups and do book signings. Both are great fun. But keep me away from my writing.

I spend lots of time with my loved ones, children and grandchildren and other friends. I thoroughly enjoy doing this. Should I complain? Absolutly not.

This week I'm reading HOW TO TAKE CARE OF YOUR PET GHOST, the picture book my young grnaddaughter wanted me to write with her, at area libraries, along with book signings.

Today I'll be speaking on a panel in Baton Rouge at the Louisiana Book Day Festival, followed by a signing.

I have this post due now so sorry, I often get behind), and was just reminded that I need to create my newest quarterly article for our Chamber of Commerce newspaper. Good grief, it's due Tuesday.

So am I complaining about all these things I'm doing or trying to do. Absolutely not! How fortunate I am. I can write when I want to, which is normally every day. But boy, when those other deadlines come around. Okay, I'll put on a big smile and get to the next fun thing in my life now.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Ghosts From My Past

By Jackie King
I was about four when my older cousins started scaring the crap out of me with ghost stories. These were told in the bright sunshine, but at night I had to creep up creaking stairs to get to my bedroom at Grandma’s house. These monsters lurked along the way to terrify me. I can still remember the dread and the sick empty feeling in my belly.

The Good Old Days
Grandchildren weren’t pampered in those days, at least not by my grandma. She married at 14 so I doubt she ever had a childhood, at least not as we think of it these days. I realize now that she wasn’t a cruel woman, just one who had endured hardships, and in her declining years had received me on her doorstep while my mother trained to be a teacher. She did the best she could.

The Million Mile Stairs
There was no electricity to illuminate the steep stairs, so I was given a lighted candle and told to blow it out after I was in bed.

But what waited at the top?
Was it the murdered man looking for his golden arm? Would he chop off my head with his ax when he learned I didn’t have it, as he had with two dozen other children?
And the candle was sputtering.
Terrified of having no light, I’d put one foot in front of the other, knowing that I had no other choice. And finally I’d reach the landing. The soft glow of the candle lighted only a small circle, and each step into the blackness seemed almost certain death.
Finally, I reached my bed, set the candle on an orange-crate used for a bedside table and climbed in. It was summertime and hot, but I still pulled the dusty smelling bedspread over me. After a quick puff to blow out the candle the room was black as a witch’s hat. The counterpane (as Grandma called it) was the only protection between me and the evil ghost. I’d lie stiff as a board until I finally fell asleep.
The next morning when my cousins came to visit, I’d beg them for another ghost story.

FH Bump in Night Cover

My one and only ghost story set in 1889 Oklahoma Territory

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

With Age Comes Wisdom

By Mark W. Danielson

The reason we say “with age comes wisdom” is so when we get older, we can look back and realize how fortunate we have been.  Between bad judgment, disease, accidents, and war, it’s amazing this many of us live past twenty.  The problem is we don’t realize our good fortune when we are twenty, nor do we celebrate our elders’ wisdom until much later in life.

I have survived over forty-seven years of piloting airplanes and thirty-five as a published author.  During this time my thought processes have gone through many stages from “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead, to “Maybe I should give this another look.”  In laymen’s terms, I’m saying that wisdom can only be achieved through survival and perseverance.  Although writing is more forgiving than flying, in both cases we learn from our mistakes and move forward.  Rejection has always made me stronger and more determined, although I’m not sure publishing houses had that in mind when they sent their canned responses.

In the day of instant gratification, we sometimes forget that time is our friend.  Yes, some authors can crank out stories at alarming rates, but it’s usually evident when they didn’t allow their words to ferment.  If deadlines are not an issue, the best thing we can do is hide our “finished” work and move on to something else.  Months later, when you remove your manuscript from its hiding place, it’s like reading someone else’s work, except here you are empowered to edit.   It’s amazing how different your masterful writing looks after you’ve given it an extended break. 

Now that anything can be published on the web, it’s more critical than ever that our writing be meaningful.  For the sake of the industry, never publish substandard or inaccurate material.  If you think of its permanence as a reflection on yourself, you’ll see it’s worth the wait.  This advice comes from an old man – a survivor who has gained wisdom with age, and hopes to gain much more before his final chapter is written.  Take it with a bucket of salt.  I’m still scratching the surface of what I hope to accomplish, but I have reached the stage where I realize that learning never ceases. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

How to solve a writing problem

Earlier this year, I had one of those serendipitous experiences which seem to solve problems in some mystical way. Don’t worry, there’s nothing mystical about what follows; I just wanted to pass on a wee lesson which I learned and it’s this: the way to solve writing problems is to write.

See? Easy. In fact, it’s a little pearl of wisdom that came out of a displacement activity and it actually produced a book. It’s called  Alternative Dimension and this is how it was born.

I’d just finished writing two non-fiction books to meet deadlines and was looking for a way to get into my next novel. But I’d been writing solidly for days and wanted to indulge my habitual laziness for a while so, as a sort of stopgap, I thought of publishing a collection of short stories. It gave me a good excuse to put the novel on the back burner but, as I was looking though the stories to choose which ones to include, I saw that there were about twenty featuring online role-playing games. Each was a separate, self-contained item with its own characters but they shared similar themes, such as fantasy, the tension between virtual and real worlds, the dangers of assuming anonymity when online. The combined word count was around 30,000, enough for a collection, but the fact that there was a sort of coherence about the themes made me wonder if I could do more with them. So I tried to think of what that could be and how I could do it. Result? Nothing – no muse, no flashes of inspiration, nothing – but I knew I could link them somehow. So in the end I just forced myself to start writing. I knew one of the characters pretty well so I just started writing some dialogue between him and his friend.

It was OK, but only OK. Their conversation was natural enough, their characters distinct, there were a couple of gags that worked, but I still didn’t know where it was going. Then, suddenly, I had to look something up, just to get some statistics to back up a comment made by my main man. I did that and there, all of a sudden, was the solution. The character had taken me in the right direction and I could see exactly how the stories not only fitted together but actually offered a clear progression. He was no longer just a character in one of the stories, he was the clue to how they could all be absorbed into a single structure with one clear central narrative. I used some software called StoryLines to group them into categories and put a generalising label on each group. I then shuffled them around into a logical sequence that made narrative sense and, at 44,000 words, constituted a novella.

All but two of them had been written to make readers laugh but, while that’s still the overall intention of the book, early reviewers have spoken of the mixture of laughter and darkness. If I’d published them as a collection, I don’t think that darkness would have been as evident but linking them this way has worked a sort of alchemy that has changed their overall nature.

See what I mean about it being somehow mystical? Just by starting to write, without any notion of what the content would be or what my purpose was, I’d given the character the opportunity to teach me which way I should be going. As a result, instead of sitting contemplating the awe-inspiring notion that I had to ‘start another novel’, I had some specific, identifiable and eminently reachable goals. I knew there were gaps between the stories which had to be filled, passages in them that needed rewriting to bring them into a unified structure. So my character had changed the nature of the problem: instead of having the monumental task of writing a whole book, I had a series of much smaller exercises to complete. Once I was started, I couldn’t wait to get back to it every day and, very quickly, the book was finished.

So, if you’re stuck or have some writing problem to solve, just write.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Mini-Law School 2

Last Thursday I attended the second session of the Mini-Law School at the University of Colorado in Boulder. The subject was civil litigation. This was very timely since I had spent a good portion of the last two weeks sitting in on a murder trial in Boulder: Michael Clark accused of killing Marty Grisham in 1994. The professor indicated that civil and criminal litigation differ but have some elements in common. Civil cases do not involve criminal or administrative law but include cases dealing with topics such as contracts, torts and property. Litigation is dispute resolution.

To put things in perspective, in 2008 in the US there were 115 million cases of which 25 million dealt with civil matters. This is a 67% growth since 1984. Any question of whether we’re a litigious society?

95% of civil cases are heard in state courts (including traffic, municipal and small claims courts) and the rest in federal courts. If you are injured, you have three choices: 1. Do nothing, 2. Proceed independently, or 3. Contact an attorney. If litigation is pursued, the next steps are: pleadings, discovery, summary judgment (if allowed), jury selection (if a jury is involved), trial, verdict, post-trial motions, appeal (if any), effect and enforcement. Enforcement is often an issue in civil litigation. You might win but then spend years trying to collect from the other party.

The steps in a trial include: opening arguments, prosecution evidence, defense evidence, closing arguments, jury instructions, deliberation and verdict. These steps are similar to the criminal trial I’ve been following. It went to the jury Thursday at noon and the jury deliberated through Friday afternoon and will resume today (Monday). 

The professor stated that our system gives full leeway to the jury to make a decision. He cited a case where after a verdict was rendered, it was discovered that the jury was drunk, sleeping most of the time during deliberation and dealing drugs to each other. An appeal to throw out the jury decision went to the Supreme Court, but it was not overturned. The jury is a black box where no one outside can interfere, no matter how good or bad the jury is. The only times action are taken are if a jury member is threatened, bribed or a jury member does outside experiments or brings something from outside into the jury deliberations (an example mentioned was a jury member who brought in a Bible and consulted it).

Next session is environmental law.

Mike Befeler
Author of the Paul Jacobson Geezer-lit Mystery Series

Saturday, October 20, 2012


by Leighton Gage

Many years ago, I used to spend idyllic weekends on the beach at Trindade. (The spelling is correct, without a second "i".)

 It was beautiful and unspoiled.

Not like today, when it has morphed into a popular tourist destination.
The transformation has taken place not only because it’s one of the most beautiful beaches between Rio de Janeiro and Santos, but also because access has become simple.

But back then, before the highway connecting the two cities was complete, it was anything but easy to get to.

Adventurous souls would sometimes attempt a descent of the encircling mountain range in four-wheel vehicles, but the road was unpaved, muddy and rutted, and many of them would get stuck, so most of us walked.

And it was a long walk, so the little fishing village got few visitors.

There was no running water, but there was a river with a waterfall, from which you could draw drinking water and bathe.

There was no electricity. Light was provided by kerosene lamps, so the locals tended to go to bed early and rise with the sun.

There were no hotels, or pousadas, so we’d rent the hut of some local family, who’d happily move-in with their neighbors for the sake of a few Cruzeiros, the currency of the time.

There were no beds, at least no beds that we townsfolk would be willing to sleep in, so we’d spend the nights on packed earthen floors.

We’d bring cacha├ža and guitars.
We’d sing, solve the problems of the world, and swim in the pristine, boulder-strewn sea.
We thought the place was paradise.

Little did we know that a killer was living in the walls.

Those walls were of daub and wattle construction, sometimes whitewashed, but mostly not.

And they were infested with triatomine bugs.

Brazilians call these little creatures barbeiros. They have a habit of creeping out at night to feed on human blood, and their favorite grazing ground is the human face, hence the name.

Barba, in Portuguese, means beard, barbeiro, barber, meaning, in this case, that they like to hang out in beards. (And, yes, barbeirois also the word we use for the guy who cuts your hair. Same origin, different meaning.)

What makes barbeiros particularly objectionable, other than the thought that they’re sucking your blood, and the fact that their bites itch, like those of a mosquito, is the fact that they transmit a nasty disease called the mal de chagas.

And Chagas disease, as it’s referred to in English, can kill you.

I’ve been bitten by barbeiros, and I recognize, now, that I was a lucky man never to have caught it.

The disease is named after Carlos Chagas, the Brazilian physician who first described it in 1909.
Chagas’ work is unique in the history of medicine because he was the first researcher to describe solely and completely a new infectious disease: its pathogenvectorhost, clinical manifestations, and epidemiology.

But he carried-on his work with marmoset monkeys, and the significance of his findings for humans went largely ignored until the 1960’s, when Chagas disease came to be recognized as serious threat to humans.

Why did it take so long?
Because decades generally pass between infection and death.

In humans, it presents itself in two stages: an acute stage, which occurs shortly after an initial infection, and a chronic stage that develops over many years. The acute phase only lasts for the first few weeks or months, and it usually passes unnoticed, because it’s either symptom-free or exhibits only mild, non-unique symptoms like fever, fatigue and vomiting.

And then, for the next twenty or thirty years, there don’t seem to be any symptoms at all.
Meanwhile, tiny parasites, called trypomastigotes, are  busily eating away internal organs.
Eventually arrhythmias, weight loss, digestive problems and neuritis begin to appear.  
But, by that time, it’s usually too late.
The heart muscle has been damaged beyond repair.

Chagas disease can be found as far north as Mexico.
In Bolivia, up to 70% of the children in some rural areas have become infected.
Across Latin America, it kills more people than any other parasite, about 20,000 last year alone.

Since the 1970’s there have been some drugs that can effect a cure.
But the longer you’ve been infected, the less likely they are to work.
And there is no vaccine that can prevent it.

The illness is most commonly associated with the rural, and the poor, but it is hypothesized that at least one famous man may have died of it.

Charles Darwin, in the last years of his life, presented symptoms typical of Chagas disease.

Attempts to test his remains were met with a refusal by the curator of Westminster Abbey, but it’s thought, by many experts, that Darwin contracted mal de chagas while in South America.

And that it might have killed him.

Friday, October 19, 2012

A Series to Die For


by Jean Henry Mead

Former news reporter and broadcast host, award-winning author Radine Trees Nehring sold her first article when she was 50. She now writes the "To Die For" series.

Radine, how did your To Die For series come about?

After my non-fiction book, DEAR EARTH: A Love Letter from Spring Hollow, was published, I began looking for a new writing project and thought -- "I enjoy reading mysteries, why not try writing one." So, I did. The title came when my publisher wanted a change in the working title for the first series book. An agent had suggested I link a mystery series together with a single motif in the title, and at that time, everything grand or great in the female world seemed to be "to die for." (Oh, my dear, that diamond was to die for.) The "To Die For" series was born.

Tell us about your latest novel in the series.

A Fair to Die For was such fun to write, though, to be honest, I always say that about my most recent novel! I was familiar with the War Eagle (Craft) Fair in Northwest Arkansas, and had attended it many times, beginning when we lived in Tulsa. The fair has been going strong since 1954, and now draws up to two hundred thousand visitors each year. Craft work certainly suited my series's most popular secondary character, Shirley Booth, so I "saw to it" that she became an approved vendor at the fair, selling her baby quilts and "Cuddlies." Carrie, her best friend, and my female protagonist, would be helping her. Another visit to the fair last year, for observation and interviews, and I was off and running. Carrie's mysterious cousin, Edie, and the possibility of drug dealing at the fair showed up as I was planning the story.

How did your broadcasting career and news reporting careers evolve?

For about ten years, my writing was in the form of essays and feature articles about the Ozarks sold regionally, nationally, and even internationally. I also reported local news for a Northwest Arkansas newspaper, and was eventually asked to research, write, and read the same type of news for an area radio station. At that time I wanted the feeling of a "regular job" so I accepted. That's how "Arkansas Corner Community News" was born. The fifteen-minute twice-weekly program ran for ten years until the station sold. By then my mystery series had taken off, so news broadcasting and I parted company.

Why did you decide to write senior sleuth novels?

I'm not exactly a sleuth, but I am a senior, and felt I understood "Prime Time" adults, as someone has so graciously put it. I also wanted to write about a strong woman, and created Carrie McCrite, a woman who has been sheltered all her life and, after her husband is killed, decides it's time for her to prove her own strength. So, she "jumps into the water," so to speak. She moves from Tulsa, OK, to land in the Ozarks that she and her husband had purchased for a retirement home, and begins life on her own. You know, women who are widowed and facing an entirely new life style often need to find themselves just like teenagers sometimes do. That was Carrie's quest.

You've won quite a few writing awards. Which one means the most to you? Why?

Two awards are equal. The first, in 2010, is the National Silver Falchion, awarded at Killer Nashville. Winners area chosen by their peers for (I am told) excellence in writing and service to the writing community. I am still awed by this award, and deeply honored. The second is being chosen as the 2011 inductee into the Arkansas Writer's Hall of Fame. This means so much because it is an for an Arkansas author! (And who won this honor the year before? Charlaine Harris!. Others area also "up high" names in my view.) I am awed to see my name on this list.

How do you feel about your celebrity status in your home state? Has it caused you any problems?

My only regret is that my mother didn't live to see this. She is probably somewhere saying" I told you so." For most of my life as an introvert )I even sometimes spent part of my birthday parties reading in my room) she was my big encourager, and went foverba9ord with praise and believing I could do whatever I wanted. I discounted her feelings because, after all, she was my mom. And now . . .

Otherwise, of course it's a great feeling, it would be for anyone. What's especially fun (since my picture has been in newspapers and magazines and elsewhere) is to be sitting in a restaurant and see people looking at me, then turning away if I notice them. I have done this myself so many times--and still do--when I recognize a person! If a certain degree of celebrity has caused any problems, it's increased requests for talks and from writers who are seeking help. I do what I can, but I can't say "yes" to everyone. That makes me sad."

What do you enjoy most and least about novel writing?

I really enjoy the writing part. I love being in a story with my characters, and inventing all kinds of things. It's almost like play, though one must, of course, take it more seriously than that. (I think?) I'm used to this kind of creating. Since life circumstances meant I played alone most of the time as a child, I invented imaginary playmates. Guess I am still doing it.

Least would have to be Internet promotion. Living in Spring Hollow means we have absolutely no access to high speed Internet, yet I must communicate and promote in many places--Facebook, my blog, and much more. I spend at least half of my Internet time waiting for connections, and, on some days, can't connect during much of the day. Frustrating, which, of course, means that, though I like connecting with people this way, the end result is frustration and a "least enjoyable" experience.

Advice for novice writers.

MAKE FRIENDS. You never know when a previous contact, or someone you chat with at an event, will be willing to help you with research, publicity, or more. Notice what others write, buy their books, and comment on their work if you enjoy it. If it's not to your taste, don't comment at all. And, of course, perfect your craft, learn the business, go to conferences if you can, join a critique group, write, write, write, and DON'T GIVE UP.

You can learn more aboutr Radine at the following and

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Supporting an Author You Love

by Jaden Terrell

I've been reading Chester Campbell's new thriller, POKSU, and wondering why this guy is not selling hundreds of thousands of his books. I have the same thought when I read something by Timothy Hallinan or some other lesser-known author whose work blows me away. (That includes you, my fellow Murderous Musings contributors.)

We all know there's a handful of authors who need no help in the promotion department because everyone already knows who they are. James Patterson. J.K. Rowling. For most, though, the key to growing a readership is word-of-mouth. No one buys a book they don’t know exists. But with more than two hundred thousand new books launched this year, getting the word out is a challenge.

So how can you help create buzz for an author whose work you love? Let's call her Sally Wimpleton, and let's say she's written a novel called The Garden Gnome Murders. (Sheesh, now I want to write that!) 

1. Ask your local librarian to order The Garden Gnome Murders by Sally Wimpleton.

2. Post a review on Amazon, B&N, Goodreads, Shelfari, or other sites that allow reader reviews.

3. Click the “Like” button the B&N and Amazon pages for The Garden Gnome Murders and for Sally's author page, if she has one. On Amazon, the hardback, Kindle, and audio versions must all be “liked” separately.

4. Make one or more appropriate Amazon lists and add The Garden Gnome Murders to the list(s). Goodreads also has a list function now.

5. “Like” Sally Wimpleton's Facebook page and help keep the discussion there rolling. Invite others to “like” the page and participate as well.

6. Spread the word on your social networking sites, like Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. Retweet Sally's tweets, share her relevant Facebook posts, etc.

7. Recommend the books to all your friends and family members who enjoy the kind of books Sally writes.

8. If you’re in a book club that reads mysteries and is open to author visits, ask if they would like Sally to come and speak to the group (or Skype with them).

9. If Sally has a website with links, articles, or other content readers might like, visit it often and encourage others to do the same. (If she has a newsletter, sign up for that and encourage your friends to sign up too.)

10. If you know people who acquire books for airports, Walmart, Sam’s, Costco, Target, K-Mart, etc., tell them about The Garden Gnome Murders.

11. If you know people in other countries where Sally's book has been translated, let them know about the translation. 

12. If you know a major motion picture director or producer, or any big-name actor who might like to play one of the roles, steer him or her toward the book. Who wouldn't want to see a movie about Garden Gnomes? And Murder?

13. When you order your copy of The Garden Gnome Murders, order another mystery by a well-known author in a similar genre. That gets Sally on the “people who bought x also bought y” list.

Can you think of other ways to help draw attention to a favorite author?

*Note: Sally Wimpleton and The Garden Gnome Murders are fictional creations. Any resemblance to real people or novels, living or dead,is purely coincidental.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


 Carola Dunn

My first Cornish Mystery, Manna from Hades, is now out in paperback.

After a life of travelling the globe working for an international charity, Eleanor Trewynn retires to Cornwall when she's widowed. She buys a cottage in the fishing village of Port Mabyn on the North Coast, and turns the ground floor into a charity shop, while living above with her Westie, Teazle.

Eleanor expects a placid retirement after decades of adventure, but her  life is turned upside down when the shop receives a donation of valuable jewels from an unknown benefactor, followed by the discovery of a body in the back room.

Is there a connection between the jewellery and the murdered youth! Eleanor's police detective niece, DS Megan Pencarrow, and her irascible boss investigate.
...this well-plotted and atmospheric mystery has a finely calibrated edge to it, almost an attitude of defiance just below the surface, that belies the initial impression of just a nice little cosy. For Nell is a woman of substance and strengths, who knows many of her limitations and finds ways to work within and around them. And she does not actually solve the crime - that is left to the professionals - but her information and perception do help the detectives along the way, resulting in a quite satisfactory and rather more realistic solution than those which are, alas, too frequently found in cosy mysteries.
Carola Dunn's characters, especially Nell, are superb creations, for she carefully layers their personalities and attitudes, behaviors and inclinations, until these seem like people you've known for a very long time and would gladly have as friends. In addition to Nell herself, we have her niece Detective Sergeant Megan Pencarrow, one of the few women in the North Cornwall Constabulary; Inspector Scumble, opinionated, irascible and short-tempered but not too old or proud to learn something from a woman if it will help solve his mystery; an artist, an extremely organized vicar's wife and her absent-minded husband, several rather lost young folks, and a lovely little dog named Teazle. In the hands of a less gifted writer these might have been caricatures but each has a distinct personality, becoming more interesting as the story progresses. 
Reviewing the Evidence

Adept at showing character through witty dialogue, Dunn paints an amusing picture of a small town that readers will want to visit again soon. 
Publishers Weekly

  “Dunn has a knack for writing meatier-than-usual cozies with strong female characters, and she has another charming winner here.”
-- Booklist

“Eleanor is a wonderful, multi-faceted heroine and Manna from Hades is a first-rate story…Carola Dunn demonstrates the same smooth writing and seasoned storytelling that readers have come to expect from her.”
--- Mystery News

The second in the series, A Colourful Death, is available in hardcover and ebook. The third, The Valley of the Shadow, comes out in December.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Post Cold War Political Thriller Features Korea

The year was 1993. The Cold War had recently ground to a halt, and international relations were in a state of flux. Burke Hill, the disgraced former FBI agent who redeemed himself  in Beware the Jabberwock, had become director of clandestine activities for a global public relations firm headquartered in Washington that was actually a CIA spinoff. About the time a devastating explosion in Pyongyang's Presidential Palace killed the North Korean dictator and his heir apparent, Burke gets a tip about a highly secret plot for South Korea to develop nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile, in Seoul, an independent-minded homicide detective suspects civilian leaders who espouse closer relations with the U.S. are being systematically eliminated. He is consistently thwarted by the prosecutor who handles his cases.

The Poksu Conspiracy cover features the Great South Gate in downtown Seoul, South Korea's National Treasure No. 1. Beneath it are the hangul characters for poksu, which means "vengeance." Later in the story, it involves two Chinese characters for "pok"and "su,"but you'll have to read the book to learn about that.

The Prologue introduces a third character who is central to the plot but remains in the background through most of the story. Born in 1919 a few months after the March First Movement's abortive effort to achieve Korean independence from Japan, he grows up with a burning desire to wreak vengeance on the Japanese for the execution of the father he never knew. When Burke Hill and Capt. Yun Yu-sop of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Bureau finally get together, they discover they are after the same man, whose current identity is unknown.

Although The Poksu Conspiracy is called a political thriller, it could be identified as part spy story, part Korean police procedural. It runs a little over 154,000 words and has a sizable cast of  characters. Since many of them have strange-sounding Oriental names, I will include a Who's Who in the front of the book to help readers keep up with, what else, who is whom in the story.

Poksu will be available as an ebook for the Kindle by the end of October. I need some advance reviews, so if anyone would like to do a review Amazon, I can send you  a PDF of the book. Just email me here.

Visit me at Mystery Mania

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Today I’m delighted to present Marilyn Meredith, author of over thirty published novels, including the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series. She’s going to share some of her secrets about naming characters.
Marilyn Meredith

By Marilyn Meredith

For me, this is one of the most important aspects of the creation of your characters. The name should in some way fit the character’s personality.

An example: If you have a strong, muscular hero you wouldn’t want to give him a weak sounding name like Lauren or Percy. You may know some body-builder types with those names, but for your book pick a name that will evoke the sense of the character for the reader.

Make sure that the characters in your book don’t all have names that begin with the same letter, rhyme, or all the same number of syllables. You never want to confuse your characters.

If you are writing a fantasy or sci-fi and your making up names, be sure they are able to be pronounced easily. If the reader can’t say the name in his/her mind, they’ll have trouble remembering who each person is. I’ve been reading books by Scandanavian authors and I’ve had a hard time keeping track of who is who because of the names that I can’t pronounce.

Having said what I did about made-up names, don’t give everyone simple names like Mary, John, Bill, Joe, Jane. If a name is a bit unusual, the reader will have an easier time remembering it. Of course there are exceptions—Jack Reacher for instance. Jack is a strong name even though it’s simple—but the character is mainly known as Reacher.

When I first started submitting my Deputy Tempe Crabtree series, I had an agent tell me Tempe was too unusual of a name and to come up with something else. Obviously, I didn’t follow her advice. Tempe Crabtree was my great-grandmother’s name and I thought it worked for as a Native American. Another prominent Indian character in this series is Nick Two John.

Though some young mothers are using old-fashioned names for their children, others are making up names. One of my granddaughters used syllables from her mother’s and mother-in-law’s first names for an original name for her baby. You might even try that if you can’t come up with the exact name you want.

If you are writing an historical novel, be sure to check and see if the names you want were in use during that time period.

Where to find names? The Internet has a wealth of names. You can find names from any country and popular baby names.

What I like to do is keep graduation programs and use the names I find there—of course I mix up first and last names. Other writers I know use names they’ve found in obituaries.

Keep track of what you’ve named your minor characters so that you don’t give them a different name later on in the book. (Yes, I’ve done that.)

I hope this has will be helpful to you when you start naming the characters that you’ve created. And readers, perhaps this has given you some insight into how difficult the author’s task is when it comes to naming their creations.
Meredith's latest mystery, Raging Water from Mundania Press:
Mor information about Raging Water
Raging Water

 Deputy Tempe Crabtree’s investigation of the murder of two close friends is complicated when relentless rain turns Bear Creek into a raging river. Homes are inundated and a mud slide blocks the only road out of Bear Creek stranding many—including the murderer.

Meredith also writes as F. M. Meredith, and her latest Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novel is No Bells, the fourth from Oak Tree Press. She has taught for Writers Digest School for ten years and serves as a judge in several writing contests. Marilyn is a member of EPIC, three chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. Visit her at and follow her blog at
Marilyn borrows a lot from where she lives in the Southern Sierra for the town of Bear Creek and the surrounding area.

Thanks to Marilyn for visiting today, and thanks to all readers who have stopped by.

Jackie King