featuring guest authors; crafting tips and projects; recipes from food editor and sleuthing sidekick Cloris McWerther; and decorating, travel, fashion, health, beauty, and finance tips from the rest of the American Woman editors.

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Friday, April 16, 2021

#COOKING WITH CLORIS--MYSTERY AUTHOR LEV RAPHAEL COOKS UP ONE OF HIS SLEUTH'S FAVORITE DISHES


Lev Raphael is the prize-winning author of twenty-seven books in genres from memoir to mystery, and his work has been translated into more than fifteen languages.  In recognition of his stature as an American author, Michigan State University's Library has purchased his literary papers for its Special Archives and updates that collection yearly. Learn more about Lev and his books at his author website and at Write Without Borders.
 

Nick Hoffman at the State University of Michigan loves to cook and loves to eat. Focusing on food helps keep him centered despite the perpetual chaos in an English department filled with academic jackals snapping and snarling at each other over things as trivial as sharing an office.  And then there are the murders....

 

Cooking and enjoying a good meal give Nick and his spouse a perfect time-out to reflect and strategize. It makes their well-pointed kitchen an island in a storm of raging egos and all kinds of bad news. Nick is a bibliographer and loves teaching, so the last thing he expected on his bucolic midwestern university campus was a persistent crime problem with himself not only often involved, but worse than that, a suspect. Homicide is something that was only a news item when he was growing up in New York or subject matter for a TV series.

 

In Department of Death, Nick's life has changed dramatically once again because he's ascended to a position he never wanted: he's now chair of the department, peremptorily installed there by the dean who despises him. Does the malicious administrator have some hidden agenda? Of course. On the way to figuring that out and dealing with the latest suspicious death on campus in a climate of paranoia and authoritarianism, Nick and his spouse eat one of my favorite meals, sausages with grapes and onions. It sounded improbable when I first encountered the recipe, but it's terrific.

 

My version below is adapted from Melissa Clark's food column in the New York Times. Clark does a lot of roasting; I simplified everything by a switch to stove top prep. This serves four people and goes well with a sparkling wine.

 

On book tours for the Nick Hoffman series, I've often been asked if I eat as well as my hero. The answer is not all the time, because I don't get to the gym as regularly as he does (and not at all right now. But if Nick prepares or reheats an interesting meal in the series, I've tried it and liked it enough to share it with my audience, which is why Nick enjoys it in Department of Death.

 

Sausages with Sautéed Grapes and Onions

 

Ingredients:

1 large Vidalia onion, thinly sliced

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 cups seedless red grapes, halved 

1 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds

1 pound sliced chicken sausages

2 tablespoons chopped or snipped chives

2 tablespoons  sherry vinegar

 

Toss together onion slices, 2 tablespoons oil, salt and pepper and sauté in a large pan until translucent.

 

Add grapes, fennel seeds, and the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and cook until the grapes soften.

 

Add sliced sausages to heat through, and stir well.

 

Transfer sausages, grapes, and onions to plates.

 

Add vinegar and chives to pan and scrape up anything left in the pan, then drizzle the juices over each plate.


Department of Death

A Nick Hoffman Mystery

 

Years ago, Nick Hoffman was given a position in the English Department at the State University of Michigan because SUM wanted to hire his partner as writer-in-residence, but now he's been unexpectedly installed by his dean as chairman of that department. It's a wildly unpopular choice, and he's suddenly the focus of more animosity from his colleagues than he's ever dealt with before. He can't seem to make anyone happy and can't get a handle on his myriad new responsibilities as an administrator, a position he never wanted. Then tragedy strikes again way too close to home: Someone seeking his help is murdered, and under the shadow of another recent murder, Nick is a prime suspect. Hounded by campus police, the local press, and social media, Nick wonders if this could finally be the end of his career. That is, if he manages to stay out of prison.

 

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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

AN INTERVIEW WITH MYSTERY AUTHOR M.E. HILLIARD'S LIBRARIAN SLEUTH GREER HOGAN

Today we sit down for a chat with Greer Hogan from the Greer Hogan Mysteries by author M.E. Hilliard.

What was your life like before your author started pulling your strings?

Until my husband was murdered, it was a little ho-hum. Comfortable job, comfortable marriage, comfortable life. I was bored insensible, frankly. There has to be a happy medium between “bored” and “finding murder victims on a regular basis” but I don’t think my author will ever let me go there.

 

What’s the one trait you like most about yourself? 

I’m smart. I’m good at solving mysteries, but I know enough to call in the cops if things get dicey. After all, there are only so many outfits I’m willing to ruin in pursuit of justice.

 

What do you like least about yourself? 

No self-edit feature. I have a tendency to blurt out whatever is on my mind when I’m under stress, and sometime when I’m not. This can be awkward, especially when you’re talking to the police while standing over a body.  

 

What is the strangest thing your author has had you do or had happen to you? 

Shipping me off to a library in a gothic pile of a house in a village in upstate New York. I like the ravens, and the ghosts have ignored me, but temperamental heating and homicidal maniacs are not what I signed up for. 

 

Do you argue with your author? If so, what do you argue about? 

Not usually, but we sometimes debate which mystery books and TV shows to use as clues for the reader. She gets carried away, and I’m too busy detecting to rattle off book lists. 

 

What is your greatest fear? 

Not being true to myself and letting people down.

 

What makes you happy? 

Good friends, good books, and a well-crafted martini. Also, really nice handbags.

 

If you could rewrite a part of your story, what would it be? Why? 

The part where I came home and found my husband had been murdered. If I’d listened better and not rushed out that morning, I might know why it happened, because I think the police got it wrong.

 

Of the other characters in your book, which one bugs you the most? Why?

Vince Goodhue, because he’s smug and self-satisfied in spite of being deeply mediocre.

 

Of the other characters in your book, which one would you love to trade places with? Why? 

My landlord, Henri. He’s had an interesting, fulfilling life. He’s an excellent cook and is bilingual, two things I’d love to be. In spite of being in his eighties, he has a much more active social life than I do. 

 

Tell us a little something about your author. Where can readers find her website/blog?

You can learn all about M.E., her books, and where to find her on social media at her website

 

What's next for you?

I’m off to a fancy wedding in Lake Placid, NY. I’m planning on doing a little nosing around among some people who might know something about my husband’s death, but my author is talking about country house murders, corporate espionage, and my ex-boyfriend, so we’ll see!

 

The Unkindness of Ravens

A Greer Hogan Mystery, Book 1

 

Greer Hogan is a librarian and an avid reader of murder mysteries. She also has a habit of stumbling upon murdered bodies. The first was her husband's, and the tragic loss led Greer to leave New York behind for a new start in the Village of Raven Hill. But her new home becomes less idyllic when she discovers her best friend sprawled dead on the floor of the library.

 

Was her friend's demise related to two other deaths that the police deemed accidental? Do the residents of this insular village hold dark secrets about another murder, decades ago? Does a serial killer haunt Raven Hill?

 

As the body count rises, Greer's anxious musings take a darker turn when she uncovers unexpected and distressing information about her own husband's death...and the man who went to prison for his murder .She is racked with guilt at the possibility that her testimony may have helped to convict an innocent man.

 

Though Greer admires the masters of deduction she reads about in books, she never expected to have to solve a mystery herself. Fortunately, she possesses a quick wit and a librarian's natural resourcefulness. But will that be enough to protect her from a brilliant, diabolical murderer? 

 

And even if Greer manages to catch the Raven Hill killer, will living with her conscience prove a fate worse than death?

 

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Monday, April 12, 2021

AN INTERVIEW WITH MEREDITH OGDEN FROM MYSTERY AUTHOR PENNY PENCE SMITH'S THE LAST LEGWOMAN

Author Penny Pence Smith with actor Jack Lord

Today we sit down with Meredith Ogden from Penny Pence Smith’s The Last Legwoman. 

What was your life like before your author started pulling your strings?

I’m an entertainment journalist reporting and writing about movies, TV, and music. In earlier times we called this beat “gossip.” In today’s 1983 Hollywood, it’s becoming everyday news. For a decade I was the “legwoman” or assistant to world-renowned columnist Bettina Grant, visiting film sets world-wide, interviewing celebrities, developing and following stories about them. My author, Penny Pence Smith, came to me when Bettina was murdered—and I found the body. I was struggling to keep column news flowing, fighting for my changing professional life, and dodging the crosshairs of Bettina’s killer. Before that, I worked in lower level industry positions but now enjoy all the benefits of show biz’s fast lane as a gossip journalist. Who wouldn’t love the job?

 

What’s the one trait you like most about yourself? What do you like least about yourself?

I’m proud to be a journalist, not a star-chaser, and feel enormous responsibility toward what and how I write about celebrities. I’m respected and liked for those attributes. But I’d probably be a better gossip reporter if I better played the fame game with a more aggressive self-interest, less integrity.

 

What is the strangest thing your author has had you do or had happen to you?

My author walked in my shoes in her early career with a real gossip queen, so the most dramatic situations she places me in are similar to ones she experienced. For example, in Legwoman I had an encounter with a popular night-time talk show host, angered to violence over a lie I uncovered about his past. Also, an unexpected confrontation in a biker bar turned dicey and moved the interview beyond a casually shared afternoon beer.

 

Do you argue with your author? If so, what do you argue about?

Penny and I argue over how much risk of danger I should accept during investigations. I see a story and simply go after it. She’s more circumspect. We also disagree about my flirtations with detective T.K. Raymond. She’s more traditional than me, with more stringent professional—and personal—boundaries. Me, not so many.

 

What is your greatest fear?  What makes you happy?

I fear what’s ahead in my career with my all-powerful mentor gone and massive competition from all corners of Hollywood. I’m also terrorized by the idea of reaching old age alone with awards and autographed photos but no intimate connections. Happiness for me is a balance between the joy and acclaim from colleagues and knowing that friends and family consider me a person of value—even in a glittering community that ignores those characteristics. 

 

If you could rewrite a part of your story, what would it be? Why?

Recasting my own life story, I’d want my parents to have lived longer to see that their efforts paid off. They both passed before Hollywood became my beat. And, I should have taken my light-hearted early work years in Hollywood more seriously. But it was a wonderful playground for a budding journalist who got to know her turf, or beat, before reporting and commenting on it.

 

Of the other characters in your book, which one bugs you the most? Why?

Cassie O’Connor was columnist Bettina Grant’s long-time legwoman before me. She disappeared from the Hollywood scene and only resurfaced when Bettina died. With her came a mysterious manuscript and obvious intentions to reclaim a starring role on the gossip stage. Replacing Bettina Grant? Threatening my opportunities?

 

Of the other characters in your book, which one would you love to trade places with? Why?

Oh! To be Porter “Potty” Osborn, popular character actor and long-time life partner of my friend and mentor, Allan Jaymar, retired mega-agent who’s taken me under his wing. Neighbors across the street from our offices in Bettina Grant’s Bel Air home, Potty’s an equal in the relationship, is caring, gentle—and a great cook. Allan acknowledges, respects and thrives in it. What a wonderful deep forever life.

 

Tell us a little something about your author. Where can readers find her website/blog?

Penny lives in Hawaii with her husband of nearly 40 years, former academic publisher, and their cat, Bob. She’s professionally crafted stories as a writer and communicator since high school. She’s traveled with that skill from Hollywood to high technology to health care, as an ad/PR and marketing agency executive, always seeking fascinating stories. She claims the Silicon Valley was as enigmatic as Hollywood. She’s also an education junkie, incorporating later-in-life MA and Ph.D. degrees along the way, and serving as a professor at two universities for the last 15 years of her career. She says that, upon retirement, she slid from left to right brain, writing painting, singing dancing and focusing on my story. Learn more about Penny and her books on her Amazon author page

 

What's next for you?

My story finds me seeking a new path in entertainment journalism, facing a future with promising potential and some unknown doors—professional and personal. We’ll be pursuing those in the sequel. 

 

The Last Hollywood Legwoman

Meredith Ogden is at the top of her game in Hollywood as Legwoman (assistant in modern terms) to Bettina Grant, the country’s most widely read celebrity gossip columnist. But life changes for the 36-year-old journalist when she arrives for work at Grant’s Bel Air home-office on a December morning in 1983 to find her famous boss dead, murdered. A manuscript lies on the floor next to the death bed. Partnering with High-Profile crimes detective T.K. Raymond to find out who killed Grant and why, Meredith faces more than questions or answers.  A volatile TV night-show host lobs threats because of a damaging news investigation about his background, Grant’s children have demands on the office and valuable celebrity files. Meredith’s home is broken into and searched, and she is assaulted.

 

With “High Profile” detective T.K. Raymond’s help, and that of an unlikely team of colleagues, Meredith deals with the threats to herself, her future and even ghosts from her own past brought up by the emotional chaos. 

 

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Friday, April 9, 2021

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--AN INTERVIEW WITH LT. GEORGIA "GG" GOMEZ FROM AUTHOR SHEA E. BUTLER'S SHORT STORY "DO NOT GO GENTLY"


Today we sit down for a chat with Lieutenant Georgia “GG” Gomez, featured in the short story “Do Not Go Gently” by author Shea E. Butler.

What was your life like before your author started pulling your strings?

I was a dedicated cop who finally broke the glass ceiling and became a Lieutenant with her own squad of murder cops. I finally felt like I could relax and have a personal life. You’ll learn how that turns out when you read the story.

 

What’s the one trait you like most about yourself?

I am like a dog with a bone when it comes to solving murders and love my stubborn perseverance in pursuit of a killer.

 

What do you like least about yourself?

I dislike how my stubborn perseverance puts blinders on my eyes and keeps me from enjoying the good things in my life.

 

What is the strangest thing your author has had you do or had happen to you?

The strangest thing my author had me do is date another cop. Really? Two cops dating each other - we all know that never ends well.

 

Do you argue with your author? If so, what do you argue about?

Of course I argue with my author. It’s so much fun to make her justify why she has me do something… like going down to the beach to investigate a cold case. Or why the woman on the beach had to die. 

 

What is your greatest fear?

Failure is my greatest fear.

 

What makes you happy?

Solving crimes and bringing murderers to justice fulfills me. That and working with the great squad of murder cops I put together after I got promoted to Lieutenant. 

 

If you could rewrite a part of your story, what would it be? Why?

I would love to rewrite “Do Not Go Gently” so that I’d be smarter about who I dated.

 

Of the other characters in your book, which one bugs you the most? Why?

Detective Frank Calvert gets under my skin. He’s arrogant, egotistical and thinks he’s God’s gift to women. 

 

Of the other characters in your book, which one would you love to trade places with? Why?

I’d love to trade places with Detective Porter. She’s the newest detective in my squad and is full of idealism and youthful optimism. Hopefully, her path will be easier than mine with the new inclusiveness that is finding its way into police forces around the country which is opening up amazing opportunities for her. 

 

Tell us a little something about your author. Where can readers find her website/blog?

Shea’s a jack-of-all-storytelling trades – a published author, television writer, director, producer, and world traveler who loves adventure and horses. 

 

Shea’s website is: www.thebutlerdiditproductions.com . If you like mysteries and murder, you can watch her seven-episode, award winning webseries, Trouble Creek, that she produced and co-directed at www.youtube.com/troublecreek. Enjoy.

.

What's next for you?

Revenge.

 

Do Not Go Gently

A short story featured in the Black Veins Anthology

 

Do Not Go Gently is a short story centered around a tough, no nonsense police detective, Georgia Gomez (“GG”). The beauty of a beach at dawn is offset by the gruesome discovery of a woman’s body face down in the sand. GG must race against time and the encroaching tide to gather clues before the crime scene is compromised. The stakes get personal and paranormal when she discovers who the victim is.

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Wednesday, April 7, 2021

AN INTERVIEW WITH ROMANCE, MYSTERY, AND SUSPENSE AUTHOR KRIS BOCK

Today we sit down for a chat with romance, mystery, suspense, and nonfiction author Kris Bock, who also writes books for young people as Chris Eboch.

When did you realize you wanted to write novels?

I wrote my first novel, The Well of Sacrifice, shortly after finishing grad school. I was looking for work as a magazine editor and wanted to write something other than cover letters. I loved books such as Julie of the Wolves and Island of the Blue Dolphins growing up and imagined a similar young adventure story. The  middle grade (ages 9+) novel is set in Mayan times, inspired by a summer I spent traveling through Mexico and Central America. 

 

How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?

Astonishingly, I sold the first book I wrote! This gave me the mistaken impression that having a writing career wasn't so hard. I have since written many novels that I haven't sold, but I've managed to make a career of writing for over twenty years.

 

Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author?

I now have more than eighty published books. That includes fiction and nonfiction, for children and adults, traditional trade books, work for hire educational books, and indie books. The variety keeps me interested!

 

Where do you write?

I live in New Mexico with my husband and our ferrets, and I have a home office. My window looks out on nature, complete with distracting wildlife such as roadrunners, quail, hummingbirds, and foxes.

 

Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?

I use voice recognition software, so I have to keep the office quiet.

 

How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?

In my treasure hunting series, I drew on personal experiences hiking in the desert for the characters’ adventures – though fortunately, I’ve never stumbled on a rattlesnake nest or gotten caught in a flash flood!

 

Another book, What We Found, was inspired by finding the body of a murder victim while hiking in the woods. This blog post shares more about my Southwest Inspiration.

 

Describe your process for naming your character?

It’s less of a process and more like trial and error.

 

Real settings or fictional towns?

Most of my novels include real places in the Southwestern United States, although I might fictionalize the names. For example, in my treasure hunting adventure, Desert Gold, the heroine and her best friend live in a fictionalized version of Socorro, New Mexico. They hunt for the lost Victorio Peak treasure, a real Southwest legend about a heretic Spanish priest’s gold mine, made richer by the spoils of bandits and an Apache raider.

 

What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has?

I have a sweet romance series set around a cat café. Merlin appeared in the first book as one of many cats named. He quickly developed a distinct personality and became a reader (and author) favorite. In book 2, Merlin literally jumps in to help foster five struggling kittens. The kittens see him as their surrogate mama.

 

What’s your quirkiest quirk?

I’m perfectly normal, thank you very much. Just ask my ferrets, Princess Pandemonium and Teddy Black Bear.

 

What’s your biggest pet peeve?

People who dismiss romance novels without ever having read any, usually basing their opinions on cover art from the eighties. In fact, people who dismiss any type of literature, whether comic books or fantasy or erotica. We shouldn’t judge people’s reading habits. 

 

You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves?

A potable water source, an endless supply of food, and a way to contact rescuers. Wait, does pragmatism count as a quirk?

 

What was the worst job you’ve ever held?

I had a one-day temp job stuffing envelopes, and it was the most tedious day of my life. I also worked as a glacier guide in Alaska for two summers. That was much more interesting, although occasionally wet and cold, not to mention terrifying when the bored helicopter pilots decide to give the guides a thrill on the trip back at the end of the day.

 

What’s the best book you’ve ever read?

Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. It’s especially fun when you get a group and read it out loud, although now you can just watch the TV show.

 

Ocean or mountains?

Mountains. I’d rather hike than swim or sit on a beach.

 

City girl/guy or country girl/guy?

These days, definitely a small town/desert gal. I can walk out my back door and keep walking for miles without running into other people – which has been especially nice during the pandemic.

 

What’s on the horizon for you?

I have a mystery series launching next year.

 

Something Shady at Sunshine Haven: Injured in a bombing, war correspondent Kate Tessler returns to her hometown in Arizona to recuperate. When patients are mysteriously dying at an Alzheimer's unit where her mother lives, Kate must use her investigative skills to uncover the killer and save her mother. Kate has followed the most dangerous news stories around the world. But can she survive going home? Something Shady at Sunshine Haven is the first in a humorous traditional mystery series.

 

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books?

I am also writing a young adult comedy series with my brother, scriptwriter Douglas J Eboch, who wrote the original screenplay for the movie Sweet Home Alabama. Now you can follow the crazy antics of teenagers Melanie, Jake, and their friends a decade before the events of the movie. Sign up for our Rom-Com newsletterand get a free preview, or Visit the Amazon series page for Felony Melanie: Sweet Home Alabama romantic comedy novels.

 

Learn more about me and my books at my website, where you can find links to my social media and sign up for my newsletter.

 

Desert Gold

The Southwest Treasure Hunters Series, Book 1

 

A legendary treasure hunt in the dramatic–and deadly–New Mexico desert is “Smart romance with an Indiana Jones feel.”

 

When Erin, a quiet history professor, uncovers a clue that may pinpoint the lost treasure cave, she prepares for adventure. But when a hit and run driver nearly kills her, she realizes she’s not the only one after the treasure. And is Drew, the handsome helicopter pilot who found her bleeding in a ditch, really a hero, or one of the enemy? Just how far will Erin go to find the treasure and discover what she’s really made of?

 

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Monday, April 5, 2021

AN INTERVIEW WITH COZY MYSTERY AUTHOR LORENA McCOURTNEY

Today we sit down for a chat with former romance and current cozy mystery author Lorena McCourtney. Learn more about Lorena and her books at her website. 

When did you realize you wanted to write novels?

I’d been writing short stories for children and teenagers for quite some time (about 250 of them altogether) plus confessions (anyone remember confessions? I wrote some 150 of them). Even for a short story, a writer must create a “world” for it to exist in, and I decided I wanted to make larger use of those small worlds I was creating.

 

How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?

It took from the time I was in elementary school until I was a young mother to see my first fiction published. (Although I did sell a nonfiction article to an Alaskan magazine while I was in high school.) After I decided I wanted to do book length fiction, I think it took a year or two. A friend introduced me to her agent, which speeded up the process considerably.

 

Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author?

I was traditionally published for quite a few years, but I decided I didn’t want to be tied to the deadlines necessary when working with a publisher. So now I’m totally Indie. That’s the Way the Cookie Crumbles is my 50th published book, a kind of “golden anniversary” for me. The first 24 books were all secular romances, but the other 26 have been Christian-based romances and mysteries.

 

Where do you write?

Except for the earliest children’s short stories, I’ve always been blessed with a separate room to use as an office. I admire writers who can go to a coffee shop or some public place to write, but I just can’t do it. I need to have this space of my own, no people around. I like to be able to leave papers and notes and files scattered all over. Even if this does look like a disaster zone, it works for me.

 

Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?

I always have the radio on, but it’s in the other room so I can hear it but not be distracted by it. Just background music. I like knowing there’s still a world running outside my office. Always country and western music.

 

How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?

I think there’s a little of me in many of my characters, although more of me in my Ivy character than any others I’ve written. We’re both LOLs (little old ladies) so it’s a world I know well. I may use bits and pieces of other people in my characters, but never a character lifted totally from life. Plots usually start from a real-life incident (although probably not my own life), but I build on the incident rather than stick to it totally as it happened.

 

Describe your process for naming your character.

Names are so important! For minor characters, I often use whatever appropriate name happens to pop into my head. But for major characters it may take trying out several names before hitting on one that just “fits.” Although I have to admit that I’ve looked back at some of my early books and wondered – how and why did I ever pick that name?

 

Real settings or fictional towns?

I most often use a fictional town but set in a real area with real town names around it. I once created a fictional Oregon coast town, basing it on a combination of several actual towns, and it was apparently realistic because a reader wrote me that her mother used to work there.

 

What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has?

I don’t know that it’s actually a quirk, but my Ivy character feels she has aged into invisibility. A good many people simply don’t seem to see her anymore. (Which can sometimes be a handy asset.)  

 

What’s your quirkiest quirk?

My own quirkiest quirk? Oh my. If I have one, apparently I don’t recognize it! If I have quirks of my own, they just look normal to me.

 

If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why?

Hmm. I read many books I like, and I sometimes wish I could use similar sharp dialogue or plot twists in my own books, but I don’t ever wish I could have written someone else’s actual book.

 

Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours?

A do-over. That’s a big area! As far as writing goes, my do-over would mean writing novels earlier than I did, and switching to Christian fiction much earlier than I did.

 

What’s your biggest pet peeve?

That’s another big area! In writing, I’ve never thought of myself as having a strong, individual “voice,” but a definite peeve has been when editors or copy-editors edited out whatever voice I have. Another reason I enjoy being an Indie!

 

You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves?

I need my Bible, some sun-protection lotion, and definitely my husband. He’s quite handy, a good “fixer.” He’ll rig us up a covering from storms and find something to eat and probably build a boat to get us off the island).

 

What was the worst job you’ve ever held?

My one and only (and very brief) job as a reporter with a small weekly newspaper while I was still in high school. They gave me an “office” but said to be sure not to close the door. They didn’t say why, but it turned out that the building had been a bank long ago and my office had been their safe. The door couldn’t be opened from the inside. It was enough to awaken any tendency toward claustrophobia!

 

What’s the best book you’ve ever read?

The Bible, of course.

 

Ocean or mountains?

I love walking on the beach and picking up treasures or trash. I love the beauty and serenity of the mountains. This just isn’t a choice I can make!

 

City girl/guy or country girl/guy?

We live in town now (although it’s definitely not a city), but at heart I’m a country gal. Growing up, I was one of those “horse crazy” girls, which carried me through a college degree in animal husbandry, living in the country for many years, and owning various livestock. (Including mid-wifing a pig named Belinda.) We lived on that country place with animals for some 49 years, but health and age meant a move to town.

 

What’s on the horizon for you?

I want to finish up my Mac ‘n’ Ivy Mysteries series, although I’m not sure how many books that will be. Also, I want to get the last book in my earlier Ivy Malone Mysteries series, “Go, Ivy, Go!”  into print. It’s available only as an e-book now.

 

That’s the Way the Cookie Crumbles

A Mac ‘n’ Ivy Mystery, Book 4

 

What comes after the honeymoon for Mac and Ivy? Looking for a quiet, comfortable pace to settle down and leave the nomadic motorhome life behind. No more dead bodies. No more killers.

 

What do they find instead? You guessed it. Murder!

 

Beginning with a runaway Miranda and a fiancée in a ruffled red bikini, continuing with a missing gun, a woman who believes in the prophetic power of a crumbled cookie, and a dead body with a bullet hole in the chest. Was he the sweet guy the fiancée claims he was, with not an enemy in the world? Or was he a bank robbing con man, with any number of people . . . including the fiancée . . . eager to put that bullet in his chest?

 

The easiest and probably most sensible action for Mac and Ivy would be to head down the road in their motorhome and look for a different place to settle down. But they both have a strong concern for someone in trouble, and then there’s also Ivy’s persistent mutant curiosity gene . . .

 

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Friday, April 2, 2021

BOOK CLUB FRIDAY--AN INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR J.L. REGEN'S HEROINE MARGO SIMMONS

Today we sit down for a chat with Margo Simmons, heroine of author J.L. Regen’s Secret Desires. 

What was your life like before your author started pulling your strings?

Before my author started pulling my strings, I was living with my Mom in a protector role, afraid to go out on my own for fear of what my stepfather would do to her. I will always love my mother, but I need my own life and space.

 

What’s the one trait you like most about yourself?

The one trait I like most about myself is being able to reinvent myself. I see change as growth, and I want to grow into a woman of independent means with a purpose.

 

What is the strangest thing your author has had you do or had happen to you?

I decided to adopt a young girl whose Mom died. I don't know if it's strange, but I think it was a gutsy thing to do when I'd just started in a full-time teaching job right out of college. 

 

Do you argue with your author? If so, what do you argue about?

I don't argue with my author. Sometimes she knows me better than I know myself.

 

What is your greatest fear?

My greatest fear is never having a place of my own and never finding a man who isn't insensitive and uncaring like my stepfather.

 

What makes you happy?

Children make me happy. Seeing the smiles on their faces when I help them solve a problem and the way their eyes light up when they see me in class in the morning. It makes my world richer.

 

If you could rewrite a part of your story, what would it be? Why?

If I could rewrite a part of my story, I'd eliminate the pain my Mom had in raising me, and my struggles with Edward to make him see how much I love him.

 

Of the other characters in your book, which one bugs you the most? Why?

The characters who bug me the most are people who feel they possess all the knowledge in their world and only their way is the right way.

 

Of the other characters in your book, which one would you love to trade places with? Why?

Before I met Edward, I wanted to trade places with my girlfriend because she had a warm, caring family life and found a man who adores her to share her life.

 

Tell us a little something about your author. Where can readers find her website/blog?

My author is an elementary school teacher and Adjunct professor of English as a Second Language, an award-winning photographer, she was runner up for the 2019 Readers Choice Award for best Contemporary Romance Novel, and she has opened her own enterprise to train people in the nuances of going out on their own. Her students are her pride and joy.

 

What's next for you?

For me? You’d have to ask my author What's next for her? A family saga with intrigue set in WWII and then a Middle Grade novel that deals with bullying and keeping a friendship.

 

Secret Desires

Nothing in Margo Simmons’s life comes easy. She can’t claim the inheritance on a condo apartment her uncle has left to her until she is gainfully employed in a job for a year. She meets the man of her dreams but anguishes over a loving relationship because he is still emotionally tied to his deceased wife. With great difficulty, she becomes the guardian to a recently orphaned child she had been tutoring.   Margo evolves from an insecure, newbie elementary teacher into a woman determined to fulfill the secret desires locked in her heart. My story speaks to anyone who has suffered a loss and had to start over.

 

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Wednesday, March 31, 2021

AUTHOR DONNA B. McNICOL SETS A MYSTERY SERIES IN THE OTHER KLONDIKE

Donna B. McNicol is a retired IT professional who started writing fiction after retirement. Her preferred genre is small town mysteries with a dash of romance, but she has also tackled children's stories, fantasy and smalltown romance. In addition, her short stories have been included in several anthologies. Learn more about Donna and her books at her website.

Klondike, PA Mystery Series

Why are my Klondike books not set in Alaska? That’s a good question and one that frequently comes up. In the late 1990s, my husband and I left our high pay but high stress jobs, sold our home, and hit the road in our motorhome. We went to work as contractors for a company installing part of the internet backbone. Our biggest contract was in middle Pennsylvania, and we fell in love with the state. We started looking at property and bought a small cabin in the north-central part of the state. 

 

We made some amazing friends during our time there and they encouraged me to write a book set in the area.

 

Several years went by, my husband passed from cancer, and I eventually remarried. I never forgot that little place in the woods and my friends there. In 2012, I started dabbling with fiction writing. I took a dream I had written down some years earlier and made it the prologue of my first mystery novel in the Klondike Mystery Series, Not a Whisper

 

Wikipedia: “Klondike is an unincorporated community in Corydon Township in McKean County, Pennsylvania, United States. Klondike is located along Pennsylvania Route 59/Pennsylvania Route 321 east of the Allegheny Reservoir.” 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Klondike,_Pennsylvania

 

Set in Klondike, the books in the series are small town, traditional mysteries. I class them as police procedurals. Nothing overly graphic, but there is some language. A dash of romance but it stops at the bedroom door. There is a wide cast of characters, some are in all the books, others come and go.

 

You can get a free download of the short story prequel, Just a Stranger, for signing up for my newsletter. You can also download a set of interviews with several of the main characters at the same time.

 

These books hold a special place in my heart, and I hope you will enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them.

 

Not a Whisper
A Klondike Mystery, Book 1

 

When a retreat becomes a nightmare...

 

When Cherie Marshall catches her fiancé and best friend in a compromising position, she cancels her upcoming wedding and jumps at the chance to escape to quiet Klondike, Pennsylvania to care for her elderly aunt. She thought her biggest issue would be adapting to life in the middle of a National Forest, so very different from her upbringing in the deserts of Arizona.

 

But that was before she met State Trooper Fire Marshall Jamison "Jazz" Maddox at the scene of a mysterious fire. As they both become acquainted with the close-knit Klondike residents, things get complicated as Cherie and Jazz find themselves in the middle of a local crime wave where arson, kidnapping, embezzlement and a decades-old murder are just the tip of the iceberg.

 

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Monday, March 29, 2021

SCREENWRITER AND MYSTERY AUTHOR SKIP PRESS ASKS IF CHARACTERS CAN LIVE FOREVER?

Do you remember reading You-Solve-It Mysteries or buying them for your kids? Today we welcome screenwriter and author Skip Press, who wrote some of the original books in the series. Learn how they came about and what the characters’ next iteration might be. He’d love your input. Learn more about Skip and his books at his website. 

Can a Character Live Forever? 

From the title of this article, you may have thought of great fiction characters from history. Maybe a Shakespearean character like King Lear, a play made into a movie many times but also contemporized as A Thousand Acres in 1987, or Sherlock Holmes. How many movies have been made starring the Baker Street detective, even as a youth in Young Sherlock Holmes in 1985? Mark Twain kept Tom Sawyer going with novels like Tom Sawyer, Detective. How often have the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew been adapted to movies or TV? I did a book with Flint Dille, who with his sister owns the Buck Rogers franchise. Recently, there was a new series announced in a Hollywood trade paper about a new Buck series. Hope it happens – I love the character. 

 

I have a similar situation, and so solicit any and all opinions about it. In 1987, my then agent Larry Sternig suggested I create a series character for the new spy magazine, Espionage. I ended up with a deal and a poster of the first cover with my name on it displayed in the New York City subways. The magazine only lasted a few issues, but my character Alexander Cloud stayed in my mind. An employee of the National Security Agency, he was unique with his psychic abilities that included a knack for finding anyone.

 

I wrote enough stories with Alex that it impressed a filmmaker I knew, and I was paid to write a screenplay starring Alex, who was half-Hopi and based in New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment. The worldwide scope of the script – something dictated by the producers – was apparently too wide, and they didn’t get the money to make it. So, the option on the screenplay expired and I got the rights back. 

 

Fast forward a few years. I was a member of Poets, Essayists, and Novelists (PEN. A new friend I met there, Aram Saroyan, told me that a publisher was looking for a series character for their new You-Solve-It Mystery young adult line. All I had to do was write a sample chapter and outline. What to do? I was by that time married and a Mr. Mom, writing at home and watching our son Haley Alexander while his mother worked a 9-to-5 job. I needed this deal. I figured Alexander Cloud must have been an interesting teenager, so I made him one. He was on the basketball team at Albuquerque North High School, and in his spare time he kept getting pulled into solving mysteries with his constant pal and maybe someday girlfriend, blonde-haired spunky, cute computer geek Jilly Adams.

 

No matter how much he tried to stay out of trouble and not upset his Scottish mother and Hopi computer executive father, Jilly always dragged Alex into solving crimes. 

 

I got a three-book deal. The first one, A Rave of Snakes, was the lead series title. I used family holiday season trips (her family in West Virginia, mine in Texas) to research the second  novel. For A Web of Ya-Yas, I took us up Highway 666 in New Mexico and wove some things I saw into the story. With the next one, A Shift of Coyotes, I used information from my friend David Ayer, who was fluent in Spanish and managing a maquiladora across the border in El Paso. This was long before he wrote Training Day or made movies. 

 

The novels did well. In the mid-90s, they were optioned by the production company owned by Ed Gaylord, who at that time owned The Nashville Network (which became TNT). Then, the executive running the company got in a fight with Gaylord, and my planned series never happened. Later, the novels were optioned by Moctesuma Esparza, who made many movies including Selena. He had a deal at Disney, but after he asked me to change Alex to a Mexican-American, the whole thing fell apart. I felt Native Americans were under-represented and Alex should maintain his native charm. 

 

Now we’re at today. It has occurred to me that Alex and Jilly are all grown-up, may still be friends, and might even be married. They would both be about forty years old. I have a complete story worked out that takes place in San Francisco and has a “natural world” type of title. It’s a better story than any I’ve ever come up with for Alexander Cloud. 

 

I wonder – should I try to weave in excerpts/memories from the old young adult stories? Should I just write the new novel and maybe touch up the old novels, publish them myself, and sell those as a set? Should I also put the old Alex Cloud NSA agent stories into a book? How about novelizing the screenplay I wrote? 

 

I own the rights to all of these, so I could do everything. Still, it’s a bit of a puzzle to me, thus I welcome your opinion. It’s my own you-solve-it mystery, and I value your advice! The End, or a New Beginning?

 

Screenplay to Novel: Real Money from Used Pages

Screenplay to Novel: Real Money from Used Pages is a ten-step guide to turning any screenplay into an excellent novel that you can sell, whether the script sold or not, by the author of the Complete Idiot's Guide to Screenwritng, who has had more than fifty books and novels published and with publications and classes has taught half a million writers to be more profitable. 


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