How Do I Write Thee…Let Me Count the Ways By M. E. May

ME May (2)Michele (M.E.) May attended Indiana University in Kokomo, Indiana, studying Social and Behavioral Sciences. Her interest in the psychology of humans sparked the curiosity to ask why they commit such heinous acts upon one another. Other interests in such areas as criminology and forensics have moved her to put her vast imagination to work writing crime fiction that is as accurate as possible. In doing so, she depicts societal struggles that pit those who understand humanity with those who are lost in a strange and dangerous world of their own making.

In creating the Circle City Mystery Series, she brings to life fictional characters who work diligently to bring justice to victims of crime in the city of Indianapolis. Michele also hopes her readers will witness through her eyes, the wonderful city she calls her hometown. Learn more about Michele at

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Twitter:  @memayauthor




It’s hard to believe I finally settled down a mere seven years ago to begin my writing career. Always the late bloomer, I found myself at age fifty-five with a fabulous, supportive husband and a support system of authors in the Chicagoland area who helped me believe in myself. It’s one thing to love to write, it’s another to realize you’re good at it.


I spoke with a group of retired teachers recently, many of whom are thinking of becoming authors. One of the things we talked about was my process for getting started. Once my husband and I agreed that I would quit my full time job and begin writing, I realized I wasn’t sure what to write. With which genre was my imagination in tune? What skills did I have in order to produce a full-length novel?


After much painstaking thought, I realized mystery was my forte. I’m a puzzle solver, so how much fun would it be to have the chance to create the puzzle. Now I had to decide what type of mystery. Cozy mysteries weren’t something I felt comfortable writing. Spy thrillers didn’t appeal to me. So what about a series that not only featured police officers and detectives, but why not use the whole force?


That is how the Circle City Mystery Series was born. I wanted it to be different, so instead of choosing the typical city setting such as Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, I chose to use my home town of Indianapolis. This was a setting rarely used, so it gave me the opportunity to help readers discover it through my eyes. Indianapolis is no longer a town or small city, but a thriving metropolis.


The second thing that makes this series different from others is the use of a different protagonist in each novel. For instance, in the first novel, Perfidy, our protagonist is Mandy Stevenson, the daughter of the Captain of Homicide whose mother has gone missing. In this novel, we meet detectives in the Missing Persons and Homicide Departments who will each be featured in upcoming books. What makes this a series is the fact that we continue to see the detectives and patrol officers from book to book and we get to know them personally. Even though each novel can stand-alone as the featured case is solved, we see that thread of personal relationships which keep the reader intrigued.


In the second novel, Inconspicuous, a homicide detective you met in Perfidy takes the lead as a serial killer strikes the city. Detective Erica Barnes will introduce you to her family and her secret love all while trying to track down a psychotic killer. Then book three, Ensconced, brings Missing Persons Detective Tyrone Mayhew to the forefront as new evidence in a ten-year-old unsolved case comes to light. Ironically, this was Tyrone’s first case as a Missing Persons Detective, but he now has a new partner to bring a new perspective to the investigation.


Moving on to the fourth book in the series, Purged, we move over to the dark side. This one features Homicide Detective Chennelle Kendall as the lead detective trying to stop an avenging angel from torturing and murdering members of a Wicca group. This man has decided he’s been called to purge the world of sin and must get them to confess by whatever means necessary.


Released November 15th, Unscrupulous has Sergeant Brent Freeman not only investigating the case of a dead woman and her missing five-year-old daughter, but also in charge of training a new female detective. When a couple of beautiful female FBI agents are added to the mix, Brent finds himself faced with a very jealous girlfriend. Between the stress at home and the discovery that this five-year-old has been kidnapped by a human trafficking organization, Brent is pushed to the brink of insanity.


Being able to take these characters and move them in and out of the lead has helped me to keep my characters fresh and exciting. This not only makes it interesting for the reader, but keeps me from getting bored as a writer. I feel that is very important, because if I’m bored then I’m not producing a quality piece of art. This also keeps the possibilities open to continue this series for many years to come.


Of course, I am looking at writing other novels in the future. I’d like to do a couple of standalone mysteries as well as a private investigator series and a YA story. I see many possibilities ahead, and I hope you all will take the journey with me.



JackieMinittiI’m a firm believer that nothing important happens by chance. This belief has been validated  many times as I’ve traveled through the sixty-seven years of my life, but never more than a recent experience that shed a new light on an old story.

My dad is a WWII veteran who turned 99 in October. The day after D-Day, he was a handsome young army sergeant arriving in Rennes, France with the 127th General Hospital. During his tour of duty, his heart was stolen by a little French girl named Jacqueline. For some reason that was never clear, she took a liking to my father and began following him to the hospital in the morning and waiting for him at the hospital gates when his shift ended. The tale of their friendship was the only war story he was willing to share, often with misty eyes, and it eventually became part of our family lore. He never tired of retelling the tale of how I got my name.

When I retired from 25-years of teaching and started my career as a writer, Dad began urging me to put the story on paper. I explained that, while the family loved his narrative, it would not interest the average reader. Besides, while there might be enough material for a short story, there certainly wasn’t enough to fill a book. But the seed had been planted, and Jacqueline took up residence in my mind, a character in search of a story. I found myself drawn to the faded pictures in my

Jackie's Dad

Jackie’s Dad

dad’s old photo album where a little girl with dark curly hair smiled back at me. What was it that drew her to my father? Where was she now? Did she ever think about the girl in America who became her namesake?

As I’ve said, I’m not a believer in coincidences, but a chance encounter with a stranger set into motion the chain of events that gave me the answers I was seeking. At my son’s wedding reception, an unfamiliar man approached me. “I have to talk to you,” he said, motioning me to a table where my dad sat. “Your father says you’re a writer. He’s been telling me the most amazing story. You’ve got to write a book about it.”

I smiled politely and started to explain why it couldn’t be done, how the story wouldn’t appeal to the average reader, but he stopped me. “I have a daughter in sixth grade,” he said. “She doesn’t know anything about World War II. She’d love to read a story like this, and it could help her learn history.”

And there it was – the “Eureka!” moment.  A cartoon lightbulb went on over my head. Why hadn’t it ever occurred to me to write this as a book for younger readers, especially after I’d spent so many years teaching reading in middle school?  When Jacqueline met my father, she was the same age as the kids I’d taught. She’d be a perfect character in a story written for them. And there was so much they could learn from her. I could do this!

My research took me deep into the history of the Second World War. I was amazed at how little I, only one generation removed from these events, Jacqueline coverreally knew about the bravery, selflessness and sacrifice that characterized the veterans of the Greatest Generation. My admiration grew until I felt compelled to make this era come alive for young readers. As I began writing, Jacqueline was soon joined by her brave mother, a mischievous Jewish boy and his family, a stylish young French woman, a grumpy nun, and a one-eyed cat. The story unfolded before my eyes, and as the characters took on lives of their own, it was sometimes difficult for my written words to keep up with them. They showed me the importance of faith, family, friendship, and the resilience of the human spirit.

For as long as I can remember, I’d dreamed of becoming a published author. When I finally typed “The End,” I knew that this book would make it happen. Sure enough, the manuscript was picked up by Anaiah Press, and I was rewarded with the proudest moment of my life – putting that book in my father’s hands. And the most ironic thing of all is the way “average readers” have embraced the story. I guess this goes to show that, if you wait until the stars and planets align just right, even your wildest dreams can come true.

Philadelphia story by Laura Elvebak

LElvebakLaura Elvebak sometimes feels she has led several lives, but throughout the years her passion for reading and writing never faltered. Before the twenty-something years she worked for lawyers and oil and gas executives, she held a variety of occupations, including working as waitress and even as a go-go dancer in the late sixties in Philadelphia. Born in North Dakota and raised in Los Angeles and San Francisco, she settled in Houston after living in parts of New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia and Florida. She is happily unmarried after six attempts with men who would make fascinating characters in books but didn’t succeed as husband material. Her standalone thriller, The Flawed Dance, came out from Black Opal Books, on July 11, 2015.


I had two dreams growing up. I wanted to be a writer and see my words printed like the books I read. I dreamed up stories every night as if they were on a movie screen. Previews first, please. When I wasn’t reading books by the fireplace at home with my grandparents, I was dancing to the music on the radio.

I was raised with classical music. My father played classical violin. My grandmother would accompany him on the piano. After my mother died, I lived with my grandparents in Los Angeles. They introduced a new world for me with books and music that opened my mind and filled my heart.

When I turned eight I went to live with my father and stepmother. They enrolled me in ballet lessons and took me to see such performances as Swan Lake and The Firebird. I imagined an entire ballet whenever I heard music. I was going to be the next premier ballerina. When I wasn’t dancing, I would write stories. When I thought they were good, I sent them off to the Ladies Home Journal and McCalls, with visions of making my fortune. Of course, the handwritten pages were returned.

Then I grew up and the world changed. I did not become the world famous ballerina, but dancing came as naturally as eating. In order to eat on a FlawedDancedaily basis, I became a go-go dancer. To keep sane, I filled notebooks with stories.

Forty years later I knew I had to write about those five years in Philadelphia. Not a memoir, but the fictionalized story of Erin Matthews, who makes bad decisions and worse choices after running from her much older lover. Add in murder, ruthless mob guys, Atlantic City in the late sixties, racial tension, guilt, sex, and go-go dancers in the demimonde world of entertainers and hustlers, and you have A Flawed Dance, where Erin learns the difference between ballet and go-go dancing.



Readers, where do you get your stories? Do you have a checkered past? Or do you make it all up in your head? Or a combination of both?

Dive Right In – The Rules are Different by Kait Carson

No RegulatorWrite what you know. Great advice from a great writer. One small correction, in the interest of veracity, what he really said was that he was going to “write one story about each thing that he knew about.” Slightly different, but still quintessential Hemingway. Given his life experiences, the man was never going to run out of material. As for me. What I know about is Florida, SCUBA diving, and the legal world. Put them all together, you have the Hayden Kent series.


The rules in Florida have always been different. That’s a given. Where else did people wear white after Labor Day in the 1950s? Where else could holiday decorations include a mechanical Santa Claus blasting off from the top of a palm tree in a multi-colored Mercury space capsule? Yep, Florida. And oh yes where else did the local ice company annually create a white Christmas for kids? We didn’t see snow in Miami until 1977. It must not have liked us. It never came back.


The Miami that I knew was a sleepy little southern town. A great place to run barefoot and grow up. I wanted my heroine, Hayden Kent, to have the THUNDR-diverdude-20050516-201711 (1)same kind of idyllic memories, and I wanted to write what I knew about. Hayden lived in my mind for a few years before I found a place to set her. It wasn’t until a deep dive on the wreck of the Thunderbolt when a plastic bag floated past my face from the wheelhouse that I found my story. When the bag first peeked over the windowsill, it looked like a hand. I snatched it as it floated past to keep it from being a turtle snack. That’s when I knew I was writing a book about a body on the Thunderbolt. A body Hayden discovers when a dead hand beckons her to find the rest of the body.


Between the time I spotted the bag and the time I surfaced from my dive, I had my story. And my location for Hayden. She was a conch, from six generations of conchs. Born and bred in the Florida Keys. Even today, conchs are a closed society. Proud, hearty, and hardworking, a conch has a different set of standards to the newcomers to the Keys. Theirs is the way of the sea and sun. Hayden’s family originally sailed the seas. Her house, the one she lived in all her life and inherited from her parents, is a hurricane house its roof connected to normal_TBoltWH2the oolite base by a thick anchor chain, and it sports a widow’s walk.


I knew I was the only one who could tell Hayden’s stories. I am experienced as a diver. I love the water around Marathon where she lives. My legal background complements hers and both of us share an insatiable curiosity and excellent research skills. Death by Blue Water was a book that wrote itself. My imagination had fleshed out the tale by the time the dive boat reached port. All that remained was to get my fingers on the keyboard…and three rewrites…and oh, sorry, that’s another story.



Not so Death by Sunken Treasure. Treasure’s tale sprang from years of practice as a probate paralegal. The story starts in Hayden’s office, and travels a labyrinth route through the discovery of two wills, both signed by Mike Terry on the same day. The day he dies in a diving accident. It’s Hayden’s investigation to determine which will is the true last will. Tracking the evidence and unraveling the sordid and painful events of Mike’s last few weeks leave her convinced the accident was a murder and the proof is in the wills. Hayden and I worked side by side following the leads and DEATH-BY-SUNKEN-TREASURE-frontdiscounting the red herrings. Writing it was like a real time investigation. Fast paced and filled with intrigue. Her dearest friendship is at stake in Treasure, one false move and she stands to lose everything that matters most to her. This is very much Hayden’s story. I’m proud that she let me tell it.


The rules are different in the Keys. For tourists, for locals, for outsiders, and most of all, for the conchs.


Next time, we’ll talk about Catherine Swope. She’s an ex-cop and a realtor. I’m neither, but we both run.

Words at the speed of light by Lala Corriere

Lala Press PhotoSince early childhood, Lala has been passionate about all the arts. She is a painter and a former stage performer. Early work careers blended high-end real estate sales while becoming president of an interior design firm.

Her fifth grade teacher, Miss Macy, was the first mentor to suggest she consider a career in writing. That extension of the arts, the written word, turned into a full time passion in 2001.

Career Highlights:

  • Endorsement and long-term mentoring from the late Sidney Sheldon
  • Published in regional magazines, newspapers, writer’s guides and journals.
  • Award winning poetry.
  • Endorsements from USA Today, The Arizona Daily Star, Andrew Neiderman [author of the Devil’s Advocate], J Carson Black, CJ West, The Virtual Scribe, Paris Afton Bonds, and many other remarkable authors.


  • Widow’s Row
  • CoverBoys & Curses
  • Evil Cries
  • Kiss and Kill. Endorsed by USA Today as MUST READ SUSPENSE
  • Bye Bye Bones, endorsed by Betty Webb and JCarson Black.

Readers and reviewers applaud her hallmark original plots, her in-depth character portrayals, rich scene settings, and authentic dialogue, all delivered with a fresh new voice. Oh, and her TWISTS!

Lala is a desert rat. She nestles there with her husband of over 26 years along with Finnegan & Phoebe— Teacup Yorkies weighing in at nine pounds….. total.



Borrowing from the title of Bill Gates’ brilliant book, Business @ the Speed of Light, it is all about that speed.

Have you noticed the faster patterns of speech? All of these electronics and gadgets, I idealistically thought, were to give us more time. Instead, we seem to be cramming more into each day and each conversation.

I live in the desert and I’m trying to learn Spanish. When I drop across the border I constantly have to say, “Mas lentamente, por favor.” More slowly, please. I want to say this to so many English speaking people in my own backyard. Slow down.

Many persons today have lost the art of conversation. They have no concept of a pregnant pause, inflections, or emphasis. Their words come out in a stream of consciousness.

What the heck does this have to do with writing?


If setting a story in today’s time, we must emulate our world’s trends in dialogue. Today people say, “You’ve got…”  “You’ve got to get a hold of yourself.” “You’ve got to kill him.” “You’ve got mail.” This is not proper English but this is how we talk.

And beyond dialogue it gets even crazier.

Do you remember in the eighties when we might pick up a book by a favorite author but often we had to read a good chunk of it before we knew the essence of the story?

When I first started writing full time I was advised by my agent and editor to get that hook out there in the first three chapters. Then it became a hook at the end of the first chapter.

Advancing to 2005, Noah Lukeman came out with the new bible for writers, The First Five Pages.  I still have my copy. I do refer back to it and I continue to recommend it.

At the speed of our new means of communication, the tides have turned again, in rapid succession. Writers were told to grab their readers in the first chapter. Then, the first page. The first paragraph. Yikes!

With five books published, I think I have one killer opening sentence.  “She smelled like hell’s testicles.” Now, I’ve never smelled hell’s testicles, and I think it’s a sure bet that my readers haven’t had this experience. It does draw them in. They are there at the scene. An imaginary world where they immediately inhale a beyond-this-world stench.

Hemmingway’s longest sentence was in his book, Green Hills of Africa. An amazing 424 well-crafted words. This is quite the dichotomy as you read all of my fragmented sentences.  Fiction writers of today are charged with writing tight prose, but we have to bring our readers into our make-believe world. We do this with well-chosen descriptions, using all of our five, and sometimes six, senses. We use clipping dialogue for those characters we create that talk fast. At least on the written page we know what they are saying.

It’s a challenge. One we’re all up for @ the speed of words.


Bye Bye Bones Back Cover BlurbBye Bye Bones Cover

Jaxon Giles’ beloved dog is dead. He can’t prove it, but he knows who killed Gecko. His stalking ex-wife wants to take away anything and anyone he loves.

Private investigator Cassidy Clark agrees to run surveillance, while in the midst of helping the city of Tucson.

Women are disappearing. Gone. Were they murdered? Kidnapped and being held captive? A cult that enticed them to leave all belongings behind?

Without bodies and any crime scenes, there is no DNA. No evidence. No trace.

Is The First Page All That Important When Deciding Which Book To Buy? by J.J. White

jj white 1J. White is an award winning novelist and short story writer who has been published in several anthologies and magazines including, Wordsmith, The Homestead Review, The Seven Hills Review, Bacopa Review, and The Grey Sparrow Journal. His story, The Adventures of the Nine Hole League, was recently published in The Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, #13. He has won awards and honors from the Alabama Writers Conclave, Writers-Editors International, Maryland Writers Association, The Royal Palm Literary Awards, Professional Writers of Prescott, and Writer’s Digest.

His crime fiction book, Deviant Acts, was released by Black Opal books in November, and will be followed by his Historical Fiction book, Nisei, in 2016. He was recently nominated for the Pushcart Prize for his short piece, Tour Bus. He lives in Merritt Island, Florida with his understanding wife and editor, Pamela.



Facebook Author Page

Deviant Acts on Amazon




I was informed that most who read this blog are either writers or prodigious readers or both, so we should all be familiar with that ubiquitous mantra heard at writers’ conferences on the importance of that first page, that first paragraph, that first sentence in your novel. How important are those first words in choosing a book? Before I try to answer that dramatic question let’s find out who buys the books in the first place.

A few facts:

  • Women purchase 64% of all books. Not just novels. All books.
  • Women are more likely to read fiction than men.
  • The average age of women who buy books is 42.
  • Most women read fiction written by women.

That said, I’m screwed. The demographics for my books using those stats would entail about thirty or so old men in Mississippi working on their GED’s. Not a rosy picture for my book sales. I even used J.J. White for my pseudonym instead of John to try to trick those novel-buying women into thinking I’m a girl. It hasn’t helped. Still, I work hard on that first page to lure and entice the reader, and then, as they continue to peruse, yank up on the hook and reel them in.

Here are a few classic lines that enticed a book buyer to keep reading:

  • “Call me Ishmael.” — Herman Melville, Moby-Dick (1851)
  • “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” —Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (1813)
  • “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” —Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina (1877)

Much of your book rests on the foundation of those first sentences and first pages. Dennis LeHane once said at a writers’ conference: “Something has to happen on those first few pages or I’m out of there. Somebody better die, or get pregnant or something needs to blow up in order to keep me reading.” What he meant was your protagonist has to have some event happen to him or her in those first few pages which will affect them for the rest of their life. I attempted to follow the philosophy of strong first lines and paragraphs to try to keep the attention of the reader long enough for them to get interested in the character.

Here is the first paragraph from my new novel, Deviant Acts:DeviantActs cover

“Jane Fonda shot ten feet up the screen and then ten feet down. It pissed him off that she was selling out to the Man after risking her career sitting on an NVA antiaircraft gun. When the photo had come out, it was a big middle finger to the establishment, but now she was back making shitty movies for money, ignoring the cause.”

That’s a somewhat enigmatic first paragraph meant to establish a characteristic in the protagonist, whose point of view we’ve immediately entered.

Here’s another example from a manuscript I recently finished. In this one, I used setting to grab the readers’ interest:

“The room glowed green in rhythm with the flashing neon of Gerry’s Irish bar across the road and two stories down. Frank Daley, fully dressed and lying on his back on the cheap bed, put a period on the light show with the red tip of his Chesterfield.”

The truth is those first words are important but not, it seems, as important as one would think when buying a book. According to “Book in the Box,” the following criteria are used in their order of importance when buying a book at your local brick-and-mortar or on Amazon.

  1. The title.
  2. The cover.
  3. The author bio.
  4. The flap copy.
  5. The back cover.
  6. The first pages.
  7. The price.

Apparently, these book-buying women don’t even look at the first page until they’ve checked out the title, front cover, bio, flap, and back cover. I do the same thing, I just never realized it.

So fellow authors, you can’t rely on your perfect prose to lure readers. Get your act together. Don’t settle on the first title that comes to mind. Have your writers’ group suggest other ones. Anything is better than the one you came up with. And have a professional design your cover not “Frank the Photoshop Expert” at your workplace. Then write a truthful but interesting biography. Finally, take your time on the description of your book before printing it on the back cover. My wife says the description is foremost for her when deciding to purchase a book. She should know. She buys all the books in the family.

Does that ring true or do you look for different things when shopping for new reading material?

Keeping It Fresh; The Joys of Writing a Long Series by Donis Casey

I am happy to say that my eighth Alafair Tucker Mystery, All Men Fear Me, has just been released in paper, audio, and e-formats. This is a good thing, since the minute I finish a manuscript, am brain dead for several weeks thereafter. The last few weeks of writing before a manuscript is due in to the publisher is intense and hair-raising.You finish.You send it off. It’s out of your hands.You are like a cork that has been anchored under the water for weeks and months, and now the string is cut and you pop to the surface.You’re floating.The sun is shining, the air is fresh.You are drifting. You are disoriented. You’re blinking at the light. You don’t know what to do next. This has happened to me every time I finish a novel. I despair of ever being able to write another word.

And yet—by the time a new book is released, I’m already well into the next. When I first began writing the Alafair Tucker Mystery series, I had a story arc in mind that was going to carry through ten books. This is a wonderful idea, but as anyone who has ever written a long series knows, after a couple of books all your plans for a story arc have been knocked into a cocked hat.
The reason this happened, at least to me, is that I seem to be writing about real people who have their own ideas about how things should be gone about, and once I put them into a situation, they react to it in ways I had never anticipated.
So much for a ten book arc. Besides, I really want readers to be able to pick up any book in the series and have a satisfying experience without having to know anything about what went before. This poses the million dollar question for the author of a long series: How do you keep it fresh? How do you make every story stand alone, yet in its place as well? How do you keep from repeating yourself, or losing your spark?
I’ve had quite a journey with my protagonist over the last decade. Alafair is a farm wife with a very large family who lives in rural Oklahoma at the turn of the 20th century. She is a woman who knows her world and has made her place in it. Each of the books features a different one of Alafair’s newly-grown children, with whom Alafair either works to solve a crime, or works to save from him or herself.  Since each child has his or her own distinct personality and interests, this gives me a great deal of latitude to explore all kinds of things that people were into in the early 20th Century.
 For each book I must come up with a compelling reason for a farm wife and mother of ten to get involved in a murder investigation. I also have to figure out a convincing way for her to either solve the murder or at least contribute to the solution, which as you might guess, isn’t that easy. I have found over the course of eight books in the same series that I have begun to depart from the usual mystery novel format. The murders take place later and later in the story with each book I write. The later books are constructed more like thrillers than puzzles. In book seven, Hell With the Lid Blown Off, I told the reader who was going to die in the first sentence, but didn’t actually kill him for a hundred pages. In All Men Fear Me…well, I’ll let you see for yourself.
All Men Fear Me takes the Tucker family to the beginning of World War I. Of course, war is hell. The book is not about the life of a soldier, though, or what is going on in Europe. All Men Fear Me is about the American home front. The war had a huge impact on daily life for ordinary people, even in the far reaches of eastern Oklahoma. Americans were as divided at the beginning of World War I as they were during the Viet Nam war. But the U.S. Government was not nearly as tolerant of dissension in 1917 as it was in 1967. Alafair just wants to mind her own business, live a quiet life, and see her children safe and happy. But when you have two sons eager to do their patriotic duty, a German-born son-in-law, and a brother who is a Socialist, union organizer, and anti-war activist, peace and harmony is not to be. Especially after the arrival in town of an ominous stranger who sews discord wherever he goes.
And the title? The title comes from a World War I bond drive poster that says:
I am Public Opinion
All Men Fear me
Donis Casey is a native Oklahoman and the author of eight Alafair Tucker Mysteries, (Poisoned Pen Press): The Old Buzzard Had It Coming, Hornswoggled, The Drop Edge of Yonder, The Sky Took Him, Crying Blood, The Wrong Hill to Die On, Hell With the Lid Blown Off, and the newly All_Men_Fear_Me_Cover1011released All Men Fear Me. Two of her novels have won the Arizona Book Award and six have been finalists for the Oklahoma Book Award for Fiction. The Old Buzzard Had It Coming was named an Oklahoma Centennial Book in 2007. She is a former teacher, academic librarian, and entrepreneur who lives in Tempe, Arizona, with her husband. Read the first chapter of each of her books on her website
Elevator pitch
Passions run high in the small town of Boynton, Oklahoma, the home of Alafair Tucker, her husband, and their 10 children. Patriotic zealots are on the lookout for anyone not doing their bit for the war effort. Yet the local unionists and Socialists oppose the far-off war. Innocent civilians such as Alafair’s German-born son-in-law, Kurt Lukenbach, Alafair’s son-in-law, are caught in the general distrust of foreigners. On top of everything, Alafair’s IWW-activist brother, Rob Gunn, comes for a visit, and his arrival coincides with civil unrest, acts of sabotage, and murder. In the middle of it all is “old Nick,” a ubiquitous stranger feasting on the conflicts and fanning the flames.
Kirkus Reviews says about All Men Fear Me: “Casey’s skill at making you care about the injustices of a time and place not often covered in history books is second to none. The admirable mystery is the cherry on top.”

How I Overcame my Peyton Place Complex (and lived to write another day) by A.C. Burch

When I set out to write about the town I’ve lived in for nearly thirty years, I was following age-old advice to “write what you know.” I never thought that knowing a place so well would unleash such insecurities.

IMG_0675It was inevitable from the start that Provincetown and its citizens would play a significant role in The HomePort Journals. The story takes place in the off-season when midsummer’s carnival atmosphere is a faded memory and the realities of life on a strip of sand out in the Atlantic are unavoidable. The gray skies, isolation, and storms of winter seemed a perfect backdrop for my hero’s efforts to start a new life and evolve as a writer. What’s more, the other characters (primarily composites of neighbors, family, and friends) were so quirky they’d be unbelievable in most other settings.

One night over cocktails, I was asked that inevitable question, “What are you working on?” “A book set in Provincetown,” was my evasive reply. My interrogator laughed and said, “Be careful. Remember what happened to Grace Metalious. Provincetown folks take no prisoners, especially in the off-season.” I didn’t immediately recognize Metalious as the author of Peyton Place but was intrigued enough to research her story. It seems she’d suffered dreadful retribution from the good citizens of Gilmanton, New Hampshire for all she’d written about the town she lived in.

This discovery was the origin of what I came to think of as my Peyton Place complex. I’d built my novel around the relationship between Provincetown’s gay men and elderly Portuguese women—a phenomenon I’d experienced firsthand and considered unique to my hometown. Some of these women, dedicated to their families and often quite religious, had found mutually rewarding friendships with their gay neighbors. Their HomeportJournals_cvr finalcommon currency was gossip—the more outrageous the tale, the more both parties enjoyed its telling. Sexual peccadillos were definitely not off-limits. From this unlikely intimacy, loving bonds were often forged. Such a bond was to be the turning point in The HomePort Journals.

Pondering Grace’s fate, my thoughts went into overdrive. Would such an incongruous relationship alienate readers? Would my characters’ deep affection for each other resonate outside of Provincetown? As a novice writer, did I have the skill to craft an accurate portrayal of these women without making them seem tawdry or pathetic? They had been good to me. I had to do them justice. These fears and hundreds of others echoed through my brain, blocking progress every time I sat down to write.

The reclusive Lola Staunton is the sole heir to a vast whaling fortune. As her character evolved, I grew concerned about writing of great wealth in a town where many work seasonally and can barely make ends meet. Provincetown was (and still is) facing significant challenges due to the lack of affordable housing. Resentment runs high against second-home owners who’ve bought up most of the real estate only to use it for a few weeks a year. Would my readers see the pathos in Lola’s circumstances, or focus on her wealth and miss the point altogether? If that happened, there’d be no trust in her redemption, and my notion of a family of choice would fail. If that theme failed, the entire novel would fail.

I felt I was walking a tightrope blindfolded. Suffice it to say, in my naïveté I’d plastered an entire layer of angst atop already daunting challenges. Second-guessing myself made me overly cautious and my writing lost its spark. Weeks passed, until one day I read a quote from Ray Bradbury in Zen and the Art of Writing. He wrote, “Everything I’ve ever done was done with excitement because I wanted to do it, because I loved doing it…Because I wanted to do, I did. Where I wanted to feed, I fed.”

With this insight, I immediately traded “Write what you know,” for “Write what you love.” I loved those old women who’d seen it all. I loved the way their eyes lit up with every new tidbit of gossip. I loved the way they called me “dahlin’.” I loved the beauty, contrast, and contradictions of Provincetown. From glorious sunrises over the harbor to drag queens sashaying down Commercial Street, I loved it all.

I began to write from where my passions reside, not the cerebral, cautious, accommodating place that enables me to navigate the everyday world. (There’s an enormous difference between the two places: the former is like taking the subway to work, the latter like crossing the Canadian Rockies in an observation car.)

The strategy worked, and in the end my fears proved groundless. Reviews were great. Copies flew out of the Provincetown Bookshop. One friend wrote to say I’d captured his friendship with an elderly Portuguese woman perfectly—a relationship I’d never witnessed. A long-time resident bought several copies as gifts for family and friends.

Even a frustrating, self-inflicted episode such as mine can be a learning experience. Here’s what my Peyton Place complex taught me:

  1. Don’t discuss work in its early stages.
  2. Don’t let people into your head. If they’re such experts, they can write their own book.
  3. Write first. Worry later.
  4. Never doubt yourself. Perseverance bears the gift of self-knowledge.
  5. Take risks. For every person who pans your work, there are multitudes who will adore it.

And, most important of all, write about what you love with all the passion you can muster. When it comes time to promote your book you’ll be really glad you did. You won’t have to dig deep for reasons why you wrote what you wrote. They’ll be part of you, making you sound sure-footed and convincing. Readers will take notice.

ACB-180x180A.C. Burch is still writing and living in Provincetown. He is currently at work on A Book of Revelations, eight short stories where nothing is as it seems and a sequel to The HomePort Journals. He’s yet to read Peyton Place.

You can connect with A.C. at or follow him on Facebook or Twitter. An interesting article on the rise and fall of Grace Metalious can be found in this 2006 excerpt from Vanity Fair.



Promotion is fun. Sometimes. by Kathleen Delaney

IMG_3163(3)Kathleen Delaney came to the writing life a little late. Instead, she raised five children, heaven alone knows how many cats and dogs, a few horses, and assorted 4 H animals. She also enjoyed a career as a real estate broker in the small California town of Paso Robles. Somewhere in there she found she wanted to write as well as read, and her first book, Dying for a Change, was a finalist in St. Martin’s Malice Domestic contest. Since then she has written six more books, to great reviewer praise. The first in her new Mary McGill canine mysteries is available in both hard cover and ebook form, and will be available this spring in soft cover, just in time to great the release of Curtains for Miss Plym.

She currently resides, and writes, in Georgia with one dog and one cat, close to two of her grandchildren, who are more than eager to share their dogs and cats with her, just in case she gets lonely.





I don’t usually read comments on articles posted on the internet, but a while back one got my attention. It seems that a woman author of bestselling chick lit books engaged in some imaginative promotion. Her books have a reputation for being funny, and she decided to play on that for a new release. She hired a number of actors-I’m not sure how many-to take copies of her new book into crowded places, the NY subway, Times Square, a popular New York deli, and pretend to be reading. And laughing. Extra emphasis on the laughing. Of course, while doing this, they were to hold the book so the cover was visible to one and all.

Mighty clever, I thought. A wonderful, quirky idea that just might work. But it seemed I was in a majority of one.


There were numerous comments about this article, mostly negative. Several people said they were glad they had read the other comments because the book couldn’t be any good if she had to promote it that way. After all, if she had talent, it would automatically sell. Several others felt they had been cheated in some way because she had brought it to their attention and vowed not to buy it or even check it out at the library. Others complained because she had the gall to try to promote her book at all.


The comments left me scratching my head.


Have none of these people been in a Barnes and Noble recently? Have they not seen the row after row of books offered for sale? You can get lost just browsing the stacks. When I go I carry water with me, just in case.

Have they not maneuvered around the stacks of “bargin books”? Authors cringe to think their book might end up on that shelf, but it’s better than having the book disappear into a warehouse somewhere, never to be seen again. Someone may pick it up off the bargain table and, who knows, they may even read it. And, if they like it, they may buy that author’s next book. Maybe


And then there’s Costco. Tables piled high with best sellers and lots of not so good sellers. Occasionally someone will pick one up, crying, “I read the review of this one in Time. I forget what it said.” Someone else will say, “oh, this got a good review on NPR. At least, I think it was this one.” That doesn’t mean they are going to buy a copy. But at least they’re holding it in their hand, so they might.


Have none of these people logged on to Amazon lately? The amount of books offered is staggering. Some have great reviews, some don’t have any, but it really doesn’t matter. You have to somehow find a book you are interested in before you read the review anyway, and unless you know what you are looking for, browsing can give you a headache and you can end up buying a DVD instead.


There was a time when authors relied heavily on independent booksellers. The people who owned those wonderful stores actually read the new books that they stocked. Some of them, anyway. So, when a reader came in looking for something they could actually recommend a book, could point out a good new author, or help find that obscure research volume no one else had even heard of. Some even called up their regular customers and told them when a book came in they thought their customer would like. But small-or large-independent bookstores are rapidly going the way of the dodo bird.


So what’s an author to do? He/she spent a couple of years, probably more if it’s a first book, writing it, a small lifetime trying to get it into print, and now its also up to him/her to get it sold. Publishers no longer have large budgets for promotion. Some don’t even have small ones. According to Garrison Kealor, the average author sells about 23 books in their lifetime, that’s books, not titles, mostly to close family members. My figures might not be exactly his but you get the idea. I think that means that the average author shouldn’t plan on book sales income as part of their retirement plan.

So, seriously, what’s an author to do? It’s hard to rely on those “maybe’s” for sales, and  harder still for retirement income.


9780727885012Hire actors to read your book on the subway, that’s what. Those people who complained—at least they now know that book exists, and who knows, when they see it on the table at Costco they might forget they already didn’t like it. They just might buy it. Or at least pick it up.


I have written 7 books, 6 are in print or available in ebook form, the 7th, Curtains for Miss Plym, will be available in the UK in January and in the US this spring. Am I thinking about promotion? It’s the only thing, other than plot points, that I think about these days. My latest release, Purebred Dead, features cocker spaniels. I’ve gone to dog shows, set up shop near the cocker ring, and actually sold a couple of books but found the people there were more interested in looking at live dogs than reading about them. I’ve tried library events, been on panels at conferences, had book signings in book stores (had one once the day before the store closed for good—it wasn’t a success) been all over the internet, have outstanding reviews from all the big important reviewers and lots and lots from readers who love my stories (the kind of reviews I like best) and am still not sure what motivates people to notice a book, pick it up and buy it and what doesn’t.


One of my books, Murder by Syllabub, takes place in and around Colonial Williamsburg. Christmas is coming. So, I’m wondering, maybe I can curtainsformissplym3(1)hire people in period costume to do something to tie into that era. Hummm. Six maids a milking? In Rockefeller Center? In front of the Today show window? Now, there’s an idea. I have at least three friends who’d be willing to dress up like mild maids if for nothing more than to wave at Mat Lauer.

I’d do it, too, if I could figure out how to get the cows onto the subway. Oh, well. Back to the drawing board.

Playing pin the tail on the donkey by Judy Alter

judySome days I feel as blindfolded mentally as the children who play that classic birthday game are visually blindfolded. Only sometimes they peek, and peeking does me no good.

I always wrote with focus on one project, just didn’t believe it was productive to have too many irons in the fire. I remember asking an author to judge a novel contest once, and he declined, saying he would be in the midst of his own project and to do that might distract him. I understood his point of view.

Over the last decade, changes in publishing have made such focus almost impossible. Authors are expected to do their own marketing—sales kits, social media, including blogs and Facebook which is a big time suck. I have shied away from online launch parties, though I know they’ve done wonderfully well for some writers, and I’m not as active as I should be on Twitter, Google+, not at all on Linked In and Instagram or Pinterest. Who has time? No wonder it’s hard to focus. Gone are the days of writing and publishing a book a year which your publisher marketed.

That may be one reason many of us keep several balls—err, manuscripts—in the air at once. Right now I have several projects in the air:

–a historical novel set in Chicago’s Gilded Age; it’s complete, edited privately, has a lovely endorsement from a prominent Chicago author. I tried a couple of publishing houses I thought had promise, one in Chicago, but at their reply rate it would turn out to be a posthumous publication. I keep hoping some magic will swoop out of the sky and give it life. At least two books about people from the same era have done well recently, so I’m anxious to get mine out there.

I know better than to rely on magic and wishful thinkin. I’ll probably self-publish it, which means the next step is for me to do a detailed marketing plan. I’ve truly been haphazard about marketing but I consider this a “big” book and need to be serious. Luckily I have a role model in Susan Wittig Albert who published A Wilder Rose under her own imprint and will do so with Loving Eleanor in February. So that’s one or two projects, depending on how you look at it.

–I have 30,000 words on a sequel to The Perfect Coed. For a mystery, that’s almost half a book, and some days it seems foolish not to go ahead and finish it. A couple of half-hearted attempts haven’t gotten me very far. But the subject—open carry laws—makes it timely, and I ought to get it out 3Peacock Mansion -darker topthere.

–I have an idea, some rough notes and 500 words on a fourth Blue Plate Café Mystery. Seems like that should be low on my priority list.

–I have two books just out—Texas is Chili Country (Texas Tech Press) and Murder at Peacock Mansion, the third Blue Plate Mystery, published under my own Alter Ego Publishing. I need to devote some time to them, including an upcoming blog tour.

Maybe just writing this has helped me sort it out. Then again, maybe I should say, “Eeny, meeny, miney, moe.”


About Judy

An award-winning novelist, Judy Alter is the author of six books in the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries series: Skeleton in a Dead Space, No Neighborhood for Old Women, Trouble in a Big Box, Danger Comes Home, Deception in Strange Places, and Desperate for Death. She also writes the Blue Plate Café Mysteries—Murder at the Blue Plate Café, Murder at the Tremont House and the current

Murder at Peacock Mansion. Finally, with the 2014 The Perfect Coed, she introduced the Oak Grove Mysteries.

Her work has been recognized with awards from the Western Writers of America, the Texas Institute of Letters, and the National Cowboy Museum and Hall of Fame. She has been honored with the Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Achievement by WWA and inducted into the Texas Literary Hall of Fame and the WWA Hall of Fame.

Judy is retired as director of TCU Press, the mother of four grown children and the grandmother of seven. She and her dog, Sophie, live in Fort Worth, Texas.


Murder at Peacock Mansion

Arson, a bad beating, and a recluse who claims someone is trying to kill her all collide in this third Blue Plate Café Mystery with Kate Chambers. Torn between trying to save David Clinkscales, her old boss and new lover, and curiosity about Edith Aldridge’s story of an attempt on her life, Kate has to remind herself she has a café to run. She nurses a morose David, whose spirit has been hurt as badly as his body, and tries to placate Mrs. Aldridge, who was once accused of murdering her husband but acquitted. One by one, Mrs. Aldridge’s stepchildren enter the picture. Is it coincidence that David is Edith Aldridge’s lawyer? Or that she seems to rely heavily on the private investigator David hires? First the peacocks die…and then the people. Everyone is in danger, and no one knows who to suspect.




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Twitter: @judyalter