Books that Changed my Life: Good, Bad or Otherwise by Carol Wright Crigger

KINDLE_CAMERA_1457262729000First of all, I think just about every book I’ve ever read changed my life in some way. A pretty broad statement, I know, but as an example, the romance novels (in my teens I read a lot of romances) struck me as too smarmy even for a young lady with notions of being swept away by the love of  her life. Eventually I caught on that I’m not a romantic soul. Great books of many genres have taught me what I want to write; the clunkers taught me what I don’t.

A point here. It is my firm belief that being a reader is part of being a writer. You can’t do one without the other. Reading forms your opinions. It lets you see varying styles, and shows you the kind of writer you want to be. Also, whether one ends up as a mystery writer, a romance or science fiction writer, a mainstream or literary or even a writer of westerns, what you’ve read and enjoyed and that fired your imagination is probably what influenced you to write in a particular genre. Changed your life, in other words.

When you select a genre, you’re going to connect with the people who also love that kind of book. Just think how much simpler it is to sell a book to someone who is predisposed to want to read it. I’ve had people brush away my westerns. On the other hand, some people won’t read science fiction. Or “made up stuff.” It’s our job as writers to educate them and broaden their views, right?

Way back, I read just about every book in my school library. Okay,  so the feat may not be as impressive as it sounds. It wasn’t a huge library. The population of my rural farming community was a whopping 270 in those days. My graduating class was the biggest in years. Twelve of us. Nevertheless, the library contained many of the classics, including Shakespeare, along with the likes of Sinclair Lewis and Kenneth Roberts. Libraries are where I discovered what kind of writer I would become, having known from the time I was six or seven I wanted to be a writer. Of those authors I just mentioned, Kenneth Roberts had the most influence. He made me love history. One of his books showed me the way to write.

I learned most of what I know about the Revolutionary War from Kenneth Roberts’s books. History as viewed from both sides, British and American. In one of his books, Oliver Wiswell, an elderly female character gives Oliver advice on how to write a book. “You need an idea,” she says, “a determination to make the sentences clear and readable …” She goes on to say, “The way to write a book is to write one sentence and then write another, and keep on doing it every day, rain or shine, sick or well.”

Talk about one book changing a life! A whole course of education in a couple of paragraphs. Would others find those words so inspiring? I don’t know, but they certainly resonated with me.

Other writers have influenced me. The first science fiction I read was by Robert Heinlein, but I wanted something different. I found Lois McMaster Bujold and was hooked.

Tony Hillerman showed me contemporary western mysteries. Way back there was John Creasey, Agatha Christie and Dick Francis with their British mysteries, all very different. Janet Evanovich introduced me to humorous mysteries that blend romance. Spencer Quinn mysteries have a dog as a narrator⏤and it works! There’s something to learn from every writer. Something that changes your life. My parents read lots and lots of westerns. These were my first experience with adult fiction and had tons of influence over my choices. You can probably guess why I write my own kind of western mystery adventure⏤when I’m not writing fantasy or contemporary mystery.

Four Furlongs, the fourth book of my China Bohannon western mystery series, features an 1890s bookkeeper who’d rather sleuth than type. There’s aFourFurlongsFront12-50-52-208 race horse, a Bedlington terrier dog, a bit of a love interest, quirky friends, and as always, a dangerous adventure awaiting my heroine in the case she has to resolve. The book released this month from FiveStar/Cengage Publishing in hardcover and eBook formats.

Buy Links:  Amazon          B&N

BIO: Born and raised in north Idaho on the Coeur d’Alene Indian Reservation, Carol Wright Crigger lives in Spokane Valley, Washington. Imbued with an abiding love of western traditions and wide-open spaces, Ms. Crigger writes of free-spirited people who break from their standard roles. She is a member of Western Writers of America, and is a two time Spur Award finalist, in 2007 for short fiction, and 2009 for audio. Her western novel, Black Crossing, was the 2008 EPIC Award winner in the western/historical category.


The Best Book I Never Wrote by Nancy Lynn Jarvis

Nancy200x300Nancy Lynn Jarvis finally acknowledged she was having too much fun writing to ever sell another house, so she let her license lapse in May of 2013, after her twenty-fifth anniversary in real estate.After earning a BA in behavioral science from San Jose State University, she worked in the advertising department of the San Jose Mercury News. A move to Santa Cruz meant a new job as a librarian and later a stint as the business manager for Shakespeare/Santa Cruz at UCSC. She invites you to take a peek into the real estate world through the stories that form the backdrop of her Regan McHenry mysteries. Real estate details and ideas come from Nancy’s own experiences.


Amazon Author Page for all books




Right out of the box I have a question for your readers, PJ. How long do you have to wait before you should categorize a book as “The Best Book I Never Wrote?”


Readers, if you’re like me, you eavesdrop in restaurants and store checkout lines and make up storylines that incorporate what you hear. I recently went into the ladies restroom at The Mission Ranch Inn (owned by Clint Eastwood) in Carmel. The two bathroom stalls were occupied by friends who were chatting back and forth as they attended to business.


“…that’s when I realized I was locked in the bathroom. I pounded on the door, but, of course no one came because they were closing down for the night. There was one small window to the outside and I managed to get it open, but I couldn’t see what was below it or where it lead. Now, I’m small…”

“That you are.”

“so I figured I could squeeze through it. The only thing was I had on a brand new outfit—not an inexpensive one, I might add—of cream colored pants and a matching sweater that I didn’t want to get dirty or worse, ruin, so I took them off.”


The two women came out of their stalls. I’d guess they were plus-or-minus eighty years old. The tale-teller continued as they washed their hands, “I couldn’t decide if I should go through the window head first or feet first…”


That’s when they left. Well, maybe not a book, but a darn good short story.


I don’t have a traditional bucket list, I have a book bucket list so long I’ll need to live to a hundred-and-sixty if I have any hope of writing through it, and it grows almost daily. Yesterday I got a new idea from a friend that I’m sure would make a fabulous book.


My friend is a private investigator and a source of many great book ideas and details, a couple that I’ve used, and three that I will at some point use in my Regan McHenry Real Estate Mysteries series. Mostly she finds people and has solved birth parent mysteries, inheritance mysteries, and even a transgender…no I can’t tell you any more about that one because it’s one of her stories that I will use soon.


She’s been trying her hand writing a book with chapters for various cases she’s solved. She’ a great story teller, especially when she describes how her mind works as she solves mysteries. I want to read her book! The problem is, she’s bogged down and despairs that she will ever finish it. She says her problem is that she always has theories about what led the people she investigates to do what they did, a back story, if you will. She’d like to talk about her theories, but doesn’t want to write fiction.


I suggested—OK begged—her to collaborate with me. She could write a chapter of detective details and I could write a fictional short story to explain them based on her theories. Unfortunately, she’s not on board, which is awful because I’m convinced the book would be fascinating. I haven’t given up hope, but at the moment a collaborative effort with her seems like the best book I never wrote.


It’s disappointing, too, because I’ve found writer friends helping one another yields great promotional benefits. I edited a collaborative cookbook called Cozy Food: 128 Cozy Mystery Writers Share Their Favorite Recipes. It was great fun, we all benefited from mutual marketing, and the book continues to introduce readers to new favorite authors even two years after its release.



A Neighborly Killing by Nancy Lynn Jarvis

Waking up to gunshots and discovering the body of their neighbor just outside their bedroom door is bad enough, but when the Coroner rules the FrontCoverdeath a suicide, Realtors Regan McHenry and her husband Tom Kiley don’t believe it for a minute. Never mind what the physical evidence says; they heard their dead neighbor arguing with someone in the moments preceding his death.


What really happened has become more than just a mystery they’d like to solve because the circumstances of their dead neighbor’s past keep interfering with their present and putting them in danger.


A book launch event May 22, 2016 from 3 to 6 pm at the Polish Museum of America in Chicago

DonnaUrbikas 72 dpi Full Color (1)Donna Solecka Urbikas has written a truly unique story of growing up with a mother and sister who had been deported from what was eastern Poland at the start of WWII to labor camps in Siberia and Russia. She grew up in the Midwest during the golden years of the American century. But her Polish-born mother and half-sister endured dehumanizing conditions during the war. War and exile created a profound bond between mother and older daughter, one that Donna would struggle to find with either them.
At four o’clock in the morning of February 10, 1940, Janina Slarzynska and her five-year old daughter, Mira, were taken by Soviet secret police from their small family farm and sent with hundreds of thousands to labor camps in Siberia. So began their odyssey of hunger, disease, cunning survival, desperate escape across a continent, and new love amidst terrible circumstances.
After the war, Mira, Janina, and her new husband—a Polish Army officer who had helped them escape the Soviet MSM cover artUnion—are haunted by the past. Baby boomer Donna, born in postwar England and growing up in 1950’s Chicago, yearns for a “normal” American family. In this unforgettable memoir, Donna recounts her family history and her own survivor’s story, finally understanding the damaged mother who had saved her sister.
Donna Solecka Urbikas had careers as a high school science teacher and environmental engineer. She is now a writer, realtor, and community volunteer, and lives in Chicago with her husband. They have three adult children.
More information including a book trailer, interview, and events can be found on
A book launch event is planned for May 22, 2016 from 3 to 6 pm at the Polish Museum of America, 984 N. Milwaukee, Chicago, IL. RSVP

An interview with Maria Grazia Swan

Maria Grazia SwanBestselling author Maria Grazia Swan was born in Italy, but this rolling stone has definitely gathered no moss. She lived in Belgium, France, Germany, in beautiful Orange County, California where she raised her family, and is currently at home in Phoenix, Arizona.

As a young girl, her vivid imagination predestined her to be a writer. She won her first literary award at the age of fourteen while living in Belgium. As a young woman Maria returned to Italy to design for–ooh-la-la–haute couture. Once in the U.S. and after years of concentrating on family, she tackled real estate. These days her time is devoted to her deepest passions: writing and helping people and pets find the perfect home.

Maria loves travel, opera, good books, hiking, and intelligent movies (if she can find one, that is). When asked about her idea of a perfect evening, she favors stimulating conversation, Northern Italian food and perfectly chilled Prosecco–but then, who doesn’t?



What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?

OMG!! I still blush after all the years. Barnes and Noble. One of my first booksigning. The event was covered by the local media. I quickly had to use the restroom before walking to the podium and unfortunately my beautiful flirty chiffon skirt got stuck in my panties, in the back…made for a Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 10.03.23 PMmemorable event..


What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?

Never, ever give up. Follow your dream. You never know when lighting will strike.


What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?

I will have to say word of mouth???


Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 10.04.12 PMWhat area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?

Anything connected to the digital world.


Which genres do you prefer to read?

I read mystery because I’m a sucker for a good plot. However, I like anything that’s well written. If the writing catches my fancy, I’m in.


Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?

Honestly, I have a very hard time keeping up with my usual suspects, I only buy a new author if a trusted friend recommends it.Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 10.04.55 PM


What book is currently on your nightstand?

Marked Masters, Ritter Ames


How many books do you read/month?

Two or three, it depends on my schedule.


What is the one book that you think everyone should read?Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 10.05.19 PM

Bird by Bird. By Annie Lamott it’s my go to bible.


Do you have an all time favorite book?

Not really, it changes like everything in life. Maybe I should say that my needs and preferences evolve.


How important do you find the communication between you and your readers?

Do you reply to their messages or read their reviews? I do, I do. And I often seek their input. I’ll be nothing without them.


Do you prefer Twitter or Facebook?

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 10.11.31 PMFacebook, of course. Doesn’t everybody?


Where can your fans find you?

Not sure about the question. I send out a newsletter, I have a website, Facebook and twitter and Goodreads presence and if all fails, I have a page on Amazon with my e-mail address. I’m easily accessible.


Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:

Mina’s series (6 books to date)

Love thy Sister

Bosom Bodies

Italian SummerScreen Shot 2016-04-13 at 10.10.58 PM

Ashes of Autumn

A Cat to Die For

Best in Show


Non fiction

Stories my Grandfather told me

Mating Dance-Rituals for singles who weren’t born yesterday


Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title:

This is not my latest, but it is the one on sale next two weeks. A Cat to die For

Two Calico cats, almost alike except for one detail. The love of Mina’s life, Diego Moran shows up with a Greek heiress wanting Houdini although she has a look-a- like cat named Zeus.The cat caretaker is found dead. Now the adventure begins…


Where can we buy it?

An interview with Nancy Cole Silverman

Nancy speakingNancy Cole Silverman credits her twenty-five years in radio for helping her to develop an ear for storytelling. In 2001, Silverman retired from news and copywriting to write fiction full time. In 2014, Silverman signed with Henery Press for her new mystery series, The Carol Childs’ Mysteries. The first of the series, Shadow of Doubt, debuted in December 2014 and the second, Beyond a Doubt, debuted July 2015. Coming soon, in 2016, is the third in the series, Without A Doubt. Silverman also has written a number of short stories, many of them influenced by her experiences growing up in the Arizona desert. For more information visit



How would my friends describe me in 20 words or less?

Okay, I asked some friends and here it what they said, a few more than twenty words, but you’ll get the idea. Creative. Energetic. Positive. Go Getter.  Loyal. Stubborn. Determined. Won’t take no for an answer. Gregarious. Smart, fun. Blonde. Tall. Thin. Center Stage Personality. Outspoken. Team player. Ambitious. Stylish. Practical. Warm. People person. Entrepreneur.


Tell me a little about yourself.

I think my friends really nailed it.  Of course, nobody knows the inner most workings or an individual and writers probably more than any others are hard judges on themselves. I fall into that category.  I’m not really a perfectionist, but I am ambitious and determined to see things through to the finish.


Where would you live if you could live anywhere in the world?

Santa Barbara.  My husband and I visit there regularly and love the area.


What’s your current guilty pleasure?

Only one?  Travel. Wine. Chocolate. Coffee and the rest is saved the confessional.


If you weren’t a writer, what you would be? SHADOW OF DOUBS

I was in broadcasting for 25 years and loved working as journalist and on the business side of radio.  With that under my belt, I suppose if I had to do it again, and I might like to have been an English teacher.  I enjoy reading and teaching the craft of writing.


When did you begin writing?

I started writing when I was a child.  I remember penning, or penciling, my first story when I was seven years old. I think that the age kids start to get an idea about who they are and what they’d like to do in life.


Who is you mentor? Who do you look up to?

Nora Ephron.  Joyce Carol Oats.


Who are your cheerleaders?

My mother and my husband.


Aside from writing, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Cook, entertain and travel and theater. I love the theater.  Growing up I was very active in theater and love to go to plays, particularly musicals.


Do you keep track or write reviews for books you read?

Yes.  I try to read as much as I can and I sometimes do reviews on


Do you read reviews written about your book?

Yes.  I know it’s not advised but I think if a review is well written, there is much to be gained by reading it.


BEYOND A DOUBT (1)Have you always wanted to be a writer?



What started you on your journey to be a writer?

When I left radio after twenty-five years I founded and published an equestrian newspaper.  For about eight years I covered a lot of equestrian events and between writing about them, I was riding in some of them.  It was great fun, until I had an accident and needed to hang up my stirrups.  It was then I decided to sell the newspaper and start writing fiction.  I’ve never looked back.


Do you listen to music while writing?

Yes.  Usually jazz.


What are your favorite hobbies?

Reading. Movies. Theater. Music. Hiking. Cooking.


With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?

I’m very passionate about The Carol Childs Mysteries and hear back from readers how authentic the work sounds.  I think it comes from having really worked in the business.  Somehow or other it just radiates onto the page.  Authenticity makes for real character and believable situations.  Those are both memorable and touching to readers.


What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?BOOKED IN BURBANK READ

Write.  Write. Write.  You can’t be a musician without practice.  Writing is no different.


What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?

Myself.  I’m good public speaker and my experience with radio has taught me a lot about working a crowd.  I enjoy it and getting before a group of people and answering questions.


What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?

Online blogs.  There are so many of them and I fear they are not read by as many readers as they are writers looking for answers.


Your favorite books and author?

Let’s restate this question with favorite authors.  Titles I sometimes forget, but authors, never:  Stephen King, Sue Grafton, Nora Ephron, Leon Uris, Michael Connelly, John Grisham, Janet Evonovich, Harlan Coben…the list goes on.


Which genres do you prefer to read?

Mystery, historical fiction.


What book is currently on your nightstand?

Missing Mark by Julie Kramer.  I recently heard her speak at a conference and picked up her first book, Killing Sarah and found her both entertaining and as a journalist believable.


How many books do you read/month?

If I’m writing, not as many as I’d like.  Maybe only 3 or 4.


Do you reply to their messages or read their reviews?

I reply to any messages any reader has ever sent.  I think it someone has read my book and takes the time to email me they deserve a reply.


Do you prefer Twitter or Facebook?



Where can your fans find you?



Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:WITHOUT A DOUBT front SM

 Shadow of Doubt

Beyond a Doubt

Without a Doubt


Are you working on anything new and if so when can we expect to see it?

I’m currently working on book 4 of the Carol Childs mysteries and I’ve recently finished a couple of short stories.


What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?

I also write short stories, and I’m currently working an anthology.