Library Visits by Marilyn Meredith

Though I’ve always done a library visit or two each year, this year I’ve done several in many different places. I love doing them because I love libraries and the people who frequent them. Here are a few things I’ve learned about doing presentations in libraries.


You probably won’t sell a lot of books. People borrow books from the library. And donating your book to the library won’t necessarily mean that it will be put into circulation, it might just become a book for the Friends of the Library Book Sale.


Despite that, an appearance at a library is one of many ways to make yourself known.


People come to library talks for different reasons. Sometimes it’s just to be in a cool place on a very hot day or the other way around. I’ve had a couple of presentation where homeless people have been part of the audience. I treat them the same as anyone else—and ignore any that might be disruptive. (Yes, that has happened.)


With a small group, I ask them why they came, the best way to adjust your presentation to fit their expectations. Some may want to find out more about you than the books you write. Always save time for questions. Others might want to be writers and have questions about writing and publishing. Of course if you or the library has advertised a specific topic, that’s what you need to present.


I’ve done many specific topic presentations about writing, publishing, writing a mystery, but lately I’ve been talking about my books, the research I’ve done for them, and some of my adventures that came about because of being a writer. I also point out that it’s never too late to become a writer.


And some last minute tips:


Be friendly.


Take more books than you’ll need. Always better to have more books than not enough.


Be sure to have change for those people who do want to buy a book or two. I accept checks, but that’s up to you. And of course, you can also get one of those gadgets to accept credit cards.


If possible take someone with you to take care of the money transactions so you can concentrate on autographing the book(s).


Enjoy yourself.


Marilyn Meredith


Blurb for A Cold Death:


Deputy Tempe Crabtree and her husband answer the call for help with unruly guests visiting a closed summer camp during a huge snow storm and are trapped there along with the others. One is a murderer—and another is a ghost.


Anyone who orders any of my books from the publisher‘s website:

can get 10% off by entering MP20 coupon code in the shopping cart. This is good all the time for all my books, E-books and print books.


On Kindle:




Marilyn Meredith’s published book count is nearing 40. She is one of the founding members of the San Joaquin chapter of Sister in Crime. She taught writing for Writers Digest Schools for 10 years, and was an instructor at the prestigious Maui Writers Retreat, and has taught at many writers’ conferences. Marilyn is a member of three chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and serves on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. She lives in the foothills of the Sierra, a place with many similarities to Tempe Crabtree’s patrol area. Webpage: Blog: and you can follow her on Facebook.


Contest: Once again I’m going to use the name of the person who comments on the most blogs on my tour for the next Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery—which may be the last in the series.


Tomorrow I’ll be here:


Some Tips for Writing Dialogue

Never Give Up on Finishing a Book by Helen Dunn Frame

For almost a decade in the seventies, a government organization headquartered in Dallas made headlines when an investigation found that some employees, mainly buyers, performed illegal activies on the job. I knew many of the more than one hundred indicted and the thirty-five who served time. At first, I followed the story due to my connection with the organization because my ex-husband worked in Personnel. Then I decided it might inspire a novel, a genre that I only had edited for others.

After high school where I was an editor of my school’s newspaper, over the years I had written everything imaginable including articles, columns, business letters, grants, and brochures, and also edited newsletters. As I began writing the book, I found it exceedingly difficult to deviate from all I had learned when I studied journalism at Syracuse University. Painstakingly, I came to realize that readers could not follow the slew of players; I began combining personalities and reducing the number of characters, feeling as if I were pulling teeth without anesthesia.

Since I based the protagonist on several employees, including one who served time, I needed to make him more likeable to enable readers to feel empathy for him. I achieved this with a backstory where readers learn about his childhood in a dysfunctional family and about his father who accused him of killing his brother. The accusation haunted him throughout his life because he was unable to recall the events surrounding the death.

At the time I started writing the book, I was working fulltime, sometimes holding down two jobs. I was also a single mom. I would work on the novel when I could, putting it aside as life got in the way. Probably after the tenth revision, I had an opportunity to have an agent read it. It was not ready for publication. I figured out that it still had too many characters and that I should not name the actual “non-appropriated fund organization under the Department of Defense.” As a result, I “formed” a new organization that would serve all branches of the military instead of just a limited few. Believing that “Revenge is mine,” said the writer, I exaggerated characters’ traits. Of course, I created noms de plume to protect the guilty and prevent legal repercussions

To make the story seem more real, I pulled information from albums I had assembled from my life’s experiences. A restaurant may have closed, but as I had eaten there, I could make it real for the reader.

Fast-forward over the years that I toyed with the story until I retired in Costa Rica. Once again, it lay dormant as I wrote other books and learned more about the genre. Finally, I felt the book was nearly complete and asked others to read it and suggest edits and changes. As a result, I wrote a new first chapter and eliminated the final chapter because the story was complete without it.

One other hurdle required attention. A long-time artist friend voluntarily designed a cover for me without asking for or even discussing a fee. After he gave it to me, he informed me that I could use it for 100 books and then I would owe him money. No way would I agree to this as I feared unnecessary legal problems, and eventually our friendship ended. I canned his design and hired a specialist who continues to provide covers for my books today.

After many tentative titles, it evolved to “Secrets Behind the Big Pencil, Inspired by an Actual Scandal. A “Big Pencil” is slang for a buyer that has control of millions of dollars for the purchase of merchandise. By now, I had published other books. It was not difficult to format this one on Create Space, keeping costs to a minimum. After about 45 years since the scandal became public, the fictionalized tale was in print and on Kindle and I sighed with relief that I had not given up on the story.

Author’s Page:

BIO: During Helen’s business career, she wore several hats including professional writer, editor, marketing/public relations specialist, Real Estate Director for franchisees, sales, and commercial real estate broker (licensed in Texas and specializing in restaurants and retail).

In Costa Rica, where she has spent most of her time since 2005, she wrote a nonfiction anecdotal book based on extensive research and her adventure with input from other expats.  Baby Boomers can use it to jump-start their due diligence in order to find their paradise for retirement or possibly for a vacation home or investment in Costa Rica. The third edition (2017) of Retiring in Costa Rica or Doctors, Dogs and Pura Vida,” “Secrets Behind the Big Pencil, Inspired by an Actual Scandal,” (2014) Greek Ghosts, (2003) and Wetumpka Widow (2016) are available in paperback and on Kindle on Amazon. A booklet called Retirement 101 (2017) is available on Kindle only.

Helen Dunn Frame, whom I had the benefit of having on my writing team at Inkwell Newswatch, and for whom I have consequently had the privilege of proofreading her work, is an enormously talented writer. She’s flexible, professional, and very thorough in every writing assignment; whether it was from other sources, her own books, or me. She is definitely a top-notch writer with the desire to perform beyond the call of a “normal” writer. Rowdy Rhodes

Walking the Plank by LaLa Corierre

History seems to enjoy walking the plank with our pirates, both real and imagined. We know the stories of Sir Francis Drake, Captain Kidd, and Blackbeard, along with our fictionalized Captain Jack Sparrow. We’ve figured out a way to glamorize and chastise them at the same time.

Today, there’s a new definition of piracy as it relates to authors, their copyrighted works, and the distribution of these works in digital form. For free.

I use alerts such as Talkwalker and Google to notify me if I receive press on the internet. Usually, it’s great fun. Sometimes, not so much. Every one of my books has been pirated. My books are being offered for free and I’m out royalties.

People ask me how this can be and how it works and the answer is there are several different scenarios. A common model is an internet entity that forms a book club. Members pay a nominal fee and then must submit digital books that they have presumably legally purchased. Those books go into the free library.

Like the parting of the Red Sea, let’s take a look at two sides of Piracy in Publishing.

There are now a great many piracy sites and my books are all over them. I fume. I cry. I want to correct a wrong. After all, a crime has been committed against me. I attended a seminar and the presenter is a copyright infringement lawyer. Yes. We could go that route. And the lawyer wins. She did offer up a few words for all of us to learn and use. Cease and desist. And by the way, the courts are most vested in prosecuting these entities. The problem is that they are just that. Entities. They hole up under umbrella host sites that claim no liability. If you are lucky enough to spend hours trying to connect with them and finally get a comment form, most times you can forget about the scales of justice. They often fix the CAPTCHA’s so that you can never give a right answer. Example: Are you human? Yes. Sorry. That answer is incorrect.  Well, last time I looked I was human!

Now, let’s look at the other side of the sea. The sea that not only sees no conflict in this piracy but might also embrace it.

Let’s say that my great uncle hasn’t left me two million dollars in his will, but he can get my book into the hands of 50,000 readers. The problem is it’s free. I get no royalties. That problem is juxtaposed to the fact that I’m an unknown. As the proverbial saying goes, you can’t get something from nothing.

Who knows? They likely might have never found my book, but they might enjoy that free read. They might even pass the word along.


Ahoy mates! Which sea will you be sailing? I’m confident in saying I will no longer waste my time trying to go after these pirates, but there is one thing I can do and that is to get the end user aware of the situation. That person may choose to wait for my own free days. Maybe.

Oh, free days coming up with this post. The first time TRACKS will be offered for FREE! By me!

Struggling to Juggle or Building a Better Reality by Molly MacRae

“This is a time-turner, Harry. McGonagall gave it to me first term. This is how I’ve been getting to my lessons all year.” Hermione Granger to Harry Potter in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban


“You have a full-time job; how do find time to write?” Lots of people to me


“Sorrycan’ttalknowgottatypetypetypetypetypittytpyotype.” Me to my nearest and dearest


For the past six years I’ve been lucky enough to be writing full time. In those six years I’ve written five books in the Haunted Yarn Shop mystery series, two in the Highland Bookshop mystery series, and two in the Secrets of the Castleton Manor Library mystery series. And now I’m thrilled that I have a contract for two more Haunted Yarn Shop books. Writing full time is something I dreamed of and something I’m absolutely tickled to be doing. The only problem is that I already have a full time job.


What’s the problem with that? Not enough hours in the day. When I wrote the first five Haunted Yarn Shop books (a book every nine months), I solved that by adding waking hours to my day—getting up at 5:00 a.m. to get writing time in before work. I also wrote over my lunch hour and in the evenings and ignored housework. All of that worked out fine (especially the housework part).


Lately, though, I’ve been noticing that my characters spend more time with their families and friends than I do with mine. They have time to read for pleasure and do fun things like knit and hike and get enough sleep. And they solve murders (they might be over-achievers).


What changed? Working on two contracts at once, which meant a book every six months. It was still doable, but . . . I found out that I’m jealous of my characters.


Struggling to juggle is a common problem for writers, and we each have to solve it in our way. My first shot at, after nixing 4:00 a.m. wake-up calls, was to ask my husband to invent a time-turner. He’s an engineer who invents and builds the equipment graduate students need for their research. He invented a levitation device, for heaven’s sake. But apparently a time-turner is out because we’re stuck with a small thing called “reality.” So I decided I would build a better reality.


“Revision is the key to success” is one of my writing mantras. It works for plots, dialog, word choice—manuscripts from concept to “the end.” Why not apply it to the writing process itself or some part of it?


My usual process is roughly this: idea, outline, daily word quota, revise previous day’s quota, finished manuscript, tada! This is essentially bash it out now, tart it up later, except that later is the next day. Each day I tart the previous day’s bashing and then move forward through that day’s word quota. What could I change?


For Scones and Scoundrels, coming out in January, I tried this revision: bash out the entire manuscript and then tart it up. Many writers are successful with that method, and given more than six months to complete a manuscript, I’d be willing to try it again—maybe. But for me it ended in a horrible time crunch during the tarting part of the equation. Very few hours of sleep and still the day job to smile for. Yow. I shudder at the memory.


For Cat and Mouse Murder, coming also coming out next year (under the pen name Margaret Welch), I tried this revision: instead of a daily word quota, I set myself an hourly word quota. It’s a very simple tweak to a process that has worked for me for years and it made all the difference. The hourly word quota concentrated my focus. I gave me more hours in the day. It let me have lunch with friends and actually talk to my family.


For me, the real writing is in the revision. It’s in the differences, some of them small and oh so obvious, that make the difference. A better reality was there, too.




The Boston Globe says Molly MacRae writes “murder with a dose of drollery.” Scones and Scoundrels, the book two in Molly’s new Highland Bookshop Mysteries, will be out in January. She’s also the author of the award-winning Haunted Yarn Shop Mysteries from NAL/Penguin (and being continued by Pegasus Crime). Her short stories have appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine since 1990 and she is a winner of the Sherwood Anderson Award for Short Fiction. Molly lives in Champaign, Illinois. You can visit her at and


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Book Promotion – Lessons from an Introvert By R. Franklin James

At the beginning of a week I go over my calendar to see if I have any “events” (read promotions) coming up. If so, I initiate a mental self-speak of: next week this time it will all be over, or, at least it’s not far to drive; or, maybe Oprah will pick it up and I will never have to do this again.

That’s why they call it fiction.

But the fact is, we are writers because we want people to read our books. People can’t read our books unless they know we’ve written one. They won’t know we’ve written one unless we tell them why they need to read our book. And unless we only want to reach one person at a time (as in conversation), we must reach out to the universe of readers in the most expansive and effective ways possible.

Yep, it’s the internet.

But not the way you think.

Readers want to connect with authors through our writing or through who we are. Think one-on-one relationship, and the best way to do that is through social media.  For instance, an engaging website, blogging, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, are key access points for readers to connect with writers. That doesn’t mean that book store signings, panel presentations, or creative commercial outreach won’t work—they absolutely will, but it’s limited by logistics. One to one connections can be steady but slow. Location, time of day, other attention getters all work to diminish numbers reached. If you’re an introvert face to face may not be as attractive as responding to inquiries online.

It’s about our comfort zone.

The thing to remember is that selling is hard for an introvert because it is selling. But talking about your book, or pointing out books by favorite authors, or sharing new found favorites, are not only topics interesting to readers—it’s interesting to us too, because it doesn’t feel like selling. The good thing is, “not selling” offers the opportunity for readers to get to know us, and trust us.

I’ve come to realize that sustained readership comes from building relationships with readers through our mutual love of storytelling and books.

I remember when I got the call from my agent saying she had sold The Fallen Angels Book Club, and I was offered a three book contract for the Hollis Morgan Mystery Series. Life was all gold. Then almost immediately I was asked about my marketing plan and ideas for a book launch. My head spun. Fortunately, I loved my protagonist and I already had a series outline in my head.  Writing was the easy part. Selling was hard. Well after a few bumps and dragging of feet, I finally got the hang of things.

If you’re a blazing extrovert or moderately outgoing, you don’t understand what the big deal is. Talk up your book for goodness sake. Get over it.

And they’re right. The key is to do it the introvert way.

Everything counts.

First, working with a good PR firm can get you a lot of miles down the road. Your publisher, if traditional, or, if you self-publish, are both jumping off points, but the real work still falls to you. While public relations fees will vary from company to company, it can get expensive. Remember choose a firm that fits your personality and wallet. Janet Evanovich said: “Think of publicity like a restaurant menu. If you order only the appetizer, the cost is low, but with wine and a steak it escalates. In short: you get what you pay for … sometimes.” PR firms can be an introvert’s dream come true (Breakthrough Promotions is an example).

Not ready for a PR firm?

Second, try “non-selling”.  Use social media on a daily basis to support other authors and promote your book at the same time. Be sincere and remember you want readers (authors are readers too), to trust you and your thinking.

Third, meeting your readers periodically isn’t going to kill you. Pal up with other authors to make up a panel and visit senior homes, libraries and book clubs. Panel presentations work well because they spread out the spotlight so the focus isn’t just on you and you don’t have to be the whole show.

The thing is, it’s okay to be an introvert and a writer. But promotion is an essential part of the writer’s package. If I can do it, you can do it. I still creep up on my weekly calendar, but it’s getting easier each time.

Go for it.

  1. Franklin James grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, graduated from Cal Berkeley, and flourished in a career of public policy and political advocacy. In 2013, the first book in her starred Hollis Morgan Mystery Series, The Fallen Angels Book Club, was published by Camel Press. Four books later, The Trade List, was released in 2016 and book five, The Bell Tolls, was released in 2017. James resides in northern California with her husband.

The Bell Tolls  –  Book Blurb


In his will, blackmailer Matthias Bell let his victims off the hook, and probate attorney Hollis must track them down to return the damaging goods he had on them. But Bell was murdered, making these victims suspects. Hollis steps in, and finds out quickly that sins do follow after the grave. Meanwhile, all is not calm in the rest of her life, her estranged mother needs a kidney, her fiancé is on a dangerous mission, and she’s hard-pressed to help a dying client find peace of mind.



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Report from Killer Nashville 2017 by Catherine Dilts

Before I relay to you the tidbits of wisdom I gleaned at Killer Nashville, I’d like to discuss conferences in general. Choosing the right location, type of conference, and style can make your experience more rewarding.


Confession time. I chose to attend Killer Nashville primarily because I had never been to Tennessee. I’m not the only author to select conferences based on location. A writers’ conference is a large expense once you figure in travel, hotel, food, and the conference registration fee. Getting in a little vacation sightseeing can help justify the trip. If money is super tight, find one close to home to avoid a plane ticket and hotel expense, or try sharing a room with friends.


An aspiring writer might not get as much out of a huge conference as he or she would from a small local affair. Killer Nashville is a mid-sized conference, as compared to behemoths like Bouchercon for mystery writers, or the RWA conference for romance writers, which draw thousands of attendees. Some conferences are geared toward fans, others appeal to fiction writers in general, while many are genre specific. Killer Nashville is specifically for mystery and thriller fiction writers.


Conferences may offer a mix of workshops and panels. Killer Nashville had primarily panel discussions, with a crime scene workshop and guest interviews. Hands-on writing workshops were add-on expenses. This is the norm, as you typically pay extra for the banquet (if there is one), or special workshops with big name presenters. Before you hit the confirm button, be sure you understand what you’re getting for what you pay. A big draw at conferences is the opportunity for an appointment with an agent or editor. This was true for Killer Nashville, and was included in the registration fee.

Whether big or small, fan-oriented or geared toward writers, your goal in attending is to gain some knowledge and inspiration, and to network. Killer Nashville did all this wonderfully. Breakfast buffet style in the hotel encouraged writers to mingle and chat. Lunch at large tables likewise led to many conversations and exchanges of business cards.

Here are a few gold nuggets of wisdom I gained at this friendly conference:

Opening keynote speaker Steven James – Be satisfied with quiet accomplishments.

Time Management for Authors panel – Panelists suggested setting habits and routines for writing. For those with day jobs, there are moments of “found time” in a day. Writing over the lunch break, or editing when there is downtime, can squeeze a few extra minutes of creative time into a day.

Interview with Chris Grabenstein – “We all start out imitating people we like,” Grabenstein said. He advised we “find a voice.” A first person narrator demands a strong voice, so writing in first person is a good way to discover your writing voice. Strong voice is key to succeeding in fiction writing.

How to Write Short Stories panel – Kathryn Lane believes creativity is important, but writers need discipline to write the story.

Interview with General A. J. Tata – Writing is butt in seat time.

Keeping Perspective panel – Sheila Sobel: Understand the difference between critique and criticism. Sit down and write what you love, and you’re in for the ride of your life. Bob Mangeot gained perspective when a friend told him, “you’re doing something a lot of us would love to do.” Bryan Robinson shared that the key is, “How am I treating my writing life, not how is my writing life treating me.”

On the Character Arc panel, J. A. Jance said she maintains a file for characters with details including physical descriptions and weapons they use. Even then, details can slip over the course of a series. This is where Jance told the audience GYAB: Give Yourself A Break.

Everyone on the Social Media for Writers panel agreed that pushing a buy-my-book message is guaranteed to fail. Creating an on-line persona consistent with your fiction is a better approach.

Killer Nashville had a fantastic mock crime scene set up in a hotel room. Former Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) Assistant Director Dan Royse did a great job of explaining how law enforcement would put together the clues to solve an actual crime. Much time, creativity, and labor went into setting up the scene, the suspect interviews, and the scenario. This was one of the highlights of the conference.

The closing speaker Pamela Fagan Hutchins said she has observed that after a conference, people typically do one of three things: they go catatonic, their heads explode from an overload of stimulation and information, or they experience 13 weeks of mouse-on-a-treadmill meteor-to-ashes writing before collapsing. She suggested giving yourself permission to write at your own pace. Her key line was “You only have to do this today – tomorrow you can quit.” She closed with a line that mirrored the opening speaker’s message, telling the audience to find joy in the milestones.

I enjoyed this friendly conference, met several new writing friends and reconnected with others. I left with my basket full of gold nuggets of wisdom and inspiration to keep me going until my next conference.


Catherine Dilts is the author of the Rock Shop Mystery series, while her short stories appear regularly in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. With a day job as an environmental regulatory technician, Catherine’s stories often have environmental or factory-based themes. Others reflect her love of the Colorado mountains, fishing, and running. Her story The Chemistry of Heroes was a 2017 Derringer finalist. This fall, she takes a turn in the cozy mystery series Secrets of the Castleton Manor Library. You can learn more about Catherine’s fiction at

Goodreads: Catherine Dilts – author page

Amazon: Catherine Dilts – author page

The Last Deception by DV Berkom

What is The Last Deception about?

The Last Deception is the latest Leine Basso crime thriller, which pits the former assassin against a Russian general in the GRU, with help from a billionaire arms dealer. As with the other books in the series, the settings are international with scenes in Moscow, Athens, and Washington, DC. This time, though, instead of working a case for the anti-trafficking organization, SHEN, Leine learns of a deception that could lead to nuclear war, and must try to convince the powers that be to take her warning seriously. Here’s the blurb:

Lies. Deception. A nation on the brink of war.

In the Cold War, you knew who your friends and enemies were. In war today, there’s no difference. Just when Leine Basso thinks she’s free from the business of murder and deception, a desperate call from a friend drags her back into the dark world of espionage and arms dealers.

Leine uncovers information that implicates a well-known Russian businessman in a horrendous deception that affects national security and could have global repercussions. It’s up to the former assassin to persuade the powers that be to ignore the obvious and trust her, or disregard the information and bring the world to the brink of a devastating war. Can she make it in time to stop The Last Deception?


Why did you choose The Last Deception for the title?


I was looking for something that communicated how dire the choices in the novel would be, and also give a hint to its espionage component. Readers who have followed Leine through the series have come to expect a certain kind of thriller (e.g., anti-trafficking, smuggling, organized crime, etc.) but I wanted to take her in a different direction and bring back some recurring characters from her early life. Since she used to work as a black ops assassin and has been attempting to cut all ties from her former life, I thought it was time for her former bosses to return and try to drag her back into that world.


Why an espionage novel?


Why not? Ever since I discovered spy novels at the age of nine, I’ve devoured as many as I can get my hands on. Maybe it’s the heart-in-your-throat, mortal danger of a double-cross, or maybe it’s the twisted logic of the end justifying the means that accompanies so many of the operations I’ve studied and read about—agents, double agents, lies, deception, tricks, and games, many of them deadly, all to achieve some end. It’s endlessly fascinating, and way too much fun to write.


You mention a terrorist organization called Izz Al-Din in the book. Are they real? And what do they have to do with Russia?


No, Izz Al-Din is entirely fictional, but certainly based on terrorist groups operating in the world today. Bringing Russia into the mix was a natural, especially when you consider both the US and Russia have fought proxy wars against each other using various warring factions. It’s certainly not a stretch to imagine the events that happen in the book.


How do you research this stuff? Have you ever worked as an assassin?


I’m sorry but if I told you, I’d have to kill you…


Seriously, though, when I first started writing about organized crime and assassins, I’d traveled a lot and had some understanding of how things worked, but certainly not enough. So, I quickly began my search for people who would be able to fill in the blanks for me. In the course of writing these books, I’ve met some amazing people, many of whom I never would have had the opportunity to know if it wasn’t for the wonders of social media and networking with other authors. I’m lucky in that I find people fascinating—what drives them? what makes them who they are? and I believe I communicate that when I approach folks for information. I love to put myself into another person’s shoes, especially someone with an entirely different worldview than my own. I’ve been fortunate to have interviewed and worked with some amazing folks, many of whom were generous in sharing detailed aspects of their lives. Serendipity has played a role in my research, too. The perfect contact always seems to appear just when I need them.


What’s next for Leine?


Currently I’m working on the as-yet unnamed Leine Basso thriller #7. I’ve got a new antagonist for this book, one who is unlike any of Leine’s previous nemeses. It’s sure to be a page-turner, and quite explosive, if I do say so myself.


When will The Last Deception be available?


The Last Deception is available for pre-order right now across all platforms for $2.99 (USD), with a publication date of September 20. (The price will increase at that time.) Go to to find out more.


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Clouds of Enemies by Triss Stein

A mystery starts with a crime. Obvious, right? It might be depicted in the first pages, or even in a prologue; it might only be in the author’s mind at the beginning and then we the readers are led up to it.

For most crimes, and certainly for murder, that means there is a victim. The telling of the tale will revolve around that person. That’s something the reader may not even notice, because the story seems to revolve around the main character in a series, the sleuth, the protagonist, or the narrator. The victim probably isn’t even a living character for most of the book. Nevertheless, if there is a murder, the investigation will have to reveal around who the victim was, in order to figure out who wanted him or her dead.

The second book in my series, Brooklyn Graves, had a victim with not one enemy in the world. For the new one, the fourth, I thought it would be interesting to write about a victim who had nothing but It is called Brooklyn Wars, but it could have been called Clouds of Enemies, after Dorothy L. Sayers Clouds of Witness.

My amateur sleuth, Erica Donato, witnessed the murder. It was a plausible case of “wrong place, wrong time. “ She doesn’t see much but it becomes impossible to forget. In addition to the natural horror of the event, the detectives continue to hope she has more to tell them, and it’s all over the news because the victim was prominent in local politics and killed in a public space, the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Then she learns she has a neighborhood connection to him, just three degrees of separation, and later, a family connection not to him but to the Navy Yard location itself. And the more she asks questions, the more people she meets who had good reasons to hate him. The crucial question, “Who wanted him dead?” begins to change into, “Who didn’t?”

The sweet elderly first wife, who is long over him? Or so she says. Her surprising friend, the younger second wife, who may be on her way to ex-wife status too? The bitter daughter? The estranged and missing brother? Or could his death be the actions of a business enemy? This man has made his career around New York harbor, at one time known for criminal activity. There seems to be only one person who will miss him.

The setting presented lots of opportunities for conflict. It was a major arsenal of democracy during World War II, an important piece of Brooklyn’s economy, a place where that seemed like a whole world to lifetime workers. It was all that and more: a nexus of political infighting, then, a large dead piece of valuable real estate, and nowadays, a phoenix rising from the ashes. They were big stories. Which of them could support my story of a crime?

Creating the book this way gave me some interesting dead ends, otherwise known as false leads. Lots of enemies make for sub-plots, hidden histories, and wrong conclusions. In fact it took me awhile to find the right conclusion myself, the angriest of all those angry people, hidden in plain sight all along.

I hope readers will enjoy figuring it out as much as I did.