The Devil’s Cold Dish by Eleanor Kuhns

If you haven’t come across her already, I’d like to introduce you to author and librarian Eleanor Kuhns and the latest in her Will Rees mystery series – The Devil’s Cold Dish.  Eleanor’s writing is rich in the history of the time with melodic descriptive phrasing and characters that come alive on the page. You may want to go back and get the other books too!

Photo by Rana Faure

Eleanor Kuhns is the 2011 winner of the Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel. A lifelong librarian, she received her Masters from Columbia University and is currently the Assistant Director of the Goshen Public Library in Orange County New York.


The Devil’s Cold Dish

By Eleanor Kuhns



ISBN-10: 125009335X

ISBN-13: 978-1250093356

Minotaur Books

Series: Will Rees Mysteries (Book 5)

Hardcover: 336 pages

June 14, 2016, $17.49

Genre: Mystery




Will Rees is back home on his farm in 1796 Maine with his teenage son, his pregnant wife, their five adopted children, and endless farm work under the blistering summer sun. But for all that, Rees is happy to have returned to Dugard, Maine, the town where he was born and raised, and where he’s always felt at home. Until now. When a man is found dead – murdered – after getting into a public dispute with Rees, Rees starts to realize someone is intentionally trying to pin the murder on him. Then, his farm is attacked, his wife is accused of witchcraft, and a second body is found that points to the Rees family. Rees can feel the town of Dugard turning against him, and he knows that he and his family won’t be safe there unless he can find the murderer and reveal the truth…before the murderer gets to him first.


Other books by Kuhns:


  1. A Simple Murder – 2012
  2. Death of a Dyer – 2013
  3. Cradle to Grave – 2014
  4. Death in Salem – 2015

Writers’ Conferences: Just for Keynote Speakers? by Gayle Leeson

I once had an agent tell me, “Don’t waste your money going to a conference unless you’re a keynote speaker.” Based on that advice, I avoided conferences for years. These days, I concentrate on how I might benefit from the conference in question.


So, how do you know whether or not you’ll benefit from a conference? To be completely honest, it’s a crapshoot. But let me fill you in on some of my experiences.


The Ghosts of Conferences Past


My first conference was a small Romance Writers of America chapter event in Knoxville, Tennessee. I was as green as those eggs Dr. Seuss’s protagonist Sam refused to eat. At that conference, I learned how much I didn’t know. I also made friendships that have lasted throughout the years. I found my first publisher at that conference. The company published my first book and went out of business shortly thereafter (I’m certain the two events aren’t related, no matter what you might’ve heard), but I was able to go from being an “unpublished author” to a “published author,” and that’s kind of a big deal in publishing-speak, even if your publisher did hit the bricks while your book was still warm from the printer.


With a few published books under my belt, I set out to Malice in Arlington, Virginia. Although I was able to get on a panel and had a table where I was able to sign my very few books, I was mainly a star-struck newbie at this conference too. It was here that I learned that some of the most well-established authors are the sweetest. Harley Jane Kozak and Dorothy Cannell were delightful.


At Bouchercon, I had a cold and felt miserable most of the week. That said, I still met some great people and gathered a lot of valuable information.


The Suffolk Mystery Authors’ Festival was terrific. The festival coordinators do a wonderful job of hosting fun author-only events to cater to out-of-town authors and help build relationships among them, and they provide events that readers enjoy and keep coming back for year after year.


At the RT Book Lovers’ convention in Atlanta, I once again met people I adored, and I feel I made some fantastic connections. The sheer number of people at the event was overwhelming, but everyone was great—brought together by the love of books. At the Giant Book Fair that boasted thousands of readers, one woman sought me out to have me sign a copy of Wicked Stitch (written as Amanda Lee) that she’d won in an online contest. She made my day!


So…ARE Conferences Worth the Expenditures?


That depends. What is your purpose in attending a conference? If you’re going to learn, there are valuable online resources—many from conferences—that you can buy for much less than the cost of one night in a hotel. VW Tapes ( has recordings of panel discussions from most of the big writers’ conferences: Thrillerfest, Bouchercon, American Screenwriters Association, Aloha Writers, Sleuthfest, etc. And, of course, and Feedspot (search for writing and save blogs of interest) are wellsprings of information too.


If you’re going to pitch, and if you can afford the expense, sitting down across from an agent or editor face to face is a valuable experience. You can deliver your carefully-crafted pitch and are right there to answer any follow-up questions the editor or agent might have. If you can’t afford the expense of a conference, but would still like to pitch your manuscript, you might give PitMad ( a try. Of course, your best bet would be to search out agents or editors who are seeking your type of manuscript and send them a polished proposal (one at a time, if simultaneous submissions are not accepted).


If you’re going to network, then you can’t go wrong. You’ll always meet likeminded people who want to sell you their books, maybe buy your books, and possibly be willing to share their advice and expertise.


Bottom Line


If you determine whether or not you’ll attend a conference based on the question, “Will I sell enough books to justify the cost of the conference?” then the answer—unless you’re Stephen King or J. K. Rowling—is no. However, if you can fit the conference into your budget and justify attending (remember, you can write it off on your taxes!), then by all means, go. I seriously doubt you’ll ever come away from a conference thinking, “Gee…I didn’t learn a thing.”




Gayle Leeson is a cozy mystery writer who also writes as Gayle Trent and Amanda Lee. Gayle’s latest book isHoney-Baked Homicide, the third book in the Down South Café Mystery series. Please visit Gayle online at or


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

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!

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.



Author Links:








Barnes & Noble:

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

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.