And so it goes…by Nancy Sweetland

I’m Nancy, and I have a problem.

Okay, I admit it. I’m in danger of becoming a webinar junkie. And it’s seriously encroaching on my writing output. What? You too? I guess we’ve come to the right place, then. Let’s talk.

Of course we all want to write better, create the next New York Times bestseller. I’ve never heard any of my writer friends say, “Nah. Not me. I just write for my own enjoyment.” Bosh. We want our stories to be read, and not only by grandma and aunt Edith.

But what’s a writer to do? Of course we want that glory (and that money. Or at least enough to buy printer ink). It isn’t that we’re not willing to work for it. But should it be so difficult? Shouldn’t we just be able to work at our trade, get the books finished, put them out there either traditionally with a publisher (if we’re lucky), or self-publish now that it’s so easy, and hope for the best?

Ay, there’s the rub. That isn’t enough. There’s work to be done. And help is only a click away. Trust the webinars.

There are so many pundits reaching out from cyberspace, creeping into my computer or my iPad, even my iPhone, showing up unbidden in my gMail, all dangling the most tempting of carrots (SuccessRead on!), all more than willing to gobble up my time as they offer me their expertise. All I need to do is sit back, watch and listen to learn from this latest oh-so-earnest speaker how I, too, can crack that glass ceiling that’s keeping me from publication heaven.

Surely I must want to learn how to write faster; that’s bound to beef up my output, and of course, my income (which needs a boost, for sure!) To hear some of these presenters tell it, I could be—should be—turning out a book a month, at least. Hey, they’ll help, yes they will, just listen for the next hour and a half and you’ll be convinced . . .

Unquestionably, any working writer should be open to delving deeper into their characters, right? Writing the kind of people whose inner turmoil grabs readers by the throat and won’t let them go? What? Your heroine was abused by her stepbrother? How can you make sure your reader understands what she goes through to overcome those memories now that she’s attracted to the hunk who lives in the next apartment? Don’t you want to get into her deepest, most heart-wrenching feelings and tackle them, bring her up into the light of Happy Ever After? Try this new approach to get down and intimate with your heroine, connect with her very soul. Just keep listening, we’ll show you how . . .

Do you want an agent? (Who doesn’t?) Here’s help for that, guaranteed! Just buy into this presenter’s one-on-one sessions and in no time you’ll have agents reaching out to you, practically begging to represent your novel. Read the gushing comments by his students who’ve gone on to the next level of success . . .

New to the writing/publishing game? Of course you need to understand what does or doesn’t work in dealing with the media in today’s world. We can do that for you, just sign on to our program and learn the ropes from our expert (details below)­­­ . . .

And of course every one of the webinars ends with those details. How much this absolutely innovative program, these however many sessions, will cost you at the specially discounted price (only available until midnight today, so don’t delay) . . .

And another hour and a half of writing time (maybe along with some ready cash if the presentation was a dandy) is gone, never to be retrieved. (Sigh)

Thanks for listening . . . coffee’s on in the back of the room.


I hope you’re smiling. And I’d love to hear your comments.

Brief Bio:

Nancy Sweetland has been writing since she received her first rejection slip at age 13 and determined to become a published writer. She is the author of seven picture books, a chapter book mystery for young readers, many short stories for juveniles and adults, three adult romances, “The Door to Love,” “Wannabe” and “The House on the Dunes.” “The Perfect Suspect,” “The Spa Murders,” and “The Virgin Murders” are available with other mysteries and short stories on She lives in Green Bay, Wisconsin and loves to hear from readers. She can be contacted For your free copy of “The Door To Love,” go to and leave your name.

Her latest novel, “The Shopkeeper’s Secret” will be out on March 20 from Divine Garden Press. (Sorry I don’t have the link as yet – if it comes before the 10th I’ll send it along.)


            Lia doesn’t believe in a happy ever after. But she never thought secrets from her past would lead to blackmail and murder, either. Or that Detective Moss, recuperating from being shot on duty, would be so appealing.

            When her sister destroys important evidence, danger escalates. Lia is threatened, and it’s Moss’s job to find the murderer before he kills again.

            Will a clever sting capture the killer or just put Grant in front of a bullet again? The choice—an uncertain future with Grant or a safe but lonely life—is Lia’s.


“Damien will meet us behind that tavern, early morning before anyone will be around,” Karen had said, her telephone voice stressed. “We’ll make him show us the pictures—and the negatives—before we hand anything over to him.”

“And what would that anything be?”

“You’ll see. I’ll take care of that.”

What’s she got planned? It can’t be good. Oh, Karen, Karen, always full steam ahead . . .

Not to be thwarted again, this time Lia was wearing a small video device in a flowered brooch on her blouse.Amazing what you can buy over the Internet. She lowered the backseat window just enough for Rufus to stick his nose out into the wind.

The sun was rising over pines at the east end of the tavern’s parking lot as Lia drove in, relieved to see it empty except for Damien’s silver BMW and a rusty pickup next to a dumpster. A beautiful summer morning that surely should be put to better use than meeting a dirt bag like Damien. She parked a short distance from the BMW and told Rufus to stay.

Karen swept in beside her. They got out, expecting Damien to do the same. He didn’t.

“Guess we’re supposed to come to him,” Karen muttered. “Just to let us know who’s in charge.” She carried a small duffle bag, the kind you might see on a TV crime program stuffed full of stacked bills.

Lia knew it was probably full of cut up newspapers, and that Karen wouldn’t give it to him until he’d shown them their pictures. What Lia wasn’t sure about was what would happen next. She remembered Damien’s temper when he was crossed. It wasn’t pretty.

She clicked on the video camera. If nothing else, they’d have a record of what went down. Taking a deep breath, she motioned Karen forward. Whatever came, they’d meet it together.

Damien’s driver’s window was down. He didn’t move. Didn’t call out.

Karen scowled. “Something’s wrong here.”

“Right,” Lia said. “Don’t touch anything.”

Moving with caution, they approached the silver car.

Damien was slumped in the driver’s seat. His head tilted back against the headrest. A trickle of blood ran sideways down his face from a dark hole in his left temple. The seat behind him was covered with a slimy, grey substance mixed with blood. It looked fresh. Flies buzzed around, settling on the mess. Lia’s stomach roiled. She turned away, trying not to throw up.

“Oh, God!” whispered Karen, clutching Lia’s arm. “He’s been shot! Is he—is he dead?”

Lia forced herself to look around the parking lot. Only the empty pickup, no sign of anyone. Birds chirped in the trees, sunshine crept across the lot. The beautiful summer morning had morphed into a crime scene, and they were part of it. She pulled out her phone.

“What are you doing?” Karen asked, her voice choked. “Put that away!”

“What do you think I’m doing? Calling nine-one-one.”

Karen grabbed at the phone. “Are you crazy? We have to get out of here! Let somebody else blow the whistle. We were never here. Got that? Never here!”

Lia stared. “Karen, use your head. We can’t just leave him like this.”

“Somebody already did.” Before Lia could speak, Karen thrust the duffle bag into Lia’s hand. “Take this.” She darted around the BMW, wrenched open the passenger side door and pulled out a distinctive maroon leather briefcase.

“Put that back, Karen, for God’s sake! It’s one thing to just leave him. It’s another to take that.”

“Don’t you understand?” Karen’s face was mottled red. “Our pictures are here. We have to get rid of this, then there’s no connection to us.” She rushed to her Prius and tossed the briefcase onto the passenger seat, then ran back to the BMW and wiped her fingerprints off the door with the tail of her shirt. “Come on! Let’s get out of here before somebody comes. Meet me at your shop.” Without a backward glance she slid into her car, spun her wheels and sped out of the parking lot.

Lia stared after her, hesitating with her phone in her hand. Of course she should call nine-one-one.

She didn’t. She sprinted to her van, tossed the duffel bag on the floor and, living a nightmare, left the lot and turned right onto the county road, speeding up as though the very devil were chasing her.


What Makes A Book Series Unique? by Helen Dunn Frame

One of the topics that P. J. Nunn suggested that she felt would be of interest to her blog readers is book series. I realized that my approach had to be different from someone who had at least three or more books in a series. Why? Because I only have two in my series and am contemplating a third.

So far, I have published two books in the Jennifer Haslett Vandergriff/Lady Sarah Clarke series. Jennifer becomes a sleuth because of her husband Paul’s death in a suspicious helicopter crash. Sarah is part of the minor British royalty who works undercover with Interpol. The first book is Greek Ghosts; the second, Wetumpka Widow, Murder for Wealth. The third book is currently a twinkle in my eye and a bunch of notes written partly in shorthand on scraps of paper.  While I created the detectives from my imagination, I based various parts of the first two books on real experiences.

Back in the day when people dubbed self-publishing as vanity press, I hired iUniverse to publish the original Greek Ghosts. It annoyed me when one of the company’s reviewers, probably a female college student because they would work for minimal wages, said that Greece’s currency was Euros, not Drachmas. Obviously, the person had not noted the years in which the story took place. She questioned my descriptions of places in Greece. She did not realize that I had been to the country five times and had studied Greek Mythology.

The second reader, who seemed to be a man, complimented me on my knowledge of Greece, saying it made him homesick. iUniverse awarded the novel “Editor’s Choice.” As I held the rights to the story, I published the book again years later with a different cover to connect it to the second in the series, a marketing technique.

To lend credulity, I used my own experiences, including visiting the island of Leros and Athens, Greece, and living in Wendelstein, Germany. I feel that by using actual places—even those that no longer exist—the reader envisions descriptions as more real. One of my editors confirmed this by telling me she felt that she was having a conversation with me when she read my books.

The second in the series utilized my experiences traveling several times to Montgomery, Wetumpka, and other areas of Alabama, and San Diego, California, I based the story in part on my son’s death. An elder Greek friend believed that my daughter-in-law had somehow contributed to his demise. While I was not convinced of that, I found that writing the fictional story helped me deal with my grief.

The murder of my daughter-in-law’s first husband years before her marriage to my son provided the basis for another segment of the story. I researched the event as I created the villain’s personality in keeping with the theme of a black widow. I did not use this in the title because it has been overworked. The artwork on the cover, however, features a black widow spider to express the idea visually.

While currently I am writing a non-fiction book, I have been investigating ideas about how to take my sleuths to England in the third in the series where they wind up solving another murder. Although I lived outside London for two years in the 1960s, I have to research London early in this century. Without disclosing the entire plot, I want Jennifer and her lover Jason, who reentered her life in the last book, to open a store around the corner from the famed Harrods Department Store where I loved to shop. British friends told me about a unique shop in another part of England that will serve as inspiration for their retail endeavor.

Each book stands on its own because enough of a core story about the personal lives of the sleuths provides a backstory. It is similar to a TV program like NCIS. The characters solve cases in each segment so a casual viewer may watch each independently, but over the series, the devoted viewer learns about their personal lives and that make the characters more real.

Initially, the first step in promoting the third book will be to design a cover that ties into the covers of the first two books. As usual, after the book is published in paperback and Kindle, I will write blogs to announce to the readers that their presumably favorite sleuths are back.

I will add the book to my email signature block and create a flyer to send to prospective readers that I will tuck inside the hardcopy books I personally sell. I will contact people who have enjoyed the first two books and include a blurb in my annual newsletter that goes to my mailing list. Of course, my marketing will include the tag “If you enjoy this saga, you may enjoy reading the first two books in the series.” This and teasers about the other books will be included at the end of the third book. In addition, I will contact associates who have promoted my other books and ask them to review this one. Eventually, I may update the first two books with a blurb about the third.

For all of my books, I use whatever venue I can to promote my writing. Just because a person constructs a new football stadium does not mean people will come. A writer cannot be shy no matter what naysayers may criticize about self-promotion. Just because an author writes a book, an article, or poem ▬ I have written other books, articles, and columns, both fiction and non-fiction, and edited newsletters ▬ does not mean readers will buy them. It is necessary to inform them about the availability and let them determine if the genre is one they enjoy reading. In addition, whenever I call a company, for example about a credit card, at the end of the conversation I say to the rep, “If you are a reader, I’m a writer.” When the person responds positively, I direct them to Amazon for more information.

Have you heard, as I have, that once a writer has three books in one genre, sales will increase? That is why I am eager to make the third book the best in the mystery series. Perhaps I can eventually box the three books together, setting the stage for additional promotion. In the end, I will learn first-hand if the rumor about having three books in the series makes a difference.


During Helen’s business career, she wore many 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. The goal of the book is to help Baby Boomers jump-start their due diligence in order to find their paradise for retirement or possibly for a vacation home or investment in Costa Rica. Her books, 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, listed on Amazon 2011 and given a new cover 2016) and Wetumpka Widow (2016) are available in paperback and on Kindle at Amazon. A booklet called Retirement 101 (2017) is available on Kindle only.

Writing in retirement by John Desjarlais

Many writers fantasize about a leap from writing-on-the-side to full time. An old rule of thumb was that when you were earning 50% of your day-job salary by writing, you could consider making the move, especially if you were comfortable with – and skilled about — the business.

Or you can retire, like I’m doing, and not really depend on the income.

Like any long-term endeavor, one must determine the ultimate goal. If the aim is to supplement retirement income — and it will be for some — then an earnest freelance effort is needed: cultivating clients, querying actively, searching, or seeking gigs on other such venues. Income can also be generated by savvy blogging, editing services, speaking, and landing continuing ed opportunities in community colleges. Oh, and selling fiction – which is hard and rarely profitable.

For those not driven by the need to supplement income, writing for non-profits without pay is a noble option.

For the fiction writer like me, for whom writing income is not an issue (thank goodness), it means having full discretion of my time. At the moment I have no agent and I am not under contract (darn!), so I have no deadlines and no external pressure. I must set goals for myself and discipline my own time as I would when I was “working,” determined to not allow “leisure” to make me lazy about the craft. Because I’ll be “working,” of course, in a new way. I expect to set time goals or page-count goals to stay on a schedule to produce excellent work by a reasonable deadline.

One danger of no-deadlines and no-pressure, it seems, is to neglect the work or to keep revising over and over. But can’t this be an issue for the weekend writer and the 5-am-before-work-writer, too?

As a teacher, I realize I’ve been ‘rehearsing’ retirement during summer breaks. And the thing is, I never wrote “full-time” in summer, although I had more time for it. As a practicing Catholic, I believe a retirement – like my summers — must be balanced, like the Benedictine monastic life, by prayer, study, work, and leisure for renewal.  So I expect my schedule to be governed by a four-fold rotation:  (1) recollection (a monastic term for prayer and contemplation) and (2) reading, (3) leisure (the fourth item in that list) which includes time with family and friends, travel and enrichment, and (4) working in voluntary service to others and – here it comes – in writing.

Let’s face it:  no one who writes “full time” does it all the time. I certainly won’t. Writers must live life, too – or they’ll have little to write about. For me, writing in retirement will be part of the balanced Benedictine mix.

Come to think of it, taken another way, writing in retirement will embody all four:  work (because it just is, right?) – requiring study (gotta do research) — and leisure (because it’s fun) –and an act of prayer. The author of Psalm 19 – a poem about how visual art and the written word communicate truth — concludes with a couplet that offers the poem as a literary “sacrifice” to the Creator in saying, “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to you, my Rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).


John Desjarlais teaches English at Kishwaukee College in northern Illinois – well, until June. His first novel, The Throne of Tara (Crossway 1990), was a Christianity Today Readers Choice Award nominee, and his medieval thriller, Relics (Thomas Nelson 1993) was a Doubleday Book Club Selection. Bleeder, Viper (a Catholic Arts and Letters Award nominee), and Specter (Chesterton Press, 2009, 2011 and 2015 respectively) constitute the ‘Higher Mysteries’ series.

Bambino and Cleveland by Duffy Brown

Bambino and Cleveland here…I’m the adorable black furball and Cleveland is the one on the pillow. We are here on Mackinac Island in a bike shop owned by Rudy and now that chick, Evie Bloomfield.

Mackinac Island is a for real island located where Lake Michigan meets Lake Huron and it’s like the 1800s with no cars. Everything here is horses and bikes and parades for the tourists we call fudgies ‘caue they buy ten-tons of the stuff each year.  Between you and me the place should be called Paradise for Dentists or Where Weight Watchers comes to die.

The parades have bands and music and famous people like George Washington, Betsy Ross…you get the picture. Well, Rudy takes on the character of Mark Twain and Twain had cats named Cleveland and Bambino so you get how we got out names.  Of course the two of us are much cuter than the original Cleveland and Bambino.

We hang out a lot on the pool table in the bike shop. I know, what is a pool table doing with bikes? Well it’s only here in the summer months when the fudgies are in town crowding up the place.

In the winter the table is at the Mustang Lounge, the watering hole for locals. When the snow’s falling…and it sure does fall here on the island…the five-hundred locals who stay here all winter congregate at the Stang, drink beer, eat fried green beans and shoot pool. When the fudgies come back in the summer the Stang is sooooo busy they have to move the pool table up here to Rudy’s Rides to make room.

Mackinac may seem like the island throwback kind of place where everything is sublime. We do have reenactments at the fort and even fire off cannon and have musket firing demonstrations. But there’s the dirty little underbelly like any other town and here it just happens to be murders.

It hasn’t always been this way till Evie moved here. Seems she’s got this black cloud and attracts murder like a giant magnet. You think I jest. Ha! Three murders in as many years kind of says it all, and this time there’s two at a time. One body out at the freight dock with a bottle of Champagne clutched in his cold dead hands and one up at the fort when that musket practice took a turn for the deadly.

Are the two deaths…a real Tandem Demise…related? How can they not be? Did our local police chief do the dirty deeds to keep his past in the past? What’s the connection and how can we find the killer on the downlow? Letting the cat out of the bag that there’s a murderer loose on the island is a real buzz-kill for business and has the fudgies running for the docks and getting the heck out of here.

We can keep the Champagne bottle dead guy quiet as it was out of the way at the freight docks and we passed off death-by-musket guy as part of the reenactment. Actually it did get a great round of applause. As you can see it’s shaping up to be another crazy autumn on Mackinac Island. Sure wish you were all here to visit. If you come, bring tuna…lots of tuna. Bambino and I love the stuff.

Writer’s Police Academy – Get Ready!

Website Registration Link Opens Sunday, Feb. 18, at Noon EST
Get Ready To Register…Your Own HIT Parade
High Intensity Training (HIT)
12 Outstanding Options
For our 10th anniversary edition of the Writers’ Police Academy, we are bringing back all of your favorite High Intensity Training  (HIT) options–some with new heart-pounding twists. For example, this year’s Force on Force encounter will require you to wear protective gear as you meet up with armed suspects.
We’re also debuting two offerings–Confined Space Crawl and Car Fire! Battling an Auto Blaze–that are musts for anyone writing firefighter scenes. These two new options let those of you who are brave enough get a feel for what it takes to attempt rescues when the world seems engulfed in fire and smoke.
Be sure to read the descriptions of all 12 HIT courses before you register on Sunday, Feb. 18, as you’ll be asked to list in priority order the courses you most want to take. Last year, we were able to give all attendees one or more of their top choices! Of course, HIT sessions are just one part of the WPA. There are lots of other hands-on options–even BEFORE you check in. Our popular Kooky Cop Carnival runs from 1 to 4 p.m. on Thursday. At the Carnival, you can go from booth to booth to test your law enforcement skills, ranging from handcuffing suspects to dragging a partner to safety.
Click HERE for Complete SCHEDULE
Your Favorite Instructors Are BACK…
So Is Master-of-Suspense Jeffery Deaver!
We’re especially pleased that international best-selling author Jeffery Deaver, the WPA’s very first guest speaker, is returning as our banquet keynote speaker for our 10th anniversary.
WPA alums will also be delighted to know they’ll be able to once again gain insights from veterans of ATF, the U.S. Secret Service, and U.S. Military and Los Angeles, Chicago and New York City police forces. Of course, our  host  international law enforcement training academy also provides incredible talent to our presenter roster. Want to know more about these instructors? Read the bios.
Sisters In Crime $150 Scholarships!

Once again Sisters in Crime is a major sponsor of the Writers’ Police Academy and is offering its members attending the WPA for the first time a $150 scholarship registration discount. Don’t miss out on this bargain.Not a member? There’s time to join.

It’s also an excellent opportunity to meet Sisters in Crime members from across the country–and around the world. Our typical Academy class includes more than 200 SinC members.
CLICK HERE To Learn about SinC’s Benefits!
Help Choose The 2018 Golden Donut Photo!
Don’t miss out on a chance to win a FREE registration to the 2019 Writers’ Police Academy. That’s the top prize–plus a handsome trophy–for the winner of the 2018 Golden Donut Short Story Contest. There’s plenty of time to craft your 200 word e ntry before the July 1 deadline. We’ll announce this year’s photo on Feb. 18.  Click below if you’d like to vote on the photo you think should win.
 Click HERE To Tell Us Your  Photo Choice
Writers’ Police Academy: Email Us / Visit Our Website


Nothing New

When I first decided to switch from contemporary romance to historical mystery I thought of a heroine who was an actress who becomes a Pinkerton agent. It made sense to me, since she would be good at infiltrating different situations and get right in the middle of things. The idea seemed so fresh and I still believe it is, but I was surprised when I started my research and discovered that Allan Pinkerton hired the first female detective, the incomparable Kate Warne, and that he hired several actresses through the years.

So, what makes Lilly a different from other historical mystery heroines out there? First, she’s young. Twenty-two. And she’s a walking dichotomy; not so much a rebel as just trying to figure out who she is. When I researched the theater, I learned a lot about the life of women who “tread the boards.” Raised in an industry where women were considered little more than harlots by the public they entertained, they were also some of the few women who were treated as equals to their male counterparts, and were paid accordingly. Though it was a life of travel and different places, the nomadic life of a traveling theater actor was, in many ways sheltered, since they were never in one place long enough to put down roots, or make lasting friends outside their fellow players.

Like many heroines, Lilly is headstrong. Unlike many, that determination stems from a natural curiosity, and eagerness to try the next thing, and determination not to let her shortcomings lead her to failure.

Lilly’s Background

I’m a firm believer in strong backstory. We are the sum total of the events and people of our past have made us. Lilly is no different. When she hears her mother being killed by a lover, she is so traumatized she blots the memory from her mind. That isn’t the only scar left by the mother she loved so deeply. All Lilly’s life, Kate Long had a parade of men waltzing through her bedroom. Lilly doesn’t even know who her father is, but she hopes it is the man who took her under his wing when her mother was killed.

Sir Pierce Wainwright gives Lilly something few girls of her time had: an education equal to that of a noble-born son. This puts her in good standing when she interviews for the Pinkertons.

Fearing that she will turn out like her mother, Lilly has always down-played her looks and keeps herself pure until she marries. Four short months after the wedding, her husband attacks her, demeans her, and steals her life savings. It seems she does have her mother’s penchant for falling for handsome, smooth-talking men, after all. How do these old scars and new wounds affect her?

Trials Turn to Motivation

Furious that she was so easily swayed by pretty words and that she and other women are such easy prey for men, she wants to change things. Now she is determined to become a Pinkerton. She can’t help every abused woman, but she can help a few.

Too young, too innocent, unskilled, she gets the job anyway, but only by hook or crook, her intelligence, and what she knows about Allan Pinkerton, whose motto is “the ends justify the means.”

So, we have our heroine, who had a far different background than most heroines in the 1880s:

Like most young ladies of her time, she is unskilled and green as grass, BUT She is well-educated.

She is naïve and doesn’t think things through, BUT she is determined and hardheaded.

Kate’s blood does run through her veins, BUT thanks to Pierce, she has morals and values to act as a balance.

Like other women, she is dependent on men to help her achieve her goals, BUT her anger and frustration over the state of women, keep her pushing for more.

For every negative, I’ve given her a positive. Led by determination and curiosity, Lilly rushes headlong into trouble and often does stupid things. But given her personality and her unique past, she learns with every case, stumbling onto clues as much as discovering them, but always falling back on the traits that made her the woman she is.

Penny Richards has been publishing since 1983 with just over 40 books to her credit. Mostly contemporary romance, her books have won several industry awards, including a Romantic Times Lifetime Achievement Award and a RITA nomination, and have made many best seller lists. She currently writes the Lilly Long Mystery series for Kensington. Lilly is a Shakespearean actress who becomes a Pinkerton agent to help women who have been taken advantage of by unscrupulous men. The first book in the series, AN UNTIMELT FROST was awarded Best Historical Mystery of 2018 from the Texas Association of Authors. The third book, MURDER WILL SPEAK, takes Lilly to the infamous portion of Ft. Worth known as Hell’s Half Acre. MURDER WILL SPEAK is scheduled for release in April of 2018.


Twitter: @pennyRwrites

FB: Penny Richards, Author and Lilly Long

Updating an Older Manuscript By Karen McCullough

For the last few years, I’ve been working on getting rights back to most of my older published novels.  In some cases, this has been relatively simple. I had an agent for a while who did a good job of getting an excellent reversion clause written into my contracts. Once the books were out of print for five years, I could demand the rights back.


I’ve self-published several of those older books as ebooks. I’m not making huge profits on them, but since they’ve been out of print for ages, anything I make at this point is gravy. And I have had a few people ask how they could get my older works.


I re-edit all of them and even rewrite some before I release them to the public again. Some of the books can go with just minimal updating, but with others, I’m faced with a dilemma.


Several of those books were written and published in the 1990s and early 2000s. It’s astonishing to read back through those books and realize how much technology has changed in such a short time.


I debated whether to release them as they were, with just the usual rewrites or to update them. They’re in a gray zone timewise – the setting isn’t long ago, so they don’t really work as historical, but they don’t sound contemporary now either.


A couple of them worked with the addition of some technology that didn’t require significant changes in the plot. But, in some cases, newer technology wrought major changes in the plot. One of my early suspense novels had a computer programmer for a heroine. Computer technology has changed so much I had to completely rewrite that story before I released Programmed for Danger.


In another of my early romantic suspense novels, my heroine had to go to a library to do research she would now be able to do much more efficiently on her laptop using Google. That was a change that wouldn’t affect the plot itself too much. But when she was being chased by the bad guys, it could have made a huge difference if she’d had a cell phone. I finessed that by having the heroine lose her purse along the way in A Question of Fire.


My most recent release, Hunter’s Quest, was in a similar position. It’s never been published, but it’s been sitting on my hard drive for almost twenty years.  It was written for a specific publisher and line, but it didn’t make the final cut, so I moved on to other projects and forgot about it. I found it again last year while cleaning out older files. I re-read it and decided I still liked the story. Since I’d started publishing some of my older stories on my own I thought it worthy of releasing.


But first, it needed some rewriting and updating. Adding cell phones into the story was necessary but proved to be relatively easy. The setting in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina helped because there are still places there that have no service. (Verified by personal experience!) When using a phone would’ve made things too easy for my protagonists, I gave them no bars. I added in a laptop that isn’t actually needed very much.


Where I almost tripped up was in smaller things. Fortunately, I hired a sharp-eyed editor go over it. She pointed out a couple of things I read right over. Things that were normal at the time but aren’t now.


In one scene the hero consults a map for directions—a paper map. My editor noted that these days most people use GPS, either on the dashboard or a smart phone. I should know this. I haven’t consulted a paper map in years.


And then there was the car that had a bench seat in the front. Er, no. Following her instinct, the editor checked. The last sedan with a bench seat was made in 2014. Only a few SUVs and pickup trucks still have one.


And this is why I hire an editor. I should’ve picked up on those things myself, but I didn’t. And now I wonder what else we might have both missed? I hope readers will let me know if they find anything like that. I include my email address right at the front of the book for that purpose.


Blurb for Hunter’s Quest


Kristie Sandford’s vacation is interrupted when a man jumps out in front of her car. She avoids hitting him, but when she stops to see if he’s hurt, he demands she help him escape from the people chasing him. Kristie has an odd “gift” – she occasionally gets warning messages, and she gets one saying he needs her help or he’ll die. Jason Hunter is an NC SBI (North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation) agent working on his own time searching for a friend, an investigative reporter who disappeared while tracking down rumors of corruption in the bureaucracy of a small mountain town. Jason is grateful to Kristie for rescuing him, but dubious when she insists she has to continue helping him. Kristie is attracted to Jason, but the edge of danger she senses in him reminds her too much of the abusive family she escaped as soon as she could.

Still, the message said he’d die if she didn’t help him, and the messages have been right before.



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Karen McCullough is the author of more than a dozen published novels in the mystery, romantic suspense, and fantasy genres and has won numerous awards, including an Eppie Award for fantasy. She’s also been a four-time Eppie finalist, and a finalist in the Prism, Dream Realm, Rising Star, Lories, Scarlett Letter, and Vixen Awards contests. Her short fiction has appeared in several anthologies and numerous small press publications in the fantasy, science fiction, and romance genres. She has three children, three grandchildren and lives in Greensboro, NC, with her husband of many years.


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