New title: Shadow Pact by Tally Adams

ISBN-10: 1612542859

ISBN-13: 978-1612542850

Brown Books Publishing Group

Mass Market Paperback: 328 pages

February 12, 2019, $7.99

Language: English

Series: Immortal Romance (Book 1)


Emily was on a desperate quest to locate her missing sister. She was determined to follow the trail, no matter where it led. But nothing could have prepared her to stumble into a werewolf den under the full moon. Certain she was doomed to die by the pack, she finds her salvation in the most unlikely place; the Executioner himself. But he’s far more than he seems, and quickly becomes the only thing standing between her and being someone’s next meal. His hungry gray eyes and determination to keep her safe at all costs are the only protection she has. Together, they must navigate the courts in the immortal world and stand against a bloodthirsty queen, a power-hungry king, and a coming war to save not only themselves but the entire world of mortal and immortal alike.



Tally Adams lives in Texas with her husband and four children (and one big, fat English bulldog). She’s been writing all her life, realizing at a young age the characters just swirl around maddeningly in her head if she doesn’t put them on paper. She began participating in adult writing competitions before she even hit her teens. Years later, she worked as a nurse and continued to write. Finally, she decided to move forward into the world of publication and share her imaginary friends with the world.


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New title: Hannah’s Bliss by Dania Voss

Hannah’s Bliss is the newest release in my Windy City Nights steamy romance series. The series centers around the heir apparent to a Chicago family fortune and baseball dynasty, Luke Stryker, his friends, hunky combat veterans integrating back into civilian life and steamy nights with the women they can’t live without. Let the games begin!
The hero, Rocco Moretti and the heroine, Hannah Hailey are recurring characters in the series who finally get their own happily ever after in Hannah’s Bliss.
Rocco is an Italian, former Marine who was physically and emotionally abused as a little boy and is also a combat veteran suffering from PTSD. He’s incredibly close to his younger brother and his family and has a heart for service. Although he works hard and has a close circle of friends, he’s unhappy and lonely. He doesn’t believe he’s worthy of love.
Hannah is a busy event planner for her mother’s successful event planning firm but has dreams of her own she’s been putting off for years. She’s desperate to please her mother but feels like she’s failing at every turn. Hannah’s been made to feel “less than” for as long as she can remember. She struggles with her self-esteem and doesn’t always feel comfortable in her own skin. 
Bliss is a recurring theme throughout the novel. Personal and professional bliss. Neither Hannah or Rocco are living their bliss when they first meet. They both help each other and by the end of the story, they are happier than they’ve ever been – together.
Rocco is a combat veteran who fought in the Battle for Sangin in Afghanistan. It’s a real battle where many soldiers, both American and British, were lost, in the fall of 2010. He fought beside another series character, Heath Jackson from another novel in the series, The Warrior’s Whisper
It’s not smooth sailing for these two though. They have plenty of obstacles they have to overcome first. From emotional baggage they both carry to sassy grandmothers who like to embarrass them, to a drug dealer who nearly kills Hannah, to her overbearing mother who persistently tries to tear them apart, and more.
The handsome man on the book cover is Italian international model Luca Pantini. I “met” him as a result of an author Instagram book cover inspiration challenge. I was searching for what I imagined Rocco looked like through Hannah’s eyes and found pictures of him online. I knew the moment I saw Luca, he was my Rocco.
Luca is now helping me promote the book and the series.  We’re in the early stages but we’re now working with producers to help bring the series to the screen.
Talk about living your bliss! So let me ask all of you – are you living YOUR bliss? If not, what’s holding you back?


Recently another mystery author and I tossed around the names of ideal actors and actresses to play characters in our books. While I feared it might be a depressing experience—given there’s slim chance of my books coming to either the big or small screens out there—instead it turned out to be not only a fun exercise but also an instructive one. Some characters will have encores in my next mystery in the Austin Starr series so my thoughts on their ongoing personalities, motivations, and secrets were deepened.

As an introduction to my latest book, AFTER YOU’VE GONE—An Austin Starr Prequel, here’s who its ideal cast includes:

Emma Stone stars as Austin Starr’s grandmother. Named Walter after her father the judge but called Wallie by her family and friends, at age twenty-three she lives in a small Texas town with her dad in a big Victorian mansion during Prohibition. She’s spunky and wants to write murder mysteries like her hero Sherlock Holmes.

Jeff Bridges (a born Texan) is the epitome of the judge Walter MacGregor, Wallie’s dad. His wife died and left him a widower when their daughter was an infant.

Meryl Streep must play Aunt Ida. She’s a proper and strict retired school marm who helps raise Wallie, pushing her to be a sweet young lady. But Wallie wants to live up to her male name by becoming an assertive personality.

Bradley Cooper plays the long-lost brother of the judge who turns up out of the blue after two decades’ absence. He’s on the lam from his bosses in the bootlegging business during Prohibition.

Zac Efron is perfect for one of Wallie’s suitors, and his rival would be Chris Hemsworth. Which one will win her hand?  That is, if she lives long enough to make the choice, after she begins to court danger by tracking down a vicious killer.

Octavia Spencer takes the role of Athalia, the MacGregors’ housekeeper and outstanding cook. She has provided sense and stability to the family ever since Wallie’s mother passed away years ago. Her fried chicken is as incomparable as her day-to-day advice.

Ian McShane plays Sam Maceo, a real-life gangster who possesses both suave charm and deadly intentions. Wallie and Aunt Ida tangle with him and his thugs during a road trip to the sinful port city of Galveston, Texas. To note: Maceo’s progeny still reside in Galveston, these days pursuing only legal businesses. Supposedly.

Reese Witherspoon captures the part of Glenda, the tough but tender spitfire who works in Maceo’s speakeasy located on the Gulf of Mexico. At first Wallie doesn’t know what to make of Glenda, the likes of whom she’s never seen before. Aunt Ida thinks Glenda is a floozy and wants to leave without questioning her, but Wallie befriends her and prevails to uncover awful secrets.

The bit parts of Wallie’s cousins Doug and Hank are reserved for my pals Doug and Hank, who harbor thespian ambitions. They’ve supported my writing career a long time, and it pleases me to think I could help them out.

Finally, last but definitely not least, the role of Wallie’s ever-present beagle puppy Holler will be taken by a dog found at a shelter in south Texas, where the movie will be shot. This is a key decision. Holler provides comic relief when too much blood has been shed, and he also helps point to the clue that solves Wallie’s first murder case.

All in all, I say—An author can dream, can’t she?


Kay Kendall is an award-winning author of three historical mysteries. Her second book, RAINY DAY WOMEN (2015), won for best mystery and best book at Killer Nashville in August 2016. It is the second in her Austin Starr mystery series. The first was DESOLATION ROW (2013), published by Stairway Press. AFTER YOU’VE GONE, an Austin Starr prequel, was released February 12, 2019.


In her previous career, Kay was an award-winning international PR executive, working in the US, Canada, Russia, and Europe. She has graduate degrees in Russian history and was a Woodrow Wilson Scholar at Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.


Kay and her Canadian husband live in Houston, Texas. They’ve rescued abandoned pet bunnies for twenty years and currently have three rabbits and a bemused spaniel, Wills.


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And this one really IS by Jackie Zortman

Having lost interest when writing the third book in my Detective Max Richards series, I found it difficult to concentrate.  Then an author friend of mine with seventy-seven books on the market suggested I simply change my focus. He suggested doing a series of three novellas as Kindles, eventually putting all three into one paperback. I loved the idea.

Jake instantly popped into my mind as the name of my protagonist. I knew he was going to be a physical specimen that made women drool, a firefighter who rode a Harley, and there would be a wildfire. That was it. My author friend told me to jump on that Harley and ride because this book was already in my subconscious. And that’s what I did. I enjoyed writing JAKE-Whiskey, Water & Wildfire more than any of my other fictional books.


Jake is a woman’s wildest dream and a Hotshot Firefighter with a Harley. He is single and intends to remain so. He rides for miles in all conditions until some town mentally flags him down. He rides into Kimble, Colorado wanting only cold ice water, and food for his rumbling gut. But inside a café, he finds something he isn’t looking for, and Tomi makes him break all the hard and fast rules he so faithfully lives by.

When a wildfire ignites, Jake is the only one on scene prepared to fight it. It’s what he loves to do and is trained for.

What makes Jake feel Kimble, CO is where he’s meant to be? Why does Miss Berta adopt him as her pseudo-son and why is he so drawn to her as his mother figure? Are the answers simmering inside the fire or is it something else? The ending will surprise you.


Author’s Bio:

Jackie has been writing short stories and articles for twenty-six years. She is the author of non-fiction We Are Different Now-A Grandmother’s Journey With Grief, award winning fiction novels Footprints in the Frost (Det. Max Richards Book 1), Snow Angel (Det. Max Richards Book 2) & JAKE-Whiskey, Water & Wildfire (a novella). She has contributed to the anthologies American Blue, Felons, Flames & Ambulance Rides, Recipes by the Book-Oak Tree Authors Cook and The Centennial Book of the National Society of Daughters of the Union. She also writes poetry, history and genealogy.

She is a Charter Member of The Public Safety Writers Association and a member of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. She has won ten writing awards.

She lives in a beautiful tourist town in the southwestern mountains of Colorado with her husband and Siamese cat. When snow covers the terrain outside her home, it’s the perfect spot in which to write.

Learn more about Jackie on her blog at:

The Aging Writer: Adjusting to the Changes by Lesley A. Diehl

I have a cat who is eighteen years old and experiencing difficulties walking because of weakness in her back legs and spinal issues. The vet thought she was a candidate for euthanasia earlier in the fall, but she has fooled all of us by hanging in there through the winter. With the arrival of spring, she enjoys the smells that come through the open windows. She is what my mother would call “a good eater”, she loves sitting on my husband’s lap, and she braves the steps to the upstairs several times each day. She is a trooper. Watching her aging process and experiencing my own, I find her an inspiration. I, too, have been having my share of age-aggravated issues, and many impact my writing.

Because of a balance issue which went misdiagnosed for over five years and degenerative problems in my spine and neck, sitting at the computer to write has become more and more difficult. Those same problems have cut into attending conferences and in doing in-person author events. What my younger body was able to compensate for now presents challenges that need interventions of many sorts.

But healthy aging itself presents its own set of issues.  Unless we write about protagonists our own age—and most of us write about characters considerably younger—we are creating characters and their worlds from what we learn from sources other than our own experiences. There are comic strips I find puzzling because I do not catch the references or recognize the names in them. Writer friends younger than I post on social media about television shows they enjoy, but I cannot connect with most of these programs. Recommendations for movies seem to be written by someone much younger than me. Yep. I’m getting old.

Sue Grafton seemed to find her way around some of the problems of a younger protagonist in contemporary society by freezing Kinsey in time, but her approach was unique, and one not followed by many contemporary writers. It’s interesting that many of the readers of cozy mysteries, the genre of my work, include younger readers, not necessarily young, but many years my junior. How can I continue to write a protagonist enveloped by life here-and-now? Perhaps the aging writer needs to approach the task of the younger protagonist by researching society the way those who write historical fiction research the past.

Here are a few suggestions all of us—because, let’s face it, we are all aging—can use now or in the future. There’s nothing new here, but a reminder never hurts.

Develop good habits while at the computer. My occupational therapist encouraged me to take a closer look at my desk and my desk chair to make certain they helped me maintain good posture. It’s also important to consider issues of lighting, not only the adequacy of the light but also the direction of the light source. In addition, monitoring posture while writing at a computer and taking frequent breaks are keys to avoiding neck, shoulder and back stress. See. You already knew this. Your challenge is to remember this ten years from now. Begin preparing by doing these things now. Don’t beat up your body. It finds ways of getting back at you.

Choose carefully the size, location and kind of writing conference you attend. Perhaps it’s time to limit the number of conferences where you are present each year. Conferences at which you reconnect with old writing friends may deliver more joy to you than ones where you appear on numerous panels. Don’t knock it. Joy in your work is an important consideration and is the bedrock of good writing. Some writing organizations hold monthly meetings where you can make in-person contact with other writers, a less intensive way of staying recent and getting yourself out there,

If in-person meeting and writer conferences are too difficult for you, on-line workshops, guest blogging, author social media sites, and promotion and publicity sites are excellent ways to make your presence known and get your work out to a wide audience. You may have to spend more money on promotion, but it can be the money you save by reducing the number of conferences you attend. Be certain that if you increase your on-line presence you attend to good computer skills. Part of this includes taking frequent breaks. I cannot stress this too much because it’s so easy to underestimate time at the keyboard and pay for it later with neck and back issues.

This may be the time in your writing life to re-evaluate what you are writing. Growing older means you have added to your reservoir of experience and wisdom. You may find this changes what you want to write. I’ve always written humorous cozy mysteries. A good laugh has always been part of my writing life and my personal life as well. Funny had gotten me through some bad times, and it always will, but I’m now beginning to consider writing more serious mysteries and perhaps stand-alones rather than series work. Getting older has a lot of benefits and one is being more and more honest about how to invest energies and creativity. Taking on new things may keep us younger longer. Doing the old ones in a smarter way can keep us at what we love longer also.

My elderly cat has much to teach me. She’s enjoying her life, now so different from what it once was. Perhaps it pays to sit back, sniff the spring smells and consider what I can do in this new chapter in my life. And, of course, she stretches often.


Bio: Lesley A. Diehl retired from her life as a professor of psychology and reclaimed her country roots by moving to a small cottage in the Butternut River Valley in Upstate New York. In the winter she migrates to old Florida—cowboys, scrub palmetto, and open fields of grazing cattle. The author of several mystery series, mystery novels, and short stories, Lesley is a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime – International and Guppies. To learn more about her work, go to


About Killer Tied, Book 6 in the Eve Appel Mysteries:


Eve Appel Egret is adjusting to married life with Sammy and their three adopted sons in Sabal Bay, Florida. While still running her consignment stores, she is going pro with her sleuthing by becoming an apprentice to a private detective.

Until her marriage, Eve’s only “family” was her grandmother Grandy, who raised her after her parents died in a boating accident. Now, in addition to her husband and sons, she has a father-in-law who clearly dislikes her. Sammy’s father, a full-blooded Miccosukee Indian long presumed dead, has emerged from the swamps where he’s been living like a hermit, and he isn’t happy about Eve’s marriage to his half-Miccosukee, half-white son.

As for Eve’s family, are her parents really dead? A woman named Eleanor claims to be Eve’s half-sister, born after her mother faked a boating accident to escape her abusive husband, Eve’s father. Then Eleanor’s father turns up dead in the swamps, stabbed by a Bowie knife belonging to Sammy’s father, Lionel. Strange as Lionel Egret is, Eve knows he had no motive to kill this stranger. In order to clear him, Eve must investigate Eleanor’s claims, and she might not like what digging around in her family’s past uncovers.


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Don’t get attached to the outcome by Thomas Coffey

I’ve spent most of my career as a newspaper editor, and over the years I’ve developed an attitude that I’ve tried to convey to my colleagues — particularly my younger ones, who have yet to develop a sense of perspective:

Don’t get attached to the outcome.
This is easy to tell someone else, but much more difficult to accept when you’re the one who has a stake in that outcome. I’ve been thinking about this lately because my writing career seems stalled. I’m not blocked; I continue to write, and I’ve just started working on a book I’ve been thinking about for a while that promises to be challenging.
But the most recent books I’ve worked on, and that I’m trying to sell… Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Big goose eggs.
Some of this is my own fault. My last novel, “Bright Morning Star,” was printed in 2015 by an independent publisher. My first three novels came out with traditional houses and, despite the problems writers have had with publishers over the years, they do provide an infrastructure that helps you promote your book. When you go with an independent, you are on your own. You have to do your own publicity, which is a full-time job in its own right. I already have a full-time job, and as I tried to flog “Bright Morning Star” I had the feeling the parents of newborns often confront — there are not enough hours in the day.
So, with my latest efforts, I decided I wanted a traditional publisher who would provide (at least a little marketing help. To do that, of course, I need an agent. I’ve had several agents over the years, but I’ve never been able to stick with one. Still, I know how the process plays out so in 2017 I began pitching a novel titled PUBLIC MORALS, a murder mystery and crime novel set (as I put in my query letter) two very different cities: the New York of the 1970s, and the New York of today.
While I was waiting and hoping to get a positive response, I began working on a sequel, which is titled SPECIAL VICTIM. I’d never written a sequel before, and it proved to be an interesting exercise. I already knew many of the characters, but I felt there was still much to explore in them, and their journeys continued in ways that sometimes surprised me. I found myself enjoying the ride.
As I wrote the sequel, I received, somewhat unexpectedly, an expression of interest in PUBLIC MORALS from an agent at a reputable organization. After he read it he had a suggestion that forced me to say, “Bleep, why didn’t I think of that myself?”
The suggestion led to a rewrite of the second half of the book. (I thought I was going to repaint the walls; I wound up doing a gut renovation.) It took a while but I was pleased with the revisions. Of course, by the time I was done …. you guessed it …. the agent I’d been working with had left the business. To be fair, he looked over the rewrite, praised it, and told me to keep looking.
Which I’ve done. In the meantime, I kept working on the sequel, and completed a second draft of it, which I’d be happy to show anybody who’s willing to take on the first book. (I’ve also got an idea for a third book in the series. But I’m not gonna write a word of that unless somebody pays me.)
And so sometimes, well, I get discouraged. You can probably see why. But at the end of the day (actually, at the beginning, when I do most of my writing), I find that I enjoy the process. I like to think of myself as a creative person,  and I like the feeling of seeing something that I have created take shape. So I wind up telling myself: Don’t get attached to the outcome. The process of creating is way more important than getting a top 100 ranking on Amazon.
Although we could use the money. My daughter attends an elite private university that has been much in the news lately, but my wife and I can’t afford to bribe anybody.
And, wouldn’t you know it, just a few days ago an agent said he wanted to look at PUBLIC MORALS.
People can follow me on Facebook, email me at, or look at my website:

And now, this one really IS by Triss Stein

I’ve just read a new blog post here by Betty Webb, acclaimed fellow Poisoned Pen Press author, who wrote something personal she has never told before.


It’s a fascinating story that relates to the books Betty writes, but I thought, oh, dear, I have nothing that dramatic to tell today, or ever.


In fact, I am in limbo. My next mystery novel, Brooklyn Legacies,  is complete, in the hands of the publisher but not out until December. I have no cover yet, or pr material or any ARC’s to offer as a gift. It is too soon to pre-order. The (next) next one, after that, is just a gleam in the author’s eyes, a fun first chapter and some scrawled pages of notes. And It’s been awhile since the last one, Brooklyn Wars. Life got in the way, and the Legacies story itself took some wrestling to get into shape. Maybe I can just tell a little about where the December book came from.


All of my books are about different Brooklyn neighborhoods. My protagonist is an urban historian who researches and writes about changing Brooklyn. That gives me a good excuse to have her stumble upon old and new mysteries and questions no one wants answered. After writing four, I realized I had overlooked Brooklyn Heights even though I actually lived when I was just getting to know New York. That’s surprising, because it is a natural  for my kind of book, with a rich history and both old and current conflicts. (Conflict is where we find plots)  It was New York ’s first suburb and first official historic district. It is both dramatically beautiful and charmingly quaint. When I lived there, in an attic at the top of a townhouse, I had a sliver of a view of Brooklyn Bridge, a witchcraft shop down the street in one direction and Truman Capote’s old home in the other. There was a  Jehovah’s Witness dorm across the street.  How had I overlooked this as a setting?


But my attic apartment was a whole lifetime ago. What did I remember? And was any of it accurate, anyway?  I went over there for a few note-taking walks. I did some extensive library research, catching up on politics I ignored when young and on what has happened since. I interviewed someone who was deeply involved in the epic civic battles between preservationists, real state developers and city planners. The famous and scary Robert Moses was involved.  Somehow, that would become the perfect background for my book..


I was disconcerted to find out that it didn’t. A lot has happened since then. Now the largest landholder was a religious organization. Huge tracts were being sold, bringing unknown changes. And there were secret tunnels connecting many buildings. That was news to me and fascinating to a writer of mysteries. And that witchcraft shop was long gone but well remembered. Was there a way to slip it in?  I certainly found wonderful material I could not fit it into the book and turned some of it into stories. (People really did sell the Brooklyn Bridge – repeatedly – and there was once a house there shared by Carson McCullers,  WH Auden,  Benjamin Britten and Gypsy Rose Lee. )


Did I succeed in turning this material into a book? A mystery? That will be up to readers to decide.  I will be back here when Brooklyn Legacies is much closer to being out in the world. Today is really step one in the birth announcement process. “It’s a book!”  Many thanks to PJ Nunn for inviting me to start here.


Triss Stein is a small–town girl from New York farm country who has spent most of her adult life in Brooklyn. She writes mysteries about different Brooklyn neighborhoods  and their unique histories, in her ever-fascinating, ever-changing, ever-challenging adopted home. In the next book, Brooklyn Legacies, murder gets in the way of heroine Erica Donato’s efforts to understand historic Brooklyn Heights’ clashing cultures and seismic current changes.

How Place Became a Brand for Me by C. Hope Clark

           Setting my first series in South Carolina came with no choice because the first book in my series is quasi-autobiographical. I’d been offered a bribe at my work which, in a wild unraveling of events, led to my handling internal investigations for a federal agency in South Carolina. Knowing the state like the back of my hand and loving it dearly, I used it as practically a character in the Carolina Slade series.

I showed off my state, wanting to become the Sue Grafton of South Carolina, meaning I’d put Slade’s investigations in each of the 46 counties. My mission was clearly defined for the rest of my writing career, but my publisher felt otherwise.

After three Slade books, they asked for a new series. Admitting that I loved the Carolina setting, they dared me to choose one place and stick to it. One place that had immense appeal, but also that I felt passionately about. Thus, the Edisto Island Mysteries were born.

The largest seller of my books, other than Amazon, is the Edisto Bookstore. Who’d have known that a tiny bookstore, set at the end of the world on an island, would sell hundreds of my books?

Setting defines Callie Jean Morgan in the Edisto series. She reluctantly arrived on the island, leaving her other self behind, across the Big Bridge as is said on the island. I incorporated every saying, venue, street, and custom of the island into the mysteries. On an island where everyone escapes the rat-race, where doors remain unlocked, and people relax without reservation of what others think, I created crime where people assumed there was none. The juxtaposition of nonchalance and hidden danger.

Readers loved reading about where they visited, or where they lived. They cross the marsh on highway 174 and see where the officer drowned. They drive down Pine Landing Road and envision the shootout. They cruise Jungle Shores Road trying to identify where the police chief lives. . . where her mentor was murdered. . . where her yoga mistress best friend resides a stone’s throw away. . . where the break-in took place. Readers have come to signings asking if they got the addresses right as to where things went down in the books.

And they are hungry for more. Every time they come to the beach, they want another mystery to solve. . . something else to make them peruse the island beach and envision the crime, the sleuthing, and the place where it all went down in the end.

So now, when I have a new release, I start with setting first. . . and work outward. The locale is likewise the big splash for the book announcement, like my last book, Newberry Sin. Newberry is a small town in South Carolina, and when the book came out in 2018, the Friends of the Library had a luncheon that was well attended by 200 people eager to read fiction about their town. The year I released Palmetto Poison, the tiny town of Pelion made me their guest of honor at their annual festival.

By deeply entrenching a book into a real community, I gained loyal fans who repeatedly invite me back to libraries, bookstores, and book clubs for each new release.

So if I had to define what makes my series unique, it would be a strong sense of place. Strong enough to make people want to live there. A church, a silt road, a marshy bog, or the big bay where dolphins play. Each becomes a central, pivotal point around which the characters react. . . and the crime happens. And if readers gravitate to my stories for place first rather than mystery, I’m quite happy with that, because once they savor the story, they’ll be back to read anything else….that takes place anywhere else.


BIO – C. Hope Clark’s newest release is Dying on Edisto, a crossover book set on Edisto Island, where both her series protagonists finally meet to handle a lethal situation. Hope is the author of nine novels and three nonfiction books. She is published with Bell Bridge Books. Also, she is founder of, chosen by Writer’s Digest for its 101 Best Websites for Writers for the past 18 years. Her newsletter reaches 35,000 readers. /


Dying on Edisto


One death. Two detectives. And unexpected backup.
A Callie Morgan and Carolina Slade crossover, standalone mystery!

When a renowned—and now dead—travel blogger washes ashore on the banks of Indigo Plantation, Edisto Beach Police Chief Callie Morgan agrees to head the investigation as a favor to the county sheriff, whose reasons are as questionable as the death itself.  When death turns to murder and a watchdog from the county makes her investigation difficult, Callie reluctantly turns to Carolina Slade and Wayne Largo, vacationing agents with the Department of Agriculture.

Because poison is growing on this plantation and someone knows how to use it well.

Ah Sweet Mystery by Betty Webb


Writing is hard. Marketing is even harder – especially when the rigors of marketing force you to look deep inside to find out the reason you write. Why? Because in your marketing pieces, readers (and bookstores and libraries) want to know what drives you to write such dark, puzzling books. You’ve already written the books themselves; now the marketplace wants you to fess up.

While going back over my blogs and Facebook posts for the past year, I discovered a trend: while seemingly appearing open, I keep evading the very reason I created Lena Jones, my orphaned protagonist in the “Desert” books. Yes, Lena came to me in a dream – as I’ve told everyone — but in our dreams we seldom create what wasn’t already there. For instance, during my childhood I was constantly shifted around from family to family, until I got to the point where I didn’t know who I was or where I belonged in the world.

Just like Lena.

And – this will come as a surprise to people who know me as the independent woman I now am – because I felt like such an outsider, I did what a lot of “outsider-feeling” people do: I joined a cult.

I’m not going to name the cult because it isn’t very well known in the first place, and it didn’t turn out to be one of those cults where people wind up dead (as they do in Desert Redemption and other Lena Jones mysteries). It was just a cult that wanted to take over every facet of my life. The cult told me who I could have a relationship with, and who I couldn’t. It told me what I could do with my bankbook, and what I couldn’t. It told me what I could eat, and what I couldn’t. It told me how to exercise, and how often. Why did I allow this? Because when I followed the cult’s rules, for the first time in my lonely life I felt like I belonged.

I didn’t stay in that cult very long, and I left for a fairly humorous reason: the cult’s rulers (there were two of them, a man and a woman) were pressuring me to “date” someone I found repulsive.

In the great scheme of things, that was rather a low-level reason for my declaration of independence, but there you are. It was my reason. In a way, that cult was responsible for an important step in my growth as a human being. I’d always wanted to feel like I belonged, and I’d found a place where I could do that. But then – ah, the law of Unintentional Consequences – I discovered that “belonging” wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

Every one of the ten Lena Jones books touch on the interpersonal dynamics of cults, and each of them look at one particular aspect of the life: the desire to be loved, the desire to belong, the desire to let others relieve of us of burden of thinking for ourselves. Growing up is hard, which is why some people – including myself – keep putting it off. But it has to be done.

It especially has to be done when you strike out to write a series of books that, regardless of their fictional plots, share a piece of your own life story. And it especially has to be done when the creative part is finished, and it’s time to start marketing. It’s time to stop making up the stories and to start telling the truth.

And my truth is that I’m a lot more like Lena Jones than even my closest friends suspect.


To learn more about the Lena Jones “Desert” books, visit


So far, the older I get, the wordier I get by Ken Kuhlken

Most of my books are shortish around 60 to 70 thousand words. But last year, after I discovered that three of them are one continuous story, I collected themMidheaven, The Very Least, and The Answer to Everythinginto an ebook I call Hickey and McGee.  And now I am revising, for maybe the final time, a single story of around 170 thousand words.


Here’s one reason this new one, For America, is so long:


My career as a novelist began with Midheaven, considered “literary” and honored as a runner up for the PEN Ernest Hemingway Award. As the earnings didn’t match the honors, friends suggested I try a mystery. I did so and won the St. Martins Private Eye Writers best first novel competition, which led to a ten book mystery series.

Recently I discovered a statement by Fredrick Buechner concerning his favorite novel and mine, Dostoyevski’s The Brother’s Karamazov. Mr. Buechner suggests the story’s magic may have arrived because Dostoyevsky left room to include whatever came up.


Early in my writing life, I learned, in school and in the mystery community, an attitude here expressed by Flannery O’Connor: “If the writer’s attention is on producing a work of art, he is going to take great pains to control every excess, everything that does not contribute to the work’s central meaning and design.”


As a follower of and advocate for that attitude, I found Buechner’s implied suggestion, that we might consider leaving room for excess, both problematic and immensely refreshing.


Since I am keenly aware of the wastelands to which leaving room for excess can lead, I imagined inviting Mr. Buechner and Ms. O’Connor to discuss the issue:


Buechner presents O’Connor with his assessment of The Brothers Karamazov. She points out that what applied to Dostoyevski doesn’t necessarily apply to us all. He replies (as he expressed in an article), “Still, writers ought to exercise their freedom from restraint to the outermost limits of their gifts and skills.”


And while she considers his amendment, I humbly suggest that a crucial part of our task as artists is to recognize our limits and apply them.


To my profound relief, both masterful writers nod in agreement.


Returning to For America after years of writing stories that taught me to recognize my abilities and limits, I have granted myself more liberty than ever before, which is one reason the novel requires all its 170,000 words.


Also, it’s a big story.


Set in the aftermath of WW II, For America dramatically explores the failure of traditional beliefs and political systems and the rise and fall of counter cultures. Poetry, folk music, hippie communes, Jesus freaks, the Manson family, the People’s Temple, and New Age cults all find their place in the story.


Otis, the narrator, born the day the atom bomb destroys Hiroshima, becomes a star pitcher. But wicked conflicts visit in the person of Cynthia, mother of Casey, Otis’s best friend and catcher. Paranoid yet possibly prophetic, Cynthia believes that the adopted son of her powerful sister, will use his prodigious scientific mind and occult knowledge to abet the downfall of western civilization.


From there, the story requires lots of pages to show how Cynthia’s outrageous vision and wild dedication shapes the lives of the principal characters for decades and perhaps alters the fate of the world.


For some fun background on real people and events that inspired this epic story, here are a couple links: On My Own at Sixteen, I Quit, Love Clifford


Some of Ken’s favorites are early mornings, the desert in spring, kind and honest people, baseball and other sports played by those who don’t take themselves too seriously, most kids, and films he and his Zoe can enjoy together.

He reads classic novels, philosophy, theology, and all sorts of mysteries. On his blog, he offers some hard truths and encouragement about living as a writer.

He has long been the author of novels, stories, articles, poems, and essays. Lots of honors have come his way, including a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship; Poets, Essayists and Novelist’s Ernest Hemingway Award; Private Eye Writers of America Best First Novel and Shamus Best Novel; and several San Diego and Los Angeles Book Awards.

Though he advocates beer in a video, he actually prefers Scotch.