Wednesday, December 17, 2014

My Morale Problem

In the face of the violence exploding all over the world, especially the deaths of so many children in Pakistan at the hands of sub-humans, I’m finding I have to gird myself to get up the gumption to write about death and murder.

I asked myself yesterday, How can I write about fictional murder when actual atrocities are occurring right now?

Not having an answer, I went ahead and got my quota for the day written. Actually, I exceeded it and had a good writing day. It’s nice to have an alternate world that I can retreat into. A world where order reigns supreme—after the disorder gets taken care of.

After quite a bit of thought, I realized that this is something I’ve told myself and others many times. What I do as a mystery writer is very different. I’m turning the tables, setting the crime on its head. In my fiction, the murderer gets caught and justice is done. In real life, that doesn’t always happen. Fiction gives me a chance to display good triumphing over evil. Fiction isn’t real life. It’s better.

Also, I never kill children.

This blog is cross posted on

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Giving Tuesday and Roof Over Your Head plus cookies

I like this holiday! It’s a great way to kick off the holiday season—if you don’t count Thanksgiving as part of The Holidays.

This is a new holiday, created in 2012, to be a US holiday. However, by 2013, it had become international, spreading to Australia, Mexico, and Canada. Other countries, including the UK have signed on this year.

If you live in England, here are 10 ways to participate without spending any cash! I wish I could find a list like this for the US.

To extend the giving tradition, today is designated at National Roof Over Your Head DayThe idea is to be grateful for the roof you have over your own head, while also taking time to volunteer at a homeless shelter, or pick a name off a Christmas Angel Tree. 

Here’s an extra heads up. Tomorrow is National Cookie Day! Maybe the idea is to reward yourself for being kind on the two days before.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Only as Good As?

They say a writer is only as good as her last book. True, very true. If you’ve turned out a string of pearls and deliver a lump of coal, that’s what you’ll have to overcome in the next book.

I don’t think I’ve done that yet. Not to brag (OK, it’s bragging), but one reader says each Duckworthy book is better than the last one. I’m not examining that sentiment far enough to see what it says about the first two. Nope, not doing it.

But what occurred to me yesterday, as I completed a scene that I very much like, and one that popped up all on its own, as they are wont to do, is that maybe a writer is only as good as her last chapter. Her last paragraph? Her last sentence?

No wonder writers exist in a constant state of mild anxiety, broken up by periods of sheer terror, usually induced by deadlines.

Am I overthinking this? Maybe not. After all, you can’t stick awful sentences into your paragraphs and just continue on your blithe way. They all have to be crafted. They all have to hang together. Nothing must impede the reader, speeding through your deathless prose, turning the pages into the night—ideally.

When we do put in a stumbling block, we sure do depend on our beta readers to point those out to us so we can smooth the way.

This is very much on my mind as I finish up the second Fat Cat book and embark on the third. The first one was so well received, that I can’t believe the second one will measure up, let alone the third. All I can do is write the best book I can and fling it out there. Talk about a wing and a prayer!

I will add that I depend on my publishers’ editors to keep me on the straight and narrow to producing an entertaining book. However, it’s my name on the cover, right? One of my names, anyway.

This blog is duplicated at Janet's place, 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Cover Reveal!

I'm so pleased to be able to show you the cover for FAT CAT SPREADS OUT, which will be published June of 2015 if everything goes well and I don't have to do lots of additional rewriting.

Here's the come-on:

Butterscotch tabby Quincy is back and hungrier than ever in this frisky follow-up to Fat Cat at Large
A booth at the Bunyan County Harvest Fair seems like the perfect opportunity for Charity “Chase” Oliver and Anna Larson to promote their Bar None bakery business. Unfortunately, plus-sized pussycat Quincy has plans for their delicious dessert bars other than selling them to customers. After tearing through their inventory, Quincy goes roaming the fairgrounds in search of more delights.
But what he finds is murder. One of the top contenders in a butter-sculpting contest has been killed, and Chase is churning on the inside when she sees Quincy’s handsome veterinarian, Dr. Mike Ramos, being led away by the police. With a little help from a kitty with butter on his whiskers, Chase needs to find the real killer and clear the doctor’s good name….

AND the cover:

You can preorder it already, too. Barnes and Noble, Books A Million, or Amazon.  

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Post Halloween Thoughts

Thought #1. The same one we usually have. We bought too much candy. This year was worse than
some because it started raining at 7. We got 5 trick or treaters, then, I figure, the fled to the nice warm, dry mall, where candy was also being handed out.

Thought #2. November 2nd was National Cookie Monster Day, but why isn’t it National Leftover Candy Day? That would make sense. Or maybe have that one on November 1st and then follow it with the lovable Monster’s day.

Thought #3. Thanksgiving is next, although it’s hard to discern, since the only commercial value is to the grocery stores. Should we try for a fresh turkey this year? They turn out well, no thawing required. And I have a handy new meat thermometer that I can read outside the oven.

Thought #4. I kind of miss the injected deep-fried turkeys our son
used to make when he was single. And the ones Hubby used to smoke all day on the driveway. Neither of these guys are inclined to do these any more. Things change.

Thought #5. Even though I lament the early advertising for Christmas, I need to get cracking on gifts. I have two packages that I sent overseas and they need to go out this month. Pretty soon, actually. That’s why I shop for Christmas all year long.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Generosity of Other Writers from Terry Shames

I'm so pleased to have Terry Shames on my Travels today! Here's a bit about her and her books:

Terry Shames writes the best-selling Samuel Craddock mystery series, set in the fictitious town of Jarrett Creek, Texas. Her first novel, A Killing at Cotton Hill (July 2013) was a finalist for the Left Coast Crime award for best mystery of 2013, the Strand Magazine Critics Award, and a Macavity Award for Best First Novel of 2013. MysteryPeople named it one of the five top debut mysteries of 2013.

The Last Death of Jack Harbin (January 2013) was named one of the top five mysteries of 2013 by Library Journal. Dead Broke in Jarrett Creek came out October, 2014. A Deadly Affair at Bobtail Ridge comes out in April, 2015.

And now, her essay on The Generosity of Other Writers, something I should blog about more often myself.

Tomorrow night I’ll be appearing at a local bookstore in the Bay Area. It’s advertised as “In Conversation” with another author, Keith Raffel. Ever since I was first published a year ago last July, Keith has kept up a constant drumbeat for my books. There’s no quid pro quo here—he does the same for other writers as well, and as far as I can tell expects nothing in return. Now as it happens, I like Keith’s books and am only two happy to reciprocate. We’re both working hard to make our books stand out in a sea of good books. And there are other authors who do the same thing—Susan Shea, Cara Black, Sheldon Siegel, and Sophie Littlefield to name a few.

I’ve had other writers offer to push my books—in return for doing the same for theirs. I’m not put off by that request. I know that all but the most successful writers struggle to find innovative ways to make their voices heard. Many of us feel embarrassed to beat our own drums. But I read a wonderful thought that made me feel better about it. The writer said not to be embarrassed, that after all we wanted people to read our books. Promotion is just a way to make sure people know about the books. We can’t make people read them or like them—but we can at least introduce readers to them.

That’s why it’s even more precious when a successful writer puts the word out without expectation of return. The first person who did that for me was Carolyn Hart. Speaking to the audience at Malice Domestic 2013, she mentioned my first book as one she had recently read and liked. Since then, I’ve been astonished by the way other writers with thriving careers take time out of their busy lives to promote their fellow-authors. I’ve been gratified when I asked for blurbs from writers I admire and they said, “of course.” For me to try to reciprocate for most of them, who are at the top of the heap, would be like adding a cup of sand to a beach.

The only way I know to pay those authors back is to pay it forward for new ones. I love it when someone at a reading asks me what authors I enjoy. I mention a few of the standards—Deborah Crombie, Michael Connelly, Rhys Bowen, and Hank Phillipi Ryan—but I also make sure to slip in a few authors I’ve recently discovered and enjoyed—Frank Hayes, Lynne Raimondo, JCarson Black, and Lori Rader-Day. People are starting to ask me to blurb their books, and I’ve been really lucky to find some gems: Andrew MacRae and Anonymous-9 to name a couple. I’m delighted to do for them what generous writers have done for me.

Writers are in a hard business—with an emphasis on the word “business.” I think we’re lucky that it’s a business full of generous people, willing to help each other out.

Who are some of the new writers you’ve discovered recently?

Kaye again. I want to tell you a bit about Terry's latest, Dead Broke in Jarrett Creek:  With Jarrett Creek bankrupt and the police department in disarray, Samuel Craddock becomes temporary chief of police by default. Faced with a murder investigation, Craddock discovers that the town’s financial woes had nothing to do with incompetence and that murder is only one of the crimes he has to solve.

Please visit Terry at to learn more about her and the series.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Guest Today, Mary Black, Prehistory Writer

Mary Black is a fellow writer of prehistory fiction! I'm so sorry I didn't get to meet her when I lived in Austin. But at least we're connected now.

About the Author:  Mary S. Black fell in love with the Lower Pecos more than twenty years ago.  Since then she has studied the archaeology and related ethnography of the area with numerous scholars.  She has an Ed.D. from Harvard University in Human Development and Psychology and lives in Austin with her husband, an archaeologist, and two cats.

Peyote Fire
Shaman of the Canyons

Mary S. Black

Also on Facebook and Goodreads

            Peyote Fire is set in a real place that still exists on the border of Texas and Mexico, only 4,000 years ago.  The same rivers and canyons are still there, the same dry, rugged uplands.  It’s the kind of place that if you’re driving fast on the highway, you’d never notice the beauty and mystery that exists. But if you prowl among the canyons, you discover magical art on the stone walls and other remains left there by the people so long ago. In fact, over 300 rock art sites have been documented in that area by researchers. What were those ancient people trying to say? The art is so abstract and complex, it is difficult for modern people to understand. We just don’t have the same frame of reference.
            That’s what really spurred me to write this book: wondering what the art was all about. Who were those people? What was so important that they wanted future generations to know? The art itself is known as Lower Pecos style and is painted in five colors: red, orange, gold, white and black. Some of the figures could be people, some might be animals, but many others are like nothing we know today.  The pigments were all made from natural minerals.
            The protagonist of my book is painting one of these murals, and you can actually visit it today.  I’ve been lucky to tag along with several archaeologists and others to see these paintings, and hear experts speculate about what they all mean.  Sometimes we think that nobody lived in North America until 1620 when the Pilgrims came.  At least that’s what I was taught growing up, but people have actually been here over 12,000 years! They had to be strong and ingenious to survive.
            Part of what I want to do is expand our understanding of the people who came before us, and tell a good story while doing it. The people in the book tell many stories around the campfire, and those scenes were particularly fun to write.  I based many of these on Native American myths and folk tales, so there are lots of talking animals, but be forewarned, these are not bedtime stories!