Wednesday, January 13, 2021

The Old and The New

Our government is gearing up for big changes and so are many of us. My own changes should not prove as tumultuous as the national ones, but one of them is giving me trouble, never the less!


The old, for me, is finishing up the Vintage Sweets series. The contract with the publisher, Lyrical Press, was for three books and the third is coming out in March. My writing work for this project is done, but now I need to do some promotional work to make sure the readers of the first two will notice it’s there. They came out in March and June of 2020, so it’s been a while! Just a few days ago, the cover for INTO THE SWEET HEREAFTER was finalized. I’ll share it here—and everywhere else I can think of, since the book is available for pre-order as an e-book right now. Soon, the paperback version will be listed. Then, eventually, audio.


I’ll admit I’m proud of this book. Well, I’m proud of all of them, but I stretched for this one and learned a lot about a grave problem affecting a lot of people, which I hope I can draw some attention to. No, I won’t discuss it here—until after the book is out. You have to read it to find out.


The new is also old, I guess! I put out two books in my Neanderthal murder mystery series, called the People of the Wind series, in 2013 and 2016. These books take a long time to write, as they require tons of research. I’ve had plenty of time to add a lot of research since 2016! I also have helpers who I appreciate so much. Several of my readers and friends make sure I see new articles that come out about that time period, 30,000 years ago, and about the beings and animals that lived back then. The research has been ongoing ever since 2016, even if the writing hasn’t.


You know, though, I’m finding it hard to get back into this project! You really should NOT let 5 years elapse between books in the same series! I’m finding that I have to go back and read the second book so I’ll remember what in the heck was going on with these people. I’ve started doing that and find that I love them just as much as I always did. Maybe, in a year or so, DEATH IN THE NEW LAND will join the other two books. I hope so!


Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Resolutions? Not this time

 I did those for 2020, and look what happened there. I’ll try to do everything differently so as not to jinx the whole world again, in case I did it last time.


I WILL make some goals, but I might (or might not) keep them private, just between me and whoever owns that voice in my head.


In the past, I did post about my exhortations to myself, and those years seemed to turn out better than this last dumpster fire. I keep a daily journal, Monday through Friday, so, okay, not exactly daily. But pretty close, right? I usually review what I got done the day before and set out what I want to accomplish that day, plus appointments and other stuff. Like, water the plants, get allergy shots—those recurring things that I lose track of if they’re not written somewhere. At the end of every day, I give myself a pep talk.


Was it Janet Evanovich who said she has a job and she works for Janet Evanovich? I think so. That’s genius and I like to tell myself I work for Kaye George. (There was that side gig for Janet Cantrell, but she didn’t keep me on after the contract was up. Oh well.) I’m an okay, so-so boss. I do prefer that my employee show up every day. That includes weekends, even though she’s not required to keep that daily journal on Saturdays and Sundays. There have been a few days this month when she didn’t show up to work and I wish there were a way to dock her pay. But I don’t pay her, so that’s out.


Anyway, in an effort

to be a good boss, I do like to encourage her. So I have her put a note of encouragement at the end of each page of the journal. This actually started years ago with the Nike slogan, JUST DO IT**. I think it morphed into YOU CAN DO IT the next year. I have yet to pick one for her for next year, but here are some of my favorites from the year and the past.







**historical footnote: I looked up when this slogan first started and found this startling article.***

***personal footnote: I read the book by his brother, SHOT IN THE HEART by Mikal Gilmore onto tape for a blind friend after it came out, in 1994 or so. If you ever want to know how to create an enraged killer, this book is practically a blueprint.

All images from





Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Covid nights and days

Covid nights and days


How are you holding up? I think I’m barely making it and I think that’s true of a lot of people. I recently complained, online, about my weird sleeping habits lately and the likelihood that they’re related to depression and anxiety. I’m thankful for all the responses, which were so encouraging and sympathetic. I now know that I’m not alone in this. (It’s good to be a complainer sometimes.) My practice, when I’m down, is to make a list of good things. So, here goes~~ 



The election


The vaccine


Two potential publications (those will turn into bad things if I get rejects, but I’m used to those)


My family (I dare anyone in the world to say they have a better one than I do)


My friends (ditto above)


My readers (I don’t even know all of them, but do hear from some of them sometimes—those are golden spots)


My present occupation/career/work, writing mysteries


My colleagues/fellow mystery writers, many of whom are friends, all of whom, as a group, are the best co-workers anyone could hope for


My health, such as it is. Good for my age, is what they say, I think. This includes my mental faculties, such as they are, too. Also good for my age.


My overall situation, being able to afford eat, drink, shelter, some presents for my kids and grands


Feel free to add to this list, or, better yet, make your own!

photo from



Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Helping in Georgia

 The romance writers thought of it first, we have to give them that. Romancing the Runoff was the campaign, and a rousing success! So we mystery writers were greatly inspired by them.

And now look at this!

We’ve raised 3/5 of our goal in the first couple of days! As of this writing it’s at $30,983.02. (I’m going to have to hunt down where that two cents is! That bothers me.)


Please poke around and see if there are items you’d like to have, so you can help out the cause.


Oh, what’s the cause, you say? We’re raising money to benefit “Fair Fight in support of the United States Senate runoff elections in Georgia on January 5, 2021. All proceeds will support Fair Fight’s efforts to combat voter suppression.”


I’m thrilled to have been invited to participate and even more thrilled that people are bidding on the two items I’m contributing.


The first is a story, custom written for the highest bidder. I used to do these for other charities a few years ago and they are great fun for me to do. (I used to custom write songs for birthdays and holidays, too, but I haven’t used that software in a while and don’t know if it’s still working.)





My second item is an autographed copy of my first People of the Wind mystery. (Or e-book if you prefer).


Like I said, poke around if you’re so inclined and want to help the cause. I feel good that I’m doing my part.






Wednesday, December 2, 2020


 Somewhere down the line, after a writer gets asked, “Where do you get your ideas?” we get the question, “What makes you do this?”


I sometimes ask myself the same question. “Why, oh why?” I could be dusting, keeping up with the dishes, sweeping the front sidewalk. Oh wait, maybe that’s why—to get out of all that stuff.


Seriously, though, the writers I know are almost all doing it for the same reason. The writers I know are mystery writers, mid-list (which means we’re not famous world-wide and we don’t make enough money to hire a staff); good, competent writers, some with agents, some self-publishing; all with some fans and avid readers waiting for the next book. We’ll never get rich doing this, and most of us will never make enough money to live on without a job or retirement income.   


I recently read a comment that prompted me to think about this. The person, a fairly new mystery writer, said she was going to have to change her goals. She would give up thinking she could make money doing this and would have to come up with other reasons.


She already has them, I’ll contend. She just has to dig down and discover them.


People write because they are compelled to. It’s in our makeup. We can’t not do it. And, most of the time, we love doing it. The main reward is to have written, to have gotten something published, and to know that someone read it.

 When someone can learn something, or expand their thinking through my fiction, that’s a huge bonus. 

Beyond that, there are tremendous rewards. The best is when someone reads our work and likes it. And says to. Either in a review or in a direct communication with the author. For me, this is all worthwhile because of those times when someone says one of my books got them through a tough time. Or got a relative through a tough time. And those times when I get a rave review. And those times when I get an email or direct message asking me when the next book in a series is coming out. Nothing could be better for a writer than all those things. Except being on the NY Times Bestseller List, of course. But we take what we can get, and an occasional bit of coin for our troubles.


 Images from Pixabay

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

My guest today, Judy Copek with Why I Write Standalones

 It brings me great pleasure to present Judy Copek today. Since it's the day before Thanksgiving, I'll give thanks for all the friends I have who are mystery writers. There couldn't be a better bunch of colleagues in the world. I'll let Judy introduce herself and get to the topic. HAPPY TURKEY DAY, ALL, even if you're missing the usual celebration. 

I was born in Montana, raised in Colorado, educated in Texas, and lived in suburban Chicago for years and now even more years in suburban Boston where I became a Red Sox fan, a Patriots fan, and a writer.

An information systems nerd for twenty-plus years, I'm a survivor of Dilbert-like re-engineering projects and other high-tech horrors. In my writing, I like to show technology’s humor and quirkiness along with its scary aspects.

Murder in the Northwoods is my fifth published novel. The research trip to the area was one of the best vacations ever, with scenery, casinos, intriguing discoveries, and tasty North Woods food. I never make up anything that I can borrow from real life like the garage apartment, the character of Reverend Josie, and the cottage by the lake. I moved the geography of Newton, Kansas to the fictional town of DuBois. Writers do strange things to create believable fiction. Y2K (remember the Millennium Bug?) pulls many of the story elements together, as I had worked on a project like the one on the book. My project, of course, had no murders and much less sex. Well, none.  Characters misbehaving are fun to write and fun to read.

 Why I write standalones.

I began with a series. My first novel, Witness, Be Wary, was bad. I didn’t understand motivation. Enough said, but I found some characters I liked. This novel was written so long ago that agents answered queries promptly with personalized letters.


That year my husband was invited to a conference in Singapore, and this, too, was so long ago that a business class ticket came with a free companion ticket. I explored the city and took photographs. We went on to spend a few days in Hong Kong. On the long flight home, I read the Singapore Airlines magazine, including a tiny blurb that the 5th International Computer Security Conference would meet in Singapore on a certain date.  

Durian Seller in Hong Kong


Computer security! That was the occupation of the sleuth in my failed first novel. My brain went crazy. I could write a book set at the conference in Singapore and then move it to my husband’s home town in Germany. Characters appeared, along with three from the first book. Fragments of plot flew at me like kamikazes. Finally, we travelled to Germany. I sat in the busy town square and discovered more characters. My nephew took me on a pub crawl. I did research at the library. This was so much fun. And the book didn’t sell.


 My problem was that my main character was, well, no better than she should be. And married. When I began writing I researched all the possible problems a sleuth might have. Drugs, family, drinking, promiscuity, ex-con, you name it. And no writer had yet glommed onto the “A” word. There was a reason for this but I was too dense to grasp it. One could not publish a series with a bad girl sleuth. No one would touch it. Still dense, I wrote three more books in the series, one set in the Baltic, the last at the Burning Man Festival and one set in the North Woods. Same sleuth. Same issues. I self-pubbed The Shadow Warriors. This was back in the day when you hung your head if you committed such an outré act.


Then, THE LIGHT DAWNED. I took each novel, changed the characters, the setting, the sleuths backstory, and so on. One book went to a small press, one was “licensed” by the Burning Man Festival, one sat in my computer. I gussied up the “Northwoods” novel with new backstory, and everything except the conflicted sleuth. She was still there. And finally, I had a publisher!

That’s why I write standalones.


Murder in the Northwoods will debut on December 1st. Level Best is the publisher

A savvy cyber-sleuth teams up with a hunky homicide cop to route corporate miscreants and to solve a murder. Murder in the North Woods is an amateur sleuth mystery. When she arrives in the town of DuBois, Wisconsin, to determine who is sabotaging an unpopular business project, Laura Goode discovers her only contact is now a corpse. Gar Morris, information officer at Great Northern Shoe Company, was a local lothario whose killer could be anyone from an enraged husband to a bitter factory worker whose job is heading overseas. Along with murder, office politics thwart Laura’s mission to find out who is sabotaging the project. Adding more complications to her life, boyfriend Jack, a cop, and husband Taylor, with more money than sensitivity, appear unannounced. Who needs these distractions when you’re swanning from boardroom to bar room, trolling for bass, hunting hackers, and rescuing your kidnapped cat? A nude biker’s club and the whitewater raft trip from hell provide a thrilling climax. You’ll have to read the novel to discover how everything works out.


Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Guest Judy Alter asks: Should I write a sequel?

I'm delighted to have the illustrious, award-winning author, Judy Alter, as my guest today. I loved Saving Irene and know I'll vote on her dilemma. This book reads, in part, like a love story to Chicago, a place where I once lived and miss just as much as she obviously does. 

Here's part of her impressive bio:

I am a past president of Western Writers of America and have been inducted into their Literary Hall of Fame. I have had awards from the National Cowboy Museum and Hall of Fame, the Texas Institute of Letters, and Western Writers of America, Inc., including their Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Achievement, and I was inducted into the Hall of Fame in June 2015. I belong to Sisters in Crime, the Guppies subgroup of Sisters in Crime, and the Texas Institute of Letters and I am a member of Women Writing the West. The Fort Worth Public Library elected me to their Texas Literary Hall of Fame.

And now, her discussion on the sequel!

My newest mystery, Saving Irene, began as an impulse. I have no idea where the idea of a Chicago TV chef came from, but one day I saw the opening scene so clearly in my mind that I sat down and wrote. Being a pantser, I just kept on writing and some twenty thousand words later, there they were: Henny (Henrietta) James, the chef’s assistant who tells the story; Irene Foxglove, the faux French chef with pretensions; and Patrick, the gay guy next door. Fictional characters with lives of their own.


Long before I wrote mysteries, I had developed a career writing about women in the American West. So, when contracts for two unrelated projects, set in Texas, came along, I left Henny, Irene, and Patrick in limbo for almost two years. But when COVID-19 and quarantine hit us, the publisher of my western works went on hiatus, leaving one manuscript and one proposal stranded on her desk and me with no viable project. I pulled out Irene’s story, read it again, and thought, “Hey, this isn’t bad. I like the voice.” I began writing, and the story seemed to flow more easily than any other mystery I’ve written (this is number fifteen). Long story short, I wrote from March to June and spent the summer on publishing details—editing, proofing, formatting, etc. Saving Irene launched on September 16.

All along I intended it as a stand-alone. I was going to get back to those unfinished western projects. But the editor, though back at work, hasn’t gotten to my part of the backlog on her desk, and I began to get nice comments about Irene’s story from readers. One wrote: “This reads like a stand-alone novel, but there's certainly room for a sequel (hint, hint) should the author be so inclined. Meanwhile, I'll be checking out [Alter’s] earlier titles.” Another, “I hope there will be more books about Henny and Patrick as her career and love life move on.” Still more: “This book is Judy Alter at her best: a fast-moving pace; fascinating new characters in what one could only hope will become a series.” And, finally, “I have read all of Judy's … mysteries and this is the best one by far! I love Henny and Patrick! I hope there is a sequel to it!”

So there’s my dilemma. In a way, it boils down to Texas vs. Chicago. I have written about Texas all my long career, and I am deeply invested in the state’s history. But I grew up in Chicago’s historic Hyde Park neighborhood and writing about it was like visiting with an old friend, a nostalgia trip. Perhaps age calls us all back to the scenes of our childhood, but I loved sending Henny to the church I grew up in or on a picnic to Promontory Point where I spent so many happy weekends.

In truth, I’ll probably try to do it all. Yes, I have ideas for Irene in Danger rattling around in my head, but I put a lot of time and work into the other manuscript, which is under contract, so sooner or later I’ll have to deal with it. And the proposal I submitted combines food and history in a nonfiction but very Texan approach.

Hint: I am really proud of the cover of Saving Irene. I found free images of a chef and the background of Chicago-style buildings and gave them to a designer with the request that she age the chef, which she did. Strangely enough, one interviewer thought the chef looks like me (we’ve never met, so she’s only seen pictures) and a reader who knew my mom thought that was who was the model. Neither is true. But I can already envision the cover of Irene in Danger, a sign to me that the sequel was meant to be. I’m just having trouble with that opening scene.

I’m curious how other authors handle this. Do you deliberately write the a book as the first of a series or do you decide later it could be? Is it a flexible decision?