Friday, December 30, 2011

Guest post by John Kenyon, editor of GRIMM TALES

If you're wondering how the anthology of fairy tales came into being, here's the scoop from the guy who started it all. I welcome John Kenyon to my travels today!

John Kenyon is the  editor of and the forthcoming print debut of Grift. He has stories in the first two issues of Pulp Modern, and upcoming in Needle, Beat to a Pulp and All Due Respect. 

Here's his post:

painting by Elisabeth Jerichau Baumann

If one reads the original Grimm Brothers tales, they are quite dark. Over the years, however, the audience for these tales has shifted. No longer are they frightening cautionary tales aimed at adults. No, they now are aimed squarely at children, sanitized lest their little minds conjure too terrifying a scenario before bed.

It was while reading one of these toned-down versions that I began thinking of a story that was decidedly adult in its composition. In the version I read, there is only the hint of menace; everything always works out in the end. This book, Mary Engelbreit's Nursery Tales, bolsters each story with fanciful drawings that depict everyone involved as some sort of post-Precious Moments cherub, all rosy cheeks and broad smiles.

"The landscapes glimpsed in her meticulously rendered pictures more closely resemble a park or playground than a wild wood," writes children's literature historian Leonard S. Marcus in his introduction. "Really scary things couldn't possibly happen here."

That's all well and good for children -- I've rushed into my three-year-old's room to quiet the swirl of images brought about by a nighttime tale that was a bit too vivid for his young imagination -- but, um, bleeds much of the power from these classic tales.

My idea was simple: recast these stories as modern-day crime fiction tales. It wouldn't take much. In each there is a protagonist who, while not always entirely innocent, at least has the reader firmly in his or her camp, and an aggressor who is trying to take what isn't rightfully his. Add a few guns and some coarse language, and "The Three Little Bears" or "Little Red Riding Hood" aren't too far from the latest story revolving around a robbery or a heist.

I wrote a story, but feared it would get lost without the proper context. I held a contest, asking others to do likewise, and came up with the batch of stories that eventually became Grimm Tales.

My own story updated "Puss in Boots," recasting the mischievous cat as a thigh-high boot wearing stripper. Others dug deeper, going for more obscure stories that nonetheless translated well to the world of modern crime fiction.

"Let the big bad wolf huff and puff if he must," Marcus writes to conclude his introduction to the illustrated book I read to my kids. "Happy endings await."

Not here. The real world doesn't operate that way. As Ken Bruen writes in the introduction to our book, "Ever imagined what would have come down the dark pike if The Brothers Grimm were more Brothers Coen and wrote mystery?"

PS. If you MUST read these tales, the links are just to the right.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Two Excerpts

I'm down to the wire to get my Agatha-eligible stories presented here in December, since one just got published last week--a good problem to have!

So I'll give you a bit of the new one, HENRY, GINA, AND THE GINGERBREAD HOUSE, which appears in its entirety in GRIMM TALES from Untreed Reads. It's an e-book of stories based on fairy tales, a fun project!

At the end of this excerpt, I'll give you the whole story, DRIVING OUT OF DUMAS, since it's very short and is available free at Apollo's Lyre.

Be sure and come back here Friday when the editor of GRIMM TALES, John Kenyon, will be my guest.

Here's the excerpt first (it won't be hard to tell what fairy tale this is based on):

"Get in there and fess up, you little hoodlums." Vanessa shoved Henry and Gina toward the door of the Gingerbread House. "And quit sniveling, Gina. I know you're faking."

Gina leveled a cold laser stare at her stepmother. And quit sniveling. It hadn't taken the bitch long to figure her out, Gina reflected. The fake crying had only worked for about a month or so. Henry had had the same luck with his stomach aches. Except Gina knew those were real. That red-headed she-devil could give anyone a stomach ache.

A bell, shaped like a heart, tinkled innocently as Vanessa flung the door open and pushed the children inside the candy shop.

The blowsy bleached blond owner, Brenda Pritchard, ambled through the beaded curtains from the kitchen and squinted at them.

"Can I help you?"

Her voice was light and thin. Gina thought it was a nice contrast to the heavy, thick goodies in the glass cases, Brenda's heavy, thick body, and her heavy, thick glasses.

Vanessa put on her sweetness-and-light face, but it almost cracked under the thick makeup from the effort. "Yes, you can. The children would like to tell you something."

Both women waited and stared at the kids. Gina considered trying the snivel again. Henry bent over slightly with a pained look on his face.

Gina grimaced and stepped forward. "We shoplifted some crap. The old lady wants us to tell you that."

Brenda's eyes grew large in her smooth, bland face. "Such language from such a young child," she said.

Not all that young, thought Gina. She and Henry were ten, after all. Not babies.

"Yeah, well...." Gina jerked her head toward Vanessa. "She made me say it."

Gina could almost detect the steam rising from the top of Vanessa's red hair.

"I did not tell you to--never mind. The children stole from your store and need to make restitution."

"What did you take?"

Gina thought Brenda gave Henry a look of pity. He was bent over even further, pressing his small fist into his belly.

"Just some chocolate shit, a couple truffles," said Gina.

"And?" prompted Vanessa.

"Some turtles," Henry said through clenched teeth.

"You had half a dozen truffles left when I found you with them," sneered Vanessa. "And at least that many turtles."

"Yeah, well, you enjoyed ‘em, didn't you?" said Gina. She ducked, expecting a slap, but Vanessa apparently didn’t want to abuse them in public. It was the first standard Gina had discovered in the woman. What had her father been thinking, bringing that bitch into their home?


I'd been thinking of breaking up with Aldon, but I didn't know how to do it. Given his temper, I didn't think it would be easy.

That afternoon he picked me up from my job at the convenience store.

"Go for a ride?"

"Sure," I said. "Sittin in the car beats standin on my feet for eight hours." It wasn't too hot out yet, only getting up to the mid-80s during the day. Our Texas panhandle gets a lot hotter.

Aldon shifted through the gears on his ancient pickup, mashing in second like he always did, and we blew past the grain silos and hit the open road. The wind from the open windows felt good,
better than the AC in the store, which was always cranked down to a freeze-your-ass-off temperature. I took off the sweater I always wore to work and threw it behind my seat. Then I reclined the seat and let the air flow over me as I closed my eyes and relaxed.

After awhile I woke up. I watched the cloud-dotted sky skim past the window, then glanced at Aldon. He looked sorta grim.

"What's the matter, Al?"

"Nothing's the matter," he snapped. He was in a mood.

I sat my seat up. "Hey, where are we?" We usually drove out through the fields, dotted with irrigation circles, to Dalhart at the farthest, then turned around and headed back home to Dumas. I knew the local land pretty well, and this rough open rangeland wasn't it.

Aldon didn't answer.

"Where we goin?"

"I gotta do somethin. You sit tight. Don't worry about it."

Well, that wasn't gonna happen. I got a bad feeling that worsened with each mile. I snuck a peek at the gas gauge--we weren't due for a refill.

Then I spotted a gas station in the distance. "I gotta pee," I said. "Real bad."

Aldon looked at me for the first time since we'd started the drive. "Okay. I'll pull in. Make it quick."

I had second thoughts when I saw how run-down the place was. The bathroom wasn't likely to be too clean. But I needed to break up what was happening, somehow. Even if I didn't know what it was. I spent as long as I could inside. When I got back Aldon was scowling.

He took off before I got my door shut.

"Hey, you tryin to kill me?"

He didn't answer.

We eventually crossed the border into New Mexico. I wondered if Aldon was ever planning on returning home. Were we running away? From what? He was never an easy person to talk to. Today I was afraid of him. That grim look, this stupid car trip--I thought maybe I'd get out and stay out the next time we pulled over.

We slowed down, finally, for a little town a few miles across the border. I'd been dozing and missed the name of it. The sun was setting in front of us, shooting a blinding glare through the windshield off the blacktop.

"Can we get something to eat?" I asked.

"Later," he said. "I want you to do somethin for me. Just take a few minutes."

He headed down a curbless side street, turned around and pulled over. He left the engine on and climbed out.

"You get in the driver's seat," he said. "I want you to keep the truck runnin. When I get back, take off. Don't say anything, just take off, back the way we came from."

There was a convenience store around the block from where we were parked. Was Aldon going to rob it? Geez, I lived in fear of that every time I pulled night shift. I didn't want to help him rob a store, but what could I do?

I sat and fretted, trying to figure out how I could get out of this awful mess, but I was still there when Aldon came running back. He jumped in, threw a sack behind the seat and yelled, "Go!"

All I could do was react. I floored it and took off.

"What the hell did you just do?" I yelled while I ground through second gear. I got it to third and fishtailed a little. The truck didn't handle too well for me at high speeds.

Aldon had a big grin on his face. "I just raised us a little capital." He spit out the window. "Slow down to the speed limit. No one knows what vehicle to look for. If we don't get pulled over, we won't get caught."

"You mean *you* won't get caught. *I* didn't rob nobody."

"Sure you did. You're aiding and abetting, don't think you're not."

Damn, he was right. I was driving the getaway vehicle. "I think we better switch places pretty soon. I don't drive your truck all that good."

"You're doin fine. I need a nap." He put the seat back down, folded his arms on his chest, and was snoring inside of three minutes.

I kept driving--he'd wake up if I stopped--but I reached back to pull that sack into my lap. The sun had just set and dusk was falling, bringing a moist smell with it. It was a beautiful night.

My fingers fumbled inside the sack. I felt bills, but at the very bottom I struck something hard. And warm. A gun. That he'd fired. Shit.

Maybe he'd sleep till we got back to Dalhart and I could pull into the police station. I didn't know where the damn station was, though.

We were twenty miles out when he stirred.

"You never got me anything to eat," I said, wracking my brain for a solution.

"You can have steak when we get home."

"OK, but I gotta pee again."

"Hey, me too. Stop here. It's dark out. The truck can shield us."

Breaking up turned out to be that easy. He got out. I drove off.


Hope you enjoyed the stories!

Friday, December 23, 2011

I'm keeping good company

Buy here

I'm thrilled and honored to be part of a new anthology, just out from Untreed Reads! Here's the description of GRIMM TALES, edited by John Kenyon, to show you what a great crew is there:

Grimm Tales is a collection of stories by some of the top names in online crime fiction, all based on classic fairy tales. As novelist Ken Bruen writes in his introduction, "Ever imagined what would have come down the dark pike if The Brothers Grimm were more Brothers Coen and wrote mystery?" The collection is edited by John Kenyon, editor of Grift magazine, and contains 17 stories by Patricia Abbott, Absolutely*Kate, Jack Bates, Eric Beetner, Nigel Bird, Loren Eaton, Kaye George, Blu Gilliand, Seana Graham, Eirik Gumeny, R.L. Kelstrom, John Kenyon, BV Lawson, Evan Lewis, B. Nagel, Sean Patrick Reardon and Sandra Seamans. 

I had fun mistreating the Hansel and Gretel tale. Read this to see how John got the idea for the collection. Oh, and to buy the book, available in multiple digital formats.

PS. If you're near Georgetown, TX, and need a last minute gift, come see me at Hill Country Bookstore between 4 and 7. I have just the thing!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Excerpt from The Bavarian Krisp Caper

Have you ever had one of those days? This story stems from a time I was in Boston, craving a donut, and not finding a parking space. To read the rest of it, click at Untreed Reads. If you're attending Malice Domestic in April, I would love it if you'd please consider this story for a possible Short Story nomination. Even if you don't consider it, I'll see you there!

By Kaye George

Life was looking a little better. At last.

Mandy hummed to herself as she watched her niece, Ella, run from one duckling statue to the next. Mandy clutched a bag that held two fragrant donuts, a chocolate frosted for Ella and a Bavarian Krisp for herself. She sipped her coffee and waited for the curly haired toddler to finish greeting and patting each small, sturdy bronze sculpture. Ella came running, a big grin on her little freckled face. She tugged at Mandy’s hand and they headed for the swan boat ride, the conclusion of their sunny afternoon outing at Boston Common.

Mandy had offered to watch Ella while her mother, Mandy’s sister, ran errands. She might as well. She loved watching her niece, but hated the fact that she’d been free to do so for too long now. Money was getting tight.

Mandy salivated, thinking about that donut. Bavarian Krisp was her favorite snack in the world. There was nothing better. Nothing. She was lucky to have a boyfriend who understood her passion for them. He’d gone out early and brought the doughy treasures to her before he went in to work this morning.

The thought of Carl brought a smile to her face. He knew how devastated she’d been since losing her job three months ago. Her teeth gritted whenever she thought about it. It was so unfair!

“That’s twice this week you’ve been late,” her pointy-headed boss had remarked.

Mandy tried to edge past him into her tiny cubicle. She was laden with her purse, her lunch sack, and her water bottle. When the idiot refused to budge, she tripped over his big feet and lost her grip on her lunch. It arced onto her desk. The ripe strawberries inside made a squishing sound and started to bleed red onto the report she’d left front and center last night. The urgent report, due this afternoon.

She felt steam rising inside her, threatening to blow her head apart.

“The bitch in the cubicle behind me is late every week,” said Mandy. “Why don’t you say anything to her? Is it the size of her sweaters?”

The frosty look from the pointy-headed man tamped down her steam. He called security to escort her out.

Her humiliation had been complete when the bitch snickered behind her hand as Mandy passed.

She wanted to stop for a donut that day—the office was next door to a Dandy Donuts shop—but she’d been laden with the contents of her desk in an awkward sized box and didn’t think she could manage it. She’d eaten one on the way in, of course, which was why she’d been late.

Mandy had applied for twenty-five jobs but had gotten exactly one response so far. Aninterview was set for tomorrow, but she wasn’t sure she was qualified for that position. It called for more accounting knowledge than she had.

Her mood had gone from bad to worse and she’d almost canceled her outing with Ella, but Carl said it would do her good, take her mind off things. He’d been right. The sun felt glorious and the air carried the faint aroma of early spring lilacs to compete with the smell of baked goods wafting up from the sack she held.

After they climbed into their seats for the boat ride, Mandy handed Ella her donut, then picked up her own with two fingers. Ella peered over the swan figures on the sides of the craft and crammed most of her donut into her tiny mouth. Mandy shut her eyes in anticipation; this first bite would be the best moment of her day.

“Aunt Mandy! Look!” Ella grabbed Mandy’s arm and pointed at a mother mallard swimming beside them, a row of babies paddling behind her. Mandy’s donut flew into the lagoon. Tears sprang to Mandy’s eyes as she watched it float away. Six squawking mallards swam to attack it.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Book Review: Threat Warning by John Gilstrap

Here's my review, for "Suspense Magazine" in October, of this excellent thriller. I should mention that you can always get 4 free trial copies if you're thinking of subscribing. Just click on the link above and read the copy below the cover image.

“Threat Warning” by John Gilstrap:

There’s no need to wonder how Gilstrap gets the rave reviews and best-selling status that he gets. Just start reading and it all becomes clear.
A bizarre group calling themselves “The Army of God,” and calling each other Brother-This and Sister-That, have a secret goal so lofty it’s worth killing for. At least in their minds it is. The story opens with young Colleen Devlin preparing to mow down motorists on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge over the Potomac during the afternoon rush hour. She’s at one end of the bridge and Brother Stephen is at the other end.
Jonathan Grave is driving across the bridge at the moment they open fire, stuck in traffic, chatting with his friend and passenger, Father Dom D’Angelo. Jonathan instantly recognizes the sound of an automatic weapon, creeps out of his car, and whips out his Colt .45. Although he hits the shooter in the chest, she runs away just as he realizes she’s a female and not a young man. A misguided Secret Service agent gets the drop on Jonathan, thinking he’s the perpetrator, and both shooters escape detection.
Colleen commandeers a minivan for her getaway and, in the process, takes the driver and her teenage son hostage to a mountain hideout. The Army of God is well-organized and supremely motivated, but their captives, the wife, and son of a deployed Delta force operative, and their opponent, Jonathan Grave himself, are formidable. Grave and his team watch as other fatal mass attacks are carried out across America. They struggle to get to the people behind the carnage that continues splashing blood and leaving bodies across the country before even greater havoc ensues.
Hang on, it’s a wild ride!

Reviewed by Kaye George, Author of “Choke” for Suspense Magazine

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What are Agatha-eligible works? (& book signing!)

This is the time of year to get excited about Agatha awards. They're given out at the Malice Domestic conference every year. Everyone who signs up for the conference before the end of the year receives a form in January. On that form they can nominate mysteries, non-fiction mystery related books, and short stories for Agatha awards. These are prestigious in the mystery community. Even to say you've been nominated is an honor. I think so, at least, since I was nominated in the Short Story category in 2010. That was one of the most exciting events of my life!

If you've signed up for the conference, or if you're thinking of going, I'll offer the stories I've had published this year that are eligible, just in case you want to--you know--nominate one of them.

Here's the first part of "The Truck Contest" which was published in FISH TALES: The Guppy Anthology, by Wildside Press. The whole anthology, where you can read the rest of this story and the other Agatha-eligible stories in it, can be purchased at Amazon as a paperback or an e-book.

[But before you get started on this, I want to let you know I'll be signing at Hill Country Bookstore in Georgetown on December 23rd. If you need a last minute holiday gift, come on by!]

first 1215 words

The first time I saw it I assumed it was an accident. Assumed some poor schmuck had
left a truck out on the ice just a little too late. Every morning on the way to work I drove
the winding road around Lake Minnetonka and followed the progress of the yellow
pickup, sinking lower and lower as the early spring sun picked up strength.

That first winter in Minnesota, I had noticed, right away, how Lake Minnetonka becomes
a huge playground in the cold weather. The natives use it for snowmobiling, ice skating,
and ice fishing. They cavort outside in frigid weather as if it were summertime. I was
most fascinated by the ice fishing, though. My Dad had never taken me fishing when I
was a boy. Hell, he’d never taken me anywhere, except to the track.

I had done a lot of hard outdoor work in a hot climate recently and had no desire to repeat
that sweaty experience. The cold weather did take some getting used to, but I had the
example of the Minnesotans to follow. I would follow their lead and they would show me
how to enjoy it. And anything was better than being locked up. I bought a lot of new
clothes. That helped me keep warm.

At the beginning of that first winter, I observed people driving their pickups onto the
frozen lake. They unloaded dozens of one-room wooden fishing shacks, mostly
homemade, and created a temporary village between Excelsior and Big Island. At work
they told me it was called Ice Town. Some of the guys in shipping were avid ice fishers.

The little shacks really did look like a town out there on the frozen lake, with narrow
streets laid out where guys drove back and forth to their houses. Some of them even spent
the nights there. They hauled in carpeting, huge coolers full of beer, and satellite dishes to
give them some of the comforts of home. It was mostly a guy thing—I never saw more
than a couple of women. It looked like fun and I thought about giving it a go the next

When spring approached, the natives hauled off their fish houses and drove their trucks
home. One lone pickup remained, however, that yellow one, parked in a widening puddle
on the thinning ice. It was obviously too dangerous to go out and get it. I shook my head
every time I saw it and felt sorry for the slob who had left his truck to sink into the lake.

One morning, I arrived a couple minutes late, not unusual for me. So why did Karen, my
chubby little boss, give me the evil eye?

Get used to it, I thought. Some people don’t live for this sorry job. Who would want to? I
inhabited a cubicle, an invention of the devil himself, I’m sure, and processed orders for
imported junk. Little plastic bracelets and gifts bags, shit they sold at the Dollar Store. I
was as far from my previous address as I could get, and the company didn’t do
background checks. That’s why I worked there. Karen as my boss lady I could handle. I
even flirted with her some when I started there. The one that got to me, though, was

That day, in the break room, Clark mentioned the Truck Contest.

“What’s that?” I asked, waiting for him to quit fiddling with the sugar packets so I could
get some for my coffee.

Clark cleared his throat wetly, one of his least obnoxious mannerisms, raised his superior
eyebrows almost up to his wig, a toupee that might have been a squirrel in its former life,
and informed me that bets were placed on when the truck would sink.

“So that yellow pickup doesn’t belong to some poor sap who just procrastinated too

“Hell no. What a stupid thing to think.” He picked his nose, stirred a small mountain of
sugar in his styrofoam coffee cup, and strolled off to his cube, the one next to mine.

Clark was not a desirable cubicle neighbor. Most mornings his radio blared stock market
reports, and in the afternoon he listened to, as far as I could tell, the worst music ever
recorded, big band and polkas. Where did he find those stations? My protests would
prompt him to lower the volume for half a day, then he would twist the dial back up and
dare me to say something. I decided I had to start raising my issues with Karen.

It really didn’t bother me, working for a woman. I know a lot of guys couldn’t do it. But I
was just lucky to have a job, and, if I had to work for a broad, I could handle it. This
broad, however, wasn’t the one I’d pick. I think the feeling was mutual. She’d flirted
back when I started, but was always too busy to meet me anywhere after work. I dropped
the act eventually. I wasn’t going to get any from her.

I rapped on the door to her office—she had an actual office, with a door—and entered
when she told me to come in, after the second knock.

I walked up to her desk, remained standing. “You know Clark, in the cube next to me?”

She looked up from her paperwork and frowned. Those little plucked eyebrows were
cute. “Jesus, Roy, how would I not know Clark? I’m his boss, or hadn’t you noticed?”

“Yeah, sure.”

“You have a problem with Clark?” She drew out his name, those fleshy lips caressed it.
Not good.

“Well, not with Clark. With his radio. It’s hard to work with it turned up so high, you

“No, I don’t know.”

“Can you say something to him?”

“I’ll see.” She bent her head to the papers on her desk and I left, not hopeful.

I tried a few more times, but Karen barely listened to my complaints. She only mentioned
the radio to Clark once and, when she began picking up the phone and dialing it as soon
as I walked through her door, I gave up. Her office nauseated me anyway, the way it
reeked of Obsession.

One day I grabbed my dictionary off the metal shelf above my monitor to check the
spelling of a word for the report I was writing. The page was missing. I looked up and
Clark stood in his cubicle, leering at me over the short wall that divided us.

“What are you so happy about?” I asked. He didn’t answer, just kept smirking.

“Do you know anything about this page that’s torn out of my book?” I asked him, trying
to be as civil as possible.

“Oh that. Yeah.” He scratched his armpit. “They were out of toilet paper in the john.”

I stared. “You used my dictionary for toilet paper?”

“Worked pretty good.” He turned away and plopped down into his chair.

I felt my sanity straining against its mooring, threatening to float off, out of my Cubicle
From Hell. There was no way I was going to go through the job hunting process again. It
had taken months to find this indoor position. Most other people checked references more
thoroughly than these people did.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Book Review: Acceptable Loss by Anne Perry

I reviewed this book in September for Suspense Magazine. I hope you enjoy the review.

William Monk has a new job, head of the Thames River Police. His battle is not a new one, however. He failed to convict child-trafficker Jericho Phillips in the past and the abuse Phillips facilitated continues, funded by someone still unknown. The child Monk and Hester rescued from the clutches of that evil, Scuff, is settling in, although they still hear him crying in the night. Scuff says he’s eleven, but looks about nine. If Monk can’t stop the most recent manifestation of abuse, he will feel he’s failed the boy.

It seems to me that the Victorian England of this book was a time when morals were more sharply defined, more black and white, than they are now. The horror of an underground industry, one that panders to the perverted, juts starkly through Perry’s lush prose. Some of the situations are quite vivid, just to warn you.

A squalid little man, Mickey Parfitt, is found dead at the edge of the river. He’s been bashed on the head, then strangled with a distinctive silk scarf. His unsavory companions, ‘Orry (short for ‘Orrible or Horrible) Jones, Tosh, and Crumble are questioned first, obvious initial suspects. But the scarf belongs to an aristocrat wastrel who is a benefactor of Hester’s clinic for rescued women of the street. The abuse, and pornographic live shows involving very young boys, is taking place on a boat, so the murder and the trade are all within Monk’s jurisdiction.
          No one is very interested in finding Parfitt’s killer, since the world is better without him, but Monk is determined to find out who is supplying the money. If he doesn’t, nothing will stop. The upper class seems united against Monk investigating and solving this crime. Depending on who murdered Parfitt, funding could be cut off for Hester’s clinic and Monk could lose his job. Especially if Monk goes after the wrong person.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Guest Chris Redding, Be the Chihuahua

I welcome Chris Redding to my travels today. She has hosted me in the past and it's time to pay her back for her kindness. Chris is a multi-published author in romantic suspense, including some paranormal romantic suspense. For those of you seeking to be published, here's what she has to say about that--and Chihuahuas. Thanks for being here, Chris!

Be the Chihuahua

By Chris Redding

            My degree is in journalism and for about 5 months I actually worked in that field. Did I crave the hard news? Nope. I loved the feature stories, but I went at them with no less vigor than I did the breaking stories.
            Frankly, people’s jobs are interesting. I once spent a half an hour on the phone with a guy named Ted E. Behr (no joke)  talking about effluent. It was fascinating because he found it fascinating.
            What does that have to do with being a Chihuahua?
            Well I always warn my interviewee that I will keep asking questions until I either get an answer or understand what the person is telling me. I liken it to those little dogs that grab onto your pant leg and won’t let go.
            Gotta admire the little guy’s persistence. He’ll hang onto your pant leg and he only weighs eight pounds.
            And I think this is a great attitude on many levels for a writer.
            First you have to be persistent and finish the damn book.
            Then you have to learn all you can about writing and how to make your gem shine.
            And of course you have to submit. No matter how many rejections, you have to keep polishing and keep submitting. Until someone says, “yes.”
            You must write another book. And another. Until you write one that someone wants to publish.
            And when it is published, you have to get out there and network with your readers. You have to do signings. You have to do workshops.
            You have to be persistent.
            Especially because lots of people around you won’t be.  I’ve seen writers come and go and never get published. And it wasn’t because they couldn’t write, it was because they gave up.
            So be the Chihuahua.

Chris Redding lives in New Jersey with her husband, two kids, one dog and three rabbits. She graduated from Penn State with a degree in Journalism. When she isn’t writing she works part time at her local hospital. 

Blonde Demolition
Corpse Whisperer
The Drinking Game
A View to a Kilt

Find Chris on the web:

Here's a bit about her latest book: Blonde Demolition

You just can't hide from the past...

Mallory Sage lives in a small, idyllic town where nothing ever happens. Just the kind of life she has always wanted. No one, not even her fellow volunteer firefighters, knows about her past life as an agent for Homeland Security.

Former partner and lover, Trey McCrane, comes back into Mallory's life. He believes they made a great team once, and that they can do so again. Besides, they don't have much choice. Paul Stanley, a twisted killer and their old nemesis, is back.

Framed for a bombing and drawn together by necessity, Mallory and Trey go on the run and must learn to trust each other again―if they hope to survive. But Mallory has been hiding another secret, one that could destroy their relationship. And time is running out.


Friday, December 2, 2011

Two signings and a Holiday Celebration!

Somehow, it happens that I'm doing TWO signings tomorrow at Hill Country Bookstore. From 10-1 I'll sign CHOKE. If you need a holiday gift for a mystery reader, you can't go wrong with CHOKE.

At 2:00, fellow short story writer Mary Ann Loesch will join me and we'll sign ALL THINGS DARK AND DASTARDLY. A great stocking stuffer for a reader who likes dark, quirky, little tales. After all that, I'll go home and collapse!

There will be, at the very least, chocolate in the shop. But outside, you can catch the Christmas Stroll on the historic square. This Stroll is PACKED with happenings and charm:

Be sure and check the parade route if you're coming around noon.

I sure hope to see a bunch of you there!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Getting Your Name out There Part 2

Part 2 of 5

You want your name to show up when someone searches for it on the internet, and the more places you have a presence on the web, the more likely your name will show up near the top of the list. I've heard that if you have interconnections, it puts you higher in the search engine hierarchy. You want to be found when someone searches for a subject relating to you, too, not just for your name. Periodically search for your own name and see how many of the results on the first page are actually you. The more the better.

There are articles, even courses, on how to move your name up with search engines if you want to dive whole hog into this. I'm happy if I show up on the first page, and ecstatic if I show up at the top. On Sunday, the whole first page was me on Google, 9 out of 11 on Bing, 8 out of 10 on Dogpile, and 9 of 11 on Yahoo. Take that, George Kaye (my main rival) So, Yahoo! Something's working.


You may not want to, but I think you might have to use at least some social media. I don't think there's a way to avoid it.

BLOGGING - There are probably a million blogs now, but it's still a good way to get your name out there. You can blog on writing, on your life, on your interests, on anything, really. Visit some of your favorite blogs and see what works for you, what you can make work. Decide what draws you in because you can't write about something you're not interested in and make it fascinating.

Decide where to aim your blog. At writers? At readers? At friends and family? At complete strangers who don't know you and stumble across your blog?

Be sure and use the labels feature so someone can come across your blog when they google topics you've written about. If you're using another writer, say Lisa Scottoline, as a example of something, put her name in the label section of the blog. People who are searching for her will have an opportunity to check you out. I'm not sure if this feature exists on other blog sites, but blogger, or blogspot, which I use, makes it easy.

Other blogging topics: Book reviews and interviews are good. They'll draw fans of the books and authors you're using. The more popular and high profile the book and author, the more hits you'll get.

After you've blogged for awhile, maybe a few weeks or a few months if you're posting once a week, step back and reassess. Are you drawing in the readers you want to? If not, revisit your favorite blogs and try to see what you could improve, what they're doing that you're not. I love blogs with pictures so I try hard to find what I think are cute or interesting illustrations of my topics. Most of my pictures are from wiki commons and are in the public domain. Sometimes I can use photos that I've taken.

I also try to pose questions some readers might want to answer, or have opinions on.

Groups blogs are easier because you don't have the burden of making all the posts. This will also increase your reader base. Each blogger will draw in their friends and fans.

There are blogs about blogging and some of them give great advice. The most important thing you can do, after blogging regularly, they'll tell you, is to let someone know you've posted a new blog.

Do this on lists you belong to, Facebook, Twitter, or wherever you communicate online. It works better to try to engage people, too. You can post that you just blogged about mowing grass. Ho hum. Or you can ask people if they have solutions for grass problems. What do YOU do about weeds, bald patches where grass won't grow, shady lawns, lawn mowers that balk? Are riding or push mowers preferred? What's the best way to hang the hammock when you're done? You might get more visitors if you can prompt them to read the blog and, better yet, to comment on it.

Unfortunately, I get a lot of people who comment about my blog on Facebook, not on the blog. Each blog site has challenges to posting, it seems, for some people.

Once you have a book or a story out, you can draw readers in by saying you'll do a free giveaway to a random commenter. I count my commenters, have someone I know pick a number between one and the number, and do my giveaway to that person. IF I can locate their email address. Don't forget to tell people to leave an email address for a giveaway. Do as I say here, not as I've done.



Leave thoughtful comments and make sure your name is displayed. Leaving comments on other people's blogs will encourage them to leave comments on yours, that is, to visit and read it. This is part of the interconnections that will make you easier to find on the web. You can also become a follower of another blog in hopes they will follow you.


Almost everyone who runs a blog is delighted when someone wants to write a guest column. It gives them a day off. Some people solicit for guest bloggers and, for sure, respond to those. This is a golden opportunity. Other bloggers may draw admirable traffic that you'd like to get in on and you can offer and see if you'd be permitted to guest blog there. Be sure you blog about something relevant to that blog and clear your subject with the owner of that blog. Refer, of course, to your own blog or webpage discreetly somewhere if at all possible.

I have listed a few blogs I like to visit, ones I think are successful.


Friday, November 18, 2011

Book Review: Split Second

I did this review in August for Suspense Magazine.

“Spilt Second” by Catherine Coulter:

This sixteenth in the series is subtitled An FBI Thriller, but, if you're expecting a traditional thriller, be warned that the books have a cozy feel. The main characters in the series are the married couple, Dillon Savich and Lacey Sherlock, and Dillon is a bit psychic. But there’s another couple that takes over this book, Lucy Carlyle and Cooper “Coop” McKnight. Another character, it seems, is also psychic. Those elements take away from the thriller aspect, but there’s plenty of action.
Lucy and Coop are mismatched, the department logic goes, so they’re paired on a case. In fact, Lucy intensely dislikes Coop and his playboy reputation, but works with him for the sake of professionalism. Both Lucy and Coop harbor deep secrets from their past and the secrets threaten to surface and must ultimately be faced as they work together. Their case involves a guy who is picking up women at bars, drugging their last drink and then taking them to their own places to murder them. The guy has an unusual look, pale, almost white skin, emaciated artistic look, and a harmless puppy-like demeanor that attracts the women.
When the DNA of the pick-up artist is analyzed, they find out just how unusual he is. The agents are shocked to learn that the guy is a female. They’re even more shocked when the DNA is a match to that of Ted Bundy. The agents must put themselves in harm’s way to catch this very clever serial killer who is determined to carry on Bundy’s gruesome tradition.
Another case, an attack on gentle Mr. Patil who runs the Shop ‘n’ Go that Savich and Dillon frequent, runs in the background and provides its own twists.
If the reader can go along with a supernatural element, this mystery is enjoyable, a blend of thriller, cozy and paranormal.

Reviewed by Kaye George, Author of “Choke” for Suspense Magazine

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Guest Rory Tate, Like a novel: Life with backstory

I welcome new novelist, Rory Tate, to my travels today. She's not a new novelist, but Rory Tate is. Confused? Read on.

The writing life is a choice. You have to really want to write, to express yourself in little words, tiny letters, pages of inner turmoil and alter egos. Like old age, it ain’t for sissies. Nobody is clamoring for your golden thoughts, as you find out once you start submitting to gatekeepers. What sounds to you like the most pithy, amazing, insightful nugget goes right over somebody else’s head. They don’t get it. They don’t get you.

In my twenties I wrote educational media, did newspaper work (mostly film reviews as I was, and still am, a rabid cinephile) and had a few exciting jobs writing ad copy and doing public relations for the Realtors of Bakersfield. But in my spare moments I thought about novels. I scribbled lame ideas on index cards and filed them away. I went back to school and got a masters. I taught broadcasting at a community college and did some video production. None of these jobs really fit. I started thinking again about writing, and wrote a screenplay. I paid $200 to somebody from the back of Writer’s Digest to tell me that it wasn’t very dramatic. Life went on. I decided to rewrite it into a novel as breaking into Hollywood while living in Back-of-beyond, Wyoming, with two small children seemed fruitless.

I spent my thirties writing novels, going to conferences, meeting writers and figuring out what this writing life was all about. Meeting other writers at that first conference in 1988, during the Yellowstone Park fires near the Boulder River in Montana, was mind-blowing. Not only were there other people like me, struggling to find a voice, but here were professional writers. They live and breathe! Although I set my sights on publication before my 20th high school reunion, then my 40th birthday, those milestones came and went. But soon after I sold my first book (the second one I wrote) to an editor I met at that first conference five years earlier. He had changed houses and said yes to The Bluejay Shaman. Actually he said, “It’s too long by 15,000 words. Can you cut it down?” To which I said, “Well, no, I don’t think I can.” I thought about that overnight and went back and told him, “Of course I can!” (Never say you can’t cut your own words. You can and you will, one way or another.)

This was one of the most exciting times of my life. Always treasure that first book. Western writer Terry Johnston told me to buy several boxes of first editions and put them in the garage. (They’re still there.) I walked on air for months. I was published.

Now, three publishers, seven novels, and seventeen years later, I’m not quite as giddy about publication. But holding a book in your hands that you slaved over, cried over, wrote and rewrote and rewrote some more -- there’s nothing like it. My new novel, Jump Cut, had a rocky beginning. I wrote the first half of it and couldn’t figure out what to do with the rest. I rewrote it multiple times. I had many rejections before deciding to publish it with Thalia Press, the small press run by my friend and fellow writer Katy Munger and me.

The independent publishing explosion has given many authors like me a chance to publish books that New York couldn’t see a market for. My last one, Blackbird Fly, is another example. Originally contracted by St. Martin’s Press, it went through three revisions before, for unexplained reasons, they kicked it to the curb. It has a new life now and is doing quite nicely, thankyouverymuchstmartinspress.

I decided to publish Jump Cut with a pseudonym, a choice that my agent first made when submitting it and I kept out of some perverse death wish. Now I am Rory Tate and I feel a bit reinvented. I always wanted to use “reinvented” in a book title but it seemed like a cliché. So I did it to myself. I even have a fake bio:  Rory Tate lives in Seattle and is a former news reporter at a television station there, and in several other major markets. Rory attended an Ivy League university, majoring in slacking and history, then found work in the field of journalism. Self-taught in broadcasting Rory discovered a knack for being in the right place at the right time, and the perfect margarita. A lover of war zones and dark alleys behind the Iron Curtain, Rory caught flack once too often and retired to the computer to spin behind-the-scenes tales of news rooms, danger, and the possibility of being your own worst enemy.

Jump Cut tells the story of a television reporter in Seattle who is her own worst enemy, likes Cosmos by the pitcher, has to work for her Rat Bastard ex-husband, and is desperate for a new job. A narcotics detective is suspected of stealing drugs from evidence. They have to work together to save themselves and the city they love. Read an excerpt and watch the trailer at Available at fine bookstores everywhere. Goodreads is giving away three copies of the book. Enter now -- good luck!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Book Review: Damaged

Here's another review I did for "Suspense Magazine." This one is from July.

“Damaged” by Alex Kava:

This thriller is a fast read. Not because it’s short, but because it’s so hard to put down non-stop action. The short chapters, mostly five to six pages long, move the reader through the book like the hurricane sweeps through the story.
Hurricane Isaac is heading straight for Pensacola, Florida. It has already hit Jamaica as a category-4 storm, which means its winds were 131 to 155 miles per hour and caused “devastating” damage, killing dozens of people. It soon picks up to a catagory-5 with winds 156 miles per hour or greater and capable of causing “catastrophic” damage.
Some residents of Pensacola—the ones who rode out the last storm—don’t believe it will hit dead on, but most of the area is evacuating. Meanwhile, Elizabeth Bailey, a twenty-seven-year-old Coast Guard rescue swimmer and veteran of Hurricane Katrina, is part of a team who discovers a floating cooler of horror, full of body parts. They’re not even all from the same body.
Meanwhile…Maggie O’Dell, FBI special agent and profiler, returns from a bloody shootout to be sent by her unfriendly boss into the hurricane’s path to help investigate the discovery. No time to recover.
Meanwhile…Colonel Benjamin Platt, an infectious disease expert and a guy Maggie would like to have as more than a friend, is sent to the same area to see if he can figure out what’s happening to cause some mysterious deaths among military patients.
Meanwhile…a funeral director named Scott, who is Elizabeth Bailey’s brother-in-law, is getting himself involved in something that he knows should make him a lot of money. He doesn’t exactly realize what it is though.
The threads are woven together expertly against the backdrop of the impending storm, which is picking up power and heading straight for all these characters. The climax will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Reviewed by Kaye George, author of “Choke” for Suspense Magazine

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Getting Your Name out There

Part 1 of 5

I'm by no means an expert, but I can tell you what I've done, and some of it might work for you. I'll also tell you what some people, who are much better known than me, have done.

I've given variations of this as presentations to my local Sisters in Crime chapter, April 2010, and again for the San Gabriel Writers' League in October, 2011. I had to do some revamping between those two. Things keep changing! Neither publishing nor social media are standing still and you have to on your toes to keep up.

Fred Millard - Selling His Wares (public domain)
This will address starting from the bottom, as if you've done nothing, so skip any parts you already have a handle on.


The first thing you need, in order to get your name out there, is--your name.

If you're thinking of using a pen name for any reason, that's your first decision. Pick a name and start using it. But first Google the name you want. Also look for that This might help you with your decision. (More on that later.)

Create an email address with the name you're going to use. The easiest way to do this is by using a free email service like gmail or yahoo.

You want your email to be your name, and to be obvious. Don't use Kevin's Mommy or Mystery Writer or Agatha Christie fan, stuff like that. It's good for everyone to be able to tell who the email is actually from.


Now that you have settled on a name, start to use it. If you belong to online writing groups, sign up with that name, using that email address. If you're already a member with another name, announce that you're changing your moniker, then join the list with the new name. Get people used to seeing it.


Next, you'll need a website if you don't already have one. If you can get the domain for, do it.

If your name is taken as a domain, you might think about using a different one, maybe just a variation. Or, you can tack writer on the end: or Don't tie yourself down to the name of the book or series you're currently working on, or your current main character. If you never get that book published, you might get a totally different one accepted.

When you have a domain, put up at least a temporary message that a webpage is coming soon.

When you get around to designing your site (or having it designed if that's not your thing), keep in mind what you want to accomplish, what you want people to see when they visit. What is the most important thing about you that you want visitors to know?

Here are some suggestions: before you're published, you can offer your bio, some facts about you if you'd like, pets, kids, family, some pictures, what kinds of projects you're working on, organizations you belong to and links to them, and links to other writers' sites and blogs (and to your own blog).

After you're published, you'll need, front and center, information on how to buy your books. Include where you'll be appearing, approximate release dates of upcoming books. Some readers like to visit their favorite authors' websites and they'll even dash out to buy the next book as soon as it's available. Make that easy for them.

Here's another tactic you can use. If you have a hobby or interest that's related to your writing, you might want to start a separate webpage for that, or maybe you can use part of your writing page with a separate tab. Maybe a gardening webpage if you write about a gardening sleuth--draw in people who love gardening; or a site devoted to Maine Coon cats if your mysteries feature them. You can gain a following, from these interests, of people who just may eventually buy your books. People like to buy books from writers they know something about.

That parallel interest ploy can work with blogs, too, in fact even more so there.

This has worked well for a horse racing fan whose book came out recently to rave reviews, Sasscer Hill. Her book is called FULL MORTALITY and was published in May by Wildside Press. Her publicity compares her to Dick Francis and Sue Grafton--high praise! Her blog has been devoted to the horses she breeds and to horseracing and she's used it to the utmost to promote her mystery.

Back to websites and getting started there. Look around at other people's websites and see what you like about them. Dark, bright, background colors, layout, etc.

Choose some that have the feel you want and try to imitate that in yours. You can even contact the designers of the websites you like to see if they're available to design yours. If the name of the designer isn't displayed at the bottom, you could contact the writer to ask for the web designer's name. Sometimes it's a husband or daughter, or the writer herself. But, if you're having someone design yours, you'll want to give them an idea of what you want and pointing to an existing webpage that you like is a good start.
Below are some that have very different looks to them..


Friday, November 4, 2011

Two Book Reviews

I reviewed these two books in June for Suspense Magazine.

“The Fallen Angel” by David Hewson:

This ninth Nic Costa book follows closely on the heels of “City of Fear.” Nic's present adventure takes the reader deep into Rome, not only into the complex family life of the man, Gabriel, who has apparently plunged to his death from a faulty scaffold, but deep into the ancient Cenci family and the mythology that surrounds that fateful clan.
Three days into his August holiday, Nic comes upon a young English girl, Mina Gabriel, bending over her father’s dead form. The similarities to Beatrice Cenci, a tragic Roman figure, are striking. As are the parallels between the Gabriel family and the Cenci family. To begin with, the death happened on Via Beatrice Cenci, where the family has been staying. Something about the accident, about the way Mina looks at him and about the way her brother disappears after an enigmatic statement, ‘She's safe now,’ compels Nic to investigate, even thought it’s August and, as everyone reminds him, he’s on holiday.
So is almost everyone else at the Questura, the police department where Nic works. This makes investigation a little more difficult. The fact that the other police don’t at first think the death is suspicious gives Nic more problems. Why was Mr. Gabriel, an intelligent, popular, respected academic, reduced to living in this dilapidated building in the ghetto? Is the answer in the family’s tangled history or in further links to the Cenci history? Mina and her mother are obviously holding something back, but nothing will make them reveal what it is.
An ancient organization, The Brotherhood of the Owls, with links to Galileo, may hold some clues. But then, again, it may just add to the confusion.
Meanwhile, an attraction to Agata Graziano—a beautiful woman who has given up the vocation of nun—is tugging at Nic. Will the memory of his deceased wife let him pursue whatever might become of a relationship with her?
It was great fun to delve into Roman history and a modern mystery with Nic Costa.
Reviewed by Kaye George, Author of “Choke”, for Suspense Magazine

“Revenger” by Rory Clements:

This is a tale of altered history, using John Shakespeare, the brother of Williams, as the sleuth. William even makes a brief appearance and plays a role. The first in this series was "Martyr" and introduced Shakespeare as an "intelligencer" for Her Majesty, the Queen of England, Elizabeth I.
As the second book opens, John has retired from a palace and political intrigue to serve as headmaster of the Margaret Woode School for Poor Boys. His first main problem is an instructor who is too harsh with the students, but whom he is stuck with. The instructor was foisted upon him by the Protestant Bishop as an agent to keep track that no Roman Catholic leanings creep into the curriculum. His second worry is the Roman Catholic faith of his beloved wife, Catherine. She refuses to keep it hidden, a dangerous position in England at this time. John worries for his wife and his young daughter.
Queen Elizabeth, to whom John is loyal, has enemies. England has defeated the Spanish Armada, but Spain is regrouping and King Philip remains a threat. There may also be a plot to arrange a marriage between Lady Arabella Stuart, generally acknowledged to be next in line to the English throne, to Robert Devereux, the Earl of Essex. This would be a powerful alliance and could topple the queen.
Some rough characters convince John to get back into the intrigue game, some working for Sir Robert Cecil, some for Essex. John isn't quite sure who is on the side of the queen and who is against her. When John's wife quits speaking to him after she narrowly misses a trip to the Tower with the Catholic priest she follows, his troubles are compounded. Somehow, his family is entangled in a plot to overthrow his monarch and he must use his wits to keep this from happening.
The book is quite long for a mystery, 448 pages, but there's excitement and conspiracy on almost every page to keep the reader's interest.

Reviewed by Kaye George, Author of “Choke”, for Suspense Magazine