Wednesday, November 20, 2019

My First Bouchercon!

This was posted on Writers Who Kill earlier, but I want to put it here, too. It was a big event for me.

[***NOTE: I have a story in an anthology which is just out! I'll be gone part of the day today, but will check in here as soon as I'm home.]

I went to my first ever Bouchercon this month, and a couple of days of last month (10/30-11/3). It wasn’t a month long, but kind of seemed like it!

I flew there on Wednesday and checked into my hotel, the Hyatt Regency Reunion Tower. Although I lived in Dallas for nearly 20 years and have been to Reunion Tower at least once, I don’t remember the hotel and the entire city looked unfamiliar. They’ve built—and are building—so many new skyscrapers since I left well over 15 years ago.

I’ll admit the conference was bewildering to me. I never did find a good map and used this one from the huge tome I got when I checked in Wednesday. There was no map in the schedule I carried around. It felt like I walked a thousand miles!


I had breakfast Thursday morning with a good friend from Dallas, Sarah Weiss.

My panel, on self-publishing, was that morning at 9:30, but I don’t have any pictures of it.

I do have pix of two other panels I attended that day, both short story panels. I didn’t sell any books at the conference since I couldn’t get them into the bookstore until after my panel and my signing, due to miscommunication between the hotel and the conference, I was told. That was quite disappointing.

Becki Willis, Sandy Steen, Mary Sojak, Mad Hildebrandt, Angela Zeman, Bess Carnan, Rhonda Gilliland, Paul Benson

Barb Goffman, R.T. Lawton, Mysti Berry, James Lincoln Warren, Michael Bracken, John Floyd

There was a Guppy gathering later in the day (I neglected to get photos) and Denise Tiller and I ended up at the bar together.


Friday started with the Sisters in Crime breakfast. There were some pictures there—this one of Ramona’s Facebook Sprint group, but I didn’t make the Guppy picture, unfortunately.

Annette Dashofy, Me, Liz Milliron, Cheryl Hollon, Dru Ann Love, Millie Naylor Hast (her picture)

I attended the awarding of the Bill Crider Awards, since I was a judge for those. It was great to see Joseph S. Walker win the award, since he also had an excellent story in my own anthology in 2017.

Me and Joseph Walker above. The short story awards people below, Paula Benson, an important man whose name I forgot, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Gigi Pandian (speaking), and Kevin Tipple

Here’s a link to Paula Benson’s post on the Crider Awards.

Alan Orloff took the Derringer for Best Short Story. Here he is, on the right, with Brian Silverman, nominee for Best Novelette, and another writer whose name I can’t remember.

Derringer finalists

Derringer winners

Sandra Murphy and Nancy West joined me at the bar that night.

Cheryl Hollon and I went to the Denim Party, which included some BBQ, but very little line dancing and the bar closed very early. It included a surprise live auction, but no one knew what the items were so the bidding wasn’t brisk.

I took shots of the daytime view from my room and the two panels I attended, Deep in the Heart of Texas at 11:00, and Anthony nominees at 4:00.

Deep in the Heart of Texas: Scott Montgomery, Daniel J. Hale, Harry Hunsicker, Nancy G. West, William Dylan Powell, Teresa Trent

Anthony Best Short Stories nominees: (M) Angela Crider Neary, Barb Goffman, S. A. Cosby (winner), Art Taylor, Holly West

Anthony Winners are here.

I attended the Diamond Party Saturday night and it turned out to be a dinner, much to our surprise.

I was in a picture with members of the WWK blog, but haven’t gotten a copy of it. Don’t remember when that was taken.

I headed out and drove to Austin to spend the rest of that week at my son’s house. Got home on the 8th, exhausted!

There were some great highlights! One was signing my story in COOKED TO DEATH for Rhonda Gilliland, hanging around with all the other people mentioned above, and just being with so many writers. The Kensington signing was fun, too, even though I don’t have a book out with them yet. Can’t wait until that event at Malice. Needless to say, I had a wonderful time at Bouchercon, but was confused for most of it!

Here’s one final comment on the drama of the whole thing. On the way there, a guy had a heart attack on our plane! On the way back, my luggage didn’t get home with me. I got it the next day, but was panicking!

Monday, October 28, 2019

My October Newsletter

October 28, 2019

Thank you to all my subscribers! I appreciate you so much!


**The anthology, A MURDER OF CROWS, came out earlier this month. It not only includes my own story, “Grist for the Mill,” is contains an introduction by the editor, Sandra Murphy that begins with this sentence:
“It’s all Kaye George’s fault.”
It really is, too! You’ll have to take a peek, and maybe buy the e-book or paperback while you’re there.

In fact, here’s a link to an interview of Sandra by Jacqueline Seewald.

**Do you remember my Cressa Carraway Musical Mystery series that got orphaned when the publisher went out of business earlier this year? The same place that published that above anthology has taken it on! I promised a third book to round out the over-arching plot that wasn’t quite finished at the end of the second book. They will get new titles and new covers from Darkhouse Books. I’m very excited that this series will be revived!

**I’m on a Darkhouse Books roll right now! Another anthology is coming out very soon, MID-CENTURY MURDERS and will include my story “Life and Death on the Road,” based on the true story of when my little brother ran away and joined the carnival.


--You may remember that I got a hip replacement in August. I’m well on the road to recovery, as far as decreased pain and increased function. Only problem is, my back still hurts like the dickens! My cousin’s wife had all her back pain go away when she got a knee replaced and I hoped I would get similar results. But, no luck. So that’s the next body part to work on.

--Yes, still trying to finish up INTO THE SWEET HEREAFTER, the third Vintage Sweets cozy. But right now, packing for Bouchercon in Dallas! This will be my first Bouchercon. For some reason, I’ve never been to one and I’m very much looking forward to it. I’m on a self-publishing panel on Thursday (Halloween!) at 9:30. I have several meetups planned with other writers there, plus my former co-workers from when I lived in Dallas. I’m taking a little more time to drive to Austin to see my son’s family and people I know from the time I lived in Austin.


Bouchercon, Oct 31-Nov 3, in Dallas, where I lived for nearly 20 years.

Left Coast Crime in San Diego, where I have cousins I haven’t seen in too long. March 12-15.

Malice Domestic, of course, very soon after LCC. May 1-3 in the DC area where I have more family—my daughter, son-in-law, and two grandsons.

Charging my laptop and organizing files I want to access while I’m away. And packing. And putting holds on the mail and paper. And getting the cab and the rental car set up. Probably some more things that I’ll forget entirely.

Blogs: Killer Characters and Writers Who Kill, and, less often, Travels With Kaye.

If you don’t have this yet and would like the audio MP3 file of my story “Rescue, 2005,” based on pet rescues in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in the Ninth Ward, please let me know by reply or email. You can access another audio story, “Driving out of Dumas,” on my webpage.

Here’s where you can connect with me if you haven’t already:
Authors Guild of Tennessee:

Nose for Trouble Facebook group:
Prehistory Writers and Readers Campfire:
Smoking Guns E TN chapter of Sisters in Crime:

Thanks so much for subscribing!


If you no longer wish to receive my newsletters, please opt out below:

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Not Another Fork!

I’ve reported forks in the road during my Travels quite a few times now, and I encountered another one this last week. It’s either a bump or a fork—too soon to tell. 

On the surface, it doesn’t look like a good thing, but it may turn out well. One of my publishers, Barking Rain Press, has gone belly up. This has happened to a lot of my writing friends, but never before to me. Yes, Berkley Prime Crime is out of business, but the whole publisher isn’t gone, just that branch—the branch that published me (as Janet Cantrell), of course.
This time, though, it’s like those other closings where the writers are left dazed and bewildered. Okay, dazed and confused—might as well say it. There are some authors with BRP who published their first books there. Some who had one in the pipeline and have been waiting for the release through weeks of delay. Some are heartbroken and at least one has vowed to give up mystery writing.

This closing leaves a lot of debris in the road for most of us. I’m trying to pick up the pieces the best way I can. The books that are orphaned are my Cressa Carraway Musical Mysteries, EINE KLEINE MURDER and REQUIEM IN RED.

I’m seeing this as an opportunity for a fresh start for these books. I’ve been delaying the third in this intended trilogy (at least), so this is a chance to get some things straightened out and move forward with Cressa. I would like to possibly use the titles I proposed originally, and new covers should brighten up the books. If my agent succeeds in getting a publisher for them, I’ll look forward to fresh edits, too. Heck, I’ll look forward to all of those things, even if I self-publish them. And this is the spur I need to get that third book written.

It could turn out okay for me. I sincerely hope it turns out at least okay for many of my fellow BRP orphans.

all photos from

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Something New for Me!

I got an invitation out of the blue this week and I’m eager to tell you about it. Another new road for me.

E. B. Davis, a mystery writer I’ve known for some time, asked if I would like to fill an upcoming vacancy at the excellent blog, Writers Who Kill. I thought it about it long and hard for about two minutes.

I’ve followed this blog for a long time and know at least a little about all the bloggers, and am good friends with most of them.

James M. Jackson, author of the Seamus McCree mysteries, is stepping down to do other writerly things, so I’m filling his spot, which is every other Sunday.

I’m still blogging once a month at Killer Characters, wherethe characters do the talking. And I’ll keep up with Travels with Kaye. My intention here has always been to blog once a week, but I admit I’ve been lax lately, so maybe not quite once a week. In fact, maybe every other week. That sounds about right.

Most of the blogger pictures at the side of the new place contain lethal weapons, so I dug out mine from a Writers Police Academy. I believe it’s the only picture of me with an actual lethal weapon. I could totally fire it and I would totally shoot nowhere near the target. I’m a terrible shot.

I’m looking forward to joining the group there! I hope some of you reading this will follow me over and check out the other writers there, too.

new road photo by johnlindsay at

Wednesday, June 5, 2019


June has been a good month for me. Looking through my short story publications, I realize that a lot of them were published in June. I’d like to pull this one up and post it here for you. It came out in the June 9th issue of “King’s River Life Magazine” in 2012. It’s billed as a mystery/horror story. I think it’s pretty funny.

My own little Jeeves, dearly departed

I’ll give you a bit of background. I’m a HUGE Roomba fan. My son bought me my first one quite a few years ago. By 2012, its battery had died a sad death. It turned out that replacing the rechargeable battery would be nearly as expensive as buying a new one, and other parts, mostly the plastic ones, were getting worn. I ended up buying a new one, but before that, had a weird dream. The Roomba was dead, but would occasionally come to life. It was a little scary! This story came of that.

(Oh yes, I got married in June too. We spent a little over 50 years together, so that turned out to be a good move.)

It’s still at this link,, but I’ll also stick it here. (The picture is by me of my own Jeeves. His replacement is named R2, for Roomba #2)

The Takeover: An Original Mystery/Horror Short Story
by Kaye George
The Takeover by mystery author Kaye George has never before been published.

When Jeeves quit after working only twenty minutes of vacuuming one sunshiny spring morning, I didn’t think it was that big a deal. Maybe he hadn’t gotten fully charged at his comfy docking station. I picked the dear little thing up and placed him carefully back at his home. His tiny orange heart started beating, telling me he was happily charging. All was well with the world. I was so glad I had a Roomba.

The next day he started out across the kitchen floor as usual. He made those endearing beep-beep-beep backing-up noises that made him sound like a piece of toy construction equipment. But this time he cleaned a few feet of the floor, then stopped, crying, “Uh oh!”

“What’s the matter, my darling Jeeves?” I asked. “Is something wrong with your charger?”

On my hands and knees, I could see the charger was plugged solidly into the outlet and his belly. I got up and went to my home office to look online for answers. I found a few workarounds and fiddled with him and his battery for awhile, but nothing worked. I was stumped. Was he dying? I decided to let him charge overnight again.

The following morning he wasn’t in the corner where he belonged. He was next to the kitchen table, sitting quietly on a section of newspaper I’d left on the floor beside my chair. When I’d read the paper late the night before, I’d been dismayed to read that another zombie uprising was expected. The last one hadn’t happened very close by, two states away, but this next one was expected in a nearby town. The graves there had shown signs of upheaval. The uprisings were increasing in frequency, according to the article. On the stroke of midnight, a cemetery would erupt, zombies would emerge from the ruptured graves, sit up, and struggle to their feet to wreak havoc on the nearest humans. The papers displayed images of the carnage almost every day.

I didn’t like reading about an infestation so close, but I hadn’t been able to avoid the headlines, or the talk in the line at the grocery store. Not only were formerly human zombies taking over small towns, farmhouses, and abandoned shopping malls, a food processor in Chicago had leaped off the counter and pureed a cat, a beloved household pet. The bereaved owner called it a zombie food processor. Strange things were going on.

Lifting Jeeves gently, I snatched the newspaper and crumpled it into the wastebasket.

Jeeves said “Uh oh,” when I picked him up. It was one of his standard programmed noises–for when he was stuck. But he refused to vacuum. Again. I was getting fed up with the little bugger. I went into my office and got online again to see how much a newer model would cost. Maybe I could afford another one. Jeeves seemed to be dying. I supposed I should mourn his loss. He’d been such a fine cleaner. The price of a new battery was almost as much as a new machine. My kitchen floor, and the others in the house, too, were getting dirtier by the day.

The next day, I paged through the paper, averting my eyes from the lurid pictures of the zombie carnage. After breakfast I threw the paper on the floor, as usual, to remind myself to take it to the recycle bin on my next trip to the garage, and got to work in my office at my editing job. When I left the office for a break mid-morning, Jeeves was on top of the newspaper again. Was he reading the damn thing?

I grabbed him, maybe somewhat roughly, and got a mild shock. I shoved him back onto his docking station, determined to take him to the trash tomorrow when I ran my Friday errands. A low rumble emanated from him. It wasn’t a sound I’d ever before heard from his programmed innards. For some reason, it made the hair on the back of my neck prickle. I shook my head at my silly apprehension and closed the door between the office and the kitchen to work that afternoon.

As I sat at the kitchen table at dinner time, I heard the ominous, dull growling noise again. I inclined my head toward Jeeves. There could be no mistake. It was coming from him. Maybe I should rename him Spot or something. If he were human, or even if he were a dog or cat–at least an animate object–I might think he was expressing anger, hostility. Maybe dismay at his dysfunctional state. I shook off a shiver.

I told myself it must be one of the sounds he’s programmed with to show something’s wrong.
 For a few moments I continued eating. When I felt a sucking sensation on my bare toes under the table, I looked down. Jeeves was working away, vacuuming my feet. He’d drawn blood from my left big toe. I slammed him onto the charger and weighed him down with my large dictionary.

I took my plate into the den and turned the TV volume up to mask the disturbing grumbles in the kitchen.
That night, a soft whirring noise awakened me from a restless sleep. My first thought was that the ceiling fan needed oiling. Then I felt it. Something tugged on my hair. It pulled. Harder and harder. I switched on my bedside lamp and tried to sit up, but couldn’t. Jeeves was eating my hair, pulling it out by the roots. I stuffed a pillow on top of him and jerked my head away.

More hair ripped out. Blood dripped onto my sheets.

I trapped him between two pillows to avoid shock.
 Using that morning’s paper, I succeeded in wrapping him and carrying him to the trash container, which I wheeled to the end of the driveway so the automated garbage truck could forklift it and dump it into its hopper tomorrow.

It felt good to get rid of that unsatisfactory piece of hardware. I took a deep breath, relieved. Maybe I would look for an old fashioned vacuum. Most of them must be pushed, but some uprights are self-propelled. I’d shop around.

When I returned from my mid-morning errands the next day, I wheeled the empty trash bin back to the side of the garage and went inside. The growling sound greeted me and Jeeves sat just inside the doorway. It was as if he were waiting for me.

Was there no way to get rid of him? Had he climbed out of the trash barrel? I needed to get him out of here, permanently.

A few steps into the kitchen he darted at my feet and I tripped and went down, my feet smarting from his sting even through my tennis shoes. He reversed and came back at me. I managed to scramble to my feet and jump onto a kitchen chair. He butted against it, but didn’t dislodge me.
Atop the chair, I seemed to be safe from being shocked and vacuumed, but I couldn’t stay there forever.
What to do? I had to get him out of the house. I realized I was breathing heavily and my thumping heartbeat was competing with his low, menacing rumbles.

This would not do. I would not be cornered in my own home by a piece of machinery. I wiped damp palms on my jeans and calmed myself. Putting all my effort into making a tremendous leap, I got past Jeeves and raced to the linen cupboard. Grabbed a large tablecloth and threw it over him. Wrapped it around him, ignoring his muffled cries, which sounded more like pleading now than threats.

I managed to get the horrid thing into my car trunk without a shock. I drove straight to the dump, listening to thumping and groaning from the trunk.

At the entrance, I got out and approached the man in the gatehouse. I hadn’t thought what I would say. How could I tell him I had a rogue Roomba in the trunk?

He greeted me with a cheery smile and I thought fast.

“There’s an appliance in my trunk that I need to get rid of.”

“I’ll get it for ya,” he said, walking to the back of the car.

“Be careful. I’ve been getting shocks from it.”

He paused at the closed trunk. “It’s not one of those vacuum do-hickies, is it?”

Startled that he had guessed, I admitted it was.

“We’ve gotten a few of those in the last couple days.” He grabbed a long handled shovel and took it and a wheelbarrow to the rear of my car. “I should be able to get him this way.”

“How did you know–” I almost asked how he knew Jeeves was a male, but that would sound too ridiculous.

“How do you know how to handle it?”

“After a couple shocks, I figured it out.”

I popped the trunk and he maneuvered Jeeves into the wheelbarrow, then threw a piece of thick cloth over him. “I’ll take it from here,” he said.

I drove off, relieved to be rid of the pest.
 That night I went to bed, secure in the knowledge that my house was rid of the alien, metal enemy.

The next morning, my friend Anna came over for coffee, as she usually did on Saturdays. After some chat about local library funding, the lack thereof, and the deplorable deaths in the neighboring town from the zombie infestation, she glanced at the empty docking station.

“Did your Roomba quit working?” she asked.

“Yes, he just died. I think it might have been the battery,” I lied. “But a new battery is so expensive.”

“That’s weird. Mine died, too, on Thursday. And my mother’s quit working Friday.”

“What did you do?”

She looked away. “We had to get rid of them.”

“Did yours, well, attack you?” I had to know. If this was a widespread defect, the company should be told.

She leaned toward me and lowered her voice, as if a Roomba were nearby and might overhear. “Yes. They both shocked us. Mother fell and we had to take her to the emergency room for the burns. She’ll be okay, but it was upsetting to her. What with her heart and all.”

“I took Jeeves to the dump,” I said.


I reddened, realized I had revealed my pet name for him. “Yes, that was his name.”

“Joe threw mine in the lake,” Anna said, referring to her husband. “And mother’s, too. They didn’t have names.”

“At least we’re rid of them.”

We finished our coffee with some gossip about the new couple in the middle of the block and the way their dog barked so much during the day, then Anna left. I spent the rest of Saturday checking vacuum prices online and eventually ordered one, to be delivered in a week.

Clouds gathered all day Sunday and by nighttime a gentle rain was falling. It was lovely to fall asleep to the regular patter of raindrops on the roof, feeling safe.

Monday morning the sun burst through the clouds when I opened the door to fetch the newspaper from the lawn. I shook it out and started to read the headline, but thought I heard thunder. I looked up to see if the rain was starting again. But the sound was coming from lower, from the ground.

I looked down to see a line of Roombas between me and my front door. They smelled like rotten food and some trailed streamers of gray trash behind them. One winked his glowing top light at me and I thought I recognized Jeeves.

They growled and surged toward me, sparks flying from their evil innards. As I fell, the paper flew from my hands, but I caught the words “Zombie Roombas” in the headlines.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019


My new newsletter and Facebook header

I put out my sporadic newsletter today. If you got it, you can skip this blog—it’s a partial recap. If you do NOT get my newsletter, and want to, let me know in these comments!

For quite a while now, I use the same format, mostly, which includes what’s coming up, books, stories, appearances. I realized, putting the newsletter together, that I have some things coming up. I’d like everyone to know about them, so I’ll put them out here, too.


--I’ve been asked to be on a panel at Mystery in the Midlands, June 22, in Columbia SC! It’s a day of workshops and panels put on by Southeast Chapter of Mystery Writers of America and the Palmetto Chapter of Sisters in Crime, for mystery writers, readers, everyone. My panel is full of top notch writers, and me too! Special guest Nancy Pickard, will be interviewed by Cathy Pickens. Info is at:

--Mystery in the Pines, an afternoon mystery event at the White Pine Bookstore in White Pine TN, September 7, 2-5 pm. Games, contests, snacks, and mystery writers—some there, some Skyping in.

--In October, Darkhouse Books will publish an anthology, MID-CENTRY MYSTERIES, which will contain my short story, “Life and Death on the Road.” I ripped it from my own brother’s life, using the time he ran away from home and joined the carnival. Yes, he did!

--Bouchercon, Oct 31-Nov 3, in Dallas, where I lived for nearly 20 years. Details on that conference aren’t out yet.

--Left Coast Crime, San Diego March 12-15 2020. More on this later.

--“Revenge Is Sweet” release from Lyrical Press, March 2020 (!!!) Cover and pre-order info coming.

PLUS, the next meeting of the off-and-running Smoking Guns Chapter of Sisters in Crime will be June 22nd, 1 pm at the Bearden Public Library. Details here:

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

A Writer's Life

You’d think that the main occupation of a writer would be, well, writing, wouldn’t you? The activity that takes up the majority of my time, the thing I think about the most?

Turns out, writing a book is a small part of it. You can write a hundred books, but eventually, you’ll want other people to read them. To do that, they have to be published. Aye, there’s the rub. (I’ll add that writing a book IS hard. You have to learn how to do it—read books, take classes, seek feedback wherever you can, and keep reading and writing, over and over and over, until something clicks.)    

So, you want someone to read it. Someone besides your close family and friends. Today, there are several ways you can get a book published. You can learn how to DIY, as I’ve done with one series and my short story collection. There it is—all published, with a professional cover (that I paid for), sitting out there on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and other places too, for all the world to see. Um, why isn’t anyone seeing it? Because thousands of other writers have done the same thing and the field is crowded. I gave that series a leg up by having one of my actual publishers distribute it. Almost all my sales of that series come through them (Untreed Reads). 

Another way is to submit it dozens (or, in my case, hundreds) of times to small presses. After you learn to write an appealing cover letter, summarizing your book in one succinct paragraph. For that, you’ll probably have to take a class, or at least read books and articles on it. Then, when you do get a small press to say they’ll publish it, it’s sitting out there with your self-published series and a few people are noticing, but not many unless you learn to promote it. Another class or two, or ten. I’ve had the great good fortune to be associated with several excellent small presses, but I have to help them out with marketing and selling.

The old fashioned way is to attract an agent to do all that work. Ha! Getting an agent is harder than any of the above. If you’re sending a proposal, you’ll have to have the cover letter, a one or two page synopsis (take another class to learn to do that), and at least the first three chapters of a proposed book. Or, you can take 6-12 months to write a whole book and submit that—with the completely professional cover letter. Then you hope the agent gets you work published with a big enough press to get it onto an actual bookstore bookshelf. That’s the way to sell lots of books. The only way I’ve found, personally. Other writers can sell books in other ways, but, so far, that’s worked best for me, quantity-wise.

So, reading books about how to write, how to market, taking classes in all those things, writing blogs, writing guest blogs, putting out newsletters (first building a newsletter recipient list), joining writers’ organizations, getting my name in front of people by doing columns and reviews, giving away review copies in hopes of getting actual reviews, attending conferences so more readers will have heard about me, and doing tons and tons of networking—because priceless connections and advice come from my fellow mystery writers: every bit of that is valuable. And it’s not writing!

So now, that I’ve done a blog on all the other activities, I’ll submit this and…WRITE.


An important announcement! All month long, my two Neanderthal mysteries will be on sale, in both paperback and hardcover! 15% off PLUS free shipping. If you haven’t yet picked up DEATH IN THE TIME OF ICE or DEATH ON THE TREK, this is the perfect time.

Untreed Reads, the publisher, makes an unusual offer, too. They can customize any print book you purchase to include a special message no extra charge! Just put in your notes what you'd like it to say. See all of the titles at

photos from by, in order,

Friday, May 10, 2019

Malice Conference and a Nice Sale

I’m back from a fully packed weekend in Bethesda for Malice Domestic and thoroughly exhausted and energized—at the same time. I know, it’s weird. It’s a wonderful thing to be breathing the same air as all those mystery writers and readers, sharing thoughts and laughs, and a few tears sometimes. Oh, and drinks. OK, not sharing drinks, but, you know.

As usual, I came home without any pix of my own. Several people posted some with me in them, so I’ll “borrow” some of those. 

Janet Bolin, Linda Wiken, Vicki Delaney, me, Daryl Wood Gerber (Avery Aames) and Sheila Connolly--by Daryl (Canadians to the left, Americans and one Irish American to the right)

Elisa A. Varey, me, and Laura Oles, by Elisa

Me, Grace Topping, and Kristin Kisska at Malice Go Round
Me, Julie Hennrikus, and Sheila again by Carol Pouliot

This Malice was the most fun ever so far! I was kind of dreading my panel, since I left town before the info went out, so I had no files with me. The story the moderator wanted to discuss was “Dream Girl” in the BOULD anthology. Darned if I could remember the names of the characters! Since I had bought copies for my family, I found I could download a free digital version onto my little Amazon Fire that I took with me. (First time I’ve ever traveled without a laptop! I always bring one and NEVER use it.) The panel turned out to be hilarious, entertaining, and a whole lot of fun.

Ed Aymer, moderator, and Robin Templeton, Alan Orloff, me, Eleanor Cawood Jones, and Josh Pachter--SO honored to be sitting with such talent! Photo by Art Taylor, husband of the Agatha winner, Tara Laskowski.

Stylized photo by Elisa of me and Mary Lee Ashford (with Steve Carter in the foreground), lamenting the flooding back where we're both from in Iowa and Illinois.

No picture of my and my daughter at the banquet SITTING NEXT TO ANN HILLERMAN! Darn!

And now for an important announcement! All month long, my two Neanderthal mysteries will be on sale, in both paperback and hardcover! 15% off PLUS free shipping. If you haven’t yet picked up DEATH IN THE TIME OF ICE or DEATH ON THE TREK, this is the perfect time.

Untreed Reads, the publisher, makes an unusual offer, too. They can customize any print book you purchase to include a special message no extra charge! Just put in your notes what you'd like it to say. See all of the titles at

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Mr. Rogers Had It Right

I rarely bring up current events here. My work is meant to help people escape from whatever they need to escape from and current events are often that. But something momentous happened this week that I’d like to address.

from Wikipedia
Everyone reading this has probably heard the saying from Mr. Rogers, either first hand or reported later: “Look for the helpers.” That was his mother’s advice to him when he heard scary news.

On Monday, we all watched as Notre Dame burned, the spire fell, we all worried about the priceless treasures inside, whether we had ever been there to see them, planned to go someday, or just knew they were there.

from Vox article

The French firefighters, of course, were the heroes of the day, saving most of the structure and the artwork. The French people were a close second, singing Ave Maria as theywatched from below. The rest of the world suffered with them and, as soon as most of the danger was over, even before that, vowed to help rebuild the magnificent French national symbol.

Did you know that a sacred mosque also caught fire the same day? The flames were quickly put out and no real damage was done. This quote that came from the same day is from a Newsweek article on it:

The Palestine News Agency reported that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' office "expressed its deep regret Monday over the fire that broke out at the historic Notre Dame Cathedral in the center of the French capital of Paris, which caused the collapse of the cathedral tower."

"The Presidency confirmed its solidarity and sympathy with our friends in France over this incident," the outlet added.

Dome of the Rock from Wikipedia

More good helpers.

Notre Dame will be rebuilt and will probably be just as grand and awe inspiring as it ever was. Here’s another thing. There are a few other churches that recently burned that need a lot of help. The Notre Dame fire actually sparked (pun intended) a spike in donations to help the three Louisiana churches that were totally destroyed by a hateful lunatic. In fact, millions of euros have been donated overnight!
William Widmer New York Times

The helpers are always there. Most people are good at heart and try to do the right thing whenever they can. We don’t hear about them because they don’t make good spectacular splashy headlines. But they’re always there. And they far outnumber people who would burn down churches because of the color of the skin of the worshippers.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Presentation on Series vs. Standalones

STANDING ALONE OR GOING TOGETHER: WRITING A SERIES VS. A STANDALONE: Behind the scenes for my presentation at the Authors Guild of Tennessee a few weeks ago.

Here’s the speech I prepared. I didn’t stick exactly to it because I got lots of participation—Yay! The parts that are bolded are for my benefit, so I can glance at the paper while I’m speaking and not have to read the whole line.

I had 20 minutes, so I prepared this at 15 minutes and counted on input from my fellow writers, which, as I said above, I got.

I write short stories as standalones and as series, in a few cases. But in novel writing, I have much more experience in series writing, so I’ll start with that.

Here are the many ways you really should plan, many things you should think about when writing a series:

--continuing characters; which POVs to use; make sure you have a strong enough cast of interesting and varied characters to carry them through several books.
--setting; stationary or moving around; if moving around, what will tie the locations together
--what will hold the series together; theme, occupation, setting
--how many books the series will run; though this is sometimes impossible to tell
--clever or intriguing/beguiling series title; titles of the individual books, tying them together

--series are popular in fantasy, sci-fi, supernatural, dystopian, YA, and mystery. SOME OTHERS?

specific for mysteries:
--who will continue; who will not (victim and killer);
--varied murder methods, or similar ones?
--mysteries are MUCH easier to sell as series
--It’s considered desirable for readers to be able to pick up the series anywhere along the way, then to fill in with previous books, without spoilers. This can be tricky to write and you have to be careful not to kill off anyone who will be missed in the future. This also applies to the villain, unless you have a continuing villain. You also cannot have serious suspects appearing in subsequent books, so you have to have a LOT of throw away characters.

--In some of the sub-genres of mystery, series are preferred
--Even in other genres, eg. nonfiction, a series is sometimes called for
          Ex: True crime, business rules, life goals
          In other words, if you write a really good book, people will want another       one.
--Your series name (or similarity in titles) will be what brings readers back.
--EXPECTATIONS: You will probably want to continue with the same general plot structure since your readers will expect it. You’ll set up the readers’ expectations and, if you want them to continue to buy your series, you’ll have to satisfy those hopes.
--The reader knows what they’ll get from one of your series books.
--Story Arc: You can continue a story arc across the series, for many books
--I find it very nice to receive a 2 or 3 book contract rather than a contract for just 1.
--It’s easier, over a series, to delve into different aspects of your MC, even different aspects of minor characters, to deepen and develop the characters, the narrative and to interest the readers.
--If you’ve built this world, it’s fun to use it again and you have a familiar setting you don’t have to recreate.
--It’s a luxury that you can explore relationships between different characters in different books.
--If you’re writing an epic journey, you have lots of room to complete it. Eg: the Hobbit Books

--The writers often get tired of their main characters and feel they must keep writing them.
Agatha Christie got sick of Hercules Poirot and Arthur Conan Doyle got sick of Sherlock Holmes.
Christie was able to kill off Poirot, but Doyle killed off Holmes and had to resurrect him!
--You must be very careful to continue the mood and tone throughout the series. If you are writing other things at the same time, or between books, this can be hard. You may need to reread parts of all of you earlier book or books.
--Make sure you’re not writing a series that could have been one book.
--It’s like having a dinner party and, after the dinner, the guests don’t leave. They stay and expect more. And more. And more.
--Your readers will expect another book fairly soon. You MUST keep writing the series.
--Using continuing characters creates a problem in that, each time you introduce the characters in each book, you must tell the reader who those characters are. You must not bore the reader who already knows them, but you must not mystify the reader who has never met them.
--You must be careful not to continue a series after you’ve exhausted it.
--If your story isn’t strong enough, it might not merit even a second book and your readers won’t appreciate that.

--One site I consulted, Writers Edit, suggested that they sell in equal numbers, that neither series nor standalone is more popular overall.
--Your writing style and subject matter may tell you which you’re better suited for. Most people do one of the other, I think. OPINIONS?
--You might consider a spin off or a companion book as an in between measure.

--Title to make the reader pick it up
--Point of view; which and how many
--You’re free to structure these any way you want to. Since there will be only one, but plotting can be way out of bounds for your genre and you’ll be hailed as an original
--While there ARE popular standalones that don’t have developed characters, you’ll do better if you do create real, life-like personalities to carry your story.

--there’s a freedom in the roles assigned; you can make anyone at all the killer, even the narrator
examples: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd; Murder on the Orient Express (although this involves a series sleuth, Hercules Poirot)
--Your name on the cover will be what brings readers back.
--This is like having a dinner party, concluding it, and having the guests leave satisfied. But ready for you next dinner party, should you throw one.
--You get to build a new world for each book.
--You can relax a bit before starting a new book, since it doesn’t follow another one that built up hope in the reader.
--If you only ever want to write one book, this is the way to go.
--You’re creating unique and different characters that can fit only this story, this time, and this setting.
--Mystery, romance, romantic suspense, horror, and crime can often be a perfectly good standalone. OTHERS?
--In this one book, you’re doing your very best for these characters, this setting, and this theme. You can pack it all into one tidy, dazzling package.
--You can test the waters with a standalone. It may be that the publisher and the readers want more, so it can give you an opportunity to continue and built on this one book for a series, or at least a sequel.

--You can’t build on these for future sales. Each one will stand or fall on its own. Stand Alone, after all, right?
--Story arc: It has to be completed within the confines of the covers of this book.
--You don’t have as much room to develop rounded characters. There’s a temptation to use stereotypes, but that won’t net you good reviews or sales.
--You must build a new world for each book.

--If the book is wildly popular, the publisher and/or the public may demand more. So, should you always plan for the possibility?
--Is your story too big for one book? You might have to tell an episodic story, one long story told over several books. Not really a series, but multiple books to hold the complete story.

most of the help is in the comments here
Another one with lots of good comments

morguefile photo from diannehope