Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Season's Greetings

For my last post of the year, I send out a 55-word story, told in code: read aloud to crack the code. For those of you who know "Ladle Rat Rotten Hut," this story is written in the same genre.

To all of you, I wish a happy holiday season!

Rude Off duh Rad-Nodes Raingear

Pour, pore Rude Off. The mother raingears loft atom, wooden plywood hem. Rude Off worthy sadist raingear inner hole white whirl. Sopped end sopped tillers nodes tern dread.

Sandy Claws sore Rude Off’s rad nodes end sat, “Aw ride! Yukon guy mice lay!”

Pour Rude Off. Pore guise gutta were call knight!

Friday, December 9, 2011


For the past fourteen days I participated in my first blog tour, named MYSTERY WE WRITE. What this means is that every day for the past two weeks, I’ve hosted a different mystery writer on my blog, THE JOY OF STORY; and every day for the past two weeks I’ve also appeared on a different writer’s blog.

I felt honored to be invited aboard this rollicking tour bus. (Thankfully nobody started singing “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.”) I met distinguished writers, and learned a lot from what they all had to say about the craft of writing, the pleasures of the writing life, and the necessary toil of self-marketing.

I also returned at the end of the tour with a rich reading list. I’ve already ordered quite a few books from my local independent bookseller, and my pile of TBR books will mount up high when they arrive. As a slow reader, I will take my time with the pleasures ahead, but I will certainly thank the authors for the treasures as I finish each one.

In my posts on blogs around the country, I learned a lot about my own writing habits, my own theories of fiction craft, and...I learned a lot about my new book, BEHIND THE REDWOOD DOOR. Thanks to the questions and the suggestions of my hosts in Blogland, I was forced to think about what the book is all about. Who knew?

It was a coincidence, if indeed coincidences exist, that BEHIND THE REDWOOD DOOR was published only five days before the tour began. Perfect timing for a perfect excuse to engage in some uncomfortable but vital self-promotion.

It was a coincidence, again, if such phenomena exist, that I had a birthday three days before the blog tour began, and I climbed onto the virtual tour bus still buzzing from the surprise party and the wild, delirious shrieks of grandchildren. The memory of their laughter reminded me that there are more important things in life than writing and reading books.

All I know is I’m glad I took this wonderful tour with such distinguished writers. I’ve had a splendid time. I want to thank everyone who commented on my posts on other blogs, and those who left comments for my fourteen guests on this blog. One name from the latter group will be randomly chosen to receive an inscribed copy of BEHIND THE REDWOOD DOOR, as well as a copy of my short story collection, GENEROUS HELPINGS.

FLASH/THIS JUST IN: The lucky winner of the drawing is Eileen Obser. Congratulations, Eileen!

Onward! Those of you who write, keep writing! Those of you who read, keep reading. And have a happy holiday season, readers and writers!

To learn more about BEHIND THE REDWOOD DOOR 
and some of my other books, see my website:  

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Heeeere's...ALICE DUNCAN!

Today is the last stop on our blog tour, and we’re fortunate to have as our  guest award-winning author Alice Duncan. Alice lives with a herd of wild dachshunds (enriched from time to time with fosterees from New Mexico Dachshund Rescue) in Roswell, New Mexico. She's not a UFO enthusiast; she's in Roswell because her mother's family settled there fifty years before the aliens crashed. Alice no longer longs to return to California, although she still misses the food, not to mention her children, one of whom is there and the other of whom is in Nevada. Alice would love to hear from you at alice@aliceduncan.net. And be sure to visit her Web site at http//www@aliceduncan.net

I sent Alice my list of questions, inviting her to answer a couple, or a few, or…and she answered them all! With good answers too, I might add. Here they are:

John: What is the relationship between fiction and truth?

Alice: I don’t know about other writers, but I tell the truth in my fiction more directly than I do in “real” life (whatever that is). My books are full of my opinions about the world and its problems and inequities, but filtered through my characters’ minds and mouths. That’s probably because I live in fear that people will get mad at me and figure they won’t if I give them my personal truths via fiction.

John: We’re often advised to write about what we know about. How does this work for the mild-mannered mystery writer who never saw a corpse or has never been hassled by the cops?

Alice: Personally, I like to write what want to know. I mean, my books are all historical, and my mysteries are set in Pasadena, CA; Los Angeles, CA; and Roswell, NM (although I call it Rosedale in the books). Since they’re historical, I have to do a good deal of research, but that’s fun stuff. I think I write historical novels because the world looks better through a mist of time. The people who lived then were undoubtedly no happier than we are today, but it’s fun to pretend.

John: Are you proud of your style? If so (and let’s hope so!), why? What’s special about the way you use language?

People tell me I write the way I talk, so I guess writing is a very personal means of communication for me. According to me, I write the way I write, and I can’t help it. I love the English language and try to treat it well and gently in my books.

John: Can you name six essential ingredients of mystery plot that begin with C? (Extra credit for more C’s.)

Alice: Um . . . no. J

John: Which is more important to you as you write: memory, research, or imagination?

Alice: Oh, imagination, definitely, although research is fun, too. There’s nothing I like better than visiting the Pasadena Public Library, going downstairs to the Periodical Room, and immersing myself in magazines from the 1920s.

John: What makes your protagonist unique? What are his or her passions? Does she or he have flaws?

Alice: At the moment, I have three female protagonists, and they’re all flawed to one degree or another:

Daisy Gumm Majesty (GENTEEL SPIRITS), who’s an excellent, if phony, spiritualist in post-World War I Pasadena, CA. Daisy’s main aim in life is to support her war-injured husband the best way she knows how, even though her husband is a cranky invalid.

Then there’s Mercedes Louise Allcutt (FALLEN ANGELS), Boston Brahmin, who heads west to live with her sister Chloe and Chloe’s moving-picture-producing husband in Los Angeles. Mercy longs to leave her ivory tower and discover the “real” world. She’s terribly innocent, but she goes to work (which horrifies her stuffy family) as secretary to a jaded ex-policeman P.I. named Ernie Templeton. Mercy’s greatest ambition is to write hard-bitten detective novels.

Annabelle Blue (PECOS VALLEY REVIVAL) lives in Rosedale, NM, with her mother and father and obnoxious 12-year-old brother. Annabelle is stuck in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the desert, and she wants an adventure or two with, say, Allan Quatermain or Rudolf Rassendyll, before she marries her gentleman friend and fades into the wallpaper. Not that she’d do anything improper with either gentleman, you understand.

John: What are your feelings about love and sex in fiction? Are they essential to plot and character development?

Alice: Hmm. I have no objection to love and sex in fiction, although when I stopped writing historical romance novels, it was mainly because I was sick to death of writing sex scenes J

John: Are there accepted rules of good writing that you enjoy breaking?

Alice: I like to make up words. This, in spite of my adoration of the English language. Go figure.

John: Who is your favorite writer? What book made you want to be a reader? What writer made you want to be a writer?

Alice: HALF MAGIC, by Edward Eager, read for the Altadena Public’s Summer Reading Program in the summer between third and fourth grades, prompted me to become a reader. I’ve always wanted to be a writer. When I was a kid and someone asked what I wanted to “be” when I grew up, I’d say, “An author.” Guess I’ve just always liked to escape from reality. I don’t know that I have a favorite author, per se, although I believe THE ROOTS OF HEAVEN, by Romain Gary, is probably my favorite book of all time. I’ve always had a thing for elephants (well, except in the political arena—maybe you’d better not leave that part in)

And now a word from our sponsor—

Alice Duncan has published three books this year! (How does she find the time? And that’s not all that keeps her busy.) Here are links to this year’s list:

PECOS VALLEY REVIVAL: http://tinyurl.com/3uafvqg

For more information about Alice Duncan, take a look at her impressive website: http://aliceduncan.net/

Also, I suggest you check out Alice’s author page on Amazon. You’ll be impressed by what you see there:

Alice, many thanks for dropping by. I hope this has been an enjoyable tour for you, and I join your many fans in wishing you good luck with all your books.

A final note from John: During the Mystery We Write Blog Tour, I will be keeping track of the comments left for the guests on my blog. After the tour, I'll draw one name out of a hat, and that lucky person will be given a copy of my new book, Behind the Redwood Door, as well as a copy of my short story collection, Generous Helpings. But I'll need to contact the winner, so if you're interested, leave your email address at the end of your comment.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Today’s guest on the Murder We Write blog tour is mystery writer W.S. (Wendy) Gager, author of the Mitch Malone mystery series. I had the pleasure of being on hand when Mitch interviewed my protagonist, Guy Mallon, on Wendy’s blogsite, November 26, the second day of this tour. Guy enjoyed being interviewed by Mitch, and I enjoyed getting to know Wendy at that time. Now we’ll all get to know her—and Mitch Malone—a little better.

W.S. Gager has lived in Michigan for most of her life except when she was interviewing race car drivers or professional woman's golfers. She enjoyed the fast-paced life of a newspaper reporter until deciding to settle down. She quickly realized babies didn't adapt well to running down story details on deadline. Since then she honed her skills on other forms of writing before deciding to do what she always wanted with her life, and that was to write mystery novels. Her main character is Mitch Malone, an edgy crime-beat reporter always on the hunt for the next Pulitzer, determined not to let anyone stop him, supposedly.

John: Where did Mitch Malone come from?

Wendy: I have no idea. I dreamed about him. Does that make my husband jealous of this man of mystery? Not really. He knows about my vivid imagination, but I’m not going into detail about that.

After A CASE OF INFATUATION came out, people who knew me well would tell me they were so surprised by the book because they couldn’t find me in it anywhere. I took that as a compliment, figuring all the characters were well crafted and unique. The only similarity between myself and Mitch Malone, my crime beat reporter, was that I had worked on a half dozen newspapers prior to adding Mom to the list of my occupations.

In A CASE OF HOMETOWN BLUES, the third book in the Mitch Malone Mystery Series, Mitch Malone’s back story is revealed and why he is so single-minded in his focus on fame. In his latest quest for a Pulitzer Prize, Mitch returns to his hometown, gets arrested for the murder of the homecoming queen and must clear his name. In that time he finds out the town has layers of evil just below the surface and people he hasn’t talked to in years are willing to help him and believe he is innocent. Neither of these truths sets well with him and his solitary existence as he is forced to face moments of great loss from his childhood.
In writing about Mitch and his Pink-Panther-style of crime solving, I found out some truths about Mitch’s and my relationship. Mitch is the reporter I always wanted to be. He is the one that can make asking grieving mothers about the tragic loss of their toddler sound like the invasion of privacy it can be in the quest to get the story first. Mitch gets to talk back and go the extra mile in a business that counts success in word counts and headline sizes.
I have never had the inclination to return to chasing my own byline. I much prefer using my imagination to create whodunits that give the reader a real test to find the villain, but I do understand Mitch’s quest for fame and fortune in the Fourth Estate. My husband has nothing to worry about from Mitch…but my imagination will probably get him in trouble again soon! Let me know what you think of a flawed hero who against the best of intention to remain objective gets mired down in the stories he writes.

John: Mitch is obviously a thrill to spend time with. Wendy, tell us about his newest adventure. Describe A Case of Hometown Blues, please.

Wendy: When Pulitzer-winning reporter Mitch Malone's editor presses him for a favor, Malone breaks his vow to never return to his hometown. It seemed simple enough—lead a seminar for Flatville, MI's newspaper, keep a low profile and get back to the city post haste. But memories of his parents' death swarm him, and, to avoid solitude, he stops for a beer. In the crowded bar, Mitch is dismayed to see many of his former classmates—including the still-lovely Homecoming Queen, Trudy. Once the object of his teenage crush, Trudy joins Mitch. He quickly realizes she is upset and inebriated. Always the gentleman, Mitch sees her safely home, and returns to his B&B, still trying to shake memories of his parents' sad demise. The next day, he is stunned to learn Trudy was murdered and he is the prime suspect. The locals treat the murder charge as a slam dunk, and Mitch realizes he must track down the real killer to keep his butt out of jail. As he investigates, facts he thought he knew about his family unravel, and danger ratchets up. Can Mitch discover the truth that will allow his parents to rest in peace, or will he be resting with them?

A Case of Hometown Blues by Jackson author W.S. Gager (Oak Tree Press, $14.95) is the third in her series about Mitch Malone, who was twice nominated for a Pulitzer Prize Investigative Journalism Award. This oversized paperback is set in the small fictional town of Flatville, Mich., where Malone grew up. He's returned to give a seminar on investigative journalist techniques. The seminar is the same weekend as Malone's high school reunion, but he really doesn't want to participate. A classmate's body is found and Malone becomes the prime suspect. While Gager's highly entertaining tale wraps up a little too neatly, it's still solid escapism by a promising new talent.
         —Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing’s Curious Book Shop
         Ray Walsh has reviewed crime novels and noir thrillers since 1987.

Buy link:

A final note from John: During the Mystery We Write Blog Tour, I will be keeping track of the comments left for the guests on my blog. After the tour, I'll draw one name out of a hat, and that lucky person will be given a copy of my new book, Behind the Redwood Door, as well as a copy of my short story collection, Generous Helpings. But I'll need to contact the winner, so if you're interested, leave your email address at the end of your comment.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

MEET M. M. GORNELL! (oops, there's an exclamation point)

Today’s guest on the Murder We Write blog tour, is none other than Madeline Gornell, who is famous for getting her kicks on wonderful Route 66.

Madeline (M.M.) Gornell has three published mystery novels—PSWA awarding winning Uncle Si’s Secret (2008), Death of a Perfect Man (2009), and her latest release, Reticence of Ravens (2010)her first Route 66 Mystery. Reticence of Ravens is a 2011 Eric Hoffer Fiction finalist and Honorary Mention winner, the Da Vinci Eye finalist, and a Montaigne Medalist finalist.

She continues to be inspired by historic Route 66, and has recently completed Lies of Convenience, which hopefully will have a 2011 winter release date. It is a tale that fictionally connects murder, truths untold, and Chicago’s Lake Michigan with California’s high desert on the opposite end of The Mother Road. Madeline is also a potter with a fondness for stoneware and reduction firing. She lives with her husband and assorted canines in the Mojave in a town on internationally revered Route 66.

With no further ado, let’s hear what Madeline has to say about the joy of story and the craft of creative writing. Madeline?

Thank you, John, for hosting me on your blog!

So glad you’re interested in talking about “…the joy of story and the craft of writing.” Among the topics of discussion you mentioned, for me, several go hand-in-hand. My favorite writer, and the rules of good writing (breaking them!) are interlinked.

I’ve gone on and on before about how much I like P.D. James, but haven’t often said why. Not only do I think she weaves a marvelous story through multiple points of view, I’m enthralled (hyperbole I know—but we are talking about breaking rules!) with her use of compound and complex sentences, challenging words—some long (yes, she sends me to the dictionary occasionally), judiciously placed (and sometimes lengthy descriptive passages), sentences that are longer than eight words—basically, writing that does not talk down, but inspires upward.

You get the idea, I like her writing. Alas (I know, an archaic word), I quickly learned some of the American rules-of-the-getting-published world. Modern language, one exclamation point per lifetime, no ellipsis-ending sentences (particularly in dialogue), short sentences, common usage words, and heavens forbid—don’t send your reader to the dictionary! And I’m guessing, reading level at sixth to eighth grade? Then there’s compound sentences and semi-colons…

Believe me, I’m not pooh-poohing any rules, and dearly want everyone to enjoy my novels—and I’m the first to admit I’m a terrible sinner in many areas. Thankfully, I have three wonderful, talented, and caring editors who know how to use red ink—but also “hear” my voice, and know where I want to go. Two of my major stumbling blocks are endless phrases and clauses—of all types, and over-usage of adjectives and adverbs.

So for me, one of “…the joys of story and craft of writing” is continuing to develop my own voice, wherein I tell a good story, at a location the reader is enjoying visiting, on my own vocabulary terms—but without alienating readers and still managing to challenge a tad. It’s a high bar, but that’s part of the fun of it! (oops, another exclamation point) Arrival will come, I think, when one (me) knows more often than not, what needs changing, and what doesn’t. Knowing I’m breaking a “rule,” why, then doing it well!

John, thanks for letting me “spout off.” (hmmm, should that period be outside or inside the quote mark?)

John replies: Madeline, you’ve just taught me a lot! (for that matter, !!) The editor in me was tempted to “correct” this essay, and the fun-loving reader in me told that editor to fly a kite. Rules are to be broken, and you have broken them in all the right places.

Now for a word from our sponsor—

Madeline’s books are available at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com, and Smashwords, in paper and e-book formats. You can visit her online at her website http://www.mmgornell.com, or her BLOG http://www.mmgornell.wordpress.com, or email her directly at mmgornell@earthlink.net

Buy link for Reticence of Ravens:

A final note from John: During the Mystery We Write Blog Tour, I will be keeping track of the comments left for the guests on my blog. After the tour, I'll draw one name out of a hat, and that lucky person will be given a copy of my new book, Behind the Redwood Door, as well as a copy of my short story collection, Generous Helpings. But I'll need to contact the winner, so if you're interested, leave your email address at the end of your comment.

Monday, December 5, 2011


Today’s post on this whirlwind tour we’re taking will be something different. Instead of the usual interview, Q&A, and BSP, we’re fortunate to have a creative essay by one of the most talented and entertaining writers in the field of mystery fiction. I feel honored to have Tim Hallinan visit my blog, and I know you’ll get a lot out of what he has to say.

Timothy Hallinan is the Edgar- and Macavity-nominated author of thirteen widely praised books—twelve novels and a work of nonfiction—including the Poke Rafferty Bangkok thrillers, most recently The Queen of Patpong.  The others in the series, in order, are A Nail Through the Heart, The Fourth Watcher, and Breathing Water.  In 2012, Soho/Random House will publish The Fear Artist.

He also writes the popular Junior Bender comic thrillers in ebook form, the latest of which is Little Elvises.  In 2011, Hallinan conceived and edited an ebook of original short stories by twenty mystery writers, Shaken:  Stories for Japan, with 100% of the proceeds going to Japanese disaster relief, and contributed to the collection Bangkok Noir, which raises money for organizations that work to feed and educate Bangkok street children.  He lives in Santa Monica and Southeast Asia, and he is lucky enough to be married to Munyin Choy.   His website is www.timothyhallinan.com.

Now, with no further introduction needed, here’s what Tim Hallinan has to say about writing in general and the art and science of blurbing in particular:


John asked for something that might communicate the joy I take in writing, but I've just finished a book The Fear Artist, that tried to kill me half a dozen times while I was writing it, and the joy of writing is something I barely remember.  It's like something I saw years ago in somebody else's home movie.

Still, every book has its lessons to teach, and from The Fear Artist I learned that it is possible to write with clenched teeth and a sheen of flop sweat for months on end and still produce a decent book.  It reinforces something I already knew but didn't keep in mind: I never know, when I'm writing, whether I'm writing well or badly. It takes a few weeks for the dust to settle and the fat to rise to the surface before I can get any kind of fix on the quality of the work I've done.  Sometimes the material that came most easily, and seemed most blessed, looks flat and facile later, while the stuff that felt like building a wall, one heavy brick at a time, is – well, solid.

When I say “I” in the paragraph above, I really mean “we,” because I think it's true of most of us.  And it has a corollary that many people ignore—don't stop writing because it's not fun.  You have no idea whether the material you're grinding out, word after agonizing word, is any good.  If you quit, you may lose a good book.

Anyway, isn't that the difference between a professional and an amateur?  The professional shows up no matter what?

So, to my topic for the day: blurbs.  Those often misleading quotations from famous or not-so-famous writers that speckle the covers of books, trying to mislead—sorry, entice—you into buying the thing. 

I've benefited from some very generous blurbs by writers I admire, including T. Jefferson Parker, Gregg Hurwitz, Brett Battles, Adrian McKinty, Laura Joh Rowland, Stephen Jay Schwartz, Larry Beinhart, Steve Martini, James Church, Gar Anthony Haywood, and many others. 

Two examples from my most recent Bangkok thriller, The Queen of PatpongJohn Lescroart said, “You won't read a better thriller this year,” and Ken Bruen said, “John Burdett writes about Bangkok, but Timothy Hallinan is Bangkok.”  I'm hoping they sincerely meant these things, because they gave me a great lift and sometimes even sold some books.

But blurbing isn't always sincere.  There are some bestselling novelists who are too generous and whose names appear, it seems, on the covers of half the mysteries and thrillers published that year.  It's very doubtful that they actually read all these books, and, in the case of some of them, much more doubtful that they found them “compelling” or “dazzling” or (here's a tip-off the blurber probably hasn't read the book) “a roller-coaster ride.”

Why would writers write blurbs they don't believe?

Several reasons.  Probably the most frequent is that the blurb is a favor for the publisher who publishes both the blurber and the blurbee.  This produces a lot of blurbs of the “Don't start this one late at night” and “It wouldn't let go of me” type – blurbs that, like “a roller-coaster ride.” could be applied safely to any mystery or thriller, read or (more likely) unread.

Another reason is that the writer is a nicer person than I am and can't bear to hurt another writer's feelings.  This attitude frequently expresses itself in blurbs that focus on the author rather than the book: “Darius Whipsnade is a genuine talent,” for example.  Once again, there's nothing in the blurb about the actual content of the book.

I get approached for blurbs perhaps forty times a year.  I say no most of the time, especially if I (a) don't know anything about the writer, or (b) know that I don't like the writer's work.  I really don't want to read a book and then decline to blurb it, because that's just a way of saying you don't like it.

Once in a blue moon, the worst possible thing happens.  I agree to blurb a book by a writer whom I know and like personally, and find I don't like the book.  This is a real stinker of a situation.

All I can do is tell the writer, as clearly as I can, what my problem is with the book.  This has not made me any new friends, but it hasn't really cost me any, either.  In the end, the writer gets over his or her injured feelings and I don't have to grimace every time I see the blurb.

The weirdest blurb request of my career came a few months back when HarperCollins wrote to ask me to blurb a book called One, Two, Buckle Your Shoe by an unknown named Agatha Christie.  Now, usually, blurbs are pasted on books in the hope that they'll boost sales, but Dame Agatha, whose books have sold more than 4 billion copies, sells more books before tea time every day than I've sold in my whole career.  I read the book and loved it and wrote what I thought was a nice blurb, and a few days back I got the book, and there I am, on the back cover.

I can only hope it gave the poor dear a little boost in sales.

Thanks to Timothy Hallinan for this insider’s insight into a part of the book business that we all must be aware of but few fully understand.

A final note from John: During the Mystery We Write Blog Tour, I will be keeping track of the comments left for the guests on my blog. After the tour, I'll draw one name out of a hat, and that lucky person will be given a copy of my new book, Behind the Redwood Door, as well as a copy of my short story collection, Generous Helpings. But I'll need to contact the winner, so if you're interested, leave your email address at the end of your comment.

Sunday, December 4, 2011


Today’s guest on the Murder We Write blog tour is Jackie King. Like a lot of us, Jackie loves books, words, and writing tall tales. She especially enjoys murdering the people she dislikes on paper. (I’d ask her if she’s related to any other murderous writers named King, but I’m sure she’s heard that one a million times.) This King, Jackie, is a full-time writer who sometimes teaches writing at Tulsa Community College. Her latest novel, THE INCONVENIENT CORPSE, is a traditional mystery. King has also written five novellas as co-author of the Foxy Hens Series. Warm Love on Cold Streets is her latest novella and is included in the anthology THE FOXY HENS MEET A ROMANTIC ADVENTURER. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, RWI, Inc, Oklahoma Writers Federation, and Tulsa Night Writers.

John: Thanks for dropping by, Jackie. I trust you’ve been having a good time on the whirlwind tour?


Thanks John, for hosting me on this 10th day of our Holiday Blog Tour. Yes, it has been fun. And thanks to each of your readers for taking a break from their holiday preparations to join us. Remember Readers, to make comments on each of our 15-member mystery writer’s blogsites. We’re giving away over 50 books total, either during the tour or immediately afterwards. I’m giving a signed copy of my cozy mystery THE INCONVENIENT CORPSE and a signed copy of THE FOXY HENS AND MURDER MOST FOWL. Names will be drawn by random from those who take time to leave a comment.

John: Somebody’s going to be mighty lucky! And by the way, I’m giving away books, too. See below for details.

Jackie, what do you want to tell your readers, fans, and new friends today? I’ll turn the microphone over to you, now.


Here’s what I want to say: It’s never too late for a dream. That’s something I know for a fact, from personal experience.

Is there anyone out there who longs to write but thinks it’s too late in life for them to start? Well, let me tell you that’s just not true. If you just like to think about writing a novel or nonfiction book or your memoirs, there’s nothing wrong with being a fellow traveler. Enjoy your fantasy with a clear conscience. I have my own just-for-fun pipe dreams—getting on the New York Times best seller list, winning the lottery, or becoming slim again. All very fun to think about, but I can survive if these things don’t happen. But if you’re serious about writing, that’s a doable goal. Put words on paper today with the goal of creating a story, a novel, an article or a poem, and presto chango, you’re a writer!

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Well it is. But remember: creative writing is hard. It’s also rewarding. If you’ve always longed to write, the only thing that will satisfy that inner-craving is to put words on paper. Your first draft needs to be written without self editing. We all have an evil voice inside our heads that says, “What makes you think that you can write?” Even writers who are very famous battle this voice. The trick is push past those doubts and focus on the story you want to tell. And you can do it if you want to bad enough.

Oh, another thing: after that first burst of creative energy, say about chapter five, you’ll suddenly lose momentum. (This could happen earlier.) Another idea will come to mind and you’ll be tempted to start a new book with this “better” idea. Don’t allow yourself to be sidetracked because writing the first book has become hard. I’ve already told you that writing is hard. The very same thing will happen again with the new premise. Then again. And again. Make a few notes about your new idea and put it in a file called “story ideas,” and soldier on with your first book. If you don’t, you’ll never finish a book.

This happened to me with THE INCONVENIENT CORPSE, my latest cozy mystery. The first chapter almost wrote itself. I was staying in a bed and breakfast, breathing in the atmosphere, sure I’d finish this book in a month. Here’s the first paragraph:

“Grace Cassidy stared at the stranger’s body. He was about sixty, pot-bellied, naked, and very dead. She knew he was dead because his skin was the color of concrete. Worst of all, he was lying smack dab in the middle of her bed.”

The story in a nutshell:

…No credit cards, no cash, no resources, no job skills. Fleeced and abandoned by her husband, Grace Cassidy learns she is the prime suspect in a bizarre murder.

After I got home, that voice in my head started spouting off: “Okay, smarty-pants, the dead guy’s clothes weren’t anywhere to be found. How are you going to explain that” And, “Your murderer is way too obvious; no editor will want to publish this story.” Plus, “You’ve set this poor woman up to be totally destitute. No one is completely without resources these days, how can that be?” And so on.

I was full of doubts, but I was also stubborn. I dug in my heels, brainstormed alone and with friends, and solved each of these problems. Then my protagonist (heroine, to you folks who just started writing five minutes ago) solved the murder in much the same way that her creator would do, by muddling through and refusing to give up.

This woman-of-a-certain age, with no job skills and no resources, finds herself a job, makes some quirky new friends and solves the murder. There’s also a touch of romance involved, just for fun.

John: What great advice you give, Jackie, and thank you for sharing your journey toward finishing that book! That’s a story with a happy ending if there ever was on. Friends, get a load of this cover:

Jackie: Thanks again, John, for being such a gracious host, and thanks to each reader for stopping by. Be sure and leave a comment so your name will be in the hat to win a signed copy of THE INCONVENIENT CORPSE or a copy of STATEHOOD FOXY HENS AND MURDER MOST FOWL. My novella The Spinster, the Pig and the Orphan is one of three stories in this anthology, a historical mystery set in 1889 Guthrie, Oklahoma Territory. I’m giving away a signed copy of each book.

Also, don’t forget to leave comments at each of our Holiday Blog Tour team members for a chance to win their books.


Jackie King

P.S. If you’re interested in learning more, THE INCONVENIENT CORPSE is available at:

Blogsite: Cozy Mysteries and Other Madness: http://bnbmysteries.blogspot.com

Amazon and Barnes & Noble as well as available through all bookstores. Paper trade back: $15.95.  Kindle $2.99  http://amzn.to/gMv7CH

A final note from John: 

During the Mystery We Write Blog Tour, I will be keeping track of the comments left for the guests on my blog. After the tour, I'll draw one name out of a hat, and that lucky person will be given a copy of my new book, Behind the Redwood Door, as well as a copy of my short story collection, Generous Helpings. But I'll need to contact the winner, so if you're interested, leave your email address at the end of your comment.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Today's Guest Blogger: JEAN HENRY MEAD

My guest today for the Murder We Write blog tour is Jean Henry Mead, a writer known to many of us not only for her mystery novels but also for her energetic and generous posts in the blogosphere. Jean is the author of 15 books, seven of them novels. She’s also an award-winning photojournalist published domestically as well as abroad. The former news reporter-photographer has served as a news, magazine and small press editor in California and Wyoming.

I asked Jean a number of questions, and I know you’ll find her answers enlightening. We could all learn from such a successful, entertaining crafter of mystery fiction. So, with no further ado...

John: Jean, what in your opinion is the relationship between fiction and truth?

Jean Henry Mead: All fiction is based on truth, whether mystery or fantasy. No matter how creative the storyline, there’s always a reality peg on which to hang it.

John: We’re often advised to write about what we know about. How does this work for the mild-mannered mystery writer who never saw a corpse or has never been hassled by the cops?

Jean Henry Mead: Research is how a mild-mannered writer gains the knowledge he/she needs to write a mystery novel. Research is my forte and I enjoy reading about what I didn’t previously know or understand. The fun part of writing for me is to spoon in (not shovel) the best of my research into my novels because my goal is to inform as well as entertain. And that’s probably a result of my journalism training. I enjoy tackling social issues as well as entering the minds of serial killers. 

John: Are you proud of your style? If so (and let’s hope so!), why?

Jean Henry Mead: It’s taken many years to develop my own style. I’ve studied the work of a number of writers, from Dean Koontz to Shakespeare, and I’ve been told that my style is unique and often humorous. Most comments I receive are that my novels, no matter how serious the theme, are “fun reads.” All 15 of my books, both fiction and nonfiction, contain humor and I hope that my readers finish my books with a smile and a feeling of satisfaction that they ended well, although I often leave a few unresolved strings hanging to be picked up in the next book

John: Can you name six essential ingredients of a mystery plot that begin with C? (Extra credit for more C’s.)

Jean Henry Mead: Characters, charisma, challenges, chagrin, champions, chaos, coroner, cadavers, caring and crying (emotions), chapters, civility, capers, car chases, cats, chai tea (which is what my characters drink).

John: What makes your protagonists unique? What are their passions? Do they have flaws?

Jean Henry Mead: I write two mystery series: Logan & Cafferty mystery/suspense, and the Hamilton Kids’ mysteries.

Dana Logan & Sarah Cafferty are two feisty 60-year old widows and amateur sleuths who sell their homes in a retirement village after a serial killer systematically murders their friends. They buy a motorhome and travel the West (as I once did) stumbling over bodies wherever they go. They’re hooked on solving murders despite the dangers they place themselves in. Their murder solving hobby is both a passion as well as a flaw because they rarely turn their evidence over to the police.

A lovesick sheriff from the first novel, A Village Shattered, pursues Dana Logan through each novel, attempting to convince her to marry him. He also helps in their investigations although Dana doesn’t always treat him well. She tries to keep him as a friend while holding him at arm’s length. To complicate matters, her friend and traveling companion Sarah Cafferty has a crush on him.  

John: What are your feelings about love and sex in fiction? Are they essential to plot and character development?

Jean Henry Mead: A little romance goes a long way in mystery novels and I include tidbits in all my books. I may hint at sex but I don’t think graphic descriptions add anything worthwhile to the plots. I concentrate on character development and solving puzzles. That’s what mysteries are all about.

John: Thanks for your thoughtful answers, Jean. Now let’s tell our readers a bit about your recent book, Murder on the Interstate.

Murder on the Interstate features two senior women sleuths, Dana Logan and Sarah Cafferty, who gun their motor home to pursue a murder whose victim they’ve found on the side of the highway. The story is peppered with suspense, humor, romance, and automotive disaster. See Jean Henry Mead’s website, http://www.jeanhenrymead.com/index.htm, for a description of this exciting tale, with an enviable list of review quotes and blurbs by some of her esteemed colleagues. The book can be ordered through your local bookseller, from the publisher, Medallion Books, and from online booksellers, such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Highly recommended!

Jean's latest Logan & Cafferty mystery/suspense novel, Murder on the Interstate, is available at:
Amazon.com: http://tinyurl.com/6znjvsa (print and Kindle) and
Barnes and Noble: http://tinyurl.com/3vxzppy (Nook)
She's giving away one of her mystery ebooks at the end of each of her 14 blog appearances as well as three print novels at the conclusion of the tour. Be sure to leave a comment and email address to be eligible for the drawings. Her blog tour schedule is listed at: http://jeansblogtour.blogspot.com/

A final note from John: During the Mystery We Write Blog Tour, I will be keeping track of the comments left for the guests on my blog. After the tour, I'll draw one name out of a hat, and that lucky person will be given a copy of my new book, Behind the Redwood Door, as well as a copy of my short story collection, Generous Helpings. But I'll need to contact the winner, so if you're interested, leave your email address at the end of your comment.