Friday, December 23, 2011


The following story was told me by June Butts, and made tears come to my eyes. Picture a very poor family in the 1950's in South Texas, down on their luck, but filled with love and courage. June is speaking:

Daddy sat on the floor and gathered us eleven kids around him in a circle. I remember that he had tears in his eyes, so I knew what he was going to tell us was really important.

“Santa can’t come to visit you this year at Christmas,” Daddy said. “But he said to tell you that he could come in the spring. He promised you that.”

Times had been hard since Daddy had been hurt on the job and us kids were really looking forward to getting something special from Santa. But now Daddy was saying that a few reindeer had gone lame and Santa was rescheduling delivering some children’s toys until springtime. We all felt real bad about that, but we knew that it wasn’t our Daddy’s fault.

Then on Christmas Eve, Daddy stuck his hand into his jeans pocket and pulled out a single bill. “I have one dollar left,” he said to Mama. “I’m going down to the dime-store to get something for these kids.” Then he left the house.

A dollar seemed like a lot back then, but I knew that it couldn’t buy presents for so many kids. I also knew that my daddy could do about anything.

When Daddy came home he had bought a package of jacks. He gathered us kids around him on the floor, and played jacks with us for most of that night. And that was the best Christmas we ever had.

June’s story made my eyes sting with tears, and I blinked them away. I pictured this sweet man, sitting with his children around him, celebrating the birth of the baby Jesus with an inexpensive package of jacks. How appropriate, I thought. Jesus came from a humble and hardworking family. Our Lord was born in a lowly manger. A thrill of joy filled my heart at a poor man offering all he had to his family on that special night. His offering must have pleased our Savior. June’s Daddy gave everything he had—his last dollar, his time, and most of all his loving heart.

And for your palate:

Heavenly Coconut-Meringue Kisses

Contributed by Nadine Cravello
3 egg whites
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
3 tablespoons sugar or Splenda
½ teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons shredded coconut.

Heat oven to 275 degrees (slow oven). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Beat 3 Egg whites with ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar until frothy. Gradually beat in 3 Tablespoon of sugar or Splenda a little at a time. Continue beating until stiff. Fold in ½ teaspoon of vanilla. Gradually fold in 3 tablespoons of shredded Coconut. Drop by spoonfuls onto parchment paper. Bake until delicately brown (about 30 minutes). Cool gradually away from drafts.

Enjoy with your family.

Published in DEVOTED TO COOKING by Jacqueline King and Jennifer Sohl. Publisher: Devoted Books an imprint of AWOC.COM Publishing. 2008

Available on Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


Finally I’m living my dream

A writer never retires and that’s a good thing for me since I was old enough to die when I started. Re-started would be more accurate. After beginning to write early in my life I got sidetracked by circumstances. I went away to college at 16, was married at 18 (my brain hadn’t even stopped growing) and then raised three children. In other words, stuff happened. But the time is now and I’m learning to live in the present moment. That happens as you age and begin to feel your own mortality. So on this post; I’m talking about today, December 22, 2011.

I (re)started writing at age 49, and since I had neither husband nor trust fund, I counted beans for a living and wrote at night and on weekends. That’s what most writers do. I loved those days made rich by writing, reading and hanging around with other scribes when time allowed.

The wonderful thing is that one eventually retires from their day job, and that’s when I became a full-time writer. I had listened to a lot of talk about getting prepared for retirement so I didn’t go into some kind of a funk (aka depression). No need for me or any writer to worry about that particular problem. My job had served me well, but I’d long been counting the years, months and days until I could finally say:

Thank God it’s Monday!

It’s hard to believe that my favorite day is now Monday. (Will those of you who are still paying their dues forgive me? Your time will come, I promise.)

A few years ago, my new (dream) schedule started like this:

Rise at 7:00 a.m. and put on makeup. Reason for bothering with makeup? To signal my auto-pilot self that I had NOT retired, I’d just gone into business for myself. Then I took a walk through the neighborhood and worked at my computer until noon. (Coffee and breakfast fitted in somewhere, depending on the day. You’ve seen my picture so you know that I don’t skip meals. And coffee is essential, not only for my sanity but for the (mental) health of anyone near me.)

About five years into my dream life I gave up putting on makeup except for special occasions. That Pavlov’s dog thing had kicked in and I automatically walked to my computer each morning. I had learned that there just wasn’t enough time for small stuff. I had (finally) come to understand the importance of living in the present. I’d learned that not all good things are expedient. (That’s a King James’ Bible sort of word.) So now, with the limited energy of an old gal, my ‘primetime’ has become shorter. I write in the morning and then again after meals. These are the times when my energy level is highest. In between writing and short rest periods, I do such things as load my dish washer, pick up messy stuff around my house, and call a few friends. I usually read in the evenings.

I love my writer’s life! Back when I came home to write after working a 10-hour day, I loved that, too. When I had the energy to spend long hours at my computer as a younger full-time writer, I loved that even more. But writing today is best of all. Even my rest periods are spent writing; I mull over plot problems and character motivation. Then after I get my second (or third) wind, I hit the keyboard again.

Life is never perfect. Everyone gets their share of tragedy, illness, and cranky grocery clerks. But for this writer, LIFE ROCKS!
Carolyn Hart, Jackie King, Judy Rosser at 2011 Bouchercon

Tell me about your dreams and how you're working to make them come true! I want to hear.

Hugs to all,


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Jackie King Shares

Which I borrowed  From the Best Writers on Earth

Rule 1: Don’t allow yourself to be intimidated. Books are written one word at a time, one sentence at a time, and one paragraph at a time. Each day remind yourself that all you have to do is write one sentence, and then one more, and then one more…

Rule 2: Give yourself permission to write a bad first draft. This removes the fear of failure. You can’t fail because it’s okay to write sucky pages. What’s hard is putting your heart on paper. Don’t listen to your internal monitor that says, “You can’t even spell.” (Like that makes any difference? Many successful writers can’t. That’s why God made dictionaries.)

Rule 3: Write every day. Determine to write even in chaos or tragedy, because life is seldom perfect. No matter how busy you are, you have a right to some time of your own; learn to recognize and grasp these moments. Keep either index cards or a notebook close at all times. (I prefer index cards and always carry some in my purse, pocket and car.

Peggy Fielding and me at outdoor signing in June. Too hot for boas!

Modern men and women spend a huge amount of time standing in lines, waiting at the doctor’s office, or the dentist or hairdresser, or for a child at private lessons or activities. Apprehend these moments to make character sketches, brainstorm writing ideas, or write a scene or part of a scene. It’s possible to write a scene in 20 minutes. I know one author who wrote her second book waiting at the airport for her next plane.

Get a large collapsible file to keep all of your notes, character sketches, newspaper clippings, etc., together. Writing time shouldn’t be wasted searching for lost notes. Keep that file somewhere handy and drop each scrap of paper or index card into it.

Writing a book doesn’t always happen in an organized way. Writers are creative folk and there are different ways to begin. Many things can trigger a germ of an idea from which a novel can develop: an overheard snatch of conversation; a newspaper or magazine article; a scene flashing through your mind unexpectedly.

Trust yourself and follow your intuition while you’re writing. This brings out that precious quality called “voice.”

Discipline is primary.

Talent is secondary.

Luck is nice, but a lack of luck can be overcome by persistence.

Use your experiences plus your imagination.

THE INCONVENIENT CORPSE is one thing I imagined first and then wrote down:

Hugs to all,

Sunday, December 11, 2011


Today I signed, hand-addressed, licked/ sealed and stamped 65 Christmas cards with this picture of me and my grandchildren.

I know that no one sends cards anymore except a few of us diehards. It would be very dense of me not to know, because folks tell me this on a regular basis. Often someone I’ve sent a card to.

“I got your card, but I don’t send any, so you won't get one from me.”

I’d already figured that out, since none had arrived in the mail, but saying that would be rude. And besides, I like this person, a lot, or I wouldn’t have sent the card.

“That’s okay,” I say, “I just send cards because I enjoy it. I don’t expect one in return.”

I said this to a darling but outspoken cousin last year. She didn’t seem to agree with me about not expecting a card back.

“Yes you do,” she said, “and that’s why I’m calling you…instead of sending a card.”

Gotta love my cousins.

Perhaps I should have explained to her,  that sending Christmas cards has been a tradition for me since I was a child. My mother was a teacher in a small town. Usually a different one each year because, although she was a very good teacher, she had the unfortunate habit of telling parents the truth about their child.) She always recruited me to help. I was the stamp-sticker and the envelope licker. This started back when I was very young and postage stamps were 3 cents each. And that was a lot for a teacher to pay. Cards and stamps were a major Christmas expense for Mother. Back then you could actually buy something for a penny.

Anyway, I still send cards because I enjoy sending cards to the people I like. And if you’re a recipient, don’t worry because you didn’t send one to me. I absolve you of your guilt! I love Christmas and all it stands for.



Saturday, December 10, 2011


For 2 weeks I’ve kept a list of the names of readers who have left comments during our MURDER WE WRITE WINTER BLOG TOUR. These were written each day on the small pieces of paper that I recycled from old-draft copies of my work-in-progress. (THE CORPSE WHO WALKED IN THE DOOR)

I’m huge on recycling, having developed the habit way before it became trendy. My mother was a single parent school teacher with 3 kids, and we used old bread wrappers (waxed paper back then) to wrap our sandwiches for school sack lunches. But I digress…

On our 14 days of posts, I told you that the names were going into my black fedora. And so they did. But this morning, small squares of folded papers were spilling out of that hat onto my dining room table. So I had to switch every name to the biggest basket I own.
My Fedora Runneth Over
This basket was handmade by a weaver in the Upper East region of Ghana, West Africa called Bolgatanga. These lovely and practical works of art are marketed by Bolga Baskets International, and are often the sole income for these families. If you love beautiful things, or need a special Christmas gift, check them out:

But back to my winners!

I said I was going to give away two books, one copy of THE INCONVENIENT CORPSE and one copy of FOXY STATEHOOD HENS AND MURDER MOST FOWL!


In the spirit of Christmas I’m doubling that number. Here are the winners:

INCONVENIENT CORPSE, Carol-Lynn Rossel and Lynn Somerville.

FOXY STATEHOOD HENS AND MURDER MOST FOWL: Silvia Dickey Smith and Caroline Clemmons.

Congratulations to these winners. Would each of you contact me personally by email and send me your mailing addresses.

And a huge THANK YOU to each person who left a comment. I hope your holidays are wonderful.

Hugs to all,


Friday, December 9, 2011


Can you get jetlag from a bus tour? That idea seems weird to me, but my head is spinning from the 14-Day MURDER WE WRITE BLOG TOUR that ended yesterday. Each day we played musical-blogs and moved from one Mystery Writer’s site to another. It was wild, but I’m declaring it a success because when we climbed off the bus no one was bleeding.

Earl Staggs was driving, by the way, and that guy knows how to take a curve. These Texans all use a heavy foot, and we really booked it.

I never dreamed that I’d take a 2-week trip with 14 other people, much less 14 writers. As I’ve said before, writers are a little different kind of cat. We can’t help it. Something in our DNA tells us that we must record what we see. We’re compelled to write down all sorts of things in the way we see them. Each member of our Team could take the same basic plot, and using our own characters, we would each spin a different story.

That’s what brings magic into writing. And into reading.
Here’s the whole bunch, along with their blog addresses:
Tour Guest authors on Cozy Mysteries and Other Madness:
Nov. 25 – Timothy Hallinan
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Nov. 26 – M. M. Gornell
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Nov. 27 – Wendy Gager
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Nov. 28 – Alice Duncan
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29 – John M. Daniel
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Nov. 30 – Pat Browning
Blog url:

Dec. 1 – Ron Benrey
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Dec. 2 – Beth Anderson
Blog url:

Dec. 3 – Anne K. Albert 
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Dec. 4 – Earl Staggs
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Dec. 5 – Jinx Schwartz
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 Dec. 6 – Mike Orenduff
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Dec. 7 – Marilyn Meredith
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Dec. 8 – Jean Henry Mead
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Thursday, December 8, 2011


Good morning Readers, and welcome again to MYSTERY WE WRITE HOLIDAY BLOG TOUR. Today I’m presenting Jean Henry Mead who will tell us how she plots her juvenile mysteries. Jean is the author of 15 books, half of them mystery/suspense and historical novels. She’s also an award-winning photojournalist. In addition to her books, the former news reporter and magazine editor has also published articles domestically as well as abroad.
Welcome Jean to Cozy Mysteries and Other Madness. I’m now turning the cyber-podium over to you.

Jean Henry Mead


Hi Everyone,
Today I’m talking about plotting juvenile mysteries. Plotting is hard work, especially when writing for kids. You need a good setting, a problem, and the kinds of characters that children can relate to. Even the most talented writers often fall by the wayside. Some start a manuscript with a great protagonist and a unique problem, but the storyline often loses momentum and is never finished because of plot problems.

Fledgling writers usually feel that all you need is a strong central theme, memorable characters and a problem that is resolved over the course of the book. I write middle grade mysteries in addition to senior sleuth novels, but after 13 published books, I still needed help, so I took a children’s literature course and was fortunate to have Louise Munro Foley as my mentor. She also laces her books with humor. My book project under her tutelage was subsequently published as Mystery of Spider Mountain, a semi-autobiographical novel set in the Los Angeles hills, where I grew up.

Plotting for juvenile mysteries requires even more planning than mysteries for adults, in my opinion. First, I had to decide on a setting. Most children’s lives are centered around school so I had to decide if my plot was going to take place then, during vacation or after school. When I had decided how the problem or action was going to take place, I needed to develop a time line when events were going to happen. That meant outlining, which I had only previously done with nonfiction books. The outline doesn’t have to be detailed but it should include events that are going to get progressively worse as the plot marches toward its conclusion.

I had to decide which activities and types of characters I needed to complicate my protagonists’ problem. Middle graders don’t require complicated plots so it’s usually best to concentrate on one powerful theme in a simple plotline, such as bullying or losing a friend or parent. I went a little beyond that with three young protagonists and their fears.

One of the things I learned is that child sleuths should have minimal help from adults. So they need to be smart enough to figure things out on their own. However, in my second Hamilton Kids’ mystery novel, I had Jaime 13, Sam 11 and Danny 9, visiting their Uncle Harry at his ranch in Wyoming’s Laramie Mountains, where I now live. That presented a plotting problem because the kids are confined to the ranch, with its variety of game and farm animals they’ve never seen before. They use their Ouija board, as in Spider Mountain, to discover who the culprit is that’s setting fire to their uncle’s hay field. And why he’s doing it. But convincing their uncle is another problem. They also investigate witchcraft on the Internet and attend the Summer Solstice Festival of witches and warlocks that actually takes place annually here on Casper Mountain the first day of summer. The woman who homesteaded the land where the festival is held is said to still haunt the area. Thus, the book’s title, Ghost of Crimson Dawn.

I use actual events and settings in all my books, whenever possible. All fiction has its roots in fact, even fantasy novels. So, in order to suspend disbelief, plenty of research should be conducted before the writing begins as well as spooned-in tidbits as the story progresses. Children are well informed these days and can easily check your facts on their own computers. And if you need a first reader, who better than your own child or grandchildren?


Thanks, Jackie for inviting me to join you and your readers. I’m giving away one of my mystery ebooks at the end of each of my 14 blog appearances, so everyone needs to leave a comment to get their name in the hat.
I’m also giving away three print novels at the conclusion of the tour. Be sure and leave a comment and email address to be eligible for the drawings. My blog tour schedule is listed at: (

Jean, having you as a guest was all my pleasure. And readers, don't forget to leave those comments for a chance at winning a book.

Jean's latest Logan & Cafferty mystery/suspense novel, Murder on the Interstate, is available at: _ ( (print and Kindle) and Barnes and Noble: _ ( (Nook)

Murder on the Interstate
Jean’s children’s books are available in print, Kindle and Nook.

GHOST OF CRIMSON DAWN is now available on Amazon.

I’ll announce the winners of the books I’m giving away tomorrow.

Hugs to all,


Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Welcome to the 13th day of our exciting “Mystery We Write Holiday Blog Tour.” Today I’m presenting Marilyn Meredith, author of over thirty published novels. These include the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, the latest Bears With Us from Mundania Press.

Marilyn Meredith

Writing as F.M. Meredith, her latest Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novel is Angel Lost, the third from Oak Tree Press. Visit her at:   

Let’s give our guest a warm welcome of cyber applause, please.  

Considering Mystery Genres

by Marilyn Meredith 
There are so many mystery genres: private eye, police procedural, cozy, locked-room, puzzle, amateur sleuth, hard-boiled, noir, woman in jeopardy, serial killer, religious, thriller, supernatural, suspense, romantic suspense, historical, vampire, werewolf, zombie and more that I can’t think of right now.

As an author, I know that when I started writing mysteries, I merely wrote the kind of mysteries I liked to read—which were many types.  
In the good old days I don’t think they divided mysteries into genres. Like many girls I grew up on Nancy Drew and quickly changed to adult P.I novels and then any mystery I could get my hands on. I loved Perry Mason and read every Erle Stanley Gardner mystery I could find.
The very first mystery I wrote had a bit of a supernatural element in it, astral projection, and I called it The Astral Gift.
From there I moved onto police procedurals, beginning with Final Respects. After writing more in that series, I switched to a stand-alone called Guilt by Association. The main character in that book kind of evolved into Deputy Tempe Crabtree, a female Native American deputy in a mountain community I called Bear Creek. The first book in the series is Deadly Trail which has a great deal of Native American lore and focuses on Tempe and the fact that she knew little about her Indian heritage. Of course there is a murder which Tempe solves.
Next came Deadly Omen which begins with a Pow Wow, followed by Unequally Yoked about a missing child and Tempe using an Indian ceremonial to find out what she needed to know which upsets her preacher husband. Then Intervention, what might be termed a locked-room mystery since it takes place during a blizzard and Tempe and her husband are isolated with a bunch of movie people in a mountain lodge. In Wing Beat Tempe discovers a marijuana farm hidden in the mountains. In Calling the Dead she investigates a murder and a suicide and calls back the dead to learn the truth. Judgment Fire brings back memories Tempe had hidden away and explain why she didn’t embrace her Native American heritage. Traveling to Crescent City CA to find out more about a murder victim, Tempe learns a lot about the Tolowa people and ultimately her life is threatened in Santa Barbara in Kindred Spirits.  In Dispel the Mist Tempe encounters the legendary Hairy Man on the Bear Creek Indian Reservation. She investigates the death of a popular Native American on the rez and discovers an active paramilitary group in the mountains in Invisible Path.
The latest book, Bears With Us, Deputy Tempe Crabtree has her hands full when bears turn up in and around Bear Creek, a young teen commits suicide and his parents’ actions are suspicious, a prominent woman files a complaint against Tempe and her preacher husband Hutch, a love affair from long ago comes to light, and a woman suffering from dementia disappears.
So, the question is how do I classify this mystery series? Native American, supernatural, police procedural, religious, and maybe cozy since I don’t use bad language and always close the bedroom door.
What I think I’ve written is a mystery with all of the above elements. Putting any mystery into one little niche is nearly impossible.
To read Bears With Us and make your own decision, you can go directly to the publisher’s website and order any version of e-book or the trade paperback:
Bears With Us 
Or find the book on
Thanks, Marilyn for that very interesting article on Mystery Genres.
Remember Readers, our 15-member tour group is giving away over 50 FREE BOOKS during our tour. For a chance to win one (or more) of these mysteries, visit each blog and leave a comment. Start here!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Welcome to the 12th day of our MYSTERY WE WRITE HOLIDAY BLOG TOUR featuring 15 dynamite mystery writers, including yours truly. If you leave a comment on each of our blogsites, you may win one of the 50 plus books that will be given away either during the tour or immediately following December 8th.

Mike Orenduff
Today I’m featuring award-winning author Mike Orenduff, and he’s going to tell us what makes a good mystery story. Mike is the author of The Pot Thief series, which are set in New Mexico. THE POT THIEF WHO STUDED ESCOFFIER is his latest in the series.
 What Makes a Good Mystery Story?
by Mike Orenduff
 I don’t understand why the most common question I get at signings and talks is, “Where do you get your ideas?” My usual answer is, “I steal them from other writers.” That gets a laugh and – unless the questioner is persistent – also gets me off the hook.

The fact is, ideas are the easiest part of writing a mystery. Ideas are like the atmosphere; they surround us. We breathe them in by the thousands every day. Try this experiment the next time you’re out shopping. Look at the people and things around you and think how they might fit into a mystery story. When you see the young man collecting the carts in the grocery store parking lot, put that in a mystery. Maybe you see a villain making his escape by collecting carts while the police rush into the store because who notices the kid collecting the carts? Maybe you imagine someone seeing a cart with two large boxes of rat poison and remembering that scene when she reads about a mysterious poisoning. Then she wonders if there might be fingerprints on the cart handle despite all the people who may have touched it in the intervening days. Don’t like these? Then make up some better ones. I’ll wager you can come up with them easily.

It’s also easy to create characters and settings. The components of a mystery story are not the challenge. When one mystery is better than another, it ‘s not because it has better pieces, it ‘s because it has better writing. Suppose you want to have your protagonist describe a woman as attractive and then change his mind as he gets closer. You could have him say, “She was a quite a looker, but as I approached her bar stool, I changed my mind.”  It isn’t a terrible sentence, just pedestrian. This one is better: “From thirty feet away she looked like a lot of class. From ten feet away she looked like something made up to be seen from thirty feet away." That sentence is from The High Window by Raymond Chandler.

Writing mysteries differs from writing romance, science fiction, or adventure because each genre has its own traditions. Mysteries have a murder, suspects, clues and a solution. There are also guidelines about the order of things. It’s generally a good idea to have the solution closer to the end of the story than to the beginning. But there are no hard and fast rules. You can’t write a good mystery by just lining up the components any more than you can write a good song by just lining up notes.

Obviously, not all good writing is the same. Chandler had Marlowe speak with irony and hyperbole. Lawrence Saunders had McNally speak with whimsy. Two different styles, both successful.  If I could teach people to be good writers, I could make a lot more money doing that than writing books. The best advice I can give is find the right voice for your protagonist and stay consistent.

Thanks Mike, for visiting us today and for this most interesting post.

Remember Readers; leave a comment on each of our blogs. This group is 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.

Hugs to all,


Monday, December 5, 2011


Welcome to the 11th day of our MURDER WE WRITE HOLIDAY BLOG TOUR. Remember everyone; our 15-member tour group is giving away over 50 FREE BOOKS during our tour. For a chance to win one (or more) of these mysteries, visit each blog and leave a comment.

Today's author was born and raised to be an adventuress. Jinx Schwartz is a different kind of writer, and I'm delighted to have her visiting today. Author of JUST DESERTS,  4th in her award-winning mystery series featuring Hetta Coffey, Jinx has lived a life that sounds as if it comes straight from a novel.

The Facts and Nothing but the Facts:
Jinx Schwartz was raised in the jungles of Haiti and Thailand, with returns to Texas in-between. Jinx followed her father's steel-toed footsteps into the Construction and Engineering industry in hopes of building dams. Finding all the good rivers taken, she traveled the world defacing other landscapes with mega-projects in Alaska, Japan, New Zealand, Puerto Rico and Mexico.

Jinx Schwartz

Jinx and her husband, Mad Dog Schwartz, opted over twenty years ago to become cash-poor cruisers rather than continue chasing the rat. They sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge, turned left, and headed for Mexico. Meaning to stay three months, they, much like the crew of the S.S. Minnow, never returned. They now divide their time between Arizona and Mexico's Sea of Cortez.

STOLEN FROM THE HEADLINES: JUST DESERTS is BOOK 4 of the Hetta Coffey Mystery Series (.99 on Kindle and Smashwords)

Just Deserts

Jinx speaks:
First off, let us get this "deserts" thing clear. When one gets one's just deserts, it is not spelled desserts, but it is pronounced desserts. There are many such words misused everyday in news, books and just about every other written source, and I could blog about it for-ever, but not today; today's subject is about blatantly stealing book material from the news.

Hetta Coffey's a woman with a yacht, and she is not afraid to use it. The series has garnered an EPPIE Award (Just Add Water, Book 1), and a finalist place for an EPPIE (Just Add Trouble, Book 3.)  The judges must have been on vacation for Just Add Salt, Book 2) :-)

Hetta mainly plies Mexican waters these days, not looking for, but finding anyway, a sea of trouble. However, in Just Deserts, Hetta is forced to take on a job to pay for major boat repairs, and ends up on the tumultuous Arizona/Mexico border. With her penchant for trouble, how can she NOT get into deep doo-doo?

I didn't have to look far when researching possible scenarios in Southern Arizona and Northern Mexico, but I dug deeper than the everyday evening news blurbs of cartels offing each other, drug smuggling, and the like. What I unearthed is a strong anti-Gringo (that would be Hetta) movement in Mexico with roots leading straight to al-Qaeda! Scary, but true. Leave it to Hetta to get into it with them, and a batch of human smugglers, leading to a showdown on the border.

My point is, when lifting a subject from the news, I always dig deeper. That deeper digging sometimes has me tunneling to China and way off track of where I thought I was going, but research is always rewarding. As a reader, as well as a writer, I appreciate a book that leads me into an area I didn't know about, even if it does sometimes make me lose a little sleep.

That said, it is also obvious when a writer does not do their homework. I write about what I know, but when I don't know the subject well, I am an obsessive researcher. Amazing, isn't it, what we learn?

I will gift a Kindle version of Just Deserts to whoever makes the best comment (in MY not-so-humble opinion) to this blog.


Thanks Jinx, for stopping by. I’m sure each reader will want to comment on your comment today.

Readers, our 15-member tour group is giving away over 50 FREE BOOKS during our tour. For a chance to win one (or more) of these mysteries, visit each blog and leave a comment.

I’ll be giving away a signed copy of THE INCONVENIENT CORPSE and another of FOXY STATEHOOD HENS AND MURDER MOST FOWL, a collection of 3 novellas. My story, “The Spinster, the Pig, and the Orphan,” is a Historical Mystery set in 1889 Guthrie, Oklahoma Territory. To get your name in the hat for my free books, leave a comment below.

For those who want to download or order a copy of JUST DESERTS for yourself, here’s the link:

Thanks for stopping by,


Sunday, December 4, 2011


Good morning Readers. Welcome to the 10th day of the MURDER WE WRITE HOLIDAY BLOG TOUR. I hope you’re enjoying my guests as much as I am.

Remember: The group is giving away over 50 FREE BOOKS during this tour. For a chance to win one (or more) of these mysteries, visit each blog and leave a comment.

Today our guest author is Derringer Award winning author Earl Staggs. Many of his short stories have been published in magazines and anthologies. He has also served as Managing Editor of Futures Mystery Magazine and as President of the Short Mystery Fiction Society. His novel MEMORY OF A MURDER earned thirteen Five Star reviews online at Amazon and B&N. His column “Write Tight” appears in the online magazine Apollo’s Lyre. He is also a contributing blog member of Murderous Musings and Make Mine Mystery. He hosts workshops for the Muse Online Writers Conference and the Catholic Writers Conference Online and is a frequent speaker at conferences and writers groups.

Earl Staggs

By Earl Staggs

I find it interesting to know how authors came to write a particular novel or short story. Where did the idea come from? How did they develop the characters? How did they come up with the plot?

With that in mind, this is the story about a short story of mine which eventually led me to write my first mystery novel with the same characters.

When my wife and I left the cold winters of Maryland behind and moved south, I made two decisions. One, I would retire from full time employment and, two, I’d do something I’d always wanted to do: become a mystery writer. The first step was to sign up for a writing class at the community college.

“By the end of this class, each one of you will have written a short mystery story.”

The instructor made that announcement the first night.


When I signed up for a class called “Writing Mystery,” I thought someone was going to teach me how, not make me do it right away. Okay, I reasoned, she’s a professor of literature at the college, so if she says we can do it, I suppose we can.

Then she said, “You have to come up with your own plot and your own characters.”

Another gulp.

I had no idea where to start, but not knowing how had never stopped me from doing anything before.

I thought about characters first. My protagonist, I decided, would be a former FBI agent who is now a private investigator. That would give him the training and expertise to pursue the bad guys. But I wanted him to offer something different from all the other PI’s already out there. It happened there was a Psychic Fair in town that week. That reminded me of a fascination I’d always had with psychic phenomena. I went to the Fair and talked with several psychics. These were not the storefront psychics who wear flowing robes and put on a bizarre show. They were also not the kind who will tell you everything you want to know over the telephone for three dollars a minute. They were ordinary people who lived ordinary lives when not using their gift. When they did use their gift, it was to assist law enforcement agencies solve crimes. Yes! That’s what I wanted for my guy.

I named him Benjamin Masterson and gave him some psychic abilities. He wouldn’t see or talk with ghosts or dead people. A medium does that, not a psychic. When he visited a crime scene or touched an object related to a crime, however, fleeting images would flash in his mind. Sometimes, those images would steer him in the right direction. Other times, they would only leave him confused because he didn’t understand what they meant. That’s the way it is with real-life psychics. It’s not an exact science. For the most part, Benjamin would rely on his FBI experience and old-fashioned police work.

I made Benjamin a widower because I felt a single PI has more freedom to travel, stay out all night if necessary, and be receptive should one of those beautiful and mysterious women -- a blonde, of course -- enter his life. I also added some close friends, some people who were not friends and, naturally, someone intent on killing people.

The next hurdle was to come up with a plot. I started with Benjamin receiving a phone call asking him to consult on a case that had local police stumped. A sniper had taken shots at a popular politician, but missed him and killed another man instead.

With a lot of help from the instructor and feedback from others in the class, I finished the story. I called it “The Missing Sniper.” I was quite proud of it and thought I’d done a great job even though Benjamin was not approached by a beautiful, seductive blonde. The story was so good, I decided to send it out to a few magazines, then wait to see which one offered me the best deal. Instead of deals, they all offered rejection letters. I was crushed. So crushed, I stuffed that story in a drawer and wiped it out of my mind.

I didn’t stop writing short mystery stories, however, and within a couple years, was fortunate enough to have several of them published. One day, I remembered that first story and dug it out. When I looked it over, I saw many reasons why it had been rejected. I suspect I’d learned a lot about writing by then. I decided to rewrite it.

The first thing I did was change the main character’s name. Benjamin Masterson seemed too stiff and formal for him. After much thought, his name became Adam Kingston. Next, I cut out about 4,000 words. The story shrunk from 13,000 words to 9,000. Apparently, I had also learned something about editing and tightening since that first attempt. I could have filled a large trash can with unnecessary adverbs, adjectives, and anything that didn’t move the story forward.

When I sent the story out this time, two magazines wanted it. One was a print magazine and one was an ezine. What to do? Incredibly, they both agreed to publish it simultaneously. I’d never heard of that, and I was thrilled.

When “The Missing Sniper” appeared, response to the character and the premise was so enthusiastic and encouraging, I decided to put the same guy into a full novel. I did, and a couple years later, MEMORY OF A MURDER featuring Adam Kingston was published and is still selling quite well.

Now, to everyone who read all the way to here, you’re invited to drop by my Blog/Website at: and visit with my special guest for the day, an author I know you’ll find interesting.

While you're there, you can read Chapter One of MEMORY OF A MURDER, my first mystery novel, which earned thirteen Five Star reviews.

Memory of a murder

You can also read “The Day I Almost Became a Great Writer,” which some say is the funniest story I’ve ever written. There’s another one there called “White Hats and Happy Trails,” about the day I spent with a boyhood idol, Roy Rogers.

Don’t forget to leave a comment on my site. Everyone who does will be entered in a drawing on December 9. The first name drawn will receive a signed print copy of MEMORY OF A MURDER. The second name drawn will have a choice of an ebook or print copy of SHORT STORIES OF EARL STAGGS, a collection of sixteen of my best short stories.

Short Stories of Earl Staggs

Thank you, Jackie, for allowing me to visit here and tell the story behind the story.

Earl, the pleasure has been mine, I assure you. I love your humor and your books, and I'm sure my readers will, too.

Here's Earl's contact information: 

Thanks to everyone for stopping by, and remember, if you leave a comment that gives you a chance at winning a free books.