Tuesday, July 31, 2018

This Is Just To Say…

Over the years, a wonderful group of talented writers  contributed to making Author Expressions a special blog where authors shared information about books and writing. It is now time for us to end this blog and go our separate ways.

However, each of us does maintain our own separate blog, and so we hope that those of you who follow us will continue to do so individually. Wishing our readers and fellow authors the very best always.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Book Clubs

I belong to a book club, and I think I may be one of the oldest members. There are about eight of us that come regularly and range in age from late 20's to early 60's. The mix of ages makes book chooses varied and exciting. They also push me out of my comfort zone from time-to-time. Sometimes I let them, sometimes I just skip that book and enjoy their discussion.

A couple of months ago we read the memoir "The Last Lecture" by Randy Pausch, we all loved it and were inspired by it.  This month is a totally different genre, although it is based on a true story it falls into the thriller/horror arena for me. So, I am reading it in the daytime. "The Serial Killer Whisperer" by Pete Earley is based on a young man who suffered catastrophic brain damage and finds himself relating to murders. He reaches out to them, and they begin telling him their secrets. He also shares his life with them, which totally creeped me out. I'm not very far into it, so I am sure it will get worse before it gets better.

My point is, however, that book clubs are great for broadening your reading experiences. I would never have picked either of these books, I tend toward historical fiction, romantic suspense, mysteries, chick lit, YA and love a good family story. You know, the kind with quirky characters, comfortable settings, family drama, freaky friends, and who knows what else will peak my interest.

I was noticing the other day that our local independent bookstore has fourteen book clubs now. Each focuses on a different genre. That's where I get some of the ideas for books I want to read is from their chosen lists.

My favorite thing about book clubs is the lively discussions. Our club is pretty loose, in that we are not opposed to calling it a "dinner club" if no one has read the book. However, when the majority does read the book, we shared what we liked and didn't like. No censoring, whatsoever. If someone hates the book, we all talk about why. If someone loves the book, we discuss that also. Everyone brings a different perspective to the table, the story has touched them in unique ways.

I had the privilege of attending a book club as the guest author and heard from the readers what they liked and didn't like about my book. Boy, that was eye-opening. Not everything resonated with everyone and some things they noticed and commented on were not conscious efforts on my part when writing the story.

I highly recommend you participate in a book club. You make new friends, broaden your reading scope, and learn about yourself and how others are impacted by "story."

Enjoy the ride, my author/writer friends. Keep the reader in the back of your mind when you write.

Facebook: Bonnie D Tharp Books
Amazon: Bonnie Tharp Author Page

Friday, July 13, 2018

Why Read (or Write) YA? By Jacqueline Seewald

 When I attended Rutgers University for my M.L.S. degree, I took the additional courses needed to specialize in becoming an educational media specialist—a fancy description for a school librarian. I took a course in children’s literature and another in young adult lit. Both courses required reading a huge number of books and reviewing them. However, I very much enjoyed doing this.

As to young adult literature, I often felt the novels were better written than many of those for adults, something our professor said as well. So it’s no surprise that I decided to write some of my own. As an English teacher at the high school level I taught novels like J.D. Salinger’s THE CATCHER IN THE RYE, Harper Lee’s TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, and Golding’s LORD OF THE FLIES. These are just a few of the classics of YA literature worthy of note. I believe every author should try writing at least one meaningful coming-of-age book.

My novel THE DEVIL AND DANNA WEBSTER has proved popular with readers. It was written for teenage girls, as was STACY’S SONG. But the truth is that adult readers can and do connect with these books as well.

Black Opal Books has now brought out WITCH WISH, my current YA novel. I think it will be a good read for adult readers as well as teens.

Here’s something about the book:

Val Williams believes she will never be as pretty or as popular as her older sister Ailene. When Ailene dumps her on an unfamiliar road after an argument, Val decides to ask directions of the only person she sees, an old woman engaged in a garage sale. Val purchases a music box which the old woman claims has magical qualities and will grant Val one wish. Val wishes that that her sister would stop being so perfect.

When Ailene starts acting weird, breaks up with her boyfriend, stops talking to her friends, starts dating a “bad” boy, and cuts classes, Val is troubled. Val begins to fear she caused all this to happen by making her wish. She suffers a guilty conscience. How she goes about setting matters right makes for some unusual complications and surprises.

Excerpt (prior to editing):
Central New Jersey, 1985
My sister Ailene pulled the car to the side of the road, reached over and opened the door on the passenger side.
“Get out right now!” Ailene spoke through gritted teeth.
“No way!”
“Yes, way. You’re an obnoxious brat. I don’t have to put up with you, and I won’t for another minute.”
Maybe I had gone a tad overboard in the rude department today, but she’d deserved it. I had to stand and wait while she giggled and gossiped with her airhead friends by the lockers for what seemed like forever. I stood there being ignored and feeling like a leper. Then finally when she finally turned to me all she said was: “Come on. Hurry up.” Like she’d done me this great honor giving me a ride home.
Now she was all indignation. Well, I wasn’t going to stand for it. “I’m not getting out of the car,” I said.
Unfortunately Ailene’s taller and weighs more than I do. She shoved me out, hurled my backpack after me and drove off, burning rubber. She didn’t even look back. So there I stood at the side of a rural road with no idea exactly where I was.
Ailene had veered off the main highway when traffic stopped. There’d been an accident on the highway. No way of getting through any time soon. That pissed her off too. She’s not the most adaptable individual.
It was a warm afternoon. I didn’t mind walking, but the road was totally unfamiliar. I’d have to travel back in the direction of the highway. From there, I could find my way. Maybe my sister had done me a favor. Anything was better than being around her. She found me annoying but I felt the same way about her.
 As I walked, I fantasized.
Cheerleader shot dead at football game--mystery as to who pulled trigger. As a student of journalism I considered this possible headline. Were I to murder my sister, I wouldn't want to be caught.
Don’t judge me in haste. If you had a sister like Ailene, you'd probably hate her too. I’d like to say Ailene was nasty, selfish and spoiled, but it wouldn't be true. I have my share of faults. Lying isn't one of them. The truth? Ailene was polite, intelligent, beautiful, and even charming—when it suited her.
So why did I hate her? Maybe because she was everything I wished I could be but didn’t think I ever would be. Someone like Ailene, who was so much better than most people, you envied, idolized or hated her. It wasn’t easy living in the same home with perfection day after day.
A house came into my line of vision. It was an old Colonial with white clapboard shingles and black shutters that had paint peeling. There was an old woman sitting in a chair with all kinds of items set out on folding tables in cardboard boxes. I guess she was having a garage sale. I figured I’d stop and ask for directions back to the highway. She was kind of creepy looking dressed all in black. But she was the only person around. So I walked over to her. She stood up, smiling through crooked yellowed teeth.
“I’m kind of lost,” I said.
She nodded. “I can see that.” She had dark, penetrating eyes. She studied me in an eerie way that made my blood freeze.
“Can you direct me back to Route 516?”
“Certainly. But first why don’t you look at these things I have for sale. They are unique.”
“Sure,” I said, figuring to humor the old gal.
I began looking around. She had a lot of weird stuff, old crap that I had no interest in. But I figured if I offered to buy something I maybe could get the directions quicker. So I glanced at the stuff on one of the tables. A polished wooden box caught my eye.
“I see you like my music box. Actually, I have a bit of a collection.” She picked up the box and wound it up. “It plays Fur Elise by Beethoven.”
I listened and liked what I heard. “How much does it cost?”
“Whatever you can afford.”
I was surprised. I checked the pocket of my jeans. I had some allowance money with me but there wasn’t much. “I’ve only got four dollars.”
“Just the right amount,” she assured me. “There is just one thing about the box itself.” She hesitated. “You see, how should I put this, the box has a certain unusual quality. If I bestow ownership upon you, the music box will grant you a wish.”
I blinked and stared at her open-mouthed. Clearly the old lady was a few slices short of a loaf.
“Sure,” I said, trying to appear agreeable and humor her. “Great.”
“You don’t believe me, do you?” She gave me a knowing smile. Then she laughed, except I swear it sounded more like a cackle. The wind lifted her long, steel gray hair giving her an otherworldly look. “It’s all right. I don’t mind. But I think I should warn you. Once you open the box and make a wish out loud, you won’t be able to take it back. You get only one wish, you understand. So think carefully about it. Make certain you wish for something you truly want.”
You can also read more about the novel here:
Comments welcome!

Friday, July 6, 2018

How many characters are enough? by Susan Oleksiw

A few weeks ago I began work on what I thought would be a novella. The idea had been floating around in my head, drifting into view when I was looking for something to read in the library, balancing my checkbook, or opening the mail. That's how I knew it was a good idea, and decided to work on it as soon as I finished the edits of my next book.

The story went along well, probably because I'd had a lot of time to think about it and let it germinate. As the story progressed I jotted down notes as I went along, keeping track of new characters and events in each chapter. This week, when I scanned the list of them prior to writing the next scene, I wondered, did I have too many? How many is too many?

During revisions of some of my books I've combined characters, dropped others along with an entire scene or chapter, and generally streamlined everything. I wondered if I'd do that this time. But now that I'd raised the question, it kept coming back to me. How many was too many? 

In the Mellingham series featuring Chief of Police Joe Silva, I included a list of characters, which I continued for five additional books and then omitted from the seventh one. I don't recall my thinking and may have to revisit that decision. There are no lists in the Anita Ray books. Curious about the number, I counted characters in the Mellingham books.

In the first, Murder in Mellingham, I list seventeen characters, including Chief Silva and hint at more in the catch-all "and other residents of and visitors to the town of Mellingham." Yes, I was at the time heavily influenced by British mysteries, which up to the 1970s and sometimes beyond presented the reader with lists of characters, maps of villages, and even warnings about the accuracy of the chosen method of murder or its circumstances.  

In the novella that got me thinking about this, I have fourteen characters so far, and since I'm about halfway through, that will probably be the total. I avoid introducing people late in the narrative, unless this is a minor figure who barely deserves a name. Bringing someone onstage past the middle seems unfair to the reader in my view. So, I have fourteen. Murder in Mellingham had seventeen, and I'm sure the first Anita Ray, Under the Eye of Kali, had at least that. In the first book in a new series, Below the Tree Line (coming in September), I have twenty-three individuals plus a number of animals. So, too many? Not enough? Just right?

I keep the list readily at hand, and will soon transfer each character to a notecard. Some will fade and become less and less important as the story nears its end, and I may fold one or two into a single person, or drop one or both altogether. So far I haven't made the mistake of giving everyone a name beginning with the same letter. (I made that mistake and didn't notice until an editor pointed it out.)

The easiest way to determine the worthiness of a person on stage is to identify exactly what he or she is contributing. What information is this one delivering? Unless each one is dropping a clue about another character, the murder weapon or method or motive, or some other crucial aspect of the crime, that person has no purpose. I can already see one who could lose his name and perhaps his usefulness. And I see another who has done nothing since the opening chapters. Already I'm reducing the number possibly by two.

There is no one answer to how many characters are enough. But asking the question is important for the development of the story, keeping it clean and well paced while also creating a richly imagined narrative that draws in the reader. How many characters do you have in your stories?

Coming in September, Below the Tree Line (Midnight Ink) follows a farmer and healer in the Pioneer Valley, in central Massachusetts. Felicity O'Brien enjoys the quiet life of her family farm until strangers take a sudden interest in her land.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Mystery/Crime Fiction: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow by Jacqueline Seewald

During the holiday season this past year, a good friend who also reads and writes mystery fiction gifted me a copy of THE GOLDEN AGE OF MURDER by Martin Edwards which I appreciated.The book got me thinking about what I want to discuss in regard to mystery and crime fiction.

The traditional mystery features a detective or several detectives who investigate a crime or series of crimes. The amateur sleuths can work in any number of unique and unusual professions which provide interesting background and setting for the story. They can live in any place in the world. They can be nosy spinsters who live in small English villages or gifted professors who investigate bizarre historical crimes. From cozy to thriller, the amateur sleuth fascinates readers.

The private detective novel is a mystery genre unto itself. In 1887, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created Sherlock Holmes, the most famous of all fictional detectives. Sherlock Holmes was not the first fictional detective. However, his name is one we think of immediately. Conan Doyle stated that the character of Holmes was inspired by Dr. Joseph Bell, for whom Doyle had worked as a clerk at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. Like Holmes, Bell was noted for drawing large conclusions from small observations.  The quirky Holmes was renowned for his insights based on skillful use of observation, deduction and forensics to solve puzzling cases. Conan Doyle wrote four novels and fifty-six short stories featuring Holmes, and all but four stories are narrated by Holmes's friend, assistant, and biographer, Dr. John Watson. The Sherlock Holmes mystique is still celebrated today in books, short stories, films and television programs. Holmes, the “consulting detective,” still fascinates a modern audience of devotees.

The Golden Age of Detective Fiction, the 1920’s and 30’s, brought many writers of detective stories to the forefront. British female authors like Agatha Christie are particularly memorable. Of the four "Queens of Crime" of that era: Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Ngaio Marsh and Margery Allingham, all were British except for Marsh who was a New Zealander.

In the 1930’s, the hard-boiled private eye novels began to evolve with American writers. Over the years, many interesting writers have emerged in this genre. Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Mickey Spillane, Ross Macdonald, and Robert Parker are just a few of the writers who still resonate with readers. P.I. detectives are tough guys dealing with seedy characters on the mean city streets, the so-called underbelly of society. They are professional detectives who live by a code of honor but rarely earn much for their efforts. They generally have antagonistic relationships with the police and, like the amateur detective, tend to be more intelligent than professional law enforcement counterparts. The P.I. novel was male-dominated until the late 1970’s and early 80’s when writers such as Sara Paretsky, Marcia Miller and Sue Grafton began creating women investigators who were as tough as men. These novels offered more in-depth characterization and, in the case of Paretsky, a social agenda.

The police procedural provides the reader with a different type of detective story. In reality, most crimes are investigated by police. This type of mystery stresses step-by-step procedures followed by professional detectives such as processing crime scenes to collect physical evidence, canvassing the area for witnesses or suspects, postmortem examination of bodies in the case of murders, identifying a victim if that is not known, and interviewing known friends, co-workers, relatives and associates. The list is often long and tedious. Not generally so in a novel. Although it is agreed that the police procedural should be accurate in portraying what law enforcement officers actually do, it is not necessary to bore readers to death. Like the P.I. novel, this is action-oriented genre fiction. While the plot may be the backbone of a police procedural as O’Neil De Noux, a longtime police officer and homicide detective, observed in an article written for The Writer (“How to Write the Police Procedural Novel,” October, 1992 issue), the novel won’t interest readers unless there are well-developed central characters-- witness the great success of Ed McBain's 87th precinct series in books, film and as a television series.  Much of the appeal of the novels rest with main character Steve Carella and his relationship with Teddy, his deaf-mute wife, as well as his interaction with fellow police detectives such as Meyer Meyer.

Distinctive places also add interest to the modern police procedural. For example, moody Scandinavian settings have provided bleak backgrounds for the investigations of Inspector Martin Beck (Sjöwall and Wahlöö in the 1960’s) or Wallander  (Henning Mankell) and more recently Inspector Tell (Camilla Cedar).

It goes without saying that all books should be researched for accuracy of detail. However, Eric Wright observes (The Writer, October 1990 issue, p. 9) that writers should do their research last. His reasoning: once a story is written the writer will know what information is actually needed and necessary. Collecting unnecessary facts proves to be a waste of valuable time. I am of the opinion that it also leads to information dumping as many writers then cannot resist the temptation to include material that should be cut and which has no purpose in the book or story.

Of course, the more traditional view is that authors who write police procedurals must insist on total accuracy. Margaret Maron, for instance, has explained how she used interviews with police detectives and civil service clerks, attended “criminalistics” classes and took notes on the trivia associated with everyday police activities in a station house to depict realism in her police novel series (The Writer, June, 1993 issue).

Patricia D. Cornwell’s novels have long graced the bestseller lists.  Her Dr. Kay Scarpetta forensic pathologist crime novels are strongly associated with her own career. Cornwell describes herself as having been a crime reporter. The character of Dr. Scarpetta appears to have been initially inspired by an interview she had with a female medical examiner. She went to work for the medical examiners and eventually became their computer analyst. Her opinion: stories that lack credibility and authenticity will be unread (The Writer, December 1991, p. 18-20).

P. D. James is another author of police procedurals we can describe as the real deal. James held a position as a senior employee in the Criminal Policy Department in England. Joseph Wambaugh has given us some memorable characters who happen to be police officers based on his personal experience and knowledge. 

Cross genre fiction combining elements of romance, the paranormal, and suspense with mystery have become more common in today’s crime fiction. I believe this less traditional approach is becoming a trend in modern mystery fiction. The traditional lines are blurring and authors are experimenting with a greater variety of style and technique in a genre that is now more dynamic, fluid and exciting. What remains the same is the need for a well-developed plot, well-rounded and well-defined characters, and a distinctive setting.

My latest novel DEATH PROMISE from Encircle combines elements of mystery thriller with romantic suspense. Set in Las Vegas, New York and London, the pace is fast-moving and exciting which is more typical of the modern crime novel and appealing to today’s readers who do have a shorter attention span.

For more about the novel, check it out here:

DEATH PROMISE is now available  in print and e-book from:

and many other booksellers.

Positive reviews are starting to be posted:

Library Journal

"Romantic suspense with an interesting plot...the plot kept this reviewer turning the pages."

Your thoughts, input and comments welcome and appreciated!

Friday, June 15, 2018

Writing Thoughts, Dreams and Reflections

I just finished reading Alice Duncan's blog below, and boy did her words resonate with me. Alice edited my first novel, "Feisty Family Values" and she was a guest on my blog a few weeks back ( She's a delightful lady, and when we discussed her guest blog, she actually remembered my book. That was eight years ago, and I think she is lovely to say so. I love reading her stories and understand her feeling the loss of joy with writing from time to time. She was wise to edit and do other things to prevent her totally giving up the craft. She is inspiring. 64 books, WOW!

As you may recall, I wrote about retirement a month ago, and today was my first day of being emancipated from my day job. It was a good day, to be sure. I woke up early as was able to beat the heat and water flowers, mow and weed a little. A very productive morning. After cleaning up and making lunch, I lay down to read and fell asleep. Napping in the afternoon is very lovely, I could get used to that - especially in this heat.

My list of "things to do" is very long, but at the top is to write! Blog. Read. And write some more. It is part of the plan, my new daily routine. I'm sure you've noticed that we humans are creatures of habit. Writing is my returning habit. It's not fattening. It won't make me sweat (I don't think). It can be loads of fun. And when it's not, then it's time to go out and weed the garden, pick up a book to read, call a friend, take a walk, or sit on the patio enjoying the birds.

Like Alice, I was not able to make a living with my writing. There are only a dozen or so extremely wealthy writers, many who just get by, and most of us make a little bit to support our book buying addiction. Since the paychecks will not be coming anymore, I am going to finish reading what is on my shelves, supplement it with the e-books on my Kindle, and go to the library. Working all the time left little time for shopping at bookstores or perusing the shelves at the library. Amazon made it WAY too easy to just download a book on the Kindle in minutes.

I remember spending hours in the library and the bookstores looking at everything on the shelves. Reading dust covers and admiring book cover art. Do you remember the smell of all those books in one place? The smell of paper, glue, and dust. I loved walking through the old books with their musty leather aroma. Time to go back and enjoy those sensations and perhaps revisit some classic novels. It's been years since I've read a book multiple times, with some notable exceptions - "To Kill a Mockingbird" is still my all-time favorite. It's time to reread it, I'm sure.

There are so many excellent new novels, too. Millions are printed every year. I don't think I'll get them all read, but I will make a path through the tomes. And I will add to the numbers of good books out there with my own. It feels like we authors are very alone, but really we are part of a vast crowd. Thanks for being there, fellow writers. It's nice to know you are out there, too.
Facebook: Bonnie D Tharp Books
Amazon: Bonnie Tharp Author Page

Friday, June 8, 2018

Have You Ever Wondered… by Alice Duncan

I have the privilege of welcoming Alice Duncan to Author Expressions again. Alice is both a mystery writer and romance author as well as an editor. In fact, she edited seven of my novels for Five Star/Cengage and remains my favorite editor.

Have you ever wondered how nice it would be to make a living by writing books?

Me, too. All the time. I’ve been in the book-writing and being-published business since 1994, and I still can’t make a living at it. It makes me sad sometimes. Often, in fact.

On the other hand, I kind of am making a living thanks to my many published books (I think there have been 64 of them so far). That’s because, since so many books of mine have been published, people think I know what I’m doing. Therefore, I’ve been hired by Cengage/Five Star as a freelance editor. So, in effect, my writing has paid off; just not in the way I’d hoped it would.

Since I’m too stubborn (or too stupid) to give up, I keep writing books anyway. The last few years, writing hasn’t been fun for me. When I first began writing books, I had high hopes that I’d become, if not rich and famous, at least self-supporting via writing. That hasn’t happened, although there have been a few high points along the way. My very first book, One Bright Morning, won the HOLT Medallion for the best first book published in 1994. That made me happy. I stopped entering contests shortly after that, however, because it was too expensive. Also, although many people are likely to dispute this, I honestly don’t think you can judge one book as being better than another book, unless you’re talking about English usage, etc. Not everyone likes the same things. If you loathe historical romances, chances are pretty good you won’t like One Bright Morning. If you prefer a tearjerker to a funny book, you definitely won’t like my books. Speaking of that, I was very nearly dismayed to discover I’m funny whether I mean to be or not.

In fact, when my first book (the above-mentioned One Bright Morning) was published, a former teacher of mine was so thrilled, she asked me to read some of it in front of an audience at the South Pasadena Public Library. I gladly agreed, feeling pleased with myself and my book. So I read the very first sentence in OBM, and everyone laughed. I was shocked! It wasn’t supposed to be funny! That book was a heart-wrenching emotional saga of a lonely widow-woman with a little daughter who inadvertently got mixed up in a range war and ultimately found true love.


Not on your life! However, since that time, I’ve come to accept my writer’s “voice,” as it’s called, as my own. Can’t do much else, since evidently I write the way I talk. Many people have told me that, so I guess it’s true.

After my initial exuberance had dwindled (which took 15 or 20 years) I began to find writing books more of a chore than a joy. For me, editing somebody else’s book is much easier than thinking up a bunch of characters, developing a plot, and painstakingly putting it all down on paper for 80,000-100,000 words. That’s a lot of words. It takes a long time to write that many words if you want them to be placed in coherent English sentences and in a logical order. Yet people can read all those words in a day or even in a few hours. Hardly seems worth the effort. Even if you can then get those words published as a novel, you won’t make much money for it unless you’re Stephen King, Nora Roberts, James Patterson or someone who twinkles in the same galaxy as they. Mind you, I don’t begrudge Stephen King or Nora Roberts their fame and wealth. Not so sure about James Patterson, but that’s only my opinion. Clearly not many other people agree with me.

However, my writing life has taken an upturn of late. Not that I’m making any more money, mind you. But a man whose books I edit for Five Star’s Frontier Fiction Line has lent me one of his characters! Peter Brandvold, who writes excellent westerns full of adventure, sex and violence, gave me Lou Prophet, an old-west bounty hunter to play with in my next book. The book in question is Shaken Spirits, an historical cozy mystery, and it’s set in the solidly respectable city of Pasadena, California, in 1925. Poor old Lou is past his prime, being in his seventies, and has managed to lose a leg, so he walks on one leg and a stump. He lost his leg when the motorcar in which he rode (along with two women of the night and a crate of bootleg liquor) took a dive off a cliff in Santa Monica. Lou was the sole survivor, although he did lose a leg, and he’s now confined to the Odd Fellows House of Christian Charity in Pasadena.

Things get interesting from then on. My main character, Daisy Gumm Majesty, finds the crusty old Lou Prophet quite an interesting fellow. Her fiancé, Detective Sam Rotondo of the Pasadena Police Department finds him interesting too, but he’s not as enchanted with the old reprobate as is Daisy. Anyway, thanks to Peter Brandvold and Lou Prophet, I’m actually having fun writing again! I didn’t think that would ever happen, but I’m so glad it has. Mean Pete (he calls himself that; I’m not casting aspersions) has gifted me not merely with Lou Prophet, but also a ton of fun old-west sayings Lou uses, thereby confounding poor Daisy, who eventually decides to create a dictionary of old-west terms.

I don’t expect to begin making tons of money through my books any time soon, but at least the joy of putting words on paper (virtually speaking, since I write books on my trusty computer) has returned, and it’s all thanks to Peter Brandvold.

In case you’re interested in the book in which Lou Prophet appears, you can pre-order it on Amazon. Just click on link underneath the book cover:

If you want to read Daisy’s latest adventure, in which her dachshund, Spike, finds a shoe with a foot in it at the Mountain View Cemetery in Altadena, California, you may do that, too:

If you’re interested in visiting my web site, here’s the link:

If you’re interested in visiting Mean Pete’s Amazon page, here’s the link for that:

Thank you!

Friday, June 1, 2018

What I read . . .

Like anyone else with a computer and an Internet connection, I have email. My Inbox welcomes me every morning with missives that are mostly spam, but I receive a few that I look forward to and enjoy. These sites are varied, and mostly but not all about writing and publishing.

Literary Hub has a weekly newsletter that lists about a dozen curated articles of interest to writers and readers, along with interesting historical information about figures in the literary world. A recent issue included a link to a piece in the Guardian that discussed a letter by John le Carre in which he described Tony Blair as "one bad Scottish piglet."

This site also produces CrimeReads, which offers a variety of articles, for example, on book covers, prisoners performing Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men at Sing Sing Prison, and Spanish noir.

A favorite blog is The Graveyard Shift, by Lee Lofland (, which covers topics related to crime and law enforcement, with the interest of writers in mind.

Not everything I read is directly related to crime fiction or writing. One of my favorite newsletters comes from Nautilus, an online journal about science. The editors choose a theme and explore it from different perspectives over one or more issues, culling articles from many sources.  Current articles explored the problems besetting scientists in finding new antibiotics, whether or not suicide bombings are driven by ideology, and whether or not you can overdose on happiness. These are light-hearted titles for serious, thoughtful analyses.

As a writer I receive numerous newsletters about writing and publishing, most of which I ignore. The few that I scan for interesting insights or information are The Creative Penn (, on writing, self-publishing, and marketing, among other topics; The Passive Voice (, by a lawyer who culls articles from various sources on aspects of writing and publishing of interest from a legal perspective; and the Boston Review (, which describes itself as a political and literary forum.

One of my favorites is, which provides a new word every day (except weekends), with pronunciation, meaning, etymology, and usage. There is also a quote, for the thought for the day. The word for today, as I write, is metanoia (go look it up).

To help with general issues in my Anita Ray stories I read The Hindu Blog (, which covers topics related to the Hindu calendar, practices, principles, and the like.

Another newsletter gets me into the appropriate frame of mind for writing the new Pioneer Valley series featuring Felicity O'Brien, the newsletter for the National Farmers Union ( This one covers topics related to farming, such as crop insurance, changes in federal policies, environmental concerns, fact sheets, new policy initiatives, rail regulation, food waste, and coping with climate change.

You probably have your own list of reliable sources for reading entertainment and information, and I'm ready to admit I probably wouldn't read these if I had to trek to the library to find the hard copy. 

Coming in the early fall, with more farming information, is Below the Tree Line, from Midnight Ink. Until then you can find me and my work here:

Friday, May 25, 2018

Why Shakespeare? by Carole Price

Our guest blogger is mystery author Carole Price. She is going to discuss what inspired her series.

Why Shakespeare? I asked myself when looking for a theme for my first book. When my daughter moved to Ashland, Oregon, home of the famous Oregon Shakespeare Festival, I attended several plays, including Tongue of a Bird. It was held in the smaller Black Swan Theater, and involved a search for an abducted girl. This play takes one to metaphysical, spiritual, and psychological worlds. The characters live in varying aspects of each. In a complex way, everything is going on inside the main character’s head.

I found the play to be very poetic in its use of language. It managed to just tell the story and then let it be without theatricality getting in the way. The smaller theater was good for hearing the language and getting inside the heads of the characters. The play was an internal journey where you enter the play through your head and leave through your heart, and this is why I decided Tongue of a Bird would be one of my first plays in my first book Twisted Vines. Thus, it became one of the first to be performed at the smaller Blackfriars theater, one of two Shakespearean theaters my main character, Caitlyn Pepper, inherited from an unknown aunt. I signed up for behind the scene tours of the Ashland theaters and later met with a stage operations supervisor who sees that all components of a play come together. Talking with him and his willingness to share opened up more avenues that I would include in my book and those that followed.

I always thought of myself as a casual observer of repertory theater, but once inside the Festival it was obvious how music enhanced and nurtured the story. I was full of ideas for my own theaters by bringing Shakespeare to Livermore, California, where I live. Years earlier I had taken a class in Shakespeare at Livermore’s Las Positas College. Little did I know then how important that class would become when I retired from my job and started writing mysteries.

I fell in love with the Bard and attended many more plays. Twisted Vines became the first book in my Shakespeare in the Vineyard mystery series, followed by Sour Grapes and Vineyard Prey. Each book includes a play at both of the theaters simultaneously. One never knows what will spark an idea for the next book.

Carole Price is a Buckeye. Born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, she attended The Ohio State University. She worked for a national laboratory in northern California before turning to writing mysteries. Carole fell in love with the Bard after attending plays at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland. She graduated from the Citizens Police Academy and is an active police volunteer for the Livermore Police Department, a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She actively promotes her books at conferences, literary groups, and many other venues. Carole and her husband reside in the San Francisco Bay Area in the middle of wine country.

*Your thoughts and comments welcome!

Friday, May 18, 2018

A New Chapter

Life is always changing and yet, our days are often repetitive and much the same. We get up, have our beverage of choice, shower, and dress for work. After the day job is over, we change into our comfy clothes and make dinner, clean up the dishes and veg until bedtime. Relaxing with a book or watching a movie are my favorite veg activities. If I have energy left after dinner, I like to putter in the garden or write. Lately, I've decided to dust off my art supplies and start sketching and painting again, too.

Where do I find the time? Where do I find the energy? Most days, I run out of gas after the job is done. But in thirty days that will change, and I will start a new chapter in my life. I will be laid off from my job and able to consider myself retired.

When we write our stories, we try to leave the reader anxious for what happens next. Life is the same. While I have plans, life does tend to "happen" organically on its own. Stories develop naturally as well. Isn't a novel or story just living on the pages? Isn't each chapter something new to challenge the main character?

Perhaps that is why we love reading and writing so much. With each new book or chapter, we get the chance to see what happens next. From our imagination and life experience, we can create anything on the page. We can dream of new worlds and imaginary scenarios and make them come to life in a story, or song, or painting.

I anticipate that being retired will allow me to dream and create even more. Time will once again be less occupied by the day job and open to more creative endeavors. I've been writing for almost twenty years of the forty-five years I've been working, and it's been a challenge. I look forward to mastering the discipline to sit my bottom on the chair and write more.

And I'm hoping that by reawakening my artist side I'll find new ideas for the stories I like to write. Getting out of the home office more often will also give me exposure to more people, places, and things. Thus, more writing fodder.

I'm very anxious to start the next chapter of my manuscript and my life. Let's all enjoy the journey, shall we?

Your comments are truly welcome.

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Amazon: Bonnie Tharp Author Page

Friday, May 11, 2018

Birth of a Book by Jacqueline Seewald

Spring has finally arrived and with it new life abounds.
Robins are singing. Daffodils, azaleas, tulips, and trees 
of all kinds are blooming. So it seems particularly fitting that DEATH PROMISE, my new romantic suspense mystery thriller, 
was published on May 2nd.  

This has also made me reflect on the following: What causes a writer to consider investing the time, energy and effort into the creation of a book or any written work for that matter? With DEATH PROMISE, the idea actually took some years to develop.

I had encouragement in the sense that Encircle, my publisher, found me rather than vice versa. I’ll explain since this is rather unusual. DEATH PROMISE is a sequel to DEATH LEGACY, a novel originally published by Five Star/Cengage in hardcover and large print hardcover. The novel received excellent reviews from the major review publications such as PUBLISHERS WEEKLY and BOOKLIST among others. Harlequin Worldwide Mystery brought out a paperback edition while a different publisher opted for e-book rights. The novel proved popular with many readers. This encouraged me to write another book featuring the two main characters. Originally, I conceived of DEATH LEGACY as a stand alone romantic mystery. However, my subconscious insisted that Michelle and Daniel really needed at least one more good story.

When Five Star/Cengage dropped their mystery line, many of us who wrote mysteries for that publisher were hurt.
Although a small publisher, Encircle took on a number of  orphaned Five Star authors. Encircle has turned out to be professional to work with. They provided good editing and we worked on cover art together with satisfactory results.

 You can check out the description of this new novel at:

DEATH PROMISE is now available from:

and many other booksellers.

Positive reviews are starting to be posted.

From Mel Jacob at Gumshoe Mystery Review:

“The romance between Daniel and Michelle is incendiary with plenty of heat. Nonetheless, they work well together to catch a killer. She struggles with wanting love and not wanting to give up her dangerous work.”
“This is a nice blend of suspense and romance with 
lots of action to keep the pages turning.”
Lelia Taylor, Buried Under Books, May 2018 

Here’s a shortened excerpt from near the beginning of DEATH PROMISE:

 Dr. Daniel Reiner was finishing a turkey sandwich at his desk during his lunch break. The morning had proved hectic. The Park Avenue practice was a busy one. Things had really picked up in the past year. A lot of that was due to Morris Lerner, his partner and fellow psychiatrist. Morris had a thriving practice before Daniel joined him. Morris had too many clients and was looking for a younger doctor who could take some of the burden. Morris also had a demanding wife and two young children. He needed and wanted to spend more time with his family. Daniel, unattached and just starting out, was a good fit. The association was working out well.
Cheryl, their receptionist, buzzed him. Daniel picked up the phone.
“Are you taking calls now?” He appreciated Cheryl’s pleasant Midwestern accent.
“Yes, all done with lunch. When’s my next appointment?”
“You’ve still got a half hour. I think this call might be personal rather than a patient.”
“Okay, put the caller through.”
He heard the click. “Hello, how can I help you?”
“Maybe you can, maybe not. Are you Daniel Reiner? Son of David Reiner?”
He confirmed that he was indeed Daniel Reiner as he wiped away some stinging mustard from the corner of his mouth with a paper napkin.
“You don’t know me but I was married to your father.” The woman’s voice was deep as if she were a chain smoker.
“Then I guess you know my father and I haven’t been in contact for many years.”
“Yeah, I know. He told me about your mother. Tough break.”
Daniel felt a visceral pain. He was raised by his grandparents after his mother died. Mom was a beautiful woman, loving and vital. She developed ovarian cancer and died too young. He was only a young child at the time but knew he wanted to be a doctor and save as many lives as possible. He found out years later that surgery wasn’t for me. So he set out to heal people’s minds instead of their bodies.
The woman cleared her throat. “The thing is I don’t know if you were aware but your father died a year ago.”
He felt nothing. He should have felt something but found he could not. Not for the father who had abandoned an orphaned child. Daniel realized his father had been out of his life too long for it to matter. It was as if when his mother died and his father left him with his maternal grandparents, the man had also ceased to exist. Sad but true.
“I’m sorry for your loss,” he said, his voice lacking emotion, sounding formal and wooden to his own ears.
“Thanks, but your father and I were divorced for close to ten years. The thing is I looked you up because I thought maybe you’d like to know you have a sister.” The woman cleared her throat again.
Daniel’s posture straightened. “Your daughter?”
“Yes, mine and your father’s.”
“How old is she?”
“Seventeen. She’ll be eighteen in six months.”
Daniel tapped a pen against an open notebook on his desk. This was surprising news. He wondered if his grandparents had known and just not told him. He shook his head. That wasn’t their style. They were very open people. Decent, hard-working, honest. No, they would have told him. He conjectured this woman wanted something from him. If she just intended to connect, she’d have called him a long time ago. His years of training in the field of psychiatry taught him to think analytically without a lot of emotional baggage. He said nothing, waiting for her to continue.
“I guess you’d like to know more about your dad.”
“Not really. I gave up on him a long time ago.”
The woman let out a small, mirthless laugh. “Yeah, me too. We got that in common. I’m Tiffany, by the way, Tiffany Tyler. I’m a cocktail waitress in Vegas. The thing is I’m planning to remarry soon. I’m kind of at loose ends with my daughter Beth—your sister. When your dad and I split up, it was hard for me to manage. I worked late hours. It was tough having a kid around. So I sent her to a boarding school. Well, that’s finished now and I’m planning to remarry.”
“So you said.” Daniel was becoming impatient. He tapped his pen again.
“I left Beth with my cousin, Robert Tyler. He lives in Vegas too. I’m going to San Francisco in the morning. Meeting my fiancé there. In his business he travels a lot. We’ll be off to Thailand and other places in Asia. The thing is my cousin, Rob, well, he’s a professional gambler. Kind of a restless guy. He isn’t someone Beth should have to live with for any length of time. I can only see leaving her with him as a temporary kind of thing. You know?”
No, he didn’t know. Daniel wondered what the woman was getting at in her rambling. “Can’t you take your daughter with you?”
“There are reasons I can’t do that.” The woman sounded defensive as well as nervous. “I’ve been doing some checking. I hear you’re a doctor there in New York. Beth is real adaptable. Maybe she could live with you for a little while?”
At first, Daniel was too stunned to respond, although he knew he had to say something.
“I hate to ask but could you come and get her? She’s a good kid and wouldn’t be any trouble. When she’s eighteen, she can be on her own.”
“Tiffany, no offense, but you’re a total stranger. How do I know anything you’re telling me is true?”
“I can prove it. Your father signed her birth certificate. I have our marriage license. I’ll send you all that information. Just come for Beth.”
“Ms. Tyler, who told you where to find me?”
She emitted a small, embarrassed laugh. “Your father kept in touch with some cousins in New York. He was proud when he learned how you became a doctor in the city. Boasted how he had such a smart son.”
That wasn’t what Daniel expected to hear. How sad that he knew so little about David Reiner. And now his father was dead and he would never know.
The following day was sunny but chilly, a true autumn in New York afternoon. Daniel finished with his patients earlier than expected because his final appointment of the day called to cancel and reschedule. He decided to walk from his office on Park Avenue over to the Citicorp building on Lexington Avenue where International Consultants had offices. It was only a ten-block walk down to the area between 53rd and 54th Street. A perfect day for a walk. His last patient left at four; that gave him just enough time to get over before the offices would likely close at five. He was determined to talk to Michelle Hallam if she was there. He reached her skyscraper office building feeling exhilarated by the brisk exercise.
Daniel told Michelle about Tiffany Tyler and his supposed half-sister, Beth. Michelle listened politely without interrupting him, her face expressionless.
When he finished his brief narrative, she finally spoke. “This cousin with whom the young girl is staying, you were given his name and address, were you not? It should be a simple matter to phone him and arrange for the girl to come to New York. You could e-mail her a plane ticket.”
Daniel shook his head. “I’m not that dense. I checked out the cousin yesterday. No one answers his cell phone. He lives in an apartment complex. I was able to get hold of the manager. He told me something troubling. Apparently the cousin owed back rent. No one’s seen him for several days. He hasn’t returned. I called several more times. I really was persistent.”
“I believe that,” she said with a small smile.
“I got the manager to use his key to open the apartment. He claimed there was no one present and the place was devoid of belongings. There’s no forwarding address.”
Michelle raised her chin and worried her lower lip. “That is troubling.”
“Now you understand why I want your help.”
She faced him. “You know that most of what I deal with involves international matters. I could situate you with someone in Las Vegas who could look into the matter and find out what happened to your sister. That would be best.”
Daniel shook his head. “No one else would be as thorough as you are. Incidentally, I tried to call Tiffany Tyler and it went to voice mail. I left several messages for her. This whole thing is weird. I need to get out to Las Vegas and look into it. I want you to come with me.”
Michelle let out a deep sigh. “I’ll be in D.C. for several days. We’re handling a rather delicate diplomatic matter there. However, it shouldn’t take long. I will call you when I return and we’ll set up a trip.”
“You’re going to D.C.? District of Crime?”
“Not amusing,” she said with a frown. “In the meantime, phone the manager of the complex again and see if he has any news. And don’t give up on this Tiffany Tyler person either.”
Daniel told her he wouldn’t. If he did in fact have a half-sister and the girl needed help, he was willing to do what he could for her. He sensed something amiss here. Every instinct told him that this was not going to be a simple matter. He hadn’t lied when he told Michelle that he needed her help.
She was no ordinary private investigator. Michelle Hallam ran a highly specialized consulting firm. She came from a diplomatic British family. Her uncle had been an MI6 operative. Michelle was trained by him. When he passed away, she inherited the business. Daniel didn’t ask too many questions in the time they were together. He knew the work she did could be dangerous. It had in fact almost gotten them both killed the previous year.

My hope is that readers like you will read this novel and enjoy it. 
If you do, your review would be appreciated!

Comments Welcome!