Monday, October 29, 2012

Write What You Fear?

At Amazon

My guest this week is Linda Lovely, author of the new romantic suspense Final Accounting as well as the Marley Clark mysteries.

We’ve all heard the old saw—write what you know. Oh, really?
Fortunately, most authors of romantic suspense, mysteries, and thrillers have never been shot, beaten, handcuffed, kidnapped, stalked or targeted by a relentless assassin. So does that mean we can’t write about heroines and heroes thrown into terrifying situations?
Of course not. There is a way to write what we “know” when we place our heroines/heroes in dangerous situations we’ve never experienced. Method actors do it all the time. They draw on the real emotions that gripped them at some point in their lives.
I suffer from “moderate” vertigo and a fear of heights. Years ago, when I was a partner in a PR firm that prepared feature articles for corporate clients, I covered the Miss Universe contest for a Hollywood lighting equipment manufacturer. The client specified it wanted a photo (I was both writer and photographer) taken from “above” to spotlight its lighting equipment with the Miss Universe contestants on the stage below. To get the shot, I was allowed to climb the scaffolding during rehearsals. (Did I mention this contest was NOT held in the USA where OSHA standards might apply?)
As I scooted along the beam, the whole rickety structure seemed to sway. I was terrified. Sweat beaded on my forehead. My heart raced. My fingers were so sweaty I could barely focus the camera. I got dizzy. Closed my eyes. Tried to steady my breathing. I watched a sweat droplet plummet and wondered if the lady below thought there was a leak in the roof. The incongruous thought made me want to giggle. Edge of hysteria? Maybe.
I’ve now published three books. The plots are quite different. But—what a surprise—my heroines all suffer from vertigo and a fear of heights and find themselves in situations where they must overcome those fears to survive.
In DearKiller, Marley Clark climbs to the pinnacle of a lighthouse to flee a gunman. In No Wake Zone, the sequel to Dear Killer, Marley must leap from a rooftop to the scaffolding of a roller coaster to lure a killer away from her cousin. In FinalAccounting, my new romantic thriller, Nexi Ketts rappels into the depths of a cave that’s deeper than the Statue of Liberty is tall.
Do you take advantage of your fears and remembered emotions when you write? If so, do you have fears that resurface in different guises in your manuscripts? 
Nexi Ketts has reinvented herself—new name, new look, new life. She makes her living catching corporate cheats, partial atonement for dear old dad’s embezzling ways.
A fling with a handsome cop ends badly when he tries to kill her. She flees, naked, causing a fender bender, and making it damn hard for Detective Barry Gerton to think clearly. A second vicious attack convinces Barry the secretive Nexi, who has her very own FBI dossier, is the target of a professional assassin.
Determined to protect her, Barry unexpectedly falls in love. Nexi yields to the same sizzling attraction. Trust is another matter... Nexi has secrets to guard. And Barry’s been burned before.
Yet once the couple lands in Jamaica, trust is no longer a luxury. Amid the trappings of paradise, they need each other to survive a heart-stopping, cross-island game of hide-and-seek and a harrowing descent into the depths of Dragon’s Throat cave.

Linda Lovely’s romantic suspense novels pair suspense, action, and adventure with romance and humor. Final Accounting, her newest thriller, previously claimed finalist spots in RWA’s prestigious Golden Heart and Daphne du Maurier contests. Dear Killer, the first in Lovely’s Marley Clark romance-laced mystery series, was a finalist in the 2011 RWA Golden Quill competition for published novels.

Friday, October 26, 2012

My New Cover for TIME OF DEATH

Time of Death will be available from Amazon November 18th.

When murder strikes on a South Carolina island, artist Alex Jenrette’s psychic streak compels her to draw the scene with eerie accuracy. The police think she’s involved in the crime, prosecutor Connor Moran fears a psychic witness will get him laughed out of court, and the killer believes she saw it all. 

I'd love to hear what you think of the cover.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Anthologies for Charity: an Indie Writer's Perspective

My guest today is thriller author D.V. Berkom, introducing a collection of short stories to benefit Doctors without Borders.
Recently, I was invited to contribute a short story featuring Kate Jones, the main character from a popular thriller series I write, to an indie anthology for Halloween. Since it was for a worthy cause (Doctors without Borders) and because the mastermind behind the anthology was a mystery writer whom I respect immensely, I jumped at the chance. SERIAL SLEUTHS Vol. 1: Haunted went live on October 15th as an ebook, and 100% of all net proceeds go directly to DWOB. I'm beyond thrilled to be a part of this awesome collection.
Anthologies are a fantastic way to reach new readers. The four other authors who contributed to SERIAL SLEUTHS are all stellar mystery writers in their own right and have their own readership. Each writing style is different from the other: one story is set in nineteenth century Italy, another in contemporary Maine. One of the main characters is an enterprising actress, while another is a police chief from Tennessee. There are ghosts, aliens and murder, Navajo sorcerers and shape-shifters. Each story has a paranormal or horror element, coupled with some great wit to make an enjoyable read.
I'd never been involved in an anthology before, and was pleasantly surprised at how well it all came together. All of the participants are indie authors, and there was more than enough know-how to go around. Each writer's experience complimented the other, with skill in cover design, editing, formatting, promo and/or publicity. All it took were a few emails back and forth and a Skype session or two, and things were rolling.
It got me thinking: how much of a trend is this whole anthology-charitable-giving thing?  Writers, both traditional and indie, have contributed to anthologies forever. It's a great way to reach readers who may never have heard of you by joining forces with other authors who have their own audience, as well as build a community of like-minded folks. From my research on the subject, the advent of dedicating royalties to charity has become a serious trend in the indie community. Not only does it eliminate that pesky problem of how to divvy up the proceeds, but it's a fantastic way to help support deserving organizations. What's not to like?
Going even further, I found that websites plugged into this zeitgeist are cropping up everywhere: there's Humble ebook Bundle and, both of which allow the purchaser to set their own price and to decide whether their dollars go to a charity, the authors, or the site itself. They can select a portion to go to each if they choose.
There are also those organizations that work with a range of artists like Music Speaks. From their website: "Music Speaks is an alternative music label run by a network of artists and activists." The group represents artists from a variety of genres, including the written word, and supports issues of social justice, human rights and the environment. How cool is that? Just think of the possibilities!
In this season of politically partisan sound bites, I find it refreshing that authors are willing to donate their proceeds to deserving organizations. It means everybody wins. How often does that apply today?

The author of the bestselling Kate Jones Thriller Series, as well as a new series featuring retired assassin Leine Basso, DV Berkom is no stranger to reading and writing fast-paced, exciting stories. Having grown up on a steady diet of spy novels, James Bond movies and mysteries, DV's natural inclination is to keep the reader on the edge of their seats and guessing until the last page. DV grew up in the Midwest, received her BA in Political Science from the University of Minnesota and promptly moved to Mexico to live on a sailboat. Several years and at least a dozen moves later, she now lives outside of Seattle, Washington with her sweetheart Mark, an ex-chef-turned-contractor, and writes whenever she gets a chance.

Thursday, October 18, 2012


Amazon: Print or eBook

When a top-ranked competitor keels over at a dog obedience trial, photographer Janet MacPhail is swept up in a maelstrom of suspicion, jealousy, cut-throat competition, death threats, pet-napping, and murder. She becomes a “person of interest” to the police, and apparently to major hunk Tom Saunders as well. As if murder and the threat of impending romance aren’t enough to drive her bonkers, Janet has to move her mother into a nursing home, and the old lady isn’t going quietly. Janet finds solace in her Australian Shepherd, Jay, her tabby cat, Leo, and her eccentric neighbor, Goldie Sunshine. Then two other “persons of interest” die, Jay’s life is threatened, Leo disappears, and Janet’s search for the truth threatens to leave her own life underdeveloped – for good.

by Sheila Webster Boneham

Chapter 96

Jay stood on the bed, and it shook every time he let out a booming buroof. I should know by now to listen to my dog, but the shock to my adrenals had brought my headache back with a vengeance, and I took Jay by the collar and hustled him down the hall toward the kitchen. I flipped the switch for the hallway light, but nothing happened. I told you to replace that bulb, whispered the voice from my pompous side.
Jay tried to pull me into the living room, growling and barking, but I hauled him through the dark to the kitchen and out the door. “Go out and pee, and have a look around. Then maybe we can get some sleep!”
I groped for and found the light switch by the door, but it made no difference. No lights. Storm must have knocked out a transformer, I thought, until I noticed that Goldie’s back porch light was on, as it often was all night. My circuit breaker must have tripped.
I turned toward the laundry room, felt my way past the kitchen table and chairs, hoping not to catch a toe on a chair leg, and followed the smooth surface of the wall into the gloom of the windowless laundry room. My fingers hit the cool edge of the dryer, drifted to the right, touched the wall, and ran over the vinyl wallpaper until they found metal. I felt for the pull ring and yanked the breaker box open, then realized that I had no idea which breaker was where. I needed some light.
I backtracked into the kitchen and slowly made my way to the counter. I opened the first drawer to the right of the sink and felt around, trying to remember whether anything sharp lay waiting to stab me. The biggest hazards in the drawer were probably a couple of pens. As my fingers closed over the hard plastic flashlight handle, I thought I heard something behind me.
I stopped, listening into the dark. Must be the wind. I picked up the flashlight and tried it. No go. Note to self: replace flashlight batteries.
I fumbled in the drawer again, and my fingers closed over a small cardboard box. I pushed it open and felt inside. Two matches. Another note to self. Renew supply of matches.
Jay was raising hell outside the door. It wasn’t his usual “let me in” bark, but more serious, a prolonged medley of deep-throated boofs and high-pitched squeals. “Quiet!” Knowing he didn’t like the wind but puzzled by the panic in his voice, I hollered that I’d be right there.
My fingers fumbled further into the drawer and were rewarded by the feel of a cylinder about four inches long. I pictured its scarred red surface and blackened wick, and was glad I’d kept it though its tabletop days were done. As I’d told Goldie many times, you never know when something may come in handy. I put the candle stub in my pocket and edged back toward the laundry room. I was just starting to pull open the matchbox when a stunning pain knocked all thought out of my mind. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Try! Even if It Might Not Work Out

Amazon Print & eBook

My guest this week is Sheila Webster Boneham, author of several nonfiction books and the first in her mystery series, Drop Dead on Recall.
"I want to write a [novel, memoir, poem, book about...]...." I hear that a lot. I hear it when I teach classes and workshops, and I hear it in coffee shops and at book signings. I think this is partly because the need to create is a fundamental human drive. Have you ever met a healthy child who wasn’t eager to learn and make and do things? I also believe that the creative urge plays out in more ways than we usually think of as "creative" – writing, visual arts, dance, music, and so on. Take dog training.
My new Animals in Focus Mystery series begins with murder at a canine obedience trial in Drop Dead on Recall. For more than a decade I taught obedience classes, mostly to pet owners who wanted to gain some control of their dogs. Many did fine, and emerged at the end of the class with better skills for communicating with their dogs. Some were inspired to continue training, and a few of those eventually went on to compete. At each step up that ladder from "my dog is dragging me down the street" to "my dog just earned an obedience title!" there were dropouts, because I’m here to tell you that as easy as it looks when you see a well-oiled dog-and-owner team perform, it took them a lot of hard work to get there.
So it goes with writing. Many people begin with an urge to write. Some have a specific project in mind, but others just feel they’d like to try writing and find their subject as they go. They take a class or two, or join a writers’ group, or go to a conference. It’s fun at first. Then the fun becomes more complicated. Painful. Not all criticism is "constructive," and even when it is, it’s hard to hear.
When the work is ready to submit to agents or publishers, things get tougher. Rejection is part of the deal, and rejection sucks. So like the doggy-school dropouts who don’t want to spend time teaching the things their dogs don’t learn quickly, a lot of beginning and intermediate writers drop out when the pleasures of writing bump up against disappointments and plain old hard work. And it takes a lot of hard work to be good, much less great (at writing, at anything). Many people quit when this becomes evident.
I’ve heard people say that quitting is sad, but I'm not sure it is. I think we should try something new every so often, even if it doesn’t work out. If you think you want to write, give it a whirl! Even if you’re never published, you will have expanded your view, had some fun, learned something. You might even turn out to be a writer! How will you ever know if you don’t try?
As for the quitting, I think that’s okay too. Because quitting doesn’t mean failure. It means we have successfully identified our lack of interest or skill in a particular activity. It means we can move on to try something else, or we can go back to what we already know and love. It means we tried. And that is success!

Award-winning author Sheila Webster Boneham writes fiction and nonfiction, much of it focused on animals, nature, and travel. Although best know for her writing about dogs and cats for the past fifteen years, Sheila also writes fiction, narrative nonfiction, and poetry. Her new Animals in Focus mystery series has just debuted with Drop Dead on Recall, now available from your local bookseller and online. In addition to her next mystery, Sheila is currently working on a series of essays about traveling the U.S. by train, and on a combination memoir and wide-ranging meditation on the human-canine connection. Sheila teaches writing workshops and classes, and is interested in speaking to groups about writing, creativity, and related topics. She lives in Wilmington, NC, and can be found online at or on Facebook at, or find her at Twitter @sheilaboneham.

ABOUT Drop Dead on Recall
When a top-ranked competitor keels over at a dog obedience trial, photographer Janet MacPhail is swept up in a maelstrom of suspicion, jealousy, cut-throat competition, death threats, pet-napping, and murder. She becomes a “person of interest” to the police, and apparently to major hunk Tom Saunders as well. As if murder and the threat of impending romance aren’t enough to drive her bonkers, Janet has to move her mother into a nursing home, and the old lady isn’t going quietly. Janet finds solace in her Australian Shepherd, Jay, her tabby cat, Leo, and her eccentric neighbor, Goldie Sunshine. Then two other “persons of interest” die, Jay’s life is threatened, Leo disappears, and Janet’s search for the truth threatens to leave her own life underdeveloped – for good.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Those Talking Heads

Use dialogue to give the reader needed information, but avoid talking in a vacuum—talking heads. Talking heads are created when characters exchange information but do nothing. They might as well be reading the news.
One way to create interest is to have the dialogue take place during some activity, such as over a meal or pursuing some activity that might later come into play in the story. The activity helps create a picture for the reader to see and shows something about the characters. Does the character fancy herself a gourmet cook? Is he a sports addict? Use gestures and actions to show mood and emotion. Is the character trying to hide something? Perhaps he’s toying with his food or gulping it down.
Almost any conversation can be made more interesting by creating pictures for the reader. 
Here’s an excerpt from Time of Death (shameless promotion for my new book) with everything but the dialogue removed. See what kind of picture you get.

“Want me to go in, Mr. R.?”
“No, I do not. Just sit here and watch for anything that goes by in either direction.”
“But she can’t be going to Chicora.”
“I want you to check for official-looking vehicles—you know, cops, ambulances, the rescue squad?”
“Oh. Yeah. Right.”

Do you have an idea of the characters’ mood? What they were aiming at? Did you see the conversation or feel as if you were present?
See if this is any better. It’s the real excerpt.

Jelly pulled into the Sugar Shack parking lot. “Want me to go in, Mr. R.?”
“No, I do not.” No one would tell Jelly a woman’s whereabouts without calling the police as soon as the hulk left. “Just sit here and watch for anything that goes by in either direction.”
“But she can’t be going to Chicora.”
“Jelly,” he said with exaggerated patience, “I want you to check for official-looking vehicles—you know, cops, ambulances, the rescue squad?” Jelly Belly turned into Jelly Brains long before the man left the boxing ring.
“Oh. Yeah. Right.” Jelly settled his large frame behind the steering wheel and stared at the road.

What do you think? Does one show more than the other? What’s your style? How do you feel about bare dialogue? Does it ever work? When?

Monday, October 8, 2012

How Samantha Found her Settings

Amazon Kindle
This week my guest is Peggy Edelheit, author of the Samantha Jamison mysteries.
I’d say there’s a lot of Samantha in me, and visa versa. We seek advice, give others credit more so than ourselves, and are reluctant to take center stage. Although we get carried away on occasion, we have a great sense of humor. Just looking at the quirky characters we both have to deal with proves we’re unpredictable, too.
Samantha made her debut as my protagonist in The Puzzle in Highlands, North CarolinaI owned a log home there at one time; hence it was a picture-perfect location to write a mystery with the mountains as a backdrop. I would often sit in that house daydreaming what a great isolated place for a writer to get caught up in her own mystery. Many incidents in the book did happen, including the ice storm.
Being familiar with Ocean City, NJ, it was perfect for Without Any Warning, Volume 2. The boardwalk and beach were an ideal setting for my characters to barge in on Sam to continue the series. A reader who read that mystery wrote me, saying she appreciated that I had my facts straight, even down to the best pizza place to eat. Readers are always looking for authenticity and this proved it. You have to be as accurate as possible or they will let you know when you’re not.
Amazon Kindle
 In 86 Avenue du Goulet, Volume 3, the French Riviera mystery, our neighbors really were Martine, Jean, and their dog Sonia, just as in the book. Jean passed away, and so I dedicated that book in his memory, with a special thanks to Martine. I did spend time working in the gardens with our French gardener, and the location of the other properties surrounding us and their exact locations played right into the mystery, including the house with the red light across the way. The mysterious cat lady who came and went at dusk, slipping cat food under our garden gate really did exist.
A Lethal Time, Volume 4 takes place in New Hampshire, a setting that was similar to ours where we once had a vacation home. Our horses were Amanda, Luke, Blaze, and yes, even Boss, that unruly wild horse in the book. We used to go to the motorcycle rallies each summer on my husband’s Harley. Both research and living there helped give a more familiar feel to the mystery.
Amazon Kindle
Mouth Of The Rat, Volume 5, takes place in south Florida. Being a resident of Florida, I knew just how to play it right down to the tongue-and-cheek attitude of the players. Florida has a rich mix of cultures and backgrounds. I had a lot of fun with that one. My husband could hear me chuckling as I typed. And no, I don’t dine at 4:30pm.
The disadvantage is the reader only sees my mysteries from Sam’s point of view. So I try to keep them in the loop right up until the very last page with its surprise ending.
Thank you, Ellis for having me as a guest on your blog. I enjoyed it immensely. 
Or her website:

Thursday, October 4, 2012


I gave three outstanding authors this photograph and asked each to write about it in 150 words or less. Three very different visions of the same thing came back. Amazing how imagination works!
Anger churned in my chest when I saw Jason standing in the doorway of the barn wearing that insipid mask. Twenty-five-years old and he hadn’t any sense. The night before he had tried on different masks, like a child effecting poses and attitudes of Halloween spirits. Now, he wasted time when he should have been completing chores.
“Jason, what are you doing?” I said, approaching him. He peered from the mask. Was that outrage in his eyes? He manipulated something. “What are you fiddling with?” 
“You criminally stupid hag,” he said. He grabbed my shoulder, spun me around, clamped a wire around my neck and squeezed. I fought, knowing I would lose. Perhaps stealing the boy twenty years ago hadn’t been my best decision. I’d raised him, instilling fear when he asked too many questions. Had he learned the truth? How could I know his real parents were billionaires?  
Hello my dear Mary, I knew you wouldn't disappear completely from me without at least one more meeting to say goodbye properly. I've waited here on every anniversary of your passing.
I was sure you'd come. You'll notice the cottage is not as it was. I never cared to tend to it after your murder. I want you to know that the madman who killed you is also now dead.
I expect some day the police will come and ask me about that, but I don't care. What he took from me can never be replaced. What I took from him goes some way to paying for that. I still miss you.
At first glance, the crumbling stucco building proposed by Mark as a setting for a Halloween Haunted House held little promise. Too small to set up multiple jack-in-the-box thrills for kiddies. A weed-choked field separated the yawning black entryway from the nearest road. Getting people here would be a bigger nightmare than any jangling skeletons or severed heads rigged inside.
I stumbled over a half-buried car door. The field was a dumping ground. Great. I looked up. A man blocked the doorway. Jeans, black hoodie, white drama mask. Was Mark trying to scare me? Same height, same build. Why did he pick a woman’s face as a mask? “Nice try, Mark,” I called, “but you’d frighten me more wearing a Tricky Dick mask.”
No answer. I noticed his hands. All ten fingers. Mark had nine—a missing index finger. My heart shifted into overdrive. “Who are you?”    

At Amazon
E.B. Davis’s lives in the Washington, D. C. Virginia suburbs and longs to live at the beach. She is a member of the Short Mystery Fiction Society, Sisters in Crime and its Guppy and Chesapeake chapters. Her short stories have appeared in online magazines and in print, including the Shaker of Margarita anthologies. “Lucky In Death” appeared in Chesapeake Crimes: This Job is Murder, and “The Acidic Solution” was published in He Had It Coming in August. Fishnets, a Guppy anthology, will include her short story, “The Runaway.” She blogs at
At Amazon UK  and US

Seumas Gallacher lives in Abu Dhabi and has two crime thrillers on Kindle now, THE VIOLIN MAN'S LEGACY and VENGEANCE  WEARS BLACK, the first two in a series. The novels spin around  three former SAS commandos, owners of a specialist security firm that tackles major crime gangs using their black operations expertise to deadly effect.
The latest book VENGEANCE WEARS BLACK can be found on these links :

Amazon Author Page
Linda Lovely writes mysteries and romantic thrillers. Her Marley Clark series features a 52-year-old retired military intelligence officer. DEAR KILLER is set in the South Carolina Lowcountry where Marley works as a private island security guard. NO WAKE ZONE moves the action to Lake Okoboji, Iowa. In the next installment, Marley returns to the Carolina Coast.
FINAL ACCOUNTING, a romantic thriller set in Atlanta and Jamaica, is set for release in late October.
Lovely is a member of Sisters in Crime, Romance Writers of America, International Thriller Writers and the South Carolina Writers Workshop. Click on book covers on Lovely’s Amazon author page—–or visit her website——for buy links.

Join in! Add your vision in 150 words or less. After a taste of these authors, check out their books for some good reading.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

No One Likes to Be Lectured

Sometimes when a writer wants to give the reader a great deal of information, he/she dumps it all into one long paragraph. Just the sight of the long, solid paragraph is discouraging to readers. Break it up. Use actions on the part of the speaker. Let the other person interrupt with comments or questions. White space is good; it gives the reader the sensation of moving forward at a fast pace.
Meals or a task make good settings for these expository lectures. The dictionary defines exposition as “a statement or rhetorical discourse intended to give information about or an explanation of difficult material.” The reader may need to know it, but he doesn’t need to know it all in one speech.
The following excerpt is an example. The doctor could have given all the information about the patient at once, but breaking it up adds to the reader’s picture and is more interesting.
“She's resting comfortably. She has a concussion, and she’s lost a lot of blood, but the injury isn’t as bad as we first thought. She had her hair pinned up under the wig, and that, with the padding the wig provided, protected her skull somewhat.” The doctor tapped the back of his head, indicating the location of the injury. “It cushioned the blow. It didn't do nearly as much damage as it might have.”

“Does that mean she’ll be all right?” Relief brought tears to Kate’s eyes.

“I haven’t seen anything to indicate otherwise, but we’ll watch her overnight. Because of her age . . .”

The doctor could have said it all at once and a lot more besides, but his gesture and then Kate’s interruption and reaction help to create a picture and take away the “lecture” feel of his explanation.