Monday, January 26, 2009

An Interview with Patricia Sprinkle

M&M: Patricia, let's talk about your writing schedule.
Patricia: It's not as "scheduled" as it used to be. When my sons were home and in school, I generally wrote the whole time they were at school. Now, when I ought to have more free time, I also have two parents nearby who need some attention and assistance, and two grandsons I like to spend time with. Plus a few responsibilities at church and in the community that keep scheduling day-time events. But my ideal schedule, which I follow more or less faithfully, is to get to my desk around ten and write until seven, with a break around two for lunch. I often come back to the desk after dinner, as well, for a couple of hours. Basically, I consider writing a bit like college: it's what I am supposed to be doing any time I'm not doing something else. But let me add that for writers who are just starting out, I feel it is important for you to set aside specific times and be ruthless about not filling them with anything else. Otherwise, those first books do not get written.

M&M: How many mysteries have you written?
My twentieth came out in October '08, exactly twenty years after the first one was published. In that same period I've written two other novels three non-fiction self-help books, and two short books of meditations.

M&M: Why have you ended your 'A Thoroughly Southern Series', I loved Mac and her family.
It's a bit of "quit while you're ahead." I love Mac and her family, too, but when I started the series, I was in my early 50's and she was in her early 60's. Now I've aged ten years and she's aged two. Pretty soon I'll be older than she. And as I aged, more and more often people began to say, "I can just hear you in Mac" or "MacLaren is so much like you." That is a danger signal for a writer. We are not our characters, and they are not supposed to be us. I began to feel like Mac was a sister I'd been with a bit too long, and we both needed space. Also, when I turned 64 and we had to put my mother in a memory care facility, I realized there were books I had been wanting to write that I ought not postpone indefinitely. So Mac and Joe Riddley went off on a cruise and I'm writing a novel I've delayed for the twenty years I've written mysteries.

M&M: Tell us about your latest book in the 'Family Tree Series'?
Daughter of Deceit is about Bara Holcomb Weidenauer, who asked sleuth Katharine Murray to research military medals her father earned during World War II in the 15th Air Corps. Her father had returned a hero but minus one leg, and had become one of Atlanta's movers and shakers. What Katharine finds, however, shocks Bara so much that she has to question who she is and why her parents lied to her all her life. It's grittier than the MacLaren books, but I enjoyed working on it and readers seem to like it.

M&M: What mysteries do you like to read?
Good ones. By that I mean mysteries with a strong plot, characters I can identify with or want to know more about, and good writing. I seldom read blood and guts books, because I read at lunch and before bed, and that combination doesn't work for me. I do, however, read all of Harlan Coben's books even though I cringe and sometimes put one down for a while to recover from the horror. I read at least one new author from Canada a year, and I'll read anybody once, especially an author recommended to me by another constant reader. I won't list "favorites" among women mystery writers because I have too many friends among those writers whose books I enjoy, and I'm afraid I'll leave somebody out.

M&M: What advice do you have for the novice mystery writer, who wants to write a mystery series?
Read, read, read, then write the kind of book you like to read. Settle on a plot and finish the book. Study the craft of writers you especially enoy--how do they do what they do? A writer who can no longer learn from other writers is probably about to become a former writer.

M&M: You've been writing for many years. Would you share with us a thing or two you've learned?
1) I've learned I don't really know how to do this. Every time I start a book I am certain it is not going to work.
2) I have learned to trust my instincts. Before I write a word, I tend to spend a good bit of time getting to know the characters, the setting, and background information I am going to need for that plot. But if I get into a chapter and it feels right to go in another direction, I let it flow for a while until I see if that direction is going to be better than the one I had before.
3) I have learned that no book comes alive for me until a character whom I had not included or whom I had considered minor steps in and becomes a major part of the plot. For instance, in DEATH ON THE FAMILY TREE, Lamar Franklin--a ponytailed hippie amateur genealogist--makes my sleuth nervous and seems like a stalker. In SINS OF THE FATHER, the second book in that series, Lamar appears again in a slightly different but still disturbing role. In DAUGHTER OF DECEIT he surprised Katharine and me--and, I hope, the readers.

M&M: How do you outline your mystery plots, keep track of series characters and background information?
I probably do far too much of that, delaying the moment when I have to face the empty screen. Before I begin a book, I list all my characters and fill out a page of information on them: a brief physical description, but also things like who was their favorite teacher and why, what do they save from the past? what are their hobbies? what do they do with their hands when they are agitated? what do they want in this book and what is going to make it hard for them to get it? things like that. I also have an alphabet chart with first and last names of characters, to be sure I don't wind up with three or four characters whose name starts with the same letter.That can confuse a reader. If I know the characters well before I begin, I don't have any problem confusing them later.
Because I usually have to write a proposal of sorts for the editor ahead of time, I use that proposal to plot the book--where it starts, who the suspects are, and why they each might have a motive for the murder. I don't tell the editor whodunit, but unlike some writers, I do know who the murderer and the victim are before I begin, and also I know whom the police are going to suspect and whom I want the reader to suspect. That lets me plant clues and herrings throughout the book. And I always start by listing a few chapters and what is going to happen in them, plus events that need to happen somewhere along the line. Then I start the book. Somewhere around the middle I break off and write the climax chapter, because I tend to edit more carefully and often chapters I've already written, and I don't want the last chapter to get the least attention. But in spite of all that careful planning, in WHO LET THAT KILLER IN THE HOUSE, I managed to let a girls fastpitch softball team win a game with only two outs in the last inning.

M&M: In 2009 what are you looking forward to doing, writing or in genreal life?
As I already said, I am going in a new direction at the moment, working on a novel that is not a mystery, although it has a small mystery in it. I have no idea whether I can do this or not, but an editor seems to think I can. We shall see!

M&M: Patricia, you've lived many places, tell us about the best places you've lived and travelled to on vacation?
I have enjoyed every single place we have lived, for various reasons. I love the ocean and swimming, so Wilmington, NC and St. Pete and Miami definitely rank high. Mobile was very like Jacksonville, where my family spent happy years, and I loved it for its history and its charm. Chicago was cold, but we made very good friends there. And Atlanta, where we've lived four times now, is both cosmopolitan and Southern, and feels the most like home. But my all-time favorite place was the litle village in Scotland where I spent one winter and to which I return whenever I can. The people I love there and the vast spaces of the mountains soothe my soul.

M&M Would you share with us a little about your family life, your favorite dessert, meal, movie and music?
I've been married 38 years to the same man without killing each other, we have two sons, a daughter-in-law, and two grandsons. Our married son and his family live half an hour away, which is wonderful. The other works in New York and is losing his southern roots. We miss him, but are glad he's happy up there. I don't have favorite anythings, which makes it very hard for internet sites to assign me a question to answer for security purposes. I don't have one favorite color because I love all colors. Leaded crystals wash my office with rainbows on sunny days. I love movies, but don't have a favorite. I love to eat, but don't have a favorite food (maybe peppermint ice cream, in limited quantities?). I don't have favorite authors, although there are a number I read again and again. I am not certain I have a favorite composer, although whenever I hear a piece I cannot identify but really like, it tends to be Saint-Saens or Mendelsson. But while I love most children, I do definitely have two favorites: my grandsons!

M&M: Last but never least, is there anything you would like to say to your readers?
Thank you for making it possible for authors to do what we love most in the whole world, tell stories to people who want to hear them. And if you do have a favorite or several favorite authors, BUY their books. Whether they continue to publish or not depends largely on how many new books they sell, not how many times a book is sold second-hand or how many times it gets read. So pass around your next-favorite authors to aunts, cousins, and sisters, but BUY your favorite author. Nuff said!
Okay I hope it was painless, and thank your Patricia for the interview.

Review: Guess Who's Coming to Die

Pub date: Febuary 2007
Paperback mystery series

MacLaren Yarbrough (MAC) to her friends has been invited to join the Magnolia Ladies Investment Club. This club is an elite group of snooty women and Mac doesn't understand why they want her to join. Her bank account isn't exactly going to merit eating beans and cornbread five days a week but it certainly doesn't rank up there with the word snooty. Still being a judge and all.....maybe more importantly she can learn about something that might make it worth her time to put up with these women and their chatter about investing their money.
Her first time to the meeting it isn't quite what she was expecting but at least she has company. Her daughter-inlaw (Cindy) is also a new member and full of questions along with her ideals. Things are moving right along when the club president Willena Kenan is found dead in the ladies room. In a not very lady like manner on the bathroom floor and there is a corkscrew stitcking out of her neck. The worst thing is that Mac finds Willena dead and what's more Cindy her daughter-inlaw's car keys are found under the body.
The sheriff has been wanting to pend something on the Yarbrough family for years and now this time he might just be able to acheive his goal if Mac doesn't come up with some other suspects. The good news is the murder happened during the meeting's coffee break and people were coming and going all over the place. Inside and outside so all the members are suspects and more to the point Mac needs to hide her active involvement in another homicide from her husband and his big mouthed bird.
Still when her son Walker finds out that is wife is a homicide suspect he takes matters into his own hands which causes Mac more than a few restless nights. She goes to all the local sources for gossip and facts and then she follows the trail to a few out of the way places. Including a bar in the next town but only fans the flame of gossip.
Finally it's apparent that jealously, family secrets and money might be at the root of this killers agenda. Revenge is always best when served cold and when the hired help starts to loosen their tongues it doesn't take a fork to know that this murder has been well done.
But just like peeling wall paper away one layer at a time...Mac peels away alibis, the lies and uncovers who did the deadly deed of murder to a woman who only wanted to beat to her own drum. It just proves that when in doubt begin with the victim and because southern roots grow deep.
Pamela James
This is a ten star mystery and rush to buy this book....Patricia Sprinkle not only writes a compelling and amusing mystery, her characters are charming and you will want to keep turning the pages not wanting the visit to end. She introduces you to not only the real southern women of the south, but also to a tightly woven plot. Not to mention but I will that her titles are more catchy than any crop of fish and you might want to remember a snack because the food she mentions in each book is to die for. You can't stop and make something to eat because you don't want to miss what's going to happen next and like good southern cooking there is nothing better than a A Thoroughly soutern mystery. **********

Friday, January 23, 2009

Review of Red Branch by Morgan Llewelyn

Publisher: William Morrow & Co; 1st edition (February 1989)
ISBN-10: 0688069460
Hardcover: 558 pages

The title of the book refers to the Red Branch, an elite groups of warriors in service to Conor Mac Nessa, King of Ulster. The young boy Setanta, is determined to be a part of this band. He claims his place and becomes their greatest warrior, called Cuchalain, The Hound of Ulster. This is mostly his story and his role in the rivalry between Queen Maeve of Connaugt and Ulster.

This is an epic tale encompassing some of the great celtic legends. But first and foremost it is a tale of warriors and not for the squeamish. Llewelyn really gives the setting power, you feel like you are part of ancient irish tribes and fey forces. A very enjoyable read.
And I swear, the cover looks like a great tarot card!

Review by Terri

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

An Interview with Ron Adams

M&M: Ron, tell me about your writing schedule.

RWA: It’s a little generous to call it a schedule, but I write whenever I get the chance. Sometimes I take time during my lunch hour, sometimes during my kids’ piano or martial arts classes. Most often I write when they go to bed, from about 9pm to about midnight. My wife and I work opposite shifts to have time for our son and daughter, so that sort of plays into my writing schedule a bit.

M&M: How long does it take you to write a book?

RWA: It takes me more than a year generally, but that is because I still have a “day job”, and the other commitments I mentioned earlier. I also tend to work on other projects, such as articles, book reviews, and short stories. Then there are the promotional activities for the current book, and I read as much as I can to stay sharp.

M&M: Tell us about your book/s.

RWA: Lake Effect is the first book in the Joe Banks PI series, where Joe is called in to look into the carjacking and drowning of two children in Lake Erie. He is forced to open some old wounds in the dysfunctional family in order to get to the truth and prevent another tragedy. In Key Lime Squeeze, Joe gets involved in the case of a runaway husband whole stole more than a million dollars from his crime family in-laws. Saddled with the family enforcer as a traveling partner, the job becomes more complicated and dangerous as friends become enemies, and allies are unexpected. Lake Effect is available from multiple on line booksellers, including Barnes and Noble and Books-a-Million, and can be ordered from your favorite local bookstore. Key Lime Squeeze is coming soon from my new publisher, Enspiren Press, and I am hoping for a February/ March release date.

M&M: What advice can you give the novice writer who wants to become an author?

RWA: Be an avid reader. You can learn a lot about your genre and style by reading the works of those people who are successful in your genre. Then write what you know, write what you feel, and don’t be afraid to scrap it all to do it better. Listen to the advice of people who are better/smarter/more experienced, and don’t take it personally. If you can avoid the “artist syndrome,” there is a lot to be learned by listening and paying attention when little nuggets of truth are tossed your way. I was fortunate to be able to have some very good people read my work, listen to what I’m trying to say, and teach me ways to say it better. I think Key Lime Squeeze is a much better book because of the input from other writers and editors

M&M: Who gave you the best writing advice you ever received?

RWA: I had a teacher in high school who once told me, as a budding writer and musician, to “follow your muse, but don’t quit your day job.”

M&M: Would you tell us about a few of your favorite authors?

RWA: A sentimental favorite would be Stephen King. He wrote the only book I have ever read entirely during the day (“Salem’s Lot”), and the first book I ever read more than once (“The Stand”). I am a huge Robert B. Parker fan, with his Spenser and Jesse Stone Characters being among my all time favorites. I also enjoy Janet Evanovich, Harlan Coben, Jeffery Deaver, Raymond Chandler, Dan Brown and Robert Ludlum. If I could, I would recommend to your readers a couple of up and comers I have had the chance to read and thoroughly enjoyed. Add Kim Smith, Mirella Paetzer, Rosalie Skinner, and Regan Rothe to your next reading list. I’m sure you will enjoy these talented writers.

M&M: Do you belong to any writing groups, organization or book groups?

RWA: I am involved in several online writers/readers groups, including the paranormal mystery group on Yahoo. I also belong to several writers groups on, including Published Authors, Crime Space, Thriller authors, and others. I am hoping to join the Mystery Writers of America following publication of Key Lime Squeeze.

M&M: Tell us about the cover of your books.

RWA: The cover of Lake Effect was based on a photo taken by my wife of the boat landing I describe in the book. She doesn’t get enough credit for everything she contributes to my writing, so I wanted to let your readers know she gets credit for that cover. As for the cover for Key Lime Squeeze, the publisher and I went for a sort of dangerous, sexy, tropical look. As a matter of fact my editor’s husband refers to me as the guy with the sexy book cover. There are worse things to be known for I suppose.

M&M: What motivates you to sit down to a blank page?

RWA: Usually it starts with an idea or a thought about something. For example, I had a friend tell me about a time when a whole series of Asian people walked through his back yard, soaked from the skin from crossing the Niagara River from Canada. Then we had a series of “massage parlor” raids here in the Buffalo area, and a big push on the human trafficking trade. I started working with those ideas, and I have blocked that into the next installment of the Joe Banks series. It is a work in progress, but that’s a fair explanation of how I get started.

M&M: Tell us how you plot your books, the research invovled in writing your books, the characters and breakdown the best way you have found to flesh out your characters.

RWA: When I get the idea for a story, I try to flesh it out in one or two paragraphs. I get the basics down, and then start outlining the progress of the story. The characters, especially the new ones, I try to put on to index cards as I come up with them to organize and give them some depth, and to keep the who’s who from becoming a problem. It also allows me develop the key elements of the story, from conflicts to actions to resolution. I may have an idea what I want the story to say, but until I get to know the characters in the story, I won’t know exactly what happens, or if it makes sense to take the story in a whole different direction.

M&M: Do you have a website? If so would you please give us directions to the site?

RWA: My main site is, and I try to keep it as up to date as possible with news and information about my writing, blogs, friends and colleagues. I am also looking to make my books available for sale through that site as well. I try to make it as interactive as possible, to keep it user friendly. I also have three blog sites,,, and I also have a Myspace page at with links to a lot of other authors and artists. The Shadows and Night site has short stories of a different sort from me and some of my friends, mostly in the horro/thriller genre. It’s worth a look for something different.

M&M: What is your favorite meal, book, dessert, and movie?

RWA: To be honest, my favorite meal is almost anything my wife makes. She is an exceptional cook, and I prefer her cooking to almost anyone anywhere. My favorite book is a toss up, either “Taming a Seahorse” by Robert B. Parker, or “The Stand” by Stephen King. I am also a big fan of the Bourne series by Robert Ludlum, the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich, and have discovered Harlan Coben recently, much to my pleasure. No kidding, my favorite dessert is Key Lime Pie, hands down. My favorite all time movie is “The Natural”, shot right here in Buffalo. I always watch it when it comes on, and always cheer for Roy when he comes up to bat in the ninth and blasts the ball up into the lights.

M&M: Please leave us with some sage words of wisdom or a quote.

RWA: This is my favorite quote, and helps me to maintain perspective when I need it:
" It's not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or when the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worth cause; who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at the worst if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat. " -Theodore Roosevelt

Thank you for the interview,
Pamela James

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

An Interview with Betty Sullivan La Pierre

M&M: Betty, how many books have you written?

I have thirteen books published at this time. Eleven are part of the ‘Hawkman Series’, which can be read in any order, as each is a stand alone story. I also have two suspense thrillers (THE DEADLY THORN & MURDER.COM), which are not involved with Hawkman.

M&M: Tell us about your writing schedule?

I’m at the computer eight to ten hours a day, either writing or marketing. Writing is my passion, and I love being involved in plotting or trying to sell my books.

M&M: Okay we want to know about your latest book?

“THE LURE OF THE WITCH” is my latest release. Here’s a short excerpt from the beginning chapters:
Sarah Willis, a teenager, was reported missing to the Medford police by her father. When Greg Willis decided the authorities were dragging their feet, he hired private investigator Tom Casey, better known as Hawkman, to find his daughter. Since Greg and Cathy Willis had been divorced for a year, Hawkman found it a bit difficult to combine the information and decided to have Sarah’s belongings brought to his office, much to the dismay of the mother.
When Hawkman began to dig into Sarah’s personal items, his wife, Jennifer, convinced him he didn’t understand the workings of a young girl’s mind, and needed her help. As they dug into the inner parts of Sarah’s computer, diary and notes, they discovered some disturbing facts which led them to a ranch in the Medford hills.

M&M: Who are some of your favorite authors and some of your favorite books?

That’s a hard question. Reading Mystery/Suspense is my favorite pastime and many great authors write in this genre. Sue Grafton, James Patterson, Brenda Stewart, and many more. It would be hard for me to pick a favorite, as they all have talents I can appreciate and learn from.

M&M: What writing organizations do you belong to and do you belong to any writing groups?

I’m not a joiner, having done this when my boys were growing up, you might say I burned out. However, I do belong to a critique writing group, which meets once a week at my home. We critique each other’s works. An author couldn’t get a good polished manuscript without such help. You can’t polish your own work, as you tend to skip over mistakes, and need other eyes to find your errors.

M&M: On the average how long does it take you to write a book?

A good year by the time I finish all the rewrites and have the manuscript as polished as I can get it. This has been true of all my books, except for the first one. It took me seven years to get ‘THE ENEMY STALKS’ ready and even after that, my first publisher, sent it back to me with helpful suggestions. Once I went through the whole work again and resubmitted it, he congratulated me, then published the story.

M&M: What one publishing lesson have you learned which helped you in other areas of your life?

You don’t give up. If you want to pursue something with all your heart, you don’t quit.

M&M: Is there something you would like to say to your readers?

Yes. Thank you. Without my fans and their wonderful letters, including great comments, I might have thought I lacked the talent to write a decent story. But when your books are snatched up, hot off the press, and readers request a new book within a short time, you can’t help but swell with pride.

M&M: What advice can you give the novice writer?

Let me repeat, don’t give up. Keep writing. Get with a critique group with multiple genres. You need input from all sides. Don’t be offended by their suggestions. Keep a tough skin. They’re only trying to make your writing better. Learn from your mistakes, and read everything you can get your hands on about the writing world. Read, read, read! You’ll learn something new with each article, book or short story.

M&M: Tell us how you develop your characters, the setting, plot and pacing?

I have an idea about my story before I start writing. Characters pop into my mind along the way. They’re usually a combination of traits that I’ve seen or studied in people. It’s usually not just one person’s characteristics, but several. Once my characters are in place, they take over and lead me into the story. Many times they take me places I don’t want to go, but they have a purpose. The plot forms as the story takes place, even though I know there will be a murder committed somewhere along the line, but when and where it happens develops within the story. Pacing was a problem for me at first, as I wanted to go right to the murder. I’ve learned to develop my settings, and describe my characters with more feeling. These are things you learn as you move ahead.

M&M: Okay now for the important questions. What is your favorite meal, dessert, color, movie and music?

This is a great question. My favorite meal is oven fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, with a hot roll...yummy, makes my mouth water even thinking about it. For my dessert, anything dark chocolate. Blue is my favorite color. I’m not a movie fan, I couldn’t tell you the name of any of today’s films. But years ago, I enjoyed musicals, mysteries, (loved the Alfred Hitchcock productions) and the great wide screen Biblical stories. My favorite music is mostly instrumental without a vocalist. I like big bands, orchestras, guitar, and soft rock. I don’t care for the screaming and loud rock, or hip-hop stuff.

M&M: Do you believe in 'writer's block'?

I’ve really never suffered with it, but I’m sure many authors can get locked up. The middle of the book is the hardest for me. And that’s probably where it would strike if I let it. But I keep plodding along and soon it becomes clear what I need to do. I’d advise anyone who thinks he/she has writer’s block, to just keep writing, maybe use a different subject to distract your brain, let it relax. The mind needs a break every once in a while, and doing something different might help. However, don’t stray too far from the keyboard, as is will only hamper the problem.

M&M: What are you looking forward to in 2009?

Publishing another book, which I’m writing now. I love my writing life, and am very fortunate to have a husband and family who supports me completely. My husband has retired and does all the cooking, which makes it wonderful for me to continue working without having to break to cook a meal. Yes, I know, I’m spoiled rotten and love it..:-)

M&M: Tell us something about you that we don't know, such as do you love chocolate or do you have something special sitting on your writing desk?

You already know I love dark chocolate. But you might not know that I write very clean mysteries with a thinking private investigator. I keep the bad language to a minimum and you will never see the ‘F’ word in one of my books. I loathe the word. The only love making takes place between a husband and wife behind closed doors. No explicit sex. I want my readers to get engrossed in my plots and try to guess who the murderer might be. I like to keep them guessing and hope I surprise them in the end.

In closing leave us with some writing words of wisdom.

Live each day with a smile and think positive most of the time. Every once in a while you have to look at the negative to make the right decision; that’s okay. Always think of the ones you love before yourself and your needs will be taken care of.

You can find my books at my publisher:
At my site:
And on:

Betty I hope this was painless and thank you so much for allowing the interview.

Review: Blotto, Twinks and the Intimate Review by Simon Brett

Blotto and his friend go see  Light and Frothy;   a new popular show and his friend falls for the star of the show.  After his friend is k...