Wednesday, June 24, 2009

An Interview with Laurien Bereson

Pamela: Lauren, tell us about the books you write and give us a little back story on how you became an author.

I write cozy mysteries about an amateur sleuth who teaches school, has two young children, and who breeds and shows Standard Poodles. The majority of the series revolves around the world of dogs in one way or another and I've tried to explore many different aspects--from breed competition to obedience, training, grooming, therapy dogs, and in the most recent book, doggie day care.

I have always been a writer. Even when I was five years old, I composed little "books" and bound them together with colored yarn. The process of becoming an author took considerably longer, however, and I guess the best way to explain how I became an author is to say that I simply kept writing books until one of them finally sold.

What type of writing schedule do you have?

It usually takes me about 7 months to write a book. I start in January and finish in August, just in time to start promoting each year's new book which comes out in September. When I'm writing, I write 5 days a week, usually 4-5 hours a day, which gives me about 2,000 words. I'm not the fastest writer, but I am persistent.

Tell us about plotting your books.

Over the years, I've used a number of different systems. In the beginning, I had to write a synopsis in order to sell a book, so the plotting--from start to finish--was done at that stage. In more recent times, I've started simply using a more vague outline that I have in my head, and giving the characters more free rein to take me where they want to go.

How has publishing changed from your first book to your last book as far as your books are concerned?

Well the series started in 1995, and has continued through 2009 (the last paperback will be released in August) and during those 14 years, the publishing industry has changed a tremendous amount, with the dropping of many imprints and the consolidation of others. With regard to my series, I have been very fortunate to spend that entire time working with a terrific editor and a great publisher who have protected my series from being buffeted by the marketplace as many other authors' books were.

Let's talk about your covers because they are wonderful.

I'm glad you like them! Some I've loved; others I've been not as crazy about. My covers have actually gone through three stages over the years. In the first 7 books of the series, they were a mostly realistic depiction of the dog breeds contained within each story. At some point, those covers were felt to be too young for adults--I was often asked what age children the books were suitable for--so subsequently the next 6 books were changed to a more cartoon-like look, which somewhat shortchanged the dogs. The final 2 books were a melding of the 2 styles and, I think, turned out to suit the series the best.

Is there something you would like to say to your readers?

Well of course, the most important thing I want to say is thank you. Thank you for seeking out my books, and enjoying them, and recommending them to your friends. Authors often feel like they are working in isolation and perhaps a little bit disconnected from the final product, so it's always wonderful to hear from readers, even those who are only writing to tell me that there's a typo on page 328. I'm always delighted to know that someone is sitting down with one of my books and having some fun with it.

Tell us about book signings, conventions and your writing pet peeves.

Earlier in my career, I did many more signings and conventions that I'm doing currently. I think every writer reaches the point where they realize that the promotional aspects of being an author have a way of taking over your life--sometimes to the detriment of the writing itself. So now I'm trying to concentrate more on doing the best writing that I can, and less on travelling in aid of sales.

What advice do you have for the novice mystery writer?

This is a tough, tough, field to make a living in. The best advice I can offer any aspiring author is: do it because you love it and not for the glory (of which there is usually precious little); be determined to succeed no matter how many people try to tell you you won't; and just keep writing...even when it seems as though no one else will ever read your words.

What has inspired you along the way of your writing career?

Every writer who's ever told a good story and written a good book that I've lost myself in the pages of has been an inspiration to me.

Do you believe in writer's block and have you ever had it?

I believe in it, I certainly know writers who have had it. But for me, I see writer's block as a bit on an undulgence. Writing is hard work; there's always something more fun to do. But if I sit myself down and make myself write, eventually the words always come. Writer's block is a handy excuse for someone who wants to write one book over the course of her whole life. I think if you ask most writers who turn out a book each year if they get writer's block, the majority will say no, they can't afford to.

Give us a little insight on you as a person and where you live etc...

Let's see. I'm currently living in Kentucky where my husband and I breed Thoroughbred racehorses. My idea of the perfect way to live includes lots of fresh air, open land, and animals of all kinds.

Now for the fun questions....
What is your favorite meal, dessert, movie, and music?

Favorite meal: anything with pasta
Favorite dessert: mocha cake
Favorite movie: Shakespeare in Love
Favorite Music: the Corrs

In closing direct us to your website and leave us with some mysterious words of wisdom.

My website is at

Wisdom is tough--I wish I had more. I guess the best advice for any situation that I can come up with is this: never give up.

Thank you!


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Summer Movies

Summer Movies

The movie KILLER HAIR, based on the book by Ellen Byerrum is a wonderful blend of mystery, wit and humor. I watched the movie and even if I were paid to say this which I am not it's the best movie since Hallmark came out with the Mystery Woman Mystery Movies.
Alicia Silverston, has found her niche and I hope Ellen has many more of the books in this series made into movies.
Lacey Smithsonian is the sleuth and ace columnist of our new mystery ear. Fashion, shoes, to die for hair smart and sassy does not cover Lacey, let's just say if I were ever murdered call Lacey and let the cell phone ring until she answers. Lifetime Movie Channel should be applauded for basing this new movie series on Lacey Smithsonian.
The setting is D.C. the fashion is fun and the hair salon is to die for or to die in but it doesn't matter because the movie is full of a fine cast and killer clues. This is the feel-good about murder movie of the year.
Please don't miss HOSTILE MAKEOVER which airs this Sunday on Lifetime movie channel.

Pamela James reporting on movies and mayhem where the magic happens.

Monday, June 22, 2009

An Interview with Ellen Byerrum

Tell us about your writing schedule.

My schedule is changing since I left my full-time job as a reporter a few weeks ago. But when I worked, I would regularly visit a coffee shop, book store, or library. I’m trying to find my rhythm again.

Tell us about your books and where the idea came from for Lacey Smithsonian.
I was reading a lot of mysteries where the female sleuth was bright and clever and witty and could go mano-a-mano with the guys, but she didn’t know how to dress. It drove me crazy, so I came up with a fashion reporter who can read clues into what people wear. Naturally, she is wonderfully dressed and loves vintage clothing.

Okay, tell us about the movies and how KILLER HAIR and HOSTILE MAKEOVER went from the written page to made for television movies.
Sisters in Crime sponsored a conference on how to sell your book to Hollywood . After a great schedule of workshops, a studio tour, and an advanced showing of the Dexter premiere, along with about 80 writers, I pitched my book to two producers, Rona Edwards and Monika Skerbelis. All I can say is the pitch clicked, and two and a half years later through options and contracts and hooking up with Lifetime Television, here we are.

As readers we want to know what you will be writing next and if there will be more movies? I am working on a stand-alone psychological thriller, and then will work on another Lacey Smithsonian mystery. I’d have to swipe somebody else’s crystal ball to answer the movie question, but we can hope.

What advice do you have for the novice mystery writer?
Find a group of like minded writers to commiserate with and continue to work on your writing. Remember the writers who are published are the ones who finish their books.

Is there something you would like to say to your readers?
Thank you so much! You keep me going when the going gets tough.

What is your favorite meal, dessert, and place to vacation?
I love a good medium-rare steak and sautéed mushrooms. (Not politically correct, I know. But I’m from the West. I don’t dig salmon.) For dessert, just about anything chocolate would do. I’d love to say fruit, but that would be a lie.

Ellen, this has got to be an exciting time in your writing career and life. How do you feel about the series and what has happened?
Wow, there’s a question. I’m thrilled with what has been happening and I’m so excited that people who never heard of the books will now give them a try. And of course, I’m hoping the best is yet to come.

Do you have an agent?
Yes, my agent is Paige Wheeler of Folio Literary Management. Your agent is one of your most important decisions in your writing career.

Tell us about your book covers because you have some wonderful covers.
I love my covers and I have nothing to do with them. Luckily, talented illustrator Craig White has been creating the distinctive look for the covers of the Crime of Fashion mysteries. His Web site is located at

Now tell us about how you plot, characters, setting, writing a series and how you balance all of this and have a life outside of writing books?

I’m not sure you do manage to balance everything. When I was working the day job, it was all I could do to write a book a year, and try to manage all the promotional activities that you’re expected to do. It can be really exhausting and take a lot of thought and effort. I’m lucky because I have a terrific husband who reads, edits, and discusses my work with me. He also rubs my neck, and you need a lot of neck rubbing after al that typing.

Last but never least is there something more you would to add to this interview?

If you want to find our more about me, please visit my Web site at
It’s been a pleasure!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Review of Killing Bridezilla by Laura Levine

Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Kensington; Reprint edition (April 1, 2009)
ISBN-10: 0758220448

Out of the blue, Jaine gets a call from her former high school tormentor - Patti. She wants Jaine to write her wedding vows for her. Well, Jaine needs the money, how bad can it be? The assignment? To re-write the Balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet to be more current and hip - not to mention with a happy ending. Turns out Patti is just as mean and cruel as she was in high school. She is the bridezilla from Hell and she actually HIRES a model as a bridesmaid because her "friend" didnt lose the weight she wanted.The list of people who hate her is long and when she is murdered during the wedding, the suspect list is long.

Jaine decides to investigate and learns a lot of dirty little secrets and just how horrible Patti was.
I really enjoyed this book (along with the rest of the series) and enjoyed revisiting the adventures of her lovely cat Prozac and the emails from her crazy parents. Levine does not let me down!


Friday, June 19, 2009

2008 Bram Stoker Awards

Superior Achievement in a NOVEL- DUMA KEY by Stephen King (Scribner)

Superior Achievement in a FIRST NOVEL- THE GENTLING BOX by Lisa Mannetti (Dark Hart Press)

Superior Achievement in LONG FICTION - MIRANDA by John R. Little (Bad Moon Books)

Superior Achievement in SHORT FICTION - THE LOST by SARAH Langan (Cemetery Dance chapbook)

Superior Achievement in an ANTHOLOGY - UNSPEAKABLE HORROR by Vince A. Liaguno and Chad Helder (Dark Scribe Press)

Superior Achievement in a COLLECTION - JUST AFTER SUNSET by Stephen King (Scribner)

Superior Achievement in NONFICTION - A HALLOWE'EN ANTHOLOGY by Lisa Morton (McFarland)

Superior Achievement in POETRY - THE NIGHTMARE COLLECTION by Bruce Boston (Dark Regions Press)

The trophy, which resembles a miniature haunted house, was designed by author Harlan Ellison and sculptor Steven Kirk.

HWA also presented its annual Lifetime Achievement Awards and its Specialty Press Award. F. Paul Wilson and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, who both received Lifetime Achievement Awards this year, were on hand to accept.

The Specialty Press Award went to Larry Roberts of Bloodletting Press.

The Silver Hammer Award, for outstanding service to HWA, was voted by the organization’s board of trustees to Sephera Giron.

The President’s Richard Laymon Service Award was given to John R. Little

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Review - Dare to Die by Carolyn G Hart

Title: DARE to DIE
Author: Carolyn Hart
Publisher: Harper Collins
Genre: Series Mystery
ISBN: 978-0-06-145303-8

Iris Tilford, returned home to Broward's Rock, to right a wrong. Iris hasn't been able to shed the night many years ago of the death of a friend. The truth is a lot of people would like nothing better than to forget what happened to Joycelyn that night. The week before her death Joycelyn's brother had died of an overdose of drugs. Then Joycelyn they said slipped or maybe took her own life a week latr. But Iris, thinks that somewhere between life and death lies the truth and that she holds the key to what really happened that long ago night.

Iris, has been going to AA and NA and she feels she must make ammends but she also feels that the truth about Joycelyn is more murky
and even if she muddies the waters the truth must be sought.
Annie, meets Iris and befriends this lonely shell of a woman. She instantly likes her and invites her to a party at the pavillion. Iris
accepts and while the party is going on someone murders Iris Tilford. At this point Annie and Max Darling know two things. The
first is that Emma Clyde might be insufferable, suffer writer's block but she didn't end up in a hospital bed by a simple slip and fall.
Emma is too savvy for that kind of behavoir. The second thing they know for sure is that there is a long list of suspects for the murder
of Iris Tilford because she didn't strangle herself.
The worst fear of all is that Annie and Max feel that their circle of friends all have something to hide and that one of them is a cold-
blooded killer. The more they delve into the present the more it becomes clear that they must start with that fatal night many years
ago when Joycelyn died.
However there are lighter moments for Annie as Laurel and Henny take over running the bookstore while tries to make a memorial poster of Iris Tilford's life and find out about the mysterious cloud that Iris returned to the island under, so she and Max start with victims present and past. When someone sets the cabin Max and Annie are staying in on fire, Max's temper rises to inferno status and
if it wasn't for their cat they would both be dead.

DARE TO DIE by Carolyn Hart, is simply captivating. It reels you in from the first page. Each character and plot twist has a pointing finger to whodunnit. This book is classic Hart, it doesn't get any better than this for traditional cozy readers.
Pamela James-Author of The CROSSED STITCHER

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Review - Doggie Day Care Murder by Laurien Berenson

Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Kensington; Reprint edition (August 4, 2009)
ISBN-10: 0758216068

Melanie Travis is a new mother (again) and very very tired when her friend Alice decides to go back to work. Alice wants to sign her dog up at the local dog daycare center but she wants Melanie to check it out first since she knows more about dogs than she does. Well, that leads to Melanie being there when one of the owners' dead body turns up. And Melanie is once again doing her amateur sleuthing.

I have enjoyed every book of this series. I love the characters and the dogs. LOL This one Went really fast for me because I did actually pickup on many clues and activitely figured out the motive. Doesnt always happen for me, so it was fun.

Guest Blogger - Jessica Conant-Park

Ah, the life of an author… Pouring creative energy in manuscripts, never out of plot points, confident in our abilities to engage the reader, lucrative contract after contract line up… Ha! Hardly. For most of us, being a writer is a lot tougher. Especially these days, when book deals are getting harder and harder to come by. I’ve spent the past few years writing the Gourmet Girl series, safely tucked away in the security of a three-book and then a two-book deal. But now I’m in foreign territory that I not so affectionately call, “The Hideous Wait.” I’ve finished out my Gourmet Girl books and have written a YA book that my lovely agent has sent off to ten publishers. How exciting, right? Um, no. Terrifying, nerve-wracking, nauseating (on some days), and miserable. There is simply nothing fun about waiting for rejection.

Yes, I know, I shouldn’t assume the book won’t get picked up. It’s a good book, too, if I do un-modestly say so myself, and I hope beyond hope that it gets published. But it’s easier to have lofty visions of publishers throwing cash at you before the book reaches editors. Believe me, I was oozing confidence a month ago. I’ve only heard back from three publishers so far: two incredibly supportive rejections that were actually rather confidence boosting, and one more typical of the business that was, frankly, rude and insulting. Often par for the course with rejection letters, so you have to learn not to take it personally. I emailed my agent and asked if she was worried yet. Her response? “Nope.” Good, then I’ll worry when she does. Okay, mostly.

So what am I doing while I wait? I mean, besides checking my email eight thousand times a day? Glaring at the phone? Tapping my feet anxiously and constantly? Trying to plot out a sequel but failing because I’m afraid I’ll jinx myself by thinking there could be a second? I’ll tell you what I’ve done: I’ve picked a distracting obsession and stuck with it. Is the obsession something literary and professional? Well... not exactly. But it is fun. And it goes by the name of Rick Springfield.

Yup, folks, that’s right. 80s rock idol Rick Springfield is much more fun to focus on than my book concerns. And Facebook only makes it easier to share my fun. I have always been a RS fan, but when I discovered that there is a Rick Springfield cruise in November… well, it threw me over the edge. I mean, an actual cruise with the man himself! And special guest Richard Marx! Fortunately, I’m not alone in my lunacy. My BFF (also named Jessica) has her own life stresses to deal with and was only happy to hop aboard my delusion train. Private concerts? Swimming with a bathing suit clad Rick in the ocean? Sipping cocktails on the lido deck with a shirtless singer? Absolutely. We’ll make this happen. J2 (as she’s now known) and I post back and forth, strategizing on how to get ourselves on this cruise for free. Here are a few of our posts:

JCP: Beyond thrilled: Am now following Rick Springfield on Twitter. Must figure out how to use this move to advance plan...

JCP: Appears Rick is not a compulsive updater like some of us. Heartbroken.

JCP: Great. Have just received taunting email from with exciting cruise details. Bastards

JCP: Still reeling. The ENTIRE WCD album during the cruise concert. Misery. Envy. Desperation.

JCP: Just remembered lovely literary agent is on FB and is probably thinking FB should be used to promote writing career rather than 80s idol. Current insanity is temporary, but will likely be replaced with other non-author related material. Don't fire me.

JCP: Um, just got caught rockin' out at stoplight to "Affair of the Heat." Forgot sunroof was open. Torn between humiliation and pride.

JCP: Have fantasy about winning lottery and purchasing extravagant beachfront property in order to host rock star related events. Must invest in scratch tickets.

JCP: Am now being accused of mental instability by neighbors.

JCP: Just did third interview with the Hippo Press and treated as expert on all things to do with publishing. (Interviewer apparently unaware of mental illness accusations regarding Rick obsession.)

JCP: Disappointed in contributions thus far to cover costs of attending Rick Springfield cruise. Odds of reaching financial goal are looking weak. You know where to reach me.

JCP: Searching online for tawdry Rick Springfield t-shirt as compensation for despair about unlikelihood of attending cruise.

JCP: Okay, new book idea: Will put together book comprised solely of FB updates. Will TOTALLY be able to work Rick into the title. And will just be matter of cutting and pasting into MS. Pubs will love it. Hm... Must mull over appropriately enticing title...

JCP: Possible book title: "Facebooking Rick Springfield." Hm... sounds too pornographic and does not capture spirit of novel. At least not yet.

Um, yeah… this is just the tip of the iceberg, folks. But, hey, my pal and I are having a blast, and have found a (relatively) harmless way to plow through stress. And we’ve developed quite a following on Facebook, so if you need to escape for a bit, “friend” me and join in the mayhem. We even have entertaining photographs of our poolside meetings to discuss the cruise strategy… And one of these days I’ll get back to writing books.

Jessica Conant-Park

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Review - The Stalking Lamb by Marian Babson

Author: Marian Babson
Paperback Mystery
Published: 1974
ISBN:0-553-27171-7-395Add Image

Sister's Ginny and Amy join their friend Belle when Belle returns home to England. For Amy and Ginny this is a vacation adventure of lifetime. Belle leaves her two friends while she travels to visit her grandmother. So Ginny and Amy take in all the sights but one day Ginny refuses to budge as she wants to stay in bed. She's is tired and doesn't want to go sight seeing or to a movie, certainly not to lunch.
Amy takes off on her own and before she knows it she has met a charming stranger named Aaron. Soon Aaron is a fixture with Amy and his friend Zlot has taken up with her sister Ginny. The four of them party and have great fun together. Then one day Amy and Ginny discover they have been robbed except it isn't their things missing but all the beautiful and expensive things in the home that Belle's family uses when they visit London. It could only be Aaron and Zlot who have helped themselves to what has been stolen. Worse Belle returns and the sisters explain they've been robbed. Belle waves it off and says the things are insured.
But when Aaron and Zlot show up on the scene Belle, doesn't take to them and that is when a dream trip becomes a nightmare. Now time passes and Amy sits by a window in the rest home she has been placed in and watches everyone coming and going in the mews. She is recovering the nightmare and knows no matter what anyone tells her that she is still in danger. To pass the time she stitches a huge picture and there is always chatty cheerful Nurse Jelicoe to whom Amy doesn't trust for one second. Her sister Ginny is alive but lost in her own state of being. Ginny hasn't spoken since that fatal day. Amy doesn't say any more than she has to and her keen eyes miss nothing. If Amy knows one thing she knows that Aaron is coming to finish the job he started. He is no longer a charming stranger but a living nightmare and most probably will be Amy's undoing. He will not catch her by surprise for she lays in wait by the window for him.
THE STALKING LAMB is the most beautifully laid out cozy/traditional mystery I have ever read. I don't do the book justice in my review. This is more than a mystery it's a work of art, a masterpiece so enriching in word, thought and action that you will never ever forget this book. The plot is simple enough and yet the complexity of emotion, beauty, and strength of character never misses for a moment to lead the reader on the search for the truth. Compelling and loaded with atmosphere THE STALKING LAMB by Marian Babson is a brilliant masterpiece. ***********

Pamela James/ Author Of The Crossed Stitcher

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Review - State of the Onion by Julie Hyzy

AUTHOR: Julie Hyzy
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
White House Chef Mystery Series
ISBN: 978-0-425-21869-3

White House Assistant Chef Olivia Para's, (Ollie) to her friends and coworkers found the perfect gift for retiring White House Chef Henry Cooley a commemorative silver frying pan. Too bad the Secret Service Agents had to confiscate the pan when Ollie had to use it to stop a White House Intruder before he could get to the President Of the United States.
Still the intruder aptly named (Naveen) is stopped and arrested, the excitement doesn't end there as by the end of the day Ollie has more on her plate than she can handle. Naveen told her that he had to get a message to the President, her Secret Service Agent boyfriend (Tom MacKenzie) warns her to stay out of snooping into what has been dubbed a top secret mission by the Secret Service. Of course all is not going smoothly in the kitchen as Ollie is one of two nominated to replace Henry as Exceutive White House Chef. The heat is on and most of it is centered around Ollie, because Naveen is murdered before Ollie's very eyes and she saw who did it. But the assassin is named the Chamelon for a reason and soon Ollie is in danger from every direction.
This thrilling, fast paced culinary mystery will whip you into an all day reading frenzy. Nothing tops this debut series and this book is not fluff it's the most delicious culinary cozy of the decade. Julie Hyzy has penned a mystery to please everyone's palette. Ollie Para's is a heroine with brains and talent.
********** Pam James

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Guest Blogger - Nancy J. Cohen -- Writing in Multiple Worlds


Plotting a mystery for me is very different from how I plot a fantasy romance. With a mystery, I’ll start with the setting or the victim. Perish by Pedicure, for example, was inspired by my attendance at a beauty trade show in Orlando. I took notes that later became the basis for my research. Having decided to set the story at a hair show, I relocated it to Fort Lauderdale.
Here we find Marla Shore, my hairdresser sleuth, taking a job as assistant hairstylist at a beauty show. She’s employed by Luxor Products and sees this as a stepping stone to career advancement. It’s her first such experience and she wants to make a good impression with her new colleagues, including an old college friend.

Now for the victim. On Marla’s second day at the job, the company director is found dead. Determining the suspects is easy. Who are the victim’s friends, family, and associates? Who has something to gain by the victim’s death? Here I draw a diagram, with the victim’s name in a center circle, and spokes coming out from the circle like a wheel. Each spoke represents a suspect. Next I’ll give each person a secret or a motive to want the victim dead. At this point, I may not know which one is the killer. I’ll try to interweave relationships among the suspects so the diagram ends up like a spider web. The suspect with the strongest motive may become the killer.

As you can see, my plotting process is different from a crime novel where the emphasis is on the psychological twists that make someone into a killer and on the effects of the murder on the survivors. My stories are lighter without forensics or graphic details. They focus on relationships and the puzzle aspect of a whodunit.

After I define the characters, then begins the forward story momentum. Act one: A dead body is discovered. My sleuth begins her investigation. She gets to know each suspect. Act two: She realizes each person harbors a secret. We learn more about them. A second death may occur halfway through the book to raise the stakes. Act three: Secrets are unraveled and the killer is exposed. I always have an emotional wrap scene to show what the character has learned from her experience. Character growth is important; it’s what keeps readers coming back for more.

Now I can write the synopsis. I do all this before writing the book. I may also do a plotting board (see my blog post on this topic:

My process is different for a fantasy. Here I’ll start with a premise, and then the world building becomes paramount. For the series I’m hoping to sell, I started out with a premise that the Bermuda Triangle is a rift between dimensions. Evil trolls have forced the rift open and are invading Earth. So now we come to a whole list of questions. Who is going to stop the nasty creatures? Since I like science fiction, I choose intergalactic warriors from another planet. The women will be from Earth and will possess special powers to help stop the invaders, although they don’t know it yet. Character sketches follow for my protagonists, the villains, and their associates.

At this point, I must explore the entire back story of who these evil beings are, how they access the rift, what the heroes will have to do to send them back to their dimension, special powers, military ranks, political factions, the bad guys’ rationale for invading Earth, and their history with our heroes from past encounters. In addition, for the warriors, I have to determine how they’re chosen, their training, their limitations, their personal hangups. Now for the heroines. Where do they fit into the whole scheme? Inspired by the Maelstrom ride at Norway’s Epcot pavilion, I’ve decided that my series will be based on Norse mythology. So I have to research this aspect.

Once I’ve created the characters, the mythology, the worlds they come from, and the rules of my universe, I’m ready to begin the forward story action. I’ll want the hero and heroine to meet in the first chapter, and I’d like to follow the hero’s journey structure. So I begin with a few pages showing the heroine in her normal world before all hell breaks loose. The evil trolls attack her, and she’s drawn kicking and screaming into the fantasy universe.

This concept was a challenge, because I’d never combined a modern society with magical elements before. It took me a while to catch on. Once I figured out how it worked, writing the story was a blast. Now I only hope to find a publisher so I can share it with you.

While my approach to plotting each type of story may differ, what remains the same is the character development. Before beginning the writing phase, I’ll get to know these people. Then I can stand aside and let them take over.

Nancy J. Cohen

Friday, June 5, 2009

Review - Witch in the House by Jenna McKnight

Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Avon (September 25, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0060843691

Jade is a witch. She has a good track record with her spells. One day she casts a spell for a client and one for herself at the same time. Only the candlewax of both run together blending the spells. When Matt shows up at her door, she tries desperately to use her magic to make him go away. Meanwhile he has his own purpose to being there.

This was a charming story, with romance, magic, humor, snowmen galore, and a Pierce Brosnan look-a-like hero. A very fun, entertaining read.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Review - Miss Julia Delivers the Goods

Title: Miss Julia Delivers the Goods
Author: ANN B. ROSS
ISBN: 978-0-670-02065-2
Genre-Cozy Series Mystery

Hazel Marie is feeling poorly, she can't keep anything down and she is losing weight and she is tired all of the time. Miss Julia is worried enough to escort her to the doctor. A battery of tests are ran and soon Hazel Marie finds herself in a hospital bed and what they find wrong with Hazel Marie is scandalize in Miss Julia's eye.
Then right when Julia thinks her plate is full enough to feed China, her husband Sam has HIS house broken into and what is missing could cause a lot of scandal for a lot of folks. His taped interviews and files on certain people who live in the county and wouldn't want their dirty laundry aired is what's missing. Well wouldn't you know J.D. Pickens the best detective and investiagator around has up and moved. But Sam tracks him down and soon J.D. is staying at Sam's house and is on the case. That is with Miss Julia and Sam's help.
Of course this only upsets Hazel Marie more since she and J.D. have broken up and it will take an act of God to get these two back together. Miss Julia doesn't know about an act of God but she is willing to do her part even if it means telling a few little well place white lies.
This of course just about makes Lillian the housekeeper/cook about to have a nervous breakdown but in the end it's Lillian who helps the most and Lloyd is really worried about his mother but at least he has tennis camp to keep him busy and he does get to spend some time with J.D.
MISS JULIA DELIVERS the GOODS, is a great summer read. While the plot is rather predictable it's still fun, charming and wonderful. Ann B. Ross has developed a cozy that is not only familiar but downright endearing.
Pamela James

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Guest Bloggers - Joyce and Jim Lavene

What is YOUR good luck charm?

A very popular writer friend of mine, who would kill me if I mentioned her name here, confessed recently that she has a lucky habit. When she sends in a new manuscript to her editor, she includes a dried four-leaf clover somewhere in the packaging. She claims she hasn’t had a book rejected in 10 years because of it. That’s quite a feat!

While I won’t mention my friend’s name (she kills people in her books in excruciatingly painful ways), it made me think about writers and their habits.

Writing is not only a lonely occupation; it’s a very insecure one. I don’t know anyone, from NY Times bestselling authors, to those hovering on the brink of their first advance, who don’t bite their nails waiting to hear back from editors and agents. No one is EVER really sure if they’ll be able to sell their next book.

I have friends who have been published for years, only to have their agents dump them or their editors retire, leaving them to the tender mercies of people who have no idea who they are or what they write. Distributors decide not to go forward with a popular series on whims and once popular authors with major publishers are looking into writing for small presses.

It’s no wonder writers develop superstitions to protect them from these awful things happening. Some of my friends write in only one specific outfit each day (these rage from princess gowns to smoking jackets) while there are those who will only drink out of one lucky cup while they write. Writers have lucky pens (usually those used to sign contracts), insist on writing with red roses on their desks (you know who I’m talking about) or only write between the hours of 3 am and 5 am.

My husband, Jim, and I write together and have had a few lucky habits in our ten years of being published. We have a pair of engraved wine glasses that we use to toast our new contracts. We have a lucky pen we both use to sign them. When we first started writing and submitting, I used to put on bright red lipstick and give each Tyvek envelope a big kiss before it went off on its journey. Crazy? Maybe. But who’s to say it didn’t work?

Right now, we’re working on the third book in the Renaissance Faire Village Mystery series set in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Our new lucky habit is to keep our big black cat off the desk where we write.

While we were writing the last Ren Faire mystery, GHASTLY GLASS, due out this fall, our cat jumped up and knocked over a glass of water on the keyboard, shorting it out. This appeared to cause the email version of the story (months later) to get lost in cyberspace. Then we had editorial problems. All of this can probably be traced to one, unlucky incident.

Some lucky habits just make more sense than others, I suppose.

What are YOUR lucky habits?

Some websites to check out on charms and superstitions:

And our websites:

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