Friday, February 26, 2010

Guest Blogger - Sheila Connelly


Many thanks to Pamela and Terri for inviting me to appear here and to talk about these people I seem to have made up (does that make them imaginary friends?).

People often ask writers if we base our protagonists on ourselves. The answer is "yes"–and "no". This gets particularly complicated if you write more than one series, because you don't want to keep repeating the same cookie-cutter heroine, no matter how much you love her.

In my first series, the Glassblowing Mysteries, Em Dowell is a forty-something Tucson transplant from the East Coast, who gave up a lucrative job she hated in order to follow her passion, which was glassblowing. I haven't been forty-something lately, and when I started writing, I had never seen Tucson (which Berkley Prime Crime suggested, and which I promptly visited). Em has two dogs; I have cats. I have lived in the East Coast most of my life, and in California for a decade, but I'd never seen the Southwest, much less a desert. I have tried glassblowing only once, although I've visited a lot of glassblowing studios. FYI, paperweights are easy to make because they're basically round blobs, but my bowl looks like a mutant amoeba, and my drinking glass self-destructed.

But I loved creating Em. She's fiercely independent, but also very loyal to the people she cares about–her brother Cameron, her long-term employee Nessa, and then Alison McBride, who wanders into her studio one night with some rather nasty thugs on her trail. As I like to say, Em has a soft heart and a sharp tongue. She gets some really zingy lines off (you know, the ones you come up with the day after you've had that argument that left you sputtering). She's sort of in a romantic relationship but she's wary.

Meg from the Orchard Mysteries is very different. She is modeled on a former employer and now friend who I admire greatly, who has gone through some difficult times and come out smiling, with her sly sense of humor intact. Poor Meg–In One Bad Apple I took away her job, her home, and her boyfriend and dumped her into a drafty old house in western Massachusetts in the middle of winter. And if that wasn't hard enough, her plumbing fails because somebody stuffed the body of her ex in her septic tank. She's not having a good year, is she?

I put poor Meg through the wringer to see how she would handle everything–and she does just fine. She solves the murder, of course, but she's still working on how she fits into her new community. She starts out as an outsider who knows no one in town, and her first public appearance was as a murder suspect, so it's tough for her–but she's making friends, and maybe she's even found a new romantic interest. And she's learning to manage an apple orchard–not easy for a former banker. If only she'd stop tripping over those bodies...

In the fall I'll be introducing a new series, the Museum Mysteries, set in Philadelphia. Nell Pratt is a fundraiser at a historic library/museum (which looks a whole lot like one where I used to work), and, yes, she finds a body in the library stacks. The challenge in writing Nell is to make her distinct from both of my previous heroines, but still keep her "real." So she's got a dash of Em's sarcasm, as well as her soft heart, and she shares Meg's quiet determination. Nell really cares about the place where she works, and the people she works with. She too is loyal, and honest, and has something of a sense of humor. And people like her and trust her. Maybe Nell is the person I'd like to be.

Creating characters is fun. You get to wreak vengeance on people who have done you wrong (that feels really good!), and you can to pay tribute to cherished friends and family members. The real challenge is to make your characters believable, so that people will come to care about them, to identify with them or to see them as friends–and to want to get to know them better!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Review - Decked With Folly

ISBN: 978-0-425-23001-5

The Pennyfoot Hotel is in high spirits as the holiday season begins it's most joyous season of the year. It's also Cecily Sinclair Baxter's favorite time of the year. The Pennyfoot Hotel is Cecily's pride and joy and the staff are her children. Then murder happens at the Pennyfoot and what is worse is that the victim is Ian Rossiter who used to work at the Pennyfoot Hotel and was once engaged to Cecily's head housemaid Gertie McBride, but Ian had forgotten to tell Gertie he was already married. Long ago he lost his job at the Pennyfoot but not before Gertie had two children by him. The thing is Ian thought he was entitled to see the children and one night he shows up to see them. Gertie and Ian get into a terrible row and the next morning Ian is found dead in the duck pond.
The Constable wants Gertie arrest but with the holiday season upon them Cecily talks him into waiting to arrest Gertie until after the New Year. It seems Ian was hit on the head with one of the Pennyfoot Hotel's candsticks and then his head was in the duck pond. To make matters worse Ian's wife showsup pregnant with no place to live. Adding salt to an already open wound someone stole the head cook's ring and a couple of guest are acting quite nosey. Then a guest had jewerly stolen and the tree topper is that a new employee can't keep his hands off of Gertie and the rest of the female staff.
Slowly and methodically Cecily tries to ferret out the murderer but will her goose be cooked if he catches on that she is on to him? Cecily doesn't want murder to become a tradition at the Pennyfoot and she certainly can't lose her best help but there are more than a few surprises for Cecily this holiday season.
DECKED WITH MURDER by Kate Kingsbury is a traditional historical mystery with all the trimmings. Murder has never been so charming and has never been such a pleasure to read.
********* I give this one nine out of ten stars.


WHAT a challenging month! Between tons of snow (didnt mind so much -- it was the catching up at work that is exhausting), getting a stomach bug, car repairs followed by a flat tire (can you say potholes?) and just major discombobulation, I am glad it is nearing its end. Not to say there might not be more - 4 days are left.

I have gotten a lot of reading done (including some pretty interesting true crime), finished a cross stitch heart, visited Meschelle and Crystal. De-hoarded a bit more as well. But I would like to get to a more normal routine if possible in March.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Guest Blogger - Esther Friesner

Esther M. Friesner
I’ve been asked to guest-blog about my relationship with my characters, and I’m more than happy for the opportunity. Unaccustomed as I am to official blogging (though I suppose my near-daily posts in the newsgroup I’ve got going over at counts as something akin) I don’t know whether or not it’s the done thing to provide a title for this.
But I want one, so here goes:
“Who Are These People and Why Are They All Calling Me ‘Mom’?”
You might notice a slight note of exasperation there. That’s because my relationship with my characters is rather like my relationship with my children, though with a few vital differences: I never had to put any of my characters through college and I’m less likely to freak out when my characters go through extreme risks, terrifying perils, and wild adventures, or when they insist on associating with bad companions, strange body piercings, and ink-now-regret-later tattoos.
Ah, but the similarities not only outnumber the differences, they have ganged up on the differences after school and pantsed them. Allow me to elaborate, won’t you?
Good characters—by which I mean believable characters—can make or break a book. I expect a lot from mine, and we begin our relationship with many high hopes and glorious dreams on my part. As with children, I have certain plans for my characters, a path that I want them to follow, and not just any path, but one that I feel will be the best for them. And so it begins.
Now the thing about characters and children is this: As their stories unfold and develop, the proud parent begins to get the first inklings that there are going to be a few bumps in the road to Happily Ever After. With kids, this usually manifests around the age of two and the bumps in the road are all spelled N-O. “NO!” moments are soon joined by their even more tooth-gritting companion, “WHY?” Trust me, no matter how staunchly a new mother promises herself that “I will never, ever become the kind of parent who tells her kids, ‘Because I said so’,” a few days of unremitting, merciless “NO!” and “WHY?” will reduce that promise to dust. Weeping, snapping, tearing-your-hair-out, at-the-end-of-your-rope dust.
Good parents want to raise kids who are capable of independence (although it’s often hard to remember this when dealing with a stubborn toddler). I want my characters to manifest their independence, too. It’s the difference between raising/creating a person and not a puppet. The downside is, sometimes I hear “NO!” and “WHY?” from my characters at certain points in the process of writing their story.
I write historical novels about young women who don’t follow other people’s expectations. Such expectations often include their family’s and their culture’s beliefs that these girls must marry a certain person, must limit themselves to only certain occupations, must live what the older generation sees as the only “proper” life for a young woman.
My girls say “NO!” and “WHY?” a lot. And that’s a good thing. Of late I’ve been playing BookMom to characters like young Helen of Troy (although in NOBODY’S PRINCESS and NOBODY’S PRIZE, she’s still just Helen of Sparta), Nefertiti (whose girlhood adventures in SPHINX’S PRINCESS and SPHINX’S QUEEN presage the powerful Egyptian ruler she’ll become), and Raisa (a young Jewish immigrant who, in THREADS AND FLAMES, needs every bit of inner strength she can muster when she experiences the devastating Triangle Shirtwaist fire of 1911). My girls have got to be able to stand up for themselves.
While they’re asserting their independence from what their families and societies expect of them, they are also establishing their personalities. A fictional character has to have an interesting personality because why on earth would a reader want to spend any time following the story of someone bland, dull and boring? The trouble is, sometimes the process works too well and I find myself facing off against my characters like so:
ME: Now, dear, in Chapter Seven you’re supposed to fall in love with this guy who--
SHE: No.
ME: I beg your pardon? The plot I’ve created says that in Chapter Seven, you have to—
SHE: No, I don’t have to. Okay, maybe you think I have to, but I won’t. I mean, really, have you taken a good look at that guy? He’s shallow and he’s selfish and I don’t care how handsome or rich he is, or how many compliments and gifts he gives me, I have spent my entire life so far (Chapters One through Six) establishing the fact that I am not the kind of girl who would waste one minute of her time on someone like him! Not unless you’re planning to have me lose my mind, or be replaced by my Evil Twin, or replace me with a robot--which is going to be a neat trick to pull off in a pre-21st century historical novel—or--
ME: No, no, of course I won’t do something like that, but if the story’s going to get from Point A to Point B, the way I have it planned—
SHE: So change the plan. Or change him. People can change, right?
ME: Couldn’t you change just a little dear? For me? Pleeeeease?
SHE: You want me to change? [This is the point where I learn that fictional characters can roll their eyes eloquently] How? By going from being a girl with an actual backbone to a wimp who’s always cooing “I know he’s a jerk, but I looooooove him?” Oh, I don’t think so. Unless you want to ruin the book. . .and my whole life!
This is usually the point at which I realize that, despite being so much younger than I am and owing her very existence to me, my character is right. She knows who she is and where her personal boundaries lie. She’s grown up to be a person with certain traits, tastes, beliefs, standards, strengths, and—yes—weaknesses, and if I don’t agree to let her live her life (and my plot) in her own way, I’ll be back to dealing with a puppet, not a person.
And that would ruin the whole book. No, thank you.
I’m not saying that I always give my characters their own way as soon as they demand it. Sometimes I can reason with them. Sometimes I can make them see that there’s an undiscovered part of their personality that will allow them to go along with what I’ve got planned for them without making them sacrifice one whit of their identities or independence.
And sometimes I just give them a cookie and/or my credit cards, tell them to go ahead and try it their own way, and see how that works out for them. I’ll be standing by to pick up the pieces in the rewrites, in case of mishap or disaster. I’ll also be standing by to admit they were right, which is how it usually turns out.
My characters. . .gotta love ‘em. After all, they take after their Mom. [G]

2009 Bram Stoker Awards Nominations

Superior Achievement in a Novel

* AUDREY'S DOOR by Sarah Langan (Harper)
* PATIENT ZERO by Jonathan Maberry (St. Martin's Griffin)
* QUARANTINED by Joe McKinney (Lachesis Publishing)
* CURSED by Jeremy Shipp (Raw Dog Screaming Press)

Superior Achievement in a First Novel

* BREATHERS by S. G. Browne (Broadway Books)
* SOLOMON’S GRAVE by Daniel G. Keohane (Dragon Moon Press)
* DAMNABLE by Hank Schwaeble (Jove)
* THE LITTLE SLEEP by Paul Tremblay (Henry Holt)

Superior Achievement in Long Fiction

* THE HUNGER OF EMPTY VESSELS by Scott Edelman (Bad Moon Books)
* THE LUCID DREAMING by Lisa Morton (Bad Moon Books)
* DOC GOOD'S TRAVELING SHOW by Gene O’Neill (Bad Moon Books)

Superior Achievement in Short Fiction

* IN THE PORCHES OF MY EARS by Norman Prentiss (PS Publishing)
* THE NIGHT NURSE by Harry Shannon (Horror Drive-in)

Superior Achievement in an Anthology

* HE IS LEGEND: AN ANTHOLOGY CELEBRATING RICHARD MATHESON edited by Christopher Conlon (Gauntlet Press)
* LOVECRAFT UNBOUND edited by Ellen Datlow (Dark Horse Books)
* POE edited by Ellen Datlow (Solaris)
* MIDNIGHT WALK edited by Lisa Morton (Dark House)

Superior Achievement in a Collection

* MARTYRS AND MONSTERS by Robert Dunbar (DarkHart Press)
* GOT TO KILL THEM ALL AND OTHER STORIES by Dennis Etchison (Cemetery Dance)
* A TASTE OF TENDERLOIN by Gene O'Neill (Apex Book Company)
* IN THE CLOSET, UNDER THE BED by Lee Thomas (Dark Scribe Press)

Superior Achievement in Nonfiction

* WRITERS WORKSHOP OF HORROR by Michael Knost (Woodland Press)
* CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT by L. L. Soares and Michael Arruda (Fearzone)
* STEPHEN KING: THE NON-FICTION by Rocky Wood and Justin Brook (Cemetery Dance)

Superior Achievement in Poetry

* DOUBLE VISIONS by Bruce Boston (Dark Regions)
* NORTH LEFT OF EARTH by Bruce Boston (Sam's Dot)
* BARFODDER by Rain Graves (Cemetery Dance)
* CHIMERIC MACHINES by Lucy A. Snyder (Creative Guy Publishing)

Review - Thai Die by Monica Ferris

Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Pub date: December/09
Doris Valentine went on her dream vacation to Thailand but soon the dream vacation is a waking night and daymare. She was asked to bring a small stone Budha back with her and deliver it to an antique shop. It was wrapped in a dirty rag to which she threw in Betsy's trash while showing off her fine silks and the Budha to other stitchers.
Betsy salvages the dirty rag because while horribly filthy it has some beautiful emboridery work on it and she wants to see if she can find a way to clean it. However shortly after Doris visits the shop of the anitque dealer he is found murdered and soon thereafter her apartment is broken into the culprit was searching for something.
This upsets Doris very much and to take her mind off of it she and friends leave town to visit a sheep farm and knitting shop. There is a snowstorm and have to spend the night upon which someone tries to shoot Doris and the culprit ends up dead at the bottom of the stairs. This puts Doris into hiding and meanwhile Betsy has her own problems. First she has to fire her two part-time helpers and then she goes in search of where the dirty rag orginated from and from there it's mayhem and a touch of madness asBetsy closes in on a killer.
When two more murders happen Betsy is sure that whatever happens she has to know the story behind Doris's trip to Thailand.
THAI DIE by Monica Ferris is quite an exotic mystery and there is quite the education of silk fibers. I threaded my way through the plot and it all tied together very nice at the end.
Pamela James **********

Monday, February 22, 2010

Guest Blogger - Barbara Levenson

AUTHOR CHARACTER RELATIONSHIPS, or How did these people become part of my life??

Readers of the first book in my Mary Magruder Katz mystery series, Fatal February, ask me two questions about Mary. Is Mary actually you? and, How did you develop this character?
Mary Magruder Katz, the protagonist, is a Miami criminal defense attorney. The plot follows her exploits defending her clients in dicey situations, and her romance with Carlos Martin, a Latino hotty.
Mary is definitely not me. Mary can’t commit to a lifetime relationship. We learn that Carlos is her third fiancĂ©. On the other hand, I married my college sweetheart a long time ago and we are still holding hands. Mary is truly an amalgam of young women lawyers that I have met and mentored during the time that I have served as a judge in Miami, Florida. Mary is also a product of Miami’s melting-pot. Her mother is a southern Baptist and her father is Jewish, hence her Magruder-Katz surname.
Since I know well the Marys who reside in Miami and the types of cases Mary handles in her law practice, I think you can say that Mary and I are good friends.
Carlos Martin is also a typical Miami guy. He is half Cuban and half Argentine. He is a developer, rushing to buy up speculative land deals and conniving to build the next glamorous condo complex. The most frequent comment I get from reader e-mails is “I’m in love with Carlos. Is there a real model that he is based on?” The answer to that is, of course he’s not real. If he were, we’d all be fighting over him. He is my creation: macho when he needs to be, tender as a lover and boyfriend, and a bit of a bad boy. Isn’t that what all of us girls are looking for? So naturally, I am in love with Carlos too.
The pervading character in my books is not a person. It is a place, Miami, my home for the last thirty-five years. I set out to show readers the real Miami, not the South Beach touristy club scene. Miami’s citizens do not hang out at all night dance clubs. They go to work and school like people in the Midwest or New England. They just do it in better weather. The look and feel of the sun, the flowers, the winds off the ocean provide the background for these books. The second book in my series, Justice In June, describes Miami’s rainy season. I promise, readers will feel water-logged when they finish the book. Miami also shows its problem-side; the traffic, the crowding of immigrant populations on already overtaxed services. If I succeed in showing readers the real Miami, they should be able to visit the city and feel that they can find their way around familiar streets and suburbs.
The other character that will populate the whole series is a based on someone real. Sam, the German Shepherd dog that Mary values as much as she does her boyfriend, is based on one of my own shepherds, Ned. My husband and I bred and showed German Shepherds for twenty years as a hobby. We finished eleven champions in the show ring from our breedings. Sam’s exploits are based on things our own dogs have done. The love that Mary shows for Sam is my own feeling for the dogs in our kennel.
Once I have created the main characters that populate my books, they take on a life of their own. They don’t always do what I want them to. They have a way of telling me that they would never say or do something I have just written. Then I hit the delete button on my computer and I let them have their say. But since they are my friends, I forgive them for not following my advice knowing that sooner or later, they’ll step back into the plot and the story will be all the richer for their adding to it.
There are villains that authors create. Maddie Rodriguez is the mistress of the murder victim in Fatal February. She is the quintessential home-wrecker, having wrecked several in her checkered past. There are numerous opportunities to view this type of woman in a big city like Miami. What kind of author/character relationship can exist with Maddie? She is the person we’d all like to throw things at, but she might evoke a bit of sympathy when we see the hardships she has suffered.
Although Maddie is not based on any one real person, her personality was portrayed during many cases that appeared in my courtroom, usually in murder and attempted murder, or aggravated battery cases. One such case sticks in my mind. A young mistress of an older professional man threatened to go back to his wife and children. The mistress solved her problem by shooting him in the penis. No one ever knew whether she had a poor aim or was actually a sharpshooter. Real characters are stranger than fiction.
I believe that most authors will agree that the characters we create become as real to us as our relatives and friends. They invade our senses and stay with us long after readers may forget them.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Nominations for Agatha Awards

The ballots have been tallied and the 2009 Agatha nominations are as follows:

Best Novel

Swan for the Money, Donna Andrews, St. Martin’s Minotaur
Bookplate Special, Lorna Barrett, Berkley Prime Crime
Royal Flush, Rhys Bowen, Berkley Prime Crime
A Brutal Telling, Louise Penny, Minotaur Books
Air Time, Hank Phillippi Ryan, MIRA

Best First Novel

For Better For Murder, Lisa Bork, Midnight Ink
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, Alan Bradley, Delacorte Press
Posed for Murder, Meredith Cole, St. Martin’s Minotaur
The Cold Light of Mourning, Elizabeth Duncan, St. Martin’s Press
In the Shadow of Gotham, Stefanie Pintoff, Minotaur Books

Best Nonfiction

Duchess of Death, Richard Hack, Phoenix Books
Talking About Detective Fiction, P.D. James, Knopf
Blood on the Stage, 1925 – 1950, Amnon Kabatchnik, Scarecrow Press
Dame Agatha’s Shorts, Elena Santangelo, Bella Rosa Books
The Talented Miss Highsmith, Joan Schenkar, St. Martin’s Press

Best Short Story

“Femme Sole,” Dana Cameron, Boston Noir, Akashic Books
“Handbaskets, Drawers and Killer Cold,” Kaye George, Crooked
“The Worst Noel,” Barb Goffman, The Gift of Murder, Wolfmont Press
“On the House,” Hank Phillippi Ryan, Quarry, Level Best Books
“Death Will Trim Your Tree,” Elizabeth Zelvin, The Gift of Murder, Wolfmont Press

Best Children’s/Young Adult Novel

The Morgue and Me, John C. Ford, Viking Juvenile
The Hanging Hill, Chris Grabenstein, Random House
The Case of the Poisoned Pig, Lewis B. Montgomery, Kane Press
The Other Side of Blue, Valerie O. Patterson, Clarion Books
The Case of the Cryptic Crinoline, Nancy Springer, Philomel

Congratulations to all of the Agatha nominees!!!

For more information on the Agatha Awards, please go to the Malice Domestic website at

Best Regards,
The Malice Board

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Guest Blogger & Giveaway - Dakota Cassidy

Hello, all! First, I’d like to introduce myself to those who have no clue who I am. And before I do, many thanks to Pam for inviting me to come and blog. She clearly deserves a medal for bravest blogger ever 

Anyhoodles, I’m Dakota Cassidy, and I write a humorous series involving women who are accidentally bitten and or turned by all the shapeshifters in the rainbow—vampires, werewolves, demons and anything that has a paranormal bent. But my tales aren’t just about turning into a demon or a werewolf. My books are about friendship and bonds in good or bad that’s eternal. Throw in some delish dude, a little woo to the hoo, and that’s what you’ll find between the pages of my books.

So the series goes like this—The Accidental Werewolf--Accidentally Dead--The Accidental Human--Accidentally Demonic (my recent release) and in May 2011 Accidentally Catty. Quite frankly, I’ll pretty much write anything you can tack on in a title after the word “accidental.” I’m almost certain I have an accidental dry cleaner in my future. Tee hee!

I was asked to write about the relationships between myself and my characters and how it affects my writing. Truth be told—I’m soooo not for everyone. My books are snarky, filled with slang and pop-culture references, evil comparisons to celebrity socialites, and one of my characters has the biggest potty mouth ever. In general, my heroines are similar (not the same, I swear) to the women who are some of my best friends. They talk the way we do, they’re there for each other the way we are, and above all, they totally get one another—just like we do.

Difference being, we’re not shapeshifters. Though, I’m not ruling something like that out…

Hence, I get these women I’ve created. They’re as easy to write for me as breathing. Though, I will admit, the relationship I share with my characters can sometimes be rocky. We have our sluggish moments—you know, those “middle of the book what the heck am I gonna do now?” moments. We have our celebratory moments, the happily ever after kind. We have our lowest of low moments, too. The kind that requires putting our heads together and resolving the conflict without having to pack our bags to prepare for the apocalypse.

And to some degree, my characters have traits that are similar to my own. I tend to pick and choose what works best at any given moment—I know. Go figure.

For instance, Marty in book one is a werewolf, and she loves clothes, shoes and makeup. Soooo me. I love pretty clothes, MAC makeup, and shoes, shoes, shoes!

Nina, a vampire in book two, says whateverthehell she’s thinking and it’s typically littered with words that require a strong constitution when reading. She’s sometimes opinionated to the point of rude, but she always tells it like it is. I’m much like Nina internally. I don’t say whatever I want to, but boy, do I think it, and I try to temper my opinions with lurve. Try. Hard… 

Wanda, whom I can’t tell you about because it’d be a big spoiler, in book three, is very diplomatic and took a couple of books to pick up her spine in a two-fer deal in Wal-Mart. It took me twenty or so years to find mine. Spines are hidden in the feminine protection aisle at Wal-Mart, in case you were wondering. Right behind the Massengil. 

And then, last, but certainly not least is Casey the demon in book four. She’s Wanda’s sister, and she’s very reserved, rather bookish and totally even-tempered. That is until a life-altering event changes her. I wasn’t necessarily quiet (hush, I know what you’re thinking. LOL), but I was never very good at saying what needed to be said or standing up for myself until I had my own life altering event. All of a sudden, I was all mouth, and had I the ability, I’m fairly sure fireballs would have slipped from my fingertips when I was tweaked, too.

Now on any given day, if my characters are stuck—this is where the affecting me part comes in. If I’m stuck on where to go next in a book, not only are they depressed because they need resolution, I get depressed due to lack of word count and finding a solution. Which means French fries and some cheesy Lifetime movie is in their futures. Nina most especially hates that. 

If things are going well, and my characters are developing the way I want them to, they’re happy and so am I because the words are hitting the computer screen like fastballs and all is well in Romancelandia.

To say I’m closely intertwined with these crazy broads is an understatement; yet, I don’t live and breathe them either. I know that probably sounds very non-writerly, but it’s the truth. I seriously don’t spend a lot of time wondering what they’re doing when I’m away from them, and I definitely don’t hear them in my head. I’m just shy of nuts, but not that nuts--not yet.

I definitely think up dialogue, but it’s my voice I hear. Lord knows, I couldn’t possibly have Casey and Nina all up in my brain fighting for very long before I checked off certifiable on my life list of things to achieve. I don’t set a place for them at my dinner table, and I don’t take them into consideration when I plan my vacations.

Which brings me to this—the affect my characters have on me is the affect I let them have on me. I view them as my pawns in this crazy game of accidental paranormalness that I’ve created, my minions to do my bidding, so to speak. Sometimes they surprise me. Sometimes they take a turn I can’t even believe I thunk up in my office at three in the morning. Sometimes they just plain remind me I am a little crazy.

In all of this, I try to remember, this is my full time job. I work hard at it, sometimes upwards to fourteen hours a day. I love my job. I love sitting in my office when everyone else is asleep and making outrageous, ridiculous situations up.


But I can tell you this, no way is one of my heroine’s ever going to affect me so much that I miss a deadline and paycheck. That much you can be sure of.

Especially not that mouthy, overly opinionated Nina. :)

~Dakota Cassidy 


Leave a comment and we will randomly select a poster. Dakota is giving away the book of your choice from AMAZON


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Guest Blogger - Cynthia Hickey

What can I say about Summer Meadows, can't help but love her. Ditzy, self-centered and head over heels (secretly of course) with Ethan Banning, the last thing she's interested in, other than fashion, is solving a crime. Until she digs up diamonds in her backyard. They're a girl's bestfriend, right? Summer owns a candy-store and the readers are elbow deep in chocolate as Summer sets off to capture a crook in Fudge-Laced Felonies.

In Candy-Coated Secrets, her big heart lands her smack-dab on the highway leading an elephant to the fairgrounds! And I don't want to spoil anything, but Summer's back in a big way next year with Chocolate-Covered Crime.

From the above blurbs, you can see how much fun spending time with Summer was. We became the closest of friends. Laughed and cried together. When her life was in peril, often because of Summer's misguided drive to help someone, I fretted with her and cheered.when she prevailed against the bad guy.

It was sad finishing the last and final book in Summer's trilogy. I felt I'd lost a friend. But I'm looking forward to making more with my next books. It's extremely important to get close to your characters. Know their likes and dislikes. Their favorite color. Whether they're a natural redhead or not. Digging deep to know their most secret desires. The character's become so real, you'd swear you could hear their heartbeat.

Writing with a close friend is such fun!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Guest Blogger - Mike Befler

The relationship between me and the protagonist in my geezer-lit mystery series, Paul Jacobson, is very special. When I start writing a character, I like to have a mental image. I keep a file of clippings of faces I’ve cut out of magazines. So with Paul, as with other characters I write about, I pick out a picture so I can visualize the character. I may borrow a few attributes of people I know for my characters but the vast majority is unique for the particular character.

 In Paul’s case, he’s a crotchety octogenarian with short-term memory loss who, in spite of not being able to remember yesterday, becomes an amateur sleuth and even has a romance with a young chick in her seventies. The idea for short-term memory loss came from my stepfather who suffered from dementia, although completely different symptoms than Paul’s.

My natural father was a punster, so Paul tells puns. I hate taking pills, so Paul has inherited this characteristic from me. But beyond that, everything else about Paul is unique to him.

He likes to cuss, he hates lawyers (based upon a bad experience with an attorney during his working career), detests going in the ocean and doesn’t want to have anything to do with computers. So no email, Myspace, Youtube, instant messaging or blogging for Paul.

But as you get to know him you find out he isn’t the curmudgeon he at first appears to be. He’s kind of like a fritter—crusty on the outside and warm inside. Paul may have a few snippets from people I know (including myself) but a whole lot of what is right for him.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Best Friends - Sharing the Armchair -- A guest blog by Hank Phillippi Ryan for our 5th Anniversary of The Cozy Armchair Group

How often do you talk to your best friends? Oh, yes, as grade schoolers, our BFF’s might change from time to time…the boy or girl you’d whisper to, and pass notes to, and giggle with in the cafeteria as you were plotting your next secret meeting or movie outing or trip to the soda shop. (Soda shop?) But your best friend was always there. Without them, life just wasn’t as much fun.

In high school, you could still see him or her every day. That’s when competition started, and comparisons, and the smart ones broke off from the popular ones, and the difficult (or cool?) ones lurked outside smoking and planning their next secret way to cut classes and the athletes wore their letter sweaters (letter sweaters?) and everyone wanted to be grown up. But your best friend was there to let you copy their homework, or tell that cute guy you liked him, or stand up for you when someone said something mean. To share gossip and dreams and prom dresses, and sneak issues of Cosmo, and yearn for someone’s older brother, and plan for the future. What would high school have been without best friends?

College? Some went to college, where inevitably, as you changed, your best friends changed. You became the activist, or the studious one, or the popular one, studied to e a teacher or a doctor or a lawyer or a –whatever. And some dearly wanted their MRS degree. But there was always a best friend—someone to sneak smokes with. Or try scotch and illegal substances and illicit activities and find new music and literature, and oh, yeah, cram for finals. You’d talk every day. You had to.

Others grew up faster—had husbands and kids and real jobs and real life. But there was a best friend, too, maybe the one who lived next door, or who had the next cubicle, or who you met at the bus stop. But your best friend—in college or in , well, real life, was always someone you could see, right? They sat next you on the train, or shared a dorm room, or a cubicle. Without that best friend, really becoming a grown up would have been downright scary.

But now, here we all are. We’re moms and teachers and scientists and trainers and lawyers and librarians and artists and stitchers and designers and authors and…well, you know. Many of us have never seen each other in person, right? But though the magic of cozy armchair, we’re all best friends. And we still talk to each other every day. All curled up in exactly the same spot--our favorite cyber-sized cozy chair, together. Sharing not only our love of reading and mysteries, but learning more about each other every day. Best friends.

Of course you know who in the armchair loves which books…that someone doesn’t really like historicals, and someone thinks paranormal is just about over, and someone thinks there can’t be enough recipes in a book and someone else who thinks, let’s just get on with the story. Oh, I’m not naming names.

But we’re just as close as if we were sitting across from each other in the library, or sitting in a coffee shop. Or riding to town on the subway. Or knocking on a front door an being invited inside to a familiar home. And it’s not just books we share. We share what we do and how we think and what we see and how we see each other. We know who’s the funny one, and who’s the shy one, and who’s the smart one. Who’s the NYT bestseller, and who are the up and comers. We know who cooks and who bakes and who sews and who knows about apples and who knows about scrapbooks and who tries dead end jobs and who’s got dogs and who’s got cats and who’s writing a YA.

We share our joys. We share our fears. We share our lives.

When one of us has a triumph, the cheering from the cozies echoes, literally, across the country. And back. When one of us is in trouble—the rest of us are there. The love and compassion and caring rises up to comfort whoever is having a bad day. Through snowstorms, and power outages, and terrifying news from the doctor and reassuring news from the doctor, thought the loss of dear pets and dear relatives, through births and graduation and weddings and births again, we all know who we want to tell first. We all know who we want to share it with.

We’ll come right to cozy armchair, where we know we’ll find our best friends.

Thank you, Pamela and Terri… thank you, Jessica and Glenda and Mare. You have brought all of us together. People who otherwise might never have met. Think of it—you have created a one-of-a kind world—where all who arrive are welcome. And I can’t wait to continue our chat.

So hey, all cozies! Happy fifth anniversary to my dear best friends. What does Cozy Armchair mean to you?

Agatha-wining author Hank Phillippi Ryan has been on Cozy Armchair for as long as she can remember. Her newest book is DRIVE TIME. Her website is

Friday, February 5, 2010

Review - Cooking Up Murder by Miranda Bliss

Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Berkley (November 7, 2006)
ISBN-10: 0425212912
ISBN-13: 978-0425212912

Annie and Eve are best friends. And when Eve signs them up for a cooking class she has no idea how crazy her life would become. Annie is a horrible cook and has one challenge after another in the class. But that's not all, after witnessing some arguments after class, they stumble across a body. And then they get to investigating, especially since Eve's ex is the detective investigating the crime and they want to show him up. Oh, and Annie really likes the hot Scottish cooking instructor too.

All in all, Annie and Eve really put the amateur in amateur sleuthing. They have their minds set going in and miss clue after clue. A few times I wanted to smack them. But they are likeable characters and hopefully learn from their mistakes in the next book.


Guest Blogge r- Dorothy Howell

February, 2010

All you need is love, according to the Beatles. The notion makes for a great song, but unlike in real life – and certainly in books – it’s not always enough.

I’ve written 23 historical romance novels, most under the name Judith Stacy, and can say that “love” is only a portion of what it takes to create a successful love story. Things like internal and external conflict, the setting, dialogue, story arc all play a part in putting together a satisfying read.

The hero in a romance novel is a key component in the success of the book. He must be many things to satisfy the savvy romance reader.

First, the hero must be the alpha-male in the story. Strong, determined, a leader of men. He has to be smart and financially secure (wealthy works for me!). The hero also needs the guy-next-door quality that allows him to listen – yes, actually listen – to the heroine’s problems and concerns, to comfort her and ease her troubles.

Putting all those facets together to make the perfect male is one of the things I like best about writing romance novels. Let’s face it, it isn’t often we get the chance to craft a perfect man!

All that changed when I started writing mystery. The series debuted with HANDBAGS AND HOMICIDE and featured fashion sleuth Haley Randolph as a 24 year old having a big-time quarter-life crisis. I gave her a love interest, Ty Cameron, a handsome, wealthy, business mogul who owns the department store chain where Haley works.

I quickly realized I couldn’t conclude the relationship between Ty and Haley in the first book. I had a three-book deal with Kensington. This was a series and Ty had to be a continuing character. I had to keep the conflict between them going.

That meant Ty couldn’t be a typical romance hero. To my mind, he had to have more than the limited number of flaws allotted to a romance hero. Yet, somehow, I had to make the romance element of the book appeal to my largely female readership. I decided to take the tried-and-true elements of a romance hero and assign them to other characters in my mysteries.

Ty is the smart, financially secure (wealthy still works for me!) guy. I gave the alpha-male aspect of a romance hero to Jack Bishop, the bad-boy private detective who helps Haley with her cases. Detective Shuman, the homicide detective, plays the role of guy-next-door.
This formula has worked well through the second book in the series, PURSES AND POISON, which has a particularly strong romantic sub plot. In SHOULDER BAGS AND SHOOTINGS, which will be released in July, the romantic sub plot thickens with the addition of an ex-boyfriend, and a new mystery man in Haley’s life.

Readers are quick to express their opinions on which man Haley should end up with. Some say she should dump Ty and date private eye Jack. Others think the boyish Detective Shuman would better complement Haley’s personality. Still others (wealthy works for them too, I guess!) insist she should stay with Ty, despite his many flaws.

So what do you think? Which guy would you choose for yourself? The tough guy, the nice guy, or the wealthy guy?

Or would you stick with the Beatles and decide that all you need is love?

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Alpha male
Financially independent, wealthy

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Email addicts unite!

Are you an email addict? I know I am and I think there should be a support group for all of us who are. I remember when I didn't have email and I got so much more done. My house looked better, I felt better and life did seem to be simpler. Now days when my computer crashes I have a meltdown, when email is sluggish I think "Was it something I said?" When I CAN get on email and everything goes smoothly then I can do other things (even cross stitch) but if email is down so it seems am I.

Am I the only one with this affliction? Watching movies or television isn't even the same. The only thing that gets me through no mail is reading because I read mysteries someone else is always has a worse day than I do and it's true - misery does love company. 

However what I really love is knowing that others come through their misery to a brighter spot. Last year I had a lot of misery when I went through email withdrawal several times as three computer bit the dust. I'm living proof you can live through no email but it isn't pretty. 

Since it's February and my computer is working and the weather isn't working for me I want to hear if you're an email addict and do you have to make yourself do other things? 


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

February Greetings!

January was a busy and productive month for me.  With interesting things going on.  The monthly Sisters in Crime lunch had Hank Phillippi Ryan as the guest speaker and it was a great talk (as well as good to see Hank again).  She brought a tv piece she had done and it was great to see her "in action".  Then a few days later Mystery Writers of America dinner had Peter Earnest as the speaker (long time CIA spy and CEO of the International Spy Museum - which is an awesome place to visit).  He even shared his "James Bond" moment with us.  Then we had a special book club meeting for the Crime Museum -- our book last month was Sniper by Sari Horowitz and Michael Ruane.  That brought a lot of memories back.  Anyway, one of the Investigators from the Montgomery County Police Dept -- Mitch Cunningham, came and spoke with us.  Telling us of the investigation.  Its false leads, huge amounts of tips, near misses, and final conclusion.  With crime scene photos, like how the raid went down when they captured them.  He was a great speaker and it was fascinating.

Another great thing about January was how much I read.  Feel like I am more myself now that I am reading more again. 

So now it's February.  Ushered in with yet more snow.  This winter is worse than the last several years.  And boy are people whining all over the place.  I am not there yet, but give me time. They say more snow Friday (a lot) and then again on Tuesday.  This is after last night's 4-5 inches.

For such a short month, February always seems so long.  And it is an interesting time.  We always have valentine's day which will lead to some drama in the circle of people I know.  Mardis Gras (which my friend Eryn always does full force), One three day weekend (never mind THOSE), my brother's birthday (all set with his presents - just need to mail them). 

But what I hope for this month is actually a lot of peace and quiet.  Feeling the need to hibernate.  Of course my to do list is endless...

We'll see how it goes.  And I hope that those who love the weather are enjoying it and that those who don't are avoiding it as much as possible!

Meanwhile, I have about 6 books going at the moment from cozy, to Zombies, to true crime so I will continue on my reading roll while it lasts.

6 more weeks of winter to go - hope to use it well!



Review: Blood Ballad by Rett MacPherson




Hardback Mystery Series

A Torie O'Shea Mystery

Genealogist Torrie O'Shea lives in New Kassell, Missouri and her two teenage daughters are making life difficult. What's worse than two arguing teens under the same roof who call themselves sisters in loose terms is a town nemisis who get paired up with Torie for an overnight bird watching trip in the woods. The worst of it is that someone is shooting at them, then they see someone dump a trunk off of a cliff. Of course there is a body and who would want to muder a shoe salesman?

Life is more interesting when Torrie learns that her grandfather might have written some music he never received money or credit for and then there is a few decades cold case that mingles with Torrie's family and the Scott Morgan musical family.

When Torrie's home office is broken into and it is learned that Torrie's own family tree might have been involved in a murder she decides to snoop into the present and past murder because she believes there is a connection.

Nobody messes with Torrie's family tree she may think her family is eccentric and she may think her family has certain issues but by golly it will not go down in her family history that murder is in any family branch.

It's Christmas time for Torrie and her family which also means Christmas Shopping, homemade presents and one or two depresse family members. Torrie loves her family but trying to fit in solving a murder, feuding children, a horse that is left in her pasture and nobody is claiming, a nemsis who says Torrie owes her a new camera and a depressed step-father who happens to be the mayor of New Kassell is having Torrie singing Falala while searching for the truth. Despite it all she thinks she knows where a woman who disappeared a long long time ago is buried.

Meanwhile Torrie's husband is having other issues to deal with on the home front and could use a little help. This doesn't include all the family activities and her mother's views on Torrie being shot at in the woods.

BLOOD BALLAD is very well written, the plot was cunning and the motives for murder were intriguing, her characters were real and I have to say this ending not only fooled me but actually impressed me. I rushed to this book every chance I got to see what was going to happen next and I wasn't disappointed.

The Blood Ballad by Rett MacPherson is by far one of best mysteries to spend your money on and I find the whole series very down to earth.

Pamela James **********

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Guest Blogger - MR Sellars

Mayhem: Not just something you do to your pants in May...

may-hem [mey-hem, mey-uhm] - noun:
1. The crime of willfully inflicting bodily harm upon another.
2. Random or deliberate violence or damage.
3. A state of rowdy disorder.
4. My life between 5:30 AM and 10:30 PM 7 days per week, 365 days per year.

The alarm clock breaks through the drone of my CPAP machine, pulsing out its annoying demand for attention. I actually opened my eyes 20 minutes ago to the sound of a voice, but I ignored it as I usually do. Unfortunately, now that the alarm is screaming, the voice is back, and it isn't happy with me.

"Murv," Felicity O'Brien says, her musical Celtic lilt bouncing around inside my head. "We need to talk to you."
"Not now," I reply.
"Aye, but it's important."
"When isn't it?" I don't really want an answer.
"Do I have to get Rowan to talk to you then?"
"Felicity, it can wait. I promise we'll all talk soon."
She wanders off in a huff, not that I would expect any less from her.

I slap the snooze button, turn off my CPAP, and then extricate myself from the mask and tangle of hoses. Before I can do anything else, however, I have a prescribed duty of extreme importance. I roll over and give my wife, Evil Kat, her morning backrub—two cycles of the snooze button… 18 minutes total. More will be accepted, however less will not be tolerated. She's a redhead, you see, and if things don't go her way, well then the day is going to be off to a really bad start.

The alarm squeals for the third time and the 18 minutes are up. This go around I switch it off completely. But, that only quiets the electronic chirp. There’s a new noise with which I must contend. Our geriatric cat is wandering up and down the stairs yowling as loud as he can. His "call of the wild" is punctuated by thumps and crashes as his cohort in crime—a gray tabby I simply call "the fat one"—is bouncing off the walls and furniture in a panic, all because he has just seen his own shadow. He's a little bit neurotic like that.

I wander down the stairs; pick my way through the feline carnage, and head for the kitchen. I start the coffee then set out a white bowl with blue accents on the corner of the island—Evil Kat is very specific about her preferences in breakfast dishes. I add a spoon, and then arrange a box of Raisin Bran next to it, just so. Finally, I head off to take care of that business everyone has to deal with first thing in the morning.

A few minutes later I’m splashing water on my face and washing the sleep from my eyes. Toweling off, I can start becoming one with the impending chaos. Back into the kitchen I wander. Evil Kat had ham and cheese for lunch yesterday. Today she will be having roast beef and Swiss on a spinach-garden vegetable wrap. I prepare it, wrap it, and place it into the fridge. I fill her snack container with the fancy, unsalted trail mix she likes so much—4 tablespoons, no more, no less.

The daughter will be having PB&J on whole wheat. She's currently stuck in a culinary rut, but of course, she's only 10 so there’s still hope. I place it into the fridge for safekeeping, and then line up their respective lunchboxes on the island, ready to fill when the time arrives. Now, I can pour myself a cup of coffee.

"Murv," Felicity's voice hits me again.
I jump. It's still dark in the house and I wasn't expecting her to sneak up on me like that. Of course, she always does, so you would think I'd be used to it by now.
"Dammit, Felicity," I tell her. "Don't do that."
"We really need to talk to you."
"I know, but not yet."
"You said soon."
"Yes, but not this soon."
"I'll let you know."
"Draoth," she says as she skulks off once again.
Felicity tends to express her displeasure with precisely aimed bursts of Irish Gaelic. No big surprise given that she's Irish. She has basically just called me a good-for-nothing. Fairly mild knowing her, so she must not be terribly angry just yet, but I doubt that will last for long.

First cup of coffee in hand, I head back upstairs to the office. I find my bifocals and slip them on. Suddenly the world is far less blurry than before. I read the text on my monitor. 137 emails are waiting for me. Must be a light day. 17 of them I forward to my publicist and 10 of them to my personal assistant. They both know better how to handle them than me. 10 are just SPAM that managed to circumvent my filters. Of the 100 remaining, 12 are personal, 25 are friend requests from an extra large sampler plate of social networks, 15 are fan mail I can handle directly, 8 are Twitter follow notifications, 1 is an e-ticket for an upcoming flight to a faraway book signing, and 17 are answers to questions I have posed to my various research sources. The last 22 are FROM my publicist and/or my PA and/or my publisher. Those will probably need answers by day's end.

I log on to and update my Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, ad nauseum, all at once, greeting the world with one eye open and tongue planted firmly in cheek.

M. R. Sellars is listening 2 theme from MacGyver while building rocket launcher out of a tampon, dryer lint, cheerios & a burnt sparkplug

I'm never particularly serious in the morning. Even if I sound serious, I'm not. It’s just no way to start the day.

Now I hear the radio playing in the bedroom across the hall. That can only mean one thing—time is short. I click over to weatherbug and check the forecast. Clear and cold with a high around 28. The radio switches off and I hear feet hit the floor. Immediately following that I hear the clang of iron against iron. Satan himself, hearing the petite footfalls and knowing that my wife is now awake, closes the gates to Hell for the day and hides in his fallout shelter. For the Prince of Darkness, he really is a big wuss.

I've finished off cup o’ java #1, so I move a few more emails into their designated folders then head down the stairs. I’m only a scant few minutes behind Evil Kat. When I arrive she is feeding the four-legged cats because she won the coin toss. You'll understand what I mean by that in a minute. I pull down a tray, set it up with a bowl of Trix, some fruit, a glass of milk, and a gummi vitamin. I put it on the dining room table and awaken the offspring on my way to the basement. Once there, I clean the litter boxes. Now you understand what I meant about the coin toss. I check the hamper. What day is it? Friday. Laundry day. I'll get back to that.

I take out the trash. The neighbors think I'm insane because it's 14 degrees outside and I'm in shorts, a t-shirt, and a pair of worn out Crocs. No biggie. I have to maintain my rep as the crazy neighbor somehow, and this is as easy a way as any. Back inside I wash my hands then unload the dishwasher and start on my second cup of coffee. After that I pack the lunches I made earlier, line them up, then take a quick detour to sort the laundry.

The sun is coming up now. My wife is upstairs making herself too pretty for words while hatching her plan for world domination. I only know that it involves an army of red haired women, with her as their leader, of course. She refuses to tell me any more than that. I grab a quick shower, get dressed for the day, then head back outside. There's frost on the windshield of the redhead's van, and that simply won't do. I start it up, flip on the heater, and then scrape the windows. When I finish, I run back inside, throw Evil Kat's lunch tote over my shoulder, grab up her laptop, and walk her out to the van. A quick goodbye complete with PDA* right there in the driveway, and she is off to work. Now I can scrape the windows on my truck.

"Can we talk yet?" Felicity is right there once again, harping at me. "Your distraction is gone."
"Not yet."
"But yes she..."
I cut her off. "Daughter. School. You know the drill."
Felicity stamps her foot and shrieks. As she stalks off I can hear her yelling for Rowan and Ben. She's calling up the reinforcements. This could get ugly if I don’t hurry.

Back inside I pick something from the freezer to thaw, then check to make sure I have all the necessary ingredients to fix the dinner I have in mind. I don't, so I make a list and stuff it in my pocket. The offspring is ready to go. I pour coffee into a travel mug and load the paper-recycling bucket while she hops into the truck. 10 minutes later I am dropping her off at school. Cars are everywhere and no one is paying attention. A harried parent starts rolling across the parking lot without bothering to look in front of his car. I push my daughter and two other kids out of harm’s way then end up sprawled on the hood of the oncoming vehicle while screaming at the driver to stop. He's shocked, but I'm just angry. I give him a terse lecture about safe driving in school zones as he glazes over. He looks like he might be afraid that I’m going to pull out a tire iron and beat him to death. The truth is, I considered it, but I have too much to do and I don’t look good in orange, or stripes either.

Fuming, I leave. The kids are safely inside and I’ve successfully scared the parent enough that he is likely to be dropping by his house to change underwear before heading to work. And, speaking of work, I still have to drop off the recycling, run by the bank, check the PO Box, then hit the grocery for a gallon of milk, some black beans, and some frozen corn. I do all of that and finally make it back home in one piece.

Felicity is waiting for me. I knew she would be. I ignore her for the time being which just raises her ire even more. She’s a redhead just like my wife, so it’s starting to get a little dangerous in my world.

I have a handful of fan mail, 1 of which actually turns out to be hate mail, and another is somewhere in between. Seems the person who penned the latter read one of my books and now wants to save my soul. I hate to tell them this, but it’s already beyond redemption. I put away the groceries, and then pour the last of the coffee—now cold—into my mug and run it through the microwave before heading upstairs. Once in the office I stuff the hate mail into my "if anything suspicious ever happens to me look in here for possible suspects” file, then set the rest aside for now.

I sit down in my chair and roll forward to my desk. 32 new emails are cluttering my inbox. Nothing pressing though, so they will have to wait. I have a promise to keep. I look around for a moment and breathe a relaxed sigh, at least partially confident that the dust of the morning craziness has finally settled. I click a shortcut on my desktop, page down, and then rest my fingers on the keys.

"Okay, Felicity," I call aloud, just because I can. "Tell everyone soon is finally here. I’m ready to listen now."

Moments later, she, and all of the other fictional characters that live inside my head are talking all at once while I frantically take dictation.

And now is when the real mayhem begins...

* Public Display of Affection

(See Bio – Next Page)

An active member of the HWA (Horror Writers Association), M. R. Sellars is a relatively unassuming homebody who, in his own words, considers himself just a “guy with a lot of nightmares and a word processing program.” Legend has it he started making up stories to entertain a stuffed bear during his single digit years, then began writing them down sometime around his early teens when the growing catalogue of fiction started causing him to experience migraines. Although he had several short stories and newspaper articles published during his early adult life, it wasn’t until 2000 that his first full-length novel, Harm None: A Rowan Gant Investigation, hit bookstore shelves, officially launching the acclaimed paranormal thriller series which features a practicing Witch who aids the Saint Louis police department in solving bizarre crimes that have occult overtones.

Sellars says that the biggest adjustment he has had to make with his writing career is coping with the time spent away from his family while traveling on promotional tours. Still, he approaches the necessity of public appearances with the same humorously deadpan and satirical wit that he applies to life in general, stating, “As long as I have an RC Cola and a bag of peanuts, I’m all good, Bubba.”

All of the current novels in Sellars’ continuing Rowan Gant Investigations saga have spent several consecutive weeks on numerous bookstore bestseller lists as well as a consistent showing on the Horror/Occult top 100.

Sellars currently resides in the Midwest with his incomparably amazing wife, equally fantastic daughter, and a pair of felines he describes as, “the fat gray one and the stupid orange one.” At home, when not writing or taking care of the household, he indulges his passions for cooking and hanging out with friends. In order to satisfy his lifelong dream of being a satirical humor columnist for a major metropolitan newspaper, twice each week he removes his glasses, dons blue tights and a red cape, then blogs about the incredibly bizarre world that is his life as a writer, husband, and father. It has been said that his blog articles sometimes blur the line between fiction and reality. To that Sellars responds, “What line?”

M. R. Sellars can be located on the web wherever there is a virtual bar serving virtual single malt Scotch, single barrel bourbon, good Irish whisky, and decent beer. In other words, look for him on the major social networking sites.

Official Website:


Monday, February 1, 2010

Guest Blogger - Alice Duncan

I’m sure everyone’s heard that authors are always asked where their ideas come from. Actually, I can’t remember anyone ever asking me that question, but that’s probably because so few people read my books (not that I’m whining or anything).

However, something rather magical actually occurred several years before I began writing novels, and I used the experience in my “Spirits” books, starring Daisy Gumm Majesty, spiritualist extraordinaire, who supports her husband and herself in Pasadena, California, in the early 1920s, the fourth of which, HUNGRY SPIRITS, will be published in June of this very year. You can read all about it here:

A long, long time ago (well, maybe twenty years or so), my daughter Robin and her then-boyfriend went to a yard sale in Pasadena, CA, where they found an old, beat-up Ouija board. They decided to pay the fifty cents the yard-sale person was asking for it. When they did so, the person said, “Be careful of that thing.” Naturally, Robin and Otto (the boyfriend in question) thought she was joking.

So they took the Ouija board back to Robin’s apartment and started playing with it. The board came with the usual triangular planchette, and Robin and Otto sat across from each other and placed their fingers lightly on the planchette. Instantly the planchette moved to the letters painted in a double crescent above the numbers on the board. In astonishment, Robin and Otto watched as the planchette spelled out, “Mom Mom Mom Mom Mom.” Nothing else. Just “Mom Mom Mom Mom Mom.”

A little freaked, Robin brought the board to my house. Not that she thought the board was asking for me. She just thought maybe if she used the board in another location, it might be more informative. So we sat in my living room, the Ouija board on a table between us, settled our fingers lightly on the planchette and asked if there was a spirit in the room. The planchette zoomed to the word “Yes” in the upper left corner. Robin and I stared at each other for a second, then we both shrugged and asked if the board’s spirit could enlighten us about the curious incident of the “Mom Mom Mom Mom Mom” thing.

The spirit seemed to have a little trouble communicating, but it could answer yes-or-no questions. Eventually, Robin and I learned that a troubled young man used to live in Robin’s apartment building. We never did learn who the young man was, but he clearly had a mother problem. We’d already kind of figured that out. Then, because we were still curious, we asked the spirit his name. Very slowly, the planchette spelled out “Rolly.” Rolly? Strange name. So we asked it some more questions.

Honest to God, it turned out (if you believe in these things) that Rolly has been with me all my life. According to him, we were married in the eleventh century in Scotland where Rolly was a soldier. We had five sons together. Sounds ghastly to me, but Rolly claimed we were soul mates, and he’d be with me forever. Both Robin and I agreed that, if you have to be haunted by a spirit, it’s kind of nice if it’s one that adores you. In my personal case, given my history with men in this life, it’s also probably a good thing that he’s been dead for a thousand years.

Anyhow, because I was puzzled by Rolly’s inability to spell well, I asked him about this deficit in his education (trying to be very polite about it). Turned out Rolly was a soldier, and in Scotland back then, soldiers didn’t need no schooling. They needed to be able to be really, really strong and kill people. So. Okay. Not only did I have a soul mate following me through my life (or my many lives, if you believe those things), but I, who write books for a living (well, all right, I don’t. But I’ve had a bunch of books published, and if there was any fairness in the world I’d be earning a living at it), have an illiterate forever lover. Gotta love it.

Anyhow, when Daisy Gumm Majesty appeared in my cluttered brain in 2002 or thereabouts and told me she was a phony spiritualist in Pasadena, California, in 1921, I decided to give her Rolly. What the heck, y’know? Why should I have all the fun?

By the way, I want to let everyone know that Daisy, my winner-picking wiener dog, who lost the use of her back legs on January 2, is actually doing pretty well! She spent seven (count ‘em) days at the vet’s office (thank God he’s allowing me to make payments), and she can walk! It doesn’t look as if she’ll ever be 100 percent better, but at least she won’t have to run around on one of those little wheelie things. Every now and then things go right, and I appreciate everyone’s concern SO MUCH!

Pamela's January 2010 reads

1. Hush My Mouth by Cathy Pickens 8 of 10
2.Thai Die by Monica Ferris 8 of 10
3. Apple Turnover Murder by Joanne Fluke 8 of 10
4. Silve Screams by mary Daheim 7 0f 10
5. The Black Opal by Voctoria Holt 8 of 10
6. BookPlate Special by Lorna Barrett 8 of 10
7. Bull's Island by Dorthea Benton Frank 8 of 10
8. The Blood Ballard by Rett MacPherson 9 of 10
9.Code Name: Dove by Judith Leon 7-10
CR: The Face In The Window by Sarah Graves
CR: Killer Heels by Sheryl Anderson
CR: Decked With Folly by Kate Kingsbury
Had a good reading month.

Terri's January 2010 reads


Some Girls Bite – Chloe Neill *
Midsummer Night’s Faery Tale – Terri Windling and Wendy Froud

Very Good:

Jinx – Jennifer Estep ^
Sniper – Sari Horowitz and Michael Ruane *

 Pretty Good:

Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction – Nov 1987 *
Wild Nights – Joyce Carol Oates ^
The Lost World – Arthur Conan Doyle @
Owning Your Own Shadow – Robert A Johnson ^
Shooting Stars and Other Deadly Things – Nancy Tesler ^


Flash:  The Secret Life of Barry Allen – Geoff Johns *
The Bird of Time – Jane Yolen *
Outcast – Michele Paver ^
Rotten to the Core – Sheila Connolly ^
The Last Innocent Man – Phillip Margolin ^


How to Be A Vampire – Katy Hall *
Little Dracula Goes to School – Martin Waddell *



Absolutely Hated:


* = owned

^ = library book

# = borrowed from a friend

@ =

For more detailed reviews, go to:  My Goodreads:

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Maeve Malloy is a lawyer who has had struggles with drinking, done a stint in rehab and trying to prove herself again as a lawyer.  She is...