Saturday, October 30, 2010

Help me name my next Moore Mystery

Lida Quillen, of Twilight Times Books, informed me last week that she wants to put out three of my books next year. There's no problem having enough material, I still have about seven books waiting in the wings. I was planning on two possible releases, but whoa...three! I have lots of work ahead of me!

One of the books is scheduled for second quarter 2011. One Potato, Blue Potato (long story goes with this title, but it does match the storyline) is the sequel to Healey's Cave (2010). Only problem is, Ms. Quillen believes the story is much more exciting than the title warrants. So, time to come up with a new one.
Wanna help?
Here's the synopsis, then I'll tell you what I went through yesterday to come up with a lovely independent list of great selections that went bad when I did some Amazon searches...
Sam’s daughter Beth has been unreachable for several days. Something is seriously wrong, and the Moores don't know where to turn for help. No ransom note comes, no kidnapper calls. When Zafina Azziz, Beth’s roommate and NYU Medical student, arrives on Sam’s doorstep worried about Beth, they realize it’s time to call the FBI.
In the midst of the investigation, Zafina’s larger than life personality wows Sam’s wife, Rachel, and when Hashim Azziz arrives on the scene, she welcomes both siblings to her home. But Sam thinks there’s something wrong about the woman who slinks around like an Egyptian princess with her cat eyes and strange ways.
The Moores unravel with worry as the green marble, a talisman connected to Sam’s dead brother Billy, thrusts Sam between past and present. When Sam's friend, Senator Bruce MacDonald, is tapped for the Presidential nomination, the town goes berserk preparing to welcome the sitting President to the opening of a new arts center.
But all is not well in the small village. A bomb explodes in the back of Yasir Khoury's Dry Cleaners, escalating fears of terrorism and anti-Iraqi bigotry. As Sam fights the tide that threatens to sweep his missing daughter away, he discovers a shocking link between Beth and the terrorists, then dives head first into the melee to avert a calamity that could rival the 911 disaster.
Okay, so this should give you some of the theme ideas. A threatened President, a missing daughter, anti-Iraqi sentiments, shocking surprises... and more, all set in the beautiful countryside of the Genesee Valley in the Finger Lakes region of NY.
I went through a phrase list yesterday, with common sayings and their origin, and came up with this list. I was quite pleased with myself, thinking how original and exciting some of these titles were. Much to my chagrin, I discovered - as we all well know - that there are hardly any "new" ideas, including titles, and that almost every one of them had been used many times in fiction (and non-fiction, which I didn't count!).
Bold as Brass
Bombs Away
Clean Sweep
Cat Among the Pigeons
Crack of Doom
Cry Havoc
Dark Horse
Eleventh Hour
Eye for an Eye
Fair Game
Finding Beth
Feeding Frenzy
Flushing Fletcher Biddle
Fletcher Biddle’s Bluff
Forbidden Fruit
Friendly Fire
Hell for Leather
Hell or High Water
Home to Roost
Insult to Injury
Loose Cannon
Midnight Oil
Multitude of Sins
Paper Tiger
Paper Tigress
Passing Muster
Pound of Flesh
Prima Donna
Save the President
Score to Settle
Second Nature
Snake in the Grass
Terror on the Hill
Terrorist in the Family
The Gauntlet
The Horse’s Mouth
To the Quick
Tooth and Nail
Touch and Go
Wages of Sin
Zafina’s Revenge
Weeds in the Garden (Kim S.)
Since I created this list, I sent it to my publisher to get her first reaction. I wanted to know if any titles stood out to her, or if she hated any of them, too. She gave me a list to eliminate.
A friend suggested, "Dying to Meet You." (Thanks, Sonya!) And I came up with a few more since the original effort. I culled the list and now have a short list I'd like you to vote on.
By the way, my publisher also said it didn't matter if the titles were used before, and not to discredit any just because of that. Since we'll follow it with "A Sam Moore Mystery' as a subtitle, it will be unique, in the end. ;o)

Here's my short list.
Dark Horse
Dying to Meet You
Paper Tigress
Prima Donna
Cat Among the Pigeons
Snake in the Grass
Terror on the Hill
The Bluff

Of course, I have my favorites already, but I'm keeping quiet until I hear what you folks think!
Vote for your top three names. Include them in the comments below, or email me at if you'd rather not vote in public.
Thanks in advance for your vote!
Aaron Paul Lazar

Friday, October 29, 2010

Meet Author Julie Ann Howell

© Julie Ann Howell 2010 all rights reserved

Ask a writer what they would rather be doing at any given time, and most often the answer would be “writing.”  Most writers dream of “just writing,” as their characters, settings and story lines are always swirling around in their heads. Having the luxury of putting those down on paper is the best feeling of accomplishment.

In my case, I am a night owl through and through. I love writing in the middle of the night when the house is quiet and my thoughts can actually make it to paper. I find it truly inspiring—and just a little bit scary, which is even more fun.

There are so many things that go through my head when I sit behind my keyboard. I vividly remember typing the “Whodunit” part in my book and being incredibly shocked at what my fingers typed. I even found myself saying “What??!!” out loud, questioning myself and staring at my fingertips in disbelief. I actually had no idea what was going to happen, which is great, as most writers map out their entire books before they type a word. But I like to let my fingers do the work and the characters do the talking. That is what works for me.

My readers often ask me how I came up with my setting for Haunted Echoes. I love small towns and lighthouses and since I wanted my character, Sarah Reddington and her dog Dickens, to stay in a Victorian style Bed and Breakfast, I chose Maine. I did my research and discovered a sleepy little town on the craggy shore just outside Portland. Cape Elizabeth was the perfect place for my characters to hang out for 200 pages. I have never been to Maine and I would love to visit someday, however I think it’s best to keep the image of how I actually see it strictly fiction.

When I was writing and researching Haunted Echoes, I made sure I paid attention not only to my surroundings, but to people as well. I would take mental notes about the simple characteristics of those people and apply them to my fictional characters in my book.

For example; I had an author come into my office who was wearing an interesting pair of glasses that were clearly not hers. She explained that they were her dead husband’s glasses and it made her feel close to him to wear them. A little creepy, perhaps, but that’s the truth, which really can be stranger than fiction! The glasses were black with thick lenses held together by a rusty safety pin. I found this endearing and the perfect description for my character Charles Hennesy, the lighthouse keeper.

The description of the haunted inn was strictly in my head. I had nothing to compare it to as it was completely fictional. I described it to my illustrator and she nailed it spot on. It was if she took it from my head and put it to paper.

I made sure that I incorporated real places and streets in Maine as well. I included The Cape Courier Newspaper, The Good Table Restaurant and the Scotts Dale Police Department. I fictionalized the descriptions, but kept the location and the names a reality.

I based my main character, Sarah Reddington on my daughter Sarah. Although they are not the same age, Sarah Reddington has many of the same qualities my daughter has--right down to the two different pattern socks that she wears. I find it sort of funny as my daughter still does that even at twenty years old.

Not surprisingly having written a ghost story, I often get asked if I believe in ghosts. Absolutely! I had my first ghostly experience at my office here in Sarasota. My office was built in 1925, complete with a tin roof, hardwood floors and crystal doorknobs. I was alone, working one afternoon and heard footsteps walking across those hardwood floors right behind me. Again, I was alone. I turned back around to work and actually felt a presence standing behind me. It was such a strange feeling and happened quite a few times. We ended up naming our ghost, Literary Louie. It seems to fit, but he scared us every time.

Haunted houses intrigue me. I suppose you can say that ghostly tales were instilled in me since I was a little girl, compliments of my great-grandma whose tales sort of followed me as a grown-up. I know there is another haunted tale in me: I can feel it. Just recently I had one of my readers email me his quote about what he thought after reading my novel. It was short and to the point. Simply put he said. “The only thing I have to say is when is the sequel coming out?” This was intriguing to say the least, a great compliment. I had never really considered a sequel until I read this quote.

And now, the answer is yes. Words and characters are now whispering in my head preparing to form sentences onto paper for the sequel to Haunted Echoes. The working title, Whispers From Beyond...

About the author

Julie Ann Howell is an avid speaker and author who authored her first book at the age of 10. Julie Ann’s passion for words inspired her to plant literary seeds enthusiastically all over the world.

In 2003, she founded Pepper Tree Magazine, a literary magazine based in Sarasota, Florida, and later founded
The Pepper Tree Press.
Julie Ann is a member of the Florida Writers Association and the American Business Women Association. A longtime Sarasota resident, Julie Ann Howell is also the author of Finnigan the Dragon, Mrs. Owl’s Nest of Rhymes, and The Pepper Tree: How the Seeds Were Planted.

She is currently at work on her next novel, Irish Jewel, which is slated for a Summer 2011 release. Her most recent book is Haunted Echoes. To follow Julie's blog go to 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Ghosts & Messages from the Other Side

© Marta Stephens 2010 all rights reserved

It’s hard to explain what it’s like to see or sense a presence that shouldn’t be there. I’m not talking about the images that pop into your mind when you're trying to imagine a ghost or goblin. No, I’m talking about the prickly feeling that pulls at the hairs on the back of your neck and the cold chills that ripple up your spine without thought or provocation.

It’s that all too unsettling feeling that you’re not alone.

My story beings in the winter of 1988 when I was expecting our third child. Five years earlier, our eldest daughter, Nicole, passed away at 19 months due to a congenital heart condition. Months later I found out I was expecting again, our daughter Jessica. It was a heart-wrenching, bitter-sweet moment in our lives, but naturally we were thrilled beyond words on the day Jessica arrived to know she was a wonderfully healthy baby.

She quickly grew up into a happy, bright, and very active two-year old and all was well until she began to have night terrors. At first, I assumed she’d had a bad dream and tried to comfort her, but it soon became evident that we were dealing with something far more serious. Every night she would either let out a woeful cry or uncontrollable screams that would go on for hours. Exhausted, we turned to her pediatrician. Unfortuantley, he didn’t offer any helpful advice so I did what I thought was best. I used to rock her into the wee hours and tried to comfort her which I now know is the worst thing I could have done. Night terrors are similar to sleepwalking, but are more dramatic, and the best thing to do is to allow the child to get through them on their own. Oh, had I only known!  These terrors had gone on for months when I realized I was pregnant with our third child. On top of being sleep-deprived myself, the old anxiety from the loss of our first child began to well in me again.

One Saturday morning during my first trimester I was busy with the usual weekend chores on my mind. I came down the stairs and reached the landing. I had laundry to do and errands to run and all the while, was trying to keep both eyes on Jessica. I turned to go down the next set of steps that led into the living room and that's when I first saw our “translucent visitor.”

He was a man in his 30s or 40s leaning against the post at the bottom of the stairs. I couldn’t see his face, but I could feel his eyes on me and sensed his was a kind soul. Friendly or not, my first impulse was to ignore him in the hopes he'd go away. He, on the other hand, was persistent. From that day on, I saw him on a daily basis either by the fireplace or at the bottom of the stairs watching...always watching. He never spoke nor did I ever feel threatened by his presence. In fact, after a while it felt good having him around and christened him Ed. I sensed he was amused.

Finally, the baby’s delivery date arrived and after 2-3 hours in labor, we were again blessed with a beautiful baby boy we named Tracy after my husband’s grandfather.

Interestingly, Ed disappeared the day Tracy was born and as far as I know has never been back. That day also marked a change in Jessica who began to sleep through the night again without terrors. The two have always had a wonderful relationship--she smothered him with attention and he's always looked up to her. Today, they remain as close as (if you'll excuse the clichĂ©) two peas in a pod.

I’ll always be curious to know who Ed was and what drew him to our home at that particular point in time. I like to think that he was watching over us. At any rate, the name stuck and to this day we attribute any strange noises in the house to Ed. Since then we’ve experienced other happenings (based on a true story) in our 97-year old home. I have no doubt that there are other beings among us, but whoever they are, they mean us no harm.
About the author:Marta Stephens writes mystery/suspense and the author of the Sam Harper Crime Mystery series.

THE DEVIL CAN WAIT (2008), Bronze Medal Finalist, 2009 IPPY Awards, Top Ten, 2008 Preditors and Editors Reader Poll (mystery).

SILENCED CRY (2007) Honorable Mention, 2008 New York Book Festival, Top Ten, 2007 Preditors and Editors Reader Poll (mystery).

Her books are available in paperback, Kindle, and e-book format online at Amazons, Barnes & Noble, Borders, Books-a-Million, Smashword, and Powells. For more information about Stephens and her writing, visit

"Life's too Uncertain, Eat your Dessert First"

Friday, October 22, 2010

And the Winner Is...

Hi, folks.

Last weekend I asked you to help me name the evil drug company in the book I'm currently writing. I posted on Gather,, and I sent out a quick bulletin by email to those who have signed up for the LeGarde Newsletter.

I'd chosen a name as a place holder (Med Corp), but soon discovered it was used by multiple companies. I didn't want to defame or insult any of these folks, by any means. So the search began.

You came up with a slew of names! Some sounded evil, some were cleverly related to dastardly doings, and others sounded more like a real drug company name. The latter was actually what I was subconsciously looking for, because I wanted the company to seem authentic, and truly scary.

Here's the list. If I missed anybody's entry, I apologize! The emails were coming in so fast I could barely keep up with them. But rest assured, I did read and consider every entry.

The hardest part was choosing. There were so many great ideas! (and some really cracked me up, very clever and funny.)

Evil Drug Company Names – Entries

Pillskillzall Pharmaceuticals                               Renda (MB4)
Slabrnot Pharmaceuticals (slab or not)
Deathrnot (death or not)
Rotrnot (rot or not)

NarcoTex                                                            C. N. Nevets (MB4)
Daphne Darnel
Butterfly Hawk

Medic Pharm                                                    Joylene (MB4)
CurMed Pharm or Corp

Elixitech International                                     Brandi (MB4)
Elixicorp Inc.

Memphimed                                                    Kim S. (MB4)

Nutralizer Corp.                                             Jeff K. (Gather)

E. Neuman

Noximed                                                       Katrina H. (Gather)

Killyaquick Korp.                                        Claire M. (Gather)

Nuracorp                                                      Sonia M. (Gather)

Norevil                                                         Angela A (Gather)

Dietech                                                         Ann M. (Gather)

Mohican Herbals                                          Bob C. (Gather)

Mohican Pharmaceuticals

Medixco                                                       Colleen B (Gather)

Relcon                                                          Richard F. (Gather)

PharmCorp                                                   Pete P. (LeGarde Bulletin)



Burns & Smithers

Bourne & Dye





Supercalifragilisticexpedeladocious Med




Medicate U

Aaron & Pete’s Hometowne Elixirs (LOL)

WellCure                                                       Anna S. (LeGarde Bulletin)

PharmaBux                                                   Doug B. (LeGarde Bulletin)

Pharma Bux

Lazare Pharmaceuticals                                Dr. Ni. (LeGarde Bulletin)

Pharmacyde                                                  Patti B. (LeGarde Bulletin)


Gravilmal                                                     Dave K. (LeGarde Bulletin)

Superbiacare                                                Sara P. (LeGarde Bulletin)





Mortuum Drug Company                               Jim B. (LeGarde Bulletin)



Prescripto Drugs

Cure All Drugs

Humane Drug Co


Hypakros Pharmaceuticals                            Kathy N. (LeGarde Bulletin)

MedicuRx                                                     Thomas F. (LeGarde Bulletin)




Noramori Pharmaceutical? (NMP LTD)     John Sage (LeGarde Bulletin)

Scriptmor                                                    Ann R. (LeGarde Bulletin)



Mazicure Laboratories                                  Ravi B (LeGarde Bulletin)
Adiron Drug Corp
Mazic Drugs

Medcorenorth                                             Patricia C. (LeGarde Bulletin)

SouthLake Medicinal Corp                         Jane S. (LeGarde Bulletin)

Wahetka Corp.                                            Cliff C. (LeGarde Bulletin)

Medipathic Corp (or Industries)                 Cindy A. (LeGarde Bulletin)

Mediapathic Corp


Brobdingnagian Corporation                       Phil S. (LeGarde Bulletin)

SciMedics                                                    Marie P. (LeGarde Bulletin)



U.B Well                                                      Barry E. (LeGarde Bulletin)

ToxiCure                                                      Martha S. (LeGarde Bulletin)

Copperhead Medical Group                      Don H. (LeGarde Bulletin)

Magnifastcure                                             Dale S. (LeGarde Bulletin)

Pathonex                                                     Peggy A. (LeGarde Bulletin)



Roth-Lazar                                                  Lorraine B. (LeGarde Bulletin)


Rega–Glastun                                            Cyndy G. (LeGarde Bulletin)

Malviaje Drug Co                                     John L. (LeGarde Bulletin)

Farmaceutica                                            Kathy D. (LeGarde Bulletin)

The names in bold were the finalists. These names seemed close enough to a real drug company type name and had a certain ring to them.

As hard as it was to choose, here's my winner:

TheraCor Pharmaceuticals.

Congratulations to Brandi, who commented on the blog last week.

My wife says I should offer some kind of consolation prize to everyone who worked so hard to come up with the names. I can't give everyone a free book (wish I could!), but she suggested that I give a discount on Healey's Cave.

I almost didn't do it, because I don't want this to seem like some kind of ploy to get you to buy the book. It isn't. I really wanted your ideas for the evil drug company.

But, I do get a good deal on my books when I buy them direct from my publisher. So for this week only, I'm offering a deal. I'll personally autograph your copy, and send you Healey's Cave for fourteen dollars, tax and shipping included. That's over a twenty dollar value, if you figured out shipping and tax from Amazon. Just email me at the address below if you want one.

Thanks again to everyone who thought so hard about their entries! I truly appreciate all the time you put into this, and hope you have a glorious weekend! Remember to take pleasure in the little things, and if you like to write - write like the wind!

Aaron Paul Lazar

(aaron dot lazar at yahoo dot com)

P.S. I could NOT get my tabs to transfer into the body of this text - sorry the names are in such a freakishly messy column!

How to Write Good

© John Knoerle 2010 all rights reserved

I stole that title from an early ‘70s article in the National Lampoon by Michael O’Donoghue, the long-dead founding member. The article was a satirical primer on cheap tricks that writers can fall back on when they haven’t done their homework. Need to inject some tension into a flabby story? Have the protagonist be threatened by “roving bands of surly youths.”

I wrote screenplays for a low-budget film company in Burbank years later. And, sure enough, whenever the action sagged the director would have the hero walk around a corner and find a young ingĂ©nue or a little old lady being assaulted by “surly youths,” of whom the hero would make short work. It didn’t have anything to do with the storyline but it kept the audience in their seats a little while longer.

My favorite bit of acerbic advice from O’Donoghue, however, was what to do if you have written your central character into a corner from which there is no logical escape. This has happened to all writers of genre fiction at one time or another. The solution? All you need do is trot out the trusty phrase, “Suddenly, he was run over by a truck.” Works every time!

He was referring to the cheesy gambit known by as deus ex machina or machine of the gods. This is where fate descends decisively from above because the writer is too lazy or witless to craft a way for the central character to solve his or her dilemma.

This technique was especially popular in old TV Westerns where the cavalry would ride to the rescue with bugle blaring just as the settlers were about to lose their hair. Other examples abound in film and literature and I’m sure I’ll remember many of them, given time.

But, suddenly, I am run over by a truck.

About the author:
John Knoerle was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1949 and migrated to California with his family in the 1960s. He has worked as a stand-up comic, a voiceover actor and a radio reporter. He wrote the screenplay for “Quiet Fire,” which starred Karen Black and Lawrence Hilton Jacobs, and the stage play “The He-Man Woman Hater’s Club,” an LA Time’s Critics Choice. John also worked as a writer for Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion.”

Knoerle’s first novel, Crystal Meth Cowboys, published in 2003, was optioned by Fox TV. His second novel, The Violin Player,won the Mayhaven Award for Fiction. Knoerle is currently at work on The American Spy Trilogy. Book One, A Pure Double Cross, came out in 2008. Book Two, A Despicable Profession, was published in August of 2010.

John Knoerle currently lives in Chicago with his wife, Judie. You can visit his website at

Thursday, October 21, 2010

My name is Kim, and I am a slacker

photo by kim smith

Well, when I tried to figure out how to spell perseverence this AM while my eyes still wanted to close, it occurred to me that spelling the word wasn't the only thing I needed to do. I needed to learn what it meant.

I have been being very lax lately with writing. I haven't been in the act of perseverence. Here is the definition:

1. steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., esp. in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.

And might I add, the word has a life origin of 1300! That word has been in our vocabulary since 1300 AD -- so why is it so hard to understand and follow?

One thing I find in my world that keeps me lagging is working a full-time job. It's hard to get up at 530 AM, get coffee going, walk for health, keep a diet/exercise log, pay bills, tend to the family dog, and get writing in before hitting the showers at 630 AM to toddle off to do an 8 hour day.

But I have done this before! Heck, I have written three full length books this way!

So what is my deal?

I think it's indolence, more than anything else. As I go, I realize that Netflix was created by geniuses and it is neat to have a video at my fingertips every other day. It's also inspiration, or lack thereof. I need to go somewhere away from home for a time, and be inspired by new settings, new experiences. I get sort of sluggish at times.

So are you inspired? Have you been showing perseverence lately? Share with us your methods. What works for you? Heaven knows I may try it!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Not Yet Deterred

© Marta Stephens 2010 all rights reserved

I might have mentioned a time or two … or three or four that I’ve completed my third mystery novel and have been querying agents for the past several months. Granted, I haven’t been at it as long as some writers, but even in this short span of time the process has been a draining experience. I read somewhere that I shouldn’t give up though until I receive at least 100 rejection so I quickly found forty more agents to query in order to meet the inevitable quota.

I honestly can’t blame them for being picky though. To reject or accept a manuscript these days is purely a business decision. Let’s face it, the outcome of a poor decision puts the agent’s/agency’s reputation on the line and who can afford to make a bad choice these days and expect to survive? All of that aside, my hopes hadn’t faded. I’d been rejected, not deterred and thus I began an unstoppable quest to write the perfect query if there is such a thing.

After a while, I had no idea how many versions I’d written. My wonderful spreadsheet had more red lines than the pages of Rand McNally. The agents’ names began to blur and the motto around our house quickly became, “A day without mail is a day without rejection.”

Eventually the pain vanished into a desensitized attitude toward the gee-interesting-but-not-for-me-and-good-luck-to-you responses. Most were standard form letters that were neither written by the agent nor addressed to me.

There was, however, one letter that I’d been waiting to receive. It was the first query I mailed and after waiting longer than the usual 4-6 weeks, I knew in my heart that it would be another rejection, but this is an agent I respect and hoped it wouldn’t be a case of a no response.

That letter arrived a few days ago. Damn, I hate to be right. Another rejection. Surprisingly though, when I read it, I felt a flicker of hope begin to stir. This agent indicated that the story had a fair bit of tension to carry the plot. Do you have any idea what it means for an agent to take the time to write that? He rejected my query on the basis that he couldn't get a good sense of my character then briefly offered his thoughts. Again, wow! I read his letter several more times and knew I needed to act. I couldn't think of a better way to figure out the characterization thing, than to I looked up information on one of my favorite authors, Robert B. Parker. I found an article that discussed Parker’s characterization of Spenser of the Spenser for Hire series, and decided to compare it to my characterization of Rhonie Lude to determine what might be missing from the first five pages of my manuscript. Here goes:

Spenser’s characterization:

• Ex-boxer
• Ex-state policeman
• Gourmet cook
• Reader of serious literature
• His social character separates him from the lonely gunfighter
• Hawk is his asocial, violent tendencies
• Susan represents his rational and social side
• Each story has a moral or ethical dilemma—gives light to Spenser’s personal code of behavior.
• Raised a Catholic/lost his faith.
• Tensions inside the family are among main theme in the stories/often behind Spencer’s cases is parental failures at love.

Lude’s characterization:

• Ex-Chicago cop.
• Can’t cook to save her life.
• Hobby? Hmmm. None yet but …
• She is the lonely gunfighter. Lude is a woman PI in 1962—her counterparts don’t take her seriously until she proves them wrong.
• Her elderly friend Evy is her conscience.
• She's still secretly waiting for the love that got away.
• One character in the book represents everything corrupt Lude has fought against in law enforcement.
• Moral/ethical dilemma: Lude has a tongue as sharp as her sense of justice. Regardless of who is exposed, ethically there’s no questions Lude must work against corrupt individuals who are responsible for a cover up that led to a triple murder.
• Theme: Uncover the truth behind the lies. Cope with the reality behind the lies.

If I were to put my mind to it, this list would be much longer, but the value in this exercise was to see if all was lost--it isn't. I'm grateful for this recent letter because it got me out of a terrible what's-the-point frame of mind and rekindled the drive that keeps me going.

Incredible isn’t it how a few positive words can mean the difference between the unquenchable will to write and the hopeless desire to quit?

About the author:

Marta Stephens writes mystery/suspense and the author of the Sam Harper Crime Mystery series.

THE DEVIL CAN WAIT (2008), Bronze Medal Finalist, 2009 IPPY Awards, Top Ten, 2008 Preditors and Editors Reader Poll (mystery).

SILENCED CRY (2007) Honorable Mention, 2008 New York Book Festival, Top Ten, 2007 Preditors and Editors Reader Poll (mystery).

Her books are available in paperback, Kendle, and e-book format online at Amazons, Barnes & Noble, Borders, Books-a-Million, Smashword, and Powells. For more information about Stephens and her writing, visit

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Things Not to Do in NYC

It's that time again - tomorrow I'm headed to Manhattan on an early train, for 4 days of meeting new people, saying hey to old friends, working, punishing my feet (12+ hours a day on them is a HUGE change from my usual routine of sitting my butt in front of the computer all day - it's their bi-annual penance for not doing their job), awesome food, and fun times.

Instead of telling you what I'll be doing, I'm going to explore a few things that aren't going to happen. Keep these things in mind the next time you visit New York City. They could be important.

* Do not decide that you can fly when you're visiting the top of the Empire State Building.

* Never go into a busy Starbucks and demand "a cup of coffee", then refuse to elaborate on what kind, size, flavor and/or additives you want in it. The people in line behind you will kill you. Especially if it's early o'clock in the morning and they haven't had their grande lattes yet.

* When you see a street performance, don't jump right in and show off the dance moves you learned by watching Michael Jackson videos in the 80s.

* Do not undress and wander naked around Times Square at night proclaiming yourself to be a famous figure model.

* Learn to hail cabs yourself. If someone does it for you, they will expect monetary compensation. And you'll end up paying double or triple what you would have if you'd just stood there another five minutes to get one on your own.

* Do not ask someone carrying three suitcases and staring up at the buildings as if they're going to fall on them any second for subway directions to Chinatown.

* The police are busy. They don't know what you're talking about, nor do they have time to escort you to "that little restaurant in Chelsea - or was it SoHo? - that my friend told me about, you know, the one with the great Italian, or Irish, or something." And when they handcuff you, they are not mock-playing for charity.

* If someone propositions you, they are not joking. Don't play along.

* If you buy and wear anything that says "I Love New York", people will know you are a tourist. Don't do it, no matter how much you love New York. Nobody in New York wears those things.

Thus ends my list of helpful hints for visiting the Big City. Have anything to add?

Monday, October 18, 2010

And Then There Was One

© Patricia Gussin 2010 all rights reserved

AND THEN THERE WAS ONE is my fourth and a half book; my fourth in the thriller genre. The half-book is non-fiction book. WHAT’S NEXT…FOR YOU?, co-authored with my husband, Robert Gussin. This book specifically answers the question that I keep getting asked. “How did you totally change your lives from careers in medicine and medical research to books and wine?” Formerly doctors, we are now authors, publishers and grape-growers in New Zealand. This “together” book has been called inspirational and humorous and is quite a departure from my thrillers.

How did all this happen and what led up to my latest book, AND THEN THERE WAS ONE? My background is medicine, and as the wise ones say, “Write what you know”. So I drew upon my experiences.

My first novel, SHADOW OF DEATH, is the story of Laura Nelson, a young medical student with two small sons, starting medical school in 1967 in Detroit at the epicenter of the riots there that year. Laura Nelson was pretty much me; where I was in my personal and professional life. By the time I graduated from med school, I had two more children. Lots of things happened to me in Detroit, but fortunately not all the bad stuff that happened to Laura. Suffice it to say that with four small kids and a horrendous on call schedule, I was too busy surviving to write. But somehow I always knew that I would revisit that era, and I finally did.

But a funny thing happened on the way to publication -- it’s all explained in WHAT’S NEXT…FOR YOU – my husband, who had been a medical researcher, started Oceanview Publishing. SHADOW OF DEATH was the first book on Oceanview Publishing’s list. A list that now, five years later, features more than thirty authors and more than fifty titles, most in the mystery, thriller, suspense genre. See

An unconventional road to publishing, but one filled with incredible joy in finding and supporting new and emerging authors. My parallel path in life is now writing and publishing. What could be better?

Again, back to AND THEN THERE WAS ONE, the focus of this discussion and my latest thriller. This is the story of the abduction of two of three identical triplet nine year old girls. The Monroe triplets live in Tampa, but are visiting their mother’s relatives in a suburb of Detroit. Their father, a former professional baseball player is in the Bronx, attending a Yankees game. On the last day of their visit, a nineteen year old cousin takes the three girls to a movie theatre, a multiplex. There’s a squabble about what movie they want to attend so the triplets split up. Jackie goes in with the older cousin. Sammie and Alex go into the adjoining theatre. Sammie and Jackie never come out.

The Monore parents are beyond devastation. The FBI is called in quickly. Every aspect of the family’s life examined for clues. Especially the professional life of the triplet’s mother, a forensic pediatric psychiatrist, who has helped separate many abusive parents from their children. The Monroes are a biracial family, could racial bigotry play a role? The emotional scale ratchets up as the array of possibilities expand and contract as to who took Sammie and Jackie and why. Are they even alive? But in the background as the tension and fear and terror escalate, what is happening to Jackie, the safe triplet?

That’s the premise of AND THEN THERE WAS ONE, based on the most primal fear of a parent, the loss of a child or children in this case. As the mother of seven children and having trained as a pediatrician, I believe that this fear is beyond even the most vivid imagination. To express the intensity of these terrifying emotions was my prime objective in writing AND THEN THERE WAS ONE.

Despite the depth of emotion embedded in AND THEN THERE WAS ONE, the actual inspiration for the plot was very banal. I was driving down Rt. 41 in Sarasota and I noticed a woman pushing a double stroller down the sidewalk. I love kids so I did a double take. There were two toddlers in the stroller, maybe eighteen months old. And beside the stroller, toddled another. All three looked to be about the same age and they looked a lot alike. But the moment was fleeting, and I drove along.

I kept thinking. Why was one walking and the other two being pushed? Were they siblings, or not? That got me thinking about what if they were triplets? What if one triplet was separated from the others? What would be the family dynamics?

That led me to something else. Something in my archives. Buried somewhere in my documents on my PC. My second novel, TWISTED JUSTICE. TWISTED JUSTICE is not considered a sequel to my first thriller, SHADOW OF DEATH, but it does feature Laura Nelson again. Laura was the medical student in Detroit in SHADOW OF DEATH, and TWISTED JUSTICE follows seven years later when Laura is a thoracic surgeon in Tampa. I won’t get into the plots of these two novels, but Laura now has five children. Two are twins, Natalie and Nicole. They are ten years old in Twisted Justice.

When my agent and editor first read TWISTED JUSTICE, they both said, “You have too much going on. You need to simplify the story.” So I took out one of my favorite sub-plots and guess what? The novel improved just the way they said it would. The sub-plot that I removed was a kidnapping scenario. Natalie and Nicole were kidnapped out of a mall.

Voila! I went back to my former versions of TWISTED JUSTICE, extracted the kidnapping details, and modified them to meet the needs of Sammie and Alex’s abduction in AND THEN THERE WAS ONE.

It wasn’t exactly that easy, but you get the point. That leads me to my writing habits. I’m not proud to say it, but they are erratic. I write whenever and wherever I can. I am bouncing many balls and I don’t have as much time as I’d like. And I’m behind in my next novel which will feature Laura Nelson, again, seven years after the last one. And this time will involve bioterrorism.

I started writing what became SHADOW OF DEATH on airplanes. I was a worldwide vice-president for Johnson &  Johnson, and that involved lots of travel to Asia. Those are long flights, and I took out a yellow note pad and began writing. After many flights, I had stacks of notepads. I was tripping over them all the time, so I bit the bullet and put them on the computer. A very daunting task as I am a physician and cannot read my own handwriting.

I knew nothing of the ins and outs of the craft of writing when I started. I attended many conferences, sought the help of other writers, and I hired an editor who taught me so, so much. I kept track of the versions of SHADOW OF DEATH alphabetically. The published version is “M” so you know how many revisions it went through.

THE TEST, my third thriller and the story of how a billionaire’s Last Will and Testament went terribly wrong, only went to version “F” so I guess I’m getting more efficient.

AND THEN THERE WAS ONE was easier as I borrowed from TWISTED JUSTICE, and so far the reviews have been fabulous so I hope that my writing is getting better. But as we writers know, we are always filled with self-doubt all the while propelled to push on.

Please visit my website at  and email me from there should you have any questions. And check out my Facebook page. For great books in the mystery, thriller genre, you can count on Oceanview Publishing, that’s a promise. Check out Oceanview at  to see my Conversation with Author for more insight into AND THEN THERE WAS ONE.  Follow Oceanview on Facebook, too.

About the author:

Board-certified in Family Medicine, Patricia Gussin practiced medicine and has directed medical research in her role as worldwide vice president for a leading healthcare company. She is the author of Shadow of Death, which was nominated for “Best First Novel” in the Thriller Awards, sponsored by the International Thriller Writers, Twisted Justice, and The Test. She and her husband Robert Gussin are the authors of What’s Next…For You? The Gussins divide their time between Longboat Key, Florida, East Hampton, New York, and their vineyards in New Zealand.

Visit Patricia Gussin online at:

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Help Me Name an Evil Drug Company - and win a copy of Healey's Cave

Hi, folks
I've been working on my fifteenth book, tentatively titled "Essentially Yours." It's a contemporary mystery with a slight paranormal twist, set in the Adirondacks.

One of the villains is a big bad drug company who's trying to squash studies showing the essential oil of a very common weed may cure a horrible illness - which could save the lives of millions of people.

'Course, we all love to hate the big old drug companies, especially if they're evil to the core. (no offense to the good ones who create life saving drugs! LOL) But this particular bunch of bozos wants to kill everything and anyone involved in the cure, so they can continue to sell their high priced drugs.

I'd temporarily been calling this company "Med Corps," a name I plucked from nowhere. But yesterday I decided to look up the name to be sure there wasn't a real company with that name, and... you guessed it. I got plenty of "hits" and realized I needed a new name.

I came up with about fifteen possibilities. How about tweaking Med Corp, just a little? Medicorp? Nope, already used. Medacorp? Same thing. I spun that one seven ways to Sunday, then started on new names. After giving up on "med" anything (you think of it, it's been done!), I started with the prefix "Nor," thinking it sounded cool. Norcorp. Taken. Nortex? Taken. And on and on.

Here's the challenge. Come up with a cool sounding name for a big bad medical company, do a search and make sure there's nobody out there who will get mad at us for using its name in such a defamatory way (LOL), and if I choose your entry, I'll send you a free copy of Healey's Cave, my latest mystery. (

I'm going to post this in a few places, but I'll come back and check often, and let you know who wins.
Let's pick a deadline. How about next Saturday, Oct. 23rd, 2010.

Use your imagination, do the required google search (or use whatever search engine you prefer), and find me some cool names for this evil drug company! I'll also give you credit in this book when it comes out - your name will be in lights! (grin)

Thanks in advance for your efforts, and remember... take pleasure in the little things! And if you like to write... write like the wind!

Aaron Paul Lazar

MAZURKA (2009)

FOR KEEPS (2012)

Preditors&Editors Top 10 Finalist * Yolanda Renee's Top Ten Books 2008 * MYSHELF Top Ten Reads 2008 * Writers' Digest Top 101 Website Award 2009 & 2010

Friday, October 15, 2010


© Leander Jackie Grogan 2010 all rights reserved

What is a writer’s most important asset?

Depending on where you are in your writing career, you might answer: your computer, agent, publisher, reputation, industry connections, etc. Though some might disagree, your most important asset is your hemispheric, neurotransmitting, cranium-enclosed encephalon. Okay, that might be my only chance to sound real smart, so I had to take it.

Your most important asset is your mind. That's where the creative magic takes place. That's where hundreds, sometimes thousands of decisions are made to reach an amiable conclusion to each project or assignment. Sometimes these critical decisions are made with the conscious mind where the writer is fully aware of the options and painstaking process of elimination that renders a single solution. Other times, it’s the subconscious mind that sorts through an endless array of possibilities and then awakens the writer in the middle of the night with an unexpected epiphany.

The creative process is elusive and difficult to characterize. Scientists often attribute creativity to the right hemisphere of the brain where holistic, intuitive, synthesized thinking takes place. But most writers will tell you when it comes down to the rationale and logic necessary to construct a believable, sequential, detail-oriented plot, the left brain is fully engaged.

The point is no matter what you’re writing, to create the best results, your total mind needs to be functional. That's not to say you can't limp through with one engine out and make a crash landing. But what writer wants his or her end result to reflect a minimized creative process? We all want to showcase our best work each chance we get.

A huge part of achieving this objective centers on being able to protect your mind. There are many ways to accomplish this. Considering the scope of this article, I will talk about three of them.

First let's establish the difference between a distraction and a deterrent. Though they sometimes overlap, a distraction is usually a temporary event that pulls you away from your train of thought. A bird flying against the window, a screaming child on the sidewalk in front of your house, an unexpected phone call from your son’s principal, or a spouse that barges into your writing space and proceeds to share the news flash of the day would all be considered distractions. For the most part, they have no lasting effect. When the event is over, you're able to get back to work.

A deterrent, however, is more long-lasting, more systemic in nature, and more damaging to the psyche. Sometimes it's a stolen or fried laptop with all your chapters on it or an accident that affect your vision; or worst, the irreversible news of death in the family or a love one who’s been raped. Other times, it's tied to the perpetual pounding you endure for declaring yourself a writer with nothing tangible to show.

Many distractions and deterrents are unavoidable. But in most cases, you have far more control over them than you exert.

Let’s start with rule #1: Anticipate distractions in advance, give them a numerical value and cut them off at the pass.

Let's say you've had a long talk with your neighbor about his dog pooping in your yard. You're sitting at your desk writing, when suddenly you look out your window and see your neighbor, walking his dog in front of your house and now, there he is ... pooping on your lawn again. What numerical value (1-10) would you assign to that distraction? Let's say smelling gas fumes coming from your downstairs kitchen is a ten. What value would you give the neighbor and his dog? Would it be a four or five? If your spouse calls and says she has opened the credit card bill and the interest has doubled. What value would you assign that irritating discovery?

The point is you should determine, in advance, the level of distractions worthy to pull you away from your writing. So you say, "Unless it's a seven or higher, I'm not bulging until I finish this chapter". So when you see the neighbor and his dog, you close the blinds. You deal with your credit card company at the end of the week. You make a decision to stay with your writing until the distraction is worthy of your attention.

When I was writing my latest e-book, Exorcism At Midnight, I got to a real critical, spooky part, but couldn’t remember the name of the official Catholic exorcism manual. When I went up online to check, there was an email from an important agent for which I’d been waiting from months. Did I open the email? Absolutely not. At best, nine out of ten agent responses are rejections. In other words, there was a 90% chance it was bad news. I had control over that distraction. I didn’t let it stymie my process. And yes, it was a rejection. As a writer, you must learn to take control.

Rule #2: Classify your deterrents into three categories: unavoidable, avoidable, and manageable. Determine, in advance, how you want to deal with each.

An unavoidable deterrent might be your daughter moving back home with her three unruly kids. Besides the noise, the displacement of familiar boundaries, and realignment of finances, there's usually this agonizing period of self-assessment as a parent, wondering whether you did all that you were supposed to do to equip her for the real world. In other words, whose fault is it that she's fallen off the beaten path? Your writing’s going to suffer until you've come to terms with the answer.

Let's say you take your speed bike out to the park and run into a tree. Your typing/ mouse hand is banged up and in bandages. Except for the good decision not to get on a bike at your age and ride like a demon fool, this is also an unavoidable deterrent. But the objective is to move it to the manageable category. So you go out and buy a copy of Dragon NaturallySpeaking and you start to dictate your words onto the screen. Now the deterrent is manageable.

Of course, avoidable deterrents offer more latitude. You don't have to deal with them at all. There are people who take great care in demoralizing your writing dream. You have the option to remove them from your circle completely. (God forbid this article fuels thoughts of divorce.). This is very important because each person has a threshold of tolerance, a point where repeated messages alter their perception of truth. There will come a point where you actually believe you don’t stand a chance. Maybe you don’t. But this realization should come from within, not from without. We used to read about the famous old writers going off to their winter cottage to write. Now you understand the principal they employed. They were protecting their minds.

Rule #3: Give yourself a chance to win.

After so much rejection, your mind needs a chance to hear something positive. That means getting involved in a situation where someone appreciates your talent. Go read at the senior citizen’s home. Help young writing students at the YMCA. Do a free article in a newsletter. Give people a chance to balance the perpetual bombardment of negative news, swirling around in your head, with something positive.

Before my father died, he let me in on a profound secret. He had wanted to go to work on the Alaskan pipeline. It was one of the few places in the world where color didn’t matter and he could earn a decent wage. But people talked him out of it. And so he took that deep sense of regret to his grave.

His message to me, and now, mine to you is simple. Protect your mind. You are a great writer until further notice. And that notice has to come from you.

About the author: Leander Jackie Grogan is a graduate of Texas Tech University and twenty-year veteran in the communications industry. He has been recognized in Houston Business Journal's WHO"S WHO IN HOUSTON series and The City of Houston/ Guaranty Federal Bank Business Person of the Month Awards.

Grogan's excellence in writing extends over a multiplicity of genres. His first novel, ORANGE FINGERTIPS (ISBN: 1-4137-7871-2) has been distributed in five countries, four different languages and about thirty different bookstores. He has won numerous local and national awards in creative writing for radio, print and the web. Besides having authored a number of nonfiction articles in such national magazines as AdWeek and Jet, he has written and produced three local spiritual comedies, and some years ago, had a work of fiction published in Hustler Magazine.

Grogan's favorite writer, and most preponderant upon his current style, is Sidney Sheldon. Specific works such as Dead Zone by Stephen King, The Terminator by James Cameron and Deep Cover by Michael Tolkin have also had a great
influence on his commitment to rich multi-layered characterization and intricately crafted plots.