If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

August Interview Schedule
8/7 Rhys Bowen Love and Death Among the Cheetahs
8/14 Heather Gilbert Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass
8/21 Lynn Chandler Willis Tell Me No Secrets
8/28 Cynthia Kuhn The Subject of Malice
8/31 Bernard Schaffer An Unsettled Grave

Saturday Guest Bloggers: 8/3 M. S. Spencer, 8/10 Zaida Alfaro

WWK Satuday Bloggers: 8/24 Kait Carson


Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Shari Randall will be writing again for St. Martin's, perhaps under a pseudonym. We look forward to reading Shari's Ice Cream Shop Mystery series debuting next year. Congratulations, Shari!

Susan Van Kirk's A Death At Tippett Pond was released on June 15th. Read E. B. Davis's interview with Susan.

KM Rockwood's "Frozen Daiquiris" appears in The Best Laid Plans: 21 Stories of Mystery & Suspense, edited by Judy Penz Sheluk. The anthology will be released on June 18th.

Congratulations to Margaret S. Hamilton for being a finalist in the Daphne Du Maurier contest. Margaret competes in the Unpublished/Mainstream mystery/suspense category.

Congratulations to Shari Randall for WINNING the Agatha Award for Best First Novel. Her book, Curses, Boiled Again was published by St. Martin's last year. Read the interview about the book here. Yay, Shari!

Fishy Business anthology authors include KM Rockwood, Debra Goldstein, and James M. Jackson. This volume was edited by Linda Rodriguez.

Please read Margaret S. Hamilton and Debra Goldstein's short stories (don't ask about their modus operandi) in a new anthology, Cooked To Death Vol. IV: Cold Cut Files

Warren Bull's Abraham Lincoln: Seldom Told Stories was released. It is available at: GoRead: https://www.goread.com/book/abraham-lincoln-seldom-told-stories or at Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/ydaklx8p

Grace Topping's mystery, Staging is Murder was released April 30.

James M. Jackson extends the Seamus McCree series with the May 25th publication of #6, False Bottom.


Monday, August 26, 2019

A Special Week by Nancy L. Eady

This week is the first week of college football. Except for either the Miami Hurricanes or the Florida Gators, who played Saturday, every football team in the NCAA’s Division One is undefeated. The possibilities this week are limitless; every team’s fans dream of a trip to a bowl game, a conference championship and a national championship.

In the South, the SEC and ACC are the biggest Division One conferences. Otherwise mild-mannered, rational people are preparing for five months of shouting encouragement and advice to their team of choice while watching the game on television, convinced that via the magic of the airways they will help their team win. The same people are also pulling out lucky shirts from their closet or preparing other rituals that they believe will tip the balance of a close game in favor of their team. Weddings, birthday parties and other such occasions are scheduled around teams’ schedules. 

Beyond private (in the living room) or public (at the football stadium) shenanigans, the enthusiasm affects personal relationships. My sister attends a national conference in Chicago every fall. On the Saturday night of that conference, a group of fellow Southern women gather with her in the hotel bar for supper where they can watch whichever games are on. Their cheers and groans, depending on the status of their team, rock the bar.

My husband and I are proud Auburn Tigers fans, as is most of our family. Sadly, a few misguided family members root for the other team. If you’re wondering who “the other team” is, your education about SEC college football is about to begin. At Auburn, “the other team” is the football team at the University of Alabama. Ours is a rivalry for the ages. The Iron Bowl where the two teams meet for the last game of the season, shuts down much of the state and leads to (mostly) friendly jests between the two sides.

The Auburn-Alabama rivalry is not the only great rivalry in college football. There are other intrastate rivalries, such as Florida-Florida State or Georgia-Georgia Tech, and interstate rivalries, such as Ohio State -Michigan or Texas - Oklahoma. The single greatest football rivalry plays out every year with the Army-Navy game. I lived in Annapolis during pre-school while my father was stationed at the Naval Academy. I was in fifth or sixth grade before I understood that the Army and Navy exist to fight enemies of the United States rather than each other.

 No matter which team is yours, enjoy the dreams of championships dancing in your head before cruel reality snatches them away. I know I’m looking forward to mine, at least until Saturday when Auburn plays Oregon. And should your football dreams fail you during 2019, remember the college football cry throughout the ages, “There’s always next year!”

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Writing in Spite Of

by Kaye George

We write because we love to write. We would rather be writing than be doing anything else. Why is it, then, that we don’t always do it, can’t always do it?

Things get in the way. Most of us who have contracts and deadlines are long past the idea that we should sit around and wait to be inspired by a…muse, whatever that is. We KNOW we have to sit at the computer (or with the laptop, wherever) and just do it. But sometimes we don’t, do we?

It does happen that we can’t make our brain operate sometimes. Just before and just after my husband’s death a couple of years ago, my brain was paralyzed. My publisher graciously gave me the time I needed to turn in my project. Without worrying about being cancelled (which I was before I told them), I was freed to take the few months I needed and then to complete my project. 

If it’s not our brain, it can be our body. That’s happening for me this month. Yet another joint wore out and I’m having it replaced. By the time you read this, I’ll have a shiny new hip. (I assume it’s shiny. If it’s not, don’t tell me—I like that visual.) I really goofed up picking my ancestors and I have lousy joints. I don’t plan on missing my next deadline for this, though. It isn’t until February, and I’ve tried to prepare for a week or two off by doing a lot of writing lately.

Outside forces can interfere, too. Having to move—that’s not only a hassle, it interrupts work when resource books, computers, printers, whole offices have to be packed away, moved, then unpacked.

I haven’t experienced a flood or a tornado, but that would interrupt me indefinitely, I’m sure.

How have you dealt with interruptions, distractions, and obstacles? Any tips for getting back into your work after that?

photos from morguefile: jim113, clarita, npclark2k

Saturday, August 24, 2019

The Turning Point, by Kait Carson

Twenty-seven years ago today the world stopped in Dade County, Florida. That’s the night Hurricane Andrew blew through.

The newspapers on the morning of August 22nd announced that Andrew had dissipated and was no longer considered a threat. My cat, Pirate, didn’t believe them. He refused to stop sitting on my feet, something he never had done before, but would do several times after. I lived in a toney section of northeastern Dade County, in a so-called luxury high-rise that didn’t have a plumb line in the place. Not trusting my building to be safe, I made arrangements to board Pirate and reserved shelter space for myself—just in case.

Andrew roared back to life on Saturday. Early predictions were for the hurricane to make landfall in my area, and although the prediction was incorrect, the highest wind gust, estimated at 125 mph, did roar down my street. One of my neighbors knocked on the doors of pet owners to invite them to join her at her parents’ house in Country Walk. Pets were not permitted in shelters. Country Walk was new construction and well away from the predicted landfall. The police came next taking the names of the next of kin from those who were not leaving. If you were sheltering in place they advised writing your social security number on your arms in marking pen for easier identification. Nothing too scary there!

A good friend called and invited me, and my cat, to her home. She lived inland, far from the projected storm surge. We shuttered her house and spent the night huddled in her windowless hallway listening to unidentified things bashing the building and the wind howling like a freight train. We were among the lucky. We had both a battery-operated TV and radio. We listened to the reports of Bryan Norcross who became the lifeline for the county—and the National Weather Service after their instruments blew off the roof of their building. We listened as Norcross fielded the phone calls of terrified people asking how to stay safe as the wind blew out windows, doors, and roofs. It was clear that Andrew’s wrath was concentrated in southern, not northern Dade County as predicted, and in the words of Bryan Norcross, “People in Dade County are dying tonight.”

When daylight came, the wind was still raging. It abated at 8 AM. We ventured outside to find my friend’s once white house now green. Covered completely in blown leaves stuck by the moisture of the storm. Powerlines were down, one in her backyard. Power was out and would remain that way for weeks, but for some inexplicable reason, the telephone worked. I got a call out to a friend in Northern Florida who asked me to try to locate a mutual friend who lived in the hard-hit area. The police were able to locate her, and as I thanked them, I asked reflexively if there was anything I could do. The response was “Get your &** down here and help. We need hands.”

As a registered certified first responder, I had been expecting a call, just not one quite so blunt. I met a Florida Highway Patrol trooper at the start of the Florida Turnpike and followed him at his instruction. Much of the trip was accomplished by driving on the swales, shoulders and medians to get around fallen signs. As we got closer to south Dade, I kept thinking it can’t get any worse. It did. At one point I spotted a Home Depot with a banner announcing its grand opening. That seemed comforting. Until I fully rounded the curve and saw the front of the building missing. People were painting their homes with signs that proclaimed their need for help, insurance company names, and requests to contact relatives.

The Trooper took me to a place named Naranja Lakes. I remembered it in better times. It had been a planned retirement community. One of the first in the area. I parked my car, abandoned it really. There was no clear parking area, and I was directed to a group outside a destroyed house. There was word the person who lived there had not evacuated. His was one of the first bodies recovered.

I returned to Naranja Lakes daily, taking food and ice back into the neighborhoods until the law firm I worked for reopened two weeks later. By that time, the troops had arrived and the 82nd Airborne had set up a mobile restaurant and food distribution center in the cleared parking lot. I worked with them until October when the County took over and that particular site closed.  

My neighbor who went to Country Walk? She, and the neighbors and pets who accompanied her, ended up huddled in an attached shed her parents had constructed to store garden equipment. The community of homes was built with substandard materials and construction practices that resulted in the failure of 90% of the residences.

Andrew left Florida and passed over the Gulf making landfall again in Louisiana where it stalled, causing immense damage and loss of life. There will never be another Andrew. The name has been retired.

I’ve been through many hurricanes since Andrew. There was a period in the early 2000s where it seemed we had a hurricane a week. Nothing, not even 2017’s Hurricane Irma, from which we are still recovering, made as deep a mark as Andrew. I’ve fictionalized sitting out the storm in my book Murder in the Multiples where it serves as a catalyst to discovering the murderer. Writing the words transported me back in time to that dark, windy night, each moment frozen in amber.

The calendar date of August 24th will always have a hold on me. It was the date I believed that life can change in an instant. It firmed my resolve to write instead of waiting until I retired. It taught me the importance of living in the moment. And every August 24th I’ve heard the voice of Bryan Norcross in my dreams saying, “People in Dade County are dying tonight.”

Writers and readers, is there a seminal date in your lives? Writers, do you use it in your fiction?

Friday, August 23, 2019

The 1-ders of Ing-lash by Warren Bull

The 1-ders of Ing-lash
Image by Samuel Zeller on Upsplash

English is such a rich language that opportunities for misuse are nearly unlimited. For example:

I should have been sad when the batteries in my flashlight died, but I was delighted.
Most people write “Congrats” because they cannot spell “Congrajulashions.”
If you are experiencing joint pain, you probably shouldn’t be holding the lit end.
I take people poor grammar for granite, pacifically how there always thinking “for intensive purposes “ is supposably rite.
Someone asked where I saw myself next year. How should I know? It’s not like I have 2020 vision.
I’m doing crunches twice a day now. Captain in the morning and chocolate in the afternoon.
What did one accountant say to another accountant? It’s accrual world.
What’s the difference between a well-dressed man on a bicycle and a poorly-dressed man on a unicycle? Attire
There’s a fine line between a numerator and a denominator. (Only a fraction of people will find that funny.)
Research shows that cows produce more milk when the farmer talks to them. It’s a matter of in one ear and out the udder.
I did some early Christmas shopping. I asked the clerk where the Arnold Schwarzenegger dolls were. He said, “Aisle B, Back.”
My friend went bald years ago, but he still carries a comb. He just can’ t part with it.
Tonight I’m gonna’ have possum soup made from Himalayan Possum. ‘Cause I found himalayan on the road.
The worst bed and breakfast place I ever stay at was called “The Fiddle.” It was truly a vile inn.
People who misuse words on Facebook should be band.
If pro is the opposite of con, then what is the opposite of progress?
Atheism Incorporated is a non-prophet organization.
I found a great book about ant-gravity. It’s impossible to put down.
eBay is so useless. I tried to look up lighters and all they had was 13,749 matches.
Don't spell part backwards. It's a trap.
I just found out I'm colorblind. The diagnosis came completely out of the purple.
Don't trust atoms, they make up everything.
I saw an ad for burial plots, and thought to myself this is the last thing I need.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Novels...and Other Lies

by Connie Berry

I've always been a story-teller. A good thing, right?

Well, not when you're a child and the stories you tell are actually fibs (lies, if you insist on accuracy). I loved making things up—not to get out of trouble or cover some misdeed, but to get a little excitement going, to embellish the truth just enough to make the story wonderful. 

In department stores, I would slip away from my mother so I could tell a friendly sales clerk I was lost. This created loads of excitement and fun things like dramatic announcements over the loud speaker. And sometimes candy. Frequently when my mother's friends would gather for a coffee morning (women did stuff like that then), I would announce she had a baby in her tummy. She didn't, but wouldn't it have been wonderful?

I told my Sunday School teacher once that my father had broken his leg that morning. When the story made it around to my grandmother, who had her whole Bible class praying for him, I knew I was in trouble.

Another time I insisted I'd seen a tiny elf-like man peek out of a miniature door hidden in the base of a tree near my house. I wrote a story about that one, which my parents must have considered a step in the right direction.

To encourage me toward truthfulness, my mother bought me a
book, The Most Wonderful Doll in the World by Phyllis McGinley. The story is about Dulcy, a little girl whose memory of a lost doll becomes more wonderful and exaggerated each time she tells about it. Like me, Dulcy was a child with a run-away imagination and a nature that found it "hard to be satisfied with Things As They Are." My mother was right. I was always wondering "what would happen if…?" Adding in a few extra details made Things As They Are so much more interesting.

Now I'm all grown up. I know the difference between telling lies and creating fiction. But the love of stories has never left me. In fact, possessing an over-active imagination is an asset to a writer. I can make up as many tales as I like, and asking "what would happen if…" leads to some great plot twists. One of the things I love best about writing mystery stories is the freedom to create new worlds, populated by interesting characters in unusual settings who find themselves facing unlikely situations. 

We make it all up and call it a novel.

Are you a storyteller? What aspects of your childhood predisposed you to reading or writing fiction?


Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Lynn Chandler Willis Interview by E. B. Davis

The Ava Logan Mystery Series began with Tell Me No Lies in 2017. It picks up this summer with the release of books 2 and 3. Book 2, Tell Me No Secrets released June 11 followed by book 3, Tell Me You Love Me, on July 9th.

About the series: Set deep in the North Carolina mountains in the fictitious town of Jackson Creek, the Ava Logan Mystery Series follows main character, Ava Logan, a 35-year-old widow with a 15-year-old son and a 12-year-old daughter, and a 2-year-old foster child. Ava is the owner/publisher of the Jackson Creek Chronical, the small town’s weekly newspaper where she covers everything from church homecomings to dirty politics and the occasional murder—if her lover, Sheriff Grayson Ridge, will let her do her job.

In the heart of Appalachia, newspaper publisher Ava Logan should feel joy and pride as she watches her thirteen-year-old daughter being baptized in the cold water of Jackson Creek—but she can’t rejoice when thoughts of an employee who failed to show for work keep pulling her attention away.

Ava’s convinced something horrible has happened to Scott. Then his backpack is found floating in the same river her daughter is being baptized in.

While clue after clue leads her deeper into the hollers of Appalachia—ripe with tradition and folktales, store front religion, and the darkest of secrets, Ava discovers truths about those close to her and about her own beliefs.

With her own life in jeopardy, how deep will she go to find the truth? What secrets will she expose? What secrets will she keep?

The first book in this series, Tell Me No Lies, was published in 2017. Was it intended as a standalone? How come the second two books were published within a month of each other? Well…I was afraid someone was going to ask this question! In all honesty, it’s deeply personal but I’m at a place where I can share it without fear of strange looks. When I wrote and sold Tell Me No Lies, my adult daughter had been diagnosed with epilepsy. She was a young mother with five young children and started experiencing seizures when her youngest (twins) were three months old. They were severe enough she couldn’t drive or be left alone with the babies, so I took the day shift as caregiver to the kids, and to some extent, my daughter. Her husband worked during the day and took the night shift. The medication didn’t help and the only option for a normal life was laser brain surgery. It was somewhat experimental in that it had only been done less than a handful of times. She was in and out of the hospital several weeks at a time as they mapped the seizures then prepared for surgery. The area of concern was located behind her optic nerve and one slip of the laser and she would have been blind and there would have been no going back to fix it. By this time, I’d missed the first deadline with Tell Me No Secrets. But, with all that was going on, I was on auto-pilot. Back and forth to the hospital, trying to keep the kids on as normal a schedule (and life!) as possible, and being numb when I went home to my own quiet little house. It wasn’t until after the surgery and we got the all-clear, that we all breathed again. I had my own little breakdown and cried many nights in the shower long after the fact. That’s how I roll. Deal with it now and then later break down. No matter how many times I tried to finish Secrets, it just would not come. So, my publisher backed up the pub date and since I’d lost the momentum of book one’s release, we had to do some creative thinking––thus, a double release.

This series is set in the mountains of North Carolina. Is it part of Appalachia? Are the Appalachian Mountains in several states?
Yes, the series is set around the Boone, NC area, also called The Highlands. That area is part of the Appalachian region which encompasses several ranges including the Blue Ridge Mountains, The Great Smoky Mountains, the Alleghany Mountains, and even the Catskills. The Appalachian region itself is 2000 miles long and stretches from Newfoundland (CA) to Alabama.

What makes the female characters in your books so strong?
They have to be. Life hasn’t always been fair or easy for them, but they pull up their boot straps and carry on. I wanted them to be realistic and women readers can relate to. That’s what strong women do. They don’t fret over why something bad happened––they just fix it.

Although the Reverend Doretha Andrews isn’t Ava’s mother, she may as well be. Why do Ava and Doretha have such a close relationship? Why doesn’t Jeremiah Carson like Ava?
Ava came from a tragic, abusive childhood and was taken into the foster system when she was a little girl. As the pastor of the local church, Doretha took Ava in and more-or-less raised her. Even as an adult, Ava sees Doretha as her anchor and moral compass, relying on her wisdom. Doretha has always seen something special in Ava and whether it’s letting her find out something on her own the hard way, or coming to Doretha for advice, Doretha thinks of her as a daughter. Jeremiah Carson is sweet on Doretha and sees her relationship and bond with Ava as a threat. Ava sees Jeremiah Carson the same way.

I admit it. I hate chicory coffee. Isn’t it something used to stretch coffee? Is it an acquired taste? Maybe it’s really a gourmet coffee I’m not sophisticated enough to appreciate. Please explain it!
LOL! Yes, they actually started using it during Napoleon’s reign as a way to make coffee stretch a little more. With the French influence, could be why it’s popular in New Orleans. But back to your question––it is very much an acquired taste. My grandfather used to drink it and even the smell was so strong, you’d swear it could walk out of the pot itself. Very bitter and strong.  

As the founder of the local newspaper, the Jackson Creek Chronicle, Ava is an employer. She becomes concerned when her college-age employee, Scott Curry, goes missing. After Scott’s backpack is found floating in the creek, why does Grayson Ridge, the sheriff, still treat Scott’s disappearance as a missing person?
He doesn’t have any other clues to go on other than the backpack of an avid hiker was found in the river. It’s the age-old quandary of when does a missing person investigation become a homicide investigation––not until they find a body. Even then, he must decide if indeed it was foul play or an accident.

Emma, Ava’s now thirteen-year-old daughter, is oscillating between childhood and adulthood. Why does Ava feel guilty all the time?
That comes from being a single parent and feeling like she had to fill both roles. She wants her kids raised to be good people and struggles sometimes with the weight of being the perfect role model she wants to be.

Who is Keeper McCarter? Is he autistic? He doesn’t really seem stupid.
Keeper McCarter is a character introduced in book #2, Tell Me No Secrets, and continues into book #3, Tell Me You Love Me. No, he’s not autistic. He’s what mountain folk call “simple-minded.” He’s mentally-challenged with the innocence of a child. Although a grown man, he sees the world through a child’s eyes, which makes Ava and his mother Mary very protective of him.

Keeper’s mother, Mary, is a local granny witch. Is she also a seer?
Yes, Mary has the “gift.” Many refer to it as being able to “see the future,” but it’s simply a very strong sense of intuition. Granny Witches, Granny Women, Seers, village elders––whatever they are called depending on the region, they’re all known to have insight and the ability to heal using natural remedies.

Ava keeps adding to her menagerie by adopting Scott’s cat, Boone. Will she ever turn away an animal or a kid?
Again, it’s the guilt factor (LOL!) She knows what it’s like to feel that sense of abandonment and her heart just won’t let her stand by and do nothing. As far as adopting another actual human, probably not. Parenting a toddler at 35 (although 35 is NOT old) is exhausting!

Even though Grayson and Ava have a romantic relationship, their jobs cause them to collide. Does this diminish their relationship?
It doesn’t diminish their feelings toward one another, but it does cause conflict. Like any law enforcement officer, Grayson has to be conscientious of how much information he reveals to the press, no matter if it’s a small-town newspaper. And that he’s sleeping with the publisher! And Ava, sometimes withholds information from Grayson until she can weigh the consequences of what will happen when Grayson’s forced to do his job.

When Ava continues to investigate, Scott’s sister tells her about a friend named Josh. No one at the college seems to be forthcoming about Josh. What does Ava find out about Josh’s family, which makes him strange?
Josh was raised in an ultra-religious family who opposed him going to college. He hasn’t been exposed to a lot of the “world” and to others seems a little awkward and very shy. Josh’s father is a Pentecostal preacher with very deep-set, old-fashioned beliefs. Josh’s mother, Susan, is a very dutiful, subservient wife who blends into the wall in Ava’s opinion. Ava has a hard time accepting any form of inequality so to witness it while sitting in Josh’s family’s living room is eye-opening for her.

Josh’s father is a reverend in what appears to be a Pentecostal church, which uses snakes as part of its service. Are there still churches like this?
Very much so! They still exist but are very deep into the hollers of the mountains. The practice has been outlawed in most states, but law enforcement does tend to look the other way until they can’t.

After reading Tell Me You Love Me, the title now seems like a plea across the years. Is it?
Yes, it is multi-generational. It encompasses many aspects of love, family, passion, and beliefs.

What is the cause of selfishness?
It’s several things all rolled into one. A misguided notion that you’re doing what’s right for someone else, and holding onto secrets to protect one’s self.

What’s next for Ava?
I have a couple ideas involving very topical subjects so stay tuned!

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

What Makes A Good Speaker?

by Paula Gail Benson

For a number of years I’ve participated in writing groups where I’ve been the program chair or served as a panel moderator. I know what it’s like to be constantly seeking out interesting presenters or thinking up unique yet relevant questions. It can be difficult to present a fresh perspective or make connections among diverse individuals in order to facilitate a fascinating conversation.

I particularly enjoy hearing craft discussions, but I know marketing, social media management, and the road to publication are topics of great interest for many writers. For our local Sisters in Crime chapter meetings, we try to balance authors with procedural experts like judges, community police, and forensic anthropologists. We’ve had excellent business of writing presentations from authors Raegan Teller, who explained how she successfully navigated the road to independent publication, and James M. Jackson, whose analyses of the markets and Amazon publishing strategies were in depth and revealing.

What makes a person a captivating speaker?

Recently, I attended a professional meeting organized by the National Conference of State Legislatures where Dolly Parton was the keynote speaker. Around 4,000 people gathered in a ballroom, not to hear her perform, but to listen to the story of how she began and developed an Imagination Library Foundation that, to encourage the joy of reading, each month distributes a million books to children from birth to age five.

The mayor, who introduced her, made a small error in referring to the Governor who would be interviewing her. After all, this was living legend, Dolly Parton. Nervousness might be expected. Dolly made a point of sympathizing with him, saying she likely could have made the same mistake. Her words kept the situation light and moving forward.

I would have been perfectly content to listen to her for hours. Later, I thought about what she had done that made the whole experience special and apparently effortless.

First, Dolly is incredibly genuine. Her assurance in presenting herself seems to be an innate quality she exhibits all the time. But, it has to be difficult to simply relax and be yourself in front of thousands of people. Dolly has that remarkable gift, and it flows over the audience, making everyone feel at home and comfortable in her presence.

Second, she had an interesting story to tell, and told it in a way with which others could identify. She grew up with a very intelligent father, who always provided for his family, but never learned to read. He was her inspiration to cultivate reading among children. She started her program in her home county thinking it could potentially spread to a few neighboring areas, and was delighted when it extended to other states and countries. She said that her father had more pride in children calling her “the book lady” than in her singing.

Third, in telling her story, she was very respectful of her family situation, stressing that her father was an excellent businessman and her mother was a great encourager of her music. She demonstrated her own humility and pride by emphasizing the advantages she received from the caring individuals and role models who guided her earliest steps.

Fourth, she took the time to laugh at herself, one of her most endearing qualities. When you laugh at yourself, the world laughs with you, not at you.

Fifth, she gave more than was expected. We were there to hear her speak, but she also reached for an electric guitar so she could play and sing two songs. (“Coat of Many Colors” and a song she had written for the Imagination Library program) The audience was delighted.

While Dolly Parton’s skills have been honed over a lifetime, they are certainly adaptable and excellent characteristics to look for in locating good speakers. Being genuine and humble, telling your story in an interesting and identifiable manner, showing respect for those who have helped you, being able to laugh at yourself, and giving more than an audience might expect are good guidelines for success in any presentation.

Have you ever been fascinated by a speaker? What qualities did that person have?

Monday, August 19, 2019

It Started With an Article in the Community Paper by Judy Penz Sheluk

It was March 2018, a cold and blustery day in my small town of Alliston, Ontario, Canada, the groundhog getting his forecast for an early spring wrong once again. I sat down at the kitchen table with a cup of cinnamon rooibos tea and the community paper, setting aside the grocery store flyers for later perusal. As I scanned obituaries (yes, I do that) and stories of local politics, restaurant openings, and high school sports accomplishments, one article grabbed my attention:


The article went on to report that in 2005, a 24-year-old man had dropped out of college, moved back home, and then, one day, when he was supposed to be out job hunting, left a note for his family on the kitchen counter: he was leaving to find himself. No one has seen or heard from him since.

The photo of the young man accompanying the piece was credited to Ontario Missing Adults. I’d never heard of it, and googled to find out more. What I discovered took my breath away: eighteen pages, 25 entries per page, of missing adults, some dating back as far as 1935. Another 200 entries of Unidentified Adults, remains found, identity unknown.

And this was just for Ontario. Further research showed that in 2017, 78,000+ adults were reported to the RCMP as missing in Canada. And while the majority of cases were solved within a few days, far too many remained unsolved.

I reached out to the founder of the Missing Adults Registry, Lusia Dion. “Dealing with missing adults is a difficult issue,” she told me. “There is no law that prevents an adult from voluntarily picking up and starting a new life somewhere else. The situation is further complicated in cases where there is no clear indication of foul play. It’s a delicate balance between respecting the adult’s privacy, while trying to determine exactly what has happened to them. At the same time, family and friends of the missing person are left to grapple with feelings and situations for which there is no guidebook. I created the Ontario Registry of Missing and Unidentified Adults as a first step in helping those families.”

While the young man featured in the article initially inspired the story behind A Fool’s Journey, the novel is a compilation of many cases fueled by countless hours of scouring the Registry, and the invaluable and compassionate input of Lusia Dion, who has a small role in the book as Lucy Daneluk, founder of the fictional Ontario Registry for Missing and Unidentified Adults.

And now, here’s a bit about the book:

 In March 2000, twenty-year old Brandon Colbeck left home to find himself on a self-proclaimed “fool’s journey.” No one—not friends or family—has seen or heard from him since, until a phone call from a man claiming to be Brandon brings everything back to the forefront. Calamity (Callie) Barnstable and her team at Past & Present Investigations have been hired to find out what happened to Brandon, and, if still alive, where he might be. As Callie follows a trail of buried secrets and decades-old deceptions only one thing is certain: whatever the outcome, there is no such thing as closure.

Now available for pre-order, A Fool’s Journey, book 3 in Judy’s Marketville Mystery series, will be released on August 21 in trade paperback at all the usual suspects, and on Kindle.
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Fools-Journey-Marketville-Mystery-ebook/dp/B07VM4751B
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-fools-journey-judy-penz-sheluk/1132632054

Judy Penz Sheluk is the author of the Glass Dolphin Mystery and Marketville Mystery series, and the editor of The Best Laid Plans: 21 Stories of Mystery & Suspense. Her short stories can be found in several collections. Judy is also a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and Crime Writers of Canada, where she serves as Vice Chair on the Board of Directors. Find her at judypenzsheluk.com.

Sunday, August 18, 2019


Serendipity: Noun. The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.

I’m always in awe of my fellow authors who pound out two, three, four, or even more books each year. I wish I could be that productive. But I’m too easily distracted—squirrel! Or too intent on making sure every detail is accurate, hence a day spent on research. Or too…fill in the blank.

My contract calls for a book every eight months, and that’s about all I can handle. The weeks where two books are in different stages of creation generally have me tripping the fine line of madness. Currently, I’m drafting the tenth in the Zoe Chambers series and working on edits on the ninth one. I spend mornings drafting #10, afternoons revising #9.

Which book am I working on? That scene happened when? In what book?

Most of the time, I gnash my teeth and refer to my series bible and my outline in Scrivener to keep things straight.

The first draft is coming along. Slowly. The revisions are coming along as well and moving forward at a nice clip. Or were, until I hit my freelance editor’s notes for chapter ten.

Without giving anything away, one of my secondary characters, a reporter, knows things thanks to a “source.” Zoe questions her about the identity of this informant, but the reporter smugly avoids answering.

I didn’t feel the identity of her source was vital to the story. The truth is, I had no clue who it was! I thought I could let it slide. Reporters always have confidential informants, right?


My editor wasn’t buying it. She insisted I—I mean my character—had to reveal the name.

The annoying part is two of my beta readers had said the same thing. I’d ignored them. But I pay this editor good money to keep me honest. Which means, I had to put the screws to my reporter character and get her to tell me her secrets.

She stubbornly refused. For days. I tried all my usual tricks. Nothing worked.

Until one night I decided enough was enough. Waiting for a secretive character to cough up information was akin to waiting for the Muse to inspire me to write.

I can’t wait that long!

I sat down and thought it out. Who would know this information that the reporter’s privy to?

And it came to me. Like the proverbial bolt of lightning. I slapped my head. Of course! It made perfect sense. So perfect, in fact, I’m ashamed Zoe didn’t figure it out already!

The best parts? It will require two sentences to fix #9. Even better, I can continue the thread in #10, where it fits perfectly!


So, readers, care to share any moments of serendipity in your own lives?

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Welcome to Our Guest Author, Sherry Harris

Welcome to our guest, Sherry Harris.

Thank you for having me on Writers Who Kill! I get asked lots of questions about publishing and my career, so I picked a few to answer here.

What was it like to have your first book published?

Thrilling and terrifying. After years of dreaming about being published, to have it finally happen was unbelievable! But about two weeks before the publication of my first book Tagged for Death, I started having a lot of anxiety. What if everyone hated it? Maybe I could buy all the copies and no one would ever read it. Well, duh, that’s not going to work. I can’t buy all the ebook copies. It felt like I was about to take my baby out into the world for the first time, and I was worried someone would say, “Did you see the nose on that thing?” or “Boy, that is one ugly baby!”

However, going to the bookstore and seeing it on the shelf? Sheer joy. My husband and daughter went with me and there was screaming involved. Enough that a couple of people came over. One bought my book and I signed it for her.

Is the publishing world anything like you thought it would be?

It has many more ups and downs than I dreamed were possible. I’ve seen author friends’ wonderful series cancelled for no apparent reason. I’ve heard tales of shady agents and terrible contracts. Publishers cancel lines or go out of business with no warning. It’s tough out there. I’m grateful for every book that comes out.

How much money do you make?

I used to say I make enough to live in a cardboard box under a bridge. Now I say I could live in a nicer box under a nicer bridge. If my husband didn’t have a good job and didn’t support my career, I couldn’t write full time. Most authors don’t make enough to live on.

Do you read your reviews?

I do. I wish I could stay away but it’s like the Sirens calling sailors to their rocky shores.

What about bad reviews?

My first few were devastating. My daughter painted me a saying: You can have the sweetest, juiciest peach, but not everyone likes peaches. So if you ever see me muttering, “Not everyone likes peaches,” you know I read a bad review. To be honest, now I don’t usually mind them, some have valid points. What I don’t like are the ones who are mean for no reason or inaccurate. Read the whole book if you are going to leave a bad review.

Who comes up with your titles?

My editor and I work on them together. Sometimes we duke it out – he wins.

Who is your favorite author?

I know too many and could never pick just one.

What do you read?

I tend to read darker than I write. I’ve never figured out what that is about. I read mostly crime fiction with a bit of women’s fiction if I need a palate cleanser. I also read nonfiction that is applicable for research.

Have you ever been rejected?

Many times! I have a stack of rejection letters that I keep to remind me of where I’ve been and how hard it is to get published. You have to develop a thick skin to be in this business. Rejection is part of the process. I just kept working at my craft—taking classes, going to conferences, reading books on writing. I still do because I always want the next book to be better than the last one.

What’s next?

Let’s Fake a Deal just came out and Sell Low, Sweet Harriet comes out on December 31, 2019. Both are part of the Sarah Winston Garage Sale mysteries. Also, the first book in a new series, From Beer to Eternity, A Chloe Jackson Sand Dollar Saloon mystery comes out in August of 2020. It’s set in a bar on the white, sandy beaches of the panhandle of Florida. And that’s a story for another day.

About Sherry Harris

Sherry Harris is the Agatha Award nominated author of the Sarah Winston Garage Sale mystery
series. She is the President of Sisters in Crime, a member of the Chesapeake Chapter of Sisters in Crime, the New England Chapter of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and International Thriller Writers.

In her spare time Sherry loves reading and is a patent holding inventor. Sherry, her husband, and guard dog Lily are living in northern Virginia until they figure out where they want to move to next.

Twitter: @SHarrisAuthor
Instagram: SherryHarrisAuthor

Friday, August 16, 2019

Books Crying Out to be Written - Warren Bull

Image by Putika Ayura on Upsplash

Z is for Zealot by Sue Grafton.
We really miss you, Sue. It is a shame that your alphabet ended with Y.
Every book in the series showed your growth and willingness to experiment with the craft of writing. You were utterly fearless blogging about your work even while you were in the process of writing. I wish you had aged as slowly as Kinsey did so you could continue to demonstrate what authentic writing looks like. Even your minor characters came across as real people. Your research was impeccable. What I especially miss is your subtle humor and the way you could “lay it between the lines.”

The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens

When he died in 1870, Dickens had completed only six of his planned dozen installments for The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Unfortunately, his death meant that the identity of the story’s murderer was never revealed—but things might have been different if Queen Victoria had been into spoilers: Three months before his death Dickens sent a letter to the Queen offering to tell her "a little more of it in advance of her subjects.” She declined the offer, and now we’ll never know what he might have told her. That hasn’t stopped at least a dozen people from writing continuations and adaptations, including one from a Vermont printer who claimed to have channeled Dickens’s ghost with his “spirit pen.”

The Mysterious Stranger by Mark Twain

At his death in 1910, Twain left behind three unfinished manuscripts of three different but related stories—"The Chronicle of Young Satan," "Schoolhouse Hill," and "No. 44, the Mysterious Stranger.” All involved Satan, Satan's nephew, or “No. 44.” Twain’s biographer, Albert Bigelow Paine, cobbled the three together into a 1916 book called The Mysterious Stranger, based mostly on “The Chronicle of Young Satan” but with the ending from “No. 44.” The extent to which the work was Paine’s product, as opposed to Twain’s, wasn’t known until the 1960s, when editors published a second version that supposedly stuck closer to Twain’s original intent. The dark, dreamlike story is now considered Twain’s last great work.

The Garden of Eden by Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway began The Garden of Eden in 1946 and worked on it intermittently for more than 15 years until his death in 1961, when he left it unfinished. However, the book was finally published in 1986, after a controversial editing process that cut it down by at least two-thirds and ripped out an entire subplot. Intriguingly, some scholars have argued that Hemingway was forging a new direction with the work, both in style and content, which the editing sacrificed and compressed.

Answered Prayers by Truman Capote

During the last years of his life, Truman Capote frequently claimed to be working on a book called Answered Prayers. (He signed the contract just two weeks before In Cold Blood hit bookstores and became a spectacular success.) But despite repeatedly extended deadlines with his editors and a generous advance, Answered Prayers was never completed. In 1971, during an appearance on The Dick Cavett Show, Capote referred to it as his “posthumous novel,” saying "either I'm going to kill it, or it's going to kill me.’”
Four chapters of the book were finally published in Esquire in 1975 and 1976, with disastrous results: the book was a thinly veiled account of the lifestyles of the rich and famous, many of whom were Capote’s friends. Stunned after recognizing themselves in the chapters, most of Capote’s friends abandoned him—sending the writer into a depressive spiral of drugs and alcohol from which some say he never recovered.
The book’s remaining chapters are something of a mystery. They may still be languishing in a safe deposit box somewhere (some think they’re in a locker at the Los Angeles Greyhound Bus Depot). Others think they may have never existed, despite all of Capote’s talk. Nevertheless, three of the chapters from Esquire were published in book form in 1987 (three years after Capote died) under the title Answered Prayers: The Unfinished Novel. Critics weren’t kind. One said: "It was never finished because it wasn't going anywhere."

The Journey Abandoned by Lionel Trilling

In 1947, Lionel Trilling, the prominent literary critic, published a novel entitled The Middle of the Journey. While conducting research in the archives at Columbia University, Geraldine Murphy discovered a second novel-a clean, well-crafted "third" of a book that Trilling described as having "point, immediacy, warmth under control, drama, and even size." The Journey Abandoned was supposed to be a novel about the anomalies of heroic action in a conformist age. Published with Geraldine Murphy’s writing and editing, the finished book offers a personal portrait of the life of letters in America. 

The Fellowship Continues by JRR Tolkien
I, for one, cannot believe that the Hobbits who returned from the quest lived out the rest of their lives without further adventures and daring deeds. I regret that Tolkien did not tell us what they were. I was particularly taken with Samwise “Sam” Gangee. He even wore the one ring briefly. He was tempted, but not swayed by the powers it promised. His unflagging loyalty, even in the face of impossible odds and hopelessness makes him one of the most deserving under-developed characters of all time. Oh, how I want a sequel.
Sanditon by Jane Austen

Who knows what wonders the novel, which would have included 11 chapters she had completed when she died, would have contained. Set in the bright, but absurd new seaside resort of Sanditon, it promised to be a satire of Regency follies, as only she could have written.

Which author left you hungering for more? What book would you love to see written?