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

October Interviews

10/07 M.E. Browning, Shadow Ridge

10/14 V.M. Burns, Steal Away

10/21 Adam Meyer

10/28 Barbara Ross, Jane Darrowfield and the Madwoman Next Door


October Guest Bloggers


10/03 Kathleen Kalb

10/17 S. Lee Manning

10/31 Sharon Dean


WWK Weekend Bloggers


10/10 Jennifer J. Chow

10/24 Kait Carson













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Two new books for WWK members: Jennifer J. Chow's Mimi Lee Reads Between the Lines (look for the interview on WWK on 11/11) and Judy Penz Sheluk's Where There's A Will. Both books will be released on November 10.


For The Love Of Lobster Tales by Shari Randall is now available to download free for a limited time. Go to Black Cat Mysteries at: https://bcmystery.com/ to get your free copy! Thanks for the freebie, Shari.


Keenan Powell recently signed with agent Amy Collins of Talcott Notch. Congratulations, Keenan!


KM Rockwood's "Secrets To The Grave" will appear in the new SinC Chesapeake Chapter's new anthology Invitation To Murder, which will be released by Wildside Press on 10/6.


Congratulations to our two Silver Falchion Finalists Connie Berry and Debra Goldstein!


Paula Gail Benson's "Cosway's Confidence" placed second and Debra Goldstein's "Wabbit's Carat" received Honorable Mention in the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable 2020 short story contest. Congratulations, Paula and Debra!


Susan Van Kirk's Three May Keep A Secret has been republished by Harlequinn's Worldwide Mystery. The WWK interview about the book can be accessed here. We're so glad another publisher picked up this series.


KM Rockwood's "Burning Desire," and Paula Gail Benson's "Living One's Own Truth," have been published in the anthology Heartbreaks & Half-truths. Congratulations to all of the WWK writers.


Please join Margaret S. Hamilton's Kings River Life podcast of her short story "Busted at the Book Sale" here. Congratulations, Margaret!


Judy Penz Sheluk, publisher of Superior Shores Press, has just announced a Call For Submissions to its third multi-author anthology. Details can be found here: http://www.judypenzsheluk.com/superior-shores-press/moonlight/

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Monday, October 26, 2020

What is Writing? by Nancy L. Eady

As a card-carrying member of the Order of Procrastinators Extraordinaire,  I can find more ways to delay doing anything than anyone I know. God created deadlines for people like me. I’m not sure I’d get anything done without them.


One reason I am a champion procrastinator is I am easily distracted. It’s only when you get serious about putting words on a screen that you realize how many possibilities are available to the perseverant procrastinator. To cut down on distractions, I made a list of what is, and is not, writing.


1)  Sitting at the computer and typing words that flow from my head is, obviously, writing.


2)  Turning on the computer intending to write but playing games instead is not writing even if I try to con myself by insisting I am considering important plot points while attempting to reach level 2,341 of Candy Crush. (If you know how to win level 2,340 with three stars, please e-mail the secret to workmomad@gmail.com.) 


3)  Placing a pen or pencil on paper and pouring out words is writing, although hand muscles geared to typing cramp after too much of it. Writing by hand only occurs when:


            a)  I am bored in a crowded meeting but need to look like I’m paying attention and/or taking notes (I outlined a complete novel during one hellishly dull 8-hour legal seminar); or


            b)  I make the mistake of traveling somewhere without any of the electronic gizmos I normally use and I’m desperate.


4)  Dictating my story into my digital voice recorder when I’m driving, while not winning me the "safe driver of the year", is writing.


5)  Thinking about my story is, alas, not writing. If it were, I’d have a completed work rivaling the length of the 1989 Second Edition of the unabridged Oxford English Dictionary. (According to its website, the OED’s Second Edition was 20 volumes; between its publication in 1989 and the turn of the century, Oxford University Press  published three volumes of additions. In keeping with the times, the OED now is exclusively online.) 


6)  Signing up for an online writing class is not writing.


7)  Completing the first writing assignment in an online class and then ferrying the rest of the lessons and information into an e-mail folder for that future mythical era where I have time to catch up is not writing.


8)  Completing an online course is writing and time well spent.


9)  Buying books on writing is not writing. This includes books with topics such as how to complete a novel in 30 days, time management, steps to a writing life, writing exercises and creativity, especially when said books stay on the shelf unopened. (My husband says I have more time management books than anyone he knows. He just wishes I’d read one.) 


10)  Editing is writing, but I have to keep a close rein on my inner critic, who is a snarky, surly lass always popping up with the worst comments at the worst time.


11)  Reading other mysteries is not writing, although essential to my development as a writer. I am mesmerized by a good book. Growing up, my sister would come home from school and start talking to me. It took at least 15 minutes before I realized anyone was in the room with me. My very patient family has learned to say my name three times progressively louder and pull on my arm at least once if they need my attention while I’m reading. In case of fire, I expect them to save themselves and leave me to my fate. At least I’d die happy.


12) Googling can be writing, but it is dangerous. Research is a slippery slope. I can flip over to Google in order to check the spelling of a word, then realize an hour later I progressed from spelling, to current events, to trips I’d like to take but can’t afford, to looking up the current hours at Disneyworld along with current ride wait times just to pretend I’m there.


What distractions do you face when you write?  Are you a recovering procrastinator?  If so, how did you kick the habit?

Sunday, October 25, 2020

New Tricks by Annette Dashofy

When I look back to the time before I was published, I had a definite picture in my mind about what my days as a “professional author” would look like. I’d write in the morning and read in the afternoon—either research material or new mystery releases to keep up with current trends. 

Nowhere in that mental image did I include hours of marketing (cue hysterical laughter). 

In the years since my first book came out, my daily schedule has morphed and pivoted as I adapted to changes in my status and changes in the publishing world. I still write in the morning. That part has remained fairly consistent. But my afternoons are rarely spent reading, at least not new releases. More often than not, I’m working on marketing, accounting, and all sorts of business stuff after lunch.

Up until this spring, I’d become proficient at speaking in front of crowds…something my younger self was horrible at. But I truly enjoyed interacting with an audience. 

That all changed in March. Since then I (and most of my fellow authors) have had to build a new skillset: Being “on camera.” Whether it’s Zoom, Crowdcast, Facebook Live, Google Groups, or any of the new (or new to me) meeting platforms, suddenly I had to figure out how to interact with an audience that I either couldn’t see at all or was visible in tiny squares on my laptop’s screen. If they’re muted, I can’t tell if they’re laughing at my humor or if my joke fell flat. Questions often are read in the chat feature rather than asked by members of the audience. It’s all unnerving. And where to look? If I look at an audience member’s face to read their expressions, to them I’m not making eye contact. If I look at the camera, making it appear I’m looking right at them, I can’t see their reaction. 

Ack. 

I miss face-to-face events. 

But this is our current reality, and I try to make the best of it. Early on, I bought a new laptop and boosted my internet speed. I’ve tried various microphone/audio combos. My good pal, Liz Milliron, observed during one virtual conference that audience members’ biggest complaints involved audio. Too soft, too garbled, too echoey. It didn’t matter how wonderful your presentation was. If your audio was poor, no one paid attention. After much experimentation, I keep coming back to my old headphones and mic. I occasionally get teased about them, but I’ve yet to receive a complaint about my sound quality. 

Lighting is another matter. I bought one of those ring lights, only to discover that it glares on the eyeglasses I need for seeing my notes. My laptop location has been another source of experimentation. I’ve learned the camera should be at or slightly above your eye level to be most flattering. So my current set up involves having my laptop propped on a box. I have a lamp on my desk that I can dim or brighten. It provides fill light (did you know I used to be a photographer?) while my main lighting comes from a window for day events or from the ring light, which I now set 45 degrees to the side instead of right in front, for evening events. 

The most recent addition to my video set up has been the background. This, like the audio lesson, comes from audience members’ comments. They love seeing our writing world, messy or not. They love seeing our bookshelves with our awards. Unfortunately, my bookshelves aren’t very grand, and I don’t have any awards to show off. Someone in my book marketing group suggested posters. 

Brilliant! For $8 each, I had four of my book covers enlarged and tacked the posters on the closet doors I’d been using for a backdrop during my virtual events. 

Here’s a laptop-camera “selfie” I took before a virtual book club meeting last week. It’s not the greatest quality (the laptop does better video than still photos), but you get the idea. 


Fellow authors, have you been doing any virtual events these days? If so, have you made any equipment purchases for that purpose? Readers, do you enjoy taking part in them? Do you have any additional advice for us (besides good audio is a must)?

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Seasonal Reads by Kait Carson

Seasonal Reads by Kait Carson

This is my favorite time of the year to pick up cozy novels. They’re a nice respite from the upcoming crush of holidays and from the uncertainty of holidays in the time of COVID-19. Will we have trick or treaters? Do we buy or offer Halloween candy? Do we invite the family to Thanksgiving dinner? How many people can we fit around the table and adhere to social distancing? Is it still feasible, and responsible, to host or attend a holiday party? In cozies the only worries are who is going to get knocked off, and how. No biggie since justice will be done in the end.

The holiday cozy reading season kicks off in late August. It begins with Halloween novels. There is an obvious connection between Halloween and mystery. The holiday itself is shrouded in spiritual and supernatural myths. True catnip to the cozy author and reader. The prime drop date for Halloween stories this year was August 25th. Early, but then, Halloween candy was on store shelves at about the same time. New releases this year? Ghost in the Gallery and Deja Diva both by Kathi Daley, Haunted House Murder by Leslie Meier, and Howloween Murder by Laurien Berenson.

I’ve read both of the Daley books and recommend them. They are light cozies that make good use of their settings (coastal Maine and Lake Tahoe, NV) and tell a well-plotted story. The Meier and Berenson books are both on my Kindle. If history is a guide, they will provide reliable entertainment.

Authors this year are skipping murder at Thanksgiving. If you will allow me an editorial comment, 2020 has been enough of a turkey on its own without writing about it.

Christmas releases are later this year based on an Amazon search. Most are occurring in early to mid-December. Perhaps to make up for the early glut of Halloween stories, or to catch the eye of those searching for timely gifts and to stock gifted e-readers. Joanne Fluke’s Christmas Cupcake Murders, Leslie Meier’s Christmas Card Murders, Jennifer S. Alderson’s Death by Fountain: A Christmas Murder in Rome, and Jodi Rath’s Yuletide Cast of the Iron Skillet are all due for release in December.

While it’s difficult to see a connection between Christmas and murder, the seasonal reads are fan favorites and much anticipated. Who doesn’t want to take a break from holiday logistics to settle in for a cozy little murder? The cozy world is a reliable one. The genre requires a tight-knit community where people care about each other. We can feel good about visiting, secure in the knowledge that that pesky murder is an aberration.

Do you look forward to seasonal releases? Who are your favorite authors?

Thursday, October 22, 2020

The Cemetery of Lost Words by Connie Berry

                                                      Tom Gauld. Used with permission.
 

My favorite line in J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan describes Captain Hook: “The man is not wholly evil—he has a thesaurus in his cabin.” 


I love that. Words are important. They convey meaning and create an intellectual and emotional response. Since we know words can hurt or heal, we should be certain ours are understood.

 

Some words are imprecise, flabby, and liable to misinterpretation. Other words nail the intended thought with such clarity and precision that the mind of the hearer or reader is enlightened and enlarged. I admire people—even Captain Hooks—who know interesting and beautiful words and use them with skill and artistry. That’s the job of the writer, after all.

The English language has no shortage of words. One million is the current estimate, with more added each year. In 2019, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary added almost 700 new words, phrases, and definitions, including buzzy (speculative or excited talk or attention); snowflake (someone who is overly sensitive); and unplug (temporarily refrain from using electronic devices).

 

 My interest isn’t so much in the new words being created as in the old words being lost through neglect—or downgraded in meaning. I agree with those who say, “Don’t use a fancy word when a plain one will do.” The problem is sometimes a plain word just won’t do.

With that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of eight delightful forgotten or endangered words I think we should use more often so as to preserve them for future generations.

1. Eventide: the onset of dusk or twilight; a lovely word to use when all is right with the world, and it’s time to sit on the porch with your sweetie and a glass of wine.

 

2. After-wise: the feeling of knowing exactly what you should have said or done when the opportunity to say it or do it has passed you by. Yup.

 

3. Susurration: the whispering, murmuring, or rustling of wind or water; a perfect example of onomatopoeia (another endangered word).

 

4. Bunbury: to get out of a commitment by inventing an imaginary person you must visit; from Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Ernest, where Algernon invents a sick friend named Bunbury as an excuse to avoid his relatives. Secondary meaning: to galavant around (another word in danger of being forgotten) under a false identity. The first bunburying often leads to the second.

 

5. Slugabed: a person who stays in bed long after the usual or proper time to get up; helpful when raising teenagers.

 

6. Énoument: the bittersweetness of having arrived in the future and seeing how things turn out, but not being able to tell your past self.

 

7. Ephemeral: lasting for a very short time; fleeting; transitory. A word used primarily by those over fifty.

 

8. Chimerical: hoped-for but illusory and impossible to achieve; or something that exists only as the product of unchecked imagination, like Big Foot or world peace.

 

 I read a fascinating article recently on the subject of lost words by Wilfrid M. McKay in The Hedgehog Review (Fall 2019). McKay said, “Like a lover of endangered species, the lover of endangered words jumps for joy when he sees a word being rescued, and is grateful when a writer restores to currency a semantic possibility that had fallen into desuetude. It is as if a lovely antique table has been rediscovered after many years of gathering dust up in the attic, and when brought downstairs and cleaned up and polished, imparts a splendor and unbought grace to the room that no shiny new object could possibly match.”

 

Do you have some favorite old words? How about a favorite author who makes you get out your dictionary and thesaurus? What words do you hope we save for future generations?

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

An Interview With Mark Bergin

by Grace Topping

Since I'll be standing in a long line waiting to vote, and who knows when I'll ever be seen again, I'm reposting an interview I conducted with Mark Bergin but with an update. Mark's terrific book, Apprehension, was a 2020 Silver Falchion Award finalist. 



What would prompt an award-winning reporter to become a rookie police officer? For retired Alexandria, Virginia, police lieutenant, Mark Bergin, it was the same commitment to public service that motivated him to write a novel to raise awareness of police suicide and donate half his profits to programs that would help combat it. Mark’s debut novel, Apprehension, is being released July 30. Kirkus Reviews called it A gritty and authentic new voice in police fiction. It was a pleasure talking to Mark and learning more about him, his police career, and his novel. 

Apprehension

Cover Copy

Tonight a cop loses everything. But today he can save a kid. Detective John Kelly was a solid professional until he failed to stop the murder of his kidnapped niece. Kelly’s family thinks he did nothing to punish her killer, who died before trial, but Kelly can’t confess the secret, shockingly violent thing he did, a secret about to be dug up by his fellow detectives. And he’ll be ruined. Broken, twitchy and hung over, Kelly must push past this threat and focus on a pedophile trial, a slam-dunk conviction, except the defense attorney is Rachel Cohen, Kelly’s new girlfriend. Rachel just told him she’s pregnant, but she can’t tell him her job forces her to destroy him on the stand. Rachel also can’t reveal she’s investigating a twisted team of drug cops. While his friends work in secret to save him, Kelly is forced to the breaking point – and beyond.
Welcome, Mark, to Writers Who Kill.

After a career as a police officer, what prompted you to write about it?

Mark Bergin
Since junior high I’ve wanted to write a book. I was a big reader as a kid and inhaled novels by Alistair MacLean, Desmond Bagley, Hammond Innes, Adam Hall, John D. MacDonald, and Raymond Chandler. Later, Joseph Wambaugh, George V. Higgins, and Ed McBain. My days working as a reporter, then as a police officer, left little time for writing. I had ideas for a detective story thirty years ago and took pages of notes but set them aside. In 2013 I had two heart attacks, actually died, which brought on my retirement a bit early and gave me some free time to begin the book. Five years later, ta da.


You set Apprehension in 1988. Why over thirty years ago?

That is when I first took notes for the novel, and that planted the story in that time frame. A criminal law change that’s key to the plot occurred in 1989, and I wanted the book to be authentic. Also, Apprehension is about communication, miscommunication, and misunderstandings, so if anybody in the story had cell phones, none of the drama would have happened. 

Some of your characters turn out to be different than portrayed or have a different agenda than expected. While working on the force, did you find that the people you worked with weren’t always as they appeared on the surface?
Everybody lies; everybody has a face they put on. But I think most of my fellow cops were exactly what I knew them to be. We spent a lot of time together. We rode solo in cruisers but were sent two or three at a time to most calls. You learn how many you can rely on, which for me was most. Suspects? All liars. Civilians? Most will lie to us. “Aren’t these your drugs I found in your pants?” “Not my pants.” 
John Kelly suffers from the effects of a case that really hit close to home. It affects his relationship with his family and ultimately has him turning to alcohol. Today, would this be considered a form of PTSD?
It would, and we would deal with it more aggressively or more compassionately. There are better resources available now and more acceptance of asking for help or pushing it. It doesn’t mean more help is taken. I am a member of my department’s peer debriefing team, who can meet with and talk to officers having trouble. There are bad calls, and there are bad family or health situations that pressure us. We help them air it out and direct help when we can and where it’s needed.
In your 1988 setting, John Kelly is reluctant to turn to the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for help because of the stigma or reflection of it in his record. Is that still a problem in 2019? 
Yes. It’s better than it was, but I still know cops who didn’t get the help they thought they needed. Maybe that kind of help isn’t available, or in the form they think they need it. But there is still mistrust of EAP and other counseling. I am donating half my profits to programs that combat police suicide, among them the National Police Suicide Foundation. NPSF runs a no-tell hotline, one cops can call and know their department won’t be told. They don’t want to lose their jobs, and that’s a greater fear than exists for most occupations. Your dentist or hairdresser won’t lose their career for seeking counseling, but cops can. Or they believe they can, which is functionally the same thing. 
You address the issue of suicide by members of the public, prisoners, and police officers themselves. Is this an issue you dealt with often and wanted to raise awareness of it? 
In my twenty-eight year career, one fellow Alexandria police officer was killed in the line of duty. But in the same time, three officers took their own lives, as well as two city deputies. And just last year, a dispatcher was a victim of suicide. Six to one. That’s a heavier ratio than normal, but every year more law enforcement kill themselves than are killed by others. We don’t talk about that, but I want to. I hope the book prompts some conversations. 
During your career you more than likely dealt with painful situations. How do you separate yourself emotionally from the seedier things you dealt with and now write about? 
Maybe I didn’t. My cardiologist tells me my two heart attacks were caused by stress, and he forbade me to go back to work. It’s weird having a cardiologist. Also, I ate too much, drank too much, internalized things, and didn’t talk with my family or others. A sad thing about retiring is I finally learned how much my family worried about me, once they didn’t have to worry anymore. They never said, and I never brought it up for fear of upsetting them. So maybe that’s a happy thing about retiring. 
A theme throughout your book is how the members of the local police force and those of local jurisdictions look out for each other. While a good thing, how do the authorities prevent the police from turning a blind eye to officers who are abusing the system? 
There is a wide line between helping partners through tough times or administrative jams and turning a blind eye to brutal or criminal acts. In Alexandria, I knew fellow officers who reported brutality when it occurred. As a supervisor and commander, a big part of my job was investigating force incidents involving officers, or allegations of wrongdoing. Some departments don’t control themselves and allow a culture of brutality or cruel behavior to continue, if not thrive. We see enough reports in the news to know this occurs. It makes most cops sick and makes it harder for them to do their jobs. I was very lucky as a reporter to have found Alexandria wasn’t like that. Here, we start from a pretty high position of honor, and keep a close eye to make sure we stay that way. As a reporter, getting to know good cops here was the major reason I decided I could become a cop. 
Frequently cases are dismissed on a technicality. How did you as a police officer and now a writer deal with that?
Gotta roll with it. Every cop can recite cases that were decided unfairly, where a clearly guilty person got off. Once I watched a girl buy crack cocaine and put it in her right pocket and walk behind a truck. When my partners got to her, vectored in by me, she had crack in her left pocket. Not guilty. We couldn’t prove the crack I’d seen was the crack she had, so the judge decided we didn’t have the right to stop and search her. You try not to get invested in it. It’s your job. You are paid to be there whether they go in or not. If they do stupid stuff, you’d get them another day. 
John Kelly uses one of the best pick-up lines I’ve ever heard: I’m thinking there are so many different, better, happier, shinier places to be than here, and if you name one, I’ll take you there. I might have fallen for that one myself. How was it including romance in your book?
Hardest part of the whole book. I could never deliver that line, and since I’ve been married for almost thirty years, I’ve never had to. There’s no sex in the book, other than some oblique references and thoughts of off-screen feelings. Plenty of violence though. Maybe that doesn’t say good things about me. One friend cried and stopped reading at a certain scene. Another, a former cop, told me his nightmares came back after he read it. I thought, YES!
Most police procedurals are heavy on plot and lean on characterization. You have a good balance of both and show the emotional effects of police work on police officers and their families. Given that, if you had a chance to start your work life again, would you select police work?

In a heartbeat. Absolutely. It was a ton of fun, very rewarding. But it’s not for everyone. For very few, actually. I am glad my kids didn’t go into police work. They’re too smart, thoughtful, and kind for that. They could have done it, though, and succeeded. They’re tough. 

Do you still feel a close connection to the police force and police activity? Like once a police officer always a police officer?

I miss it. I volunteer at the department just to keep in contact. As I mentioned, I’m a peer debriefer. I also do public fingerprinting for civilians. I’ve relaxed a bit, and while I no longer need to sit watching the door for bad guys in restaurants, I usually want to. Sometimes when I’m driving around places I used to work, it will feel quiet, and I unconsciously reach down to turn up the volume on the police radio that, of course, isn’t there. 

I would like to read more about John Kelly. Is Apprehension a standalone book or the first in a series featuring him? 

SPOILER ALERT: I started it as a standalone but I ended up liking my people, so this is the first of at least four books. As I wrote Apprehension, I constantly came up with scenes and themes that didn’t quite fit into this story, and the notes have coalesced into outlines and plots for other books. I take a lot of notes and, oddly, my favorite place to work on the book is in the car. Not write, but take audio notes of story ideas. I work out a lot of plot points while driving. 

What has been the reaction from previous co-workers to your writing? Supportive or afraid they’ll show up in your book?

They’ve been very supportive, and many have already ordered the book. I tried hard not to model characters after real people, but some of my friends’ and enemies’ characteristics have come through. A lot of the small scenes in Apprehension did happen. Wart Lip, “Oh, is you Jewish?” and the shotgun suicide are real events. There was a witch doctor in Alexandria and a drug case disappeared, but no connection was ever shown. But we didn’t use the magnets. Joked about it, though. 

Please tell us about your journey to publication. Was it a long one?

Well, I’m sixty so that’s long.  I started writing Apprehension in 1988, took some notes during a very hard time in my career. My first marriage was falling apart, not the good one I’m in now. I was working sixty-seventy hours a week in street-level drug enforcement and in court three days a week. The ideas for the book burst out in one week and stopped. I had three typewritten pages of notes with a story beginning, some middle, and an end. When I retired, I knew I had to do something, so I pulled out the notes, filled in the gaps, a lot of gaps, and wrote the book in about a year. I thought I was done, but my editor said no, so I rewrote it for another year, and shopped it for almost two more years until I got a publisher. 

I’d originally planned to tell a story about what it was like for a squad of white cops arresting mostly young black men. That was the reality of drug enforcement in the eighties and nineties in Alexandria, and many cities. Drug dealing was a poor man’s job, and the poor in Alexandria were black, so there were obvious racial issues. We would love to try to arrest white people when we saw them buying to try to balance our stats. But when I was being rolled from the ambulance into Sentara Norfolk Heart Hospital for my surgery, I had a nurse learn my condition, a hundred percent blockage of the main coronary artery called the LAD, and tell me, “That’s the widowmaker. You aren’t supposed to be with us anymore. God’s got something more for you to do here.” I’m not sure I believe that, but when I began writing, I tried to find something to make the writing worthwhile, so I decided to dedicate half of my profits to police suicide prevention. Might only be sixty or seventy dollars, but every little bit helps. We’ll see.

What are you working on now?

In St. Michael’s Day, Kelly and others come to believe he is touched by God. I wanted to explore the idea of whether God reaches down into our lives. It’s still a police novel, with some courtroom drama, cop cars, chases, and some guns. One of my characters kills someone. It takes place immediately after Nine Eleven and addresses the changes that the attack forced on police work and the country. A third book, if I ever get that far, will be called Volunteers, wherein Kelly confronts the Irish Republican Army here and in Ireland. I visited Ireland a few times recently and found some very cool action settings, including a submerged copper mine. Now I just have to send Kelly there. 

With your book being released on July 30, what activities do you have planned to promote it?

My book release party is Saturday, August 3, at 2:00 p.m. at the Alexandria Police Association Hall, 3010 Colvin Street in Alexandria’s West End. Everyone is invited. There will be beer, which may make my reading sound better. I am signed up for my very first author panel on October 6 at Gum Spring Library in Loudoun County through the Sisters In Crime writers group. It’s called Incorporating Real-Life Law Enforcement Practices into Crime Fiction. I figure I know something about that. I’m going to the Creatures, Crimes and Creativity writers’ conference in Columbia, Maryland, in September, and the Bouchercon mystery books conference in Dallas in November. I hope to be on some panels at both of those. I like talking about writing and cops. 

Beyond that, I’m sure I will have signings and readings but nothing else is scheduled yet. Maybe a fun panel discussion would be Cops, Crime, and Cozies. I know someone who just published her first cozy mystery called Staging is Murder, and it is a great read. Her name is, um, Grace Topping! Same as yours! How about that!

Thank you, Mark. And thank you for the plug. 

To pre-order a copy of Apprehension, visit the publisher's website at: https://www.inkshares.com/books/apprehension
or Amazon. 


To connect with Mark, visit his website: https://markberginwriter.com/ 
and his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Mark-Bergin-writer-302289804043548/


Bio

Mark Bergin graduated from Boston University with a degree in journalism then worked four years as a newspaper reporter, winning the Virginia Press Association Award for general news reporting before joining the Alexandria, Virginia, Police Department in 1986. Twice named Police Officer of the Year for narcotics and robbery investigations, he served in most of the posts described in Apprehension, his debut novel, and rose to the rank of lieutenant.

Bergin lives in Alexandria and Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, with his wife Ruth, an attorney and former public defender. They have two children. Write to him at berginwriter@gmail.com or follow his blog at markberginwriter.com

I LIVED. I DIED. I LIVED AGAIN!


Tuesday, October 20, 2020

The First Virtual Bouchercon

by Paula Gail Benson 

This year’s Bouchercon was scheduled to take place in Sacramento “where murder is a Capitol crime.” Michele Drier, Rae James, and an excellent team that made up the local committee had worked tirelessly to organize a wonderful event featuring Scott Turow (Special Guest of Honor), Walter Mosley (Lifetime Achievement), Anne Perry (Distinguished Guest of Honor), Anthony Horowitz (International Guest of Honor), Cara Black (Local Guest of Honor), Janet A. Rudolph (Fan Guest of Honor), and Catriona McPherson (Toastmaster).

After Covid 19 changed our lives, the local organizing committee blazed new territory by converting the conference, in its 51st year, to a virtual event held this past Friday and Saturday. A new Bouchercon for a new half-century! According to Michele Drier, 33 live panels were held with audiences from about 80 to more than 260 each. Attendees used the chat line to ask questions and greet fellow participants. Pre-taped welcomes for each day and interviews with the Guests of Honor were available for viewing during the 48 hours of the conference. Also among the taped segments was an interview among past Sisters in Crime Presidents and one of Anthony Boucher’s radio programs, presented by authors.

I was delighted to be asked to moderate a live panel, titled “Make Mine Romance: Is there a Love Angle?” I knew two of the panelists, Grace Topping, a blogging partner here at Writers Who Kill, and S.C. Perkins (Stephanie), who prepared graphics to publicize our segment. Both Grace and Stephanie were nominees for this year’s Agatha for Best First Novel.

While I had heard about the other panelists, this was the first time we had the chance to interact. Let me assure you they all now are on my to-be-read list, including our host June Gillam. Here’s a little about each so, if you haven’t already, you can discover their work.

Photo Courtesy of Grace Topping

Julie Hennrikus writes series under three names, the Garden Squad mysteries as Julia Henry; the Theater Cop mysteries as J.A. Hennrikus; and the Clock Shop mysteries as Julianne Holmes.

Rena Leith’s two novels, Murder Beach and Coastal Corpse, take place in northern California and involve protagonist Cass Peake with a ghost.

Camille Minichino, in addition to having a Ph.D in Physics and being a writing teacher, is the author of 5 series: the Periodic Table Mysteries, the Miniature Mysteries (written as Margaret Grace), the Professor Sophie Knowles Mysteries (previously written as Ada Madison), the Post Mistress Mysteries (written as Jean Flowers), and the Alaskan Diner Mysteries (written as Elizabeth Logan).

 

S.C. Perkins, a 5th generation Texan, writes about ancestry tracer Lucy Lancaster. Her first novel won the 2017 Malice Domestic Best First Mystery Competition. Lineage Most Lethal is the second in the series.

 

D.R. Ransdell has written a memoir about her 25 years experience in a mariachi band. Her mystery series features mariachi violinist Andy Veracruz, and she has written a romance set in Thailand.

 

Faye Snowden has two mystery novels featuring Dr. Kendra Hamilton and one with protagonist Raven Burns, a police detective whose father was a serial killer.


Grace Topping’s protagonist is home stager Laura Bishop. Her first novel became a USA Today Bestseller.

Grace Topping, Rena Leith,
Paula Gail Benson, Camille Minichino,
S.C. Perkins, Faye Snowden,
Juie Hennrikus, D. R. Ransdell
Photo Courtesy of Elizabeth Crowens

Not only was it great to hear what this insightful group of authors had to say about how romantic elements (including humans, pets, professions, and obsessions) influenced their work, but also it was terrific to have this discussion take place at Bouchercon where often hardboiled and noir stories predominate the conversation.

Golden Age of Mystery Panel
Roberta Rogow, 
Ana Brazil, Debra Goldstein,
 Josh Pachter, John Billheimer, Marty Wingate

In addition to Grace and myself, I have to give a shout out to our fellow blogging partners who also appeared at this year’s Bouchercon: Connie Berry (participating in a panel considering how to build a fictional town and also an Agatha nominee this year), Jennifer Chow (participating in a panel about furry friends), Debra H. Goldstein (moderating a panel about The Golden Age of Mysteries), Marilyn Levinson (moderating a panel about paranormal elements), Keenan Powell (participating in a panel about amateur sleuths), and Shari Randall (participating in a panel about whether small town murders have to take place in England). Yay to Writers Who Kill for a super presence!

Bouchercon 2020 concluded with the Anthony Awards ceremony held on a public access channel. The nominees appeared on screen to hear the winners announced and make acceptance speeches. At the end of the evening, as the baton was passed to Heather Graham, for 2021’s local planning committee in New Orleans, promises were made to continue virtual access and allow for more participants. I hope that will be possible. For all that we’ve had to learn during this year of isolation, the new capabilities for connections are a true asset.

 

Monday, October 19, 2020

Computers, Printers, and Phones (Oh, My!)

 


Computers, Printers, and Phones (Oh, My!) by Debra H. Goldstein

Today’s blog was written at the last minute. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to write it earlier. I had the best of intentions, but I ran into a combination of technological and human snafus.

 

When we moved, I didn’t hook up my standalone computer. Although the screen is a nice size, both to fit on my desk and to see, the tower is massive. For now, that computer, which is ten years old, is sitting in the corner of my office until I decide what to do with it. Not a problem, I was going to write this blog two weeks ago on my seven-year-old laptop.

 

The laptop has slowed from when I bought it, but it has been getting the job done. At least it did until two weeks ago when I thought about writing this blog. Suddenly, it began having problems being turned on. Either the connection button didn’t connect or there would be a moment of blackness before the words appeared. When it took me fifteen minutes to toggle it on before a Zoom PR call, I realized it was time to replace it.

 

I’m a writer, so it had to have memory, writing capacity, and a comfortable keyboard for typing purposes. I don’t do much in the way of gaming, graphics, or fancy stuff, so it didn’t need every bell and whistle. I’m not going to take you through my search process or how I decided it had to be curbside or mailed to me. Suffice to say, I ordered a new laptop, used not having it as an excuse for not starting to write this blog, received the computer, but failed to open the box – which was also an excuse for not writing. I finally broke down only to discover after six hours that what should have been a simple set-up wasn’t.

 

Next up was a conversation with a service rep after many minutes of being on hold. But, as you can see, we got everything resolved. It was a simple matter of having signed in with the wrong email. Six wasted hours on top of two wasted weeks.

 

My writing of late has been like the timing of this blog. Rushed or non-existent. For the past month, I’ve been doing PR for Three Treats Too Many, the third in the Sarah Blair series. The heaviest push has been during the past two weeks. Most of the time, the event was only an hour or two, with maybe another hour to prepare. But afterwards, when the adrenaline eased off, I was wiped out. My focus was gone. Things that should take ten minutes took hours because I missed something simple, like using the wrong email account for the 365 Office log-in.

 

In retrospect, I realize that for each of my books, I’ve had trouble balancing writing and PR. What about you? Does doing one or the other zap your energy or creativity? Do you look for an excuse to avoid one?  If so, I have a printer that is on its last leg, too.                                                             

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Writers Have Long Memories…and an Anthology Callout by Judy Penz Sheluk


 

Back in August, I wrote about ‘Cleopatra Slippers,’ first published in THEMA, Spring 2005, and how that story, and the actual event that inspired it, changed my life. The same holds true for ‘Live Free or Die,’ my first published short mystery story (World Enough and Crime, November 2014).

 


The premise behind ‘Live Free or Die’ is this: a 21-year-old woman, Emmy, working at an insurance company in Toronto, falls hard and fast for Jack, a man nine years her senior. And not just any man, but an efficiency expert on assignment from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, sent to straighten out the Credit Department where Emmy works. Jack is smooth, handsome, and debonair, and the naïve Emmy is no match for his charms. Consider this excerpt:

 

We were driving back to his place late Saturday night when he mentioned that it might be best if we keep our friendship a secret. “Not that we have anything to hide,” he said, “but why fan the flames?” I thought about my co-workers, gossips each and every one of them, and my supervisor, Molly, who didn’t appear to care much for Jack—likely because she felt her job was in jeopardy—and decided he was probably right.

 

“Okay.” I edged myself closer to the passenger door, not quite sure what else to say.

 

“Why don’t you slide over here, Emmy,” Jack said, patting the seat beside him. “Otherwise, folks might think we’re married.”

 

Fast forward a few scenes and poor Emmy discovers that Jack’s motivation for keeping their relationship a secret becomes clear:

 

It was about six weeks later when Molly came to my desk, carrying a card and a large brown envelope. Jack was back home in New Hampshire for a few days, returning midweek. I missed him.

 

“I’m collecting for the Jack and Jill shower on Wednesday,” she said, handing me the card and the envelope. “Whatever you can afford.”

 

I looked at the card, which had an image of a man and woman holding hands and standing under a white umbrella, a glittery rainbow behind them. It was the first I’d heard about a Jack and Jill shower, but then again, I’d kept pretty much to myself since getting involved with Jack. It was safer that way.

 

“Who’s getting married?”

Molly gave me an odd look. “Well, Jack, of course, and what’s totally ironic is that his fiancée’s name is actually Jill. I thought he would have told you that day at lunch. You were gone long enough. Say you weren’t … ”

 

“Of course not,” I said, fighting the urge to throw up.

 

“It’s just that Jack developed a bit of a reputation as a womanizer the last time he was here. Of course, that was five years ago. He could have changed.”

 

It was the way she said it, more than what she said, that made me realize why Molly didn’t care for Jack. And it had nothing whatsoever to do with job security.

 

Five years ago, Molly had been me.

 

Now, if you haven’t already figured it out, the unfortunate Emmy is a version of me, and the lines Jack used, finding out about the engagement from a card for a Jack and Jill shower…all true. Of course, this was decades before the #MeToo movement. Instead of marching up to HR, seething with indignity, I stayed silent, embarrassed and worried that I might lose my job if I said anything.

 

Ah, but we writers have very long memories, and so, in *‘Live Free or Die,’ I finally gave Jack the punishment he so richly deserved. 


 


Do you have a short story to share? 

As the publisher behind Superior Shores Press, I'm pleased to announce plans for our third multi-author anthology, Moonlight & Misadventure: 20-22 Stories of Mystery & SuspenseComplete details can be found here: Moonlight & Misadventure

 






*‘Live Free or Die’ is included in Live Free or Tri: A collection of three short mystery stories. 

 

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Perfect Villains by S. Lee Manning


 How do you create the perfect villain? I’m talking suspense and thrillers here, not real life, although   So what makes the perfect villain – at least in the world of international thrillers?
real life is full of villains, especially lately. Because it’s not enough to have a good protagonist or even a really good plot. You need a really good villain as well. It’s the Yin and Yang of the writing world – the balance of two opposing forces. The strong protagonist needs an equally strong villain for a truly compelling story.

I could write an essay on the topic. In fact, I tried to write an essay – and it was so boring I almost fell asleep typing. So, I decided to explore the topic in a new way – with an interview. Let me introduce Mihai Cuza. He’s Romanian, although educated in the United States, at University of Chicago, interested in classical music, likes birds and nature, enjoys horseback riding – and is the main villain of my debut novel Trojan Horse.
 
S. Lee: Say hello to everyone, Mihai.

M. Cuza: Hello. And I resent that description. I’m a patriot, not a villain.

S. Lee: Oh, come on. Do you want me to list all the villainous things you do? You impale people.

Mihai Cuza (sipping a cappuccino): Only when they deserve it. And I do it to make a statement – that Romania needs to be ruthless to become great, just as my ancestor, Vlad Tepes, had to be ruthless to protect Romania from Muslim invaders.

S. Lee: Yeah, but still, it’s not really acceptable behavior in the 21st century.

M. Cuza: What is acceptable behavior? Is America having military bases in countries around the world acceptable? I want the United States out of Romania.

S. Lee: Yes, that’s an understandable position. But then there’s how you intend to get them out – by engineering nuclear power meltdowns. How many people are you going to kill?

M. Cuza (stirs his coffee): The point is not to kill people. The point is to demonstrate how unreliable nuclear power is – so that the candidate I want will be elected President. That people may die is regrettable, but sometimes sacrifices have to be made.

S. Lee: And bingo, you just labeled yourself a villain.

M. Cuza: The ends justify the means.

S. Lee: I don’t accept that.

M. Cuza: You might want to look into what American intelligence services do sometime.

S. Lee: Nevertheless. And anyway, your “ends” aren’t all that admirable either. The kind of Romania you want to build is unacceptable. You want to get rid of all the Jews and Romani in the country.

M. Cuza: I’d like to encourage them to emigrate. Peacefully. It’s not like there’s no place for them to go. And anyway, there’s not a lot of them who’d have to leave.

S. Lee: You mean – because the Nazis butchered most of them and their numbers have never come back.

M. Cuza (shrugging): I wasn’t alive then. I’m certainly not advocating gas chambers or mass shootings. But there’s nothing villainous about wanting a country for one’s own people. Trying to improve one’s country is an admirable goal.

S. Lee (restraining herself from hitting her head):  Not when you want to cleanse the country of minorities.

M. Cuza: We will agree to disagree. You wouldn’t happen to have a croissant, would you? It’s polite to offer food to guests.

S. Lee:  Um, sorry. And, as I recall, you starved your “guest.” Along with torturing him.

M. Cuza: That was his choice. And he would have done the same if our positions had been reversed.

S. Lee: Are you sure about that? I’m not.

M. Cuza: Then you’re naïve. That’s the thing about your book. You have this Russian Jew as the hero – when he’s not. When he kills people, too. But you write it from his point of view, and people get the impression that he’s better than I am. He’s not. I’m the hero, here.  I’m the one sacrificing for the cause. And I deserve to win. He doesn’t.

S. Lee: So I guess people will just have to read the book and decide for themselves if you’re the villain or the hero. Thank you, Mihai Cuza, for the interview, and please rinse out your coffee cup on the way out. 


 S. Lee Manning’s career as an attorney ranged from a top-tier New York law firm to working for the state of New Jersey to solo practice. Now a recovering attorney, she spends her days writing. In Trojan Horse, which debuts this month, Kolya Petrov, a Russian Jewish immigrant working for American intelligence is betrayed by his own agency in a devious plot to thwart possible terrorism by an anti-Semitic neo-Fascist Romanian. Manning, who is working on the second in the series, lives in Vermont with her husband and two cats. Trojan Horse is available through Encircle Publications https://encirclepub.com/product/trojanhorse/, on Amazon amzn.to/3fJdEDk, and through your local independent bookstore.