Add this to your site

Thursday, October 1, 2015


Please welcome Sleuths' member Shirley McCann. Not only is she a successful mystery writer, she is also one of the founding members of our group. Shirley has several books published and is a regular contributor to Woman's World Magazine's popular feature "solve it yourself" mysteries.
Be sure and follow her links at the end of this interview.

Where do you like to write - home or away?
Either is fine, but I prefer to write around 5 AM in the morning IF I can make myself get up. It's quiet in the house and outside at that time. And I love to watch the sun come up. As long as I have a never-ending supply of Earl Grey Tea, I’m good to go that early.

Wow, I can never get up that early.

Do you listen to music when you write?
Not always. Sometimes I just like listening to the noise around me. That’s assuming I’ve made it up early, of course. Otherwise, yes to the music. I have a Thunderstorm CD that I love.

Thunderstorm CD sounds intriguing - especially when writing mysteries.

What draws you to mystery writing? 
Solving the puzzle. I think that’s the case with a lot of mystery readers and writers. I like to try and find the clues (or plant them) and see if the reader can find them and solve the puzzle.

I must say, you are good at hiding those clues.

What hobbies do you enjoy?
Reading. A LOT.  And for the record, I always write reviews unless the book is so bad I won’t even finish it.  Crocheting is also a favorite pastime. There’s gotta be something else, but nothing comes to mind at the moment. 

It's so important as writers to read a lot. 

Favorite food? 
My mom’s enchiladas. She’s from Texas so that was always a favorite of ours growing up. And still today. Of course, chocolate is always on the list.

Oooh, I love enchiladas, especially if the person making them is from the southwest.

Thanks Shirley for sharing a bit of your life with us today!

The Scarry Inn

Saturday, September 26, 2015

How To Get The Most From Writing Conferences

While we prepare for our next member interview, I thought we could consider how to make attending writing conferences worth your while. Fall is a great time to find a conference.

This is a picture from last weekends Ozark Romance Authors Conference in Springfield MO. It's a great and very affordable conference in the heart of Ozark Mountain Country. Check it out here:
If you live too far away from this conference, get online and search for writer conferences. There are ones all over the country and even on cruise ships. Wouldn't that be fun!
Here are some tips.
  1. If you can afford it, stay in the hotel where the conference is. Many times there is a reduced rate for attendees. Not only does this eliminate driving so much, you are sure to meet other attendees staying there and maybe make some lifelong friends. Or make important connections with the speakers.
  2. Pack a sweater - especially if you tend to run cold. Conference rooms are notoriously chilly. And wear comfortable shoes and clothes. Most conferences these days are pretty laid back in their dress code. But check ahead and make sure if there is a cocktail party or banquet, you are prepared with a little nicer attire.
  3. Take notes, lots of notes. Something may not resonate with you at the time, but later, a light bulb might go off and give you a great idea or inspire you in some way.
  4. At lunch, try to snag a table with one of the speakers. You will hear things and learn things that aren't necessarily in their presentation. It is also a chance for you to stand out from the crowd.
  5. If pitch sessions are available, please sign up. You may be nervous or maybe your work isn't quite done, but that's okay. Who knows what connection you will make or offer you will get.
  6. If author tables are present, be sure and visit them during breaks. Hopefully you have extra money to spend on books. If not, it's okay just to visit and ask them questions. Many also offer free stuff, like candy!
  7. Raise your hand - ask questions. There is no reason to leave a conference without your brain packed full of information.
Most of all - have fun. Take an extra day to explore the town you are visiting. When you get home, look up the connections you made online - either their web page, blog, Twitter or Facebook page. Keep in touch - these people could help you along your writing journey.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


Most writers fall in one of these two categories. Some must outline and plan and plot, while others just begin writing and see where it takes them. And they will hardly ever switch and try writing the other way. It would be like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole - uncomfortable and awkward.

Some plotter's have every single thing planned out from all the twist and turns of the story, to extensive character development. This can run into several pages before one word of the story is written. Other plotters have a less extensive outline, allowing for possible change of direction.

Most mystery writers are plotters by necessity. Twists, turns, red herrings, and bad guys all need to be ready to go.

To a pantser, an outline seems insane. They can't imagine trying to plan how everything will happen. It takes the excitement of discovery away. Just let the character go wherever they want and let the story follow. Of course, this usually means a very rough first draft which must undergo extensive re-vision. That's not to say the plotter doesn't have to revise, but probably a lot less.

Which kind of writer are you? And would you ever give the other way a try?

Wednesday, September 9, 2015


Murder wasn't on the itinerary when Lacey James and her friend, Stella, traveled to Ireland to help a friend. Expecting the sights and sounds of Ireland to soothe her spirit and provide background for her next mystery, Lacey became the prime suspect in an extremist plot. From the Book of Kells to St. Kevin's Monastery, Lacey is stalked by people demanding something that she does not have. Among ancient castles and legends in the Emerald Isle, Homeland security agent, Mitch Logan shadows her every move. He knows too much about her. Can she trust him? And who is Irene Bouchard, the redheaded bombshell that turns up every time Lacey is in trouble?

Please welcome fellow Sleuths' member, current Secretary and News Letter Editor -  Pat Elliott.
Who doesn't love a mystery set in Ireland? And the cover is so intriguing!

Here is a short interview with this talented writer, Be sure and follow the link at the end to her Amazon page. 

We just talked about writing habits on the blog. What are some of yours?

Living alone allows me to write anytime or all the time. But I procrastinate.  I need to do this – I need to do that. Anyone else a procrastinator?

      I raise my hand and look around for others. 

At what age did you first start getting serious about your writing?

I was published in the high school newspaper and I was hooked.
Where do you get inspiration for your stories? 

From travels and pictures, I imagine settings.  People I know or have met give me gist for my characters. Mix up their characteristics and viola I have a character that is good or bad or have flaws. Sometimes those people are only sitting at the next table in a restaurant or in church and I don’t know them at all.

Which do you enjoy more - writing the first draft or editing the final version? 

The first draft.  I hate editing.
What is your favorite color and does it ever play a part in your stories? 

My favorite color changes with my moods. I’m not aware of using color in my stories. Maybe I should start using color.

Thanks for taking the time to give us some insight to your writing process.

Pat's book Murder on Tour is available at Amazon.com.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

JANO 2016

About JANO
During January, 2010, Sleuths’ Ink held it’s first-ever JANO challenge. Modeled after the popular National Novel Writing Month in November, JANO begins in, you guessed it, January.
Participants are challenged to write a 50,000-word novel during January. Join us and kick off the new year with a novel in progress! 

Two good reasons we picked January: 

1) You get an extra day to write. To complete 50,000 words during January, you only need to write 1,613 words a day.

2) The holidays are over. Winter has set in. What better way to spend a long, dreary month than writing a novel?

Over the past few years, participants from across the nation entered our challenge. Many of them reached their 50,000 goal, with a few actually receiving a contract for their completed JANO project.


Sleuths' Ink will hold its Seventh Annual JANO beginning January 1, 2016. Please join us and kick off the new year by writing a new novel or adding new words to a work in progress. 

Rules: There may be no actual writing on your JANO novel until January 1, but you may plot your novel and create character sketches before January 1, 2016. On that date, write like mad (no editing) the entire month in order to reach the 50,000-word goal.  

To celebrate JANO members’ successes, Sleuths’ Ink will sponsor a party February 5, 2016. Details are forthcoming. As always, during the party, prizes will be awarded to our JANO 2016 participants.  See categories below.  In addition, we're giving away a $100 grand prize to one lucky JANO participant at our annual December holiday party.  The winner of this grand prize must be a Sleuths’ Ink member in good standing as of February 1, 2016 and must have written a minimum of 25,000 words in 2016.


  1. First to 50,000 words in January
  2. Second to 50,000 words in January
  3. Third to 50,000 words in January
  4. Best Title
  5. Best First Paragraph 
  6. Most Unique Character Name
  7. Best Blurb – 100 words or less  

    KEEP IN MIND: a Blurb is often used in your query letter to sell your story to an editor or what is found on the back of the book to grab your potential reader’s attention.
 Participant MUST have written at least 10,000 words to be eligible for prizes
  • Must be on the janowriters yahoo email loop. (see below)
  • No acceptances after MIDNIGHT January 31, 2016 deadline. NO exceptions!!!
Attendees of the Wrap-Up Party judge the last four categories on February 5th, 2016 and prizes will be awarded accordingly. You do not have to be in attendance to win, but we encourage everyone within driving distance to come join the FUN!
JANO is sponsored by Sleuths’ Ink, a mystery and suspense writers’ non-profit organization in Springfield, Missouri. JANO 2016 Chairperson: Wanda Fittro

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Writing Habits


I hope everyone is enjoying our "meet the members" posts. I thought we would take a break before our next interview and talk about writing habits.

I have yet to meet any two writers who approach the process the same way. And if you are enjoying our interviews, you see what I'm talking about.

Like in this picture, some enjoy writing in a public place such as a coffee shop. While others prefer the solitude of home.

Coffee, tea or soda? Many writers need some sort of caffeine boost. Or, perhaps, like Hemingway, they require something with a bit more punch to get those creative juices flowing.

Pen and paper, or computer? Of course a computer is much easier to edit on, but some writers find the flow of words comes easier while writing long hand.

Music or not? Some writers create play lists and listen with ear buds or head phones. Others find music a bit too distracting.

The time of day we write differs for everyone. Just like some of us are morning people, others are night owls. The thing is to realize when you are the most creative and try to block off that time.

Share with us your writing habits. I bet no two will be alike.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Member Interview

Please welcome Sleuths' member Sharon Smith to our blog
"Thanks for this opportunity!"
You're more than welcome. Let's get started. By the way, I love your picture!
When did you first get the writing bug?

This may seem like a stretch, but it began when I went away to college. The day I was dropped off, I began worrying something bad would happen to one of my loved ones, while I was gone. Yes, I’m the worrier in the family. :-(
For that reason, and also because I loved receiving mail, I sent letters to both of my grandmas at least twice each month.

Here's where the relevance begins to appear. My mom's mother often told me how much she enjoyed my letters. She was the initial stimulus. Second was the fact that early on I was a voracious reader. In grade school, I spent my summer vacations devouring books.

Third, my career required a lot of technical writing. I decided to see whether I could also write the stuff I loved to read. I wrote my first novel in 1996 and shelved it. It remains there.

In 2001, I began working on my second novel and signed a contract with an agent in 2002. Nothing happened.

In early 2003, I was diagnosed with stage three ovarian cancer. My life expectancy was 28 months. Suddenly, family memoirs took precedence. I knew my family, and I knew if memoirs were to be written I had to write them. Remember the grandma who loved my letters? She was a truly memorable person, and I wanted to preserve memories of her for future generations. I spent every available moment writing and researching. Through research, I met family members who added much to the memoirs and to my life. They remain dear friends.

I completed the memoirs in 2007 and returned to fiction. By then, the motive for murder in the book I completed in 2002 was no longer in the forefront. I did a complete rewrite. Then I paid an instructor from The Loft Literary Society in Minneapolis to critique this book. Bottom line: before I did anything else, I wanted to know if this novel merited additional attention or if I should find another diversion. I guess her response is evident. I’m still writing . . . whenever possible

I love writing and find it exhilarating. However, for the last 15 months life has thrown some roadblocks in my path. Even so, I'm still hoping to complete book four . . . and five . . . and six. (No, gratefully, it isn’t another bout with cancer.)
Wow, that's quite a story. Nothing like a health challenge to get us motivated.
What genre do you prefer in your writing and reading?

I love reading mysteries and spend most of my reading time enjoying that genre. Mysteries run the gamut from cozies to the graphic. I enjoy the former much more than the latter. Although my novels are police procedurals, they're as close as they can get to being cozies. Each contains a touch of romance, and humor often enters into the exchanges between my two protagonists.

If you could pick anywhere in the world to write, where would that be and why?

Right now, since I'm rarely at my home in St. Paul, Minnesota, I'd choose to write there. There are so many interesting locations, and many of the people actually are "Minnesota nice."

I do a lot of research for each of my novels. Fellow Minnesotans have supported those efforts. The lead investigator from the Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office was a wonderful resource for my first mystery, and the second, third and fourth. He has also become one of my biggest fans.

My third book, Murder on a Stick, centers around the Minnesota State Fair, also known as the great Minnesota get together. A person who worked in the information booth gave me all kinds of interesting facts about the fair. Law enforcement and fire officials answered a plethora of questions, as did operators of the food booths. Because I love to learn things while I read, I always include opportunities for my readers to do likewise.

Morning, afternoon or night writer?

All of the above. When I'm writing, I'm totally engrossed. I write from the time I get up, until I go to bed. I eat breakfast, lunch and supper, while staring at my monitor. Prior to getting ready for bed, the only real break comes when I exercise for an hour on my Nordic Track cross-country ski machine. Yes, I actually have one and actually use it. But you already know I have OCD, correct?  :-)

Pantser or Plotter?

I'm definitely a pantser. When I begin writing a book, I start with my two protagonists and the victim. I don't know how or why the person was victimized.

I believe there's some magical connection between my fingertips, while they’re in contact with the keyboard, and the storytelling center in my brain. I sit at my computer, and the story develops. While working on the first draft, I hate to stop. I want to know what's going to happen. The guilty party is rarely the person I first suspected. While writing the first draft of my second book, tears streamed down my cheeks when the guilty party was revealed. I wanted that person to be innocent. My protagonists had the same reaction. Coincidence?

Thanks so much for sharing a bit of your life with us.

Please support this talented writer. Here are her links.