Sunday, December 27, 2009

Join Us For JANO!

Join us for our First Annual JANO sponsored by Sleuths’ Ink. Kick off the new year with a built-in resolution and end the month with a novel in hand.

Here are the rules:

*Write a 50,000-word novel during January (31 days)
* This equals 1,613 words per day
* Don't take time for edits
* You may plot or outline your novel in December
* You may start a biographical character sketch in December
* Write in your favorite genre
* Add 50,000 words to your current WIP if you wish (just post your current word count)
* No actual novel writing UNTIL Jan. 1, 2010
* Start your coffee machines (or tea kettles)

To register and report weekly progress, sign up at

Writers who are not members of Sleuths' Ink are invited and encouraged to join us. We'll report our progress and ask participants to read their beginning pages at the January 9 Sleuths' Ink meeting. We're also planning a celebration at the end of the month. Write on!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

And The Winner Is...

Nicola Ford! Her name was selected from yesterday's blogging conversation with Richard Jay Parker. He had a great post and we had a record 58 comments! Thanks to everyone who participated.

Nic Ford has won a copy of Richard's debut thriller, STOP ME. His publisher, Allison & Busby, graciously agreed to grant one free copy and we thank them for their generosity.

You can find Nicola Ford's website by clicking on her name in the comment section. It appears she has written her first crime novel and is also an archaeologist. Congrats.

Monday, December 14, 2009

GUEST BLOGGER: Richard Jay Parker, Author of STOP ME

As a writer I've always been interested in articles about the process of getting work out there. This isn’t intended as a How-To piece, however, I hope this will encourage writers who are languishing in any of the 'writing a book/rewriting a book/looking for an agent/seeking a publisher' categories and any sub-purgatory categories in between.

There's no doubt about it--getting a book published is one of the hardest tasks anyone can attempt. I began my writing career by submitting comedy sketch scripts on spec to TV companies. I began getting more involved in the production before becoming a head writer, script editor and eventually producer. It was steady progress across years but a book is something different. You're either published or you're not. For a publisher, it's a large investment of faith and money and nowadays they have to be positive of getting a return on that investment before taking the plunge.

It's taken me a drawer full of manuscripts and ten years to get to this point. I don't ever consider that as wasted time though. If I hadn't written all of those manuscripts I wouldn’t have written STOP ME. I also didn't begin by writing thrillers but discovered how much I enjoyed plotting them along the way. I decided that if I were to become pigeonholed as a writer then thrillers were what I’d be comfortable writing until the cows came home. My then agent’s response: 'Great! But I don't represent thriller writers so you'll have to find another agent.'

I won't bore you with the grim details of trying to find alternative representation. Luckily–and lets not forget what a huge factor that is in the journey–an agent who had previously shown interest in my work was poached to another agency and asked me to submit to him there. I was working on STOP ME at the time. I sent him what I'd written so far--about a third--and waited. By the time he’d read it I'd finished writing the whole manuscript. He read the other two thirds, got a positive in-house reader’s report and submitted to publishers.

We got positive feedback but no offers. There was a common criticism of the manuscript which concerned its plot flashing back to the past too often. I quickly rewrote it and made the story more linear. We then got an offer as well as interest from two other publishers. Eventually we settled on my current publisher.

As an editor I'd been pretty brutal re extraneous writing and had fiercely polished the manuscript so there was little story editing to do before it went to print. There were inconsistencies though and I was very glad of the input I had from my editor, Lara. The publisher politely welcomed my suggestions re the cover but I bowed to their superior knowledge and they came up with something much better than anything I could have envisaged–simple but striking.

And there you might think that the work is over but then that depends on how successful you want your book to be. Most publishers encourage their authors to be proactive re publicity for the book so my next question was--how do I get a book by a new author noticed?

Firstly I pursued some established writers of the genre for blurbs. One of them read my book and was kind enough to give me a great blurb for my cover. It arrived a day before the book went to print. It's difficult to know just how much a blurb can help but, as a newcomer, associating your work with someone that people recognise has got to be a step in the right direction.

I also followed the usual route of setting up a website. I think this is absolutely vital whether you're published or not. You can post all your details there as well as samples of your work, short stories etc. I did try and make my website as quirky and memorable as possible. You can have a look here: I also got a good friend to compose a simple piece of menacing music to unsettle people as they read about my story. Copyright is obviously always an issue but you can get pictures and music that are copyright free.

I'm lucky enough to have great support at Allison & Busby in the form of Chiara Priorelli who organises blogs, signed books and publicity. She’s proved invaluable in terms of promoting me on the publisher's site and is always happy to get involved in a publicity concept.

Twitter is also a great tool for getting the word out about your book and is how I came to be associated with the friendly people who run this group and site. There are lots of avid readers as well as publishing people who use Twitter and I've found that if you tweet your thoughts about writing you can soon connect with many people who share a similar passion. You can follow me on Twitter @Bookwalter.

Obviously blogging (like I'm doing now) is a great way to share important information. As well as joining a band of UK thriller writers called The Curzon Group and blogging for them every Friday, I also write for other groups. It's a great way of sharing your experiences, helping other writers as well as promoting your work along the way.

I also cooked up the idea of doing airport book signings with fellow Curzon writer Matt Lynn. We found British Airways very receptive to the idea and did a number of signings. People were intrigued to find us loitering in departures and a great number of them were happy to make their snap purchases from us. It really was odd having to pass through passport control to sign books but it just goes to show how people are willing to get on board if you apply a little lateral thinking.

The process is ongoing and although it's difficult to measure just how much impact a lot of your promotional effort has, you can at least be positive that you’re doing everything you can to make people aware of your work.

Soup to nuts – the whole process. And likely to drive you nuts as well. But there’s no doubt that actually getting published is indeed the hardest part. It’s not impossible though even if it does feel that way sometimes. To get there, being positive is the most important part of your armoury. It's a lonely business being a writer and the disappointments don't get any easier.

Constructive rejection letters only have a use a couple of days after you’ve received them because initially they just mean REJECTION! Once you’ve ridden out the disappointment, however, examine them and take the comments on board. Also remember that opinion is subjective. What won't work for one publisher may be perfect for another. If you have genuine faith in your work then chances are somebody else will. Be your own harshest critic. After you’ve finished your book go back and read it a few months later.

Always start thinking about your next project as soon as you've finished your first. If your current project doesn't get the reception you wanted, by the time you've learned that you'll have something else exciting underway.

I'll finish with a story from 1999. I'd become disillusioned with TV and wanted to concentrate on novel writing. I’d left my TV agent and got a literary agent on the back of my first novel. I was invited to a literary party at the agency and was described in Publishing News as 'soon-to-be-published.’ I thought I'd effortlessly jumped ship. It's now 2009 and I have my first book published. It may even be my last but seeing STOP ME on the shelf definitely made it all worth it.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Get a sneak preview of our guest blogger's thriller novel, STOP ME, before next week! View his web site at

Read the unique premise of his novel regarding an email/vacation killer and hear the suspenseful music! This book is a real page turner. Remember, one lucky writer/reader who comments on the 15th will receive a free copy of STOP ME.

Reminder--the date he guest blogs is Tuesday, Dec. 15.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Sleuths, keep watching this page for more information about next week's guest blogger, Richard Jay Parker. Richard is the author of STOP ME, his exciting debut thriller in the U.K. He'll guest blog on Tuesday, December 15. Please mark your calendars!

Richard will discuss his thriller publishing experience from writing to submission to promotion, including Twitter. Ask him any questions regarding these topics, being a debut author or the thriller genre next week.

Currently STOP ME may be shipped to the US absolutely free with 30% off via Also, his publisher, Allison & Busby, has graciously agreed to offer ONE FREE COPY of STOP ME. We'll draw names from those of you who ask questions on the 15th. More later.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Stacy Juba - Writing For Small Independent Publishers: The Yin and Yang

Writing For Small Independent Publishers: The Yin and Yang

Many writers have asked what it’s like working with a small independent publisher, and I’m pleased to report that it’s been a wonderful experience. My first mystery novel Twenty-Five Years Ago Today, about a newspaper obit writer who stumbles across an unsolved murder on the microfilm, was released in October from Mainly Murder Press. Like most independent publishers, MMP has a niche – in this case, New England-based mystery novels, serving authors and readers who especially enjoy mysteries set in the Northeast (New England plus New York and Pennsylvania).

Industry reports indicate that as larger publishing conglomerates narrow the choice of books that they publish, small specialized presses have stepped in to fill that gap with literary offerings often equal in quality, if not superior to, mainstream publications. These niche publishers know who is reading their product and how to reach them, which is good news for talented authors seeking a home for their work.

Although independent publishers maintain high standards of excellence and the submission process is competitive, writers don’t necessarily need an agent to submit. Should their work be accepted, small press authors will likely receive more individualized attention than authors published by a large conglomerate – for example, they might have an opportunity to give cover input and they may be kept more informed about the marketing of their books. As with any publishing contract, however, writers need to do their research before signing.

I first heard about my publisher when Mainly Murder Press announced over the Sisters in Crime listserv that they were accepting submissions. Sisters in Crime is an organization that promotes the professional development and advancement of women crime writers to achieve equality in the industry. I liked that MMP belonged to both Sisters in Crime and the Independent Book Publishers Association, as this reflects a high level of professionalism. I studied sample book contracts on-line, asked questions of published Sisters in Crime members, and read one of the publisher’s previous books. Satisfied that it was a terrific opportunity, I signed my name and celebrated.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when conducting research: What is the publisher’s distribution network? Does it include distributors such as Ingram’s,, Baker and Taylor, and Barnes & so that bookstores and libraries can easily order your book? Does the publisher offer strong discounts and other attractive terms to distributors, retailers and libraries to encourage stocking and special ordering? How often are royalty payments issued and are they based on industry commission standards? Are there any fees to contracted authors? Are authors required to purchase a minimum quantity of their own title? Several small publishers (vanity presses cloaked as legitimate publishers) demand that the author purchase a minimum quantity of books, which can be as many as 500 copies or more. Because it's not a "fee," some writers fool themselves into thinking this is an industry requirement, but it most assuredly is not.

Writer Beware, the public face of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America’s Committee on Writing Scams, offers a great deal of information through its web site, This is a good place to begin your research. Once the contract has been signed, small press authors should prepare to take an active role in book promotion and marketing. In fact, many independent publishers require a marketing plan as part of the submission process. As a start, I established a web site,; created a Facebook page; visited mystery author web sites and jotted down the publications and book web sites that had reviewed their novels; compiled a database of local media, reviewers, and book clubs; created and distributed bookmarks; and researched email addresses for bookstores and libraries.

Working with an independent press lets you experience the Yin and Yang of the publishing industry – the creative side of writing balanced by the business side of marketing. I’ve had a lot to learn, but hopefully by the time Mainly Murder Press publishes my second mystery suspense novel, Sink or Swim, in Fall 2010, I’ll be an old pro. More information on Mainly Murder Press titles can be found at

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Decoding The Lost Symbol - Simon Cox

Solving mysteries is what I do. In my case, its usually historical mysteries and enigmas, I’m the perfect person to write a guide to the latest Dan Brown novel, The Lost Symbol. This is my fourth such guide book after, Cracking The Da Vinci Code, Illuminating Angels & Demons, and The Dan Brown Companion. I think I have Mr. Brown figured out by now.

So, what were the major mysteries of The Lost Symbol? Well, they certainly weren’t in the same controversial league as the previous novel, The Da Vinci Code – but mysteries there are nevertheless. As a British based author, I suddenly found myself faced with a mountain of research to undertake on the foundations of the United States, its founding fathers, the seemingly Masonic origins of many of the symbols and iconography associated with the formation of this new state and of whether secret societies had a hand in this creation. It was one of the most interesting research endeavors I have ever undertaken.

One of the major eye opening mysteries that I looked into, was the seemingly sacred and secret layout of Washington, DC. This beautiful city on the banks of the Potomac river is at first glance an elegant and well designed array of streets and boulevards that show a high degree of architectural skill and forward thinking design. However, when you look deeper you find that other hands may well have been at play when this city that was to rise from the swampland was designed and planned. There are obvious symbolic elements and Masonic meanings encoded within the very fabric of the city. The way streets are aligned and laid out, the placement of buildings and monuments, and the number symbolism inherent within the measurements of many of the original buildings, all points to a unified and symbolic meaning encoded within DC. It was wonderful to see and understand, like a fog had been lifted, and I could see a glimpse of the original idea.

What makes the Dan Brown books so absorbing is the way he weaves such factual elements into the fabric of his thrillers. In The Da Vinci Code, he had us all wondering whether a great religious and sacred secret was to be found in the south of France, in Angels & Demons he introduced many people to the brilliant artist and sculptor, Bernini, for the first time. In The Lost Symbol, he once again introduces the reader to some deep and interesting themes. Science is represented by noetics, religion by the ideas of such men as Jefferson, Franklin and Washington, art by the amazing Albrecht Durer. It all adds up to a compelling and addictive mix that involves you as a reader and engages you as a researcher.

The Lost Symbol is a pretty good book in the end. Not as immediate as The Da Vinci Code and not as dynamic as Angels & Demons, but its much more of a slow burner. A book that challenges you to look deeper and think more about belief, tolerance and the fundamental meaning of things.

My guide book, Decoding The Lost Symbol, is published in the United States on November 3rd, by Touchstone/Simon & Schuster. I hope it inspires some people to look at the bibliography and some of the entries, with an eye to looking further into some of the mysteries of the past. Your past.

For those of you interested in knowing more, or who want to contact me directly, I am on Facebook under my name, on Twitter (@FindSimonCox) and have a website at, where you will also find details of a fabulous conference I have put together for November 8th in Los Angeles.

Simon Cox

Saturday, October 17, 2009

National Novel Writing Month

Have any of you ever participated in National Novel Writing Month? It's an annual writing event every November. The goal is to bang out a 50,000 word novel in 30 days (no editing allowed--just writing as fast as you can). You have the option of posting your daily word count, wearing Nanowrite t-shirts for inspiration, sending your completed novel at the end of the month and more. Sign up and/or find out more at

I've never tried it but am tempted, even though I'm still in editing mode. It would be fun to work on an entirely different novel for one month. If you're interested, read the guidelines and Q&A on their site. You can't begin before November 1 but you may outline and decide on your cast of characters. That's about it.

I wish it were held a different month--like January or February. November is very busy with Thanksgiving, guests, traveling, and that old thing called Christmas shopping. If no member of Sleuths is going to try this, maybe we should hold our own writing month this winter.

What do you think? Are you going for it?

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Professional short story markets are disappearing at an alarming rate. Soon there won’t be any professional publications left that publish short stories.
Sound familiar? I’ve been hearing variations of this refrain for several decades. Every generation of short story writers complains that the previous generation of writers had it easy.
Guess what? It’s never been easy. Yet short story writers with only a moderate amount of talent have been able to overcome the odds against them by applying a great deal of hard work and dogged determination to their efforts.
How do I know? I have only a moderate amount of talent, yet I’ve sold more than 800 short stories, and I’ve had one or more short stories published every month for the past 74 consecutive months.
Here’s how you can duplicate my success:

1. Develop an intimate relationship with the English language. You don’t need to become a grammarian, but you do need to know how to spell the words you use and how to punctuate the sentences you write.

2. Develop an understanding of what constitutes a story. Read widely and voraciously and study every story you read.

3. Don’t allow another writer’s blinders to become your blinders. If another writer convinces you that there are only a few markets for short stories in your genre, you won’t make an effort to find the hidden markets.

4. Don’t allow your love for a particular genre to limit you. Write in multiple genres and you may find, as I did, that you are more successful writing outside your favorite genre.

5. Volunteer to read submissions for a small press, literary publication, or Webzine so that you can see the manuscripts other writers are submitting, and learn why some of the best submissions are not accepted.

6. Develop a familiarity with the publishing process. Understand why submitting a Christmas story in December is a waste of everyone’s time.

7. Study the magazines to which you are submitting. Pay particular attention to the advertising because it will tell you a great deal about the magazine’s readers.

8. Always, always, always, look for new markets. If you see a magazine, pick it up and study it. Some of the best short story sales I’ve made were to publications that weren’t listed in Writer’s Market and didn’t post their submission requirements on their Web site.

9. Write. Write until your fingers bleed, then continue writing.

10. Submit. Keep submitting. If your short story manuscript is rejected, send it out again. And again. And again. One of my stories sold for $150 to the twenty-third editor to see it, 17 years after the first editor rejected it.

11. Stop fretting. Writers with a single manuscript under submission tend to obsess about that submission. Writers like me who have dozens of manuscripts under submissions often forget what’s where and are pleasantly surprised every time an editor responds.

12. Set a goal. Some writers advocate writing a set number of words or pages per day. I prefer a goal that advocates finished manuscripts. For example, some short story writers I know advocate the “Rule of 12.” That means having 12 short story manuscripts under submission at all times. During the first year, write one short story each month. That’s half-a-page a day or less. At the end of a year you’ll have 12 manuscripts making the rounds. If you sell a story or if you retire one to your filing cabinet, you must write and submit a new story. My goal is to write and sell a short story every week. That’s 52 short stories every year.

13. Keep good records. Know where your manuscripts are, when they were submitted, and what the editors’ responses were. Keep copies of all contracts you sign. Keep a copy of every publication containing one of your stories. If your career lasts as long as mine, you’ll have multiple opportunities to sell reprint rights and may even find a publisher to release one or more of your short story collections.

Follow my advice and you probably won’t become rich and famous. You will, however, have a long career as a short story writer.
Learn more about Michael Bracken at Follow his progress and see if he meets his goal of writing and selling a story a week at

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Michael Bracken Guest Blogs on Thursday, Sept. 24th

Michael Bracken is the author of 11 books, including All White Girls, Bad Girls, Deadly Campaign, Tequila Sunrise, and Yesterday in Blood and Bone, and nearly 1,200 shorter works published in more than 150 anthologies and periodicals.

More than 800 of Bracken’s short stories have appeared in literary, small press, and commercial publications worldwide. Bracken’s “Dreams Unborn” was named one of the best mystery short stories of the year by the editors of The Best American Mystery Stories 2005, “All My Yesterdays” received a Derringer Award, “Cuts Like a Knife” was short-listed for the Derringer Award, and “Of Dreams Unborn” appeared on the preliminary ballot for the Nebula Award. “Snowbirds,” co-authored with Tom Sweeney, was named fourth best story of the year in the Ellery Queen reader’s poll. His short stories have appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Espionage Magazine, Fantastic, Flesh & Blood: Guilty as Sin, Hot Blood: Strange Bedfellows, The Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica 4, Midnight, Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine, Northern Horror, Sun, True Story, Young World, and in many other anthologies and periodicals.

Bracken is the editor of five crime fiction anthologies, Fedora, Fedora II, Fedora III, Hardbroiled, and Small Crimes. Stories from Bracken’s anthologies have been short-listed for the Anthony, Derringer, Edgar, and Shamus awards.

In addition to writing and editing fiction, Bracken is editor of Senior News, a monthly newspaper distributed throughout Texas; managing editor of Texas Gardener, a bi-monthly consumer magazine; editor of Seeds, a weekly newsletter; and editor of Symphony Notes, a monthly newsletter. His non-fiction has appeared in Atlanta Parent, Inside Higher Ed, MAMM, Mothering, Mystery Scene, SFWA Bulletin, Teaching Miracles, The Writer, and other anthologies and periodicals. He has edited corporate and organization newsletters, and has received local, regional, and national awards for advertising copywriting, including a Silver ADDY Award presented by the American Advertising Federation.

Bracken served as vice president of the Private Eye Writers of America, served three terms as vice president of the Mystery Writers of America’s Southwest Chapter, and has served as chair of the Best First Novel committee for the Private Eye Writers of America’s Shamus Awards. He has held many elected positions in the Waco Advertising Federation, a chapter of the American Advertising Federation, including president. He is also an active member of the Horror Writers Association and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

He regularly speaks about writing, editing, and publishing to audiences across the U.S. The many writing conferences he’s spoken at include Hardboiled Heroes & Cozy Cats, Harriet Austin Writers’ Conference, The Journey Conference (sponsored by The Writer), The Langdon Weekend, McKendree Writers’ Conference, Pennwriters, Seton Hill University’s In Your Write Mind conference, and Woodlands Writers’ Guild’s annual conference. He’s taught non-credit writing classes at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville and guest lectured in writing classes at Baylor University, University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, and others.

Bracken received his Bachelor of Arts in Professional Writing from Baylor University and currently serves clients from his office in Waco, Texas.

Additional information about Bracken, including a selected bibliography and his speaking schedule, is available at:

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Writers Make Life Interesting/Mystery is the Spice

Hi, Glad to receive the invite.
The story I just finished, STORM SURPRISE!
Got sent in an open e-mail. I want to thank all of
you for the instruction on how to get it from the word
processor to the e-mail. Special Thanks to Shirley McCann
for the several e-mails on what to do after that.
3500 words was 13 printed pages. It took awhile to get it
lined out after getting it to the correct location. Now the
wait for the winner to be chosen in December 09.
I hope Good Housekeeping likes my First Online Submission!
Elsie, Betty Jo, Claudette and I had a wonderful time at the
Sleuth's Ink meeting last Saturday. We appriciate everyone
being so outgoing, welcoming and your willingness to help us.
We are learning new things each time we meet with you.
Congratulation to Pat on winning the Blog Contest. Loved that
Story. Betty Jo and I are preparing our stories to submit to
Ellery Queen, Department of First Stories. The encouragement
you give,spurs us to the action needed to follow our dreams.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Contest Photo

Congratulations to Pat Woodward for winning the Mystery Photo Contest. And also, a big congratulations to the other entries. It was a tough choice since all stories were awesome.

Now submit, submit, submit!!!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Guns, Gams and Gumshoes (Site by PI's)

Sleuths, if you're writing a mystery, suspense or crime novel, check out this website:

Guns, Gams and Gumshoes is a site written by two PI's who enjoy writing. And that's not all--they address writers' questions. Below is a sampling of the categories. Go to their site, click on the category and they'll give you an official PI answer! How cool is this? It'll be a great resource for all of us. Enjoy.

Admissible Evidence
Be Your Own Investigator
Cell Phone Hacking
Disguises, Guns, Bounty Hunters
Pet Detectives
PI Topics
Private Eyes and Crime Scenes
Public vs Private Investigators
Sleuthing Gadgets
Surveillance v Stalking
Writing About PIs

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Worst and The Best - Rejection

I've received many rejections over the years. Some left me feeling positive about my writing even though it was still a rejection. And some, I'm afraid, have left me with doubts about my ability to concoct a story on paper.

So what's the BEST rejection you've ever received?

And what's the WORST rejection you've ever received?

I'll start the ball rolling. The best rejection I've ever received was for a young adult novel I sent out years ago. I'd found the publisher in The Writers Market and sent them the manuscript. The letter I received in response said, "You write well. Why don't you try a young adult market?"
Well, according to The Writer's Market, I DID try a young adult market.

The worst rejection was also for a young adult submission, although not the same story. I had queried an agent about the book, and he requested the first three chapters and a synopsis. He wrote back and said, "Sorry, I wasn't as impressed as I'd hoped I'd be."

Anyone else care to share?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Contest For Members

Hello Sleuths,

It's time for another impromptu contest for our membership.

Look at the picture. Using all the elements in the picture, create a story of 500 words or less. Be sure to include a crime. Entries will be read at the September meeting. Members in attendance will vote for the best story.

Just in case you can't tell from the photo, the elements are: a cell phone, one earring, an ashtray, lit cigarette, lighter, and a gun.

Let's write!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Top Three Unsolved Crimes In Springfield

Unfortunately, Springfield is no stranger to murder! I'm listing what I consider to be the top three murders in our local area. Of course, this is just in my lifetime. I'm sure there are many I've forgotten or just don't know about.

3. The Revelle Murders. A local banker was accused of murdering his wife to cover up the fact that he'd stolen large sums of money from his bank. He was tried and convicted, but the sentence was later overturned.

2. The Feeney Murders. A nurse from a local hospital failed to show up for shift. When police were called to investigate, they discovered the bodies of the nurse and her two children. Her husband was tried and acquitted.

1. The Three Missing Women. This one because it's never been solved. Obviously, with no bodies ever found, we can only assume this is a murder case. But after all these years.....?

These have always been fresh on my mind. Can you think of more? Do you think these three murders will ever be solved?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Convince Me!

I just read a large article on Funds for Writers about Twitter stories of 140 words. I must confess I didn't understand much of it. It seems the writer gets paid a small amount for these Twitter stories. (A very small amount I might add.)

It seems everyone and every business, news channel etc is on Twitter. Tell me, what is the point? Is Twitter beneficial to the writer or a time waster? Inquiring minds need to know.

Has Twitter helped you in any way with markets or writing tips?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Changing the Rules - Is it Grounds For Murder?

I read a blog posting at Writing and Publishing News telling about the new rules for spaces after sentences. When I was in school, in ancient days, the rule was to use two spaces after a sentence. Now I'm reading that I should only use one.

I'm trying it now. It's not easy to do! It's like learning to walk and talk all over again! I keep having to backspace to see if I actually put just one space between the sentences.

I'm curious. Has anyone started using this practice in their writing? If so, are you having as much difficulty as I am? Can't editors just wait for all of us old folks to die off before making the new rules permanent?

Feedback please! And please try to type using only one space between the sentences.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Was Actor Murdered, Suicidal or Asphyxiated?

I'm sure you've heard the stunning, awful news about actor David Carradine. What do you think? Was it something devious since his hands were reportedly bound behind his back or did he accidentally strangle himself while doing a strange sex act called AEA (autoerotic asphyxiation).

How embarrassing to be found like that. I feel for his family. We have healthcare worker friends who say AEA is fairly common but it's always kept quiet and especially out of the news because it's so embarrassing, weird and deviant.

Another question: Would you ever have a character die from AEA?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Chicago crime??

On a quick trip to Chicago over the Memorial Day weekend––
I looked out of the window and saw yellow tape stretched across a doorway and steps. Couldn't read what was printed on the tape, but my immediate thought was "Who was killed and why?" Imagine that! ;P

Friday, May 29, 2009

Mysteries & Suspense -- What's the Difference?

Can someone explain the difference between mysteries, suspense and thrillers? I love fast-paced page turners and two of my favorite authors fall into that category--James Patterson and Harlan Coben. Their writing styles are similar in that you can't put the book down, they're contemporary in nature, always have many plot twists, with tons of suspense and surprises along the way.

However, Harlan Coben's books are placed in the "mystery" section of book stores while James Patterson's are found in the "suspense/thriller" section. Why is that?

While we're at it, does anyone know the difference between chick lit, women's fiction and contemporary romance?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Hampering Criminal Investigations

This week, news of a possible pedophile involvement in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann surfaced. Madeleine's parents are now suing officials over claims that their daughter's investigation was hampered by police by saying that not only is Madeleine already dead, but that the parents were somehow involved.

What do you think? Did the police miss the mark by focusing their investigation on the parents and not looking further for other possibilities? In a husband/wife crime scenario, the spouse is always the first suspect, but should they always be the MAIN suspect?

Do you think the police handled the investigation appropriately?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

About Editing

I have something about editing on my blog but thought I would also post it here. How do you edit? Do you edit as you go or after you've finished your novel? And do you edit on the computer or print out a hard copy?

I'm in the editing phase of my novel and would love to hear any tips from some of you great writers! Also if anyone knows of a professional editor, please pass along his or her name.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Try This With Your Right Foot!

Okay, so this isn't exactly writing related, but it is something you can do while waiting for your muse.

While sitting at your desk, lift your right foot off the floor and make clockwise circles. While doing this, draw the number '6' in the air with your right hand. Your foot will change direction. Seriously, it will!

If you're like me, you'll keep trying this over and over to see if you can outsmart your foot, but you can't; it's preprogrammed in your brain. This info is supposedly from an orthopedic surgeon. Now, get back to writing.

Monday, April 13, 2009

April Sleuth's Meeting

I enjoyed the program last Saturday. It is intesting and informative to learn things out of your comfort zone and experience. It is always nice to have lunch with you guys and listen to the chatter.

Have the current pirates on the high seas given any one story ideas?

Shirley is doing a good job keeping the interest up and we are having great meetings. Thanks Shirley.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Favorite Book From Your Writing Library

I'm sure all writers have an extensive library of writing and forensic books. Pick one favorite from your collection and tell us the name of the book, the author, and why you think it's a valuable tool for a writer to have. I'm sure we'll all discover a new book or two for our own libraries.

Since I've said that we can only pick one, I'll start with one of my favorites.

Forensic For Dummies, by D.P. Lyle is filled with easy-to-understand information from checking for fingerprints and DNA, to investigating crime scenes and understanding the various stages the body goes through at death.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Six-Word Memoir Challenge

As most of you know, I am a huge fan of six-word memoirs. If you haven't read the emails, here's an example of Hemingway's shortest short. "For sale: baby shoes, never worn." Says a lot, doesn't it? Maybe his wife miscarried. Maybe they couldn't conceive or maybe the baby was stillborn. Does anyone know?

Here's a challenge to sleuths everywhere. Write six-word memoirs about mystery, murder and mayhem. It's fun! Here are a few of mine to get you started:

  • Bloody scene. Cops checking fingerprints, DNA.
  • Severe knife wounds. No one's talking.
  • Body hanging in closet by necklace.
  • Police found body in trunk. Whose?
  • Gasping for air, she shot boyfriend.
  • Dead body, missing gun. Where's wife?
  • Woman's body found. Husband looks suspicious.
It's easy and I can't wait to read yours. BTW, Smith has recently published two New York Times bestselling books featuring six-word memoirs. Enter and you might be published in their next book. Go to and check it out. (They should add me to their staff. I'm such a fan.)

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Jury Duty

A couple of years ago, I had the pleasure of serving on a jury. Although the case itself was not all that interesting - the defendant was an accused drug user found with drugs in his car -, the process of a real-life courtroom drama intrigued me.

It wasn't at all like those on television. Everything moves quickly on television, but in real life, it is sometimes boring and tedious.

I'd love to be called upon again to serve. I'm curious if any others have had interesting experiences on jury duty. Care to share?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Where Do You Work?

I truly enjoyed Beverly's presentation yesterday at Sleuth's. I think I will use the scene card a lot. That is one of those things that we think "Gee, wish I had thought of that."

I talked with Beverly over lunch about her office downtown. She has done what many of us wish we could do. Have our writing space outside the house, away from distractions. I love to read about the places celebrities write. So - tell me where you write.

I remember the days of writing on the kitchen table, then moving everything for every meal (or homework assist). I remember taking my trusty yellow tablet everywhere I went and scribbling as I waited for kids or husband. My son once told someone, "My mom takes a tablet and a camera everywhere she goes."

Then one day, husband and I bought a business. I had my own office, my own typewriter, my own copy machine. Nevermind that 99% of my time in the office was taken doing business things. I had a place to leave my 'stuff' where no one else would bother it.

Well, that was some time ago and my writing space has evolved. From a corner in the bedroom to the dining room table Now after all these years, I have an office. True, it is still a corner of a room. My desk is in the end of the den. I have a table and bookshelfs and no one bothers all the mess I leave on the desk because no one is here to care if I leave a mess. Now I pack my laptop AND my yellow tablet (camera too) when I travel, but the files and the ideas are safe in my 'office.'

Now, tell me - where do you work?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Be Careful With Your Notes

I watched Dateline a few weeks ago. The story was about a husband who poisoned his wife using anti-freeze. That seemed like good novel material so I made several notes. I included the symptoms from such a poisoning and also jotted down other ways to poison someone. All this was for my fiction writing, of course, but I left my notes on a table near the couch. While drinking coffee one morning, my husband leaned forward and picked up my yellow pad. He read it intently and looked at me with concern in his eyes. "Are you going to poison me?" he asked. I laughed, hugged him and assurred him I had no plans for that. I explained the show and my notes and he seemed satisfied. careful with your notes!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Tip-Toe Burglar at mmy hhhouse!

Yes, indeed the infamous Tip-Toe Burglar waltzed his way successfully into my house in the wee hours one morning. He was an Expert at tip-toeing 'cause our dog apparently never even heard him. Later, when I got up, I found the back door, the porch door, and the gate all hangin' open.
How's that for a creepy feeling once your mind starts comin' up with possible answers?

The window incident was somewhere else in the neighborhood. I certainly don't understand how anyone could take out an entire window and neatly prop the pieces up against a tree just to gain entry, but this guy did.

The police found out, apparently, as was reported in the paper, but couldn't arrest him because there was no proof. So they told him to "Get Outta Dodge." He either did just that, or he quit his lucrative cash only hobby; we've never heard from or about him again.

PS The dog did a Wonderful job barking at the police when they came!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Tiptoe Bandit

Since Nancy hasn't signed onto this blog yet, I'll try to remember what she told me about the Tiptoe Bandit. Apparently, this happened to her several years ago.

The thief was called the Tiptoe Bandit because he entered homes while people were home, stole their wallets, left, took the money, left the wallet and credit cards along the street somewhere, and NO ONE ever knew he was in the house until they couldn't find their wallets!!!!

This actually happened to some of the exchange students who were staying with her at the time. I believe she said that the bandit actually removed the window to get inside. Might want to ask her about that, cause I don't see how he could do that. But it is scary to think someone could get inside your house while you're sleeping and no one ever noticed!!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Possible Weapon???

I just read in a book (fiction) about a woman who used a rolled up magazine as a weapon. She claimed that a tightly rolled magazine was as hard as a piece of wood. What do you think???

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Tip Toe Bandit

Do I want to know about the tip toe bandit??? Or will I be hearing him/her every night when I wake? The only crime that has happened to me recently was someone stole the gnomes off my porch. I'm told this is a cool thing to do. Also someone stole my solar lights but I knew who was at the house and confronted him.

I have a neighbor - not too far away - who is a bit unbalanced and Police presence is visible occasionally. Also have been told of meth houses in my neighborhood. The day we signed the papers on this house 7 years ago we heard on the news of a murder about 3 blocks over. If I had known that I probably wouldn't have bought the house. But all in all, I live in a pretty quiet neighborhood. Doesn't sound like it does it. I take that back. It isn't quiet at all. One of the neighbors has teen age boys - they have a friend who blasts out our windows with his car radio regularly - usually late at night.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Hi Sleuths
I can't think of any crime committed on myself.
There was a B & E where some minor junk was taken.
And I can remember times when other minor things have
been taken off our porch and out of our garage. I guess we
have been lucky?
I am interested in hearing about this tip toe crime you are talking about.

Springfield Crimes

Hello Sleuths,

Anyone ever heard of the Tiptoe Bandit? Apparently this was a famous Springfield crime several years ago. I'll let Nancy tell more about it since she was a victim of this crime.

If anyone else was the victim of a crime and would like to share their experience, this is a good place to start. It also might give our members some story ideas!! If I did this right, this blog should only be for Sleuths' Ink members.