What's in Store

Meet the Authors, Writers Doing Right, Book Reviews and More!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Catholic Writers Guild Online Conference ROCKS! Free conference full of good stuff.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Author Camille Minichino Branches Out!

Camille Minichino is a retired physicist turned writer.  As  Camille, she is the author of the Periodic Table Mysteries. As Margaret Grace, she writes the Miniature Mysteries, based on her lifelong hobby.  As Ada Madison, she writes the academic mysteries featuring Professor Sophie Knowles, college math teacher. Soon, every aspect of her life will be a mystery series. 

"The Probability of Murder" was released March 6. 

Okay. Before Camille begins, I just want to say that I LOVE LOVE LOVE her attitude! Life is meant to be explored! Imposing limits on yourself such as "I should stick to one protagonist forever" is hooey! Even Agatha Christie had Poirot, Miss Marple, Tommy & Tuppence, that Harlequin guy (Was he dead or what? I never quite got that series.), and the little lawyer who knew everything. My point is, when you have so many interests, you should celebrate! Because, as Camille says:

Life is a Jumble

What can be more appealing than a blog that advertises itself as a Jumble?

Like my newest protagonist, college math teacher Sophie Knowles, one of my favorite pastimes is making up and solving puzzles, jumbles included. But, with three releases this spring, it seems my life itself is a jumble. A big mash-up. I'm on my second pen name and third series, and hoping for a fourth (proposal now with my agent).

In fact, I've jumbled my way through life. And I must admit I've always been that way. If social workers and child psychologists were paying as much attention when I was a kid, I'd have been riddled with drugs and shunted off to Focus Therapy. I often think how different my life would have been if I'd chosen to be an expert in something. Just a small corner of the universe for me to shine in, to know more than anyone else.

At one time, my husband knew more than anyone in the world about video tape, including the technical aspects and the behind-the-scenes business. Imagine digging that deeply into a one-half-inch (or three-quarter-inch) item like video tape. He was in great demand, and highly respected for his expertise. He's still that way—focused, as engineers are wont to be. Lucky me when there's a problem in my home office or entertainment center!

I admire experts, but it's too late for me. Instead, I write my characters as experts. Sure, Professor Sophie Knowles has a hobby or two, but she's heavy into her teaching and research and knows a lot more about differential equations than I ever will. She's not about to write a novel or go on a blog tour or take a cartooning class as I've done.

My first protagonist, Gloria Lamerino, retired physicist, was even more of a specialist, never reading outside her field and not even dating for decades! (Don't worry, though, because when you meet her, she'll have found true love with a homicide cop.) A look at my magazine subscriptions would defy anyone trying to profile me.

 Probably the protagonist who's most like me is Gerry Porter of the Miniature Mysteries. She loves her hobby of building dollhouses and making mini scenes, but she's content to use kits and found objects—unlike her friends and fellow crafters who make things, often of museum quality, "from scratch."

Like me, Gerry quotes Carl Sagan: "If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe." Since there's no time for that, I might as well use the pie mix and move on to another project.

So, blog fans, are you a focused expert or do you also lead a jumbled life with many hats, careers, names, hobbies?

Thank you, Camille!

Check out this fascinating author on her website .

Friday, March 16, 2012

Happy St. Pat’s Day from Author Michele Drier

Michele Drier has been a writer of sorts for most of her life. She's written news, features and columns for several daily newspapers in California; successful grants to the National Endowment for the Arts and the California Arts Council as well as a host of public and private funding sources for non-profit agencies; annual reports, policy White Papers, newsletters and brochures. But she didn't consider herself a writer until the release of  her novel SNAP, followed by Edited for Death, which is available October 1st from Mainly Murder Press.

Michele's books sound great, but in honor of the holiday, she's kindly agreed to blog about the Irish holiday coming up this weekend. Please do yourself a favor and check out her books, including excerpts, on her website. And for all you mystery fans out there, see if you can discover who Michael is!
And now, here's Michele on a St. Patrick's Day memory:


Even as a kid, when you had to wear green to school or get pinched, St. Patrick’s Day has been one of those annual times to remember ancient rituals.

I’m not Catholic, nor is my family, but we do have some Irish blood; along with English, Welsh and a smattering of Portuguese, thanks to someone way back in my father’s family.

But on my mother’s side? Pure British Isles. And this includes a great-great-grandmother from Leeds who sailed to the U.S. from Ireland. Why Ireland? No one has ever found the answer, but I’m still looking.

This same great-great-grandmother traveled, and on one trip back to Ireland, family lore has it that she kissed the Blarney Stone. So some of our family legend might be traced back to that visit.

Whatever the reason, I’ve always celebrated St. Patrick’s Day, usually with corned beef, cabbage and Irish potatoes, occasionally with a tot of Jamison and for several years with a party that included a fair amount of drink and someone singing “Danny Boy”.

One year as the party was in the planning stages, I moved. I moved 900 miles away. It was for a new job that I desperately needed. I ended up on St. Patrick’s Day that year in a new city, a new home and a new job with a group of people I came to count on as true friends.

But on the day, I sat in my new office looking north at the San Bernardino Mountains, palm trees waving in the breeze under a clear blue sky and wondered what the future held.

That year was particularly hard because our St. Patrick’s Day party had a theme. We were going to design and enter a “float” in the Kinetic Sculpture Race, a three-day event from Arcata to Ferndale, across Humboldt Bay mudflats, grazing lands and two-lane roads using only human power to propel the sculptures.

Sample Sculpture

A dream brought on by the Guinness and Jamison? Maybe. This vision and planning had begun several weeks earlier and would consume us right up until race day, always begun on Mother’s Day in May.

Our sculpture would be a cross between a barge and a cart. It would have to ride on over-inflated fat tires, like a dune buggy. It would have to have pontoons laced underneath for the water portions.

We had a name and a design. Since all of us worked for various non-profit agencies, it would be called the “Non-profit Prophet”. It would have a superstructure designed with Moorish columns and turrets. A “prophet”, yet to be chosen, would ride on a throne, dressed like a Turkish sultan.

Since we were all women, the actual work of moving the sculpture was a major discussion. It would have to be propelled by some sort of bicycle arrangement to move across the mudflats and none of us were bicycle enthusiasts, so we started working up a training schedule.

We’d set aside the St. Patrick’s Day party as an appropriate time to work out the superstructure design. What should the turrets be made from? We were leaning toward papier-mâché over chicken wire, both for weight and because a couple of us had been teachers and could churn out papier-mâché by the cart-load.

Plans were coming along until that fateful phone call one Sunday morning, offering me a job I couldn’t refuse.

In the hustle of packing up, moving, finding a place to live, enrolling my daughter in a new school where she’d know no one, the “Non-profit Prophet” slid off the radar. I’d promised myself and my friends that I’d come back for the St. Patrick’s Day party and to help with the final planning for the race, but demands of a new job and new surroundings took over.
So instead of celebrating the day with a group of close friends, laughter and raging silliness, I sat at my new desk and wondered if I’d made the right move.

Over many years, I’ve decided that, yes, it was the right move since it opened up experiences and challenges I’d never have had. I’ve stretched my interests, met many new people, become a writer with three books under my belt, and traveled. I’ve even been to Ireland.

I didn’t kiss the Blarney Stone, but now St. Patrick’s Day brings back both memories of parties and memories of a green, green land full of history, music and welcoming people.

And a big chunk of zaniness!

Don't forget to check out SNAP, available on Kindle.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Dreams & The Prophetic Voice

Eloise Hill is a writer, psychic, and nurse who has been in love with the Tarot, and all things metaphysical, since she picked up her first Rider-Waite deck at the age of eighteen. In addition to giving private intuitive readings, she teaches classes on a variety of subjects including Candle Magic For Muggles and The Womanly Art of Tea Leaf Reading. She is the author of The Eight Of Pentacles, the first book in the Eileen McGrath Tarot Mystery series, set in and around Oakland, CA and inspired by her thirty years as a psychic/Tarot enthusiast.

Being the author of a paranormal cozy series with a psychic protagonist who has particularly powerful dreams, it will probably not come as a surprise that I pay a fair amount of attention to my own. Memories of those nightly visitations, as well as those shared by my clients, has taught me the intuitive voice is alive and well in all of us and can speak volumes while we sleep. So, today, I thought I’d share two of my own.

One afternoon, in late summer, I was on my way to do a health insurance interview with someone I will call Mary. It was an unusually sultry day for Northern California and, about ten miles down the freeway, I began to feel a headache coming on. I sometimes get migraines from food allergies, but this felt different: like my head was full of static. I put it down to the heat and the fact that I was rushing from one part time job to another and drove on.

I got to Mary’s city of residence feeling a bit worse for the wear, and, despite having reviewed the directions, overshot her street. I executed a five-point turn, started back, and drove past her street again. After one more unsuccessful attempt, I managed to make the appropriate turn and pulled up in the driveway to find her daughter, at the door, and Mary, in the bathroom, throwing up. She emerged, a few minutes later, pale-faced and a little shaky. Feeling a bit queasy myself, I asked if we should re-schedule, but she said she’d just gotten “a sudden attack” of headache and nausea and would like to go ahead.

We completed the interview, with no further interruptions, and I headed back toward Oakland in rush hour traffic. The “static” in my head had now exacerbated to a full blown throb, accompanied by dizziness and tinnitus in both ears. Once again, I found myself missing turnoffs and freeway exits and, in short, making what should been a twenty-minute commute into one that took well over an hour—as if my internal compass had gone haywire. Assuming I had picked up the same bug as Mary, I got home, faxed the interview, took a hot shower and went to bed.

I fell off to sleep and awoke, in the dark of night, from a dream. In the dream, I found myself lying on the bed, in the bedroom of an ex-boyfriend: a man I will call Steve and someone I’d lost contact with, who no longer lived in the Bay Area. On a bed stand sat a clock that I recognized as his, with a display of 6:00. I couldn’t tell, by the light in the room, if it was morning or evening and felt a little jolt of anxiety each time I glanced at the clock, as if there was some action that needed to be taken. And then, I noticed a cluster of objects on the floor: a pile of six or seven incendiary devices bound by a black cord. A surge of panic shot through me, wondering how to reach Steve to tell him about the bombs by his bed, and then a voice in my head said “It’s okay, he will know what to do.”

At this point, I came awake for real. I forced myself to open my eyes for a few minutes, while I calmed down, then drifted back to sleep…to find the dream waiting for me again. It repeated three more times that night, each time with a heightened sense of urgency, as I noticed the time and the incendiary devices and thought of Steve. With my alarm blaring and my heart pounding, I awoke in a cold sweat and drifted up into consciousness, relieved that it was only a dream. And then I heard the radio announcer say, “I regret to inform you that the second twin tower has been hit…it appears that New York City is under terrorist attack.”

In the months that followed, I reviewed the events of that tragic day and the elements of the dream time and again. The first hi-jackers boarded the Boston-bound plane, in Portland, at 6:00 am PST and the first and second-tower hits took place at 8:46 and 9:03 am EST, respectively: well within the time frame, given the three hour difference. The number of incendiary devices outnumbered the actual attacks, thankfully, but there is evidence of plans that were aborted. And my friend, Steve—residing and working in New York City, as it turned out, when the towers fell—survived unharmed. All of which left me wondering if my sudden onset of symptoms (and Mary’s) were some kind of intuitive response to what was to come and how many other people had prescient experiences in the hours preceding September 11.

And now, on a lighter note, I’d like to share another dream which occurred recently. Last fall I was
introduced to a new neighbor who was expecting her first baby. She was about seven months along at the time of our first meeting, and I got an instant “hit” that the baby would arrive early, by more than two weeks. Time passed, and a few nights before Christmas, I went to sleep wondering if the baby had arrived. That night I dreamed that everywhere I went in and around my neighborhood, a small lion followed me: a fuzzy little cub, peeping around corners and then disappearing, as if he wanted to come out and play, but was a little shy.

On Christmas Eve, en route to the recycling bin, I ran into my new neighbor. Her belly still protruded under her sweater, so in an effort not to embarrass myself—in case she was no longer pregnant—I just asked how she’d been feeling. She replied that she was catching a breath of fresh air, waiting for family to arrive for the holidays and catch their first glimpse of the baby. She looked bleary-eyed, but happy and, when I inquired about the circumstances of the birth, she went on to say that she and her hubby had welcomed a healthy boy, delivered two and a half weeks early due to her chronic hypertension. And the baby’s name? Wait for it….wait for it…Leo.

So how about you? Any dreams that have made you worry for absent friends, brought a smile, or found its way into your writing?

To learn more about Eloise and her books, visit her Website. I LOVE the "case notes" she has from the murder, including photos! You can also pick up a copy of her mystery, The Eight of Pentacles at Amazon.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Author Gary Phillips Knows No Boundaries!

Among his various pursuits, Gary Phillips has been one of those maligned community organizers, a security guard, a printer, taught incarcerated youth, delivered dog cages, been a labor rep, run nonprofits and worked in electoral campaigns. These and other experiences that shall remain unmentioned have supplied material for the numerous tales of the grift, the grab and the dust-off he's written in formats from short stories to screenplays. Phillips has been nominated for a Shamus, and won a Chester Himes and Brody awards.  He writes a regular column for Mystery Scene magazine.

Gary will be reading from Treacherous at the next Noir at the Bar with the cool line up of Hillary Davidson, Gar Anthony Haywood, and Johnny Shaw -- Sunday, March 26, 8 PM at Mandrakes, 2692 S. La Cienega Blvd., btw Venice and Washington, in beautiful Culver City.

Welcome, Gary!

Gary, you are a scriptwriter, the author of graphic novels, mysteries, and historical fiction. You pen short stories. You contribute your talent to causes like “Shaken”, a short story anthology to aid the victims of Japan’s earthquake and tsunami. You’re an editor, panelist and moderator. You write standalones and series, male and female protagonists. You’ve even moved into audio-visual with interviews and audio chapters posted on your website. Is there a hat left in the writing world you still want to wear?

I suppose at this stage of the game, what with the changes that are still happening in publishing and the various ways in which the potential reader of your stuff can be distracted – streaming movies and TV shows, YouTube, tweeting and Lord knows what all else, -- the writer’s job is still to tell a story.  My goal then is being open to the numerous platforms, to use the techie term, in which to deliver my stories.  But the elements the storyteller has to employ, from compelling characters, plot twists, narrative drive and so on, remain the same.  Those parts of the story if you will have been with us since I guess we started putting pictographs on cave walls and will continue even when we can jack the medium into our cerebral cortexes to get out story fixes.  From audio file to comic book panels or putting words in the mouths of actors, it’s all part of the big show.  

Could you tell us about your latest, a short story collection called "Treacherous: Grifters, Ruffians and Killers". (Ruffians. I love that word.)

Treacherous is a collection of 20 of my short stories that have appeared mostly in other anthologies and a few mystery magazines over the years.  For instance, “The Performer” about a piano player plying his trade in a strip mall bar in Los Alamitos originally was in Orange County Noir, an anthology I edited for Akashic.  Of course the great thing about being the editor of those kind of collections is you get to put you own story in the book.  Ha.

The thing too about short stories is I like to fool with the crime and mystery format, stretch it some.  So there’s a section in Treacherous called “Beyond Shadow and Substance” which is the line from Rod Serling’s voice over introduction to the original Twilight Zone.  Those stories, like say “Can’t Be Satisfied,” is a riff on the blues number by Muddy Waters and involves restoring a 60-era car, a beautiful woman (naturally) and some backwoods hoodoo.  Or in “The Thrill is Gone,” a hitman is plucked from Hell to slay evil for Heaven.  A little something for everyone…fun for the whole family, dog-gone-it.

I would be remiss too if I didn’t mention that an anthology I’ve edited that we’re just putting the finishing touches on called Scoundrels: Tales of Greed, Murder and Financial Crimes.  This e-book and print-on-demand collection drops later this month from downandoutbooks.com and is an all-original line-up of stories from the likes of SJ Rozan, Tyler Dilts, Reed Farrel Coleman and David Corbett   The title says it all and I think mystery fans won’t be disappointed by the stories in this book revolving around money shenanigans – in the suites and down in the streets. 

You are one of the few authors I know who makes his living writing. How do balance the creative and the business aspects? 

It’s certainly not high living, I can assure you of that, Jackie!  But yeah, it seems the writer these days not only has to pay attention to working their craft, but can’t ignore the promotion aspect of their work.  That you put the material out there and pray it finds its audience is not enough given the aforementioned multi-media completion for eyes, time and as sc-fi author Robert Heinlein observed long ago, “competing for people’s beer money.”

That said, I don’t tweet, twitter or whatever the hell it’s called.  I do put out announcements on Facebook, but what writer doesn’t?  Like for Scoundrels, the cats at Down and Out, Eric Campbell and Bob Truluck (a writer in his own right who has a kick ass story in Scoundrels) have brought on a social media/pr person to help market the book.  For me then, that seems to be where I’m at.  I want to concentrate on the writing and leave it to others to help get the word out.  Now that doesn’t mean I won’t do panels or stand on a freeway overpass at rush hour and read into a bullhorn…hmmmm…but there’s only so much time in the day and the writing has to take priority.

Ebooks are the latest revolution. Do you find they have impacted your sales significantly? And do th\ey impact your commitment to personal appearances?

As I mentioned, Scoundrels is ebook and POD, so there’s that.  I haven’t got rich yet though certainly there are writers who do pretty dang decent on the ebook front in terms of sales/downloads.  I like to think the “e” realm is simply another aspect or adjunct to my storytelling.  But clearly it’s a part of the business of being a writer that can’t be ignored.  On the appearance part of your question, that is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately.  I did two in-store book signings recently for Treacherous which were, ahem, modestly attended.  But that’s cool, that’s just something you have to roll with as a writer – genre or so-called mainstream.

Conversely, I dig doing panels, I’m signing at the paperback book show out in the Valley later this month, participating in a staged reading of Chandler’s Lady in the Lake.  Maybe I sell a few books, but it’s also possibly connecting with an audience that doesn’t know my work, keeping my name out there, networking and what have you.  For me the perfect day is writing and editing from 6 AM to about one in the afternoon, getting a bite to eat, catching up on my e-mails, hitting the gym, then going to an evening gig.  As Napoleon Dynamite would say…Sweet! 
Social media is a must for authors who want to get their names out...or is it? How much time do you spend on Facebook, Twitter, blogging and such? There’s a line between promotional efforts and baring it all in public. Are you selective about what information you share?

Right, I don’t be tweeting.  I do post on Facebook but only if it’s a public appearance sort of thing.  I mean, don’t us writers overuse these media now anyway?   I do regular posts on foursytory.org – say a blog post once a week and a “feature” length non-fiction article (and occasionally a short story and also have a webcomic up there called "Bicycle Cop Dave") every other Thursday is my schedule, and once every other Saturday do my scheduled post the criminal minds blog that includes contributors Sue Ann Jaffarian, Kelli Stanley and other reprobates.  Heh.  But blog etiquette is such one shouldn’t flog one’s stuff too much, right?  That’s why on criminal minds, we have a topic of the week to riff about and on fourstory, we’re kind of a staff, and feature length stuff is plotted out beforehand.   

Definitely then I’m selective about what I share. Certainly my politics and outlook leaks through what I write but I usually don’t rant on about [the Tea Party], Fixed News, buying asparagus at the supermarket, and I love me some asparagus, etc., etc.   

Self-publishing. Even writers who were opposed to it are now giving it a try. While this platform provides authors with diverse points of view and stories an outlet for their writing, there are downfalls. Where do you stand on the subject?

Essentially I broke into professional writing being self-published.  As has been documented long ago and far away, I was partners in a indie publishing outfit called West Coast Crime out of the Pacific Northwest in the early ‘90s.  We published my first book, Violent Spring, Served Cold by Ed Goldberg (which won the Shamus for “best first” from the Private Eye Writers of America), Elvis in Aspic by Gordon Demarco, and the Concrete River by John Shannon (that was under his John Brown Books imprint but John was also a partner in WCC).  Ed, John and my book were eventually picked up by Berkley Prime Crime and the rest is history.

I told you the back story then to say I’m down with self-publishing.  But I think you have to have your manuscript go through the rigors of editing, rewriting, proofing and re-editing the traditional publishers put, or at least used to put, the text through.  For instance with Scoundrels once I turned in my edits version of the writers’ stories, after possibly discussing changes with them that were incorporated, the material was proofed and sent back, the galley as it were, to the writers for their edits.  Sure, ebooks aren’t permanent like a hard copy of a book, but the goal should be to tell the tale the best way you can and I’m a firm believer that some other person, the editor, has to read the story and suggest where clarifications can be, where scenes don’t work, and so forth.

What advice would you give to new writers, especially young writers?

Read.  Read the classics and more – Twain, Dickens, Verne, James Baldwin, Greek mythology, David Goodis, Frederick Brown, Joyce Carol Oates, Robert Louis Stevenson, Hammett, Ross Macdonald, Richard Wright, McBain, Hemingway, Elmore Leonard, Agatha Christie…there’s a reason their books haven’t gone out of print. Read them and figure out why their stories work.

M.M. Gornell credits Dorothy Sayers with leading her to mysteries. Pamela Samuels-Young credits James Patterson with helping her hone her fast-moving style. Who inspired you?

All the aforementioned plus those ‘60s and ‘70s Marvel comics by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby – Captain America, Thor, the Black Panther, the Fantastic Four and on and on.  

What’s next for you?

Gonna take an 8 count, get my wind and wits back, then get off the canvas and keep swinging.


Thank you so much for taking the time, Gary. You can visit his website to learn more about this versatile author, and read an excerpt from "The Performer" at FourStory