Wednesday, January 9, 2013

What's up with Blogger -- or is it just me?

Nothing ever goes wrong except on weekends or holidays or the middle of the night. It's almost 4 o'clock in the morning and I can't get Blogger to post any of the photos I spent so much time on!

I'll try again tomorrow.

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop

Welcome to this blog hop. What is a blog hop? It’s a virtual event that helps readers discover new authors. The first author tags five others whose work he or she admires, who each tag five more, who each tag five more, and so on. If you’re reading this, then the world did not, in fact, end on December 21st, which leaves you another millennia or so of reading pleasure. Why not start with the authors I spotlight after this Q&A?

Before we get to the questions, I’d like to thank Chester Campbell for inviting me to participate. His Burke Hill thrillers, a post Cold War espionage trilogy, surely deserve to be the Next Big Thing. The first one, BEWARE THE JABBERWOCK, is offbeat, fast-moving and a world class thriller inspired by the real-life adventures of an FBI agent. THE POKSU CONSPIRACY, Book No. 2 in the Burke Hill thrillers, takes place mostly in South Korea, and is now available on Kindle. The third book will be titled OVERTURE TO DISASTER.

For more about Chester and his books, see his web site at
In this particular hop, the five authors I’ve chosen and I will each answer, on our respective blogs, the same 10 questions ranging from our current works in progress to our writing processes and beyond.  I hope you’ll enjoy learning about our work. Please feel free to share comments and questions.
Now, here is my Next Big Thing!

1: What is the working title of your book?
My first book in the Penny Mackenzie series is ABSINTHE OF MALICE, published by Krill Press in 2008. My work-in-progress has a working title of METAPHOR FOR MURDER.

2: Where did the idea come from for the WIP?
From the manager of the gift shop in China Alley, Hanford, California. China Alley is called “Shanghai Street” in my series but the real thing exists. Except for its restaurants, China Alley was deserted for years but restoration is now an ongoing process. My friend was also cleaning up the old Chinese cemetery on the outskirts of town. Taken together, with the history and folklore surrounding them, the Alley and the cemetery made a perfect hook for a mystery.

I had already set my series in a small Central California town in the Fresno area, and my protagonist was Lifestyle Editor of the local newspaper, so slotting in the Chinese story was a perfect fit.

3: What genre does your book come under?
Cozy/amateur sleuth – Miss Marple in pantyhose. By Book #2 (my WIP) my protagonist  also has a lover. They have progressed beyond the friends-with-benefits stage.

4: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Good question. I’ll take a stab at an answer. For the protag, my first choice would have been Audrey Hepburn when she was 50 and if she had put on a few extra pounds. Alas, Audrey is long gone, so maybe Sandra Bullock would fit the character. For her lover – Patrick Dempsey might work. He’s the epitome of cool, with enough smolder-and-swagger to make him irresistible. He had a nose job which made him look suitably  mature and rugged. The rest of the cast is up for grabs.

5: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? My logline comes courtesy of Thomas B. Sawyer, who knows a thing or two about a synopsis. Quoting: “A small town reporter tracks an offbeat Christmas story and finds herself in the middle of a murder and the mysterious desecration of an old Chinese cemetery.”

6: Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency?
I published Book #1 myself through iUniverse in 2001. In 2008 Krill Press came along and me an offer I couldn’t refuse, so that book has a history. As for Book #2, who knows? Maybe Krill Press will be interested. If not, I might find another small publisher who doesn’t require an agented book. If not, self-publishing is a whole new ballgame these days. I could take my manuscript downtown to Mardel Books and have them crank up their Espresso Machine and print out 10 copies while I waited. Or I could go straight to Amazon’s Kindle for an e-book original.

7: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
That’s a trick question, right? For Book #1, I started from scratch and on a whim. It took me about four years, umpteen online writing classes and about nine “final drafts” before I finally said, put a fork in it, it’s done. As for my WIP, it has been making slow-to-no  progress since 2003. That’s 10 years. Life interfered. I should be writing a memoir instead of a mystery.

I’m halfway through METAPHOR FOR MURDER – 16 chapters polished to a high gloss and the rest strung out in Post-it notes on my story board. Maybe January will be my magic month. Or February.

8: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I refuse to answer that on the grounds that I would sound self-serving or just plain silly. Seriously, I would have to do a lot of thinking to answer that and my thinking time is limited this month.

9: Who or what inspired you to write this book?
True story. When I worked as a reporter/feature writer at The Hanford Sentinel, the editor decided to add book reviews to the Sunday paper. I went to the library and walked along the shelves, pulling out books that looked interesting. They turned out to be mysteries. A few weeks later I took a break on the smokers’ patio and said to the managing editor, who was also out for a smoke: “I think I’ll write a mystery. How hard can it be?” You can file that under Famous Last Words.

That was for the first book. For my WIP, I explained that in Q#2.

10: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
The Chinese experience in California is the subject of several good books, both fiction and non-fiction. My book touches on it, thanks to the setting. Romance readers might be more interested in the love affair – the second time around – between two characters pushing 50.

Read on to learn more about the following authors who responded to my “tag.”
1. Bob Avey
2. Amanda Ball
3. Vickie Britton
4. Shalanna Collins
5. Janet Dawson

Bob Avey

Bob Avey lives in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, where he works as an accountant in the petroleum industry. He writes the Detective Elliot mystery series and loves roaming through ghost towns in search of echoes from the past. He’s a member of Tulsa NightWriters, Oklahoma Writers Federation (OWFI), Oklahoma Mystery Writers and Mystery Writers of America (MWA).

Bob’s new book, FOOTPRINTS OF A DANCER: A DETECTIVE ELLIOTT MYSTERY, was free on Kindle in time for Christmas. It was a nice Christmas present. Thank you, Bob Avey!

The story: When one student disappears off campus and another one is murdered, Detective Kenny Elliot takes a leave of absence from his job as a Tulsa police detective and launches an unofficial investigation, which leads him into the world of an Aztec deity with an appetite for blood.

The Opening:
(Quote) Seeing old friends isn't always a good thing. Not many people run the trails along Riverside Drive after the sun goes down, one of the reasons Detective Kenny Elliot chose to do so, but another runner occupied the trail, and her silhouette bounced quickly toward him. A sluggish wind blew across the Arkansas River, carrying an odor of decaying marine life, and suddenly a mood of darkness that had little to do with lack of sunlight engulfed Elliot's senses. (End Quote)

What kind of character is Elliott? His captain's assessment:
(Quote) Elliot had more levels and layers than anyone that Dombrowski had ever met. A hard guy to figure, keeping to himself for the most part. If you were looking for the life of the party in Elliot, you'd be looking in the wrong place, but if you were in the field and needed someone to watch your back, he was your man. You couldn't do better. Saying Elliot had a strong survival instinct was an understatement. What he possessed was a come-out-on-top, win-at-all-cost monitoring system that was humbling to say the least.
(End Quote)

For more about Bob Avey and his books, enjoy his blog, “Faith, Fantasy & Fiction” at

Amanda Ball

Amanda Ball is an Oklahoma author with six books in print under three different names and in three different categories: mystery, romance and chick lit.  Don’t try to pin this woman down; you’ll wear yourself out. Go instead to her web page at
and to her blog at

Plan to spend some time there. Then you can hop on over to You Tube and listen to her sing “HeartBreakVille” -- a song for football fans at
and “I Got The Blues” at

Snapshot: Amanda Ball is her maiden name. She spent a lot of years in England and France, and now lives in a small north central Oklahoma town where she belongs to the Chamber of Commerce. She’s a world-class photographer, makes movies and has her own You Tube channel where she sometimes sings with her band, the Ballroom Bruisers.  

Music being her first love, she plays (among other things) piano, organ, guitar, clarinet, and dabbles at bass, drums, mandolin, banjo, accordian, lap steel and dobro. As a songwriter/publisher she has a 380-song catalog. Whew! So what about her mystery,
FOREVER 11:59?

It’s the first book in a new series featuring Carter Thompson, a witty, sarcastic, observant woman who arrives in Autumn, Kansas to help her Great Aunt Edna celebrate her 80th birthday. When a murder is committed and Carter finds she can't leave town, her powers of observation and curiosity kick in.

Go, Amanda! I think I’ll eat a sandwich and then lie down for a while.

Vickie Britton and Loretta Jackson

Sisters Loretta Jackson and Vickie Britton have co-authored more than 40 novels and currently write three mystery series. WHISPERS OF THE STONES is the newest entry in the High Country series. They also write the archaeological Ardis Cole series and the Pre-Columbian mystery series,

The sisters, who live in Kansas, are drawn to out of the way places, old mining towns and vast rangelands where the legends and history of the past live on. Inspired by the rugged mountains of Wyoming and Colorado, they find the lonely, high country region a perfect setting for their novels.

They also travel to exotic places for the Ardis Cole series. On my Kindle for PC right now is their novel, NIGHTMARE IN MOROCCO, just waiting to be read, and THE CURSE OF SENMUT, waiting to be re-read.

Description of WHISPERS OF THE STONE from
“Sheriff Jeff McQuede finds 'Bartering Bill' Garr murdered at his rural antique store. Only one item is missing -- a rare artifact believed to be the Pedro Mummy. First discovered in a cave in Wyoming, the Pedro Mummy was reported missing in the 1950s.

“Dr. Seth Talbot, newly arrived in town, has put out a fifteen-thousand-dollar reward for any information on the mummy, hoping that modern technology will prove his theory that a tiny race of people actually existed: one the Shoshones call the Nimerigar, or Little People.

“McQuede is astounded to find the mummy in the trunk of Seth Talbot's car. Talbot swears he's being set up by rival co-workers who plan to benefit from his research. McQuede suspects the theft of the mummy is a red herring used to cover up the true motive for the crime. The closer he comes to the truth, the deeper McQuede is drawn into an elaborate hoax that threatens his career and places him in grave danger.”

Vickie Britton’s excellent articles on writing can be found at Suite 101:
The blog for Vickie and Loretta is “Writing Tips and Fiction” at
Their web site is at

Shalanna Collins (Denise Weeks)

One of my favorite books is MURDER BY THE MARFA LIGHTS by Denise Weeks aka Shalanna Collins. Quoting from my review:

“Once in a while I stumble upon a book so good I wonder where the author has been all my life. Such a book is MURDER BY THE MARFA LIGHTS, an amateur sleuth mystery that's funny and fascinating, with a sense of place that's almost overwhelming.

“The setting: Marfa, a quirky little town in West Texas with a couple of claims to fame. The movie "Giant" was filmed in Marfa, and Marfa is bedeviled and bedazzled by unexplained ghost lights that have tantalized locals and tourists since Civil War Days.

“I wouldn't call this a classic mystery novel, but I found it enormously entertaining. It's a colorful (if fictional) account of life in Marfa. The author takes us through a chili cookout, a close encounter with the ghost lights, and a tornado. We meet a snake handler, a character who collects poisonous spiders, an Apache lawyer who listens to Navajo prayers on his car radio, and a musician who keeps a pet wolf and smuggles illegal aliens.

“The book's three main men are a thief, a slimeball and an embezzler. They are also good-looking computer whizzes and con artists. Ariadne, the protagonist, is attracted to all of them.”

No grass grows under Shalanna’s feet. Just reading about all the things she does makes me realize what a slug I am.

Now Shalanna – or Denise – has a new book out there in the wilds of the book world. The title is NICE WORK. The main character, Jacquidon Carroll, is diagnosed with diabetes and laid off from her job in the same week. Worse yet, she becomes a suspect in the murder of her ex-boss. Clues lead to the Internet and Jacquidon is sure that someone recruited through the Internet is the killer. Jacquidon and her sister Chantal follow clues right into local sex clubs and the murderer decides to put an end to their snooping.

Shalanna’s blog
and the Website

Janet Dawson

Janet Dawson is a longtime resident of the San Francisco Bay Area, but she was born in Oklahoma, where her mother's family owned movie theaters in a small town. Dawson's novel, BIT PLAYER, -- a novel of old movies, old memories, old crimes and present-day murder -- is dedicated to her mother. Janet was nominated in 2012 for Left Coast Crime's Golden Nugget Award for BIT PLAYER.
(Dawson’s photo by Charles Lucke)

PI Jeri Howard, Janet’s series character, has sleuthed her way through ten books, the first of which won the St. Martin's/PWA award and other mystery award nominations. Dawson is past president of the MWA NorCal chapter, and works for Cal Berkeley.

Her newest book, WHAT YOU WISH FOR, is her first stand-alone novel.
(Quoting from
“History professor Lindsey Page has a quiet, well-ordered life, but it's about to get complicated. Her daughter, with whom she has a troubled relationship, shows up on her doorstep. The immigrant woman Lindsey is interviewing for a book asks her for help in reclaiming the son taken from her during a massacre in her Salvadoran village. And her closest friends, the three women Lindsey has known since their college days in Berkeley where they witnessed the kidnapping of Patty Hearst, are hiding secrets that will forever change those friendships.

“Lindsey must grapple with questions of family identity, nature vs. nurture, truth in wartime, the ethics of power for latter-day robber barons in the US and Central America, and the law of unforeseen consequences. Moving back and forth from the 1970s to the present, from the San Francisco Bay Area to El Salvador this sprawling saga follows Lindsey, her friends, and family through tumultuous political, social, and cultural changes and choices.”

Janet's delightful blog, Got It Write, is at