Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year! Ketchup Blog

Happy New Year, everyone!
On the whole, 2011 was kinder to me than the prior several years were. I guess that makes me an exception to the rule. But my independent editing business picked up, three of my books were published (along with a short story I published on Kindle when I got so sick of writing the book I was writing, and decided to stick it in a drawer and do something else).
Then December happened. You know how it goes: if things are going along smoothly something will hit you upside the head to remind you that life isn’t a bowl of cherries. On or about December 8, the retina in my left eyeball detached itself from whatever it was supposed to be attached to. I felt something funny in that eye, but thought I was being sort of hypochondriacal when I called the eye doc for an appointment. However, when I described my symptoms to the appointment lady, she gave me an appointment for far too early on Friday morning.
After being dilated and poked and prodded and blah, blah, blah, they stuck me in a room, called a place called Eye Associates in Albuquerque, told me to pack a bag and get myself to Albuquerque instantly. As I sat in the little waiting room, waiting and worrying, I called my wonderful neighbors, Ann and Barry Lasky. Ann said she’d be happy to drive me to Albuquerque, Barry said he’d feed my dogs, and we set out.
Unfortunately, neither Ann nor I had any idea what to expect once we got to Eye Associates. All I knew was that a doctor was waiting for me to show up (I honestly didn’t realize a detached retina was considered a medical emergency. I do now). So my eye was dilated again, again examined, Dr. Sidd’s (he’s the Roswell eye doc) diagnosis was confirmed, and I was told to show up at Presbyterian Hospital in Abq. at some ungodly hour on Saturday morning. That’s when we learned that Ann was supposed to stay with me for the entire weekend, and that we’d have to get rooms at a hotel.
Well, what the heck, y’know? I’d been making a tiny bit more money than usual in recent months, thanks to my independent editing work, so I could actually afford to house us at Albuquerque’s Hotel Elegante, a wonderfully misnamed hotel at which the New Mexico Book of the Year Awards banquet was held a few weeks earlier. So I got to spend a lot of time in the Hotel Elegante during the last part of 2011. Ann’s husband Barry brought her some clothes on Saturday (by the way, it’s a 400-mile round trip from Roswell to Albuquerque and back again), and he also brought both of us our laptops, so we were able to communicate with the rest of the world.
Then, on Saturday, December 10, a very nice Dr. Kamalesh Ramaiya reattached my left retina to whatever it’s supposed to be attached to, lasered another weak spot in the same eyeball, installed a gas bubble (which is supposed to dissolve about six weeks from the date of the operation), and I’ve been a one-eyed, extremely bored person ever since. Can’t read. Can’t watch TV. Can’t drive (for the sake of the rest of the world as well as myself). Can’t even go for walks with the dogs. I get to lie face-down on my bed with my head in the holes of a foam-rubber pillow for the duration. If it weren’t for audiobooks, I’d be totally nuts instead of merely partially nuts, as is normal.
The problem is that I am unable to work. I am also unable to fulfill my obligation to the people who have won books in various contests. That, however, doesn’t mean I’ll always be incapacitated. As soon as I can read again, I’ll send books to everybody to whom I owe books!
These folks include winners of November’s contest and this month’s contest wieners, Brenda Williamson and Jacquie Seewald, who each won copies of GENTEEL SPIRITS in my December contest.
Also, anon at and Karen Mayers, who were kind enough to leave comments on our Magical Christmas Mystery Book Blog Tour, out of which I had to drop precipitately when my eye done me wrong, also won books. If you two could send me your home addresses at I’ll eventually get your books to you. Of course, you’ll need to decide which books you want first. You can choose by looking at my web site:
Anyone who wants to enter my January contest (I’ll be giving away two copies of ANCIENT SPIRITS, Daisy Gumm Majesty’s sixth [and perhaps last] adventure) please send your name and home address to the same e-mail address:
As for 2012: onward and upward! Forward into the unknown! As P.G. Wodehouse wrote: the future lies ahead!
Okay, I’ll quit now. Thank you. And please do have a happy new year!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Wendy Gager Joins Us Today!

Thank  you so much Alice (and the other names your write under) for letting me guest blog today. I have a little fun post. Today is the last stop and I’m just a little bit slap happy to have it over. I hope you will appreciate the humor I’ve attempted. 

Mary will never appear in my Mitch Malone Mystery Series, neither will a Mark or Mike. As you can see from my crime reporter sleuth’s name, Mitch Malone, I’m a big fan of alliteration. That being said I must illiterate in moderation. Too many mentions of many characters sharing a beginning moniker, whether manic or merry can give readers bad memories. Okay I will stop with all the M-words, just trying to make a point.
I love alliteration but authors must take care with multiple people’s names starting with the same letter. I have given up reading one best-selling series because two of the main supporting characters have very similar names. I can’t keep them straight and it’s pivotal to the story. Experts say when using names in your books for characters you have to avoid duplicating first letters at all costs. Your reader will get confused between who is who. Research shows readers read in groups and phrases, not individual words. Have you ever taken the test that takes all the vowels left out and just leaves consonants and you can still figure out what it says. Same applies to writing. Too many names that are similar will make your reader frustrated and maybe not even finish the book. You could have the best story in the world but if readers can’t keep the characters straight, it won’t matter. So sorry Mike and Mark, Mitch Malone must remain the main man. (I couldn’t help myself!)
What do you think of too many Ms? Do you have a hard time keeping characters straight? Weigh in.

“A Case of Hometown Blues” Synopsis
When Pulitzer-winning reporter Mitch Malone's editor presses him for a favor, Malone breaks his vow to never return to his hometown. It seemed simple enough--lead a seminar for Flatville, MI's newspaper, keep a low profile and get back to the city post haste. But memories of his parents' death swarm him, and, to avoid solitude, he stops for a beer. In the crowded bar, Mitch is dismayed to see many of his former classmates--including the still-lovely Homecoming Queen, Trudy. Once the object of his teenage crush, Trudy joins Mitch. He quickly realizes she is upset and inebriated. Always the gentleman, Mitch sees her safely home, and returns to his B&B, still trying to shake memories of his parents' sad demise. The next day, he is stunned to learn Trudy was murdered and he is the prime suspect. The locals treat the murder charge as a slam dunk, and Mitch realizes he must track down the real killer to keep his butt out of jail. As he investigates, facts he thought he knew about his family unravel, and danger ratchets up. Can Mitch discover the truth that will allow his parents to rest in peace, or will he be resting with them?
Author Bio
W.S. Gager has lived in Michigan for most of her life except when she was interviewing race car drivers or professional woman's golfers. She enjoyed the fast-paced life of a newspaper reporter until deciding to settle down and realized babies didn't adapt well to running down story details on deadline. Since then she honed her skills on other forms of writing before deciding to do what she always wanted with her life and that was to write mystery novels. Her main character is Mitch Malone who is an edgy crime-beat reporter always on the hunt for the next Pulitzer and won't let anyone stop him, supposedly.
"A Case of Hometown Blues" by Jackson author W.S. Gager (Oak Tree Press, $14.95) is the third in her series about Mitch Malone, who was twice nominated for a Pulitzer Prize Investigative Journalism Award. This oversized paperback is set in the small fictional town of Flatville, Mich., where Malone grew up. He's returned to give a seminar on investigative journalist techniques.The seminar is the same weekend as Malone's high school reunion, but he really doesn't want to participate. A classmate's body is found and Malone becomes the prime suspect.While Gager's highly entertaining tale wraps up a little too neatly, it's still solid escapism by a promising new talent.

Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing's Curious Book Shop, has reviewed crime novels and noir thrillers since 1987. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Let's Welcome MM Gornell!

Happy to have M.M. Gornell (who is a friend of my friend and tenant, Ann Wilmer Lasky, by gum)!

Thank you, Alice, for hosting me on your blog. I thought I’d take the opportunity to talk about rewriting—I know— boring, possibly even a turnoff. But, how I feel about rewriting has been evolving, and our blog tour is providing me a lot of opportunities to “talk” about my writing. So here goes!

When I use the word rewriting, I’m talking about:
-         In-process rewriting of scenes, chapters, etc.,
-         Going back through and editing my completed first draft without editorial input,
-         Rewriting based on my first editor’s input,
-         Rewriting based on my second editor’s input,
-         Rewriting based on my third editor’s input,
-         And then, final polishing before going to my publisher.

Only recently have I realized how important rewriting is to my total writing experience and process. The truth I think, is I no longer see rewriting as an activity separate from writing, but an essential ingredient. For me, it is that part of my work where all the bits and pieces actually come together. Where I tighten and refine my prose and story. And, I’ve come to eagerly anticipate thoughts and suggestions from my editors. Rewriting is now one of the good parts of writing. But it’s been a journey getting to this point.

How could it be that my first written thoughts are not perfect? How could I misspell a word, use incorrect grammar, put a comma where a period should be? The first time around, others pointing out these problems were blows to my ego. Ha, has that ever changed! Now it’s more like a lament, “Please, please, find all my screw-ups!” Not to forget those other-dimension gremlins that attack between drafts…

Then there’s what I call my find-the right-word-syndrome. I keep looking for the perfect word—the one with just the right connotation—even if it feels like it’s taking forever. And if I can’t find the right word, or phrase? DELETE! At first, deleting was so, so hard—easy now. And thinking back, what I’ve left out has always been for the better—sometimes that’s been pages, even a whole scene.

And on a philosophical level, rewriting is one of the few times in life I can “take back” what I’ve said. Indeed, in the real-world, so many times I’ve wished for that “erase” capability!

Alice, thanks so much for allowing me the time and space on your blog to go and on… It sure has been fun!

Madeline (M.M.) Gornell has three published mystery novels—PSWA awarding winning Uncle Si’s Secret (2008), Death of a Perfect Man (2009), and her latest release, Reticence of Ravens (2010)her first Route 66 mystery. Reticence of Ravens is a 2011 Eric Hoffer Fiction finalist and Honorary Mention winner, the da Vinci Eye finalist, and a Montaigne Medalist finalist.

She continues to be inspired by historic Route 66, and has recently completed Lies of Convenience, which hopefully will have a 2011 winter release date. It is a tale that fictionally connects murder, truths untold, and Chicago’s Lake Michigan with California’s high desert on the opposite end of The Mother Road. Madeline is also a potter with a fondness for stoneware and reduction firing. She lives with her husband and assorted canines in the Mojave in a town on internationally revered Route 66.

Madeline’s books are available at, Barnes &, and Smashwords, in paper and e-book formats. You can visit her online at her website, or her BLOG, or email her directly at

Buy link for Reticence of Ravens:

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

So Happy to Host Tim Hallinan Today!

Stone Walls

Once in a very great while, which is to say three or four times per book, I find myself facing a stone wall.

Now, there are several kinds of stone walls. Some are only a few feet high, and can be vaulted with a middling leap of imagination. Some are considerably higher but have possible hand- and foot-holds that might get you up and down again with your neck and your self-regard unbroken. These usually seem to be a prompt for a methodical review of where I am in the manuscript, and how (and why) I got there. Often, the process of going through the story, up to the point where I hit the wall, will tell me where I went wrong and/or what direction to pursue next.

And then there are the stone walls that are polished smooth as glass and stretch into the clouds. Like the one I'm facing right now.

These walls often require something I almost never recommend to anyone. They require that I quit writing.

It's probably obvious by this point, but maybe I should have started this piece by telling you that I write by the seat of my pants. Since I think that plot is what characters do I discover my story by following my characters. There is much to recommend this method, but security isn't one of them.

When that stone wall looms and the process collapses, so do forward momentum and confidence, and I have the dizzying sensation of a first-time rope walker when they decide, far below, to take down the safety net.

I think anyone who wants to write a book should work seven, or—at the very least—six days a week. I have dozens of reasons for this, but the one that's probably most relevant here is that it keeps the world of the book tended, irrigated, and ready to welcome you back. Annie Dillard once compared writing a book with taming a lion; the longer you stay out of the cage, the more dangerous it is to go back in.

But when the smooth, apparently infinitely high stone wall looms in front of me, it's usually time for me to get away from the book, long enough to develop a 20,000-foot view.

I find most of the time that the worst wall is telling me I have a potentially lethal disconnect, which is to say that the book as it's written is incompatible with the unwritten portion, as I'm imagining it. In other words, there's a breakdown of character or logic or both. And the only way I know to find my way through the wall—since there's no going over it—is to take a last long look at the story thus far, and then close the computer.

Just live my life. Be aware when something that happens, or something that someone says, nudges me and says, “bookbookbook,” because that's a little gleam of light. I write down whatever it was and then whatever is triggered by the act of writing it down, and then I close the notebook and move on. Sometimes, I'll talk about the problem very broadly to a sympathetic listener. This can be very valuable—not so much because of what the listener says, but because I get to hear myself stating the issue. Sometimes, the solution presents itself instantly, either whole or in pieces.

If I do these things, sooner or later—most of the time—a new path will open, and it usually involves reconceiving where I'd thought the book was going. This can be disorienting, but in the end, it's a lot easier to reconsider an as-yet-unwritten portion of the book than it is to toss the written part. And I know, because I've done both.

So the message I hope I'm conveying is that stone walls are actually a prompt. Depending on which one you hit, you need to make a minor imaginative adjustment, or review your story in detail to figure out what's gone wrong, or pull out of the whole thing for a while, keeping your mind wide open to whatever the universe throws your way or whatever emerges, waving a tiny white flag, while you're describing the problem to someone.

And once you're over the obstacle—or through it if it was one of those—write like there's no tomorrow, and with the awareness that you've hit (and managed to overcome) a stone wall.


Timothy Hallinan is the Edgar- and Macavity-nominated author of the traditionally-published Poke Rafferty series of Bangkok thrillers, the most recent of which is The Queen of Patpong, and the Junior Bender Los Angeles mysteries, which are ebook originals. The most recent Junior Bender adventure is Little Elvises. Earlier this year Hallinan conceived and edited an ebook of original short stories by twenty top-ranked mystery writers, Shaken: Stories for Japan, which is available from Amazon for $3.99. He lives in Santa Monica and Southeast Asia and is lucky enough to be married to Munyin Choy. His website is, and the largest area of it is devoted to helping writers finish their first novel.

Monday, December 5, 2011

So Happy Jackie King is Joining Me Today!

Thanks Alice, for hosting me on this 11th day of our Holiday Blog Tour. And thanks to each of your readers for taking a break from their holiday shopping to travel with us on our big cyber-bus. Remember Readers, make comments on each of our blogsites. This group is giving away over 50 books total, either during the tour or immediately afterwards. I’m giving a signed copy of my cozy mystery THE INCONVENIENT CORPSE and a signed copy of THE FOXY HENS AND MURDER MOST FOWL. Names will be drawn by random from those who take time to leave a comment.

I thought it might be a nice change for our readers to have another writer’s opinion of THE INCONVENIENT CORPSE:

Review by Pat Browning

The Inconvenient Corpse
By Jackie King
Deadly Niche Press 2009
The Inconvenient Corpse

Grace Cassidy asks herself: “How did a native Okie end up alone in a Northern California town with some stranger’s corpse on her bed and a dead cell phone in her Louis-Vuitton purse?”

How, indeed? Grace was minding her own business, took a long walk on the beach to ponder her husband’s infidelity, returned to her room in a Victorian inn to find a naked dead man on her bed.

The police are called. The guests are herded into a sitting room for questioning. An unpleasant sergeant named Sam Harper badgers Grace, doubting her story that she didn’t even know the dead man. Will Grace and Harper prove the old saying that opposites attract?

Life piles it on, but Grace practices what her Mama preached: “When your heart’s the heaviest, put on a little extra rouge.”

So what if there’s a snarky cop on her case? So what if her cheating, soon-to-be-ex-husband doesn’t care enough to return her panicky phone call? So what if the owner of Wimberly Place blames her for disturbing the inn’s peace and quiet by finding a dead body on her bed?

 Grace is flat broke and deeply in debt but lucks out as a temporary inn sitter so the owner’s wife can take a planned vacation. The job is hard work but serves two purposes: it keeps Grace off the streets and makes a handy location for investigating the first murder and a second that occurs shortly thereafter.

Grace is a likeable and resourceful protagonist. The guests and employees at the inn are a colorful lot, each with secrets that might cast them as murder suspects. Grace befriends them all and they become almost like a family, making it hard to believe that one of them is really guilty of murder.

She's such a good cook that the way to Sam Harper's heart does seem to be through his stomach. After a few good breakfasts he's treating her with respect. I should warn you: Sam Harper isn't the only one who falls under Grace's spell. I kept raiding the refrigerator all the way through the book.

This is a delightful book, with a thoroughly satisfying twist at the end.

Pat Browning

ABSINTHE OF MALICE, a study in small town secrets

Thanks again, Alice for being such a gracious host, and thanks to each reader for stopping by. Be sure and leave a comment so your name will be in the hat to win a signed copy of THE INCONVENIENT CORPSE or a copy of STATEHOOD FOXY HENS AND MURDER MOST FOWL. My novella The Spinster, the Pig and the Orphan is one of three stories in this anthology, a historical mystery set in 1889 Guthrie, Oklahoma Territory. I’m giving away a signed copy of each book.
Also, don’t forget to leave comments at each of our Holiday Blog Tour team members for a chance to win their books.

Jackie King is a full time writer who sometimes teaches writing at Tulsa Community College. Her latest novel, THE INCONVENIENT CORPSE is a traditional mystery. King has also written five novellas as co-author of the Foxy Hens Series. Warm Love on Cold Streets is her latest novella and is included in the anthology THE FOXY HENS MEET A ROMANTIC ADVENTURER. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, RWI, Inc, Oklahoma Writers Federation, and Tulsa Night Writers.

If you’re interested in learning more, THE INCONVENIENT CORPSE is available at:

Blogsite: Cozy Mysteries and Other Madness:

Amazon and Barnes & Noble as well as available through all bookstores. Paper trade back: $15.95.  Kindle $2.99

Sunday, December 4, 2011

It's Jean Henry Mead's Day on the Blog!

Why I write

by Jean Henry Mead

Publishing is a crazy, unstable business and few writers earn enough money to pay their expenses. The last I heard, 95% of us earn less than $15,000 a year and the average book sells less than 99 copies.

So why would anyone in her right mind devote so much time and effort to writing and marketing books? Is it the desire to give birth to something unique? A need for recognition? Or the desire to inform and entertain? I can’t answer that question. I just know that it’s imprinted in my DNA.

I sold my first book in 1981, a collection of interviews with politicians, authors, artists, craftsmen and ordinary people who had accomplished extraordinary things. The book was published by Pruett Publishing in Boulder, Colorado, and sold some 2,000 copies. I traveled around the state to take part in signing parties and sold 40 books the first time at a small town in eastern Wyoming. My signing parties slid downhill from there.

My second book required more than three years of research and writing. I shudder to think how little I’ve earned for my time spent although the books sold steadily over the years from two publishers and eventually became a college textbook. My third was a book of interviews with well-known writers of the West, including Louis L’Amour and Hollywood screenwriters. It’s still selling online but I've never received a royalty payment because I was told it didn't earn out its advance.

After checking WorldCat, the library site, I found that there are still copies of Maverick Writers available in 114 libraries, including Yale, Harvard, Stanford and Baverische Staaftsbibliothek in Munich, Germany. Now, there’s a reason to continue writing. The advance I received barely covered travel expenses, so satisfaction and eternal hope are also motivations to continue writing as well as the satisfaction I receive from it.

I then decided to write my first novel from leftover microfilm research. Escape on the Wind took a number of years to write and was helped along by the advice of two award-winning western authors, Richard S. Wheeler and Fred Grove. It’s now in its fourth edition and retitled
Escape, a Wyoming Historical Novel. It remains my best selling book.

I next began work on my first mystery novel, originally titled Shirl Lock & Holmes, a humorous senior sleuth novel, which was originally published in 1999 as an ebook and later in hardcover with another publisher, which eventually closed its doors. I then changed the characters' names and it was republished as A Village Shattered in print, Kindle and multi-format.

I’ve written a number of nonfiction books along the way, none of which sold more than several hundred copies, so I decided to write what I enjoy reading most: another mystery novel, Diary of Murder, the second in my Logan & Cafferty series, which was followed by my recent release, Murder on the Interstate. I enjoy writing about my senior sleuths, Dana Logan and Sarah Cafferty, two 60-year-old, feisty widows who are not afraid to push the envelope when it comes to crime detection, or to brave the elements by driving their motorhome through a Rocky Mountain blizzard. Dana and Sarah are like old friends whom I thoroughly enjoy visiting each day and eavesdropping on their conversations.

I think I’ve found the answer. I write because it’s fun and deeply satisfying.

Jean's latest Logan & Cafferty mystery/suspense novel, Murder on the Interstate, is available at: (print and Kindle) and
Barnes and Noble: (Nook)
She's giving away one of her mystery ebooks at the end of each of her 14 blog appearances as well as three print novels at the conclusion of the tour. Be sure to leave a comment and email address to be eligible for the drawings. Her blog tour schedule is listed at:

Bio: Jean Henry Mead is the author of 15 books, half of them novels. She’s also an award-winning photojournalist and children’s author of the Hamilton Kids’ series:  Mystery of Spider Mountain and Ghost of Crimson Dawn. Her magazine articles have been published nationally as well as abroad and she served as a news, magazine and small press editor. The native southern Californian now lives in the Laramie Mountains with her husband and Australian Shepherd.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

It's Marilyn Meredith's Day on My Blog!


By Marilyn Meredith

If you’ve been following this tour of mystery writers, then you know that we’ve gotten together to allow each other the spotlight on our individual blogs. I’ve had folks who know nothing about the writing business wonder why on earth I would help a competitor.
To be honest, I’ve never considered another mystery writer to be in competition with me.

The writing business is like no other. The New York Publishers have been a more or less closed club, with a writer having to go through an agent to even get an editor to look at a query, much less a manuscript. When a book is accepted for publication, the author may get an advance—but before he or she sees another penny, that book must pay back the amount of the advance and any other costs connected to the publication. Only the authors who received huge advances get any kind of help with promotion.

Things are changing a bit with the small presses and the of course the ease of self-publishing. I’m not going to go into all these changes because my topic is authors promoting authors. One thing I will mention though is publishers large or small want to know what the writer’s market plan is before they are offered a contract.

Those of us using the Internet for promotion have come to learn that other authors can be a partner in the business of marketing a book. Never before has there been a way for authors to learn about one another and to lend a helping hand.

For this particular tour, we have Anne K. Albert for thinking up the tour and figuring out the logistics of who would blog where and when—no simple task. Others of us went out and sought other mystery writers we knew who might be interested in joining us. There’s a lot of writing connected with this tour as each author must come up with original ideas so each post will be different even though it is promoting the same book or books.

While we’re on this tour we have to promote the guest on our own blog each day and promote the blog that we’re a guest on, letting people know on lists we belong to, Facebook and Twitter about each new blog.

Other things we do for one another is read each other’s books and write reviews for places like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and of course the wonderful listserve DorothyL.

In the physical world, we let our fellow writers know about book and craft fairs that are being held in nearby places; sometimes we might share a table. If we’re planning a library event, we ask other authors to be on a panel with us.

Writing a book is lonely work; spending some time with other writers is fun even if it is only on the Internet. Besides, other authors are the only ones who really understand what this crazy business is all about and why we continue to do it.

Marilyn Meredith is the author of over thirty published novels, including the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, the latest Bears With Us from Mundania Press. Writing as F. M. Meredith, her latest Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novel is Angel Lost, the third from Oak Tree Press. Marilyn is a member of EPIC, Four chapters of Sisters in Crime, including the Central Coast chapter, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. Visit her at and her blog at

In Marilyn’s latest book, Bears With Us, Deputy Tempe Crabtree has her hands full when bears turn up in and around Bear Creek, a young teen commits suicide and his parents’ actions are suspicious, a prominent woman files a complaint against Tempe and her preacher husband Hutch, a love affair from long ago comes to light, and a woman suffering from dementia disappears.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Welcome to Jinx Schwartz!

Let's Hear it for Jinx Schwartz!

Raised in the jungles of Haiti and Thailand, with returns to Texas in-between, Jinx followed her father's steel-toed footsteps into the Construction and Engineering industry in hopes of building dams. Finding all the good rivers taken, she traveled the world defacing other landscapes with mega-projects in Alaska, Japan, New Zealand, Puerto Rico and Mexico.

Like the protagonist in her mystery series, Hetta Coffey, Jinx was a woman with a yacht—and she wasn't afraid to use it—when she met her husband, Mad Dog Schwartz. They opted to become cash-poor cruisers rather than continue chasing the rat, sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge, turned left, and headed for Mexico. They now divide their time between Arizona and Mexico's Sea of Cortez.

Thanks for having me on your blog today, Alice.

Since you gave me carte blanche, I’d like to take this opportunity to address a question I get asked about my books all the time: DID THAT REALLY HAPPEN?

My answer? SORT OF.

My first book (The Texicans) was an epic historical covering the thirty years leading to the fall of the Alamo. It was based on my family history, so it sort of happened…at least in this writer’s mind.

Troubled Sea, an adventure in the Sea of Cortez, had boaters anxiously asking me if my story was true. My answer? No really, but it could be. What is so funny about it is when we are anchored out in the dark of night and I hear a helicopter, I start believing my own stuff.

My Hetta Coffey Mystery Series features a woman with a yacht, and she’s not afraid to use it. In Just Add Water, she buys a boat, hoping to use it as a mantrap. Just Add Salt finds her sailing off to Mexico, and in Just Add Trouble she gets into a dustup with cartel drug thugs in the Sea of Cortez. The latest release, Just Deserts, has Hetta high a dry on the tumultuous Arizona/Mexico, where all hell was breaking loose, even before she got there.

Many readers think Hetta is me, and I cannot lie here; much of Hetta is based on my life experiences, greatly embellished. But isn’t that what most writers do?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Mike Orenduff is Here!

Mike is a terrific guy, everyone. He entered my book, PECOS VALLEY REVIVAL, in the New Mexico Book of the Year Awards, and it was actually a finalist! So was his book, THE POT THIEF WHO STUDIED EINSTEIN. Fortunately, our books were finalists in different categories. Not that either of us won, but hey . . .

Bookstores in the Visual Age

From my tiny pied-à-terre on the corner of 11th and Broadway in Manhattan, I have a view of Strand bookstore (Corporate tag line: eighteen miles of books). It’s virtually impossible to look at the entrance for more than thirty seconds without seeing a customer enter or leave. Being in a city with eight million people - a million of whom claim to be artists or intellectuals - makes it easy to sell books. But there is more to the story than having a lot of potential customers. You have to know what they want. 
Namely: actual books.
The last time I was in New York long enough to become engaged in the city, the Strand was featuring The Interrogation by J.M.G. Le Clezio, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, and Things I've Been Silent About by Azar Nafisi, the bestselling author of Reading Lolita in Tehran
Meanwhile, a few blocks north, Borders was featuring My Life by Earvin 'Magic' Johnson, a vampire book of some sort (I did not take note of the title) and an Italian hard salami selection. I am not making this up. Magic Johnson is famous for playing basketball and contracting HIV. But it doesn’t matter what you are famous for. You can be famous for being famous, and that is enough to get you a book deal. On the tables of that now defunct Borders, there were books by Julie Andrews, Rachel Ray, Willie Nelson, Tony Danza, Pete Sampras, and Perez Hilton. 
Do I sound like a snob? I like Willie Nelson’s singing, Pete Sampras’ serve, and Rachael Ray’s cooking. But I can only read so many books in my lifetime, and I’m not going to waste a slot on people who whose books were published because of their notoriety rather than their ability as an author.
Borders is gone and good riddance. But many indie bookstores have also closed. My hometown has a population of three-quarters of a million people and not a single Indie bookstore. Here in Valdosta Georgia, metro population of a hundred thousand, we have no indie bookstore. We have a Books-A-Million, but that’s more of a gift shop and coffee house with a few books in the back.
People tell me bookstores are doomed. We live in a visual age, they say.
So did the cavemen. Then we learned to write, and the written word extended not only our store of knowledge but also our ability to think. Writing and reading enable us to analyze and understand what we see in a way simply seeing cannot. The only difference between a caveman and many of my students is the latter have I-pads. My students have more ‘visuals’ than the cavemen, but neither group can write. Have we come full-circle?

“Hubert Shuze, pot thief extraordinaire, operates an ancient pottery resale shop, not entirely legally, in the middle of Albuquerque's town square. His activities, both in the selling and creating of ancient pots and their knock-offs, tend to get him mixed up in an assortment of marginally ethical activities, murder generally being the most profound. Shuze operates by a complex set of ethics that allows him to sell questionably legal pots, burglarize, and launder money -- but never to lie, cheat or steal. Along the way, Shuze, a perpetual student of life, educates us on his philosopher du jour. His previous novels featured the philosophies of Pythagoras, Ptolemy and Einstein. "The Pot Thief Who Studied Escoffier" is a quirky repast of piñon-infused chimeneas, New Mexican sunsets, and a delightful band of foodie misfits. It is best enjoyed in the fading glow of a Southwestern sunset, a fire crackling beside you, a faithful dog at your feet.” The El Paso Times
Information about the books:
The Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras, The Pot Thief Who Studied Ptolemy, The Pot Thief Who Studied Einstein, and The Pot Thief Who Studied Escoffier are published by Oak Tress Press and are available as paperbacks in many Barnes & Nobles, Hastings, and Independent bookstores and as ebooks on Kindle and Nook readers.
Mike Orenduff grew up in a house so close to the Rio Grande that he could Frisbee a tortilla into Mexico. He came by his love of pueblo pottery during weekends, buying small pots from the pueblos his family visited and – in one case – acquiring one when his sister traded chocolate chip cookies for it. His love of pottery expanded to a general interest in archaeology which he studied as an undergraduate.
While in graduate school at the University of New Mexico, Mike worked during the summer as a volunteer teacher at one of the nearby pueblos. He went on to serve as President of New Mexico State University and as a visiting faculty member at West Point and President of Bermuda College. After retiring from higher education, he rekindled his love of the Southwest by writing his award-winning Pot Thief murder mysteries which combine archaeology and philosophy with humor and mystery. Among his many awards are the New Mexico Book of the Year, the “Lefty” national award for best humorous mystery and two “Eppies” for the best eBook mysteries.
His first book, The Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras, was described by The Baltimore Sun as, “funny at a very high intellectual level and deliciously delightful,” and his latest, The Pot Thief Who Studied Escoffier, was called "the perfect fusion of murder, mayhem and margaritas” by The El Paso Times.