Friday, June 28, 2013


Author Appearances

Award winning mystery author Michael Lister will be at River Day Celebration this weekend on the Florida Panhandle with a book signing. He recently won a second Florida Book Award for Blood Sacrifice, the fifth in the John Jordan mystery series. Michael Lister has written 11 novels, three short story collections and three works of non-fiction. His other award winning novel, Double Exposure, is my personal favorite.

Holly Goddard Jones was in Salisbury, North Carolina Thursday night to discuss her well received mystery suspense novel, The Next Time You See Me, and revealed a surprising tidbit: The title was not her first choice. Holly is a 2007 recipient of the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers' Award.

Chuck Greaves makes an appearance tonight at Collected Works Bookstore in Santa Fe, New Mexico to discuss his latest novel, Green Eyed Lady. It's the sequel to his debut novel, Hush Money, an "entertaining crime novel...full of surprises" according to the Booklist review.

Julie Hyzy appeared Thursday on the airwaves at IndianaTalks to discuss her latest mystery Grace Takes Off, and the writing process.

And tonight, Chris Grabenstein will be interviewed on WBGO Jazz 88.3 FM about the latest Ceepak mystery novel, Free Fall.  Click here to listen at 7:30 PM EST. Jazz music and Chris Grabenstein cool is that?!

Wanna Buy A Bookstore?

The Penquin Bookshop in Sewickley, PA is for sale. The popular local business has been a staple for book lovers and book clubs for 84 years. The owners, who are in their 70s, are hoping to sell it by year's end.

Mystery Conferences

And now, a bloody word...about the Bloody Words Canadian Mystery Conference. Normally held in June, there was, alas, no conference this year. But they'll be back next year in Toronto for more bloody fun with tons of mystery writers and readers. You can boost international relations by attending.

And check out some of my favorite Canadian writers, Rick Mofina, Sandra Ruttan and Vicki Delaney, all of whom have new novels coming out this summer or have previous novels back in print.

Who knew cool Canadians could be so violent? And so much fun to read!

For more about the conference, see the video, compliments of our neighbors to the North. They're really a nice bunch. Really.


Richard Matheson, sci-fi and horror writer, has died. A prolific writer, he produced many novels that were later turned into movies, including The Shrinking Man and I Am Legend. He also wrote for television, creating episodes for Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Twilight Zone. You can read his obituary in The Pittsburgh Post Gazette.  

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Guest Blog Today on A Newbie's Guide To Publishing

Today I'm doing a guest blog over at Joe Konrath's place, A Newbie's Guide To Publishing. Joe's been sharing his writing tips for many years, absolutely free. As a successful thriller novelist, he's learned his craft the hard way.

I've learned a lot from him, but still make my share of mistakes. Check out the post to see where I've been, and where I'm headed as a writer.

Joe hosted a workshop at
   Mayhem In The Midlands 2008

Lunch with Joe. Hope he paid the bill.
I think I was broke.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Women Blamed For Being Victim of a Crime

A teacher at a Catholic school in El Cajon, California was fired after her ex-husband harrassed her and followed her to work. The school went into lockdown, which is to be expected. What happened next wasn't. Carie Charlesworth, who teaches 2nd grade, was fired, allegedly "In the interest of the safety of the students, faculty and parents at Holy Trinity School".  Twice victimized, first by a stalker, then by her employer, Carie will now speak at the state capitol in Sacremento in support of Senate Bill 400. If passed, the bill would prevent employers from firing or discriminating against an employee who has been a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.

A woman whose son was killed by a drunk driver while they were crossing the street, was charged with vehicular homicide and faced two years in prison before reaching a plea deal with prosecutors.

Let me repeat that.

Raquel Nelson, who was crossing the street with her children, was charged with homicide because a drunk driver, a stranger, ran her four year old son down. The driver fled the scene but was later arrested. Her charges were eventually dropped after she agreed to plead guilty to jaywalking and paid a 200 dollar fine. The driver, Jerry Guy, was sentenced to 5 years in prison, but only served 6 months.

DNA Results Still Subject to Imperfections - Humans to Blame
A state chemist who worked in Massachusetts, and once told a prosecutor she wanted to get drug offendors off the streets, has been charged with evidence tampering, according to the Wall Street Journal.  Annie Dookhan has been charged with 27 counts of falsifying results in the Massachusetts Department of Public Health laboratory from 2003 to 2012. 746 people have petitioned the courts for new trials as a result. According to the Journal, many labs suffer from underfunding and "a 2009 National Academy of Sciences report found "serious deficiencies" in the nation's crime labs, saying that in many cases they lack proper standards, oversight and certification". Read the latest update from the Boston Globe.

Mother and Son Crime Team Arrested

We teach our children many valuable lessons. One of them, hopefully, is to stay out of trouble. But not Tina Marie Garrison. She and her son were arrested after stealing five thousand dollars worth of gopher feet.

Gopher feet. I scarcely know where to begin. Perhaps you should just click on the link and read the rest of the story. I gotta get to work.

Have a great day. And stay out of trouble.

Sunday, June 23, 2013


We have a winner...two, in fact, to my trivia question about the philosophy major who went on to great things producing great books. But first the winners.

Tricia Schutz and Jo Dunsmoor are our winners. Congratulations! We had a lot of entries. Thanks to everyone who participated.

And the correct answer was Benjamin LeRoy, founder and current publisher of Tyrus Books, and the founder of Bleak House Books. In 2007, I first discovered Ben while looking at small independent publishers to whom I might peddle my un-agented manuscript. He was doing these podcasts, discussing the publishing world, interviewing writers and readers, and having some entertaining discussions. To my knowledge, no other small publisher was doing this, and it was pretty exciting. I learned a lot about submitting my work from those podcasts. And when I started reading some of his books I was very impressed.

I wasn't the only one. At the 2008 Edgar Awards, Bleak House Books had three authors up for nominations;  one each in the category of Best Novel (Reed Coleman’s Soul Patch), Best First Novel (Craig McDonald’s Head Games), and Best Short Story (Stuart Kaminsky in Chicago Blues). For a small publisher, I doubt if this had ever been done before, or since.

If you're an aspiring writer and want some good advice, Ben blogs over at Hey, There's a Dead Guy in the Living Room, with some other great bloggers.

If you like great stories and are looking for something new to read, check out the selection from this eclectic publishing house. He has an incredibly deep bullpen of talented writers. You'll find something here you like, whether you're a fan of cozies, noir, or just want something different. Some of my favorites are Victoria Houston, Michael Lister and Mary Logue. If you're undecided, pick up Between The Dark and the Daylight. This excellent collection has some of the biggest names in crime fiction.

You'll thank me. With cookies. Yeah, cookies would be nice.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Mystery Weekend Roundup June 21, 2013

Local Appearances

  • Several mystery authors will be in Boone, North Carolina at the High County Festival of the Book this weekend. There's a great panel on Saturday morning, the topic, Murder Goes South Mystery Panel: Why Mysteries Set in the South Sizzle with Wendy Dingwall, Cathy Pickens, Jane Tesh and Glen Bruce.  In the afternoon, To Die in Dixie: Why Southerners Make Great Corpses features authors Maggie Bishop, Larissa Reinhart, Philip Depoy and Gayle Trent.

  • Craig Johnson, author of the Walt Longmire series, will be at the Jackson Hole Writer's Conference in Wyoming June 27th through the 29th. He's doing a workshop on Friday, Writing Adventures in Television. By sheer coincidence, the second season of Longmire started just a few weeks ago. What timing this guy has, huh?

Independent Bookstore Opens in Madison, Wisconsin

Good news for book lovers: Joanne Berg has just opened shop with a new bookstore, Mystery To Me. The grand opening featured a sidewalk draped with police crime scene tape. Read more in the article from the Wisconsin State Journal. We wish her new business all the best!


Dana Sitar has uploaded a new video interview with C. Hope Clark, author of the The Carolina Slade Mystery Series. Lots of great advice for new writers in this video.


Perigee Full Moon This Weekend
The moon will make its closest swing by the earth this weekend, giving us spectacular views. The Super Moon will not get this close again until August 2014. Full moons have always played an important role in human history, from religious ceremonies, influences on the tides, and a belief that human behavior is affected, usually in a negative way. One of the most infamous cases of crimes occurring during a full moon happened in Italy. From 1968 to 1985, at least 16 victims were murdered and mutilated by the Monster of Florence. A suspect was arrested but died before he could be convicted, although two associates were found guilty of some of the murders. The Italian police investigated over 100,000 suspects during their search.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Vince Flynn - The Dangerous Author For Boys

I haven't read a lot by Vince Flynn, but I was familiar with him and his books. He's very popular with male readers, for obvious reasons. Even busy executives.  A friend of mine who owns a large IT company and who doesn't have much time to read, except magazines, does have a bunch of Flynn's novels laying around the house.

And that got me to thinking. If we want to get our sons to read more (and who doesn't), Vince Flynn might be the perfect author. Boys and teens love adventure. A couple of years ago, The Dangerous Book For Boys came out and became a big hit. But I'm talking fiction here. Maybe, if we want our sons to read more, we should give them Vince Flynn's novels. This might get them between the covers of a book more often. We could nurture a whole new generation of readers. And then Vince would never die...not really.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


Daughter Tracks Down Her Father's Killer

26 years after her father was murdered in Brooklyn, a daughter has given her family a Father's Day present by tracking down the killer. What makes this story all the more amazing? The cops had hit a dead end in the case, and it was colder than an iceberg.

Joselyn Martinez began her search after social media began to explode on the internet about ten years ago. As she said to the Daily News in an interview, "I wanted to become a prosecutor in college. But then I decided to do what I really wanted to. How could I prosecute other cases when my father's was unsolved?"

After turning over her findings to the police, she was recently told that the suspect is now in custody. Read more about this amazing woman and devoted daughter here.

Senators Skip Classified Briefing on NSA's Spy Program PRISM

The rest of the country seems glued to news stories surrounding the NSA spying and data collection, but not our own legislators. Despite a scheduled classified hearing on the program last Thursday, not open to ordinary Americans, dozens of Senators couldn't wait to dash out the door for a long weekend. According to a story by the Atlantic Wire, "The only senator who confirmed their attendance was Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein. She really had no choice, given her position, and she was furious about the low turnout."

Maybe we need an ordinary American to start a program of spying on the Senate. Wonder if anyone could sneak into one of those hearings disguised as a Senator? There seems to be no shortage of empty seats, at least. Any volunteers out there?

Wildlife Poachers have a New Enemy - Unmanned Drones

As organized gangs threaten to wipeout elephants and rhinos in Africa for the illegal ivory and medicinal trade, park rangers have a new tool in their arsenal. Drones are being introduced in an effort to keep track of poachers across the vast wilderness in national parks, some of which cover tens of thousands of square miles. NPR has a great article on the development, Rangers Turn to Drones To Catch Poachers.

Former Nazi Commander Discovered in U.S., Germany, Poland Show Interest in Extradition

It's been a quiet spring in Minnesota these past few days, but not for Michael Karkoc. The former carpenter living in Minneapolis stands accused of being a commander of a vicous SS squad that murdered thousands of civilians in World War II. According to a story in the Christian Science Monitor, Mr. Karkoc, who is in his mid-90s, could have his US citizenship revoked and be deported. If the evidence of his involvement in wartime atrocities is strong enough, he could also face war-crimes prosecution in Germany or Poland.

Governor Vetoes Background Check Bill, Convicted Felon says "Thanks"

A new law passed by the Nevada legislature, which would have made it harder for mentally ill people to buy a gun, has been vetoed by Governor Brian Sandoval who was quoted saying that it would "do little to prevent criminals from unlawfully obtaining firearms."

Meanwhile, The Courant has published a letter to the editor from a convicted felon currently residing at a super max prison in Colorado, thanking opponents of firearm background checks. He says, in part, "I fully anticipate being able to stop at a gun show on my way order to buy some with which to resume my criminal activities."

Let's hope someone reads this letter at his next parole hearing. The convict's parole hearing, not the governor's.

Monday, June 17, 2013


It's no exaggeration to say that this may be the best Law & Order show ever made, in the entire franchise. The fact that it stars Brian Dennehy is reason enough to watch it, and if you've never seen it, it's worth looking for. 

Dennehy plays the part of a dying man who is estranged from his daughter. Death, it is said, has a wonderful effect of focusing the mind, and Tierney has made up his. He wants to atone for his past mistakes. When Elliot goes to see him, Tierney promises to tell him about his past crimes, but there's a catch. Elliot has to bring Tierney's daughter to see him, so Tierney can seek forgiveness. The daughter refuses to see him and even gives Elliot and Olivia a box full of unopened greeting cards, written over a period of twenty years. She saved them, just so she could throw them back in her father's face. This woman is angry.

Liv assumes it's a crime of sexual abuse. Don't make any assumptions. This case involves robbery, muder and kidnapping, all kept hidden until one small lie emerges that destroys Tierney's family. But without the daughter by his side, Tierney won't talk. As he explains it, "The reason I never got picked up was because I kept my mouth shut! I never talked about my business to anybody, especially to a cop". But at this point, he has little choice. Bit by bit, the story comes out, prompted in part by the SVU team's discovery that the hundreds of cards Tierney's daughter refused to open are stuffed with hundred dollar bills, none of them newer than 1971. It isn't long before they find out that the money is from a string of bank robberies that were never solved. But that just the beginning. Every clue leads to more crimes, and both detectives race the clock to solve the puzzle, free an innocent man from a life sentence and re-unite Tierney with his daughter.

Brian Dennehy is in top form. Even as a dying man, he fills the screen. Paget Brewster gives a fiery performance as the estranged daughter who learned enough of Tierney's secrets to flee from him. The entire cast is stellar, as are the writing and directing. Tierney's loss of his daughter affects Elliot, who sees his own children growing apart, and gives him the motive to dig into the story despite his heavy caseload. Even Olivia faces her own prejudices and begins to play a surrogate daughter, in an effort to get a reluctant Tierney to open up.

In this, the opening scene, we catch a glimpse of why Elliot's cares at all about this case. He fears his family is cracking, coming apart as his daughters pull away from him after the divorce. As he gets to know Tierney, he sees many similarities between himself and the older man. Will this be him someday? A frail man, without a family?

It's hard to imagine how they packed so much story into 42 minutes, but that fact also contributes to the perfect pacing. As death gets closer, the team has to move faster to beat the clock. Get some popcorn and get comfortable on the sofa. Once this episode starts, you'll be glued to your seat.

 And a television show isn't the only place a crime happens. The fact that this episode never won a boatload of Emmys is a crime in and of itself. But that's another blog post.

Saturday, June 15, 2013


I have two hardcover copies of In The Dismal Swamp which I thought I'd give away in a drawing to readers of this blog. But I'm getting ahead of my story...

As a new batch of college grads join the job search, a new batch of news articles with job hunting advice hits the newsstands. Lists are hot, including lists of which college degrees are hot...and which are not. In the latter category, time and again, a degree in Philosophy gets low marks (this is ironic, as we're still recovering from the greed driven housing crisis and TRILLION dollar banking scandals of 2008). Philosophy and the study of great ethical questions, so the advice goes, is a dead end, job-wise. But is that true? And should it be? What can you do with a Philosophy degree, anyway (other than seize the moral high ground)?

Well, you could write a novel. Not a surprise. But maybe you decide a career as a novelist isn't for you, a lover of books.

You could...start a publishing house. Hire a young editor who also loves books and has a keen eye for story. You could publish some good books, and some great books. Go to the annual MWA awards dinner with, not one, but three of your authors, because they've been nominated for the Edgar Award that year. Earn the respect and admiration of publishers, readers and writers. Then you could sell your publishing business. Then you could start another one, and publish more great books with more great stories. Yeah, you could do all that...with a philosophy degree.

And someone did.

And they did it without polluting the groundwater, lying to Congress, or dropping buildings onto hundreds of underpaid sweat shop employees, crushing them to death.

Which brings us back to the Book Giveaway. Send an email to with BOOK CONTEST in the subject line, and the name of this philosophy major turned business entrepreneur. OR write your answer on the back of a twenty dollar bill and mail it to: Pat Balester, PO Box 11164 Kansas City, MO 64119.  All the correct answers will be thrown into a hat, and the winners will be picked by my granddaughter, who much prefers the latest Junie B. Jones novel to my own writing, thank you.

Rules & Other Stuff the lawyers make me say: Contest runs for one week, until the clock strikes 12 midnight on June 22, 2013. The winners will be announced the next day on Sunday on this blog. The contest is open to everyone except my immediate family. One entry per person...entrants must be human (no zombies, wizards, hobbits, vampires, dogs, cats or fish...sorry). Winners agree to allow the publication of their names, but not their location, age, bank account number or the contents of their NSA/FBI file.

Even if you've read my book, you can participate. After all, it makes a great gift, and if nothing else, serves as a handy paperweight.

Good luck, and keep reading great stories.

P.S. And if you have a child in college undecided as to their major, show them the graph at the top of the page. Philosophy trumps business in every category. Take that, Forbes magazine!

Friday, June 14, 2013


Deadline Alert!

Submissions for the Book Passage Mystery Writers Scholarship ends today!! You still have a few hours (until 5 PM Pacific Time...which gives you East Coast writers some extra time) to submit via email a 1500 word fiction sample. More details:

2013 Conference Scholarship

One Mystery Writers Conference Scholarship will be awarded this year, including full conference tuition to the the 2013 conference (travel and accommodations not included). To be considered, please submit up to a 1500 word sample of your fiction writing, plus one paragraph about what this conference would mean to you in your writing life. The scholarship is sponsored by William C. Gordon, the author of The Chinese Jars and King of the Bottom.

Submissions must be received by 5:00 pm PST on Friday, June 14, 2013. Email submissions to The selected entry will be announced on our website and via an email to those who have submitted on Monday, July 1, 2013.

More on this mystery writers conference, which starts July 25th, is HERE.

More Conference News

  • Thrillerfest starts in less than 30 days, featuring a heavy hitting lineup of guests, including Ann Rice, R L Stein and Michael Connelly. Kickoff on Wednesday, July 10 in New York City. Details and schedule can be found at their website.

  • The Writer's League of Texas is hosting an Agents & Editors Conference on June 21-23rd in Austin, Texas.  This is the perfect place to make a pitch for that just finished novel.

  • Hunt County Writers has a writer's retreat and conference July 5th and 6th in Middleburg, VA. Founded by a revolutionary soldier in 1787, Middleburg is the setting for a murder mystery published in 2005 by Jan Neuharth entitled The Hunt.

  • Las Vegas is hosting the Public Safety Writers Conference from July 11 to the 14th. The large number of police, emergency personnel and firefighters makes this a great conference for those who want to inject realsim into their crime fiction. And by joining the Public Safety Writers Association, you can get a one-time free manuscript review by one of their published authors.

Writers Tip: Even if you aren't attending, check out the schedules of as many conferences as possible to see the latest bios for agents and publishers. It's a great way to see what categories they represent and helps narrow your search.

Podcast: Florida Crime Fiction and the New Face of America

Join On Point for a great podcast broadcast with guests Adam Gopnik (the New Yorker) and Oline Cogdill (book reviewer from Mystery Scene). They discuss the rise of Florida and Noir Crime Fiction

Contest News

Compliments of the MWA website comes this tidbit for flash fiction fans: a “Mysterious Photograph” contest appears in each issue of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, where you can submit your 250 word story inspired by the photograph they post. Winning stories are published in a later issue.

Mystery Times 2013 short story contest is accepting entries until July 15th. The top two winners will receive a new Kindle. All winners will be announced in August and receive publication in the book, scheduled for a November 2013 release.

Before you toss that wretched first sentence that won't stand the light of day, consider submitting it to the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. Compose the worst opening sentence to the worst novel ever written and send it in! Deadline is June 30th. Check out the link, where www stands for "wretched writers welcome". Winner receives a pittance and the admiration of their jealous friends on facebook.


Just saw this in the latest SINC Quarterly Newsletter from June. Robin Hathaway, mystery writer and member of SINC and MWA, died February 16, 2013. She was living proof that it's never too late to start writing, putting pen to paper only in her 50s. At age 64, when most people are thinking of retirement, her first novel, The Doctor Digs A Grave, won the Malice Domestic Award from St. Martin's Press. A year later, she won an Agatha. You can read more in her obituary from She will be sorely missed.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


Costa Rican Wildlife Monitor Found Kidnapped, Killed

A 26 year old conservationist who patrolled Costa Rican beaches to protect nesting sea turtles and their eggs from poachers has been murdered. Jairo Mora Sandoval was kidnapped last week along with four female volunteers, three Americans and a Spaniard. The women escaped but Jairo was found on the beach the next day, bound and shot in the back of the head execution style.

Turtles eggs have a long tradition in Latin America as a delicacy, but efforts to protect them have grown over the past few decades as their numbers have plummeted. Poaching is a serious problem, and the evidence suggests that drug gangs may now be involved. According to the New York Times, "Sandoval had recently made statements in a national newspaper linking egg poaching to drug traffickers." For more on this story, click HERE.

Criminal Flees From Police, Hides in Police Station

Thank goodness criminals are so makes it easier to catch them, and gives us a laugh. Like this example from St. Louis, where a suspect fled after a traffic stop, only to wind up hiding in a building occupied by the St. Louis County Police Dept. According to the story from KMOV, "Lt. Bryan Ludwig and another officer arrested the man after he ran into the police station. Ludwig joked that the man was actually headed for the jail and could have just cut out the middleman (officers) and gone straight to jail."

Indian Tourism Suffers After Rapes of Tourists

The high profile stories of recent sexual assaults against female tourists has caused tourism in India to decline, threatening the jobs of 20 million Indians as well an additional 60 million street vendors who sell trinkets and food to foreign visitors. Government officials have scrambled to boost security and reassure visitors that they will be safe when they visit the Asian sub-continent. Neha Thirani Bagri has an article on the growing problem in the latest edition of India Ink.

Classified Leak of Secret Surveillance by NSA No Big Deal...Until It Is

When the story of the NSA's gigantic data collection on ordinary Americans came to light last week, politicians rushed to explain that the program had been authorized by the government and had been going on since the Bush administration. It was much ado about nothing, they claimed, and much of the public supports it. But now that the leaker has revealed himself, Eric Snowden is a hunted man and pols from John Boehner to Dianne Feinstein are calling for his prosecution as a traitor.  Whether you consider him a Hero or Traitor?, one thing will never change...the political spin that comes out of Washington whenever Congress puts it's hypocritical hoof in its mouth.

The bigger problem may be the private contractors who have access to such sensitive data. According to the Wall Street Journal, in their article Spies For Hire, thousands of private civilians contractors have been paid to shift through the massive amount of sensitive data in an effort to prevent the next terrorist attack. Who controls them and what they can access, is a question that still must be answered.

After Newtown Tragedy, Parents Enter The Lonely Quiet, and Struggle To Survive

The recent political battles surrounding gun access and background checks have died down without any meaningful changes, and most of us have returned to our daily lives. But Mark and Jackie Barden must now continue on without their son, Daniel. Eli Saslow examines their journey in this sensitive piece, The Lonely Quiet. Please continue to keep them, and all the victims, in your hearts and prayers.

Sunday, June 9, 2013


Sisters in Crime Kansas/Missouri chapter was proud to have Jenny Milchman, author of the terrific debut suspense novel, Cover of Snow, and best selling author Nancy Pickard at it's monthly meeting hosted by Mysteryscape bookstore on June 1st. The two writers lead a session on how publishing has changed in the past three decades. In this video highlight, Jenny and Nancy discuss the writing process, Jenny's 13 year journey to publication, and how books tours and self-publishing have changed the book industry. We had a lot of fun, and hope they come back soon!

Friday, June 7, 2013


New TV Documentary Series - Swamp Murders

Investigation Discovery debuted a new series on Tuesday, called Swamp Murders. The opening episode focused on the Great Dismal Swamp, which straddles the border between Virginia and North Carolina. The story of Kathy Bonney is told, a 19 year old girl who was killed, perhaps by a family member, and her body dumped in the swamp. Check out this interesting new series, Swamp Murders.

Murder Mystery Novel Released by Young Hasidic Female Author

One Murder -- four witnesses -- each with a different account of what happened. This is the basis for a debut mystery novel, Shattered Illusions, by Leigh Hershkovich. This young author takes us into the history of the characters, where their personal beliefs color their interpretation of events on that fatal day. Completed when she was just 20 years old, this story will challenge you to look at the world through the eyes of a stranger.

Poison Pen Press announces winner of the Discover Mystery Award

Eileen Brady has won the second annual Discover Mystery Award for her novel, Dog Shows Are Murder. It's been described by the contest judge as "A promising first novel that will leave readers begging for more." The Discover Mystery Award  recognizes unpublished mystery writers with a $1000 cash prize and a publishing contract. Check out the details HERE to see the full list of finalists and read the entire story.

Use a Writing Group For Support As You Write

Writing is a lonely business, as anyone who has completed an novel length manuscript knows. But you don't have to wing it without some help, as Fiona McCann explains in this article from the Irish Times, The Group Think Method For Getting A Novel Finished.

Oh, The Treasures You'll Find In A Storage Locker!

Nobel prize winning author Pearl Buck finished a novel just before she died of cancer in 1973. An then, it vanished...for 40 years. Not her publisher nor her family knew it existed. Then The Eternal Wonder was discovered in a Fort Worth, Texas storage unit that was put up for auction when the renter failed to make payments. Pearl Buck's son, Edgar was quoted in the Star Telegram as saying, “I’m grateful that the woman in Texas was careful and literate enough to realize what she had stumbled on".

The manuscript has been returned to the family. Untangling the mystery of how it got there, and who took it after Ms. Buck died, may never be learned. But the novel is now available on Kindle. It will eventually be published in book form, assuming there's any justice in the world. Librarians everywhere, meanwhile, will be updating their bibliographies for Pearl Buck.

The Retro Cocktail Hour Returns with Two Hours of  TV Theme Music

If the babysitter just bailed on you, don't despair. The Retro Cocktail Hour, hosted by Darrell Brogdon, returns to radio Saturday night to dazzle us with a TV Tunes extravaganza! He features the usual suspects ( Peter Gunn, Perry Mason, Dragnet) plus a few other rare and exotic theme songs, including Perez Prado's take on the Monkees theme song. Starts Saturday at 7pm on KPR stations. Listen live at or on demand at

Thursday, June 6, 2013


Like most writers, I have a day job, so I try to keep track of what the market is like, where it's going, and try to pick up career tips from newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal. But I think the editors had their tongues in their cheeks when they wrote this article, speculating on typical interview questions we've all heard (and sometimes been stumped by). How might they be answered by famous figures throughout history? Take a look. This is my personal favorite:

Interviewer: "Why should we hire you instead of the other highly qualified candidate?"
Answer:  "I don't think my brother's going to make it to the interview today." (Cain)

These were fun, too:

Describe your worst boss. "My boss used to murder his wives and then ask me to write the press release explaining why Anne Boleyn or Kathryn Howard would not be at the costume ball that Friday. It was a very tricky situation and required a lot of finesse on the part of yours truly." (Thomas Cromwell)

Do you take work home with you? "Well, duh! I mean, I am a spy." (Mata Hari)

What sort of compensation are you looking for? What would it take to make you happy? "Booty would be nice. Swag, booty, what have you. Ill-gotten gains would also be okay." (Genghis Khan)

What have you learned from your mistakes? "For best results, stay out of Russia, especially in December." (Napoleon Bonaparte)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


Federal Trial for Mobster Whitey Bulger Begins

Jury selection for the Whitey Bulger trial is slated to begin today in Boston. Bulger was on the run for 19 years after a rogue FBI agent warned him about an arrest warrant. Among the charges are indictments for money laundering, racketeering and over a dozen murders. Bulger was finally arrested in 2011 in California after witnesses spotted his long time girlfriend. The Wall Street Journal has an article about the trial at this link: Whitey Bulger Trial Starts.

Kansas City "Cold Case" Crime Fighter Retires After 30 Years

In 1984, long before Cold Case became a popular TV show, Janna Eikel began a career in law enforcement that would lead to the capture and conviction of some of the worst sex criminals ever to stalk the city. In the process she helped solved dozens of unsolved cold case crimes. She assisted in the capture of Kenneth McDuff, a serial killer from Texas who strangled over a dozen people, after he had been in Kansas City for a mere three weeks. Read more about this woman's remarkable odyssey, including why she was turned down by the Kanas City police department when she first applied for a job, in this article from the Kansas City Star.

DNA Gathering OK'd by Supreme Court

In a decision with profound implications for civil liberties, the US Supreme Court has ruled that states can gather DNA samples from people without a search warrant, even when that sample is used  to search for evidence in crimes unrelated to the original arrest, contrary to the fourth amendment to the US Constitution.  Ironically, the majority decision allowed the action by comparing DNA gathering to routine procedures such as mug shots and fingerprints, as an administrative tool, rather than justify its real find and identify suspects in other crimes.

The ruling was opposed by three liberal justices and joined by Antonin Scalia, normally a conservative law and order justice, who found the ruling hypocritical. In a scathing dissent which he read in open court, Scalia said “Make no mistake about it: because of today’s decision, your DNA can be taken and entered into a national database if you are ever arrested, rightly or wrongly, and for whatever reason,”. Read more about the decision at The New York Times.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Guest Blogger at The Rap Sheet

I'm a guest blogger over at The Rap Sheet, edited by J. Kingston Pierce. The award winning Rap Sheet is one of the mostly widely read blogs in the mystery fiction world, with news, reviews and a long running series, The Book You Have To Read. In my contribution to this outstanding series highlighting memorable mystery novels that have fallen out of notice, I discuss Patricia Carlon's The Unquiet Night. Please join me.