In my first mystery, The Body in the Attic, I meant to write an Agatha Christie type murder where a body is found in the first chapter and then countless witnesses and suspects are introduced until the murder is solved.  That was my intent.  And I didn’t quite stick to it.  But I just finished reading Mary Angela’s A VERY MERRY MURDER.  She purposely structured her book to be like a Christie novel, and she pulled it off.  She even used a Christie story for her protagonist, Professor Emmeline Prather, to teach in her Crime and Passion English class–an elective class that focused on mysteries and romances.  Even better, Angela used the same murder technique for the current mystery that Christie used in hers.  If you’re a Christie fan, it was awesome!

Such attention to detail, alas, I didn’t manage.  I discovered poor Aunt Lynda’s body in the first chapter, yes, but then I introduced a subplot that intrigued me a little too much, and before long, another body was required to move the plot along.  Which, I have to admit, I was pretty happy with.  Which shows that even if you outline, like I do, the best laid plans can go awry.

In my second mystery, The Body in the Wetlands, bodies seemed to pile up without my even trying.  One murder leads to the next and the one after that until Jazzi and Ansel, along with Detective Gaff, finally catch the killer.  The moral of the story?  Try never to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  And of course, there’s another dog in this story.  I grew quite fond of Cocoa, the chocolate Lab.

I’ve been reading quite a few mysteries lately, and back when I read Christie, the actual murder and puzzle are what made me turn the pages.  Don’t get me wrong.  I enjoyed Miss Marple and Poirot.  And Christie could draw a character in only a few brush strokes, so I “knew” them–what motivated them–but didn’t get to know them, if that makes any sense.  Lately, though, I’m every bit as interested in the characters in the story, who they are and what they’re doing, and I’m disappointed if they’re not filled out more.

I liked Mary Angela’s professor and how seriously she took teaching college students who often weren’t as motivated as she was.  I enjoyed the budding romance between Enmeline and Lenny, and I loved the widow who lived across the street and didn’t miss anything.  She was a whiz at baking and let Emmeline know her Christmas cookies were inferior.  All fun stuff that added layers to the story.

I guess, these days, I enjoy lots of different kinds of stories hung on a mystery plot.  The only time I’m disappointed is when the end of the mystery–how it’s solved and whodunnit–aren’t handled well.  After all, it’s a mystery, even if the murder only serves as a foundation to wrap other subplots around.  But I expect a murder, clues, red herrings, and a satisfying conclusion.  The rest is all extras.  I don’t want a murderer pulled out of a hat or for the clues to not add up.  Other than that, I go along for what I hope is a fun ride.  Whatever you’re reading now, I hope it keeps you turning pages and you’re happy you read it when you close the book.

And happy writing!





A mongrel

Our Chihuahua has enough Pomeranian in him, he loves to snap at my Dear John’s feet–and I’ve been told that’s a Pomeranian trait.  Our cat’s a stray.  And the new story that I started for my webpage isn’t a purebred either.   Just like our pets, it’s a mongrel.

My husband loves it that I’m a writer.  Not enough to read any of the books I write, but he loves the IDEA of my being a writer.  The only exception is that occasionally, he’ll read stories that I put on my webpage, and he ALWAYS read every Babet and Prosper novella I wrote.  He had a thing about Babet and Prosper.  So did some of my friends.  Come to think of it, so did I.  And I miss them once in a while.

I also missed writing mysteries when I wrote urban fantasies.  I’m an Agatha Christie/puzzle solver at heart.  And that’s why I decided to combine the two–supernatural and mystery.  I don’t have any delusions that would sell.  Writing cross-genre books isn’t for anyone who studies markets.  It’s possible to find success if your stars are aligned and a light from heaven beams on your computer, but that hasn’t happened to me yet.  But…that’s what my webpage is for.  It’s for ME.  To write whatever tickles my fancy at the moment.

So, I didn’t want to write a different mystery series right now.  I did that with Chintz and Callum.  And even though I had a ball writing about a caterer and a cop, I yearned to write about witches and demons with a few vampires, Fae, and shape shifters thrown in.  So I decided to write Muddy River Mystery.  It’s sort of a post-as-you-go moment.  I don’t have many chapters written ahead.  But damn, I’m having fun!  And every once in a while, as much as I love meeting deadlines and developing series’ characters, I like to kick up my heels and do something different.

So, my webpage is the big blank page where I get to play.  And that’s exactly what I’m doing.  Enjoying myself.  My wish for you:  that whatever you’re working on now, I hope you enjoy it.  And I hope the words flow for you in 2019.

Judy Walker dropped by my blog!

I want to welcome Judy Walker to my blog today.  I had the pleasure of getting to critique her thriller romance, A SAFE PLACE, and enjoyed it so much, I invited her to stop by so that you could meet her.  She has an unusual heroine, a female drug dealer, whom I found myself rooting for, hoping she could leave her past behind her and start a new life.

Questions for Judy Walker—A SAFE PLACE

  1. How did Alexa get sucked into dealing drugs?

Alexa had a difficult childhood. Her father died in the Gulf War, then her mother, stricken with grief, committed suicide. At the age of six, she and her older brother, Marcus, went to live with their grandmother in a rough area of Chicago. Dealing drugs was the norm in the neighborhood where she grew up.

Years later after she’d moved to Florida and graduated from college, the economy tanked. Tens of thousands of dollars in debt from student loans and no available jobs, she resorted to the only thing she knew how to do to survive – sell drugs.

  1. How did she end up in Florida, competing with ruthless drug lords?

Alexa and her high school sweetheart, Andre, vowed to escape to Florida upon graduation and leave their oppressive past behind them. They were determined to attend college and start a new future together. Several months before they graduated, Andre was killed. She ended up going to Florida alone.

One of the ruthless drug lords in Florida, Devon Jordan, was a gang leader in Chicago. She suspected him of murdering Marcus and Andre. Working for him was not an option; therefore, she became his competition.

  1. You’ve written several other books and all of your female protagonists are smart and strong. What draws you to them?

My female protagonists don’t begin their lives smart and strong. Their difficult circumstances force them to become resilient and savvy in order to survive. I enjoy taking a woman from the depths of hell and watch her evolve throughout the story to become successful and self-fulfilled.

I think I’m drawn to them because I, too, have been through some difficult times in my youth and feel I’ve had to fight my way through them. Doing so has made me more confident and able to achieve my goals.

  1. What made you decide to write about a woman on the WRONG side of the law for this story?

I like to begin my stories with a woman in an extremely difficult situation. What could be worse than not only being on the wrong side of the law, but the wrong side of the outlaws as well? Alexa had to outsmart both to survive.

I must admit that I thought it would be challenging to see if I could take a character who was despicable, scum of the earth, and bring her back in touch with her own humanity – to  an extent that the reader actually begins to root for her success and wellbeing. Hopefully, I accomplished that in A Safe Place.

  1. What types of books do you like to read? Do you have a favorite author?

I don’t have a favorite author, but I do feel that Ken Follett and Daniel Silva inspired me to develop a ‘bad-ass’ female character like Alexa Knight. Both have written historical fiction about women spies in World War II. I’ve found those types of plots especially intriguing.

From a romantic aspect, I enjoy reading Nicholas Sparks, Nora Roberts, and Danielle Steel.

  1. When you’re not writing, what do you like to do?

When the weather is nice, I enjoy bike riding through the country roads in DeKalb County. It’s exhilarating! I also like to take walks and read. I’ve also been known to do an occasional cat puzzle.

  1. You had a few different careers before you began writing, didn’t you? Have you used any in your novels?

Absolutely! I believe writers are ‘jacks of all trades, masters of none’. I worked in Human Resources at a major company for fourteen years, was a realtor for thirteen years, attended nursing school, and worked for the United Way of Dekalb County for four years. I’ve tapped into experiences from all these endeavors to write my stories. However, I’ve never sold drugs!

Thanks for joining me today.   And good luck with your book!

A Safe Place, J.L. Walker


The blurb:

Alexa Knight is running for her life. After a meeting with the head of a large drug ring in Florida turns deadly, she flees the state, changes her identity, and seeks refuge from the drug lords and the law in a small cabin in the far reaches of northern Michigan.

Her attempt to build a new life quickly becomes plagued with remorse and paranoia as she struggles to break free from her dark past.

Just when she’s about to uproot herself again to stay one step ahead of the people who want her dead, she finds herself in the arms of a man who can potentially save her…or put her behind bars.

You can find JL Walker on twitter: @Willowwriter201 or visit her website at

Here’s an interview she did on The Insider’s Perspective:

Cover Reveal

Lyrical Press has released the cover for my second Jazzi Zanders mystery.  It’s due out April 23, 2019, but I’m always excited to see what kind of a cover they’ve created for me.  And this time, I loved it that they featured Cocoa, the chocolate Lab, in a similar pose as George, Ansel’s pug, in book one.  Only in this book, Cocoa’s digging up a fairly fresh corpse(:  That puts a real downer on the fixer-upper project Jazzi, Jerod, and Ansel are working on.  Here’s the cover.  I hope you love it as much as I do.


High summer in River Bluffs, Indiana, is always sweltering and sweet. But the heat is really on when a decidedly dead body turns up in the neighborhood.

When established house flippers Jazzi Zanders and her cousin Jerod donate a week’s worth of remodeling work to Jazzi’s sister Olivia, they’re expecting nothing more than back-breaking roofing work and cold beers at the end of each long, hot day. With Jazzi’s live-in boyfriend and partner Ansel on the team, it promises to be a quick break before starting their next big project—until Leo, an elderly neighbor of Olivia’s, unexpectedly goes missing . . .

When the friendly senior’s dog tugs Jazzi and the guys toward the wetlands beyond Olivia’s neighborhood, they stumble across a decomposing corpse—and a lot of questions. With Jazzi’s pal Detective Gaff along to investigate, Jazzi finds her hands full of a whole new mystery instead of the usual hammer and nails. And this time it will take some sophisticated sleuthing to track down the culprit of the deadly crime—before the killer turns on her next . . .

I hope all of you have lots of good things to read, can sneak in a little writing, and enjoy a merry Christmas and happy holidays!


No Motivation

Life has been busy lately.  Almost all fun stuff.  My writers club had its last meeting of the year–our annual holiday carry-in–last Wednesday.  Dawn and David went all out to decorate their beautiful house for Christmas, and trees and holiday decorations brightened every room.  The food was wonderful.  It always is.  We gossiped and laughed, and since we’re writers, ended up talking shop here and there.

We won’t have another meeting until January 9.  And for some reason, that makes me feel like I don’t have to be a “good” writer and pound out so many words a day, like I usually do.  The pressure’s off, which is silly.  I still have 15,000 words to write on my fourth Jazzi mystery.  But no matter how hard I try, when I don’t feel accountable to Scribes for making progress, I revert to being a kid on summer break.  And I don’t even feel that guilty about it:)

I intend to still write, still work on book four, but I’ll write at a more leisurely pace.  I’ll enjoy the perks of the season more than usual.  We had friends over for supper on Friday night and I made Cheryl’s favorite dessert–bread pudding with rum sauce.  Next Friday, we’re having another friend come for supper.  She loves smoked meat, so I’m making smoked Cornish hens.  And Tuesday night, I’m going to a Christmas program with Sia.  I’m in the mood to play more than work, ready to make jolly.

I still have writerly duties to do.  Lyrical Press scheduled the book cover reveal for The Body in the Wetlands for December 22nd.  I need to go to to design Facebook and twitter headers for the second book.  I need to find some excerpts I can share once in a while.  Today, I want to polish the Jazzi and Ansel Christmas story I’m going to post on my webpage this coming week.  BUT, I can work for a while, play for a while, because I won’t be reporting what I’m up to at Scribes.  I don’t have to be a responsible author again until January 9th:)

Happy writing to all of you, but I hope you get some play time, too!



I’ve been posting words for #1linewed on twitter for a while now.  Do they help me sell books?  Maybe.  I have no idea, but once a week, Kiss of Death chooses a word that you’ve hopefully used in your WIP, and you can post that tiny section on twitter with the hashtag #1linewed.  I think it’s fun to share them and see what other authors have shared.  For example, for last Wednesday–the 5th–Kiss of Death posted:  Something different for our 12/5/18 THEME. Give us your best end of chapter **CLIFFHANGER** line. Hooks make a reader turn pages so show us what you’ve got! 

I have to admit, my wonderful critique partner, M.L. Rigdon, often catches mushy chapter endings in my manuscript and I have to beef them up, so the idea of LOOKING for cliffhangers worried me, especially in a first draft.  But bless Scribes, they’ve expounded the idea of hooks at the end of chapters so many times, I did better than I thought.  And they were easier to find than I’d first thought, too.  I just printed FIND for my manuscript and typed in Chapter, and ta-da!  I scrolled up to the end of the previous one and found my hooks pronto–something I should start doing on a regular basis when I polish my manuscripts.  For the end of chapter 1 in The Body in Apartment 2D, (what I’m working on now), I found:

 “Are you going to be okay?”

            Radley shrugged.  “You know Bain’s temper.  He’ll stew and grumble, then get over it in a while.”

            That’s when they heard a gunshot.  They all looked at each other, then raced for the stairs.

Not too shabby.  I posted it.  But I was curious now.  I looked at more of my chapter endings.  For the end of chapter 2, I found:

Jazzi’s heart sank.  She felt it shrivel and weep.  Bain.  Living with them.  And he’d be in a worse mood than usual.  But he was Ansel’s brother.  They couldn’t just leave him on the streets.  Could they?  No.  Shame on her.  But she wasn’t looking forward to spending time with Ansel’s oldest brother.

Not brilliant, but it would do.   At least for now.

Anyway, the whole exercise was a good reminder that EVERY chapter should end with some kind of hook, something to encourage the reader to turn the page.  I hope all of your chapters end well:)  I’m checking mine from now on.

Happy Writing!

A Goodreads giveaway!

I’d like to introduce you to Karen Lenfestey, whose book 5 O’CLOCK SHADOW is available on a Goodreads giveaway from December 6-17.  Karen writes women’s fiction and is part of my writers’ group.  We tease her and call her the Queen of Drama.  For good reason.  She takes wonderful, lovely characters and forces them to face the kinds of situations that all of us dread, making them stronger in the process.

In FIVE O’CLOCK SHADOW, Claire Tillman is a social studies teacher, who out of an act of kindness, ends up in all kinds of trouble.  Here’s the blurb for the story:

When social studies teacher, Claire Tillman, finds one of her seniors sleeping in his car, her maternal instinct kicks in. Despite her crumbling marriage, she welcomes Jaxon into her home. She even offers to help him find the father he’s never met so he can come to Jaxon’s high school graduation. As she follows Jaxon’s journey, she realizes the story of her own father’s death doesn’t add up. He died accidentally when she was young and yet her mother is still bitter about it. Digging into her own family history, she discovers that her father had a secret that turns her life upside down. 
Will Jaxon and Claire regret finding out who their fathers really were? 

To enter the giveaway, here’s the link:

I’ve invited Karen to my blog for a Question and Answer session.  Please make her feel welcome!

  1. When did you decide to write your first book?  I started writing as a child when my parents sent me to my room. And why? Since I lived in the country and didn’t have cable TV, making up stories entertained me. I was too shy to let anyone read them, though. When I had my baby, I wrote a novel about someone questioning their childless by choice marriage, called A Sister’s Promise. Eventually I became brave enough to join a critique group and that has made all of the difference in my writing career. (Thanks Summit City Scribes!)
  2. You’re a counselor, aren’t you?  Yes, I’ve been both a high school and a college counselor. How does that affect your writing? My students break my heart and inspire me with their resiliency. For example, one of my students told me her mother wouldn’t tell her who her father was. The young woman said whenever she’s in public she looks at men approximately the right age and wonders if one of them is her father. That intrigued me so much that I wrote 5 O’Clock Shadow about a teenager who longs to find the father he’s never known.
  3. Your books have strong themes of relationships.  Is that the kind of book you enjoy to read?  I like a combination of complicated relationships with a bit of suspense. Who are some of your favorite authors? Lisa Scottoline and Shari Lapena do a great job with making me anxious to turn the page. I also really like Kristina Riggle, Diane Chamberlain and Anna Quindlen for their interesting, often dysfunctional, characters.
  4. I know you love to travel.  If you could choose one place you’d love to see, where would it be? I would love to ride on a gondola in Venice, but I’m hesitant because I don’t speak Italian.
  5. Do you have an all-time favorite movie?  I’ve always loved “When Harry Met Sally” but for a more modern choice, I laughed out loud at “Crazy Rich Asians.” I’m looking forward to watching the sequel with my girlfriends.
  6. If you could give a new author one piece of advice, what would it be? Find people who will give you honest feedback with plenty of encouragement while you’re polishing your rough draft.

Thanks for visiting my blog and letting us get to know you better!

To visit Karen’s blog:

Karen Lenfestey's Five O'Clock Shadow

Thanks, Judy, for inviting me to share my story on your blog!


It’s Not Easy

My writers club had its last official meeting for the year on Wednesday.  We meet twice a month except in December, and for that month, we have our annual Christmas carry-in, and that’s it.  No critiques.  No agenda.  Just sharing food and conversation.  I always e-mail every member and invite them to come, even if they’ve missed a few meetings.  I did that this morning, and as always, it made me think about the people who used to be regular members who no longer are.

Plenty of people have tried Scribes and dropped us as quickly as possible.  We’re not for everyone.  But I’m not talking about those.  I’m thinking of writers who came month after month, sometimes year after year, and then disappeared for various reasons.  Sometimes, they move.  Sometimes they get divorced and their lives go into upheaval, and they can no longer write.  A baby’s arrival can usurp a mother’s time.  Some have health issues.  One of our members just had three heart surgeries in two days, and she finally got to return to us, thank heavens.  Not everyone can.  One member retired, and now she travels and plays too much to write.  I know Life can throw people curveballs, and it’s sad to lose them from our group, but I understand why.

The missing-in-action because of discouragement bother me more.  I’ve watched people who share their pages with us rewrite them, share them again, get better, and become talented writers, only to give up under the heavy weight of rejection.  They decide they’ll never be good enough, never sell.  I get it.  Rejection hurts.  But . . .  it’s part of being a writer.  Still, and I have to remember this, it’s not for everyone.  When writing causes more pain than joy, maybe it’s time to walk away, to give writing a break.  I always hope they’ll pick it up again at some other time, but maybe they won’t.  Maybe writing doesn’t grip them like it does me.  Maybe other interests bring more fulfillment.

There have been many times that I’ve been discouraged.  Many times that I think I must be a masochist for pounding away at stories and novels.  But if I stop for a while, the emptiness is too much.  I never dreamed of being a writer, but writing is just like my pet strays.  Once I opened the door for it a tiny crack, it took over my life.  Writing isn’t easy.  Rejection is worse.  And talent doesn’t guarantee success.

Jeez, I sound gloomy.  But the good news is that I celebrate every time a writer I know, including myself, finds some success.  And there have been enough successes to keep me hopeful.  Scribes is full of wonderful, brilliant writers, and we work to encourage each other.  I hope you find encouragement and joy in your writing, too.

Happy December!


And P.S.  If you live in Fort Wayne, Kyra Jacobs and T.G. Wolff will be signing books and reading short excerpts at Half-Price Books this Saturday, Dec. 1st, from one to three.


A Little Late

My grandson Tyler recently got engaged.  We love Emily, the girl he asked to marry him.  She comes from a big extended family, though, and they all get together for Thanksgiving.  Our family these days is dinky.  My daughter Robyn lives in Florida with her husband.  Our grandson Nate’s in the marines in San Diego.  John’s brother lives in Oakland.  When we get together, it’s my two sisters, my cousin, and my daughter Holly.  And she’s a nurse.  She had to work this Thanksgiving, so we decided what the heck?  Why not have our Thanksgiving late?  So Tyler and Emily are coming home late tomorrow afternoon.  Holly’s coming early on Sunday.  We’re all going to celebrate then.

Ty and Emily already did the traditional meal–twice.  Holly’s hospital put on the works for the doctors and nurses who had to work.  And we had a friend over for turkey, brussel sprouts, and cranberry sauce, so everyone’s had enough of the usual feast.  To change it up, we decided to make chicken cordon bleu instead.  Mary will still bring her cheesy potatoes and Patty makes the green bean casserole.  I’m going to try Geoffrey Zakarian’s Hawaiian roll stuffing, a big salad (no Romaine, darn it!) to keep it light, and a pumpkin roll.  Ty always expects one of those.

It’s been so low-key this year, it’s nice.  When we all sit down on Sunday, your Thanksgivings will already be over, and I hope they were wonderful.  But I thought shifting our days around might bother me.  I worried I’d wake up on Thursday and miss the bustle.  I didn’t.  For this year, being flexible was nice.

Once you’re back on schedule, happy writing!