Thursday, April 27, 2017

Public Appearances

Whenever a new book comes out, unless an author has a great publicist, she/he will be scrambling for places to make appearances to talk about the book, writing, or anything that might compel a reader to want to buy the book.

Actually, most of us are looking for places to appear and sell our books whether we have a new one out or not. 

I've been fortunate to already have made a few appearances. Though for some of them I didn't have the new book yet, I did have cards to hand out with the cover and all the information.

I did a joint presentation for my local Sisters in crime group, I've talked to a great group at the Hanford Library, and had a table at a craft show at our church. 

My blog tour began on April 22 nd.

In May, I'm doing a radio interview at 6:35 in the morning. Yes, I am. I'll let you know how that goes.

On June 24th at 11, I'll be over at the Paso Robles Library talking about Best Sellers again.

I have five Fresno Library visits at  11 a.m, I'll be at the Gillis Library, June 17,  the Fowler Library on July 22, the Selma Library, July 29, the Kingsburg Library August 8, and the Caruthers Library August 12. 

I'm sure more opportunities will present themselves. 

This was one of the first, speaking with Cora Ramos at the San Joaquin Sisters in Crime April meeting. 


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

SIN EATER by John Schembra

First, I would like to thank Marilyn for hosting me on her blog.  She has long been a friend and the type of writer I want to be when I grow up!

 I would like to use this opportunity to introduce my latest novel, Sin Eater, a paranormal thriller.  This is a bit different from my Vince Torelli series of mysteries, with new characters and settings, and an especially evil villain.  It was so much fun to write and I was honored that it won the Honorable Mention Award in the PSWA 2014 writing competition.

While talking to people at book signings they often ask how I came up with the title, as Sin Eater is an unusual and uncommon phrase.  Well, when I write, I usually have the television on in the office as background noise (low volume) and there happened to be a movie playing at the time.  I don’t know what the title was or what the plot was about, or even who was in it, though I believe it was one of Robin Williams’ movies.  As usual, I was not listening to the dialogue but I did hear something that caught my attention.  I wrote it down so I wouldn’t forget it then returned to working on my manuscript.  

A few weeks later when I had finished that manuscript and was thinking about my next project, I remembered what I had written down and since my curiosity was piqued, I began researching the phrase, sin eater, and was surprised to find out that Sin Eaters were real people who plied their trade in America in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.  They would, through ritual means, absolve the dying of their sins by taking the burden of those sins from the person upon themselves, thereby clearing the dying person’s soul and allowing them to rest in peace.

I began thinking how it could be a great story if there was a psychotic Sin Eater operating in present time, and if I made him more crazy and threw in some paranormal aspects, it could be even more interesting.  Once I managed to sort out the details and began writing, the story came together smoothly and a book was born!

The first chapter is posted at my website,  and Sin Eater is available in paperback and e-book formats from:   and 
Should you choose to read it, I hope you enjoy it, and remember, a review is sincerely welcomed and appreciated!

The shocking murder of a professor at San Donorio State College brings the city police in to investigate, with Camous Police Officer Sarah Ferris as the college PD Liason.

            Sarah’s friend  Nico Guardino, a history professor, gets drawn into the helping and while Nico and Sarah struggle to find the murderer, the killing continues.

            As Nico is inexorable drawn deeper and deeper into the investigation he begins getting flashes of visions and deep feelings of dread that he knows are somehow connected to the killer.  He feels the connection becoming stronger, but how and why remains unknown.  His visions and feelings are becoming more and more disturbing as the investigation progresses…

John Schembra spent a year with the 557th MP Company at Long Binh, South Vietnam in 1970.  His time as a combat M.P. provided the basis of his first book, M.P., A Novel of Vietnam, a work of fiction based in part on his personal experiences.  Upon completing his military service, John joined the Pleasant Hill Police Department, where he retired in 2001 as a Sergeant, after 30 years of service.  He then became the lead Emergency Vehicle Operations Course (EVOC) instructor for the Contra Costa Sheriff’s Office and was certified by the State of California as a subject matter expert in Emergency Vehicle Operations.  He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Administration of Justice through California State University, Sacramento, and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration through California State University, Hayward.                                       
In addition to M.P.,  John has had several articles published in law enforcement periodicals, including, Law and Order, Police Officer’s Quarterly, and The Backup.  He is also a contributing author in True Blue – Police Stories by Those Who Have Lived Them, a collection of short stories released by St. Martin’s Press.  His second novel Retribution, a fictional story of the hunt for a serial killer in San Francisco, was published in the spring of 2007, and his third novel Diplomatic Immunity was published in 2012. His fourth novel Sin Eater was released in 2016 and his fifth book is currently undergoing editing at the publisher. John lives in Concord, CA with Charlene, his wife of 45 years.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Stepping Off on Another Blog Tour

Once again I'm embarking on a blog tour to promote the latest in the Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery series. Come along with me on the ride!

Unresolved Blog Tour Schedule

April 23  About Unresolved and the Rocky Bluff P.D. series

April 24  Favorite Character in the Series
April 25  The Inspiration for Unresolved

April 26  My Writing Process

April 27  My Exciting Life as an Author

April 28 Rubbing Elbows with Super Star Authors

April 29 Authors Who Have Influenced Me

April 30  Challenges in Writing a Series

May 1 Interview

May 2 Balancing Writing Two Series

May 3 Choosing Characters’ Names and the Rules I’ve Broken
May 4  Why a Blog Tour?

May 5 Putting a Blog Host in your Mystery

May 6  Keeping Characters Interesting in a Long Series

May 7 Besides Blog Tours, What Else?

May 8  Background the Rocky Bluff P.D. Series and Me

May 9 Research
May 10  The Value of a Critique Group

May 11  An Excerpt
May 12  My Compulsion to Write

May 15 Setting as Character

May 16  Problems the Rocky Bluff P.D. Series has Faced

And last of all:

May 19  I’ve Had Lots of Help Along the Way

F.M. Meredith though most of you know me as Marilyn. Do follow along and leave comments if you so desire. 

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Friday, April 21, 2017

Genetic Ancestry by Betty Jean Craige

 A couple of years ago a friend persuaded me to discovery my genetic ancestry. So I ordered a kit from 23andMe, spit in a vial, and sent the vial back to the company through the US Mail. In six weeks I learned that I was 68.6 percent northwestern European and 24.6 percent Ashkenazi Jewish, which did not surprise me. What did surprise me was my ancestry timeline. In the 1700s most of my genes came from Scandinavia, the Iberian peninsula, and Oceania. My British and Ashkenazi Jewish genes predominated only after 1860.

I started thinking about all the intercultural lovemaking that went into creating "me" over the 200,000 years of humanity's past and all the secrets some of those lovers had to keep when their societies viewed each other as enemies.

This pondering of genetic ancestry led me to write Dam Witherston, the third in my Witherston Murder Mystery series. What if, I asked myself, everybody disclosed his or her genetic ancestry routinely? What would we find out about our relationships to each other?

I set my Witherston stories in a town I called Witherston in the beautiful north Georgia mountains, where Cherokees lived for a thousand years before white settlers stole their gold and their land and sent them on the Trail of Tears to Oklahoma. Witherston got its name from the family of Hearty Withers, born in 1798, who made his fortune in the 1828 Georgia Gold Rush and the 1832 Georgia Land Lottery and whose descendants—four generations of them—never had to work for a living. The Cherokees lurk in their past.

Each mystery—Downstream (2014), Fairfield's Auction (2016), and most recently Dam Witherston (2017)—connects the past to the present in Witherston's inhabitants. In Dam Witherston blackmail and murder in the present result from interracial rape and pregnancy in the past, in 1977 and in 1828, when intercourse between Cherokees and whites was considered an abomination in the racist South. How do we learn of these crimes? By DNA ancestry tests.

At the end of the novel the Witherstonians involved in the story all spit into a vial, send the vial to the company Who R U, and find out how they may be related to each other. Here is a sample of the Who R U report:

Arroyo, Paco: 89% Iberian; 6% African; 2% Broadly Southern European; 2% British and Irish; 1% Undetermined (2.6% Neanderthal)
Bozeman, Gregory: 66% Native American; 23% British and Irish; 5% Ashkenazi; 2% Iberian; 4% Undetermined (1.2% Neanderthal)
Henderson, Amadahy: 49% Native American; 23% British and Irish; 18% Iberian; 6% French and German; 3% Italian; 1% Undetermined (1.1% Neanderthal)
Hicks, John: (55% Native American; 12% British and Irish; 15% French and German; 14% Iberian; 4% Undetermined (1% Neanderthal)
Jerden, Annie: 39% British and Irish; 38% Broadly Northern European; 7% French and German; 8% Ashkenazi; 5% Scandinavian; 3% Undetermined (2.7% Neanderthal)
Lodge, Beau: 43% African; 31% Scandinavian; 10% British and Irish; 7% French and German; 4% Native American; 1% Ashkenazi; 4% Undetermined (2.4% Neanderthal)
Pace, Atohi: 72% Native American; 17% British and Irish; 7% Iberian; 3% Broadly Northern European; 1% Undetermined (1% Neanderthal)
Rather, Rhonda: 29% British and Irish; 28% Broadly Northern European; 18% French and German; 9% Native American; 7% Ashkenazi; 5% Finnish; 4% Undetermined (2.7% Neanderthal)
Rather, Richard: 32% French and German; 24% Broadly Northern European; 14% Ashkenazi; 12% Native American; 9% British and Irish; 6% Iberian, 3% Undetermined (2.9% Neanderthal)
Schlaughter, Eric: 41% French and German; 25% Native American; 16% British and Irish; 11% Broadly Northern European; 4% Ashkenazi; 3% Undetermined (1% Neanderthal)
Sorensen, Sally: 41% British and Irish; 31% Scandinavian; 12% French and German; 8% Ashkenazi; 5% Finnish; 3% Undetermined (2.7% Neanderthal)
Soto, Daniel: 44% Iberian; 26% Broadly Southern European; 17% Native American; 3% Undetermined (1.6% Neanderthal)
Zamora, Hernando: 85% Iberian; 7% African; 6% French and German; 2% Undetermined (3.3% Neanderthal)

What fun I had creating all these characters and imagining who their parents, grandparents, great grandparents, great great great great great grandparents, and on back a thousand generations, might have been.

If everybody in the world discovered his or her DNA ancestry and discovered his or her relationships with nations they battled in war, would peace break out?

Dr. Betty Jean Craige is University Professor Emerita of Comparative Literature at the University of Georgia. She has lived in Athens, Georgia, since 1973. Betty Jean is a teacher, scholar, translator, humorist, and writer. After retiring in 2011, she published a column about animal behavior in the local paper titled "Cosmo Talks" and began writing fiction. Her Witherston Murder Mystery series, set in north Georgia, includes Downstream, Fairfield's Auction, and Dam Witherston.

Dr. Betty Jean Craige has published books in the fields of Spanish poetry, modern literature, history of ideas, politics, ecology, and art.  She is a scholar, a translator, a teacher, and a novelist.

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Researching Teens for the Niki Alexander mysteries by Laura Elvebak

My protagonist, Niki Alexander, is an ex-cop who quit after she had to shoot a teen before he shot her. Convinced that the only way she might find redemption was to save as many street teens as she could. To that end, she became a counselor for a teen shelter. But what did I know about troubled teens?
I told myself I knew teenagers. After all, my three children were teenagers once. They were five years apart in age. As soon as one child passed through the teen phase, the next would present a whole new set of problems. As a single parent, I learned through experience.

First lesson: Niki Alexander had to teach street kids how to fight and protect themselves to survive the perils they faced.

My oldest daughter developed her strength from martial arts. She won tournaments while going to school and working part time to pay for lessons. At sixteen she worked at a Dairy Queen, a few blocks from our apartment. She would walk to work and back. One afternoon on her way home, she was approached by a young man with a knife. Instead of being scared, she was so furious she karate-kicked the knife out of his hand. The young man turned and ran.

Lesson Two: Communication and Understanding

My son had ADHD and when he was twelve, he ran away and found Covenant House. With the help of a therapist, we learned to deal with his problems.

My youngest daughter was headstrong, defied rules, and ran away for two weeks to stay with a girlfriend. It took an intervention led by the single mother of her girlfriend for my daughter and me to learn how to communicate with each other. Once I learned to accept her feelings, she began to bring home other friends whose family life was less than desirable. One fifteen-year-old ran away from home and was abducted into a sex trafficking ring. She managed to escape. Thereafter, when she felt the need to leave home, she would stay with us. Twenty years later, she and my daughter are still close friends and have children of their own.

Lesson Three: Know your setting 

It seemed a natural choice to pick Niki Alexander to tell the stories of runaways and throwaways. To learn more about present day runaways, I took a tour of Covenant House in the Montrose area of Houston. I was so impressed with their dedication and care toward troubled teens they became the model for Open Palms, the shelter where Niki works as a counselor.

Researching Less Dead, the first in the series, I was fortunate to have a former resident of Montrose in my critique group offer to give me a different kind of tour one Saturday afternoon. She took me to restaurants, and teen hangouts like Numbers, where they could buy non-alcoholic drinks and dance to live bands. We visited the Mausoleum for poetry readings, and then the gay bars. When we arrived at each place, my friend would approach the owner or manager and explain what I would be writing about, and request permission to include their business in my books. They all agreed. (I asked for a signing at these places after the book was published, but never heard back.)

For Lost Witness and A Matter of Revenge, I did a second tour of Covenant House. Another friend of my daughter’s, an older woman named Tara, who once lived on the street, agreed to be a character in both books. She took me to the street church, held every Wednesday night in a parking lot across from Covenant House and provides food and drink. Tara introduced me to the preacher who, in turn, introduced me to the young crowd. For the rest of the evening, kids came up to me to tell their story. They provided the seeds that grew into new problems for Niki to solve. 

I signed up for the Citizen’s Police Academy’s eight-week course for a realistic read on my police characters. It was an eye-opener and I urge everyone to take the course. The last class was the ride-along. We got a call about a distraught female teenager threatening her father at his workplace with a piece of glass. Bar lights flashing, sirens screaming, we raced down Kirby. We were one of five patrol cars that arrived at the destination. The officers handled the girl with the utmost restraint and calm. Talking to the parents and witnesses, they learned the girl was upset over her parents’ divorce. The girl was then taken to the state-run hospital’s psychiatric section for the standard 72-hour hold.

Finally, Lesson Four: Never stop asking questions and learning. It’s all research.


Laura studied writing at UCLA, USC, Rice University, and Beyond Baroque in Venice, California. After taking a directing class in Houston, she co-wrote, directed and acted in a one-act play. She optioned three screenplays to a local production company, and co-wrote a script for the 48 Hour Film Project.

She is the author of the Niki Alexander mysteries, Less Dead, Lost Witness and A Matter of Revenge. Niki Alexander is an ex-cop turned counselor for a teen shelter. Her standalone, The Flawed Dance, takes place in Philadelphia in the late sixties, about a young woman fleeing from an abusive lover and hides in the demimonde world of go-go bars and mobsters. 

Laura is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters-In-Crime, The International Thriller Writers, and The Final Twist Writers and has a presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Good Reads, and Amazon Author Central.

Website URL:               
Blog URL:                           
Facebook URL:                        
Twitter:                          @lauraelvebak
Skype:                                     laura.elvebak53

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Monday, April 17, 2017


What Makes Characters Interesting?

Characters’ appearances don’t make them interesting. A physical deformity or tic can catch a reader’s attention initially, but appearance alone won’t sustain the interest of readers. The importance of the appearance of a character is more important in visual fiction, i.e. movies, than written fiction. Certainly, many beautiful/ handsome second-rate actors have had successful careers.

Characters’ actions make them memorable, especially if their actions are the result of being in conflict with the norms of their worlds.  Many authors make the mistake of making their character too predictable (stereotyping). Real people are a blend of weird contradictions. An example is action hero, Indiana Jones, faced all types of killers calmly but was terrified by snakes. I think most villains should do one kind action, like save a dog, during the course of a story. Similarly, heroes and heroines shouldn’t always be angelic. 

The desires and emotions of characters make their actions more believable and interesting. A person without desires tends to apathetic and is seldom worth knowing. Readers are more apt to identify with characters who react to situations as they would - with anger, surprise, or apathy. Generally, readers expect to learn more of characters’ inner worlds in literary fiction or mysteries than in action pieces.

Although most experts agree on the above basic points about character development, the methodologies are more debatable. I believe the easiest way to develop vital characters is to use real people, not sanitized views of them, as models. That way the characters won’t be too perfect.  Of course, authors should change the situations and characters to create fiction and avoid lawsuits.

One trick for developing unforgettable characters is to select the narrator carefully. When I started writing short stories eight years ago, I quickly realized that I had to develop characters and plots more quickly in short stories than in novels. To focus my thoughts, I decided I would write stories about mothers and began to interview dozens of acquaintances about their mothers, aunts, and grandmothers. In several cases, I listened to stories about the same person from siblings or spouses. I also knew several of the women described. I quickly recognized that reality depended on the eyes of the beholder.
Then I wrote The Good Old Days? It’s a collection of stories about mothers in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. My second collection of stories about more modern women is called Other People’s Mothers and was published in April. There’s humor and pathos in these stories – “Shoes,” “How Old Is the Earth?” “I Won’t Eat Beets,” “Shopping for a Husband,” and more.
The women in these vignettes made choices. The narrators of the stories often didn’t understand the basis of the decisions because of incomplete information or personal biases. Accordingly, they warped the portraits of the women, and I could develop the characters to be more memorable.
Even if you don’t usually read short stories, try these tales. They’re short three to fifteen pages (great bed time reading). They might encourage you to take a fresh look at your mother and gain a more realistic understanding of yourself.  And you’ll see my attempts to develop memorable characters succinctly.
Other People’s Mothers and The Good Old Days? would also make a great Mother’s Day gift for relatives or friends.
The collections of short stories are available in paperback and Kindle format at Amazon. Other People’s Mothers:
The Good Old Days?:

Bio: J. L. Greger likes to include tidbits of science and foreign locations in her thriller/mystery novels: I Saw You in Beirut, Murder: A New Way to Lose (winner of 2016 Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA) contest and finalist for New Mexico/ Arizona book award), Ignore the Pain, and Malignancy (winner of 2015 PSWA contest). In her short stories, she prefers to focus on families. Her website is:

Watch for J.L. Greger's book that will soon be available, Riddled with Clues.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Secret of Bramble Hill, A review


Sue Owens Wright’s Secret of Bramble Hill has all the elements of a gothic novel, except that it’s set in 1946 after the end of World War II. My one criticism of the story is that there is no mention of the aftermath of the war. However, the fact that it is set in a manor in a quaint Cornish seaside town and is filled with mysterious goings-on overrides anything I might consider a  problem. Tessa Field comes to her aunt’s home after learning about her unusual death. Soon she is reunited with her childhood friend, Peter Tremayne and feels an immediate attraction. However, the budding romance is fraught with suspicion. Soon, Tessa suspects her aunt’s death wasn’t accidental and it isn’t long before her own life is threatened from more than one source. With a generous sprinkling of ghostly appearances, people who aren’t who they seem to be, and even a séance, along with a strong romance, this is a most satisfying tale of mystery and intrigue.  

--Reviewed by Marilyn Meredith

Sue Owens Wright is an award-winning author of fiction and nonfiction. She is an eleven-time finalist for the Maxwell, awarded annually by the Dog Writers Association of America (DWAA) to the best writer on the subject of dogs. She has twice won the Maxwell Award and earned special recognition from the Humane Society of the United States for her writing. She writes the acclaimed Beanie and Cruiser Mystery Series, including Howling Bloody Murder, Sirius About Murder, Embarking On Murder and Braced For Murder, which is recommended on the American Kennel Club’s list of Best Dog Books.

Her nonfiction books include What’s Your Dog’s IQ?, 150 Activities for Bored Dogs, and People’s Guide to Pets. She has been published in numerous magazines, including Dog Fancy, Mystery Scene, AKC GAZETTE, Fido Friendly, The Bark, and Animal Fair. Her work also appears in several anthologies, including PEN Oakland’s “Fightin’ Words,” along with Norman Mailer and other literary notables. Her newest novel is The Secret of Bramble Hill.

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The Secret of Bramble Hill buy link: