Monday, December 21, 2009

2010 Calendar of Crime

HERE IS THE 2010 Calendar of Crime from the Mystery Writers of America:
February 25-28
Sleuthfest, Boca Raton, Florida

March 11-14
20th Annual Left Coast Crime: Booked in L.A., Los Angeles

April 30-May 2
Malice Domestic 22, Arlington, Virginia

May 20-23
Crimefest, Bristol, England, UK

May 25-27
Book Expo America, New York

May 27-29
Mayhem in the Midlands, Omaha, Nebraska

July 7-10
Thrillfest, New York

July 22-25
Theakston’s Old Peculier Harrogate Crime Festival, Harrogate, Yorkshire, UK

August 20-22
Killer Nashville Mystery & Thriller Conference, Franklin, Tennessee

September 24-26
Writers’ Police Academy, Jamestown, NC

October 14-17
Bouchercon by the Bay, San Francisco, California

November 4-7
NoirCon, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

November 12-14
New England Crime Bake, Dedham, Massachusetts

A good way to become a published author is to attend one or more conferences. Plan to attend one during the upcoming year.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

More on the MWA-Harlequin dispute

LAST WEEK I POSTED a letter from the Mystery Writers of America concerning Harlequin Publishing. The problem centers around vanity press services Harlequin will offer to writes whose work is submitted and rejected by Harlequin’s main imprints. (A word of disclosure here, the paperback version of my first book, Murder Most Holy, was published by a Harlequin imprint, World Wide Mystery.)

I received the following from MWA, it seems that the dispute is still simmering and writers considering submitting to Harlequin should investigate this matter further:
Dear MWA Member:

The Board of Mystery Writers of America voted unanimously on Wednesday to remove Harlequin and all of its imprints from our list of Approved Publishers, effective immediately. We did not take this action lightly. We did it because Harlequin remains in violation of our rules regarding the relationship between a traditional publisher and its various for-pay services.

. . .

MWA does not object to Harlequin operating a pay-to-publish program or other for-pay services. The problem is HOW those pay-to-publish programs and other for-pay services are integrated into Harlequin's traditional publishing business. MWA’s rules for publishers state:

“The publisher, within the past five years, may not have charged a fee to consider, read, submit, or comment on manuscripts; nor may the publisher, or any of the executives or editors under its employ, have offered authors self-publishing services, literary representation, paid editorial services, or paid promotional services.

“If the publisher is affiliated with an entity that provides self-publishing, for-pay editorial services, or for-pay promotional services, the entities must be wholly separate and isolated from the publishing entity. They must not share employees, manuscripts, or authors or interact in any way. For example, the publishing entity must not refer authors to any of the for-pay entities nor give preferential treatment to manuscripts submitted that were edited, published, or promoted by the for-pay entity.

“To avoid misleading authors, mentions and/or advertisements for the for-pay entities shall not be included with information on manuscript submission to the publishing company. Advertising by the publisher's for-pay editorial, self-publishing or promotional services, whether affiliated with the publisher or not, must include a disclaimer that it is advertising and that use of those services offered by an affiliate of the publisher will not affect consideration of manuscripts submitted for publication."

. . .

MWA has a long-standing regard for the Harlequin publishing house and hopes that our continuing conversations will result in a change in their policies and the reinstatement of the Harlequin imprints to our approved list of publishers.

Frankie Y. Bailey,
Executive Vice President, MWA

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Date for next book: June 2010; read all about it!

PUBLICATION DATE FOR my next novel, End of the Line, is scheduled for June 2010. Here’s the tentative book blurb:

R. J. Butler is a banker…or was a banker. After being promoted to manager of his bank’s downtown branch, R. J. was fired when the bank was sold and the new owners discovered an embezzlement.

When R. J. is found murdered in a city transit bus, police immediately make the connection between his murder and the bank embezzlement and the state police special investigations unit is assigned to investigate. The lead investigator is Detective Sergeant Jerome (Stan) Stankowski. Assigned to “advise” the investigation is Deputy Attorney General Parker Noble, Stan’s persnickety nemesis from Murder Most Holy.

R. J.’s widow, Linda, a former cheese-cake model, is undergoing drug rehab therapy through a local hospital with her apparent lover and therapist Bob Maxwell. R. J. and Linda’s divorce was pending at the time of his murder.

R. J.’s first wife, Ann, is now engaged to the nephew of a local Mafia-type, Johnny Capo, who Parker, as a prosecutor, had sent to prison. To accommodate his family’s desire that the nephew, Chris Roncolli, be married in the Catholic Church, Ann filed for a Church annulment of her marriage to R. J. The annulment was granted, but R. J. (partly out of spite) appealed the decision to Rome, which may delay Ann and Chris’ wedding plans several years.

Stan is “aided” in the investigation by newspaper reporter Buffy Cole, and also receives some “moral” assistance from a bank teller, Kitty Quinn, and by Teri Barkley, the niece of one of Parker’s old classmates, as he and Parker try to piece together the disparate clues to solve the murder.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Beware of writing scams, check before you sign!

ONE OF THE THINGS budding writers need to guard against is people who prey on their desire to publish. There are numerous examples of hucksters who try to make a quick buck by playing on the dreams of writers. One great site to bookmark that will help you avoid problems is Preditors and Editors. Recently, Mystery Writers of America writers received the following notice, which I’m copying here as a word of warning:

Dear MWA Members:

Recently, Harlequin Enterprises launched two new business ventures aimed at aspiring writers, the Harlequin Horizons self-publishing program and the eHarlequin Manuscript Critique service (aka "Learn to Write"), both of which are widely promoted on its website and embedded in the manuscript submission guidelines for all of its imprints.

Mystery Writers of America (MWA) is deeply concerned about the troubling conflict-of-interest issues created by these ventures, particularly the potentially misleading way they are marketed to aspiring writers on the Harlequin website.

It is common for disreputable publishers to try to profit from aspiring writers by steering them to their own for-pay editorial, marketing, and publishing services. The implication is that by paying for those services, the writer is more likely to sell his manuscript to the publisher. Harlequin recommends the "eHarlequin Manuscript Critique Service" in the text of its manuscript submission guidelines for all of its imprints and include a link to "Harlequin Horizons," its new self-publishing arm, without any indication that these are advertisements.

That, coupled with the fact that these businesses share the Harlequin name, may mislead writers into believing they can enhance their chances of being published by Harlequin by paying for these services. Offering these services violates long-standing MWA rules for inclusion on our Approved Publishers List.

On November 9, Mystery Writers of America sent a letter to Harlequin about the "eHarlequin Manuscript Critique Service," notifying Harlequin that it is in violation of our rules and suggesting steps that Harlequin could take to remain on our Approved Publishers list. The steps outlined at that time included removing mention of this for-pay service entirely from its manuscript submission guidelines, clearly identifying any mention of this program as paid advertisement, and, adding prominent disclaimers that this venture was totally unaffiliated with the editorial side of Harlequin, and that paying for this service is not a factor in the consideration of manuscripts. Since that letter went out, Harlequin has launched "Harlequin Horizons," a self-publishing program.

MWA's November 9 letter asks that Harlequin respond to our concerns and recommendations by December 15. We look forward to receiving their response and working with them to protect the interests of aspiring writers. If MWA and Harlequin are unable to reach an agreement, MWA will take appropriate action which may include removing Harlequin from the list of MWA approved publishers, declining future membership applications from authors published by Harlequin and declaring that books published by Harlequin will not be eligible for the Edgar Awards.

We are taking this action because we believe it is vitally important to alert our members of unethical and predatory publishing practices that take advantage of their desire to be published. We respect Harlequin and its authors and hope the company will take the appropriate corrective measures.

This e-bulletin was prepared by Margery Flax on behalf of MWA's National Board of Directors.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Competency and the law

MANY WRITERS SEEM to have problems distinguishing between the different forms of mental competency in their stories. Here is a short list of mental competency items writers might find helpful:

Mental health commitments: People are ordered into mental health treatment after a hearing before a judge where it can be shown that the individual poses a risk of harm to himself or others. Substance abuse matters are handled in a similar fashion.

Usually the procedure is started by a relative or physician who makes an application to a court outlining their concerns that the individual is at risk of harm due to his mental condition, or that someone else may be at risk. The application is usually by affidavit and the judge will then decide if the individual will need to be taken into custody (usually to a hospital mental ward) until a hearing can be held. At that time the judge will also appoint an attorney for the individual. A full hearing is also scheduled, usually within a week or ten days from the date the application is filed.

Guardianships and conservatorships: Individuals who cannot care for themselves are often assigned a guardian and/or conservator by the court. The difference is easy to know: a guardian assists the individual (called the ward) with physical needs while the conservator assists with financial and business matters. The guardian and conservator can be separate persons or a single individual.

Guardianship and conservatorships can be established by petition to the court in an involuntary procedure or can be done by petition of the proposed ward himself as a voluntary petition. In an involuntary case, the petitioner is often a department of human services or a family matter. Usually the court will also appoint an attorney for the proposed ward at the time the petition is filed with the court and an initial hearing date is set. In an emergency situation the court can also order the proposed ward taken to a hospital or nursing home pending a full hearing.

Powers of attorney: POAs are voluntary documents signed by an individual giving another authority to handle his financial affairs. These can be done in anticipation of some legal incapacity or for the convenience of the individual. For example, it is not unusual for a soldier being shipped overseas to execute a POA in favor of his parents so they can handle his affairs while away. A medical power of attorney can be used to give another person authority to make medical decisions when the individual is no longer able to make those decisions himself.

Estate planning: The establishment of any of the above will not necessarily impair the legal ability of a person to write a will. The requirement for a testator is that they will know and appreciate those who might be the natural objects of their estate. So if a person has a clear idea how he would like to have is property distributed after his death, he still may be legally capable of writing a will.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

November is National Novel Writing Month

IN CASE YOU NEED an excuse to start your Great All American Novel, this is National Novel Writing Month. In fact, to get you going there is a nation-wide effort to get would-be authors to turn out a 50,000 word manuscript by the 30th of the month. It is called NaNoWriMo and can be found by following this link. There are no fees for entering and there are no prizes for finishing, except the satisfaction of having completed that novel you’ve always known you can do. And who knows, perhaps – just perhaps, it could lead to a real live book contract. Remember, we all started somewhere nowhere near the top!

And if you want some writers tips, scroll down a few entries where you can read about Joe Konrath’s free downloadable book on getting published. Joe’s website is

Good luck, and let’s see if you can’t make this a month to remember.

Monday, October 26, 2009

New local author with a two book deal

ONE OF MY FRIENDS from an old writers’ group, Stephen Brayton, called the other day to let me know he had received a two e-book deal from Echelon Press. Echelon, if you don’t know, is one of the leading up and coming book and e-book publishers in the United States. In the short time it has been in existence it has developed a great reputation as a discoverer and developer of new talent. Echelon publishes some of my good author friends, Luisa Buehler, Michael Black, Mary Welk, Mrlis Day, and Carl Bookins.

Both of Stephen’s books sound like winners: Beta: Private Investigator Mallory Petersen, a fourth degree black belt with her own taekwondo school in Des Moines, Iowa, splits her time between teaching martial arts and her often inane cases. When she accepts a case to find Cheryl McGee’s kidnapped eight year old daughter, Mallory is pulled into the dark underworld of child pornography.

Night Shadows: Harry Reznik, a cynical hardworking homicide detective with a newly pregnant wife reluctantly partners with federal agent Lori Campisi to solve a string of gruesome murders. Campisi is a stolid, almost emotionless member of a special FBI department dedicated to pursuing cases outside the mainstream. She convinces Harry that the murders are being committed by Shadow Creatures: malevolent beings let loose in our dimension through the powerful magic of an ancient book.

He’ll send me a link to his new website when he gets it up and going. While I’m at it, don’t forget Tim Gilbert and his website where you can download his free thriller.

Now, bring on the Yankees; go Phillies!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Free thriller to download

A GOOD FRIEND of mine, Tim Gilbert, has wrintten a thriller, Damage Control, which you can download free from his site. Shades of a financial scandal when a celebrity money manager adds a new client to his roster of Hollywood stars: A Mexican drug cartel! Check it out at this link, then let Tim know what you think of it.

By the way, I’ve received several queries about when my new ovel, End of the Line will be available. The latest I have heard from Five Star is that the galley proofs will be ready in January, which leads me to speculate that it will be late spring or early summer. Keep a lookout for it and I’ll let you know as soon as I have anything definite.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A brief moment to celebrate the great game of baseball

MY FAMILY IS FROM Philadelphia so naturally I grew up a die-hard Philadelphia Phillies fan. It wasn’t always easy living in Iowa and rooting for a team that for most of my life was a baseball doormat. Last year, of course, was great. I reminded my friends that I was a fan of not just the Philadelphia Phillies, but the World Champion Philadelphia Pillies. I had to add that because it was not often that I got to think of them that way. Now, I may be able to extend that title. Is there a dynasty in the making? Who knows, but it is a fun ride. Bring on the Yankees…or whoever the AL sends! Yo, Adrian, it ain’t over yet!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Brief outline of criminal procedure for the writer

DO YOU REMEMBER the old Perry Mason television programs? Some of the most vivid memories of those shows were the courtroom scenes where Perry would artfully get the real culprit to confess on the witness stand. Pretty exciting courtroom action, but did you know that none of those scenes were at a trial? They were actually at what is known as a preliminary hearing.

Let me give you a short primer or how a criminal case is handled by the courts:

After the arrest and booking, the suspect is given an initial appearance where the judge formally informs the defendant of the charges against him and his rights. The defendant does not plea to the charge at this time. The judge will then set bail or release the defendant on his promise to appear for further court dates.

That is followed later by a preliminary hearing where the prosecutor must present enough evidence so that a judge can determine if there is probable cause to send the defendant to trial. Sometimes the preliminary hearing is replaced by a grand jury where the grand jury determines if there is probable cause for a trial. If the grand jury determines there is enough evidence to try the defendant it will issue an indictment which is a written document formally charging the defendant with a crime. If a preliminary hearing is used in place of the grand jury, the formal charges will be prepared by the prosecutor in a document called an information.

Once the indictment or information is filed, the defendant is brought before the court for an arraignment where he is again informed of the charges and now asked to enter a plea. If the plea is guilty, there is no trial and the court can proceed to sentencing. If the plea is not guilty a trial date is set. If the defendant refuses to enter a plea the court will enter a not guilty plea on his behalf.

With a not guilty plea and no disposition of the case through plea bargaining, the case will proceed to the actual trial where the defendant will have the option of being tried by the court (a judge only) or by a jury.

I hope this clears up some of the procedural questions writers have when writing about criminal court activities. There is obviously more detail, but this should suffice for most writing situations.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Getting facts straight: The Dying Declaration

RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH is a mantra that writers hear all the time but sometimes ignore. I was at a conference the other day when one of the speakers was commenting on the pope’s environmental statement. At a papal Mass, Benedict gave a homily extolling the virtues of the environment. The reporter covering it noted that the pontiff so wanted to underscore his position that he even wore green vestments!

Well, as any Catholic would tell you, the color of the vestments worn at Mass are dictated by the liturgical season (Christmas, Lent, etc.) or the specific feast day, not the particular message the priest wants to give. Green is the most often used color which denotes “Ordinary Time,” in other words, nothing special that day on the Church calendar.

I’m also reminded of the film Kramer v. Kramer where Dustin Hoffman played the role of a father trying to win custody of his son. He was insistent that his son, Billy, not be involved in any of the court hearings. After the judge granted custody to the mother, dad wanted to appeal. The response by his lawyer was something to the effect that if he appeals it will be necessary to call Billy as a witness. Now as anyone who has taken business law knows, there are no witnesses in an appellate court, those courts rule on a written record and oral arguments by lawyers.

And, of course, we have all heard the stories of authors who get razzed by readers because they have a car traveling the wrong way on a one-way street, or is a four-door model when the company only produced a two-door.

So I am not surprised when I see writers missing the point concerning rules of evidence, especially that rule known as the “dying declaration.”

There is much confusion about what this means, so here is a small primer. The rule is actually one of the exceptions of the rule on hearsay. Hearsay, itself, is not well understood but suffice it to say that it is a statement made out of court that is being repeated in court to prove the content of the statement. Let me give you a quick example:

If a Bob says in court, “John called me and told me that Tom was coming over to beat me up,” that would be hearsay if it was offered to prove that Tom wanted to beat Bob up. On the other hand, it would not be hearsay if Bob was using it to explain why he threw the first punch at Tom; because then it would be offered, not to prove Tom’s intent, but to show what motivated Bob to act as he did. Got it? Well, it’s hard and I admit it.

The dying declaration then is a statement by a person dying – now dead – repeated in court to prove that what was being said was truthful, classic hearsay. However, the dying declaration is an exception to the hearsay rule (get out your books, it’s rule 804(b)(2) in the federal rules) but only a limited one. Under the rule it is only applicable to show what the dying person believed to have caused his impending death – nothing more. So it does not relate to property rights or any other matter. It is used primarily prosecutions for homicide or civil actions in which the liability for the death is at issue.

Some states may have slightly different versions of the rule, but if you are writing about it keep in mind what it is and what it is not. It will not dispose of the family farm, trip up a crooked accountant or expose fraud in the boardroom – not in court anyway. And if you have a question or two, there are a few good lawyers around who might answer your questions if you’ll name a character after them, perhaps a distinguished judge.

And, least I forget, Happy Columbus Day!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Newbie Guide to Getting Published

ANYONE THINKING about writing a book would be wise to check out Author J. A. Konrath’s website: In addition to the usual self-serving material authors put on their web pages, Joe has included information and links that will be helpful to any budding or established author.

The highlight of the site is a 700+ page downloadable (free) book: The Newbie’s Guide to Publishing Book. It’s an easy book to peruse while on-line and easier still to print off only those pages needed.

Some of his tips include the six things you should never put in a query letter, the 19 mistakes new writers make, what agents want, and five ways to look like a pro. One example of a no-no is using a fancy font for you query letter. He wrote, “I tried sending a query once using an exotic, calligraphy font, because I thought it made me stand out and appear intelligent. The agent returned it asking, ‘Next time, submit in English.’”

Check out his website. Even if you don’t find his tips helpful, you might want to pick up one of his books. I’ve read several and enjoyed each one.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

How will new FTC rules affect book reviews in blogs?

THE FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION voted 4-0 on Monday to require bloggers to clearly disclose any payments or freebies they receive for reviewing products. Many bloggers routinely review books that are sent to them by publishers. Apparently, under this new rule (81 pages of legal twaddle), these reviewers will need to disclose that they have received a free book in order to comply with the new rule, as if the reader wouldn’t know that if you want your book reviewed you need to provide a copy to the reviewer.

Oddly, if the reviewer returns the book, the new rules don’t apply. The rule seems to be aimed more at bloggers who review such products as computers or toys and who are allowed to keep the product reviewed. Most traditional journalism outlets either pay for the product or return it after it is tested.

There is no formula how the disclosure must be made other than it must be "clear and conspicuous."

What effect this might have on book reviews remains to be seen. I’ve reviewed some books on this site but they have all been purchased from regular retail outlets. However, if anyone would like to give me something I’d be happy to review it and, of course, make the proper disclosure.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Thoughts on the Papal visit of 30 year ago

ONE OF THE HIGHLIGHTS of my life occurred 30 years ago when my wife and I – along with about 350,000 others – attended the Mass celebrated by Pope John Paul II at Living History Farms just outside Des Moines.

We were living in Davenport at the time and drove in for the event. After spending the night at my mother’s in Windsor Heights, we walked (and walked) to Living History Farms early the morning of October 4, 1979. I remember it as a cold, damp and drizzling day, but no one at the site seemed to mind. We found a place near a bunch of kids holding a sign saying “We Lutherans Love John Paul Too!” and settled in for a long wait.

Mid-afternoon there was a sudden clearing of the clouds and the sun shown through just as the presidential helicopter carrying the pontiff circled overhead and landed. Out came JPII and the rest, shall we say, is history.

This past weekend the diocese of Des Moines, as part of a celebration of the 30th Anniversary of the trip held a symposium on land use and stewardship at Dowling Catholic High School in West Des Moines. The weekend kicked-off with an interdenominational prayer service at the site of the pope’s mass at Living History Farms.

My friend, Kathie Obradovich, political columnist for the Des Moines Register, asked in her column this weekend if a return trip by the current pope would result in the same excitement. “Pope Benedict XIV filled Yankee Stadium in New York City last year, but could he attract a crowd six times that size in Des Moines?” she asked.

We’ll probably never have another pope visit Des Moines, so that question will never be able to be truthfully answered. But I have a feeling he would; people today seem to be searching for something more than the here and now. The pope represents that. And so if he does come, I’ll look forward to seeing my 350,000 friends again.

Updated Calendar of Crime from the MWA

Thanks to the Mystery Writers of America comes the updated calendar of mystery conferences:

October 30 – November 1: The Great Manhattan Mystery Conclave: A celebration of “small town” mysteries. Manhattan, Kansas. Guest of honor is Earlene Fowler and J. M. “Mike” Hayes is the toastmaster. For more information the website is here.

November 7: Bodies and Buckeyes, Embassy Suites, Columbus, Ohio. Lee Lofland is the keynoter. Sponsored by the Ohio chapter of Sisters in Crime. For more information the website is here.

November 13-15: New England Crime Bake: 8th Annual Mystery Conference for Writers and Readers. Hilton Boston/Dedham, Dedham, Massachusetts. Guest of honor is Sue Grafton. Sponsored by New England Sisters in Crime and the New England Chapter of Mystery Writers of America. For more information the website is here.

February 26-28, 2010: Sleuthfest, Hilton Deerfield Beach, Boca Raton, Florida. Guests of honor: David Morrell and Steven Cannell. Sponsored by the Florida Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America. For more information the website is here.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

St. Louis area mystery conference with pitch sessions

THIS JUST IN FROM THE Mystery Writers of America -- The Greater St Louis Chapter of Sisters in Crime will hold its 5th Annual Midwest MysteryFest, September 25-26, 2009. The conference takes place at the St. Charles Community College, 4601 Mid Rivers Mall Drive, Cottleville, Missouri (just outside St. Louis). Keynote speakers will be Carolyn Hart and William Kent Krueger. A four-hour workshop, “Screenplay Techniques for Your Novel,” will be conducted from 1 to 5 pm on Friday by Esther Luttrell, Hollywood screenwriter, TV producer and mystery author. An optional Friday evening “get acquainted” dinner with the authors and speakers will follow the workshop. On Saturday three tracks will be offered: Forensics, The Craft of Writing, and The Business of writing. You will also have an opportunity to sign up for a one-on-one pitch session with an agent. Continental breakfast and buffet lunch Saturday are included in the conference price of $85 for SinC members, $75 for students 18 or older, and $110 for walk-ins (space-available basis only). Authors wishing to be on a panel will be accommodated on a first-come, first-serve basis. For more information, email

Any aspiring writer who has a manuscript ready or near ready should not pass up a conference with agent pitch sessions! Check it out.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Authors ready for launch of new books

EIGHT CENTRAL IOWA AREA PUBLISHED AUTHORS met this week at a local restaurant to form a local PAL (Published Authors Liaison) group to share ideas for writing and marketing. Three of the members have books scheduled for release within the next few months. From left, Eileen Boggess, Mia the Magnificant, Fall 2009; Rebecca Janni, Every Cowgirl Needs a Horse, February 2001; and Kimberly Stuart, Stretch Marks, September 2009. The group will be meeting quarterly to discuss mutual interests.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Wanta solve a crime? Try this.

HERE IS SOMETHING that sounds like a lot of fun. It’s the Criminal Pursuits workshop November 6-7 in Dallas, Texas.

There'll be a mock crime scene, set up by a local SWAT instructor Attendees will be assigned to teams and will initiate their own investigations of the evidence at hand. They'll also interview the witnesses, then they'll get to quiz a panel of detectives to see how they'd handle things. There'll be a session on How to Process a Crime Scene, along with a couple of others. In addition, there will be authors and an opportunity to purchase their books.

If you are interested, follow this link.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Catholic Writers Conference August 5-7

FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO WOULD like to write from a faith perspective, this might be a unique conference: The first-ever Catholic Writers Conference Live!

The Catholic Writers Conference Live!, taking place August 5-7, 2009, in conjunction with the Catholic Marketing Trade Show and sponsored by the Catholic Writers Guild, will provide a unique opportunity for Catholic writers of non-fiction and fiction to learn about improving their craft, sharing their faith in their writing and marketing their work. Panel discussions and presentations covering many topics essential for the professional (or professional-to-be!) writer will be offered along with opportunities to ask questions of major Catholic publishers.

The event will be held in Somerset County, New Jersey, at the Doubletree Hotel and Executive Meeting Center SomersetSome of the featured presenters are:
Regina Doman, author/Sophia Press submissions editor (Angel in the Waters)

Mark Brumley , CEO of Ignatius Press (How Not to Share Your Faith)
Lisa Wheeler, Executive Vice President of the Maximus Group (PR and marketing firm for The Passion of the Christ)
Matthew Pinto, author/Ascension Press publisher (Do Adam and Eve Have Belly Buttons?)

Tom Hoopes, executive editor of the National Catholic Register newspaper and Faith & Family magazine
John Desjarlais, mystery author, (Relics, Bleeder) website
Arthur Powers , and award-winning short story author

For more information, click here.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The New Obamamobile

NOW THAT PRESIDENT OBAMA has taken over GM, the new Government Motors is pleased to unveil the new 2010 Obamamobile:


This car runs on hot air and broken promises. It has three wheels that speed the vehicle through tight left turns. It comes complete with two teleprompters programmed to help the occupants talk their way out of any violations. The transparent canopy reveals the plastic smiles still on the faces of all the "happy" Democratic owners.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Tips for writers

ONE OF THE LAST THINGS NEWBIE WRITERS learn is that there are really rules for writing that agents and editors look to see if you have followed in your submission. There are numerous sites on the web that you can consult that will assist you in developing your story and the preparation of your manuscript. I’ve found a few sites listed here that might be a point from which to start a journey or refresh your knowledge. No promises, but you might want to check them out.

The Writers Site
The art and business of writing

Fiction Writer’s Connection
Novel writing tips

Getting Published:
Getting Started
Writing Tips
Lecture Notes
Fun With Words
Tracking Submissions

Whodunnit, Howdunit, and Whydunnit: 10 tips for writing your mystery novel

How do you get a novel published?
By Terry Whalin, Whalin Literary Agency, LLC

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Mystery writers at Beaverdale Books

SATURDAY MAY 30, Beaverdale Books in Des Moines hosted four local mystery writers as part of its Mystery Month celebration. Picture: The rogues’ gallery of mystery writers from left, me, Alan Loots, author of Storm Lake; Alfino Giovannini, author of Des Moines, and Jerry Hooten, author of Don’t Talk to Strangers.

Beaverdale Books carries the books of all four authors. It is located at 2629 Beaver Avenue, Suite 1, Des Moines, phone: 515/279-5400. The store’s webpage is

Monday, May 18, 2009

Saving Paulo, A Novel of Suspense

OKAY, YOU GET FIRED FROM a low-level civil service job and now have to face the cousin who got you the job and tell him. You know it won’t be easy, but it’s what comes after that starts Charlie Long on hair-raising journey around Chicago and to the jungles of Brazil accompanied by an elderly physic, a pretty heiress and agents from the drug enforcement agency.

Charlie’s adventure starts after getting bawled-out by his attorney cousin about losing his job when he witnesses the murder of a man in a Chicago alley. Caught between the victim and his killers is a frightened little boy whom Charlie impulsively whisks from the scene to protect him from what turns out to be a band of foreign thugs ready to kill to get their hands on the boy.

Pursued by the killers, Charlie manages to take refuge in what appeared to be an empty store front but turns out to be the residence of a physic advisor who seems to have a bit more insight into the boy and Charlie than she should have. With her help, Charlie is able to survive the moment only to find that his and the boy’s life are in jeopardy courtesy of the head of a South American drug cartel.

Saving Paulo is David Walker’s first stand-alone suspense novel. The author of the Mal Foley and Wild Onion, Ltd., series weaves an entertaining story line around some very believable yet unusual characters into a first class work. It is the story of how a chronic underachiever rises above himself to put the interest of a little boy who doesn’t speak above his own life, and how, in the end, he makes the biggest sacrifice of his life to give Paulo the life he deserves.

Saving Paulo, Five Star, Gale Cengage Learning, 384 pages, hardback, $25.95.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Mysteriously Un-dead??

TAKE TWO DIFFERENT AUTHORS, their individual sleuths, mix them together in one book and what do you get? That is exactly what Authors Michael A. Black and Julie Hyzy did in their joint venture: Dead Ringer.

Black’s PI, Ron Shade, is hired by an insurance company to investigate whether a policy holder, whose death cost the company millions in death benefits, is really dead after all. Hyzy’s newswoman, Alex St. James, at the same time, is trying to fend off the amorous advances of a flakey undertaker, interested in heating up an old family friendship, while at the same time she is trying to satisfy her boss with an undercover story about homelessness.

Alex is forced to call on Shade, not for investigative help, but because her boss is having second thoughts about the used car he purchased from Shade through Alex. Neither initially realize how interconnected their respective projects are, but when they do they find themselves going from the homeless shelters of Chicago to the glitzy strip in Las Vegas where both face death trying to figure out who is really dead and who is not.

The book is told in a series of first-person chapters, alternating between Shade and Alex. The literary technique is not only unusually well-done, but it allows the reader to see ahead of the participants and to actually “solve” parts of the mystery before the main characters realize what is happening. The book is filled with interesting, memorable characters and takes the reader on a zigzagging, sometimes perilous, but entirely satisfying ride.

Dead Ringer; A Ron Shade / Alex St. James Mystery. Five Star, Gale Cengage Learning, $25.95.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Disputed Elections: Before Bush-Gore there was Hayes-Tilden

AS A HISTORY BUFF I have always enjoyed teaching those parts of my political science classes that deal with the historical development of certain aspects of the government. Until the Bush-Gore election in 2000, most of my students had never paid much attention to the Electoral College. Thus, they were always surprised by how it worked and why it was created.

Even more interesting was the student reaction to those elections where the Electoral College “misfired” and elected the popular vote loser. We would spend a bit of time discussing those elections and the one that always stood out was the 1876 Hayes-Tilden election where disputed and conflicting sets of Electoral Votes were submitted by several states causing Congress to create an Electoral Commission to determine which votes should be counted. The result was a commission that gave every disputed Electoral Vote to the popular vote loser, Rutherford B. Hays, who then won the presidency by only one Electoral Vote.

The story of that election is told in surprising detail in William Rehnquist’s Centennial Crisis; The Disputed Election of 1876. Rehnquist, of course, is the late chief justice of the United States and had a ring-side seat for the legal maneuverings of the Bush and Gore teams in 2000. The book has been out for a couple of years, but it is a good read and recommended to any history buff, like myself, especially those interested in the post Civil War era.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Can you give these dogs a home?

THIS IS A BIT OUT OF CHARACTER for this blog but a friend of my wife’s is looking for a home for two Cocker Spaniels. So if you are in the Central Iowa area, take a look at this.

The dogs were placed in “foster home” because the owner had to go to a nursing home unexpectedly. The dogs' names are Daisy Mae and Buddy. Daisy is the smaller one of the two and is five years old. Buddy is a male and is four years old. They have always been together so the foster parents would like to find a home where they can stay together. They are very lovable, cuddly dogs and they love to go for walks and to play fetch with tennis balls. Both dogs and are very good with the foster parents’ kids and their friends.

If you are interested, you can contact the foster parents (Jim Kent) at

Remember, there is a special place in heaven for those who care for animals!

Some writers' sites of interest

A COUPLE OF RESOURCE LINKS for those wanting to get published:

First is Preditors and Editors. All too often newbie authors seeking publication fall victim to unscrupulous editors, publishers or agents, whose only talent is taking money from wanta-be writers. Before you submit your work, or sign a contract, check out this site to see if there are any recommendations or cautions about the person with whom you are planning to deal.

The second is for mystery writers. My friend Jerry Hooten hosts a resource site for mystery writers. He also publishes a monthly newsletter which is free via e-mail specifically for mystery writers which covers topics such as guns and legal news. Jerry has advised several well-known mystery authors, including Max Allan Collins and Michael Connelly, and a few minor writers like me.

These and other helpful links are included at my website.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

So Long, LIM, until we meet again

THE BOMBSHELL that was dropped at Saturday’s Love Is Murder Banquet by the LIM board was that there will be no conference in 2010, but it will return in 2011.

Love Is Murder is unique among mystery conferences: readers could meet their favorite authors, authors could meet new readers, and writers could meet and pitch publishers and agents. I have been a regular attendee for many years and became one of LIM’s biggest fans when I sold my first mystery, Murder Most Holy, to Five Star through the 2005 conference. Last week’s conference had over 300 attendees.

But the success of LIM was apparently a bit too much for an overworked, understaffed volunteer board. Members wanted to take a year breather to re-tool and come back better than ever. How they can make this outstanding conference better than it currently is, is, to quote our new president, “above my pay grade.” Suffice it to say, LIM was a top-notch product and Luisa Buehler, Hanley Kanar and the rest of the board deserve kudos for all they have done.

This year’s LIM was held at a new location, the Westin Chicago Northshore in Wheeling. A wonderful facility that gave us an added treat: a re-enactor’s convention was being held at the same time. We were able to mingle with Generals Grant, Washington, Custer along with Field Marshall Rommel and scores of soldiers representing armies from ancient Rome to World War II and beyond. Renaissance minstrels, jesters, Red Coats and warriors from Napoleon’s army all mingled with us over drinks Saturday evening. It felt like we were on the back lot of a Hollywood studio where there were several historical epics being filmed!

Anyway, the weekend was great, but we all left with a little sadness knowing that we’ll miss our old friend next year.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Love Is Murder

THE LOVE IS MURDER mystery conference is being held this weekend (February 6-8) at the Westin Chicago in Wheeling, Illinois. If you are within driving distance of Chicago and are writing a mystery – or would like to write one – check the link (picture) and see if you can attend. I’ll meet you in the bar!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Vatican prelate says bishops partly responsible for election of Obama

AN INTERESTING ARTICLE FROM THE VATICAN appeared this week. Former St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke, now the prefect of the Apostolic Signatura (something like the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court) says that the U.S. bishops’ document “Faithful Citizenship” was confusing enough to lead many pro-life Catholics to vote for the pro-abortion Barack Obama in last November’s election. Burke charged that the document created “a kind of false thinking” that issues other than life were worthy of equal consideration. He zeroed in on a phrase in the document that said a Catholic could vote for a pro-abortion candidate as long as they do not do so because of the candidate’s support of abortion. Here is a link to the news article.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Hail to the Chef … er, yes, the Chef

MY FIREND JULIE HYZY, author of State of the Onion, has another winner with Hail to the Chef, the continuing story of Ollie Paras, new White House chef who finds herself involved in some very high voltage murders.

In Chef, Ollie has to balance the White House Christmas holiday menus with the First Lady’s attempt at matchmaking, and a terrorist plot. All happening while Ollie is under pressure from a senator’s office to rig a gingerbread man decorating contest. Ollie realizes something is up after the unlikely death of a White House electrician in an apparent on-the-job accident and the sudden death of the First Lady’s nephew which is at first ruled a suicide.

A good read with a unique bonus: twenty three pages of recipes for appetizers fit for a commander-in-chief.

A Berkley Prime Crime Mystery, paperback, $7.99