Keeping Things Real

My upcoming release, #6 in my Southern California mysteries – MURDEROUS MEANS, hints of the supernatural and things that go bump in the night. 

The story takes place in a small Western style town in Southern California, halfway between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. Have you heard of Los Ranchos? Probably not. It’s an imaginary setting in the Malibu canyon area. 

The idea seed was planted after I read an article about clairvoyants and mediums. I even included a séance scene, which nearly sends heroine Corrie Locke reeling away into the night, leaving the case in her wake. Do you believe in ghosts and otherworldly happenings? Corrie doesn’t. Or does she? 

Murderous Means was the first novel I didn’t write completely by the seat of my pants. The beginning and middle were mapped out, but not the ending. Name gathering helped my idea seeds germinate.

The past few years, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many wonderful people. One encounter introduced me to a name I’d not heard before; one that lit my imagination: Gifty. I met the real Gifty briefly in a virtual meeting. Her voice was low and melodious. Her manner was gentle. As I researched the origin of her name, Gifty, the character, jumped right into my novel. Meanwhile, I visited one of my favorite book stores and chatted with the lovely manager. She had another unforgettable name. Very James Bond-girlish: Heidi Honeyman. With the real Heidi’s permission, her name ended up in my novel. Then I met Caleb Wiseblood, a talented journalist. Guess where his name ended up? 

When I’m conjuring up characters, the right name helps me create a clear picture of each one in my head; the sounds of their voices, their physical appearances, how their minds work, how they dress, and so on. If they’re real to me, they will be to my readers, as well. Even after a book is done, my secondary characters stick around for a while, until I start the next novel. I kind of liked the company of the Murderous Means bunch, but we’ll be saying goodbye soon, as I hunt down names for my next cast of characters.


Classic Hollywood Actors - Out & About in Beverly Hills

If you’ve read any of my books, you probably know that I (and my heroine by extension) have a thing for classic Hollywood movies. I grew up watching them, and love hearing stories of Hollywood stars, especially stories of how wonderful the actors were. My mother provided many of the stories.

As a very young woman, Mom worked as a sales person at Robinsons, Beverly Hills, which was a high-end department store across from the Beverly Hilton.

Many big name stars passed through the department where she worked: bedding and linens. We recently talked about some of her favorite celebrity sightings. Back then, stars dressed like stars and mostly acted like stars, full of charm and wit. Here’s a small sampling:

Audrey Hepburn was not only beautiful on the outside, but on the inside, too. She carried around her lovely, pleasant smile and was kind to all who worked in Mom’s department. She loved talking about her son and was a favorite among the employees.

Greer Garson was not only elegant and kindly in her films, but was the same in real life. Friendly, charming, and animated, she was another favorite of the store employees. She was my most favorite. Strong, yet beautiful and feminine, I once wrote her a fan letter and she replied!  A wonderful reply that unleashed tears of happiness in me. That’s how big a fan I was and am.

Ann Margaret often went shopping with her mother. Another beauty who was ever so nice to the employees, Mom remembers her as courteous, polite and soft spoken. A pleasure to be around.

Rock Hudson was every bit as handsome as he was in his films. Do you remember Pillow Talk? Wow! Mr. Hudson usually shopped with his maid and was easy going and…did I say handsome? Very much a gentleman who treated all employees very nicely.

Vincent Price shopped with his wife, Mary. Both were very genial and easy to talk to. Once, when Mary came in without Vincent, Mom asked where he was. Mary replied that he’d made a beeline for the cookie samples in the gourmet food department. Apparently, he couldn’t resist sweets. Who can? One of my favorite actors, he was the inspiration for a character in Gambling with Murder. If you read it, you’d know which one.

There are too many sightings to share, but I hope you enjoyed these highlights.

Marketing Madness

I’m back with more marketing and press release information, by popular demand.

I recently co-led a class at a Writer’s Conference (with poet Melinda Palacio) on Being Your Own Best Publicist and, since then, I’ve been contacted by writers with questions on back cover copy, loglines, and press releases.

Every time I finish a book, after writing a whopping ~80,000 words, I go back and condense the gist of my novel into far fewer words. I do this for the back cover copy, for a press release, and even for a log line (which is typically under 25 words). These are not easy tasks, but they can be reduced to just the right amount of words to ignite a potential reader’s curiosity.

Here are two of my own log or taglines:

She swore she’d never turn into her P.I. father…but that was before she ran over the body. (MURDER & OTHER UNNATURAL DISASTERS)

A girl, a guy, and a missing body. What could go wrong? (MURDER GONE MISSING)

From Louise Penny’s STILL LIFE: Three Pines–a beautiful place, a brutal murder…

Writing log or taglines requires distilling your novel into a brief sentence or two; enough to whet a reader’s appetite. Make them want to know more! 

To write the back cover copy, I study books that appear similar in genre and tone. Then I work on mine. And work and work some more. A whole lot more!

For my upcoming book, MURDEROUS MEANS, #6 in my Southern California Mystery series, I wrote a 150-200 word back cover copy, then refined it. And put it aside. I rinsed and repeated multiple times.  

For my last release, GAMBLING WITH MURDER, my lovely publisher created this press release (with slight modifications by yours truly):


I changed it around some more, depending on who or what media outlet I was submitting it to. This is what I used for local circulation:

GAMBLING WITH MURDER sell sheet_Updated2023

Once again, the possibilities are endless and so are the press releases that appear online on the websites of other authors. Take a look and educate yourself. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at what you can come up with.