Monday, January 16, 2017

Evelyn Cullet, Guest Author

This week I’m pleased to welcome Evelyn Cullet. I recently read The Tarkington Treasure and enjoyed every moment of the story. It contains a mystery, humor, romance, and to my delight, a hidden treasure. Who doesn’t love a hidden treasure? I love a book that entertains me, and this one is on that list. I’m glad to have you back, Evelyn!

I’m delighted to be posting on Marja’s blog once again. This time it’s about my latest Charlotte Ross Mystery, The Tarkington Treasure. I had a hard time coming up with an idea for this novel, because I was looking for something I hadn’t read or written about in a mystery before. Then, one blustery day last January, my husband decided it was time to clean out our bookshelves. Being retired, he does this periodically. Not only bookshelves, but closets, kitchen drawers, bedroom drawers, upstairs cabinets, downstairs cabinets, the garage... He hates clutter. It doesn’t bother me as much. What does bother me, is having to move things just when I’ve become familiar with where I’d put them.

We were going through dozens of books on the Civil War he’s collected over the years, deciding on which to keep and which to donate to the Salvation Army store. I never really paid much attention to the books, there were so many, but this day I glanced through several and noticed a chapter in one of the books about millions of dollars in Civil War gold that still hasn’t been found. That’s when the idea struck me. I thought it might be fun to write about rumors of a Civil War treasure that had been hidden somewhere on an old estate—but the stories of the treasure had become so skewered over the years that it might be anywhere... or it might be anything. If in fact, the treasure ever really existed at all. That’s how I came up with:
  The Tarkington Treasure

A spooky old house, rumors of a hidden Civil War treasure, a neighbor’s murder, and an ex-fiancĂ© falling unconscious at her feet—Charlotte Ross has her hands full when she’s invited to stay at her friend, Jane Marshall’s home while her apartment is being renovated.

Jane and her new fiancĂ© have sold everything to move to the large estate she’d just inherited near the small town in Illinois, where she grew up. She’s always loved the house, but the cost of living in, and fixing up, a deteriorating old mansion is more than both their incomes combined. If she can’t come up with the money for the next property tax payment, she’ll be forced to give it up. 

Charlotte is intent on winning back her ex, but her efforts are stymied when he’s suspected of Jane’s neighbor’s murder.

The two couples soon discover the rambling old house holds more than one secret when they join forces to find the real killer—and the elusive, Tarkington treasure. 

Author Bio

Evelyn Cullet has been an author since high school when she wrote short stories. She began her first novel while attending college later in life and while working in the offices of a major soft drink company. Now, with early retirement, she can finally write full time. As a life-long mystery buff, she was a former member of the Agatha Christie Society, and is a current member of the National Chapter of Sisters In Crime. She writes mysteries with warm romance and a little humor. When she’s not writing mysteries, reading them or reviewing them, she hosts other authors and their work on her writer’s blog. She also plays the piano, is an amateur lapidary, and an organic gardener.

The Tarkington Treasure is available on Amazon. com for your Kindle or in paperback:

Website and Blog:

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Monday, January 9, 2017

A.B. Emrys, Guest Author

I have to admit that there’s something mysterious about vampires, and A.B. Emrys has brought this to the front with her guest post. How did she entice students to read great works, and what works for her? I think you’ll find this post very interesting. Welcome, Barbara!

 Writing Temporary Vampires

by A. B. Emrys

I made my own vampires out of student fandom, classic horror, and a trip to Barcelona.

My first unknowing step toward Temporary Vampire was teaching horror lit 214GS. While I was dragging general studies students kicking and screaming through Great Works, I asked each class what they read or watched on their own; the answer very often was horror. The solution seemed obvious.

Not for nothing did I have a deep background in nineteenth century British lit, from whence sprang all the popular categories of fiction. So I first taught the class I put together great works of horror, from Frankenstein to Jurassic Park (it really is–if you've never read it, go now). 

Later I switched to great American writers of horror, from Poe to Shirley Jackson and her ever-loving disciple, Stephen King. By the time I burned out on those variables, vampires were so rampant that I built an entire class around the elements of vampire fiction and how they had mutated since Coleridge's "Christabel," Byron's doctor's little tale, and LeFanu's Carmilla.
It was while we wallowed in undead lore, my students and I, that I decided to try my hand at it. I have a theory that no one can fully understand a type of literature, or maybe any literature, unless they've at least attempted to write it, but then I am a form-alist to the core.

I already was a publishing writer of short shorts, stories, personal essays, and scholarly articles, all them held together by a certain weirdness (you can see some of this range in free mystery stories and other items at So one holiday gathering, I sat at the edge of the room while others watched a movie and started a little tale about a mime who embodies the vampire as the climax of a New Orleans tour.

Since then I've learned that many people hate mimes second only to clowns, but I had been impressed with the huge variety who perform in the Gothic quarter of Barcelona, where there is a mime school. There was the young man who turned into a tree, the coal miner on a smoking vent, the red devil in a trunk, the ancient Chinese shaman, and many more. My mime was in that tradition. She studies at a school and her best friends are performers. One of her teachers was even visiting from Barcelona.

At the time I finished the story, Temporary Vampire, I had an agent I met in a mystery bookstore in London, and she just happened to be editing a collection of vampire romance. The first two chapters appeared in The Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance Stories (I have copies of the Italian and Russian translations too), and later in a Barnes & Noble collection, Louisiana Vampires (the editor who tracked me down said "It's a really good story").

Of course I started turning it into a novel. Of course while also teaching horror lit and other classes, and writing a nonfiction book about two mystery writers  for which I had a contract, and making some big life decisions, and once in awhile having some fun.

My vamps at some points were, well, cold, but I never nailed shut that coffin. Instead I returned to them like an enamored slayer unable to stay away.
Here's the blurb for Temporary Vampire:

Letitia Condit mimes the vampire in Jackson Square for a midnight tour. She's pretending to be the power she fears.

Yankee vampire Nathan Court has come to New Orleans to snare his feral counterpart, who has for decades killed his companions. All he wants is to play human after dark.

By the time he sees Letty perform his reality, he feels safe enough to fall in love.

But Letty, Nathan, and all their allies–Letty's mime troupe, her spirit-walking mentor, and a steel magnolia who runs a vampire's Downton Abbey–must shed their most cherished illusions to have any afterlife left.

See, what I love about vampires are the boundaries. That's why I revere the great old novels. They rise, they have powers, but there are tradeoffs, like the daytime sleep, silver, crosses, garlic, that limit the afterlife. It's the way they negotiate these limits that interest me.

Also, I love the illusion, the passing-for-human, as well as the human costuming as vampire. (I once taught my class on Halloween in vampire makeup.) How much will a particular undead pretend? How much will she live like a feral cat? My plot turns on who pretends to be what, with what success.

So I made a vampire whose main desire is to live his old life. He even gets sustenance from strangers in a discreet way that avoids the savage bite, which at one point kind of disappoints my mime-heroine. Her spooky advisor tells her she may have called a vampire to her, that perhaps they are her fate.
Two of the supporting characters nearly ran away with the whole thing. They are Marla Tremaine, whose a blood-bonded staff keep her in traditional Southern style, and her good-ole-afterlife partner, Remy Sandoz. I wrote a story about the two of them that's also available, Fish and Company, about how Marla's plan for pretending to die and inherit from herself runs into problems when the relative she has put in charge doesn't want to leave. In the novel, Marla acts as mediator when Nathan and his enemy attempt to settle their feud.

The story and Temporary Vampire both are available on Amazon, where you can preview the first two chapters and a little more. A different excerpt is at The covers are by my sister, and the young woman on the novel cover is my granddaughter.


        A. B. (Barbara) Emrys has had more than 40 short pieces published, from Prairie Schooner to Mysterical-E, won two national prizes and was a finalist five other times, and is the author of the scholarly work, Wilkie Collins, Vera Caspary and the Evolution of the Casebook Novel, an Agatha and Macavity nominee. She has helped bring attention to the writing of Caspary, once a famous screenwriter and mystery novelist, many of whose works now are available again. After decades in Chicago and on the plains, Emrys lives in a small town in central Florida with her cats, Godzilla and Salamander.

Check out Barbara’s website at

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Having a Great Crime - Wish You Were Here, A Sandi Webster Mystery, will be 99 cents (ebook version) on from Wednesday, January 11 thru Saturday, January 14, 2017. 

Monday, January 2, 2017

Fresh Starts

The new year is here. Welcome 2017! So many of us think of a new year as a time for fresh starts and changes.

Maybe this applies to some of our lives, but does it apply to our writing or reading? With regard to writing, probably not. If you’re in the middle of writing a new book, are you going to set it aside and start something else? Not likely. There are exceptions, of course. If your own book is boring you, maybe it’s time to move on to something else. I’ve done that. I can think of one book in particular that I started and set aside, but we won’t go there. “It’s too distressing to think about,” she said, hanging her head.

When it comes to reading, that’s a different story. Maybe you’ve been reading too many of the same type of book and you’re becoming bored. So pick out something different. Try something new. Try a new author. Try a different genre. Mix things up a little.

Did any of you make New Year’s Resolutions? Don’t look at me. I didn’t. I don’t like putting myself on a spot, so why start the year out that way? I’ll keep plugging along on the new book I’m working on (I’m not bored with it), and as far as life, I think I’d rather be surprised rather than plan it all out. Again, there are exceptions, but…

I love surprises, at least the happy ones. I love a good book that surprises me, as long as those surprises make sense and all the loose ends are tied up.

Mysteries are my first (but not only) love in stories because they often provide surprises. I love solving puzzles and seeing the pieces fall into place like they should in a mystery. That’s actually kind of funny because I once saw my grandfather, whose vision was failing, doing a jigsaw puzzle. He had a puzzle piece in one hand and a hammer in the other, and a magnifying glass sitting off to one side. He was bound and determined to see that piece fit into the puzzle, whether it was the right piece or not. That’s probably not a good idea in fiction or in real life. I’ll tell you what, though, he was having a good time until he hit his finger with the hammer.

Again, the new year is here. What’ll it be? What will this year mean to you as a writer or reader?

There’s an old saying about figuring things out. “Look up, look down, look all around.” These are sage words for both characters in mysteries and for mystery writers. You never know where your next story will come from, but keep your eyes and mind open in case life presents you with inspiration. It happens more often than you might think.

I mentioned changes at the beginning of this post. I’d like to make changes in book promotion, but I just can’t seem to come up with a unique idea. There must be some idea out there that doesn’t cost money and that no one has tried yet. If I come up with any brainstorms, I just might share the idea. Don’t hold your breath though. Writers are often dreamers.
Are there any changes you’d like to make this year? Are they realistic? Okay, so we often live in the world of fiction, but what the heck? I’ll bet there are times when fiction might apply to reality. We already know that the reverse of that is often true.

Until next time, I hope a pleasant surprise drops in to visit your life, and I also hope you find some good books to while away the time.

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I love that title. It says a lot.

Monday, December 26, 2016

See Ya Later 2016!

I had no idea what I might blog about this week, but Patricia Gligor ( and Evelyn Cullet ( have inspired me. At this time of year, what else would one write about other than the past year?

It was here and it’s almost gone. That’s it. Nothing else to say.

You wish. (I’m smiling.)

2016 was an interesting year. I moved from Arizona to Washington a year ago this month, so the first part of the year was all about unpacking and putting things away. There were a few repairs that needed to be done to the house, too. Oh, yeah, my daughter and I bought a house together. Great move on my part! She’s a delight.

I can’t believe that in the middle of that I managed to release two books: Choosing One Moment – A Time Travel Mystery, and Having a Great Crime – Wish You Were Here, A Sandi Webster Mystery. It’s a fun year when two books are released.

I’d like to thank the authors who’ve done guest posts on my blog. Each and every one was a delight to work with, and I hope to see them here again.

It rains a lot in Washington, and I’ve had to adjust after coming from the desert. Needless to say, it’s much colder here, too. We’ve even had snow a few times, and this isn’t an area that normally has snow.

I need to get out the camera again. We’ve had a few foggy days where the fog lasted most of the day. If you look at the cover of Having a Great Crime – Wish You Were Here, you’ll see the view at the end of our street. Now picture those trees with fog swirling through them. It’s truly eye-catching.

My daughter started a new job, and she’s going to school to further her degree. She certainly has more energy than I do. Although, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for me to go back to work. I’ll have to think that one over.

I’ve mentioned in other posts that my two dogs have a new playmate, Clementine. Although she only weighs in at 11 pounds, and they’re 90 and 120 pounds, she rules the roost. They’re pretty funny to watch. My dogs, Sugar and Murphy, have adjusted well.

My husband passed away about a year and a half ago. Between that and moving, Sugar became quite depressed. I had no idea that dogs could go through so much emotional baggage. She has arthritis in her hips, too. I discovered a veterinarian in this small town who performs acupuncture on animals. It took several treatments, but it worked. While there, I mentioned the depression. Voila! There’s actually acupuncture for depression, and all it took was one treatment! By the time we left the vet’s office, Sugar was like a new dog – like a puppy (almost).

I wonder if that would work on me. Hmmm. I learned a valuable lesson. I lost quite a bit of weight, and the wrinkles practically leaped onto my face. True. I can’t honestly say that it’s broken my heart to have to buy some new clothes though. There’s always a happier side to weight loss.

Summer didn’t last very long. From what I hear, it was shorter than normal for this area. I planted a vine with flowers that look just like Candy Corn, but discovered it wasn’t a very hearty plant. Oh, well, it was great while it lasted. I mean, really, flowers that look like Candy Corn?

I miss my friends in Arizona, and I hope I can return one day for a visit. It’s not in the cards at the moment.

My life here in Washington is new, I’m meeting new people all the time, and I guess I can eventually get used to the cold, wet weather. Shoot! I spend so much time working on the computer that I guess I don’t really even notice it most of the time.

One thing I’d like to do in the new year is try another book trailer. For those who don’t know what that is, it’s like a movie trailer, only about books. Simple.

Well, that’s my 2016 in a nutshell.

2017, bring it on! I’m ready for you. It’s going to be an interesting year, and I hope it’s brings a few good surprises with it.

Until next time, I wish you all the best in the new year, and I hope it holds happy surprises for each of you, too.

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