Monday, March 30, 2015

Evelyn Cullet, Guest Author

My guest this week is Evelyn Cullet, who thoroughly entertains me with her books. We all have to start somewhere, and this week she’s telling us how one of the books came about. You never know how things will turn out. Welcome, Evelyn!

My first novel, Romancing a Mystery, came about through an odd set of circumstances.

I had always wanted to be a writer and wrote short stories in high school. I would write my thoughts, ideas and anything interesting I came across in spiral notebooks. In my first job at the Illinois Bell Telephone Company, I worked as secretary to the Inside Wire Chief. One January morning, when I was twenty-three, my best friend who worked in the same office, and another co-worker decided that we'd take our summer vacations together that year. Since I was into mysteries, I really wanted to go England, and they agreed. We made our plans and saved our money, got our shots (you had to have shots to go overseas in those days), and our passports.

At the time, I had been dating a young man. He surprised me with a proposal and an engagement ring. I didn't have enough money to do both, and so instead of going to England with my two friends, I used the money I'd saved for the trip to get married.

The years passed quickly and with a new family, money was always tight. By the time we did have enough, (much later in life), I suggested to my husband that we take that trip, but he informed me he was deathly afraid of flying so I might as well forget it. There went my dreams of going to England. I had wondered why he insisted on taking a driving trip for our honeymoon. At the time, I thought it was romantic--love struck, silly me.

All through the years, I continued writing notes in my spirals. It had become a habit I couldn't break. And by the time I was in my late thirties, I had nine or ten of them filled with thoughts, feelings and interesting information, most of which was about that trip to England I missed, and how I would've liked everything to have turned out if I had gone.

And then, affordable home computers came on the market. Our daughter, who was in high school, wanted a computer very badly, and so we bought one. I decided to transfer all the information from my spirals to the word processor program. After I'd finished, I found that I had almost enough for the first draft of a novel. Needless to say, that was the beginning of my writing career.

The ironic part of this story is that when my daughter got older, she married an Englishman. And they took me on a trip to England, while my husband, who was still afraid to fly, stayed at home with the dog. Funny how things turned out. If I had taken that trip with my friends, I might never have written this novel, or maybe I would have, only a lot sooner. 

Thanks for letting me post my story on your blog, Marja.

I enjoyed learning more about you, Evelyn.  I hope you’ll come back. (I hate to admit it, but I can definitely relate to your husband's feelings about flying.)

Romancing a Mystery short synopsis

All Charlotte Ross wanted was a get-away vacation. She hadn't counted on solving a centuries-old mystery or falling for a handsome aristocrat.

A young woman in her prime, Charlotte is bored living in the small town where she grew up -- and is tired of her controlling mother trying to marry her off to the oldest and wealthiest men in town. So when her mystery-loving friend Jane Marshall suggests a driving trip across England, Charlotte eagerly packs her bags. But Charlotte gets more than she bargained for. Just two days in, their car breaks down in a thunderstorm and the ladies take refuge in Blake Hall, an ancient aristocrat’s lair with a long and rumored past. As guests of the British aristocracy, these out-of-place Americans stumble their way through a fox hunt-- encounter imagined ghosts--and find a mysterious clue to a centuries-old murder that has remained unsolved--until now, at least.

This lighthearted mystery, influenced by the novels of Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle and Jane Austen, is smart, savvy and at times, warmly romantic.

 Evelyn Cullet has been an aspiring 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 weekly writer's blog. Her novels are: Romancing a Mystery, Love, Lies and Murder, Masterpiece of Murder, and Once Upon a Crime.

Romancing a Mystery is available:
Amazon Print Book:
And Kindle edition:
Website and Blog:

CLICK HERE to visit Marja McGraw’s website
CLICK HERE for a quick trip to

The idea of a book about purple cows and elderly spies might sound a little odd, but trust me, you’ll love them. How Now Purple Cow – A Bogey Man Mystery is available in both ebook and paperback format. Find out what cows and spies could possibly have to do with each other.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Joyce Ann Brown, Guest Author

My guest this week is Joyce Ann Brown, who writes cozy mysteries which include a cat named Sylvester. I think you'll enjoy this post. After reading it, I know I've got to try this series. A landlady and a "psycho" cat should be quite entertaining. Welcome, Joyce!

 The Evolution of My Cozy Feline Mysteries

 “The sound of three ominous organ notes reverberated throughout Marni’s body and made her shudder. She stopped with a gasp, bent over, and clutched her knees in the middle of the Trolley Track Trail…”
The mystery writing class during which I wrote those words was one in a series of creative writing courses and workshops for me. I enrolled in it with a friend who wanted to write children’s mysteries. I’ve wanted to be a writer since high school days, and mysteries have always been one of my favorite reading genres. Marriage, career, kids, lack of confidence, lack of training—you know the drill. For years my writing was restricted to articles for journals and newsletters, recording secretary notes for organizations, and stories for my students.
I wrote a children’s book when my own kids were little. Then I made half-hearted attempts to get it published, not knowing enough to look for an agent or hire an editor. After a few rejections, the story went into a drawer, and I went back to my job as a teacher and, later, a school librarian.
In my mystery writing class, classmates praised my efforts.
The story is mysterious from the very beginning. It’s well-written. It makes me want to read more. You need to continue writing.
I became hooked. Intrigued. Absorbed in the process. I took more creative writing classes. Before the mystery-writing class, I hadn’t considered writing in that genre. Sure, I love to read thrillers, detective stories, mystery/romance, and cozy mysteries, all set in interesting towns, neighborhoods, or exciting foreign locations with cunning characters that surprise me. Cozy mysteries and their amateur sleuths, with various occupations and tendencies to get pulled into crime-solving, have always attracted my sense of adventure for the commonplace person.
For my cozy mystery, I chose a landlady as the main character, because that’s an occupation familiar to me. The plot of my first book is based upon two unusual stories. One was told to me by a tenant of one of the duplexes I own. She told me about her upbringing by a hippie mother and grandparents and about her boyfriend who left for a job in the Virgin Islands. The story needed to be told, and I like to help the needy.
The mystery took shape—a tenant who turns up missing and a landlady who begins searching and discovers accusations of grand theft and murder. But the story, being cozy, needed humor and some domestic side stories. It was my good fortune to have a friend tell me the story of a cat she called “psycho.” Her mischievous cat, she told me, had once saved her life. That may be a little strong, but that’s the way I interpreted the story.
I have cats. Cats are funny and inscrutable. I’ve witnessed dozens of cat antics over the years. Sylvester, nicknamed Psycho Cat, became the landlady’s mischief-maker and clue-finder. He’s a small but important component of each book.

Find out more about CATastrophicConnections and FURtiveInvestigation, the first two books of my Psycho Cat and the Landlady Mysteries on my website: . You can find my Psycho Cat and the Landlady Mysteries on
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CLICK HERE to visit Marja McGraw's website
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Looking for something different and maybe just a little quirky? Try How Now Purple Cow - A Bogey Man Mystery and find out how purple cows and elderly spies relate to each other.


Monday, March 16, 2015

You Be the Judge

 Is sex sexy? Is violence ugly? Can birds fly? Yes to all three of those questions.

I’ve read books where sex and violence were thrown in for shock value, and nothing more. They really didn’t progress the story at all. I’ve also read books where these same elements were pertinent to the story. Of course, there are books that contain neither one of these things and they can be entertaining.

In my humble opinion, leaving the sexy scenes to the reader’s imagination is much sexier than laying things out in minute detail. I also believe that the anticipation of what’s to come can be very titillating. Does anyone remember that photo of Marilyn Monroe where the air is blowing up her skirt? It was sexy and titillating, but it wasn’t graphic other than showing a lot of leg.

Think about it. John Doe patted Jane Smith on the behind and followed her through a door, pulling it closed behind him. Do you want someone to tell you exactly what happened behind that door? Or would you rather dream up your own scenario? Hmm. All kinds of possibilities there.

I have a friend whose desire, several years ago, was to write contemporary romances. She wrote a book in that genre and submitted it to a publisher. The publisher was interested, but only if she’d add sexual and sensuous scenes. So this friend, knowing what was wanted and what she was capable of, sat down in front of her computer and started adding sex scenes. It turned out there was a problem. She suddenly realized that as her fingers flew over the keys while she wrote this graphic scene, she couldn’t bring herself to look at the computer screen. She looked up, to the right and left, and out the window – anywhere except at the screen. She’d been asked to write something she wasn’t comfortable with, and it embarrassed her. Still wanting to write romances, she changed from Contemporary to Regency romances, where she didn’t have to include anything she didn’t want to.

She told the story so well, but when I laughed and pictured it in my mind, the woman sitting in front of the computer unexpectedly turned out to be me. I write mysteries and the stories I write don’t involve romps in the hay or lurid sexual encounters. They involve – what else? – mysteries. They center around the puzzle, the characters and their growth, and they include some humor. My logo is “a little humor, a little romance, A Little Murder!” It suits my books.

Since mysteries often deal with murder, this leads me to the violence in so many books. If the reader enjoys reading about someone being chopped into little pieces, with all the parts described in detail, and then those pieces are being buried around the county, okay. Reader’s choice. For me, I see enough violence in the newspapers, on the news, television shows, and in magazines. I’ve mentioned before that it seems like there’s enough drama and violence in real life. Why would I want to read about more?

I won’t knock any author who writes graphic material, because there’s a market for it – and some of it is extremely well-written. I simply prefer something entertaining and mysterious, but that’s just me. I won’t even try to change any minds here.

I will say that a young woman approached me after reading one of my books to tell me how much she enjoyed it, and she told me two additional things. First, she said she never, ever reads anything that doesn’t contain graphic sex. Secondly, she said it was two weeks after she read the book before she realized there wasn’t any sex in it. Draw your own conclusion.

What’s your preference?

Until next time, I wish you a week of no drama and plenty of laughs.

CLICK HERE to visit Marja McGraw’s website
CLICK HERE for a quick trip to

Do purple cows and elderly spies have a connection? Can Chris and Pamela Cross figure out what it is? You betcha. Check out How Now Purple Cow – A Bogey Man Mystery, now available in both ebook and paperback format.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Simpler Times

Let me tell you why I read, not why I write. I enjoy being entertained, and I love a good mystery. Is that simple or what? If it contains humor? So much the better.

It used to be, in the “old days” when I had a job other than writing, you could find me on my lunch hour, on my breaks, and at home in the evening, reading.

The phone would ring and when I’d answer someone might say, “What’re you up to?”

My reply? “Shh. I’m reading. I’ll call you back.”

Okay, it wasn’t quite that bad, but yes, I was an avid reader. Now I’m a wife, a writer, a marketer and I do as much promotion as I can. Unfortunately, I haven’t done a lot of promotion lately. “Hey! Try that new book, How Now Purple Cow – A Bogey Man Mystery. It involves purple cows and elderly spies, along with the Cross family.” That’s my promotion for this week. Short and sweet.

There are so many authors out there with so many ideas. I attended a class several years ago that was being taught by an older man who made me feel that he knew things. He certainly knew more than I figured I’d ever know. He said there were only thirty-two types of stories that could be written, and that the key was to come up with a unique twist on an old theme. I don’t know if thirty-two is the right number or not, but I’m always looking for an author with a unique twist. So far I’ve found quite a few. His comments encouraged me to look for new and unique ideas for my own books, but that’s harder than it sounds.

Because of getting into “the business”, I’ve had the opportunity to read a lot of authors I’d never read before. I used to go to the bookstore and look for the same authors, over and over, and I loved it when they had a new book out. Now I find myself looking for new names, on those rare occasions when I even  look for a new book.

My To Be Read stack of books is out of control, as am I. I refuse to buy another book until I can whittle the stack down at least a little. Every time I finish a book, I have trouble deciding what to read next. I’ve talked about word-of-mouth being the best advertising, but it’s reached a point where I cringe when someone recommends a new book. I won’t tell you how often I give up and buy the recommended book.

Maybe I should put them in order by the date they were published. That won’t work. A title will catch my eye, or a cover, or a familiar name, and I’m sunk. I’ll pick up the book after I rub my hands together.

However, it all goes back to the fact that I have very little reading time anymore. I miss those days of read, read, read. I have a more interesting life now, but I still miss the reading time.

What am I saying? I’ve always had an interesting life. It was just different than it is now. Do I want to go back? Not really. Life is one change after the other, and that’s what sometimes keeps it interesting.

I’m not fishing, so please don’t mention my name, but I’d love to know who wrote the last book that really kept you reading. You know, the one you couldn’t put down. Just call me a glutton for punishment, because after you tell me, I’ll want to run right out and buy it for the To Be Read (TBR) stack. Just think. You might be helping someone else whose stack is nonexistent.

Until next time, from one reader to another, if you have a large TBR stack, don’t bang your head against the wall. It won’t help. Just pick one up at random and start reading.

CLICK HERE to visit Marja McGraw’s website
CLICK HERE for a quick trip to

How Now Purple Cow – A Bogey Man Mystery is now available in both ebook and paperback versions.

What could purple cows and elderly spies possibly have to do with each other?

When young Mikey Cross discovers ceramic purple cows, a ring, and investigative notes left by a mystery writer popular in the 1950s, his parents’ and grandparents’ lives are turned upside down.

Pamela and Chris Cross become involved in vintage intrigue with trepidation and more than a little angst when they find out there’s an elderly assassin on the prowl and the situation isn’t quite as vintage as they thought.

The dead just may come back as the living when it’s least expected.