Monday, February 26, 2018

A New Book (Coming Soon) - A New Cover

I’ve read that titles initially draw the attention of readers, and covers often come in second. If the books are facing outward, generally the cover will grab my eye first. If not facing outward, I scan the titles.

The title of Sandi Webster’s latest adventure will be, Gin Mill Grill – A Sandi Webster Mystery. It’s not quite finished yet, but the gist of the story is that someone wants Sandi to solve a murder from the early 1930s which indirectly involves an old speakeasy from the Prohibition era.

A few huge surprises await Sandi when she begins looking into the cold case. As often happens, things aren’t always as they appear. Additionally, why would someone from a younger generation be taking an interest in the old crime? Yes, Sandi’s in trouble again.

In the 1930s, a man was murdered and his brother disappeared. The police are pretty sure they know who committed the murder, but how did the brother disappear so completely and without a trace? Did he really take his brother’s life? Why?

There’s more to Horace and Harley Glosser’s story than anyone might suspect.

Like I said, that’s the gist of the story. However, there’s more to a book than just the story itself. A book cover would be nice. This is a “friend of a friend” situation. Dori Pendergrass is a friend of a friend, and now my friend. She’s also an artist, and she agreed to paint the cover for this latest book. Here’s a preview:


Yes, that’s a mummy sitting in a chair with a small Chiweenie on his lap. (Dogs do the darnedest things.) I’d explain, but you’ll want to read the book when it comes out to understand the dynamics.

The exciting part to me is that I have the original painting hanging over my fireplace.

I normally create my own book covers. I’m certainly no expert, but I sure have fun putting them together. Once in a while, I’m able to use photos I’ve taken myself, like the black butterfly, which visited in my own backyard. These are my personal three favorites:

And now I have a Dori Pendergrass painting to add to my list of favorites.

I’ve also created a few Book Trailers that can be found on my website on The Books Page. Those were a lot of fun to put together, too.

But then there’s the dreaded marketing and promoting. Some authors love this part of the process. I’m not one of them. To me, those are the most difficult parts of getting a book “out there.” Wouldn’t most of us just love to write a book, have it placed on a shelf, and move on to the next story? It doesn’t work that way, and I’ve been quite lax about the process for the past couple of years.

I kept writing, but life got in the way of the process. Well, life goes on, and so do I. It’s time to start thinking up some new promotional ideas. Maybe I should go back and read some of my old blogs. I offered advice to others but failed to follow my own advice.

Anyway, now you know a little about the story and you’ve seen the cover. Other than writing the book, what part of the process do you find to be the most fun or most fulfilling? The curious want to know.

Until next time, do something book-related this week and enjoy yourself. Read a new book, write a new book, browse at the bookstore or online. (I still enjoy a brick and mortar bookstore, but that’s just me.)

CLICK HERE to visit Marja McGraw’s website (I will update it soon.)
CLICK HERE for a quick trip to


Monday, February 19, 2018

The Drama of It All

My tagline is, A little humor, a little romance, a little Murder!

There's absolutely nothing funny about murder, but the same can't be said for solving a crime.  Sandi, Pete, Pamela and Chris will take you places and introduce you to people and situations you'll remember for a long time, and they'll do their best to offer you a smile along the way. (A quote from my website.)

While my stories offer a little humor, there’s also drama. As stated above, there’s nothing humorous about murder. I’ve read a number of books that are funny from beginning to end, even though they involve violence of all kinds. While I enjoy them, that’s not what I want to present to the reader – to each his (or her) own.

Sometimes we need a little comedy relief in the middle of suspense and drama. It’s the same way in real life. When something traumatic happens in my life, I often look for a way to lighten the way I feel. Maybe it’s as simple as a funny memory from the life of someone who passed away. Maybe it’s finding something unexpected when you’re sorting through that person’s belongings. Sometimes even something touching can bring a smile to your face.

I realize that not everyone looks at things the way I do, but humor has gotten me through some rough times. I also understand that finding humor isn’t always possible, but more often than not I’ll find something humorous about almost every situation.

The other morning I woke up in a really, really bad mood. I don’t know why. During the morning I was in the kitchen and there was a sudden loud thud somewhere in the house. Of course, I just knew there was something wrong and I ran all over the house looking for tipped over furniture, an intruder, whatever.

Since moving to a different house, one of my dogs, Sugar, has taken to napping on my bed. When I checked my room, she was sitting on the floor looking like, “What the heck just happened?” Um, she fell off the bed. She’s a large dog. It made a very loud thud. And she made me laugh. Yes, she was fine. My bad mood disappeared in a flash.

I spoke to a woman who’d recently read Old Murders Never Die. She said she’d now read all of the Sandi Webster mysteries. I asked if any of them at least brought a smile to her face. She said that, yes, they made her laugh aloud. And she said Old Murders Never Die also made her cry, and that she appreciated the comedy relief in the story. She made my day.

This is also what made me think about the drama in the books. Real life is made up of drama, humor, sadness and joy. Shouldn’t books depict real life to some extent?

I look at it this way. There’s drama in life, however, when I read a book the drama is someone else’s problem. In a story, I get to see that drama resolved, and that gives me hope for life away from a book. If there’s a little humor in the story, too, that’s frosting on the cake.

When my time comes, I hope that rather than cry, people will remember funny stories about me. Easy to do because I’m such a clumsy person, and usually when I say something funny, it’s purely accidental. I’m not all that quick-witted. I do manage to make people laugh from time to time, and their laughter make me feel good.

Hmm. Maybe this is my subconscious telling me I need to start adding more humor to my blogs.

How do you feel? Would you rather read a book and laugh or cry, or both? Just curious.

Until next time, my heart goes out to the families and friends of the victims in Florida. I hope that at some point a sudden memory will bring a smile to them – maybe not laughter, but a smile.

CLICK HERE to visit Marja McGraw’s website (still in need of updating)
CLICK HERE for a quick trip to

COMING SOON: A preview of the new book cover for Gin Mill Grill – A Sandi Webster Mystery, and hopefully the book won’t be too far behind.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Mystery Writer Meets Mystery

Several years ago a friend and I had to put our detecting skills to work. After all, we write mysteries and we’d know how to do that.

I have two close friends, who for privacy reasons I’ll call Brenda and Jackie, who also write mysteries. The three of us live in different states and we’re spread from the west coast to the east coast. Brenda was moving to a new home and Jackie and I knew we’d be out of touch with her for a few days. Not a big deal, right?

Well, a few days went by, and then a few more days, and still no word from Brenda. We tried to call her on her cell phone, but it went straight to voice mail. Jackie and I began to worry, which is something we do well. We’ve had plenty of practice.

 Where's Brenda?

It suddenly struck Jackie and me that we write mysteries for a living. If anyone could track Brenda down it should be us, because after all, we know how to do these things. We write about them. We research them. We lined up our facts and moved on from there. We knew that Brenda had hired a moving company that was owned and run by women. We knew when and where she was moving to, although we didn’t have the new address yet. And we both knew how to use the Internet. It would be a piece of cake. Uh huh.

I checked online for moving companies in the area we were interested in that were owned by women. I found one, and only one. Remember, this was a long time ago and not every company showed up online. Well, I called the company, but they said they’d never heard of Brenda and they said that they were the only female-owned company in the area. It never dawned on me that they might say that because they didn’t want me checking with the competition. That was one of my bigger Duh Moments during this caper.

I checked a map and the Internet for the small town that our friend was moving to, and called both the local police station and the county Sheriff. They couldn’t help me because I didn’t have enough information.

Then Jackie hit on something. She’d saved some emails from Brenda and she thought maybe the recipients of those notes could help us locate friends or family. She was right. The address line held names that had become familiar to us from stories Brenda had shared.

We began emailing people who’d probably never heard of us. As it turned out, Brenda had mentioned us, so they were great about helping with the search. A friend had received a phone call from Brenda, but the connection had been terrible. At least she’d heard something.

As it turned out, Brenda didn’t have good phone service at the new home, and no Internet connection was readily available – the woes of living in a rural area. On top of that, her electricity had gone out during a storm.

Where did we get our information? Her ex-husband had received one of our emails. What a guy! He’d been in touch with her.

So Jackie and I ended up feeling pretty good about our deductive reasoning skills, and maybe this little exercise would help us in telling some of our stories. In the meantime, we were grateful that our friend was okay.

The point of this story? Sometimes it takes a writer’s mind to figure out a mystery without the aid of a private eye or the police. If this had happened today, you can bet we would have taken even more steps to find our friend, but in the meantime, we patted each other on the back – figuratively speaking, since we lived in different states.

Until next time, wishing you a fun little mystery of your own and the skills to solve it.

CLICK HERE to visit Marja McGraw’s website (To be updated soon)
CLICK HERE for a quick trip to