Writer Readings in Long Island City

Last Saturday was a beautiful day and made even nicer by a trip to Long Island City to listen to the work of writers from Queens, including two of our Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writes or America authors: Terrie Farley Moran, also a Woman of Mystery, and Laura Joh Rowland.

Reading at the LIC bar, both Terrie and Laura gave us an up close look into their writing.
IMG_1709Terrie read her short story, “The Sneaker Tree,” a Queens based tale, published in the Sisters in Crime Anthology, MURDER NEW YORK STYLE: FRESH SLICES, which she also edited. The story about the death of a young woman’s mother just before 911, pointed out how one death can be eclipsed by the death of many and how that one will forever be overshadowed by what followed it, except in the heart of her daughter.

LauraLaura, the author of 18 Sano Ichiro novels set in Feudal Japan, gave us a glimpse into her wip, THE CIRCLE OF SHADOWS. Set in Victorian England, the chapters she read focused on a female photographer who’d taken pictures of a prostitute who later turns up dead. Unwilling to get involved with the police, she keeps silent about the dead woman’s name, knowing the pictures she took are against the law.

There are many other books by these two award-winning writers. All available online or in your favorite bookstore.

Finding Your Inspiration


I just got back from Mohonk Mountain House. If you’ve never heard of this truly exquisite mountain retreat, located in New Paltz, NY, check out the link. I’m not a world traveler, but this site, a glacial lake with a Victorian-style hotel dating from the late 1800’s, will take your breath away. So will the bill, which is slipped quietly under your door so you don’t pass out in one of the common areas.

Luckily for me, my 11-year old son broke his toe and couldn’t attend camp. The two-week camp refund bought me three nights at the mountain house, with my son and my mother. This post, however, is not about money or family vacations. It’s about finding those special locations that inspire creativity. These discoveries, of course, are priceless.

On my first excursion to Mohonk, about ten years ago, I so entranced by the brochures that I thought, for sure, it would be the core of my literary inspiration. I’d hike the trails, high on mountain air and then find myself the perfect perch with expansive views of the lake. According to my plan, I’d sit, lost in my thoughts for hours. At the end of the day, I’d curl up next to one of the many fireplaces, computer on lap, and write like I’d never written before — probably because I’d never written more than twenty pages of anything up to that point.

It was a good plan, until I checked in. I waited patiently at the front desk, itching to start my first book when I noticed the man ahead of me speaking in a hushed tone to the clerk. I was antsy. Didn’t the man know his idle chatter would cut into chapter one of my yet, unwritten book?

Finally, after many audible sighs on my part, he picked up his room key and turned toward the elevator. The profile was unmistakable. The offending guest was none other than Stephen King. No joke. It was really Stephen King. Apparently, I wasn’t the first person to discover the stimulating atmosphere of the century old retreat. Mr. King was also a fan.

As it turned out, I never opened my computer. I never found my perch. The only thing I wrote was my signature on the bill. I froze. I couldn’t help but imagine Mr. King, only a few doors away, writing something infinitely better than I could ever produce. It was like dancing next to J.lo and realizing you were better off just sitting down.

Alas, I’ve never been able to recapture that fleeting moment of visual inspiration, but I’m always on the lookout for a new location.

Any suggestions?



Madam President and Her PI

Don’t you love it when you find a new series you truly enjoy? Not only are you reading something between new releases, you can add a new writer to your list of favorites. I’ve very much enjoying the exploits and investigations  in Joseph Flynn’s Jim McGill series. A former Chicago cop, Jim is now married to the first female president of the United States, and instead of cutting ribbons and organizing luncheons, he is a licensed private investigator, with an office on P Street in Washington, D.C.

McGill1Jim is referred to as The President’s Henchman, which is also the title of the first book. In this one, we’re introduced to the ensemble cast that makes these books so entertaining. In addition to Jim, there’s Patricia Darden Grant, the president, Jim’s ex-wife and three children, along with her new husband, Sweetie, Jim’s longtime partner who now works with him, along with various politicians, Secret Service agents, military personnel, and the president’s staff.

I’ve read the first two books and am deeply into the third book. This series is quickly moving up the list of my favorites. When I finish these books, I plan to check out the two otherMcGill1 series Flynn has. I’m happy as a clam that I found something new to read during one of my lulls. If you love mysteries, I think you’ll enjoy these books too.

Have you found any new authors this summer? Share and we’ll all have plenty to read until the fall releases!

I Spy With A Writer’s Eye

gallery-thumbnails.phpA recent blog post from thriller and suspense author Ed Kovacs, discussed gadgets every thriller/spy novelist should have at their disposal. Many were digital and some seemed items you would think of immediately, such as a camcorder watch for undercover videos and a smart phone, a great multi-tasker, while others, such as four-cipher locks and hide safes were things I hadn’t heard of before.

As you may know from previous posts, I’ve always wanted to be a spy. So, I decided to do a little research and add my own must have spy items, if not for myself, for the next time one of my characters goes undercover.

Here are my results:
Night vision goggles, perfect for stakeouts

Voice activated recorder pen, so you never miss a word

Air freshener hidden security camera, for those hard to spy on settings

Tripwire, the invisible alarm

A drone, for the complete overview

And a pair of oversize dark sunglasses for glamorous camouflage

Now that I’ve amassed these items (figuratively that is) I’ll have to write a story
in which to use them.

How about you? Have any equipment your sleuth could use on a case? Let us know.

Helen MacInnis, Spy Mistress

I’ve always had a secret desire to be a spy. (I think I may have confessed that here once or twice.) But since that profession didn’t readily present itself when I was ready to choose a career, I had to settle for reading about them.

John LeCarré, Eric Ambler, Len Deighten, Ian Fleming, all captured my young imagination with their daredevil characters and exotic settings. But no one more so than Helen MacInnis.

A Sunday New York Times Book Review Critic’s Take article “Spies Like Her” brought it all back to me. As the writer, Sarah Weinman, suggests Helen MacInnis, Spy Mistress, was ahead of her time, writing about such events as Israel bombing Gaza and the Russians invading a part of the Ukraine years before the recent events.

She was married to Gilbert Highet, a classics scholar who was also a MI6 British intelligence agent. And, it was generally thought she might have used classified information in creating some of her 21 books. In fact, according to a biography of the writer on Wikopedia, her third novel, Assignment in Brittany was required reading for Allied intelligence agents who were being sent to work with the French Resistance against the Nazis.

Her novels took me all over the globe and painted a vivid picture of a world very different from mine filled with more intrigue and adventure than a girl from the Bronx could expect. A world I would love to have been a part of, and I like to think, that I’ve captured in my own writing.

I checked my bookshelf before writing this and found two of her novels, Agent In Place and Message from Malaga, both of which I plan to reread as soon as possible.

51lvZbTY-QL._AA160_Agent In Place
When the idealist is duped to reveal sensitive information, when the ‘agent in place’ is forced into the open, disaster strikes.
The NATO Memorandum, classified Top Secret, is the lethal prize sought by Soviet Intelligence in the deadly game that continues relentlessly beneath the dubious veneer of détente. A cryptic telephone call to a Russian ‘sleeper’ in Washington, a mugging-murder of an unidentifiable man in New York’s Central Park, an anonymous Memorandum—and Helen MacInnes’s new adventure is launched.

51hZgAgV7kL._AA160_Message From Malaga
Sunny Spain, sudden death!
Ian Ferrier, on vacation from the U.S. Space agency, would not have believed his reunion with a trusted friend would lead to murder, or that he would hold the key to expose a vicious conspiracy for assassination, or that he would be plunged into a desperate pursuit in which he was as much the hunted as the hunter. Yet that is the opening of this spellbinding tale set in the deceptively serene and vividly picturesque cities of Malaga and Granada.



Virgil’s Working on Deadline

Deadline by John Sandford is the eighth Virgil Flowers novel, and the quirky detective continues to put the pieces of some truly challenging jigsaw puzzles together. What sets these books apart is Sandford’s trademark humor and interesting police procedures.

51o81BLmPEL._AA160_Virgil is visiting his old friend, Johnson Johnson, who asks a huge favor of the BCA agent. Some scoundrel in the town of Trippton is kidnapping dogs. Though this hardly seems like a case for the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Virgil starts investigating with the hope of avoiding trouble from the gun-toting citizens who are searching for their prized hunting dogs and valued pets.

In the midst of this curious investigation (and it is a strange one), Virgil is called in to check out the random murder of a local reporter. Like most of Virgil’s cases, the murder is the tiny tip of an iceberg. Much of what he needs is hidden well below the surface.

I feel Sandford scored another winner with this one. There was lots of humor, some good fight scenes, and an interesting case study. We know who the bad guys are, but it’s interesting to watch Virgil struggle to bring all the pieces of the whole together.

There’s a lot of hillbilly lingo and local slang in this one, but Sanford handled it well. It’s a small town, with small-town problems, and small-town people who think they can get away with, among other things, murder. As always, it has the perfect recipes: secrets, lies, and family squabbles.

Check out Deadline, especially if you’re a dog lover!.

The Yankee Club: Fiction Filled With Characters

51WyTkX4X-L._AA160_In Michael Murphy’s new novel, THE YANKEE CLUB, a noir thriller set in 1933, Prohibition is almost over and the country is struggling through the depression when Jake Donovan returns to New York. A former Pinkerton detective, and now a famous author, he’s come home to win back the woman he left behind, Laura Wilson, after she refused his proposal of marriage.

But not so fast and not so easy. Laura, a Broadway star, is now engaged to, a millionaire banker involved in a nefarious plot to overthrow the government. Plus, Jake’s old partner, Mickey has been murdered and it seems part of the conspiracy. Getting together with his buddies at their old hangout, The Yankee Club, a speakeasy in Queens, Jake decides to find Mickey’s killer and is shot and kidnapped for his trouble.

Besides great storytelling, what I enjoyed most about this mystery is how Murphy mixes his characters with real people from that era. As Jack investigates, he not only pals around with Dashiell Hammet and Lillian Hellman, but also helps them overcome writers block and work out the plot of a new play, in that order. He runs into Babe Ruth who’s out on the town, and doesn’t just hang around with Cole Porter, he’s in on the creation of his new musical. In this story, virtually anything goes. And, as the plot thickens, we meet Joe Kennedy newly appointed head of the SEC, as Jake tries to save the country from a terrible fate. To me, it was a treat to rub up against these famous people I didn’t expect to encounter and see them in situations I wouldn’t have imagined.

Does it all work out in the end? Do Jake and Laura get back together? You’ll just have to read THE YANKEE CLUB, a story with wit and style, to find out.

Family Matters: Murder New York Style launches today

If you thought your relatives were bad news, wait until you meet the relatives in the new Sisters in Crime anthology, Family Matters: Murder New York Style.

Family-Matters-198x300Launching today, Family Matters, edited by Anita Page, includes short stories by 20 members of the New York/Tri State chapter of SinC. And, oh what tales these writers tell.

From the New York City Marathon to a secret cellar in Queens; from the hard life of Immigrant culture to the moneyed world of art; from brutality and poverty to privilege, these New York families face crime in all its forms. It’s a deadly combination fueled by all the usual suspects: jealousy, greed, rage, revenge and more—you know—the stuff New Yorkers die for.

Family Matters: Murder New York Style, is the third mystery anthology in the series.

dd_eBook-198x300-GPIn Deadly Debut, the first in the series, you’ll encounter twisted tales of New York’s dark and dramatic underbelly. From a Brooklyn nanny’s street smarts to a small grocer’s grit, from a nightclub’s belly dancers to a P.I. reared on jive, the characters in these mysteries will have you cheering.

Fresh Slices, the second in the series, is filed with heaping helpings of New York attitude from rich and poor neighborhoods where old-timers desperately protect their secrets to brand-new arrivals who indulge dangerous appetites. 7-28_fs_eBook198w

Both are also available in new e-book editions from Glenmere Press.

So why not hit the streets of New York with this talented group of writers. Order your copy of Family Matters at: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, or Kobo.

Or stop by the Sisters in Crime booth, #116,  at the Brooklyn Book Festival on Sunday, September 21st and pick up your copy in person. Many of the authors will be there and will be happy to sign your copy for you.

A Blog Tour: One Woman’s Opinion X Ten

thThis past July, my publisher, Camel Press, set up a ten stop Blog Tour for my newest novel in the Laurel and Helen New York Mystery Series, THE HARD WAY. Here’s a synopsis of the story the bloggers received along with a copy of the book.

Private Investigator Helen McCorkendale’s childhood friend, Jimmy Scanlan, has just opened January, the most lavish casino and hotel resort on the Las Vegas Strip. After attending the grand opening, Helen returns to New York and encourages her friend, Laurel Imperiole, Senior Editor at Women Now magazine, to create a get-away contest for readers offering a weekend at the hotel as the grand prize. The winner, Dawn Chapman, a jewelry store employee from Cincinnati, denies entering the contest and initially refuses the trip. Finally persuaded by Laurel to accept, she arrives at the hotel and nearly faints when she passes the hotel’s elite meeting rooms where the International Diamond Dealers Consortium is holding its annual meeting. She insists on returning home immediately.

Suspicious of her behavior, Jimmy visits her suite to encourage her to attend the Saturday afternoon pool party, saying she can leave on his private jet the next day. Later in the afternoon, he finds Chapman’s dead body by the pool. She’s been murdered—an unusual double poisoning by cyanide and diamond dust.

Dawn Chapman was not who she appeared to be, and therein lies a mystery. But to Helen and Laurel, the main task is to take Jimmy Scanlon off the suspect list and clear his name. Will their luck hold? Or will it be a crap shoot, as they roll the dice and do it ‘the hard way,’ going for doubles when the odds are against them. Losing may mean losing their lives.

I’m happy to report and extremely grateful that nearly all the bloggers really enjoyed the book and recommended it to their readers. Stoler

But what I really found as interesting as the Blog Tour reviews themselves was the unique perspectives each reviewer overlaid onto my story. Viewpoints I didn’t necessarily intend while I was writing it. These comments ranged from seeing good and bad characters reversing positions, to observations on Laurel’s life and how she should handle her relationship with her estranged boyfriend, Aaron Gerrard, to analyzing and expanding on the relationship dynamics between Helen and Jimmy, Laurel and Aaron and even the bad guys, Deirdre and Pieter.

When I thought about it a little bit more, I realized that’s the marvelous thing that people do when they read. Bringing themselves into the story and what they feel and believe, or what they wish would happen, makes it more compelling and enjoyable, and that makes the story come to life in ways different than the writer might have imagined.

While one reviewer felt THE HARD WAY was written in the passive voice, she did give it props for structure and description and joined the other bloggers who seemed to wish that January, an ice palace in the middle of the dessert, were a real place they could all visit. Me, too!

Writing by Robot


I recently read a story by Yahoo Tech Columnist,
Robert Walker, about robots replacing journalists. It detailed the Associated Press’s intention to have most of its corporate earning reports “produced using automation technology.” Or as Walker calls it, the bot-ification of journalism.

While I don’t pretend to understand the technology involved, it did get me to wondering what would happen if that same technology was applied to—shudder—writers of mysteries. Would plots be more mechanical? Would settings be otherworldly? Would characters seem less than well, human? You get the idea.

I tried to find a program that would let me test out using a robot to write a paragraph or two, but there doesn’t seem to be one available for general use.

Walker, however has created a quiz: “Can you tell robot writing from human writing”with 10 questions that ask you to distinguish the passages that were written by journo-bots from those written by humans. Hope you’ll give it a try. The answers may surprise you.