Mystery Mondays: Ending a Novel Series by Janet Elizabeth Lynn

Today, I’m thrilled to welcome Janet Elizabeth Lynn back Mystery Mondays. She’s got some great advice and if you scroll down, you’ll get to read an expert for Game Town!  Happy reading.

Ending a Novel Series

The Episodic Series by

Janet Elizabeth Lynn & Will Zeilinger

My husband, Will Zeilinger and I co-write the Skylar Drake Mysteries, a hardboiled detective series that takes the reader to 1950s Los Angeles and other areas of the west. Our new book, GAME TOWN, is set in Hollywood and exposes a scandal that rocks the toy industry in Los Angeles. GAME TOWN is the fifth and final book of the series.

Some people confuse “Story-arc series” with “Episodic Series”. Though they each tell a story and must have interesting plots, and characters, they differ.

A story-arc series tells one collective story in several books. So the reader needs to read the books in succession in order to enjoy the full plot.

Episodic series is when the main characters live through unconnected stories, plots and sub plots. In other words each book stands alone. The reader can pick up any book in the series and enjoy the story.

The Skylar Drake Mystery series is an episodic series following Skylar Drake as he investigates crime in 1950s Los Angeles. Though each book stands alone, there is a common thread that runs through the entire series. Who killed Sky’s beautiful wife, Claire, and his little girl, Ellie.

When, in this book, we had to face the finality of what really happened that killed both of them, we were brought  to tears.

  After five year of him searching and gathering evidence of the now cold case, he have answers.

I’m not going to give the plot away, but it made sense to tie up this loose end and give the reader answers to Sky’s five year struggle.

We became depressed and saddened, not because the novel series ended but because the crescendo has ended and Skylar Drake and his cohorts needed to move on. We had to be sure all the character had satisfying endings- not happy mind you,  but endings so everything worked out.

Will there be a spin off or a sequel? For now we have no plans for another book in this series. But this doesn’t mean it will never happen.

GAME TOWN is the fifth in the series and yes…we are still married!

Website:  Janet  Elizabeth Lynn

Website:  Will Zeilinger        

Game Town


Skylar Drake is hired as a bodyguard for two young starlets. He delivers the actresses home after the Emmy Awards ceremony, but stumble onto the murder of Silver Brovor-Smith, the mother of one of their charges. He wonders why the FBI is on-scene for a simple murder.

Drake and his partner are now on the case as suspicion shifts between the victim’s husband and her three brothers. 

Drake and Dolan are misled while kidnapping and mysterious deaths take them into the world of Hollywood backroom deals. 

They must keep the high-profile family from becoming front page news.

 Drake meets the perfect woman to help him move on, but is she a suspect? 

The letters P-E-G-O seem to appear everywhere. He thinks they may be connected to the crimes.

Follow Skylar Drake to Hollywood parties where the forbidden is accepted and games played are for keeps. 

Janet Elizabeth Lynn and Will Zeilinger

BW Janet Bill 01Published authors Will Zeilinger and Janet Elizabeth Lynn write individually until they got together and created the Skylar Drake Mystery Series. These hard-boiled tales are based in old Hollywood of 1956-57.  Janet has published seven mystery novels and Will has three plus a couple of short stories. Their world travels have sparked several ideas for murder and crime stories. This creative couple is married and live in Southern California.

The next Skylar Drake Mystery, GAME TOWN, the fifth and final book in the series, will be available April 15, 2019 and yes…we are still married!




Janet Elizabeth Lynn

Will Zeilinger

 (Chapter One)

Two o’clock in the morning. I’d just left the Emmy Awards ceremony at the NBC Television Studio in Burbank. All of Hollywood and its finest had shown up tonight to honor the best of television for 1956. The winners and losers were either at a party celebrating or hiding somewhere licking their wounds. I’d just left the event driving south on Cahuenga toward Hancock Park. My partner, Casey Dolan was in the passenger seat. It was pouring rain when we left Burbank. It seemed to be lessening as we headed away from the valley.

We’d been hired by Epic Studios to escort a couple of their up and coming starlets to and from the event. In truth, we were their bodyguards. The motion picture and TV studios weren’t taking chances with their human investments. 

The two young ladies in the back seat were passed out cold. I suspected they’d had a little too much Champagne before and during the ceremony.

I drove through the Wilshire Boulevard entry gate and onto Fremont Place, one of the most exclusive and expensive neighborhoods in Los Angeles. Ahead we spotted a lot of activity on the street. Dolan sat up and stared at the mess ahead, “What the Hell?”

Several police cruisers and what looked like government cars were lined up in front of a house with their spotlights trained on it. As we got closer, I saw the address. 859 in brass letter, wattached to the beam above the front door – the address where I was to deliver the girls.

Dolan rolled down his window to get a better look. He pulled his head back inside and said, “You sure this is the right house?” 

I parked at the opposite corner. Dolan said, “I’ll stay here and keep watch on the girls.”

I sprinted up the wet sidewalk and ducked under the yellow police tape. A uniformed cop approached me and held up his hand like a traffic cop. “Sorry, sir. This is a police investigation. You’ll have to step back.”

I showed him my PI license and explained that I was a bodyguard for the two young ladies in my car and that I was to deliver them to this address.

He took a look at my credentials and shook his head, “Sorry sir…”

I heard a familiar voice.

 “Drake, over here!” I almost didn’t recognize FBI special agent Olivia Jahns. She looked like she’d just stepped off the red carpet, poured into a slinky black evening gown. She held up one side of her long gown and made her way over to me. 

“That’s all right officer.” She said, “I’ll take it from here.” He turned away while I followed Jahns into the mansion.

“Olivia…er, Agent Jahns. What’s this all about?”

She glanced back at me and said, “You’ll see. Just follow me.”

I stopped. “I meant the dress, the hair and…”

She too stopped and took a breath. “Come on Drake. You’re wearing a tuxedo. I can have fun too.” She continued to the front door. “Right now, we have a problem.”

Inside, the body of a woman in a pure white coat with a white fur collar was sprawled on the hardwood floor at the foot of a marble staircase. Her light blonde hair and fur coat were soaked with blood. The handle of a knife protruded from her waist. I bent down for a closer look. The blood in her hair was plastered to her face. Her mouth and hands were clenched. I detected a strong odor by the body. It wasn’t cherry, but it was sweet.

 “Who is…?”

“The victim’s name is Silver Brovor-Smith.” Jahns interrupted me as most FBI agents do. “She’s the mother of Holly Becker, one of the young ladies in your charge.” 

Brovor?…Brovor. Why did that name sound familiar? It dawned on me, “The Toy company Brovor?” I could visualize the logo – a big red circle with black and white letters.

“Yep.” Jahns nodded. “You got it.”

My mind raced. I remembered a lawsuit from years ago between family members after their father passed away. The papers had a field day with the scandal. I stood and asked Jahns, “You sure about Holly’s lineage?”

“Yup, no doubt, Brovor. Since you’re in charge of her, I’ll leave it up to you to break the news to the soon-to-be grieving daughter.”

We looked out the front door. The press had already gathered on the front lawn. Radio and Television remote trucks had set up their lights and equipment while the newspaper photographer’s flashbulbs blinded us. The reporters didn’t help the chaos as the street in front of the house was already jammed with the Coroner’s truck, loads of police cars and an ambulance. It seemed dark on the street. I looked up and saw that the street light was out. Strange that would happen on Fremont Place.

Jahns looked at me. “Why are you still here Drake?” 

I headed for the door. It was late, and my brain had stopped working hours ago.

The two starlets came running past me, “No!” Holly yelled when she saw her mother’s body on the floor.

Theresa, the other young lady, shouted, “Oh my God. Oh my God!” She struggled to join her friend Holly, but Dolan had his hands full, holding her back from the scene. 

“What are you doing here?” I yelled over the two young women’s screams. “You were supposed to keep them in the car.” 

“Hey!” Dolan said, “There are two of them and only one of me.” 

I took Holly by the shoulders and turned her away from the bloody scene. I hoped to say something comforting to her when she looked toward the stairway. 

“What did you do to her?” Holly shouted at an older man wearing a white tuxedo coming down the stairs. Holly broke away from me and ran toward him. She began kicking and punching him, screaming, “What did you do to her!”

Several officers pulled her away, but she continued kicking and flailing, “You killed her!” 


Mystery Mondays: Judy Penz Sheluk – In Praise of Book Clubs

This week on Mystery Mondays, it is my pleasure to have author Judy Penz Sheluk as a returning guest. I’m a big fan and have read every one of her books!

Today she’s sharing some interesting insights into book clubs and at the end of this post, you’ll find a recipe that might make you happy 🙂

Judy’s latest release, Past & Present, is coming soon! Congratulations. Let’s cheer her on in the comments.

In Praise of Book Clubs

by Judy Penz Sheluk


One of the things I enjoy doing as an author is visiting local book clubs, should they select one of my novels for their monthly read. Not all of those picks translate into sales—my town’s library has book club sets of The Hanged Man’s Noose and Skeletons in the Attic—but now and again someone will download an e-book copy or purchase another one of my books. I’ve also received paid speaking engagements as a result, most recently to a PROBUS group, where I was paid a speaker’s fee of $150 and sold about 20 books. Not a bad deal for an hour’s work.

But visiting book clubs isn’t about the money or getting speaking gigs. It’s about connecting with readers, getting their honest feedback, answering questions, and for a short time, playing the role of “Author Judy” before heading back to the solitude of my office.

Not all book clubs are created equal, however. Some offer tea and homemade cookies. Some really go all out, making book-themed related food and drink, like the Treasontini from the Hanged Man’s Noose (recipe attached). And one didn’t offer me so much as a glass of water (I’ve learned to bring my own). There’s also the occasional book club whose members heavily favor “literary” and “don’t really read or ‘get’ mysteries.” I’ve learned to take it all in stride.

pnp3My upcoming release is Past & Present, book 2 in my bestselling Marketville Mystery series. I’m already putting feelers out there for book clubs and I’ve decided to expand my horizons. If your book club is interested in reading it, or any of my other titles, I’ll find a way to connect with your group online. If you’re interested, you can email me at judy at judypenzsheluk dot com and we can sort out the details.

In the meantime, here’s some Shameless Self Promotion for Past & Present, including a blurb about the book. It’s on pre-order for $2.99 US / CAD (no nasty U.S. exchange) on Kindle (regular $5.99) and will also be available in paperback (if your bookstore or library doesn’t have it, they can order it from Ingram Spark). Release date is September 21, 2018. So without further ado:

Sometimes the past reaches out to the present…

It’s been thirteen months since Calamity (Callie) Barnstable inherited a house in Marketville under the condition that she search for the person who murdered her mother thirty years earlier. She solves the mystery, but what next? Unemployment? Another nine-to-five job in Toronto?

Callie decides to set down roots in Marketville, take the skills and knowledge she acquired over the past year, and start her own business: Past & Present Investigations.

It’s not long before Callie and her new business partner, best friend Chantelle Marchand, get their first client: a woman who wants to find out everything she can about her grandmother, Anneliese Prei, and how she came to a “bad end” in 1956. It sounds like a perfect first assignment. Except for one thing: Anneliese’s past winds its way into Callie’s present, and not in a manner anyone—least of all Callie—could have predicted.

IMG_4117 copyAbout the author:An Amazon International Bestselling Author, Judy Penz Sheluk’s debut mystery novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose, the first in the Glass Dolphin Mystery series, was published in July 2015, and is also available in audiobook. The sequel, A Hole In One, was published March 2018, with audiobook to follow Fall 2018.

Skeletons in the Attic, Judy’s second novel, and the first in her Marketville Mystery series, was first published in August 2016 and re-released in December 2017. It is also available in audiobook format. The sequel, Past & Present, will be released September 2018. Judy’s short crime and literary fiction appears in several collections.

Judy is a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and Crime Writers of Canada, where she serves on the Board of Directors as a representative for Toronto/Southwestern Ontario.

Find out more about Judy at

The promised Treasontini Recipe…

Screen Shot 2018-09-04 at 1.15.11 PM




Mystery Mondays: J.E. Barnard on the Scene of the crime

I’m always thrilled when I get to announce a new release by an author contributing to Mystery Mondays. J.E. Barnard’s latest novel, When the Flood Falls, was released last week. Congrats Jayne!

As a crime writer, Jayne is here to talk about the scene of the crime. How appropriate.

Over to Jayne.

Returning to the Scene of the Crime

By J.E. Barnard

How many places have you seen in your lifetime where you could dump a body?

If you’re a sweet old lady who loves Agatha Christie books, any place has possibilities.

Take, for instance, my godmother. She’d be 90 now. On our last outing, we went together to Butchart Gardens on a warm summer evening, to admire the artful lighting and colourful fountains, to sniff the breeze for exotic floral aromas that quicken in the dew-laden air. As we strolled slowly along a path in the old quarry, she paused by a Japanese maple snugged against the rocky wall. The front leaves were translucent flame, spotlit from below; behind the trunk, in sharp and artful contrast, was shadow deep as midnight. Standing amid the delicate pale blossoms, gazing into the heart of blood-red darkness, this dear old woman sighed happily and murmured, “You could hide TWO bodies in there if you had to.”

That touching moment occurred the same summer that the city of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan was about to open its long-awaited new Art Museum. The museum’s curator took me and a few other part-time instructors on a tour of the new facility. We exclaimed over the huge clay sink (coffin-sized!), praised the classroom spaces, admired the view over the Serpentine Canal, and eventually were taken to the sub-basement via a special key and admitted to that holiest of holies in the art world: the vault.

An art vault is typically a secure storage space with diverse capabilities, from open floor space for large sculptures to shelves for smaller pieces, and metal racks from which to hang paintings and other framed artworks. These racks in particular fascinated me. To open the one nearest the wall, you had to roll each successive rack sideways, leaving a barely-body-wide gap for the unlucky curators to squeeze into with the painting to be stored.

As the curator began rolling each rack back into place, she was explaining the measures built into prevent the vault flooding if the Serpentine Canal spilled over its banks. Amid the sense of menace from rising water, the gap by the wall closed with a crunch. In my mind’s eye I saw a flood outside and, trapped at the very back of the vault, at the mercy of this half-tonne of gliding metal, a body. I went home with my brain abuzz. Whose body would it be? How long could it stay in that climate-controlled environment undetected? Who had, or could get, access to the special key card?

Life intervened, as it does to most fictive dreams, and ten years passed. Standing in a different museum in a different province, admiring a framed painting whose label said it had been in secure storage for many years, I remembered that art vault and that hypothetical body, and set to work on a mystery that would take place in a new Art Museum.

In 2016, fully 18 years after my vision in that small art vault in Moose Jaw, my mystery featuring an art vault won the Dundurn Unhanged Arthur for Best Unpublished Crime Novel. There were many changes the way – to the plot, the characters, the technology – but that vault remained. On July 14, 2018, the ‘art vault mystery’ was released by Dundurn Press as When the Flood Falls, which is set in Bragg Creek, Alberta where the Elbow River flooded slightly in 2005 and catastrophically in 2013. There’s no real-life Art Museum on the Elbow’s bank but I pictured one so vividly during the writing that I’m always surprised when I cross that bridge and the building isn’t there.

This past weekend, I read the vault scene live for the first time, at the Saskatchewan Festival of Words, held annually in the Moose Jaw Art Museum. Two floors beneath my feet, in the sub-basement that is only accessible by special key, lurked the original art vault that inspired the scene in the book. Did I picture, for a disorienting instant, a real body trapped behind those real, heavy, rolling metal racks?

You bet I did. My godmother would have been so proud.


WhentheFloodFallsNew compressed 1With her career in tatters and her marriage receding in the rear-view mirror, ex-RCMP corporal Lacey McCrae trades her uniform for a tool belt, and the Lower Mainland for the foothills west of Calgary. Amid the oil barons, hockey stars, and other high rollers who inhabit the wilderness playground is her old university roommate, Dee Phillips. Dee’s glossy life was shaken by a reckless driver; now she’s haunted by a nighttime prowler only she can hear.

As snowmelt swells the icy river, threatening the only bridge back to civilization, Lacey must make the call: assume Dee’s in danger and get her out, or decide the prowler is imaginary and stay, cut off from help if the bridge is swept away.

WHO IS J.E Barnard?

Jayne Barnard 2017 sly shrunkJ.E. Barnard is a Calgary-based crime writer with 25 years of award-winning short fiction and children’s literature behind her. Author of the popular Maddie Hatter Adventures (Tyche Books), and now The Falls Mysteries (Dundurn Press), she’s won the Dundurn Unhanged Arthur, the Bony Pete, and the Saskatchewan Writers Guild Award.
Her works were shortlisted for the Prix Aurora (twice), the UK Debut Dagger, the Book Publishing in Alberta Award (twice), and three Great Canadian Story prizes. Her most recent book is When the Flood Falls, a small-town psychological thriller set in the Alberta foothills west of Calgary.

Mystery Mondays: Author Tracy L. Ward on Historical Fiction

Today on Mystery Mondays we have bestselling author Tracy L. Ward to talk about history – Canadian History – so that’s fun for me 🙂 Check out her latest book below…

You Can Bet Your Bottom Dollar I Did My Research

by Tracy L. Ward

If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say, “Canadian history just isn’t that interesting,” I could retire a very wealthy woman. It seems, in comparison to the oft romanticized aspects of American history (a rebellion for liberty from British rule, a civil war to free the enslaved and multiple presidential assassinations) any history Canadians have been a part of feels downright yawn worthy.

How did we become a county? We held a meeting and signed some papers. Yawn.  How did slavery in Canada end? Well, Britain ended their involvement in the slave trade and we just kind of followed suit. Both these major events seem passive on our part, nothing revolutionary, nothing to write home about.

A lot of our apathy toward our own history comes down to how it’s taught.  It’s standard practice to focus on dates, politician’s names and outcomes of battle. But what if I told you this is exactly the WRONG way to approach history?

I certainly had my fair share of “read this, fill in the blanks on this” history classes. If this is the only type of history class that young people are exposed to no wonder adult Canadians aren’t that particularly interested.

How did I get hooked on history? It certainly wasn’t memorizing a list of Canadian prime ministers and writing historical dates on flash cards. I started by reading about people, learning about their individual lives, their goals, their struggles and learning about how they were restricted by society (particularly women) or even constricted by limits of the technology available to them.

I remember reading in Lucy Maud Montgomery’s journals that one winter Prince Edward Island had been hammered with a horrendous amount of snow. The Northumberland Straight, the body of ocean separating the island from New Brunswick, was choked with ice. Ferry service had been cut off for weeks and even the dog sleds used by the postal service could not get through to the island effectively cutting off the people of Prince Edward Island from the mainland for weeks and weeks, much longer than any other winter the locals could remember.

She wrote of the isolation, as no one from the village of Cavendish or beyond ventured to the post office Montgomery ran with her grandmother and grandfather. The boredom was immense, the cabin fever soul crushing. This is riveting history. And probably wouldn’t play out the same way today now that we have Confederation Bridge, automobiles, snow ploughs and this amazing invention called the Internet (you may have heard of it).

I recently read a book titled “Wilderness Sisters” by Charlotte Gray, who wrote about Susanna Moody and Catherin Parr Trail, two sisters from the upper classes of England whose genteel husbands decided to brave the journey over the ocean to claim a homestead in Canada’s bush. It’s amazing to read of their optimism, their belief that the estate homes they lost in England could be re-established in the Canadian wilderness, large homes replete with an army of servants, high tea at 4 in the afternoon, and expansive gardens to rival any back home.

They arrived grossly unprepared for the harsh winters, thick wilderness and primitive lifestyles. Lace gloves were soon traded for calloused palms and cracked fingernails. Both Catherine and Susanna were some of Canada’s first female writers, composing works of non-fiction to hopefully better prepare British citizens looking to emigrate to Canada. Their work continues to be published today as a testament to the early days of Canadian settlement. When you read their stories it’s not about what happened when and what laws were changed as a result. Instead their legacy is of an average citizen, brought to Canada because of a dream and vision many other Canadian hopefuls shared.

I had published six novels set in England before I set out to write my first series set in Canada, Mercy Me, and you can bet your bottom dollar I did my research. I pored over maps of early Toronto. I studied the social climate. I visited museums and memorized early photographs gleaning them for clues as to what people wore, how they stood and what was important to them. But what I didn’t do was memorize dates, or names of men who held political office.

My story was not about them but rather about Mercy Marigold Eaton, a character of my own creation, a single mother to a biracial fourteen year old living in a society that would never accept either of them. You won’t find rote facts or many historical nuggets woven amongst the prose. My story wasn’t about repeating what has already been written about in non-fiction. My story is a human story, the best sort of history lesson. While my characters may be a figment of my imagination, their tale is inspired by those of real Canadians, the everyday people who paved the way, and shaped our country helping making it what it is today.

History can be taught through both fiction and non-fiction and need not be limited to factual recitation. If you haven’t read a historical novel in a while, boy, are you ever missing out.


Mercy Me

MercyMeFrontMercy Marigold Eaton has a special connection with the dead, able to piece together the lives of those who have passed on with a single touch. When an injured man nearly dies in her arms she isn’t given much time to work her magic before Detective Jeremiah Walker arrives and places her and her fraudulent fortune telling business under suspicion.

A day later the body of a woman matching a description given by Mercy is found in Toronto’s derelict neighbourhood The Ward, leaving Walker no choice but to involve her in the case. Wary and fighting her own demons rooted in mistrust of the law, Mercy uses the skills she herself doesn’t fully understand to give the detective the clues he so desperately needs.

Thrust together by circumstances even Mercy couldn’t predict, the pair soon finds themselves falling for each others’ charms. In an effort to remove temptation Walker pushes forward without her, not realizing the killer has already darkened Mercy Eaton’s front door.


Author HeadshotA former journalist and graduate from Humber College’s School for Writers, Tracy L. Ward is the author behind the best-selling Marshall House Mysteries.

Mercy Me is the first book in a new series set in 19thcentury Toronto. Currently, Tracy lives on a rural property outside Barrie, Ontario with her husband and their two teenagers.



Mystery Mondays: Author Joanne Guidoccio on Information Overload

Today on Mystery Mondays we have the pleasure of hearing from author Joanne Guidoccio. Joanne writes cosy mysteries and paranormal romances.

Special offer: read to the bottom, and you’ll find a chance to win an Amazon gift card.

In case you missed it, Joanne has also contributed to Mystery Mondays by writing Finding Your Voice.

If you’d like to contribute to Mystery Mondays, let me know.

Over to Joanne…

How to Deal With Information Overload

by Joann Guidoccio

One lost email could cost a life. A bit overly dramatic, but it didn’t stop Constable Leo Mulligan from suggesting that Gilda Greco could have prevented a former student’s death, if only she had read that email. 

The storyline of A Different Kind of Reunion revolves around this overlooked email.

I would like to think that a lost email would never set in motion such dire consequences in real life situations. But still, a part of me worries about the increased inflow and outflow of information.

Ten years ago, I had email and other correspondence under control. I was teaching full-time and would check emails and messages three times a day. Dealing with back-to-back classes, meetings, and extra-help sessions left with me with only small pockets of free time during the day. In the evenings, I disciplined myself to check email only after my marking and lesson preparation was complete.

Everything changed when I retired and started a full-time writing career. Suddenly, my in-box overflowed with messages from editors, publishers, and writers in different time zones. When I joined several national and international groups, I also had access to their Yahoo groups. Participating in Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and other social media added to the constant flow of information.

My personal numbers:

• 8 Yahoo Groups
• Over 6K Twitter followers
• 500+ connections on each of the following: LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest, and Goodreads.
• 100+ emails each day
• Following 30+ blogs
• Active participant in Twitter chats

Here are five strategies that help me stay on track:

  1. 1. Schedule blocks of time for email, doing research, completing work-related tasks, and simply browsing. Do not simply jump on anytime you feel like it. If necessary, disconnect from the internet if you need to focus on a particular task. In his book, The Power of Less, Leo Babuta introduces the idea of an “offline hour,” which could be extended to an “offline day.”
  1. 2. Turn off email notifications. Most programs have alerts like a sound, pop-up message, or blinking icon that let you know when you have received a new email. This interruption can be disruptive and gives power to anyone who wants to email you.
  1. 3. Work your way from top to bottom, one email at a time. Open each email and deal with it immediately. Reply, delete, or archive for future reference. Whenever possible, limit your response to five or fewer sentences. This forces you to be concise and limits the time spent in the email box. Before deleting any email, ensure there will be no negative consequences.
  1. 4. Take your breaks away from the Internet. Instead of checking social media during lunch and breaks, get away from your desk: take a walk, meditate, practice yoga, meet with friends. 
  1. 5. Eat the frog. This famous dictum comes from Mark Twain, who strongly recommended completing difficult—and sometimes unpleasant—tasks early in the day. e.g. Writing a synopsis, outlining a novel, completing a round of edits. 

How do you deal with Information Overload?

A Different Kind Of Reunion

ADifferentKindofReunion_w12053_750 (2)While not usually a big deal, one overlooked email would haunt teacher Gilda Greco. Had she read it, former student Sarah McHenry might still be alive.

Suspecting foul play, Constable Leo Mulligan plays on Gilda’s guilt and persuades her to participate in a séance facilitated by one of Canada’s best-known psychics. Six former students also agree to participate. At first cooperative and willing, their camaraderie is short-lived as old grudges and rivalries emerge. The séance is a bust.

Determined to solve Sarah’s murder, Gilda launches her own investigation and uncovers shocking revelations that could put several lives—including her own—in danger. Can Gilda and the psychic solve this case before the killer strikes again?



Click on the Rafflecopter link below for your chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card.

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About Joanne

Guidoccio 001In 2008, Joanne Guidoccio took advantage of early retirement and decided to launch a second career that would tap into her creative side and utilize her well-honed organizational skills. Slowly, a writing practice emerged. Her articles and book reviews were published in newspapers, magazines, and online. When she tried her hand at fiction, she made reinvention a recurring theme in her novels and short stories. A member of Crime Writers of Canada, Sisters in Crime, and Romance Writers of America, Joanne writes cozy mysteries, paranormal romance, and inspirational literature from her home base of Guelph, Ontario.

Where to find Joanne Guidoccio







Mystery Mondays: Kelley Kaye on Writing Idiosyncrasies

This week on Mystery Mondays we welcome Kelley Kaye (also known as Kelley Bowles), The exciting news…Her second novel Poison  by Punctuation (Chalkboard Outlines Book 2) is being released tomorrow!  If you’ve read Death By Diploma, you won’t want to miss Poison by Punctuation.

Little Idiosyncrasies

My ideas for Character Development.

by Kelley Kaye

I’ve been told my strengths as far as writing fly in voice and character. So I wanted to take a minute to kind of examine a couple of neat things I’ve been finding out about, and trying for myself, as far as character development. Do they work? I can only go back to comments I’ve heard about my strength as a writer being in voice and characterization… So here we go:

As far as character goes, I think small is big. While it’s great if you have a big idea for the trigger that shapes your character’s basic personality, like a traumatic event from his youth or a colorful uncle from her present, that’s important. But I think it’s in the idiosyncrasies—the little habits or the minuscule events, all combined in to one big personality that make the character most memorable.
Does your character press her left toe into her shoe all the time? Left toe only? Why does she do that? My character was stung by a bee on that toe when she was four, and there’s a little scar there. Maybe it tingles when the phone is going to ring, if you’re looking for a small paranormal bent, or maybe she has to take off her shoe to rub the scar as the only way she knows to calm herself down. If she takes off her shoe to rub the scar before her calculus test or before the goodnight kiss at date’s end, it’s a small thing. But either scene tells the reader something about the character.

Yesterday I was clearing out a bunch of old books and I found a book on palmistry. I haven’t looked at it since I was a very young adult, I think I bought it because I had some sort of idea for myself, about reading palms for fun at parties. That never went anywhere, but now I thought, wow! Character who reads palms at parties. or at the breakfast table, or at Starbucks? That’s cool and interesting and could go all sorts of different places as far as plotline. Just from looking at a book on palm reading.

For my upcoming murder mystery—Poison by Punctuation—I continued with a tiny character trait for Leslie, one of the two main characters, but it’s turning bigger by the day. Leslie is super stylish, graceful, a fashion plate who (almost) always has every hair in place. But she has a sort of magic trick to correspond with her perfection, which works to help the reader know what kind of a person she is underneath. Whatever people around her need, she is able to produce. From where, nobody knows, but if it’s a Kleenex or a protein bar or…a pair of ski boots, somehow Leslie has it. She’s a little snarky, a little irreverent, and has no idea how intimidating she can be, but her magic whatever-you-need ability shows the big heart hiding in the sarcasm. It’s a small thing with a big impact.

The coolest new character trait I’ve decided to experiment with is a big thanks to YA Indulgences blogger Amber Barnes, and it’s called a character playlist. Thanks Amber! Seems like the most basic of ideas, but I never thought about it in terms of characterization. What’s your character’s top 10 musical playlist? Why are these songs in his top 10? We all know music triggers the most intense memories, so how can you use the playlist to help expand and define your (and your reader’s) knowledge of the character?

For me, all my characters have elements of me, but the playlist was nice because I could play with it beyond my own personal memories associated with the song. Anything by Peter Cetera transports me immediately to a dance in the gym of my junior high school, but Emma Lovett, my main Chalkboard Outlines cozy character, is only 27 years old. If I want Peter Cetera on her playlist, what cool little story is behind the reason she loves him? It doesn’t have to be a life-changing story, just something small. A little idiosyncrasy that can turn into big character relating.

Thank you for joining me today on the eve of my new release of Poison by Punctuation! I’m leaving you with Harper, my YA character’s playlist as an example, because I haven’t made playlists for Emma and Leslie yet… 😊Maybe I’ll make a list for Edward the librarian and Nate the skateboard-riding-through-hallways principal too, who knows?


  1. Belly of the Whale Burning Sensations ‘Belly of the Whale’ is, of course, Harper’s theme song. She feels so isolated in her body – like most teenagers do – that it’s like she is down in the belly of a whale in the bottom of the ocean.

    2. Closer to Fine Indigo Girls Indigo Girls – Closer to Fine

    Harper‘s mom, Isabelle, introduced her to this song. Isabelle wrote a paper on this song when she was in college, and she’s loved it and the message ever since. Isabelle definitely feels this way—like the more you can go with the flow and roll with the punches, the better off you’ll be. Harper is trying.

    3. No Roots Alice Merton

This, again, reflects Harper’s life theme. Since she’s not even sure she’s in the right family, she certainly doesn’t feel like she has roots anywhere.

4. The Man The Killers

This song is for Harper’s Uncle Pasta—the gay uncle who lives in the basement. He’s hilarious and awesome—totally The Man! 😜

5. Uptown Funk Bruno Mars

  1. Every Little Thing She Does is Magic the Police The Police – Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic

Since Harper can envision her glorious future with basketball star Larson McCready—even though she’s never even talked to him—she can imagine him singing this song to her.

7. Breathe Anna Nalick- Breathe (2am)
The ability to say the right thing at the right time is an important and as yet unrealized skill for Harper. This song confirms how scary it is to put yourself out there for others to judge, but the song helps her know she’s not alone in feeling that way.

8. Blackbird The Beatles

Harper’s father, Michael, is this intense and driven man with very strong ideas and opinions. He’s the one who introduced her to the Beatles, but he was careful to explain that there are only a certain amount of Beatle songs that are genius, and some bubblegum poppy kinds that are lame. This, thankfully, he considers one of the genius ones because Harper thinks it’s beautiful, and feels like she is only waiting for HER moment to arrive…

9. Bohemian Rhapsody Queen

Harper and Uncle Pasta like to headbang to this song.

And, for 10., Harper chose Michael Jackson, because, well, any playlist is incomplete without Michael Jackson! Michael Jackson – Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough

Poison By Punctuation

Screen Shot 2018-04-22 at 7.21.30 PMHigh school teacher Emma Lovett is finally recovering from her first year of teaching when she discovers another dead body. As if that wasn’t bad enough, this time, someone has killed a student, Kisten Hollis.

Emma and her best friend, Leslie, are desperate to solve this murder. But suspects abound. The perpetrator could be a teacher, an administrator, a member of Kisten’s zealous church community, or even another student.

Emma must juggle her teaching responsibilities, her new romance with handsome Hunter Wells, and interest from a hunky second suitor, all while searching for evidence to bring a killer to justice before someone else dies.

Who Kelly Kaye?


Kelley Kaye is the pen name for the cozy mystery fiction of Kelley Bowles Gusich. Kelley taught high school English and Drama for twenty years in Colorado and California, but a 1994 MS diagnosis has (circuitously) brought her, finally, to the life of writer and mother, both occupations she adores, and both of which were dreamed of clear back at stories surrounding her Barbie and Ken. Her debut novel, cozy mystery Death by Diploma  was released by Red Adept Publishing February 2016, and is first in the Chalkboard Outlines®series. Book #2, Poison by Punctuationis coming out April 24! She’s also writing YA under Kelley Kay Bowles with her novel Down in the Belly of the Whalecoming May 5. Yay, books!

Kelley is active on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedinand GoodReads, with a combined over 3500 followers. Her website is www.kelleykaybowles.comwhere she’s valiantly attempting to blog once per week. She has two wonderful and funny sons, and an amazing husband who cooks for her. She lives in Southern California.

Mystery Mondays: Partnering in Writing by Janet Elizabeth Lynn

Today on Mystery Mondays, we host a married couple who write books togethers. How cool is that? Check below for an excerpt of Slick Deal, their latest novel.

But first, her is Janet Elizabeth Lynn on

Partnering in writing

It can work


Janet Elizabeth Lynn

Early in my writing career I remember someone said gave me the following equation for completing a novel: Butt +Chair = Book.  It’s a simple formula, but it rings true every time.

My husband, Will Zeilinger and I co-write the Skylark Drake Murder Mystery series, a hardboiled series that takes the reader to 1950s Los Angeles and other areas of the west. Our new book, SLICK DEAL, begins at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, News Year’s Eve 1956. The first murder and clues lead to Avalon, on Catalina Island. This is the fourth of the series and people still wonder how we make it work.

Here are some things we have learned over the last four books:

  1. Character/Voice styles– Combining different styles when writing makes for more interesting character dialogue and personalities. So valuing the styleeach writing partner brings to the table is important
  2. DeadlinesSet deadlines and stick to them. Deadlines include: chapters, plot, character development, and public relations. Anything pertaining to the health and welfare of the manuscript should have a deadline.
  3. OrganizationEach meeting, regardless of what the meeting is for, needs to have a purpose. Agendas are great to keep the discussions on track. Be sure to keep copies of all meeting agendas and decisions for future reference. And not for finger pointing!
  4. SupportNothing beats having someone not only for “feel good” needs but someone to also pick up the slack when things come to a screeching halt, i.e. Writer’s block. We hit this at the same time once and it was scary. The only way I got through it was Will’s positive attitude that we could do it.
  5. And the most important thingWe agreed and practiced the above equation. Some people may call this dedication, we call it sweating.

Janet Elizabeth Lynn and Will Zeilinger

BW Janet Bill 01Published authors Will Zeilinger and Janet Lynn write  individually until they got together and created the Skylar Drake Mystery Series. These hard-boiled tales are based in old Hollywood of 1955. Janet has published seven mystery novels and Will has three plus a couple of short stories. Their world travels have sparked several ideas for murder and crime stories. This creative couple is married and live in Southern California.


The next Skylar Drake Mystery, fourth in the series, SLICK DEAL will be available April 16, 2018 and yes…we are still married!


SD web coverOn the eve of the New Year, 1956, oil tycoon, Oliver Wright dies suspiciously at a swanky Hollywood New Years Eve party. Some think it was suicide.

His death is soon followed by threats against the rest of his family.

Private Investigator Skylar Drake and his partner Casey Dolan are hired by an L.A. gangster to protect the family and solve Oliver’s mysterious death.

Clues lead them to Avalon, on Santa Catalina Island, a Hollywood movie star playground.

A high profile scandal, mysterious women, treason and more deaths complicate matters, putting Drake and his partner in danger.

Twenty-three miles may not seem far away but false identity and corruption on this island could squash their efforts to answer the question—How in the world can a dead man commit suicide?

SLICK DEAL will be available April 16, 2018…and yes we are still married!


Website: Janet  Elizabeth Lynn

Website: Will Zeilinger       



By Janet Elizabeth Lynn and Will Zeilinger


Almost midnight. I was working security for the New Year’s Eve bash at the posh Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel with my partner Casey Dolan. The rented tuxedos we were wearing made us look like we belonged with the rich crowd down on the ballroom floor, but we were working. This was one of the most exclusive parties in the city. I’d been here before and I’ve never known any other hotel with the kind of history this place had. Our job tonight was to keep an eye out for trouble…and I suppose this was a much better way to greet the new year than sitting at home in front of the television with a bottle of whiskey. As a matter of principle, I didn’t take security work. But Dolan thought D&D Investigations would benefit from this job by keeping the lights on and paying our secretary. He was right.

I scanned the crowd and checked my watch—a minute before midnight. The noise level in the room escalated with anticipation. I spotted Dolan at his post under an archway on the other side of the room and smiled. He nodded. From my spot on the catwalk above the ballroom floor I watched as they counted down the last seconds—five, four, three, two… Just as the clock on stage struck midnight, the room exploded with shouts, horns, balloons, and a snowstorm of confetti. The band played “Auld Lang Syne” while a banner unfurled above the bandstand that proclaimed: HAPPY NEW YEAR 1956.

It seemed as though everyone in the world was dancing, hugging, and kissing. My mind disappeared into the past. I remembered my late wife,Claire, and how we celebrated every New Year together. Even when she was big with our daughter, Ellie, Claire was stunning. I pulled out my wallet and gazed at her photo. I miss you honey, so very much.

A man’s voice boomed over the P.A., “Is there a doctor in the house?” My dream with Claire evaporated. I looked down at the stage where a man had grabbed the microphone from the band leader’s hands and shouted, “We need help in the main lobby.”

I motioned for Dolan to stay put while I ducked behind the heavy drapes and crossed the hall to the lobby mezzanine. Fourteen steps would take me down to the lobby floor. I think I only used five. My hand automatically went to my holster, just in case. Pushing through the crowd, I found a portly man on his back in a pool of blood on the terracotta-tiled floor. A tuxedo-clad man loosened the tie of the victim but I knew he was gone. I’d seen that vacant look in his eyes a hundred times back when I worked LAPD homicide.

Somewhere in the crowd I heard “Make way please, we’re nurses.” A couple of women in evening gowns appeared. I held the curious crowd back while the women knelt on the bloody floor and checked for a pulse. One shook her head and placed a lacy handkerchief over the dead man’s face.

Screaming sirens outside announced the arrival of the police. Partygoers scrambled. More than a few were probably here with someone other than the one to whom they were legally and lawfully wed. I identified myself as hotel security to the first officers to come through the door.

“You were first on the scene?” one asked.

I nodded. “Me and about a hundred other people.”

“You see this happen?” I shook my head. Another officer shouted to the crowd, “Anybody here see this happen?”

More police swarmed the lobby with news reporters on their heels. I wasn’t surprised. This party attracted reporters like flies on a dead cat. All around camera flashbulbs popped, making the room as bright as day.

Someone grabbed my arm. I looked into the eyes of a dark-haired woman wearing a full-length fur coat. With all the commotion, I thought she was a tipsy guest who wanted to kiss me. Instead, she pulled in close and whispered in my ear, “Please help me get out of this place. I can’t be seen here.” She turned her back to the cameras. With one hand, she yanked the combs from her hair and let it cascade down to her shoulders. She had the aroma of flowers. Then she turned up the collar of her fur coat to cover part of her face. Tears rolled down her cheeks. I saw the desperation in her eyes.

“Please.” She squeezed my arm. “I don’t know this hotel.”

The elevators and outside doors were blocked by uniformed cops. I whisked her toward a side room.

A cop in a cheap brown suit noticed us walking away and yelled, “Hey, you two. Get back here.”  I used to be a cop and I knew one when I saw one. This guy was probably a plainclothes detective. “You’re interfering with a police investigation,” he yelled.

“Maybe we should go back.” She stopped. “I’d hate to get you into trouble.”

“Believe me. It wouldn’t be the first time. This way.”

I noticed her striking resemblance to Ava Gardner. I pulled her along and headed to an empty room.

The cop caught up with us as I pushed open the door and turned on the light. I pulled out my PI license. He grabbed it from my hand just as I moved my jacket to show him my gun.

“Oh hell. Skylar Drake. I should have known.” He tossed my license back. “Why do you have to mess around with this investigation?”

“You have your job and I have mine.” I nodded toward the raven-haired beauty standing behind me.

“You stay put, Drake, while we sort this out.” I held up three fingers in a Boy Scout salute. He frowned and backed out the door.

I reached into my tuxedo jacket pocket and handed her my business card. Her perfectly shaped eyebrows went up. “Skylar Drake, Private Investigator.”

I nodded. “Now I need to get back to work.”

“I can’t be seen here.” Her tearful emerald green eyes sparkled in the light. “May I count on you to be discreet?”

My mind raced with a hundred things she wanted me to be discreet about.

Another plainclothes detective from my old precinct stormed in. I remember him as a real blowhard. “Drake. What the hell are you doing here?”

“Working and I was just leaving.” I nodded to the woman. “Nice to have met you, miss.”

Before the detective could get out another word, I slipped out the door and walked back to the lobby.

I checked the time—two a.m. The police had finished with most of the guests and allowed them to leave. The party was over. My job was done.


Mystery Mondays: Bonnie McCune on Writing and Today’s Book World

Today on Mystery Mondays, I’m happy to host author Bonnie McCune. Bonnie’s novel, Never Retreat, was published by Imajin Books on March 15th! Congratulations Bonnie.

Writing and Today’s Books World

by Bonnie McCune


Are you a cowboy? A spy? A sexy lover? A child at heart? Somewhat intellectual? If so, you probably read in a genre like children’s books, westerns, mystery, romance, or literary.

But what if your tastes aren’t so cut and dried? What if the book has characters like my new novel, Never Retreat? Two regular people, Raye Soto, a feisty single mom, and Des Emmett, an ex-military, macho corporate star, meet at a telecommunications firm where both work. Thirty-something Raye is concentrating on her career in a major telecommunications firm and funding college for her teenaged son. Enter Des—a fast talker and smooth operator, who possesses every negative quality for a guy Raye should avoid.

My books to date have been women’s fiction with strong dollops of romance. But each contains mystery because, after all, who’s heard of a relationship without mystery? A relationship real or fictional might contain out-and-out subterfuge, like one of my early boyfriends who claimed he ran secret missions for a presidential candidate. Or the novel might include mysterious issues whose answers unravel over the course of the plot, such as why is Des trying to win a huge bonus?

Then there’s the mystery of “what’s gonna happen?” Who will survive? Who get ahead? My two heroes, thrown together at a corporate retreat in the wilderness, struggle to complete management’s extreme mental and physical tests for a huge reward. But only one can win the prize. Then when a massive flood imperils their love and survival, that becomes the unavoidable mystery of their situation.

No longer are book genres simple and innocuous. Sub-genre succeeds sub-genre. I’m not sure I even know what some of these mean. For example, urban romance fantasy. Is this several dragons who live in a large city off-world and become enamored of one another, or an historical period piece in which Cleopatra and her lover Marie Antoinette battle the evils of Czar Peter the Great in St. Petersburg? Or both?

Publishing is defined by specialized categories of book, which also identify readers by age, gender, interest, locale. These seem to become more targeted by the week. The process helps greatly in marketing books to try to insure readership.

Which brings me to authors who defy categorization and leap-frog genres: Michael Chabon, Margaret Atwood, Doris Lessing, P.D. James, among others. I’m sure their publishers would prefer they didn’t. It makes marketing their work more difficult. But these are big names, and they can do as they please. Successfully.

A challenge for both writers and readers. If a book doesn’t fit into a 30-second elevator pitch, should a writer ignore her creative urge? Should a reader refuse to purchase the novel? Instead let’s think about good writing. Even if a book is a particular genre (i.e., waddles like a duck), I think good writing should be possible in any genre and across genres.

“Women’s fiction,” close to my approach, covers the journey of the main characters to succeed in meeting life’s challenges. Of course, this also describes a great many novels outside that classification. Being a writer and always ready to split hairs or argue until I’m blue in the face, I don’t like to assign labels at all. Just be aware this category can incorporate a great deal of mystery as well as passion, depending upon author, plot, and publisher.

My story hurries on to show the mismatched couples, Raye and Des, see-sawing between attraction and antagonism, to face their biggest challenge: learning the meaning of true partnership. In a cliffhanger finale, when the torrent sweeps down the rocky canyon and threatens their survival, they must put aside their differences to rescue their colleagues—and their own possible future.

So if you read about a stormy human relationship in my future writings, don’t assume it’s a romance. It might represent mystery, thrills, even a whodunnit. A multitude of possible adventures lie before every character.

Never Retreat

Never Retreat Create Space_240 - front cover webA feisty single mom clashes with an ex-military, macho corporate star at a business retreat in the wild Colorado mountains, where only one can win a huge prize. But when a massive flood imperils their love and survival, they learn the meaning of true partnership.

Years ago, Ramona (‘Raye”) Soto faced harsh reality when a roving con man knocked her up. Now at thirty-something she’s concentrating on her career in a major telecommunications firm and funding college for her teenaged son. Enter Desmond Emmett—a fast talker and smooth operator. New to the office, the ex-serviceman possesses every negative quality for a guy Raye should avoid. Thrown together at a corporate retreat in the wilderness, the reluctant duo struggles to complete management’s extreme mental and physical tests for a huge reward. But only one can win the prize, and Des needs the money to underwrite medical treatments for his adored younger sister.

See-sawing between attraction and antagonism, the mismatched couple, Raye and Des, face their biggest challenge: learning the meaning of true partnership. When a massive flash flood sweeps down the rocky canyon and threatens their love and survival, they must put aside their difference to rescue their colleagues—and their future as a couple.


WRITING: This is the new fiction for you: unafraid to debate contemporary concerns. . . pulls no punches. . .provides a fresh look at age-old issues. This is your kind of writing if you think. . .People are smarter than any phone. . .Feminism is just starting to come alive. . .You’ll always take a human over the most advanced app. . . .You can laugh at yourself. . . Women use four-letter words, including l-o-v-e.

Who is Bonnie McCune?

B 1 edited webBonnie McCune has been writing since age ten, when she submitted a poem about rain rushing down the gutter to the Saturday Evening Post (it was immediately rejected). This interest facilitated her career in nonprofits doing public and community relations and marketing. She’s worked for libraries, directed a small arts organization, and managed Denver’s beautification program.

Simultaneously, she’s been a freelance writer with publications in local, regional, and specialty publications for news and features. Her civic involvement includes grass-roots organizations, political campaigns, writers’ and arts’ groups, and children’s literacy. For years, she entered recipe contests and was a finalist once to the Pillsbury Bake Off. A special love is live theater. Had she been nine inches taller and thirty pounds lighter, she might have been an actress.

Her true passion is fiction, and her pieces have won several awards. Never Retreat is her third novel and her fifth book of fiction. For reasons unknown (an unacknowledged optimism?), she believes one person can make a difference in this world. Visit her at,,,,

PUBLICATION INFO: PUBLISHING MARCH 15, 2018, 978-1-77223-350-6 Kindle ebook, 978-1-77223-351-3 Trade paperback, 240 pages., or. Imajin Books, Ebook and paperback.

ADVANCE PRAISE: “A breathtaking page-turner that will leave you exhausted but wanting more!” —Corinne Joy Brown, award-winning author of Hidden Star; “Likable, relatable characters…a real treat!” —Cindi Myers, author of The View from Here; “Intriguing…engaging…A great vacation read for sure!” —Meg Benjamin, author of the Brewing Love Trilogy; “A compelling story about a hard-working single mom who faces adversity head-on, learns from her mistakes, and perseveres.” —Kim McMahill, author of Marked in Mexico; “Few novels operate on such different levels, moving their characters to challenge not just each other, but their own not just each other, but their own perceptions. . .McCune provides just the right blend of comic relief, interpersonal encounters, and outside environment changes to make her story a powerful blend.” –Midwest Book Review

Mystery Mondays: Elena Hartwell on Research and the Fiction Writer

Today on Mystery Mondays we host Elena Hartwell, three time mystery author. I met Elena through the ITW (International Thriller Writers), an organization run by Lee Child. Her latest book Three Strikes, You’re Dead came out yesterday. Congratulations, Elena!

Writing Advice: Research and the Fiction Writer

by Elena Hartwell

Discussing research with other mystery writers fascinates me. Responses to it range from “it’s my favorite part of the writing process” to “I hate research.”

The good news is there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for how much to research. It’s very much a personal choice.

For those of us who love to research, here are some common pitfalls for us to avoid.

First: it’s easy to get consumed in research and forget to actually write.

One thing about being a fiction writer is nothing you write is “true” in the sense of factual accuracy. No one gets hurt when fiction writers get it wrong (other than our pride when it gets pointed out publicly). At some point, your imagination and the best way to tell the story takes precedence. You can always check facts or talk to an expert as you polish your draft. And if you are writing about a topic where experts disagree, make the best decision based on your characters and storyline.

Second: it’s easy to love our material so much we want to share everything we learn with our readers.

Often termed “info dumps,” too much information bogs down the forward momentum. It can also shift the tone of a story from your character’s point of view to a preachy pulpit where the author shouts at the reader. Either one of these situations will likely stop your reader from turning the page, or buying your next book.

One way to deal with this issue is write all the facts you want into your early drafts. Then, as you begin the rewriting/editing process, locate the places where you have long paragraphs of “facts” or where the description shifts out of your characters’ voices and into your own. Beta readers are great at finding these moments.

Keep in mind, readers want to know what your characters are doing and thinking far more than they want to know facts about Victorian architecture or the history of cameras or the best way to chink a log cabin. Sprinkle in details through single lines and short moments. Details like this are fascinating in small doses and when they are motivated by the storytelling, through an observation or action of a character, a line of dialogue, or a short description.

Lastly, it’s easy to write a scene so accurate it loses dramatic tension. The storytelling is what matters most in fiction. In most instances, an author can write around something that wouldn’t happen in the real world by: finding an alternate solution, creating a unique situation that explains the unlikely outcome, or using a different scenario altogether. But, in those places where you need to shorten up a timespan, have a person do something they wouldn’t or couldn’t in the real world, or defy the laws of physics, if it’s the only way to keep the story tight – just do it. You are, after all, writing fiction.

For those of you who hate research, don’t despair. There are a couple ways to deal with that too.

First, create primary characters and situations that exist in your own realm of experience. Write a cozy about an amateur sleuth who has the same day job you do. There is no rule that says all mystery writers must write police procedurals or legal thrillers. For those writers who don’t love to do research, perhaps stay away from writing historical fiction or creating multiple scenarios that require characters with a lot of specific expertise. While most manuscripts require some research, there are ways to minimize it.

Second, foster experts. People love to talk about their areas of interest. I’ve never had anyone turn me down for an interview when I’m researching my novels. Talking to experts can be a lot of fun. Experts are often even willing to read a section of your draft to check your work.

Lastly, readers love characters and stories. If you fully understand your craft as a writer, imbue your characters with complex interior lives, strong intentions, dramatic conflict, and high stake situations, readers are going to respond positively.

My final advice, do as much research as you can, only include as many facts as you need, and above all, story first.

Three Strikes, You’re Dead

ThreeStrikesCoverPrivate investigator Eddie Shoes heads to a resort outside Leavenworth, Washington, for a mother-daughter getaway weekend. Eddie’s mother, Chava, wants to celebrate her new job at a casino by footing the bill for the two of them, and who is Eddie to say no?

On the first morning, Eddie goes on an easy solo hike, and a few hours later, stumbles over a makeshift campsite and a gravely injured man. A forest fire breaks out and she struggles to save him before the flames overcome them both. Before succumbing to his injuries, the man hands her a valuable rosary. He tells her his daughter is missing and begs for help. Is Eddie now working for a dead man?

Barely escaping the fire, Eddie wakes in the hospital to find both her parents have arrived on the scene. Will Eddie’s card-counting mother and mob-connected father help or hinder the investigation? The police search in vain for a body. How will Eddie find the missing girl with only her memory of the man’s face and a photo of his daughter to go on?

Who Is Elena Hartwell?

CREDIT MARK PERLSTEINElena Hartwell started out her storytelling career in the theater. She worked for several years as a playwright, director, designer, technician, and educator before becoming a novelist.

She lives in North Bend, Washington, with her husband, their two cats, and the greatest dog in the world. When she’s not writing, teaching writing or talking about writing, she can be found at a farm down the road where she and her husband keep their horses.

Elena also works as a writing coach and does one-on-one manuscript critiques.

For more information please visit You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Mystery Mondays: Haris Orkin on Finding Ideas

Today we welcome Haris Orkin. His novel You Only Live Once, was published by Imajin Books on March 21st. So it’s hot off the press, as they say. In addition to being an author, Haris is and playwright.

Over to Haris…

James Bond is Barking Mad

by Haris Orkin

Aspiring writers often ask me where I get my ideas. I don’t always have an answer for them on the spot. I’ll be glib or I’ll deflect, but in fact, it’s a very good question. Even though “You Only Live Once” is my first novel, I’ve been making a living as a writer for thirty years.

I’ve written radio and TV commercials for some of the largest companies in the world. I’m a produced playwright and screenwriter and for the last ten years I’ve been writing and designing video games. So I’m always generating ideas. Always. Sometimes I hesitate to delve too deeply into my process. I worry that if I pull it apart I may not be able to put it back together. I like the fact that my process seems mysterious and I trust that ideas will come to me, but the truth is the way I work is not all that complicated or mystical.

I’m a watcher, a reader and a listener. I’m endlessly curious and love eavesdropping on people’s conversations. (Okay, that sounded a little creepy.) I’m always reading newspapers and magazines and watching documentaries. I love movies and TV shows and my taste is incredibly eclectic.

It’s all grist for the mill. Those influences then collide with whatever internal conflict going on at the moment. (And I always have some internal conflict going on.) Writing is a way for me to work out those conflicts: a way to have a conversation with myself and the world.

Here’s an example.

When I found out I was going to be a father 28 years ago, I was happy and excited and terrified. My wife and I knew we were going to have a son and the prospect of impending fatherhood raised all kinds of questions and fears. What kind of example would I be? What would I teach my son? What kind of man was I? What kind of man would I like him to become?

It brought to mind my own childhood and the relationship I had with my own father. (And the relationship he had with his father.) With all those concerns and thoughts swirling around in my head, I started writing things down. It was a way to process my thoughts and feelings. Those thoughts and feelings eventually became a play that was performed in New York and at the La Jolla Playhouse in Southern California.

The play was called “Dada” and there was a scene in it that eventually became the spark that inspired “You Only Live Once.” The main character in the play, David, is an insecure father to be. He remembers a meeting he had with his guidance counselor when he was a junior in high school and it’s dramatized in the play.

The guidance counselor asks David what he wants to do when he graduates and he says doesn’t know. She pushes him, telling him, “Your grades are good. You’re clearly college material. You’ve always done well in math. Have you considered accounting?”

“My dad’s an accountant.”

“You want to follow in your father’s footsteps?”

“Definitely not.”

“Have you thought about actuarial science of the insurance industry?” Dave shakes his head, a painful look on his face. The counselor continues, “Well, there must be something that seems interesting to you. Isn’t there anyone you’ve read about or have heard of who has a career that seems the slightest bit intriguing?”

“Well, there’s one I guess, but it’s kind of dumb.”

“Why don’t you let me be the judge of that. You’re bright, you’re personable and if you apply yourself you probably could do most anything you want.”

“I want to do what James Bond does.”


“James Bond. He gets to travel all over the world and drive really cools cars and he never has to sit in some dumb office and shuffle papers.”

“Very funny David,” she says as she sternly shuffles some papers. “But this is a serious question. What do you want to do with the rest of your life?”

Later in the play, grown up David has an imaginary conversation with James Bond and Bond confronts him on his choices, saying, “You settled. You gave up. You wanted to be me. How do you know you couldn’t have?”

“You’re not even real.”

“When you were fifteen I was more real to you than your own father. I embodied all your dreams. All your desires. You wanted to be suave and masterful and seductive and dangerous. You wanted men to fear you and women to fall all over you. Is that no longer true? Or do you know longer know what you want anymore.”

David stands up to him and says. “You kill people. You force people to have sex with you.”

“I have a license to kill and because I do I will brook no insolence from anyone. I take what I want and I do what I want and no one tells me how to live or what I can or cannot do.”

“But no one cares about you. And you don’t care about anyone else. What kind of life is that?”

“A life free of sticky and unnecessary encumbrances. To love is to allow someone inside so deeply the can cause you…unmentionable pain.” Bond’s eyes fill with tears. “Why give someone that power?”

David puts his arm around Bond and comforts him and, in that moment, finally puts the fantasy of James Bond to rest.

“You Only Live Once” examines the mythos of a Bond-like character in today’s world. It seemed to me that you’d have to be barking mad to actually do what James Bond does. And that brought to mind one of my favorite novels ever. Don Quixote. I could see the connections and from those connections “You Only Live Once” was born.


“You Only Live Once” Synopsis

James Flynn is an expert shot, a black belt in karate, fluent in four languages and irresistible to women. He’s also a heavily medicated patient in a Los Angeles psychiatric hospital. Flynn believes his locked ward is the headquarters of Her Majesty’s Secret Service and that he is a secret agent with a license to kill.

When the hospital is acquired by a new HMO, Flynn is convinced that the Secret Service has been infiltrated by the enemy. He escapes to save the day, and in the process, kidnaps a young Hispanic orderly named Sancho.

This crazy day trip turns into a very real adventure when Flynn is mistaken for an actual secret agent. Paranoid delusions have suddenly become reality, and now it’s up to a mental patient and a terrified orderly to bring down an insecure, evil genius bent on world domination.

 You Only Live One

You Only Live Once Front Cover Official resized for websiteJames Flynn is an expert shot, a black belt in karate, fluent in four languages and irresistible to women. He’s also a long-term mental patient in a Los Angeles psychiatric hospital. Flynn believes his locked ward is the headquarters of Her Majesty’s Secret Service and that he is a secret agent with a license to kill.

When the hospital is acquired by a new HMO, Flynn is convinced that the Secret Service has been infiltrated by the enemy. He escapes to save the day, and in the process, Flynn kidnaps a young Hispanic orderly named Sancho.

This crazy day trip turns into a very real adventure when Flynn is mistaken for an actual secret agent. Paranoid delusions have suddenly become reality, and now it’s up to a mental patient and a terrified orderly to bring down an insecure, evil genius bent on world domination.

Reviews for “You Only Live Once”

“A brilliant homage to everyone’s favorite super-spy, and a hilarious, action-packed, made-for-the-movies thriller about a man suavely dancing along both sides of the thin line between heroism and madness.” —Matt Forbeck, New York Times bestselling author of Halo: New Blood

“Pacey and unrepentant fun, Haris Orkin’s You Only Live Once takes the James Bond mythos, gives it a swift kick in the backside and steals its wallet.” —James Swallow, New York Times bestselling author of Nomad 

“Fill shaker with ice. Add equal parts Ian Fleming and Quentin Tarantino. Shake (do not stir). Garnish with Douglas Adams, and you get You Only Live Once, a delicious martini as dry as the dusty California desert.” —Dan Jolley, USA Today bestselling author of the Gray Widow Trilogy

“If you’re looking—and who isn’t?—for a sexy, slapstick, razzle-dazzle, rock’em-sock’em re-imagining of Don Quixote as James Bond emerging from deep cover in a mental hospital to save the world, Haris Orkin’s hilarious yet touching You Only Live Once is the book for you.” —Charles Harper Webb, award-winning author of Brain Candy

WHO IS Haris Orkin?

Haris_1-25-18_120 FinalHaris Orkin is a playwright, screenwriter, game writer, and novelist. His play, Dada was produced at The American Stage and the La Jolla Playhouse. Sex, Impotence, and International Terrorism was chosen as a critic’s choice by the L.A. Weekly and sold as a film script to MGM/UA. Save the Dog was produced as a Disney Sunday Night movie. His original screenplay, A Saintly Switch, was directed by Peter Bogdanovich and starred David Alan Grier and Viveca Fox. He is a WGA Award and BAFTA Award nominated game writer and narrative designer known for Command and Conquer: Red Alert 3, Call of Juarez: Gunslinger, Tom Clancy’s The Division, Mafia 3, and Dying Light, which to date has sold over 7.5 million copies.

Haris has contributed chapters to two books put out by the International Game Developers Association; Writing for Video Game Genres and Professional Techniques for Video Game Writing.

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