Today my first novel, Sara’s Search, starts a three-day free ebook promotion. I hope you will check it out here:

Since this is my first published novel, it has a special place in my heart. Here’s the description:

Sara Putnam has spent the last two years searching for her biological father, Howard. When she finds him murdered, she has even more questions. As she starts her own investigation, she meets Howard’s eccentric, co-inventor partner, his ex-wife and their son who calls his mother “the bank,” plus an assorted cast of suspects. She also has to deal with her adopted mother’s roadblocks, her crazy roommate’s problems, sexual harassment at work and her best friend’s strange illness. Sometimes quirky, sometimes serious, Sara’s Search, as one reviewer said, will keep you flipping those pages.

Check out the reviews, and remember, even if you don’t own a Kindle, you can get free Kindle apps for other ebook readers (including the Nook), your PC and laptop, your smart phone, and even to read in “the cloud.”

I hope you’ll grab a free copy of Sars’s Search while they’re available.

Now, you probably noticed the title of this post. Yes, there are more free books to be had today in the mystery genre. Go here for a list and the dates they are free–dates may not be the same as mine:

What a way to start the new year! You can load up on a bunch of free mysteries. Enjoy!




A question came up in one of the groups about writing I belong to about what characterizes the noir genre. Lots of answers, lots of takes, but here’s what I said:

The thing I’ve always noticed when reading either hardboiled or noir is atmosphere and mood. The hardboiled character acts cynical and tough with an edgy voice, but he’s usually a good guy. But he can do some pretty bad stuff to reach the goal of setting something right, and he usually lives and works on the mean streets. In noir, the character can be either good or bad in the beginning, can live anywhere, but is usually a sad mess which only gets worse as time goes by and he or she ends up dead or even more of a mess. And the voice is entirely different in noir, more nuanced, and not as sure of itself as in hardboiled.

It is hard to describe. One of those things–you know it when you see (read) it. So, the best way to know what it’s all about is to read lots and lots of it.

This discussion got me to thinking about all the many subgenres in the mystery field. I decided to list as many as I could think of. Can you add any?

  1. Suspense
  2. Thriller
  3. Noir
  4. Hardboiled
  5. Cozy
  6. Softboiled
  7. Traditional
  8. Crime
  9. Amateur Sleuth
  10. Female Amateur Sleuth
  11. Romantic Suspense
  12. Private Eye
  13. Female Private Eye
  14. Locked Room Puzzle
  15. Historical
  16. Paranormal
  17. Police Procedural
  18. Western
  19. Regional
  20. Caper
  21. Whodunit
  22. Legal
  23. Medical
  24. Literary
  25. Pastiche
  26. Urban Fantasy
  27. Steampunk
  28. True Crime

What have I missed? And how do you decide what your subgenre is while either reading it or writing it? You just have to read a lot in the genre itself. After awhile, it’s pretty easy to peg what you’re reading. Then, if you want to write mysteries, think about the ones you liked best to read. That would probably be the one to write in, don’t you think?


Entertaining can be a chore (you have to invite everyone from work because that’s the way it’s done at your office or your partner’s office), can be stressful (you’re new at it, or unsure of some aspects, or just generally have stage fright about such things, like this and making speeches), or can be loads of fun.

Of course, you know your attitude can make a difference. That and a lot of prior planning and some experience with entertaining either small or large groups.

the toast by johnny_automatic - man making a toast at a dinner partyFirst, tell yourself over and over again how much fun everyone is going to have. Think up some topics of conversation to have handy in case it lags. If you feel pressed for time, delegate. Either pay for someone to cook and/or clean, or get family members to pitch in. If you can’t do either, scale back on what you will serve for food. Can you just make it a cocktail hour instead of a full meal? Can you have some relatives and close friends bring food? Can you lock some bedroom doors if you don’t have time for a thorough cleaning?

Have you planned what you’re going to wear, what you’re doing for decorating, and what you’re going to serve for food and drink? Plan what you’ll wear first, then decorate, then plan and make food ahead.

Have signature drinks and food that are quick and easy to make. Things people always want you to serve. Try for one for each course, so if you’re asked to bring something for a specific course for someone else’s party, you’ll have making it down pat. This means an appetizer, a main dish, a salad, a vegetable casserole, and a dessert. Also think about a nice punch. Fill in with what other people bring, with beer and wine, if yours is a drinking crowd, soft drinks. Use easy things like chips and dip, a main course you can make days ahead and freeze, a simple but fabulously elegant dessert.

Be sure you have enough serving dishes and utensils for everything. If possible, use paper plates, napkins and so forth for a large crowd (unless you can afford large services and people to do the clean-up). If you buy special serving dishes and other things for the holidays, be sure to have one spot where they are kept so it will be easy next year to get them out to use again.

Most important of all, when the big day comes, relax, plan  to enjoy your own party, and go with the flow. Most likely it will be fabulous. Anything that goes wrong can be something to laugh about at next year’s party. Remind yourself that you’ve done the very best you can, and let it go at that.


Writing is hard work, whether you’re writing an email, a grocery list, the Great American Novel, a non-fiction book, or anything at all. Some things we write don’t need much editing, but almost everything can use some (cross off those cookies on that grocery list—you know you’re on a diet!).

In today’s world of more and more to read, from books to periodicals and from computer screen to cell phone screen, the way we write can have a huge impact on others understanding what we’re trying to say. The better it’s written, the more people will read.

One way to make your writing better is to cut out every extraneous word and phrase.

Where do you find these words and phrases? Here’s a quick list:

  • Get rid of the word “that” if doing so won’t hurt.
  • Get rid of excess modifiers—adjectives and adverbs. You can spot them easily if you look for words ending in “ly.” There are others that don’t end in “ly,” but they’re the fastest to spot. Try to substitute the modifier with a stronger, more descriptive noun or verb. If you don’t know exactly what these parts of speech are, bush up on your grammar because this is vitally important if you want to be a published author.
  • Watch for trailing prepositional phrases. These are often three-word phrases at the end of sentences that turn out to be unnecessary.

If you do only these three things, your writing will improve dramatically. And don’t worry, if you do it enough times, you will begin to write leaving out the excess “thats,” modifiers and prepositional phrases automatically as you go. Try it and see.


Think about it—the more organized you are, the more time you have to relax and be really happy.

Routine and organization are essential. Think ahead, plan for the unexpected, and focus on exactly what you want to achieve at any given time. You can learn to do this. And you can unlearn bad habits. Believe me, you were not born this way. You have control.

Here are some hints. Pretend someone very important is going to show up tomorrow and see how you’re doing. Pretend you are being paid for getting each task done. Each task, not for a day’s work. Think about how it will make you feel next week if you’ve done everything you’ve set out to do this week. (How will your future self feel?) How will it make you feel if you don’t accomplish everything on your to-do list?

And speaking of your to-do list, you have one, right? Be sure it’s not too long or too short, but just right. You know from past experience how much you are likely to accomplish in one week. Have a running list of everything you want to accomplish. But choose from those tasks wisely to make your weekly list manageable.

After your list is honed, schedule your activities. Write them down on a calendar, just as you would a doctor’s appointment. These are appointments with yourself to get stuff done. Today is Monday. I do these time management/organization posts on Monday for a reason. Most of us start off the week with high expectations. We hope to be able to look back at the week when it’s over and pat ourselves on the back for getting things done. The new year is coming up. Also a great time of feeling as if you can, this year, get your life the way you want it to be. Start now by planning ahead. Your future self will thank you.




Many readers (most?) will tell you that your characters are the most important part of your story. Sure, the plot needs a lot of attention and has to be believable and make sense. Yes, setting can be evocative and sometimes almost a character in its own right. Good dialogue is vital. Narration has to be punchy, necessary, and is often used for a change of pace.

But your characters—they drive the whole story. Few stories are told without them. They need to be unusual, compelling, some need to be quirky and difficult. Some writers do whole biographies of their characters, writing down hair and eye color and their favorite food. They list every single thing they can think of about each character.

Isn’t that interesting? When I first saw the clip art above, I thought she was holding a long knife. Must be writing too many mysteries. If you can’t tell, it’s an umbrella. I think . . . She’d make a great character, wouldn’t she?

Since I don’t outline, I also don’t do character bios in advance. When I need a character, I introduce him and sketch in a description. In my notes file, I put down full name, hair and eye color because these are the things I’m most likely to forget later. I am learning to immediately also give the character something to distinguish him from the rest. An unusual name, a different physical characteristic (really tall, or in one case, two different colored eyes, a facial scar—you get the idea), a tic or habit (winks a lot, chews gum, etc.), a certain way of speaking (drawl, in clichés, uses unusual words, and so on), or anything else I can come up with that will work for the character.

After the more superficial things are covered, each major character and some minor ones will need specific motivation(s) to drive them. It’s recommended writers use two motivations that are counter to each other, such as love and jealousy. Another one could be the character is motivated to cover up an affair and run for public office. How about greed and the care of a disabled relative? Just by what you’ve written before the character arrives on-scene, you can usually pick out the major motivation. Next try to pick out another, conflicting one. You do not tell the reader about these motivations, you show her by the character’s action and reactions what the main ambitions are. The character arrives pushing his sister’s wheelchair and by his actions, we can tell he’s devoted to her. Later we see him find a wallet, surreptitiously remove the cash and put the wallet back where he found it and pocket the money. Right away you’ve made the character more than one dimensional, and the reader senses that greed is going to cause him trouble, but the reader is sympathetic to the character because of the sister.

I hope you can see that both tiny details and large motivations are important for your characters to “come alive on the page.” No need to agonize over all of this. I do it all on the fly and somehow it all comes together in the end. The small details are there to help your reader keep track of who’s who. The larger motivations are there to keep your reader interested in the character and anxious to find out what happens next.


No, not just cleaning it up. Living with it. It seems to nag you. It’s always taking up space in your head as well as in your workplace or home. It can slow down your work pace as you search for one piece of paper or a single object in all the mess.

If it seems overwhelming, pick a certain time every day (after breakfast, after lunch, after dinner, before bed are all good times because they are easy to remember). For fifteen minutes, work on the clutter. Then you can stop. Because the next day you’re going to work for fifteen more minutes, and so on until done.

First handle the latest papers or objects that have shown up in the space you want to clear. Always have a trash basket nearby. Maybe you want to tackle a craft room. You’ve recently been shopping and piled a bunch of objects on a table, plus you haven’t put away stuff when finished with it. Start when the latest purchases. Remove packaging and throw them away. Put the objects in a designated places. The next time you go shopping, do not consider the trip over until every item you bought is put away. And the next time you stop on a project for the day, do not leave a mess. Put away tools and materials you’re finished with. Lay out the project nicely for the next time you want to work on it.

If it’s your office, start with the day’s mail. Throw away junk without opening. Open every other piece, throw away inside junk and the outside envelope unless it contains a return address or other information you might need—if so, staple the envelope behind the paper. Glance at the piece of paper and put it in your inbox to handle later (bill or to reply, for example), or in a pile to file away (or if your files are handy, simply file it), and throw out anything you can after reading it, or put it in a spot you’ve designated for reading later. Once you’ve done the daily mail, start with any other paper and do the same with it. If you don’t file as you go, save a few minutes at the end of your fifteen minutes to file.

For the kitchen, begin by figuring out where you want everything to be for ease of use. Then empty out one area, go through the rest of the room and gather everything that should go in that area, putting things away in cupboards or drawers as necessary. Of course, throw out things you never use, or donate them.

You may stop after fifteen minutes, but sometimes you may want to go a bit longer. But don’t wear yourself out, because the next day you won’t want to do anything. The trick is to make this a habit, and skipping a day is not good for habit-making. So, go easy on yourself. Be sure that you remember to always put away purchases you bring home right away and that you clean up and put away everything you used after doing a project, making a meal, or doing office work, or anything else. Habits are easier to break than to make, but if you try this system, you might be amazed at what a clutter-free environment you end up with.