Friday, July 3, 2015

Read An Excerpt

My latest novel, The Tithing Herd, is a Western set in Mormon country in New Mexico in the 1890s. Luther Donnelly, a guilt-ridden former lawman is on a quest for revenge when love gives his path another motivation.

Here's a short excerpt I hope will entice potential readers to want more:

Donnelly was saddling a big buckskin when Tom awoke. His other horse was the prettiest the boy had ever seen, a trim mare with a glossy black coat and a white blaze on her muzzle.
“Will you take me to Foulds?” he asked.
Donnelly glanced at him, shook his head. “Not going in that direction.”
“Loan me a horse then and point me the way.”
“You go up there, Foulds is likely to hang you again.”
“Not if you give me your pistol.”
Wagging his head, Donnelly smiled broadly. “You sure do have sand, boy.”
“Then you won’t help me?”
“Got other business.”
“You’re just going to leave me here?” The boy hung his head.
“I didn’t bring you here, son. Just because I pulled you down out of that tree don’t mean I intend to be responsible for the rest of your life.” The boy’s pained expression primed that troublesome streak of compassion again. “What are you gonna do if you get up there?”
The boy looked up, beaming. “You’ll help me?”
“Didn’t say that. Answer the question.”
“Find out why they strung me up; get my outfit back.”
“You’re going to take on Clem Foulds and all his boys single-handed?”
“If I have to. Will you loan me a pistol?”
“Never carried one.”
“Your shotgun?”
Donnelly laughed, shaking his head. “Hell, but you got gumption, kid. Do you think even if I gave you my gun—which I’m not—Clem is just going to apologize and hand over your gear?”
“He owes me,” the boy said, firmly.
Donnelly shook his head. “He don’t owe you nothing, Tom.”
“How do you figure that?”
“How long were you with Hanks and Witherspoon?” He regarded the boy closely, sun glinting on the frames of his spectacles.
“Couple weeks. Why?”
“Who did the shooting?”
“They did. I done the skinning out and drying of the meat.”
Donnelly was nodding. “Sounds right. Foulds must have been keeping an eye on you fellows. The other two got off before he made his move. Probably thought they was off shooting more cows. Strung you up as a warning for when they got back.”
The boy squinted at him, curious. “I don’t understand. What business was it of his?”

“It was the company you were keeping got you in trouble, Tom. Did you notice brands on any of those cows you were skinning?”
“Some. Moon said it didn’t matter, they was all wild cattle now. He said it didn’t matter.”
Donnelly had finished saddling. He climbed up on his buckskin, the mare’s lead rein in his hand. “It mattered. Moon and Dent haint the kind to go chasin’ slow elk through the brambles when range cows are easier pickin’.”
“You do know them, then?”
There was a hard edge to Donnelly’s voice as he replied, “I know them.” He kicked the buckskin and the big horse moved. Tom rushed forward and grabbed at Donnelly’s sleeve. Donnelly pulled back on the reins, pushed up his hat and peered down at the boy. “Take me to Foulds,” Tom pleaded.
Donnelly plucked the boy’s hand from his sleeve. “Leave it, son. You gained a few inches dancin’ on that rope. Let it at that and choose your companions better in the future.”
“I won’t leave it,” he said, sternly.
Donnelly stared down at him. He’d steered clear of human connections for a long time and didn’t want any entanglements now. But he couldn’t help liking the boy. The kid had stones, there was no denying that. “What’re you going to do if you get to Foulds?”
“Explain to him I didn’t know they was shooting his cows, get my gear back and go after them.”
“You sure are something, boy,” Donnelly said, his mustache raising with a wide grin. “Look, Moon is about as mean as they come and Dent is just plain stupid. Alone or together, they’re trouble. Forget them.”
“I earned that money.”
Donnelly pulled his hat lower by the brim. “Go get your boots on,” he said.
Tom beamed. “You’ll take me to Foulds?”
“Guess you’re determined to pursue trouble whether I lend a hand or not.” He still wasn’t certain it was the right thing to do, but maybe the boy knew more that would be of value to him.

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Tithing Herd

The Western genre has a long and honorable history and may be the ultimate American contribution to the world of fiction.

Growing up in the 1940s and 1950s, the Western had a steady presence in books, magazines, comics, films and in our childhood games. In the 1960s it developed a new popularity on television.

My mother said when she was carrying me her reading consisted almost entirely of Western pulp magazines. All of this, in addition to growing up in a house legend says was built by a man who rode with Buffalo Bill, may have influenced my future opinion of the genre.

Though my reading was wide and varied in my youth, a large part of it did consist of Westerns and I continue to enjoy them.

Interest in the genre suffered a decline in the 1970s, but many believe (or hope) we may be in a period of renewed appreciation. The early Westerns were morality plays and had their share of unfortunate stereotypes. In the 1980s writers like Elmer Kelton, Cormac McCarthy, Larry McMurtry and others began giving them a more realistic spin which appeals to modern readers.

Though much of my output has been in the mystery genre, I’ve written my share of Western short stories and have long wanted to do a Western novel.

That dream is achieved today with the publication of The Tithing Herd by The Western Online Press.

My protagonist is Luther ‘Lute’ Donnelly, a guilt-ridden former lawman, who has been on a revenge-inspired search for the bandit known as Spanish who killed his brother. When Lute rescues Tom Baskin, a boy falsely accused of rustling, it brings him back to Serene McCullough, a Mormon widow he’d intended to marry before the tragedy that haunts him.

Cash-strapped Mormons have assembled a herd of cattle to pay their tithe to the church. Serene prevails upon Lute to help her son take the tithing herd to market. Reluctantly, he agrees.

When Spanish kidnaps Serene and holds her as ransom for the herd Lute’s goal changes from desire for revenge to a desperate quest to save the woman he loves.


Thursday, May 14, 2015

Not to Worry. The Bells Did Not Ring

(My guest today is James R. Callan, who has an interesting tourist tale as well as news about his latest Father Frank mystery. Take it away, Jim:)

The recent eruptions of Mount Calbuco in Chile had a greater impact on me than on many of my friends.  They were all appalled at the massive plumes of ash and smoke reaching miles up into the sky.  They had sympathy for the thousands of people who were forced to move from their homes as it became unhealthy or impossible to breathe.

But for me, it was almost personal.

 My wife and I had visited that region a few years ago.  We flew into Puerto Montt,  only 19 miles from the active volcano.  Probably planes could not land there for the weeks following the eruptions due to the amount of ash in the air.  We visited Puerto Varas, slightly closer to Calbuco, and watched a chess match where people served as the various pieces on a gigantic chess board.  Puerto Montt and Puerto Varas are the two largest towns sitting in the shadow of the 6,572 foot volcano.
What impressed us at the time was the beautiful and unspoiled landscape. And the cleanliness.  We never saw so much as a gum wrapper on the streets.  The lakes were crystal clear. It was pristine.

Now, according to the news, ash covers everything, reaching two to three feet deep some places.  This extends across parts of the previously unpolluted twenty-five mile long lake on whose shores Puerto Varas sits. It is painful for us to think of such beautiful land buried under a dull, toxic, unforgiving ash.
While we were visiting farther north in Santiago, I played tennis at the Prince of Wales Country Club.  It sports bronze plaques commemorating the visits of various members of the Royal family of Great Britain. 
During the match, we experienced a small earth quake.  The tall light stanchions began to swing back and forth and it seemed to me they were swaying so far they might break. Another of our foursome suggested we seek shelter.
“Heavens, no,” said one of the Santiago residents and his ample belly began to shake with laughter.  “It’s only a trembler.  If it doesn’t shake enough to ring the bells in the cathedral, it’s not an earthquake.  Just a trembler.” He laughed again, then asked, “Did anybody hear the church bells?” 
No one spoke up.
“See. Just a trembler.”  He turned to his partner. “You’re serving at fifteen all.”
We resumed play. Several games later, again the ground began to shake. But I wasn’t worried.  The Cathedral bells did not ring. It wasn’t an earthquake, only a trembler.”
Brief Bio of James R. Callan

After a successful career in mathematics and computer science, receiving grants from the National Science Foundation and NASA, and being listed in Who’s Who in Computer Science and Two Thousand Notable Americans, James R. Callan turned to his first love—writing.  He wrote a monthly column for a national magazine for two years. He has had four non-fiction books published.  He now concentrates on his favorite genre, mystery/suspense, with his sixth book releasing in 2014.

Author’s website:   
Amazon Author Page:

My new release, Over My Dead Body, is available at:

Sunday, April 5, 2015

What's Up Next?

Prolific mystery author F. M. Meredith (aka Marilyn Meredith) is my guest today, and she's answering the title question. The floor is yours, my friend:

There are several answers to that question.

What’s up next as far as today—it’s promoting this blog everywhere I can.

What’s up next tomorrow is promoting tomorrow’s blog and so on.

I’ve also got two in-person promotions coming up this month, and in both cases, I need to  prepare what I’m going to say. One is going to be my official book launch for Violent Departures, so a bit of extra preparation will be going into that.

While I’m promoting one series, I’m always writing one in my other series—so next is getting a chapter done each week in time to read to my critique group.

And if the question is really what’s up next for the Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery series? The answer is at this point I have no idea. I’ll probably continue with the personal life threads from Violent Departures. I’ve also been considering high-lighting the new Chief—Chandra Taylor in some way.  The time of year should be late fall, often the warmest weather on the coast.

I’ll be on the lookout for new and/or different crimes for the Rocky Bluff PD officers to contend with. And of course, there should be a murder of some sort.

Any of you out there have anything to suggest? Tell me in the comment section.
F. M. aka Marilyn Meredith

Blurb for Violent Departures:
College student, Veronica Randall, disappears from her car in her own driveway, everyone in the Rocky Bluff P.D. is looking for her. Detective Milligan and family move into a house that may be haunted. Officer Butler is assigned to train a new hire and faces several major challenges.
F.M. Meredith, also known as Marilyn Meredith, is the author of over thirty published novels. Marilyn is a member of three chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. Besides having family members in law enforcement, she lived in a town much like Rocky Bluff with many police families as neighbors.


Because it has been popular on my other blog tours, once again I’m offering the chance for the person who comments on the most blog posts during this tour to have a character named for him or her in the next Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery.

Or if that doesn’t appeal, the person may choose one of the earlier books in the series—either a print book or Kindle copy.

Tomorrow I’ll be discussing The Importance of Place with

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Women of the Revolution

We have organizations honoring ancestors who fought or otherwise assisted in making the American Revolution a success. Yet, how often do we give thought to the sacrifices of women in that same historical period?

On March 12, 1776 newspapers in the city of Baltimore urged citizens to recognize the sacrifices and contributions of women to the cause of revolution.

How much of an impact that acknowledgement had isn’t known. But history shows the role of women was critical to the success of the movement. Don’t forget, not only didn’t women have the vote at the time, they also had little say in what men determined to do.

While men were boycotting products in opposition to British taxation, we too often fail to recognize those products were usually items important to women. As an example, tea was the drink favored by women while men more often consumed alcohol. There’s a scene in my novel “The Accidental Spy” where Dan and Nell use counterfeit money to purchase imported fabrics: With the blockade, which had cut off imports to the city, many considered it patriotic to dress in homespun. Whether they were truly patriots or simply didn’t want to pay the price for what remained, I don’t know.

The mere lack of items they valued is a minor point in enumerating the sacrifices of women in behalf of the cause of liberty. Women could do little to prevent their husbands and sons from going off to war, a situation which left them responsible for the maintenance of home and/or business and could result in destitution. Records show many women followed their spouses and children to the battlefront. History often erroneously paints these “camp followers” as prostitutes when, in actuality, a majority provided moral and physical support as nurses, cooks, seamstresses and even occasionally as spies or soldiers.

A number, among them Deborah Samson and Margaret Corbin, have been identified as women who donned men’s clothing and enlisted as soldiers. Many more (on both sides) performed duty as spies. In “The Accidental Spy,” I included two Loyalists—Nell Bates (fictional) and Ann Bates (actual).

Women were even more important in raising the funds necessary to continue the fight. Esther deBerdt Reed, wife of Joseph Reed, Pennsylvania’s governor, and Sarah Franklin Bache, Benjamin Franklin’s daughter, founded the Ladies Foundation in Philadelphia, which raised money to fund the war effort.

Nor was the sacrifice limited to the patriotic side. The wives and mothers of those who remained loyal to the Crown were equally active in efforts to support their husbands and sons. After the Pennsylvania Assembly passed the Act of Attainer in March 1778, the estate of Joseph Galloway, a Philadelphian who had sought to reconcile the colonists and Britain, was seized and sold at auction along with that of other loyalists. Galloway fled to safety in New York. His wife stayed behind and the auction left her impoverished.

So it’s fitting in this National Women’s History Month we recognize these women who equally sacrificed for what they held important.

Friday, March 6, 2015

First Ladies of Crime Fiction

Quick--who was the first woman to publish a mystery novel?

Despite her many achievement, no, it wasn’t Agatha Christie. Technically, the honor goes to Seeley Regester, the pseudonym used by Metta Victoria Fuller Victor, whose novel The Dead Letter was published in 1867. But, Anna Katherine Green (photo below), whose novel The Leavenworth Case became a runaway bestseller in 1878, is generally acknowledged as “the mother of the detective novel.”

I’ve chosen to pay tribute to both for their achievements, since March is National Women’s History Month.

Metta Victoria Fuller Victor, a native of Erie, Pennsylvania, was a pioneer in the dime novel tradition, penning more than 100 titles. After the family moved to Ohio, she and her sister Frances began publishing in local newspapers. Her first novel, Last Days of Tul, A Romance of the Lost Cities of Yucatan, was published in 1847 when she was only 15 years old.

After their marriage, she and her husband, Orville Victor, a newspaper editor, moved to New York City. Despite bearing nine children and having the responsibilities of a wife and mother, she continued to work, publishing in many genres as well as poetry, non-fiction and even a few cookbooks.

Her achievement as the writer of the first detective novel is marred by the fact a main character is clairvoyant.

Green’s novel, on the other hand, set the standard for mystery novels to follow. Her detective, Ebenezer Gryce, who serves with the New York Metropolitan Police Force, would continue to fight crime in a series of novels. Gryce is often assisted by Amelia Butterworth, a nosy spinster. Green also invented a ‘girl detective,’ Violet Strange, a debutante who leads a secret life as a sleuth.

Green’s father was a prominent attorney and it is believed some of his cases provided the basis for her plots. The Leavenworth Case sold more than a million copies and was lauded by Wilkie Collins, among other luminaries. The novel also sparked a debate in the Pennsylvania Senate over whether such a book could actually have been written by a woman.

Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie were among later authors who acknowledged her influence on their work. Not a bad legacy, even if her own work is not known as well as it should be these days.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Facts Enhance Fiction

(My guest today is JL Greger, whose science background adds credence to her thrillers. Welcome, Janet. I'll let you tell our readers how it's done)

Good fiction writers carefully research facts before they begin writing. Sounds strange, but think.

The plots of modern mysteries and crime fiction hinge on laboratory results and computer analyses. Historical fiction, e.g. Downton Abbey, loses its zing if costumes and customs aren’t described correctly. Even fantasy novels are enhanced by a few facts. The evacuation of children from London during the Nazi blitzkrieg is the basis of CS Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia.

However, many authors are uncomfortable using scientific tidbits, historical facts, or accurate descriptions of locations in their writing. Maybe this advice will help.

Use facts to create realistic scenes, but not so many as to slow the plot.
Let’s start with the use of science in mysteries and thrillers. As a biologist, who regularly reads scientific journals, I’m intrigued by cancer immunotherapy. (Scientists are making vaccines that trigger the immune systems of cancer patients to more effectively fight their disease.) That’s the scientist in me talking. The novelist part of me says the plot and character development rule.

In my novel Malignancy, men disguised as police officers shoot at Sara Almquist twice in one day. Albuquerque police suspect a drug czar, who has tangled with Sara before, will order more hits on her. When colleagues in the State Department invite Sara to arrange scientific exchanges between the U.S. and Cuba, she jumps at the chance to get out of town. Soon, she realizes Cuba offers more surprises than Albuquerque.

That’s the plot. One of Sara’s surprises is Cuban researchers have patented a therapeutic vaccine for a certain type of lung cancer (actual fact). Other surprises involve her love interest and the drug czar. The scientific facts are essential for plot development, but so are other factors.

Now let’s look at historical fiction. John Lindermuth does a wonderful job of recreating 1898 with occasional references to Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders and a new motor car, without slowing the pace of Sheriff Tilghman’s investigation of a murder in Sooner than Gold. Philippa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl wouldn’t have been a best seller if the book didn’t contain a few historical facts about Tudor England.

Pick relevant and exciting topics.
A great author can make any topic interesting but most of us aren’t great writers. Readers are more apt to be interested in facts that are relevant to real issues—global warming or curing cancer than in learning details about biochemical pathways. Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park) and Robin Cook (Coma) were particularly skillful at selecting scary high-tech issues for their thrillers. I hoped readers would find the development of a new treatment for cancer thought-provoking in Malignancy.

Realistic locations improve any novel. The Sun Also Rises would be pretty boring without the hypnotic descriptions of the Festival of San Fermín in Pamplona. The decadence and beauty of Venice set the mood for Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice.

Be accurate.
A writer of thrillers told me recently that readers accept a couple inaccuracies in a novel if you have stated most of the information correctly. I don’t know if that’s true. Certainly, Dan Brown has been criticized for inaccurate historical information in his best selling novel, The DaVinci Code, but he’s included enough facts to ignite readers’ interest.

I’m a cautious type and think accuracy is important. In Malignancy, I state the truth about the cancer vaccine Racotumomab developed by the Cubans. It slows the progression of a certain type of lung cancer. Many clinical trials, which require international cooperation of scientists and physicians, are needed to test its effectiveness. Thus, it is logical in Malignancy when the U.S. State Department sends my heroine, a scientist, to Cuba to set up exchanges between Cuban and American scientists.

Why not pick up copies of Malignancy and see if you like how I incorporated facts into my thriller?
Maybe you’ll decide to include more facts in your next piece of fiction (novel, short story, or blog).

Malignancy is available at Amazon and Oak Tree Press:

Bio: JL Greger is no longer a professor in biology at the University of Wisconsin, but she likes to include tidbits of science in her medical thrillers.
In the suspense novel, Coming Flu, learn whether the Philippine flu or a drug kingpin caught in the quarantine is more deadly.
In the medical mystery, Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight, discover whether an ambitious young “diet doctor” or old-timers with buried secrets is the killer.
In the thriller, Ignore the Pain, feel the fear as an epidemiologist learns too much about the coca trade while on a public health assignment in Bolivia.
In the thriller, Malignancy, know the tension as a woman scientist tries to escape the clutches of a drug lord and accepts a risky assignment in Cuba.

You can learn more at her website: and blog (JL Greger’s Bugs):

Keywords: JL Greger, Malignancy, Cuba, cancer immunotherapy, science in fiction, facts enhance fiction