Thursday, December 18, 2014

Searching for Facebook Diamonds?

Are you on Facebook? Would you like to join my page? Or are you hunting for diamonds? You'll have to scroll down to find the treasure I just learned of through Facebook, but to find my page... well, you might have to choose between three, or join them all. is my author page. is my page for the Five-Minute Bible Story Series. And is the page for my mathemafiction series, starting with Divide by Zero (now with real reviews and ratings on Amazon!)

Then there are all those pages of friends of friends, and distracting games (I've not fallen for them yet), or...

diamonds perhaps.

Here's a diamond I found on Facebook today: a 99 cent sale for the charity anthology Gifts of the Magi! It's a Countdown sale, so it bumps to $1.99 Saturday afternoon, and so on, and on, so buy your copies now!

The authors don't make a dime on this, but they hope to raise a bunch for the Indy Reads Books literacy charity with this project, and it looks really cool.

What are your waiting for. Go to Amazon, buy the book, then go to Facebook and join my pages :)

Friday, December 12, 2014

Murder, Mystery, Time, Space and Antique Magic

I'm a guest on Murder by 4 today (but I didn't murder anyone; honest; it was one of my characters...) Meanwhile Eileen Harris, author of Antique Magic, is a guest on my blog, courtesy of b00k r3vi3w Tours. I suspect it was one of her characters who committed murder in Alicia Trent's home town, but we promise neither of us will hurt you. The coffee's guaranteed not to be poisoned, so please grab a cup, sit down, and join us while we chat.

Hi Eileen. So... From Arizona to Upstate New York (see, I read your author bio)?  What's the same?  What's different?  What do you like best about where you live or have lived?

That is a lot of questions in one. 

Sorry. I'll stop to drink some coffee while you reply :)

Arizona to Upstate New York is a massive change in almost everything.  I spent some time trying to think of what is the same.  In the end I couldn't come up with a thing.  Different was easy.  Everything is different.  Here in New York everyone worries about keeping warm.  In Arizona it is keeping cool.  The food, weather, seasons, people, scenery, you name it and it is different.  I have lived in the north, south, and southwest, and I like things about all of them.  The different scenery and architecture are wonderful.  None of them are perfect, but given a chance all are interesting.

How does where you live feed into your writing?

Big time!  Things and places I see spark my imagination so where I live plays a big part in what my characters see.
Your book involves an antique dealer.  Did you grow up around ancient things?

Actually just the opposite is true.  I grew up in Arizona which has much less past than some of the eastern states.  I think I have always liked the idea of treasures, and hunting through old possessions to find just the right item seems a bit like treasure hunting.

Did you grow up around big old houses?  Do they even have big old houses in Arizona?

Arizona is all about big open spaces.  Most of the original homes there are one story because that makes them easier to cool.  So no, I didn't grow up around big old houses.  When I was small I visited relatives in Pennsylvania.  They had huge three story houses and I was fascinated.  Attics and basements were a thing of wonder.  I think some of that youthful fascination remains.  Arizona does have a few big old houses, but there are a lot more big new houses.

What attracts you to reading/writing mystery?  Do you read a lot of mysteries?  If so, is there a series you particularly enjoy? (And am I asking too many questions at once again. Must drink more coffee!)

I read a lot.  Do I read a lot of mysteries?  I suppose I do, but as with most things I like variety so I read books in a wide variety of genres.  I don't know for sure why it's what I write.  When I put my butt in the chair and my hands on the keyboard it is just what appears on the page.

What attracts you to the characters you write about?

The good ones please me because they are logical and intelligent.

That kind of begs the question about the not-so-good ones :) But what's next for you?

Easy answer, more writing.  Right now I am working on two new books.  I usually write more than one book at a time, and right now I am working on a mystery that is somewhat darker than I've tried before.  I am also working on the next book in the Alicia Trent Series.    

It's oddly comforting to meet someone else who is usually working on more than one book at a time, though I find my mind slightly boggled by the idea of keeping more than one mystery in mind at once. Another Alicia Trent book sounds great fun, and I'll wish you the best of luck with all your novels. Thank you for visiting my blog.

About the Book:

Antique dealer Alicia Trent is hired to appraise a huge collection of treasures hoarded by a woman who has recently died in the town where Alicia grew up.

The huge old house poses mystery after mystery from the moment she arrives, but the stakes become deadly when murder is added to the mix. The question then becomes, can she stay alive long enough to unmask the killer?

Buy Links:

About the Author:

From living off the grid in the Arizona desert, Eileen has moved to the woods of upstate New York. She has authored a standalone adventure novel called Desert Shadow. She is also the author of Alicia Trent Series. The Black Cane : Dowager Diaries Book 1 is her latest release.

Stalk The Author
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Find out more: Follow the tour!

1st December
Sauvik Pal - Spotlight
Elizabeth McKenna - Spotlight
Cristina Georgescu - Book Review
Cindy - Spotlight
Andrea Buginsky - Spotlight
Kristy F. Gillespie  - Spotlight

2nd December
Marilou George - Spotlight
Catalina Egan - Spotlight

3rd December
Barbie Herrera - Interview
Literary Chanteuse - Spotlight

4th December
Ericka - Spotlight
Jacquel Chrissy May - Spotlight

5th December
Lori - Spotlight
Lynn Thompson - Book Review

6th December
Christa Nardi - Book Review
Cinta - Spotlight
M.J. Austin - Spotlight

8th December
Kathryn Svendsen - Book Review
Claudia Burgoa - Interview
Kym - Book Review

9th December
Lynn Worton - Spotlight
Caris McRae/Carla Hamilton - Book Review
Julie Hawkins - Spotlight
Kay - Spotlight
Gayathri Jayakumar - Book Review

10th December
Armand Rosamilia - Spotlight
Mindy Wall - Book Review
Victoria Brinius - Spotlight

11th December
Annamaria Bazzi - Spotlight
Teresa Bowen - Book Review

12th December
Elizabeth - Book Review
Sheila Deeth - Interview

13th December
Heather - Book Review
Melissa - Book Review
Beth - Book Review
Kathleen Kelly - Spotlight
Leslie Storey - Book Revie

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Where would you sell books?

Last year we wrote down goals in our writers' group and hid the bits of paper in a box. Soon we'll open the box. But will we have achieved our goals?

The trick, of course, is to recognize we've all reached some goals, even if they weren't ours. I didn't get my books onto the shelves of Powells, but I got some into Jacobsens. Did I sell any? Probably not. But then, where would you expect to sell books in these modern, hitech days?

On the internet?

Amazon has this nice "look inside" feature, so you can flip through pages, read a bit, decide what you'd like... But Amazon also has an awful lot of books. So do, and, and more. And in this haystack, stacked to the virtual sky, who will find my words?

In a bookstore?

My latest dream is to get one of my books onto the shelves of Foyles in London. But it's not a goal. Somehow goals have to be something I believe I can achieve. Foyles? Nah, that's just a dream. And even if my book were there, would you find it among those glorious well-appointed shelves?

At a craft bazaar?

Our writers' group sold quite a few books at the bazaar. But we counted our sales on one hand, some of us on one finger. Maybe one of us rode the wave from red to black in the accounting book, but people at craft bazaars aren't really looking for books.

At a Holiday Cheer book event?

I sat in the company of authors, talked with them, and was welcomed as one of them; it was a wonderful experience. But I still only needed two hands to count my sales.

So where would you sell books? And where would you read them?

With the book sales over, I'm now frantically buying books as Christmas gifts. I'm buying from the internet, from real book stores, and from Holiday Cheer. I bought scarves and birthday cards from the craft fair. And I finished reading the books I'm about to review. So, find some coffee; check the color, strength and flavor of the brew; and pick up a book.

If you pick up one of mine I'll be very happy and think it's Christmas!

My first book today is Radiomen, by Eleanor Lerman. Combining good old-fashioned crystal radios with a touch of science fiction, social commentary, and even a delicate tinge of spiritual musing, it's a cool first-person novel of ex-hippie, now-bartender existence existentially changed by a chance call to a late-night chat-show. And it's great. Humor, pathos, mystery and more, enjoy this perfect blend with an elegant, complex 4-star coffee.

Next is The Way The World Is, by Yael Politis - second in her Olivia series, and a beautiful continuation of the first story. Olivia's youthful enthusiasms slowly temper into age, while her naivete grows into sincere determination. Detroit at the end of slavery becomes a very real place, filled with genuine and fascinating characters, and all the excitement, fear and loss of runaways. It's a haunting tale and stands alone perfectly, though you should probably read Olivia, Mourning first. Enjoy with some bold dark intense 5-star coffee.

Not Forgotten, by Donna Zadunajsky, tells the story of a woman returning home and rediscovering her past, while all around are hurt, and the past is filled with pain. It's a slow, hard tale, told in a chatty, casual voice. Lots of unpredictable twists and turns, and a wealth of detail, not always convincing, build into a truly intriguing plot. Enjoy with some bold dark intense 5-star coffee.

In a wholly different style, Anita Clenney's Heart of the Highland Warrior invites readers back into the lives of highlanders displaced in time and space. Here, history meets the present day, and demons meet vampires and more. There's plenty of humor as the ancient warriors learn of modern conveniences, and try to cope with modern, unsubmissive women. And there's plenty of action. The novel starts with a list of characters, but readers should probably start at the beginning of the series, and the interlocking storylines begin to get quite complicated by now. It's fast, fun and exciting. Enjoy with some bright, lively, easy-drinking 2-star coffee.

And finally, A Trip to the Hardware Store, by Barbara Venkataraman, offers a collection of humorous essays on everyday life. The wry humor is pleasing, especially in the first and last of this collection, though occasionally grating in the middle. It's a short pleasing read, best enjoyed with a mild, light coffee.

So now I'll make a trip to another bookstore, stare at those wonderful shelves, buy books, and wish my books were there.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Hilltops, Sunsets and Mystery

Today I get to welcome a Facebook friend, Joyce Strand, to my blog. Joyce's new mystery, ... has just come out, and she's touring the internet to celebrate. So come and join us as we sit on the sofa this morning. There's virtual coffee and tea, milk and sugar, water and juice, and even some lemon.

Hi Joyce, and welcome to my blog (and my virtual sofa). I've been wanting to ask you, how long have you been writing, and how long have you been writing mysteries?

I am one of those who in school always chose essay over multiple-choice questions or research papers over tests.  Following my years of education, I entered a 25-year career as a public relations professional where I drafted hundreds of press releases and dozens of by-lined (ghosted) articles, fact sheets, white papers, and all kinds of documents. Writing was my favorite task in my job.

I started writing mysteries in 2009 after being laid off in 2008 and unable to land a position for the first time in my career. My late husband recommended it since I was an avid reader of mysteries and a writer by career. I have now released four mysteries and consider myself an author by profession.

Oh wow! I can relate to so much of this. I always chose essays over strings of questions too -- I remember writing a poem for Latin instead of doing the third declension, and writing an essay about the seashore (waves) for mathematics. I starting taking my writing seriously when I got laid off too, but not many mysteries. I love to read them, but creating my own seems so hard. For example, your mysteries blend the traditional red herrings with suspense and romance. How difficult is it to get the balance right, and what helps you determine that balance?

Bottom line: the characters determine the balance between suspense and romance and allow me to inject red herrings.

When I write a mystery, I start with bios of the key characters—both antagonist and protagonist—, knowledge of the crime, which I pull from real California cases, a clear idea of my opening scene (and sometimes other scenes), and how it will end. Depending on how much I’ve fleshed out my fictional story line, I might do a brief outline. As I introduce the crime with its own revolving circle of involved people, the characters’ backgrounds suggest their boldness to become involved, their romantic entanglements, and the degree of suspense. If my antagonist is a “white collar” criminal, the suspense factor will be different than if he’s a serial killer.

The gullibility of the characters determines the complexity of the red herrings. A wise and seasoned law enforcement detective might not be as misled as a public relations professional. In addition, I typically run parallel storylines and intertwine one with the other, which enables me to bring in various “red herrings” for one plot that might be more relevant to the other.

However, if the combination is out of balance, I trust my alpha and beta readers—and especially my editors—to point that out before I go to press. If I can’t rationalize an issue based on characters’ backgrounds, well, I rewrite!

Good beta readers are almost as essential as good characters aren't they? I'm assuming you find readers among your friends in the real world. But where do your characters come from, and how did you come up with the characters of Jillian Hillcrest and Brynn Bancroft?

I created the characters of Jillian and Brynn out of my 25-year career as a public relations professional. They are both caricatures of many of us who made publicizing and marketing our careers. Of interest, executives at high-tech and biotech companies exhibit similar traits – be they male or female. They take risks, make decisions, and revel in creating new products and making the stock go up. The persona of executives is defined by the degree of their commitment to their employees, the product, and investors – over their desire to focus on making a name or money just for themselves.

Much food for thought there. Where do your mysteries come from? Do you know the end when you write the beginning, or do you follow the clues along with your characters?

I drew the plots for all of my mysteries from real California cases although I highly fictionalized them. A retired FBI agent suggested the case for Hilltop Sunset, for example. He was one of the agents who helped solve it. And, yes, I do know the end of my mysteries. I create and distribute the clues, red herrings, and character development along the way. It helps to know the backgrounds of my characters, which guide the story.

That's seriously cool! But it leaves you lots of scope for imagination and fun in the writing. I've always imagined mysteries must involve much more rewriting than other genres, to get all the clues set in place. Do you find that to be true?

I don’t know if mysteries require more rewriting than other genres, but I certainly need to assure the clues occur with clarity, are not overstated, and in the correct sequence. To prevent errors, I typically create a timeline for every day of the period covered in the book to assure that I do not make a mistake in the chronology. I do not skip any days, even if I’ve written nothing to occur on that day. For Hilltop Sunset, for example, a very important clue relies on the timing of a specific meeting. Every time I’d introduce a character or dialogue relevant to that meeting, I’d go to my timeline and fill it in. I was surprised when my editor actually caught the clue, not knowing when she read it that it was a clue. She just thought one of my characters made a mistake. 

Wow! That's neat. The editor of my first novel found an error in my timelines, so I'm trying to teach myself to use them more. Which I guess begs another question; do you write in other genres (with or without complex timelines)? Do you plan to write in other genres?

To date, for fictional writing, I have only written and published in the mystery genre in the present-day San Francisco area. My next book, however, departs from this genre and tells the story of a judge in 1939 Ventura County who joins with a witness to help a juvenile criminal. I spent a year researching the time period, and read the entire year of a local 1939 daily newspaper. I found it fun to research and I delighted writing the book. It’s going through the editing process now, and I plan to publish it in mid-2015. Following that, I plan to release the second Brynn Bancroft mystery in November 2015.

You make the research sound fun, and what an interesting subject. But time's running out, so one final question before I let you go. Since I love your title, which comes first, the story or the title to the story?

Smile. Boy, does that depend!!! For the Jillian Hillcrest mysteries, the title ON MESSAGE came first. As a public relations professional, I was familiar with the term and wanted to introduce my sleuth in her element. I selected the title for OPEN MEETINGS based on dialogue with two of the characters who discussed the Brown Act, a California law that claims the rights of citizens to attend open meetings of local legislative bodies. The book deals with the suspicious actions of the law-enforcement arm in a small town in California –definitely not including the population in “open meetings.” FAIR DISCLOSURE was another title that followed the topic of the book dealing with illegal disclosure of inside information—oh, and a few murders along the way.

When we come to HILLTOP SUNSET, however, I agonized over the title. The working title was “Short Timer” reflecting Brynn’s remaining short tenure at her company and her behavioral transition to a more decent human being. However, alpha and beta readers figuratively “spit” on that title. In the end, I turned to the name of the winery that Brynn embraced, hoping it didn’t sound more like a romance than a mystery. Given that I was initiating a new series, it was probably wise to shift the type of title to cue a new protagonist. 

Thank you so much for visiting my blog Joyce, and I hope both book and blog tour do well. Hilltop Sunset sounds a really good read - as do the other mysteries.

Joyce T. Strand, Biography

Joyce T. Strand is the author of who-done-it mysteries set in the San Francisco Silicon Valley and Napa-Sonoma wine regions of California.

Her most recent novel, HILLTOP SUNSET, is the first of a new series featuring protagonist Brynn Bancroft, a financial guru in transition to winemaker from corporate executive. Brynn Bancroft plays a minor role in Strand’s novels ON MESSAGE, OPEN MEETINGS, and FAIR DISCLOSURE—three mysteries solved by Jillian Hillcrest, a publicist whose boss was Chief Financial Officer Brynn Bancroft.

Much like her protagonist Jillian Hillcrest, Strand headed corporate communications at several biotech and high-tech companies in California’s Silicon Valley for more than 25 years. Unlike Jillian, however, she did not encounter murder in her career. She focused on writing by-lined articles, press releases, white papers, and brochures to publicize her companies and their products.

Strand lives with her two cats and collection of cow statuary in Southern California, and seeks out and attends as many Broadway musicals and other stage plays as possible.

She received her Ph.D. from the George Washington University, Washington, D.C. and her B.A. from Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA

Hilltop Sunset: A Brynn Bancroft Mystery

A mystery set in wine country pitting financial exec Brynn Bancroft against a determined stalker, murder, a troubled love interest, and career clashes.

Brynn Bancroft learns that a former employee who beat her nearly to death has returned to stalk her and her friend, Jillian Hillcrest, also a former victim.  Recently divorced, Brynn turns to a new love interest only to encounter additional unwelcome entanglements. Meanwhile, short-timer Brynn, who has resigned from her Silicon Valley company, becomes bored fulfilling her remaining responsibilities there. She begins to prefer supporting the launch of her ex-husband’s new hilltop winery while waiting to move to her next position. Between her stalker and her new love interest, Brynn faces a series of life-threatening events.

Purchase Links

Amazon Paperback and Kindle 

Barnes and Noble Nook

Signed Paperback: Unicorn Book Store

Author Links

Twitter: @joycetstrand