Monday, January 31, 2011

Peg's Blog Crawl

Today (Jan.31) starts my Blog Crawl (a pub crawl mixed with a blog tour). There are prizes to be had by commenting on the posts as I travel from blog to blog during the month of February. You can find the details at

As you follow the crawl, you'll be entertained with uses and abuses of the English language. Each week some lucky reader will win a copy of my February release, THE DEAD DETECTIVE AGENCY
(either print or e-book format, your choice).

So get over there and get started!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Review: Critical Condition

Critical Condition

By C.J.Lyons

ISBN: 9780515148688

Mass Market, 300 page

2010 release from Jove

Fourth and last in the Angels of Mercy series. A hospital in Pittsburgh is under siege, both from within and without as a huge blizzard brings the city to a standstill. In the hospital, Dr. Gina Freeman is trying to cope with the problematical recovery of her fiancé, detective Jerry Boyle, suffering from bullet wounds. Elsewhere in the hospital, other capable if flawed women, Charge Nurse Nora Halloran, and student Amanda Mason, prepare to wait out the storm.

A vicious band of armed killers suddenly appears, looking for a doctor who happens to be out of the hospital. She, apparently, holds the key to the continued well-being of a powerful and wealthy political figure from the West Coast. The thugs demonstrate a frightening propensity for killing anyone who gets in the way and the bodies pile up.

Written in an almost breathless, pell-mell style, the novel never sags for more than a page or two. Crisis lands on crisis almost as fast as the bodies pile up. Tension grows to almost unbearable levels and relationships become more entangled, setting up conflicts among the protagonists. In the end, the resolution results in a few more bodies. An excellent novel of type. The characters are well-drawn and have sufficient differences to make them easy to keep track of, the ploys used to confound the gangsters are interesting and varied and appropriate to the venues. The dialogue is logical and understandable and it fits the scenery.

Carl Brookins,

Case of the Greedy Lawyer, Devils Island,

Bloody Halls, more at Kindle & Smashwords!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Local Town Hall Meeting With Law and Fire Officials

We attended a town hall meeting with representatives from all the law enforcement branches that serve our foothill and mountain area: resident deputy, other deputies, CHP, Fish and Game, law enforcement from the Forestry Service, local fire chief, County Fire, Cal-Fire. Everyone said that because they are all understaffed, they help one another.

Recently, all sorts of law enforcement drove by with lights and sirens going. They blocked off one of the roads into a popular mountain ares--which prevented the locals from leaving or retuning to their homes. When question time came, it was asked what happened because nothing was ever in the paper or on the news. Up that particular road and in the mountains is a minimum security prison where being there is a privilege. The men incarcerated there fight fires and do other jobs as needed. What happened is the inmates rioted. Law enforcement took care of it, and now there are no prisoners there--all were transported to regular prisons. In the past, individuals have "walked" from there, but it's a long, long walk to anywhere. When it did happen, helicopters flying overhead usually signaled that law enforcement was looking for someone.

Before fire season, I'm sure some model prisoners will be chosen to come to the mountain facility.

The biggest problem mentioned for our area is the marijuana farms on federal land way up in the mountains. At the moment there is only one Forest Service Officer and she has a huge territory to watch over.

Our local deputy has asked people like the FedEx drivers, the UPS drivers and others who come into the area to keep their eyes open and report anything suspicious. He asked those of us in the audience to do the same, stating that community involvement would help keep us all safe.

During fire season all of the agencies watch of fires because they are usually caused by humans.

The Game Wardens gave tips to prevent visits by mountain lions and bears. (Yes, we do have those where I live.)

Other problems brought up were people drinking at the river, broken glass even though glass bottles are prohibited but that's difficult to enforce. By the time a law enforcement person gets to the area where it's going because they have to come on foot, the bottles are hidden.

Someone asked if there were pedophiles in the ares. The answer was yes and the deputy said he checks on all four of them on a daily basis.

What I thought was great was how all these agencies work together and help each other out.


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Credible Crime Characters

A story about every-day people doing ordinary things in usual ways in regular places does not make good fiction. In order to captivate my readers, I generally make at least one of the following extraordinary: my characters, plots, settings, or action.

My upcoming novella, SCHRÖDINGER’S CAT,* pits a very ordinary housewife against a bizarre and challenging situation. However, because I am a people-watcher and have psychiatric training, it’s usually my characters that get endowed with ‘extraordinariness’. As wonderful as I feel my characters are, I must employ special writing techniques to ensure my readers fall for these bizarre characters, bond with them, sympathize and empathize with them, and ultimately care about what happens to them.

Making that job easier is the fact that in real life, human behavior is notoriously unpredictable, inexplicable, and at times, unbelievable. Even to the professionals who study the human psyche, the connection between mind, emotion, behavior, and circumstance is tenuous at best. Human motives are often hidden, generally ill-understood, and seemingly irrational.

Despite that reality, readers need to understand characters and find them believable in order to enjoy their stories. Credible characters are more important to certain genres, such as Crime Fiction. Many read crime novels to challenge their intellect, to match wits with the authors, and to solve the crime or guess the ending before they reach the last page—enjoyable goals that can be unattainable if the story is not written with an air of realism.

Following are a few techniques I’ve found useful to create credible crime characters.

Manipulate the character’s age. For example, the ultra-intelligent, very short, extremely rich, and extraordinarily beautiful heroine of my soon-to-be released e-novel THE TRAZ is only 13 years old. Because of Katrina’s tender age, her life remains exceptionally challenging despite her superior talents —this vulnerability improves her likeability and believability. Additionally, because she is a child, readers feel disinclined to judge her harshly or to question her extraordinary talents.

To further ‘humanize’ her, I surround Katrina with ordinary people—forcing her to interact with characters whose attitudes, abilities, and actions are familiar to my readers.

Although I used youth to increase Katrina’s believability, an equally effective way to create a bond between extraordinary characters and readers is to endow a character (either the main character or a secondary character) with old age and wisdom. Katrina’s grandparents serve this role in THE TRAZ. Because readers find it difficult to argue with the wisdom of elders, they will generally accept as credible the edicts or pronunciations that come from the crone, the ancient wizard, or the tribal elder.

Wise secondary characters often disappear as the story winds up, thus preventing main characters (and readers) from questioning their edicts. As a reader, I’m prone to believe that magic exists (at least for the duration of the novel) if the wise wizard says it does. Ancient texts, dream demons, and traditional or religious lore are some other powerful and respected things that writers often call on to enforce believability. Assigning characters esteemed professions sometimes works well, too.

And finally, writers often encourage readers to bond with their strange characters by having those characters question their unnatural and/or extraordinary abilities. We are all familiar with the heroine who doubts she really can read minds, the man who trembles on the cliff edge, afraid he can’t really fly, or the hero who thinks he’s gone insane when he finds himself living in medieval times.

For a further discussion on research and credibility, I invite you to visit

*SCHRÖDINGER’S CAT will be released by traditional publisher, WolfSinger Publications, in both ebook and print formats in August 2011.

THE TRAZ will be released as a self-published ebook in Spring 2011.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Cape Fear Crime Festival

Hello fellow crimewriters! Just thought I'd drop you a line concerning the Cape Fear Crime Festival! Sounds interesting, and best of all, Hope Clark will be presenting a session! Come one come all... you won't regret it.
Cape Fear Crime Festival
Wilmington, North Carolina
February 5, 2011
Hope will be presenting a session. Come visit!

Real vs Believable

There aren't many rules that writers know instinctively not to break but NO COINCIDENCES is one of them. Coincidences are cheating and not allowed as a method of moving the plot forward. Too bad, because life if full of them.

For instance, police officer Andy Flitton, has the unlikely distinction of giving a speeding ticket to the same man, in two different countries (Britain and New Zealand), two years apart. Officer Flitton had this to say: "We must have some sort of connection. He only ever broke the law twice and both times I was the one to give him a ticket."

The bottom line is that plot and characters and settings have to be believable, not realistic. A fine distinction that opens up a world of possibilities. Consistency in the characters' qualities and what building the sun rises over achieves believability. Coincidence does not.

Monday, January 17, 2011

My Police Department

When I first started writing about the Rocky Bluff P.D., I had no idea it would turn into a series. My intention was to show how what is happening on the job affects the police officer's family and what's happening with his family affects the job.

Years ago, we lived in a neighborhood filled with police officers and their families. I coffeed with the wives, our daughter babysat the kids, and on weekend, we all partied together, giving me quite an insight into what went on.

Years later, one of my daughter's married a police officer. After his night shift he loved to come over and tell me what he'd done the night before. He even took me on a department sanctioned ride-along--though I had to promise not to tell anyone I was his mother-in-law. His stories about what went on behind the scenes with his fellow officers and his criticisms of what TV shows get wrong gave me lots of ideas for more stories about the Rocky Bluff P.D.

I chose to make the RBPD a small department in a beach community with scant funds to upgrade the department with either men or modern equipment. This means that the major part of the investigative work the characters in my books do is the old-fashioned kind. Anything else has to be sent out to larger departments.

Though the investigation of crimes is always important in every story, even more important is what is going on in the officers' private lives.

In the next RBPD crime novel, Angel Lost, Stacey Wilbur is busily preparing for her wedding to Detective Doug Milligan. In fact that's all she can think about when she ought to be paying attention to what is going on around her.

I had a great time writing this story, besides Stacey's plight and the danger she finds herself in, there's a man who is exposing himself to women jogging on the beach, Sergeant Navarro's mother shows signs of Alzheimer's, an officer who transferred from LAPD is battling demons, and a mysterious angel appears on the front window of a furniture store every night.

Angel Lost is scheduled to make it's appearance in March. I'm anxious to see how it will be received. So far I've received nothing but glowing reviews.

One thing I always like to say about anyone who might criticize how RBPD operates is that it's my police department and it can do whatever I want it to do.

You can read the first chapters of the other Rocky Bluff P.D. series on my webpage at

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Credible Crime Fiction

Last year on Criminal Minds at Work, I blogged about using news headlines for research and inspiration. However, there are many other fun ways to dig out the facts that lend credence to fiction.

I’ve participated in some hot debates on writers’ forums about whether or not fiction needs to be credible. Some readers are quite willing to suspend disbelief for the sake of a good story. Others are turned off by the slightest anachronism. I imagine editors are likewise split on the issue. Some genres, such as fantasy (and often romance) commonly break the boundary of commonsense, while others such as historical and crime fiction seem to appeal to a more critical and rational readership. So, while a superhero in a fantasy novel might leap tall buildings in a single bound, readers don’t want a forest ranger hauling a body out of the water into his canoe. (Oh, oh….tipsy! Rescuer better know how to swim.)

Of everything I’ve learned about researching for fiction, the best advice I received was to write the story so skillfully that, factual or not, it's believable. I obviously need to work on that skill as I’ve had editors question the believability of my stories, even though they have been thoroughly researched. *sigh* Sometimes truth is just stranger than fiction.

One of the best sources of information for my novels is simply life, itself. I’ve bought life insurance so I know the payout can bypass the estate and be paid directly to the beneficiary (or the minor beneficiary’s appointed trustee) within days of death. So, when my young heroine needs a quick cash injection to buy her way into the drug world, I kill off her parents.

A while back, I looked into opening a savings account for my new grandson. I discovered it is very easy to open juvenile bank accounts—accounts without limits and to which adults in the kid’s life have no access.  That little fact added depth and conflict to my story. (THE TRAZ)

The course on firearms arms safety that enabled me to get my Possession and Acquisition Licence was a rich source of information on guns. (Did you know the word “bullet” is often misused? Depending on the circumstance, “cartridge” or “shell” might be the correct word.)

My varied education, careers, and travels have given me a wealth of knowledge and experiences. As has motherhood, business ownership, and grocery shopping. I know that snow crunches beneath my boots, that two-wheeled vehicles are not allowed outside urban centres in South Korea, and that peonies usually bloom in June.

Paying attention to the details of your life, engaging people in conversation, and asking lots and lots of questions of everybody you meet will pay off big time when you finally settle in to write.

Happy New Year to all my fans, friends, and family. 2011 is definitely going to be a great year for me—I’ll see the release of my first published novel!

Schrödinger’s Cat, a traditionally published psychological crime thriller spanning two universes, will be out in both print and ebook formats in August. As well, I’m planning to release a self-published ebook, The Traz, the prequel to my Back Tracker crime series.

Until next time, keep writing the wrongs.

Coming Soon….

So much for making the plot believable, how can one ensure the characters are?

For further discussion on the role of facts in fiction, check out Magic of the Muses

Eileen Schuh, Author
"Schrödinger’s Cat"

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Writing the Devil into Your Bad Guy

Every novel needs to have at least one major bad guy (or gal), an antagonist with flaws and desires that lead to chaos, crime and even murder. This bad guy must provide a certain amount of tension, even when he isn't in a scene. Readers must feel him (or her) lurking, plotting and planning, creeping closer to his goal. To do this, writers must often "write the devil into a bad guy".

By this I mean that writers must delve into the psyche and personality of their antagonist to find out what makes them tick and what they want. And they'd better want something they shouldn't have. Money, power, control, sex or someone. What makes this character bad? Or evil? Whatever it is, amp it to a high level of devil-may-care, devil-made-me-do-it attitude.

In Lancelot's Lady, I started with a private investigator. Winston Chambers seemed nice enough at first. He did a good deed; he helped a character locate someone. But then we learn a bit more about Winston. We learn he has a fondness for gambling, and he's not very good. This presents a great time to add a bit of the Devil to his personality.

Desperate people do desperate things, but desperation isn't the only reason Winston does what he does. He's a survivalist who lusts after power, money and one particular woman―Rhianna McLeod. Lust is the Devil's playmate.

We later learn something else about Winston, and here's where the Devil really comes out. He routinely enjoys the pleasures of prostitutes. Now if that doesn't make you wrinkle your nose in displeasure, this next part will. He doesn't treat his women very well. In fact, he's sadistically evil.

We learn all of this as the romance between Rhianna and Jonathan progresses. Winston lurks in the background, appearing now and then to add tension to Lancelot's Lady. You just know something is going to happen. And it does. In the end, Winston makes a bold move that jeopardizes everything for Rhianna, including her own life.

Writing the Devil into a character is a great way to show conflict, terror and suspense. It keeps readers on the edge of their seats, waiting, wondering, chewing their nails. Even a character's physical description can add to his or her evil persona. Winston is obese, balding, wheezing, huffing and sweaty. Slimy...

Don't you want to meet him now? Well, you can. Just pick up an ebook copy of Lancelot's Lady.

Lancelot's Lady ~ A Bahamas holiday from dying billionaire JT Lance, a man with a dark secret, leads palliative nurse Rhianna McLeod to Jonathan, a man with his own troubled past, and Rhianna finds herself drawn to the handsome recluse, while unbeknownst to her, someone with a horrific plan is hunting her down.

Lancelot's Lady is available in ebook edition at KoboBooks, Amazon's Kindle Store, Smashwords and other ebook retailers. 

You can learn more about Lancelot's Lady and author Cherish D'Angelo (aka Cheryl Kaye Tardif) at and

Who is your favourite "bad guy" in film or a novel, and why?

Cheryl Kaye Tardif

Sunday, January 02, 2011

What's death look like in the New Year?

Hello fellow murderers (I know, I know... I'm not a murderer, I just play one in the books I write...), it's a brand new year just chock-a-block full of potential for all sorts of new murder, mayhem, death, and destruction. I know there are a lot of you out there that go for the more genteel side of killing, but ask any cop and he or she will tell you there's no such thing. Crime is nasty, murder -- nastier still. Someone who's been poisoned foams at the mouth, the capillaries in their eyes burst, perhaps their extremeties even twist around into violent and ugly positions... so, what am I getting at? Hey, it's a new year... it may be time to take your writing to the next (and nasty) level. Can you do that? Can you do more research and delve into the uglier side of death by murder? Drowned bodies bloat and float, fishes eat the yummy soft parts... many bodies aren't found until some neighbor reports a stink coming from the house next door... by that time ants and other uggie-buggies have been at it... maybe even living in it! I've read a plethora of crime books lately and have found that many authors describe death, even violent death, in antiseptic tones. You know what a battlefield smells like? Blood, feces, urine, the brine of tears... yet many of us prefer to shy away from the reality of violent death... which is always nasty, always stinky, always ugly. C'mon folks, it's a new year... dip those clean hands into a warm (or cold!) corpse and see what you come up with... just don't wipe your hands on your clothes though... save that for your pages.