Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Holidays

Well, for many of us the hoildays have come 'round again. Time for presents, decorations, food, drink, and being merry... but c'mon, as crime writers we know of the dark moods, impulses, and even deeds that come along with the fruitcake and mistletoe. Personally, I love the holidays. It's a great time to get reacquainted with family, friends, and if you're lucky that magical, childhood feeling of hope, awe, and even peace. Traditions play a big part in that, and many of us that may have become homogenized over the decades, find ourselves turning to or pining for holiday traditions of times past... remembering our parents and grandparents as they kissed our apple cheeks, filled our little grasping hands with gifts and food, and regaled us with stories of the holidays "back in the old country" or wherever... or whenever. But let us remember that there are those out there that serve a darker purpose, and they look forward to the holidays too. There are those that envy our peace during the holidays... those that would steal our joy, along with the noodle pudding, the mince pie, the turkey, the new IPods... lethal grinches lying in wait to make our holidays times of mourning and fear, as well as times of fun and joy. How many times haven't we heard about some poor soul found lying in a reddening snowbank surrounded by his or her pitiful array of gaily wrapped gifts? There have been some mystery novels written about the holidays, but c'mon, shouldn't YOU be writing one? The holidays are grist for the crime writer, a chance to foray into the safe lives of innocents and introduce murder, mayhem, righteous indignation and crime-solving... just in time for Christmas!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Canadian crime writer Cheryl Kaye Tardif invites horror author legend Stephen King for dinner

A Canadian crime writer friend, Anthony Bidulka, has suggested a silly blog interview to Crime Writers of Canada members, which he'll be posting on his blog at a later date. In '10 Silly Things You Didn’t Know About Canadian Crime Writer Cheryl Kaye Tardif', I got a bit carried away with my answer for question #1, and I decided to share it with you...

1. If you could invite any famous person, dead or alive, for dinner, what would you serve?

I'd invite Stephen King for dinner. And of course he'll say yes!

He'll arrive at my Black House, two blocks east of The Bone Church and not too far from 'Salem's Lot and the Pet Sematary. In Desperation, I'll serve him The Devil's Wine and get out the Firestarter. Then we'll sit by the Blaze of the fireplace eating assorted appetizers and other Needful Things. Next, we'll move onto some Children of the Corn on the cob and a salad The Color of Evil; got the recipe from Kathy Bates (I'll put away my hobbler bat). Then we'll bite into Cujo steaks until all that's left of It is a Bag of Bones.

Just After Sunset we'll leave The Dark Tower, take a long walk in The Mist and talk about writing until the Cycle of the Werewolf passes. When the Night Shift is over, Stephen King--The Man in the Black Suit--will use the Rest Stop before Riding the Bullet home. In Misery, I'll watch him leave out my Secret Window, then After Four Past Midnight, I'll slip into Nightmares & Dreamscapes and wait for my Dreamcatcher to gobble up Fear Itself, though I do suffer from Insomnia.

I'm the Survivor Type, so when he's gone, I'll just go back to writing Under the Dome of Silence. The Shining of the sun will greet me and I'll call my friends on my Cell and say, "I just had Stephen King for dinner." To which they'll reply with Chattery Teeth, "Carrie (not sure why they call me that), you must be doing the Danse Macabre." And I smile in response.

I'll let you know when Anthony posts my other answers. Cheryl, aka "Carrie", aka "Cherish", aka "Stephen King's #1 Fan".
~Cheryl Kaye Tardif,

Friday, December 04, 2009

Canadian Police Chase

This is pretty funny. Cleverness in advertising. At least if people are trying to sell you something it's nice to get a smile out of it. Enjoy a few seconds of this high speed chase.

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Gift of Chocolate, Coffee & Crime

For anyone living in Canada, you can now order a special gift at that contains your choice of my bestselling techno-thriller THE RIVER or my bestselling paranormal suspense thriller DIVINE INTERVENTION.

Also included is a mug and your choice of hot chocolate or coffee and your choice of biscotti or a chocolate spoon.

Chocolate, Coffee & Crime. What goes better together than these?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Lethbridge Visit

Here I am being interviewed by Mark Campbell for the 'Scene and Heard' segment on Global TV Lethbridge. So exciting. Got a great article in the paper and an outstanding book signing at Chapters. What fun! It was worth the blizzard we had to drive through on the Crowsnest Pass to get there. After stopping in Coleman, unable to see the road, my wonderful husband trooped to the corner 7 Eleven to get hot chocolate for the three of us hardy travellors and came back looking like the abominable snowman - actually iceman would be more accurate.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Finish author Kelly Moran's sentence for a chance to win a signed copy of Divine Intervention

There's an exciting new contest over at author Kelly Moran's site. And it's very easy to enter. Simply finish the sentence she started there.

One winner will be selected and will win a signed copy of my paranormal thriller, Divine Intervention.

Prize: a signed copy of Divine Intervention by finishing her sentence.

Enter now at:

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Unabashed begging

Hello, friends and family! Please, please, please, please, (this is the begging part) please, please ...

We need your help with book promotions today. Juanita's new book, Almanac of The Infamous, The Incredible, and The Ignored, will get a BIG boost on if you go there TODAY and look at it. That's all, just look at the sales page, though you're welcome and encouraged to buy one if you like (great Christmas gift!)

So follow the link, please - and get all your friends and contacts to do it, too. Today. Now! Thank you from us both.

Tony and Juanita

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

An interview with Death - aka the Grim Reaper

Today I have the honor of interviewing Death's right hand--the Grim Reaper*. I first discovered the Grim Reaper on Twitter, and after checking him out there I ventured over to his blog. Please be forewarned that no mints will be served today on CMAW. If you enjoy "black humor" or "morgue humor", or if you're a fan of the hit TV show Reaper on CW, you'll enjoy this killer interview. ~ Cheryl Kaye Tardif

Cheryl Kaye Tardif: Welcome, Grim, to Criminal Minds at Work. Can you tell us how you got the job as the Grim Reaper? What inspired you?

Grim Reaper: When I was a boy, I took one of those "career aptitude" tests in school. The results said that I was well suited for a career as "Death.” Both my mother and school guidance counselor were shocked. In fact, I vividly recall the counselor telling mother that prior to the result, she wasn't aware that "Death had even been an option.”

It all made sense though. I was different from the other kids, and everyone knew it. For example, while all of my childhood friends loved the children's book "Goodnight Moon," my favorite at bedtime was an obscure little book entitled "Goodnight Forever.”

Also, when I used to play with other children, and they wanted to play "doctor," I always asked if I could be "Death.” It was a constant uphill fight to convince them that "Death" was very much an implicit part of every game of "doctor," whether we wanted to admit it or not.

When I got older, someone gave me a copy of Sven Norvak's "As A Reaper Reapeth" and it brought me to tears. I became very idealistic. I told myself that if I could "kill just one person" then it would all be worthwhile.

CKT: Was there any special training you had to take? Can just anyone become a reaper?

GR: Scythemore University and Reaper State, both accredited Afterlife universities, offer wonderful programs and apprenticeships. If you're not sure if you're ready to take such drastic steps, I recommend both Reaper Cy Longhorn's "100 Essential and Existential Careers in Killing" and Myron Glick's "Death for Dummies" as excellent introductory reading.

If you decide that you are indeed interested in becoming a Reaper, we definitely need fresh minds as well as enthusiastic, competent, and hard working people. A recent editorial in the "Afterlife Gazette" highlighted the growing problem of "killliteracy" among our young Reapers. You'd be shocked to learn that one out of seven Reapers who graduated Scythmore last year, could not even kill the person who handed them their diploma. That's a shocking statistic, and perhaps it partially reflects the fact that the system may not be fully working.

CKT: What exactly does your job entail?

GR: There are different aspects of my job, and I would divide them up into two basic categories:

The first category is what fits into my official job description. Technically, all that I'm required to do is identify myself, throw you over my back, and escort you to the afterlife. It's also customary to offer "first class" souls mints or gum, along with a magazine to read.

But a dedicated Reaper will go above and beyond the bare minimum. I like to think that once I kill you, it shouldn't be the end of our relationship, but just the beginning. I like to help souls set up their places in the Afterlife (I am certified in "Feng Shui") and I want to keep in regular touch afterwards. I've had souls tell me that I'm a mother, best friend, therapist, and interior decorator all in one. If you're having trouble adjusting to Heaven, I want you to call me on the phone to vent about it.

I also hope that after I kill you, I will also go on to someday kill the rest of your family. The Universe has a system called "grandfathering," which means you are allowed to request a Reaper when a love one is scheduled to die, and you have "first dibs" on the Reaper who has already killed you. I'm proud to say that I've had ongoing relationships with families for centuries, where I've killed their kids, their grandkids, etc. There's no way of explaining the feeling you get after you kill someone and they say something like, "when my daughter dies, you're the only one I want killing her.” True story... I once had an old lady who felt I was so much a part of her family that she actually wanted to put me in her will. It was touching.

CKT: Do you escort just anyone? Who takes the really bad people?

GR: I take people to both Heaven and Hell. I'd say it's always been about fifty-fifty.

Some Reapers do specialize in taking souls to Hell, as Scythmore offers doctorates in something called "Hades Sciences.” Reaper Bob "the hood" Garland takes a lot of souls to Hell. He's quite good at it. Bob used to be the bouncer at "The Fiery Brimstone," has great heat tolerance, and takes no funny business from anyone.

CKT: I’ve seen you on Twitter. What are you hoping will be the results of sending out your tweets?

GR: Someone warned me there were lots of incidences of people showing up on Twitter as "fake celebrities.” My worst fear was that a fake Death would pop up who was posing as me. I realized I needed to claim the territory quick.

As far as my hopes... I suppose I'd like people to see that my job is not always glamorous. I think people picture a lot of killing and signing Tarot cards for groupies (we call them Reapies). The sad truth is that I spend an awful lot of time just doing laundry.

CKT: You have a blog too. Do you think it’s necessary for reapers to have their own blogs? What do you use yours for?

GR: I think that if you're going to kill people today, it's important to have an online presence. I realize that it's not for everyone though. I like to think what I do is interactive; it's not just about me. The blog is my chance to give something back. For example, souls who I kill get very excited when I mention them on my blog. It's my way of giving a "thank you" to them. It's so important to acknowledge them, because they're such a valuable part of the whole killing process.

CKT: Do you ever get emails asking if you’ll take referrals? If so, how’s that worked out for you?

GR: Sometimes I get e-mails, but more often people actually approach me in person. Since I've moved to Manhattan on a part time basis, I have people pester me all the time with requests like, "can you kill my noisy neighbor?" or "can you do me a favor and kill my mother-in-law?” I've recently stopped going to parties because of it. It's very similar to approaching a doctor in a social situation and asking for free medical advice. It's inappropriate.

Just for clarification, I am not allowed to kill people on "request.” If I was allowed to do so, we would have chaos and a lack of structure in the Universe. Each person who is put on my list to kill, first undergoes a long and rigorous screening process by both God and the Reapublic.

CKT: What are the “tools” of your trade? And where do you get them from?

GR: The scythe is the most fundamental "tool" for any Reaper. The flagship "Scthythemart " in Heaven is my favorite place to get one,. It has a great selection that's constantly replenished with the newest models. They have wonderful sales, and run surprise blue scythe specials every so often.

If you're looking to buy a scythe, I encourage people to buy and not lease. You also want to have several scythes, as some are more appropriate for dinner parties, bar mitzvahs, etc. If you show up to kill someone at a black tie affair for example, you really need to be carrying a formal looking scythe. You don't want to embarrass yourself or the Universe that you represent.

As for used scythes, they could be an option for some, but know what you're getting into. If you're considering one, make sure you walk around with it first, see how it feels. It's also important to know the right questions to ask like: how many kills does it have on it? Is there a refund policy? Was it made in China?

CKT: What do you dress up as on Halloween?

GR: It's different every year. Last year I dressed up as the mythic "Corpse Freddy Connor," who is every Reaper's worst nightmare. Corpse Connor hunts down and tortures all the Reapers who have killed his friends and family members. The year before I was "Ross Perot.”

CKT: Can you walk us through a near-death experience and tell us what REALLY happens?

GR: Sure -- good question. Sometimes, for reasons only he knows, God will issue a last minute "stay of execution" and we will have to pull somebody back. People tend to remember being taken through the "Remus Longhorn Memorial Tunnel" to Heaven, and they also tend to remember having their lives flash before them. For some reason, they universally seem to block out what happens before all of it, which basically amounts to somebody with a scythe and black hood showing up and offering them a mint. Perhaps the initial part is traumatic for them.

The phrase "near Death experience" has also become a euphemism that many of my ex-girlfriends have adopted to refer to other stuff. I'm assuming that you were asking the more "G" rated question though...

CKT: What are your goals? Any aspirations to be a published author? Are you writing your memoirs? Do you think Oprah will ever have you on her show?

GR: I am actively seeking a literary agent for my memoirs, and I have a number of really exciting book ideas on top of it. I finished a short novella a few years ago called "Elliana's Choice" which involves a woman caught between two handsome reapers who both want to kill her. It's a bit chick-littish, but I think the wartime setting gives it cross-gender appeal.

I'd love to do talk shows and the interview circuit, but to be honest, I haven't really gotten the offers yet. Oprah would be a dream come true. I've killed so many of her fans over the years, and it would be amazing to meet her in person.

CKT: I’m sure many readers would like to know more about the reaper behind the cloak and hood. What are your hobbies? What do you do for fun?

GR: Just recently, someone taught me to crochet robes, and so far I''m loving it. I love listening to Julio Iglesias, and also I collect civil war era scythes. Believe it or not, I love to dance, and I've been told that I'm pretty good at it. Some fellas I met at a club in Manhattan nicknamed me "the boogie man.” I'd love to be on that "Dancing with the Stars" show...

CKT: What’s your Twitter URL?


CKT: And where can we find your blog?

GR: - as featured on THE NEW YORK TIMES web site: "BEST COMEDY ON THE WEB"

Thank you, Grim, for educating us about what you do. It's great to see that even the Grim Reaper can be found on the Internet using social networks and promoting himself. You're a true "shameless promoter". One final you really reap what you sow? ;-)

*Disclaimer: This post is for entertainment purposes, obviously for those who don't mind dark humor. It's not our intention to offend anyone, but if we did, we apologize. Sometimes it's healthy to laugh at uncomfortable topics like death, and I'll admit to a few chuckles when reading Grim's replies. Now I'm off to buy "Death for Dummies" on Damazon. I think it'll be great for researching my fictitious killers. ;-) ~CKT

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Grim Reaper is coming to CMAW!

Just a quick post to announce that we'll be having a very special guest on our blog on September 30th. I have the honor (and horror) of interviewing the Grim Reaper. And he's been one busy dude.

Check back on the 30th for a killer interview. I promise: it won't be the Death of you!

While waiting, feel free to follow The Grim Reaper on Twitter. You never know when he has a special promotion on. ;-)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Divine Intervention is being considered for a TV series

I have 3 film deals in the works. Nothing guaranteed yet--but then again there aren't any guarantees in the film industry.

My novel Divine Intervention is being considered by a well respected director who has many current hit TV series to his name. I believe he could have a hit as there's nothing quite like it on TV now. It would be like combining Medium, CSI and Ghost Whisperer.

If you haven't read Divine Intervention, it's about 3 psychic government agents (PSIs) and a fireman (Chief of Arson Investigation) and their search for a deadly serial arsonist. The team's covert base is a tiny mountain town called Divine, named after the head of the PSI division.

So my husband got to thinking the other day...He wondered what the title of the television series would be.

He came up with PSI Canada.

I came up with PSI Divine.

Of course it'll probably be something very different. But it was fun wondering.

If you've read Divine Intervention, what do you think a series should be called?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Many Faces of Facebook

Good news, bad news, is how I view social media networking (or whatever the heck it's called). Basically everyone should understand there is no such thing as privacy on the internet no matter how many passwords, settings or little gold locks are in the picture.

Sometimes this can be very, very bad - just ask the politicians who have been caught with their pants down (figuratively or otherwise) and sometimes this can be very, very good. A case of the former is in helping police solve crimes as in the following:

Detectives Get Court Order to Post Facebook Page of Dead Girl

Thursday, August 13, 2009

He's a writer...

I have recently returned from a vacation in Puerto Rico. It was fun, relaxing, exhausting, expensive, and exhilarating. I really needed it and so did the whole family so we went and had a great time. I have some relatives there but opted to do the "tourist" thing and just stayed at a hotel and basically hung out. Not that I don't like my relatives, but they tend to take over one's vacations and then
you never really get to do all of the things you wanted, or how you wanted, or as long as you wanted... and I always leave feeling just a little bit guilty for imposing. That's the way I feel anyway. So I went, I saw, and my wallet was conquered but all in the name of fun and discovery. For once even the kids had a good time. When I got home however, some relatives had discovered that I had been practically in their backyards and started calling my parents... MY PARENTS!!! Oh well, I kind of expected it, and besides I knew what my mother's patent answer would be that would salve and satisfy all the hurt feelings... "Well, you know he's a writer..." I have learned from experience and countless conversations that my more or less conservative family members consider writers, artists, poets, etc. to be at the very least sort of weird or at the most eccentric and maybe a little nuts. So whenever irate relatives or friends call, my mother has always dismissed their complaints or worries with those soothing and totally encompassing words, "Well, you know he's a writer..." I have actually been present and watched as great aunts, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. nodded their heads as if in sage understanding as soon as my mother offered this explanation. Makes me wonder, are we really so different? Are writers and artists just a little left of normal? What the heck is normal anyway? Whatever it is, I kinda like my mother's explanation. People ask her, "Why does he go camping alone in the rainforest? Why does he spend hours alone typing, typing, typing? Why does he use so many big words when he talks? Why does he have a sea turtle shell hanging over his doorway? Why? Why? Why?" Well, 'cause he's a writer doggone it! Thanks mom.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009


Nice to know thrills and adrenaline rushes can come from legal as well as illegal pursuits.

You have to be slightly crazy to partake in either one but the rush of a roller coaster seems to me to be the ultimate giving up of control, whereas I think illegal acts are the ultimate micro managing - if you want to get away with it.

If you're not in control in a law breaking episode, you'll get caught. And maybe you will get caught anyways if those trying to catch you are more in control of the situation than you are. Ah, the tangled web. But if you're looking to loose control check this out.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Guest Post: Eileen Schuh, author and former psychiatric nurse, talks about meeting a psychopath face to face

My special guest today is Eileen Schuh, a writer in St. Paul, Alberta, and a former psychiatric nurse. Today, Eileen shares her first bone-chilling experience coming face to face with a psychopath. Enjoy. ~Cheryl Kaye Tardif

I met a man with empty eyes. . .

It wasn’t that his eyes were dull. Oh, no! They sparkled. That shine, however, was not emanating from his soul, but was merely reflecting the world he was seeing.

I was a young girl, eighteen, straight off the farm. He was tall. Good looking with his dark wavy hair and tanned smooth face. Broad shoulders strained at his T-shirt. His IQ was slightly above 140. He was a genius. He was a psychopath. A sociopath.

He was a dangerous man.

I knew all this because I’d read his case file. I was meeting with him so I could get the little box beside “forensic patient” on “First Year Psychiatric Nursing Required Learning Experiences” record checked off. It was only my second month of hands-on training, so there were pages of little boxes left to go. Other than the ones beside ‘attending an autopsy’ and ‘making a bed’, ‘forensic patient’ is the only one I remember.

The ‘forensic patient’ was obviously enthralled by my presence. Life on the locked ward of a Psychiatric Hospital offers few thrills to those incarcerated there. I could tell by the way his empty eyes rested on the space between my white nyloned knees and the hem of my uniform, that I’d made his day. He didn’t rest his eyes there long, however. Just a quick glance, and then he was cocking his head, raising an eyebrow, and staring deeply into my eyes. A gentle smile lifted his lips and a dimple appeared on his chin.

I knew instantly, that like Dr. Hannibal Lecter when he met Jodi Foster in the movie “Silence of the Lambs”, this man was reading my soul. . . .

To read the rest of this intriguing and candid true story, please visit:
I met a man with empty eyes. . .

To learn more about author Eileen Schuh, check out her website:

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Writing Quote - Lady in the Lake

"Besides, you see, people who write usually don't know the facts and people who know the facts, usually can't write. authenticity has very little to do with it. If people who read our magazine knew the facts of life, Mr. Marlowe, they wouldn't be reading our magazine." - Raymond Chandler / Steve Fisher

Saturday, July 11, 2009

My worst enemy...

Okay, so it's true. All of it. I have an enemy that confounds me at every step, forces me to do things I'd rather not and sometimes sends me into fits of morose despondence or bestial anger and frustration. Why do I let this be? How did I lead myself to this moment? Only to escape but then return to it again and again as if it were some pernicious drug that I am addicted to? Because that's precisely what it is. A drug. A balm. An enemy to be vanquished when I finally get over my moments of weakness and indecision and decide to deal with this enemy head-on. Perhaps I'll take the easy and most sensible way out and make friends? Maybe I'll smile and make googly eyes at this creature in the hope that I can sneak up on it and take it by surprise? Either way I'm afraid I must face it... time after time, over and over again... because I must. And face it I will, until once again I conquer it and send it scurrying back into the shadows from whence it came, knowing that I am again its victor. This craven enemy... this haughty tormentor... this blank page.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

10 Quotes On The Writing Life

from Karen Harrington
author, Janeology


At different times in my writing life, each of these quotes was on a Sticky-Note somewhere on my desk, reminding me of a fundamental truth about writing.

1. "One of the first things you learn as a writer is that you write what you can, not what you want." - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

2. "To write well, express yourself like the common people, but think like a wise man." Aristotle

3. "The function of a writer is to raise questions not to find answers." Doris Lessing

4. "A good novelist does not have to describe everything about the sea as long as he knows it." - Ernest Hemingway

5. "If I had listened to what people said I would never have been a writer." - John Wain6. "Last week I spent five days writing one page..." - Gustave Flaubert

7. "Writers need solitude as others need sleep." - Source Unknown

8. "It's only after you've written a book that you find out what it's about because everyone tells you." Helen Fielding

9. "The best research is talking to people." Jeffrey Archer

10. "You can. You know you can conquer your fears. That's what a writer is -- a conqueror of fears." - Erica Jong


Pop over to my blog by Saturday, July 11th and leave your comment for a chance to win one of 2 copies of my novel, Janeology.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Hazardous to Your Health

A short time ago I had the great luck to obtain a rare book published in 1899 – The Domestic Cyclopedia: An Instructor on Nursing, Housekeeping and Home Adornments.

That’s quite the combination of topics and it is a fascinating research tool, filled with information otherwise lost to posterity. At that time it was found that cigarettes often contained opium “physicians and chemists were surprised to find how much” or “Havana flavoring … made from the tonka bean, which contains a deadly poison” and that the appropriate wrapping of rice paper was commonly found to be “filthy scrapings of ragpickers bleached white with arsenic”.

Whhhooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaa. Things have ‘come a long way, baby.’

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Bits and Pieces of the human Diaspora...

Sometimes I forget not to stare. In the subway, on the street, at work... I try to look at my fellow humans surreptitiously... did I say "look"? I meant observe. As writers we become observers, or perhaps more correctly, collectors. We collect people and behavior the way some people collect figurines or bits of colorful string. We see a particularly interesting specimen and we observe it, and then lock away the information for future inclusion in a story, poem or novel.
Sometimes while I'm collecting, I forget not to stare. Staring is a high-risk act in New York City, where unfortunate persons have been known to have been beaten, stabbed or shot just for locking eyes with a stranger. But I can't help myself. I'm a writer. A collector of the bits and pieces that make up the greater human Diaspora. A person's dress, a hair-do, a swagger, a mannerism, an inflection of voice, a particular phrase... there are so many things that can and do add color to our writing! Can I be forgiven if I give someone the once-over because I find something about that person so interesting that I must have it? I hope so. On the bus, about 6-months ago, I noticed a young lady's unusual mode of dress... flips and flounces, trips and trounces... all interspersed with the leather and spikes of a goth. One eye heavily done in black make-up while the other sported a soft pastel color and an outlandishly long fake eyelash. The overall effect was of an innocent waif possessed by some sort of evil, vampiric tart... well, I was brought back to earth by a young man that I supposed was accompanying the young lady asking me if I knew her... ulp, I did not. Thankfully the incident did not escalate, but I must remind myself in the future, or maybe I'll just wear a sign, "Staring not deliberate, writer at work."

Friday, June 26, 2009

Guest Post: The Most Notorious Criminals to Base Characters On

Today's guest post comes from Megan Jones, a writer who contacted me recently because she was interested in having some of her work displayed as part of her new freelancing career. I couldn't say no because 1) I love helping writers when I can, and 2) her articles are excellently written and well researched. Enjoy! ~Cheryl Kaye Tardif

Let’s face it, we all draw examples from real life into our writing life, and what better way to do this than by exploiting the inane acts that some criminals have committed over the past century? Some of these criminals have participated in many atrocious acts of violence over the past years that I could never even dream of conceiving, and have even paved the way for famous cinematic serial killers such as Leatherface and Hannibal Lector. While most of these villains were not directly based on specific killers, they had attributes of many different criminals of the time. Some of the criminals and serial killers from up to a century ago continue to infiltrate society in a number of ways, mostly through film, but have also been known to appear in many crime books.

Bonnie & Clyde

How many movies have been based on this unlikely duo? Outlaws and bank-robbers, Bonnie and Clyde served to almost romanticize the notion of criminals during the Great Depression and many movies have been made regaling audiences with their string of terror during the height of their crime spree. While they were part of a mass shoot out by police forces in the end (they were shot over 50 times), the duo came to represent a Robin Hood of sorts during a time period where many throughout the country had lost everything they owned. While they left terror and destruction in their path, Bonnie and Clyde represented a new shift in criminal activity in the early twentieth century.

Ted Bundy

Ted Bundy has become one of the most iconic serial killers in history, mostly because he lured all his victims away in pure daylight due to the charm he emitted onto many. The exact number of women he killed is still unknown, though it is estimated to range between 35 and 100. While Bundy exhibited some traits that made him similar to Silence of the Lamb’s Hannibal Lector, in his high intelligence (law school) and his willingness to help police with other cases regarding killers, there has been no direct parallels between Bundy and any film serial killer. However, there have been a number of films made about the killer, as he brought about a reign of terror on the Pacific Northwest for a number of years, continuing on to Florida in the end.

Amy Fisher

Everyone knows the story of this young girl from Long Island (the “Long Island Lolita”) who shot her married lover’s wife and thereafter became the subject of many made-for-TV movies and documentaries. Mary Jo Buttafuoco answered the door on May 19, 1992 to find Amy Fisher at the steps telling her that her husband was having an affair with her sister. When Mary told Amy to leave, she shot her in the temple. While she survived the attack, Amy served 7 years in prison for first-degree aggravated assault.

Jack the Ripper

This killer existed before the time of DNA evidence or even any modern form of technology and terrorized England during the late nineteenth century. This killer has fascinated crime buffs for years due to the fact that no one was ever arrested or tried for the murders. There is still some dispute over how many victims were killed during this time, ranging from 5 to 9, but Jack the Ripper continues to captivate audiences around the world, as many movies and books have been released about the killer.

This post was contributed by Megan Jones, who writes about the bachelor degree online. She welcomes your feedback at Meg.Jones0310 at

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Is Incompetence A Crime?

When there is nothing you can do about a situation and your only option is to laugh or cry, I'll choose laughing every time.

The old mystery adage of learning about someone by examining their garbage, where the rumpled detective picks through a soggy bag of coffee grounds and credit card receipts, still holds true. It's been upgraded to keep with our technological times but e-waste spills its secrets just as certainly as a broken bottle of cyanide.

Very recently a group of journalism students from the University of British Columbia, was visiting Africa to make a documentary on digital dumping. They purchased some garbage hard drives very cheaply and discovered that US defense data popped up on the screen when they plugged it in.

Someone's not paying attention. They won't be laughing when the powers that be find out who didn't wipe the hard drive, but me ... well really ... what choice is there?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Cheryl's deadly 'Create a Corpse Contest'

This contest is now open!

From now until July 30th, 2009, you can submit a name (first & last) of someone you know (boss, husband, school bully, ex-friend or yourself), or a fictitious name.

I am looking for a male name, suitable for a 50-ish cigar-smoking man.

On August 1st, 2009, I will select one winner from all the entries and use that name, fictitiously of course, in Lancelot's Lady, my novel-in-progress and an entry in the Textnovel/Dorchester "America's Next Best Celler" contest.

The winner will receive an autographed copy as soon as this novel is published. And the winner's initials will be credited on my acknowledgement page in the book, if they choose.

Keep in mind that the ‘corpse’ character will not intentionally look like or act like the person he or she is named after, nor will the character survive. After all, 'I kill people off for a living'.


  1. You must sign up as a member of (free).
  2. You must vote for Lancelot's Lady by clicking on the thumbs up icon at the top of my novel's page:
  3. You must subscribe to receive future chapters by clicking on the cell phone icon at top
  4. Then leave your suggested 'corpse' name on my website (not this blog) in a comment.
  5. Contest ends at midnight (MT) on July 30th, 2009.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


We have the website ready for ALMANAC OF THE INFAMOUS, THE INCREDIBLE AND THE IGNORED! Please check it out.

Sunday, June 07, 2009


Agatha Christie does it again! The intrepid researcher, John Curran, has been delving through her stored notebooks and personal papers and discovered two unpublished short stories. The Mystery of the Dog's Ball and The Capture of Cerberus are both precursors to two novels. It will be interesting to read the mini-versions and then the novels and see what Agatha's process looks like. For the entire story go to

Monday, June 01, 2009

It’s Here! It’s Here!

I can’t restrain myself any longer. My new mystery thriller, Russian Roulette is finally available. It won’t be in any bookstores until June 13th, but you can order it at today. If you’re part of the Kindle nation, you can download it and read it today!

Russian Roulette is the fifth novel in my mystery series about Hannibal Jones, the African American private detective working in Washington DC. In this book, Hannibal is forced to take a case for a Russian assassin. He must investigate Gana, the wealthy Algerian who has stolen Viktoriya, the woman his new client loves. Evidence connects Gana to Russian mob money and the apparent suicide of Viktoriya’s father. More deaths follow, each one closer to Viktoriya. To save the Russian beauty, Hannibal must unravel a complex tangle of clues and survive a dramatic shootout on Roosevelt Island, side-by-side with his murderous client.

Friends and reviewers have been very kind with advance comments:

“Russian Roulette delivers a whipsaw of a plot with more layers than a Vidalia onion.... Solid storytelling and compelling characters. Don't miss it!”
Libby Fischer Hellmann, Author of the Ellie Foreman mystery/suspense series.

“Troubleshooter Hannibal Jones is the most engaging character to come upon the mystery scene since Patterson's Alex Cross.”
JoAnn Ross, NY Times Bestselling Author of the High Risk Series.

“Hannibal Jones is no John Shaft wannabe. He stands on his own as a welcome addition to the ranks of the fictional private eye.”
Robert J. Randisi, Founder of the Private Eye Writers of America.

“Russian Roulette has everything: a terrific story with great characters in vivid settings. Clear time on your calendar for this one."
John Gilstrap, author of No Mercy

“Russian Roulette starts with a revving engine and picks up speed till racing across the finish line. If I was in trouble I’d want Hannibal Jones on my speed dial.”
Jon Jordan, Editor, Crimespree Magazine

“Camacho employs his usual rich layers of plot; fascinating characters; and plenty of action to keep the reader mesmerized in his latest Hannibal Jones installment.”
Shelley Glodowski, Midwest Book Review

“Austin is one helluva writer. What Austin shows off in his novel is not just the ability to forge a sentence or a paragraph, but how to create an interesting story with a steady pace that keeps you hooked for hours at a time.”
Hugh Howey,

“I may have to add Austin S. Camacho to my list of authors to follow and catch up on after reading his latest novel, Russian Roulette. I received the book for review before I left on vacation, and I would have been perfectly happy to have all of the Hannibal Jones series with me to read.”
Thomas Duff, an Top 25 Reviewer

And I hope you can share my good news with me in person.

IN VIRGINIA – You’re invited to a gala book release party on June 6th! I’ll share hors d' oeuvres and wine with you from 2 pm to 6 pm at the historic Farr House, 10172 Main St, Fairfax, Va. Just go to to RSVP, so we can be sure to have enough food and drink for all.

IN MARYLAND - Borders Waldorf will host a book release event for Russian Roulette on Saturday, June 13th. I’ll sign copies of my new novel starting at 1 pm in the store at 3304-A Crain Highway, Waldorf, Md. They’ll also have my previous Hannibal Jones novels - The Troubleshooter, Collateral Damage, Damaged Goods and Blood and Bone – available for me to sign.

Even if I can't meet you in person, thank you for sharing my happy news!

Friday, May 29, 2009


"Go to jail. Go directly to jail. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200". I always wondered what I was going to jail for. Not paying that parking ticket? Leaving in the middle of the night without making rent? Mismanagement of utilities? Then there's the "Get out of Jail Free" card. Did I bribe someone? No, that wouldn't be free. Must have threatened them, or maybe ... I'm innocent of whatever trumped up charge had me in jail in the first place! That's probably it.

The national Monopoly championships are about to take place in Montreal and the winner will go on to the world championships in Las Vegas in October. Prize money is $15,000 for the national winner and $20,580 U.S for the world winner; an odd number but equal to all the cash in the board game's bank. Probably was big stakes when the game first came out. Doesn't seem like much these days but maybe it will again.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

How to work the web

As I learned from my blogger mate Cheryl Kaye Tardif, a blog tour is a great way to generate buzz for a new novel. I have tried to follow her good example and have 10 blog stops to boost my novel, Russian Roulette which will be released on June 13th. The surprise was that just making contacts for the tour stirred up a lot more buzz for the imminent release. Here's what I picked up in my Google alerts!

First, the Crime Critics website posted a very nice review of Russian Roulette, the very first advance review published. Crime Critics is one of the best mystery review sites on the net, and I'm flattered that they plugged my newbook so soon.

I recorded a short promotional video for Russian Roulette, in which I personally explain my new novel. It's on You Tube and several other web sites.

Also, I was interviewed by mystery author Jean Henry Mead on her website, Mysterious People. She is an excellent interviewer who prompted me to reveal some new sides of my work.

And the lovely video trailer for Russian Roulette went live a couple days ago - it's ib a number of web sites but here it is for you. Circle of Seven Productions does the BEST work!

Russian Roulette was not my only writing effort to turn up on line. A blog post on The Stiletto Gang highlighted the new journal called “The Writer's Journey.” This new manual for authors is a collection ofwriters' essays on the craft and business of writing fiction. It'salso obviously a journal with pages left for authors to write abouttheir own journey. Thirteen writers contributed to this manual,including yours truly. Aspiring authors can e-mail me at to learn how to get an autographed copy of the manual from me.

While monitoring the internet for my activity it is sometimes surprising what Google Alerts will turn up. I found out that you can order copies of The Troubleshooter in India. I had to do some research to figure out what Rs 1143 is in American money.

And finally, the trailer for Blood and Bone turned up on a web site for African American Scholarships. Maybe someone will use it for a fund raising event. Check the posting on African American Scholarships.

Will all this internet activity really translate into book sales? I'll let you know in a later post.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

5 Thoughts To Inspire Your Writing

1. The best research is talking to people. - Jeffrey Archer

2. You can. You know you can conquer your fears. That's what a writer is - a conquerer of fears. - Erica Jong

3. Each word should be weighed carefully as for a telegram to be paid for by the author. - Ernest Hemingway

4. To write well, express yourself like the common people, but think like a wise man. - Aristrotle

5. One does not choose one's subject matter, one submits to it. - Gustave Flaubert


K. Harrington
author, Janeology
What did Jane do and why?

Friday, May 08, 2009

Bragging Rights

Every once in a while I want to brag about my children, nothing mysterious about that. And they are hardly children any more either. This brag is about my daughter Vanessa Violini who is running in the BC Provincial Election for the Green Party. She took part in an all candidates debate last night at the Ridge Theatre in Vancouver.

Vanessa is an amazing natural speaker with a passion for people and a call to return to common sense.

This video was taken with a tiny digital camera from eighty feet away. The visual is a bit fuzzy but the audio and the message is loud and clear. If it strikes a note with you, please tell your friends about Vanessa.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Lady in the rain...

Driving back from the Bronx, I'm traveling south on the Harlem River Drive when I notice some clothes and things strewn all over the center lane. Traffic is whizzing past on both sides. It's after 10:00 p.m., it's raining lightly and the car's tires are leaving tiny wakes on the shiny blacktop. As I near the bundle of clothes I see it's actually a body lying there. I stop and put on my hazard lights to warn oncoming traffic to go around... I don't want to see this person get hit... again. I grab my cell phone and step from the car in order to wave traffic around the body. I'm wearing a reflective safety vest so I'm fairly safe and the drivers, although morbidly curious, go around me and the lady lying in the road. She's on her back, her eyes wide and bulging, blood oozing from her nose, mouth, and ear. I let the 911 operator know what's going on and give her my name and number. I turn back ti the lady in the rain. She appears to be anywhere between 30-50 years old... it's hard to tell in the dark and rain with my hazard lights alternatingly making the scene dark and light. She may be Hispanic. Two young men materialize from the darkness at the highway's periphery. One of the squats over the woman and is touching her about the neck and face. I warn him away, telling him that if this is a hit-and-run, then this is a crime scene. He tells me he's checking for signs life. I tell him she's dead. DOA. He insists he's checking if she's alive. I tell him once the cops arrive that I will point him out as the person that disturbed the body and he leaves. He and his friend remain in the shadows just off the highway. I'm still directing traffic and now I'm also just hoping the authorities would hurry up. Other people soon arrive, including a man that admits to being the driver of the first vehicle that hit her. The first?!? Finally lights and sirens in the distance announces the arrival of an ambulance coming the wrong way up the highway toward where I'm standing. They check the lady for vitals. She's DOA. The two guys in the shadows come out and claim to be witnesses. The ambulance crew tells them to save the info for the cops. I'm still directing highway traffic in the rain. More lights and sirens, this times coming the other way. Highway cops drive up in a souped-up Charger. Cool. They block off some of the traffic but these on-lookers won't be denied and nearly run me over several times in their efforts to rubberneck the scene. A huge FDNY Suburban shows up and blocks the center lane, now traffic has no choice but to move all the way over to the passing lane. The ambulance crew covers the body with a sheet. It's time for me to go... I'm still on the clock. When I go back to my car I notice someones placed the lady's personal effects on the hood. I ask one of the officers to please remove it, he nods, puts on a pair of plastic gloves and puts her things into separate baggies. I say a prayer and glance at the two guys there were hidden in the darkness, they're talking to the cops. I pull around the puddle of blood, the ambulance, and the growing crowd of responders and onlookers and drive away from the lady in the rain.

Monday, April 27, 2009

I think therefore you are

Definitely what we watch, read and hear colours the filters through which we see the world, but what role does it play in creating it?

I've noticed with my recent indulgence and immersion in murder mysteries that people are taking on more sinister overtones than after I read an uplifting book. Because I see them in a more threatening light - does that make them more threatening. Does how we perceive people contribute to their reactions to us? Personally, I believe it does. Not that I think that this a matter that is quite so clear cut as I see you as a creep, therefore you act like a creep to me. But maybe.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Free Food Bribe as a Marketing Tool

I promised to try to keep you aware of my writing and promotional progress. Well, I’ve made some progress, at least with the latter.

Did you know that there are 47 bookstores in this country that specialize in mystery fiction? That’s after you eliminate the ones that focus on collectible and antique books, and those that are only on line without a brick-and-mortar store. I’ve just sent each of them a letter informing them of the imminent release of Russian Roulette and respectfully asking (alright, begging them) to order a few copies. I told them all about the 50 review copies I sent out, the new web page, the print ads in Mystery Scene and Crimespree Magazine, the professional book trailer from Circle of Seven Productions, the 5,000 piece postcard mailing to mystery readers, the planned blog tour and on line radio appearances, the book giveaway for fans who post reviews on the internet, and all the cool blurbs I got.

I also promised them a pizza party for their staff if they sell 50 or more copies of Russian Roulette. Yeah, I’m shameless. We’ll see if it works.

Meanwhile, my lovely wife Denise has finalized arrangements for the gala launch party for Russian Roulette. She has arranged a very classy affair at the Farr House in Fairfax, VA. The venue (AKA the Wilson Farr House) often plays host to weddings, bridal showers and fancy luncheons. This Colonial Revival style home in the heart of Fairfax has been party central in these parts since the Farrs’ marriage ceremony in 1915. It was updated in 2001 but retains many of the period details, like Georgia red pine floors. The aforementioned lovely wife has arranged for hors d'oeuvres and wine to be served on June 6th from 2 pm to 6 pm. I have arranged to have copies of Russian Roulette available, a full week before they appear in any stores, for anyone who would like an autographed copy.

Why am I telling you all this? Because each and every one of you is invited! Hey, it’s free food and wine folks! Click here to RSVP for the literary event of my year!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

50 Ways to Kill Your Lover

Well, here's hoping my husband doesn't read this blog entry...hehe.

The purpose of this exercise is to think of constructive ways to eliminate a fictitious lover, using creative measures with as little evidence left behind as possible.

So I thought I'd put it out there for all you criminal minds.

Here's the set up:

You are the fictional protagonist. Your lover is having an affair with a co-worker. And you've had enough! You have taken those infidelities far too long and you have finally snapped. It is the night of your lover's big promotion and everyone is celebrating at a private hall. And of course, the "other" is there, right across the room, sipping champagne, looking innocent as hell.

What happens next? What do you do? Do you eliminate your lover, or the "other"? You choose. And how do you do it?

There must be fifty ways to kill a lover...cue music, please...

Just stab him in the back, Jack. Make a new plan, Stan. You don't need to be coy, Roy. Just get yourself free. Throw him in front of the bus, Gus. You don't need to discuss much. Drop him off the balcony, Lee. And get yourself free.

Please answer by clicking on comments below. The countdown is on!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Chip off the ol' Writer's Block?

My son gave me quite a start the other day... he told me he wanted to be a writer. I was surprised, to say the least, because until then he'd exhibited no interest in writing and he'd rarely read anything other than the occasional "Graphic Novel." So what happened? My son admitted that the first spark toward his decision to pursue a career in writing was the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. He loved the movies so much he did what countless other kids did and played the video games. He enjoyed the video games so much that he then read the books (shame on me for not noticing!). This roundabout way to the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, although unexpected, was totally understood and appreciated. I myself started my literary interests through comic book adaptations of Tarzan, Flash Gordon, etc. So I guess the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

Anyway, my 17 year-old son now wants to write "anything and everything" he says. The weird thing is that he's also doing better in school now and there's talk that he may even make the honor roll. This from a kid that once considered hooky a viable and noble passtime. Aw, c'mon, I'm really proud of the kid and I'm forever in Tolkien's debt for helping to open my only son's eyes to a world beyond Rap, Hip-Hop, Street Creds and Gangsta attitudes. There was a time when I thought that my rather large collection of books would just fade away, but now my son devours them at a wonderful rate; recently finishing off "Scar Night" and "Raising Cain."

How cool is that? Thanks J.R.R.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

An interview with Angela Cameron, author of Nocturne

Today, I welcome author Angela Cameron to Criminal Minds at Work to discuss her latest novel--Nocturne. Let's hear what she has to say about criminals, crime and writing such elements in a novel.

1. I’m new to your work, Angela, but I understand from your website that your stories generally include suspense subplots. Tell us about that.

Thank you so much for having me here! They do. My story Nocturne kicks off with a dead woman in the middle of a back road in the mountains. It and my romance novels follow the lives of women caught up in the search for a serial killer, running from a stalker, and other criminal activities.

2. Why is it that the stories have these crime subplots? Why not just write mysteries?

My main passion is for the paranormal, which put me squarely in the romance category in the current market, but I’ve always loved crime shows and mysteries. Having these subplots allows me to indulge my inner crime writer.

3. How do you do research for your crime plots?

There’s a combination. The first place I started was with reading Forensics for Dummies. I actually scared my husband for a while because I was fascinated by the information there, like how to kill someone in a way that was almost completely undetectable. When I finished with that, I watched a lot of true crime and true forensics shows.

The research for each story is a little different. For Nocturne, there was a lot of research on morgue operations, reporting, and body decay. I didn’t want to have a body that was intact when it should have been bloated and rigor set in.

4. Where does your inspiration come from?

Crime TV is a wonderful source for inspiration. One of my favorite shows, Most Evil, featured the top ten most evil serial killers. There were killers on the show that I’d never heard of and crimes that never imagined. It’s amazing how truly evil and inventive real people can be. Some of these crimes are too violent even to find a publisher who doesn’t flinch away, except in the horror genre.

5. Do you see yourself ever being a crime writer?

I do, actually. I believe that I will be writing mysteries under my real name in the not so distant future.

6. Who is your favorite crime writer?

James Patterson. Who doesn’t love Kiss the Girls?

7. Who do you think was the scariest criminal in history?

Jeffrey Dahmer was, for me, perhaps the scariest in the completely insane way. Trying to make real zombie friends is definitely an original.

The scariest--just because he was so sadistic and had the whole BDSM angle to his torture--is David Parker Ray. He may have killed sixty women, but no one is sure because he did such a good job of hiding his “toy box” and disposing of the bodies. At least with people like Jack the Ripper, they died the same day. Ray may have dragged his torture out for weeks or months, depending on the person.

-- Angela Cameron is the author of several works that range from horror to romance, and is known for wild, suspenseful rides through the paranormal. To find out more about her and her work, visit

Thank you, Angela, for visiting our blog and sharing your thoughts on criminal minds. I wish you the best in success with your novel Nocturne. ~ Cheryl Kaye Tardif, author

Monday, April 13, 2009

My Birthday, Your Presents!

Yep, it really is my birthday today, and you really are getting the gifts. At least, some of you are.

The big news today is that my web site is finally back on line. A lot has changed since the last time you saw it, including a featured review from Tina Vicini who I talked to at the Love is Murder mystery convention. Tina Vicini was one of the few people who knew right off the bat that my character was named after the Hannibal who marched over the Alps to attack the Roman Empire. Not everything works just right yet, but the two most important things are in place.

The most important thing for me is the link in the middle of the page that allows you to e-mail me. This is how you can send me feedback about my writing, and I will always respond. You should send your friends to that link so they can ask to receive my newsletter. That way they'll always get the latest update on my travels and the progress of my writing.

The most important thing for YOU is the Big Book Giveaway link. Click that and you will find out how you can get an advance copy of Russian Roulette. You'll not only get to read my latest novel before everyone else, but you'll get it for free!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Slippery Slope

In the first three months of 2009 twenty-four people, mostly snowmobilers, died in avalanche’s in British Columbia mountains. Frequently the sportsmen caused the avalanche that took them out by driving up the proverbial slippery slope. Slippery slopes are everywhere. In my opinion, consensus reality is one of the slipperiest slopes of all. We’re all dying from it.

While researching information for my upcoming book Almanac of the Infamous, the Incredible and the Ignored I discovered a vast army of self-proclaimed experts ready to espouse their opinion on a variety of unexplained mysteries, based on ... their opinion. No matter what the topic, each expert was certain that his input was the final word on the subject.

Now we all know that statistics and data can be manipulated to support any idea at all - we do all know that don’t we? Take for instance the Shroud of Turin. Every second year or so a new study is released verifying that it IS or IS NOT genuine. Ditto reports on UFOs, sasquatch and various other phenomena. Let’s take fish falls for example, an occurrence not as rare as you may think.

Fish falls are when a certain type of fish, usually one type of species, fall from the sky, raining down on the people below. Experts attribute these ‘falls’ to water spouts; mini tornado type affairs that suck up water from an ocean or lake and drop it onto land. I’m sure that this happens however I am also sure that water spouts are not always responsible for this mysterious event. Where are the weeds, dirt, rocks and various other debris and fish species that would be picked up with the fish the fall?

What about the Kentucky Phenomena, where flakes of meat fell from a clear sky covering an area one hundred feet by fifty feet. The ‘experts’ explained this away by stating that it was caused by vomiting vultures flying over head. No one saw the birds and the experts did not bother to say how many of the beasts it would take to barf up the amount of beef that lay below.

When facts are few, experts are many.” - Donald Gannon

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Guest blogger Pat Bertram talks about what makes a sociopath

Today author Pat Bertram is our guest blogger here on Criminal Minds at Work as part of her online virtual blog tour. She's going to share some of her thoughts on criminal behaviors. Her post below is informative...and chilling. ~ Cheryl

Anyone who writes crime fiction, especially novels about a serial killer, is familiar with the sociopathic personality. But not all sociopaths are killers. Some psychologists estimate that there are thirty thousand psychopaths who are not serial killers for every one who is. So who are these non-killing psychopaths? Your neighbor, perhaps, or your mother-in-law. Maybe even the psychologists who came up with the sociopathic profile. Possibly even you.

Abused children who were not born with a sociopathic personality usually grow up to lead normal lives. Sociopaths who were not abused usually grow up to lead normal lives or lives that mimic normalcy. Sociopaths sometimes become killers because of childhood abuse, and sometimes they become killers simply because they want to. (The killer in the Dutch version of The Vanishing was a classic sociopath who killed to see what it would feel like.)

Even if you don't write crime fiction, familiarity with the sociopathic personality can help you create dynamic characters and even interesting dialogue. For example, sociopaths frequently use contradictory and illogical statements such as "I never touched her, and anyway, she wanted it."

A sociopath has difficulty connecting to others, though people often like them. They are charming, glib, witty, and use captivating body language. Because of their impulsiveness, need for excitement, poor behavior controls, and lack of responsibility, they can be fun companions, but because they lack empathy, conscience, and remorse, they can never truly connect with anyone.

Other characteristics of the sociopath are shallow emotions, egocentricity, lying for no reason, no need to conform to societal standards, the skill to detect and exploit the weaknesses of others. They are also well satisfied with themselves, never looking back with regret or forward with concern.

One characteristic that keeps a sociopath from being a good fiction hero is that in fiction heroes need to change during the course of the novel, and sociopaths have solid personalities that are extremely resistant to outside influences. But, being the manipulative creatures that they are, they can make us believe they have changed.

The villains of both my novels, More Deaths Than One and A Spark of Heavenly Fire are sociopaths, hiding their true natures under the famed scientific detachment. If they were real people, their crimes would be of such incredible scope that the crimes would be labeled “scandals.” When a CPA bilks a few thousand from a customer, it’s a crime. Yet when a CEO of a major corporation bilks a few million from customers, it’s a scandal. Either way, it sounds like sociopathic behavior. With or without the killing.

Here is Pat's VBT schedule:

Pat Bertram is a native of Colorado and a lifelong resident. When the traditional publishers stopped publishing her favorite type of book — character and story driven novels that can’t easily be slotted into a genre — she decided to write her own. More Deaths Than One and A Spark of Heavenly Fire, available at Amazon and from Second Wind Publishing, are Bertram’s first novels.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Brad Meltzer, Super Genius

Yes, I admit it. Brad Meltzer is my hero. Brad has written some serious best sellers. Before that, he wrote some of the best comics in history, including the “Identity Crisis” storyline in Justice League of America. I also learned at the Virginia Festival of the Book’s Crime Wave Luncheon that Brad is the best keynote speaker I’ve ever heard. But beyond all that, Brad is my hero because he’s at the cutting edge of book promotion.

Ten years ago Brad had what some say was the very first professional author web site. He set that up for his first published novel, Tenth Justice. He posted a lot of the things I’ve tried to emulate, like sample chapters and character interviews. It wasn’t super high tech at the time, but since no one else was doing it, it was pretty spectacular.

Over the years he has stayed at the leading edge of book promotion. He made not one, not two but three videos for his latest thriller, The Book of Lies. One of them has Christopher Hitchens and Joss Whedon in the cast (yes, the guy who created Buffy the Vampire Slayer.) The video itself is a fine piece of writing, about a theoretical missing book of the Bible.

Of course my book trailer for Russian Roulette will be produced by Circle of Seven Productions, the company that invented the things back in 2002, and I’ll be debuting it soon. It won’t be nearly as impressive as any of Brad’s but I’m starting small like he did and following in the great man’s footsteps. It’s good to have such a great and successful example to follow.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Guns, shooting rampages and bullies

For years now, people have been discussing the gun issue and the "right to bear arms". Is it a God-given right? Or should guns for the general public be outlawed completely? How many innocent children and adults have to die before something is done to solve this epidemic?

On Wednesday, March 11th, at the Albertville school in Winnenden, Germany, a 17-year-old gunman dressed all in black brought a gun into his school and opened fire. He killed 2 boys, 7 girls and 3 female teachers.

The gunman, later identified as Tim Kretschmer, then killed a gardener at the clinic next door and hijacked a car, ordering the driver to take him 40K out of town. After the driver jumped out of the car, Kretschmer ran into a car dealership where he shot a sales rep and a customer. His final act? He turned the gun on himself.

Kretschmer had a murder list in his home, a list of people who had wronged him. He'd gotten the handgun from his father's collection. It hadn't been locked away with the others. It was left in a drawer where anyone could have access to it. And someone did, and look at the deaths it has caused. Should the father be charged?

On the same day, in Samson, Alabama, 28-year-old Michael McLendon, an ex-cop, set his mother's house on fire, killing his mother and her dog. Next he shot and killed five others, including the wife and 18-month-old baby of a local sheriff's deputy.

McLendon randomly shot at townspeople as he drove through the streets, then he killed his own grandmother. In the end, he killed 10 people before turning the gun on himself at the metals plant in the town of Geneva, where he had worked.

Some reports say that he, too, had left a murder list. It is suggested that his parent's bitter divorce caused McLendon to lash out at his own family. There are reports that he had issues at his former jobs, problems with some of his co-workers. Was he a victim of bullying? Did he suffer from depression?

Some questions will never be answered, but one thing is for sure in both cases: these two men were seriously messed up and no one noticed. Both men felt that others had done them wrong; neither of them got help for their depression. These are the common emotional elements in rampage shooters.

The other common element is that both men had access to guns. The handguns used in both cases were apparently registered legally. The assault rifles that McLendon also carried were illegal. This tells us that it doesn't matter if people carry permits; a weapon is a weapon.

I get why people in some countries and cities feel they need a gun to protect themselves. I get wanting to protect your family and children. I get why some people feel it necessary to have a gun in the house; it makes them feel safer. But at what cost, people? At the cost of innocent and young lives? How many more unnecessary deaths like these do there have to be before people start realizing how dangerous it is to have a gun in the house, especially one that is not locked up securely? And why is it that depressed or bullied people feel the necessity to get revenge by killing innocent people? Get help!

I was bullied as a kid, and in this day and age that seems to mean I can grab a weapon and gun down my enemies. Sure there were days in my youth where I imagined pushing my bully down a flight of stairs or smacking her in the head or worse. I am sure I even wished her dead at times. That's how kids think; expecially ones who are being bullied. Mostly I imagined the day I'd be able to stand up to her.

I never had to. Eventually she moved on to someone else, then I moved away. I bumped into her years later and she inspired only one emotion from me--pity. While my life had continually gotten better, hers had gotten worse. I heard rumors about her life and I began to understand why she had acted the way she had in school. She was actually the inspiration for "Annie", a character in my novel Whale Song.

My message to those who feel they're being bullied or mistreated: It WILL pass. Years from now you'll barely remember it. You'll get over it; yes, maybe with counseling or therapy, but you'll get over it. Years from now you'll realize that the school bully taught you something about yourself. Mine taught me to stand up for myself and not let people walk all over me. That lesson, while traumatic at the time, has come in handy over the past few years, and not once have I felt the need for a gun to solve my problems. Time and forgiveness heals all things.

~Cheryl Kaye Tardif,
bestselling author

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

This Mister's a Sister

You know I’m a believer in writer’s organization. I pay my dues to Mystery Writers of America , Private Eye Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, American Independent Writers, the Virginia Writers Club and even the Maryland Writers Association in the next state over. But why would an otherwise masculine guy like me be a member of Sisters in Crime?

Well, originally I joined because I wanted to support the cause - to combat discrimination against women in the mystery field and raise awareness of their contribution to the field. Soon after I joined I realized that I knew more female mystery writers than male, so maybe they didn’t need my help. But then I began to feel the advantages of membership.

This group is more proactive than any of the other national organizations from the point of view of training. While the MWA is focused on enhancing the reputation of mystery writing, and the ITW are all about marketing, Sisters in Crime focuses on nurturing new writers and helping them to improve their craft. They are also big on networking and maintaining close ties to publishers and agents, which helps members get into the business.

But perhaps the biggest advantage to me is the electronic newsletter, In SinC. The editors do a very good job of scanning the industry and letting me know which articles in Publishers Weekly or other pubs I need to read. They link me to the most useful and informative articles and interviews with agents and publishers who have the inside view of the publishing industry.

The best part of the newsletter to me is the encouraging news. While we’re all hearing about how the publishing industry is going into the toilet they print the details of new deals members have landed. When I read that Clea Simon has sold the first book in a new paranormal mystery series to Severn House in a nice two-book deal, that Lorraine Bartlett sold the next three books in her series, and that Carolyn Hart's next three books sold to Harper in a significant deal (significant deal = somewhere between $250K and 500K) I know that editors are still buying, and I find that fact very encouraging.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Point of View


8:00 am - Dog food! My favorite thing!
9:30 am - A car ride! My favorite thing!
9:40 am - A walk in the park! My favorite thing!
10:30 am - Got rubbed and petted! My favorite thing!
12:00 pm - Lunch! My favorite thing!
1:00 pm - Played in the yard! My favorite thing!
3:00 pm - Wagged my tail! My favorite thing!
5:00 pm - Milk bones! My favorite thing!
7:00 pm - Got to play ball! My favorite thing!
8:00 pm - Wow! Watched TV with the people! My favorite thing!
11:00 pm - Sleeping on the bed! My favorite thing!

Day 983 of my captivity. My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects.

They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while the other inmates and I are fed hash or some sort of dry nuggets. Although I make my contempt for the rations perfectly clear, I nevertheless must eat something in order to keep up my strength. The only thing that keeps me going is my dream of escape. In an attempt to disgust them, I once again vomit on the carpet.

Today I decapitated a mouse and dropped its headless body at their feet. I had hoped this would strike fear into their hearts, since it clearly demonstrates what I am capable of. However, they merely made condescending comments about what a "good little hunter" I am. B@stards!

There was some sort of assembly of their accomplices tonight. I was placed in solitary confinement for the duration of the event. However, I could hear the noises and smell the food. I overheard that my confinement was due to the power of "allergies." I must learn what this means, and how to use it to my advantage.

Today I was almost successful in an attempt to assassinate one of my tormentors by weaving around his feet as he was walking. I must try this again tomorrow -- but at the top of the stairs.

I am convinced that the other prisoners here are flunkies and snitches.
The dog receives special privileges. He is regularly released - and seems to be more than willing to return. He is obviously retarded.

The bird has got to be an informant. I observe him communicate with the guards regularly. I am certain that he reports my every move. My captors have arranged protective custody for him in an elevated cell, so he is safe. For now...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

... tells a story

Some rare sentences are like photographs; revealing a thousand word story in an amazingly brief format. Although I am no where near that accomplished yet, many writers are and I am captured by their skill like an elite addict is captured by an exquisite wine; tasting the flavour over and over; reluctant to move on because this heavenly morsel demands all of my attention.

Just yesterday my husband and I discussed his perceived conception that the difference between literary works and genre works, mysteries for example, is that literary works take longer to get through because one keeps rereading the juicy bits. Well, many mystery novels are literary works then because some sentences just won’t let me go. If the plot wasn’t so compelling I would still be on page one hundred and twenty-nine, following the next victim down the wind swept autumn street, crisp leaves underfoot and old ladies peering through lace curtains.

Wendy Eggleton moves on to a new direction in her life

I always hate saying goodbye to people I've worked with, and today Wendy Eggleton (aka WG Eggleton), one of the Criminal Minds at Work authors is about to change directions in her life--all positive, she assures me.

Wendy, we have so enjoyed reading your blog posts here, and I hope you'll drop by later as a guest blogger and share with us what you're doing. :)

All the best in success always!

Cheryl Kaye Tardif

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Mystery of a Great Manuscript

At the Love is Murder mystery writers conference last weekend I talked to a lot of self published and Print-On-Demand authors about what they can do to make their books a success. There are a lot of options, from cover selection to interior design to writing a series character versus a stand alone. But you have to start with a good manuscript, and much of what goes into one is not optional. I was reminded of that because during a chat about the various steps leading to publication one author told me that he planned to pay a publicist thousands to market his book but he couldn’t afford a professional editor and so would skip that step.

I had to tell him that, in this writer’s opinion. That is not an option. You might just as well decide not to have a picture on the cover. In other words, if you can’t afford to get a professional editor to work your manuscript, well, you can’t afford to publish your book.

No matter how good a writer you think you are, EVERYONE needs an editor. If you have any hopes of selling copies of your book it needs to be as close to flawless as possible. And if you want an agent to show your work to a publisher, it has to be polished.

Remember, the big publishers wouldn’t let your book go out without being professionally edited, and neither should you.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Author Tech Support Hotline Outsourced to India

Today I invited the very talented Marshall Karp to be a guest blogger on Criminal Minds at Work. Marshall, as you're about to find out, has a great sense of humor, and if you're a writer you're going to be able to relate to this post. ~CKT

The Author Tech Support Hotline has now been outsourced to India

For those of you who are not published authors, let me tell you one of the great perks that comes with the territory. A 24/7 hotline you can call whenever you run into a writing problem.

Now I’m not talking about “Writer’s Block.” That’s a term invented by the media, and it is totally fictitious like The Abominable Snowman, Erectile Dysfunction, or Dick Cheney’s so called “heart.”

Author Tech Support is for writers who just get a little stuck. It has always been staffed by English majors at universities in New York, Chicago, and Boston. But the economic apocalypse has forced Author Hotline to outsource its help desk to India. My recent phone call was a disaster.

RECORDING: You’ve reached the Author Hotline. Press 1 for Chick Lit, Press 2 for Science Fiction, Press 3 for Crime and Mystery…

I press 3 and a man with a thick Indian accent comes on.

AUTHOR HOTLINE: Hello, this is Gary. What is your name please?

MARSHALL KARP: Hi Gary. My name is Chandrashekhar.

AH: Ohh, my father’s name is Chandrashekhar. How can I help you?

MK: I killed a woman in Chapter 5, and I thought I knew who the murderer was, but it just doesn’t work. Now I’m on Chapter 47, and I need some help figuring out who the real murder is.

AH: Oh yes, figuring out who the real murderer is. OJ Syndrome. Are you sure this woman is really dead?

MK: I don’t understand.

AH: A lot of authors call Tech Support, but they don’t check to see if the character is really dead. She could be working late at the office. Can you please take another good look at Chapter 5 to see if she’s really dead?

MK: She’s dead. I checked before I called. I need a murderer.

AH: What are my options?

MK: Her husband.

AH: The husband? That’s Crime 1.0. You’re working in 4.0.

MK: Well, how about the local butcher? She was stabbed with a knife…

AH: Describe this butcher.

MK: Mid sixties, white hair, big happy smile. Nobody would ever suspect him.

AH: Too lovable. Women readers will hate you. Try using a jealous co-worker.

MK: I don’t have a jealous co-worker.

AH: There was one in the box with the original software.

MK: I didn’t save the box. I figured if I had a problem, you would help me.

AH: Sir, I’m trying to help. Why don’t you try rebooting your PC?

MK: Actually it’s a Mac.

AH: A Mac? I’m only qualified for PCs. I’ll have to transfer you.

MK: No! I don’t want to start over again. Don’t transf…

RECORDING: You’ve reached the Author Hotline. Press 1 for Chick Lit, Press 2 for Science Fiction, Press 3 for Crime and Mystery…

Marshall Karp is the author of The Rabbit Factory, Bloodthirsty, Flipping Out, and some mildly amusing blogs like the one above, which reside at