Top Ten Writing Tips

I can’t believe it’s already the middle of January! How are you coming with your New Year’s Resolutions?

One of my resolutions was to transfer the organization I always implemented in my day job to my writing life. Since my writing space and habits were a bit (cough, a lot) disorganized, I got together with some author friends. What quickly evolved was a set of writing tips. Many of these I’ve done without conscious thought. I’m attempting to be more mindful, however, and plan to use this structure as additional motivation to, as one friend puts it, finish the damn book.

So, without further fanfare – the writing tips:

Ten – Make lists. Every day I make a list of the things I want to accomplish that day. (I’m not sure what it says about me that I love drawing a line through an item when it’s done.) The first line (every day but Sunday) is always, Write. Long-term-goals are listed on my white board: things I want to be sure I don’t forget, but I don’t have to do today.

Nine – Sprint.  A group of us grabs our first, or next, cup of coffee and checks in, then we all ignore each other, turn off the internet and the phone, and work steadily for an hour. It’s a writing club, a mutual support group, and a fabulous technique for working without interruption. I write until I meet my word count goal for the day. (Thank Steven King for this one.)

Eight – Work on one series at a time. I try my best to immerse myself in one setting, one set of characters, one story, whether I’m working on a first draft or revising a draft. Avoiding the “new shiny” keeps me focused.

Seven – Finish what’s due first. Except #8 blows up sometimes. I’ll be in first draft mode on Pony Ring and edits will come in from Beaver Pond. I operate on the First Due principle. I knock out the edits, because they’re due in a week or two, then get back to the longer work. The problem with doing that, of course, is getting back up to speed with the work-in-process, so I can re-immerse myself in that world.

Six – Take time away from the desk. By the end of a writing session, my creative brain is mush. I usually go for what I call my plotting walk, especially if I’m writing a first draft. There’s something about the rhythm of walking that brings the next scene or a plot problem into focus. It makes the dogs happy to get out of the house, too.

Five – Separate creative time from admin time. I’m most creative in the early morning, so I do my writing then. A corollary is, Keep creative time sacred. I don’t schedule anything else for mornings. I try to keep writing blog posts, scheduling author events, record-keeping, and all the other business stuff for the evenings.

Four – Work ahead. Know what you want to accomplish. I’ve written my goals for the year and set up a time table to implement them. That means I work now on upcoming items instead of waiting and scrambling at the last minute.

Three – Outsource what I can’t do. While I tinker with art and photo-editing, I know my limits with graphic design. I hire a wonderful cover artist. I like formatting my books, but it’s something I can do in the evening while my husband watches TV. The key point is identifying what I’m good at and enjoy, versus what I can outsource. Why waste time on things it would take me forever to do and rob me of the hours I need to do what I’m good at – writing stories?

Two – Stay healthy. I always have a full flask of water on my desk. Fluids in, fluids out. It makes me get up and move around every hour or so. And if I forget, my Fitbit buzzes at me with a reminder. I try to eat lean fresh foods, and I get regular exercise even if it isn’t always a sweaty gym workout. And the exercise doubles as creative time – see #6!

One – Butt in the chair, fingers on the keyboard. This is really the most important one. If I get distracted, schedule other things, or simply don’t do the writing, then…I’m not doing the writing. And that’s my job. Of all the varied jobs I’ve held, I’m lucky and blessed to have this one I love.

What tips can you add?


Is Noir Hard-Boiled? Or Tough?

By Dana King

Debating noir vs. hard-boiled is a popular panel subject at conferences. I think it’s a false choice. Noir is a genre, a type of story; hard-boiled is a writing style. Much noir is hard-boiled, but it doesn’t have to be. If we consider noir to be a story where the protagonist comes to a bad end, often through his own ill-considered actions, then Hamlet is noir, as is Richard III. Shakespeare’s writing was a lot of things; hard-boiled was not one of them.

I’ve struggled for years with hard-boiled as a description of my writing. Not that I take it as a pejorative; far from it. It’s used as a compliment far more often than not. It’s the term itself I don’t care for. Strikes me too much of dames and gams and gats and yeggs and things that were written for pulps by writers who were often more interested in being pulpy than good.

I was on one of the panels mentioned above when moderator Ted Fitzgerald used the term I like best: tough. “Hard-boiled” too often shows evidence of the effort the author put in to make it so; “tough” just is. Not that I always achieve that, but the real work is in expending as little effort as possible to write what seems natural. That’s not to say one types up a first draft and sends off whatever dreck results. The heavy lifting is shaping that first draft into something worth reading while retaining the seeming effortlessness that comes with whatever your imagination brought to mind, warts and all; removing the warts while leaving no visible scars.

My favorite and most durable quote about writing, my go-to quote when I feel I’m missing the voice, is from James M. Cain:

I make no conscious effort to be tough, or hard-boiled, or grim, or any of the things I am usually called. I merely try to write as the character would write, and I never forget that the average man, from the fields, the streets, the bars, the offices and even the gutters of his country, has acquired a vividness of speech that goes beyond anything I could invent, and that if I stick to this heritage, this logos of the American countryside, I shall attain a maximum of effectiveness with very little effort.

You can’t try to write like anything or anyone. That’s what it will sound like: trying. It’s easy to spot writers who have spent little or no time with working-class men in bars when they try to craft dialog for working-class men in a bar. What I object to most strongly in what I call “bestseller style” is dialog that reads like how people think other people talk instead of how people actually talk. That’s why I’ll never write a book (or even a scene) about teenaged girls talking among themselves; I don’t know what teenaged girls say among themselves when I’m not around and I’m pretty sure I don’t want to. I could take a guess. Might even get away with it until one of two things happens:

  1. Someone who actually does know reads the book;
  2. Anyone who has read Megan Abbott reads it.

It’s a losing proposition for me, not unlike Danny DeVito playing volleyball or Tom Waits singing opera. Both men are substantial talents, just not in those fields.

Not that I am particularly tough, either, but I grew up working class and almost literally in a bar. My mother worked as a cook and sometimes had me behind the bar in a bassinet when I was an infant if her work schedule didn’t quite mesh with Dad’s. In high school when I needed a car for something and Mom and Dad both worked evenings, I’d drop Mom off and met Dad and his friends at the bar to leave a car for Mom. Dad and the boys drank a few beers and I drank a couple of Cokes and got a truly immersive experience in bar talk.

It’s plain-spoken language with rough humor and not all that concerned if someone’s feelings are ruffled; those with excessive sensitivity can drink at home. We call it bullshitting, but actual bullshit is rapidly and sometimes pointedly called out. It’s a euphemism-free zone. People don’t drink too much; they’re drunks. They don’t pass; they die. They may even fucking die. It’s not language for the faint of heart, but neither is it put on. It is what it is.



This blog was cross posted to Do Some Damage a group blog with an inside look at crime fiction.

*  *  *


Dana King has earned Shamus Award nominations for two of his Nick Forte novels, A Small Sacrifice and The Man in the Window. He also writes the Penns River novels, of which the fourth novel in the series, Ten-Seven, releases from Down & Out Books.

His work has appeared in the anthologies The Black Car Business, Unloaded 2, The Shamus Sampler 2, and Blood, Guts, and Whiskey. You can get to know him better on his website, blog, or Facebook page, which he promises to update more often.




Are Writing Contests Relevant?

Are writing contests relevant? Worth the money?

Those questions surface periodically on loops and blogs, but I’ve heard from other contest coordinators that entries are down, perhaps in response to the lingering effects of a crummy economy, but maybe because people aren’t sure it’s something they should do.

Whether a contest is relevant or worth the money depends on what you’re hoping to accomplish. If you expect to get an agent or a book contract from them, you’re probably going to be disappointed. It does happen. Final judges often request full or partial manuscripts. Some people do sign with an agent or sell to an editor based upon a contest.

If you’re entering for feedback on your manuscript, then you may feel you’ve won something, regardless of your entry’s final placement. Even if you aren’t a finalist, you may receive enough positive responses to keep you encouraged.

What if your comments are less than stellar? Do the judges mention the same things? These strangers, who haven’t seen ten versions of your story like your critique partners, can tell you if what’s in your head is hitting the page. Allow for different tastes and perspectives, but if there are consistent references to… whatever, try to find a class or online workshop that can help you in those areas. Good critique partners or a good writers’ workshop can also help as you learn the craft of writing.

But let’s do the happy dance because maybe the contest coordinator just called and said your entry reached the finals. Does it really have an impact on your writing career?


Several years ago, one of my critique partners encouraged me to enter The Professor in an RWA contest. The first round judges pointed out spots to polish and I’m sure that helped my manuscript final in the Golden Heart. Of course the contest wins don’t guarantee a sale, but I suspect having those contest credentials in my query letter helped move the manuscript over the first set of hurdles when I sought publication. I’m happy to say Carina Press acquired The Professor, which became my debut novel.

For me, those early contest finals were an affirmation by other professional and a much needed ego-boost when I wondered if I was beating my head against the proverbial brick wall. People liked the characters, the story, my voice – the encouragement I needed.

So what if things don’t go as you’d hoped? We’ve all heard the story of “that judge,” the grammar police who treat your paper as if it were part of English 101 (Side bar, I use sentence fragments. A lot. It’s fiction. Deal with it.) or the one who wants to rewrite your story the way they would write it.

They happen. Just like the rest of your life, chance is an element in contests. As a coordinator for the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense contest (deadline is March 15, get your entry turned in!) I can tell you most judges are trying to give back to the writing community, taking time away from their writing, family, the rest of their life, in an attempt to nurture other authors. I can also share that the overwhelming majority of our contest judges offer constructive feedback. (As the coordinator, I see all the entries) Any judge who isn’t doing so will not be invited back the next year. On the very positive side, our rate of returning judges is incredibly high.

There are numerous contests in addition to the Romance Writers of America ones I’ve mentioned. Check around and you’ll find legitimate contests in every literary genre. If you enter a contest, make sure you know who is actually sponsoring it, read the fine print and watch out for the scams.

With the explosive growth of self-publishing, I’ve heard people question whether contests add any value. Why try to attract an editor or agent if you plan to “do it yourself?”


Is your material ready for the harsh reality of publication? Are there still holes you need to patch in the all-important opening?

One last point. I’ve seen some concern about someone “stealing” your contest material. An important thing to remember is your voice, the way you tell a story, is as unique as you are. Generally contests only cover the first 15 -25 pages. Even with a synopsis, no one is going to tell the story the same way you would. So put that worry aside and concentrate on writing the story of your heart.

I polled a number of friends about this topic and this is the summary of their advice:


1) Inexpensive way to get impartial feedback

2) Learn how to work with negative feedback – protect your voice but stay open to constructive criticism

3) Compare your work/skill level to your peers

Potential drawbacks:

1) Subjective comments may not be consistent – learn to trust your voice after you acquire sufficient skills

2) Feedback can be overwhelming – and confidence shaking – to a new writer; make sure you and your manuscript are ready before entering a contest

3) Don’t turn into a contest junky – don’t endlessly polish the beginning and neglect the rest of the manuscript. You need the whole book to sell it.

What has your contest experience – as a judge, contestant or coordinator – been?

Can you add to the benefits or offer another caution?



Inspiration Needs A New Form

All writers need inspiration. Where do you find yours?

For me, inspiration comes from the “what if” scenario: What if your neighbor turns out to be a serial killer? What if the supermarket at the end of your street is a cover for an international drugs cartel? What if the pale-skinned old man who owns the second-hand bookshop is actually a ghost?

Big Flats/Snake River

Most writers relish these observations and use them as a launching pad for stories. When my husband and I were battling through a dense thicket of bushes and small trees wedged between the Snake River and the cliff bank soaring above us, I remember telling him, “Wouldn’t this be a great place to find a body?” That remark grew into So About The Money, a fun, amateur sleuth mystery. (It’s Book 1 in the Holly Price mystery series.)


Recently, I been crazy busy between the day job and packing (shredding, wrapping, tossing, gifting) everything we own in preparation for a move into a place 1/4th the size of our current digs, while we build a new house. Well, while assorted crews of craftsmen build the house, but I digress.

So… there’s no time to write, other than in snatched moments. Those snatched moments, however, can lend humor. I’ve discovered the voice recorder on my phone returns gibberish – or maybe it’s my Southern accent that turns reasonable statements into sentences that…well…aren’t remotely reasonable.

But the resulting text is enough that I can at least, sorta remember where I was going with the scene idea.  Then there are the scribbles on the backs of envelopes and sticky notes. Where would we be without sticky notes?

And I’m dreaming like mad. For some weird reason (I’m sure the mental health people can analyze, except I’d really hate it if they did), when I don’t have the creative outlet from writing (or painting or fusing glass or oops, another tangent), all those wild ideas invade my sleep.


What about you? How do you handle it when the rest of your life is overwhelming your writing time? 



How to Make a New Series

By Edith Maxwell

How does a new series come about?

When my agent said my editor at Kensington Publishing would be happy to consider a new cozy series written by my alter ego, Maddie Day, I was delighted. Why as Maddie Day and not Edith Maxwell? My Country Store Mysteries written under that name sell toward the spectacular end of the spectrum and he wanted to leverage that success.

But then…hmm, where to set it? Who would the protagonist be and what would she do for work? What secrets would she have? Who would her cast of regulars be? For someone like me with an overactive imagination, the prospect of inventing a new world was almost overwhelming.

First I came up with another good Midwestern setting. I homed in on western Illinois on the Iowa border, with the Mississippi River running through town. The area has interesting history and geography. I created a whole-grains baker, her family and friends, and a plot for the first book. I found some comparable titles and sent the proposal off to my agent. And then…my agent nixed the setting and the baker! Rats.

Next I floated a different idea with him before I did all that work. I wanted to leverage what I learned during my first full-time job at age 22, working full time at a Mobil gas station on Highway 1 in Newport Beach, California. I worked my way up from pump jock (wearing my Mobil shirt with Edie embroidered on the pocket) to doing tuneups. I know analog cars, and I love the simplicity and beauty of their engine compartments. Those kinds of cars really last in California.

So I dreamed up a female auto mechanic in a fictional town near Santa Barbara who only works on cars made before 1970. That is, on engines that don’t have computers or electronics in them. The mechanic’s name is Jamie Jullien and her father, who trained her, left her JJ Automotive, her repair shop. She lives in an adobe house in an old orange grove. She has a sidekick best friend who is a single mom. Car owners from all over the region, including from the high-income enclave of Montecito just to the northwest, (where Sue Grafton lived) bring her their cars to maintain.

Wouldn’t you want to read the Vintage Car Mysteries? Agent approved, I wrote the proposal, and we sent it to my editor. Who said…”It’s not a cozy.” Wha? Yes it is! Just because Jamie works on cars and not quilts? I wanted a unique occupation for my cozy protag. I wanted to set a series back in my home state. It was amateur sleuth, village-based, the cozy works. Heavy sigh. [NOTE: Don’t nobody even think of stealing that premise – I’m determined to write it one day.]

But…he’s the senior editor at Kensington and I didn’t want to turn down the offer of a new series. This time I had my agent just ask him: “What are you looking for?” When “Something on Cape Cod” came back, I smiled and nodded to myself. For several years I’ve been renting a Quaker retreat cottage in West Falmouth during off season for solo writing retreats. I walk on the Shining Sea Trail. I poke around Falmouth’s shops and restaurants and watch the ospreys over Chapoquoit Beach. Yeah, I could do a series set on the iconic Cape.

And voila! Murder on Cape Cod is the first in the Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries.

Summer is busy season for Mackenzie “Mac” Almeida’s bicycle shop, nestled in the quaint, seaside hamlet of Westham, Massachusetts. She’s expecting an influx of tourists at Mac’s Bikes; instead she discovers the body of Jake Lacey, and her brother soon becomes a suspect. Mac’s experience with murder investigations is limited to the cozy mysteries she reads with her local book group, the Cozy Capers. To clear her brother’s name, Mac has to summon help from her book group co-investigators. For a small town, Westham is teeming with possible killers, and this is one mystery where Mac is hoping for anything but a surprise ending.

I loved inventing Mac and her bicycle rental and repair shop. I added her father, the UU minister, her mom, a quirky astrologer, her tiny nosy grandma, and her half-brother, single dad to a four year old girl. The Cozy Capers members are the rest of the cast. They include shopkeepers, a head librarian, the town clerk, and more. Mac’s boyfriend is a hunky baker, and the touristy town plays a big part, with its soup kitchen and food pantry to help out needy year-round residents.

The book released December 18 in a paperback exclusive from Barnes & Noble. It will re-release a year later in all formats on all platforms. In the meantime, I’d love to give away a signed copy to one commenter here today.


Where’s your favorite waterside getaway? Do you ever rent bikes and ride along the shore? What about book groups? Love ‘em? Hate ‘em? Dish!


[Note: a version of this post first appeared on Jungle Red Writers in December.]


Agatha- and Macavity-nominated Edith Maxwell writes the Quaker Midwife Mysteries, the Local Foods Mysteries, and award-winning short crime fiction. As Maddie Day she writes the Country Store Mysteries and the Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries. Maxwell lives north of Boston with her beau and two elderly cats, and gardens and cooks when she isn’t wasting time on Facebook.

Please find her at the Wicked Authors, on Killer Characters and her web site, and on social media:

Facebook   Twitter   Instagram



A Different Point of View

When I was young, if you’d asked me for the last place I’d expect—or want—to live, my answer would’ve been, “In a small town.” Small towns seemed to be cultural wastelands, populated by gossiping neighbors who were all related to each other. And out west? That option never entered my Southern soul.

Fast forward a few years and dangle the right job opportunity at the right time and—you got it in one—we moved to a small town in eastern Washington state. We quickly discovered most of those myths about small towns were simply…myths.

As we settled into our new hometown, I debated whether my novels should make a similar cross-country leap. My South Carolina based mysteries featured a law enforcement protagonist. To get appropriate operational procedures, along with cop attitudes and humor, I drew from a circle of friends at various levels of local, state and federal law enforcement. Curious about procedures in our new town, I participated in the Citizen’s Police Academy and discovered most of the same policies and philosophies I’d encountered back east. (I also learned more than I ever wanted to know about making meth. Nasty nasty stuff.)

Volunteering for the Sexual Assault Center as a hospital victim’s advocate provided an intimate view of law enforcement. Other than one cocky, testosterone-laden patrol officer and another older guy I wanted to strangle (except that would be assault and I really had no interest in going to jail), I found the officers professional, well educated and well trained.  Nobody’s perfect, and I appreciated what these men and women did on a daily basis.

And those inevitable slow days in a small town? Well, let’s just say the day my in-law’s moving van got stuck at the entrance to the retirement village (blocking traffic on the main road—another relative term), all four patrol cars PLUS the sergeant showed up. Once they finished laughing, they helped a retired mechanic (who was in heaven being the expert, by the way) do something to a suspension part and un-stuck it. For some strange reason, the chief of police was not amused when I relayed this story at a party… So far, I’ve refrained from using this tidbit in a book.

With only five patrol officers on duty during a shift (and fewer than this in the even smaller nearby towns) reciprocal agreements were a must. Neighboring cities, counties, even Washington State Patrol was a welcome addition when suspects took to the highways to escape. I made use of this mutual support during Holly Price’s carjacking in So About the Money (Book 1 in the series). In addition to the local officers, county deputies and state patrol officers joined the chase to catch the villains in that scene.

On a broader scale, I’ve used the involvement of outside agencies—the DEA, for example, in In It For The Money (the most recent release in the series)—to work with—and against—the local law enforcement agencies.

I’d better back up a second. For the Holly Price series, along with changing locations from South Carolina’s cities to a small town in eastern Washington, I switched from a multiple (hero, heroine, villain) point of view approach and a law enforcement main character to a single, civilian character. Whew! Talk about stretching and growing as an author. Everything that happened in the story had to come through that one character’s experiences and reactions. (And no cheating with, “Well, Laurie, as you know, this thing you should already know about happened, but let me give you the complete backstory.”) Action and body language became as important as dialogue for revealing character—but that’s a different discussion.

Rather than having my new protagonist act as a private investigator or a journalist working the crime beat, I made my heroine an accountant. Curious, bright and loyal to friends and family (hmm, she’s much better at crime solving than my dog) she made a terrific character to “follow the money.” Of course, when you poke at villains, they have a tendency to poke back, harder. It was fun to write the scenes where Holly bumped up against law enforcement and filter the scene through her impressions—her point of view—rather than another cop’s.

My new law enforcement friends did insist I get the details right. Even if they produced giant eye-rolls from my heroine.

So About the Money romps through eastern Washington with its rivers, wineries, Native American casinos, and assorted farm animals. Add in some wicked fun chemistry between the CPA amateur sleuth and a local detective and Holly Price better solve the case before the next dead body found beside the river is hers.

So About the Money is on sale right now for only 99 cents!  Amazon 

In It For The Money continues Holly’s adventures:

Holly Price traded professional goals for personal plans when she agreed to leave her high-flying position with the Seattle Mergers and Acquisition team and take over the family accounting practice. Reunited with JC Dimitrak, her former fiancé, she’s already questioning whether she’s ready to flip her condo for marriage and a house in the ‘burbs.

When her cousin Tate needs investors for his innovative car suspension, Holly works her business matchmaking skills and connects him with a client. The Rockcrawler showcasing the new part crashes at its debut event, however, and the driver dies. Framed for the sabotage, Tate turns to Holly when the local cops—including JC—are ready to haul him to jail. Holly soon finds her cousin and client embroiled in multiple criminal schemes. She’s drawn into the investigation, a position that threatens her life, her family and her increasingly shaky relationship with JC.



Why I Wrote a Culinary Mystery When I Can’t Cook

By Debra H. Goldstein

I can’t cook. In fact, my efforts in the kitchen are so bad that if I make dinner two nights in a row, my husband firmly suggests going out on the third night. When he was in second grade, my son flunked a sequencing reading test. He identified the first picture of the family sitting down for a meal and the second picture of the family eating correctly, but when shown the third picture, which required one to say, “the family is getting up and clearing the table,” he answered, “the family is getting up to pay the bill.”

Crafts and I rarely get along. The only way I’d agree to be my daughter’s Brownie/Girl Scout leader was if someone, other than me, handled the artsy crafty things. It worked because I was great at organization while other mothers were creative with wool, paper, wood, and anything else you can imagine.

I bet you’re asking yourself why and how did an individual who lacks cooking and craft skills come to write a cozy mystery? Simple, I like them. That’s why when I decided to write one, I analyzed how I could write something that usually had a protagonist with culinary or craft skills. My original attempts resulted in boring words on the paper. I realized I couldn’t fake it. I also concluded there had to be other cozy readers more like me than most of the protagonists in the book. Once I reached that conclusion, I knew exactly what the protagonist in One Taste Too Many had to be – a cook of convenience who was never perfect at things she tried to do.

That is how Sarah Blair was born. Her skills in the kitchen are lacking and she knows nothing about crafts. Her twin sister, Emily, a trained chef, is her polar opposite. While Emily makes spinach pie from scratch, Sarah, the cook of convenience, uses Stouffer’s creamed spinach souffle. Emily wouldn’t be caught dead using prepared ingredients, Sarah thrives on bringing take-out in or taking short cuts. Does it tell you something that two of Sarah’s favorite cookbooks are Peg Bracken’s The I Hate to Cook Book and The Appendix to The I Hate to Cook Book.

I like Sarah Blair. She’s vulnerable and honest, especially about her cooking and craft skills. That to me is what makes her a good protagonist. In One Taste Too Many, one of the throwback recipes she finds is Jell-O in a Can. Can you suggest any other simple throw-back recipes she might use in the future? (Leave a comment for a chance to win a print or e-copy of One Taste Too Many – your choice in the U.S./e-book outside the United States)


For culinary challenged Sarah Blair, there’s only one thing scarier than cooking from scratch—murder!

Sarah knew starting over after her divorce would be messy. But things fall apart completely when her ex drops dead, seemingly poisoned by her twin sister’s award-winning rhubarb crisp. Now, with RahRah, her Siamese cat, wanted by the woman who broke up her marriage and her twin wanted by the police for murder, Sarah needs to figure out the right recipe to crack the case before time runs out. Unfortunately, for a gal whose idea of good china is floral paper plates, catching the real killer and living to tell about it could mean facing a fate worse than death—being in the kitchen!

One Taste Too Many Buylinks:
Amazon   Barnes & Noble 

About the Author

Judge Debra H. Goldstein is the author of One Taste Too Many, the first of Kensington’s new Sarah Blair cozy mystery series. She also wrote Should Have Played Poker and 2012 IPPY Award winning Maze in Blue. Her short stories, including Anthony and Agatha nominated “The Night They Burned Ms. Dixie’s Place,” have appeared in numerous periodicals and anthologies including Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Black Cat Mystery Magazine, and Mystery Weekly. Debra is president of Sisters in Crime’s Guppy Chapter, serves on SinC’s national board, and is president of the Southeast Chapter of Mystery Writers of America.

Find out more about Debra at .



Christmas Greetings

Happy Holidays! My name is Mary Martinez and I have a family series that are romantic suspenses. Thank you Cathy, for inviting me to share my stories today on your blog.

I’d love to have visited the city or scene of all my stories. However, that is not always possible. I was lucky with the Beckett’s. I love New York City and have visited many time with friends or stayed with our son who lived in Brooklyn for several years. It was easy to imagine them living there.

The Beckett’s are like my family – I know them. I know their neighborhoods, their favorite places to shop. A couple of the books were set in D. C. and the Napa Valley. Both places I’ve had the privilege to visit, so again I know their neighborhoods, etc.

The stories are about one family and each sibling has their own story. At the center of them are their parents, who they lovingly refer to as The Elders.

I have had so much fun with these books.

Please enjoy the two videos:

Unedited time in NYC  


The books: 

The Beckett’s have a strong sense of family and honor.

When one of their own is threatened, their bond is as strong as a badge of steel.

​After two years undercover as an FBI agent to infiltrate a crime organization and discover the identity of a hit man, Tyler Beckett’s cover is blown. Keira Cavanaugh is the only witness to a hit ordered by a crime boss. 

The safe house is compromised and the same hit man shoots Tyler. Fearing Tyler is dead, Keira plans revenge on the crime organization. She must fake her own suicide in order to survive. 

When Tyler discovers what Keira plans, he realizes he must stop her before he loses her for good.


All Jessica wants is a home and family. So how did she suddenly find herself falsely accused of a felony and then kidnapped by a hit man?

Gabriel Despain loves being an FBI agent. But falling for his partner’s sister has complications. It would be easier to ignore his feelings if Jessica hadn’t found herself in trouble. Now he must keep her safe. If he can’t remain objective, they might both end up dead.



Christine Beckett’s dream of partnership in a prestigious New York City law firm has finally come to fruition. She has financial security, a loving family, and owns her home, why does she need a man?

Detective Solomon has worked with Tyler Beckett on several cases, he almost feels he is part of the Beckett clan. He considers them his good friends, except for Christine who seems to look down her professional nose at him.

Christine receives a threatening note and her townhouse echoes with mysterious cries in the night. That is when the handsome and irritating detective insists he temporarily move in to protect her. To add insult, it is with her family’s blessing.

Utopia the Beginning

Special Agent Reagan Beckett left Brooklyn for San Francisco ten years ago—on bad terms with her family. When the World Banking Association (WBA), one of the biggest worldwide financial institutions, is targeted by domestic terrorists, Reagan is called to join the team with two others in New York City. Now she would be home for an extended visit.

As soon as Reagan receives information on the assignment, she researches her new partners. But does she know enough to literally trust these men with her life?​



PROFIT: Utopia the Conclusion
Mat Beckett is the Chief Financial officer for World Banking Association (WBA). Over a year ago an agency known as the HEAD group tried to take over the WBA. Now the founder of HEAD, Andrew Phillips, is back and ready to finish what he’d started with a new and dastardly key player from the Dark web. 

Bryn Connelly is the Chief Audit Executive for the WBA. She had been one of the Headman’s targets and thought her days of danger were over. However, she finds herself working with laid back Matt Beckett, much to her dismay. 

It’s up to Matt and Bryn to finish what Reagan and her team started, but can he win the lovely Bryn and save the day? Or will he lose her forever if the WBA falls into the wrong hands?


Wanting more than being a Beckett, Glenna moves to California, opens a successful vintage shop and even finds love with international playboy, Lance Gordon. Refusing to believe she’s been abandoned at the altar, she asks her FBI Agent brother, Tyler, to contact a friend on the West Coast to find Lance.

Special Agent, Patrick McGinnis, can’t believe he’s on a wild goose chase for a missing groom. Unfortunately, once Patrick starts to dig, he finds there’s more to the tale and it will take all his skills as an agent to keep Glenna safe. Especially when the case takes a turn and threatens the safety of his son, Finn.​


For the holidays I have a limited edition Beckett Series Box set – 6 full length novels.

Intrigue… Edge of your seat suspense… Love… Family… The Beckett Series is a bundle of six full length novels.

Buy links:



Barnes and Noble:   

Visit my website – for individual links and more information about other books

Mary’s bio

Mary lives in Magna, a little town west of Salt Lake City, Utah. Together with her husband, she has six grown children, and six wonderful grandsons and five beautiful granddaughters. She loves to spend time with family and friends–she includes good books as friends!

Mary and her husband love to travel, especially to the Caribbean for relaxing, and Italy for the wine. And most recently she discovered she was Irish and Scottish. Of course they had to visit Ireland and Scotland. Mary fell in love with both, but the green hills of Ireland felt like home.  With the experience from the exotic places she has visited, she is able to fill her books with colorful descriptions of cities, painting a colorful backdrop for her characters. One of her favorite US destinations is New York/Brooklyn, where her beloved Becketts live. When she visits, she can wander their neighborhoods, favorite parks, and visit their favorite pub, Putnum’s.

They are avid concert ‘Ho’s’! Yes, they pretty much want to do them all. They love outdoor amphitheaters the best and attend as many during the warmer months as possible.

Mary writes mostly romantic suspense, romance, women’s fiction, and she has just begun to dabble in young adult mystery. She is a member of Romance Writers of America (RWA). During her writing career she has been a conference coordinator, workshop presenter, and chapter president for the Utah Chapter of RWA. In 2007 she was presented with the Utah RWA service award in acknowledgment and appreciation for outstanding service. Mary has also participated in numerous library panels on writing and co-presented a workshop on writing a series at the League of Utah Writers conference.

Mary and her husband are also enthusiastic college football fans. They have season tickets to the UTES, University of Utah Football and they tailgate every game. They love tailgating so much, that they were married at a tailgating in 1999. GO UTES!

Where can you find me on the web? Here you go…

Mary’s Garden Blog:

The After Work Cook:







Google +:   


Christmas memories and Cookies

I visited with Mary Martinez  and the After Work Cook during a special series of Christmas memories. For my contribution, I shared my mom’s gingerbread cookies.

Grandma Dot’s Gingerbread  Men





1 c. Packed brown sugar
3 Eggs
1 c. Margarine, softened (butter-flavored Crisco)
1 tsp. Salt
1 tbs. Baking soda
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1 tsp. Ground allspice
1 tsp. Ground cloves
1 tbs. Ground ginger
3 c. All-purpose flour (plus 5-6 c.)
  8” gingerbread man cookie cutter (Grandma Dot:  I usually use smaller size.)



  1. In large bowl with mixer at low speed, blend all ingredients except the 5-6 cups flour until just mixed, scraping bowl with rubber spatula.
  2. Increase speed to medium and beat 2 more minutes, scraping occasionally.
  3. Using wooden spoon, stir in additional 5-6 cups flour to make a stiff dough.
  4. Divide dough in half and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate up to 2 days.
  5. Preheat oven to 350o On lightly floured surface roll half the dough until ⅛ – ¼” thick.
  6. Cut cookies and transfer to lightly greased cookie sheet.
  7. (Grandma Dot: We decorate at this point with raisins or currants for eyes, candy cinnamon hearts for mouths, etc.)
  8. Bake approximately 12 minutes until edges are firm.
  9. Cool slightly. Remove to wire rack to cool. (Grandma Dot: If you use frosting to decorate, wait til this point.)


One of the reasons I love these cookies is the memory of my mom making them with my children and nieces.


Family—the importance of family—is a constant theme in my stories. Holly Price took a leave of absence from her Seattle based career to help her mother run, and ultimately sell, the family business.



Of course, Holly runs into trouble she never expected. With the latest installment in the series, IN IT FOR THE MONEY, her cousin’s troubles have crossed into her professional life, and added a new wrinkle to her relationship with JC.


Holly Price traded professional goals for personal plans when she agreed to leave her high-flying position with the Seattle Mergers and Acquisition team and take over the family accounting practice. Reunited with JC Dimitrak, her former fiancé, she’s already questioning whether she’s ready to flip her condo for marriage and a house in the ‘burbs.

When her cousin Tate needs investors for his innovative car suspension, Holly works her business matchmaking skills and connects him with a client. The Rockcrawler showcasing the new part crashes at its debut event, however, and the driver dies. Framed for the sabotage, Tate turns to Holly when the local cops—including JC—are ready to haul him to jail. Holly soon finds her cousin and client embroiled in multiple criminal schemes. She’s drawn into the investigation, a position that threatens her life, her family and her increasingly shaky relationship with JC.

Universal Link –


An award-winning author of financial mysteries, Cathy Perkins writes twisting dark suspense and light amateur sleuth stories. A contributing editor for International Thriller Writers’ The Big Thrill, she also coordinated the prestigious Daphne du Maurier contest.

When not writing, she does battle with the beavers over the pond height or heads out on another travel adventure. She lives in Washington with her husband, children, several dogs and the resident deer herd.

Sign up for her newsletter on her website (over there on the right) or follow her on BookBub for new release announcements. (Follow me!  )

Visit the The After Work Cook here –