Book Review: My Dark Places by James Ellroy

My Dark PlacesMy Dark Places
James Ellroy
Vintage Books, 1997
ISBN 0-679-76205-1
Trade Paperback

James Ellroy, prolific Los Angeles crime writer, takes us on a rock-strewn, rutted road through his internal landscape in this memoir, which has at its heart, the loss of his mother to an anonymous murder.

This intimate view of the inside of James Ellroy is not for the faint of heart.  As one reads it, one feels the jagged edges, the desperation, the loneliness and lostness of a boy turned man, still boy, trapped with the feelings of a 10-year-old toward his beautiful, red-headed mother, like a fly trapped in amber.

Mr. Ellroy will be the first to tell the reader, and with frequency, that he transmogrified his feelings toward his mother’s death into his fascination with crime in Los Angeles.  He is one of our living literary giants of noir.  Reading this book shows one how he got there. He lived noir.  He is noir.

Yet, there is redemption.  He should have ended up incarcerated.  He should have wound up dead of an overdose or acute alcohol poisoning.  He should have died an ugly death at the end of a short, tormented life, but he did not.  He lived to thrill us with tales of the dark side, the shadow side that lives in us all.  His courage, talent and genetic midwestern work ethic pulled him out of the muck that wanted to kill him.  The reader is the beneficiary, with not only this memoir, but his L.A. Quartet (The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, L.A. Confidential, and White Jazz) and his other crime books and essays.

Reviewed by Marta Chausée, December 2011.

New Year’s Resolutions: Our Favorite Detectives' Promises for Self-Improvement in 2012

Lauren Carr gave up her career of writing mysteries for television and stage to try her hand at writing novels. She wrote A Small Case of Murder while staying at home with her young son. Her first book, A Small Case of Murder, was named finalist for the Independent Publisher Book Awards. Old Love Dies Hard is Lauren’s fourth book. She learned to love mysteries as a child when her mother read Perry Mason to her at bedtime.  She resides in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.

Lauren has a brand new website—

Mysterylady.net

and a brand new blog—

From the Writer’s Studio

All of her books are available for free lending if you are a Kindle owner and an amazon prime member. They are all part of Kindle Owners’ Lending Library at

http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?ie=UTF8&docId=1000739811

Yes, it’s that time of year again.

After a season of eating, drinking, and being merry, it is time to make that overnight transformation into a better person by chucking those bad habits and irritating traits that do nothing but annoy everyone and get us into trouble.

I stopped making New Year’s resolutions years ago. I mean, how can I possibly improve? However, my dog Ziggy has made a few resolutions. Noticing that he was losing his slender school dog figure, he has resolved to eat fewer dog biscuits and take more walks.  That will end when he comes to me with his leash when I’m in the middle of writing a particularly daring chase scene.

Of course, we all like to think that our favorite mystery detectives are perfect. Like everyone else, when it comes to taking a good honest self-assessment, they, too, can all stand to make some adjustments to become better people.

For example, retired homicide detective turned millionaire playboy Mac Faraday, of my Deep Creek Lake mystery series, is planning to strive to get along better with Gnarly, the German shepherd he had inherited from his birth mother, mystery writer Robin Spencer. This resolution will end thirty-seconds after Gnarly steals the neighbor’s New Year’s Day pork roast.

I can imagine the resolutions some of our other favorite mystery detectives would make:

Perry Mason: This most famous literary lawyer created by Earle Stanley Gardner would promise to consider making an honest woman of his Girl Friday Della Street, or maybe not. I think their relationship would have been much less interesting if there wasn’t that wondering. “Are they, or are they not, a couple?”

Sherlock Holmes: Get clean of the cocaine and morphine. It is interesting to note that I first read The Hounds of the Baskerville back when I was in high school. I had no idea that Sherlock Holmes was “doing drugs” until way into college. I still remember my shock when it was pointed out in one of my literature classes. I don’t know if that is a comment on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s portrayal of his brilliant detective or my lack of perception and naivety.  It should be noted that back in Doyle’s day in England, cocaine was legal, so the use of it was not taboo. In which case, I most likely didn’t take notice about Holmes’s use of it because of how it was portrayed in the book.

Miss Marple: Her neighbors in St. Mary Mead would probably wish that Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple would resolve to be less nosy. Not only do they have to look over their shoulders to beware of the police while committing murder and mayhem, they have to keep an eye out for the elderly spinster next door.

Sam Spade: Dashiell Hammett’s private detective promises to be more sensitive. He’s all signed up for a six-week sensitivity training course after the first of the year.

Nero Wolfe: Rex Stout’s reclusive, robust detective with gourmet tastes vows to go on The Biggest Loser.

Monk: (We can’t not list Monk when it comes to self-improvement.) Lee Goldberg’s Monk promises to be less obsessive and compulsive … but then he wouldn’t be Monk.

Columbo: To be less annoying, especially to murderers … but then he wouldn’t have so much fun on the job. Just look at his smile at the end of Columbo when he nabs the killer. Detectives aren’t supposed to have so much fun catching murderers.

Unfortunately, if all our favorite detectives got rid of their little idiosyncrasies, then they would lose the very elements that endear them to us.

It reminds me of a friend I had in my youth. Every time we’d get together we’d go to Baskin Robbins. On the way in the door we would promise to only order one scoop. But as soon as the clerk asked for our order, we’d blurt out our request for the biggest sundae. Then, while chowing down, we’d talk about how much weight we needed to lose and how next time we’d meet we’d go to the gym.

Finally, she gave up Baskin Robbins and the sundaes and even (Gasp!) lost weight. Yes, we still got together, but it wasn’t fun and interesting anymore.

It’s the same with our detectives. They’re like friends with whom we can share our little vices. Columbo solving a murder without toying with the killer along the way is just another detective solving a murder.

This is not to say that faults are a good thing. No, faults are called faults for a reason. But, when it comes to our fictional crime solvers, these imperfections are what make them … the perfect detectives.

New Year’s Resolutions: Our Favorite Detectives’ Promises for Self-Improvement in 2012

Lauren Carr gave up her career of writing mysteries for television and stage to try her hand at writing novels. She wrote A Small Case of Murder while staying at home with her young son. Her first book, A Small Case of Murder, was named finalist for the Independent Publisher Book Awards. Old Love Dies Hard is Lauren’s fourth book. She learned to love mysteries as a child when her mother read Perry Mason to her at bedtime.  She resides in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.

Lauren has a brand new website—

Mysterylady.net

and a brand new blog—

From the Writer’s Studio

All of her books are available for free lending if you are a Kindle owner and an amazon prime member. They are all part of Kindle Owners’ Lending Library at

http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?ie=UTF8&docId=1000739811

Yes, it’s that time of year again.

After a season of eating, drinking, and being merry, it is time to make that overnight transformation into a better person by chucking those bad habits and irritating traits that do nothing but annoy everyone and get us into trouble.

I stopped making New Year’s resolutions years ago. I mean, how can I possibly improve? However, my dog Ziggy has made a few resolutions. Noticing that he was losing his slender school dog figure, he has resolved to eat fewer dog biscuits and take more walks.  That will end when he comes to me with his leash when I’m in the middle of writing a particularly daring chase scene.

Of course, we all like to think that our favorite mystery detectives are perfect. Like everyone else, when it comes to taking a good honest self-assessment, they, too, can all stand to make some adjustments to become better people.

For example, retired homicide detective turned millionaire playboy Mac Faraday, of my Deep Creek Lake mystery series, is planning to strive to get along better with Gnarly, the German shepherd he had inherited from his birth mother, mystery writer Robin Spencer. This resolution will end thirty-seconds after Gnarly steals the neighbor’s New Year’s Day pork roast.

I can imagine the resolutions some of our other favorite mystery detectives would make:

Perry Mason: This most famous literary lawyer created by Earle Stanley Gardner would promise to consider making an honest woman of his Girl Friday Della Street, or maybe not. I think their relationship would have been much less interesting if there wasn’t that wondering. “Are they, or are they not, a couple?”

Sherlock Holmes: Get clean of the cocaine and morphine. It is interesting to note that I first read The Hounds of the Baskerville back when I was in high school. I had no idea that Sherlock Holmes was “doing drugs” until way into college. I still remember my shock when it was pointed out in one of my literature classes. I don’t know if that is a comment on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s portrayal of his brilliant detective or my lack of perception and naivety.  It should be noted that back in Doyle’s day in England, cocaine was legal, so the use of it was not taboo. In which case, I most likely didn’t take notice about Holmes’s use of it because of how it was portrayed in the book.

Miss Marple: Her neighbors in St. Mary Mead would probably wish that Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple would resolve to be less nosy. Not only do they have to look over their shoulders to beware of the police while committing murder and mayhem, they have to keep an eye out for the elderly spinster next door.

Sam Spade: Dashiell Hammett’s private detective promises to be more sensitive. He’s all signed up for a six-week sensitivity training course after the first of the year.

Nero Wolfe: Rex Stout’s reclusive, robust detective with gourmet tastes vows to go on The Biggest Loser.

Monk: (We can’t not list Monk when it comes to self-improvement.) Lee Goldberg’s Monk promises to be less obsessive and compulsive … but then he wouldn’t be Monk.

Columbo: To be less annoying, especially to murderers … but then he wouldn’t have so much fun on the job. Just look at his smile at the end of Columbo when he nabs the killer. Detectives aren’t supposed to have so much fun catching murderers.

Unfortunately, if all our favorite detectives got rid of their little idiosyncrasies, then they would lose the very elements that endear them to us.

It reminds me of a friend I had in my youth. Every time we’d get together we’d go to Baskin Robbins. On the way in the door we would promise to only order one scoop. But as soon as the clerk asked for our order, we’d blurt out our request for the biggest sundae. Then, while chowing down, we’d talk about how much weight we needed to lose and how next time we’d meet we’d go to the gym.

Finally, she gave up Baskin Robbins and the sundaes and even (Gasp!) lost weight. Yes, we still got together, but it wasn’t fun and interesting anymore.

It’s the same with our detectives. They’re like friends with whom we can share our little vices. Columbo solving a murder without toying with the killer along the way is just another detective solving a murder.

This is not to say that faults are a good thing. No, faults are called faults for a reason. But, when it comes to our fictional crime solvers, these imperfections are what make them … the perfect detectives.

Book Reviews x 4 by Patricia E. Reid

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star...Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, There’s A Body In The Car
Fran Rizer
Bella Rosa Books, January 2011
ISBN No. 978-1933523941
Trade Paperback

There is never a dull moment in Callie Parrish’s life.  Callie is employed by Middleton Mortuary.  Her job title is mortuary cosmetologist but Callie also answers the phone, talks to clients and does whatever Otis and Odell Middleton need her to do.  Callie is currently living with her friend Jane while her home is being redone.  Jane is engaged to Callie’s brother.

When Callie makes a stop at the bookstore to pick up a couple of mysteries, she spots a man in a car with a fly on his nose.  She soon realizes that there’s a good reason he doesn’t swat the fly off his nose. The guy is dead.  Not only is he dead but there’s also a snake in the car.

Callie gets back to the funeral home to find that Odell is leaving and wants her to talk to a Mrs. Joyner who according to Odell wants a St. Patrick’s Day funeral for her husband, which is a bit unusual since it is October.  It turns out that Odell misunderstood and Mrs. Joyner wants a green funeral where the body is not embalmed and the casket is environmentally friendly.   Mrs. Joyner also wants a set of fingerprints so that she can have the fingerprints preserved in gold.

The fingerprints are taken by Callie but before she can turn them over to Mrs. Joyner a police officer runs the prints and it is found out that Mr. Joyner is not who everyone thinks he is but a participant in an armed robbery years ago.

The Sheriff is busy trying to find out the identity of the man who was found dead in the car as well as seeking more information about Mr. Joyner. As usual, Callie is drawn into the mess and finds herself in one predicament after the other.

This is the fourth Callie Parrish novel.  It is always fun to read about Callie who has more adventures in a few days than most people have in their whole life.  Odell and Otis are characters that bring a chuckle.  Callie’s father and brothers are fun and there is just no one like Callie’s friend Jane.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, April 2011.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Devil WindDevil Wind
Deborah Shlian and Linda Reid
Oceanview Publishing Company, April 2011
ISBN: 978-1-933515-89-2
Hardcover

It is 1999 and in Los Angeles Santa Ana winds are causing wildfires and Y2K is right around the corner.  Sammy Greene who is hosting a talk radio show finds that there is no end to the wild events that Y2K will bring.  Sammy’s father, Jeffrey Greene, is a real estate tycoon in the city but Sammy is hesitant to make contact with him.  Sammy was close to her previous step-mother but since her father got a divorce and is now remarried Sammy hasn’t bothered to get in touch with Jeffrey since she moved to California.  Sammy has always felt that her dad was more interested in his own life and concerns than that of his daughter.

When Sammy gets a call about the discovery of a burned body, she decides to check into the story and discovers that the body has been identified as Ana Pappajohn, the daughter of Sammy’s old friend Gus Pappajohn.  Sammy notifies Gus Pappajohn who immediately flies to California to claim his daughter’s body.

The story switches back and forth between Sammy’s actions and that of Ana Pappajohn who actually was still alive.  Ana is working for an expensive escort service and is separated at a party from her friend and roommate Sylvie.   Somehow the two had gotten their purses mixed up and Ana wound up with Sylvie’s purse.  When Sylvie’s body is discovered it is thought that the body was that of Ana’s since Sylvie carried Ana’s ID.

Ana’s date was Neil Prescott, a U. S. Congressman, who was working with Sammy’s father and had some deals going to insure his reelection.  The people Prescott was working with were ruthless individuals that would go to any lengths to promote their own interests.  Ana soon discovered that Sylvie was passing information regarding the activities of the escort service’s clients.  Ana stumbled on some documentation that Sylvie had hidden and the fact that she might have the documentation put Ana’s life in danger.

This novel has several story lines going at the same time. Sammy and her friend Gus begin to believe that Ana is still alive and in hiding and that many details of the burned victim’s death have been manipulated to avoid anyone discovering the true identity of the victim.

Sammy takes many chances to discover to locate her friend Gus’ daughter.  It seems that at every turn there is intrigue and cover-up.  The authors bring the multiple story lines together in a satisfying and surprising way.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, April 2011.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Worst ThingThe Worst Thing
Aaron Elkins
Berkley Prime Crime, May 2011
ISBN No. 978-0425240991
Hardcover

Bryan Bennett has a happy and successful life and his worst thing is something that he manages to put on a shelf a big percentage of the time. Bryan’s worst thing is panic attacks but he has learned to deal with them, at least in his opinion.  Bryan works at Odysseus Institute where he specializes in issues relating to kidnapping and extortion.  His panic attacks are a result of his abduction and imprisonment in a Turkish dungeon as a young boy.

Bryan’s wife, Lori, loves to travel but Bryan is not comfortable when traveling unless he can manage to do so without getting on a plane.  Enclosed places bring on his attacks and Xanax helps but the pills are a crutch and not a cure.  When Bryan’s boss suggests that he make a trip to Iceland to teach a kidnapping seminar, Bryan senses Lori’s disappointment and decides that it is time to face his problems and allow Lori to enjoy an expense paid trip to Iceland.   Lori is thrilled with the idea of the trip but insists that it is time that Bryan consults a professional regarding his fears.

Bryan agrees and makes an appointment with Zeta Parkington, retired professor, whose specialty was anxiety disorders.  Zeta met with Bryan and among other things told him that the only real cure for anxiety problems was to face the fear and conquer that fear.  The time for facing his fear was not far away for Bryan

The couple arrives in Iceland without a problem and are soon enjoying the trip.  However, the fun is brought to a sudden halt when a group of radical citizen-soldiers executes a kidnapping attempt.  The attempt goes wrong and Bryan winds up as a hostage.  Now he has to face his old fears and conquer them in order to survive.

The Worst Thing is a novel full of suspense and some surprises.  This book gives the reader a real insight into the horrors of panic attacks and makes for excellent reading.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, May 2011.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Midnight FiresMidnight Fires
Nancy Means Wright
Perseverance Press, April 2010
ISBN No. 978-1564744883
Trade Paperback

The crossing by sea from Holyhead to Dublin proved to be calm for Mary Wollstonecraft for the most part but a wind came up and blew her hat away.  A young sailor rescued the hat and Mary discovered the sailor had been to the colonies and been able to purchase a small piece of land and hoped to return to the colonies with the woman who was waiting for him in Ireland.  That dream would never come true for the sailor for shortly after talking to him Mary witnessed his body pitching overboard.  However, the sailor had managed to pass Mary a note and whisper to her to deliver the note to Liam in Mitchelstown.

Mary’s destination was Mitchelstown where she was to serve as a governess at Mitchelstown Castle for the Kingsborough family.  The year is 1786 and Mary was not happy about her new position.  Family problems and debts had forced Mary into accepting the position.  Mary was independent and had written a book soon to be published.  The fact that she had authored a book gave her a bit of status in the castle.  Mary hoped that her time as governess would pass quickly.

Life at the castle was hectic and the children’s mother was more concerned about her assortment of dogs than she was about the children.  Mary’s independent attitude did not please the Lady of the castle but Mary was determined to hold onto her pride in spite of her dependency on the funds to be earned as governess.

After making discreet inquiries, Mary learned that Liam did live near the castle and one of the servants agreed to put Mary in touch with him so the note could be delivered.  There was much turmoil and rebellion during this time and Mary seemed to wind up right in the middle of the turmoil.

Midnight Fires takes the readers through the many adventures that Mary endured while living in the castle not the least of which is a murder and a suicide.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, May 2011.

Book Review: Mercury's Rise by Ann Parker

Mercury’s Rise
Ann Parker
Poisoned Pen Press, November 2011
ISBN #987-1590580963-2
Trade paperback (also available in hardcover)

I love a good historical, and if it’s an American historical—all the better.

I am very pleased to say that this is the best historical I’ve read all year. The fourth in the Silver Rush Series set in and around Leadville, Colorado, Mercury’s Rise sets the reader between Leadville, and Manitou, Colorado, two important  historical settings for totally different reasons.

Inez is a complicated woman.  Born in the East and from a family of privilege, she may not have chosen wisely when she allowed herself to be wooed into a hasty marriage with charming gambler, Mark Stannert. With a rocky ten years of marriage, a partnership in a successful Leadville saloon, and a baby boy whose asthmatic conditions deems it necessary for them to sell the saloon, her husband, Mark, disappears and she fears him dead. (Read the first three books.)

In this book, Mark has been gone a year, and Inez sees a lawyer and posts a newspaper advertisement for dissolution of marriage. But, then Mark reappears, kicking her dreams of a new life with the reverend Sanders off the tracks.

Inez, suspicious and deeply hurt by what she considers her husband’s abandonment, doesn’t want to hear his excuses. After all, because of his disappearance, she had to remain with the saloon and send their son to her sister back east.

So begins this deeply atmospheric story that weaves mystery, history and romance. The author nails it with her descriptions of this time of American history, the characters, each in their levels in society, speak and act as I would imagine them to do so. And eventually it’s these societal standards of 19th century America that drives one of them to do murder.

I really appreciated how the author has created an intelligent and tough protagonist in Inez Stannert. Inez is flawed as both a woman who does what she can to survive and as a mother who is torn in her decision to let her son be raised by her sister and family.

An excellent, intelligent read that I happily lived in until it was finished. I look forward to reading more Silver Rush Mysteries to see what happens with Inez.

Reviewed by guest reviewer, RP Dahlke, November 2011.

Book Review: Mercury’s Rise by Ann Parker

Mercury’s Rise
Ann Parker
Poisoned Pen Press, November 2011
ISBN #987-1590580963-2
Trade paperback (also available in hardcover)

I love a good historical, and if it’s an American historical—all the better.

I am very pleased to say that this is the best historical I’ve read all year. The fourth in the Silver Rush Series set in and around Leadville, Colorado, Mercury’s Rise sets the reader between Leadville, and Manitou, Colorado, two important  historical settings for totally different reasons.

Inez is a complicated woman.  Born in the East and from a family of privilege, she may not have chosen wisely when she allowed herself to be wooed into a hasty marriage with charming gambler, Mark Stannert. With a rocky ten years of marriage, a partnership in a successful Leadville saloon, and a baby boy whose asthmatic conditions deems it necessary for them to sell the saloon, her husband, Mark, disappears and she fears him dead. (Read the first three books.)

In this book, Mark has been gone a year, and Inez sees a lawyer and posts a newspaper advertisement for dissolution of marriage. But, then Mark reappears, kicking her dreams of a new life with the reverend Sanders off the tracks.

Inez, suspicious and deeply hurt by what she considers her husband’s abandonment, doesn’t want to hear his excuses. After all, because of his disappearance, she had to remain with the saloon and send their son to her sister back east.

So begins this deeply atmospheric story that weaves mystery, history and romance. The author nails it with her descriptions of this time of American history, the characters, each in their levels in society, speak and act as I would imagine them to do so. And eventually it’s these societal standards of 19th century America that drives one of them to do murder.

I really appreciated how the author has created an intelligent and tough protagonist in Inez Stannert. Inez is flawed as both a woman who does what she can to survive and as a mother who is torn in her decision to let her son be raised by her sister and family.

An excellent, intelligent read that I happily lived in until it was finished. I look forward to reading more Silver Rush Mysteries to see what happens with Inez.

Reviewed by guest reviewer, RP Dahlke, November 2011.

Why Did I Write A Funny Mystery?

Making the leap from reading to making up stories, Kat Jorgensen has entertained friends and family almost all of her life with the stories that play in her mind.

In her left-brain life, Kat was a manager of six departments for a local life insurance company and earned the professional designation of FLMI (Fellow in the Life Management Institute).  She’s also held numerous support staff positions in the mental health field including office manager, public relations liaison, and crisis interventionist where she handled suicide calls.  Currently she is self-employed in medical billing and is a Notary.

In her right-brain life, Kat loves to write mysteries and women’s fiction novels.  She is busy working on her next novel with plots for six or seven more books screaming to be heard.

Kat is a member of Romance Writers of America, International ThrillerWriters and Sisters in Crime.

A native of Richmond, Virginia, Kat is married with children and has a cranky tuxedo cat.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The three most frequently asked questions I get from readers are:

1) Where do you get your ideas?

2) How long does it take you to write a book?

3) Why did you choose to write a funny mystery?

The first two are easy. Ideas abound. Everywhere I look, I see potential story ideas. Every experience I have is fodder for my books. My friends have all been warned that if they tell me something really interesting, it could end up in a future book. Nothing – and no one – is safe around me when I’m in writer mode.

The second question is also simple. A book takes as long as it takes to write it. It may be quick, or it may be a slow process. It is what it is. And you learn that with your writing. You learn to know when it is done and when to stop tinkering with it.

Funny story. The first book I wrote with a serious goal of publication ended up being 991 pages! I was so in love with the characters, the story, the whole process that I just kept on writing. When I announced the page count to my writing group, their collective jaws dropped. I knew it was way too long to ever be published. But it was what it was, and I learned a lot from the experience. It took me two years to finish that book, a book that will never see the light of day.

Do I regret the time I spent on that book? Heck no! It was like a master’s class in writing. I took classes, lots and lots of classes along the way. And with each class I’d apply what I’d learned to my manuscript. I never got bored with the book or with the writing classes. My experiences were absolutely necessary for my writing journey.

The third question is a bit tougher. I had not attempted a funny book before Your Eight O’Clock Is Dead. All of my books, which were mainly romantic suspense, had some humorous scenes in them. Early on I realized that I enjoyed writing those kinds of scenes most of all. And unfortunately, I learned that they had no place in my suspense manuscripts. So off with their heads! Those cute scenes ended up getting cut, and it broke my heart.

Flash forward to 2006. My husband was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer. I couldn’t write. Our days were filled with endless doctors’ appointments, tests and ultimately six surgeries. It was a very dark time in our life. I’m someone who loves sunshine and loves to laugh. There was very little laughter in our house that year. Lots of gratitude and counting our blessings but not a whole lot of humor.

During the next year (what I term the year of healing), I conceived the River City Mystery Series. Somehow I knew that I wanted to write mysteries. I knew that I wanted to laugh again. And I wanted to do it through my writing.

In between appointments, I would jot down notes, story ideas and character sketches. I found that I was amusing myself a lot during this time. But I still wasn’t pursuing the idea seriously. Essentially I continued to write dark, scary books because it was what I knew.

In 2008, I was diagnosed with endometrial cancer. Thankfully, by then my husband was doing well. Throughout his ordeal, he had maintained a very positive outlook. He became my role model.

As I convalesced, I continued making notes on the River City Mystery series. But something wasn’t right. I didn’t seem to be bouncing back like I should. In fact, I was growing more and more fatigued.

In the spring of 2009, I found a lump in my breast. Long story short, it was breast cancer. It seemed like the Jorgensen family was going for a trifecta with cancer. Several surgeries followed for me along with chemo and radiation therapy.

Most of the time, I was too sick to write. And sometimes I was too sick to even think. My brain had turned to mush. For once in my life the comforting character voices that I usually heard in my head telling stories and living out their books were silent. I think that may have been the scariest part for me – well, other than was I going to be okay. I had no ideas. No conversations. No witty banter. Only silence.

Some days I despaired whether I’d ever write again. But slowly the chemo fog lifted, and as I got healthy again my creativity returned.

I had a choice. Did I want to continue to write suspense, or did I want to laugh and have some fun?

For me it was a no-brainer. I wanted to kick up my heels, kick back in my chair and play. And that’s how Becca and her grandfather were born. I added in our own tuxedo cat in the form of Higgins, Marty’s cranky, spoiled cat. And I created R.J. Ryder and Max Chernov as the hot men in the story. I’ve given each of them a past and secrets that will be revealed as the series unfolds.

Throughout this writing journey I’ve learned to let my mind and my characters take me where they want to go. I go willingly. I’ve cracked myself up writing some of the scenes. Becca is a lovable screw-up. Things happen to her that don’t happen to other people. She’s a lot like me. I love that she chooses to be optimistic. For Becca things might look bleak, but there’s always a rainbow just around the corner.

My hope is that the cast of characters in Your Eight O’Clock Is Dead will amuse and entertain the reader. So far the feedback I’ve received has been very positive. People have written to tell me about the stress in their lives and the unhappy times they were going through – and then they picked up my book and were transported to a world where they could forget their problems and enjoy themselves.

If I can make that happen for people then I consider myself a success. And that’s why I write funny mysteries.