The Psychology of Writing

Kathleen Delaney, author of Murder Half-Baked and other books, retired from real estate to pursue writing full time. She’s here today to whether authors are really telling stories about themselves or people they know.

Murder by Syllabub, fifth in the Ellen McKenzie series, is available in bookstores now. Purebred Dead, the first in the new Mary McGill series, was released in August 2015 and Curtains for Miss Plym was released in April 2016. Blood Red, White and Blue was released in July 2017 and was a finalist for best canine book of the year in the Dog Writers of America annual writing contest.

A couple of weeks ago I attended a workshop entitled The Psychology of Writing. It was designed primarily for writers but was attended by beginning writers and those who were interested in the subject. I was fortunate enough to be on one of the panels. Our topic was events in our personal lives that spilled over in our writing. We had a variety of experiences shared and a variety of ways we treated them. Putting a personal experience on paper can be nerve racking. One of our participants wrote a book about her son’s almost fatal bout with brain cancer. Painful, yes, but also cathartic for her. He agreed to share his story, and a great book that would be helpful to a lot of people was born. But other experiences are just too personal to be laid out on paper the way they happened, and they often are just that, experiences. They are not a story.

Case in point. A number of years ago I attended an intense writing workshop that lasted a couple of days. One of the women in the group had an experience she wanted to make into a book. It seems she had been in a cemetery where a number of her family members were buried. One of her ancestors had fought in the Revolutionary war and she believed that one day he spoke to her. He asked her to write his story. She wanted to know how to go about writing it. The easiest way, and probably the best way, was to fictionalize it, but she didn’t want to do that. She also had very few facts about his life and wasn’t sure how to get more. I don’t know if she talked to a ghost or not, and it really doesn’t matter. What does is, she didn’t have a story. She could have written her experience in an essay form for her family or made an entry in her diary but as a piece of either fiction or as a piece of history, her experience stayed just that, an experience.

Which brings me to my next point. A fiction writer, at least this one, doesn’t use personal experiences as they happen. He, or she, weaves them into a story as part of the plot, changing them as needed. For instance, in my first series, the Ellen McKenzie real estate mysteries, I introduced Ellen as a woman in her early forties, freshly divorced, new real estate license in hand, trying to start a new life. I had been divorced at about that age after twenty five years of marriage and five kids. It was a traumatic time in my life so I could understand how Ellen felt. However, she wasn’t me, a fact that made us both happy. Some of her experiences as she learned her new profession may have shown what my life as a real estate agent was like, but the facts of the experiences were different and I was very careful to pattern no characters after anyone I knew. I did know what someone like Ellen would feel, what her fears were, and the uncertainty she would feel as she started a new career and that I used. What I never experienced, however, was finding a dead man in a closet. I’m never found a dead man, or woman, anywhere.

Authors often use their own experiences, or those of people they know or have read about as a sort of jumping off point, but change the circumstances so that they cannot be recognized by the people who have gone through them. It’s the same with people. I am often asked if a character is so and so. It’s not but we all have certain personality traits, weaknesses, strengths, and quirks.  Authors will observe and file away these little traits then pull them out when needed. No one I know portrays anyone they know. First, it’s hard to write about a real life living person. You really don’t know them, what they are thinking, what they feel, but you know the ones you write about. They think, act and react the way you want them to. Mostly. Second, you don’t want anyone to think they will end up in your book as the villain. There isn’t one of my friends or relatives that thinks of themselves as an ex murderer and wouldn’t appreciate it if I portrayed them that way. But assigning those little quirks we all have to our on the page characters help to make them real. They give the characters depth. The retelling of experiences that have left the author with some kind of emotion give the story a reality that may not be possible otherwise.

Is that psychology? In one sense, I think it is. But what I’m sure of is that understanding what makes us do something, how we react under stress, what makes one of us fearful in one situation, another brave in another, what makes us love and what makes us hate, makes us better writers.


Crimes Past: A Cold Case Gets Steaming Hot—and a Giveaway!

Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, and Thorny Rose Mysteries—over twenty titles across three fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns!

Now, Lauren has added one more hit series to her list with the Chris Matheson Cold Case Mysteries. Set in the quaint West Virginia town of Harpers Ferry, Ice introduces Chris Matheson, a retired FBI agent, who joins forces with other law enforcement retirees to heat up those cold cases that keep them up at night.

Book reviewers and readers alike rave about how Lauren Carr’s seamlessly crosses genres to include mystery, suspense, crime fiction, police procedurals, romance, and humor.

Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She lives with her husband, and three dogs on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Visit Lauren’s websites and blog at:

Gnarly’s Facebook Page:
Lovers in Crime Facebook Page:
Acorn Book Services Facebook Page:
Twitter: @TheMysteryLadie

“Lauren Carr does a good job of moving the quirky storyline
along nicely with an abundance of witty dialogue.  And you
have no idea who the good guys are and who the bad guys
are until the end.” – Every Free Chance Book Reviews

I love cold cases—not of beer—but murder. Murder mystery lovers can’t resist a cold case mystery, a crime that doesn’t get solved until years later.

A television show “Cold Case Files” ran on A&E channel for years, during which they investigated mysteries that had gone cold, only to be solved years later. There was also a successful crime drama called “Cold Case”, in which the detective worked on cold case mysteries.

I love cold case mysteries so much that I recently released a new series that revolves around cold case, The Chris Matheson Cold Cases Mystery Series. A retired FBI agent, Chris and his friends, fellow law enforcement retirees who call themselves the Geezer Squad, investigate those cases that keep them up at night.

Such is the premise for the latest Mac Faraday Mystery, Crimes Past, scheduled for release Monday, October 16. (available now for pre-order!)

In this thirteenth installment of the Mac Faraday mysteries, Mac dives into the case that keeps him up at night—the double homicide of two detectives on their wedding night. A detective with the major cases squad, Mac is the lead investigator on the case—only to have it go cold.

Seventeen years later, the daughter of one of the victims is getting married. Retired from the police force and now owner of a 5-star resort, Mac offers her to hold her wedding at the Spencer Inn, an event that brings together his suspects.

The brutal slaying weighing heavy on his mind, Mac has one weekend to light a fire under the cold case. He is desperate enough to even entertain a suggestion from disgraced former detective Louis Gannon that one of their former friends is the killer.

When Lou Gannon is brutally slain, Mac Faraday must accept the harsh reality that one of his friends is a cold-blooded murderer.

What is it that draws mystery lovers to cold cases? I can only speak for myself. The unsolved case—a crime committed in the past―the puzzle that no one had been able to put together―presents a unique challenge. No one was able to solve it while the clues were hot, and memories were fresh. Only a brilliant detective would be able to solve such a case.

Yet, things happen with the passage of time: Relationships shift. Former alliances are broken. Guilt over not doing the right thing takes its toll.

As the Geezer Squad explains to Chris Matheson in Ice, there are advantages to allowing a mystery to go cold:

“If you let them get cold enough, then they turn into ice. Most folks think that once a case turns ice cold that it’ll be impossible to solve it. But all it takes to melt ice is for someone to put a little bit of heat under it.”

Such is the case in Crimes Past. The gathering of murder suspects for what appears to be a joyous occasion lights a flame under the cold case that sets off an explosion, as seen in this excerpt:

“Yes, both Jean and I were waiting at the main entrance with everyone else when the limo pulled up,” Underwood said.

“Who else was there?”

“Sanchez and his first wife, Clarissa.” Underwood paused to think. “Derringer. Captain Jeffries. Lou.” He shook his head. “Lou was drunk as always. He fell into Trevor and dumped his drink all over the front of his shirt.”

Mac slowly nodded his head. “I remember us finding that shirt in the bridal suite. When I interviewed Lou, he claimed someone pushed him.”

“He said. The guy is a screw up.” Underwood gestured toward the elevator where Lou Gannon was lighting up a cigarette while waiting for the car. “I can see he heeded your warning about smoking inside the Inn.”

Mac saw the hotel manager behind the reception desk. His eyes were bugging at the sight of Lou Gannon boarding the elevator with the lit cigarette.

“I’ll get him.” Mac ran across the lobby. “Jeff, what room is he in?”

“Fourth floor,” Jeff said. “Room four-thirteen.”

Mac shoved open the doors to the stairwell and ran up the stairs. He felt his blood temperature rising to the boiling point with each step. Why does Lou have to always be so difficult? It’s not just Inn policy, but the law. We didn’t make him take up that filthy unhealthy habit. So why torture us?

By the time Mac burst forth onto the fourth floor, he saw Lou stepping into his room. Mac sprinted down the corridor and stuck out his arm to block the door when it swung shut after Lou walked in.

Cigarette hanging from his lips, Lou spun around when Mac stepped inside. “What the hell do you want?”

“That!” Mac pointed at the lit cigarette. “I told you, Lou. You can’t smoke in the hotel. You can’t smoke in these rooms. It’s against the law.”

“Well, we already know I’m a criminal.”

“You’re going to be a criminal out on the streets if you don’t put that out.” Mac swung his hand to grab the cigarette from his mouth but missed when Lou ducked. “I’m serious, Lou!” Mac lunged after the little man, who giggled at his failed attempts to snag the cigarette. “You’re contaminating this room with smoke.” Mac backed him toward the bathroom door. “If you don’t put that out then we’re going to have to close down this room and replace all of the carpeting, curtains, and furniture before we can book it again.”

“All right! All right!” Lou took another long drag on the cigarette. “I gotta go wee anyway.” Keeping the cigarette out of Mac’s reach, he went into the bathroom. “Let me finish this while I’m toasting the porcelain god. I’ll put it out when I’m through and then we’ll be done.”

Before Mac could object, Lou slammed the door in his face and locked it. “I’m not leaving, Gannon!”

“You never quit do you, Faraday.”

Mac heard Lou peeing on the other side of the door. “I was talking to someone about the night Brie and Trevor were killed.”

“I’m sure you were.”

“Do you remember spilling your drink on Trevor’s tux?” Mac could still hear Lou inside the bathroom.

“What are you afraid of, Faraday? That your reputation of brilliance is going to fade? So you expect me to give you the name of the killer so you can do the big reveal at the wedding reception.”

“If you know who did it, Gannon—”

“I didn’t trip, dammit,” Lou said. “I was pushed.”

The peeing stopped.

“Are you sure? Who pushed you, Gannon?”

“That’s for me—not you—to reveal at the main event.”

A swoosh filled the confines of the bathroom.

The force of the explosion knocked Mac into the wall behind him. The wind knocked out of him, his legs buckled, and he slumped to the floor.

As you can see in the excerpt above, it doesn’t take much for a cold case to heat up. Sometimes, a simple gathering of the witnesses and suspects, and a comparing of notes, is all that’s needed. In Crimes Past, the ice around the cold case doesn’t just melt—it explodes!


It’s a bittersweet reunion for Mac Faraday when members of his former homicide squad arrive at the Spencer Inn. While it is sweet to attend the wedding of a late colleague’s daughter, it is a bitter reminder that the mother of the bride had been the victim of a double homicide.

The brutal slaying weighing heavy on his mind, Mac is anxious to explore every avenue for a break in the cold case—even a suggestion from disgraced former detective Louis Gannon that one of their former friends is the killer.

When the investigator is brutally slain, Mac Faraday rips open the cold case with a ruthless determination to reveal which of his friends is a cold-blooded murderer.

 Pre-order here.


To enter the drawing for two ebooks
by Lauren Carr, Ice and Crimes Past
(advance reading copy), just leave a

comment below about why you think
cold cases are so fascinating. The
name will be drawn on

Monday evening, October 8th.



Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast Bringing Stories to Life

Lorie Lewis Ham has been publishing her writing since the age of 13 and singing since the age of 5. She worked for her local newspaper off and on for years, has published several poems, articles, and short stories, and in 2010 became the editor-in-chief and publisher of Kings River Life Magazine. She has also published 6 mystery novels, 5 of which featured gospel singing amateur detective Alexandra Walters.

Podcasts have become the big thing over the last few years. You can find one on just about any topic that interests you from politics, to books, to your favorite TV shows. There are even a couple of really popular true crime podcasts. One thing I think that has made them so popular is that we miss what we used to get from radio-something interesting to listen too when we aren’t able to watch something. Yes, radio still exists, but it doesn’t offer as much as it used to, and with a podcast you can pick exactly what you want to listen to, when, and where. I do most of my podcast listening on my iPhone in the car while driving. But you can also listen on your computer, or tablet.

I publish an online magazine called Kings River Life ( and we have a big mystery section every week. I also write mystery novels, and I’ve been reading mysteries since I was a teenager. So I LOVE mystery. I started wondering if there were podcasts out there that were mystery related, and honestly didn’t find very many, so the idea hit me why not create our own podcast! This idea began brewing in 2017.

Once we decided to start our own mystery podcast it came down to what would it be like. After some thought, I decided it would be fun to have local actors (we also cover local theatre in KRL) read mystery short stories, and from there I thought why not have them read mystery first chapters as well-and that’s how Mysteryrat’s Maze mystery podcast came to be! The title came from KRL’s mystery section which is called Mysteryrat’s Maze.

So now we had the basic idea, and from there things went pretty quickly. I put out a call for short stories, and later first chapters, and a lot of them came in. We then started auditioning for the podcasts-which I will tell is a lot harder than I realized! In the meantime, we had to have a place to host the podcast and ended up choosing PodBean-some of my favorite podcasts are there and they seemed easy to use. We also had to choose a theme song and we found an announcer. I am lucky that my husband produces radio programs so the technical side was easy.

Our first podcast went up in May of 2018 and it was a mystery short story by Nancy Cole Silverman called “The Pub Crawl.” Since then we have recorded “The Dead Lady’s Coat” by Joan Leotta, the first chapter of Jeri Westerson’s new Crispin Guest Novel “The Deepest Grave,” the mystery short story “Players” by Dennis Palumbo, “Doggy DNA” by Neil Plakcy, and most recently the first chapter of Kathleen Kaska’s mystery “Murder at the Driskill.” Next month we will have the first chapter of the first Haunted Bookshop mystery by Cleo Coyle, and a slightly creepy mystery short story called “Mercy Killer” by Merrilee Robson. You can find all of the episodes at, and on iTunes and Google Play by searching for Mysteryrat’s Maze.

This has been an exciting new journey and I’m thrilled about how they have turned out! Coming up over the next year we will have stories and chapters by Elaine Viets, Julia Buckley, Marilyn Meredith, Daryl Wood Gerber and many more! If you love podcasts and mystery these are a perfect fit for you–but if you have never tried podcasts and love mystery I highly encourage you to give them a try-it’s really easy and each podcast is no more than 10 minutes. You can hear these stories come to life!

To keep up with the podcasts and get extra content I recommend you sign up for our podcast email newsletter ( or follow us on PodBean ( In the meantime, as our announcer says at the end of each podcast, we wish you a life full of mystery!

Giving Reboots the Boot

Returning guest blogger Sunny Frazier, whose first novel in the Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries, Fools Rush In, received the Best Novel Award from Public Safety Writers Association, is here today to talk about the sad state of some “new” TV programming.

The third Christy Bristol Astrology Mystery, A Snitch in Time, is in bookstores now.   //

Reboots. They’re coming to your TV soon. Some arrived early, like “Fuller House”. Some are waiting in the wings, like “The Connors” (sans Roseanne). Some we cringe at the thought of: “Magnum P.I.” without a mustache. And some, like “Murphy Brown”, couldn’t be more topical.

Webster’s is constantly adding new words as they become part of the common language. “Selfie” recently got added. As did” twitter.” The Urban Dictionary goes further, adding buzzwords as they happen, like “fleek,” “bae” and “adulting.” Oh, and “buzzword” is also part of the lexicon.

“Reboot” is a product of the computer phenomenon. We rebooted computers when they got stubborn. Now it’s used to mean “revive.” “Resuscitate.” Like Frankenstein’s monster, TV shows come back from the dead. And like zombies, they can’t seem to die, even when cancelled.

I’m not exactly sure what this retro move is all about. It’s hard to believe there are no new ideas for shows floating around in TV Land. Netflix, HBO and the rest don’t seem to have trouble finding new and unique properties. BBC has given us the short series, not shows that strive to last over 100 episodes to make it to syndication.

It’s said that writers are 20 deep at the gates of studios, begging for a chance with fresh scripts and unique ideas. But, we’re talking profit here. TV execs want a sure hit. Advertisers are reluctant to invest in the untried. They are banking on nostalgia from older viewers and pulling in a younger audience who have no clue what the original show was like.

I’m also peeved at trend-followers. A zombie show is a hit? Let’s saturate the boob tube with more of the same. Is one vampire show enough? How many superheroes can we pack in a network? Cops, SWAT, firemen, FBI, NCIS, law enforcement is covered. I have to say I like the new hospital shows where the administration is evil and the doctors are sly enough to save people despite the rules.


I recently found out why we’re inundated with reality shows. When the writers strike took place a decade ago, studios found it was cost effective to put real people in front of the camera and see what happened. Unscripted shows showed us the worst in humanity. Real housewives were phony, the Kardashians took off from Kim’s sex tape and big booty, the bachelor excited women with a rose and watched catfights erupt competing for a marriage proposal. I will admit I love “Amazing Race”, “Survivor”, “Project Runway” and “Top Chef”. I LEARN something from these shows. The rest are just communal voyeurism.

With the exception of “Murphy Brown”, I will not be watching reboots. I’ll turn the channel to PBS and fill my mind with knowledge.


Leave Them Hanging

Jeanne Matthews is the author of the Dinah Pelerin international mysteries published by Poisoned Pen Press. Like her amateur sleuth, Jeanne was born with a serious wanderlust. Originally from Georgia, she enjoys traveling the world and learning about other cultures and customs, which she incorporates into her novels. She currently lives in Renton, Washington with her husband who is a law professor. Where the Bones Are Buried, the fifth book in the series, is in bookstores now . You can learn more about Jeanne’s books at

The term “cliffhanger” derives from an 1873 serialized novel by Thomas Hardy, A Pair of Blue Eyes.  At the end of one installment, the heroine, Miss Elfride Swancourt, watches in horror as her romantic interest, Henry Knight, falls off a precipice in a driving rainstorm.  He can’t climb up because the ground is too slippery and the scene ends with him dangling above the abyss, a fragile finger-hold on life, hope fading fast.

Hardy may have given us the word for the literary trick of leaving the reader in suspense, but it’s as old as storytelling.  All those omens and prophecies and portents in the Aeneid and the Odyssey, would they or wouldn’t they come true?  Listeners no doubt waited with bated breath.  In the Arabian Nights, the Persian king, embittered by his wife’s infidelity, has her beheaded and promptly marries a virgin.  Then on the morning after their first night together, he beheads her to make sure she never gets the chance to betray him.  This pattern of one-night stands goes on day after day until the kingdom begins to run short of virgins.

The vizier’s daughter, Scheherazade, thinks she can outsmart the king and volunteers to be his next bride.  On their wedding night she starts telling him a spine-tingling tale of adventure.  Then, at the most dangerous and climactic moment in the plot, she finds a reason to postpone the ending until the next day.  The king’s curiosity is so whetted that he postpones her beheading.  On the second night, she finishes the first story and starts another, again leaving him hanging at the do-or-die moment.  Scheherazade’s cliffhangers kept her alive for a thousand and one nights until finally the king fell in love with her.

Shakespeare’s head may not have been in jeopardy, but even he saw the importance of a hook.  At the time he wrote his plays, two-thirds of the population was illiterate.  His audiences drank heavily and tended to get rowdy if the action lagged.  The five-act structure of the Elizabethan play was designed with the typical theatergoer’s attention span in mind.  How long could they sit still in one place without getting bored, hungry, thirsty, or needing to relieve themselves?  The playwright had to conclude his second act (the one just before the “comfort break”) with something so gripping, so fraught with peril that they simply had to return to find out what happened.

By the middle of the 19th Century, books had become more widely available.  Many were published in serial form and writers soon learned how to create buzz for the next installment.  In 1841, Dickens ended a chapter of The Old Curiosity Shop with poor little orphaned Nell desperately ill.  Would she live?  Would she die?  His fans waited in a state of agonizing suspense.  When the British ship carrying the hot-off-the-presses answer arrived in New York Harbor, they stormed the docks.

Psychologists call this human craving for resolution the Zeigarnik effect.  A Russian psychologist named Bluma Zeigarnik conducted a study which showed that interrupting people in the middle of something they are doing or reading makes them twice as likely to remember it.  Once they become invested in a task or a story, they don’t want to stop until they reach the end.  Humans, it seems, have a compelling need for closure.

Few books appear in serial form today, but mystery and thriller writers who want to build tension and suspense in their novels have to master the art of delaying closure.  The longer the delay, the more avid the reader becomes. Those of you who let slip the opportunity to read A Pair of Blue Eyes and The Old Curiosity Shop are probably now tormented by regret and suspense.  Did Henry plunge to his death?  Did little Nell succumb to her terrible sickness?  Some of you will already be racing to place your orders with Amazon.  But for those who simply can’t wait a minute longer, I won’t leave you hanging.


The quick-acting and resourceful Miss Swancourt stripped off her voluminous petticoats and Victorian-era undergarments, knotted them into a rope, and hoisted Henry to safety.  He thanked her by breaking off their engagement.  As for dear, gentle, angelic little Nell, she expired sweetly upon her little bed, survived by her frisky little bird, which continued to hop about nimbly in its little cage.

Cliffhangers can pack a big narrative wallop.  They advance the plot and heighten the reader’s emotions.  Those emotions run the gamut from thrilled anticipation of the next episode; to perplexity or disappointment at an unsatisfying conclusion; to the furious urge to throw the damn book across the room.  And then there’s little Nell.  To quote Oscar Wilde, “One must have a heart of stone to read the death of little Nell without laughing.”

A Motive for Murder

Kathleen Delaney, author of Murder Half-Baked and other books, retired from real estate to pursue writing full time. She’s here today to discuss the the importance of motive in murder mysteries.

Murder by Syllabub, fifth in the Ellen McKenzie series, is available in bookstores now. Purebred Dead, the first in the new Mary McGill series, was released in August 2015 and Curtains for Miss Plym was released in April 2016. Blood Red, White and Blue was released in July 2017 and was a finalist for best canine book of the year in the Dog Writers of America annual writing contest.

According to my dictionary, the definition of motive is “a reason for doing something, especially one that is hidden or not obvious.”  The sample sentence used is  ‘he had a motive to murder.”

Hummm. Makes you think, or at least it made me think. I write mysteries, and by the very nature of what they are, someone gets murdered. I also read mysteries but sometimes the motive seems a little thin.  I’ve been told that the police, the real police, not the ones we make up, don’t rely on motive but on facts. Whose fingerprints were on the gun, who was seen in the neighborhood, etc. But your fingerprints could be on the gun because you were the one who put it away in the drawer and of course you were in the neighborhood, you live there! And…you had no motive.

I don’t wish to cast doubts on the methods of the police. They have spent years working them out and have many ways to evaluate evidence, which is certainly vital to finding out who committed the crime, that are not available to the amateur sleuth, like the ones who populate my books, or to me. But it seems to me motive is also pretty darned important and shouldn’t be brushed aside. Here is a list of unpleasant fictional deaths that may not have been solved, or at least not as quickly, if motive hadn’t been considered

A man lies dead on the oriental carpet, an empty cup of something beside him. From the looks of his clothes and the vomit on the carpet, it seems he died in agony.

Another town, another state, a man lies dead in the back room of a bakery, his head bashed in by the industrial rolling pin that should be hanging on the rack on the wall.

An old woman is dead, sitting in a chair in a makeshift dressing room of the annual church rummage sale. She is in her nightclothes, complete with fuzzy pink slippers. She is old enough to have died of natural causes, but she didn’t.

The list goes on. I seem to have littered the landscape in my 8 books with corpses. What did any of these people, and the others I have killed off, do that resulted in their murder? What was the motive? Interesting question because therein lies the plot.

There are a lot of ways to kill people, and a lot of reasons for doing it. In real life, the ways tend to be unimaginative and very tragic. The motives are often thin to non-existent. What but uncontrollable anger makes someone shoot another driver? What makes someone beat an old person to death so they can steal their Social Security check? The newspapers are full of these stories, we see them every night on the evening news. But we never hear the stories that led up to these unhappy events. And there is one. There is always a story. The age old motives still apply. Greed, jealousy, fear that another kind of transgression will be exposed, coveting another’s wife (or husband), revenge. They still drive people to murder, and it is these stories the mystery writer tries to tell.

Why would someone poison another person with a sweet sticky drink and leave them to die in agony on the living room carpet? Or run a barbeque skewer through a harmless pet store owner? Or hit an old, retired doctor over the head with the arm of a grave marker angel? What happened before the horrible event? What set of tragic events occurred that led to the inevitable end? The job of the mystery author is to tell that story. But to tell it in such a way that we eventually understand what happened, what series of events led to murder, and to tell them in a logical sequence of events so that you, the reader, finally understand what happened. The story may start years before the actual murder is committed, or it may have started a week ago, but it doesn’t matter. What does, is the motive. A mystery story is a puzzle. Bit by bit it unravels before you until you are finally at the center of the puzzle. You have found the motive. And, you have found the murderer.

An Excerpt from Curtains for Miss Plym by Kathleen Delaney

The scene is in a closed pet shop where Mary has managed to get herself and Millie locked in with the murderer.

Mary threw herself across the aisle to where Millie lay, trying to get between her and Caleb, the water dish somehow still in her hand. Without conscious thought, she raised it and brought it down on Caleb’s outstretched hands, smashing them hard against the display stand. Caleb screamed again, but his hands no longer reached for either of them. Instead, he stared at his bashed fingers.

So did Mary, but just for a moment. Millie was whining and hadn’t moved out from under the wreckage of the food bowl stand. Mary gasped and pushed at Caleb to get to her.

“No, you don’t. He grabbed her with one hand, the other hanging limp by his side, blood dripping from his fingers. “Hit me, will you. You’re a dead woman now. I don’t need you. I’ll go back and tear your house apart until I find the money, and by the time anyone finds you, I’ll be long gone. You and that rotten little dog.” He grabbed Mary by the front of her shirt and swung her around so she was facing the dragon tank. “Lucky you it’s empty.” He thrust her, her head pointed right at the glass side of the tank, and her feet came off the floor. She tried to kick but couldn’t get any traction and then she was on the floor in a crumpled heap. Caleb once more gave a terrified howl. Mary heard a dog growing and snarling, a dog that couldn’t possibly be Millie, but was.

Audiobooks: The Readers Have Ears—and a Giveaway!

Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, and Thorny Rose Mysteries—over twenty titles across three fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns!

Now, Lauren has added one more hit series to her list with the Chris Matheson Cold Case Mysteries. Set in the quaint West Virginia town of Harpers Ferry, Ice introduces Chris Matheson, a retired FBI agent, who joins forces with other law enforcement retirees to heat up those cold cases that keep them up at night.

Book reviewers and readers alike rave about how Lauren Carr’s seamlessly crosses genres to include mystery, suspense, crime fiction, police procedurals, romance, and humor.

Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She lives with her husband, and three dogs on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Visit Lauren’s websites and blog at:

Gnarly’s Facebook Page:
Lovers in Crime Facebook Page:
Acorn Book Services Facebook Page:
Twitter: @TheMysteryLadie

Fourteen years ago, my first book, A Small Case of Murder, came out. That wasn’t so long ago. Believe me! Fourteen years is not that long ago—not when you compare it to when the dinosaurs were lazily grazing in Yellowstone National Park.

Anyway, back to what we want to talk about …

At that time, one of my friends instantly asked when my book would be available in audio. My eyes glazed over and I stammered out, “Eventually.”

This friend only listened to her books in audio. She had a long commute to work and that was when she would listen to her books. She would go through a couple books a week.

Not long after that, I discovered that another friend only did audiobooks. She loved to read, but couldn’t due to extremely bad eyesight. While she wasn’t legally blind, her eyesight was so poor that the only way she could enjoy a book was if it was available in audio.

Yet, back then, audiobooks were available on cassette or compact discs. I considered myself lucky when a traditional audiobook publisher picked up my first three books to be produced in audio (compact disc and digital download)—until I started receiving my royalty checks. I was lucky if I made over two hundred dollars a year! I would take a few copies of the compact discs to book events—only to have them gather dust. Eventually, I tossed them into the back of my closet, where they still rest.

Flash forward.

Yesterday, Murder by Perfection became available in audiobook on Amazon, Audible, and iTunes. I’ve already got a list of audiobook reviewers and readers anxiously waiting to listen to it.

Over the years, an increasing number of readers have been requesting that I make my books available in audiobook. As a publisher and business person, I was hesitant about investing anything into making my own book available in audiobook. Based on past experience, I didn’t see much of a market for them. Those CDs from my first three books are still piled up in the back of my closet.

Then, Amazon suggested I make my books available through their company ACX. They also pointed out that Audible, a very successful audiobook dealer fell under their umbrella. Audible is the leading seller of audiobooks.

By going through ACX, I would essentially be self-publishing my own books—thus, keeping all of my rights. Over the years, I had seen on my royalty statements how many thousands of dollars my other audio publisher had been making annually on the sales of my books. So, keeping my rights was quite appealing to me. However, knowing that the market was slow, I didn’t want to invest a lot of money into the venture. Frankly, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to invest any at all.

With ACX, authors have a choice of options for having their books produced:

1.     Share your royalties with the narrator/audio producer. This costs the author nothing, because the audio producer invests the time and expense into producing the book. In exchange, the author agrees to split their royalties for the book’s sales fifty-fifty with the producer. If the book ends up being a flop, then the producer loses out on their investment in the project. However, if the book ends up making thousands of dollars a month in audiobook sales, then the author could end up wondering about what could have been.

2.      Hire an audio producer to produce your book. This option means the author hires the narrator/producer on contract (and pay!) to produce the book. With this option, the author gets to keep all of the royalties for their audio sales. So, if your book makes a million bucks in royalties, it’s all yours! The downside of this option is that you have to pay out a lot of money up front—money that it could take a while to earn back. We are talking thousands of dollars. A friend of mine found a narrator she liked, who refused to work for shared royalties. (Many established narrators won’t share royalties. More about this later on.) He would only work on contract with the cost starting at $5000.

3.       Narrate and Produce the Book Yourself. This is not as easy as it sounds. The author has to make sure there is no background noise and the final product does have to pass ACX’s quality control regulations. As the author, I have proofed some of my audio books, thinking they were perfect—only to have ACX pick up a flaw that I had not noticed. Once I read an interview with John Grisham in which he said one of his biggest regrets was narrating one of his books for audio. He thought the end product was awful. As with anything—I prefer to leave it up to the pros. (Since I hate my voice, narrating and producing the book myself is not an option!)

I opted to share the royalties and let the producers take the financial risk.

As I had mentioned previously, many high-quality narrators refuse to work for royalty share. There’s a reason for that.

When I opened my books for auditions to find a narrator, I immediately found Dan Lawson—first audition, first day! His audition was exactly what I was looking for to set the tone for the Mac Faraday mysteries. He was an Audible Approved Narrator, which means Audible endorsed his work! Within a matter of days, we had struck a deal for royalty share for two books: The Murders at Astaire Castle and Blast from the Past.

I found out later that his agent (I had no idea he had an agent!) had thrown a fit upon learning about our deal for royalty share. The reason: most narrators and audio producers don’t make back the money invested in producing audiobooks through royalties. After a few months, sales will level out and the narrator will only make a few dollars a month.

Having worked as a book publisher, I can see exactly what Dan’s agent was talking about. Many authors have difficulty in promoting their own books. Authors who don’t invest time or money in promoting their books in print and e-book, are not likely to invest what they need in the audiobook version.

So, if you are an author whose sales in print and ebook are less than impressive, and you are wondering if you’ll hit the jackpot by having your book produced in audio, then my guess is no, you won’t. As with book sales in print and ebook, the author needs to work their tail off to promote their book in order to enjoy good sales—in any format.

I have been blessed in finding four excellent audiobook producers who have helped me to bring my whole backlist to audiobook fans—a base that I have seen grow steadily over the last few years.

I have discovered that for many readers, who have been unable to enjoy reading in print or ebook format for whatever reasons—whether it be lifestyle or medical disability—are discovering audiobooks and returning to reading (listening) to enjoy their favorite books.

For example, my sister listens to my books during her commute to work. With her busy lifestyle that is the only time she can read my books. So I gave them to her in digital format and she listens to them through her SUV’s speakers.

Since my books have been coming out in Audible, I have found that I am enjoying audiobooks more and more. Many book enthusiasts, like myself, will read books in both e-book and audio. For just a few bucks more, readers can include the audio version of a book with their ebook purchase.

As the leader of a book club, I dictated the rule that we would only read books that were available in audiobook download. After spending the whole day writing on my laptop, my eyes will be tired. So, I’ll switch to the audio version of whatever book I am currently reading to listen to a great book until I fall asleep. With Whispersync, my tablet will pick up my ebook in audio where I have left off in reading.

I believe that the audiobook market is where the e-book market was about eight years ago. When my books first came out in e-book, it was a big deal for me to sell any. Now, the lion’s book of my books sales are in e-book, but I see a gradual increase in sales in audiobooks. Currently, I make more in monthly royalties for my audiobook sales than I do for my print books. Note, that is after splitting my royalties with the producers!

Here’s the way I look at it: If it weren’t for my readers, I would not be living my dream of being a mystery writer. My readers want my mysteries to be in all formats: e-book, print, and audiobooks. Even if fans of one format are a smaller number than another—they are still my fans and deserve the reading experience they enjoy the most!


To enter the drawing for an audiobook copy
of Murder by Perfection by Lauren Carr,
just leave a comment answering this:
What is your favorite thing about the Fall
The winning name will be drawn
on Monday
evening, September 3rd.