Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Some gift recomendations - by RM Greenaway

With Thanksgiving coming up in the USA – please take the chance to give us five titles or criminally good books you think would make great gifts…and tell us for whom they’d be suitable.

Here are some old, some new, some big, some small...

In the Barren Ground by Loreth Anne White. Not finished yet but so impressed by the writing, and am just waiting for a chance to get back to it. The opening of the blurb says it better than I can:
In the Barrens, a vast wilderness in northern Canada bordering the Arctic Circle, night consumes every hour of the winter. Humans are scarce, ferocious predators roam freely. Locals say spirits do too.
This book features a pregnant cop, Tara Larsson, pretty much on her own dealing with what seems to be a supernatural occurrence in and around the remote community of Twin Rivers. In spite of the scarcity of humans, romance is afoot here as well! I recommend this for anyone who likes good northern escapism.


LaBrava  by Elmore Leonard. For starters, I am so jealous of that protagonist's name. This is the first Elmore Leonard book I read.  One reason I like it is it starts with dialogue, and I was told by one rejection letter never to start with dialogue. Second reason is it plunges me right into the Miami Beach of yesterday. Have I ever been to Miami Beach, yesterday or at any time? No. But I feel I have, thanks to Leonard and his cool hero LaBrava. Great crime novel. Recommended for anybody who likes a little seaside grit between their toes and in their pages.
 * * *
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. I've just finished listening to the audio book, not because I wanted to, but because I've been shanghaied into joining a reading group, and Rebecca is first on the list. When I saw Rebecca listed I thought *sigh* -- bunch of old-fashioned romantic swooning. But having finished it now -- in a few sleepless nights instead of the month I allotted myself -- I am still under the spell of this amazing tale with its masterful suspense and gorgeous writing.  Not everyone will agree, of course, but I loved it. I'd recommend this to anyone who thinks *sigh* -- bunch of old fashioned ... etc., and is willing to change their mind.
 * * *
Invisible Dead, by Sam Wiebe. Caustic, smart, dark and action-packed -- welcome to Vancouver noir. This is from the flap:
Enter Dave Wakeland. A young cop-turned-private investigator, he is quick with his fists and quicker with his mouth. He also makes a habit of bad ideas. ...
If you've had your fill of escapism and want some fiction that rubs up against real-world trouble, read this, Wiebe's second novel and the first in what promises to be a fabulous series.  

 * * *
The Tale of Two Bad Mice by Beatrix Potter. Last week I was rummaging about, looking for titles to recommend. This tiny book was out of place on my badly organized bookshelf, and I threw it into the pile as a joke. But the next morning as I was getting dressed for work I stood and read it cover to cover, and thought, nice! It's got great illustrations, is a very fast read -- five minutes should do -- and includes all the elements of a good crime novel: B&E, wanton destruction, peril, crisis of conscience, a cop (of sorts) reparation and redemption. Not recommended for everyone, but the tot in the family would love it. Let's get tots hooked on crime novels as early as possible!

* * *
That's it. Have a fun Halloween and happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Books as presents? But of course!

Early holiday shopping challenge: With Thanksgiving coming up in the USA please give us five titles or criminally good books you think would make great gifts ...and for whom. 

- from Susan

MURDER IN THE WHITE HOUSE, by Margaret Truman except that we now know it was the prolific and admirable Donald Bain who really wrote the series.  And who could it possibly be for other than the Donald.

MURDER IN SAINT GERMAIN, by Cara Black for my Francophile friends, of whom there are many.

KILMOON, by Lisa Alber for bestselling author Sheila Connolly because when you love Ireland as Sheila does, there's never enough Irish blarney.

MONK'S HOOD, by Ellis Peters for my sister, who spends a week every year at a Greek monastery in California and soaks up the atmosphere minus murder.

LOS ALAMOS, by Joseph Kanon for Brian Shea (my son and a budding crime writer) because weaving history into a mystery is an art in itself and this book has stayed fresh in my mind for years.

And a bonus: MURDER IN THE ABSTRACT, by me for the man I met at an art gallery Saturday who was thrilled to meet a mystery writer and wanted to read all of mine starting with the first.

Happy reading, everyone!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Danny Plissken, or My MWA Pin Escaped From New York

Many of us who blog here belong to writerly organizations (like Crime Writers of Canada, Mystery Writers of America, Crime Writers Association (UK), Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers etc.) and some don’t. What benefits do those who belong to such groups feel they derive from their membership, and – for those who don’t belong to any – why have you chosen that route?

Although I've enjoyed career activities in three different fields, the idea that I was an active professional in them was a thought that just never quite took, until now. I once chocked it up to the idea—or the excuse—that I'm not a joiner. I always saw myself as a rogue of sorts, someone who was good as a mercenary but never for the long term, and certainly not as a card-carrying member of a professional association. I had such clever ways of thinking of myself as fantastic abstractions to justify being a schlepper to make the rent. I generally reserved the smallest ratio of my capacity for my work.

"This shit doesn't need my whole mind. Let me have Final Draft in another window between tech support calls. All I'm doing is resetting passwords and teaching idiots how to check cable connections."

I also wasn't the sort to check in before deadlines.

"You want to know how my deliverables are coming along? You see that big ass Gantt chart on the wall over there? Is it milestone reporting day? Do I owe you a deliverable right now? No? Then why are you frickin' bugging me with your fears while I'm working? I'm a trusted professional, aren't I? Then perhaps you should trust me until the next meeting where we meet to decide when to meet and what the agenda will be. Oh, the Product Managers are plotting a mutiny? Ok, well I'll just have my team take a three-hour lunch for some other hireling's birthday. We'll see how that mutiny goes. We'll see how Product Managers manage without a product. Great. Thanks for stopping by. See you at the project management meeting. Scoot along."

As much as I find anti-heroes to be a tired trope in crime fiction, that's exactly what I was when working in highly specialized fields, such as programming, or systems integration. I needed better parenting. No way I should've developed these notions about myself from the adult novels, movies, comic books and role-playing games I enjoyed.

Sure, I'd show up to the interview looking like this:

Disclaimer: Not a relative.

And after my three-month eval and my benefits kick in, I'm coming back from the weekend like this:

"That goes double for your SixSigma 3-6-12-24 plan."

Something I took from those years is the confirmation you get what you expect, and since I expected disloyalty, dissatisfaction, and disappointment from my employers—my only professional associations at the time, which was sad—that's exactly what I received. In everything from my tone to my daily mood to the look in my eye, that's what I engendered, because I couldn't face my own lack of commitment to myself. Money never motivated me. My idea of myself always did, but because I was bogged down with responsibility, I had my excuse to chase good paying and stable employment at the expense of my creative fulfillment. Bills to pay. Mouths to feed. That old whine. I always had one foot out the door. Why would anyone commit to me? Hell, I wouldn't have invited me to the office Christmas party. I certainly wouldn't have invested in me. Why should anyone, when I didn't invest in myself?

So how was I able to go from that guy to the one who blogs here? The one always at conferences?  The member of three—count 'em!—for professional associations, where every chapter is my chapter? Who never met a charity anthology he didn't like?

Love, I guess. No. I don't guess. Love.

Mystery/crime writing is as much about the writers as what we write. It's clear it comes from tradition, and while I don't fully understand why the social factor among us is so powerful, I'm not living my life in fear of failure anymore so I don't have to try to see around every corner to figure it all out before I proceed. I leap and then look in Mystery/Crime in ways I have never done in my life, much less career. Tradition matters to me as much as innovation. Allowing for the new is balanced with respecting that which is long-standing and honored. I received so much love, camaraderie and respect for my work and my commitment to it, I joined all these organizations partly to get the benefits and be in the know for my career, but mainly for one simple reason. I love what I do. I want to keep on doing it, and for that to happen, I have to make certain that I stand in good stead. 

Perhaps you'll find it interesting that I learned about that in therapy, of all classrooms. It's also the place I stumbled upon the truth that I wasn't achieving the stability of life I always desired because I didn't commit to myself and, therefore, any commitment I made to anything else, no matter how earnest, wasn't ever going to cut it. I'd like to say I got there because I grew up, but that would be bullshit. I finally healed from the deep hurts from my childhood and moved on from them. With that came the realization I held back my entire life out of fear of being hurt. I had good reason when I was a wee lad. Eventually, I made it to an age and a level of sovereignty over my own life where the only one who could hurt me was me. So I stopped hurting me.

And then I wrote a book. And now we're all friends.

Looking back with honest eyes on my early days as a half-hearted professional, I learned that anything worth doing as a professional is best done alongside other professionals with a clear purpose of being accountable to those professionals. The best professionals in anything are committed to upholding a standard of quality in their work and professional conduct. That standard comes from those who took the risk of going where no one has gone before and offering that which comes from their own toil and saying, "Hey, when you're done reading those classics, try this new author named Poe/Christie/Chandler/Thompson/Westlake."

Standing in good stead means not only attaining the approval of our fellow professionals, which if you're truly committed and enjoying the confidence that comes with commitment, you want that. It means having a seat at the table when one's influence can be of benefit to the body of membership. For example, I hope one day soon folks will be more willing to discuss my ideas about diversity in Mystery/Crime because I have a track record of being present and accounted for. Folks tell me all the time, "Danny, you have such a powerful voice. You should start speaking up/out." And sure, I will…just as soon as I have enough skin in the game so folks know my intent isn't to disrupt but uplift. To do that, I have to write great stuff, do what I can to help it find its way to publication, and then honor my fellow professionals with classy and dignified professional behavior. That has to come first. It starts by honoring those professionals who came before me.

So that's how my inner Snake Plissken was transformed into a guy who devoted a day on Facebook to this:

I don't even have photos of my kids on my profile, y'all. Me and Edgar got a thang goin' on.

I'll conclude with a little story: As much as I love this pin, walking through Manhattan during Book Expo of America, my messenger bag strap wore at me long enough where it popped off my lapel and wound up with the rats, who I doubt pay dues. I was on my way to the Ingram cocktail mixer (don't ask, cuz I won't tell.) I was crushed. I literally needed a few moments to just shake it off. I wore it on my lapel in Washington DC over the spring and, y’all, I’m tellin’ you, folks took me as a congressional aide or something. I wasn’t faking the funk. It was my bearing that produced the effect. You'd have thought Dashiell Hammett forged it and gave it to me himself. I now know I can get another one. I'm going to ask for ten. I'm then gonna find a jeweler and get me a custom one. Hahahaaaaa!

I’d heard it so often growing up, and I took it as so many pithy maxims and hollow platitudes: Act as if. Behave saved, so that you may be saved. Fake it until you make it. Attitude counts for more than aptitude. It took until ages past my formative years for me to see it in deed. I had a fast-approaching publication date, a couple of good reviews in the trades, and I had that lapel pin, which wasn't so much a symbol of my status. In fact, I wore it so people would know what I love to do, and what I love myself doing. My bio says "He is a proud member of [insert associations.]" It ain't for rhetorical flourish. I'm willing to pass muster. I'm willing to do what I have to do to stand in good stead. My love for the art and craft of Mystery and Crime demands that of me, and I'm happy to accede.

So I finally have to stop making the claim I’m not a joiner. I'm a lover. My professional associations are one of the ways I love actively. Joining feels quite alright.

- dg


For those interested in the works to which I frequently refer, check out these titles at your local bookseller, your local library, or online where you enjoy purchasing your print and e-books. As always, thanks for your support and encouragement.

Works By Danny Gardner


Thursday, October 26, 2017

A Message from the Mayor

Many of us who blog here belong to writerly organizations (like Crime Writers of Canada, Mystery Writers of America, Crime Writers Association (UK), Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers etc.) and some don’t. What benefits do those who belong to such groups feel they derive from their membership, and – for those who don’t belong to any – why have you chosen that route?

By Jim

Like most of us crime writers, I am a card-carrying member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, and the like. Those organizations provide an invaluable service to their members. Everything from discounts to advice to mentoring to conferences. For this post, I’d like to concentrate on the writing community when we actually, physically get together. The conventions and conferences.

Fresh in my mind, of course, is Bouchercon, the traveling show that brings together upwards of 2,000 mystery writers and fans each year, which I recently attended in Toronto. Left Coast Crime is another favorite conference of mine. It’s a smaller, more intimate gathering, but so vibrant, informative, and inspirational. ThrillerFest, Malice Domestic, California Crime Writers, Magna Cum Murder, New England Clambake, Murder and Mayhem, Sleuthfest, and Killer Nashville are some of the excellent conferences that take place each year, and that’s just on this side of the Atlantic. Someday I hope to attend Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, Killer Women, Bloody Scotland, Norwich, and CrimeFest in the UK. And as a former teacher and of French, I dream of one day of being invited to the Quais du Polar in Lyons. Et pourquoi? Because the crime-writing community has become my home.

In a former life, I worked in academia then in Hollywood postproduction (subtitling and visual effects). And while I loved the work I did in those careers, there was much about the community that didn’t fit my character. I was often unhappy with the politics of the academy and the single-minded goals of profits in the corporate world. All that changed when I walked into my first crime-writers convention in 2013.

Like Dietrich, my introduction to the mystery community came at the Bouchercon in Albany, NY. Some attendees complained—and still do—about various logistical issues with the Albany conference and the city itself, but none of that bothered me. It was the people who made that conference great. My debut novel, STYX & STONE, was still a month away from publication, and, yes, I experienced a vague feeling of alienation that reminded me of my first days at college. I didn’t know anyone, except one person—my dear friend and wonderful writer Lynne Raimondo—from a Facebook group. At dinner, she consoled me over the less-than-glowing review my book had just received by dusting off a few unvarnished words for the reviewer in question. I’ve loved her ever since. So there I was, lost in a strange new place without a book, but I didn’t care. I was armed with some bookmarks that my publisher had provided for promotion! I placed them with great care on the tables set up expressly for that purpose. Later, I learned that this was the quickest and most effective way to dispose of said bookmarks, as no one wanted them and they were swept unceremoniously into a garbage bin at the close of the festivities.

I met some great people in Albany. First, Barry Lancet. Then Michael Sears, Tim O’Mara, Sara J. Henry, and Louise Penny. Great writers all. And my editor, Dan Mayer, invited me to lunch with a couple of other Seventh Street authors, Terry Shames, Mark Pryor, and the above-mentioned Lynne Raimondo. They’ve all remained fast friends. (Well, not Mark Pryor, but the others.) Terry Shames’s A KILLING A COTTON HILL received the Macavity Award in Albany that year for Best First novel, and I was proud to know a winner and call her my friend.
Lynne Raimondo, Mark Pryor, and Terry Shames, Albany 2013
So for me, that’s the best part of our community. The community itself. People often remark that crime writers are among the nicest folks they’ve ever met. Somehow we write about murder and sadness, but remain unspoiled by the exercise. Empathetic and supportive and caring. I can’t say how or why, but it’s true.

Five books later, I’ve since attended four more Bouchercons, five Left Coasts, four ThrillerFests, and two California Crime Writers conferences. I imagine that my flask and I are now familiar sights at these events.
A man, his flask, and Catriona McPherson
I’ve come to know hundreds of writers and readers and consider them colleagues and friends. In fact, Pinckley Prize and High Plains Book Award-winning writer—and friend—Christine Carbo calls me the mayor. I wear the sash and rosette with pride.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Getting out there

by Dietrich Kalteis

Many of us who blog here belong to writerly organizations (like Crime Writers of Canada, Mystery Writers of America, Crime Writers Association (UK), Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers etc.) and some don’t. What benefits do those who belong to such groups feel they derive from their membership, and – for those who don’t belong to any – why have you chosen that route?

I have to admit I’ve let some memberships lapse lately as I’ve become caught up in my own writing and all that goes with it. And I know there are a couple of writers on this blogsite who have spent countless hours working to make these organizations happen, and I can just hear them going tsk tsk if they read that. But, let me say, organizations like Mystery Writers of America, Crime Writers of Canada, and so on, are all worth checking out, especially for any aspiring and new mystery and crime writers. It’s a great way to connect to the local writing community, as well as a good way to network and get yourself and your work known. There are newsletters, opportunities to attend chapter meetings and take part in local writer events, promote books on their websites, and post events on online calendars.

Writing is pretty much a solo effort, so it’s important to step away from imaginary friends and get away from the desk once in a while. And another way to connect with other writers is through the various conferences and festivals that take place each year, like Thrillerfest, Bouchercon and Left Coast Crime. Most of which are also connected with writer organizations. Bouchercon and Left Coast Crime are held in a different city each year, and although traveling and attending can be costly, it’s a fantastic opportunity to network with the mystery and crime-writing community. The first Bouchercon I attended was in Albany NY in 2013, a great experience of meeting authors and readers and taking in author panels. It was also an opportunity to meet with authors in their natural habitat, the convention bar, standing around with a bunch of talented writers having a great time. These conventions are the perfect opportunity to take part in various panel discussions, pitch your stories to agents and publishers, and it’s also a chance to meet and chat with avid readers. One convention I’m looking forward to is Left Coast Crime which will be here in Vancouver in 2019. Although I haven’t been, the Harrogate Festival and Bloody Scotland would be awesome to attend.

Writing associations are also worth checking out. Aside from meeting others who write, you can listen to guest speakers, attend regular meetings, workshops and seminars. Then there are events like Noir at the Bar which are popping up all over. I organize a couple of these events in Vancouver each year, and I’ve attended and taken part in N@B events in L.A., Seattle, Toronto and Raleigh, NC. These events are another great chance to meet, mingle and hear other authors read from their latest works. If you’re an aspiring or debut writer, it’s a shot at joining the line-up and reading your work to a roomful of eager listeners. The events are always well attended, and many talented authors have graced our events with their presence, coming from as far as Toronto, Edmonton, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Denver and Seattle. So, if you’re in the neighborhood, you’re welcome to check out the next one here on Wednesday, November 1st. And as part of a book tour for Zero Avenue, I’m also taking part in a Noir at the Bar in Seaside, California on Friday, October 20th. A guaranteed good time. 
Social media is another good way to network, and I’ve made many connections with writers online who I eventually ended up meeting later on at some writing event. When I started writing, I joined Zoetrope, Frances Ford Coppola’s online workshop, where writers submit their screenplays and short stories and trade peer reviews. And I met some interesting writers there, got valuable help and even ended up having a couple of screenplays optioned through people I met. 

So, whether it’s for inspiration, information, promotion or socialization, it’s important to get away from the desk now and then and hang out with others who do what you do. And it’s amazing how helpful, friendly and supportive people who write about crime and some pretty gruesome stuff can be.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

A Key Part of a Writer's Life

By R.J. Harlick

What benefits do you derive from belonging to a writing organization?

The short answer is many and varied benefits. It all depends on the organization. I belong to six, each of which serves a very different purpose.

In my early days as an aspiring crime writer, I joined a local Ottawa-based organization called Capital Crime Writers at the recommendation of another aspiring author. It proved to be one of the smartest moves I made for it became my primary support group in the early years of my writing journey.  About forty members, we were all at varying stages of writing with none of us yet published apart from the odd short story. Until this point I had been plunking away on my first book completely alone. I didn’t know anyone who wrote fiction, let alone crime fiction. I had no one I could talk to about my writing.

To find myself in the company of other writers with whom I could share my ideas and aspirations was like finding a rare and precious home.  At the monthly meetings, I was able to boost my knowledge about the writing craft from invited speakers. I learned about the intricacies of forensics, pathology, the criminal justice system, etc. from experts that were also brought in to talk to us. I became part of a critique group with three other members, which proved invaluable in helping me to get my first manuscript into good enough shape for a publisher.  A group of members had started publishing short-story anthologies with a real live publisher, which gave us an opportunity to have publishing credentials should we be lucky enough to have a short story included.  Eventually one of the members finally obtained a publisher for her first book, soon followed by another member. It was through these members that I ultimately found my publisher by being so bold as to approach this publisher during one of their launches, a far more effective approach than a ‘throw it over the wall and pray’ query letter. And it is from this group that I have found lifelong friends.

At this stage of my writing career, the organization of aspiring writers no longer met my needs. I needed to be with other published authors to learn more about the publishing world, book promotion and the like. For this I joined Crime Writers of Canada, whose main purpose is to promote Canadian crime writers and crime writing. Though CWC helps with book promotion through its online data base and Cool Canadian Crime catalogue and author event newsletter sent out to subscribers, its greatest benefit to me is the network of published members from across the country. Whenever my path crosses with other members at conferences, festivals and the like, I love the chance to share publisher and writing war stories and gather tips and the latest info on publishing in Canada. Being a keener on the promotion of Canadian crime writing, I volunteered numerous hours to the organization from sitting on the board as a director to being the president. It has proven to be a very valuable organization for me as a crime writer. Check www.crimewriterscanada.com if you want to learn more.

When I became a published author, I also joined another organization, The Writers Union of Canada, which is the professional organization for writers in Canada. Very different from CWC, this organization basically fights for writers’ rights, from ensuring we are appropriately re-imbursed for the lending of library books to working with the government to ensure writers’ unique copyright interests are accurately reflected in copyright laws. When Google was trying to put all our books online for free, TWUC joined the Authors Guild to fight them. I have little involvement in the organization as an active member, since CWC serves that need, but am fully supportive and appreciative of everything TWUC does to ensure writers’ interests are not ignored. While you must be a published author to belong, it does offer some services to aspiring writers.

I also belong to another organization, the Quebec Writers Federation, which is focused on English-language writers in the predominantly French speaking province of Quebec. I use it to find out what is happening with my fellow Quebec writers and to make use of a reading program they have in partnership with the Canada Council to fund author readings and travels to other parts of Canada.

With the publication of my previous book, A Cold White Fear, I joined International Thriller Writers, but will admit apart from taking advantage of their offer of an interview on my new book in their magazine, The Big Thrill, I have taken little advantage of anything else they have to offer. I did explore attending their annual ThrillerFest, but decided it was far too costly for what I would get out of it.

I also belong to Sisters in Crime, but other than attending the SINC breakfast at various conferences have little to do with the organization, likely because there is no chapter in Ottawa.

As you can see, I believe writer’s organizations are a very important part of a writer’s life. We writers are solitary creatures who hide ourselves away in our fictitious worlds. Occasionally, we need to come up for air and connect with other writers.  An organization of like-minded writers is the best place to do this.

I’d like to remind you that my latest Meg Harris mystery, Purple Palette for Murder is now out in Canada and will be released in the States on November 7, though I think the e-version is now available. I have begun a blog tour and for the next month will be posting on various blogs. Check R.J. Harlick’s Meg Harris Mysteries on Facebook to learn more. You can also follow me on twitter @RJHarlick. Those of you who live in the Ottawa area are all invited to the launch on Nov. 7. We're going to have a grand celebration.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Writers Organizations

Terry Shames answering the question: What benefits do I get from writers’ organizations?

I belong to a few writers’ organizations. Two of them stand out as being the important influences in my crime writing career.

I’ve belonged to Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime since long before I was a published writer. I joined the organizations because I thought I could learn something from other members—and I was right! Both organizations have given me a lot more than I returned to them in time and money.

I joined MWA before Sisters in Crime even existed, because I wanted to learn everything I could to help me with my goal to write mystery novels. I still remember some of the earliest meetings I ever attended, most of them in San Francisco. I remember the talk by a psychiatrist from Stanford who studied serial killers. He played some actual tapes (yes, tapes!) of a couple of interviews with serial killers. The sounds of their voices were chilling and made a huge impression on me. Another speaker brought pictures of crime scenes. He warned us that they were graphic and horrifying. I’m not sure there was anyone in attendance who shied away from looking at them.

I was a brand new writer then. What did I learn? A few things stand out:

1)     Authentic crime writing is not for the faint of heart.
2)     Crime writers are a bloodthirsty bunch.
3)     The details of crime are important, and they aren’t always what you see on TV.
4)     People who deal in the study and apprehension of criminals are willing and eager to talk about what they do, and how they do it.

All the talks were not about the heinous side of crime writing. There were plenty of workshops and discussion of the process of writing. If it took me a long time to get it right, it certainly wasn’t the fault of the generous authors and other industry professionals who were willing to share their knowledge and experience.


When Sisters in Crime was founded with the mission of supporting women in the crime writing field, I eagerly signed up. There were subtle differences in SinC and MWA, and I found both to be valuable in different ways. Sisters in Crime is more inclusive and embracing of unpublished and new writers. This is not to denigrate MWA, just to point out that both are valuable.

Because I was an unpublished writer when I joined SinC, I was happy to find that a sub-group of the organization had been formed (Guppies) to give mutual support to other non-published authors. There were a number of established writers who joined the group as well in order to lend their experience to “guppies”—short for the great unpublished! Now this subgroup has almost 1,000 members. The advice and encouragement members give to each other is awesome.

I know writers who say they don’t join “groups,” and more power to them. But I have found that the friendships I’ve formed and the information I’ve received from these groups has made a huge difference not only to my writing, but to my life as a writer.

As a P.S., I’m just finishing up my two-year stint as president of the Northern California chapter of Sisters In Crime. It’s a big job, but I can truly say that I’ve gotten a lot more than I’ve given!