Monday, June 1, 2015

June is Bustin' Out All Over!

It's June, and that means graduation time! This year two of my granddaughters are graduating from eighth grade. Sitting with my daughter Jen -- their aunt -- are Ashley (center) and Cinnamon (right). Thank goodness, their schools scheduled graduation on different days, so hubby and I will be attending both events together. A coin toss would have been in order if they'd fallen on the same day. :) 

And then there's my grandson Christian, seen here at the golf course with his uncle Matt (L) and his dad John (R), who's graduating from kindergarten this month. Now comes "the big school" for him. :)

June is also a month of birthdays in the family. Granddaughter Cinnamon turns 14 on the 13th, and my son-in-law Carlos turns 30 on the 6th.  This is a picture of Carlos playing with his bandmates at Durty Nellie's earlier this year. My daughter-in-law Jennifer is celebrating a B-day later in the month. This picture of her was taken during her trip to VietNam last fall.
Last but not least, my son-in-law Jay will climb another step on the birthday ladder in mid-June. This is a picture of Jay with my daughter Jen, their two dogs, and their sons Dan (L with Mahi) and Zach (R with Bonita). 

In other news, June is shaping up to be a good month for me in the book department. Having regained all rights to my first two books, including rights to the covers, I'm happy to say that A Merry Little Murder, the first book in the "Rhodes to Murder" series, is available again in Ebook format on Amazon, and will soon be available for Nook owners and fans of Kobo and other reading devices as well. I hope to have The Rune Stone Murders, number two in the series, up on all book selling sites in July. If you're a Kindle fan and are interested in reading A Merry Little Murder -- or any of my other books or short stories -- please visit 

That's about it for now. Hope you have a fun-filled month of June with plenty of time for reading. And don't forget...


Sunday, May 3, 2015

If I'd Only Placed a Bet...

Yesterday was Derby day, Kentucky Derby day, and an hour before post time, my husband and I settled down in front of our TV to place our imaginary bets on which horse would win the 141st running of this iconic event. Having been introduced to Turf Magazine and the Daily Racing Form at the tender age of eleven (thanks to my older brother Richard), I have a bit of an edge on my hubby when it comes to picking winners. He bases his choices on the horses' names and/or the colors of the jockeys' silks. I, on the other hand, consider a horse's pedigree, general track record, and past performance against competing horses, and then combine those facts with the jockey's winning record to make my picks. 

If you read my last blog, you'll know that back in April I was rooting for Dortmund to win the Derby. But after watching films of two of his recent races, I backed off the Dortmund bandwagon and began thinking American Pharoah (pictured above) was the horse who could sweep the field of nineteen at Churchill Downs. When it came time to share my first through third place picks with Fred, I listed American Pharoah to win, Firing Line to place, and Dortmund to show. Based on the rider's red, white, and blue silks, Fred picked Dortmund to win. With Dortmund breaking from the 8th post position, Fred decided to pick the horses in the 9th and 10th post positions as his 2nd and 3rd place choices. Those two horses were Bolo and Firing Line. Just for the fun of it, we decided we'd each pick a horse to come in fourth to see if we could win the superfecta, which is where you bet on the exact order of the first four horses to cross the finish line. I picked Frosted and Fred picked Carpe Diem.

How I wish our bets had been for real and not just a fun way to enjoy the race together. If I'd placed a $1 superfecta bet on American Pharoah, Firing Line, Dortmund, and Frosted, I'd have won $634. That's right -- those four crossed the finish line in the exact order that I'd picked them. 

Fred and I generally go to the races only once every summer, and I have to tell you, I have never, ever been so lucky when placing a real bet at the racetrack as I was yesterday when I made my non-paying Derby choices. Could I ever do that again? Probably not, but it's fun to know it worked out on paper, even if I don't have the winnings to show it. :)


Saturday, April 11, 2015

April Showers...

Boy, am I glad March is over! It came in like a lion and more or less went out like one, too. We finally seem to be done with winter's snow, though, and while we've experienced a few good rain storms since the calendar turned to April, the lion appears to be asleep, giving way to milder days and daffodils in the garden.

March was a busy month for me what with three editing jobs on the schedule plus a good bit of work done on finding a new home for the 2016 edition of Love is Murder. After a considerable amount of research and leg work, the hotel search team (of which I'm a member) found the perfect place for next year's conference. We'll be holding it at the Embassy Suites in Rosemont, IL on March 11-13, 2016. The hotel is gorgeous and offers all the amenities you could want, including complimentary hot breakfasts and free unlimited evening cocktails for anyone attending the conference who books a room at the hotel. More information about the conference and the Embassy Suites will be available soon at

April got off to a good start with our family gathering for Easter dinner at our house. The grandkids are older now, and it really showed when I brought out the desserts and the Easter candy -- a lot less of it was eaten by my weight-conscious teenage grandkids. But everyone enjoyed themselves, and to be honest, I didn't mind one bit having a leftover box of chocolate covered marshmallow eggs to munch on the rest of the week. :)

The day after Easter I watched the NCAA basketball championship game between Wisconsin and Duke. The Wisconsin-Kentucky Final Four game was a nailbiter, but even that was outranked by the championship game. Those Duke freshmen were amazing. Looks like Duke will be in the hunt for the title for several years to come. 

Now it's time to turn to horse racing and the Run for the Roses three weeks from today. I'm rooting for Dortmund, the big fellow shown in this picture. He's won all six of his races and looks like one of the favorites to take the Kentucky Derby. I'm not only rooting for him because he's obviously got talent, but also because of his name. The name Dortmund makes me think of John Dortmunder, the bad luck crook featured in over a dozen comic mysteries written by Donald Westlake. I've read them all and absolutely love poor old Dortmunder and his bumbling gang of thieves. I only wish Westlake was still around to give us more stories featuring this criminal mastermind whose plans always seem to go awry. If you've never read the Dortmunder mysteries, run right over to your public library and grab a copy. I guarantee you'll enjoy it. In fact, you might enjoy it enough that you'll end up like me -- rooting for John Dortmunder's namesake, Dortmund, to win the Kentucky Derby in May.

Until then, have a great April. Enjoy the better weather and the spring flowers and all the good things life offers you. 

And to my fellow lovers of mystery and mayhem, remember what the sign says:


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

What's New at Cicero's Children

Wow! What a winter it's been! We've had record snowfalls and frigid temperatures across the nation, including here in Chicago. I, for one, am more than ready for spring and warmer weather. 

Fortunately, the snow didn't affect the 16th annual Love Is Murder mystery conference. Writers, readers, and general fans of mystery gathered on the first weekend in February to celebrate the genre along with featured authors Denise Swanson, Zoe Sharp, and Robert Goldsborough.

Along with dozens of published authors, a lively group of agents and editors attended LIM 2015. From left to right, they are: Marcy Posner (Folio); Austin Camacho (Intrigue Publishing); Elizabeth Evans ((Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency); Emily Victorson (Allium Press); Denise Dietz (Five Star Mysteries); Laura Barth (Harlequin/Worldwide Mystery); Linda McFall (freelance editor previously with Viking/Penguin); Christine Witthohn (Book Cents Literary Agency); and Sandra Bowman (Intrigue Publishing).

Harlequin/Worldwide edition
Of all the editors and agents present at LIM, I especially enjoyed talking with Laura Barth again. Laura manages Harlequin's Worldwide Library Mystery and Suspense program, the branch of the company that publishes my "Rhodes to Murder" series in mass market paperback format. The soft-spoken Laura knows the publishing business inside and out; she is a pleasure to work with.

Speaking of my books, I have some news concerning the first two titles in the series. As you may know, A Merry Little Murder (originally published as A Deadly Little Christmas) and The Rune Stone Murders (originally published as Something Wicked in the Air) were re-named, re-edited, and re-released in trade paperback and Ebook format several years ago by Echelon Press Publishing after the original titles went out of print. 

Now, due to the continuing health problems of publisher Karen Syed, Echelon has closed its doors and gone offline. 

While Harlequin/Worldwide Mystery will continue to publish A Merry Little Murder and The Rune Stone Murders -- along with other books in the "Rhodes to Murder" series -- in mass market paperback format, all other rights to those first two books have reverted back to me, along with the rights to the Echelon-produced covers. I intend to self-publish both books in Ebook format within the next two months using the Echelon covers. As for a trade paperback vesion, I have a good stock of the Echelon-produced books on hand and will be happy to send one to anyone wishing to buy a trade paperback sized copy of A Merry Little Murder and/or The Rune Stone Murders. 

As the days go by, I'll be making changes to this website to reflect my ongoing writing and publishing plans. This blog will serve mainly as a monthly newsletter covering any number of subjects related to mystery novels, writing, and life in my neck of the woods. I hope you'll continue to drop by Cicero's Children whenever you have a chance.

So long for now! I do hope spring comes to your hometown SOON! :)


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Changes to Cicero's Children

For several years now I've blogged about books, writing, editing, and just about any other subject that's drawn and held my attention. I've hosted blogs by fellow writers, interviewed authors of new releases, and posted book reviews of mysteries I've read and enjoyed. I've also answered medical questions sent to me by other writers and explained procedures performed in the ER and by paramedics. My goal was to provide interesting reading material for both writers and readers of mystery fiction while also promoting my own mystery novels and short stories.

Well, February will usher in a change for me and for Cicero's Children. Much of what I've done here in the past will be discontinued as I work on two things: writing the best books I can, and editing other people's work in the best way I can.

Let's face it: Time is a precious commodity. If we're to spend what time we have in our lives in the most fulfilling way possible, we have to limit the extras that tend to draw us away from our main objectives. 

And my main objectives are to spend more quality time with my husband and family while continuing to pursue my love of writing and editing. In order to do that, I have to cut back on time consuming activities that bring me little pleasure and profit neither my personal life nor my writing life.

The first thing I'm cutting back on is my effort to follow the advice of the publishing world gurus who demand that I "build a platform" on social media. I post to Facebook when I have something to say or something to add to someone else's conversation, and I also occasionally post a tweet on Twitter. Have I met a lot of nice people on these two sites? Definitely. Have I advanced my writing goals through the use of FB and Twitter? Maybe yes, maybe no. It's hard to say who's buying your book and why they're buying it when you look at your royalty statements. Will I continue to use these sites? Sure I will, just not as often or as extensively as in the past.

There's one thing I know about social media: when it comes to mystery, there are way too many weekly and daily blogs out there competing for the same readership. So in an effort to use my time wisely, I'm converting Cicero's Children to a monthly newsletter-type blog where I can stay connected with those who have enjoyed my posts in the past while hopefully also attracting a new audience to my books.

Later this week I'll be going to Love Is Murder, the annual mystery writers' and readers' con here in Chicago. When I'm home and settled back in again, I'll report on the con and on what's happening with my Rhodes to Murder series since Echelon Press more or less ceased publishing. I'll also let you in on the new series I have in the works, along with news concerning my short stories. 

Until then, spend your time wisely and enjoy life!


Friday, November 14, 2014

Marilyn Meredith and The Supportive Writers' Community

Today I have the honor of hosting Marilyn Meredith, the author of over thirty-five published novels, including the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, the latest of which is River Spirits from Mundania Press. Marilyn is a member of three chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. She lives in the foothills of the Sierra. 

You can visit Marilyn at and her blog at Marilyn is currently participating in a multi-week blog tour during which she's hosting a contest. The winner will be the person who comments on the most blog posts during the tour. He or she can either have a character in Marilyn's next book named after them, or choose to receive an earlier book in the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series—either a paper book or e-book.

The Supportive Writers’ Community

Many folks outside of the writing community don't understand how writers help one another--especially mystery writers

One of the main reasons it happens, in my opinion, is that we understand things about being a writer that outsiders don't, like:

1. Being compelled to write even though the chances of becoming famous or even making much money are slim.

2. Writing isn't easy.

3. A writer must spend a lot of time alone in front of his/her computer.

4. A good part of that time may not be working on the next book, but doing a lot of promoting so people will know about the last book you wrote.

Writers not only understand what each one is going through, but they support one another in many ways.

1. They buy and read one another's books.

2. They write reviews for other writers’ books.

3. They help writers with their promotion. (Like right now, my being on Mary Welk's blog.)

4. They willingly share experiences and advice in matters of publishing and promotion.

Best of all, when we do finally meet in person, we probably will become instant friends. This has happened to me so many times and even though we don’t see each other often, when we do run into one another at a conference or convention, it’s a bit like a family reunion.

I have a friend who is an avid mystery reader and he once asked me, “How can you all be friends when you are in competition with one another?”

Though there are a few exceptions, the majority of us love reading one another’s books and we enjoy hanging out together when the opportunity arrives—even though these times may be few.
When we do, there is no lull in the conversation.

Most of us are thrilled when we hear about one among us who has received recognition for his or her work. I think it’s because we all know the effort and sometimes, the sacrifices that went into the creation of that particular book.

And as an added tidbit. Mary and I met at Mayhem in the Midlands in Omaha long ago. We’ve seen each other at other mystery cons and enjoyed one another’s company. When hubby and I went to Love is Murder in Chicago, Mary took us to her home for a fun visit. We’ll never forget it, snow and all.


P.S. You can find me tomorrow hanging out with Thelma Straw on the  She asked me to explain where I get my energy.

Blurb for River Spirits:
While filming a movie on the Bear Creek Indian Reservation, the film crew trespasses on sacred ground, threats are made against the female stars, a missing woman is found by the Hairy Man, an actor is murdered and Deputy Tempe Crabtree has no idea who is guilty. Once again, the elusive and legendary Hairy Man plays an important role in this newest Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery.

From the publisher, all formats:
For Kindle:
Amazon paperback:
For Nook


Saturday, October 18, 2014

A Conversation with Mollie Cox Bryan

Today I'm pleased to interview Mollie Cox Bryan, the author of the Cumberland Creek Mysteries, published by Kensington. The first book in the series, Scrapbook of Secrets, was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel of 2012; Scrapped was published in January 2013 and Death of an Irish Diva, the third in the series,was released in February of 2014. Just released this month is A Crafty Christmas. Plans for the series include two more novels and two novellas—the first one, Scrappy Summer, became available in summer 2014. Mollie writes, gardens, runs, and scrapbooks in Waynesboro, Va. with her husband and two daughters.

A Crafty Christmas
(Cumberland Creek)
Publisher: Kensington (October 7, 2014)
Mass Market Paperback: 352 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0758293565


Christmas is just around the corner, and the ladies of the Cumberland Creek Scrapbook Crop are thrilled when Sheila wins the first place prize in a scrapbooking design contest: a ten-day scrapbook-themed cruise in the Caribbean. Vera and Paige decide to tag along, which should pose the perfect opportunity to learn some new techniques, mingle with fellow croppers, and get in some rest and relaxation before the chaos of Christmas. But when Sheila finds a famous crafter dead, and investigators determine she was poisoned, the luxury cruise veers toward disaster as Sheila becomes the number one suspect – or was she really the intended victim? Just as the croppers begin un-wrapping the truth, a storm strands them at sea, and they’ll find it’s harder than ever to survive the holidays with a killer on deck…

MW: Your first Cumberland Creek Mystery introduced the ladies of the Cumberland Creek Scrapbook Crop and featured ex-investigative journalist Annie in the role of lead amateur sleuth for her “crop circle”. While Annie held that role in later books, readers got to know her crop friends more intimately as the series progressed. After reading the synopsis of A CRAFTY CHRISTMAS, it appears Annie may take a backseat in this book, leaving all the glory to Sheila, Vera, and Paige. Am I guessing correctly, or will Annie come to the rescue once again? If not to the rescue, will she at least show up in the story?

MCB: Annie figures very prominently in CRAFTY CHISTMAS. She doesn’t go on the cruise with the other scrapbookers, but they call her and Skype with her. Plus, a good chunk of the book happens after the other croppers return from the cruise.

MW: According to your website, you describe your series as being “on the edge of cozy”. Could you explain why you label your books in that way?

MCB: Yes, I want my readers to know what they are getting into.  In many cozies, for example, you won’t even see the word “sex,” but in mine,  my characters will sometimes talk about it.  Also, some of the issues in my books—things like suicide, abuse, cults, and so on—are not often addressed in the genre. But my books are still cozy because they never veer off into the graphic depictions of these issues or sex or violence.  They skim along. As a reader, you know they are there, but you don’t get a deep view of it. I call this an edge.

MW: Annie’s life journey from busy investigative journalist to equally busy stay-at-home mom seems to mirror your own personal story. How alike are you to Annie, and how is Annie different from you?

MCB: Annie and I are a lot alike—but there are parts of me in all of my characters, even Beatrice. Annie is Jewish and I am not. And Annie is tall and dark. I am not. She has boys and I have girls. But the part of her that’s a newcomer, different, and doesn’t quite fit in, that’s me. In truth, I think there are many of us that identify with that part of her.

MW: Scrapbooks were the “in” thing back when I was a kid. Mine was a plain black-paged book filled with my vast collection of matchbook covers interspersed with photos from family events. It was quite different from the highly embellished scrapbook my children made to celebrate my husband’s and my 40th wedding anniversary a few years ago. How and when did you get interested in scrapbooking as a hobby? Why do you think scrapbooking has grown in popularity among women over the past 15-20 years?

MCB: I’ve scrapbooked my whole life. When I was a teenager, I made scrapbooks of my favorite singers and movie stars. I think it was an impulse to save and organize. I wish I had those scrapbooks now. And I’ve always journaled—which is a very important part of scrapbooking.
But as a hobby, I think it really started when my daughters were born—the first one about 15 years ago. We all want to capture our memories, of course. But the hobby can also be a very social one—with friend getting together and sharing supplies and stories. It’s very much like the old quilting bees. It gives you a sense of community while your “working.” There’s a lot of digital scrapbooking these days and the definition of scrapbooking is evolving. For example, some blogs are really nothing more than a digital scrapbook. Blogging as scrapbooking? Yes! It’s an exciting time to be a scrapbooker, with so many options available.

MW: The role of food in your Cumberland Creek mysteries seems secondary only to murder and scrapbooking. Your characters are quite often found baking, cooking, or sharing with each other some kind of delicious fare, be it soup, muffins, or spaghetti sauce. Why is food so significant to your stories? Does it have anything to do with the two cookbooks you wrote before starting the Cumberland Creek series? 

MCB: I am a very food-centric person. I wrote cookbooks and made my living as a freelance food writer for years. I love every minute of food writing. Food tells readers so much about characters. It gives a glimpse into culture that nothing else can. It’s a great vehicle for fiction writing.

MW: I understand you enjoy running and spend time doing so most mornings. Is this your special way of getting away from it all, or do you spend your running time thinking up plots for your mysteries?

MCB: Remember how I said earlier that every character has a bit of me in them? Well, Sheila has my compulsion to run. It really is a way to think of nothing but one foot in front of the other, which is so good for me, with all of the things I have going on. It’s sort of like a meditation in movement. But I do have thoughts when I run—and I share them on my blog. I used to do it every day. Now, it’s just every so often.

MW: Prior to A Crafty Christmas, your most recent offering in the Cumberland Creek series was a novella called Scrappy Summer.  Obviously, the decision to release a novella midway in the series was made by your publisher, but how do you as the author benefit from such a move? Did you enjoy the switch to a shorter form of fiction writing? Do you plan to release another novella featuring the Cumberland Creek characters?

MCB: Yes, there will be another novella between this book and the next. I think it’s a good option for me because I have many stories about my characters. Sometimes they have to be cut out of my books because they have nothing to do with the main story. The other thing is readers have a voracious appetite when it comes to series. They want books faster and faster. Even if I could write faster, I’m not sure my publisher could get them printed as quickly as they might like! So we thought this was fun way to keep the readers happy and engaged.As for short writing…I don’t prefer it. I admire short story writers very much—it’s such an art. But I prefer writing novels. That said, I’d rather share my stories with readers than just have them sitting on my computer doing nothing.
 Author Links
Twitter: @molliecoxbryan
Purchase Links
Amazon      B&N

Mollie is sponsoring is a big Rafflecopter giveaway of three books and a $25 gift card to Amazon or B&N. Click on the following link to enter for a chance to win.

Tour Participants
October 7 – Brooke Blogs - Review, Guest Post
October 7 - Chloe Gets A Clue - Interview
October 8 – Booklady's Booknotes - Review
October 9 – rantin' ravin' and reading – Review
October10 – Griperang's Bookmarks - Review
October 11 – A Chick Who Reads - Review
October 12 – Books Are Life - Vita Libri - Review
October 13 – Shelley’s Book Review - Review
October 14 – Thoughts in Progress - Review
October 14 – Cozy Up With Kathy – Interview
October 16 – Mystery Playground – Guest Post*
October 17 – Mochas, Mysteries and Meows - Review, Guest Post
October 18 – Cicero's Children - Interview
October 19 – Melina's Book Blog - Review
October 20 – Dalene's Book Reviews - Review