Some Visuals for The Flapper, the Scientist, and the Saboteur

The Brown Palace Hotel almost becomes another character in my story during Chapter 14. For those of you who haven’t enjoyed the ambience of this magnificent hotel, here are some photos.

2011 Brown Place downtown DenverDowntown Denver: This is the street between the former Girl’s School on the left and the Brown Palace on the right.

2011 Brown Place Where the Gentleman's Smoking Club was1

Interior of the Brown Palace: This is where the former Gentlemen’s Smoking Club was located, the seating area on the left. Just to the right is a door leading to the basement where the tunnel was.

2011 Brown Place The old girls' school

Here is the former Girls’ School. Enough said, because we don’t want to give away any of the story. I’ll post more photos soon.

Have you been to the Brown Place Hotel, stayed there, or had tea in the lobby? Tell us what you liked most.

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_EE41444Several years after I started writing, one of my dearest friends said, “When this book gets published, I’m throwing a huge party.”


She thought she had a couple of years to prepare. Eight years later, on June 12, 2016, she, her husband, and another close friend created a book-launch celebration that left me almost speachless.


Danielle Foster, co-owner of Bookworks Book Store, Albuquerque, NM did the honors . . . .


When I worked for Houghton Mifflin Publishing, now HMH, I did many displays. I found this a useful transferable skill.


New Mexico deserts make people thirsty. Guests found a well-stocked bar out on the patio.


And what a lovely patio!


Guests inside enjoyed food, conversation, and a book presentation.


While everyone enjoyed the day conversing, drinking, and eating . . . this poor author couldn’t party. She had to sign all those books. Life is tough.

Photos: Courtesy of Professional Photographer, Eban Bell and my brother, Bruce Bell





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Last year at the 2015 Colorado Gold Conference, I moderated a lively panel discussion by incredibly sharp-witted agents and editors.  I had no idea why they asked me to moderate this panel, but I have to say, I enjoyed every second of it. Well, not really. I didn’t like having to fuss with the microphone.  But once I found the right spot and finally got it clipped on–everything from then on was a hoot. What can I say. The panel took each question and ran with it full of energy and humor, leaving the audience with wonderful insight.

In preparing questions, I asked the panel about things I didn’t know. If I didn’t know the answers, probably the audience didn’t either.

Here are two question with profound answers.

Q: What happens right after you receive a manuscript you love?

Their collective answer stopped me cold.

Did you know if they love your manuscript, they have to sell it to their team? They may only have forty-five seconds to a few minutes to sell your book to a team of five to twenty people. Can you sell your own book to someone in that short of time? Could you sell it to a team of twelve when each may have their own favorite book to push? I knew I couldn’t.

My own query letters weren’t going to cut it. What query letter could possibly be powerful enough to do this work? This led me to ask the next question.

Q: What do you need from the writer to successfully sell his/her book to your team?

All of them agreed on this next answer.

They needed a shorthand way of describing your book to their team mates. The way they can do this is with comparable titles. Then they started giving riotous examples of what not to do: Annie of Green Gables meets the Motorcycle Diaries, or some such nonsense.

Anyway, it all came down to the fact these talented professionals spend hours researching comparable titles to showcase your manuscript. It’s draining and time consuming. Another huge frustration for these agents and editors is finding people to write cover blurbs for your book after they’ve acquired it. As one editor said (something like this) “Thank you for writing a blurb for XXX. Would you write a blurb for this other great book? Also, I have another great book….And another great book….”

Now you get the idea. Everyone agreed these writing conference are where you meet and build relationships with current and future authors. When you become more than heart to heart writing companions, these writer friends will read your stories. If they’re your friends, then you can ask them to write good stuff about your book so you can put their words on the back of your covers. Right? There’s a plus for them, too.  When you sell your book, the blurbs on the back of your cover help to advertize  their books too.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

Each one of you who is about to send off a query letter should stop. Rewrite that letter and include comparable titles with a couple of blurbs from respected authors. Now you’ve given the agent or editor ammunition to take to their sales meeting. They can quickly shoot out a description of your book and then hit the bulls eye using the validation blurbs from those other authors.

Pssss~~I did this. My book will be coming out in a few weeks. I’m excited! Really-really excited!

Have any of you sent comparable titles and/or blurbs with your query letters? How did it work for you?







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If praise is given for what’s expected, then why strive to excel?


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If you slow down so everyone can catch up, then no one reaches his or her full potential.

2013 New Sony 075.jpg

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I hate roller coasters.

Now I’m on one, excited–intimidated–euphoric–worried– Well, you know how it goes if you’re a writer and remember when your very first book finally found a home after all those years of revisions, advice, revisions, and more advice.Disney and Denver, Sept, 2010 017

First, there’s the excruciatingly slow ride up a well-worn track where many before you have traveled. You imagine when you get to the top a kindly, intelligent publisher reaches out and accepts your book, thus turning your dreams into a reality.

When you found a home for your first book did you want to whoop and holler and  broadcast your joy to the whole world? I thought that would happen to me. It didn’t.

Did you feel hesitant? Maybe you visualized the swift downhill part of the roller-coaster ride. I did. I couldn’t bring myself to do any type of shouting from any type of rooftop. I sure as heck didn’t want to jinx anything.

The copy editor plans to be finished with his editing by the end of this week. The interior-design editor is doing whatever it is interior-design editors do. The most exciting part for me–I actually saw the book cover today. I’m speechless.

This is all about to become a reality. Wow . . . .

And here’s a thought: Quill Mark Press believes a book should leave the reader thinking about the story long after turning the last page. Can you think of a better way to evaluate a good book?  Okay, now I’m really, really, really excited!

I’d enjoy your leaving a comment below about the state of your emotions a few weeks before your debut novel appeared in public.  (Big smile.)


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Blog Hop: Game of Tag about How We Write.

99 steps St. Thomas

Patricia Smith Wood tagged me in the Blog Hop sweeping the internet for writers. I’m to reveal my innermost writing secrets.  Also I’ve tagged two other engaging authors. I’ll tell you who they are at the end of my post.

Thanks, Pat, for giving me this opportunity. We were friends in our early teens then I moved to Wyoming and we lost touch. When I moved back to Albuquerque twenty-years later, our friendship reignited.  As preteens, Pat never let us be idle. That girl could play the piano and sing her heart out. At sleepovers, she made us sing for hours. Loved it, but I sounded like a sick Muppet. Thank goodness she no longer insists I sing.

Something else, her father was an F.B. I. agent–  So cool because I was the girl who, under the blankets with a flashlight, read all the Hardy Boy Mysteries (the early ones before they watered down the rich vocabulary). I couldn’t get enough of sleuthing.St. Thomas 1 Patricia’s father’s stories about an unsolved New Mexico murder stirred up her imagination and eventually turned these ideas into her first book, The Easter Egg Murder. You can learn more about Patricia Wood by visiting her website here.

1) What am I working on?

Right now, I’m looking for an agent/publisher for Cuba Libre Conspiracies, and I’m busy with my next book, Illusive Inheritance (working title) the second in this Beth Armstrong mystery series.

Illusive Inheritance is the sequel to Cuba Libre Conspiracies, but it’s also a stand-alone where Beth surprises her husband with a dream vacation in the Caribbean that turns into a nightmare when she realizes they’ve survived a murder attempt.   Hotel 1829 1Beth’s obsessiveness in finding answers annoys everyone, even a Rastafarian drug runner who may have murdered a young girl’s mother. Beth befriends a Voodouist who knows much about the past and more than she cares to tell.



2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Having a protagonist who’s a middle-aged woman scientist working in a research institute sets Cuba Libre Conspiracies way over on the unique side for most commercial fiction mysteries.  Another aspect that’s less common these days is a story told completely from the protagonist’s point of view. Dialogue-rich writing is something I enjoy as a reader, and I also like to write. This keeps a snappy pace to my stories without needing long, intricate descriptions. I know readers’ imaginations can fill in holes better than anything I could describe. Most of my secondary characters are multidimensional, allowing them to make assumptions, mistakes, and even rethink.

Some mysteries do have a protagonist who struggles with deeply conflicted emotions. But in my stories, my protagonist is also headstrong in her biases before she understands things are not at all what they seemed.

Much of my writing inspirations have come from cherished authors such as Alice Hoffman’s with her lyrical writing, Elizabeth George and Ian McEwan’s characters with strong and conflicted emotions, Michael Connelly sensitivity, and Robert Parker’s snappy dialogue.

3) Why do I write what I do?

It’s okay to hear voices, but it’s not okay to answer them, right? I not only hear voices, they entertain me with stories. Sometimes a relative, friend, stranger, or co-worker’s voice won’t get out of my head. What if my characters have some of these particular voices?

Sitting in a science review committee meeting, I watched an emotional but contained interplay between the chairman and a researcher.  We weren’t privileged to some prior history between them, but when the researcher slapped the table with his open hands, pushed his chair back and looked away, I knew the chairman just found out something important and had won. What if a science institute is rife with corporate espionage and no one believes it except for one scientist?

One step farther: What if a busy professional woman, barely holding her marriage together, is the scientist who no one believes her research was actually sabotaged? Interesting, but not compelling.  What if at this same time, this woman unwillingly becomes the caretaker of an estranged aunt who’s a sloppy chain-smoker and who holds a nightly cocktail hour complete with roaring 20’s stories?scan0001 What if this aunt also aggravates by serving regular doses of advice on how fix a marriage and solve all that corporate intrigue?

What if all of this causes the woman scientist to discover her carefully controlled life, with her preconceived biases, no longer works? To eradicate the evil seeping through the science institute, she changes, mends her marriage, puts her life in danger, and uncovers an old family secret.

4) How does my writing process work?

Pansters, for those of you who don’t know, is a writer who sits at the computer and writes without outlining or maybe even a hint of where the story’s going.  When I first started writing I’d type with only a vague plot in my head. I’d end up with too many subplots, too many boring scenes, and hit too many dead ends.

I found this a time waster.

I now begin with tons of research, with printouts, and note cards stacked next to my computer. I get a new spiral notebook and write the title of the book on its cover. In it I map out the plot.  This is also where I write complete character sketches of my protagonist, antagonist, and all the secondary players. I make a time line, pick the inciting moment, and decide who did what to whom and when. I put a new small notebook in my purse to jot down ideas, scenes, voices I hear, actions I see, or anything I might want to use in the story.

Next I do a quick write. This is something Anne Greenwood Brown wrote about, click here.  I find it helpful to quickly get into the first few chapters of my book. I then go back and actually do my real writing.

I get other eyes to give me feedback and help me see what I’ve missed. I’m a terrible proofreader.

Without doubt, the most enjoyable part of all is revision: cutting, cutting, cutting, reorganizing, replacing words with better words, getting rid of what’s trite, and transforming it into a  newly created world.

Next Week: Meet Catherine Dilts and Paula Paul

Catherine Dilts and Paula Paul are tagged “it” for next Monday, August 4, 2014.

Catherine Dilts and I met when we were assigned to be on a short-story panel, almost two years ago at Left Coast Crime in Colorado Springs. Both of us are fascinated with geology, paleontology, and mineralogy. How could we not like each other? Catherine’s been generous in her email knowledge and advice whenever I’ve been flummoxed over some little writing thing.

Catherine writes amateur sleuth mysteries set in the Colorado mountains. In her debut novel Stone Cold Dead-A Rock Shop Mystery, business is as dead as a dinosaur, but when Morgan Iverson finds the body of a Goth teen on a hiking trail, more than just the family rock shop could become extinct. Book two in the series, Stone Cold Case, has an anticipated release date in 2015.  Morgan Iverson reopens a cold case and lots of unhealed wounds in the small mountain town of Golden Springs when she discovers the bones of a popular and beautiful young woman who went missing fifteen years ago. Catherine works as an environmental scientist, and plays at heirloom gardening, camping, and fishing. Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine has published three of her short stories, with  The Last Real Cowboy appearing on the cover of September 2014 issue.  Visit her at

Paula Paul and I first met at SouthWest Writers many years ago when the organization was called South West Writer’s Workshop. She’s published at least two dozen books, historical, mysteries, and even a young adult story. Paula received her Bachelors in Journalism and is a state and national award-winning journalist. She’s also altruistic, donating one-third of the royalties from Crazy Quilt (published by UNM Press) to cancer research.

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