About Me

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I received teaching and engineering degrees and have traveled extensively, living ten years outside the US. I moved from the big city of Houston to a small sleepy community in North Carolina, which has been a tremendous change and a great inspiration for my novels, full of the local color. My time has been filled with writing and helping to physically construct three additions to our former farmhouse. I have a great view of the mountains ten miles away across the broad valley and the sunsets are breathtaking. I am an avid reader of all kinds of mystery and contemporary fiction.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Christmas Sale: Price Reduction

Christmas Sale: Price Reduction

The first book in my Rachel Christie murder mystery series, "Murder by the Clock," will be on sale for the holiday season for the low price of $0.99 at Amazon.com.

"Murder by the Clock" is a mystery in the Sam Spade tradition. Rachel Christie is an engineer turned investigator and is trying to begin a new life by saving an innocent man from a grisly murder charge. Rachel survives threats from the Sheriff, anonymous threats on her life and an attempt to kill her before facing the murderer's gun.

Rachel Christie is a woman in a man's world, a private detective with a gun strapped to her leg and more than enough baggage to fill the trunk of her old Mercedes 280SL.

She moved from Houston to the small town of Stone City to escape her troubled past and rid herself of the nickname 'Jinxy.'

After six months of struggling and running out of money, she finally gets a case. A case that no one wants solved, but a case that she must solve or return to her former life.

A stand-alone mystery, this is number 1 in the series.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Criminal Justice

Criminal Justice

Today I registered for a Criminal Justice class called “Investigative Principles” at my local community college. The reason I wanted to take this class was so that my Rachel Christie mystery novels would have more of an air of authenticity about them. I want the reader to know that the methods used in my novels are believable. Any of us can throw together a private investigator or police procedural novel with no knowledge of what it takes to do the job. After all, we have all watched plenty of police shows and CSI shows on television. However, I wanted my books to be more real to life.

I believe the course is already doing me some good because I have already uncovered a major crime: the costs of tuition and books. I had heard that these costs were escalating, but never believed they were going up so fast or so far. For the price of this class, I could have paid for a full-time semester in an engineering curriculum several years ago and that was at an accredited four-year university. This was a community college. I opted for the used textbook for $88 since a new one would have cost around $150. It gives me a better understanding of the sacrifices that many Americans pay to send their children to college today.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving and a Good Bottle of Montrachet

Thanksgiving and a Good Bottle of Montrachet

It's Thanksgiving. Time for saying thanks for all the good things we have and being thankful for all the bad things we don't. I can't say I've been lucky in my life, either with good luck or with bad. Maybe that is being lucky. In my mind, no bad luck is better than a lot of good luck.

So, for Thanksgiving, we had a turkey which I cooked and which was great. Juicy and tasty. A wonderful combination. I used a box made of aluminum foil to surround the turkey on the roasting pan. It keeps the steam in and makes the turkey moist. Also, I have a deep pan with handles. That makes it easier to get the turkey in and out of the oven.

Add green beans, seasoned with basil, sweet potatoes, stuffing made with homegrown chestnuts, cranberry sauce and crusty rolls and you have an almost perfect dinner. What's missing? A great wine.

A wine like a Montrachet Grand Cru, 2002 by Henri Boillot. I'm not sure I was in Henri's vineyard when I was last in France, but I was, not only in a Boillot vineyard, but I tasted wine directly from the barrel. Good stuff. This wine had an aroma of pears and apples, and unlike red wines, this white wine actually had a taste like its aroma: pears and apples. It was a little tart, but not tannic. A dinner wine needs a little tartness to cut through the dinner flavors. This one worked well with turkey and all the fixin's.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Hooray for Old Movies

Hooray for Old Movies

I am a fanatic when it comes to watching old movies. I would rather see Clark Gable or Humphrey Bogart on the screen than any of the modern day movie idols. Yesterday I watched a 1930s film with William Powell. My grandparents remembered getting billfolds with his picture in one of the flaps. Something spell binding and breathtaking about the stars of yesteryear.

One of my all time favorites is “It All Came True.” This is a movie with Humphrey Bogart, Zasu Pitts and Ann Sheridan. Even in her silent movies I admired Zasu Pitts -- spunky and clumsy, like my heroine Rachel Christie. Speaking of which, I am writing No. 6 in the Rachel Christie Mystery Series. Hopefully, it will be out in January 2013. I might even mention the movie in the book.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Uploading Fifth Novel to CreateSpace

Uploading Fifth Novel to CreateSpace

I just went through the process of uploading my fifth novel in the Rachel Christie murder mysteries, “Murder One Too Many,” to CreateSpace. It has sometimes been a real challenge, but this time went pretty smoothly with only one mistake.

After converting the 8-1/2 x 11 manuscript to 5 x 8, the layout was set to mirror margins and the margins were set to a half inch for top, bottom and outside. The inside was set to three quarters with a gutter of 0.15. It would probably be the same to make the inside margin a half inch with a gutter of 0.4, but this works.

I had to justify both the margins and add a new Table of Contents. The process of adding page numbers in the footer, making sure that the first few pages before the actual novel began had no page numbers, came next. That was mainly a matter of inserting a section break and deleting the page numbers before the section break. For some reason, that is usually a trial and error affair. This time it only took three trials and it came out right. Someone on the internet had complained about page numbers on the last few pages after the novel was over. So, I put in another section break and deleted those page numbers also.

Then, I added a bunch of blank pages. The two at the beginning make sure the first page of the book is a blank one. That could be for signing the book. That is what I use it for, but it is more professional to have the blank page. Next, I inserted a preliminary title page with just the title, another blank page for the back of that one and then came the main title page. More blank pages made sure the copyright page, dedication page and table of contents started on a facing, right hand, page and not the back side of a page. Tres gauche.

To make it look professional, I added blank pages at the ends of some chapters so that all the chapters start on a facing page. I think that looks more professional, even though all the big name writers and publisher don’t do it. Many do. I also inserted enough blank lines on the first page of each chapter to bring the chapter name two inches down from the top. Some recommend that the chapter name be centered halfway down the page, but I think two inches looks better.

Then, I went to www.createspace.com, logged in and filled in the required information for the new book, such as the title, "Murder One Too Many," author, key words and others. On my first book, "Murder by the Clock," I made a mistake which I couldn’t figure out how to fix. I started over and at a later date, I had the opportunity of deleting the first one and I did. I always use the guided tour for filling in the book information. Using the expert method skips some things and I usually make a mistake when I do that.

After all that, I got to the part on CreateSpace where the book is uploaded. I just upload the .doc file from Word. That is easy and only takes a few minutes. Time for a short break. Next, the cover is uploaded. That was made in PhotoShop a few days before. It is best to start with a template downloaded from CreateSpace. I used to use another program, but Windows 7 didn’t like that one. I had to get something else. So, I went with the cheap version, PhotoShop Elements. The cover of the book was trial and error, also. But that was easy. I knew what the pieces of the cover should be, based on the plot of the book. By the way, the Walthur PPQ on the cover is a real gun I photographed. The pills and the Power of Attorney, also. It was just a matter of moving the pieces around until they looked right. I began to upload the cover as a PDF file and took another break. This one for five to ten minutes. The cover should be at 300 dots per inch and in medium to high quality. That results in a file of several megabytes and that takes several minutes to upload.

Once the book cover was uploaded to CreateSpace, the book was submitted for review. Sometimes this has taken three or four days, particularly around weekends of holidays, but this time it only took a few hours. I got an email saying it had been approved and I checked the book again. For the previous review, the cover was not part of the ‘Digital Preview’ but this time it was. I could now clearly see that the author name on the cover was not centered by half an inch. How did that happen? I went back to PhotoShop and changed it and uploaded the new PDF cover and resubmitted it again.

I got another email a few hours later saying that it was approved. I checked the digital preview and it looked good. I signed off on it and ordered five copies for less than thirty dollars. Somewhat complicated, but, then, writing a book is complicated. If you can do that yourself, you can publish it yourself.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Fifth in Rachel Christie Mystery Series Published

Fifth in Rachel Christie Mystery Series Published

Today, the fifth Rachel Christie murder mystery novel, “Murder One Too Many,” was published on Amazon and Barnes and Noble as an eBook. Amazon is live with the book and Barnes and Noble will take a few days. Within the next week or two, paperbacks will be available from Amazon and CreateSpace.

This book took many long hours to write. It was, not only a novel to me, but it was personal. The book delves into the murder/suicide of a man suffering from a rare affliction, Huntington’s disease. He is accused of killing his wife and, then, killing himself. I had close personal friends who died from this dreaded disease, so it was hard to write.

In the book, Private Investigator Rachel Christie knows it wasn't suicide. She was in a room no more than fifty feet away and heard no shot. The gun had no silencer. Yet, she heard a young woman scream.

As she delves into the murder/suicide, she unearths the vile and contemptible side of humanity. Greed abounds and she questions her own humanity as those around her are tortured and murdered. She commits acts that are outside the limits she has set for herself. She cannot believe that someone would kill four people for three million dollars, but soon discovers that people would maim and kill for less.

An excerpt from the book "Murder One Too Many" follows:

“The solitude and loneliness of the road and privacy of the house was much like what I had in Stone City. I had open sky and sun, whereas the Bains had had darkness and shadows. It allotted them complete solitude, totally opposite to the fast-paced life that Sharon Bain pursued at the hospital. This was their fortress of solitude, their shield against the outside world, much like the home I rented. I could empathize with these people.

I thought about Huntington's disease and of Sharon Bain. I couldn't imagine the choice of having or not having children. I had no choice. But, it must have eaten away at them since his disease forced their hand and decided for them. They didn't want to pass on such a condition and force their children to go through the same worries they must have had. He had no control over what had happened to him, the same as I had no choice what life had thrown at me. Possibly, my empathy was getting the best of me. I began to feel I was working for the Bains rather than Kate. Maybe I was. It would be the Bain's money that paid my fee. A real life example of people coming back from the grave to extract justice.”

The four other books in the series are: “Murder by the Clock,” “Murder in Emerald Hills,” “Murder by Lion” and “Murder of the Innocent.” Each are stand-alone mysteries.