Fictional Crime


The Adam Kaminski Mystery Series are fiction. I base the stories on some true events — historical events, for example, or crimes I read about in the newspapers, or interactions I’ve had in the past with diplomats and law enforcement officers. But in the main, the stories originate in my head. No one was hurt in the making of these books.

No Animals Harmed

This past weekend, I was thrilled to once again join the Delaware Valley Chapter of the Sisters in Crime for a lecture by a local expert in crime and murder. Of the true variety.

I’m not usually a fan of true crime stories. I love reading about fictional murders, with fictional victims and fictional sleuths. Hearing about grisly murders that really took place, about a sick, twisted individual who really did kill innocents, is disturbing. Fascinating, yes, but disturbing.


Our speaker this month was Sam Cox, an archaeologist at the University of Pennsylvania. Sam spoke to us about her involvement in the exhumation and identification of the remains of H. H. Holmes, commonly known as America’s first (known) serial killer.

Holmes is suspected of killing as many as 200 people. During the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, he ran a hotel just off-site that was later determined to have a lime pit and large incinerator in the basement — handy for getting rid of unwanted bodies.

Hearing Sam tell this story, I was hooked. Sam’s work was included in a recent series by the History Channel, American Ripper. Her team is featured in the final episode. I recommend it!

History Channel
I loved hearing her talk about the techniques they used to dig up his grave then identify the bones they found. She told us about what was actually proven in the case and what was still conjecture. She explained how the detectives at the time tracked him and the bodies he left in his wake as he ran.

As a writer, this lecture was invaluable as a source of ideas and information. We learned about investigative and exploratory techniques that law enforcement can use in identifying victims and killers. We got a glimpse behind the scenes.

As a reader, I’m intrigued by the personalities involved. The nonchalance of the serial killer, the determination of the detective who finally tracked him down.

That said, I don’t think I’ll become an avid reader of true crime stories. There’s something comforting about murder mysteries: the killer always gets caught, the hero always saves the day (well, not for the victims, but for those who survive).

I like the feeling that once you’re done, all is right with the world. And I try not to think too much about the true killers still lurking, out there, in the real world…


Learn more about Jane Gorman at or follow her on Facebook or Instagram.

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Murder From the Headlines by Paty Jager

2017 headshot newWhen I started brainstorming the newest Shandra Higheagle Mystery, I didn’t think about what was in the headlines. I don’t even watch the news. It’s too depressing.

Every time I start brainstorming a book, I think about the world around me or my life. It is easier to write about something you have a vested interest in. I’d already determined that Shandra would volunteer at  Warner High School. That had been mentioned more as an excuse for her to ferret out information in the previous book, but it was an option for the next book. I took it and ran.

She’s at a high school. Who could I murder and why? I traveled back to my high school days. There had been favorite teachers and not so favorite teachers, but the one that stuck out in my mind the most was the one who gave me the creeps. I didn’t like his smile, he dressed too fancy for the area where we lived, and everyone knew, that if a girl sat in the front row wearing a dress, they received a A for the day and enough of those would get you an A for the class. I didn’t hear any more rumors about him than that, but as I stated before, he kind of gave me the creeps, and I had two classes with him.

I took that feeling and information and came up with a much more lecherous teacher in my fictional school. I gave him a mental disorder that made him a pervert. He was short of stature and preyed on the women his size of smaller. Teachers and students alike. Then I gave the principal a misguided reason for not following through on the harassment charges.

And I had a murder victim.

Adding an autistic boy, who’s older brother looked out for him, and cyber bulling, I found a story full of possible suspects and lots of hidden secrets.

When I finished the book, I saw it as a misleading mystery.  My reviewers wrote in their reviews, “ripped from the headlines.” So I’m guessing my latest book is not only a mystery, but it has subjects that are being talked about in the news. Which is good for my story and promotion, but I hadn’t planned it that way. It was a story born of my past experience and adding in the culture of today.

Do you like stories that incorporate what is happening in the news?

Artful Murder 5x8Book ten in the Shandra Higheagle Mystery Series

Secrets… Scandal… Murder…

An autistic boy and his brother need potter Shandra Higheagle’s help when a teacher’s body is found after a confrontation with the older brother. Shandra knows the boy is innocent. Digging into the teacher’s life, she and Ryan turn up scandal.

Detective Ryan Greer has believed in Shandra’s dreams in the past, but she can’t always be right. When his investigation uncovers a principal on the take, females being harassed, and parents kept in the dark, he discovers more suspects than the brothers. Shandra’s time at the school is coming to an end, and the killer has struck again.

Universal buy link:

Artful ad

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Guest Blogger- Nan Dale

The Promotion was inspired in part by my own career in finance, and life in Brooklyn Heights and Montclair in New Jersey; and in part by my very dramatic imagination. I was the kid that would daydream in all my classes through middle school. Although this is my first fiction novel, writing has always been part of my life either through blogs, unpublished short stories and then a lot of research roles at work.

The idea for a financial thriller was born many years ago in Brooklyn heights. Not only did I have have vivid dreams of random escapades there – I would often walk around the neighborhood with my 3 boys, 2 in a double stroller and one on a scooter thinking ‘this is the perfect spot for a kidnapping’. And when I interviewed babysitters, I would wonder if the candidate was actually an uncover spy!!!That said, I have had 3 German au pairs, and no, I haven’t ever wondered whether they had a double identity 🙂

I think the world of finance provides perfect fodder for financial thrillers.

After I graduated business school, I joined the sales and trading program at a small Wall Street firm in New York. Ruth’s character in the book and meeting her husband is partly based on my own life experience. Although we didn’t work for the same firm, I met my husband while out for dinner with about eight folks from my training program.

Ruth’s career mirrors that of three very successful, senior women at the firm I worked with early on in my career. All three were very quantitative, married and rose through the ranks quickly. Similar to Ruth, one woman that I worked briefly with, left the firm at the peak of her career to become a stay at home mom. Note in real life, I am very different from Ruth professionally, my strengths are in writing, research and relationship building but we do share the same love for family and are very athletic.

John’s quest for a promotion was my way of adding drama to an already challenging situation. Because I worked mostly with men, I saw the sacrifices that were made in trying to get to the top. Some men gave up their marriages since they spent long nights and weekends working. Health became an issue for some. There was a BEVY of swearing (I chose not to include this in the book).

I wanted to highlight the nonlinear path to promotion. This is especially acute once you reach the top since the corporate world is a pyramid structure and there’s only room for a chosen few. I loved the fact that even though John had everything lined up in his favor: gender, upbringing, experience, education, looks, family, and a lot of hard work -that there could be unhidden forces at work that could preempt his ascent.

Do John and Ruth get to live their happily ever after ? Well – you would have to read the sequel to find out.

MediumThe Promotion

Like many heavy hitters on Wall Street, John is an alpha male with good looks, intellect and the tenacity to run with the big dogs. His wife, Ruth, a former investment banker now turned Stay-At Home Mom, is every bit the perfect partner.

John is steps away from achieving his lifelong dream of becoming a partner at a prestigious investment firm in New York City. When unanticipated events over the weekend put his promotion in jeopardy, he starts to question who is obstructing his career and why?

As life gets increasingly complicated, how far will John go to achieve his end and will he sacrifice his own values and those of his family to fulfill a lifelong dream?

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Nan Dale recently moved to Montclair, New Jersey from Brooklyn in New York. When she’s not breaking up a fight among her three boys, or playing basketball with them, she hangs out with her husband, does yoga or stages Just Dance competitions with her au pair. During the day, she works full time for a financial firm. She has spent 12 years in the world of finance – in which she describes the personalities as highly entertaining.

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Finding the right formula

By Sally Carpenter

Some people have accused cozy mysteries, and other genre fiction, of “formulaic.”

What’s wrong with that?

Humans are creatures of habits. We have our rituals and traditions that help us enjoy life and make sense of it. And nearly all writing follows a “formula” of some kind.

Routines give structure to the day and free us from having to plan every moment so we can engage our energies in other pursuits. Many people eat the same breakfast or lunch foods every day. We drive the same route to work and have a pattern to our work days.

Some always shop on the same day of the week, use the gym the same time each day, watch a movie every Saturday night, visit their parents every Friday or attend certain festivals or concerts every year. And that glass of wine in the evening or snack at bedtime provides a means to relax after a busy day.

Thanksgiving Day isn’t complete without the same foods each year. Other holidays, such as Valentine’s Day, Christmas and Fourth of July, have their own traditions. Even if we gave a loved one a card or we lit a sparkler last year, we have to do it again this year.

Kids love habits. They may have a bedtime ritual of tucking in and story time before falling asleep. They have a favorite toy (before they become addicted to technology). They have songs and stories they like to hear repeatedly. Adults too have their guilty pleasure movies and books.

Sports have their rituals: playing the national anthem, the starting tip-off or punt, halftime entertainment, cheerleaders, wearing the “lucky” shirt or hat, seventh-inning stretch, Dodger dogs and the Olympic opening and closing ceremonies.

When life is confusing or threatening, people of faith find comfort in rituals that have stood the test of time.

Some authors build their schedules around the same writers’ conferences each year. Some authors can’t start writing until they do certain tasks or have special snacks on hand or play specific music.

If humans are so dependent on habits, our writing likewise needs structure. Some types of literary prose may ramble and simply express a feeling or word picture, but commercial fiction needs a solid blueprint.

Mainstream movies adhere to a three-act structure in which each act begins on a certain page of the script. The film’s climax—the point of no return or when the hero is at rock bottom with no means of escape—is generally 20 minutes before the end. Once a writer learns this structure, it’s easy to spot the “act breaks” in a film.

Most stories, particularly epics, follow the “hero’s journey” or “hero’s quest” formula: the hero is called to the quest, faces tests, meets helpers, reaches a “moment of death” (the climax), overcomes this final obstacle to “new life” and receives rewards. Even Nancy Drew mysteries follow this format.

Formula is what makes genres unique. Romances must have two persons attracted to each other. Mysteries require a puzzle or crime to solve. Science fiction must have alternative worlds or a “what if” speculation. Thrillers must have fast paced action and a powerful villain. A reader picking up a genre book expects certain elements and feels cheated if those requirements are not met.

Great variety is possible within the genre conventions. Cozies are no longer limited to a divorced woman leaving a big city to inherit a small town shop and fall in love with the police chief. Cozies now include male protagonists, large city settings and heroines who don’t work in a mom-and-pop store. Some cozies have a slightly harder edge and deal with social, environmental or animal abuse issues.

The only real “formula” to cozies is an amateur sleuth, interesting and likeable principal characters (usually family members of the protagonist), justice is served and no graphic sex, violence, profanity or violence to children or animals.

And in reading a cozy, the best formula of all is to curl up in a comfy chair with a blanket, a cup of hot tea or cocoa, a blazing fireplace and rain outside.

What are some of your habits or traditions?



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February is Almost Over!

It’s hard to believe we are almost done with the 2nd month of 2018.

This has been a busy one for me.

Much of my writing time has been spent re-editing all the books in my Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery series for republishing by A & K. Not only will they be re-edited, the plan is to have all new covers—covers that will be easy recognizable that this is a series.

While working on these books, though I have found errors: typos, a few inconsistencies, and ways to write things better. Overall, I’ve been pleased.

The first day of February I joined three of my fellow Sisters in Crime, San Joaquin chapter, for a panel on mysteries at the Fig Garden Branch Library in Fresno. We were all delighted with the crowd who came to hear us.

I spent four days in Ventura attending the Public Safety Writers Association’s Board Meeting. I can tell you that the annual conference in July will be great.  This is definitely the best little conference going and mystery writers are welcome.

PSWA Board 2018

While there, we also toured the horrible devastation of the Thomas Fire. 900 homes were burned down. So sad.

Ventura Fire after

We took one of our granddaughters and her hubby out for an anniversary and Valentine celebration—their choice of restaurant, a Chinese Buffet. Good food and wonderful conversation.

And just to let folks know, I once in a while do something just for fun, I went to a paint class. Fun and so relaxing. I used to do a lot of painting, but decided I need to choose between painting and writing—I chose writing.

painting class

A big highlight to end the month was visiting a 7th and 8th grade class to talk about the importance of editing. What a great group of kids—so attentive and they asked great questions.

me at Marti's class.

I wonder what March will bring.

How was your February?


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Bad Actors

Mysteries, even the lighter ones, touch on the darker side of human nature. There is a wrong to be righted, not just a puzzle to solve. Since I don’t write about murder, I alternate between what I think of crimes of the spirit and actual crimes. The antagonist is usually based on someone who made me angry, created a sense of outrage, or gave me the creeps. In The Calling, Mae Martin encounters a professor who appears to be unethical in his relationships with female students and colleagues, and there’s a dark spiritual power around him as well. Shaman’s Blues starts with missing people, one who may be connected with a ghost, and one who claims to read auras and gives strange advice. She was inspired by someone I met many years ago in Santa Fe and never forgot—because people seemed to believe her, despite the dubious nature of her guidance. The exploitation of others’ spiritual longings and desire for healing is a theme I explore often. Living in New Mexico, where alternative medicine and spiritual seekers are a big part of the scene, I’ll never run out of material. There are many excellent practitioners here, but there are some questionable ones as well.

Because of the hot springs, the land where my home town, Truth or Consequences, is situated was a healing place for the Apaches long before Europeans arrived. Visitors come here now for retreats and to recover their health and peace of mind. I set my most recent book, Death Omen, here, for that reason. Some of it takes place in Santa Fe and on the road, but much of the third act takes place in one of Truth or Consequences’ hot springs spas. The antagonist claims to be a healer and a visionary who can see past incarnations. If she’s not what she says she is, her followers may be risking their lives.


Shaman’s Blues, book two in the Mae Martin series, is currently on sale for 99 cents.

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Who Saw That?


Julia Kaminski, sister to the hero of the Adam Kaminski mystery series, is a photographer. A good one. She’s still figuring out how to make a living in her chosen profession. In an ideal world, she’d earn her money by showing and selling her photographs at galleries. But until that happens, she’s getting by by taking on gigs as a photographer at wedding or parties. And still holding out for her big break.

Julia’s photographs take on new meaning in book 5 in the series, A Pale Reflection. Julia finally gets a leading role, after appearing as a side character in the first four books, and jumps into the chance to use her photographic skills to help her brother Adam figure out whodunnit.


The thing about photographs is they capture more than you might realize. You, the tourist, for example, sees a beautiful scene and snap a shot. It may only be later, as you go back to look through the photographs, that you notice someone or something in the picture you hadn’t previously realized was there. Or someone watching when you thought you were alone.


In my family, my husband is the photographer. We just had the amazing opportunity to spend a glorious week in Rome. (Will Adam Kaminski be solving a murder in Rome in the near future? Stay tuned!).

Chuck, my husband, takes spectacular photographs of traditional scenes — statues, artwork, natural beauty and urban beauty. But he also finds joy in surprising details. For example, catching an unexpected eye.


For us, it’s fun. We use these photographs to share our experiences with friends and family and to refresh our own memories of the time we spent there. And if we were trying to catch a killer, the “mouth of truth” pictured here would be a huge help!


Of course, we’re not trying to solve a murder. For Julia and Adam, a photograph can mean so much more. Even the difference between life and death.


Learn more about Jane Gorman and the Adam Kaminski mystery series at or follow her on Facebook. For some great photographs of Rome and her other travels, check out her Instagram page!


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