Guest Blogger ~ Heather Weidner

With a Little Help from Some Friends

Heather Weidner, Author of the Jules Keene Glamping Mysteries and the Mermaid Bay Christmas Shoppe Mysteries

I am extremely grateful for all the authors who have shared their ideas, advice, and successes with me through the years. Writing is mostly a solitary process, so it’s nice to know that you’re not alone and that others have experienced what you’re going through. Here are some tidbits that I’ve picked up through the years that have helped me improve my craft and to stay focused.

When I’m working on a new novel, I plot out a simple outline. I learned from Donna Andrews to color-code the different kinds of action in your outline, so you can see it over the course of the book. For example, I mark all romantic elements with pink, humorous items are orange, clues are green, etc. It helps create a visual as you write, and it shows you where you’re missing elements or when you’ve overloaded the story.

I learned from Mary Burton to keep a running list of over-used words. Add to it as you write, and then at the end of each revision cycle, search your document and remove the culprits. She also calls your first draft the “sloppy copy.” Typing “the end” doesn’t mean you’re finished. It’s the beginning of the revision cycle.

I learned from the late Kathy Mix to keep a list of character names for each book. Her rule was to name each character with a different letter of the alphabet. If she already had a Krissy, then she couldn’t have another character whose first name started with a “K.” I build a chart of characters for each book and note where the characters appear. I also create a list of key locations. I enter all the important facts, so I can keep track of the details.

Mary Miley gave me some great advice about honing dialogue. She recommends cutting out the unnecessary pleasantries and chitchat that don’t move your story forward.

Elaine Viets said to know your genre and who is publishing in it. Do your research and know the conventions before you query agents or publishers.

Lynda Bishop recommends that authors keep a timeline for each book to make sure all events are in order and make sense. This helps with pacing. This helps me keep the days straight (so the character doesn’t have lunch two times in the same day).

Tina Glasneck suggests that authors create a calendar for each book launch. Mine starts three months before the launch and runs three months after. Plan all events, interviews, blogs, and media campaigns. Make sure that you track the details.

Jane Friedman tells writers that their platform grows from their body of work. An author’s website and blog should be at the center of all of your marketing.

Frances Aylor and Alan Orloff gave me the best advice for writing. Butt glue (Frances) or BICFOK (Alan). They’re essentially the same. If you want to be a writer, put your Butt in the Chair and Fingers on the Keyboard.

Hollywood has come to Fern Valley, and the one stoplight town may never be the same. Everyone wants to get in on the act.

The crew from the wildly popular, fan favorite, Fatal Impressions, takes over Jules Keene’s glamping resort, and they bring a lot of offscreen drama and baggage that doesn’t include the scads of costumes, props, and crowds that descend on the bucolic resort in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Added security, hundreds of calls from hopeful extras, and some demanding divas keep Jules’s team hopping.

When the show’s prickly head writer ends up dead under the L. Frank Baum tiny house in what looks like a staged murder scene with a kitschy homage to the Wizard of Oz, Jules has to figure out who would want the writer dead. Then while they are still reeling from the first murder, the popular publicist gets lost after a long night at the local honky-tonk and winds up strangled. Jules needs to solve both crimes before filming is canceled, and her business is ruined.

Book Links



Barnes and Noble: Film Crews and Rendezvous: A Jules Keene Glamping Mystery by Heather Weidner, Paperback | Barnes & Noble® (

BookBub: Film Crews and Rendezvous: A Jules Keene Glamping Mystery by Heather Weidner – BookBub

Books a Million: film crews and rendezvous : :

Fantastic Fiction: Film Crews and Rendezvous (Jules Keene Glamping Mystery, book 2) by Heather Weidner (

Goodreads: Film Crews and Rendezvous by Heather Weidner | Goodreads

Kobo: Film Crews and Rendezvous eBook by Heather Weidner – EPUB | Rakuten Kobo United States

Scribd: Film Crews and Rendezvous by Heather Weidner – Ebook | Scribd

Through the years, Heather Weidner has been a cop’s kid, technical writer, editor, college professor, software tester, and IT manager. She writes the Jules Keene Glamping Mysteries, the Mermaid Bay Christmas Shoppe Mysteries, and the Delanie Fitzgerald Mysteries.

Her short stories appear in the Virginia is for Mysteries series, 50 Shades of Cabernet, Deadly Southern Charm, and Murder by the Glass, and her novellas appear in The Mutt Mysteries series.

Originally from Virginia Beach, Heather has been a mystery fan since Scooby-Doo and Nancy Drew. She lives in Central Virginia with her husband and a pair of Jack Russell terriers.

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November: A Prologue by Karen Shughart

After my first Edmund DeCleryk Cozy mystery, Murder in the Museum, was published, I decided to play around with the concept of having two prologues for subsequent books and contacted my publisher to see what she thought. She basically told me to ” go for it”, and in book two, Murder in the Cemetery, that’s what I did: the first to set the historical back story that alerts readers to why the murder may have been committed, and the second to describe the seasonal tone for the crime.

In book two I described the month of May in Lighthouse Cove, with its profusion of flowers and abundance of sun, a fitting backdrop to the crime that’s about to occur. In Murder at Freedom Hill, the third book in the series (now on sale in paperback and Kindle versions at Amazon and other book outlets) the second prologue is entitled “November”. I thought it was appropriate for this month’s blog, so here goes:

  For residents of Lighthouse Cove, NY, November was always a month of mixed emotions.  

There was a yearning for the blazing colors of October, the cool, crisp nights, starlit skies, bright days. For a low-hanging sun that could still warm the bones and ease the joints.  For the farm stands, now shuttered until spring, that had offered up a bounty of ripe produce, local honey, homemade baked goods and jams, fresh herbs.  For the hayrides and bonfires and deer spotting among the apple orchards. For the unbridled joy of chattering, costumed children extending small hands for treats as their parents kept a watchful eye; glowing lights illuminating their way.

There was also the peace that comes with tourists gone for another year and the ease of getting about.  The sound of waves, ambling onto the beach like lazy sloths. The geese and swans gliding effortlessly around the bay, no longer competing for space with boats and bathers, and the eagles soaring silently above on currents of wind. The rumbling and grumbling of street noises now muffled by a thick carpet of brown, fallen leaves.

 There was excitement and anticipation, too, in November.  For a day, later in the month, when families would gather to give thanks and then soon after, start to prepare for the hustle and bustle of the upcoming holiday season. For the hunters who had been looking forward all year to donning their camo, retrieving their guns, and stalking their prey in fields and woods, hoping to bestow upon their loved ones a largess befitting of their labors.

For some, November was also the month of grieving. A month of decay that precedes death.  Where what was past was past and would be no more, and what lay ahead was the chill and dark of winter.

A Holiday Mystery Anthology

Last January, my author co-op, Windtree Press, had a quarterly meeting and it was decided we’d put out a mystery anthology, since we had 8 authors in the group who wrote mystery/suspense/thriller books. We chose to make it have a holiday theme and every story had to have or mention a dead body. That and the length were the guidelines.

We set dates by when the short stories had to be sent to the person editing (me) and when I had to have all the stories ready for the person formatting, and when they had to have it ready to publish. It was fun reading each authors stories and helping them where they needed to beef up the mystery or flesh out a character. Once the author and I were happy with the story, I then sent it on to another author in the group to proofread.

In the end we have 10 completely different, yet entertaining mystery stories.


A cornucopia of ten cozy mystery stories that are perpetrated during holidays from New Years to Christmas. This collection explores unexplained disturbances, college pranks gone wrong, and almost always one or more murders around a holiday. Solve these spooky crimes that lurk beneath celebratory parties and help search for the murderers. Kick off your shoes, grab a warm drink and snuggle into a blanket before you get lured onto the sparkling snow for the next crime spree.

A Body on the 13th Floor by Paty Jager
Dead Ladies Don’t Dance by Robin Weaver
Took Nothing Left Nothing by Pamela Cowan
Busted for Bones by Dari LaRoche
Yuletide Firebug by Kathy Coatney
Starry Night Murder by Mary Vine
The Twelfth Night Murder by Ann Chaney
Blue Christmas by Melissa Yi
Two Turtle Doves by Maggie Lynch
Five Golden Rings by Kimila Kay

A Body on the 13th Floor by Paty Jager

Dela Alvaro, head of security for the Spotted Pony Casino, has a dead body in an elevator on New Year’s Eve. The unfortunate soul was stuck between the 12th and 14th floors when he met his demise.

This short story pulls together a good number of the cast from my Spotted Pony Casino Mysteries series. I had a fun time coming up with the plot and making it as interesting as I could in a short amount of time. I think all writers should not only write novel length stories but also write short stories to help hone their skills and learn to tell a story in few words but ones that can make an impact.

If you grab a copy, I hope you enjoy the mysteries!

Guest Blogger~Christine DeSmet

From the Land of 11 Lighthouses

The question always comes up when I do a book talk:  What part of your background is in your character of Ava Oosterling?

I was raised on a 160-acre dairy farm in southern Wisconsin near Barneveld. I feel nostalgic when driving by fragrant, new-mown alfalfa fields. I remember bringing up cows from our far-flung pastures while I was going barefoot in the soft, dusty cow paths that had seen thousands of hooves over the years.  

Being a farm girl is also the background for Ava Oosterling—star of my Fudge Shop Mystery Series, including the new holiday novel, Holly Jolly Fudge Folly.

My character of Ava Oosterling is far more adventurous than I am. She’s been nearly burned alive and drowned by bad guys. But I’m not exactly a wallflower. I have climbed ancient oak trees and ridden cows—and never fallen

I started my writing career years ago as an adult. I entered a national manuscript contest sponsored by Romance Writers of America. I won the “Golden Heart”! But I didn’t get published because I didn’t know enough yet to revise properly. In the years to come, I eventually became what I am today—a writing coach and instructor, author of several published novels, and an optioned screenwriter.

These days I write using “plot points” and “scene design” and “hooks” and other technical writerly tools. When I plan a novel or short story, I start with the Central Question. It must start with the word “Will” and stick to one topic. “Will Ava accomplish/solve WHAT by the end?” Of course she’ll solve the mystery, but I try to build in an adjacent concern that must be solved.

My first published novel, Spirit Lake, a romantic suspense, came out around the year 2000 when electronic books were small disks you read on a computer. I was a pioneer, part of the publishing revolution. Back then, such authors were discriminated against for not publishing “real” books. Hard to believe now!

 As years went by, I wrote “cozy” romantic mystery novellas—short novels—in my Mischief in Moonstone series, set near Superior, Wisconsin.

Those are now re-issued for Kindle and paperback by Writers Exchange E-Publishing, a new Australian publisher. The books include the Halloween novella, When the Dead People Brought a Dish-to-Pass, and the Christmas novella, When Rudolph Was Kidnapped. I’ve written a screenplay based on the latter.

My Fudge Shop Mystery series came about when a literary agent was looking for somebody to write about chocolate in Door County, Wisconsin—known as the Cape Cod of the Midwest. The peninsular county jutting into Lake Michigan has the most lighthouses of any county in the United States—11. A lighthouse indeed entered into a murder plot in one of my books. I’ve now written six novels in that cozy series, including this season’s Holly Jolly Fudge Folly.

A “cozy mystery” always focuses on a small community. Violence, sex, and politics are kept off the page. Cozies focus on humor, adventure, respect, family and friends, and often pets and good food. My key characters include a trouble-making but lovable grandpa who has to have his coffee strong and laced with Belgian chocolate, and an American Water Spaniel named Lucky Harbor who loves cheese crackers. That breed of dog was developed in Wisconsin.

 My protagonist, Ava Oosterling, is Belgian—like me. She was also raised on a farm, hers in Door County—part of a region with the biggest rural population of Belgian immigrants in the United States.

My books contain recipes for Belgian items such as Belgian booyah—a harvest soup made outdoors in big barrels over wood fires in autumn. My recipe is in Hot Fudge Frame-Up.

In Holly Jolly Fudge Folly the quest is on for a new recipe to please Santa and his elves. In the story, Ava Oosterlings’ best friend is getting married, but not before Ava’s grandpa gets accused of murder. That jeopardizes his prized role as Santa in the holiday parade and his ability to walk Ava’s friend down the aisle. The new novel contains my recipe for Holly Jolly Fudge.

Thank you for letting me introduce myself and my writing life. I love hearing from readers and fellow writers through my website, or Facebook, or through the Blackbird Writers group where I also blog. Best wishes for your holiday season!

Christine DeSmet’s books are available in paperback and ebook formats through her publisher (Writers Exchange E-Publishing), through Amazon, or through Christine’s website at this link:

Because Christine doesn’t have the cover or buy link yet for Holly Jolly Fudge Folly, here is another Holiday mystery from Christine: From her Mischief in Moonstone Series:

When Rudolph was Kidnapped

A cozy holiday mystery with a stocking full of tender romance! When her pet reindeer, Rudolph, is stolen from the live animal holiday display, first-grade teacher Crystal Hagan has a big problem:  Her students fear Christmas will be canceled. The prime suspect is a man who lives in the mansion known as the “North Pole.” And to her shock, Peter LeBarron admits to kidnapping Rudolph and won’t give him back without some romantic negotiations. Book 1 of the Mischief in Moonstone Mystery Series

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Christine DeSmet writes the Fudge Shop Mystery Series including the Fall 2022 release called Holly Jolly Fudge Folly. She’s also authored the Mischief in Moonstone Series (novellas). She is an award-winning, optioned screenwriter. Her new book projects include children’s picture books. Christine is a long-time writing coach and developmental editor—skills honed while creating and leading programs as a Distinguished Faculty Associate at University of Wisconsin-Madison Continuing Studies. Her memberships: Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrations. Christine was raised on a dairy-and-hog farm in southwestern Wisconsin. She loves any art that includes cows.  and Facebook,

Guest Blogger ~ Lois Winston

Truth, Lies, and Fiction

My plots have always been influenced by real-life crimes and human-interest stories. However, with Guilty as Framed, my latest Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, the story is more than influenced by an actual crime; it incorporates that crime, one that has fascinated me for decades, into the story. This, of course, posed various challenges, especially since it involved a cold case that was rife with lies, misdirection, and botched investigations.

The crime in question was the 1990 burglary of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, considered the largest art heist in history. The theft consisted of priceless masterpieces by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Manet, Degas, and others. It involved such disparate characters as a pot-smoking security guard, the Irish mob, and even the Pope. It included the unsolved murders of some of the suspects and as the years passed, the deaths of most of the persons of interest.

There were sworn statements by mob relatives and associates claiming to have seen some of the missing paintings over the years, as well as speculation that the artworks are in Saudi Arabia. And in what must be one of the oddest law enforcement press conferences on record, thirteen years after the robbery, the head of the Boston FBI announced the crime had been solved, although he presented none of the missing artworks nor announced any arrests. He then ended with a plea to the public for help in solving the case.

True crime and cozy mystery are two distinct genres. One is fiction; the other is not. But in weaving a true crime into my fiction, I wanted to hone as closely as possible to the actual events of the case. To do so, I had to take some creative liberties. I decided to focus my story around one specific incident that involved a mob associate and his wife, weaving that aspect of the actual investigation into my plot.

Even though these people have since died, I changed their names and the names of other suspects and persons of interest who I incorporated into my story. (When dealing with members of organized crime, even ones long dead, it’s best to play it safe!) I also created additional characters, thus enabling me to weave a thirty-two-year-old Boston cold case into a series that takes place in present-day New Jersey.

Guilty as Framed is the eleventh book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series. In each book I’ve challenged myself to create stories unlike my previous ones. No reader wants to read a book where only the names and places (and possibly the murder weapon) differ from other books in the series. This current book was my greatest creative leap to date. I’m hoping readers find the book as enjoyable to read as I did to write.

Guilty as Framed

An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 11

When an elderly man shows up at the home of reluctant amateur sleuth Anastasia Pollack, she’s drawn into the unsolved mystery of the greatest art heist in history.

Boston mob boss Cormac Murphy has recently been released from prison. He doesn’t believe Anastasia’s assertion that the man he’s looking for doesn’t live at her address and attempts to muscle his way into her home. His efforts are thwarted by Anastasia’s fiancé Zack Barnes.

A week later, a stolen SUV containing a dead body appears in Anastasia’s driveway. Anastasia believes Murphy is sending her a message. It’s only the first in a series of alarming incidents, including a mugging, a break-in, another murder, and the discovery of a cache of jewelry and an etching from the largest museum burglary in history.

But will Anastasia solve the mystery behind these shocking events before she falls victim to a couple of desperate thugs who will stop at nothing to get what they want?

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USA Today and Amazon bestselling and award-winning author Lois Winston writes mystery, romance, romantic suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, children’s chapter books, and nonfiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Kirkus Reviews dubbed her critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” In addition, Lois is a former literary agent and an award-winning craft and needlework designer who often draws much of her source material for both her characters and plots from her experiences in the crafts industry. Learn more about Lois and her books at her website where you can also sign up for her newsletter and follow her on various social media sites.