Thursday, January 14, 2021

The irresistible Miss Phryne Fisher

If you haven't been introduced to Kerry Greenwood's twenty-one book cozy mystery series set in 1920s Melbourne, Australia, you are in for a treat. I streamed the entire series and read all the books in 2020.

Phrynne Fisher (pronounced fry-nee) is a delightful amateur sleuth. Her war experience and intelligence work make her capacity for finding trouble believable. Her rags to unexpected riches backstory means Phrynne is free to do as she pleases and does not care who she offends. She returns to Australia from England, after a brief post war detour as a bohemian in Paris, to set up shop as a detective. In the television series, the costumes and sets are a feast for the eyes.

The first television series follows the books fairly closely, with two exceptions I will discuss later. The writers were successful in maintaining the characters and feel of the books in the subsequent cases.

Relationships in the books are slightly different than in the series. In the books, Phrynne's butler, Mr. Butler, is married and his wife is the cook and housekeeper. I assume they cut her to limit the cast and make more work for Phrynne's maid Dot Williams. Dot and her beau, officer Hugh Collins, play a significant part in both books and TV.

The second departure from the books is more interesting. In the books, Inspector John "call me Jack" Robinson is a happily married orchid grower. In the television series, Jack is unhappily married then divorced and free to declare his love for Phrynne. There was no romantic entanglement in the books.

The adopted daughters, Jane and Ruth, and cabbies/war veterans Bert and Cec are part of the crime solving gang in both books and TV.

The television series invented a sister, Janey, that was kidnapped and murdered when Phrynne was young and sets up a motive for Phrynne's determination to seek justice. In the books, Phrynne had a younger sister that died of diphtheria which may have been the inspiration for the fictional Janey. 

Phrynne's mother and father were very much alive in the books. In The Castlemaine Murders, Phrynne's younger sister Eliza/Beth is introduced and a brother Thomas, who is studying at Eton, is mentioned. Eliza moved to Melbourne to escape her parents and chooses to live with a lesbian partner and the two work together on feminist issues.

Phrynne is devoted to free love and does not hesitate to have carnal relations with any man she sets her sights on. She deplores the loss of so many "beautiful boys" during the war. She has an affair with Lin Chung in the books and series, even after he is married.

Phrynne's sexual exploits lead to two of the book plots that were changed for the television series. In book #16 Murder in the Dark, Phrynne attends an orgy called The Last Best Party. The series kept the idea of the costume party, but omitted the prominent sex and drugs.

In book #5 The Green Mill Murder, Phrynne flies her Gypsy Moth Rigel into the Autralian Alps to see Vic, a veteran with PTSD. There is a dog called Lucky and a wombat living under his bunk. Phrynne stays for quite a while, enjoying the solitude and the sex before returning to real life. The television episode with the title focused on the murder at a Jazz club. There is a brief flight to meet up with Vic, portrayed as former love interest and heir to an estate, to ask him to return. Longing glances are the only thing exchanged in the episode.

A spinoff, Ms Fisher's Modern Murder Mysteries, was broadcast in 2019. The series features Peregrine Fisher, explained as the daughter of  a half- sister, Annabelle, who was the result of an affair by Phrynne’s father.  I am not sure why the series creators ignored Phrynne's existing fictional family, all of whom would have made more sense as heirs. At the very least, if the rest of the family had died, it could have been Thomas's daughter. Ah, well, ours is not to reason why.

Peregrine inherits Phrynne's estate when Phrynne goes missing. With the help of the Adventuress's Club, Peregrine, played by Geraldine Hakewill, continues her aunt's penchant for investigation.

I highly recommend the books and the television series. The wonderful Australian actress Essie Davis portrays Phrynne to perfection. After the third series, Essie's move to London made filming complicated. She agreed to a movie, The Crypt of Tears, released in 2020. Will there be another movie? Status unknown, but I hope so. 

Greenwood has said on her Facebook page that she is working on a new Miss Fisher book, release date unknown.

Phryne Fisher Books In Order 

Phryne Fisher Television Series 

Miss Fisher's Modern Murder Mysteries

Diana Hurwitz is the author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

2021 Workshops and Conferences January to March


Whether a one day session, one week conference, or a month-long writing workshop, writing related events are a good way to commune with other writers. They are opportunities to network and get your name out there. In some instances, you can meet and mingle with editors and agents. Some offer critiques or pitching sessions. Nowhere will you find a higher concentration of introverts enjoying each other's company. Local conferences are a good place to meet potential critique groups or recruit members.

Some are free. Some require a fee. Some are more social than others. Many are for new writers, but a few dig deep into craft. You should choose an event that speaks to your needs and desires.

Unfortunately with the pandemic, many in-person events have been cancelled. Some have been replaced with virtual events, podcasts, or online classes and lectures.

Virtual events allow for a wider audience and lower costs since attendance does not require travel and lodging.

January 7 - 17, 2021 The Pacific University Residency Writers Conference in Seaside, Oregon. will be a virtual residency.  

January 10 - 14, 2022 Key West Literary Seminar and Writers' Workshop Program, Key West, Florida

January 11 – March 18, 2021 ThrillerFest, Grand Hyatt New York City, N. Join them for winter virtual thrills.

January 14 - 18, 2021 27th Winter Poetry & Prose Getaway. Join us online for a supportive conference.

January 15 – 18, 2021 The Colrain Poetry Intensive will be via Zoom this year. Check site for details.

January 16 - 23, 2021 Annual Writers In Paradise Conference, Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida. We feel that the risk to the health of our faculty, participants, and guest speakers is simply too high.  Though we are disappointed, we look forward to hosting our 2-day virtual event for applicants, which will take place on Sunday and Monday, January 17 and 18. The 2021 program will be moved to 2022. If you applied, please keep your eye out for communications from us with more details.

February 4, 11, & 18, 2021 Door County The Craft of Writing Young Adult Fiction online event. Check their site for other online classes and events throughout the year.

February 5 - 6, 2021 Rhode Island Romance Writers Retreat, in Middletown-Newport, Rhode Island will take place via ZOOM from Friday evening to Saturday night.

February 9th -12th of 2022 Superstars Writing Seminars, Colorado Springs, Colorado 

February 11 - 13, 2021 Life, the Universe and Everything Conference Online, Provo, Utah

February 12 - 14, 2021 Southern California Writers Conference, San Diego, California will be held virtually.

February 18 - 21, 2021 Coastal Magic Convention, Urban Paranormal, Fantasy, & Romance in Daytona Beach, Florida will be virtual this year.

February 18 - 20, 2021 Desert Nights, Rising Stars Writers Conference at Arizona State University will be a completely virtual event. Also, the Piper Center regularly offers creative writing classes and workshops through the Piper Writers Studio throughout the year.

February 18 - 21, 2021 Wild Seeds Writers Retreat at Medgar Evers College, CUNY in Brooklyn, NY.

February 18 - 25, 2021 Writers Studio at UCLA Extension, UCLA, California will be a 4-Day intensive workshop series in a safe, fully online environment combining Zoom-based meetings, offline independent work time, small group activities, and other approaches to learning. The conference also features daily guest speakers and a keynote presentation by an industry professional of note.

February 27, 2021 Book-EM, Lumberton, North Carolina.

February - March 2021 San Miguel Writers' Conference & Literary Festival, San Miguel, Mexico. We are going virtual and all our events and workshops will be held on Zoom.

March 3 - 7, 2021 Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference & Bookfair, San Antonio, Texas will be virtual this year.

March 6 - 7, 2021 Tucson Festival of Books, Tucson, Arizona will be virtual this year.

March 9 - 12, 2021 Mid-South Christian Writers Conference

March 11 - 13, 2021 Futurescapes Conference at Utah Valley University will be virtual this year.

March 18 - 21, 2021 New York Pitch online event.

March 19 - 21, 2021 SleuthFest will be held virtually this year.

March 19 - 20, 2022 Chicago Writers Association Conference, Chicago, Illinois. Registration is open at 2020 pricing.

March 20, 2021 Bay To Ocean Writers Conference in Wye Mills, Maryland tickets go on sale starting January 15, 2021.

March 24 - 26, 2021 52nd University of North Dakota Writers Conference will be held virtually. 

Next week, I will publish the list of conferences whose status and dates have yet to be announced for 2021 and those that have been postponed until 2022 or 2023. Check their sites for updates. Many conferences are in limbo due to the pandemic. Some will be postponed, canceled. or go virtual.

Diana Hurwitz is the author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Once Upon a Series

As a child, I almost always read series books rather than stand-alones. Nancy Drew. Beverly Gray. The Hardy Boys. The Dana Girls. Nancy Drew and Beverly Gray stood out as my favorites. During my pre-teen and early teen years, I preferred the Beverly Gray books because they seemed to the young me to be better written. The fact they were all written by the same author (Clair Blank) may have contributed to that preference.

They may also contribute to my ongoing interest in series writing — albeit several decades later. A few months ago, I decided to turn my two completed novels into a series by introducing a new protagonist in Book 1 and adding her to Book 2 and beyond. It sounded like a great idea (to me at least), and I loved the developing character. However, working her seamlessly into Book 1 proved far more challenging than I anticipated. 

The time involved added another dimension of difficulty. I need to have a second book ready to go out the door to my layout and marketing guy within 4-6 weeks of the first. That in itself is not an issue because Book 2 is complete and needs only a final review and proofing before I send it on — unless I add a new protagonist. Although Books 3 and 4 are in the early stages of writing, they will not go smoothly or quickly with the addition of a different main character.

Scrap the idea of adding an ongoing character to books already written or in progress. It's more than I want to take on at this time in my life. Having said that, I still love the character I was adding to Books 1 and 2. Solution: give her a novel all her own. My Emilie Hart protagonist will tell her very own story that is already dancing around in my head.

Now about writing a series… I have one story idea that has been incubating in my mind since I was in sixth grade. Three sisters, so close when they were very young but sent to three different foster homes when their mother died, reunite as adults to embark on a family business that grows out of their forced separation. Several different plots are already vying for Book 1. 

Even though my current books are destined to be stand-alones, the new series almost certainly lies in my future. Once the two current novels are out the door, I hope to begin the series at the same time I revisit my third WIP. It's catch-up time.

P.S. As an adult, I did read several novels in Debbie Macomber's Cedar Cove series—following protagonist Judge Olivia Lockhart's life, its dramas, and the dramas of those whose lives in some manner cross hers. Macomber is an interesting storyteller who creates memorable characters. Its just that the editor side of me sometimes gets in the way of my complete enjoyment of an intriguing story (a not-so-good quality that I'm working diligently to eliminate).

Editor Linda Lane has returned to her first love—writing—while maintaining her editing work. Her novels fall into the literary category because they are character driven rather than plot driven, but their quick pace reminds the reader of genre fiction. They also contain elements of romance, mystery, and thrillers. You can contact her through her websites: and

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Continuing a Series, or Not?

As a reader I have always enjoyed mystery series. That started with the Grand Dame of mystery Agatha Christie with her delightful characters Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot. Then it was John D. McDonald and the Travis McGee series. A few years later I stumbled upon the 87th Precinct Series by Ed McBain, the alter-ego of Evan Hunter, and that's what stirred my interest in police procedural mysteries.

There are so many other series that I've enjoyed. Sue Grafton's alphabet series with Kinsey Millhone. Dennis Lehane's series with Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro, a much too short series for me. Louise Penney's series with Armand Gamache and a whole cast of intriguing characters. Timothy Hallinan's Poke Rafferty series set in Bangkok that recently ended, much to the dismay of this reader and many others.

For a reader, when a series ends, it's like we've lost a whole family. That's especially true if there've been a lot of books, or even just a few, but in those few we've gotten so fully engaged with the characters that they became as real to us as they were to the author; and it's always the characters who keep me coming back. While the mystery story is important, the subtle changes in the characters: the new facets of personality, the way they face a new challenge, what happens in their families, that's what I enjoy the most. 

While I've always liked reading series mysteries, I never thought about writing one until I wrote Open Season, the first book in the Seasons Mystery Series. When I started developing the main characters, Sarah and Angel, I came to the realization that they could possibly sustain a series. They're thrown together as unwilling partners in the first book, so there's room for challenges to that partnership in future books. Plus, I had a lot of fun coming up with story ideas for future books, unusual crimes they would investigate, interesting killers, and, of course, sub-plots that could carry from book to book.

Because I don't plot my books in any kind of detail, especially the subplots of a story, I really didn't know how the difficulty that Angel and Sarah were having in terms of trying to forge a partnership was going to be resolved. But, as I got closer and closer to the end of that book, I realized that problem probably wasn't going to come to any definitive conclusion in book one. Which was good, because it gave me a good starting point for that sub-plot in book two, Stalking Season.

During the writing of that book, some other sub-plots popped up. Not because I planned them (see

above) but because the characters took a turn down a new path, and I decided to go along to see where we were headed. It turned out that we got to some interesting places with character relationships and family issues, and I was sure there was enough there for the next book.

I was about half-way through Desperate Season when two things happened that derailed my plan. First my publisher stopped publishing mysteries, so I had to find a new home for the series. The next, and most devastating was the visit I got from Ramsay Hunt Syndrome in January 2016, that has left me with considerable daily pain. I've shared about it all before here at The Blood-Red Pencil, so I won't go into any of the icky details today, but writing did come to a screeching halt for way too long and it took several years for that book to be completed.

When I finally came to "the end" I was faced with a few questions. Do I try to find another publisher? An agent? Should I just self-publish?

I grappled with those questions for about a year with each read-through for polishing and self-editing, then after getting no positive responses from any of the agents I'd queried in the meantime, I decided to self-publish. I hired the terrific ALTO Editing for the final edits, got a great cover and formatting from professionals at Fiverr and listed the book at Amazon.

I thought that would be the last book in the series. I'd lost heart for a lot of reasons, so I did wrap up some of the subplots and end the book on what could be a satisfying conclusion for the readers who've enjoyed the characters and the stories so far. Then, I received a letter from an agent I'd queried some time ago about the series. She said it was hard to sell a book in the middle of a series, but if I had a stand-alone, she'd be interested in looking at it. Agents don't issue those invitations lightly, so I tried to shake my brain free from pain-coma and drug coma and see if I could come up with anything that might have legs.

In my story-ideas folder there's one about a PI in Dallas named Memphis. I think I conjured her one day when hallucinating. Don't ask. Anyway, I thought, hmmm, I could develop her into a story and maybe pull in some current affairs that seem to be sapping whatever energy I have left. Not politics. Oh my God, no politics in any of my books. But the pandemic, innocent black men and women getting killed by police, Black Lives Matter, protests, riots, systemic racism, and all the social upheaval that has all caused. I could create a scenario in Dallas where an unarmed young black man is jogging in the wrong part of town, wrong for a black man, and he's shot by a police officer. Somehow the PI, Memphis, could be caught up in the ensuing protests and riots.

As I'm noodling around with that idea, in the back of my mind Angel starts talking to me. "Wait a minute, Maryann. That's my story. Don't you give that story to somebody else. That's my story."

Okaayyy, then.

So, I'm slowly working on Brutal Season, the fourth book in the series, which is in early stages yet.  It does involve a police killing of a innocent unarmed black man. It does have Angel getting involved with the Black Lives Matter protests in the city, which puts her job at risk, as well as creating another great divide between her and Sarah. Whether that will be the last book in the series I have no idea at this point. It really depends on what the characters have to say at the end of the story. 

Several of my writer friends, Timothy Hallinan among others who write series, have said that you just know when it's time for it all to end because the characters stop talking to you. If Angel and Sarah do stop, I can always start listening to this PI named Memphis who knocks on my creative door now and then.

Award-winning author Maryann Miller has numerous credits as a columnist, novelist, screen writer, and playwright, and also has an extensive background in editing. You can find out more about Maryann, her books, and her editing services on her Website and her Amazon Author Page read her Blog, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter. Her online workshop on self-editing, part of a series of online writing workshops from Short And Helpful, can be found HERE.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Addicted to Reading Mystery Series

When I first started writing, I tried a mystery series starring Sylvia Thorn and Willie Grisseljon, a sister and brother who were older. In their 60s, as a matter of fact. Their elderly parents are still alive and active as well. Writing The Prairie Grass Murders and The Desert Hedge Murders was fun, but I wanted to try a thriller, and historical fiction, and short stories, so off I went to dabble in a variety of genres.

I also read in almost every genre, including non-fiction, but when I’m looking for mysteries, I start with my go-to favorites among the authors of the Rocky Mountain states, most of them in Colorado. With all the excellent writers here, one hardly needs to search anywhere else in the country. I couldn’t begin to mention them all in one blog post, so I’m going to talk about just a few of the ones I’ve read in 2020. My want-to-read list for 2021 is is even longer.

Shannon Baker

Shannon lives in Arizona these days, but she spent lots of time in the state of Colorado and still has ties to this beautiful state. Among her fine protagonists in series and standalones, my favorite Is Michaela Sanchez of the Southwest Crime Thrillers. Book 1 in the series is Echoes in the Sand. Michaela has a husband and kids, plus siblings with whom she shares emotional ups and downs because of their conflicting ideologies. Being a Border Control Agent is not the easiest job in the world. Read more about Shannon and her books at her website. She can also be found on Facebook

Donnell Ann Bell

Donnell has published other books, but the one I want to mention here is Black Pearl, the first in a new series called Cold Case Suspense. This new release features some very fine crime-fighting characters who work awfully well together, considering their varied jobs and past experiences. Donnell can sometimes be found in Colorado, and other times in New Mexico, but she’s a member of Sisters-in-Crime-Colorado among others. For more information about Donnell and her books, please visit her website. Find her on Facebook as well.

 Sue Hinkin

Sue writes the Vega and Middleton series, the most recent called The Burn Patient. But you don’t want to start with book 3. This is a series you’ll enjoy even more if you start with book 1, Deadly Focus. I love the diversity in Sue’s characters and the thriller-worthy page-turning quality of her writing. This reporter and photographer combination of protagonists is excellent. Sue’s website says she’s a Denver resident and a member of many, many writing organizations. She can be found on Facebook (where I learned that the second book in this series won the 2020 Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award). 

Jennifer Kincheloe

What can I say about the charming and often laugh-out-loud-funny adventures of Anna Blanc, Jennifer’s female police officer in 1908 Los Angeles? I love the character and the unusual cases she gets involved in. And some of the messes she gets into are priceless. This is another series I suggest you read starting with Book 1, The Secret Life of Anna Blanc. Learn more about this Denver author on her website.  Her Facebook author page will keep you up-to-date with author and book news.

Margaret Mizushima

Margaret is practically a neighbor up here in Northern Colorado and she’s one of the authors who helps keep our Sisters-in-Crime-Colorado book clubs going strong. Margaret writes the Timber Creek K9 mystery series which features Deputy Mattie Cobb and her dog Robo. There’s a handsome veterinarian with young children to help keep Mattie occupied when she’s not busy with police work, not to mention an estranged family to complicate her life with unanswered questions from her past. I always look forward to the next book in this 6-going-on-7-book series, but for your best experience, start with Book 1, Killing Trail. You can learn more about Margaret and her series at her website.  She is also on Facebook.

Barbara Nickless

Blood on the Tracks is the first book in the Sydney Rose Parnell series about a railroad cop and her K9 partner, Clyde. The plotting in Barbara’s series is especially notable because of ties to Sydney’s background in the Iraq War. I recently read book 2. Books 3 and 4 are on my must-read-soon list. Learn more about this author and series at Barbara’s website.  She can also be found on Facebook.


To find more of the amazing Rocky Mountain area mystery writers, visit the website for Sisters-in-Crime-Colorado and Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America.  

Pat (Patricia) Stoltey is the author of four novels published by Five Star/Cengage: two amateur sleuth, one thriller that was a finalist for a Colorado Book Award in 2015, and the historical mystery Wishing Caswell Dead (December 20, 2017), a finalist for the 2018 Colorado Book Awards. This novel is now available in a large print edition, ebook and trade paperback. Her short story, “Good Work for a Girl,” appeared in the Five Star Anthology, The Spoilt Quilt and Other Frontier Stories: Pioneering Women of the West, released in November 2019.

Pat lives in Northern Colorado with her husband Bill, Scottish Terrier Sassy, and brown tabby Katie Cat.

You can learn more about Pat at her website/blog, on Facebook, and Twitter. She was interviewed for the Colorado Sun’s SunLit feature that you can find at the Colorado Sun website.

Thursday, December 31, 2020

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Mailbox...

Photo by Eduardo Arenas

Former contributor Audrey Lintner graced us with her humor for many years here at the Blood-Red Pencil, not least in her guise as the most prolific of our Style Mavens. But her hilarious story about her swashbuckling paper route tops it all. Read on to find out why you should never mess with Audrey.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Mailbox...

Audrey Lintner does her best to find humor in almost every situation, unless you want to talk about the morning that her husband announced that there was no coffee. When she has time to write, she posts columns as The Procraftinator. Audrey also provides copy and line edits, beta reading, and friendly suggestions at reasonable rates. Contact her via Alto Editing Services.


Tuesday, December 29, 2020

A Little Post-Holiday Fun

This post of Maryann Miller's originally ran here at The Blood-Red Pencil on December 29, 2010.  It first ran as a column in the Plano Star-Courier when she was known as the Erma Bombeck of Plano, then she incorporated it into her humorous memoir, A Dead Tomato Plant & A Paycheck. Enjoy...

Read A Little Post-Holiday Fun to find out why the day after Christmas was usually one of the best and one of the worst days of the year for Maryann's family.

Excerpted from Maryann Miller's humorous memoir, A Dead Tomato Plant and A Paycheck.  You can find out more about Maryann, her books, and her editing services on her Website and her Amazon Author Page, read her Blogand follow her on Facebook and TwitterHer online workshop on self-editing, part of a series of online writing workshops from Short And Helpful, can be found HERE