Friday, July 22, 2016



I was asked by Susan Stoker to participate in her Special Forces: Operation Alpha Kindle World launch. When somebody as hugely popular as Susan personally asked you to write a romantic suspense with paranormal elements?  I wasn't about to say no.  J 

For anybody not familiar with Kindle Worlds, it is an Amazon exclusive type of fan fiction, where an author (or anybody who wants to write) uses characters from the Worlds' creator (in my case Susan Stoker's Special Forces) and incorporates them into their story. 

Well, it's not as easy as you think, especially if you're bringing somebody else's characters into YOUR world.  But that's exactly what I did with Saving Sarah.  I wrote a novella using several characters from her Navy SEALs, and brought them down to New Orleans—where my New Orleans Connection Series takes place. 

My characters remain front and center in the book—which is exactly the way I wanted—but I didn't relegate Susan Stoker's characters to the back burner, either.  My hope is that it is a seamless blending of the two.  So far, readers haven't complained. 

Saving Sarah is the result of this mashup, and I absolutely love this book. It has a curvy, spunky heroine and a sexy ex-SEAL hero!


Here's the blurb:
Haunted by memories of war and strangely prophetic dreams, Gaston "Ranger" Boudreau spends his time alone in the Louisiana bayou he calls home. When fellow SEAL, Matthew "Wolf" Steel calls in a favor, Ranger can't refuse—a Boudreau always pays his debts.

Writer Sarah Sloane is in New Orleans on a mission, to find her missing sister. Unsure what she'll uncover, she needs somebody who knows the city—but more, she needs a bodyguard who can keep her safe. One sexy former Navy SEAL might be just the person for the job.

As Ranger's dreams evolve, the dangerous search for Sarah's sister becomes a race against the clock. Can they find her before it's too late, or will their quest cost more than one life?

NOTE: This is an exclusive, and is only available on their site.
There are also a lot of great authors participating in launching this Kindle World.  Check out their books too.  I'm sure you'll find a whole bunch of them that you'll want to one-click. 
Aaron’s Honor, Lindsay Cross: 
Awakening Aubrey, Shauna Allen:
Cowboy D-Force,  Elle James:
Finding Ayva, Elle Christensen:
Freeing Falcon, Leigh Carman:
Marking Mariah:  Liz Crowe:
Protecting Beauty, MJ Nightingale
Protecting Love, Maryann Jordan
Protecting Maddie, Desiree Holt:
Protecting New York, Lainey Reese:
Redemption for Avery, Jordan Dane:
Redemption for Misty, Anne Conley:
Rescuing Pandora, Kori David:
 Happy Reading!


Wednesday, July 20, 2016




Have you heard? The American Writers Museum is scheduled to launch on March 17, 2017, at 810 North Michigan Avenue, in the heart of downtown Chicago.

A writers’ museum!  How great is that?

Sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Stead Family Foundation, the 12,000 square feet space, which has been leased for ten years, will feature American authors from the past as well as contemporary writers.

Designer and founder, Andrew Anway, of Amaze Design, states the museum will offer “a clear and accessible offering to visitors, giving them multiple ways to explore American authors and their works . . . the museum’s goal is not to be a library, reading room or book store.”  Okay, then what will it be?

It will be high-tech, digitally focused, with massive touch screen monitors.  In the Writers Hall Room, for example, visitors will be able to select different regions and cities throughout the country to learn life stories of their favorite great writers.

Also, info will constantly be updated to give new writers a chance to shine.  In addition to displays dedicated to classic authors, there will be sections showcasing children’s literature, westerns, mysteries (mysteries!) and other literary genre.

I hadn’t heard of this endeavor until recently, and I’m thrilled with this news.  So if you’ve known of it, please forgive me for not curbing my enthusiasm.

For more detail than I can give here, do click on this link:

See you in Chicago!


Jean Harrington is the author of the Florida Book Award winning Murders by Design Series.  Her books are available at Amazon for download.


Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Rules of Murder

As such things go, detective fiction is the new kid on the literary block. Unlike romance, which can trace its roots back to the middle ages, the detective story burst on the scene in 1841 with Edgar Allen
Edgar Allen Poe
Poe's brilliant  detective Auguste Dupin. Several decades later, Sherlock burst on the scene in  A Study in Scarlet and the game was really afoot. By the twenties and thirties the so-called Golden Age of Detective Fiction arrived, when the likes of Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers plied their trade. As many of these writers were based in London, it was perhaps inevitable that they formed their own society--the Detection Club.

Like any club worth its salt, there was an elaborate initiation ceremony including a sacred oath:
Do you promise that your detectives shall well and truly detect the crimes presented to them using those wits which it may please you to bestow upon them and not placing reliance on or making use of Divine Revelation, Feminine Intuition, Mumbo Jumbo, Jiggery-Pokery, Coincidence, or Act of God?
Members of The Detection Club, detecting the Sunday Times

Personally, I have no problem with most of the oath, though I confess to enjoying  a little jiggery-pokery now and again. In addition to the blood oath, members were also expected to follow ten commandments in writing a mystery. The rules were set down in stone by Ronald Knox in 1928. Let's take a look at some of Ronnie's rules and see how they've stood the test of time:

The criminal must be named in the early part of the story, but must not be anyone whose thoughts the reader has been allowed to followI have no problem with the first part as it's just a question of playing fair with the reader. Also, the interplay between the sleuth and killer is a big part of the fun in any murder mystery. However, I'm no so sure about about that last bit. If Agatha Christie had taken this rule to heart, she'd have never written the classic The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, where--spoiler alert--the killer narrates the tale. In fact, some  contemporary reviewers were so upset, they  actually called
Agatha Christie
"I don't need no stinkin' rules!"
the Grand Dame of Mystery a cheat! 

Not more than one secret room or passage. I guess Dan Brown didn't get the memo.

No hitherto undiscovered poisons may be used, nor any appliance which will need a long scientific explanation at the end. A good rule as the real deal--or poison--is almost always preferable to some made-up concoction. I added "almost" because this was another rule Christie broke, most notably with the fictitious hypertensive drug Serenite in A Caribbean Mystery and equally fake sedative Calmo in The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side

No Chinaman must figure in the story. Huh? When I first read this, I winced at the  racist terminology and had no idea what was meant. Digging deeper,  I discovered that in the 1930s a lot of pulpy mysteries featured characters of Chinese descent. In other words, this is a warning to steer clear of cliches, which is always good advice. I just wish it had been expressed better.

No accident must ever help the detective, nor must he ever have an unaccountable intuition which proves to be right. This depends upon how  you define intuition. A gut feeling or sudden insight is valid only when the insight is based on information that the sleuth has gathered. 

 The detective must not light on any clues which are not instantly produced for the inspection of the reader. In other words, play fair with your readers, or else you won't have them for very long! In the opening chapter of Death at China Rose, I slipped in a little fact that virtually identifies the killer. Of course neither my sleuth nor the reader has the context to use that information at that early date--sneaky, but fair.

Twin brothers, and doubles generally, must not appear unless we have been duly prepared for them. I've always found the twin thing boring and done to death, though a recent episode of Endeavour which involved  twins kept my interest. My advice: if a writer wants to go there, be careful--be very careful.

So, are the rules still viable? Before I get to my final verdict, here's  a quick cautionary tale. 

When I attended the University of Florida, postmodernism was the big thing. In one of my classes the professor instructed us to write an paper without any rules.
Elvis Presley, rocking his moneymaker in jail
I took him at his word and constructed a frenetic paper that incorporated everything from Derrida to Moby Dick to Elvis's phallus. (Trust me, you don't want to know.)

Writing the paper was a liberating experience. I jumped from topic to topic in a steam of consciousness that would have done Joyce proud. It was fun and I even got an A!

A year of so after the fact, I was going through some old papers and came across my forgotten masterpiece. A sappy smile on my face, I started reading. Pretty soon, my smile twisted into a grimace. The damn essay made no sense. It was just a bunch of random thoughts tied together with string and spit, signifying nothing. (Sorry, Elvis.)

The fact is that rules exist for a reason. If you're going to break them, you too need a reason--a good one

My rule is that rules are useful, unless they're not!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Flash...and the story's there!

I recently entered a flash fiction challenge, to write 300 words on the topic of "Flight", in a science-fiction or fantasy setting.

A favourite question in our house, when faced with the amazing / astounding / bemusing things people do, is "But WHY?". The first thing is of course that, when I see the word "challenge" - also "contest", "deadline", and "dare" - is that my fingers itch to join in! It's just me, I'm afraid.

But this was particular fun on a couple of levels. I've written before about the fun of trying another genre, and I'm also a fan of Flash Fiction. But what can you do in 300 words? someone may ask (more politely than just going "WHY??"). What kind of challenge is it to scribble down what is, in essence, just a few paragraphs? How frustrating is it? How rewarding is it? Isn't it a waste of your precious writing time when you have that novel to finish by the end of the month????

Well, I can tell you, it's actually empowering! It's by no means wasted time: in fact, it can bring immediate gratification, it's free from publisher/deadline stress, often free from your branded genre, and FUN. That's not to say it doesn't have its own difficulties and skills required - it's NOT just a case of dashing off 100-1000 words, at least not if you want it to be successful and satisfying.

There's potential too - you may end up creating a draft that grows into a much longer project. A great book to read about this is The Short and Long of It: Expand, Adapt and Publish your Short Fiction by Paul Alan Fahey - with loads of entertaining and thought-provoking examples.

I hadn't read the article excerpted below from flash fiction author David Gaffney until recently, but I'm overjoyed to see it sums up exactly how I feel emotionally about flash fiction.

How to write flash fiction

1. Start in the middle.
You don't have time in this very short form to set scenes and build character.

2. Don't use too many characters.
You won't have time to describe your characters when you're writing ultra-short. Even a name may not be useful in a micro-story unless it conveys a lot of additional story information or saves you words elsewhere.

3. Make sure the ending isn't at the end.
In micro-fiction there's a danger that much of the engagement with the story takes place when the reader has stopped reading. To avoid this, place the denouement in the middle of the story, allowing us time, as the rest of the text spins out, to consider the situation along with the narrator, and ruminate on the decisions his characters have taken. If you're not careful, micro-stories can lean towards punchline-based or "pull back to reveal" endings which have a one-note, gag-a-minute feel – the drum roll and cymbal crash. Avoid this by giving us almost all the information we need in the first few lines, using the next few paragraphs to take us on a journey below the surface.

4. Sweat your title.
Make it work for a living.

5. Make your last line ring like a bell.
The last line is not the ending – we had that in the middle, remember – but it should leave the reader with something which will continue to sound after the story has finished. It should not complete the story but rather take us into a new place; a place where we can continue to think about the ideas in the story and wonder what it all meant. A story that gives itself up in the last line is no story at all, and after reading a piece of good micro-fiction we should be struggling to understand it, and, in this way, will grow to love it as a beautiful enigma. And this is also another of the dangers of micro-fiction; micro-stories can be too rich and offer too much emotion in a powerful one-off injection, overwhelming the reader, flooding the mind. A few micro-shorts now and again will amaze and delight – one after another and you feel like you've been run over by a lorry full of fridges.

6. Write long, then go short.
Create a lump of stone from which you chip out your story sculpture. Stories can live much more cheaply than you realise, with little deterioration in lifestyle. But do beware: writing micro-fiction is for some like holidaying in a caravan – the grill may well fold out to become an extra bed, but you wouldn't sleep in a fold-out grill for the rest of your life.

Off you go!
by David Gaffney


by Clare London

with some favourite examples of micro fiction!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016


In the summertime when the weather is hot
You can stretch right up and touch the sky
When the weather's fine
Have a drink, have a drive
Go out and see what you can find

Chh chh-chh, uh, Chh chh-chh, uh

Chh chh-chh, uh, Chh chh-chh, uh

No pithy words of wisdom today. It’s the middle of summer, at least in this hemisphere, and it’s been warmer than usual in the states and parts of Canada. Summers, for me, were a fun slower time. As a kid always on the beach. As an adult showing my kids the country, camping at national parks, spending a month at the lake, fishing, swimming, birding, enjoying millions of fire flies.  Now? It’s having a coffee smoothie to start the day. Hanging out on the dock with a sweet tea. Or, by the pool with a Long Island Tea or frozen Margarita and cruising on the beach.
What about you? What’s a favorite childhood summer memory?  What are you doing this summer?
Have a great second half of summer.    


Monday, July 11, 2016

Yesterday, I attended a service to remember the thousands of men who lost their lives at the Battle of the Somme in 1916. The uniforms, the marching band, the laying of wreaths at the Cenotaph, the lone bugler delivering the Last Post - it was very moving. 

As a writer, my mind tried to imagine what it felt like for those men as they headed straight for the guns and certain death and how this bloody battle impacted on the mothers, fathers, siblings and children left at home. Needless to say, I soon had a full cast of fictional characters in my head. 

As a crime writer, my mind soon had these fictional characters committing deadly deeds. I often toy with the idea of writing historical crime fiction and, with my latest novel almost finished, maybe it’s time to seriously think about it?

I love the idea of criminals being free to act in a time that was, in many ways, much simpler. There were no mobile phones, no internet, no CCTV on every street corner and no worries about leaving a speck of blood or a stray hair at the scene. On the other hand, without DNA and the advancements in technology, solving the crimes becomes much more difficult for our sleuths.  

Years ago, I used to read a lot of historical crime novels. Recently - nothing. I can’t remember the last crime/mystery novel I read that wasn’t contemporary. I intend to rectify that and I thought a fitting place to start would be with the 2011 winner of the CWA’s Ellis Peters Historical Crime Award, The Somme Stations by Andrew Martin. However, as this is book 7 in his Jim Stringer series, it may be a while before I get to it. :)

How do you feel about historical crime fiction? Do you read it? Do you have any recommendations? I'm curious. 

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Six Clues You Are Not Cut Out to be a Romance Writer

Yesterday Carina Press sent out a notice that they would be implementing something called the Carina Press Romance Promise.

You can read about what that promise entails right here.

Now I'm just going to put it on record that I am a wholehearted advocate of romance fiction. I want those happy endings to be realistic and believable, yes, but as someone who has been successfully and satisfyingly married for thirteen years (and managed to stay friends with my previous partners) I know for a fact that "Happy Endings" are believable and realistic for grown-up people willing to put the necessary work in. It doesn't matter what your orientation is -- seriously -- the work -- and it is work --  involved in maintaining healthy and happy relationships with other people (lovers or friends or family) is pretty much universal.

Romance fiction is the single best-selling and most lucrative of genres, which is why it attracts a fair share of writers who don't actually care for Romance fiction but figure it's easy to break into -- and a guaranteed way to make money writing.

(This is where the experienced romance writers in the audience smile sardonically.)

Naturally when this notion of easy money through romance writing turns out to be untrue, there can be frustration and disappointment on the part of those writers. Therefore, in an effort to save the rest of us from having to read any more angry, tearful blog posts,  I've devised a quick checklist for writers toying with the idea of turning to romance.

Six Clues You're Not Cut Out to be a Romance Writer.

1 - You do not read romance novels.

2 - You think romance novels are too...romantic.

3 - You've never had a long term relationship with a member of the same species. Also you hate your mother. Or maybe it's your father. Anyway, you hate more people than you like. Let alone love.

4 - You do not understand the need for Happy Endings. Or even Happy For Now Endings. What's so bad about Tragedy anyway? Death and Disaster happen!

5 - You spend hours redefining the genre in very long blog posts. When not redefining the genre, you like to write hostile reviews of more successful authors in the hope of showing readers the error of their ways. (That would be the error of these other authors' ways, though clearly the readers are also on the wrong path.)

6 - Romance readers don't like your books.

If you answered YES to two or more of the questions above, you probably need to rethink your writing career strategy. Which is actually A-OK because a lot of mystery readers don't like romance muddled in their murders. And what could be more satisfying that gruesomely knocking off thinly-disguised characters based on people you don't like? Happy Endings are not required in crime fiction. In fact, the more ambiguous and bleak your endings, the more you will be respected by your peers and even some readers.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

"But wait, I'm really a romantic suspense author!"

I love romantic suspense. I mean, seriously, I love romantic suspense. So much so that I created a site called JUST ROMANTIC SUSPENSE, which has celebrated romantic suspense authors for five years now. I just finished up a three-book romantic suspense series that was a joy to write and is receiving wonderful reviews.

So, for as much as I am ecstatic with any book sales, why is it that my young adult/science fiction has to be the popular one?!  

Okay, you ask, why did you write it if you are, "Little Miss Romantic Suspense"? Good question. I had this silly fantasy as a child (after watching way too many Battlestar Galactica episodes) that I wanted to be whisked away from my back yard on a space ship. Funny enough, when I grew up I still had the fantasy. LOL! So, writing about it seemed a tad more attainable than actually sitting in the back yard every night...waiting.

BEYOND was released a few years ago, but after all this time the series is suddenly rising up the Amazon ranks. It reached the top 20 in the entire Kindle FREE store a couple weeks ago. I get fan mail for this series. I get readers begging me to write another book in the series. And somewhere deep inside me is this timid little writer calling out, "But wait, I'm really a romantic suspense author."

Why do I feel like a traitor to myself? (Go ahead and say it, "because you have issues!") In the end I justify my impetuous segue into this alternate genre by claiming that it's really still romantic suspense...just in a different galaxy. :)

How far have you ever ventured from your favorite genre roots?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, July 4, 2016

Independence Day

For those of us in the United States, the Fourth of July marks a very special holiday. We invite all of our readers throughout the world to share in a celebration of liberty and freedom today, hopefully including time to read and relax, and our regular blog posts will return on July 6th.

Happy Independence Day!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

How to Annoy Your Readers

I know it can be hard to separate being a writer from a reader, but I believe the things that bugged us before we became writers drive us even crazier after we learn the craft. Case in point: I decided I needed a weekend off from writing and spent it reading some books I’d bought a while back but hadn’t read yet—contemporary, historical, and paranormal. I was part way through the first book of a three-book package getting irritated at the laundry list of hero/heroine’s attributes that indicated to the heroine/hero why he or she had fallen in love with that particular individual. It didn’t hit me at first why it irritated me so much (obviously the writer in me had taken the weekend off), but then I realized the author was telling me, not showing me the love-inducing traits. That author robbed me of what I consider critical reasons for investing my own emotions in the evolving relationship.

It prompted me to take a look at a few authors who excelled at showing those traits. When the hero/heroine did a mental recapped of why this person at this time, it was a much smaller list that reminded the reader of all the times the hero/heroine demonstrated those traits. Not only was it less annoying to me the reader, but it made the attraction and reason for falling in love that much more believable because I experienced those instances right along with the hero/heroine.

Personally, I don’t think my reading enjoyment has diminished as I’ve learned more about the craft—in a lot of ways it’s enhanced it. Now I savor a well-written opening and figures of speech because I know how hard they are to do well. And I really try to avoid annoying my readers!

Bonus: Pet Peeves

I’ve read this in quite a number of books by different authors who should know better. It’s easy to test and all of us have experienced if we’ve ever checked on a sick child, odd noise, or a trip to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Unless you sleep with a light on, when you wake up in the dark your eyes do not need to adjust to the dark! They are as adjusted as they ever will be. Depending on your wakefulness or need for glasses, your vision may be a little fuzzy, but that has nothing to do with night vision—or “adjusting to the dark.”

And why do authors think you can see colors in the dark, especially red, as in blood? Go outside at night and try it (okay, maybe you don’t want to try this with blood). Red is one of the first colors to disappear in low light. Adding in moonlight doesn’t buy you much on the color scale either. Again, it’s a simple test to verify. And seeing eye color at night? Seriously? All I have to say is go out at night and check it out. You might want to rethink that scene in your next thriller or mystery.

So what annoys you as a reader? Any personal pet peeves you want to share?

Monday, June 27, 2016

5 Ways to Get Inspired This Summer

Have the blue skies and ample daylight cut into your productivity? If you answered, "yes," then believe me. I know your pain. Gorgeous summer days can really mess up a work schedule. It’s hard enough to concentrate when the world smells like sunblock and nostalgia. Add the fact the neighbors are grilling and lawn mowers are mowing, and I'm lucky to put two sentences together. It's no way to complete a novel. *shakes head sadly* Everywhere we look this time of year, someone’s doing something more interesting than sitting behind a desk, but that doesn't change the fact that the work NEEDS done. So, how can we do the things we need to do when our minds are on a raft at the nearest pool?

I have a few suggestions:

5. Read. Read your favorite book. Read a new title. Read whatever suits your fancy. Sometimes a little mental break may be all you need to get your creative juices flowing again.

4. Take a walk. Around your block. Through the woods. Down the towpath. Anywhere you can absorb the world in bloom. The sights and sounds of a babbling brook, calling frogs and singing birds might jiggle loose your next great idea. Bonus advice: If your creativity is better fed by nocturnal things and bat colonies swooping past a full moon, go out at night. Build a bonfire and track rising embers into the ether.

3. Nap! Find a comfy chair in the sun room, a blanket under an old oak tree or a hammock on the porch, and gather your ideas by osmosis. A few new stories are sure to form in your pores if you fall asleep surrounded by nature, right? How could we not dream something amazing with the summer sun on our cheeks and warm wind in our hair?

2. Visit the local ice cream stand. Grab a cool treat to soothe your weary mind. Whether it’s a cone or sundae, sweet tea or lemonade, there’s just something special about the snacks at an ice cream stand. Not to mention, the stand is always surrounded by families and little leaguers, young couples sharing malts and older couples sharing memories. If the delicious treats and community feeling doesn’t inspire you, you never know what kind of story fodder you might overhear!

1.  Embrace the distraction. Sometimes, there’s nothing left to do, but make those memories. After all, it’s only summer for a little while, and life is about moments like these, right? So, somedays, I just have to grab the nearest rope and swing into the creek one more time. The work is guaranteed to be there when I get home.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016


            IMHO, a little known fact is that writers are among the strongest people on earth.  I’m not talking Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone strong here, more the quiet, unrelenting kind of strength that has little to do with brawn and a lot to do with brain.  To keep the actor analogy going, I mean writers are more like Russell Crowe or Patrick Stewart in the roles they typically favor—quiet, thoughtful, resilient and, most of all, determined.  Writers, too, are determined.  They’re hell-bound to get that manuscript published, no matter how long it takes, no matter how many rewrites they have to produce, or what the cost in sleepless nights or dry days when the Muse has fled.
They will not give up.
Case in point:  A multi-published author friend recently had a story submitted to a  major publisher.  She had polished the book until it shone, so her hopes were high, but realistically so.  After all, she’d honed her craft over the years and earned a good degree of acceptance in the marketplace.  Long story short, the book was rejected.  What smarted wasn’t the rejection so much but the cold way it was expressed. 
On the phone to me my writer friend said, “The only thing he liked was the typing.”  Her attempt at gallows humor over a book she thought could be her break-through novel was as gutsy as going 5 rounds.  So what did she do?  She plucked what was usable from the harsh comments and went back to work on the manuscript.
I suspect this tale or a variation thereof is familiar to anyone who takes his craft seriously.  The name of the game is rejection.  No wonder we who write have the hides of rhinoceri.  Well, that’s what Oil of Overcome is for.  You slather it on and keep on writing.
Let the Terminator beat that.
Which leaves me with a question:  Have you ever been temped to give up and throw your manuscript against a wall—but didn’t?  Why not? 
Jean Harrington is the author of the award-winning Murders by Design Series.  The tongue-in-cheek, Naples-set stories are available here: