Sunday, June 12, 2022

On Writing a Mystery Series: Yes or No?


A while back, I was asked how I came up with the main character in my mystery series. I explained I originally got my inspiration to write a mystery novel with an academic librarian as amateur sleuth during the time of my library studies at Rutgers University. Completing my MLS degree, I was required to attend symposiums. One speaker was a Princeton University librarian who spoke about inferno collections. His lecture was so fascinating and vivid that I was inspired to do further research. I became convinced the concept of inferno collections would be an excellent frame for a mystery novel and discovered that no one else had written anything similar. (Briefly, inferno collections are banned books considered inappropriate for public display and reading. Often these were books deemed salacious and kept separate or hidden in libraries under lock and key). 

My novel THE INFERNO COLLECTION was the first in the Kim Reynolds series. It was published in hardcover by Five Star/Gale, who published two more of the novels in the days when they did mystery fiction. All three of the books received fine reviews. They were also picked up by Harlequin Worldwide Mystery for paperback editions and distribution.

Kim Reynolds isn’t me. She’s a creation of my imagination, as are the other characters in the series. There are now five mystery novels with Kim as the main protagonist. The fifth novel, BLOOD FAMILY, was released by Encircle and has also garnered good reviews.

 Level Best Books has contracted with me for a new unique historical which will be featured in their Dames of Detection series. (Publication date July 2023) Whether or not this will develop into a series depends on numerous factors. (Many of my novels are stand-a-lones.) 

I also created a series of short stories which feature Tom Atkins, a young attorney who ends up solving murder cases. He has been featured exclusively in SHERLOCK HOLMES MYSTERY MAGAZINE. (The current issue has a Tom Atkins mystery story.) The Sweethearts Detective Agency series has appeared in several different mystery magazines and anthologies as well and will continue. 

Should writers consider creating series characters? I’d say yes. If readers respond well to the initial book or story, it’s something worth continuing and developing further. Word of mouth and good reviews carry over for continued books in a series or short fiction. (Witness the success of Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle among a multitude of others)

What series do you particularly enjoy reading or writing? Why?  Your thoughts and comments welcome here!

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Making Mother’s Day Memorable


Some of the facts about Mother’s Day are surprising and unexpected. The idea of an official celebration of Mother’s Day in America was first suggested by Julia Ward Howe in 1872.  She became famous with her Civil War song, "Battle Hymn of the Republic". Anna Jarvis is actually recognized as the Founder of Mother’s Day in the United States. She never married or had children herself. However, she got the inspiration for celebrating Mother’s Day from her own mother Mrs. Anna Marie Reeves Jarvis, an activist and social worker. Mrs. Jarvis expressed a desire to have a day set aside to honor all mothers, living and dead, and pay tribute to the contributions made by them. 
 By 1911, Mother's Day was celebrated in almost every state in the Union, and on May 8, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a Joint Resolution designating the second Sunday in May as Mother's Day.  Mother’s Day is now celebrated in several countries including the US, UK, India, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Turkey, Australia, Mexico, Canada, China, Japan and Belgium. People take the day as an opportunity to pay tribute to their mothers and thank them for all their love and support. Sadly, Anna Jarvis became disillusioned by the commercialization of the holiday.

Today mothers are honored with many kinds of gifts: cards, perfume, jewelry, candy, flowers, plants. If a mother is a reader, books are great Mother’s Day gifts, either print or digital.

 What most of us who are mothers appreciate most is simply spending time with our children. Sharing a meal like a brunch or dinner together is one way of making the day special. If children live and work too far away to visit, a phone call is always appreciated. I hope to see my children and grandkids. 

My gift to other mothers is some free reading--since this is International Short Story Month as well. 

For a Mother’s Day story: 

“The Art of Listening” 

BEYOND THE BO TREE is a collection of ten romantic short stories of all types and lengths. Amazon offers the first one, “The Phone Call,” as a free read:

What are your thoughts regarding Mother’s Day? How do you think this holiday should be spent?




Wednesday, April 6, 2022

How to Increase Creativity

A close friend who recently suffered a major family loss as I did is doing her best to re-spark her creativity. I confess it’s been very difficult for me as well. She reminded me of an article I’d written on this this topic previously. I thought rewriting it would be worthwhile for myself and others.

 What to do when you need to spark your life force, rev up your engine? I’m not just talking about the creative arts. Every human being needs revitalization at some point. If we become discouraged, suffered a loss of productivity in our field of endeavor, there are ways to deal with it:

Get started by making some life changes. Get out of your normal rut or routine. Consider doing things you’ve never tried before or haven’t done lately. They don’t have to be dangerous or extreme either. 

Here’s one suggestion:

One health-booster is Meditation. Not something new but certainly beneficial. It’s referred to as “mindfulness.” Apparently, it creates “body-building for the brain.” It is both “anxiety-busting” and “attention-boosting”. I would refer to it as awareness and focus. By its very nature, meditation encourages creativity.

 Here are some suggested activities that increase mindfulness:

·        Breathe deeply concentrating on the act itself

·        Hug someone, focusing on the interaction

·        Eat slowly while paying attention to what you are eating

·        Take a walk somewhere—engaging in awareness of your surroundings

The key is to keep focus on the activity and not let your mind wander or worry, concentrating on positive thoughts.

This is just one method of increasing creativity which can lead to increased productivity.  

There are times when my creativity dries up like a plant in a parched desert. Writer’s block is something most authors face at one time or another. We lose that sense of purpose or inspiration. Sometimes it happens while we’re working on a story, article, or book. It’s happened to me when I get discouraged collecting rejection slips—a fate common to many writers. There are ways to get back on track. 

Get away from the computer and go for a walk. If it’s too cold or nasty outside, use a treadmill or drive over to a mall and walk around inside.

Visit a bookstore and browse. Buy a book that you’d like to read.

Visit a library and browse. Borrow a book that looks interesting. 

If you’re a fiction writer, read some nonfiction: books, magazines, and newspapers, in print or online. If you’re a nonfiction writer, pick up a novel to read. Try to read something you wouldn’t ordinarily peruse. Broaden your horizons. 

Talk to friends and family. Communicate with other people. Listen in on conversations you overhear in restaurants and at gatherings.

Visit a museum. Study the displays. Take notes on those things that interest you. 

Go to an art museum or gallery and study the paintings there for inspiration.  Put yourself into a painting. Who are you?  Where are you?  What are you doing?

 Take a trip somewhere you’ve never been before.

 Memory writing is a useful resource. You don't have to be famous to write an autobiography. However, many well-known writers have used memories effectively in their writing. Some examples are:




Here's a writing exercise guaranteed to produce results:






Another suggestion: keep a journal or diary. With this kind of writing, there is a sense of immediacy. We can capture feelings and impressions that might otherwise be lost. This can serve as excellent material for future work.

3. From Biblical times, dreams have been thought to be prophetic. Freud certainly found much to analyze. Keep a notebook and pen beside your bed. When waking after a particularly vivid dream, describe it in as much detail as possible.

 Whenever possible, read magazine and newspaper articles and clip those you find of particular interest. You can obtain many ideas and inspiration for your own writing from them.

There's an old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. A good picture is worth at least that and probably a lot more. Inspiration for writers can come not only from reading newspaper and magazine articles but also from looking at the photos. Interesting photographs are all around us and are worth saving as a resource. 

There are many ways to improve your skill or writing technique. If, for instance, you have trouble creating good descriptive passages, try doing some sense imagery exercises.

Select a piece of fruit like a lemon or orange. Describe in writing what it looks like: color, shape, etc. Hold it in your hand. Describe the feel or texture of the fruit. Cut the fruit in half. Now describe the smell and taste. 

Music and sound can create mood and stimulate writing.    Try writing stream-of-consciousness technique while listening to music. Play three different types of instrumental music for at least ten minutes. Pause between each. Possible musical choices:  classical, jazz, rock. 

Be curious, interested in the world around you, and you can't help but find inspiration and ideas for your writing. Writer’s block is only temporary. Most important, never give up, not if writing is what you really want to do. Publishing success will come if you keep perfecting your craft.

Now it’s time for me to take my own advice! How about you?



Friday, March 4, 2022



Carla Kaessinger Coupe worked for Wildside Press for 10 years before retiring in 2019. She returned to edit Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine in 2021, after the death of long-time editor Marvin Kaye. Two of her short stories were nominated for Agatha Awards, and The Best American Mystery Stories of 2012 gave a nod to her Sherlock Holmes pastiche, “The Book of Tobit.” She is an avid Sherlockian and in addition to being active in local societies, she is a member of The Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes (“The Footprints of a Gigantic Hound”) and The Baker Street Irregulars (“The London Bridge”).

Question: What is the title and genre of your magazine? 

Answer: Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine. We focus on traditional mysteries, but often dip our toe (or even a whole foot) into the worlds of crime or hardboiled mysteries. and occasionally we include a story with supernatural elements. Every fifth issue is devoted to Sherlock Holmes pastiches and articles.

Question:   What inspired this magazine? How did it come about? 

Answer: In 2007, with so many outlets for mystery short stories closing, our publisher John Betancourt, in conjunction with editor Marvin Kaye, wanted to create a magazine similar to Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock. SHMM was born and our first issue was released in May 2008. We’re now on issue 29, with issue 30 in the works.

Question:   What are you working on now?

Answer:  I’m in the midst of editing issue 30, which should be out later this spring. It’s one of our all-Sherlock-Holmes issues.

Will there be further issues of SHMM?

Answer:  Yes. I have accepted some great stories and can’t wait to see them appear in future issues. 

Question:   What made you start working as an editor? 

Answer: I fell into it! While at Wildside Press, I ended up working with many of our authors on content- and copy-editing. When Marvin Kaye, SHMM’s long-time editor, became ill and needed help, I stepped in, and he taught me a lot. When Marvin died last year, I was asked to take over.

Question:   What advice would you offer to those who are currently writing and interested in submitting to the magazine?

Answer: First, write the best story you can. Run it by a critique group if possible, or at least read it critically. Edit it. Proofread it. Then proofread it again. Next, make sure your story meets our submission requirements. We receive a lot of good stories, so don’t give me a reason to reject yours. If I receive two good stories but only have space for one, I’ll take the story that follows our submission requirements and that needs less editing.

Question:  Where and when will readers be able to obtain your magazine?

Answer: SHMM is available at Wildside Press [], some independent bookstores, and at Amazon [].

Thank you, Carla, for your candid responses.

 Comments welcome from readers and writers. 

Friday, February 4, 2022

Tips on Writing Bestsellers


A recent WRITER’S DIGEST newsletter offers an interesting article entitled: “How to Create a Bestselling Novel”. Librarian Nancy Pearl is quoted as having a theory she calls the Four Doorways, which states that, for readers, there are four main doorways into fiction. These doorways are story, character, setting, and language. 

Robin Cook claimed to have analyzed the characteristics of numerous bestsellers before writing his own blockbuster COMA.

GalleyCat’s Infographic explored the anatomy of bestsellers. Here are some of their more interesting observations and statistics: 

Bestsellers today generally have active narratives, shorter sentences, and simple vocabularies.

Exclamation marks are a negative!!

Titles should be short and simple, not complex.

 They found the length of the average bestseller to be 375 pages. 

Books with a female protagonist are more likely to be successful.

But men are more likely to read a book with a male protagonist. 

Main characters or protagonists in bestsellers are often lawyers or detectives.

Books set in America are most popular. 

The number one grossing genre in fiction is still Romance.

Second is: Crime/Mystery.

Third is: Inspirational or Religious. 

Fourth is: Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Fifth is: Horror (Stephen King eat your heart out!) 

For a detailed article, check this out: 

 11 Steps to Writing a Bestselling Novel (Infographic) ( 

February is the month for celebrating romance. At the current time, besides mystery novels and short stories, I am reading recent Regency romances, the quality of which is quite good. They provide an escape from depressing modern realities.

 If you are interested in historical romance, I recommend the following authors: Jane Ashford, Anna Bradley and Anna Harrington. I find all three to have written quality Regency romance. Also, I’ll mention my historical romances SINFUL SEDUCTION and HIGHLAND HEART published by Luminosity and available from Amazon, as well as THE KILLING LAND, a Western romance from Five Star/Cengage.

Personally, I would love to write a bestseller, a novel that is widely read and appreciated. However, I would be just as pleased to write a great novel, one that endures the test of time. Yet an article in a June 2016 issue of TIME Magazine observed we can’t really know which books they will be. 

Moby-Dick, Herman Melville’s masterpiece, was not well-received in its day. Melville died poor and depressed. Poe died in poverty as well. Kafka was dead before The Trial was ever published. However, Shakespeare was a very successful and popular dramatist in his own day and has withstood the test of time.

 In But What if We’re Wrong? Thinking About the Present as if It Were the Past, author Chuck Klosterman noted that works which endure are ones future societies find meaningful. Someone who is writing in obscurity today, who we have never heard of, could be the most admired author to future generations.

 I believe the best approach is to write the work that we want to write, that is meaningful to us, and not worry about current trends which ultimately come and go.

 Any thoughts you might have regarding popular fiction vs. great fiction? Can a book be both?


Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Starting the New Year with a Podcast


January symbolically marks a new beginning and a fresh start. Thanks to Lorie Lewis Ham at KINGS RIVER LIFE MAGAZINE, one of my mystery stories is now available as a free podcast. And this is a first for me in the new year.

Podcasts seem to be very popular—just ask Dr. Phil. 

In fact, one of my daughters-in-law, Anna Seewald, who

is in the psychology field, does a popular one herself.

To my mind, podcasts are similar to radio shows except they are available on the internet. For those who like a mystery story to listen to, I hope you’ll tune into this one and let me know if you found it interesting: 

What are some of your plans or resolutions for the year ahead? Are they the same as last year or have they changed?

Friday, December 10, 2021

Sharing Reading Suggestions for the Holidays


The holidays are a great time to gift friends, family or  yourself with books to read. And there certainly are a lot of them being published! You can find books to suit every age and taste whether fiction or nonfiction. Let’s share recommendations, whether it be your own work or that of others.

I’ll start things going. THE GHOST AND THE HAUNTED PORTRAIT published this year continues an enjoyable series. Cleo Coyle is the pseudonym for Alice Alfonsi and her husband Marc Cerasini. Their main characters are Penny McClure who runs a quaint Rhode Island bookstore and the ghost of Jack Shepard, a PI who died there in the 1940’s. They make an entertaining sleuthing combination. I very much enjoyed reading this novel and recommend it to cozy mystery readers.

Another series mystery is SEVEN-YEAR WITCH, which follows BAIT AND WITCH, both by Angela M. Sanders, and both published this year. Librarian Josie Way has moved to small-town Wilfred, Oregon. Josie discovers her witchcraft abilities and solves a series of murders. Delightfully, the books in her new library constantly converse with her offering clues. This is another new fun read for cozy mystery lovers.

Okay, now it’s your turn. Please share the books and publications you think will make for good holiday reading. Feel free to talk about work you’ve recently had published if you’re an author. Readers, please mention books you have on your wish list and/or recently read and enjoyed.