Long-Lost Love Letters of Doc Holliday


Doc Holliday

Lisa Balamaro is an intelligent and gifted, albeit rudderless, young attorney who has drifted into a successful art law practice in San Francisco. A dream come true, right? One day, her cowboy client, former art forger, Tuck Mercer, brings her a deal: negotiate the sale of the recently discovered long-lost love letters of Doc Holliday to a western artifact collector. Recently discovered, these letters between Doc and his cousin, Mattie, who allegedly was the inspiration for Margaret Mitchell’s character, Melanie Hamilton, are highly desirable.

No big deal. Lisa flies to Arizona with Rayella Vargas, the owner of the letters, to meet the buyer at a remote hotel of his choosing. As soon as the conference room door is closed, all hell breaks loose.

Faced with layers of deception and intrigue Lisa does not yet comprehend, our young lawyer does what she knows how to do best: files suit and goes to court. While she’s lawyering, every other character is doing what they know how to do best: the crooked judge, the shyster lawyer, the cowboy vigilantes, and a small squad of battle-hardened Marines at the beck and call of good old Tuck.

The novel alternates between the contemporary story and gorgeously-written letters as they trace the separation of the star-crossed lovers. For those who enjoy the beautiful use of language, there is much to be enjoyed.

The author also masterly renders an out-of-control courtroom drama weaving in the attorney’s thought processes as she runs through procedures and arguments in a way that is understandable to the lay person, credible to an experienced attorney, and creates an exciting tension-filled scene. After court, the drama continues to escalate all the way to the end. It’s one of those stories that I know will stay with me for as I sort it all out.

Drop by Mysteristas tomorrow when the author, David Corbett, will be our guest.


Goin’ on a Moose Hunt

My family and friends think I am obsessed with moose.  That’s an exaggeration, but it is true that I collect any and all things moose.  For example, I have a favorite signing pen, which is made from moose antlers.  I also have moose-shaped earrings, stuffed moose, moose paintings, moose bookmarks, moose appliques, moose ornaments, moose potholders, books about moose, and…  Well, you get the idea.  Maybe they’re right, and maybe it is a slight obsession.  


I am not sure why it began, but when I first spotted a moose in the wilds of the Canadian Rockies some years ago, it was love at first sight.  I’ve been looking for them ever since.  Lucky for me, the moose population here in Colorado has been thriving in recent years.  

So, imagine my delight when my publisher provided me with the title for a Nell Letterly mystery:  Murder by Moose.  

Yes, research!!

Colorado Parks and Wildlife provides a wealth of information, starting here:  


A tiny town in northern Colorado, just west of Rocky Mountain National Park, is considered the moose capital of Colorado.  There’s even a moose visitor center:  


Here are five fun facts I’ve learned about moose:  

  1. Moose used to live in Virginia.  
  2. Sometimes a moose has to kneel on its front legs to drink, as they’re longer than their back legs.  
  3. Bull moose aren’t the only ones with dewlaps (those beards that hang down).  Even cows and calves have short ones.  
  4. A frightened moose can run as fast as 35mph.
  5. Moose have excellent hearing–they can move one ear at a time and hear voices a mile away.  It’s not likely we can sneak up on a moose! 

As this posts, I will be up there looking for my buddies once again.  

Do you have a favorite wild animal, too?    

Where am I, and where’s my car?

A few weeks ago, Mysteristas discussed selecting names for characters that had meaning and charisma. During that discussion, the topic of “place” arose, and I promised to discuss that “sense of place” in September, so here we are.

costumeI have read many books where the setting, the place, is so important that it is a character itself. Of course, glamorous vacation spots and exotic places such as Proper City, Nevada (where else do residents wear costumes all year weiraround) certainly change the plot.

Obviously, novels set on Mars or the moon are in a class by themselves. However, many other stories would be changed significantly if they were to take place in a different geographic location.

HghwayThe “Highway” and “Paradise Valley” by C. J. Box could only happen where long haul trucker “The Lizard King” could disappear on the long stretches of mostly uninhabited highway.

“Here and Gone” by Haylenhere and gone Beck works because Audra Kinney is not pulled over in a big city, but instead on a lonely highway in Arizona where a small-town sheriff controls the situation. “You’re a former addict running from Children’s Services. How much do you think your word means against theirs?”

coyle.jpgWriters also use local “color” and landmarks to add realism and flavor. Matt Coyle’s Rick Cahill series is set in La Jolla, and he specifically uses street names, landmarks, and the beautiful La Jolla setting to its fullest advantage. “The sun danced off the ocean far below, and a gentle breeze slowly pushed scattered clouds around the blue sky. Idyllic. Paradise. “


Alan Drew makes Orange County a character in Shadow Man” when the citizens of a “safe” planned community are terrorized. He not only utilizes vivid descriptions of “the western sky a propane blue,” but also sets the action in the local shopping centers, freeways, and beaches.

MayorFinally, I have to confess that every time I read a book by Archer Mayor, I follow the whole adventure on Google maps as his characters wander around Vermont. His descriptions are so exact that, thanks to Google, I have driven down Putney Road, explored the pedestrian bridge, the food coop, the railroad, and the dumpster. I even visited the Green Mountain Racetrack. I came to know the setting as well as the characters.

Now, authors, it is your turn to share. Could your books take place in another location without altering the fundamental feel of the book? Do you only write about geographic locations that you know and love? Do you use writing a new book as an excuse to visit new, exotic places? Do you prefer to make up your own geography so readers like me will not use Google Maps to find your mistakes?




Guest Post: Paula Munier

Please welcome phenomenal agent-turned-writer Paula Munier talking about her debut A Borrowing of Bones!

My Secret Wish: Writing Mysteries

A Borrowing of BonesI’ve wanted to be a mystery writer since I was six years old and read my first Bobbsey Twins mystery. It was a secret wish for a very long time, and as a result I managed to avoid becoming a mystery writer for decades.

I did not, however, avoid becoming a writer. I started off as a reporter, writing and editing for newspapers and magazines. I went on to join the book business, first as a managing editor on the production side, and later as an acquisitions editor. During this time, I wrote several nonfiction books, including a memoir called Fixing Freddie: A True Story about a Boy, a Mom, and a Very, Very Bad Beagle.

#1 Declare Your Intention

This success writing nonfiction encouraged me to declare my intention to write a mystery—and I joined Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime. I went to meetings and made friends and even served as the president of the New England chapter of Mystery Writers of America and on the planning committee for the New England Crime Bake writers conference. This went on for years and years and years—and still I never wrote a mystery. I started many, but as my brilliant and blunt pal Hallie Ephron would tell me, “You know what your problem is? You don’t finish.”

And I had to admit that she was right. An especially embarrassing admission for an editor who spent her working life sweetly bullying writers into meeting their deadlines.

When my own agent, the marvelous Gina Panettieri of Talcott Notch Literary Services, invited me to join her agency, I started representing lots of fabulous crime writers and selling lots of fabulous crime fiction. I wrote three books on writing for Writers Digest Books: Plot Perfect, Writing with Quiet Hands, and The Writer’s Guide to Beginnings. After writing the book on plot, I couldn’t use the excuse that plotting a mystery à la Agatha Christie and Elizabeth George and Louise Penny and Colin Dexter always terrified me. Still I demurred.

But when I was writing The Writer’s Guide to Beginnings, I needed an opening chapter that I could use as a sample in revision exercises throughout the book—one illustrating several drafts. While I used a lot of excellent openings from excellent books, I couldn’t use another writer’s opening chapter and subject it to all those revisions. Like it or not, I knew I had to write my own.

#2 Get Inspired

I had just been to a fundraiser hosted by thriller writer Leo Maloney for Mission K-9 Rescue, a first-rate organization that rescues and rehabilitates and finds forever homes for military working dogs. At the fundraiser we met a lot of working dogs and their handlers, both soldiers and their bomb-sniffing dogs as well as local law enforcement and their working dogs.

I fell in love with the dogs and their handlers. Especially a certain Belgian Malinois and his Massachusetts State Police trooper. Back at home, we rescued a happy if goofy Newfoundland retriever mutt named Bear from Alabama. Inspired by these lovely dogs, I wrote that first chapter and I used it as a sample throughout the book showing various ways to revise and tighten and polish your work.

When my agent read the book she said, “Whoa, I really like that chapter. You should finish that book.” So, I kept on writing it and she sold it and the next thing you know, I was a mystery writer.\

#3 The Sweetness at the Bottom of Your Secret Wish

The debut mystery novel that started as an exercise in a writing book—A Borrowing of Bones—is my secret wish come true. And it’s nothing less than exhilarating. Now I go to the same book signings I’ve been going to for years and years and years, where I see all my clients and my friends and my heroes—the real crime writers—and I am one of them.

What began as a dream once dreamed by a little girl who couldn’t wait to read her next Bobbsey Twins mystery has become a great honor and a sweet privilege and a humbling experience. And now I can’t wait to write my next Mercy and Elvis mystery.

It just doesn’t get any better than this.


Paula and Bear bright bluePaula Munier is a literary agent and author whose first crime novel A Borrowing of Bones debuts from Minotaur in September 2018. Her other books include the bestselling Plot Perfect, Writing with Quiet Hands, and The Writer’s Guide to Beginnings. In her fab day job at Talcott Notch Literary Services, she reps many great crime writers

Interview: Barb Schlicting

Please welcome Barb Schlicting, author of The Whitehouse Dollhouse Store mysteries and The First Lady Mysteries series!

14pts2deathWhat’s your idea of a perfect day?

I love being able to get up refreshed and get in a nice walk down by the lake. I start at the park next to the campus and walk to town along the lake.  It’s so beautiful. I love to see the ducks, loons, all the wildlife. The air is clean and fresh.

After the walk, get a good cup of coffee, a chocolate, and sit and write until noon. The rest of the day free and clear for other activities.

How did you get started writing?

I have had a penpal in England for 55 years. Chris is like my best friend forever. My BFF. Ever since we began writing, we’ve told each other our secrets from our first dance to first kiss and first time making love.  All the emotions of a young teenage girl would have, we both poured into our writing.  We’re friends on FaceBook, of course, and keep in touch that way, however, three years ago, I spent two weeks with her, and we’ve decided to go back to writing letters.  It’s great.  I’m usually the delinquent and have to be reminded to get in gear and write.  Writing emails or typing letters just doesn’t cut the mustard, as it were, long hand is the way to write.

I believe that because of my good friend, I became interested in writing. I’ve always loved to read, but writing is different. I learned to spin stories and express myself through the process of writing.  I also learned that I had a knack for telling stories.

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing? 

I fell in love with the First Ladies since I was a little girl. I absolutely adored Jackie Kennedy and felt so sorry for her and the children. I was in sixth grade at the time of the assassination, which made an impact on me.  I also loved Betty Ford, Barbara Bush and Michelle Obama.  I fell in love with them all. That being said, I got a ‘bee in my bonnet’, and sent a letter to each of the presidential libraries requesting an autographed photo of each one.

The first one to respond was Rosalynn Carter. Barbara and Laura Bush sent a photo of which they’d calligraphy their signature.  Barbara Bush also sent me a note.  I received a signed photo of Nancy Reagan which is similar to a Christmas card and it has the presidents picture on it, also.  It was more difficult to receive Hillary Clinton’s because they kept wanting to send me her photo as Secretary of State.  I finally told whoever it was, that I’m not a moron, just send the picture. I received an envelope full.  Betty Ford died when I realized she had been alive so I screwed up with her.  However, here’s the big one, Michelle Obama sent me a letter on White House stationery plus the signed photo.  I’ll be her fan for life.

Now, I don’t know what to do with them.  I’m afraid of something happening to them, so they’re in the banks safe deposit box.

This story leads me to my First Ladies Mystery series.

Tell us a bit about your new book.

Edith Wilson: Fourteen Points to Death is the first in a White House Dollhouse store series. A horrible murder of a First Lady Edith Wilson actress generates backlash from cast members. Liv, the store’s owner, takes on the role and does her own investigation. Little did she know that the death sentence stems from one-hundred year old resentment for the treatment of the Suffragists.

This is the first in the White House Dollhouse Series. I’ve decided to publish the series under my own imprint. The series is a great way to learn bits and pieces of history without being tested!








0Barb 028I’m a First Lady fanatic which is why I write the First Ladies Mystery Series.

My high school was Theodore Roosevelt in Minneapolis so I was bound to be a history nut from the start. My dad graduated from the same school. I should’ve paid attention to karma and majored in American history instead of elementary and special education.

I have three First Ladies mystery books, one historical fiction mystery, a new White House Dollhouse Store mystery, and two picture books. A recently published picture book features the first few days in New York City with First Lady Martha Washington. I also write poetry and have a published book. I live in Bemidji with my husband and walk outside, weather permitting, by the campus and along the lake Bemidji boulevard.

Write Funny

Kelly Oliver, Award-winning author of the Jessica James Mysteries

When I was in graduate school (a million years ago), a guy invited me over to his place for a dinner date and served Chardonnay and Captain Crunch cereal. To be fair, he was living on a grad student stipend and had to economize, and Captain Crunch did double duty as the entree and the dessert. Had he served Oat Bran or Shredded Wheat, he would have had to spring for dessert…and it just wouldn’t have been as funny.

That night I learned two things: Captain Crunch is one of those things best left to childhood memories. And, cereal is about as romantic as cat litter.

wife feeding hubbie

Humor is tricky because sometimes it’s a matter of taste…. And not just when it comes to cereal. Some people get the joke, others don’t. Some people get it but think it’s stupid. And some people are just plain offended.

But, done well, humor is worth the risk.

What makes a story funny?

Funny words.

I’ve read that words with “K” sounds (Captain Crunch) and hard consonant sounds are funny. Maybe that’s why when I was born, my parents named me Kelly. It’s true that some words are funnier than others. Colonoscopy is funny—unless you’ve ever had one—Endoscopy, not so much. Cucumber, Twinkie, and Okra are funnier than Bread, Butter or Jam.

Oddball lists.

In a list, an oddball can be funny. She was well versed in the philosophies of Plato, Nietzsche and Winnie the Pooh. His favorite desserts are Black Forest Torte, Cherry Gateau Basque, and Pop Tarts.

adorable animal breed close up

Funny Comparisons.

Surprising comparisons, metaphors, and similes can be funny. “With cleavage so deep it could tutor philosophy” (Harlan Coben). She stuck to him like a tick on a rangy deer. She stuck to him like a sequin on a ball gown. He stuck to her like a Velcro on a training bra.

Are there any issues that are off limits to comedy?

A couple of years ago, I was pitching my first novel, WOLF in New York City, and when I told a group of young women authors about the subplot and themes of date rape, party rape, and rape drugs, and I said it was a humorous mystery, some of them were appalled. They didn’t see how rape could ever be funny.  Obviously, I agree.  Rape can never be funny.  Books, on the other hand (even books that take on serious topics like rape), can be funny.  In fact, humor often helps us deal with difficult subjects that might be too hard to face without it.  Think of John’s Green’s treatment of cancer inThe Fault in Our Stars.

 Comedy = Tragedy + Time.

Humor releases tension and anxiety, which can help the pacing of your suspense novel. Humor makes it easier to deal with difficult issues. Mark Twain says, “the secret source of humor is not joy but sorrow. There is no humor in heaven.” And self-deprecating humor can be some of the most cathartic to write. Having a sense of humor can help get through the darkest days.

Use Humor to Tell the Truth.

Mark Twain also calls humor “the good-natured side of truth.” Humor can lighten the mood of your story. It can help you modulate the pace. But it can also help you give the reader new insights. Funny anecdotes are most effective when they have a deeper meaning.

My husband is from Puerto Rico. He likes to tell the story of his encounter with a giant rat in his college dorm. It was the middle of the night and he’d gotten up to pee. As he made his way down the hall to the bathroom, the huge rat ran across his path. He freaked out and called campus security. When the officer arrived, he asked, “How’d you get into Yale? Haven’t you seen a possum before?” In his telling, the possum takes on a deeper meaning and becomes a symbol for his own status as a fish out of water.


You can see why I married him instead of Captain Crunch.

Who needs drugs?

New studies show that laughter triggers endogenous opioid release in the brain.  Hey, endogenous opioid release, that sounds funny… even without a K sound.

Use humor to add some fiber to your story!


Kelly Oliver is the award-winning (and best-selling in Oklahoma!) author of The Jessica James Mystery Series, including WOLF, COYOTE, FOX, and JACKAL. Her debut novel, WOLF: A Jessica James Mystery, won the Independent Publisher’s Gold Medal for best Thriller/Mystery, and was a finalist for the Foreward Magazine award for best mystery. Her second novel, COYOTE won a Silver Falchion Award for Best Mystery. And, the third, FOX was a finalist for both the Claymore Award and Silver Falchion Award. Look for JACKAL, A Jessica James Mystery September 25th. Why wait? It’s available for preorder now and on sale for only $1.99 until launch day!

When she’s not writing novels, Kelly is a Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University, and the author of fifteen nonfiction books, and over 100 articles, on issues such as the refugee crisis, campus rape, women and the media, animals and the environment. Her latest nonfiction book, Hunting Girls: Sexual Violence from the Hunger Games to Campus Rape won a Choice Magazine Award for Outstanding title. She has published in The New York Times and The Los Angeles Review of Books, and has been featured on ABC news, CSPAN books, the Canadian Broadcasting Network, and various radio programs.

Learn more about Kelly and her books.



Hey, Baby … Come Here Often?

I’m not a photographer, but I can picture us together.

Are you religious? Because you’re the answer to all my prayers.

Do you know what my shirt is made of? Boyfriend material.

Even if there wasn’t gravity on earth, I’d still fall for you.

Are you a parking ticket? ‘Cause you’ve got fine written all over you.


Not gonna lie. Back in the day, these pick-up lines would probably have worked on me.

Yes, they’re cheesy, but they immediately tell me something about my future paramour.

He or she is funny. And funny is the golden ticket for me.

Opening lines in books do the same thing.

A good opening sets the stage for everything that happens next. It gives you a glimpse of the character you’ll be traveling with on this 300-page journey. It gives you a hint of where and when you are. It lets you know whether you’re going to laugh, or be terrified, or skeeved out … or all of the above.

A REALLY good opening does it all in the first sentence.

As you can imagine, that’s quite difficult.

So let’s take a trip to my local literary bar and do some speed dating.

Here are your potential suitors. They’re on their best behavior, wearing their spiffiest clothes and smelling marvelous. Let’s hear what they have to say to woo you.

opening lines


THE HIGHWAYMAN – Craig Johnson

There is a canyon in the heart of Wyoming carved by a river called Wind and a narrow, opposing, two-lane highway that follows its every curve like a lover.

THE BLACK WIDOW – Wendy Corsi Staub

“Some things,” Carmen used to say, “just don’t feel right until the sun goes down.”


He stared at my resumé like it was an SAT question.


When summoned by the department chair, one shows up on time.

BLOOD ON THE TRACKS – Barbara Nickless

His life wasn’t worth spit in a hard rain.

TREBLE AT THE JAM FEST – Leslie Budewitz

Blame it on the rhubarb.


When you wear fishnet stockings to the grocery store, people tend to stare.


I was being bullied by stationery.

HUNTING HOUR – Margaret Mizushima

“Whom do you trust, Maddie?”


Melinda Walter settled her lean Pilates body — the maintaining of which took all her free time and could fund North Korea’s military for a year — into the soft leather driver’s seat of her sleek red 1959 classic Corvette.

BANANA BAMBOOZLE – Becky Clark and Ted Hardwick

Using only one hand, Cassidy Dunne silently unwrapped a fun-size Snickers hidden in her sundress pocket.

These are just a few individuals loitering against the wall near my neighborhood office.

Would you enjoy spending more time with them? Grab them and steal away to a quiet corner where you can be alone? Take them to bed? (You vixen, you.)

Which made your heart go pitty-pat? Is your heart already taken by another? Are you willing to share?

Do you feel jilted by this metaphor yet?