Which one of us do you think posed for the cover?

For your convenience, here’s a summary of all the books included in SLEUTHING WOMEN–10 FIRST-IN-SERIES MYSTERIES.

Sleuthing Women Mysteries is a 10-author anthology of first-in-series cozy mysteries, including my first, The Hydrogen Murder.

A short description of each of these full-length mysteries follows.

Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun, an Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery by Lois Winston—Working mom Anastasia is clueless about her husband’s gambling addiction until he permanently cashes in his chips and her comfortable middle-class life craps out. He leaves her with staggering debt, his communist mother, and a loan shark demanding $50,000. Then she’s accused of murder…

Murder Among Neighbors, a Kate Austen Suburban Mystery by Jonnie Jacobs — When Kate Austen’s socialite neighbor, Pepper Livingston, is murdered, Kate becomes involved in a sea of steamy secrets that bring her face to face with shocking truths—and handsome detective Michael Stone.

Skeleton in a Dead Space, a Kelly O’Connell Mystery by Judy Alter—Real estate isn’t a dangerous profession until Kelly O’Connell stumbles over a skeleton and runs into serial killers and cold-blooded murderers in a home being renovated in Fort Worth. Kelly barges through life trying to keep from angering her policeman boyfriend Mike and protect her two young daughters.

In for a Penny, a Cleopatra Jones Mystery by Maggie Toussaint—Accountant Cleo faces an unwanted hazard when her golf ball lands on a dead banker. The cops think her BFF shot him, so Cleo sets out to prove them wrong. She ventures into the dating world, wrangles her teens, adopts the victim’s dog, and tries to rein in her mom…until the killer puts a target on Cleo’s back.

The Hydrogen Murder, a Periodic Table Mystery by Camille Minichino—A retired physicist returns to her hometown of Revere, Massachusetts and moves into an apartment above her friends’ funeral home. When she signs on to help the Police Department with a science-related homicide, she doesn’t realize she may have hundreds of cases ahead of her.

Retirement Can Be Murder, A Baby Boomer Mystery by Susan Santangelo—Carol Andrews dreads her husband Jim’s upcoming retirement more than a root canal without Novocain. She can’t imagine anything worse than having an at-home husband with time on his hands and nothing to fill it—until Jim is suspected of murdering his retirement coach.

Dead Air, A Talk Radio Mystery by Mary Kennedy—Psychologist Maggie Walsh moves from NY to Florida to become the host of WYME’s On the Couch with Maggie Walsh. When her guest, New Age prophet Guru Sanjay Gingii, turns up dead, her new roommate Lark becomes the prime suspect. Maggie must prove Lark innocent while dealing with a killer who needs more than just therapy.

A Dead Red Cadillac, A Dead Red Mystery by RP Dahlke—When her vintage Cadillac is found tail-fins up in a nearby lake, the police ask aero-ag pilot Lalla Bains why an elderly widowed piano teacher is found strapped in the driver’s seat. Lalla confronts suspects, informants, cross-dressers, drug-running crop dusters, and a crazy Chihuahua on her quest to find the killer.

Murder is a Family Business, an Alvarez Family Murder Mystery by Heather Haven—Just because a man cheats on his wife and makes Danny DeVito look tall, dark and handsome, is that any reason to kill him? The reluctant and quirky PI, Lee Alvarez, has her work cut out for her when the man is murdered on her watch. Of all the nerve.

Murder, Honey, a Carol Sabala Mystery by Vinnie Hansen—When the head chef collapses into baker Carol Sabala’s cookie dough, she is thrust into her first murder investigation. Suspects abound at Archibald’s, the swanky Santa Cruz restaurant where Carol works. The head chef cut a swath of people who wanted him dead from ex-lovers to bitter rivals to greedy relatives.

Pre-order your copy now and it will be delivered on May 1st. Give this present to yourself and have plenty of fun reads on hand for all your summer vacations!

Buy Links:

The Voice of Gloria

Link from the Past
A few years ago, Valley Free Radio host Alan Vogel read my short story The Fluorine Murder, the 9th periodic table story, on his show.  How interesting, if a little strange, to hear a male voice reading as Gloria Lamerino.

Writing Advice

Another theft of a good topic from the LadyKillers Blog: Writing advice, with a Real Me twist.

Sometimes I think there’s more advice on writing than actual writing.

Oops. I’m breaking one rule already. The one that says Never use second person.

But I’ve finally found a rule I can live with.

Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open. – Stephen King

King reveals secrets to Minichino

I can’t be sure I understood perfectly what Stephen King said, but I’ll take a shot at it.

Write the book you want to write, alone in your room. Then, when you have a draft, participate as much as possible in the writing community. Enlist all the help you can for critique and pay attention to every suggestion. Not that you follow that suggestion verbatim, but you do something to address the problem.

The community laser, c. 1968

My first exposure to a grown-up career (excluding that of pizza chef on Revere Beach) was in physics research. The centerpiece was a six-foot long helium-neon laser in a basement laboratory where no fewer than eight or nine of us worked at any one time. Communal research, you might say, with one log book for entering data. Over a period of five-and-a-half years, I don’t remember a time when I was alone in the lab, even in the hours after midnight.

I did have to write my dissertation alone, but that was fun—without computers, I was committed to pasting dozens of photos onto multiple copies of the book, using rubber cement. A high!

When I thought of writing as a “career” (only my tax man knows whether it really is one), I worried that I’d be lonely. Could I work for hours on end with no company? No one to talk to across a glass tube, glowing red and providing the necessary stimulus to discuss the issues of the day? No one to share a couple of hard-boiled eggs with when there was no time to hit the White Castle across the street?

It turned out I didn’t have to worry. Because as the King says, after that first dump of words, I could open my door to all the members of Mystery Writers of America, the California Writers Club, and Sisters in Crime; to crowds of subject matter experts, critiquers, and beta readers.

Thanks to all of you!


April 7, 1969 is listed as one of the birthdays of the Internet.

One of? You mean you can’t Google “Internet birthday” and get a definitive date for the invention of something we use every day? Apparently not.

For example:

• On April 7, 1969, the first Requests for Comments (RFC) were published by the Pentagon’s ARPA project. RFC documents describe the theoretical foundations of the Internet and interconnected computers.

• On September 2, 1969, the first local connection between two computers was established at UCLA.

• On the evening of October 29, 1969, the first data travelled between two nodes of the ARPANET, a key ancestor of the Internet.

• On January 1, 1983, the switch was made from Network Control Protocol to Transmission Control Protocol and Internet Protocol, to accommodate the much larger and more complicated network that would eventually be needed.

As for the WWW, the multimedia portion of the Internet, some say it was invented on Christmas Day, 1990, when the first practical HTML browser was completed; others say August 7, 1991, when CERN unveiled the browser to the world.

Does anyone else think it’s ironic that a chief source for information on everything from movie times to important dates in history doesn’t know when itself was invented? (Pardon the grammatical license. I could check the Internet for proper usage, but can I trust it now?)

It seems the only things we’re really sure happened on April 7 are

• King Kong opened in movie theaters (1933) and

• It’s Russell Crowe’s birthday (1964).

As long as there’s some excuse to eat cake, I’m satisfied.

A Name of His Own

Read More…

Where am I?

Only a few weeks ago,  I was in Phoenix, Arizona. It’s no secret that I’m more of a street-tree person than a cactus person, but I have to say that the people of Phoenix were welcoming and friendly to the hundreds of mystery writers and readers who landed there for a conference. So, thanks to the organizers and attendees of CACTUS CAPER.

My panel topic was “The Making of a Cozy Murder: What defines a cozy?” moderated by the legendary blogger and mystery fan, DRU ANN LOVE (If that isn’t a great name for a fan . . .)

On a panel with Ritter Ames, Carolyn Greene, Donna Andrews, and Dru Ann Love

We discussed the tropes of cozies, such as the don’t-kill-a-pet rule (no such limitation on little old ladies) and, as Donna Andrews observed, the “Keep it clean” admonition.

One of the more interesting questions Dru Ann addressed to the authors: “Would you make a good amateur sleuth?”

I’d never thought about that before, but (slam to head) I realized my answer had to be NO!

My main shortcoming, besides my current inability to give chase, is that I have a notoriously bad sense of direction. Make that: no sense of direction. I am orientationally challenged. I’m not just referring to getting lost on the freeways, but getting lost in a restaurant.

For example, say I’ve been to the restroom, clearly marked by a large sign. Say I want to get back to my table, where my friends are chatting, expecting me to return. Uh-oh. An embarrassing moment, more so even than if I’d gone into the men’s room by mistake. Unless the restaurant is smaller than my own kitchen, I’m lost.

I try to orient myself by standing at the threshold into the dining area. I try to locate the sign-in desk. Where did we go from there? Can I see the table I left? Many times, I end up seeing my server (I am good at remembering faces, at least). I make an excuse for needing help to my table.

I’ve had this disability all my life, therefore there’s more of a chance now that I’ve remembered to drop bread crumbs on the way to my target—I try to notice that I’m taking a right at the large fake palm, so I should take a left to get back. ETC.

Bottom line: don’t be surprised if I abandon you on our next date. And never, never ask me for directions.

Undangerous Dan


Second only to a guy named Pat, nothing’s more Irish than a guy named Dan. Here’s piece of flash fiction to celebrate ST. PATRICK’S DAY.


The saloon doors flew open and out bounced the slender frame of Dan G. Erous, Undangerous Dan, as he was known at the poker tables around Tinville. He landed in a puddle of mud and horse droppings, mixed with broken glass and a splash of oh-be-joyful from The Tin Queen.

“I said I’d pay it all back,” Dan hollered, trying to regain his dignity. “No need to kick up a row.” He stood and shook out his sack coat, sending pieces of night soil onto a meticulously dressed, ace-high Reverend Jacob Winds.

“Dang you, Erous,” the Rev muttered.

He pulled a Colt Peacemaker from under his black duster. A shot rang out, leaving Tinville with its reputation in tact—the most dangerous town in the Rockies.

Throwing in the Towel

I should say something about Women’s History Month. There are so many unsung heroines in the arts and scientists, but they’re easy enough to find now, without my going on about them.

Hold on, because I’m about share my theory of how this happens—why women are not taken seriously in the world of professionals. I saw a perfect example a few days before Valentine’s day—a month ago, not a century ago—and the display of kitchen towels in an upscale store at the mall near my home.

I was too shocked to think about taking a photo, but here’s my best shot at a description of the towel. The lower half was embroidered as follows:



Really Miss/Mrs./Mrs. Professional Woman? How am I supposed to take you seriously when you don’t take yourself and your own name seriously?

I wish knew who designed the towels. I wish I knew how the sales went.

A Thrilling Reading Scene

A recent question on a panel: what do your characters read?

My answer: Not much.

I’m what you might call a heavy reader—3 book clubs and always a Kindle full of books. I’m not sure why no one in my gallery of characters is even a light reader. They confine themselves to literature that’s pertinent to their jobs or interests, almost never including fiction or reading for relaxation. Nor do they ever discuss books, a favorite pastime of mine.

Here’s the lineup and their reading habits:

• Dr. Gloria Lamerino, retired physicist, reads Physics Today, Scientific American, and the New Yorker cartoons. That’s it.

• Gerry Porter, retired English teacher and miniaturist, often quotes Shakespeare, but not once in nine books has she picked up a volume and had a quiet read. She does occasionally leaf through a miniatures or crafts magazine.

• Professor Sophie Knowles, college math teacher, reads and contributes to mathematics journals and puzzle magazines. No fiction.

Finally, with my 4th series, I might have a reader.

• Cassie Miller (DEATH TAKES PRIORITY debuted November 2015), postmaster in a small Massachusetts town, reads crime fiction. Though I don’t give specific titles, I do have Cassie commenting on certain plot devices, and actually trying to read crime novels or watch crime dramas before bedtime. Granted she’s quickly distracted and turns to focusing on “the case” at hand.

One reason my amateur sleuths don’t read: they’re very busy people! In general, they solve a murder case in a week or so, sometimes sooner. That’s pretty quick, considering real cops sometimes take months, often years. Also, reading is very passive, as opposed to, say, a car chase, a shoot-out, or even a quiet stalking scene. It’s hard to make a reading scene exciting.

She stretched out on the couch, put on her reading glasses, picked up a book, found the bookmark, opened the book,  . . .

See what I mean?

My book on TV – A story I never tire of telling!

Latest edition for Kindle

A few years ago, Hallmark produced a TV movie based on Citizen Jane, a true crime book by Bay Area screenwriter James Dalessandro. In one scene, Jane’s aunt is pictured sitting comfortably, reading. Her book: my first, The Hydrogen Murder! She holds it up, the cover plain as day.

And then an intruder breaks in and murders her!

The book falls out of her hands and onto the floor, the original cover side up, immortalized as a part of the crime scene.

So, although my characters aren’t reading, someone is reading my characters!

Book Clubs — the more the merrier

In case you missed this post on TheLadyKillers . . .

I never met a book club I didn’t like.

The Past.

I started my first book club when I was teaching physics at a college in Boston. I’d noticed many of my students were reading science fiction: Stranger in a Strange Land (Robert Heinlein), Dune (Frank Herbert), Childhood’s End (Arthur Clarke), More Than Human (Theodore Sturgeon). These books seemed to engage them more than the text for my class: Eisberg’s Fundamentals of Modern Physics.

So I formed a book club to discuss science fiction novels and their relation to physics. I chose books that would illustrate the four forces—gravitational, electromagnetic, weak nuclear, and strong nuclear. Students in other majors joined us as we met informally, one evening a week, in the student lounge. After about 3 years of these regular meetings, I was able to convince the administration that “Physics Through SciFi” was worth academic credit.

Since then, I can’t remember not being in a book club.

The Castro Valley Library Mystery Book Club c. 2015

The Present

Currently, I’m involved in two clubs. One is a nonfiction group that has been meeting since the early nineties. When two members moved to Houston, we set up a laptop dedicated to Skyping them in. I’ve read books I never would have chosen if it weren’t for this group—for example: The Big Roads, The Story of the Engineers, Visionaries, and Trailblazers Who Created the American Superhighway, by Earl Swift; and most recently, One Nation Under God, How Corporate America Invented Christian America, by Kevin Cruse.

The second group is a mystery group that now meets at our local library. There are members in the group who date back to a club that met at an indie book store 30+ years ago, then in our homes when the store closed. Some of them agreed to pose tonight just so you could see them at work! You can tell who are the shy ones.

Coming up, in case you’re in the neighborhood, the book for March is Ruth Rendell’s No Man’s Nightingale. It’s always fascinating to see what nuggets the various members pick out to discuss, even from a book may not be well-liked. As I writer, I’m always curious about what works and what doesn’t work for readers. One woman might say I didn’t like the plot, but the characters were great, so I’ll give it a 9. And the next person might say, The characters were great, but the plot was lame, so I’ll give it a 2. Fascinating!


I thought I share a little how-to, as if facilitating a book club is a craft, like beading or writing!

1. Collect data. At the first meeting, we discuss who likes what and choose the books for a few months ahead, making sure everyone has a say in some way. We try to be egalitarian with respect to the authors’ gender and ethnicity, the range of subgenres, a variety of settings, and any other group preferences.

2. Set out ranking rules. We use a scale from 1 to 10, where 10 is “best book I’ve read since Poe’s “Telltale Heart,” and 1 means “I threw it across the room.” One member recently added a 0, which means “I burned it.”

In the middle is “I would (or would not) recommend it.” Ranking is based for the most part on three factors: characters, plot, writing.

3. Rank. At the beginning of each meeting, each member gives a ranking with a one liner: “I rated this a 10 because I didn’t yawn once while reading it.” This gives everyone, even the shyest, a chance to express an opinion before things get out of hand.

4. Discuss. I usually start with those who ranked the book the farthest off the average. “How come everyone else gave this book a 2, Oscar, and you gave it a 10?” or “Isabel, you’re the only one who claimed to have taken a match to the book and gave it a 1. How come?”

5. Be prepared. The facilitator needs to be ready:

• with questions that encourage discussion

• with familiarity of the author’s other work to give the current book context

• with insights that get people talking about deeper issues in the book

• with specific passages marked as examples, in support of her/his own opinion or those of others.

Some book clubs fall into disrepair when the talk is 80% social; others prefer it that way. I prefer clubs where the discussion is about the book of the month first, with chatting about shoes and kids a very distant second (okay, you caught us going out for ice cream last night, but that was after the meeting).

I spent many years of my life doing physics and math—very social careers. No one does science out of her garage any more; it’s a team endeavor. My concern when I turned to writing was that I’d never last, that it was too solitary a profession. I’m so glad to have been wrong!

While critique groups (I’m in three of those) satisfy the need to share writing, book clubs are a great way to share what I’ve read, to meet and bring together others who love to read and are eager to talk about their discoveries. Often I’ve given a book a 5 to start with and changed to an 8 after hearing from the group about things I missed.

With critique groups, writers’ organizations, conferences, and book clubs, I have enough interaction to last through the days when it’s just me and Word for the Mac, and, of course, the casts of characters in my series.

If you’re interested having me visit your club, gather around the monitor and Skype me in! Email address on my website.