April 2014 Member Spotlight: Jacinda Power

Arizona’s ‘Bones’ 

By Laurie Fagen

ds Jacinda Powers

International traveler Jacinda Power of Chandler, who has lived abroad for a number of years, says being “obsessed” with mystery novels as a child in Kansas makes writing mysteries an integral part of who she is. 

“I frequently ran around the back yard with a magnifying glass pretending to be Sherlock Holmes, Nancy Drew or Encyclopedia Brown,” she quips.

Her interest in law enforcement also began very early.  At 16, she was selected to participate in the Kansas Highway Patrol Cadet Academy and later won a Fraternal Order of Police college scholarship.

By high school graduation, she had decided the forensic sciences would be an excellent career path, despite no degrees offered in the field at that time. A Kansas Bureau of Investigation agent advised her to “get the most unconventional and broad experience you can to distinguish yourself from the rest of the applicants.”

While attending Wichita State University, working on a BS in Biology/minor in Chemistry, she was employed with their Administration of Justice Department, where she met well-known law enforcement professionals, assisted her criminalistics/firearm professor in trajectory re-enactments and had enough credits for a second minor in Administration of Justice.  She learned the basics of forensic anthropology from Dr. Peer Moore-Jansen and Dr. Andrew Chamberlain, both of whom instilled her passion for the subject.

She holds a Master’s of Science degree from the University of Sheffield (UK) in Biomolecular Archaeology, which is the scientific analysis of biological materials from ancient source material.

That was the start of her interest in bones, and after getting married, she and her husband moved to Ireland where she analyzed skeletal remains in sites that were anticipating construction.

“I would clean and reconstruct the skeletons, and assess sex, age, height and any health issue that might have left its signature in the bones or teeth of the individual.”

A return to the U.S. took her to Virginia Commonwealth University to be part of a team that sequenced bacterial genomes, and later, research regarding cancer “suicide” pathways.  Her research has been published in several medical/scientific journals and one in a European archaeological journal.

Fast forward nearly eight years and three children later, Power has been working on a manuscript that includes a postdoc anthropologist protagonist, also trained in biomolecular archaeology, who will get involved in archaeological and current investigations.

Favorite mystery authors include Matthew Cox, Matthew Pearl, Thomas Harris, Michael Gruber, Deborah J Ledford, Alan Bradley and Jasper Fforde.

She calls meeting Desert Sleuths “serendipity,” and has jumped in to help co-chair the Nuts & Bolts writing conference in April.

“I hope to make lifelong friendships here, as well as look forward to learning the craft from all of you.”


Laurie Fagen, 2014 president of Desert Sleuths/SinC, is working on a crime fiction manuscript with a young radio reporter protagonist. She has short stories published in the past two Desert Sleuths’ anthologies, and is an Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine honorable mention winner. A former community newspaper publisher, Fagen is also an artist, art promoter and jazz singer.


March 2014 Member Spotlight: Eileen Brady

Write what you know

By Laurie Fagen

ds eileen bradyWriters often have varied backgrounds, and Eileen Brady of Scottsdale is no exception. From acting in New York City and singing jingles for radio and television, to working for an architect; from writing for the Scottsdale Tribune to helping with PR for Paradise Valley Community College, it was a her job as a veterinary assistant that “profoundly” influenced her life.

“My coworkers encouraged me to go to veterinary school, traveling all the way to Bologna, Italy to earn my degree,” she says.

With her veterinarian husband, they practiced in Staten Island, upstate New York and now in Scottsdale at the Scaredy Cat Hospital.

That profession also steered her to write the first in a series of mysteries. Originally titled “Dog Shows are Murder,” Muzzled, a Kate Turner, D.V.M. Mystery, is the 2013 winner of the Discovery Mystery Contest and is being published by the Poisoned Pen Press for release May 6. It’s the story of Turner, “who stumbles upon a murder during a house call. When the investigation stalls, Turner tries to find the killer, as her eccentric clients supply her with humorous, helpful and not so helpful clues. The plot may be fiction but the veterinary medicine is real.”

She gives kudos to her editor.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to be edited by Barbara Peters, whose edits not only made sense but tightened up the manuscript in all the right places,” she notes.

She’s currently finishing the second in the series, called “Unleashed.” The tagline: “This time it’s personal, as one of her veterinary technicians is accused of murder.”

The urge to write started with a picture book she thought would “amuse” her daughters, but this Agatha Christie enthusiast quickly got an idea for a mystery and jumped into Rob Hall’s novel writing class at Scottsdale Community College. There she met other writers, including Desert Sleuths member Betty Webb, and joined her critique group.

“The support of this group was instrumental in strengthening my writing skills,” she adds. “I also attended plenty of writers’ conferences and always came away with something useful.”

She describes her reading as “pretty eclectic,” especially since she is now a book reviewer for Mystery Scene Magazine.

“I love Lee Child, Val McDermid, James Rollins and closer to home, Donis Casey, James Sallis, Brent Ghelfi, Dana Stabenow and the list goes on.”

Her advice for Desert Sleuths members? “Write something every day. Even if what you write is awful. That’s what rewrites are for!”

For more, visit her website at www.eileenbradymysteries.com and on Facebook at Eileen Brady, Author.


Laurie Fagen, 2014 president of Desert Sleuths/SinC, is working on a crime fiction manuscript with a young radio reporter protagonist. She has short stories published in the past two Desert Sleuths’ anthologies, and is an Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine honorable mention winner. A former community newspaper publisher, Fagen is also an artist, art promoter and jazz singer.

February 2014 Member Spotlight: Karen Randau

From non-fiction to fiction

By Laurie Fagen

DS Karen Randau

As a long-time non-fiction writer, Karen Randau of Payson has been a wordsmith for a variety of nonprofits, high-tech firms, hospitals, food banks and more. With a degree in journalism, she’s spent most of her career developing marketing copy, and was marketing director for Charter Hospital and Hope Community hospitals in Phoenix, and marketing communications manager for Texas Instruments in Austin, and Intel in both Austin and Phoenix. Randau has been affiliated with the international nonprofit Food for the Hungry in Phoenix since 1990 in a variety of positions, including newsletter editor; founder of the Communications Department; manager of content and marketing for the website; senior director of church and volunteer ministries; and now as communications director. But there wasn’t a lot of time for reading fiction.

“Family and work consumed most of my time, so pleasure reading held a distant spot in my priorities,” she recalls. “I’d wait until my son and husband were on a Boy Scout trip and spend the weekend lost in a great book or three.”

Mysteries with “lots of action and a little romance” were her first choices. Chances are they were written by Janet Evanovich or Nevada Barr, featuring a woman named “Anna Pigeon,” who she says “leads the kind of life my characters do.” She adds she’s “consumed all of the books by Kris Neri, Deb Ledford and Hank Phillippi Ryan.”

Now, with her son grown and her career well established, she’s been wondering “What’s next for me?” It appears mystery writing might be the answer.

“My son came home from a camping trip one day and told me about a creature he and his friends saw on the abandoned ranch where they spent the night,” she recalls. “By the next day, I had a concept for a mystery novel all worked out in my head, featuring that creature. I wrote the first draft in the next few months and had it edited twice. Then I decided I should probably learn how to write novels, so I took a class and rewrote my manuscript again. A year later, my fifth ‘final’ draft is in review. Here’s a blog post I wrote about my journey: karenrandau.com/journey/.”

The manuscript is called “Hushed,” about an Arizona forest ranger and his county sheriff father “who must stop a ruthless murderer before the killer annihilates them and their family.” She says it has a forest creature in it.

Meanwhile, Randau has non-fiction books in print, including Life Doesn’t Have to Hurt, 1991, Thomas Nelson Publishing: a mother and daughter tell their story of abuse and betrayal and offer insights on how to recognize and deal with child sexual abuse; Conquering Fear, 1992, Word/Rapha: advice on overcoming crippling fear, used in the Rapha recovery program; and Panic Attacks, 1992, Word/Rapha: advice on overcoming panic attacks, used in the Rapha recovery program.

Meanwhile, she’s also writing her blog, where she interviews published mystery authors.

She says she learned that “novel writing is different than any other kind of writing,” and gives this tip to Desert Sleuths members:

“Even if you’re an accomplished writer, start your novel by learning about mystery structure, plot and character development and point of view. It will save you a lot of time. Once you do the proper up-front planning, you can focus on what you love most: writing a top-notch mystery.”

For more on Randau, visit her website at karenrandau.com.


Laurie Fagen, 2014 president of Desert Sleuths/SinC, is working on a crime fiction manuscript with a young radio reporter protagonist. She has short stories published in the past two Desert Sleuths’ anthologies, and isan Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine honorable mention winner. A former community newspaper publisher, Fagen is also an artist, art promoter and jazz singer.

January 2014 Member Spotlight: Kris Tualla

Writer bridges mystery, romance genres

By Laurie Fagen

DS Kris TuallaWriters typically strive to develop unusual, interesting heroes for their stories, and Kris Tualla has landed on a very original character for her mystery series, A Discreet Gentleman. Initially wanting to create a historical deaf hero, she made him a private investigator in early 1700s Norway who lost his hearing at age seven. So, in addition to creating believable dialogue, she also includes some sign language descriptions.

Her five-book series with Desert Breeze Publishing includes A Discreet Gentleman of Discovery, about a serial killer; A Discreet Gentleman of Matrimony, detailing a murder behind locked doors, which also received Coffee Time Romance’s highest award; A Discreet Gentleman of Consequence that includes a Ponzi-type scheme; A Discreet Gentleman of Intrique about international politics; A Discreet Gentleman of Mystery complete with a Hansen Manor Floorplan, Royal Family Tree of Characters and Stefan’s Journey Map on her website. It includes a blurb for A Woman of Choice from Scottsdale’s Diana Gabaldon, best-selling author of the highly acclaimed Outlander series.

This Jill of many trades ­– former high school special education teacher, fast-food server and travel agent among them – grew up on the Nancy Drew series, saying “she transported me to another world.”

Also a romance writer and active member of Romance Writers of America, she created Arizona’s first romance-reader event called “Arizona Dreamin’” which is slated for May 30 to June 1 at Chandler’s The Windmill Inn & Suites.

Tualla has also written two Kindle books for writers: A Primer for Beginning Authors and Becoming an Authorpreneur, both available through her website or on Amazon.com. Often heard exclaiming her tagline “Norway is the new Scotland!” Tualla is an enthusiastic speaker and teacher who talks to groups about book promotion, branding, book trailers, adding humor and more.

She’s currently working on a new Renaissance trilogy, but says crimes might “pop up” in them as well, and turn them into mysteries.

She shares a writing tip with Desert Sleuths’ members about encouraging beta or first readers for your manuscripts.

“Have several people read your work and give you honest feedback before you submit or publish. Too many aspiring authors are skipping that important step, and self-publishing bad manuscripts,” she explains.

This busy author and mother of four can be found at a number of book-signing events this spring: She’ll be at the Chocolate Affaire in Glendale from Feb. 7-9, with info at www.eventcrazy.com/Glendale-AZ/events/details/51260-Glendale-Chocolate-Affaire; Tucson Festival of Books March 15-16, www.tucsonfestivalofbooks.org and Desert Dreams book signing at Tempe Mission Palms in Tempe from 7 to 8:30 p.m. April 5,  www.desertroserwa.org/conferences/Phoenix-Romance-Writers-Book-Signing.php.

Above all, she leaves us with this advice: “Write what you read, write what you love, and write what you can be proud of.”

Laurie Fagen, 2014 president of Desert Sleuths/SinC, has her second short story published in SoWest: Crime Time, and is working on a crime fiction manuscript with a young radio reporter protagonist. An Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine honorable mention winner and former community newspaper publisher, Fagen is also an artist, art promoter and jazz singer.

December 2013 Member Spotlight: Susan Cummins Miller

DS Susan Cummins MillerHeroine Takes on Writer’s Unique Career

by Laurie Fagen 

Many writers tap into their professional backgrounds ­– as police officers, television reporters, FBI agents ­– to create characters and settings. So does Susan Cummins Miller of Tucson, but her credentials and interest in geology, oceanography, paleontology and archeology, to name a few, make for a distinctive protagonist in her “Frankie MacFarlane, Geologist” mystery series. She now has five books published, one due out in 2014 and another one she’s currently working on.

Following a decade as a field geologist with the US Geological Survey, Bureau of Land Management and Minerals Management Service in Menlo Park, CA, Cummins Miller was “reorganized out of a job.” Her first son had just been born, so she began teaching geology and oceanography in the San Francisco area, and says she planned to return to field geology and pursue a Ph.D. when her boys were in school full time.

“But a move to Washington, D.C. confirmed that my eldest son was a special-needs child,” she explains. “Although no one could put a name to his particular suite of problems – much later identified as Asperger’s Syndrome – I recognized that he required a structured environment and intense parenting.”

Four years later, the family moved to Tucson, and Cummins Miller looked for a way to work from home that would allow her to keep her hand in geoscience, ecology, literature and history – through writing crime fiction.

Her first in this series, Death Assemblage, published in 2002 by Texas Tech University Press, sees Frankie MacFarlane studying Paleozoic and Mesozoic sedimentary rocks in the mountains west of Pair-a-Dice, Nevada. But the discovery of two bodies disrupts her research, and “embroils her in a web of ancient and recent murders, a manhunt, kidnappings and blackmail.”

Detachment Fault, 2004, finds her heroine investigating three deaths, the antiquities trade and international money-laundering, and the book was a finalist in the Adult Fiction category of the Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Book Award, and received honorable mention in ForeWord Magazine’s 2004 Books of the Year.

In 2006, Quarry was published, set in the arroyos and volcanic mesas of the Cady Mountains in the Mojave Desert. It won the Turquoise Award in mystery for the 2007 New Mexico Book of the Year competition; was a finalist in Contemporary Fiction in the 2007 WILLA Award; was a Gold Award mystery winner for ForeWord Magazine’s 2006 Books of the Year; and was named Notable Book by the 2006 Southwest Books of the Year.

Hoodoo, 2008, revolves around the death of an environmental lawyer in the volcanic hoodoos of Chiricahua National Monument. It was a finalist for contemporary fiction in the 2009 WILLA Award; got a Bronze Award in mystery from ForeWord Magazine’s 2008 Books of the Year; and was the Panelists’ Pick (Notable Book), for 2008 Southwest Books of the Year.

Then Fracture, 2011, takes MacFarlane from Tucson to the San Francisco Peninsula to find clues about a valuable coin collection and a mysterious chess set. It was a 2012 WILLA Award finalist for Contemporary Fiction; 2012 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award Finalist in fiction’s mystery/suspense category; was a finalist in ForeWord Magazine’s 2011 Book-of-the-Year Award; and was a Notable Book in the 2011 Southwest Books of the Year.

The sixth in the series, CHASM, slated for publication in 2014, finds MacFarlane riding the rapids down the Colorado River.

Her current mystery writing project is Rift, where Frankie MacFarlane uncovers clues to the murder of her Lipan Apache great-great-grandmother, set in Rio Grande Rift in New Mexico.

Currently a research affiliate for the Southwest Institute for Research on Women (SIROW) at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Cummins Miller took a “detour” to publish an anthology: A Sweet, Separate Intimacy: Women Writers of the American Frontier, 1800-1922.

Short Stories, Writer Favorites

As a short story writer, the Southern Arizona resident notes her “Owlshead Stew” was published by The Story Teller through the Society of Southwestern Authors. It’s the story of a young woman living on an isolated West Texas ranch at the turn of the 20th century who brings her sister’s rapists to justice. In “The Diorama,” published in A Way with Murder: an Anthology by Arizona Mystery Writers in Tucson, a young boy describes discovering his mother’s body and the clue to the killer’s identity.

Cummins Miller says she loves the “classical” crime writers: Poe, Conan Doyle, Chandler, Hammett, Faulkner, Ross MacDonald, Christie, Flannery O’Connor and Graham Green. She says her “bookshelves are full” of John D. MacDonald, Tony Hillerman, P.D. James, Ellis Peters, Ruth Rendell, Joyce Carol Oates, T. Jefferson Parker, Sue Grafton, Laurie R. King, Elizabeth Gunn, J.M. Hayes and “too many others to list.”

Booksignings, Writing Tips

Cummins Miller will be at the Tucson Festival of the Book (TFOB) Sat. and Sun., March 15-16, 2014 on the campus of the University of Arizona, where she will take part in panel discussions and book signings. For her schedule, visit www. tucsonfestivalofbooks.org. She recently spoke at Clues Unlimited Mystery Bookstore in Tucson, at an event sponsored by the Southern California Chapter of Mystery Writers of America; and was on a panel at TFOB earlier this month.

She shares this writing tip with members: “Books and stories come to fruition during the revision process. But, as a wise writing teacher once told me, ‘You can’t rewrite what isn’t written.’”

She adds that she’s never met an “overnight success” writer, though many “new” authors are touted as such.

“A successful career means tying yourself to your chair, putting words on the computer screen, finishing, revising, polishing, sending out, networking at conferences and workshops – and repeating that sequence ad infinitum.”

For details, visit www.susancumminsmiller.com.

Laurie Fagen, member and incoming president of Desert Sleuths/SinC, has her second short story published in SoWest: Crime Time, and is working on a crime fiction manuscript with a young radio reporter protagonist. An Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine honorable mention winner and former community newspaper publisher, Fagen is also an artist, art promoter and jazz singer.

November 2013 Member Spotlight: Shannon Baker

Shannon Baker - DS newsletter 11.13Moving to Full-Time Writing
by Laurie Fagen

It was a simple fill-in-the-blank question, but mystery writer Shannon Baker laughed when she answered where she lives.

“City, that’s funny,” she emails. “Tucson sometimes. Recently from Flagstaff, then up to Colorado. Yesterday we sold our house in Boulder and we’ll be living in McCook, Nebraska for 610 days. Then back to Tucson full time.”

The former accountant – “My day job quit me in April” – Baker and her family are moving from her “favorite place” in the Rockies back to the Midwest, where she lived for 20 years, and are reconfiguring their lives so she can be a full-time writer.

And it’s a good thing, considering she has two books being released in the next couple of years, and is chomping at the bit to start yet another one.

Yes, It’s A Series
Baker thought her first book would be considered a thriller. She sold it to Midnight Ink and her editor said, “Oh no, this is a medium boil mystery.” Then she asked if it was a stand-alone or a series.

“I didn’t hesitate and said, ‘Series.’ Then I had to figure out how to write a series,” she quips.

Now with three books in the Nora Abbott mystery series, her first, Tainted Mountain, was released this past March 2013 by Midnight Ink. It’s set in Flagstaff and involves man-made snow, uranium mining in the Grand Canyon, Hopi spirituality and murder. It’s a finalist in the New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards.

She says Broken Trust, the second in the Nora Abbott series, will release in March 2014. It takes place in Boulder, CO and involves Tesla towers, Hopi kachinas, a corrupt environmental nonprofit and a threat to one of the world’s greatest natural assets.

Her third, with a working title of Tattered Legacy, will release in March 2015. With a setting of Moab, UT, it has a clash of Hopi and Mormon traditions, as well as Canyonlands National Park and, “of course, more murder.”

Writing Groups Essential
Baker says she’s “been honored” to have had mystery stories published in the Desert Sleuths anthologies, Desert Justice and Crime Time, and credits “great writing organizations” such as Desert Sleuths as being very important to her.

“The support, information and real help is essential,” she explains. “Thanks, Sisters In Crime and Desert Sleuths, for all you do. I’m also a member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, which is an amazing group. And Mystery Writers of America. Writers are the best people on earth!”

To other writers, her “first and best tip is to write.”

“Touch the ball every day, as basketball players would say,” she notes. “The other thing I’d add is to trust the process. For most of us, even detailed plotters, it’s messy and difficult and in every book there is a pit of despair. You swear the book is rubbish and can’t be repaired. Just keep working. You’ll get it.”

Reading, Signing
As a reader, she says she’s “playing catch-up” in the crime genre, and didn’t read mysteries until she started writing them. She says she’s now sampling many, and is particularly “loving” the Longmire series by Craig Johnson and has enjoyed the Murder by the Month series by Jess Lourey.

Meanwhile, she has a few scheduled appearances down the road for the release of Broken Trust, but prior to that, she’s slated to appear at the Barnes and Noble in Denver with fellow Midnight Ink writers on Nov. 30, along with another Desert Sleuths member, Meagan Beaumont. Baker says it will be cold in Denver by then, but welcomes any Arizonans to make the trek. Then in March she’ll be at Left Coast Crime in Monterey.

When she’s not moving back and forth across the country, she enjoys backpacking, skiing, kayaking and cycling. For more details, visit www.Shannon-Baker.com.

Laurie Fagen, member and incoming president of Desert Sleuths/SinC, has her second short story published in SoWest: Crime Time, and is working on a mystery manuscript with a young radio reporter protagonist. An Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine honorable mention winner and former community newspaper publisher, Fagen is also an artist, art promoter and jazz singer.

October 2013 Member Spotlight: Margaret Morse

DS Margaret morseLawyer Moves From Courtroom to Mystery Page
by Laurie Fagen

As an attorney for more than 25 years, Margaret Morse handled cases ranging from “shoplifting mascara to first degree murder” for the Maricopa County Public Defender’s Office. So, in addition to being “a tremendous fan of mysteries,” it’s little wonder when she retired, Morse pursued her lifelong dream of becoming a crime fiction writer. She took courses at PhoenixCollege from James Sallis and Stella Pope Duarte, “two brilliant writers,” she says, and joined Desert Sleuths.

“The organization provided me with ongoing education about writing crime fiction, as well as surrounding me with supportive friends,” she adds.
Her favorite writers include those from the “Golden Age” such as Agatha Christie and Rex Stout, and Morse always reads the newest works by Louise Penny, Deborah Crombie, Rhys Bowen and Donna Andrews.

Attorney Sleuths Solves Crimes
Morse’s professional background finds its way into her short story writing, including in “First Contact,” where a novice attorney “fumbles then recovers and successfully handles her first day as a public defender;” and in “Tiger Lady,’ where “an irascible older attorney learns to work with her laid-back funky new assistant.” Both were published in “Arizona Attorney” magazine, a monthly publication of the State Bar of Arizona.

Morse has also had four short stories accepted for Desert Sleuths’ anthologies: “She’s Making You Crazy,” in How to Survive a Vacation, 2010, about a woman having to defend herself from a crazed stalker while on vacation in Santa Fe; and “Not My Brother’s Keeper,” So West, So Wild, 2011, where a man goes rogue to defeat a step brother who frames him for attempted murder. In “Someone Won’t Leave Alive,” So West: Desert Justice, 2012, a man leads a haunted house tour, then finds a dead body and an unlikely killer; and in “Make the Final Cut,” So West: Crime Time, 2013: to protect her father, a woman tries to hush up a scandal that explodes into violence.

When she’s not taking care of her nine “mutt” rescue dogs, Morse is currently polishing “Rule Change,” a paranormal mystery about an attorney, Petra Rakowitz, who turns out to be the prime suspect in a murder. Rakowitz has to conquer her inner demons and discover a murderer who uses magic to kill.

Morse Offers Writing Tips
Morse, who lives in the South Mountain area of Phoenix with her husband, Duane, shares writing tips with members.
“Write every day,” she advises. “The more you write, the better you write.”
In addition, she suggests, “Write from your heart,” and “Keep the reader in mind: if I were the reader, what scene would I like to see next?”
Laurie Fagen, a Desert Sleuths/SinC member, has her second short story published in SoWest: Crime Time, and is an Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine honorable mention winner. She is also the former publisher of a community newspaper, and is an artist, art promoter and jazz singer.

September 2013 Member Spotlight: Pascal Marco

Pascal Marco

Writer scores homerun with debut novel 


by Laurie Fagen

It was a championship baseball game that got Pascal Marco’s writing out of the proverbial dugout and knocked it out of the ballpark.

After watching the Chicago White Sox’s 2005 American League win, Marco wrote an essay, which got picked up by a national sports website. When the same entity asked the Scottsdale resident to write a series of articles about Arizona’s spring training, he decided he’d better polish up his writing skills.

“I stumbled upon the Scottsdale Writers Group, which held gatherings at the Arabian Library In North Scottsdale. It was at that time that a story I had brewing in my head for almost 30 years came back to me and I decided to take a leap and try to write a fictionalized version of it.”

In two years he had a rough first draft, and three years after that, his debut thriller Identity: Lost was released by Oceanview Publishing, which has his book available in hardcover, all eBook formats, audio and trade paperback.

It’s the story of a boy who witnesses a murder in Chicago in the ’70s. The cops bungle the case and the lad is placed in witness protection. Fast-forward 30 years, and the boy is now Maricopa County’s most ruthless prosecutor who’s never lost a case. Still in witness protection, he crosses paths with the killers again.

Identity: Lost was a finalist for best thriller in the 2011 USA Book News Awards, and has been No. 1 on Amazon Kindle’s bestseller list.

Marco is completing his first draft of a second manuscript, picking up where his first book ended. In it, his hero, Maricopa County Prosecutor Stan Kobe, and sidekick Homicide Detective Brian Hanley, are called to a triple decapitation crime scene in the outskirts of Chandler.

Marco comes from an entrepreneurial background, working for himself in the media and print business for nearly 20 years, and spent time as an educational and corporate video writer/producer. His favorite mystery writers include Douglas Preston, Brad Thor, Karl Alexander, Raymond Benson “and many, many more…just too many to mention.”

He says he “can’t say enough” for the help, support and encouragement he receives from the Scottsdale Writers Group members.

Marco’s writing tip for Desert Sleuths members is, “Keep believing in yourself and remember: to get published, it only takes one person to love your story!”

For more information on Marco, visit his website at www.pascalmarco.com or his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/fansofpascal.

Laurie Fagen, a Desert Sleuths/SinC member, has her second short story published in SoWest: Crime Time, and is an Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine honorable mention winner. She is also the former publisher of the SanTan Sun News community newspaper, an artist, art promoter and a jazz singer.

August 2013 Member Spotlight: Carolyn Hughey

Carolyn HugheyMystery, Romance, Fan Fiction Writer
by Laurie Fagen

Many authors only dream of an editor personally requesting their writing services. Not only did Desert Sleuths member Carolyn Hughey get that call, it was on the recommendation of three of her other editors that she was invited to take part in Amazon’s new venture, Kindle Worlds.

It’s a fan fiction project based on several licensed properties Amazon bought from Warner Bros., and Hughey selected the popular show, “Gossip Girl.” In about six weeks, she not only wrote the novella, turned around the very few edits sent to her and had a check cut.

“I’m pleased to say Lovers, Liars and Thou was released last week and it’s been selling like hotcakes and keeping me in the top 100,” she writes on her blog. “Needless to say, I’m beyond thrilled.”

This from a writer who says she was afraid she’d be a “one-book wonder” – but now has 12 books published. She started penning humorous contemporary romance, and many were flavored with her love for and background in culinary arts. Titles include One Menu at a Time, Dishing Up Romance and Catering to Love, in which she used her background as a five-star restaurant chef and as owner of her own personal chef service.

But as a “huge fan” of whodunits, naming favorite writers such as Lisa Gardner, John Grisham, John Sanford and Harlan Coben, she turned her focus to “mysteries with a twist,” writing under her “alter-ego” K. T. Roberts.

She now has two books in the Gerard-Kensington Detective Series, The Last Witness: Book One and Elusive Justice: Book Two. In the first, the description reads: “NYPD detectives Tate Kensington and Zachary Gerard are convinced one killer is at work, but proving it seems an impossible feat until a pre-teen prank blows the case wide open.” Book Two sees the same characters working on two seemingly unrelated separate cases, but “a baffling discovery entwines them forever.”


Hughey goes beyond mere character studies for the principals in her stories.

“I interview my characters before I write the story,” she explains. “I also give them a Myers-Briggs Personality Test, then figure out the testing scores/letters. Once that’s done, I model that character after that personality type.”

She suggests a good website to learn more: www.personalitypathways.com/

Hughey is currently working on a cozy mystery series called The Cape May Capers.

“The first book is titled Diamonds in the Ruff, about triplets who are amateur sleuths… who have a ‘desperate con artist running scared,’” she says.

But she’s still involved in the romance world as well, and will be at the Romance Novel Convention at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas, NV from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sat., August 10.

For more information, visit www.carolynhughey.com and follow her blog at www.carolyn-hughey.blogspot.com.

Laurie Fagen, a Desert Sleuths/SinC member, has her second short story published in SoWest: Crime Time in August, and is an Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine honorable mention winner. She is also the former publisher of the SanTan Sun News community newspaper, an artist, art promoter and a jazz singer.

July 2013 Member Spotlight – Auburn McCanta

auburn-mccanta[1]When writing her debut novel about brain diseases, Auburn McCanta of Phoenix relied on more than just general research: she wrote from experience. A brain tumor survivor of more than 18 years, McCanta, an award-winning writer, poet, journalist and advocate, developed an interest in Alzheimer’s disease and wrote All the Dancing Birds from the point of view of the fictional “Lillie Claire,” who is diagnosed with dementia. She recently received the IPPY Gold Award in the Popular Fiction Category for the book, a woman’s journey through Alzheimer’s disease, written from a first person perspective.

Previously a popular fiction reader and writer, the Desert Sleuths’ member is currently working on her first mystery.

“It’s such fun, and yet a tremendous challenge to change to genre writing,” she notes. “I honor those who work to perfect the craft of a well-told mystery. I know our group has excellent talent and I take inspiration from every member.

She’s about a third of the way into her first draft about paranoid schizophrenic, Cella Layne, who must quickly find a killer lurking in her group home before she’s next. McCanta says she’s “dropped myself head-first into a complicated twisty-turny series of plot events.” She’s using a murder board—“a la Castle/Kate Beckett”—to help her keep things straight.

The former Oregonian “cut my reading teeth” on everything Nancy Drew, then discovered the classics by Poe, Hitchcock and Dame Agatha Christie.

“I devour the smart and literary style of James Lee Burke, and enjoy P.D. James. I could gather a long list of mystery writers, but those I prefer write with a more nuanced and thoughtful style, without graphic violence. I prefer sleuthing stories—I enjoy an edgy slant, but some writers go beyond my reading comfort in presenting violent material.”

She recommends running with an idea, and not letting anyone otherwise dissuade you. “All the Dancing Birds had its critics from the start, but I served as what I would call ‘a story champion’ until the end,” she recalls. “I now greatly honor those who served as early critics because they helped me produce my best work. I wanted to write a story to touch lives, and listening to my early readers helped me find a way to do that while still staying true to the story.”

McCanta says she’s “honored” to be part of the Desert Sleuths Chapter, and appreciates the goal of Sisters in Crime to promote the professional development and advancement of women crime writers to achieve equality in the industry.

“Our members are always generous, enthusiastic and ready to help one another be the best mystery writers possible. Our meetings consistently present articulate, engaging, and knowledgeable speakers. Our Desert Sleuths Sisters and Misters are the greatest!”

Visit McCanta’s website at www.AuburnMcCanta.com.

Article by: Laurie Fagen is a SinC Desert Sleuths Chapter Member-at-Large. Her second short story is published in the upcoming DS anthology SoWest: Crime Time, and she is an Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine honorable mention winner. She is also the former publisher of the SanTan Sun News community newspaper, an artist, art promoter and a jazz singer.