Unpublished East of Evil is a semi-finalist!

Unpublished East of Evil is a semi-finalist!

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Sooooo, I submitted my manuscript to the Royal Palm Literary Awards contest because the judges give wonderful feedback on what they like and what they see needs improvement.

The Compass Crimes series overlaps a few categories, so I entered it in two–Mystery or Crime and Thriller or Suspense.

East of Evil is a semi-finalist in the 2022 Royal Palm Literary Awards
East of Evil is a semi-finalist in the 2022 Royal Palm Literary Awards

East of Evil is a semi-finalist in the unpublished Mystery or Crime AND Thriller or Suspense categories.

This may seem like a small thing in the big scheme of life, but I am embracing it because I really needed good news.

My mother–my most devoted fan–passed away last week. Calling family and friends to tell them is soul-crushing. All have been kind.

My best friend and an uncle and aunt are traveling from afar to spend the weekend, which will be healing.

Thank you to everyone on social media, at church, and elsewhere for your kindness.

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The Story Behind the Strong Heroine

Cessna Centurion 210

West of Famous developed from a desire to create powerful women role models. This is the third book in the Compass Crimes collection. The stories are connected by the ensemble cast of characters whose lives intersect because of crimes. Like the previous two books, this one features a heroine whose life is overturned by a crime, but she does not react as a victim waiting like a fairy tale princess to be rescued.

I was raised on stories like Cinderella, but I wanted my stories to be more like the 1998 movie Ever After. My favorite scene in that updated version of the Cinderella story is when Drew Barrymore, playing Danielle, rescues the prince from a band of gypsies.

In West of Famous, Martina Ramos is mistaken for a celebrity by kidnappers. She does not have the option of waiting to be rescued because only the kidnappers know where she is, and they don’t value her life. Those who value her life don’t know she’s missing.

My desire to create strong women role models comes from a deep-seated sense of rebellion. When I was in grade school oh, so long ago, society expected girls to choose from a short list of roles: teacher, nun, wife, and mother, nurse, secretary, waitress, or stewardesses. But I wanted to write. It was as though all other career options were considered unsuitable for good girls. To say I wanted to write was tantamount to declaring I wanted to be homeless or insane. An outlier. An outcast.

Like Sara Paretsky so brilliantly describes in Writing in the Age of Silence, women have been told by society to be quiet, to keep their opinions to themselves, to be seen and not heard. But Dorothy Parker, Pearl S. Buck, Harriet Tubman, Virginia Woolf, and Harper Lee told entertaining stories that challenged people’s perceptions about the status quo.

My high school guidance counselor tried to dissuade me from going to college even though I was an honors graduate. By then I’d already started earning money as a writer. I told her that if she wasn’t going to help me, she should get out of my way. So off I went to Indiana University to earn a degree in journalism.

I write stories about bold women who fight to overcome whatever life throws at them because we need role models like that.

I have one. While I was in college, my mother was widowed for the second time. So, after raising three children and surviving two toxic marriages, she announced at age 55 she had quit her job as a legal secretary to go to law school. It was as inspiring as it was heartbreaking that she was finally going to do what she wanted to do.

I’d like to be a bold role model for my daughter Jessica, but if she gets any bolder, I’ll have to raise bail. There is quite a strong similarity between her and the heroine of West of Famous, but don’t tell her that.


This article first appeared in Mystery Scene Magazine, Winter 15, 2019 edition.

By the way, In my forties I fulfilled a lifelong dream and earned my pilot’s license. Only 6% of pilots are women, so yeah, this was life-affirming and empowering. I then earned my instrument-rating. My husband also flies, so we have to take turns to prevent a wrestling match into the cockpit. I want to lead by example and encourage other women to be bolder.


Podcast Interview with Frank Zafiro

Frank Scalise (a.k.a. Frank Zafiro) is a cool guy. In the US Army he served in Military Intelligence. After that he rose through the ranks at the Spokane Police Department as an officer, detective, and retired as a Captain after twenty years. An avid reader, he had written some stories over the years.

Author Frank Scalise (aka Frank Zafiro)

In “retirement” he launched his writing career. With 27 books published and more on the way, he writes non-fiction under his real name. His River City series of police procedurals put him on the literary map. River City is a fictional version of Spokane. His pen name for his multiple crime series is Frank Zafiro. He has been featured as the Amazon’s top author of police procedurals.

As if that isn’t enough to fill his time, Frank also produces a podcast series called Wrong Place / Write Crime. Frank’s podcasts feature interviews with authors of crime, thrillers, suspense, and mysteries, and more.

We met at Bouchercon 2018 in St. Petersburg, Florida. My friend Donna Kelly and I were wandering the halls of the Vinoy Renaissance the day before the conference began. As newbies to the conference and the beautiful Vinoy resort, we wanted to get our bearings. Okay, yeah, we were goofing off.

Bouchercon lineup

Donna in the author’s lineup.

Dangerous passage.

We met Frank. Charming, funny, and just as eager as we were to discover Bouchercon, Frank admitted this was his first Bouchercon. Like kids at a theme park, we ran into each other over the following days to swap stories of meeting our literary heroes and all the free books we’d scored.


Michael Connelly signs a book or two for Donna.


Laura Lippman autographed a book for me.

Bouchercon authors

Hank Phillippi Ryan autographed a book for me!


Donna Kelly meets Lee Child.


Author Kerry Lonsdale put a selfie of us on her blog a few years ago, so…


Authors Christine King and Diane Capri shared writing stories.

What is Bouchercon?

“Fill a hotel with few thousand socially-challenged introverts, folks for whom the ‘I’d rather be reading’ T-shirt was created, and force them to spend a long autumn weekend together, and what have you got? Bouchercon—and you’d be a fool to miss it.”~Lawrence Block

Bouchercon meeting roomAt the end of the conference, Frank invited me to schedule an interview for his podcast. We recorded it on February 7th. As a three-book author, I was thrilled to be included on his podcast. He’s interviewed best-selling and award-winning authors such as, Christopher Moore, Joe Clifford, Eric Beetner, Larry Kelter, and Dave Zeltersman. They talk about their experiences in turning a novel into a film, collaborating with other authors, the writing craft, and fearing that their internet searches put them on government watch lists.

Though I won’t be able to attend this year’s Bouchercon in Dallas, I know Frank will. He’s earned another fan by being himself. Frank is a cool guy. Frank is also an amazing author of crime fiction.

To listen to his 10-minute podcast with me, click here: Episode 33.

Thank you, Frank! You are a gentleman and a dangerously fun guy.