Category: blog

November 14th meeting: Forensic Geology; Art of the Ending

Arthur Conan Doyle’s sleuth, Sherlock Holmes, utilized forensic geology in his first case, A Study in Scarlet. In the 128 years since, other mystery writers and numerous television episodes and films have incorporated geologic clues in their stories. But what is forensic geology, and how can we, as crime writers, use geologic clues in our mysteries? Join us in welcoming Susan Cummins Miller, author of the Frankie MacFarlane, Geologist, mysteries, who will give a broad overview of Forensic Geology, including examples of the ways the science has been used to solve criminal cases in the past.

We’ll have a delicious lunch, and a fun book drawing.

In the afternoon session, Susan Cummins Miller will present “Act III: The Art of the Ending.” What makes a good ending to a novel? Charles Dickens wrote two different endings for Great Expectations. Ernest Hemingway considered 47 different endings to A Farewell To Arms, including one suggested by F. Scott Fitzgerald. We’ll explore the elements of a satisfying ending, followed by a group discussion. Please bring examples of endings that worked for you—or didn’t—for the discussion.

SUSAN CUMMINS MILLER, a research affiliate of the University of Arizona’s Southwest Institute for Research on Women, is a recovering field geologist and college instructor in geology, paleontology, and oceanography. Chasm, sixth in her award-winning Frankie MacFarlane, Geologist, mystery series, was released in 2015. Miller edited A Sweet, Separate Intimacy—Women Writers of the American Frontier, 1800-1922, and her award-winning poems, short stories, and essays have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies.

RSVP by 9:30 am, Wednesday, November 11th to save your place. $25 non-members includes lunch. $20 RSVP’d members. Pay at the door. RSVP by clicking the button at, or email See you there!

Note: Our December meeting’s afternoon segment is Celebration of the Written Word, an opportunity for our members to do a short reading of their work. If you would like to read, please let Kay, our Speaker Chair, know.

September 12, 2015 meeting – Protection Details; Writing Support; Contest Winners (plus new location and prices)

Two important notes this month:

New Meeting Place: Hotel Tucson City Center InnSuites, Buckley Room, 475 N Granada Avenue (further directions below)

New Prices: Unfortunately, finding adequate space for our growing group is raising our costs, so meetings will now be $20 for RSVPed members; $25 non-members

More on the location:

Find a map here:

The hotel is at Granada and 6th Street/St.Mary’s, on the South side of the road; it is just east of I-10 (take St. Mary’s exit)

For those coming from the north side, you can take Oracle Road south (turns into Main and then Granada)

The Buckley Room: From the hotel main entrance, go to your left between the two staircases. (There should be signs.)

Now, on to the meeting announcement….

VIPs require protection — it’s not just a job for the Secret Service. What goes into planning and executing a protection detail, and is it as exciting as TV and the movies make it out to be? Join us in welcoming AMW member Larry Bergsgaard, whose career in law enforcement spanned nearly 30 years, first with the U.S. Treasury and later with Minnesota’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, including experience in covert investigations, SWAT, firearms training, and participating in protection details.

We’ll have a delicious lunch, a fun book raffle, and announce the winners of our short story contest!

In the afternoon session, members of Gecko Gals, Inc., will talk to us about finding support for your writing. Hint: it’s more than just writing critiques! The ladies will share tips on finding that support and all the wonderful things that sharing the writing life can bring.  The Gecko Gals have been together under that moniker for about 5 years, and are the force behind the All-Zona Book Fest.

RSVP by 9:30 am, Wednesday, September 9th to save your place. $25 non-members includes lunch. $20 RSVP’d members. Pay at the door. RSVP by clicking the button at, email or call our Membership Chair, Beverly Collins, at 520-433-0738. See you there!


Links for April 15

Thanks to our wonderful speakers from last weekend’s meeting!  Workshop speaker Ethel Lee Miller posted some nice comments and a picture to our FB page if you want to take a look.

Ethel talked about guest blogging.  Well guess what? We’ve got space right here. I’ve been trying (and sometimes failing) to get a post up every week, usually just some links as you see below. However, if you’re a member and you’ve got some words of wit and wisdom on some aspect of writing, I’d love to give you some space to air it! If you’re interested, contact me (Kelly) at

Now for the links….a few things that might be useful to you:

  • Query Shark – A blog of an agent doing occasional query critiques.  Lots of useful information-by-example if you go through the archives, including “queries that got to yes” (scroll down, list is on the left).
  • Author Meg Gardiner and an editor doing first-page critiques (also good information-by-example).
  • A writing income post by Kameron Hurley.  Traditionally published fantasy/SF writer, but still some good data on the long haul – that most people aren’t going to be making big bucks right out of the gate, and it’s not going to be the same year-to-year.
  • Please Shut Up: Why Self-Promotion as an Author Doesn’t Work. Granted, Delilah Dawson has a publisher and therefore has at least a bit of publicity and reach, but she also makes some good points about the use of social media.
  • The Arizona Professional Writers are holding a luncheon on April 22 on “Writing the West” with some Tucson-based western history writers (presentations and open forum).  More details at the link. (Appears to be free event, but you buy your own lunch.)

Meeting reminder and links – April 6

Still a chance to RSVP for this Saturday’s meeting! Please RSVP by 9:30 am Wednesday. Details here:

Another handful of links for this week:

Having trouble with your story ending? Here are some common issues in Confronting the Truth About Endings.

A book marketing truth few experts will admit.

Frame of Reference. This is a long piece, but rather interesting. Will your readers understand your references?

Meeting Reminder and Links for March 31, 2015

Don’t forget to RSVP for the April meeting!  You can find more details here.

Some rather random links this time around (no April Fools Jokes here, I promise):

  • Need your protagonist to be able to escape their captors? Here are three ways to escape zip ties.
  • Never been to the RT Booklovers Convention? Do you have a book out and available for sale in the US (or will by April 1, 2016)? One author is holding a contest to give away hotel accommodations and a membership for one lucky recipient to the 2016 RT convention in Las Vegas (you have to provide your own transportation), as well as money toward swag for you to produce.  More details are available here.
  • Looking for a convention a little closer to home? Left Coast Crime will be in Phoenix Feb 25-28, 2016!  More details on their website.

Tips for TFOB

TFOBLeaving the links for another week, and offering up some tips for TFOB (Tucson Festival of Books), as we approach this magical weekend….

  • Bring sunscreen.  It’s going to be sunny and in the 80’s this weekend. If you’re going to be there all day, you’ll need to reapply, especially if you’re going to wander the booths.  (And do wander! Lots of cool stuff out there. Like our booth!)  Hats and sunglasses are also a good idea.
  • Bring water, and drink lots of it.  We who live here probably know this already, but always good to be reminded, especially with a warm weekend ahead.  There are drinking fountains around, so you can bring a bottle that you can refill as well.  Don’t get dehydrated!
  • Bring something to carry your goodies in.  You want goodies, right?  Along with the books you’ll bring with you to get signed or purchase there, you can gather bookmarks and other trinkets from authors and other organizations at the Festival. Some booths also have other items for sale.  Maybe even bring some snacks with you if you don’t want to get caught in the lunch rush at the food booths.  Backpacks are especially nice, since they leave you with both hands free.
  • Bring some money.  You’ll need some for any book purchases, plus there’s food and drink (including water if you forget your own or need a refill), as well as other items for purchase at various booths.  However, the festival itself and parking are free.
  • Bring a pen/pencil and paper/notebook. There will be a lot of good information, and you’re going to want to remember it. And who knows, maybe you’ll find some inspiration for a story and start jotting it down.
  • Leave time to wander.  Yes, there are lots of great panels to see, but do give yourself a bit of time to wander all the booths too (like ours!) and see what’s going on in the community.  Particularly if you have kids or grandkids, there’s some neat activities in the Science City section.  In addition, for those of us who are introverts, sometimes you just need a little time to not be scurrying through the packed crowds to get to a panel.  Browsing the booths can be relaxing.

Any other tips?  Feel free to add, here or on Facebook!

Arizona Mystery Writers will be in booth #128, toward the west end, near the UA Bookstore and AZ Star tent.  Look for the crime scene tape and our new red banner.  Stop by and say hi, and buy a book from one of our authors!

TFOB info and links for March 4

Just another reminder that there is no March meeting, as we’ll be at the Tucson Festival of Books! We are in booth #128 (near where we were last year), which is close to the west end, near the U of A Bookstore and AZ Star tent.  Look for the crime scene tape and our new red banner. Come see us and even buy a book or two from our authors!

A few links since I haven’t posted for a while:

Remember those two links I posted earlier about hacking cars?  Well…The time a hacker remotely “bricked” cars in Texas.  Granted, this guy had a reason to have a password and understand the software, but just goes to show it’s not impossible even now to remotely mess with cars.

The case for (not) using trademarks in fiction. In general, Susan Spann talks a lot about the legal aspects of fiction, and is a good resource. If you’re on Twitter, you can follow her there.

If you missed this from a week or so ago, KGUN9 did a piece on an officer-involved shooting from the officer’s perspective (video).

And last, but most certainly not least, our own Elizabeth Gunn had an interview air on public radio. Yay Liz!

AMW Refresher Course

Since we’ve had an influx of new members and will see more people on our mailing list with TFOB coming up, I thought a few reminders were in order:

RSVPing for meetings: You have 3 options:, email or phone (all listed on every meeting’s announcement page).  Please do not use Facebook messaging, Twitter, the contact page on the website or other means, or your RSVP will not be going to the person who needs to see it (our wonderful Membership Chair Beverly).  This is especially important for last-minute RSVPs!  (I highly recommend using Meetup – it’s easy for you to use and is easy for us to tabulate from. Win-win!)

Becoming a member: Membership is a value at just $25/year. You can see all your benefits (including the $4 meeting discount) here.  To become a member, contact Beverly at

Member Listings: If you want to update your member listing on the website, or submit a new one, please follow the instructions here.  Also, please use the email listed there rather than the contact page – since there’s no way to send an attachment (like headshots and/or book covers) through the contact page.  If you’re not sure what to put on a member listing, just look at some of the existing ones to get a feel for it.

Posting to our Facebook Page: A few months ago, Facebook rearranged how our main page looks, and not for the better.  Now, if you post to our page (limited to AMW members only), it appears on the left-hand side rather than in the central stream.  Unfortunately, I haven’t yet seen a way to change it back.  So if you’re interested in what some of our members are posting, please look at that left-hand column of our page!  Also, if you are posting: we have it set so that we have to approve the posts, so please be patient – it might take up to 24 hours for us to get to it (hopefully sooner).  The FB interface can be buggy and appear as if the post is not submitting, so if you happen to post several repetitive posts, we’ll understand (and just approve one).

Twitter: We do have a Twitter feed.  I have not been as on top of it as I would like to be, but it is there.  I sometimes re-tweet others’ tweets (that might be of interest to writers), and our Facebook posts are connected to it as well.  If you are on Twitter and are an AMW member, let me know!  I’ll follow you and re-tweet your promotional tweets to our followers.  Even if you don’t do Twitter, you can still look at our timeline here.

Meeting reminder and links for February 3

Don’t forget to RSVP for our February 14th meeting. Details are here. There will be a sign-up sheet at the meeting for working the AMW booth at the Tucson Festival of Books, so work some time into your schedule to hang out with us! The TFOB presentation schedule can be found here.

Our 2015 short story contest is now open! Deadline is June 1, so get those ideas pumping. More information on the contest page.

Our link roundup today is focused on the technical.  The more stuff is computer-run, the more vulnerable to hacking society is:

The next frontier of hacking: your car. Car systems are linking more and more to the internet, leaving space for hackers to get in. This has huge implications for self-driven cars, particularly.  But you don’t have to look ahead to use this in a story – this article points out that those insurance company-provided plug-ins (that give them data to potentially lower your insurance bill) have no security, and have the potential to be hacked with the right know-how.

Cars not your thing? “Smart homes” are vulnerable too. The newest security measures listed in this article are interesting too.  Could the “FakeTV” and other automated systems provide your suspect with an alibi?

February 14, 2015 Meeting – Prosecuting Attorney; Choosing a Publication Path

gavelThink you know about prosecuting attorneys because you watch Law and Order? Our morning speaker, retired City Prosecutor Lin Scharbach, will give us the scoop on the duties of prosecuting attorneys in Tucson City Court, ranging from criminal prosecutions to appeals and from civil infractions to civil forfeitures in Superior Court. (Disclaimer: Ms. Scharbach retired from the City Prosecutor’s Office in 2008 and cannot speak for their current policies.)

We’ll have a selection of delicious lunch entrees to choose from, and a fun book raffle.

In the afternoon session, agent and editor Claire Gerus will present, “Shall I Self-Publish or Look for a Traditional Publisher?” Changes in the publishing industry affect every writer, who has to decide whether to self-publish or try to find a traditional publisher.  Claire Gerus of Claire Gerus Literary Agency has been an Editor-in-Chief for two major publishing houses, worked for seven major publishing companies, written articles for US and Canadian magazines and taught corporate communications to major corporations. She currently works as a literary agent and book development consultant.

RSVP by 9:30 am, Wednesday, February 11th to save your place. $20 non-members includes lunch. $16 RSVP’d members. Pay at the door. RSVP by clicking the button at,  email or call our Membership Chair, Beverly Collins, at 520-433-0738. See you there!

Side note: the Tucson Festival of Books schedule is out! Plan your TFOB weekend. If you can carve out an hour, AMW is still looking for volunteers for our booth, and there will be a sign-up sheet at the February meeting.  (Also, because the festival is during our normal meeting weekend, we will not be having a meeting in March.)