Category Archives: The Writing Life

Interview with Novelist Rebecca Nolen (The Dry, Deadly Thyme)

Here is a recent interview.

Novel Writing Festival

Rebecca Nolen
President, Houston Writer’s Guild
Author:  The Dry  and   Deadly Thyme
Follow her blog

MT: Do all of your novels have a general theme and tone?

Rebecca Nolen: No. One if for adults and the other is a middle-grade. I plan to do more novels that will go with my two published novels. I’m working on a novel called Deadly Haste that takes place right before Deadly Thyme. It is a stand-alone, too.

MT: Why should people buy your novels?

RN: My children’s novel The Dry is a great adventure story for children ages 9 to 99. It’s a fantasy that involves giant bugs and also, for the science nerds like me, each chapter heading starts with a wasp fact. The wasp facts have nothing to do with the story.

Adults who love discovering a great story to keep them up reading at night, will love Deadly…

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Missing Cats, and Best Sellers

comfortable-catHere I am. Me. Fallible. Ready to disappoint. It’s Friday February 5, 2016 (can you believe time has flown so quickly?) and I have decided that my YA novel, which is in the second draft stage is just toooo darn boring. Well, okay, I realize it’s just me saying that, but it is now on my proverbial shelf, being thought about but not worked on. I think of that shelf as the back burner of my stove, the one with the various degrees of “simmer” which may mean that spaghetti sauce could sit there all day getting better by the minute. Thing is I need to put conflict on every page as my friend Roger Paulding always says in critique group. He is so correct. Conflict on every page moves the reader to turn the pages. If there is no conflict the reader is just going to fall asleep. My YA has no conflict in it, or at least not enough to keep every reader involved. So say goodbye to the YA novel I’ve been working on for two years, and say HELLO to a new murder mystery set in London with Jon Graham as the hero. It’s true. I think it’s going to be a winner. And I don’t mean that in a Donald way. I mean, if you liked Deadly Thyme I think you might like the one I am now writing set just before Jon Graham goes to Cornwall.

But back to being a winner. You see, Deadly Thyme is a winner. I say that because for all of three nano-seconds in January, I was a true BEST-seller. I was #1 in mystery, thriller, detective series and in several other categories. I was so thrilled I think I couldn’t see straight. Yes, I may have actually made a bit of money there. And if the world’s idea of success is making money, then I won in the world’s opinion of best-selling author. Plus, I paid a few bills, or at least I will when the royalties hit the bank sometime in the next four weeks.

Most people don’t realize, and when I say most people I include myself here, because I never thought about what kind of money authors made before trying to become an author. I just figured authors made a lot of money. Best-seller doesn’t always translate into what you and I would consider rich. Last year I went in the hole only $665.00. That’s pretty fantastic! The year before my debt was over $3,000. That’s what I spent getting my books out in front of you versus what I made selling said books. But this whole book idea/plan needs further expose. Let me break it down for you in a super simplified way because I am a super simplified-thinking person. I put Deadly Thyme on sale for .99 for the month of January 2016. Bookbub, bless their hearts, accepted me into their daily deal campaign. I sold three thousand Deadly Thyme ebooks on Kindle alone in one day. For the month of January, between all the various e-book outlets I sold over 6 thousand ebooks at .99. On Kindle I made 35% of that .99. Amazon made the rest. I am not complaining. A penny is still a penny to me, as old-fashioned as that sounds, and 29 cents is still a lot times three thousand. Compare that to what happens when a traditionally published big-name author sells their e-book for $14.99 on Amazon. Check this out! The publisher makes 15%, the author’s agent makes 15%, and because it isn’t in the price range of 2.99 to 9.99 with Amazon (that’s the 70% profit range) the profit is only registering at 35%, Amazon is making the rest. The author is taking home 35% of that $14.99, less 15% less 15%. Oh bother, as Winnie-the-Pooh would say.

Deadly Haste. There, I’ve said the title of my new effort. I even found the most gorgeous Byron quote for it. “Now hatred is by far the longest pleasure; men love in haste, but they detest at leisure.” So apropos. Don’t be mad. I love really cool classical quotes. Morris would be pleased. My setting is Harrow a northwest borough of London. And there are missing cats involved here.

Full disclosure. This is a preliminary draft and I realize that as time goes by what I love won’t always get to “stick” because, though I love it, the “thing” no matter what it is doesn’t always move the plot forward. I am all about story. I want you, my precious readers, to enjoy my story. If my little beloved “thing” — like missing cats, doesn’t move the story forward it’s going to be kicked outside into the snow.

I know, it makes me sad, too.

So this is the news from my end. I hope you all are enjoying a little quiet and comfort wherever you are. Stay warm. It is cold out there.

Live: Streamed and Mean

2144b0e39d9cc6de978721e05b2818cdThis Thursday, January 21  at 5:45 p.m. There will be an interview, 20 mins. live on 90.1 fm, Houston. streamed and archived on The topic Deadly Thyme. The interviewer will be Michael Woodson. The interviewed will be R. L. Nolen.

Did You Know I’m a Woman of Mystery?

Shhhh. My affiliation as Secret Agent Danger-woman with this world-famous group of women is little known. What we do and who we are has been kept under-wraps for centuries.  For a sneak peek at what we are up to you must meet with us to see us in action.

Today, December 12, 2015 The Women of Mystery will be at Murder by the Book bookstore on Bissonnett at 4:30.  I hope you’ll join us.

Character Writing Tips for Fiction


I think the grand girl is contemplating saving me from the Mastodon.

Some writers say your writing should be all about the story. Some say you can’t have good story without plot. Others say you can’t have good story without great characters. Plot, characters, story, tension, craft, are all necessary ingredients for a great book, and when well done are what people love about a good novel.

A REVIEW: I read another novel by Elizabeth George. The first one I’ve read of her’s that isn’t set in England. It is set instead on Whidbey Island off the coast of Washington State where E. George lives. The novel is called The Edge of Nowhere and is about a girl who can hear other people’s thought – though they come to her jumbled. Honestly, I didn’t like it nearly as much as George’s Inspector Lynley series. The Edge of Nowhere is a Young Adult book though it isn’t  classified as one. The story is good and some of the characters are well developed. Here is the plot’s premise – Becca’s ability to hear thoughts puts her at risk from her criminal stepfather, so she and her mother escape, Becca to Whidbey Island and her mother trying to lead the trail away like a mama bird, drives to Canada. I found myself skipping ahead through a lot of the book. I never found myself attached to Becca’s character. There were plot holes such as –  why Becca would bury her phone under some leaves just because she called 911 with it. That made no sense and no matter what excuse was created, it still made no sense. Another glaring hole appeared midway through the book – after the first pages the stepfather reappeared briefly at the very end of the book.  I’m supposed to buy the next book in order to find out what happened with him. I can’t bring myself to do it.

Why did Becca never appeal to me? Perhaps I grow tired of the “character must have a flaw” device. Just because Becca can hear other people’s thoughts and it bothers her does not make me like her. I can not relate to her at all.

When writing character I think the most important aspect to add is the likeability factor. The best way to do this I learned from a little book about playwriting that every writer should read, Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. The way to make your MAIN character likable is to have him do something for someone or something the first time we meet him or her. If the reader can sympathize or empathize with the main character because they were kind in some way, you’ve created a good character. This works a hundred percent of the the cat If the author does this with minor characters, that’s great, but the reader doesn’t want to invest time liking a character who may or may not remain with the story.

This is just a few thoughts I’ve been thinking. Enjoy the lovely fall weather.

Here is a good article  – Character Writing Tips for Fiction Writers

Reading for Fun: What??!!?

Kathy Murphy is coming to town!

kathy murphyTo kick off the First Indiepalooza, HWG welcomes guest speaker Kathy L. Murphy, Founder of the Pulpwood Queens Book Clubs and Author of “The Pulpwood Queens’ Tiara Wearing, Book Sharing Guide to Life” – Beauty and the Book. Barnes and Noble wrote: “When licensed cosmetologist turned publisher’s rep Kathy Patrick lost her job due to industry cutbacks, she wasn’t deterred. One year later, she opened Beauty and the Book, the world’s only combination beauty salon/bookstore. Soon after, she founded The Pulpwood Queens of East Texas – a reading group that dared to ask, “Does a book club have to be snobby to be serious?” The idea spread like wildfire. Now there are about 70 chapters nationwide. The overriding rule – aside from wearing the club’s official tiara, hot pink, and leopard print outfits – is that the groups must have fun. The club’s mission: To get America reading.

Come join us and hear Kathy’s story as she shares her thoughts on the special relationship between authors and book clubs.


September 25, 26, Crowne Plaza Galleria

sign up:


NEW Deadly Thyme cover for EbookLast spring Deadly Thyme won first place in Young Adult with Texas Association of Authors. Today, I just found out Deadly Thyme won first place in psychological suspense with the CLUE Awards.  I’m so thrilled!! Two First Place awards for Deadly Thyme!!

Chanticleer Book Reviews

Reviews, Writing Competitions, & Author Services


The CLUE 2014 AWARDS FIRST PLACE Category Winners for Suspense and Thriller Novels


Chanticleer Book Reviews is honored to announce the First Place Category Winners for the CLUE  AWARDS 2014 for Suspense and Thriller Novels, a division of Chanticleer Blue Ribbon Writing Competitions.

Clue Awards for Suspense Thriller NovelsThe CLUE Awards recognize emerging new talent and outstanding works in the genre of  Suspense and Thriller Fiction. The First Place Category Winners will be recognized at the Chanticleer Authors Conference and Awards Gala held in late September 2015.

Chanticleer Reviews is proud to be a literary affiliate of the Historical Novel Society.

Congratulations to The CLUE FIRST PLACE Category 2014 Award Winners:

  • Historical: Rachel B. Ledge for The Red Ribbon  
  • Romantic Suspense: Mimi Barbour for Special Agent Francesca  
  • International Intrigue/World Events: Lawrence Verigin for The Dark Seed
  • Contemporary Mystery/Suspense: Pamela Beason for The Only Clue
  • Private Eye/Noir:  Keith Dixon for The Bleak
  • Police Procedural: Jode Susan Millman for The Midnight Call
  • Spy/Espionage: Michelle Daniel for The Red Circle
  • Psychological Thriller: Rebecca Nolen for Deadly Thyme
  • Cozy/Amateur Sleuth: JoAnn Basset for I’m Kona Love You Forever
  • True Crime: Gayle Nix Jackson for Orville Nix: The Missing JFK Assassination Film 


To view the 2014 CLUE Finalists whose works made it to the short list, please click here.

Good Luck to the Chaucer First Place Category Winners as they compete for the CLUE AWARDS 2014 GRAND PRIZE position!

The 2014 CLUE FIRST PLACE category winners will be recognized at the Chanticleer Authors Conference and Awards Gala that will take place in September 2015. The CLUE  2014 Grand Prize winner will be announced at the Awards Gala.

Amazon Bullies Again

picture credit. MGM by way of Wikipedia
I go forward with this blog post with trepidation. First, because I’m talking about the behemoth that is Amazon, and second, because I don’t want to scare away my new blog readers. To my new blog readers, welcome gentle people. Please know I remain positive and I do not complain often.

So why is this tiny gnat lodging a buzzy complaint about the giant? I’ve done all I can to try to make the situation right but I’ve gotten nowhere, so I’m blogging about it.

I write reviews. I don’t always blog my reviews so you don’t see them all the time. You would certainly get sick and tired of seeing reviews of books every week as if I have nothing else to talk about. Or maybe you’d rather…umm…err. Anyways. Amazon is picky about their reviews these days. Bless them. I’m all for their little selective hearts. I wouldn’t want to read a mother’s review of her son’s wondrous attempt at literature, and you would not have wanted to read my mother’s not unreasonable, but not very kind reviews of some of my past work. So I’m all for Amazon rejecting reviews written by relatives and close personal friends of the author. However, and here’s where what happened to me has to be revealed,  I wrote a review of a woman’s novel.  The novel had been given to me to pass on to someone else. The other person didn’t like it because of the subject matter, and so, curious, I thought I would read it. I found the book sad, but the ending was powerful. The book was a memoir. I wrote a decent review and posted it. Amazon rejected it. I emailed their review department to ask why. They stated that I was a close personal friend of the author and therefore my review was not acceptable.

I’m not a close personal friend of the author. I hardly know the lady. I see her at book events. I like her. She seems sweet and gracious. But we’ve never spoken on the phone. We’ve never had coffee together. So why would Amazon say I was her close personal friend? That’s nuts. And creepy.  So why does this bother me so much, besides the creepiness factor? Because if they can say that about me, what are they telling people (who may or may not know me) and are trying to post a review on Amazon about one of my books? Yikes! I need all the reviews I get!

It isn’t as if I didn’t email back and forth about this issue with Amazon’s review department. They would not reveal HOW they KNOW about my close personal friendship with this poor author. Apparently their methods of detection are top-secret and must never be revealed. And another beef I have with this razz-a-ma-tazz Mr. Amazon review board is this – how is it reviews that are tragically unkind toward an author and aren’t even about the book are not taken down? What about reviews that reveal all the story’s plots and subplots thus spoiling everything for future readers, why are these not hidden?

I am friends with a lot of authors. I’ve had lunch with Jane Yolen. Bless her. I hope she doesn’t mind I said that. I doubt that she’ll ever know I did. (Shh. She’s famous!) Ha! I could go on and on about the many author’s I’ve met over the last thirty years. (Name dropper? Moi?) I’ve reviewed a majority of their books. Oh my! Will they take down my other reviews now? I’d hate that. I feel like the lion on the Wizard of Oz movie when talking about this. “Put ’em up, put ’em up! Which one of you first? I’ll fight you both together if you want. I’ll fight you with one paw tied behind my back. I’ll fight you standing on one foot. I’ll fight you with my eyes closed… ohh, pullin’ an axe on me, eh? Sneaking up on me, eh? Why, I’ll… Ruff!

Now for the denouement: I forgot to mention that I left something off the review that is of utmost importance and would have prevented this sorry state of affairs. I failed to add to the review these words “The author gave me a copy of the book for a fair and honest review”. It was a “slip of the pen”  – I pressed send before thinking it though, aauurgh! Those words would have saved the day. Unfortunately I am not allowed to go back and fix it. Amazon, the bully, is completely unforgiving of such things. But not to worry. I have given my good review of Mary Perez’s “Running in Heels: a memoir of grit and grace” on Barnes & Noble’s site and on Goodreads. And in those places my review remains.

If you bought a book from me at a Kroger, you may wish to leave a review of the book on Amazon (I hope. I hope. I hope.) but be sure to include the fact that you purchased the book at a book signing. I’m afraid that if these words are not used in some form or fashion you may be accused of being a close personal friend and…and…oh my… how horrible would that be??

Not horrible at all gentle readers. I continue to make many wonderful friends as I sell my books. I hope we continue to be such. Thank you so much.


The Women of Mystery Panel Discussion September 5

camera photos 285The Women of Mystery (I’m one of them. Mysterious me.) will be speaking on a panel at the Brazos Writers of Bryan/College Station conference on September 5. For more information go to and look them up. Below are more particulars. Thank you!



Women and Crime Workshop

9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, September 5, 2015 ● Southwood Community Center, College Station

● $50

9:00-9:30 Registration

9:30-10:30 Life as a PI: Mary Ringo

After two decades in law enforcement, Mary Ringo got her PI license and opened Gumshoe Investigative Services. She will discuss topics and trends in the PI business, especially as they relate to women in the field.

10:30-11:30 Life in The Houston Forensic Science Center: Amy Castillo

Amy Castillo, a supervisor in Forensic Biology at the Houston Forensic Science Center (formerly the Houston Police Department Crime Laboratory), will discuss how her team shipped close to 10,000 cases and how a new, interdisciplinary task force will help solve the problem of backlogged, untested kits.

11:30-11:45 Break

11:45-1:15 Lunch and Jeopardy! Style Game about Women and Crime: Mark Troy

Put your knowledge to the test with Shamus-nominated author Mark Troy, whose latest novel is The Splintered Paddle.

1:15-2:15 Life in the PD: Lesley Hicks

Lieutenant Lesley Hicks with the College Station Police Department oversees the entire CID group of detectives, special agents, and the crime scene unit. She will discuss her experiences as a woman in a primarily male profession.

2:15-3:15 Panel on How to Create a Strong Female Detective, Professional or Amateur

Rebecca Nolen lives in Houston with her husband, a cat, and a large hound. She grew up with a mother who loved all things English and that love rubbed off. Rebecca loves to read mysteries and suspense novels set in England. Her novel Deadly Thyme is set in Cornwall, England.

Patricia Flaherty Pagan writes award-winning mystery and literary short stories and novellas. Her collection of literary and mystery tales, Trail Ways Pilgrims: Stories, was published in March 2015. Her fiction has appeared in Eve’s Requiem: Tales of Women, Mystery and Horror and Spry Literary Journal. She edited Up, Do: Flash Fiction by Women Writers.
Kay Kendall writes the Austin Starr mystery series set in the turbulent 1960s. She lives in Houston with her husband, three rabbits and spaniel, Wills. She worked as a director of communications in The Texas A&M University System for 17 years.



3:30-4:30 Book signing

Register at at the “Brazos Writers of Bryan/College station” site.

copy and paste the below link into your browser if the link doesn’t work.

Brazos Writers of Bryan/College Station

College Station, TX
67 Writers, editors, poets

Formed in 1987, we seek to develop and support writers in the Bryan/College Station area specifically and the Brazos Valley generally. We offer monthly meetings, workshops, co…

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Gay Yellen was an actress, then moved behind the camera at The American Film Institute, then to magazine editing, journalism and corporate PR. She writes the Samantha Newman mysteries series and was the contributing book editor for Five Minutes to Midnight.



Here’s My Wish List for the New Mayor of Houston

It’s been full of junk and dirt so long there are flowers sprouting.

I was thinking about running for mayor of Houston. I’m so not political, but the currant national contestant we shall now refer to as The Hairmaster has a commanding lead in certain polls and this has got me thinking about what it takes to get people’s attention these days. It certainly isn’t the yard signs, or the email campaigns, or the phone calls. Drat those phone calls. The yard signs are an eye sore. The emailing will never get my attention, Sylvester Turner.

So maybe the way to get people’s attention is to say something outrageous. So, are you ready? I’ve got my outrageous all lined up.

I thought it would be nice to work for the city of Houston. They have great benefits, and the pension can’t be beat. I know, I know, I write as a job, too. But writing doesn’t always pay the bills. “The average civilian city worker earning $32,000 per year could get a million-dollar payout for spending an entire career with the city – plus a 90% pension.” says an article from the Houston Chronicle: Confusion surrounds city workers pensions vote – HoustonDAN FELDSTEIN, Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle Published 5:30 am, Sunday, May 9, 2004

But hey, the whole pension scheme sounds great to me, so I sent in my resume and took my entrance exam. I am horrible at taking tests, so I was nervous. But by the third question I wondered if the purpose of the exam was to see if I was smart enough to catch on to their little trick of making it seem overly easy. Ha, you can’t fool me, says I. Question after question was all about alphabetizing names or putting numbers in sequential order. I kept waiting for the hard ones. I came to the typing test, took it, and then the test was over. What? That can’t be right. I made 97% and 50 WPM. Everything was electronic so the results were immediate. I thought, okay, I’m a “shoe-in”. I waited a few days without hearing anything and then contacted the city and was told that I was to wait four to six weeks before being contacted for an interview, if they liked my resume and test results. This is how to run an efficient city government?

A square peg in a round hole?
A square peg in a round hole?

So I come to the outrageous part. Wait for it … Balance the budget!

Yes, I said it. Let’s change the way pensions are paid to city workers. Let’s cut them in half. Let’s cull out the deadwood in the system by putting performance back in the standard of qualification for raises. That’s right, you do a good job in a timely manner and you get a raise. And I’m not just talking about performance from one day of observation. AND bosses do not need to send out notification about performance observation dates. Surprise observation days work every time. In no way will this make everything with the budget deficit right, but it will help. The firemen need to stop threatening to stop putting out fires if their pensions are cut. Get over it! If the status quo remains there won’t be funding for any pensions. A smaller pension is better than none.

One street, one name.

I’d like to see certain long streets renamed. What’s wrong with one name to cut down on confusion? Now that the discussion is about culling certain war hero’s names (I’m agin it) let’s just, instead, change some street names to make sense of our maps. Westheimer should be Westheimer for ever.

Street signs. Period.

More importantly I’d like to see street signs in legible English on every street around town, both coming and going. Just how much money did the city spend to put street names in Vietnamese? That’s fine. Leave them. It would cost too much money to touch them. But we need some names on the same street that the rest of us recognize, too. I’m appalled at the number of intersections with no street names. A lot of them blew away during Hurricane Ike and have never been replaced. Others disappeared ages ago (perhaps during the 70’s when it was cool to hang street signs in the living room?) and these have never been replaced. Case in point: Milam at Tuam. At least I think it’s Tuam. How am I to know?

The laws should be changed to allow bicyclists on the sidewalks.

Too many cyclists are getting hurt or killed on Houston streets. I’m not saying it’s all driver-fault either. I was in my car, stopped at a stop sign and just pulling out, when a cyclist ran his stop sign and nearly clocked my car. He wouldn’t have hurt my car, by the way, but I could have ended up in the hospital with a heart attack. I miss riding my bike, but I’m not going to do it around Houston. There are too many crazy drivers on cell phones. It’s bad enough walking with my neighbor in the evening. These newer cars don’t make a lot of sound, the streets are narrow with cars parked both sides so only one car can get by, and the sidewalks are too narrow for two people to walk side-by-side. New sidewalks slated to be added need to be widened about a foot and a half and a line painted to indicate a bike trail while allowing a safe margin for pedestrians. It shouldn’t cost too much. Let’s take some pension money. Better yet, I’ll get out there with a can of paint myself.

Get serious about fixing the potholes.

The pot-hole-filler-truck comes around our street sometimes. I watch as the metal arm contraption is hoisted out (all automatic like our garbage trucks) and a thin layer of tar goop is sprayed on the hole and then another hose sprays the hole with pale stone. Depending on the placement of the hole in the street this fix may last a week or a few months. I say fix the holes by digging them out and filling with reinforced cement and putting enough barriers up to keep people from running over it until it has dried. Done!

Add enough city workers to the roster when there is an emergency.

Are there any people able to work part-time for the city to help in an emergency? I called 311 four weeks ago for someone to come clear out my street drain and it hasn’t been done yet. My street floods in a heavy downpour. Six years ago if I called 311 they were there the next day. What has changed? It certainly isn’t city pensions.

That’s my plan as mayor. Except I’m not running.

So I suppose after nine weeks of not being contacted by the city I should not hold my breath. In the event the city finds my job application (with my 97% test score, call me Mme Makutsi from The #1 Ladies Detective Agency) fallen behind the third metal filing cabinet on the left, and then they see this post on the web…well, I guess I won’t be getting that phone call. Goodbye sweet pension. *sigh

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