Hyphens and Dashes – The Dread of Misuse!

Hyphens and dashes are two distinctly different punctuation marks and a proper understanding of each will avoid embarrassing mistakes in your writing.

Will anyone get MURDERED as a result of using the wrong one in the wrong place? No, but their proper use is part of the process that makes a writer stand out as exceptional. Use them erroneously and your publisher might just KILL your story without reading further.

There are actually three distinct types of dashes: one is the commonly used Hyphen, andMH900048773 the other two are called the En Dash and the Em Dash.

Let’s take a separate look at each for a better understanding of how and when to use them.

The Hyphen: This literary device, a short dash, is used in three areas of punctuation to link words or parts of words together.

They can be used to join compound words (like good-natured). The joining can be between an adjective and a noun (sugar-free), between a noun and a participle (custom-built) and between an adjective and a participle (good-looking). Modern literature has relaxed the use of hyphens some and such connections are not utilized as much as they once were. Often now you’ll see the words smashed together as one or simply used separately.

Hyphens also join prefixes to other words in such a way as to convey a specific meaning, as in re-cover meaning to cover over something as opposed to recover meaning to overcome some difficulty.

Lastly, hyphens show a word break, like at the end of a sentence when the word is broken into syllables and part remains on one line while the rest of the word goes onto the following line.

Thus, hyphens only join words together and separate syllables. When phrasing punctuation is needed, that’s when the other two, and longer, dashes are utilized.

The En Dash: This mark is used to express a range of values or a distance, and is often used in place of the word “to”. We can express an age range (from 40 – 60) or a distance (from New York – California) by using such a dash. It’s called the En dash because it takes the space of a lower case n in print. Usually, your computer will convert double dashes to an En Dash when adding a space between the previous word and the dashes and a space before the next word.

The Em Dash: This punctuation mark is the most interesting because its use can create heightened drama. For that reason it’s being used more often by modern fiction writers. This type of dash is a mark of separation, not of words but of phrases or thoughts. It’s used for three specific reasons—when something stronger than a comma is needed, when the writer wants punctuation less formal than a colon or when more relaxed punctuation than a set of parentheses is appropriate. On most computers, it automatically comes up when double hyphens are used without spacing between the previous and following words. It’s a longer dash and called the Em Dash because it takes up the spacing of a capital M in print.

This punctuation device is used when the writer wants extra emphasis on a phrase or part of a sentence. The famous grammarian William Strunk, Jr. is credited with specifying the proper use of the Em Dash. He said that it is used to indicate an abrupt stop or change in tone or thought (such as, “But I thought you’d—wait a minute, what are you doing?”), to insert a second thought, update or correction (such as, “I thought you’d be interested—but then you’re never interested in what I say.”) or to emphasize a dramatic pause (such as, “You said you’d come early—and you’re late!”).

In conclusion, the process of editing the written word is a painstaking process. The proper use of punctuation is extremely important to enhancing your reputation as a GREAT WRITER.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

Posted in About James J. Murray, About Writing, Accuracy in Editing, Accuracy in Writing, Achieving Perfection, All About Writing, Blog Writers, Blogging, Developing a Writing Career, Developing Better Writing Skills, Developing Writing Skills, Dreaded Misuse of Hyphens and Dashes, Em Dash Use, En Dashes and Em Dashes, Grammar and Punctuation, Hyphens, Hyphens and Dashes, Hyphens and Dashes and Their Misuse, James J. Murray, James J. Murray Blog, Learning the Art of Writing, Mastering Your Craft, New Blog, Obsession with Proper Usage of the English Language, Proper Punctuation in Writing, Proper Use of the Written Word, Punctuation Marks, Punctuation Rules, The Art of Writing, The Proper Use of Hyphens and Dashes, The Writings of James J. Murray, Tools of Fiction Writing, Use of Dashes, Use of Hyphens, Writing Skills, Writing Techniques | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Veterans Day in The USA and Around The World

1918Toronto_BayandKing_Armistace_DayIn the United States, Veterans Day is the anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended the World War I hostilities between the Allied nations and Germany in 1918.

Veterans Day is celebrated annually on November 11th to honor and thank all military personnel (soldiers, sailors and airmen) who served the United States in all wars.

Originally named Armistice Day, commemorating the signing of the agreement that endedp111112ps-0143 World War I at 11:00AM on November 11, 1918, this federal holiday’s name was changed to Veterans Day in 1954. Each year, special ceremonies are held at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, as well as various other celebrations and parades around the nation.

The first Armistice Day was held on the grounds of Buckingham Palace, hosted by King George V, on the morning of November 11, 1919. Simultaneously in 1919, President Wilson proclaimed that the day should be filled with solemn pride and gratitude for the victory and there were parades, public meetings and a brief suspension of business activities at 11:00AM in honor of the signing of the accord on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.

The US Congress officially recognized the day in 1926 as a national day of remembrance and made it a legal holiday known as Armistice Day in 1938. In 1954, at the urging of veterans service organizations, Congress changed the holiday’s name to Veterans Day.

Many allied nations around the world observe November 11th as a day of remembrance for their military veterans. In Canada, the day is known as Remembrance Day, honoring veterans who have died in service to their county. In England, France and Belgium the day remains known as Armistice Day, and in 2012 Serbia made the day an official holiday.

In many parts of the world, people observe a one-minute, and more often a two-minute, moment of silence at 11:00AM on November 11th as a sign of respect—the first minute for the roughly 20 million people who died in World War I and the second minute dedicated to the living (the wives, children and family left behind who were deeply affected by the conflict). In recent times, however, this ritual has evolved to include veterans and affected families of all wars.

imagesOn this day, take a moment at 11:00AM to remember those who have sacrificed to keep our respective nations free from tyranny. And if you see a veteran this week, take a moment to stop and shake his or her hand and say, “Thank You for your service!”

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them

Posted in A Veterans Day Reflection, Armistice Day, Blog Writers, Blogging, Celebrating Freedom, Remembering Our Veterans, Remembrance Day, The Meaning of Veterans Day, The Price of Freedom, US National Holiday, Veterans Day | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Bobbie Cole – A Versatile, Adventurous Author

This summer I had the honor of working with a multi-talented and busy author of short IMG_1221stories, novellas and novels. Her name is Bobbie Cole and I met Bobbie through a mutual friend—another author, Diane Kratz, who I blogged about last month (see here).

Bobbie, or Sunny as she likes to be called, is the author of 51ag+JYBu3L._AA160_over sixty short stories and as many novels and novellas, written under various pseudonyms. Her latest publications were Memories Of You (Order here), a romantic suspense for Harlequin Carina Press, and the independently published women’s fiction, The Survivors series, at Amazon and Create Space.

She describes her world as a mix of writing, traveling, reading, and spending entirely too many hours on Pinterest. She lives by the mantra, “Let the adventures begin,” and you can readily see why she likes to be called Sunny!


Bobbie co-authored a short story with Diane Kratz—called Flicker—and I featured it in anUnforseeable_Consequences_SMASHWORDS anthology of suspense-filled short stories called Unforeseeable Consequences that I edited and published in August of this year. This wonderful short story is a memorable example of unforeseeable consequences that is the common thread for all of the stories in this collection. The anthology is available on Amazon by clicking here. For non-Kindle devices and apps, please click here.


Bobbie is such a versatile, experienced author that I thought you’d like to know a little more about her life, her published books and about what’s currently keeping her busy. So let’s take a peek into all that.

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself, Bobbie. I’m a stay-at-home-writer buoyed by one son and his girlfriend, a cat, a dog, and nine publishers. I’m old, cranky, and love books, music, and travel.

2) When did you first start writing and what inspired you? Have you taken writing classes? I began out of necessity. Had a head injury (garage door collapsed on me), and my son gave me the chance to get out of my funk. He said: You’re moving in with me, but there’s a catch. I know you can’t sit but fifteen minutes at a stretch, but when I leave for work every morning, I want your butt in the chair, writing. As for writing classes—yes, I’ve taken some wonderful classes! Instructors were Jack Bickham, Mel Odom, and Alfie Thompson, to name a few. I’ve also made marvelous friends and netted terrific critique partners. I can’t stress the invaluable support other writer friends and knowledgeable critique partners add to my life.

3) What sparked the idea for your writing? Currently I’m working on two series, one women’s fiction and the other Native American mystery. For the mysteries, I lived where they’re set, in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, for five years. The stories and legends already in place lend themselves to fascinating tales. Plus…I’m Native. The women’s fiction is a different animal. I’m an 18-year cancer survivor, but friends of mine have recently experienced the C word on a personal level. I thought, wouldn’t it be great to have women who bond first over their diagnoses and then over friendships they form. – And ALL that entails. – Women are powerful. In the first book, A Near-Life Experience (as opposed to near-death), the protagonist swears a lot, lies all the time, and doesn’t have cancer. She stumbles into the group after attempting suicide and decides she has cancer of the soul. After that, following books deal with different women within the group and their life experiences.

4) What is your writing routine? Do you have the idea for the novel first and the character’s story develops or vice versa. Do you use an outline or just begin writing? Almost always, characters come first. I like to think up interesting characters then picture them in different situations. Now and then a plot forms first. But…I confess, I’ve had a title come first, as with a current WIP called Lethal Lasagna.

5) What are your favorite authors/books? Did any of these influence your writing? I love Stephen King and Janet Evanovich, especially their earlier books. Karin Slaughter, Lisa Gardner, Lawrence Block. My tastes are all over the map. I cut my teeth on Zane Grey westerns, graduated to science fiction authors like Heinlein, and then went onto romance and thrillers. I’m sure everything I’ve read has made me who I am today in one way or another.

6) Do you identify with any of the characters? I tend to see my friends more than myself in fiction.

7) If you could go back, is there anything you would change about a book? The latest books? Nothing. Once I’m in “the zone”, it’s a breeze. I wrote an essay for Gloria Gaynor’s book, We Will Survive, and if I could change anything, it would be the Oklahoma City bombing—I was a first responder. I wouldn’t change what I wrote, but I’d certainly not have that event occur if possible.

8) What was the hardest thing about writing a book? Have you experienced writer’s block and how do you get over it? The most difficult thing about writing The Survivors series was dredging up the fear and depression I had when I was diagnosed with cancer. Tempering the tragedy of cancer with the power of humor is hard but rewarding for me. I mean…survival is to be celebrated. Yes, there’s mourning. But weaving everything into a satisfying ending is my biggest thrill in writing these books. Some writers love beginnings. Others like typing THE END on a manuscript. Not me. I like laying down the bones then rewriting and solidifying what is known as the sagging middle. That’s where the real grist resides.

9) Have there been any challenges with getting your books published? I’ve had some goofy starts. A friend worked at Harlequin and called one day saying she was hosting a contest within a couple of days and didn’t have enough entries. She asked if I’d submit a blurb. I did. Mine was chosen and the editor wanted to see the completed manuscript! I had to write the entire book within the next ten days. Luckily for me, Harlequin Carina bought it.

10) What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer? Forget about writing WHAT you know. It’s WHO you know. Characters, characters, characters with lots of emotion. And if you’re mercenary enough, there’s plenty of work for everyone who writes. Think of it as choosing a date. If you’re too picky, your options are limited. But if you open your mind and pour out your heart onto the page, there are some real gems to be found.

11) Is there anything you would like to say to your readers and fans? Absolutely! THANK YOU!

12) Will there be a sequel? Lots of them, Lord willing. I have maybe eight to ten planned for The Survivors and so far about as many for the Native mysteries, with primarily Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek, and Apache characters. Once those are done, who knows? I may return to writing romance.


Please take a moment to click into Bobbie’s social media site on Facebook to learn more about her published works: https://www.facebook.com/bobbie.cole.73

Posted in A Bobbie Cole Interview, A Guest Blog, A Mystery Short Story, A New Anthology of Short Stories, A New Short Story Collection, A New Short Story Release, About Bobbie Cole, About James J. Murray, About Murder, All About Writing, Blog Interviews, Blog Writers, Blogging, Bobbie Cole-An Author Interview, Character Driven Writing, Developing Better Writing Skills, Flicker - A Short Story, Flicker by Bobbie Cole and Diane Kratz, Flicker-A New Short Story, Growing As A Writer, Guest Blogging, James J. Murray Blog, Learning the Art of Writing, Mastering Your Craft, Murder Mayhem and Medicine, New Blog, New Book Is Published, New Book Release, New Short Story Anthology, New Short Story Collection, Plotting Short Stories, Prescription For Murder Blog, Short Stories of Suspense and Mystery, Short Story Development, The Art of Storytelling, The Art of Writing, Tools of Fiction Writing, Writing Skills, Writing Techniques | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Home Brewed Narcotics

YeastIn the rapidly advancing field of bioengineering, some fascinating new technologies are surfacing. I’ve blogged in the past about microbes that were tweaked to produce fuel. Recently it was announced that new strains of yeast are being used to produce powerful narcotic drugs.

When this technology is further refined, the reality could be that yeast will be used to convert simple sugar into morphine and other opiate painkilling drugs—much like winemakers use yeast to convert fruit sugar into alcoholic beverages.

As a writer of thriller/suspense novels, the idea of using such technology in errant ways to create sinister plots is almost as exciting as the technological achievement itself to convert simple sugar into important painkilling drugs.

Ten years in the making, this technological advance was described last month in the journal Science. A team of researchers at Stanford University started with 20 genes selected from rats, bacteria and several poppy plants (California Poppy, Iranian Poppy and Goldthread) and inserted those gene complexes into a microbe similar to Brewer’s Yeast.

The outcome was a conversion of sugar into the powerful painkilling drughydrocodone-abuse hydrocodone (brand name Vicodin). Another strain of yeast was able to convert sugar into the chemical thebaine—a poisonous Class A narcotic substance that causes lethal convulsions but which can easily be turned into a variety of beneficial opiate drugs such as oxycodone, codeine and morphine.

This is an extraordinary achievement in that this new technology could free the modern world from the limitations of narcotic manufacturing from plant sources. For thousands of years, and even today, humans cultivated opium poppies to process into opium plantsnarcotic drugs that control pain. The downside is that few countries permit poppy growing for medicinal purposes at present and the prospect that crop damage for whatever reason to even one area of plant production would create a worldwide shortage.

Having an alternative to crop reliance for drug manufacturing is mostMH900448679 compelling, particularly when scientists argue that biotechnology could be used to make other drugs in a similar fashion or to tweak the yeast strain in order to produce safer, less-addictive narcotic drugs.

At present the DEA is taking a concerned look at this new technology as a possible new illegal industry for home brewing of additional designer drugs. The concern is that if a robust, easy-to-grow strain of yeast was designed to produce morphine, a simple additional chemical reaction would turn that into heroin and a much cheaper, easier method to heroin production would become a reality.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

Posted in A How To Blog on Murder Plot Ideas, A New Drug Abuse Threat, A New Street Drug, About James J. Murray, About Medications/Pharmacy, Alternative To Botanical Sourced Narcotics, Alternative to Botanicals for Painkiller Drug Manufacturing, Alternative Ways to Manufacture Narcotics, Blog Writers, Blogging, Converting Sugar into Thebaine, Designer Street Drugs, Designing Murder Plots, Dramatic Murder Weapons, Future Drug Manufacturing Practices, Future of Drug Manufacturing, Future of Prescription Drug Distribution, Ideas for Murder Scenes, Interesting Murder Weapons, James J. Murray, James J. Murray Blog, Murder Mayhem and Medicine, Murder With Drugs, New Drug Discoveries, New Drug Manufacturing Methods, New Ways to Manufacture Painkillers, Prescription For Murder Blog, Sugar Conversion into Narcotic Drugs, The Pharmacy Profession, The Practice of Pharmacy, Unique Murder Plots | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Venom – Lethal Toxins or Medical Miracles?

Most of us are afraid of venomous creatures—those creepy, crawly animals with fangs or54cab3c65a8fc_-_poisons-03-0711-xln stinger tails, not to mention those slithery snakes with lethal incisors dripping venom. We don’t want to be anywhere near them, and rightfully so since the venoms of these creatures are designed to stop us dead in our tracks.

Deadly venoms are complex blends of some of the most lethal toxins known to man. Each type attacks a specific body part and disrupts their function to disable the victim.

However, those same venomous lethal properties designed by nature to kill can be used in beneficial ways as pharmaceutical marvels to cure diseases and manage chronic medical conditions.

Some of the most notable lethal toxins used medically include the following:

Spider Venom – The deadly toxins in the Peruvian green velvet tarantula can block chronic pain. Additionally, in a study where researchers analyzed 206 different spider species, they found that 40% of the venoms had compounds that blocked the nerve activity that translated to chronic pain.

Centipedes – Researchers found that the Chinese redheaded centipede injects its prey with venom that blocks a sodium channel protein and ultimately paralyzes its victims. This effect has been studied for use as a painkiller and the results indicate a comparable outcome to the pain relieving qualities of morphine.

Scorpions – As with centipedes, scorpion venom interferes with sodium channel 54cab3c5cbf3e_-_poisons-01-0711-xlnproteins to act as potent painkillers. Researchers in Seattle have also discovered that scorpion venom could assist in fighting cancer. These scientists have developed a “tumor paint” which identifies brain cancer by re-engineering a specific protein from the Israeli Deathstalker Scorpion with a fluorescent molecule to make the resulting substance bind to cancer cells and make them glow brilliantly for better therapy targeting.

Snakes – Scientists have known about the medicinal properties of snake venom for quite some time. Some venom (depending on the variety of snake) has anti-tumor properties while others have antibacterial and painkilling qualities. Additionally, hemotoxins in snake venom target the body’s ability to clot blood and drugs derived from snake venom54cab3c703e28_-_poisons-05-0711-xln are beneficial in treating heart attacks and blood disorders. Neurotoxins in snake venom have been isolated also and drugs from these specific toxins have been developed to treat Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases as well as stroke and brain injuries.

Sea Creatures – A multitude of sea animals may hold potential cures and treatments in their venom. One study found that sea anemones and “core” snails produce toxins that could be used to treat autoimmune diseases such as arthritis, multiple sclerosis and lupus.

So when using a lethal toxin as a poison in your murder scene, a bit of knowledge about the benefits of that toxin could help frame that scene and the villain using that poison in a more realistic way.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

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Medical Uses of Lethal Venoms

The venomous creatures of our world—specifically those that include spiders, scorpions, snakes and various living entities from the sea—have weaponry that are some of nature’s most efficient killers.

venom-jamesons-mamba-fangs-160The toxic proteins and peptides that make up the complex chemical structures of lethal venoms are designed to acutely kill—to stop living things in their tracks. The purpose of venom is two-fold: to incapacitate potential food sources and to be the first line of defense against attack.

Various venoms have different lethal effects. Some attack the nervous system and cause paralysis by blocking the messages that travel between nerves and muscles. Other venoms eat away at molecules so that cells and tissue necrotize; that is, they lose their integrity and fall apart (similar to the effects of flesh-eating bacteria). And yet other venoms change the integrity of blood and its components to either of the two extremes—some kill by clotting blood and stopping the heart while others prevent clotting and trigger deadly bleeding.

Whatever the mechanism of action in which a specific venom kills, all are multifaceted and4453-26291-27948-28062tn multitasking. With a single bite or sting, dozens and even hundreds of micro-toxins—some with redundant jobs and others with unique ones—go to work to synergistically kill the target. One article I read about venoms likened a lethal sting to administering a poison to an adversary while simultaneously jabbing the victim with a knife and finishing the person off with a bullet to the head. Truly, venoms are complex concoctions of deadly toxins.

Using any of these venoms as a poison would be a most efficient kill method, but today I’d like to discuss their benefits and how they can be used to improve rather than eliminate human life.

Modern scientific research shows that the same properties that make venoms so deadly are also what make them so valuable as healing medicines. Venom works fast and is highly specific, targeting particular molecules (biochemical receptors) and fitting into them like keys into locks. Most medications work in the same way, fitting and locking into these biochemical receptors on the surface of cells. These receptors receive chemical signals from outside the body (such as an adminsitered drug or the toxins in venom) to produce a specific effect—whether that effect is beneficial or lethal.

paul-sutton-9-year-old-boy-swimming-in-pool-kiamesha-lake-new-york-usaAn interesting example of the benefits of venom was published a couple of years ago in a National Geographic article about a young boy with ankylosing spondylitis, a chronic autoimmune disease similar to spinal arthritis. This boy went swimming while on vacation in Mexico. Unknowingly, he donned his swim trunks in which a bark scorpion had taken up residence. Shortly after jumping into the pool, a burning pain ripped through the back of his thigh and eventually the scorpion was discovered, captured and identified. Since that type of scorpion was common to the area, an antivenin was available and administered by injection.

What happened next is the remarkable part of this story. In the days after the scorpion sting, the pain of his spinal disease went away. More remarkable is that up to the present time (according to the article), this boy remains pain free and off of most of his medications for the disease.

Currently, some of the most used medicines for heart disease were originally derived from snake venom. Other venoms are believed to have realistic potential to treat conditions such as diabetes, chronic pain and multiple sclerosis.MH900405036

I’ve blogged in the past about tetrodotoxin from the puffer fish as a lethal weapon, but medical researchers studying the chemical have discovered intricate details regarding how human nerve cells communicate.

At this point, fewer than a thousand toxins have been screened for medicinal value, but that research has produced more than a dozen entirely new drugs that are currently on the market. Today, these new drugs are saving and improving the quality of human life.

The study of venom and its effects on the human body has opened the door to whole new areas of research into the pharmacological benefits of these toxic chemicals.

In my next blog, I’ll discuss the healing and curative properties of specific venoms.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them!

Posted in About Medications/Pharmacy, About James J. Murray, Neurological Poisons, Blogging, Blog Writers, Designer Drug Deaths, Scorpion Stings, Scorpion Venom, Deadly Scorpion Venom, Lethal Scorpion Venom, Poisonous Scorpion Venom, Deathstalker Scorpion Venom, Prescription For Murder Blog, Pufferfish and Murder, Incapacitating Agents and Murder, Chemical Poisons, Paralytic Nerve Toxins, Neurotoxin Poisons, James J. Murray Blog, Murder Mayhem and Medicine, James J. Murray, Deadly Venoms, Medical Uses of Venoms, Beneficial Venoms, Venoms That Kill, Benefits of Snake Venom, Benefits of Spider Venom, Benefits of Scorpion Venom, Puffer Fish Venom Benefits, Medical Uses of Venom, Drugs From Venom, Healing Venoms | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

From Fan Fiction to Profiles of Murder

Several years ago I met an interesting writer online. There seemed to be an instant connection since we both liked cats—particularly black cats. More importantly, we were both struggling to find our niche in the ocean of new writers waiting to get noticed and realized we had a common fascination—Murder.

Let me introduce you to my friend and fellow author Diane Kratz.Diane Kratz Bio Picture

Diane Kratz is crime fiction writer. She has been married to her wonderful husband Tom for 30 years, lives on a small farm in Kansas and has worked as a social worker in domestic violence shelters, hospice, and in county mental health.

She graduated from Emporia State University with a bachelor’s degree in Sociology, and from Washburn University with a Masters in Social Work. She is accredited as a Licensed Master Social Worker from the Behavioral Sciences Regulatory Board in Kansas. She is also a member of NASW (National Association of Social Workers). Incidentally, she has a spoiled orange tabby cat named Zeak.

She is an active member of Kiss of Death, Midwest Romance Writers, Romance Writers of America, and Sisters In Crime.Her favorite authors include Karin Slaughter, Steven King, Tess Gerritsen and CJ Lyons.

She is currently working on a five book series called Victims of Love. The first, called Genesis, is the prequel to The Dear John Letters with Resurrection, Contrition, and Retribution to follow.


Unforseeable_Consequences_SMASHWORDSRecently Diane contributed one of her short stories—called Flicker—to an anthology of suspense-filled short stories that I edited and published. The anthology is called Unforeseeable Consequences and I thank Diane for her contribution of Flicker. This wonderful short story and others in the collection are memorable reads in that the characters in each experience unforeseeable consequences. The anthology is available on Amazon by clicking here. For non-Kindle devices and apps, please click here.


Diane is such an interesting person that I thought you’d like to learn a little more about her and her writing, so I sent her a series of interview questions and these are her replies.

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself, Diane. I write crime fiction and I have three degrees: associates of science, bachelor’s in sociology and masters in social work. I’m quite proud of those degrees because I dropped out of high school in the eleventh grade and later earned my GED. Although everyone in my family also dropped out and earned a GED, I was the first in my family to go to college and graduate with a Masters degree.As a social worker, I’ve worked in domestic violence shelters, hospice, and in mental health. I love working in mental health. Human behavior has always fascinated me.You can take two people who have gone through similar traumatic life experiences and come out with two very different views of the world. This is what my book series, “Victims of Love” is about—two sisters who came from the same environment and come out seeing the world differently and have two very different outcomes.I also served on the publicity committee of the on-line writing group Kiss of Death. And I belong to a local writing group, Midwest Writers of America where I write a column called, “Writing is Murder”.

2) When did you first start writing and what inspired you? I actually started writing Fan Fiction about eight years ago. I fell in love with the character Robert Goren on Law and Order Criminal Intent. His character and the actor (Vincent D’Onofrio) who played him were going through some rough times on the show. There was talk he would be replaced. They cut his time in half on the show. I’d never been so addicted to a character on a show before. The writers on that show wrote the Robert Goren character so beautifully. I was hooked. When his show time was cut in half, I (Me and a million other of his fans) started to write Fan Fiction about his character hoping to save the show. Well, that didn’t work. The show was cancelled and I still wrote. I ended up writing five books! My husband thought they were great and encouraged me to get them published. Of course I had to change everything in it because I didn’t know anything about writing.

3) Have you taken writing classes? Oh dear, too many to count. So my answer is… yes. I was a novice who didn’t know the first thing about POV, grammar and that all books have a formula to follow. So basically my five novels are all rewrites. Never heard of a synopsis, a tagline and didn’t know I had to promote myself. I’m still a work in progress, as I think all writers are.

4) What sparked the idea for your short story (or your other writing)? What sparked the idea for “Flicker” was Bobbie Cole. We’d just returned from a writer’s retreat and she knew I was in dire need of a mentor. She saw an Edgar Allen Poe contest and wanted us to write a story together and enter it into a contest (her way of giving me confidence in myself). I began to re-read some of Poe’s writings and “The Tell-Tale Heart” had always stuck out in my mind. It’s a story about murderer’s guilt. “The Fall of the House of Usher” another favorite was about an old house and its secrets. And thus, “Flicker” was born.

5) How did you come up with the title? Working in mental health, people often have flickers of events (good and bad) that happen in their life. Then there was the fire. “Flicker” was a no- brainer!

6) How long did it take? I had the title before I finished the story. About ten minutes. Titles are easy for me. The story took about two weeks.

7) What is your writing routine? I wish I could say I have a good one, but I don’t. I kind of got side-tracked when I became a board member for one of my groups. It took up all my writing time. I’ve since resigned and I’m back to writing a chapter every day. I’m a much happier person since I did. I try to write (re-write) at least a chapter a day. That’s my goal and I’m sticking to it.

8) Do you have the idea for the short story first and the character’s story develops or vice versa. Bobbie gave me the idea to write a short story for the contest. The idea came after re-reading Poe’s stories. I always come back from our retreats ready to write.

9) Do you use an outline or just begin writing? I’m a panster. Meaning I write from the seat of my pants. I wish I could outline, but I find that stifles my creativity.

10) What are your favorite authors/books? Ann Rule (Small Sacrifices) and pretty much every book she ever wrote. Real life stories of people who are monsters. I read all her books growing up. Steven King (It) scared me to death. I loved being scared (in fiction only). I don’t know why, but I do. If a book makes me think, laugh, cry or scream, that’s a good read! Karin Slaughter is another favorite of mine. I’m addicted to her books. I’ve read all of her Grant Country series and “Blindsighted” got me hooked. By the way, she won the Edgar Award for best novel and short story.

11) Did any of these influence your writing? I’ve read Karin’s books over and over to see how she spins her tales. She brilliant, in my humble opinion.

12) Do you identify with any of the characters? Sure I do. In my “Victims of Love” series my heroine is Abigail Gallagher, she works as a social worker lobbyist for victim rights and she’s a gifted pianist. I’d love to be her! I’ve also seen human suffering in my line of work. There are some real scary people out there. But there are also good people out there too!

13) If you could go back, is there anything you would change about the book? I pretty much have changed everything in my books! I wish I would have taken the classes and joined my writing groups before I wrote anything. I wouldn’t have to scrap it all and start over. Which is what I had to do.

14) What was the hardest thing about writing this book? Learning how to write. Grammar is also not my friend.

15) Have you experienced writer’s block and how do you get over it? YES! I think getting a routine to write x amount for x days helps. Writing doesn’t even have to be your book. It can also be a blog, a short story. Like Steven King said, “Writers write.” So write.

16) Have there been any challenges with getting your book (or other works) published? I haven’t tried to get my work published yet. It’s still a work in progress. I want to make sure it’s perfect. “Genesis” is what I’m working on now. It’s the prequel to my “Victims of Love” series. It by far has been the hardest to write. It is the backstory on how my hero, Johnny Gaston, and my villain, Jillian Black, meet. It’s set in 1986 before DNA, forensics and databases. I just had to rewrite a character named Elizabeth who originally started out as Johnny’s partner. The FBI doesn’t have partners. So, back to the drawing board again!

17) What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer? Research your book thoroughly so you can write a book with realism. Study your favorite authors and how they write. Learn from them. Join a writing group and learn the craft. There’s a lot to writing a book. But I think READING is a must, too.

18) Is there anything you would like to say to your readers and fans? Hi family and friends! LOL! I love you all! I’d also like to thank my writing sisters—Sunny, Sally and Alfie. Sunny, who gave me confidence; Sally, who sets me on the right track in a story; and Alfie, whose patience as a teacher and friend has taught me more than she will ever know. These ladies have taught me so much. Thank you, thank you, thank you…I’d also like to thank Jim Murray for letting me contribute to this wonderful book and giving me my first publication.

19) Will there be a sequel? Oh, hell ya!


Please take a moment to click into Diane Kratz’s social media sites to learn more about her publishing progress and her latest blogs on murder.

Blog: http://profilesofmurder.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DianeKratz1

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