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The making of the covers for the Appalachian Journey series by CC Tillery [part 2].

via The making of the covers for the Appalachian Journey series by CC Tillery [part 2].


Snow, Sleet … and ‘Sang Tea.

via Snow, Sleet … and ‘Sang Tea.

betty for pandora 3

Story Presented by Author Betty Dravis

It’s my pleasure to celebrate with my publisher Wendy Dingwall of Canterbury House Publishing. I can’t believe I’ve been with CHP since 2011 with three of my e-books, Interviews with Dirty Harry and Other Hollywood Icons, 1106 Grand Boulevard and The Toonies Invade Silicon Valley. Time does, indeed, fly.

Since Wendy has contributed and been featured in Dames of Dialogue many times, our readers are familiar with her and we all look forward to hearing from her.

Wendy Dingwall is the most honest, caring and hard-working publisher I’ve ever had and I’m proud to be part of the great Canterbury House. It’s exhilarating to share her feelings about her business on its Fifth Birthday. Enjoy…and learn…

From the desk of Publisher Wendy Dingwall

wendy pic

Publisher & Author Wendy Dingwall

Whew! Where did the time go? It has certainly been a learning curve and then some. Especially given all the changes in the industry over the last five years.We are currently experiencing growing pains again due to our recent change of working directly with the wholesalers instead of using a distributor. The workload has increased and for the moment the process of new books has slowed as we adjust to new duties.


I am proud to say that we have published over thirty well-received books during our first five years. This includes our e-books.

I’d like to personally thank our super authors for their hard work in writing and rewriting, working with editors and last but not least in helping to market their books.

wendy's books

Yvonne Suarez Mystery books by Wendy Dingwall

I couldn’t have done it without our wonderful editors: Sandra Horton, Greg Kilgore and Donna Akers and our fabulous graphic designers: Ann Nemcosky, Aaron Burleson and most especially Tracy Arendt.

I’d also like to thank off-set printers: United Graphics and McNaughton & Gunn, and POD printer: Lightning Source, for turning out quality books each and every time.

We were pleased to celebrate our readers on our Fifth Anniversary by offering a 25% discount on all print book orders placed through the end of July, 2014. Now that the sale is over, we hope you will still purchase our esteemed authors’ works by ordering their books through Amazon, Smashwords, and other online bookstores.

Welcome to Dames of Dialogue, Mary and Eric! Tell us one strange and provocative tidbit from your life that nobody has heard before.

MR: There is, if they did not throw it out when housekeeping at one time or another, archival footage in the BBC vaults of my riding around the office on Clive Sinclair’s prototype electric bike. It was extremely heavy due to the battery mounted at the back, and increasingly difficult to control. Thus the bike wobbled somewhat as I passed between desks delivering letters. Even so my young nephew thought it was quite the bees knees to see his aunt on TV.

Tell us about your latest book.

MR: Ten For Dying opens with the theft of a fragment of the Virgin’s shroud by two demons while an unconnected and maryreed.tenfordyingblasphemous ceremony is under way nearby to raise a woman from the dead. Murder and intrigue follow. Felix, commander of the palace guard, is ordered to solve the mystery but has to rely largely on his own wits to do so.

Unfortunately for him, an anonymous corpse is left at his house before… and his good friend John, former Lord Chamberlain, had sailed away into exile the morning after the theft. Among the characters are the diminutive magician Dedi of Egypt, Julian, popularly known as the Jingler because he wears so many protective charms his approach is announced by their jangling, General Belisarius’ wife Antonina, and the famous charioteer Porphyrius, not to mention Felix’s newest and somewhat mysterious mistress Anastasia.

When you’re writing, who’s in control, you or the characters?

EM: I am. How could it be otherwise? My characters only exist in the words I type onto the screen. I’ve always thought the idea of characters taking over is a bit of romantic hyperbole. Certainly there is more than a bit of mystery in the creative process. None of us are really sure why this or that idea bubbles up into our consciousness when it does. Why did that plot twist suddenly occur to me? Why did I decide John should say that to the emperor. (That…of all things…boy, is he in trouble now!) Well, perhaps we form the idea of a character in our minds and in our subconscious that idea influences other ideas. So I might admit that my idea of my characters sometimes takes control.

Who are your favorite authors, the ones you read when you should be doing something else? Why do they appeal to you?

EM: It’s hard for me to name favorite authors since I tend to go from one to another. I am a very promiscuous reader. Two favorites though are John D. MacDonald and Mickey Spillane. They are typical of writers I enjoy in that they write things I can’t imagine writing. There’s no way I could manage to think enough like Mike Hammer or Travis McGee to write convincingly about those guys. Which is precisely why I like reading about them.

Promotion is a big–and usually the most hated–part of being a writer. Can you share a little bit about how you promote?

MR: We’re promoting year-round to a certain degree. So we provide guest blogs and interviews, details of which, along  with relevant links, we announce in Necessary Evil, the BSP section of Orphan Scrivener, our e-newsletter. We tweet  @marymaywrite and @groggytales are our noms de Twitter) and blog — Eric has his own blog and I contribute each 18th of the month to the Poisoned Pen Press multi-author blog — and we both provide content to M. E. Mayer’s blog. M. E. is the shadow identity chosen by our British publisher Head of Zeus, and M. E.’s blog is heavy on reviews of Golden Age mysteries, of which I am a great fan. Then too there are appropriate signature lines, varied as much as possible to keep content fresh, on posts to mystery-related elists.

We also have a home page, hanging out on the Web’s virtual washing line at With our website we have made an effort to provide content that is not all about us, so for example it features a couple of games written by Eric, two of our ghost stories, and libraries of links to free e-texts of classic and Golden Age mysteries, ghost stories, and tales of the supernatural.

Who or what has been the biggest influence in your writing career and why?

EM: My wife Mary. Without her I wouldn’t have a writing career. At least not a career that included fiction writing. For years I made sporadic and unsuccesful efforts to sell science fiction short stories, mostly because that was the genre I read growing up. I was familiar with the magazines. Never mind that I stopped reading much sf in my early twenties. After we were married Mary managed, with difficulty, to talk me into collaborating with her to turn a vague idea I’d had for a sort of locked room mystery into an actual story. Ideas, of course, are a dime a dozen. As far as the mechanics of writing a mystery went, presenting suspects, parceling out clues, I didn’t have…well…a clue. So it was a learning process for me. Our  first co-authored story, An Obo Mystery, was set in Mongolia and appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. Over the years I’ve learned more about writing mysteries but Mary remains the puzzle maven.

What do you consider the single most satisfying aspect of being a writer?

MR: To tell our stories to readers we shall never meet nor know. It’s quite startling to consider John’s adventures have been read in places we shall never see for ten books now, particularly since when A Byzantine Mystery, the first short story about our protagonist, was published in Mike Ashley’s collection The Mammoth Book of Historical Whodunnits we had no notion we would write more of them, much less embark on a series of novels. So we are ever grateful to have had the opportunity to talk about John’s world and for the interest readers have shown in it.

What are your thoughts on the standard writing advice, “write what you know”?

EM: Basically it’s meaningless. Or only meaningful in a very trivial way. We all know everything we need to know to write whatever we want to write. Is there any writer who hasn’t experienced basic human feelings like love, hate, fear, joy, anger, curiosity? Settings and technical details can be researched. Neither Mary nor I, nor anyone living, has ever walked the streets of sixth century Constantinople, but we can read history, and more importantly I’ve lived in New York City and Mary has lived in Newcastle-on-Tyne. The particular details are not as important as knowing what it feels like to live in a big city.

How do you classify yourself as a writer? Fiction or non-fiction? Specific genre such as mystery, short story, paranormal or more general such as women’s fiction, Appalachian, etc.

MR: Primarily as writer of historical mysteries. We’ve also written two historical mysteries set in different eras from the Byzantine series and published several non-Byzantine short stories, as well as the Dorj stories set in contemporary Mongolia.

Describe your writing process once you sit down to write–or the preliminaries.

MR: First, get the coffee brewing, then look up any applicable notes for the chapter to be written, then sit down and type and see where I end up. Eric, however, is much more formal in that he prefers to work from an outline. He also serves as resident coffee wallah, an important role at Casa Maywrite.

Were books an important part of your household when you were growing up?

EM: Definitely. Starting out with Little Golden Books and later the adventures of Tom Swift Jr., my parents never failed to bring me a book when they went to town. Most of my reading came from the library though. The family scraped by on a teacher’s salary, which wasn’t what it is today, and to keep me supplied with books would’ve required living in a box under the bridge. Luckily the library was only about a mile distant. When I first started reading I’d come home with a stack of as many picture books as I could carry and in the summer, when I was free to read all the time, I’d exchange them for a fresh stack the next day.

Did the classics have any effect on you in your formative years? (Shakespeare? Alice in Wonderland? Gulliver’s Travels?)

EM: Is The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham a classic? Well, surely it must be. My grandmother read that to me before I could read for myself and it was magic. It transported me to an entirely different world, and one that was in many ways more attractive and exciting than the one I lived in. Great friends, wonderful adventures. So I became addicted to books because they took me out of my own humdrum existence and I even tried escaping into my own writing. I’m not sure it was altogether healthy but it certainly helped form me.


Have you ever gone somewhere – park, coffee shop, subway – and just people watched? Picking people and coming up with a back story for them that most likely, unless you’re psychic, will not even be close to who that person really is. Ever think that’s what happens with the people you actually “know” too? In books, movies and television you get to know the characters gradually. You enjoy learning more about them as the work goes on. Sometimes you know the characters’ secrets. Sometimes you don’t. They’re the ones they won’t tell anyone else, not unless it moves the story forward. In real life secrets have nothing to do good story telling and everything to do with someone only revealing things about themselves that they want people to know. Over time some secrets aren’t needed anymore. Like it’s no secret now that I had a crush on Craig Richardson in high school. But he might not know that still. 🙂 Would I be devastated if he found out? No. I couldn’t care less. But some secrets are kept to the grave.


I’ve read news stories where a wife finds out her husband hired underage hookers and didn’t find out until the police came to arrest him. On his computer they found all sorts of pictures that he really shouldn’t have. She thought she knew her husband. I bet if asked she would have said her husband would never do anything like that. But how do you really know? After all people only let you see a glimpse of themselves. A piece of them they want the world to see. We hide all those other pieces of ourselves. Maybe we think our loved ones won’t love us anymore if they find out who we really are.


I had a boyfriend when I was in my twenties who I knew was hiding something from me. Of course I didn’t know right away. But as I got to know him, got to know his behaviour, his mannerisms, I knew when something changed. And it all started with him getting a pager. This was in the early 90s. No one had a pager back then unless they were a doctor or a drug dealer. Most couples fight about money or infidelity (or possible infidelity). We fought about him having a pager. No matter what time of day or night he would return the page then we would have to go to a parking lot somewhere to meet someone. Usually his sister’s boyfriend (who also had a pager). After months of asking him what it was for I finally said if he didn’t tell me I would leave him. He confessed that if he told me I would leave him for sure. As a writer of suspense fiction I pictured dead bodies hidden all over the city. Or shady drug deals. It turns out he was selling credit card numbers. Not as bad as I’d feared but still criminal. Back then I was still unsure of myself in a lot of ways so I stayed with him rationalizing that at least he wasn’t selling drugs or killing people.


You know your family and your friends probably better than anyone else you know. But how well do you really know them?


Reflections by Cindy Carroll

Reflections by Cindy Carroll

Reflections:  When a cursed inn replaces her friends with evil reflections a woman fights to get the genuine articles back before the doubles kill her.

A road trip goes wrong for a group of friends trying to help one of them get over a break up. They find an inn where the mirrors are cursed. They realize they don’t know each other as well as they thought they did.

Buy on Amazon:, Buy on Amazon Canada:  Buy on Barnes and Noble:  Buy on Kobo:

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Have you ever been to a museum that requires scuba gear?

We have Mount Vesuvius to thank for many things, including the Phlegraean Fields – the real-life inspiration for Dante’s Inferno. But if you’re looking for adventure off the beaten path and an outdoor piece of history that is a little bit more pleasant than the gateway to the underworld, I recommend the Underwater Archeological Park of Baiae.

The ancient Roman ruins of Southern Italy were submerged in the mid-1500s following a series of bradyseism events triggered by the never-quite-dormant volcano. Whether it is more tragic that they fell into the sea, or more interesting that we can visit them today accompanied by schools of fish, is left to the judgment of the visitor.

Antonia Minor Statue

Antonia Minor Statue

The Nymphaeum dates to the first century AD. It contains several statues including the one shown here. The statue is Antonia Minor, daughter of Mark Anthony with his wife Octavia, and great-grandmother of Emperor Nero.

Villa Protiro Mosaic Floor

Villa Protiro Mosaic Floor

Imagine swimming across the floor in a mansion.

Villa Protiro was a large colonnaded villa featuring multiple marble and mosaic floors. Several of them are still remarkably intact, and today’s visitor to the Underwater Archeologic Park scoots along above them, brushing sand away to reveal the intricate designs.

L Pisonis Pipe Identifying Villa

L Pisonis Pipe Identifying Villa

A beta reader of mine called B.S. when I described in my novel an underwater lead pipe with the name of the plumbing’s owner inscribed. “Who engraves their name on their plumbing?” She asked.

Lucius Piso, that’s who.

The fact that the Romans had piped plumbing two thousand years ago is remarkable enough in itself. The fact that they evidently personalized said plumbing is just plain crazy. The Pisonian Villa was identified as a summer residence of Lucius Piso by a length of lead pipe displaying his name. Of course, the main residence of Lucius Piso was the Herculaneum residence known today as the Villa dei Papiri.

Piso was the father-in-law of Julius Caesar.

Aerial View of Portus Julius

Aerial View of Portus Julius

Portus Julius was a massive port covering more than 10 hectares. It was this port that was first discovered from the air during World War II, an observation that led to the ultimate discovery of the entire ancient ruin of Baiae.

Smoky Reef

Smoky Reef

The activity of Mount Vesuvius is perhaps most prominent in the Smoky Reef, a deep reef surrounded by several meters of tall pillars. The active fumaroles bubbling from beneath the sea’s bed lend a smoky appearance to the pillars, and the combination of tall pillars surrounding deep sea bubbling with sulfurous gases creates an entire unique ecosystem between the pillars. Swim into this one-of-a-kind environment with an underwater camera, and return from your Italian vacation with a one-of-a-kind story to tell.

The Underwater Archeological Park of Baiae is just one of the unusual attractions available to visitors of the Phlegraean Fields area. For more information or to book a diving tour, please contact the Naples Diving Center. Snorkeling tours are also available.

Vesuvius Isotope, novel by Kristen Elise

Vesuvius Isotope, novel by Kristen Elise

This blog post explores a non-fictional theme or locale that is incorporated in The Vesuvius Isotope, a novel by Kristen Elise. The Vesuvius Isotope is available in both print ( and and e-book formats ( for Kindle, for Nook, for Kobo reader.)

After 16-year-old Willow falls and hits her head, she begins to channel Cleopatra Lamb, a woman born during the mid 1800s. Cleo insists Willow relay her story, and although reluctant to do so, Willow spends her summer writing the story of Cleo, whose father drifted from place to place after her mother’s death to ensure that Cleo’s grandparents would not claim her. Cleo idolized her father and the happiest time of her life was when he began work on the Stuart farm when she was 9 years old. There, Cleo was accepted as part of the Stuart family and attended school and had a normal life until her father left to go to work in Mississippi but was killed in an accident shortly thereafter. Cleo remained with the Stewarts and had a hard time dealing with her father’s death but eventually overcame her grief and we follow her journey as she becomes a midwife and marries and has her own child. But Cleo’s life is not an easy one and is filled with pain and hardship.
This is an interesting look into the life of a woman who is strong and independent, especially for her time. The concept of channeling is a fascinating one and brings a fresh perspective to the literary world.

The stats are in! A big thank you from the Dames to all who participated!

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 61,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Interview with Maggie Bishop, author of One Shot Too Many.

by Betty Dravis

Happy Halloween from the latest star in cyberspace–the skeleton on the cover of our Six-Pack of Blood!

Before formally announcing the name of our “baby boy” skeleton and the contest winner, my co-author Barbara Watkins and I would like to announce that this is your last chance for three months to get a FREE copy of Six-Pack of Blood. Yes, my friends, our six-horror-stories anthology is FREE on OCTOBER 27th, 28th and 29th. Pick yours up at  While there, we’d appreciate it if you’d push the LIKE button and consider taking an extra second to Tweet it. Amazon makes it easy to help its authors. 🙂

Now bear with me while I tell you the latest news about our skeleton’s name and how he got it.

When Barbara Watkins and I wrote this book we had no idea our cover boy, designed by Matt and Danielle Drake, would be so popular…or that we would feel so much affection for him. He’s an ugly little ghoul, as monsters that grace covers of horror books are meant to be. (Please don’t tell Barbara I said that.)

Barbara surprised me when she began calling him our “baby boy of horror,” speaking of him as though he were our baby. I joined right in and he “grew on us” just as a child would do…well, almost. (You know how real-life mothers think their children are the most beautiful and gifted in the world? Well, that’s how we talked about that bony critter on our cover! And I blush to admit we even baby-talk to him. You know, like Goo-goo, Ga-ga… Ugh!)

Overlooking the fact that he’s just a bag of bones and all skeletons look alike, we love that cover boy (monster or no monster). Could it be because the book he adorns is sprinkled with stardust by so many acclaimed people: Movie Director/Producers Armand Mastroianni and Dimi Nakov, Actress/Producer Katherin Kovin Pacino, Screenwriter Lia Scott Price, Amazon Hall of Fame Top Reviewer Grady Harp, Publicist Paul Payer, Authors John Locke, Janet Beasley and more?

Or is it because this book made international best-sellers of Barbara and me (No. 1 in Horror, U.S.; No. 2 in Occult, Germany; No. 34, Horror, UK)?

Whatever the reasons, over time we came to care for our poor, sweet skeleton with the hole in his brain… We tried to come up with a name for him, but just couldn’t do him justice, so we decided to ask our Facebook friends for help.

On August 16th I wrote a blog, requesting your participation in a “skeleton-naming contest” with the winner winning all e-books published by me and Barbara. To our delight, you eagerly submitted sixty-eight names. We couldn’t believe how versatile and creative you all are. I won’t list all sixty-eight, but you would ROTFLYAO if you read them. Instead I’ll explain how Barbara and I selected the ultimate name:

We each chose five that we liked best and decided to chat on the phone about those names. The five I favored (in order of preference) are: James Bones, Bone Wild, Indiana Bones, Bone-Chilling Bobby and Bloody Johnny. Barbara favored these: James Bones, Jack Marrow, Rib Van Winkle, Bone-Chilling Bobby, Mr. E. Bon-E-Fide.

From that list, it’s easy to see we both favored James Bones and Bone-Chilling Bobby. I told Barbara I could picture our boy bowing as he repeats that famous James Bond introductory line. So even though we agreed on James Bones, we decided to seek his opinion. When he read our narrowed-down list, his bones rattled from laughing so hard when he came to Bone Wild, Indiana Bones, Bone-Chilling Bobby and all the ones referring to Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow character. But when he came to Catherine Zeta-Bones he would’ve split a gut by laughing so hard–if he had any guts left, that is.

We knew he had chosen right, though, when our endearing skeleton stood, bowed suavely before us and said, “My name is BonesJames Bones.”

And when he grabbed a top-hat and joined me and Barbara in the Happy Dance, we puffed up with pride… Like mothers, like son? 🙂

Congratulations to long-time Canadian friend Pierre Anthony Tremblay for submitting the winning name for James Bones! He wins copies of all of mine and Barbara’s e-books. Happy reading, eh?

So there you have it! Our baby boy now has the distinguished name of James Bones. Oddly enough, the name was one of the last to be submitted and it came from Pierre Alexandre Tremblay of Canada. Congratulations, Pierre. Please send me your e-mail address so we can get copies of all our e-books gifted to you from Amazon. (Send it to and I’ll forward it to Barbara too.

And that’s not all, folks! Since Joanna Lee Doster, author of Maximum Speed: Pushing the Limit, sent in eighteen names, she deserves honorary mention. With that in mind, we are each presenting one book to her. Please check our list of books on our Amazon Author Central pages to choose one from each of us, Joanna. Let us know your choices and we will then send to you via Amazon.

Happy reading to Pierre in Canada and Joanna in New York…and thanks to everyone who entered, making this the most fun contest I’ve ever had.

Author Joanna Lee Doster with her special dog Jumping Jack Flash who has performed in three New York Metropolitan operas.

And how do you like my enhancement of the Jack Black bottles; just had to put our boy”s name on the bottles for a bit of Halloween fun. (Note my skeleton rings in various colors,) 🙂 HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

And one more for the road: Wanted to show you the bottles and the rings up close. You like?

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Beloved Woman by CC Tillery

Appalachian Journey Book 4

Beloved Woman by CC Tillery

The Search for Bobby McGee by Betty Dravis

The Search for Bobby McGee by Betty Dravis

The Search for Bobby McGee by Betty Dravis

Obsolete by CT French

Obsolete by CT French (Christy Tillery French)

Obsolete by CT French

One Shot too Many by Maggie Bishop

One Shot too Many by Maggie Bishop, mystery

One Shot too Manyby Maggie Bishop, mystery

Interior Designs, by Laurel-Rain Snow

Front Cover-resized-small
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