Books are the gateway to imagination

Books are the gateway to imagination
Morgan welcomes you to her personal blog

Monday, December 17, 2012

DENNIS N. GRIFFIN WILL INTERVIEW ME ON DEC. 18 ON HIS CRIME TIME RADIO SHOW

Dennis N. Griffin
True Crime Author

Dennis N. Griffin will interview me tomorrow night, DECEMBER 18, CRIME TIME blog radio. 4:00pm PST/7:00 EST. 
Among other things, we'll talk about using humor in mysteries. Here is the blurb, so drop by if you have the opportunity or listen to it in the archives.

CRIME WIRE ON DECEMBER 18

Tonight we'll take a look at crime from the perspective of a mystery writer. 

Author/columnist/speaker Morgan St. James has written several award-winning mystery books. Her latest funny crime caper is, Who’s Got the Money?, co-authored with Meredith Holland. And she's written the Silver Sisters Mysteries series with her real sister, Phyllice Bradner. 

Also recently released is her entertaining memoir, Confessions of a Cougar, the true story of three glorious weeks in England populated by sexy young men. Morgan writes columns for the Los Angeles and Las Vegas editions of Examiner.com and is a frequent speaker and writer’s panel member or moderator. 

All of Morgan's books can be ordered at most online booksellers in digital and paperback editions, and some are also available in audio books. Who’s Got the Money is in stock at select Barnes & Noble stores.

You can catch the show live at our new time of 7:00 p.m. Eastern or play it back from the archives athttp://www.blogtalkradio.com/insidelenz/2012/12/19/crime-wire

Call in to speak with the host (646) 478-0982

Monday, December 10, 2012

A GIFT FOR YOU













With the Christmas season upon us and people buying the "latest, greatest" thing on the market to give as gifts while the bills pile up, don't you sometimes wonder if the true meaning of the season has been lost in growing commercialism? Here is my gift to you. Memories of two very special Christmases back in 1940 and 1951. Enjoy and share. http://tinyurl.com/mschrms 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Who's Got the Money? now at select Barnes & Noble stores

Yesterday I stopped by the Barnes & Noble in Marina Del Rey CA and signed some copies of the funny crime caper, WHO'S GOT THE MONEY? that I co-authored with Meredith Holland. Today I visited the B&N in Manhattan Beach CA and also signed copies.

Still have several stores on my list. It is great to have them available in various B&N stores as well as at online booksellers. You can, of course, order a copy at your favorite local bookstores, too.

Oak Tree Press has been doing a great job of supporting us and Meredith and I really appreciate it. We were so happy when our book placed as a Finalist in the USA Best Books Awards sponsored by USA Book News.

It was particularly thrilling for me to add to my list of awards, since the first Silver Sisters Mystery I co-authored with my sister Phyllice Bradner, A CORPSE IN THE SOUP, also placed in the 2007 USA Book News Awards as Best Mystery Audio Book, and there are now three books in the series with a fourth in work.

Every experience I have writing a book with a co-author is different depending upon their style and expertise. My latest project is a true crime book, No More Crying Angels, and it is nearing completion of the first draft. I'm co-authoring that with true crime author Dennis N. Griffin.

And then, of course, there are the books I write on my own. Sleep??? What's that?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

"Who's Got the Money?" reviewed by eMystery Newsletter


"Who's Got the Money?",  the funny caper involving federal prisons, a greedy embezzler and three Charlie's Angels "wannabes" is reviewed in thisweek's All Mystery e-Newsletter. Available in Kindle and paperback from Oak Tree Press. Who's Got the Money? 

All Mystery e-Newsletter has rapidly become a source for mystery lovers and authors alike to find the best in new mystery books.

I'm delighted that editor Rebecca Dahlke chose to include "Who's Got the Money?" in the reviews this week. If you love fast moving capers laced with humor check this one out. 

The book was inspired by real experiences my co-author and I had while working for the real government corporation that manufactures all kinds of furniture in prison factories. A great example of using your own experiences to create a plausible fictional plot.

Think about an $800 MILLION DOLLAR A YEAR business combined with greedy people who've figured out a clever way to dip into the coffers, and you have 'WHO'S GOT THE MONEY?"

Post a review and get a free PDF copy of GETTING EVEN, the prequel where the protagonist Jennifer gets even with the young lover who stole her money and her heart. He's part of the reason she had to go to work for the prison system. Just email a copy of the review for your free copy

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A TRUE STORY ABOUT GETTING IN TOUCH WITH MY INNER COUGAR


Kindle Edition FREE today and tomorrow – “Confessions of a Cougar”
From the review by Mike Dennis:
"I'd had good reason to act like a sex-seeking missile for three weeks."

That's Audrey talking as she and girlfriend Sue are on their way to Heathrow airport following three sizzling weeks in the UK. She had good reason to act that way, all right, and it centered around Bob, her California boyfriend. He financed their trip in order to have unfettered access to this hot blonde he'd had his eye on, but little did he know that forty-something Audrey would discover the cougar within herself as she and Sue bounced around Britain, thirsting for action.

This was such a fun story to write. It was like taking a step back in time and remembering what an experience it was to be free of guilt and rules. I've traveled extensively since, both in the U.S. and out of the country, but this remains an adventure etched in my memory.

Books like this are called "creative non-fiction." That's because most of it is absolutely true, but a little artistic license is taken here and there. Think about stories you would like to share with others. Life experiences are found in so many ways, not only memoirs. They are found in creative non-fiction like this book, fiction and much more. Every author has a mental warehouse to draw from and I use mine constantly.

I generally devote lots of time to promoting other authors as well as myself. This request is blatant self promotion. Please share this post and if you download this fun book, a review on Amazon would be greatly appreciated.


Saturday, October 6, 2012

Interviewed by John Brantingham - How did it miss that?

Wow! I really messed up

As I was scrolling through Facebook messages today I saw that John Brantingham sent me a message on September 26 that my interview with him was live. OMG. Shameless publicity hound that I am, this is not like me to miss a message about publicity! I would have let all of you know immediately because it was really a good interview with lots of comments.
Visit John's blog for other interesting interviews and a wealth of information: http://johnbrantingham.blogspot.com/ and here is the direct link to the interview including the comments. http://johnbrantingham.blogspot.com/2012/09/an-interview-with-morgan-st-james.html#comment-form



WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2012

An interview with Morgan St. James

Who should read Morgan St. James's work?

Anyone who loves mystery fiction. Ms. St. James has been writing it for years, especially for the small presses. I've always been impressed by her novels. The detail, the plot, the writing. It's all great. She has a new book coming out now -- Who's Got the Money -- from Dark Oak Press. I wanted to see how she promotes her work.

Here's my quick review of her book, you should read it. It's fun and interesting and everything you want from a mystery. Since this is a blog about promotion though, I won't review it in detail. Instead, I asked her about how she promotes her work.

Who's Got the Money? 
At what point in your writing process do you start to promote the novel you’re working on specifically? I mean you are clearly branding yourself as a writer all the time, but when do make that shift so you are promoting the current novel?

I begin very early in the process. As soon as I have the framework for a new novel, I make reference to various aspects of it. It helps to build anticipation for a new book. For example, when the manuscript for “Who’s Got the Money?” was partially finished I threw out tidbits on social networking sites about the fact the manufacturing in Federal prisons is an EIGHT HUNDRED MILLION DOLLAR a year industry. So many people think prison manufacturing is a small program limited to items like license plates that it was bound to spark interest.

Later I appealed to the “chick lit” element with questions about getting even with someone who stole your heart and your money, which is another aspect of the book. Opening up that dialogue, also let me talk about my other upcoming book, (now available) “Confessions of a Cougar,” which could neatly fit into that genre.

 There is so much lead time from completing the plot to actual publication that it presents a great opportunity to talk about your upcoming book or books. If the book you are promoting is not your debut novel, this is a way to let readers know they can expect more books from you.

Some people wait until just before the release date, but then they’ve lost out on the time they could have been building interest.

What percentage of the time do you spend promoting online versus meeting people face to face?

I’d say the breakdown is something like 75/25. You can do online promotion at any hour of the day or night, and it frequently comes down to the wee hours after midnight. In addition to setting up a blog or website for the book and posting consistently, by choosing targeted sites you can reach a large amount of potential readers and ask them to share the posts or links. However, it is important to get out there and put a face on the author. Particularly with the sharp increase in books being produced due to the ease of self-publishing, there is still something special about the face-to-face meetings.

One of the chapters in my book, Writers’ Tricks of the Trade: 39 Things You Need to Know About the ABCs of Writing Fiction,” is about polishing your personality. There is a vast difference between being a ho-hum author who might put an audience to sleep during a reading or talk and an entertaining, dynamic speaker. Everyone can find their own style for personal presentations or book signings, but a key element is to be engaging.



Your work is often diverse. You work with a writing partner some times. Other times you write humorously and alone. Sometimes your work feels to me like pure suspense. Does the feel of the book change the way that you promote it?

Absolutely. It would be highly inappropriate to give a humorous talk or write a humorous article about a book that deals with kidnapping and rape. By the same token, if it is one of my funny crime capers or a book laced with humor, a dead serious presentation would do nothing to encourage people to investigate further or better yet, to buy the book.

When I write with a partner, I always make certain to give credit to that partner’s contributions to the creation of the book and how the book benefited from their expertise. We all have different strengths and the key is to identify them and establish a working pattern for both writing and promotion.

What do you do for research? I know that you are kind of an expert on this. What can you tell my readers about going out there and getting real information?

For the obvious things, the internet is a wonderful source. However, since most information is not vetted before posting, it is important to verify it through other sites before taking it as the absolute truth.

It is also important to recognize when the net might not be the be the most reliable source and to enlist the help of those with expertise in a particular field. For example, in a crime situation, most police stations, law enforcement agencies and prisons have Public Affairs Officers who will be more than happy to help you with facts if you call and explain that you are an author and need some information.

When writing The Devil’s Due, I needed to know where an inmate would be housed if they were beaten to the point of being on life support for the rest of their life. The extra fact was that this scenario takes place in 1970 in Illinois. That meant conditions might not be the same as information available on the net. I called Joliet Prison and the Public Affairs Officer was great. She didn’t know first-hand, but called people who did and got back to me with the information. In 1970 he would have been housed in the prison infirmary. However, in later years, there was a special facility for such cases which is not on the grounds of Joliet.

It is also important to build relationships with people you can call for information in various fields. They might be people in your social circle, ones you meet at events or conferences, or friends of friends. It ensures accuracy and saves lots of time if you can place a call or send an email with a question that relates to some aspect of your book.



What do you see as the most productive thing you do for promotion?

That is hard to say, because different tactics get various returns. Sometimes the internet interviews and articles work well, sometimes it is personal presentations or radio guest spots. Sometimes a media release with a great hook produces lots of hits and your story turns up in many small newspapers. I do think when you are lucky enough to wrangle an article or interview in a newspaper with high visibility it gives you a definite bump. A few years ago the Las Vegas Review Journal featured an article about me and my Amazon numbers rose for about a week afterwards.



How do you choose a new book from a living writer yourself?
I love mysteries and fast moving action. I also like political thrillers and some action adventure books. I listen to lots of audio books because I frequently drive between my home in the L.A. area and the one in Las Vegas. Fortunately libraries now have good collections of audio books, so I’ll generally take something from an author I know and like, often Robert Crais, Michael Connelley, Richard Northcut, Lee Child or J.D. Robb, and then take a few other books from authors I haven’t read. It helps me to explore their work, and if I don’t like it, I simply switch to the audio book of an author I like.

By doing that, I’ve discovered some authors I love and others that made me pop the CD out after only a few chapters.

I look for believable characters, a good pace and an intriguing story.  

Thursday, September 27, 2012




OKAY! Get ready to download your Kindle copy of CONFESSIONS OF A COUGAR FREE Sept. 27 and 28.Find out what two 42 year old women, who look much younger, do when they take a trip to England on a millionaire boyfriend's dime. Ah those Brits! Ummm.SHARE THIS WITH YOUR FRIENDS



Saturday, September 15, 2012

THE SEPTEMBER ISSUE OF THE WRITERS' TRICKS OF THE TRADE E-ZINE NOW AVAILABLE

Among all of my other endeavors, I publish the monthly Writers' Tricks of the Trade E-Zine. The September issue, filled with interesting articles from guest contributors, conference listings, helpful links, reader news, and much more has just posted. It is a cool, interactive format so download your copy.

http://tinyurl.com/wtt-sept

Visit the blog http://writerstricksofthetrade.blogspot.com

For an excerpt of my latest funny crime caper, WHO'S GOT THE MONEY? just click the flip book on the right. For more information, visit www.morganstjames-author.com or http://funnycrimecapers.blogspot.com.

Friday, September 14, 2012

I WAS INTERVIEWED BY HEIDI THOMAS ABOUT WRITING WITH A PARTNER

 Heidi Thomas interviewed me and my  WHO'S GOT THE MONEY? co-author Meredith Holland on her blog . You can read Part I on her blog today. 

We talk about writing as co-authors. WHO'S GOT THE MONEY? is the new funny crime caper from Oak Tree Press inspired by real incidents with furniture manufacturing in federal prisons. Read the excerpt by clicking the flip book in the right-hand column on my blog. Check out Part I of our interview on Heidi's blog today. http://heidiwriter.wordpress.com/

We talk about writing as co-authors. WHO'S GOT THE MONEY? is the new funny crime caper from Oak Tree Press inspired by real incidents with furniture manufacturing in federal prisons. Check it out. Part 2 runs on Monday. Please LIKE and repost. Thanks. 

Every time I write with a partner, it is a different experience because it all depends upon the project, my co-author's strengths in concert with mine and many other factors. I've discovered that if you set up the guidelines and the "do's and dont's" in the beginning, writing with a partner can be lots of fun.

I'm currently working on two more novels, each with different writing partners, plus a book of my own. Whew!


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

READ AN EXCERPT FROM MY NEW NOVEL, "WHO'S GOT THE MONEY?"

The new book I wrote with Meredith Holland is pure fiction, but couldn't have been conceived without our real life experiences while working for a contractor to the Federal prison system. Click the cover on the right of this blog to read an excerpt--then buy your own paperback or digital copy. Available at most online booksellers or order from your favorite bookstore.

Meredith and I have been inside prison factories, military warehouses and experienced many funny over-the-top things that inspired our plot. This has it all--humor, intrigue, a trio of bumbling Charlie's Angel-type amateur sleuths and lots of twists and turns.

Author Deborah Coonts said, "...a fast, funny and clever chase. Morgan St. James, Meredith Holland and their trio of sharp women turn disaster and defeat into determination to make the bad guys pay. ..a thoroughly enjoyable ride!"


Sunday, August 26, 2012

CHALLENGE BY TENNESSEE RAY

When I got this photo of my grandson Tennessee, I couldn't help imagining him saying the classic Clint Eastwood Dirty Harry line, "Make my day!"

This tough guy will be five in February.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Author of the Month at Dawn's Reading Nook

Dawn Roberto of DAWN'S READING NOOK was kind enough to make me the August Author of the Month. Come on over and visit me there. http://tinyurl.com/cf5j2ry


She featured three of my books...the new one, Who's Got the Money?, my anthology The MAFIA FUNERAL and Other Short Stories, and the third Silver Sisters Mystery, Vanishing Act in Vegas.


Mega thanks to Dawn.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

AN EXCERPT FROM CONFESSIONS OF A COUGAR

The anthology The MAFIA FUNERAL and Other Short Stories contains a variety of stories ranging from true to fiction. There are stories  inspired by true events, fiction including mystery and romance, a very tender story about an elderly woman  that has touched many (Saying Goodbye to Miss Molly) and excerpts from some of my books...many of which won awards.

The story How Much Worse Can It Get? is one of those excerpts that was in the original manuscript for my upcoming book Confessions of a Cougar, but as sometimes happens, things can change during the editing process and this was one of those times.

Although some of these scenes are not written exactly as they now are in the book, What's The Worse That Can Happen? gives you a sense of the main characters, how the discussion of cougars came about and their shock at seeing the  "charming Country English cottage," that was to be their home for three weeks.

It  turned out to be a dilapidated cottage surrounded by waist-high weeds with interior decor worthy of a brothel. As for the adventures of Audrey and Sue in Confessions of a Cougar, caution was thrown to the wind for three glorious weeks as they discovered what it was like to become a member of the pack--older women with younger men. Almost everything is true and really fun to read. Watch for the book release in September in paperback and digital editions.

Meanwhile, enjoy How Much Worse Can It Get? and think about getting your own paperback or Kindle copy of The MAFIA FUNERAL and Other Short Stories. Amazon reviews appreciated. Facebook and Tweet mentions would make me deliriously happy.


HOW MUCH WORSE CAN IT GET?
Excerpt from “Confessions of a Cougar”
f
As we were leaving the restaurant, Bob leaned close and whispered in my ear, “Don’t look right away, but what do you think of that couple over there?”

He flicked his eyes in the direction of a man and woman sitting quite close to each other, heads bent as the young man nibbled her neck. The woman was probably twenty years older than him and judging by the amount of nibbling and groping, it was a good bet they were not mother and son.

Before I could say anything, he added, “Why is it that it doesn’t look as dumb when you see an older guy with a young gal.”

I truly hate double standards! The only thing missing in what he said was the label we’ve recently hung on older women involved with younger men. Cougar. Sometimes cougars are stereotyped as not-so-attractive old-looking hags with bleached hair and deep pockets—a breed of women who dress cheap, wear hot pink nail polish and favor sleazy animal skin prints.

The woman canoodling in the corner was anything but that. Her clothes were stylish, well cut and clearly expensive. She had sleek blonde hair and what appeared to be a great figure, although she was sitting down. Who knows? Maybe she had a big butt. I figured this sexy woman was in her prime, and imagined her as someone one who knew what she wanted and didn’t hesitate to go after it.

Yes, a classy, beautiful creature—one  who probably had real brains—maybe an attorney or advertising exec. A woman who had attained success on her own. Without warning, for no particular reason, my daydream morphed into the leopard-print blazer I got on sale at Saks. Cougars might favor animal prints, but that jacket was beautiful. Nothing sleazy about it.

I will admit Bob’s snide remark about this woman upset me and I shot back with a little more sarcasm than necessary. “So what do you think? Maybe she snuck up on this poor unsuspecting young guy who’s happily nibbling away on his appetizer and attacked him.”

Bob took another look. “You know, Babe, maybe you’re right. She is pretty hot looking and he seems to be enjoying himself.  Lots of young guys would probably be ecstatic to have an experienced woman who looked like her give them a tumble. I’ll bet she won’t even ask if he'll call the next day.”

I smiled up at him. “Good for you. You said the right thing. After all, I am older than you.”

He gave me a hug. “What’s six years, gorgeous?”
f
The following day Sue and I had lunch at the Sunset Bistro. Their food is so scrumptious, gossip has it there’s an unspoken rule: when one dines at Sunset Bistro no calorie counting is allowed. They even use real butter and lots of it.

I couldn’t wait to tell her Bob offered to treat us to a trip to England. Her smile broadened when I played the trump card. “You haven’t heard the best part. He’s going to give you the plane ticket and leased a cottage in Surrey. It won’t cost you anything but food and entertainment, and you’d pay for the same things here. How cool is that? Come on, it will do you good. Say ‘yes,’ okay?”

By the look on her face, she already pictured an escape from everything in Los Angeles, even if only for a short time. All the reminders of Hal in their home kept the pain alive. I knew I had her from the moment I mentioned Bob wanted to pay for her ticket. The corners of Sue’s sweetheart bow mouth lifted, creating little smile lines at the corners of her eyes. “Your Bob is an amazing guy. Of course I’ll go. He’s right. I do need a change.”

Her pretty deep blue eyes sparkled with excitement. Then a shadow crossed her face, and I knew she was thinking about Hal again. It would take a long time for her to come to grips with his death.
f
We piled our luggage into a London taxi driven by a man who didn’t have a clue how to get to Upper Warlingham, but said with complete confidence he could find it. A bobby in full regalia approached us just as the driver was about to close what he called “the boot”.

“Where would ya be goin’ ladies? Did I hear you say Upper Warlingham?”

“Why that’s right. I didn’t realize we were speaking so loud. Do you know it? Could you tell this driver where it is?”

“Did ya fix a price wi’ him?”

Sue answered, “No, we didn’t since he didn’t know where it was.”

The Bobby lifted his hand to his mouth, placed two fingers in his mouth and whistled so loud it could have been heard at Buckingham Palace. He signaled another taxi and the driver pulled up beside the one holding our luggage.

He smiled. “This here bloke isn’t authorized to go out of London. Simon will take you to Upper Warlingham.” He motioned to this new driver. “Why’nt ya transfer their bags and fix a good price for ‘em?”

As the man reached into the taxi to switch our luggage, the bobby said, “He’s a good man, Simon, and he’ll charge you a fair price, not like this bloke.” He turned to the first driver. “For shame, tryin’ to take advantage of these women. Off with ya now and I best not be seein’ ya tryin’ this again.”

He turned back to us. “Stayin’ there are ya? Strange place for two Yanks to be goin’ unless you’ve got business or relatives there.”

I felt a little shiver inch up my spine. “Strange? Why do you say that?”

Judging by the tone of his soft, comforting voice, I guess I sounded alarmed. “Nah, not to worry. Just that’s it’s a wee village. Not even a steakhouse. Gotta go to Whyteleaf for a bite when the pub’s not servin’, although it’s not too far. They do have the one pub in the town square.”

During the taxi ride we marveled at the rolling green hills, a shade so rich that it made California look dull. Brilliant yellow fields of mustard brightened the old fa├žades of centuries old homes and townhouses. We wanted an adventure and we were about to get one. However, what we got exceeded anything our active imaginations might have conjured.

A little more than an hour later the driver pulled up in front of what should have been the charming cottage we had pictured. Instead, it looked as foreboding as a haunted house nestled in high grass and weeds. The windows were covered in such a heavy layer of dust and dirt they appeared opaque and a few loose shingles made flapping noises when a light breeze lifted them. Simon’s concern was very obvious. “I’m not sure I should be leavin’ you ladies here. Are ya sure you’ll be alright?”

We had become quite friendly with him during the drive and I could see he felt responsible for us. I truly appreciated his concern, but how bad could it be? We had the keys to the house and there was a car in the garage.

Before I could say anything, Sue said, “Don’t worry. We’ll be just fine.” She handed him the pre-arranged fare. He put it in his pocket, but seemed reluctant to leave. “If ya don’t mind, I’ll just be waitin’ to make sure you’re alright.”

Hey, smart, independent women shouldn’t need a guardian angel, so with more confidence than I really felt, I said, “That’s so kind, but we’ll be just fine. It’s okay for you to leave. After all, you have to make a living.”

He drove off, and we hefted our cases into the jungle-like growth. To our relief, hidden beneath a portion of the overgrown lawn we discovered there actually was a path leading to the front door. Right about then, a machete would have been welcome.

We finally made it to the little porch, but that’s when panic spiked our fear. The key didn’t fit. We tried sliding it out slightly, pressing it in, jiggling it and every other trick a person can use to make a key work, but it made no difference. Sue said, “What if it’s the key to the back door, not the front? Did Bob say anything about that?”

I shrugged in exasperation. Clouds now covered the bit of sun and the temperature dropped. To make matters worse, the light breeze had become stronger and colder. The edges of my ears felt like ice as it ruffled my hair.  Smoke curled from nearby chimneys scenting the air. I stood there somewhat forlorn and homesick with my arms wrapped around myself, as if that would warm me. I missed the lovely spring weather we’d left behind in Los Angeles.

“Well, one thing is for sure. We’re screwed if we can’t get into the house. It won’t hurt to try. If that doesn’t work, we’ll have to figure out which house belongs to the old couple Bob mentioned. They must have a key.”

We agreed it didn’t make sense to haul our suitcases with us if we couldn’t open the back door, so we left them on the porch and plunged into the grass and weeds toward the back of the house. It slid into the lock easily. It turned. The door to the kitchen swung open. My fingers found the light switch and pad for a security alarm on the wall next to the door. I flicked on the overhead light, then keyed in the code Bob had given me.
Sue and I stepped into a bright, modern kitchen complete with red appliances. Okay, red seemed a bit weird, but everyone is entitled to their own taste. I figured the rest of the house would echo the style of the kitchen. Boy, was I wrong!

The living room looked like a set from Arsenic and Old Lace modified to double as a 1940s brothel. Unlike the cheerful kitchen, the walls were swathed in deep red flocked wallpaper. A swirl of dusty crystals dripped from an ornate chandelier hanging over two ruby red brocade sofas trimmed with heavy gold fringe along their bottom edges. It was as though unseen souls from centuries past had claimed this room for their own.

“Um, Aud, you met the people who own this house, right? Were they...old?”

“Well, I guess Harry might be pushing sixty, but his girlfriend looks like a Las Vegas showgirl. I don’t think she’s much past twenty-five.” The dust tickled my nose and I stifled a sneeze. “I can see why you would ask, though. This place is a trip, isn’t it?”

In sharp contrast to the dusty chandelier, crisp white lace doilies graced the dark mahogany side tables and lace scarves covered the backs of a pair of forest green velvet chairs. “Well, if nothing else, it does have character,” I mused.

“Let’s open some windows and get rid of this musty odor.” Sue reached behind the green velvet draperies to unlatch a window. Fresh air poured into the living room and she perked up. “Hey Audrey, what do you suppose the bedrooms are like? Race you!”

We sprinted down the hall toward the bedrooms. Not too bad. Fluffy red comforters and pillows perched on high mahogany four poster beds.

“Well, thanks to Bob this is home sweet home—at least for the next few weeks. Let’s get settled. Not exactly the charming country cottage I’d imagined, but not bad except for the jungle out front.”

Sue shrugged. “I wonder if the whole village is like this.”

There was a sharp rap at the front door. I unlocked it and found myself face-to-face with an elderly English couple. The man wore a deep gray V-necked sweater vest, a little gray and beige plaid hat and a broad smile. The woman’s shining silver hair, parted in the middle, was pulled into a granny bun. She wore a somewhat shapeless 1930s-style housedress, sprinkled with a tiny pink and lavender flower print, topped by a crocheted rose-colored sweater. For some reason she held a stack of towels and sheets.

“Hello. We’re Bert and Mary,” the man said in a heavily accented voice. “We sorta look after the place whilst Harry is in the States.”

Was it my imagination, or did Bert make a face like he’d swigged spoiled milk when he said “Harry”?

He nodded in the direction of an old-fashioned looking phone on one of the mahogany side tables. “I’m sorry to say, don’t be expectin’ to use the telephone. There’s no service.”

Mary leaned forward, as though she was about to tell us a secret, but all she said was, “Y’see, he stopped payin’ the bill months ago. Just like that bloke, waitin’ till the last minute to ring us up about your visit.” She shook her head. “It would take a few weeks to get it turned on, but you can use ours if you need to make calls. Besides, there’s a phone box in the square.”

Bert stooped over and fiddled with a heater. “Here, I’ll be lightin’ this for you. It doesn’t feel a chill now, but wait until tonight and you’ll be happy to have the warmth.” He toyed with it while Mary elbowed her way into one of the two bedrooms.

She removed two sheets from her pile, laid them on the bed, then went to the other bedroom and repeated the task. “Wouldn’t want you to be usin’ the same linens as those people, you being nice women and all.”
The sweet old woman handed me a stack of towels. “When you’re ready to go home, don’t mind about laundering them. The Tidee-Wash in the square closed about a month ago. I’ll take care of cleanin’ ’em.”

Why was Mary so adamant that we use their sheets and towels, rather than the ones in the cottage? What was with calling Harry and his girlfriend those people? I made a mental note to ask.

The elderly couple made their way to the front door.

Mary turned back to us. “Did you exchange money at the airport? Tomorrow’s bank holiday and everything will be closed. Bert and I are goin’ to Croyden to see our grandchildren, but we’ll be back the next day.”

Most of the money we changed at Heathrow paid for the taxi. Being Americans, we assumed there would be a bank in Upper Warlingham that offered a better exchange rate. Good luck. On the drive in, we’d noticed this village didn’t even have a restaurant or much else in the Square. 

Sue’s shoulders slumped. “Where can we change money? Harry said there’s a car in the garage. We can drive somewhere.”

Bert’s slapped his forehead. “Blimey, the car! Before he left for the States, Harry asked me to have the mechanic check it. That’s what I forgot to tell him when he phoned. The bloke was finally here last Friday and said there’s somethin’ wrong wi’ it—not to drive it ’cause it could be dangerous.”

“So we don’t have a car? What are we going to do?”

“Not to worry. There’s a car hire in the Square. The driver can carry you down to the rental agency in Caterham. You can use our phone to call down to see what’s available.”

We followed Bert and Mary to their cottage two doors away. In sharp contrast to our accommodations, this one was pristine. From the silver on the sideboard to the crystals hanging from Victorian lampshades, everything sparkled. In contrast to the soft tones in Mary’s dress, the colors in their cottage were rich and cheerful. A delicate scent of lavender infused the air. Why couldn’t ours be like this?

One look at Sue told me her thoughts echoed mine. While Bert dialed the rental agency in Caterham, Sue said, “This is really charming. How old are these homes?”

“Newer than some. Built in the early 1800s I think.” His attention turned back to the telephone. “Closin’ in three hours are ya? Yes. Two ladies from America need to reserve a car. Righto.”

He turned to us. “What’s the name? Says he’ll stay open for ya and has a nice Morris Mini at a good price. But take care to be there within two hours. He’s closin’ up for bank holiday and won’t be open for two days after that.”

I said, “Tell him Audrey Browning, and thank you so much.”

At least we wouldn’t be stuck without a car or English money, but at the mere thought of maneuvering a right-hand drive car on the wrong side of the road, my heart became a sledge hammer in my chest. We just have to tough some things out in this life, and this was one of them.

A silent message passed between us: How much worse could it get?

The book “Confessions of a Cougar” will be released in mid-2012


Friday, July 27, 2012

TODAY'S LAUGH WITH ROSETTA BLOG POST

Rosetta Schwartz was my mother and I edited and contributed to CAN WE COME IN AND LAUGH, TOO? Her life was a combination of funny and touching stories, many of which are in the book she wrote in 1989 at the age of 80. There simply wasn't enough room for all of them, so I started the Laugh With Rosetta blog. Her manuscript was lost for several years and found last year. The result is CAN WE COME IN AND LAUGH, TOO? To date, this book has delighted thousands.

TODAY'S LAUGH WITH ROSETTA BLOG: 


http://tinyurl.com/csem95n Family dinners were like a comedy show with up to 40 players in this big, zany family. I started this blog for a place to post stories that were not in the heartwarming book as well as some excerpts from the book. Read the full posts for your inspiration or chuckle.  Rosetta passed away in 2006 as she neared her 97th birthday, but through the book and blog her laughter and inspiration live on. She was an ordinary woman with the ability to make anyone believe in themselves. Today's post captures the laughter that always prevailed in the Schwartz family. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

FREE KINDLE EDITION ON JULY 11-12. CHECK OUT THE EXCERPT

I hate to download free books just because they are free. If you click the link you'll find the Table of Contents and an excerpt from The MAFIA Funeral. Stories include humor, romance, mystery, and more. Many won awards.

FREE OFFER FOR THE MAFIA FUNERAL and OTHER SHORT STORIES - KINDLE EDITION


FREE ON AMAZON JULY 11-12

Saturday, July 7, 2012

What's a girl to do when she's taken for a Mafia member's daughter?

There are several true stories in The MAFIA FUNERAL and Other Short Stories, and the lead story is one of them. 


It is what's called "creative non-fiction." That means it's mostly true with a few embellishments to add to the story.

The yellow car on the cover represents the yellow Pontiac convertible we had at the time. It was sandwiched in between 40 black limousines in a funeral procession that traveled the freeway from downtown Los Angeles to the cemetery in Tustin. You can bet heads were turning all along the way!


The names have been changed, but I was the model for Susan. You might say, "You, a blonde, taken for a Mafia member's daughter?" Well, I'm blonde now, but back then my hair was  natural jet black. So, without further ado, here is the excerpt from this short story. Many of the other stories in this book won awards.


EXCERPT FROM The MAFIA FUNERAL and Other Short Stories:
Susan was about to say something, when a tough looking guy, who appeared to be in his mid-fifties, wearing a broad smile and a beautifully tailored suit, lumbered over to them waggling his finger in her face.


“Hey, baby, ain’t you Joey Ventura’s daughter?”

She looked around, trying to figure out who he was talking to. He drew closer and tapped his finger on her shoulder. “You. It’s you I’m talkin’ to. It’s me. Uncle Johnnie. Don’t tell me you don’t recognize me.”

 “I’m afraid you’ve mistaken me for someone else. My daddy’s name isn’t Joey—what did you say?—Ventura? My dad is Mannie Goodman. He’s a pediatrician in Manhattan. Sorry.”
The man scowled. “Aw, baby, don’t be like that. Of course you’re Joey’s daughter. I’d recognize you anywhere. Those shiny black curls. Why I used to bounce you on my knee when you was a little girl.” He snickered. “Mannie Goodman! You coulda come up with something better than that.”

They bantered back and forth until Uncle Johnnie conceded that he was, indeed, mistaken. Slapping his head, he said, “Of course,” he pointed to Jerry, “this here Yid pallbearer is your husband. Shoulda noticed that.” He turned to Jerry. “Bad thing that priest said. You seem like good people. Can we talk?”

Not waiting for an answer, he reached into his pocket and pulled out what appeared to be a whole album of photos. “I wanna show you my family. He pointed out three sons, who appeared to be no more than a year apart and a beautiful blonde couldn’t have been more than eighteen or nineteen. After reeling off the boys’ names with pride, he tapped the photo of the pretty girl.

“This, here’s a wedding picture of my sixth wife, Rena. She’s a smart one. Usually I trade ‘em in for a younger model when they hit twenty-two or twenty-three. Rena, she knew all about that, so she had the boys right away to make sure I kept her around. Gotta love that kind of moxie.”

The guy was likeable in a strange kind of way, but the next day Jerry remembered why he looked familiar. He was Johnnie Mancini. A few years back he’d been accused of masterminding the murder of a few people in San Francisco, but got off, thanks to his slick attorney. The case had made the TV news and the L.A. papers. When the trial was over, the prosecutor penned a book about it, Getting Away With Murder. Susan later told Jerry that at the moment he told her who Uncle Johnnie really was, she felt droplets of cold sweat inch down her spine.

Friday, July 6, 2012

How I got the job of marketing prison-made furniture

I had just finished a stint as Director of Design for a Los Angeles residential homebuilder. I hadn't decided whether I wanted to look for a new job or do freelance interior design. 


Years before, when cubicles (systems furniture) first hit the office interior scene, I'd worked for a large office furniture dealership as a representative for big interiors projects. They had thoroughly trained me in systems furniture. I saw this ad in the L.A. Times that said something to the effect of "Unique opportunity to work with little known  manufacturer marketing systems furniture. Must have working knowledge of the product and interior design background." 


On a lark I sent them a resume, and promptly forgot about it. One evening, about three weeks later I received a call from a man who said he was with the Federal Bureau of Prisons. My heart skipped a beat. Had I done something illegal?


As I was to find out, the furniture in the ad was manufactured in Federal Prisons and it was big business. About $600 Million a year for furniture sales. He said they had hired a private sector firm to do the marketing and I'd passed the first stage of weeding out candidates. Could I come to an interview in San Diego the following week? Well, I had my doubts, but I went and was shocked to walk into a beautiful suite of offices with very nice furniture. It was a combination showroom and office for the West Coast.

I made the cut and became the representative and design liaison for Southern California, Southern Nevada and Utah. Pretty much like the character Cameron in Who's Got the Money. The book will be released any day now, but you can get Getting Even, the story behind how the protagonist, Jennifer Hayes went to work for the prison division that manufactured furniture similar to the product my co-author, Meredith Holland, and I worked with for four years. It also covers how she got even with the boy-toy who stole her heart and money. Kindle only. 99 cents. Getting Even

Sunday, July 1, 2012

BETWEEN THE COVERS

Yesterday I was a panel member and moderator for a discussion "Between the Covers"  at the Manhattan Beach Library in Southern California. We are all members of the Los Angeles chapter of Sisters in Crime as is Evelyn Moore who arranged for the presentation.


I really enjoyed the discussion with Sheila Lowe, author of the Claudia Rose Handwriting Analyst mysteries and Robert Fate, author of the Baby Shark series. We all write mysteries of different sub-genres, but as authors we have so much in common. Fiction fans always as about how authors who write the stories they enjoy come up with the ideas, how many of their own traits or talents the authors use in their characters, what sort of research we do, and how the "page-turners are created. We delved into all of that, and more.


We all agreed that we absolutely love receiving emails that say the person blames us for not getting any sleep because they stayed up all night reading one of our books.


I'm looking forward to being on panels with these two authors again.

Friday, June 15, 2012

"Who's Got the Money?" will be released between July 12-15


I'm thrilled. My new book co-authored with Meredith Holland will be released  between July 12-15 at the Public Safety Writers Association conference in Las Vegas.

When money disappears from a government agency, and we see plenty of that in the papers, on TV and in movies and books every day, of course you want to know "who's got the money?"

But when big bucks have disappeared from a part of the federal prison system, that makes it even more intriguing. Jennifer, Cameron and Kate smell a rat and are determined to find the answer, even if it means resorting to a bumbling Charlie's Angels-type of undercover investigation. It's the Angels, First Wives Club and Nine to Five all rolled into one. You're going to love these feisty ladies and the mess they get into.

The funny crime caper was inspired by experiences the authors had while working for a company similar to the one in the book. The scam is fiction, but it could have happened, and that's eye-opening. Most people don't know that $800 Million of merchandise is manufactured in federal prisons every year, so imagine what could happen if a person in the right position got greedy?

When you read a story like this you have to wonder how someone like Jennifer, a CPA who was a rising star and Vice President of a hi-tech company, wound up working for the prison system. What happened that changed her life in a heartbeat? Well, Meredith and I decided to write a little prequel that fills in the blanks. "Getting Even" will be released as a Kindle Only short book on July 1. The rest of her story is told in "Who's Got the Money?"

Watch for the release of "Getting Even" followed by "Who's Got the Money?"

Friday, June 8, 2012

Newspaper articles are treasure troves for mystery writers



This article in today's L.A. Times shows what a good source of ideas newspaper articles can be for writers. In this case, I saw it in the paper, tried to get it from the L.A. Times website and it didn't come up no matter what search term I used. So I scanned it and saved it in my "Idea" file.

This 73-year-old jewel thief explains it away with the closing line, "It's the way we are. We got nothing better to do. We got around to talking."

Great for a geezer mystery or crime caper.

Visit my website www.morganstjames-author.com

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

FREE KINDLE BOOKS

picture: www.katzanddawgs.com 

One more day to go for these 2 books to be FREE for your Kindle. 

 Thursday, June 7 at midnight, they go back to $2.99, which is still a great price for reading books that bring a smile to your face and joy to your heart, .

AT this writing,

  CAN WE COME IN AND LAUGH, TOO? is #3 in free Kindle category Memoirs

MAFIA FUNERAL IS #28 in free Kindle category 

Short Stories


Tell your friends. The offer won't last beyond midnight Thursday. Remember, the paperback of either makes a great gift.

Monday, June 4, 2012


The Kindle edition of two of my books will be FREE on Amazon June 6 and 7. (Also on Amazon.co.uk)  Remember, if you don’t have a Kindle, there are free apps for PCs, MACs, SmartPhones, iPads, etc.

The MAFIA FUNERAL and Other Short Stories http://goo.gl/Ym43D

Everything from a unique true funeral experience (funny) to romance and mystery short stories. Perfect for when you have a short time to read.
 
CAN WE COME IN AND LAUGH, TOO? http://goo.gl/OyXrv

My mother’s memoir, written when she was 80, is a delightful story of growing up in the early 1900s in Chicago. She was the youngest in a family of ten children, each sibling zanier than the next. Life in her fun-loving family was like living in a 24 hour three-ring circus. (Maybe that’s why I’m a bit nutty myself.) Anyway, there is also a lot about when we moved from Chicago to Los Angeles and you’ll recognize a lot of the descriptions of early L.A. I was the editor on this book, and also contributed a story to Part II . As many of you know, she lived to be almost 97.

As well as downloading your own copy, I would really appreciate it if you would help me spread the word about these two free books by forwarding this to friends. I'd like to get as many copies as possible out there both in the U.S. and internationally. Thanks in advance. On June 8 they go back to $2.99. Both books are available in paperback for $9.99 each.

Morgan