Monday, December 30, 2013

Did you ever notice how many mysteries feature a dog?

I thought I was adding a warm, tender touch to my medical mysteries and thrillers when I add Bug, a Japanese Chin to my novels. Then I started to think.

Dogs are featured in lots of mysteries. Most readers will immediately think of the title character (a bloodhound/mastiff mix) in The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle. Dashiell Hammett wrote Asta as a schnauzer in The Thin Man, but a wire-haired fox terrier played the role in the movie.

Here are a few examples of dogs in recent mysteries.
Ignore the Pain by J.L. Greger. Bug, a Japanese chin, regally keeps epidemiologist Sara Almquist on track.
A Pointed Death by Kath Russell. A biotech consultant Nola Billingsley depends on her shorthaired pointer Skootch.
New Tricks by David Rosenfelt. The golden retriever Tara helps attorney Andy Carpenter find the evidence to defend his clients in court.
Dogged Pursuit by Lee Charles Kelley. Kennel owner and ex-big city cop Jack Field solves a murder with the help of a dalmatian named Daisy. A different breed of dog is featured in each book in this series.
A Blast From the Past by Lauren Carr. What would Mac Faraday do without his German shepherd sidekick Gnarly?

Why do authors include dogs in mysteries? Your guesses are as good as mine, but these reasons seem likely.
·      Authors can give readers a chance to breathe in a fast-moving mystery or thriller by adding an anecdote about a cute or funny dog.
·      Dogs are easier to fit into a plot than children.
·      Writers can use dogs to show (not tell) the soft, warm side of protagonists who otherwise appear to be rather hard-edged characters.
·      Authors love their own dogs and can’t imagine a realistic story without a dog.
·      Dogs are some of the nicest characters most of us know.

Now it’s your turn to suggest reasons for including dogs in mysteries.

About JL’s medical mysteries and thrillers: Three novels chronicle the adventures of epidemiologist Sara Almquist and her more reserved sister – physician Linda Almquist. In Coming Flu, Sara, while tracking the spread of the deadly Philippine flu, identifies a drug kingpin trapped in a quarantined community. In Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight, Linda Almquist must discover whether an ambitious young “diet doctor” or one of old-timers in a medical school with buried secrets is a killer. Sara finds it hard to consult on public health issues when leaders of the coca industry threaten her in Ignore the Pain. In all three, Sara always comes home to her Japanese Chin Bug.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Science behind the Title IGNORE THE PAIN

Miners in the silver mines of Potosí, Bolivia carry little food or water into the mines. In order to endure the pain caused by thirst, hunger, and heavy exertion at a high altitude (13,000 feet), they chew coca leaves.

The active ingredients in coca leaves and its derivative cocaine are not analgesics; they do not dull pain. They are stimulants that raise extracellular concentrations of neurotransmitters, which in turn increase transmission of other stimuli along nerves. The net result is users of coca leaves can ignore pain better.

Hence I titled my new medical thriller Ignore the Pain.

In Ignore the Pain, Sara Almquist, the heroine, agrees to leave her home near Albuquerque and be an epidemiology consultant for a public health mission assessing children’s health in Bolivia. Such an assignments is realistic because 6.5% of the children born in Bolivia die before five years of age. That’s a big improvement; in 1990, 12.5% died before five years of age.

Now back to the story. Soon someone from Sara’s past is chasing her through the Witches’ Market and across the roof of Iglesia de San Francisco in La Paz. Unfortunately, she can’t trust her new colleagues because anyone of them might be under the control of the coca industry in Bolivia.

But that’s not all the pain in Ignore the Pain. Sara’s quieter sister Linda, besides worrying about Sara, is managing problems in the newly created Pain Management Center in the medical school in Albuquerque.

So ignore the pain of eating too much and generally overindulging during the holidays and read Ignore the Pain

Monday, November 25, 2013


First there was Black Friday and then Cyber Monday. In 2010, American Express started publicizing #Small Business Saturday.

Independent bookstores need your business. They exist in most towns. Some are musty-smelling used-bookstores; others are combinations of bookstores and neighborhood cafés; still more are morphs of old-fashioned magazine stands. From my experience, many of these stores are hurting and need more paying customers, not just browsers or those trading in old books.

Books make wonderful holiday presents for everyone. Some of the most personal gifts I’ve received over the years have been books that were carefully selected. I like to give books because I can shop for a wide variety of people at one stop, and books are easy to wrap.

Here are three great independent bookstores in the Albuquerque area. All frequently sponsor book signings by local authors. There are many more wonderful independent bookstores in the Albuquerque area.

Under Charlie’s Covers (120 US 555 [next to Walgreens], Bernalillo, NM) is a used bookstore with a fresh atmosphere, maybe it’s because of the energetic owner Lara. She stocks books that appeal to children and teens, as well as adults.

Treasure House Books & Gifts (2012 S Plaza Street NW, Albuquerque, NM) focuses on books related to New Mexico and is in the heart of old town Albuquerque. It’s a great place to take friends visiting New Mexico and the owner John can advise you on the history of the state and its writers as you shop.

Menaul Book Exchange (9409 Menaul NE, Albuquerque, NM) is a neighborhood, used bookstore that is lovingly tended by its owner Dorothy. She keeps a rack of new books by local authors near the front door.

I bet there are great independent bookstores in your community too. So why not do your holiday shopping at them?

Unfortunately, Ignore the Pain, my new thriller won’t have reached stores yet on November 30, but the first two books in this medical mystery/thriller series (ComingFlu and Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight) are available. Ignore the Pain is available on Amazon as of November 26.
In Ignore the Pain, Sara Almquist couldn’t say no when invited to be the epidemiologist on a public health mission to assess children’s health in Bolivia. Soon someone from her past is chasing her through the Witches’ Market and churches of La Paz. Unfortunately, she can’t decide which of her new colleagues to trust as she learns more about coca production and the god Tío of the silver mines of Potosí than she ever wanted to know.

The cover stripes of red, yellow, and green mimic the stripes on the Bolivian  flag.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Talk about competition: Facts on blogging

Many of us find the readership of our blogs to be disappointing. Maybe we should look at the statistics on blogging.

According to WordPress (
* Bloggers produced >36 million new blog posts each month and >63 million comments each month in 2013.
* Over 391 million people viewed more than 14 billion pages of blogs each month in 2013.
* 60% of blogs are in English.

According to my math that means (if everything is even), each of my or your blogs should get about 2 (i.e. 73/36) comments and about 10 (i.e. 391/36) views. Of course, everything isn’t even; the readership of blogs is skewed. My calculations are nonsense, but they make me feel better. Do they make you feel better?

Jeff Bullas published some interesting statistics on blogging in 2012 (
* 81% of bloggers never make more than $100 from blogging.
* 2% spend 1-2 hours blogging per day and make >$150,00 from their blogging from exotic locations.

My only comment is: How do the 2% do it? I really should be studying those elite bloggers.

Maybe it's time to get back to serious writing. My next medical thriller will be published in the next two weeks.  

In Ignore the Pain, epidemiologist Sara Almquist couldn’t say no when invited to participate in a survey of children’s health in Bolivia. Soon someone from her past is chasing her through the Witches’ Market of La Paz, and she fears her new colleagues are controlled by the coca industry of Bolivia.


Friday, November 1, 2013

How Evelyn Cullet publicizes her books

I asked Evelyn to write about how she publicizes her books. She has real chuzpah. I think you'll be impressed. Here's what Evelyn had to say.

I’m in constant marketing mode. Starting close to home, I send out notices and bookmarks to all my friends and relatives and ask them to spread the word to everyone they know. And then there are the announcements on my social networks. I try to book local library and woman's book club talks when I can. And if I can't give a talk, I'll attend a writers event or a craft or food event where I'll hand out bookmarks to anyone who'll take one. I even pass out bookmarks when I'm at the supermarket or at the drug store. I always keep copies of my novels in my car, and have even sold my novels to store customers. I'm one of those authors with absolutely no shame when it comes to promotion.

Last year, as I was waiting at the Little Rock airport for a plane home from Arkansas, I asked the proprietor of a small bookstore at the airport if he would hand out some my bookmarks to his customers, and to my surprise he agreed. How's that for blatant self-promotion?

I was recently featured in a local newspaper column and got a lot of phone calls and emails about that. And a few people have actually stopped me in stores to say that they saw the column about me the newspaper. So the word is spreading.

My daughter talked the owner of a coffee shop into putting my bookmarks on her counter. And I may even be invited to do a book signing there. I don't know how that will work out, but anything's worth a try. Stay tuned. 

I created a decorative pin out of a small photo of one of my book covers and I wear it everywhere. It's a great conversation starter, and then I usually go into my explanation about what my novels are about and hand out a bookmark. Needless to say, I carry bookmarks wherever I go.

I tried doing paid advertising with an online mystery magazine. That lasted seven months, which resulted in zero book sales, so it was a complete waste of my meager marketing budget. But I always enjoy doing blog tours and being a guest author on blogs like this one. Thanks for having me on your blog, Janet.

Evelyn Cullet enjoys playing the piano, is an amateur Lapidary, and an organic gardener. She and her husband live in a suburb of Chicago. Love, Lies and Murder, the prequel to Masterpiece of Murder, is her latest novel.

Love, Lies and Murder
In this prequel to Masterpiece of Murder, Charlotte Ross's world is about to crumble. The man she loves has announced his engagement to another woman. Charlotte’s friend, dubious globe-trotter and mystery author, Jane Marshall, is back in town; but when she stumbles upon the gruesome body of the town’s millionaire industrialist, Jane becomes too wrapped up in the murder to help Charlotte in her embarrassing attempts to stop her ex-lover’s wedding. Charlotte is endearingly impractical as her impulsive choices lead her into and out of peril with only the wry and often misguided Jane to advise her as she discovers that people are not always who they seem--and a single error in judgment can prove fatal. 

Love, Lies and Murder - Amazon -
Masterpiece of Murder - Amazon -
Website and blog:

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Battle of Good and Evil at Halloween

Marilyn Meredith's Spirit Shapes was just released. It's the perfect book for Halloween.

In Spirit Shapes, Deputy Tempe tries to solve three crimes that have occurred in the eerie Wilkinson House over the last eighty years. As Tempe is drawn into a battle of good evil, she is confronted with a problem faced by many with cross-cultural backgrounds. What is the best way to recognize the truth? Is it her Indian traditions as represented by Nick Two Johns or Christianity as represented by her husband Hutch or some combination of the two?

Spirit Shapes is a good snapshot of modern America with three-dimensional characters; some of whom just happen to be elderly, homeless, Goths, or kids that fall between the crack in the school system. The plot and conclusion will surprise you.

 Contest: The person who comments on the most blogs on this blog tour will have the opportunity to have a character named after him or her in the next Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery. Note Lorna Collins in Spirit Shapes is the winner of Marilyn's contest last year.

Bio: Marilyn Meredith is the author of over thirty published novels, including the award winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series. She borrows a lot from where she lives in the Southern Sierra for the town of Bear Creek and the surrounding area, including the nearby Tule River Indian Reservation. She does like to remind everyone that she is writing fiction. Marilyn is a member of EPIC, three chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. Visit her at and follow her blog at

Tomorrow (October 31) she'll be visiting :

You can buy Spirit Shapes (in all formats) form Amazon or directly from the publisher:

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Where do you get ideas for your writing?

The old dictum (Write about what you know.) is generally good advice. That’s probably why several authors have created successful cozy mystery series based on their hobbies (i.e. gardening, quilting, or cooking). Out of habit, I still thumb through scientific journals. When I read how a few mutations (changes) could turn a bird flu virus into one that can infect humans, I knew that I had the basis for a medical thriller. I called it Coming Flu.

Many authors looking for tax write offs, base their novels on vacation spots, such as the Caribbean islands. I’m not as smart. My next novel Ignore the Pain was based on a coca tea bag, postcards, and other cheap souvenirs that I collected on a trip to Bolivia. I didn’t get a tax write off and the location is grittier than a tropical isle. Readers may be pleased to know my souvenirs did not include a llama fetus from the Witches’ Market in La Paz, Bolivia.

But you don’t have to travel far for ideas. Have you ever wandered down a street in an old section of your home town and wondered what happened behind those facades last year, ten years ago, or even a century ago? Or just go a nearby mall and “people” watch.

Advertisements are under-utilized sources of ideas (particularly humor) for novels. Consider the endorsements of weight loss regimes and products on TV. The sizes of some of the servings of food in these promotions make even small salad plates look large. And many of those “delicious” shakes are nauseating. In my medical mystery Murder:A New Way to Lose Weight, readers get to see how desperate diet doctors can be. They might even be murderers.

But other ads for clothing, cars, and sexual performance medications on TV are also promising. Don’t’ forget those Friday night TV shows, which are thinly covered hour-long advertisements for bridal gowns.

Bug and I would love to hear about your favorite sources of ideas for writing.

Friday, October 11, 2013

How does an undercover FBI agent write about Christmas?

Today I'm welcoming a guest  John Wills.

This ex FBI agent is a dynamic speaker. I've heard him play the role of a crook in the "hood" at a Public Safety Writers Association meeting. Granted I'm no expert, but he sure convinced me. I bet he was good at undercover activities while an FBI agent.

Here's what John has to say.

Thank you, Janet, for hosting me on your blog.  
I’ve always wanted to write a feel-good story about Christmas. My story, however, is gritty and deals with some pretty tough topics: PTSD, homelessness, and alcoholism. The Year Without Christmas is the story about a family living in a small town in Michigan. After a tragic accident, they spiral down into the darkest time in their life.
As Robert Frost noted, “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.” That describes my journey as I crafted Eric Doyle’s story. Based on my life experiences, and those of family and close friends, I often found myself needing to pause as I wrote certain segments of the novel. My Catholic faith also played a large role in the story, although it never interferes with the stark conditions Eric faces as he winds up homeless on the streets of Chicago.
My bio begins in Chicago. Born and raised there, I was the second oldest of six children. We were a blue-collar family, my parents both worked to afford to send all of us to Catholic schools. I attended from kindergarten through college, and graduated from St. Xavier University in Chicago. I also spent a brief stint in the seminary, studying to become an Augustinian priest.
Instead of the priesthood, however, I spent two years in the Army, and then became a Chicago police officer. Twelve years later, I left the CPD and became an FBI agent. I worked all over the world, and was undercover on several occasions with the FBI. I spent my last six years teaching at the FBI Academy in Quantico, VA. I retired in 2004 and hired on with a training company in Seattle to train military and police throughout North America. I spent the past eight years training and travelling.
I am now fully retired. I continue to write novels, articles, short stories and poetry. Most often, I can be found spending time with my beautiful wife of 43 years, Christine, and my four grandchildren.
My reviewer page on the New York Journal of Books:
My articles on

Sunday, September 29, 2013


Bug and I will be at the Farmington Public Library in Farmington, New Mexico on Thursday, October 17 at 6 pm.

As  professor emerita of the University  of Wisconsin, I'll talk on SCIENCE IN YOUR FICTION. You might be surprised all the ways that modern molecular biology and nanotechnology have crept into modern fiction.

Afterwards I'll sign copies of COMING FLU and MURDER: A NEW WAY TO LOSE WEIGHT.

Bug will supervise the event. He's used to being a pet therapy dog at UNM Hospital and the VA Hospital in Albuquerque. So he's used to crowds, especially of children.
As this picture suggests, he has a mind of his own. He's also the basis of the character Bug in my medical mysteries.


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Is blogging a good way of promoting books?

Kindle versions of COMING FLU & MURDER: A NEW WAY TO LOSE WEIGHT are only $2.99 at Amazon until Sept 30.

I know advertisements don’t make good blogs. But lets be honest most (I bet more than fifty percent of bloggers) wouldn’t write blogs if they weren’t trying to promote their books, art, or pet projects.

Publicizing pet projects is a driving force in our economy and political system. If you doubt me, think about what you read, listen to and watch on public media. Talk shows, much of most newscasts, whole sections of newspapers and magazines are just ways to publicize ideas and products. I could say some of the best dramas on TV (notably Law and Order) are attempts to comment on social issues. Some actors and actresses always seem to pick movies espousing causes they believe in.

On one sense, all of education is an attempt to promote a pet project – helping children and adults reach their full potential.

So I feel guilty, but I did it anyway and advertised the SALE on my medical mysteries.

Coming Flu (

Saturday, September 7, 2013

How do you promote books that are on sale at Amazon?

Do you post an ad on #All Mystery Newsletter, which advertises “dirt cheap reads?”
Do you post the sale on your blog? 
Do you post announcements on Manic Readers and on your Facebook page? 
Or do you send personalized messages to “friends” on Linked In?

I’ve tried all of these. What do you advise? I bet others, besides Bug and I, would like your advice too.

Last week I asked the question (#What’s the best price for a book on Kindle?) to the LINKED IN group called Crime Fiction. Over thirty people responded. The best (the most data based) answer came from Smashwords (Http:// Kindle books by independent authors sell best when priced at $2.99 or $3.99.

So I put the Kindle versions of COMING FLU and MURDER: A NEW WAY TO LOSE WEIGHT on sale for $2.99 at Amazon in September.

In Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight, physician Linda Almquist can’t decide who is more dangerous: ambitious and perhaps reckless, young "diet doctors" or established physicians who don’t like anyone snooping in their past.

In Coming Flu, epidemiologist Sara Almquist (Linda’s sister) is trying to stop two killers: the Philippine flu, which is rapidly wiping out everyone in a walled community in New Mexico, and a drug kingpin determined to break out of the quarantined enclave.

If you’re looking for fun reads, consider these medical mysteries. Next week I’ll recap what I learned.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

What's the Best Price for a Book on Kindle?

I’ve heard of authors who posted their #Kindle books on Amazon as free and suddenly “sold” 400 copies in a day. Some authors claim sales of their books tripled when they reduced the cost of their books from $5.99 to $3,99 or $2.99.

What do you think? Are these anecdotes flukes?

Are there good statistics on the elasticity of the market for Kindle books? Where’s the break point at which sales increase? I suspect Amazon knows the answer because they control one of the databases in the world.

I’d love to hear your opinions or better yet get references that show actual sales figures. I bet other readers would too.

In any case, the Kindle versions of my #medical mysteries - Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight and Coming Flu are on sale on Amazon for $2.99 during September.

In #Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight, physician Linda Almquist is investigating an ambitious "diet doctor" who is endangering the lives of his #obese patients and perhaps eliminating anyone who thwarts his career plans. But Linda could be wrong. The murders might be related to something in the past – something involving her boss the Dean. While Linda fears for her job, the police fear for her life.

In #Coming Flu, epidemiologist Sara Almquist is trying to stop two killers:  the Philippine flu, which is rapidly wiping out everyone in a walled community in New Mexico, and a drug kingpin determined to break out of the quarantined enclave.

Thursday, July 25, 2013


By wacky fad diets, I mean those diets that basically allow all you can eat of one food but restrict intake of other foods. Some of these diets have the names of famous people attached to them, but I’m leaving the names off, to avoid controversy.

Examples of fad diets are:
The Morning Banana Diet Basically dieters can eat all the bananas they want for breakfast and snacks but no other foods at those times. Some promoters of this diet allow milk with breakfast.

The Grapefruit Diet (sometime called the Hollywood Diet) Generally dieters following his plan eat grapefruit with all meals and are not allowed other carbohydrates, such as sweets or grains.

The Ice Cream Diet Early renditions of this diet allowed those wishing to lose weight to eat all ice cream they wanted but nothing else. Now those promoting this diet suggest dieters eat 1,250 calories per day in a balanced diet and once serving of ice cream.

Baby Food Diet This diet plan allows weight watchers to eat all the baby food they can gag down for two meals a day and snacks. They are allowed one normal meal a day.

I’m sure you can name many more fad diets

Will these diets work?
It’s amazing how boredom can decrease your appetite. Most of us will eat less if we are faced with limited choices. Let’s be honest, after a week you can develop a real aversion to bananas, grapefruit, or baby food, and maybe even ice cream. And then you’ll probably eat much less. That why the early renditions of the ice cream diet often failed, many could eat prodigious amounts of their favorite dessert for weeks on end.

In modern renditions of these fad diets, dieters are encouraged to eat a low calorie (about 1200 calories daily) balanced diet with these foods and to exercise more. This increases the likelihood of weight loss.

So what did you learn?
Basic science holds true. If you consume less calories and exercise more you lose weight. Fad diets add a little advertising pizzazz to this bland advice. That makes some people stick to their intentions long enough to lose weight.

Does this apply to writing?
Strong writing is like your basic balanced 1200-calorie diet with plenty of exercise. It works and produces the desired results – a good, maybe even great novel. However, it often takes a well-known name, a dynamic platform (which mean lots of hard work doing promotional activities), and/or catchy advertising gimmicks to turn it into a best seller.

Have you found the fad diet (advertising gimmick) to sell your books? I’d like to hear about it. I’m sure other writers would too.

JL Greger

In Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight, physician Linda Almquist, Sara's sister, is investigating an ambitious "diet doctor" who may be eliminating anyone who thwarts his career plans. You'll think of this book before you start your next diet. Learn more at

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

When it comes to dieting, do you feel confused?

Many of us appear to have a bipolar relationship with food. We’re either feasting or dieting. Doubt me?

Flip on your TV and watch the ads. First there’s one for a restaurant with pictures of smiling, thin people and sizzling steaks or pizzas dripping with gooey cheese. Next a slender actress coos about a diet regime while she shows you tiny portions of foods that look like plastic models. After a small break for the program, the ads are back.

That’s why I wrote Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight. I thought the love – hate relationship most of us have with food was a good backdrop for a murder mystery. And Albuquerque was the perfect location. Let me explain.

There are similarities between dieting and solving a murder.
 1) Both are hard work.
 2) Both should be taken seriously. Obesity is life threatening; it’s not just a cosmetic problem. Although humorous scenes add to murder mysteries, murder isn’t funny.
3) Little things (like calories and seemingly insignificant clues) are important.
4) Patience and persistence are the keys to success in losing weight or solving a murder.

In Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight, the protagonist Linda Almquist struggles to lose weight, to fit into a new job where she’s not really wanted, and to help the police catch a killer before he strikes a third time. At times, you won’t be sure which of these activities is hardest for Linda.

Albuquerque is a great restaurant town.
I set many scenes in real restaurants (Flying Star, Hurricanes, Jason’s Deli) because Albuquerque is home to a lot of great southwestern cooking – burritos stuffed with everything but the kitchen sink and dripping in cheese, fried chili rellenos smothered in red or green chili sauce, and pork tamales with guacamole and sour cream on the side. Note southwestern cooking isn’t known for its’ low-calorie entrees. And tension builds (I hope) as the “dieting” Linda peruses menus and reluctantly chooses salads with dressing on the side.

Now let’s get’s personal and address your love-hate relationship with food.
This advice comes from a nutritionist who loves eating and cooking and doesn’t always follow this advice.
1. Learn to enjoy more activities that don’t involve eating or drinking.
2. Don’t make a stop for ice cream the reward for exercise.
3. Make a couple of new rules at your house: no eating or drinking in front of the TV or computer or in bed. Hopefully, the activities in these locations will be so interesting, you’ll choose not to get another snack. And you can tell yourself and your spouse, this will reduce messy mistakes.
4. Don’t buy your favorite snack foods. If potato or taco chips aren’t in your house, you can’t eat them. Sometimes I think the main advantage of buying some “diet” snack foods is that they don’t taste good, so I eat less of them.
5. Read more books. And make it a rule not to eat or drink while reading. Remember, resale vendors don’t like books that have food or drink stains.

Okay, these hints are great but they should make you think. How often do you eat because you bored, not hungry?

Why not satisfy your taste for mystery and suspense, by buying Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight and Coming Flu on Amazon or if you’re in Albuquerque at Treasure House (on the square in Old Town Albuquerque) or Menaul Book Exchange (at 9409 Menaul Boulevard)? 

JL Greger