May 1, 2020

I would guess that many writers, who work at home anyway, are not traumatized by self-isolating as, it seems, some people in other careers are. Since the passing of my husband (best friend and business manager) a year ago, I have lived alone. Learning how to take care of all the things John did related to my writing career, not to mention the many household chores–from bill paying to light bulb changing–has been difficult, and I have had to quit some of my favorite career experiences. I do miss the easy ability of traveling to distant book selling/signing events and writers’ conferences, but otherwise I am adapting. John and I worked separately most days at home, so, even when he was here, we were often quietly separate, but certainly not lonely.


I recently finished the anthology of short stories I had long dreamed about writing (“Solving Peculiar Crimes”) and that is now off to my editor. Wow, now I actually have time to read books written by favorite authors, including some I know well and have enjoyed spending time with at writers” events in the past. That is a huge plus.

I do need to catch up with promotion methods that have changed quite a bit since my last novel came out in 2016. Whoa, has it been that long? On- line promotion on Social Media and elsewhere has leaped ahead during those years.

I still look forward to the time when life opens up again, and I can go back to my regular Friday-Saturday book selling and signing events in an area chain of grocery stores. I enjoy talking with people, face-to-face, which is, I know. a contrast to the fact that I don’t mind long days at home alone.

So, how are things going for you? If you are home alone, are you adjusting to that, both income and experience-wise?

Is it really about redemption?

April 28, 2020

A number of years ago one of my favorite mystery authors, Carolyn Hart, was quoted as saying something about the relation of traditional mystery novels to redemption. I can no longer quote her exactly, but the link between mystery writing and redemption sure gave me a lot to think about.

I was just beginning my career as a traditional mystery author and had sold my first two novels to a publisher. Without thinking about it at all until Carolyn’s comment awakened me, my own interests, religious background, and motivations had created two mystery stories that did indeed lead to redemption in the lives of one or more characters. Not only that, I began to recognize a redemption theme or background in the work of other authors whose books I enjoyed most. It had been so subtle in both my own work and my enjoyment of other books that, until someone else brought it to my attention, I didn’t think about it at all.

And redemption solutions found or earned by book characters became a dominant idea in all my written work though I never struggled to make that happen or even, 90% of the time, attempted to make it happen in the plots.

More about this later on this blog, but, though it initially surprised me, not only have individuals in my stories been changed for the better by the end of a book, thoughts while creating these results have helped me personally.

More than once, remembering what my main female protagonist, Carrie McCrite, thinks while untangling human-caused danger and disaster has helped me find peace in less critical problems I have faced.

So, what do you think about redemption writing? Especially initially, I had no intention of writing for a Christian market. I do not preach. But I realize now that what comes out in my writing must be God-centered, though subtly enough that folks who are not church goers do not think of my books as “religious, ” nor, do a certain degree, do I. Comforting, yes, especially now in these disturbing times.

Comforting, most of all, to their author.


April 10, 2020

I am a writer, and I can prove it. Just look at http://www.RadinesBooks.com. Nine books published by three independent publishers.

Then, silence! Why? No new book in work, no posts on my blog, not much travel to distant writers’ conferences and conventions, (partly because, during this period, many of our favorites closed).

During this long silence, my husband and I moved from our Ozarks country home (“DEAR EARTH: A Love Letter from Spring Hollow”) to a condo in Fayetteville, Arkansas. We settled in, and I began intensive work at weekend book signings at an area grocery chain that welcomed me as a registered vendor in its various stores. I loved this work, and enjoyed meeting customers who stopped to chat, ask about my books, and, often, chose to buy one or more. My husband, who was also my business manager, enjoyed the store visits and usually sat with me at my signing table. He also carried and helped arrange supplies, including table, chairs, and book stock at my events.

Then, suddenly, my husband died, and a huge learning experience swamped my life so fully that I barely had time to grieve. I lost interest in writing and (never really true) I also thought I had no time. He had handled all my business necessities since his own retirement. Manage bookkeeping, yes; book stock orders, yes; shipping to those who ordered books from my web site, yes; travel arrangements, yes; tax prep and filing, yes: negotiations and business arrangements with bookstores,: yes.

And, of course, he took care of all household issues as well, helped me with troublesome tech questions in my office, and did upkeep in and around our city condominium. Blogging dropped to the bottom of my “to-do” list. For a time, I didn’t want to write at all.

I have been able to continue some grocery signing events, and, last year, began writing what had been a long-time dream for me, a short story anthology featuring the main characters in my eight mystery novels. I finished the final story in “Solving Peculiar Crimes” yesterday, and sent it off to my editor at SK Publications. Though I have always enjoyed writing, creating thirteen “Peculiar Crime” stories for Carrie McCrite and Henry King, Shirley and Roger, and more, was the most delicious fun. It re-awakened my love for making up stories.

So, here I am. More to come.

Best wishes to all of you in this sheltering, mask-wearing, and keeping our physical distance time. I’ll be back soon.


eople initiated friendly discussions about their families, their lives, and about almost anything else that wasn’t overly controversial and not–how should I say it?–off color. (I mention off-color because a majority of those wanting to chat were male. Though my husb

What Does the Perfect Book Cover Include? By Karen McCullough

August 29, 2017


Karen and grandchild

I’ve been designing book covers, both ebook and print, for clients for a while now.  My goal has always been to try to get the client to tell me what they want and then give them something as close to exactly that as possible.  I’m limited in this endeavor by a distinct lack of artistic talent.  I can’t draw anything that looks remotely like what I’m attempting.

What I do have is good design sense, thanks in some part of an art director I worked with at a magazine years ago.  Before I started doing web sites I was an editor at a couple of trade publications. Back in the late 1990s, when the web began to explode, the publisher of the series of magazines I worked for at the time asked me to create websites for each.  I knew nothing about the web but I did…

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On some days you win!

September 19, 2016

Of course those of us who write for publication want the prize–to know that others will read our words and–possibly–will find meaning in them. We may never be famous, in fact it’s unlikely most of us will be, at least outside our own area. It’s also highly unlikely we’ll make much money. But occasionally a reader will speak up on line or in person with words of appreciation and praise, and that makes all the difference. We have reached out and connected with one, two, a dozen, a hundred, maybe even a thousand readers or more.

What fun. Here’s an email from someone who lives in New Jersey, and another from South Carolina. Look! Kentucky, Texas, Arizona, Oregon. Oh, my gosh, here’s an email from Australia. Really? I have a reader there? How did that . . . ?  Oh, well, never mind . . . Australia?

When I first read about the Readers’ Map of Arkansas in a newsletter from Nightbird Books in Fayetteville, Arkansas, I wasn’t quite sure I understood what it was. Then I learned the map was for sale at Nightbird, and saw a tiny picture of it.  Names completely covered an outline map of the state–what a terrific idea. I have long felt Arkansas produces more than its share of rightly famous authors. And, of course, no matter how favorably mystery readers familiar with my series may view my novels (even someone from Australia) Radine wouldn’t be on the map with Maya Angelou, John Grisham, Charlaine Harris, Dee Brown, Helen Gurley Brown, Eldridge Cleaver . . . more, and more, and of course the Porter and Pulitzer Prize winners. I thought of so many names I would recognize and praise. Then I forgot about the map and went on with current writing projects in my office.

Until I got another newsletter about the map from Nightbird, and my husband was curious enough to search until he found a list of authors. “You’re here,” he said.

I left my office and walked down the hall to his. Seeing is believing. (I’m sure you already knew what was coming.)

I am still stunned, but of course I bought a map. It’s stuck on the back of the closet door in my office.

I was proud enough to highlight my name.




Make Gratitude Part of Your Writing Career

April 25, 2016

For more than twenty years, Radine Trees Nehring’s magazine features, essays, newspaper articles, and radio broadcasts have shared colorful stories about the people, places, events, and natur…

Source: Make Gratitude Part of Your Writing Career

Don’t we all need a little more cozy?

February 20, 2016

Guides to mystery genres are often published–listing many categories, from puzzle-solving and satisfactory endings to horror/violence/sadism that leave you shaking and depressed.

Goodness knows there is enough in the last description in real life today. Maybe someone can explain to me why readers punish themselves by choosing fiction echoing the worst humans can inflict on each other. Is it so those readers can experience this vicariously, and hence avoid practicing it in real life? Or do these novels (plus, it is said, violent video games, movies, and TV programs) present guidelines and impetus to action for some unstable/miserable minds, who then act out their misery using weapons too easily available, as psychologists and others have suggested?

Well, that’s a deep question, but, for my own reading and writing, I choose stories in a category popularly named Cozy. These books intrigue and entertain me. They present characters I enjoy getting to know. They often give a window on human life that, subtly, increases my understanding of others, though a learning experience is not the first reason I choose them. Most of all I want to be entertained–with perhaps a few shivers, but without danger to my general equanimity.

Dictionaries define “cozy” as “snugly, warm, comfortable.”  OOOO, snugly. Love that, especially on a cold winter day in my office.

On Writing World.com, Stephen D. Rogers defines the “Cozy” as being “typified by Agatha Christie, containing bloodless crime, and a victim who won’t be missed. The solution can be determined by using emotional (Miss Marple) or logical (Poirot) reasoning.” Well, maybe, though today I think cozy goes beyond that, or at least it does in my own writing. For example, my characters can be subjected to dangerous and vile criminal activity by “bad guys,” and the criminal action can be in full view of readers. It certainly is in my latest novel, A Portrait to Die For, though I admit my sense of humor peeked through in a couple of the tense scenes. In any case, strength, as well as both logic and emotion lead to a solution in all my novels and, in many cases, redemption or a character change in some form.

An inquirer recently asked me if I wrote “Cozy Noir.” That stumped me for a while, especially since Rogers defines “Noir” as ” . . .  a mood: gritty, bleak, and unforgiving. The usual brutality is about as far from Cozy as you can get.” So, looking at it that way, I do not write anything near “Noir,” and for that matter would generally stop reading a novel that fit such a description.

I believe all of us–yes, every one of us–need more cozy in our lives. Not just in books, but in real hugs, understanding, thoughtfulness, support, stability and love. Seems to me these things, more than anything else, could begin to address the issue of violence in our real world.

I was recently shown something Barbara Vining, a writer I admire, wrote ” . . .  human affections need a tender touch–to awaken desires and aspirations that stabilize the emotions (and) satisfy the deepest longings . . . ”  To that I say, “amen.”
Radine at http://www.RadinesBooks.com

No lack of writing talent, but . . .

February 11, 2016

Fellow author Crow Johnson Evans and I met with a writers’ group in Bella Vista, Arkansas yesterday, speaking to them about how we established our writing careers, and answering questions.  Following this we had the great opportunity to hear each member of the group read examples of their own writing.

WOW, we heard some wonderful things. Most striking, I thought, was a lively article about wedding practices in Syria–the author had lived in Damascus for twenty years. This was certainly a timely topic. Other pieces (mostly non-fiction, spiced by one romance author’s chapter) were also very good.

But there was a big, publication-stopping problem, or rather, several problems.  Too many words, for the main one, sentences too long, spiced with adjectives and adverbs. Telling more than was needed to make the article or story sing.  There were other problems no editor would tolerate–improper formatting, bad punctuation, and more.  I don’t know how long each of the members has been writing, but huge talent was obvious. It was, therefore, heart breaking to see most of it buried in wordiness and writing mistakes. I wondered how each author had arrived at this point without actual knowledge of the business of writing.

What to do? I wrote to the group’s organizer/director today, and sent along a list of general interest writers’ conferences in this area, some of them free. At the meeting, Crow had already suggested various classes on line. Writing like we heard yesterday is too terrific to be hidden under problems that would deny it publication, but no one in the group commented about the problems I mention, and, as guests, Crow and I were reluctant to say much.

Sad fact–I have run into terrific talent before, but too often the writer(s) lacked the ooomph to do work needed to make it ready to submit to an agent, magazine or book editor. I have worked with (for example) a very good author who rarely read publisher’s guidelines before he submitted. In one instance he sent a (very good) story manuscript that was almost double the word count the publisher’s guidelines asked for, thinking, I suspect, his work was good enough to overcome that little problem, if he even had read the guidelines. After only a few rejections, this author gave up, stopped submitting, dropped out of our critique group, and may have stopped writing completely.

Too bad. It takes more than talent. May I suggest ooomph–or maybe “fire in the belly”, and a willingness to do the down and dirty detail work?  I guess I have this. At times I feel wildly frustrated and wish I could just WRITE.  But I sit in my desk chair and turn on the computer, not to write, but to do research and so much more.

Tell me–is my frustration noted here unrealistic? How do you feel?







Fact or Fiction?

January 18, 2016

A Fair To Die ForAs a former non-fiction author (magazines, newspapers, radio news reporter, and one book) I know that non-fiction is not necessarily 100% what the category indicates. We choose which bits of truth to report, we  quote or describe what seems important to us.  Yes, it’s truth, BUT . . . .    This is not a slam at news reporters. We all select how we see, understand, and react to any “truth” we’re told.  A notorious example of this is the variety of stories law officers can get from witnesses to a single crime.

When I was program chair for a Sisters in Crime chapter in the Ozarks, one of my programs was held in the police department of a small Ozarks. town. The officer who led our meeting arranged several “crimes” that occurred while he was telling about his department’s work.  Some of the criminal actions weren’t even noticed by audience members.  Others were seen so differently as to be judged not the same action.

Okay, now that that’s settled. What about fiction?  For the last twenty years I have been writing fiction, published in eight novels and a number of short stories. While the settings for every one of these is real down to the last doorknob or wildflower, characters and crime are always fiction.  Ummm, well, then, how much truth (other than setting) enters into the fiction you and I enjoy reading? And, what about my own stories? What about those of other authors?

I know of news reporters who, stopped from exposing real crimes they uncover because of legal issues, later expose the same crimes in “fiction.”  (Note: sometimes this type of fiction can alert law officers and public officials to true crime and cause action to stop it.  And exposing dark criminal events can be so close to the truth that they garner death threats for authors.  That alone lets us know how closely fiction and fact can be  blended.)

But what about people like me, who have led rather average, even dull, lives, and are, so to speak, pulling our stories out of pure fantasy?

Sorry, dear readers. The fantasy is not really the story. The fantasy is that nothing true is in the story.  For example: My first novel, A Valley to Die For, had a working title, Hunting Season, and was the story of two killings said to be accidental. Victims were shot by hunters mistaking them for deer. (!)  Of course I knew this happened. We lived in the rural Ozarks, heard the gunshots in the woods around us, and, if we went outside, wore orange and sang at the top of our voices, or carried a radio turned loud. Every hunting season newspapers reported at least one shooting by mistake.

So, I simply moved my understanding of deaths in hunting season into a novel. What an excellent way to get rid of a business associate threatening to expose your criminal activities.  Right?

And, so it goes. I’ve lived a long life, and in every story I write, I draw upon emotions, events, conversations, and experiences viewed and experienced during that life. Why not? This helps me write scenes where what my characters say and experience rings with truth.  Even if it’s not.

Therefore, dear reader,  total acceptance of fiction as purely creative story invention, and non-fiction as totally true, should be discarded. In these days when what we see and hear in political campaigns can be scandalous fabrication, (we do know that, don’t we?) it’s best to process ALL stories as what has been called “faction.” We should still enjoy reading whatever is called fiction, and, in non-fiction, be sure the facts we’re told can be verified before we act on them.  

Five-legged frogs, pregnant fifty-year-olds, and centenarians on longevity drugs, plus a murder or two—

January 14, 2015

Five-legged frogs, pregnant fifty-year-olds, and centenarians on longevity drugs, plus a murder or two—.