May 4, 2013

I haven’t been on a vacation since my first mystery novel (A VALLEY TO DIE FOR) was published in 2002.

Until that year, husband John and I went on yearly vacations in August.  The gift/decorating/antique shop where I worked closed for three weeks in August to have cleaning and painting done, and so I could take a vacation.  Since it was August and we were camping–sleeping in the back of our van–we went north for comfort.  We love the ocean, so most frequently headed for a northern coast in the United States or Canada, though we saw quite a bit of the Great Lakes and central Canada as well.  I have wonderful memories of all those vacations.

However, by the time my second novel, MUSIC TO DIE FOR (Ozark Folk Center State Park), had appeared, vacations turned into book research/and/or book promotion trips.  In some ways, these were mini-vacations as well.  Conferences and conventions?  We have seen Austin, TX at a Bouchercon Writers’ Conference, and El Paso at Left Coast Crime.  We fell in love with Omaha over and over during repeated visits to Mayhem in the Midlands, and enjoyed visiting the Washington DC area after a long trip by car to attend Malice Domestic.  We have seen some of  Indiana and Tennessee, several additional locations in Texas, plus Missouri and Kansas and, of course, Little Rock and Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Which brings me to another type of “vacation.”  Book research trips.  Since I site my novels at tourist destinations in the Arkansas Ozarks, most of my research is done on day trips.  One of the more distant exceptions is A TREASURE TO DIE FOR,  set in Hot Springs National Park. That required one two-week vacation stay, and two additional overnight trips. This was all the fault of my major characters, Carrie McCrite and Henry King.  Carrie wanted to attend what was then called an Elderhostel, sited in Hot Springs. (As did her creator, Radine. What a happy coincidence.)

John and I enrolled in the chosen Elderhostel.  Carrie, wanting to lure Henry into attending with her, followed friend Elinor Stack’s advice, and made a meatloaf, since (Elinor assured her) feeding a man meatloaf and oven potatoes was guaranteed to make him say yes to most anything. However, Carrie is no cook, and her road to meatloaf is covered, I hope humorously, in that novel.  The eventual result did the trick, and Henry agreed to go along. ( He may have had regrets later because he ended up in more pain and more danger than even Carrie, though she had trouble enough on her own.)  At the end of the novel, moved by many exterior and interior hazards lived through, he finally asks Carrie to marry him.

Which takes us to A WEDDING TO DIE FOR (The 1886 Crescent Hotel and Eureka Springs, AR), A RIVER TO DIE FOR (Buffalo National River), JOURNEY TO DIE FOR (A&M RR Passenger Excursion Train ride to historic Van Buren, AR), and A FAIR TO DIE FOR (War Eagle Craft fairs and Hobbs State Park).

Coming next year, A GARDEN TO DIE FOR.  Now that doesn’t require a long trip at all.

Radine, at



April 19, 2013

I have many reasons to be grateful, even in the middle of current chaos in my life  (most of it related to a planned move from country to city), not to mention in the world — seems like problems are looming all around.  So, it’s time for me to think of the good in my life. Darkness can not and should not prevail!

Major on my list is gratitude stemming from strong belief in and practice of my Christian religion.

However, as a writer, I am thinking today of thankfulness related to that profession.

1. I’m grateful for a mother who read to me from books and made up original little stories for me before I could read on my own.  Later she took me on the bus (our family’s one car was used by my father only) to a library in Tulsa where I could check out stacks of books every week.

2. I’m grateful for teachers in all my schools who encouraged me as a writer.

3. Grateful for early writing contacts in Tulsa, Oklahoma through Tulsa Nightwriters, and for their meetings with speakers on so many writing-related topics based on inspiration or craft.

4. Grateful to Peggy Fielding, TNW member who taught adult writing classes at what was then Tulsa Junior College.  I think I took every single one of her scheduled classes on topics from writing for confession magazine to submitting a literary novel to publishers.  All classes had invaluable ideas and advice on the business of writing.  Other benefits were making connections with  other aspiring authors in the classes, plus enjoying Peggy’s encouragement and humor–a terrific boost.  (A favorite example of Peggy’s humor was seeing her act out the role of “Ms Poo-Poo.” the editor at an unnamed publishing company who would be looking at our submissions.  We also learned about the mail room attendant who collected stamps, therefore saw to it that our submissions with carefully selected unique stamps, got to Ms. Poo-Poo’s desk on top of the stack!)

5. I’m grateful for the editors and publishers who eventually bought each of my books, and for the sources that helped me connect to them.

6. Grateful to the bookstores and many other venues who host programs and signings for me.

7. Grateful for advice, criticism, and, yes, praise from countless people.

8. Grateful for conferences and conventions designed for writers and all who plan and host them.  Wonderful experiences.  I wish I could attend them all.  They are great help in a writing career and I can’t even begin to be grateful enough for friendships made there.

9. Grateful for my critique group, Spavinaw Authors Guild, which has been a huge help in giving me a potential reader’s viewpoint about my novels, and in correcting speed bumps and grammar problems in my work.

10. Grateful for you, and you, and you, and all friends met online.  This is a huge interest field with so many participants, both readers and writers, isn’t it.

I could continue, but you get the idea.  I have so much to be grateful for today!

Join me in gratitude for something in your life today!

Radine at




Priorities for an Author. What do we really love?

April 12, 2013

This is a hard one, at least for me.  Problems with time and with all sorts of “other” demanding my concentration right now led to this blog.

Of course writing is the biggest priority, and my much-loved occupation.  Without doing the writing, I have nothing to sell. And, truth be told, I believe most all authors do enjoy the writing part.  (Most of the time.)  I sure do.

But, of course, any published author needs to spend a LOT of time as a salesperson as well as a writer.  I am familiar with this type of work because  I worked in retail sales for thirty years, and enjoyed meeting the public face-to-face.  But that was before the Internet.

Different times now.  Much of our work presenting and promoting our published writing is on the Internet.  Of course we promote in many other ways, arranging appearances and signings, connecting with media, attending conferences and conventions, and much more, but, for me at least, the need to promote on the Internet is the most difficult.That’s partly because I’ve never taken the time or given the concentration to figuring out how it all works.  I know the basics, but am still not at ease holding a little screen and communicating with the world!    ( I promise  I’ll work on it this summer. )

Okay. Writing, promoting, and a bit of housework and personal stuff make a full-time job for many, and a real trial for those with full-time day jobs as well.  Proves all active authors must love writing.  Right?

We adjust schedules, make routines, and we manage.

But, what if something more intrudes?  A needy parent, a sick child, or, in my case right now, a planned move from a three-story homestead  on twenty-three acres in the Ozarks to a five-room condominium in a city an hour’s drive away.  Not as needy an event as helping a parent, child, or other relative, but still a source for some degree of stress, and a turning away from writing for a time.

One reason for the planned move actually is my writing career.  I have let our gardens and surrounding area languish untended while I wrote and promoted.  My husband, my wonderful helper, is in the same boat, since taking care of the business end of my writing activity and getting me out of occasional mess-ups on my computer demand a lot of his time, too.  We simply don’t have time for the work Spring Hollow in the Ozarks demands to function well. Therefore, a move to simpler accommodations was indicated.

And, that means priorities right now have little to do with writing.  I am working with carpenters, painters, and electricians  preparing the condo for John and me, and also planning for a bit of painting and fix-up here at Spring Hollow.  Questions must be answered, plans looked at, measurements taken, shopping done, plus new utilities and other connections arranged for.

My once daily writing schedule is dead in the water though I had begun another novel in my “To Die For” series.  I promise myself — and readers who are asking — as soon as we are moved and this house sells, I’ll go back to A GARDEN TO DIE FOR.

In the meantime, that story gurgles only in the background of my thoughts while home and move demand my attention. I have discovered I am not good at some types of mental multi-tasking.

Do any of you understand this?  How do priorities work for you?  I don’t love writing less, but, still . . . .




March 29, 2013

WHAT?  I’m not a loner?   But . . . .

Many here know the story of a grade school Radine who hid in her closet to read while her mother entertained friends at her 8th Birthday party.  (Mom, when she found me,  insisted I join the party.)

My disinclination to enjoy large group events has persisted through the years–even in high sch0ol and college where a date to a party or dance with one nifty guy (and of course there were several of those over a number of years) did not constitute interacting on a loud level with a raucous group outside my personal sphere.

It isn’t that I don’t like people.  I am just content, most of the time, to enjoy very small groups, the companionship of my husband, or my own company.  Anti-social?  I don’t know, it’s okay if you call it that.

However, I do know this, that the Internet has changed interpersonal connections just as it has changed so much else in the writing world.

I wrote for magazines and the news for a number of years before I settled down to write and sell my first book.  After that, even before the Internet, publicity needs did dictate I do public signings and programs.  Okay, I was focused on my special interest, talking about that, and relatively comfortable in my slot.

By the time my mystery series featuring amateur detectives Carrie McCrite and Henry King was making its way, one book at a time, into the public, the Internet was beginning to be a factor in publicity.  But, still interested mostly in personal appearances and hampered by slow rural Internet connection, I was similarly  slow to adopt extensive Internet publicity.  For an additional time I remained largely safe in my private world.

And now?  As much as anyone, I depend on Internet connection to the “outside” world of writers and readers. This is only partly for publicity purposes.

There are a number of lists and groups connecting mystery fans on the Internet, plus many other groups with members involved in writing everything from enlightened poetry to–porn.  We are a truly varied profession.  Along the way I have discovered it is very difficult to even think of pursuing my career without these multiple connections to people I will probably never meet face-to-face.  (Hm, maybe this is rather like hiding in my closet?)

Via these connections and through reading online lists of comments, I learn what is going on in the writing profession:  Who read and commented on this book or the other; what list or group or firm made decisions possibly detrimental or beneficial to publishers, bookstores, writers and/or readers; how other authors are promoting; what conventions and conferences are coming up–and on and on.  All the information I read keeps me connected to my profession and its news.

We need the information pouring into our computers to help us make informed decisions about our work as authors and the next steps in our careers.  Therefore, like it or not, we must pay attention to our larger group and our world.  We are, and must be, joiners and participants and learners. We need connections.

Are you a loner?  What do you think?

Writing Haiku — a good idea for more than one reason?

March 15, 2013

Responses to my ongoing series about what I see as benefits for the fiction author from writing poetry have taught me a surprising thing.  In comments and responses scattered over the Internet and sent to me personally, all but one who responded said they had or were writing poetry.  Kaye George’s response about continuing to write haiku intrigued me, though she said she thinks her role as a musician is more relevant to her prose than the poetry.

Haiku was not a type of poetry discussed when I was in school, and, in fact, I didn’t know much about it until a nephew by marriage gifted me with a couple of his framed haiku poems written in honor of Spring Hollow after a family visit here.

Haiku is a Japanese poetry form–and you sure might call it minimalist!  Writing this way takes a degree of quiet concentration for most of us, not to mention an urge to complete something beautiful in our few words.

The form traditionally is only three lines long, the first and last lines have five syllables, the middle one seven.  That’s it.  The haiku most frequently says something about the natural world . . . like this:

Satin glass snake twists/ringing the branch in green art/beauty cancels fear.

(I guess your reaction to this depends on how you feel about snakes?)

Okay, that’s my first ever haiku so don’t judge too harshly.   Would you like to try one?  I am now eager do go further in this intense and stunning art form.

By the way — do you think stopping to concentrate on writing a haiku could help those stuck in writers’ block?




A writing lesson — from creating poetry

March 8, 2013

Just wondering today, how many writers reading this consider the value of writing poetry as a move forward in their writing career?  Oh–I don’t mean poetry to publish, necessarily, but poetry as practice for word control (see last week’s blog) for learning rhythm, and so much more.

Any thoughts?

What do YOU consider the most helpful idea you’ve received to forward your own writing career?  Maybe we should have a round robin of ideas?




March 1, 2013

Those of us who consider ourselves to be creative writers want, most of all, to be able to control words. Though we may not think of it as control, I suggest the word fits.  Careful word control can make ideas clear to others.  Control exposes emotions felt by our characters  and creates emotion in readers.  Control builds suspense, paints word pictures, sets a stage, explains an event.  (This could be a long list, couldn’t it?)  Control makes words do what we want them to.

I am not talking about self-control, about keeping our cool, about stopping the angry shout before it happens. That’s not the kind of control I mean, though the two are related. This is about making words do nifty things because we want them to.

If, as writers, we need to practice word control–how do we learn this control, practice it, show it off?

I suggest we can learn, practice, and show it  by writing poetry. Yes, that’s what I said, write poetry.

YES, you can!

Poetry has been a means of self-expression, born from word control,  for centuries.

“Full fathoms five thy father lies;/ Of his bones are coral made;//Those are pearls that were his eyes:/Nothing of him that doth fade,/ But doth suffer a sea-change/Into something rich and strange./ Sea -nymphs hourly ring his knell: Ding-dong./Hark! now I hear them–ding-dong bell.”    (“Full Fathoms Five” by William Shakespeare)

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–/I took the one less traveled by,/And that has made all the difference.” ( From “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost)

“I never spoke with God,/ Nor visited in heaven;/Yet certain am I of the spot/As if a chart were given.” ( From “I Never Saw a Moor” by Emily Dickinson)

“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways./I love thee to the depth and breadth and height/My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight/For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.”  (From “How Do I Love Thee” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning)

“Hark to the whimper of the sea-gull;/He weeps because he’s not an ea-gull/Suppose you were, you silly sea-gull,/Could you explain it to your she-gull?”  ( “The Sea-Gull” by Ogden Nash)

“I stood at 6:00 a.m. on the wharf,/thinking: This is Independence, Missouri./I am to stay here. The boat goes on to New Orleans./My life seemed minutes old, and here it was ending.”  (From” Someone’s Blood” by Rita Dove.)

“I wish the fall would not arrive/just yet – /I need a bit more time to pay/my debt./I wish the meadows would not turn/to flame -/I wish encroaching snowfalls would not come – /Nor birds forsake the glen/Nor icy winds begin/For I am without a scarf to wrap my heart. (“A Wish” by Charles Doss–written from his prison cell in Arizona.)

“But these are famous poets,” you may say.  Um, maybe.  But you are as able to control words as they. Just get quiet–and think your words out. “No one is going to hear but you/ unless you want them to.”  (Ohmygosh–I rhymed.)

There’s this:  “Mary had a little lamb,/Its fleece was white as snow,/And everywhere that Mary went,/The lamb was sure to go.”

Or this:  “Oklahoma morning, Oklahoma night, We’re on your side, Fight team, fight.”

See what I mean?

Try it now.  Swing the words out, and remember, they do not have to rhyme. Rhythm is good. Rhyme is your choice.

Have fun.



February 21, 2013

The Internet has made so many changes in our lives.  One thing that’s kind of unique, as far as I’m concerned, is the fact I can say something like:  “My friend, John Bohnert, said ………….”   when, in fact,  I have never met John Bohnert, who lives in Grass Valley, California, and I live in the Arkansas Ozarks.  True, I saw his posts on the Internet list for mystery fans called DorothyL for several years, learned he is a retired Navy man, and, (very important) that he loves to cook and probably has notebooks full of unique and tasty recipes.  He often mentions these by name on DorothyL, along with his book reviews and related comments, and, when someone asks, is willing to share a recipe via email.

In 2011 I decided John Bohnert would make a terrific character in my upcoming novel.  Why? My main female character, Carrie McCrite, is a reluctant cook.  (Her husband, Henry King, is more comfortable in a kitchen than she is.)  AND, in this novel-in-progress, Carrie was going to have to create a quick luncheon for a surprise guest, then Henry would have to cook for a guarding sheriff’s deputy and Carrie’s mysterious cousin during a later emergency in the story.  Enter, Chef John Bohnert, “much acclaimed chef and owner of The Grass Valley Bistro, author of the companion GRASS VALLEY BISTRO COOKBOOK.”  Henry meets Chef John on line during a discussion of the heirloom tomatoes Henry grows.

Since all my novels include a few recipes used during the progress of the plot,  several Chef John recipes appeared naturally in  A FAIR TO DIE FOR.  (They are printed at the end of the book.)

John Bohnert has continued to mention recipes on DorothyL, and I recently asked for his recipe for BEEF BURRITOS.  It has been tested in the Nehring kitchen, as well as, of course, by John Bohnert, and is a winner.  I thought you might like to try it too!


2 lbs lean ground beef

1 jar chunky salsa, MED.  (24 oz jar)

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed (15 oz. can)

3 cans diced green chiles, (4 oz cans) HOT.  (I cheated since the Nehrings aren’t up to HOT.  How about MILD for us?)

1 cup chopped onions and 1 cup chopped green bell pepper

2 cans diced tomatoes (15 oz cans)

2 cups shredded Cheddar

2 pkg. 8 count flour tortillas, burrito size

1 pkg. shredded lettuce

2 tsp cumin, 2 tsp Mexican Blend, 1 tsp chili powder, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp. black pepper.

(Note:  I couldn’t find Mexican Blend here in Arkansas and learned from John it contains cumin, garlic powder, paprika, white pepper, thyme, and onion powder, so I improvised with those ingredients.)

Saute onions and bell pepper in very large skillet.  Heat until tender. Remove to 6 quart saucepot.

Brown ground beef in the large skillet. Drain off any fat.  Add to saucepot. Add remaining ingredients except for cheese and lettuce. Stir and heat on MEDIUM LOW.

Remove saucepot from heat, spoon some of mixture into tortillas.  Top with Cheddar cheese and shredded lettuce.  Fold up ends and roll tortilla.


More recipes at


February 15, 2013

Last week’s blog explained my own cooking abilities, or lack thereof, and how my husband, after retiring more than twice from the business world, finally learned to warm leftovers and prepare simple meals.  Why? Because I, buried in ideas and unaware of time and hunger pangs, was typing away in my office.

Not that I divorced myself from cooking entirely, not in real life, and certainly not in fiction. My lead female character, Carrie McCrite, says, during her first adventure in A VALLEY TO DIE FOR, that her cooking depends more on the Pillsbury Doughboy than Julia Child. True, oh so true. That’s why I had such fun “cooking up” unusual and unusually simple recipes for Carrie to prepare as part of the plots in each of my seven (so far) novels that she and her husband, Henry King, star in.

After readers of A VALLEY TO DIE FOR suggested that plot recipes be printed in the back of each book, my publishers began doing that. Readers’ favorites thus far are “No Thaw Meatloaf” from A TREASURE TO DIE FOR, and “Baggie Omelets” from A RIVER TO DIE FOR.

I take part in an Internet  list for mystery fans called DorothyL, and a popular poster there, John Bohnert, often mentions recipes he prepares. When I was writing A FAIR TO DIE FOR, I decided it would be great fun to include John and his recipes as an off-stage character in that novel, and, with his permission, he took part as the famous California Chef, John Bohnert, owner of the Grass Valley Bistro, and author of its much-acclaimed cookbook THE GRASS VALLEY BISTRO COOKBOOK.  In the story, Henry King meets Chef John on the Internet during a discussion of the heirloom tomatoes Henry is experimenting with.

When a mysterious relative is on the way to visit Carrie and Henry, Carrie realizes they are going to have to feed this person lunch, and Henry saves the day by appealing to Chef John for a simple sandwich recipe.  Later in the plot, Henry presents Carrie with a copy of THE GRASS VALLEY BISTRO COOKBOOK, and each of them uses it to prepare a meal.

These recipes do appear in the back of A FAIR TO DIE FOR.

Though The Grass Valley Bistro and its cookbook are fiction, John’s recipes are not.  Next week I’ll share one of his new recipes for BEEF BURRITOS.  Until then, happy cooking and reading,




Stories from a writer’s life: RECIPES TO TOUCH THE HEART — PART ONE

February 8, 2013

Beginning with stumbling through recipes and several disastrous experiences (including cracking the coating on my new mother-in-law’s enamel roaster),  I have cooked all my married life. When I got married, that’s what women did. No male admitted to actually cooking unless he was a chef.   (And, back then, “convenience” foods were limited to the new miracle of angel food cake mixes and truly awful TV dinners.)

So I cooked. Not gourmet. Not even fancy. Just meals based on uncomplicated recipes and a strong reliance on ground beef and chicken.

I  worked away from home in “9-5” jobs for the first forty-two years of my married life.  That added to my lively interest in simple and quick.

But, dreaming of future kitchens, future leisure time, I began a recipe collection.  Some fit the easy and simple (but good) category, and were soon easily identified by their worn look and food spots, not to mention added notes like “Cut this in half,” or, simply, “Good!”  Others in my rapidly growing collection spoke of imagined  exotic meals and praise by awed guests.  I began filling ten inch file boxes with categorized recipes on 3 x 5 cards or clipped from newspapers and magazines,  plus recipes hand-written on scraps of paper by my mother and by  fellow employees and friends.   The collection grew until I had  eight  file boxes labeled from “Appetizers” to “Vegetables,” and on to “Misc” and “Meal Planning.”  They were part of my wealth.  I’d never be at a loss for something to cook.

But as years passed, plain and simple cooking,  aided by an increasing number of excellent convenience foods, was what came to the table in my kitchen.   Still, my files of recipes grew.

Over the past five or so years my work load as a multi-published writer using the Internet increased, and my long-suffering (and hungry) husband frequently came to my office door around  5:00 to interrupt my concentration on the latest adventures of Carrie McCrite and Henry King. Hesitating in the doorway, he invariably asked,  “What are we having for supper?”

I was always startled when this happened. Time and hunger  had vanished behind whatever I was putting on my computer screen. Guilt was my most  frequent reaction to John’s question because I still had a long-ingrained opinion of what my housewifely duties were.  Since I rarely stop for a noon meal, John’s question also reminded me that I, too, was hungry.  It was time to–rather frantically–think about what I could prepare for our supper.

Then, slowly, this began to change. John had retired by this time and, when we had viable left-overs, he realized it was easy to begin heating dishes for supper. Then,  little-by-little, we became kitchen companions.

I am doing a much better job of quitting work in my office by 5:00, and now the two of us frequently work as a team on meal prep, with John sometimes doing some of the work before I leave my office.  He is much better than I at what we call “prior planning in advance” so we usually have decided on supper’s make-up by breakfast that day, and have the needed ingredients (and the recipe) all ready to go when we meet in the kitchen around 5:00.

Isn’t marriage–and cooking–fun?

More about those saved exotic recipes, and the recipes that season my novels, next week!

Radine at