Posts Tagged ‘Van Buren’


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



Does Branding Hurt?

December 23, 2011

Does branding hurt?  Nope, not when you’re talking about author branding  Brands are considered a good thing when it comes to identifying cattle and some other four-footed farm animals (though cows may not agree) and branding of another type is good for authors.

Why?  Because in the case of an author, branding means the special niche or type of writing or some other significant continuing quality that readers will find in the work of that author.   Want vampires, or women with peculiar life experiences?  Then think of  CHARLAINE HARRIS.   How about cozy mysteries featuring a sometimes bumbling but very caring ghost?  Try CAROLINE HART.  You all know about what to expect from Stephen King, or Kathy Reichs (“Bones”) or Nora Roberts.  Right?  If you enjoyed one book from these people, the assumption is that you’ll enjoy them all, and that often proves to be the case.

For canned goods or candy bars, motels or restaurants, shirts or shoes, branding of a good product helps build customers.  This is just as true when the product for you to buy and enjoy is written on paper or a screen.

For example:  If you want to learn about the Ozarks and what life is like here,  I suggest  I’m one brand for you to try.  (Learn more at Whether in fiction or non-fiction, all my writing is inspired by my love for the Ozarks area, its hills and hollows and forests, its people, its unique caves and geology and . . . . everything else Ozarkian.   You can trust the Ozarks you visit in my writing because extensive research spurred by the mentioned love and appreciation saturate the stories I write, the tales I tell.  And there’s plenty of material here for me, whether I’m writing about gardening or weaving a tale of mystery and adventure.

The history of the Ozarks,  its landscape and tourist attractions, offer fertile ground for mysteries to happen and, indeed, in many areas, real mysteries already have.  My non fiction writing reflects that, and, though the fiction IS fiction as far as most characters and the plot are concerned, you can rely on the locations to be about what you’ll find if you choose to visit them yourself.  (And, many people have after reading stories set there.)

Though I will never be wealthy, I am rich in happy experiences.  Though I will never visit far-away places I once dreamed of seeing, what’s better than discovering the wonderful tourist destinations near home?  And, after all, what’s better than daring to be me, doing what I enjoy, and sharing it with people who find they like the brand.

Getting ready for a birth

March 30, 2010

The birth of a new novel, that is.

First there is the tremendous fun of writing it.  (Yes, it IS fun.)  Then there is the challenge of finding the right publisher. Here are three must-happens:  (1) That they like you.  (2) You like them.  And (3), you can work together harmoniously.  )

I had been with the same mystery  publisher through five books, but they closed that imprint after number five came out, and I needed to find a home for number six, already at least half-way done by that time.

Now, after the fact, I can say that there was very little tension during this period because–much to my amazement–when word got out that my initial mystery publisher was no longer in that business, a few small press publishers (I’m a small-press-gal) got in touch with me asking about my interest in submitting to them.  WOW.  This was not at all like the first time around (actually, that was selling my literary non-fiction), or the second (selling my mystery series).  But I still had to decide if any of those who contacted me sounded like a fit.  I communicated with several of the  publishers by e-mail and even had a face-to-face interview with one after a meeting we both attended.  Eventually the answer became clear.  Personalities had clicked, help offered pleased me, goals were similar, and on and on.  In August (at Killer Nashville) I signed a book contract with Tony Burton, my new editor at Wolfmont Press.

And now my book,  JOURNEY TO DIE FOR, will be out in May.  I barely have time to sleep.  I have signed on for at least 30 upcoming appearances, speaking events, seminars– sometimes three a weekend.  And that’s just in April through the first weekend in June!  I am sending out publicity hither and yon, e-mailing media folks, seeing to review sources my publisher does not reach, and ordering publicity items that don’t come from that publisher.   Does anyone outside the writing field understand what this is like?  (See the “Happenings” page on my web site for the events schedule: )

Today, being a published author is definitely is NOT sending a book off to be published and then sitting back to relax and enjoy your fame while the checks come.

Nunh-unh.  That is how it used to be, (I am told) but the times have changed.

A word to all those currently working on their first novels.  Decide NOW who your readers will be and how you will appeal to them.  Better yet, decide before you write the first word.  You can adjust your imagination and dreams enough to please that market.  Because, do you know what you will need to include in your submission to any agent or publisher?   Your “platform” which is pub-speak for your marketing plan.

Is it any wonder so many of us look back with longing on the days when the best and most enjoyable part of a writing career was found in what we did most of the time?   That was….writing!

So, writers, get ready for the future right now.

And, for fun away from that computer, all of you are invited to JOURNEY TO DIE FOR’s launch party!  If you are anywhere near Van Buren, Arkansas, come there on May 8 for the National Train Day Festival.  My newest novel opens on the Arkansas and Missouri Excursion Train’s day trip going from Springdale to Van Buren, AR.  Historic, entertaining, exciting.  And, when Henry King and Carrie McCrite King take it…chilling.   On May 8 you can pick up an autographed copy of the book and also, if you choose, enjoy a short ride on an “old-fashioned” train in beautifully restored passenger cars dating back to the 1920’s.     Do come!                                         Radine

More about “travel” writing:

July 9, 2009

(Thanks to Kaye Barley for suggesting I double-post this…it’s on her blog, too.  SO….)


I love both travel reading and travel writing. Nope, I don’t do magazine features that begin something like this: “The yellow sand beaches of San Poopio will take your breath away this time of year, and the meals at Nightmare’s Inn manage to surpass my ability to describe them….”
You guessed it! There are better ways for me to travel at little cost. For example, when I want to escape extreme weather:
Ahhh, the driveway is shoveled and my toes are thawing in fuzzy slippers. Think I’ll begin reading one of my new book purchases. Um, which one…?  Oh yes, that one!
Page 1:
“Summer in Benteen County, Kansas, is a season possessed of all the gentle subtlety of an act of war…. A week ago, the thermometer had risen past the unbearable mark…and, in automatic response, the humidity rushed after it–-to a level technically described as obscene.”
(From J. M. Hayes’ mystery novel, Mad Dog & Englishman.)
But it gets hot in the Ozarks, too. In August I prefer escaping into something like Iron Lake by William Kent Krueger, (where you can experience a white-out blizzard and frozen body in northern Minnesota), or Virgin in the Ice by Ellis Peters.
Good mystery writers are master manipulators, aren’t they? They create atmosphere and location inside minds, take us to places dark and stormy or glaring and sharp, thrill us with chilly caves, steaming jungles, and worlds far away from the familiar. The more skillful the writer, the more willing we are to believe, share, travel, and enjoy–riding along eagerly with characters and events and seeing new places that become real for at least the space of a novel.
Many works of fiction offer this real place reality, some taking us into actual locations where we are intrigued by the story unfolding there. I love this type novel. Readers don’t have to pack a bag, endure airlines, or make long car trips, though quite often they do end up wanting to see the described location for themselves at a later date.
One author who gives readers a vivid location experience is Ellen Elizabeth Hunter, a real place writer sharing the area in and around Wilmington, North Carolina. I learned about her novels while planning a trip to the Cape Fear Crime Festival, a mystery fan convention once held on the North Carolina Coast. Someone recommended Ms. Hunter’s mystery novel, Murder on the Candlelight Tour, as an introduction to the area, but the book ended up being much more than that. My husband and I toured Wilmington by using Murder on the Candlelight Tour as our guide. We visited historic buildings and restaurants portrayed in the story. We even ordered the same dishes Ms. Hunter describes so deliciously.
Hunter is not a Carolina native–perhaps one reason she notices Wilmington details with a newcomer’s freshness and a tourist’s excitement. She says, “I fell in love with Wilmington and wanted to live there, but couldn’t because of my husband’s work. I decided the next best thing to living in Wilmington myself would be creating a character who did.”
(If you’d like to enjoy the Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach area wherever you are, go to
Meanwhile, back in the Ozarks, my own fiction writing career was getting under way in the same time period as Ellen Hunter’s. She and I are both relative newcomers in our areas.  My husband and I chose Arkansas for our home after spending time thinking about going “back to the land” in several parts of the United States. My love for Arkansas led to an interest in writing about it, and I spent more than ten years selling articles, essays, and poetry about the Ozarks to publications in the United States and other countries. After publishing one non-fiction book set here,(DEAR EARTH, A Love Letter from Spring Hollow)I decided to try my hand at writing the type of book I enjoy reading most–-the traditional mystery.
My first effort, A Valley to Die For, (St Kitts Press, 2002) was set in the same remote Ozarks area as Dear Earth, an easy location to describe, since it’s where I live. In my second novel, Music to Die For, I sent my protagonist, Carrie McCrite, accompanied by her friends, to another Ozarks spot I love, Ozark Folk Center State Park. (Picture Sturbridge Village with an Ozarks setting and a theater where old-time music can be enjoyed.) From then on, each novel’s setting has been at a different Arkansas tourist destination.
It wasn’t long before I, and my location destinations, discovered it was not only fun to site books in areas enjoyed by tourists, it was good business for the locations themselves. Settings are real enough that, at signings, I give actual tourist brochures and location maps to everyone buying one or more books in the To Die For series.
As a reader, I’m excited when I find a new author who takes me to a real place, tells me about a career I’m not familiar with, and joins these with mystery/adventure puzzles. As a writer, I love telling stories set in places I have chosen to visit, absorb, and share with readers. As a result, many tourist-oriented publications, including airline and National Park magazines, have carried feature articles about my writing.
My next To Die For story takes Carrie McCrite and Henry King to three popular tourist destinations: a ride on a restored 1920’s Arkansas train, the historic district and river front in Van Buren, Arkansas, and The Steamboat Arabia Museum in Kansas City. Danger times three! I had a wonderful time traveling to do research for this novel, and hope you’ll soon enjoy this Journey to Die For with me!