Virginia Beach Publisher to Speak at May Meeting

John Koehler (Courtesy photo)

John Koehler (Courtesy photo)

We are pleased to announce that John Koehler, president and publisher of Koehler Books in Virginia Beach, will speak at our May meeting, to be held Monday, May 9, from 6 – 9 p.m. at the Greenbrier Library in Chesapeake. John will answer questions and offer insight about publishing trends and author duties after publication.

In John’s own words: “I plan on coming to tell the amazing writers of Sisters in Crime the SECRET UNTOLD REASON FOR BOOK SUCCESS:

Write a great book!

Boom. That’s all folks. All done….

Oh, and then all the other stuff they want to know about marketing and promotion, distribution, when it is okay to self-publish, why are publicists so !@#@!! expensive, what exactly a publisher DOES, why you only see one shoe on the side of the road, and many more compelling subjects.”

John is the founder of Koehler Books and runs the company’s day-to-day operations. He earned a BFA in Communications Arts and Design from Virginia Commonwealth University and attended graduate studies at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

John’s professional career includes being senior art director of a major advertising agency and running a design studio. He is an award-winning graphics designer and the author of five books.

John lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and is active in his church. He has helped run a ministry dedicated to helping children with disabilities, a cause to which he is still very much dedicated. John made an international splash in 1991 by winning the Boomerang World Championship in Perth, Australia, and was a member of the Foster’s Boomerang 2000 Team, a touring troop that taught professional athletes and others the gospel of boomerangs.


Meet Coastal Crime Fest 3 Speaker Mike Owens

Mike OwensMike Owens, author of The End of Free Will and The Threshold will appear at Coastal Crime Fest 3 on March 19 to speak about the craft of managing psychic distance in your writing.

Mike was born in a small town in North Carolina, Winston-Salem being the closest identifiable landmark. He claims to bleed Tar Heel blue, having received both his undergraduate and medical degrees from UNC Chapel Hill. He topped off his educational efforts with an MFA in Creative Writing from Old Dominion in 2011. Mike lives in Norfolk with his wife, Marilyn, and their dog, Molly, a highly critical 11-year old Weimaraner. His written works explore the often-contentious interaction between medical science and medical ethics.

June Meeting Addresses Balancing Life with Craft

clock1Finding time for work, family life, and daily chores is a juggling act for everyone. Writers face a unique challenge in that they have to carve time from an already packed schedule to find inspiration, nurture their creativity, write, and promote their works.


At the Mystery by the Sea June meeting members shared some of their tips for staying motivated, getting inspired, and meeting goals. Here are some highlights from the discussion:

→ Work in intervals. If you struggle with staying focused, commit yourself to a set amount of time – 5, 10, 20 minutes – and write during that time period. When time is up, run an errand or complete a chore and return to your desk for another session.

→ Use index cards to keep your novels or longer pieces organized. Use different colored index cards or highlighters to distinguish between the various plots and subplots. Keeping track of your storylines will ensure all loose ends are tied up at the end of the novel. As ideas come to you, jot notes on the index cards so your thoughts will be available when you sit down to write.

→ Get more out of the time you spend doing routine chores by thinking about your writing as you work. Ruminate on a pesky plotline while loading the dishwasher after dinner or mull over the nuances of a character as you vacuum. When your body is active, your mind can be too.

→ Let music inspire you. Songs can spark an idea or an emotion that could be the beginnings of a novel, short story, or poem.

→ Find time in your day to write. One member told the group about how she writes and eats lunch in her car at work. That time is her time to create and let the words flow. When can you steal a few minutes for your writing?

→ Remember that writing is a privilege. Capturing your thoughts, feelings, and imaginings on paper in words is a joy to be treasured. Everyone has a unique voice that tells a story.

May Meeting Delves into the Three Ds of Writing: Dialogue, Description, and Details

At the May Mystery by the Sea meeting author Jayne Ormerod discussed the three D’s of writing: dialogue, description, and details. In case you missed it, here are some highlights.

Dialogue    Dialogue

1.) Keep your dialogue lean. Although you may be tempted to portray realistic dialogue, complete with “um” and “you know,” leave it out. If the words you are putting on the page are not true to the character or don’t advance the plot, hit delete.

2.) Don’t worry about getting everything right when writing your first draft, especially the dialogue. Get everything out the first time through, then go back to make corrections and add layers to your words.

3.) When it comes to attributes, “said” is not as overused as you may think. There are lots of words to use in place of good old “said,” but use those words sparingly. When using said, don’t fall into the trap of dressing up what you think to be a bland verb with adverbs. Phrases like “he said sadly” or “she said happily” are signs of lazy writing.

4.) Remember rhythm when writing. When emotions run high, dialogue is brief. Shorter sentences increase tension.

Description sunrise

1.) Always remember to focus on only what your point-of-view character can see.

2.) Avoid huge clumps of description. Today’s readers like short paragraphs and lots of white space. Leave the purple prose of 19th century novels in the 19th century.

3.) Keep descriptions, especially those of characters or their wardrobes, to a minimum. Give the reader a few brief clues about how a character looks and then let their imaginations do the rest.

4.) Weave description into the story instead of stopping the narrative to describe a person, location, or item.

5.) Remember to describe who and what your characters interact with through their eyes. The sunrise looks a lot different to a chipper early riser as opposed to a hung over night owl.


When it comes to details, is more really better? Just like Goldilocks, you have to decide what is “just right” for your writing. If you provide too few details you run the risk of losing your readers. If you provide too many, you will be burying your readers in an avalanche of details they may not be able to dig their way out of. Decide what is just the right amount of detail for your writing and stick with it.

Sergeant Dave Michalski Addresses Group at April Meeting

Sergeant Dave Michalski from the Portsmouth Sheriff’s Office was the guest speaker at the April meeting and Mystery by the Sea members were treated to an in-depth discussion of crime scene investigation. Dave’s talk included information on how police officers approach a scene, how they process a scene, how they conduct an investigation, and how they process evidence. Dave’s knowledge and respect for his topic was evident, as was his sense of humor during Q&A.

Portsmouth Sheriff's Department Sergeant Dave Michalski

Portsmouth Sheriff’s Department Sergeant Dave Michalski

Make Research Fun – Participate in a Citizens’ Police Academy!

Are you a Hampton Roads citizen looking for some hands-on research opportunities with local police departments? By participating in a Citizens’ Police Academy you will learn all about what law enforcement officers do on the job. This is a great opportunity for writers, especially mystery writers, to get a behind-the-scenes look at the daily duties of an officer, learn how arrests are made, and see what the inside of a jail looks like. Here is a list with more information about Citizen Police Academies in Hampton Roads.



Class dates: Call for info

Contact: Neil Morgan at (757) 382-1525



Class dates: Call for info

Contact: Community Relations Unit at (757) 727-6574



Class dates: Twice a year (Fall: September – December) and (Spring: February – May)

Contact: Monica L. White (757) 928-4295



Class dates: April 2 -June 25th 2015

Contact: Officer M. L. Warren at (757) 390-0386 or Officer M.O. Sarmiento at (757) 390-0387




Class dates: Call for info

Contact: Police Training Unit (757) 393-8088



Class dates: April 29-June 10, 2015

Contact: Sgt. Cheryl Balzer at (757) 514-7913



Class dates: Call for info

Contact: Crime Prevention Unit at (757) 385-1006

Disclaimer: All information is subject to change.