Vista Newcomers

I just finished speaking to a lovely group of women in Vista about the juvenile court system and child advocacy. They make up the Vista Friends and Newcomers Club. Their “purpose is to unite members in social and cultural activities and to foster acquaintances, cooperation, and productive interests in the community.” They were quite an interesting group of women working hard to better their community.

I only had the chance to speak to a few of the members individually, but in doing so I discovered what a wonderful group they are. They are an active social group providing a means for a lot of people to do the things they like to do. In addition, they raise money and contribute a great deal of their time to activities that help others.

And it doesn’t stop there. Many of these women are involved in other community organizations and yet they were open to doing more volunteer work. By the time I left, several of them were ready to sign up with CASA and volunteer their time to be Court Appointed Special Advocates.

You go girls!


The Advocate #3–More Tidbits

The third book in the Advocate series is moving right along. A couple of weeks ago I blogged about the storyline in the third book in The Advocate series. Since then I’ve been getting lots of questions so over the next few months I will give you a few peeks into what’s to come.

JP has to figure out what year and make this car is. It’s an essential part of his investigation. It could just be the key to solving the mystery. Do you know what it is? Can you see enough of the car to figure out the make, model, and year of the car?

And what about this 1931 Chrysler Imperial? Isn’t it a beauty? I did some research for The Advocate #3 while I was in Florida. I spent a whole day walking through an antique classic car show. There was about 1500 cars at the show all built prior to 1985. What a hoot! So many beautiful old cars all in one place.


Detour to Murder

If you like noir mystery, or if you don’t know if you like noir mystery, you must read Detour to Murder, by Jeff Sherratt. Heck, if you just like mysteries, read this book.

The book picks up where the movie Detour, a film noir classic, leaves off. In the movie, a man named Al Roberts follows the woman he loves to Hollywood after she jilts him to seek a movie career. Two people die along the way, and Roberts is ultimately arrested for murder.

When the novel begins, Roberts has been incarcerated for thirty years and is up for parole. Attorney Jimmy O’Brien is appointed by the court to represent Roberts at his parole hearing. It should be easy, right? The inmate just has to say how sorry he is and the board will consider parole. Of course, they could deny it, but Jimmy’s job would be done either way. And how hard can it be to say you’re sorry when you confessed to the murder thirty years prior? But now Roberts is denying it all. And O’Brien’s job just got a lot more complicated.

The story takes you through the tangled lives of Hollywood stars and politicians, while more bodies pile up and even O’Brien’s life is at risk. It would help if Jimmy O’Brien knew when to keep his mouth shut, but then he wouldn’t be Jimmy.

My favorite thing about Detour to Murder is the trip into old Hollywood from the 40’s through the 70’s. It puts you right in the mix of it all, a glamorous time with all the deceitful things that go with it. In addition, the characters are interesting, the plot is fun, and the twists keep cropping up. And even if you do figure out “whodunit,” I bet you won’t know why until the very end.


Ahh…to be a Child Again

I recently had the good fortune to visit Universal Islands of Adventure while I was in Florida. What a hoot! I spent the whole day in awe. We arrived early and had the time to walk around the park twice. Since it was already busy when we arrived we went straight to the new Harry Potter exhibit. We walked down the street in Hogsmead, past the train and train station, potion shops, The Three Broomsticks and the Hogs Head pubs, the Owl Post, and even Ollivander’s wand shop. I wanted to go in the wand shop and watch a magic wand pick it’s owner, but the line was too long. So we went straight to Hogswart, Harry Potter’s school. There was a line of muggles (people without magical powers) that led all the way down the hill into the town and out the gate to the bridge near Jurassic Park. However, we soon discovered there were two lines, one without bags and one with. If you carried a bag you had to put it in a locker before you went in the school. That was the long line. A word to the wise if you ever go…There are other lockers in Hogsmead. Put your bags in a locker first and then go to Hogwarts. Once we were in the bag-less line we were inside the school in about ten minutes.

The school was fun to walk through but the real experience was in the simulated ride. It swoops you out and over the school, through the trees, and onto the Quidditch court. You can almost reach out and grab a snitch as you follow Harry Potter and Malfoy up and down and around the court. It feels like you’re actually in the game. The ride also takes you through the forest and the caves and you meet lots of creepy stuff like giant spiders and death-eaters. I have to admit there were a few times when I closed my eyes.

We stopped at The Three Broomsticks for a lunch of fish and chips and a glass of butterbeer. We also had some pumpkin juice. I liked it although it tasted a little sweet for me. The butterbeer is a non-alcoholic butterscotch drink. It has a foam that they add to the top so it looks like real beer. The foam was delicious…so was the butterbeer.

I didn’t get a chance to ride the dragon or the hippogriff but after we covered the rest of the park we returned to Hogsmead. It was about an hour and a half from closing time and the streets were nearly empty. I went straight to Hogwarts and rode through the castle again. This time I never closed my eyes once! It was so, so…magigal. I felt like a kid playing in a magic land. There was still a wait of about fifteen minutes at the wand shop, but well worth the wait. Ollivander, the wand shop owner, looked like the real deal.

If you’re ever in Florida and have the chance go to Universal Island of Adventure and even if you don’t want to ride on anything, go to Hogsmead and enjoy the architecture and the magic it has to offer.

The whole day was fun and the other exhibits were worth seeing as well. My second favorite area was Dr. Seuss. Just look at that carousel…yes, the magic spell from Hogsmead continued to transform me into a child all the way through the park.


Big Cat Habitat

Sunday I had the chance to go to the Big Cat Habitat in Sarasota, Florida. What a wonderful thing these people do to provide a sanctuary for these animals. They are a non-profit organization running entirely on donations. They provide a safe haven for big cats, bears, and other animals in need. They primarily take in exotic animals, but they also had some goats, turtles, and greyhound dogs. They were looking for homes for the dogs. It is a family run organization founded by Kay Rosaire who has had more than thirty years experience working with exotic animals. The commitment the Rosaires make to these animals is one for life. When they take an animal in it will be their last residence.
I had the pleasure of meeting a lion named Handsome, a liger (no it’s not a typo…it’s a cross between a lion and a tiger) named Mia, and a chimpanzee named Ricky. Guess what? Ricky was having a book signing. Yeah, a chimp signing his books. He had quite a crowd around him, more than I usual get. I think maybe I could learn a few things from Ricky. Maybe he could teach me to make those funny noises. But then I don’t have my picture on the front cover of Jon Stewart’s “Earth,” a book that spent ten weeks on the New York Times Best Seller’s list.
It’s not a fancy place, and it’s not as large as they would like (although they are expanding) but it’s a loving shelter for animals that wouldn’t survive elsewhere. If you’re ever in Sarasota, stop in and see the service the Rosaires and their staff of wonderful volunteers provide.

Great GALS in Florida

When I talk about the great GALs of Florida, I’m not talking about the woman with the purple hat walking her white shiatsu dog clad in booties, a pink skirt, and matching sunglasses. Nor do I speak of women like Lucille Ball who was purported to own a home on Bird Key. No, I’m talking about the men and women who volunteer as child advocates for abused and neglected children. They are Guardian Ad Litems, or GALs and they spend many hours investigating the child’s life to help determine what is the best course of action for the court to take for this child.

I had the pleasure of speaking to a group of new CASA GALs (Court Appointed Special Advocates) in Sarasota, Fl a few days ago. What a delightful experience. They asked great questions and I could hear the compassion and the eagerness in their voices as they started this new chapter in their lives.

Since my book, The Advocate, deals with juvenile court, I left each volunteer with a copy as a thank you for their unselfish act. I wish I could do that for every CASA graduating class, but at least I can say thank you for all the GALs out there who are serving our children. I, for one, appreciate your hard work and dedication. And a special thanks to the 12th Judicial Circuit Guardian Ad Litem Program of Sarasota, DeSoto, and Manatee counties.

If you have any interest in becoming a Court Appointed Special Advocate there is lots of information on the CASA website. Check it out. It might be just the thing for you.


What are you reading?

Unfortunately, I don’t get to read as many books as I’d like. I’ve never spent so much time surrounded by books and not able to read them. It seems if I’m not at a book signing, I’m writing. But I’ve managed to read a few and most recently I’ve been listening to books on tape since I’m spending an inordinate amount of time in the car.

A dear friend of mine recommended Philippa Gregory’s “The Red Queen,” which I just finished. Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres—second only to mysteries. And the Tudor era is of particular interest to me. It was a wonderful read and I’d highly recommend it if you have any interest in that genre. I’m anxious to read the rest of her novels.

“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is now playing in my car as I drive from one book signing to another. Yes, I finally got around to Stieg Larsson and it’s about time. What a treat. Although I’m only on the third disc, out of about thirteen, I’ve already purchased “The Girl Who Played with Fire.” It’s a very compelling story. I think it’s a particularly good book to listen to on tape because the names are all so unfamiliar and on tape you don’t have to stumble over them. I guess we can’t all be an Olson or a Johnson…oh wait…I was a Johnson.

So, what are you reading?


CASA in Florida

On Thursday, January 20th, I have the privilege of speaking to a graduating class for CASA, Court Appointed Special Advocate, also known as Guardian Ad Litems or GALS. This particular group is the 12th Judicial Circuit of Florida, advocating for children in Sarasota, Manatee, and DeSoto Counties.

CASA is an incredible organization where ordinary citizens volunteer to look out for the needs of children in the juvenile court system. The volunteers need to submit to a background check and go through an extensive training program. They are then appointed by a judge to advocate for the well-being of children who have fallen victim to parental abuse or neglect. The CASA worker (the GAL) fights for the safety of these children and often changes their lives in profound ways.

The GAL’s role is to get acquainted with the child and everyone in that child’s life such as the parents, teachers, relatives, social workers, etc. In the San Diego juvenile system where I practiced for twelve years, the GALs often worked very closely with the minor’s attorney. The volunteer then reports back to the court regarding the child’s needs and often with a recommendation for permanent placement for the child.

Being a CASA volunteer can be an extremely rewarding experience but it’s not always an easy job and it takes a serious commitment of time and energy. The volunteer must agree to stay with a case until it closes. I believe the average time is approximately one and a half years but I’ve certainly known cases to take much longer. I commend anyone who is willing to make that sacrifice for those innocent, little children.

I’m really looking forward to meeting with the next graduating class in Sarasota, Florida. I’m honored to be a part of their program.


The Advocate #3

As you may well know, I’ve been working on my third novel. With all the book signings I’ve been attending, the book is not quite on the schedule I had hoped. I do most of my writing from my home in San Diego and since I haven’t been home much it has been difficult.

A brief insight into The Advocate #3 without giving too much away:

Sabre receives a sudden influx of cases dealing with victims of Satanic Ritual Abuse. Of course, her friend, Bob, is back and admits he likes the idea of having a case different from the everyday physical and sexual abuse or tox-baby cases. Only Bob could get excited about a case involving chicken feet and goat blood.

JP is also a returning character with his Stetson hat, his cowboy boots, and his Texas slang. JP’s investigation stays closer to home this time. So far he hasn’t left southern California (but there’s still quite a few chapters left so who knows). He works diligently trying to uncover the source of the satanic-like behaviors exhibited by the juvenile court clients, while he does his best to keep Sabre out of whatever mess she finds herself in.

The novel includes at least one murder, a “devil-house,” missing children, and people in power with a great deal to lose. Sabre has to protect her minor clients and try to answer the nagging question: Did the devil make them do it?



The last few weeks have been marked by several wonderful signing events, successful home shows, and busy planning for the days ahead. Those of you who follow the world of mystery writing know what I’m talking about. Bouchercon, one of the premier mystery conferences for writers and readers alike, will be held in the beautiful city of San Francisco this weekend.

I’ll be a panelist on a new event called “Continuous Conversation.” I’m excited to see how it all works. The conversation will be led by authors and continue throughout the conference. I’ll be on the panel on Saturday morning at 8:30 a.m. At 2:30 p.m. that same day I’ll be on the lower floor signing my newest release, “The Advocate’s Betrayal.” Please stop in and say hello if you are at the conference…or in the neighborhood.

Tomorrow I fly north with a stop in Concord to spend a few hours with some dear old friends, and meet a couple of new ones. Then on to the conference where I’ll meet up with more friends. I always meet so many wonderful people at these events. I’m excited.