Thursday, April 28, 2016

Talkshow Thursday: Meet Leeann Betts

Meet Author Leeann Betts!

Some authors have so many books to write, they need an alter ego to help them out. Donna Schlacter is one of those folks. She writes historical suspense as Donna Schlacter, and contemporary suspense as Leeann Betts. Leeann recently released a new novel, so I sat down with her to get the scoop:

LM: You write both historical and contemporary suspense. Do you have a preference?

LB: As my real life persona, Donna Schlachter, I love both. As Leeann Betts, well, I’m very contemporary even though I’m getting up in years. I like to write about contemporary characters who need another chance from our second. . . and third. . . and fourth-chance God. Donna likes writing history because she loves researching history. Me not so much.

LM: You use a pen name for your contemporary fiction? Was that your idea or your agent's? How did you select the name?

LB: It was actually my first agent’s idea. She felt that Schlachter was too far down in the alphabet, and that I needed a name closer to the front. Lee is my husband’s middle name, Ann is his mother’s name, and Betts was my mom’s nickname in nursing school.

LM: Your book "No accounting for Murder" is about a forensic accountant. How much research was required for you to learn about that field?

LB: I--or rather Donna--is an accountant by training. She loves doing audits, and I love asking the What If? Questions. I researched types of accountants when I was coming up with my character, and a forensic accountant uncovers hidden assets such as money and offshore bank accounts, and often testifies in court cases such as divorce and estate issues.

LM: Do you have any unusual research incidents?

LB: So the opening scene for There Was a Crooked Man, the second book in the series, takes place on an airplane. Carly sees what looks like a suspicious death that an equally suspicious-looking doctor on board claims is natural causes. I had no clue how that would be handled on a real airplane, particularly post-9-11. So one day I was in an airport, between flights, and I saw a man in a flight officer’s uniform eating at the next table. I went over, introduced myself, gave him my writer’s business card, and asked, “If someone died on your plane, what is the protocol?” He said he wasn’t sure and that I should call the airline public relations office. As I turned to leave, he pulled out his cell phone. I headed for my gate, and when I turned around, there were two police officers following me. Really. When I walked, they walked. When I stopped, they stopped. I was already through security, so I guess they didn’t see any immediate risk. But they followed me all the way to the gate. That was nerve-wracking!

LM: Where do you get your ideas for stories?

LB: I am fairly observant, and I have good hearing, so I listen in on people’s conversations. I notice oddities, such as if someone goes into a restroom wearing a jacket and comes out without it. That gets me to thinking about disguises. I also read the newspaper from cover to cover, and find ideas in anything from “This day in history” to obituaries. Plus I like to wander in cemeteries and take pictures of peculiar headstones.

LM: I love cemeteries too! Are any of your characters based on real people?

LB: Okay, confession time. Carly is a lot like me. Her husband Mike is a lot like my husband. As for the rest, most are bits and pieces of people I know or have met.

LM: Age-old question for writers: are you a panster or a plotter?  

LB: I am a plotter. I write down 2 to 3 sentences about every chapter to keep me on track. And no, it’s not boring. I still allow my characters to say or do something I wasn’t expecting. They might even take the story in a different direction. Just like when I travel, I might miss an exit or see something else I want to do along the way. Just like when I travel, I have my hotel reservation already made, so I know where I’m going to be at the end, and I have some things selected to do along the way (my major plot points), but I’ve been known to take a 100-mile detour because I saw a sign that said, “point of interest.”

LM: Besides writing, what are your other passions?

LB: My Jesus, my husband, my family, and an international ministry we’re involved in that reaches the lost for Christ. I like to read, watch police procedural and forensics programs, and take part in forensics stuff whenever I can.

LM: Sounds very interesting! What's your next project?

LB: There is rarely a clear dividing line between my current and my next project because it seems I’m always working on several things at once. I am editing several novels on a professional basis, editing one of my own, writing a series of Christian living books that will come out about one every six to eight weeks, and writing a novella for a traditional publisher.

LM: What else should people know about you?

LB: I don’t believe in writer’s block. I believe that writers write. There is a difference between being a writer and wanting to be a writer. You can go to all the conferences you want, but if you never sit down when the writing is tough and push through, you aren’t really a writer. Just saying.

Thanks for taking time to chat with me, Leeann! You are one busy lady. 

Learn more about Leeann and Donna on their website:

NEW RELEASE: Second Chances and Second Cups – sweet stories about a second-chance God – available on in print and digital, and on Smashwords in digital

WRITING AS LEEANN BETTS: Counting the Days-a 31-day devotional for accountants, bookkeepers, and financial folk. No Accounting for Murder – book 1 in the By the Numbers series, featuring Carly Turnquist, forensic accountant. Carly has a nose for mystery that gets her into trouble. Book 2, There was a Crooked Man, released in Novembr 2015, Book 3, Unbalanced, released January 2016, 5 and 20 Blackbirds is due out April 2016, with more to follow.

WRITING WITH LEEANN BETTS: Writing Nuggets of Gold – a compilation of short essays on writing meant to inspire and educate. Released November 2015

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Traveling Tuesday: A Dichotomy in Enland

All my life I’ve heard about The Great Depression that occurred in the United States after the 1929 crash of Wall Street. The part I didn’t remember was the domino effect that occurred as a result. Apparently the American government was in such a panic about the depression that it called in loans to other countries and put up customs barriers to stop imports of foreign goods. This created an economic downturn across the globe.

In Britain, unemployment skyrocketed to nearly 25% with over two and a half million people out of work. The industrial areas in the north of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales were most heavily impacted. In 1936 the residents of Jarrow marched on London to protest what was happening. The men carried a petition to the House of Commons, but the issue was never debated. The workers trudged home believing themselves to be failures.

On the other side of England families were becoming affluent. In the southeast portion of the country, new light industries such as chemicals, electrical goods and automobiles were thriving. The people who still had jobs benefited because prices fell and their money went further. Local councils built 500,000 council houses which further served to pour money into the economy.

Prime Minister
Ramsey MacDonald
Just like the United States, Britain tried a variety of programs to help the country recover from the depression. However, also like the U.S., Britain's problems with unemployment and economic depression were solved with the advent of WWII which got industries back on their feet and booming.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Forensic Friday: Craniofacial Reconstruction

Craniofacial Reconstruction

According to a timeline by retired law enforcement officer  Jim Fisher, 1916 was the first time a corpse was identified by facial reconstruction on a skull. In recent years, it has been seen regularly on television crime shows. In reality, it is used as a last resort, and often in parallel with other means of identification.

Craniofacial reconstruction combines the specialties of art, forensic science, anthropology, osteology, and anatomy. In 1895 German anatomist Wilheim His performed the first facial reconstruction by recreating the face of compost Johann Sebastian Bach. Another German by the name of Welcker furthered the study, and his technique is still widely used today.

In order to perform the reconstruction, the forensic artist studies the skull to find bony pathologies or
unusual “landmarks,” and determines the ruggedness of muscle attachments and profile of the jaw, symmetry of the nasal bones, and wear of the occlusal surfaces (biting surfaces of the teeth).

When the study is complete, the jaw is attached with wax, and the nasal openings are filled with modeling clay. A plaster cast is then made of the skull. Once the cast is set, colored plastic pieces are attached at twenty one specific spots on the skull to represent the average facial tissue thickness. The rest of the features are added using modeling clay.

Although this technique is used in criminal investigations, the Daubert Standard does not allow it to be used in court as expert testimony. There are multiple problems with facial reconstruction, the most pressing the disparity of data regarding facial tissue thickness. This disparity affects the accuracy of the reconstruction. In addition, there is not a standard process in approximating facial features.

Despite these shortcomings, facial reconstruction has successfully identified numerous crime victims, and brought closure to grieving families.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Wartime Wednesday: Germans and the Easter Rising

Germans and the Easter Rising

This month marks the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising, also known as the Easter Rebellion. Occurring during Easter week, this armed insurrection was intended to end British rule in Ireland and establish an independent republic. Combatants hoped that Britain would be unable to contain them because of British troops being involved in WWI.

Led by Padraig Pearse, the incident lasted six days. Members of the Irish Volunteers banded together with the Irish Citizen Army to seize key locations in Dublin and declare an Irish Republic. However, the rebellion failed for several reasons, one of which was a lack of weapons.

The SS Libau was a German merchant steam ship that masqueraded as the SS Aud (a Norwegian ship that looked similar), in an attempt to smuggle a shipment of arms to the Ireland in preparation of the Easter Rising. Originally an English ship, it was captured by the Germans in 1914 and renamed.

Conflicting reports exist as to why the Libau’s mission was unsuccessful. One article states the date of the delivery changed and the ship did not receive the information. Another report states the ship did arrive on time, but was blockaded by several British ships who had been on the lookout for German ships because of some code that had been broken. Regardless of the reason, because of the Libau’s failure to provide the 20,000 rifles, 10 machine guns, 1,000,000,000 rounds of ammunition, and explosives, the rebels did not have the armaments required to conduct the insurrection.

Many Irish would hope for a German victory during WWII, with the thought that they would remove England from Irish soil and unify the country.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Mystery Monday: Anne Perry

While looking for an author to showcase on Mystery Monday, I decided to research Anne Perry. Several of my friends and colleagues are avid fans of her novels, but I have not yet read her work.  I often check the bio of authors prior to reading their books. I enjoy learning about their backgrounds and the inspiration for their stories.

Ms. Perry has written two series. One is set in the 1850s and features William Monk with Hester Latterly, a Crimean nurse, as his sidekick. The second series is set in the 1880s-1890s, and features Thomas Pitt and his partner Charlotte.

After a little bit of digging, I discovered Anne Perry was born Juliet Marion Hulme, and she had changed her name after being released from prison at the age of 21. She served a five year prison term for her part in murdering her best friend’s mother. The two girls were very close, and were going to be separated because Juliet’s (Anne) family was going to relocate out of the area.

Was the murder an overreaction by two teenaged girls?

Anne was interviewed in 2003 after her identity was revealed by a journalist, and a movie was produced about her case. Her response to the question as to how she could commit murder? “I had been pushed to the limit. Three days before the incident, my parents announced they were going to divorce, and my father had lost his job…the shock was cataclysmic.” Anne asks, “Why can’t I be judged for who I am now, not what I was then?”

The themes in her books are primarily repentance and forgiveness. Not unusual considering her history. What seems unusual to me is that she writes about murder, the very subject she’d like expunged from her background.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Meet Paula Mowery

Paula Mowery is an award winning author, acquisitions editor for Prism Book Group, and speaker. Pull up a chair and get to know her!

LM: Your bio says that God called you to be a writer about five years ago. Tell us about that experience.

PM: Writing had always been something I loved to do. I started writing more on a regular basis when my daughter was in middle school. I homeschooled her and needed to not look over her shoulder, encouraging her self-discipline. I would park myself at my own desk and write in spiral notebooks. By the time I was encouraged to pursue publication by a friend, I had 15 novels in the file under my desk. I joined ACFW and studied in any way they offered.

One night when I went to bed I was mulling over a sermon illustration, and I had to jump back up and write down an outline for a book that God just downloaded into my mind. That book was called The Blessing Seer. I wrote and revised and edited. The day I submitted it to a possible publisher, my finger hovered over the send button. I prayed that if this was the place for this book then God would allow the story to touch someone there. When I received an email back from the editor, the first line read: This story really touched me. I felt God was telling me that this was a definite calling to be a writer but that He was going to teach me so much through it. He hasn’t let me down.

LM: You are a prolific writer. You've released three books in six months. How do you balance your life as a writer with the other aspects of your life?

PM: Whew! The balance isn’t easy. During the school year, I work part-time in the school system to pay for my daughter’s tuition. I not only write my own books but I am an acquiring editor for Prism Book Group. Through my editor role I’m invited to teach at conferences. All that and I’m a pastor’s wife as well. I can truly let it all overwhelm me sometimes. But I have to step back and remember that God has called me to this, so I don’t have to do it myself. I would say that the biggest key to getting it all done is not forgetting my priorities. Before I start any writing, I make sure I have been in God’s Word first. Another of my strategies is taking advantage of every moment. I can and have written and read anywhere and everywhere that includes in the car when my hubby is driving and while stirring supper on the stove.

LM: Where do you get your ideas for stories?

PM: My ideas have come from sermon illustrations and tidbits of conversation as well as stories told by my family and little news stories on TV. In my Christian romantic suspense, For Our Good, one of the characters is a pilot and is approached at the airport to carry a parcel. This actually happened to my father, who has since retired from being a corporate pilot. Another scene in that same book came from a snippet of a news report I caught on our local news.

LM: Are any of your characters based on real people?

PM: Honestly I don’t have a character that is fully based on a real person. I will give them characteristics of people I know, but I haven’t yet based the whole character on someone in real life.

LM: Age-old question for writers: are you a panster or a plotter?

PM: I believe I would say I am a planster. I do write out sketchy notes but not detailed outlines. For the sequel to For Our Good, which I am in the process of writing now, I wrote a few notes on notecards as to what I wanted to happen in each scene.

LM: Do you have any unusual research incidents?

PM: I wouldn’t say that I’ve had any unusual research incidents. Maybe a few strange looks. For example, there is a police officer in my church who I questioned often during the writing of For Our Good. I needed to know about guns and bullet wounds and how precise a shot someone could pull off. These are discussion topics that will get you strange looks when you discuss them before and after church service.

LM: Besides writing, what are your other passions?

PM: Reading has always been a passion of mine. I love to read my author friends’ books and post reviews for them. I have also become quite fond of helping others realize their publishing dreams through my role as an acquiring editor. And one other passion is I love to teach writing. I get to teach writing lessons at writing conferences, at a local bookstore, and in schools. I’m really passionate about encouraging the authors of tomorrow and am developing a program to do so. You can check this out at

LM: What else should people know about you?

PM: I am just a plain ol’ hillbilly girl from East Tennessee who is humbled that God would let me write for Him. And during those pressure deadline moments, a Diet Dr Pepper and some Peanut Butter M&Ms are especially useful to spur me on!

Paula has multiple works available-The Blessing Seer, Be The Blessing (2014 Selah Award), and Legacy and Love (2015 Carolyn Readers Choice Awards finalist.) Her articles have appeared in Woman’s World, The Christian Online Magazine, and the multi-author devotional blog, Full Flavored Living. She wrote a section for Join the Insanity by Rhonda Rhea. Her devotionals appear in several collaborative books. She is a member of ACFW and serves on the author interview team. She was a member of the 2014 and 2015 Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference faculty. Paula is a pastor’s wife and mom to a college student. She homeschooled her daughter through all twelve years, and they both lived to tell about it. Before educating her daughter at home, she was an English teacher in public school.

You can follow Paula on Facebook. Learn more about Paula at her blog at or enjoy her monthly columns on

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Traveling Tuesday: Post WWI Germany

I’m a volunteer docent at the Wright Museum of WWII. A question that is often raised while people are viewing the exhibits is “How could Germany let Hitler get into power?” Another is “Didn’t the German people see what he was doing?”

To answer those questions, one must understand the aftermath of WWI.

On November 11, 1918, an armistice (a cease-fire or truce) was declared. The German monarch Kaiser Wilhelm II was forced to abdicate and be exiled. The Weimar Republic was created, and Germany was forced to accept the Treaty of Versailles. Under the Weimar constitution, power was divided between the president, a cabinet, and a parliament. The office of chancellor was appointed by the president and was chairman of the parliament.

A result of the Treaty was that Germany had to accept the punishment inflicted on them by the Allies. This included huge reductions in the size of their military, reduction of territory, payment of war reparations in the amount of thirty two billion dollars (in money and in products), and acceptance of a “war guilt” clause.

The combination of these requirements caused unrest and opposition. Violence erupted on the streets. When Germany defaulted on delivering coal and steel, French and Belgian troops occupied the Ruhr River valley (the center these two industries). Workers began to strike, and civil servants refused instructions from the occupying troops. The government then began to print more money to pay its debts, causing “hyperinflation” (literally a wheelbarrow full of Deutschmarks wasn’t enough for a loaf of bread). By 1923, one U.S. Dollar was equal to four trillion Marks.

Morale was at an all-time low. Shortly thereafter, the Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP) or Nazi party rose up from the German working class. They blamed capitalism, the ruling class, communists, and trade unions for the country’s problems. The Nazis felt all of these issues were connected to a Jewish conspiracy, and to solve the problem the Jews should be deprived of German citizenship.

The Nazis were nationalist. Their goal was to make Germany great again, a power to be reckoned with. During the mid-1920s there were myriad political parties, and the Nazis were one of the smaller ones, but by the late 1920s the party had increased in size. The increased number of party members combined with Hitler’s charismatic personality caused the German people began to believe his rhetoric about who was to blame for Germany’s ills.

In 1930, with just 18.3% of the vote Nazi representation went from 12 seats in Parliament to 107 seats. They were now the second largest party and their march to power began.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Forensic Friday: The Charlie Stielow Firearms Case

The Charlie Stielow Firearms Case

On the morning of March 22, 1915, Charlie Stielow walked out his front door and stumbled over the body of his employer's housekeeper, Margaret Wolcott. Hysterical, Charlie ran across the street to the home of his boss, Charles Phelps, where he discovered Mr. Phelps unconscious. By now the neighbors had been awakened, and one of them went for the local sheriff. A search of the house found the contents strewn about, and the victim's money missing.

Mr. Phelps was transported to the hospital where he later died. A private detective by the name of George Newton was hired to solve the case. He shortly unearthed the fact that Charlie Stielow owned a .22 caliber rifle-the same type weapon used in the two murders. Stielow was arrested shortly thereafter.

Proof the gun's involvement in the crime had to be determined, so Newton set about trying to find an expert. Enter the charlatan and forensic fraud, Albert Hamilton. Having awarded himself a phony medical degree, Hamilton advertised himself as a criminologist with areas of expertise in chemistry, cause of death, anatomy, firearms identification. The police claimed Stielow confessed to the killings and charged him with First Degree Murder.

In court, Hamilton testified that his comparison of the bullets from the victims to test bullets fired from Stielow's gun showed the gun to be the murder weapon. At the end of the eight-day trial, Stielow was found guilty and sentenced to be executed. While he was in jail, several lawyers became convinced Stielow was innocent. The attorneys convinced the governor to grant him a stay of execution. Ultimately, Charles E. Waite, an employee of the New York Attorney General's Office proved without a doubt that Stielow's gun was not the murder weapon. After serving two years on death row, Charlie Stielow was released to freedom, never to be compensated for his wrongful incarceration.

 And Albert Hamilton? Over the next ten years, he managed to insert himself into many high-profile cases, including the Sacco-Vanzetti and Lindbergh kidnapping trials.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Wartime Wednesday: The Battle of Verdun

 Wartime Wednesday: The Battle of Verdun

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Verdun. The campaign lasted for ten months, and was one of the largest battles of WWI. Fought on the Western Front, in the hills north of Verdun-sur-Meuse, this battle between Germany and France was costly. The two sides suffered combined casualties and losses of over one million men.

German General Erich von Falkenheyn initiated the fight in an effort to decimate as many of the French troops as possible. He led his forces to take over Fort Douaumont and Fort Vaux, but was unable to advance to the Verdun cathedral. 

His plan made sense but was ambitious. His ultimate failure was that he underestimated the French, assuming they'd be an easy target. Despite the poor morale of the French soldiers (there was talk of mutiny for many reasons - including the fact that factory workers earned significantly more salary than military troops), the men stayed and continued to fight. The Battle of Somme commenced during June, pulling the Germans into a second front. Von Falkenheyn was relieved of his command, and, the French reclaimed their forts by December of that year.

When I think of forts, images of impenetrable, stone-walls that reach into the sky, often from cliffs and other high places, come to mind. Verdun, however, was a city protected by a ring of underground forts. There were twenty major forts, and almost forty smaller forts. The Germans thought that Verdun held great historical significance to the French, and would therefore "fight to the last man," according to von Falkenheyn. He thought that if enough French soldiers were killed, Germany would emerge the ultimate victor.

Twenty-five years later, the Germans would again underestimate their foe. The London Blitz lasted for nine months. Hitler was sure that fear would overtake the English, and they would demand their government surrender on their behalf. It never happened, and England was able to defeat Germany with the help of other Allied countries.

Monday, April 4, 2016

It's Official!

Love's Harvest now available on Amazon!

I am so pleased to announce that Love's Harvest, my fictionalization of the book of Ruth, has officially been released on Amazon. Currently available as an ebook only. Coming to print publication this summer!

My website has been updated to include a page about the book. 

Join me tonight on Facebook for my launch party. The festivities will begin at 8:15 Eastern time. There will be lots of great conversation and some fun door prizes.