Online Writers Class: Misdemeanors to Murder: Nothing but the Truth from a Criminal Lawyer & PI

For Crime Fiction Writers/Readers, Fans of Legal Thrillers, and Armchair Legal Eagles


February 1-28 “Misdemeanors to Murder: Nothing but the Truth from a Criminal Lawyer and Private Eye"

Course focuses on US criminal crimes—lowest misdemeanor to highest felony offenses--from a criminal lawyer’s and PI’s perspectives.

For more info/registration: Misdemeanors to Murder: Nothing but the Truth

Christmas Giveaway: Enter to Win a $25 Amazon Gift Card and a Romantic-Mystery eBook!

Click on the "21 Days of Christmas" image or the below link to enter my Christmas giveaway (a $25 Amazon Gift Card & an ecopy of Mistletoe and Murder in Las Vegas).

Contest is hosted by Hello Chick Lit, and closes December 23, 2016 (winner to be announced the week after Christmas). Happy holidays!

Colleen's Christmas Giveaway


What to Do When You Get a Bad Book Review

Today is National Author's Day, a good time to celebrate writers writing...and a good time to go over how to handle this particular nasty thorn of the writing life: bad reviews. Just like taxes and death, bad reviews are inevitable. Not that a book is necessarily bad, in fact it might be quite good, but judging a book is always a subjective experience. One reader might love stories with multiple points of view, while another gets crazy with all that "head hopping." Or a reader glosses over key points in the story, feels confused, and blames the author. Or maybe a reader has a personal agenda—he/she wrote a book that was rejected, so they become hyper-critical of other authors' success.

I recently got a not-so-nice review on a book that had consistently received good to excellent reviews, and had placed in the top five for its category in a national writing contest. The reader snarked about my letting a character (federal agent) go "MIA" (missing in action) for weeks. Missing in action? Obviously the reader had forgotten, or maybe skipped over, an earlier scene in the book where the character is preparing to leave for his 2-week paid vacation at Christmas time, and asks his supervisor if he can take an extra two days unpaid leave, which the supervisor approves.

I've belonged to a writers' group for 20 years. When I told them about this mean-spirited review, they reminded me that it's not worth it to read reviews...not if I wanted to be a happy writer. LOL! A lesson I learned after a Bad Review Experience many years ago...

A Bad Review Twenty Years Ago

I got it at a very bad time: Right before I left to attend a national writers conference. My fiction novel, my baby, got a dastardly 1-star review. Worse, from a  reviewer for a magazine. I ate an entire bag of M&Ms. Not the small size bag, the drown-your-sorrows-and-flirt-with-hypoglycemia size.  

What, a 1-star review? (Image is licensed; please do not copy)

What, a 1-star review? (Image is licensed; please do not copy)

Then I called my editor. This was the editor who'd purchased my first novel in 1996, and had purchased and edited the next three novels as well. My first novel got splendid reviews, as did my second and third. The fourth got the 1-star review.

Wise Words From An Editor

She listened as I told her in a shaky voice that I had received a bad review. One star. Then she laughed. A kind laugh, I'll add, because she herself is also a multi-published author, as well as being an editor, so she well understood the writers' life.

She said, "Your readers love your books and they're buying them. That's all that matters."

This editor, by the way, now heads up a division at that publishing company. She's smart and savvy about the book biz.

Didn't mean I wasn't still angsting about that bad review.

I Spilled My Guts to an Auditorium of Strangers

I don't recommend this to anyone. Really, it's not my style to stand up in a crowded room and tell several hundred people, most of them strangers, how devastating it is to get a bad review.

I hadn't planned on doing this. In fact, I had kept a low profile the entire conference, that is until I attended a workshop where a nationally known writer, one of those New York Times bestselling types,  was talking about—guess what?—surviving bad reviews.

At one point in her talk, she asked if anyone in the audience had ever had a bad review and what did they do about it?

Some unseen force drew me to my feet. I stood there, my voice quaking, and told an entire auditorium full of people, many writers, how a bad review had gutted me. How it was in a magazine, so hundreds, maybe thousands, of people had or would read it. How I'd consumed so many M&Ms, I had been shaking for days.

I am Spartacus! (Film poster, 1960) is in the public domain)

I am Spartacus! (Film poster, 1960) is in the public domain)

What happened next was like that scene in the movie Spartacus. Not the recent series, the 1960 movie starring Kirk Douglas as Spartacus. Remember the scene where the Romans ask a throng of slaves, hundreds of them, which one is Spartacus, and Kirk Douglas stands. "I am Spartacus," he announces loudly. Then another slave stands, "No, I am Spartacus." Another stands and says the same thing, then another...until the entire crowd of slaves are all standing, each proclaiming loudly to be Spartacus.

It was kinda like that in the auditorium. After I poured my guts out, a writer in the front row stood up and said the same thing had happened to her. She's now a New York Times best-selling author, and a friend, and she recently told me that since her books have hit the NYT and other bestseller lists, even more negative reviews crop up on Amazon for her books! She's a professional, keeps a cool head, never responds to negative reviews.

Another well-known author stood. She announced loudly to the auditorium that she, too, had received her share of bad reviews, including several 1-star reviews, and by the way, would I please tell the auditorium the title of my book so people could buy it? That's right. She invited me to tell everyone the book title. I did. She then told everyone she was going out to buy it right after the workshop was over.

Other writers did the same thing. I got to see, first hand, that bad reviews happen, even to successful NYT best-selling authors. It's part of the package of being a writer and putting your work out there. 

My Two Cents on What to Do When You Get a Bad Review

1. Buy the small bag of M&Ms.

2. Commiserate with other writers, friends, family. You're allowed to wallow in it for 48 hours. After that, put on your big-boy or big-girl pants and get back to writing.

3. Don't respond to the bad review.

Let's chat a bit about not responding to negative comments and other less-than-complimentary write-ups. I wrote an article about that ("Four Tips for Minimizing Bad Reviews on Google"). In it, I explain how replying to bad reviews on the Internet, or even clicking them to re-read (or forwarding the link to others to click on and read), sends signals to Google and other Internet browsers to bump up that review's ranking...which means it's easier to find on the Internet. You don't want that.

As Tony Soprano might say, it's best to fuggitaboutit.

Now get back to writing!

Paranormal Investigators, Ghost Tour, and Haunted Tales at The Brown Palace

A ghoulish delight at the Haunted Happy Hour.

A ghoulish delight at the Haunted Happy Hour.

Last night we attended a "Haunted Happy Hour" at the 124-year-old Brown Palace Hotel in Denver, Colorado. The evening kicked off with a buffet (with such ghoulish items as Bat Wings and Grim Reapers Rib), presentation by two paranormal investigators, and ended with a ghost tour.

Paranormal Investigators

The photo gallery below begins with a picture of the former men's club room (now a meeting room) on the 4th floor of the Brown Palace where customers and employees have witnessed ghostly goings-on for decades, such as a well-dressed man (style from the 1920s) shaking a martini, then fading into the wall. The first picture shows the two paranormal investigators, who discussed their ghost-hunting equipment and told stories of their investigations at the Brown Palace, including the hauntings of the ladies restroom on the 4th floor. According to these guys, ladies restrooms in old hotels are haunted more often than the men's restrooms. Huh. I'm still pondering that one.

Haunting Photos

Photos in sequential order, starting with:

  • The paranormal investigators and their equipment.
  • A medium speaking as Louise Crawford Hill in the room where Louise died in 1955. The medium sat in a corner of the living room area, where Louise has purportedly been seen by employees and guests. 
  • The door of the Ladies restroom on the 4th floor, where ghosts have been seen by guests and employees.
  • Room 904: The former apartment of Mrs. Crawford Hill.
  • "Enter If You Dare" Welcome sign to the Haunted Happy Hour.
  • A medium in room 846, where a young couple, dressed in 1920s style, have been seen by guests, employees, and the medium herself. The young ghostly wife apparently isn't happy with uninvited guests, as people's suitcases will suddenly dump onto the floor or their cell phones will fly through the air (and smash into a wall). Numerous guests have checked in...and quickly called the front desk that they want another room NOW.
  • The Brown Palace historian, who provided additional historical details about the hotel and its former guests throughout the ghost tour.
  • A phone from the 1930s in the ninth floor hallway. They keep it in working condition to go with the deco decor of the floor, immaculately maintained since the 1930s.
  • Photograph of Louise Crawford Hill's residence in the 1930s before she moved into the Brown Palace Hotel. Portraits of her husband and her lover are on opposite walls (!).
  • Several images of the buffet room & its ghoulish dishes.
  • Bedroom of room 846, where the young wife ghost from the 1920s has been seen by guests, employees, and the medium. In fact, the medium swears the young wife-ghost once tried to lock the medium into the room (!).
  • Double doors in the living room area of room 846. These doors currently open into an event room, which years ago was a ballroom. Overnight guests in room 846 have heard sounds of music and laughter in the middle of the night. One couple ventured down the hallway to the "party" with the intention to ask the partiers to "please keep it down"—but when they found the hallway door open to the event room, it was dark and empty.
  • A darker, shadowy image of the medium who spoke as Louise Crawford Hill (the lights were low in the room as she spoke; the area behind the medium is where Louise's ghost is often seen). 

Click on an image to go to the next picture.

FREE Oct 23: MISTLETOE and MURDER in LAS VEGAS #romanticmystery

Mistletoe & Murder in Las Vegas is free on Sunday, October 23! Click on book cover to go to Amazon page. 

Book Blurb

All 31-year-old, Las Vegas criminal lawyer Joanne Galvin wants for Christmas is a client—or three—so she can make ends meet. Instead she’s roped into defending the notorious Timepiece Arsonist; tracked by a hunky special agent and his arson dog; and chased by a serial killer. Just when her life is starting to feel like the Nightmare Before Christmas, she receives an unexpected gift that offers hope that this holiday season could be the most wonderful time of the year...

Praise for Mistletoe & Murder in Las Vegas

Mistletoe and Murder in Las Vegas” is Colleen Collins at her best. It’s got the charm and humor of the best romantic comedies combined with a genuinely good mystery—an unbeatable combination. I couldn’t put the book down once I started it.
— Nancy Warren, USA Today Bestselling Author
A fun mystery that incorporates a little suspense, romance, and the magical meaning of Christmas.
— Pretty Little Books
The twists and turns are full of interesting story lines. The unique characters make this an interesting read. Really enjoyed this book!
— Cindy O'Brien
A long time murder mystery book lover, this book exceeds all my expectations. Colleen Collins knows the legal milieu well, and shows us the legal pitfalls and potential successful conclusions we can learn from. Kudos to this writer!
— Barbara Graham

eBook Sale: Romantic-Mysteries $1.99 Oct 18-25!

All of my Harlequin ebook romantic-mysteries and other romance novels are on sale for $1.99 starting today, October 18, and ending October 25! 


If you like romantic-mysteries with private eye characters, check out this series set in Las Vegas. (Click on the book covers to go to their Amazon pages.)

Book #1 The Next Right Thing
(sensual content)


Book #2 Sleepless in Las Vegas: Virginia Romance Writers Holt Medallion Finalist
(some sensual content)






Book #3 Hearts in Vegas

Cookies, Browsers, and Keeping Them Separate

The following article is an excerpt from my recent nonfiction release How Do Private Eyes Do That?

Tips for Keeping the Cookie Monster Out of Your Browser

All rights reserved by Colleen Collins

Not all cookies are bad, be they edible or data dropped into your browser (Image copyrighted by Colleen Collins)

Not all cookies are bad, be they edible or data dropped into your browser (Image copyrighted by Colleen Collins)

What's a Cookie?

Cookies are small amounts of data that websites drop into your browser so they can monitor your internet browsing activity. As they are text, they cannot install anything on your computer. And they are not necessarily evil little creatures as some clue in your browser about preferences you have established for certain sites (such as reading newest comments first or ensuring secure logins).

And then there are the cookies that surreptitiously monitor your internet comings and goings, then feed that data to advertisers and others. If you don’t want your personal internet browsing to be stored in their databases, below are three tips for taking a byte out of those cookies.

Tip #1: Cookie Notices on Websites

Many websites have a symbol, icon or notice that by your visiting the site, you agree to its cookie-gathering policy. Such notices say something like “We use cookies to improve your experience. By your continued use, you accept such use. To change your settings, please see our policy.”

If you don’t want to agree to a site’s cookie-gathering, simply leave the site.

Tip # 2: Do Not Track Options

Do Not Track options block approximately 70% of web-tracking sites (image is in public domain)

Do Not Track options block approximately 70% of web-tracking sites (image is in public domain)

Fortunately, browsers offer Do Not Track options so users can opt-out of advertising services and other analytics on websites. Unfortunately, the Do Not Track option is similar to the Do Not Call registry—selecting the option doesn’t necessary mean that the website is going to respect your request.

Nevertheless, based on a recent report from the Information Commissioner’s Office, Do Not Track options block approximately 70% of third-party web tracking, so view it as a basic protective step. Here is a list of advertisers who claim to honor Do Not Track requests: Do Not Track: Implementations

Below are the steps for how to do this for Chrome & Safari (the Do Not Track option is on by default for Mozilla):

Chrome: Preferences/Settings->Advanced Settings–>(Select appropriate boxes)

Safari: Preferences–>Privacy–>(Select appropriate boxes)

For other browsers, check what security or privacy options are available under Preferences.

Tip #3: Add-Ons/Extensions

A second line of defense are add-ons and extensions that you download to your browser. These are not 100% remedies, but another, tougher layer of cookie-protection on top of Do Not Track settings.

The below services are free, with most offering more additional, comprehensive services for a monthly fee:

• Ghostery

• Disconnect

• AdBlock Plus

• Privacy Badger

Please do not copy/distribute any articles without written permission from Colleen Collins. Do not copy/distribute or otherwise use any mages noted as copyrighted or licensed.


Click on book cover to go to Amazon page.

"A must-have for any writer serious about crafting authentic private eyes. Collins knows her stuff." 
~Lori Wilde, New York Times bestselling author
"If you're looking for the lowdown on private investigations, this is it."
~Bill Crider, author of the Truman Smith mystery series