Book Giveaways, Crime Chats and Who's Emma Peel?


Book Giveaway: Sleepless in Las Vegas

Goodreads Contest Now Closed

Thank you to the 691 readers who entered the contest!  Twelve winners' copies are being mailed November 27.


My December release, Sleepless in Las Vegas, is the second book in the private-eye-romance series, and is available in print and e-versions.  To order your copy, click here.

I generally don’t read Harlequin books but I’m glad I set aside my bias of romance type novels because Sleepless in Las Vegas is so much more...a lot of intrigue, action, romance and excitement happening here and you’re not going to want to put the book down until you get to the end. To say that I enjoyed it immensely would be an understatement.
— Carlana Charles, book reviewer,
Absolutely delightful! As a straight romance, I found this book to be well done and thoroughly enjoyable...What made me love this [book] is that this is it is wrapped up in a great detective story. Want something more than a love story? Read this!
— Leti Del Mar, Words with Leti Del Mar

Chatting About Crime

Today my husband and I were guests of Alice de Sturler on #crimechat. Alice is a former human rights defender, educator and owner of the Defrosting Cold Cases blog. Below is an excerpt from Alice's recap on the chat, with a link to the full article at the end.

Sorry about the mishmash of green and white backgrounds -- had a little trouble cutting and pasting.

Alice de Sturler, owner  Defrosting Cold Cases

Alice de Sturler, owner Defrosting Cold Cases

Recap #CrimeChat Oct 25, 2013


Recap #CrimeChat Oct 25, 2013 with Shaun Kaufman &Colleen Collins a.k.a. the Writing PIs. It is always a pleasure to talk to these two. There are always new stories, new books they are working on, and they have a great sense of humour.

While Shaun was driving home from court, Colleen and I started off with a post I found really informative. It is about the difference between private investigators and bounty hunters. Many confuse the two. Both track people, conduct interviews, and have contact with suspects. However, they are governed by different sets of regulations.

Colleen told us that she got great reactions to her latest book “Secrets of a real life female private eye” including the comments that some younger readers did not know Emma Peel. I can still laugh about the differences in generations. As soon as that changes, I will alert you!

Shaun arrived and we spoke about the difficulties a criminal defense lawyer faces. Shaun described how law school taught him about procedure but absolutely nothing about criminal defense. He owes that to Walter Gerash.

We touched on the “chess coach case” which sadly involved child abuse. I asked them how they handle cases like this. How do you shake those images after cataloging the evidence and DNA test results? How do you move on from that? They both said that the only way to do that is to remain steadfast in the believe that the defense is about defending the system of checks & balances and not the deed.

End of excerpt.  To read the full recap, click here

Who Is Emma Peel? 

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Photo credit: Wikipedia

As Alice mentioned in her above recap, there are those in the younger generation who have no idea who Emma Peel is. No idea?  Sadly, it's true. It's also a reminder that yes, we baby boomers are getting older.

Uma Thurman recreated the role of Emma Peel in the 1998 movie The Avengers, which earned a rousing 1 star from Rotten Tomatoes.   Well, really, could any actress other than Diana Rigg be Mrs. Peel?  Yes, yes, fellow baby boomers, I know there were other actresses who tried.  Honor Blackman, who preceded Diana Rigg in the series and later played Pussy Galore in Goldfinger, and Linda Thorson who came after Diana Rigg.  But let's get real.  Diana Rigg was the Emma Peel.

Here's an article on the 50th anniversary of The Avengers TV series, written by a fellow baby boomer: Classic 1960s Brit TV series "The Avengers" turns 50

Before I sign off today's post, I'll leave the recipe for the Emma Peel Cocktail.


Emma Peel Cocktail

Sweet and tart with a kick, like its namesake, this drink is a mix of fruits and champagne.

The Emma Peel

1 measure cherry brandy
1  measure pineapple juice
Top it off with champagne







To go to book's Amazon page, click on banner  

To go to book's Amazon page, click on banner 

The Rockford Files: Magical Surveillances in a Gold ’78 Firebird

Rockford's Shiny Gold Firebird

Rockford's Shiny Gold Firebird

How'd Rockford Pull Off Surveillances in That Flashy Firebird?

I'm a huge fan of the old TV series The Rockford Files, staring one of my all-time favorite actors James Garner -- in fact, my husband and I own the entire series on DVD.  But gotta say, how'd he pull off all those surveillances in a shiny gold Firebird?


Having co-owned a private investigations agency for a decade, I can definitely say it was magic because in the real world, a P.I. driving a shiny metallic muscle car is gonna get the P.I. burned, or caught, sooner or later, likely sooner because the car stands out like a Vegas neon sign. That's why Rockford's surveillances in that Firebird aren't realistic, but who cares -- that show was all about entertaining viewers, which it did and still does.

Want to watch some of those Rockford Files  classic shows? They're available on hulu - click  here 

Writing Realistic Private Eye Characters

surveillance female hanging out of car with camera.jpg

But when it comes to writers portraying realistic private eye characters, they need to keep them out of flashy cars while they're on surveillances. A successful P.I. knows how to blend in, from the clothes he/she wears to the vehicles they drive.  Let's look at some examples.

Blending In: What a P.I. Might Wear on Surveillance

When working a surveillance, I've worn elegant dresses to five-star restaurants to jeans and flannel shirts in the country. 

I've also made the mistake of not researching what women were wearing to a certain function I was attending undercover, and although I was dressed differently than everyone else, I fortunately didn't stand out enough to hinder the case. Taught me a valuable lesson though.  Research, research, research. 

Below are a few generalized examples of "blending in" attire:

  • Hotels: Suits/Dresses
  • Grateful Dead Concert: Tie-dye (what else?) and jeans
  • Nighttime stationary surveillance (stationary refers to a non-moving surveillance, such as one conducted in a parked vehicle): Dark clothing
  • Rural areas: Jeans, shirts, boots.  

And a few suggestions for types of weather/ lengthy surveillances: 

  • Winter: Wear layers, jacket, coat, boots if it's snowing
  • Summer: T-shirt, shorts, sandals
  • Lengthy surveillances: Comfortable, appropriate clothing.

Summer Surveillances: Respect the Heat!

Another lesson I learned the hard way.  On a summer surveillance several years ago, I made sure to wear appropriate clothing, but I failed to respect the heat. So I'm going to throw in some tips for staying cool on a hot-weather surveillance -- maybe some of these ideas are useful for any of you writing a private-eye story:

  • Bring ice packs.
  • Pick shady spots to park in.
  • Ensure there’s adequate ventilation.
  • It can be problematic running the air conditioner (remember, surveillance is about blending in, not drawing attention to a parked, seemingly empty vehicle that's suddenly running the A/C ).  Some investigators purchase portable units that help keep the inside of a vehicle cool).
  • If possible, take breaks in air-conditioned buildings.
  • Wear a rimmed hat and sunglasses.
  • Stay hydrated (drink water, Gatorade or fruit juices, not sodas or coffee).

Blending In: Surveillance Vehicles

In the country, a P.I.might drive a pick-up (not a shiny one, a dusty one). In the city, a P.I. might drive a sedan or van. Bicycles are great for areas like parks. It's helpful if a vehicle model is difficult to identify and easily confused with other makes. Also, the vehicle should be an unremarkable color that no one remembers clearly (a shiny gold Firebird stands out!).

    Last, I'm sharing an excerpt of my article "Top Three Mistakes About Private Eyes Depicted in Novels," posted at Digital Book Today. An excerpt is below, with a link to the full article at the end. Enjoy!

    Top Three Mistakes About Private Eyes Depicted in Novels

    Besides working as a private investigator, I love reading the private eye genre.  And there’s plenty of wonderful writers out there crafting compelling stories featuring private eye protagonists.  I should know -- for the last three years I’ve been honored to be a judge for the Private Eye Writers of America, and in this capacity I’ve read over 200 novels featuring private eye protagonists.

    But sometimes I cringe when I read a cliche or blatant mistake about private investigators or their work.  Today I’ll note the top three mistakes I’ve found.

    Bungling Crime Scenes

    crime scene tape.jpg

    This covers a range of activities, from PIs hanging out at crime scenes with their cop pals to rummaging through a dead body’s clothing to find a wallet, cell phone, matchbook, etc.  Regarding the former, I know, we see PIs and cops hanging out at crime scenes all the times in movies and TV shows, but it’s not like that in real life.  It’s not totally improbable–as my PI-lawyer-partner and I wrote about at our sister site, Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes  (“Answering Writer’s Questions about Police Detectives, PIs and Crime Scenes”), it’s possible a law enforcement officer, under extraordinary circumstances, might invite a PI onto a crime scene–for example, if the PI had some forensic expertise that would benefit the investigation–but as I said, it would have to be for an extraordinary reason.

    As to bungling crime scenes, I wrote about that in greater detail, with input from several homicide detectives and a criminal defense attorney, for the blog Novel Rocket in the article “Top 5 Mistakes Writers Make at a Crime Scene.”

    Understanding that Most PIs Today Are Techno-Savvy

    I debated whether to write “most PIs” or “many PIs,” but I opted for most because in my experience, most PIs I know have some level, from basic to advanced, of technological smarts.  

    To read the full article, click here

    Calling All Armchair Detectives: Sleuth Tips and Techniques at Your Fingertips

     Like trying to sleuth along with TV-private eye Ray Donovan?

    Wish you had a reference book to find some nifty technique for that private-eye character your're writing?

    Want to locate your great-aunt's son by her first marriage?

    This book's for you, pal. 

    How to Write a Dick discusses everything from the different types of investigative specializations (yes, there really are pet detectives) to homicide investigations to how new PIs kick-start their businesses to real-life case studies.  And a lot more.

    No Kindle?  No Problem

    Amazon provides free apps for easy downloading to read on your browser, PC or Mac computers, as well as on a variety of mobile devices. 

    Book Reviews

    “If you want authenticity in creating a fictional private investigator for your stories, then this is a must-have reference book. Its authors, Colleen and Shaun, are living breathing PIs with years of actual experience in the PI game.”
    ~ R.T. Lawton, 25 years on the street as a federal special agent and author of 4 series in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine

    Expressionism female detec JPG.jpg

    "This is a book that's going to go on my keeper shelf. Informative, helpful and easy to read. I'm so glad I heard about it!"

    "I was surprised how much I learned and how much fun this book is. It's a 'what's going on in the field' that's like a pre-write fact checker...It can stand alone as an insider's guide to the world - the real world - of the private detective." 
    ~David Y.B. Kaufmann

    "If [this book] had been around when I was fiction editor for THE THRILLING DETECTIVE WEB SITE, my job would have been much easier."
    ~Gerald So, editor, writer, book reviewer, moderator DetecToday

    Book Excerpts

    To read an excerpt, click on its link:

      Did you know many current-day PIs use smartphone flashlight apps instead of  clunky flashlights?   

     Did you know many current-day PIs use smartphone flashlight apps instead of  clunky flashlights?  

    Shaun Kaufman and Colleen Collins

    Shaun Kaufman and Colleen Collins

    Besides working as private investigators for nearly a decade...

    Shaun Kaufman is also a trial attorney specializing in personal injury, criminal defense and business litigation.  He has also trained private investigators during his nearly 30 years working in the criminal justice system.

    Colleen Collins is also a multi-published novelist (several dozen novels -- her most recent novel, The Next Right Thing, features a private eye protagonist).  She has also written several nonfiction books on private investigations (How Do Private Eyes Do That? and Secrets of a Real-Life Female Private Eye).

    Starting back around 2005, writers began contacting Shaun and Colleen with questions about sleuths, PIs, cops and legal eagles. Fielding those questions led to their teaching online classes to writers and presenting workshops at regional and national writers’ conferences (Left Coast Crime, Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of AmericaRomance Writers of America, others). They have also written articles about private investigations for magazines, newsletters and online sites such as PI MagazinePursuit, Romance Writers Report, NINK (for Novelists, Inc.), Reflections in a Private Eye, and others.

    How to Write a Dick covers PI training, specialized areas of investigations, resources and techniques, technological tools, real-life case studies, a Gumshoe Glossary and more.

    How to Write a Dick covers PI training, specialized areas of investigations, resources and techniques, technological tools, real-life case studies, a Gumshoe Glossary and more.

    Teaching courses and writing articles for writers led to the Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes blog, which in turn led to their writing How to Write a Dick: A Guide for Writing Fictional Sleuths from a Couple of Real-Life Sleuths

    To order, click here.

    "This is an amazing book and I'm very happy that I got it. The authors cover so much ground about a PI's life and work, I'd find it hard to get a more thorough overview. Since this book is geared towards writers, I think the authors provided just the right amount of detail regarding specific PI work."
    ~Allie R. 

    Free Professional Photos, Videos and Audio

    Do you write a blog?  Craft a newsletter?  Manage your own website?  Then you probably like to occasionally plug in photos or images to accompany your articles or maybe to add some pizzazz to the page.  Did you know iStockphoto, a site that sells professionally created photos and more, also offers free downloads?

    I've purchased iStock photos for my blogs and websites. For example, I purchased the background of Colleen Collins Books (the vintage green typewriter illustration) from iStock.  I also purchased the image for my nonfiction book HOW DO PRIVATE EYES DO THAT?

    How Do Private Eyes Do That? by Colleen Collins

    How Do Private Eyes Do That? by Colleen Collins

    What's cool is that iStock also provides free downloads, too.  Sometimes an image or illustration will fit something I'm writing about on a blog; otherwise, I save the image for later use.

    The only requirement is you need to register with iStock to access their freebies.  To go to their website, click here

    Examples of Free iStock Image Downloads

    iStockphoto offers free downloads every week in each of these categories: Photos, Illustrations, Audio and Movies.   Below are two free photos I've recently downloaded - nice, huh?  Below these photos is a banner for my new book Secrets of a Real-Life Female Private Eye -- the photo of the woman's eyes is also from iStock, and although it wasn't free, it was very inexpensive (a couple of dollars).

    blond girl headshot black and white.jpg
    city landscape reflection in water.jpg

    To go to book's Amazon page, click on above banner

    To go to book's Amazon page, click on above banner

    Writing a Psychopathic Character? The FBI Has Some Articles for You


    Dear Clarice, I have followed with enthusiasm the course of your disgrace...

    Remember that letter from Hannibal Lecter to Clarice Starling in the movie Silence of the Lambs?  Lecter, the psychopathic shrink with a fancy for human flesh, was chillingly, frighteningly memorable. If you're writing a psychopathic character, here's a handy, free resource for you:  The July 2012 issue of the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin is dedicated to psychopaths. The issue contains the following articles:

    Psychopathy: An Important Forensic Concept for the 21st Century
    Understanding the mind of psychopaths and assessing their personality and behavioral traits can help authorities design more effective interviewing strategies.

    Looking Behind the Mask: Implications for Interviewing Psychopaths
    With proper preparation, knowledge, and understanding of psychopathy, interviewers can recognize a true psychopathic personality.

    The Language of Psychopaths: New Findings and Implications for Law Enforcement
    A study using human coders found differences in the speech of psychopaths and nonpsychopaths.

    All fascinating topics!  To read these articles, click here (article links are on right side of page).

    SECRETS OF A REAL-LIFE FEMALE PRIVATE EYE is a part-memoir, part-reference nonfiction book based on the experiences of a professional private investigator and writer. Audiences: researchers, writers, detective-fiction fans, armchair detectives and those curious about the real world of private investigators. 

    "This is a real eye opener... full of surprises and unexpected resources!" ~ Amazon Top Reviewer