Picture1Popular literature has never become disenchanted with the enchanted, possessed or cursed. You can find vampires, zombies, ghouls, ghosts and the demonically possessed in several best selling novels. In the tradition of Mary Shelly’s “Frankenstein”, the more recent literary forays into the world of the undead, sort of dead, and soon to be dead, have attempted to give some scientific and psychological rationales for their characters.

In light of some of the breakthroughs in new forensic techniques, authors have taken advantage, and incorporated these themes into their novels. Two theories used to explain vampires deal with DNA technology, specifically sequencing the genomes of the creatures mentioned above, and virology.

In Deborah Harkness’s All Souls trilogy, her main characters pursue a twofold quest. The vampire, Matthew Clairmont, is a microbiologist in his present regeneration. He is studying the DNA of witches, vampires and other creatures to see what their connection is to non-creature humans. He is looking for similarities, and those markers which identify them as a witch or vampire, etc.

At the same time, Dianna Bishop, an unwilling witch with very strong powers, is searching for an elusive medieval book that promises to give credence to the connections between all creatures, human and otherwise. There are many forces not willing to let her find this book, because of the power it holds. The fact that this trilogy brings in some of the most interesting aspects of DNA technology, like finding your ancestry through a study of your genetic markers, brings the study of vampire lore into another arena.

Vampire lore is world-wide, and is based on ignorance of the decomposition processes that occur after death, the inability to ascribe causes for disease or devastating weather phenomenon, and what a coma is. Locals would blame a plague like rabies, which ravaged Eastern Europe at the time vampire lore emerged, on the last person who died. The same was true of crop failure, or severe weather. These folks would dig up the person, looking for evidence of their evil-doing. In cooler climates decomposition was slower and two processes fed the vampire legends. One was that blood can pool in the chest cavity post-mortem. So, the stake in the heart produced the gushing of blood. Gas bubbles produced by bacterial activity forced blood from the lungs into and out of the mouth. Whoops, looks like Igor just had a blood meal! And last, but not least, image the evidence of the activities of the undead unearthed, (pardon the pun), when a person who had succumbed to a coma through neurological damage or disease was examined.

These folks were dispatched in the ways we have come to know, stake through the heart, beheading, dismembering, and burning of the remains. For those who are squeamish, just sprinkle the grave with vinegar and water. The mutilation of corpses was so rampant the Catholic Church disavowed and discouraged the practice.

The next theory delves into the catch-all of virology, the above mentioned rabies epidemic, for instance. Victims infected with the rabies virus exhibit all the symptoms attributed to vampires, insomnia, sensitivity to light, mirrors and reflective water surfaces, sensitivity to sulfurous foods like, you got it, garlic. Bats transmit rabies, giving credence to the ability of a vampire to turn into a bat.

Picture2Another theory based on virology was put forth as Vampiric Virology By Hugo Pecos & Robert Lomax. The source of vampirism is the human vampirism virus (HVV). Like rabies, HVV has a distinct bullet shape and belongs to the order Mononegavirales—viruses with a nonsegmented, negative-stranded RNA genome. The virus’ natural host is a flea commonly found on cave-dwelling bats—most notably the vampire bat. In the most common scenario, the flea bites a bat, which in-turn passes the virus on to humans and other mammals. Warning, this is a theory.

A neurological condition called porphyria can be used as an example of a disease exhibiting the symptoms of vampirism mentioned above. King George III of England, the one America declared independence from, had the condition.

Moving on to Zombies, we find another condition that some try to give a scientific explanation to. Zombies originate in Haitian folklore, with roots in Africa. A zombie is a reanimated corpse produced through the work of a Vodoo witch called a bokor. This is done by using potions and other mysterious rituals. The zombie does the bidding of the person who has reanimated them. Some bokors will capture the zombie spirit or “astral” in a small flask or vial, and sell it as a talisman the buyer can use to control others.

There are some examples in nature of one organism taking control of another, and using it for some benefit. An example of this is a species of fungus, Opmocordoyceps unlateralis, infects certain species of ants which in turn will carry their spores to new hosts. Jewel wasps inject roaches with venom, disabling them, dragging them into their nests where they serve as food. But, if you are looking for examples of human bodies reanimated to do your bidding, you may find this a challenge.

Zombies also exhibit the same characteristics as those suffering from neurological diseases. If legitimate science finds some legitimate zombies to carry out their research on, perhaps they will find a cure for these poor unattractive creatures. That is, if the zombies don’t eat them first.

In conclusion, when venturing into the world of vampires, zombies and others, separate your fact from fiction, or just enjoy the fiction. This article has been brought on by an overexposure to Halloween.

I have truly enjoyed the Twitter feeds on the various candidates in the run-up to the presidential primaries. They have given me chuckles and a window into some of the most outrageous political comments ever. However, as a writer, I use Twitter as a research tool. Use your Twitter account to find book stores, publishers, book reviewers, other authors in your genre. Just enter the term of the subject you desire into the search bar. The accounts that come up are for those companies and individuals who are active on social media and looking to meet up with you, offer you services, or do business with you. Clicking on these accounts will bring you to their website and contact information. It is really easier than doing a Google search. Just another way to hone your marketing skills.

Use Twitter to help in your marketing research.

Use Twitter to help in your marketing research.


I have a local access TV show, The Writer’s Dream, where I interview authors about writing, publishing, and marketing. I always ask this question. “What is your best advice for authors, especially those with a first manuscript?” The most common answer is, “Get a good editor.”

Ideas can come. And then, they can go.

Ideas can come. And then, they can go.

My suggestion is to have your manuscript in the most perfect condition you can manage before you settle on an editor. Editorial services and professional editors can cost a lot of money.

So, how do you go about getting your manuscript as near perfect as possible before sending it to an editor? It’s the power of the group. Browse through your local libraries programs for writers’ groups. Join professional author organizations that have critique groups. Meet-up.com has many author groups. You can go on their site and look for groups that meet in your area.

Find a group that fits your style. Some critique groups are gentler than others. Ask your contacts in the groups you choose to be beta readers for you. They read the book for flaws, but also for what they think the appeal is to readers. If your book has a lot of factual material, check those facts. Have someone proof read the book. Proof reading looks for flaws like spelling and punctuation errors, repeated sentences, incomplete sentences and the like.

There is great value in submitting your book to a group of writer/readers. They will see things you may not see, or don’t know how to fix. Once you have done all that, look for a professional editor. Understand that your friend who is an English teacher may not have the skills or the knowledge to meet the publishing industry’s standards. I had a magazine editor edit my last book, not realizing that the style manual used by magazine writers is different from the one used with books. I had to do a lot of extra work to undo that edit.

Find a friendly group. They will help you. You will learn from them. And hopefully the relationship will be reciprocal.

If you have been following my blogs, you know that I have had the pleasure and wonderful experience of working with a fifth grade teacher, Trish Roberts, in Steward School in Garden City, L.I.,N.Y.

Ms. Roberts has written an article about the adventure in the local town paper, The Garden City News.

I have included the article in its entirety for your interest in literacy initiatives, and the pleasure of hearing about students who love to read.

Local author inspires fifth grade students to write their own mysteries


Local Author Inspires 5th  Grade Students to Write Their Own Mysteries

By:  Trish Roberts

The nitty-gritty of writing a mystery story.

The nitty-gritty of writing a mystery story.

Ms. Linda Maria Frank, author of the Annie Tillery Series, greeted students and parents at a recent author’s night at Stewart School.   The students in Mrs. Dratch and Mrs. Roberts’ class enjoyed meeting her because they had just finished a literary study of her books.  After the literature unit, each student wrote Ms. Frank a personal letter, explained what they liked to read and what specific things they enjoyed about her books.  The students were ecstatic when Ms. Frank responded to each of them with a personal letter.  They were even more excited when they learned that Ms. Frank was going to visit their class and teach them how to write their own mysteries.

In her Mystery Writer’s Workshop, Ms. Frank explained, “If you want to be a good writer, you have to be a good observer, absorber and reader.  You have to tell a good story.”  She went on to describe how her inspiration to write developed from her childhood passion for Nancy Drew books and the popular television series, CSI.  Before starting her writing career, Ms. Frank was a science teacher; teaching biology, chemistry and forensic science.  She was awarded the Seaford High School Teacher of the Year in 1989.   Ms. Maria Frank also received an award from the American Association of University Women for inspiring young women to pursue the field of science. Her passion for writing excited and motivated the students.

Ms. Robert's Fifth Grade Class.

Ms. Robert’s Fifth Grade Class.

The workshop continued with Ms. Frank describing how important it is, when writing a mystery, to create a problem and solution and develop logical, recognizable clues. Melina was curious and asked “How do you develop the red herrings in your stories?”  Ms. Frank explained that a mystery is more interesting when all your clues don’t point to one suspect.  She finished her ‘Art of the Story’ PowerPoint presentation by telling the students how important it is to focus on the questions: who, what, where, when and why.  She also stressed that it’s very important to think of the what ifs when writing a mystery.

When Ms. Frank gave the students their assignment, the real fun began.  They were asked to read the mystery, “The Skeleton in the Old Lighthouse” and to become true detectives by analyzing the information and identifying the crime scene, suspects, clues and evidence. The students enthusiastically started to analyze the text.  Eventually they would be able to write their own mysteries by finishing the story.

Ms. Frank continued to encourage the students as she ended the workshop. “Write about what you know, what you are interested in.” she said.  The students were excited to start writing and promised to send her their finished mysteries. “I really liked the presentation. I didn’t know the parts of a mystery before, but now I do.  I think I can write my own mystery.” Sophia explained.  “She even gave us some opening sentences to use.” said Joe.

“So then let’s get writing.” said Mrs. Roberts!





If you have a published book, and you’re not famous, you know what a challenge marketing that book can be.

It’s not enough to make a digital audio version of your book, or an e-book. You need to list the book on amazon, and every website you can find that links readers and authors. But your book sales are not soaring through the roof. What’s the problem? Beats me!

What I have found is that I am a pretty good sales person. I have a “circuit” that I do consisting of Fairs: street fairs, crafts fairs, holiday fairs, book and author fairs, nature center events, coffee houses, and almost any place where I can sell my books as gifts, because books make great reasonably priced gifts. I’ll let you in on a little secret. This is fun!

What do you need to accomplish this? A supply of books, a poster, professionally produced book marks, a brochure describing your books and telling folks where to find you on-line.

Make sure you have a facebook page and a website or blog.

Sometimes you need a portable table and chair. Most of the time they are provided. Dress your table up with the current holiday theme. Pretty tables attract customers. And smile, stand by your table. Look approachable. Bored out of my mind one hot afternoon, I started holding up one of my books, and saying, “Do you know, I wrote this book, and I’d like to tell you about it.” I was amazed and how many folks were willing to listen, and it increased my sales.

Advertise the event. Use social media or create a flyer and post it all around the area where the event will be held.

I’ve actually made it to Step #2: Facial Recognition. People squint at me, and say, “Where do I know you from?” I attribute this to the fact that my face is plastered all over the place, social media and flyers.

If you writer a book, you self-publish, and you are not one of the glitterati, you have to let people know who you are and that your book is a damn good read, or will improve their life in some way.




.Self-publishing Workshop

teen mystery writer, Annie Tillery Mysteries

Frank gives advice to young women about writing.

Local paper, THE MASSAPEQUA POST, gives me a nice review

Local paper, THE MASSAPEQUA POST, gives me a nice review

Author does scavenger hunt and writing contest at Fire Island Lighthouse

Author does scavenger hunt and writing contest at Fire Island Lighthouse


An American Icon

An American Icon

If you want to cure your writers’ block, get into the research for your book. If you hadn’t planned on doing research because you are writing a romance in your home town, think again.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What’s the history of the town?
  • Did, or does the town have any mysteries you could weave into your story?
  • Where do your characters come from, if they didn’t live in the town forever?
  • How do they interact with the town? For example, do your characters hold views that are contrary to what the town supports?
  • If it’s a small town, put an ad in the local newspaper asking to see old letters and photos.

The facts you unearth can give your character multi-dimentionality, and your plot more complexity.

The book I am working on now has my heroine receiving a letter from Naval Intelligence (better known as NCIS) about a WWII plane that crashed in a remote area of the U.S. in 1943. The investigators found a note in the plane they traced to her great grandmother who worked in a defense plant manufacturing fighter planes. I needed to do a lot of research about women’s roles in WWII, the plane grandma worked on, its role in the war, her pilot fiance, creating a secret code, and how to go about taking flying lessons.

I went to a local aviation museum where the curator and the archivist piled file upon file, and several books on a dusty table in a hangar they use as their office and exhibit workshop. The hangar is located near where Charles Lindbergh took off for Paris. The hangar itself was an inspiration. Except for the computer on the curator’s desk, and the copy machine, everything was old, as if someone had locked it up in 1945 and I was just discovering it. I had already done quite a bit of research on the Web, but this experience with yellowed pages, original blueprints and factory reports, and pictures of beautiful eager young faces (now in their 90’s) transported me. I was there feeling the tension of that production line that, at one point, produced a plane an hour. I could imagine those Rosie the Riveter gals kissing the plane off to some brave pilot, and I could feel the incredible energy that saved the world.

Getting back to the writing process, it clarified some plot elements I was having trouble with and gave me some sensory impressions that will energize my characters like hair styles, pilot’s uniforms, and the real “Rosies” in their coveralls and bandannas.

The enormity of what America and her allies did in WWII inspired me to tell my story, not just as a mystery, but as a “little lesson” in history for my young readers. I walked out into the hot summer afternoon with a folder full of photocopied material, humming Glen Miller’s In the Mood.

                                                                READ TO WRITE


Recently I was privileged to  do a Mystery Writers Workshop for a fifth grade class on Long Island. The students read my three Annie Tillery Mysteries, and  wrote me letters I will always cherish. The students are lucky enough to have a teacher who has developed a Literature Circle in her classroom. The school hosted an Author/Illustrator Night through Long Island Children’s Writers and Illustrators, and the students got to meet me. Later I visited the class and we did a mystery writeing workshop. See my previous blog. Here are some of the questions and comments from the students. What fun!

Reading and Writing

Reading and Writing

1. What does Annie, your main character look like. “I was wondering how you pictured Annie looking like and was it like the illustrations?”

2.”I love all these books because they have a lot of action.”

3.”I was wondering how you got the idea for mysteries.”

“The only way I can snap out of it (reading a good book) is if somebody takes the book, does something physical to me, or I simply look up to see what is going on.”

4. “I like the book because it reminds me of Indiana Jones and I also like how Annie has a lot of adventure.”

5. “Why do you have the same format for your book covers?’

6. “Why do you have the same characters in your books?”

7. “Why did you pick the name, Annie, for your main character?”

8. “Why did you choose the series to be mystery books?”

Whoops! I got an idea.

Whoops! I got an idea.

9. “Why did Annie not like her father?”

10, “I am reading your book, Secrets in the Fairy Chimneys, and I absolutely love it. The setting is fantastic, the plot is out of this world, and I can’t even tell you how good the characters are. I think the book has excitement, mystery, friendship, and romance all throughout the book. Where in the world did you think of such a good story?”

11. “I must ask you how you came up with he characters’ names? I myself am writing a story, and I am struggling with finding names for my characters. Are they based off of real people? Or did you just randomly pick names. My second question is did you include real facts about ghosts in the book? Or did you make them up? For example, in the story it said, ‘Don’t ghosts run on some sort of energy?’. When I read that, I felt more interested about ghosts. Also,k besides the questions I really admired how you put many advanced words. It helped me with my vocabulary, and it helps me become more of an advanced writer.”

12. “What inspired you to be an author?”

13. “Why do you write about ghosts?”

14.”I was wondering if you have any children, and what part do you live in?”

15. “When did you start being an author?”

Waiting for inspiration.

Waiting for inspiration.

16. How do you come up with your ideas for books?”
17. “What is your feeling about writing?”

18. “Is writing a story hard?”

Some of the questions were about specific plot choices I made.

I loved this comment too. “I think you chose the right job to be an author.” For those of you who write, it sometimes takes a long time to get that validation.

teen mystery, girl detective, ghost story, summer read

Annie and her boyfriend, Ty, uncover the secrets hidden by Fire Island and The Madonna Ghost.

New Annie Tillery Mystery

Take the magic carpet ride of your imagination to Turkey. Join Annie and Ty in the caves of mysterious Cappadocia for another thrilling adventure.

An exciting YA mystery

The Brooklyn Bridge leads to the mysterious brownstone in Brooklyn where Annie and friends must find the clues to solve the murder of John DiCristiani.


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