The Genesis of the Monkey Band Book


I think every writer is well aware of the saying, “Write what you know.” I never thought I knew enough about anything to write a book which is what probably kept me from writing for so long. Then I read Stephen King’s book “On Writing.” He more or less says you don’t need to go to a lot of expensive workshops or have a master’s degree in journalism to write. What I took away from the book is that he said, “Just do it.” So what did I know? I know dogs and food, so I did it.


Voila! Perfect for a cozy mystery. I’m now well into two series, Cedar Bay Cozy Mystery Series and the Liz Lucas Cozy Mystery Series, and I love writing them, but lately I’ve been getting an itch to write a third cozy mystery series. I was an art and antique appraiser for many years and was fortunate enough to be flown all over the United States by an insurance company who specialized in clients with very high-end personal property that needed to be appraised. During that time, I was fortunate enough to appraise some incredible collections. I certainly didn’t consider myself to be an expert in everything, but I had over 140 people I could call on to either take on the appraisals with me or use for research.

So, I thought a series based on an art and antique appraiser living in a small California desert town would be fun. I have a fried who’s a psychic. Not a “think I’m a psychic person,” but one who’s good enough the University of California tested her and agreed, the lady has a sixth sense. So an appraiser with a sister who’s a psychic. It was coming together. As I played with it I started remembering things that happened when I was on appraisals, and as I’ve said in past posts, the protagonist is rarely the author, but experiences can certainly creep in, particularly if you’re writing about what you know!

file4091234059313A ring you say, what does that have to do with anything? Well, years ago I was doing a probate appraisal, and the decedent’s son told me his mother had owned a fabulous ring, and he couldn’t find it. Would I keep an eye out for it? Of course, but I couldn’t find it either.That night I was talking to my psychic friend and mentioned it. She asked if she could come to the house the next day and that she might be able to find it. I said absolutely. The next day she walked through each of the rooms while I was appraising items in the master bedroom.


She walked into the bedroom with a knife and a cutting board. Knives and guns make me nervous, and if I hadn’t known her better, I probably would have been terrified. She put the knife and cutting board on the bathroom counter and walked into the closet, returning with a styrofoam head. She put the head on the cutting board and just like in the movies, raised her arms over her head and brought the knife down, cutting the head in half. Yup, the ring flew out. That was too good not to make it into the book!

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And the Monkey Band? What is a Monkey Band? The insurance company had flown me to Chicago to appraise a collection of Meissen china worth millions. In the collection was an authentic 18th century Monkey Band set. The set consisted of twenty-two five inch figurines in the form of monkeys dressed in 18th century costumes, and each one had an instrument, plus the conductor. It was charming and very expensive, worth well over a million dollars. Over the years, I’ve thought about that collection and one of the things that stayed with me is how frustrating it would be to almost have a complete set. Naturally that made it into the book – murder and people wanting to complete their set!

I guess maybe I’ve come full circle – I’m writing what I know about!!!

Kindle Countdown Don’t Miss!


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Had to get this great post about a wonderful book in the blog in time for her Amazon Countdown – good until the July 23rd. You don’t want to miss the countdown!

Diane Weiner is a veteran public school teacher and mother of four children. She has enjoyed reading for as long as she can remember. She has fond memories of reading Nancy Drew and Mary Higgins Clark on snowy weekend afternoons in upstate New York and yearned to write books that would bring that kind of enjoyment to her readers. Being an animal lover, she is a vegetarian and shares her home with two adorable cats and a little white dog. In her free time, she enjoys running, attending community theater productions, and spending time with her family (especially going to the mall with her teenage daughter and getting Dairy Queen afterwards). Murder in the Middle is the third book in her Susan Wiles School House Mystery series and she has plans for many more.

Murder is Elemental

When people find out that I write mysteries, I’m often asked where I get my ideas. I wish I could wake up from a dream and have a best-selling series all mapped out like J.K. Rowlings did, but that isn’t the case. My ideas come from images that I see, news stories, or wishes I have.

Murder is Elementary, the first in my series, began with the image of a half-eaten cupcake on the principal’s desk. In the school where I was working, there was a wannabee administrator who continually brought our principal home-made baked goods and the image stayed with me. Murder in the Middle was born from a childhood memory of a waterfall in New York State, where I grew up. My recent release had an interesting start, thanks to my dog’s urgent plea for a predawn walk. On the third floor apartment landing across from where I stood with him, the light kept blinking on and off, in a pattern of sorts. You know the old saying: when you hear hooves think horses not zebras? Well, the first thought I had wasn’t that the light was broken. It was that someone up there was sending a Morse code signal. That image became flashing lights used to signal a boat from the third floor of a private school auditorium!

Truth can be stranger than fiction. Many of my ideas come from actual news stories. In Florida, there have been lots of stories about pill mills and the Stand Your Ground Law, which allows one to shoot an intruder if he or she feels like his life is in danger. Recently, a car with two teenagers who’d been missing for 30 years was pulled from a canal. All three of those stories figured into my most recent book.

A story on Sixty Minutes about people in their sixties finding out they were sold as infants thanks to a corrupt doctor, gave me the whole story line idea for my main character searching for her birth mother. An organization was traveling the country offering DNA testing to help those people find their parents. In my series, I created a fictional Georgia Babes Foundation which helps Susan Wiles in her search.

Lastly, I have created things in my book that I want. I would love more than anything to head a first rate, performing arts high school. In my school, the students are talented, polite, and caring. The setting is beautiful, and there’s Starbucks and Barnes and Noble right outside the campus. In real life, my classes are overcrowded and I’ve had students arrested for dealing drugs and robbery. A person can dream…



The Death Card Giveaway

You don’t want to miss this blog and giveaweay for my latest book, The Death Card. . Good luck!

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Michele Bodenheimer on Twitter: “E-Book GA (3)-The Death Card (A Liz Lucas Cozy Mystery Series – Bk 3)-Dianne Harman-Ends 8/10”

Where Do They Come From?


I’m constantly asked “Where do you get your ideas for your books?” Or, “Is it hard to come up with things that happen in the book?”

As I mentioned in the last blog, I am not my book, but ideas for books are everywhere. Yesterday evening I walked out to the mailbox and saw a little daisy growing between two asphalt sections of the driveway. That’s a miracle! A whole book could be done on what it took for that little daisy to grow there. Where did the seed come from? Was it dropped by a bird or did the wind blow it there? Or maybe have it be a metaphor for no matter how hard one’s life is, it can’t be any harder than blooming between two asphalt sections!


Earlier this week I was grocery shopping early in the morning – I’ve learned to take my puppy to a doggy day care a couple of times a week so I can get some writing done! It just made sense to get the shopping out of the way early in the day. There was a young woman standing at the checkout line in front of me. She was probably about 25 or 30. She had a toddler balanced on her hip and another child was sitting in the grocery cart basket. What got my attention was the 12 pack of beer that was in her basket. That was the only item in her basket. There’s a story there, I thought. Who was she buying it for? Herself? Her husband? A significant other? I have no way of knowing, but I do know I could use that incident in a book and probably will!

Many years ago, I was taking yoga lessons from a beloved teacher. We became very good friends, and even traveled to several Native American places in the Southwest. On that trip she told me a story that has stuck with me for over twenty years. Her daughter was very concerned about my friend’s grandson. He was schizophrenic, and she was desperate to find help for him. She heard about a healer who was coming to the United States from India, and she made an appointment to meet with him. There were about twenty people along with my friend’s daughter in the meeting room. The “healer” talked to each one of them about what why there were there and told each of them he could help them if they would let him have their favorite piece of jewelry they were wearing so he could get their “vibes into his psyche for the healing.”

Yup, you guessed it. He told them he would be alone with their jewelry for awhile in another room and then return it to them. He left and was never heard from again and their jewelry went with him. I’ve thought about that over the years from time to time. It was really a lesson in just how much people want to believe in something and what they are willing to do. I have a new book coming out in a few days called The Death Card. It’s a cozy mystery about death and a tarot card reader. I broadly incorporated my friend’s daughter’s incident into the book.


My problem isn’t finding things to go into my books. It’s sifting through a lifetime of “notices” to see what’s appropriate for a book. Just about every experience and conversation has something in it that could go into a book. My family and friends know at some point in our conversation I’m going to say, “Would you mind if I used that in a book?”

I invite you to visit my website: or email me at I’d love to hear from you!

Murder in Calico Gold Giveaway!

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I’m thrilled and have to share. Murder in Calico Gold is now ranked at #124 in paid Kindle. That’s nosebleed territory. What that means is that out of all the books sold on Amazon, it’s the 124th best-selling book. Woo Hoo!

To celebrate, thought I’d have a giveaway. I’m giving away two autographed copies of Murder in Calico Gold. To enter please sign up for my newsletter and leave a comment. Contest ends this Sunday at midnight. Good luck!

The Death Card is Almost Here!

Have to share my newest book which will be published within a few days!

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Seth Williams, the bumbling and incompetent police chief of Red Cedar, calls Liz Lucas and asks her to help him solve the murder of his deputy, Leroy. He’s worried he might be a suspect because Leroy was going to run against him in the upcoming police chief election. His alibi is that he was getting a tarot card reading from Madame Dika when the murder occurred, but she vehemently denies that the reading ever occurred.

Liz and her protective dog, Winston, follow numerous and sometimes conflicting clues as they try to discover who killed Leroy. Was it the tarot card reader, Madame Dika, who had served time in prison for a psychic scam involving jewelry? Her brother, Anton, who has ties to a Southern European stolen credit card ring? Tom Rice, an ex-felon who had been in prison for wife-beating? Donna, Leroy’s ex-wife, who wants to get the back alimony Leroy owed her by making a claim against his life insurance. Or Ratface, Leroy’s bookie? And yes, it might even be the police chief himself.

And what about the relationship between Liz and Roger, the San Francisco lawyer she’s in love with. He gives her advice and helps her solve the case, but will their long-distance relationship turn into something more?