Susan Cummins Miller

Author of the

Frankie MacFarlane, Geologist, Mysteries


I was raised in Pasadena, CA, educated at UC Riverside, worked all over the West, lived in the San Francisco Bay Area and Northern Virginia, and now reside in Tucson, AZ. My educational background is in the geosciences, social sciences, and liberal arts. I have bachelor’s degrees in history, anthropology, and geology, and an M.S. in Geology.

Before becoming a full-time writer I worked for the U. S. Government (primarily with the U. S. Geological Survey), conducting fieldwork in California, Nevada, Idaho, and Utah. Subsequently, I taught introductory geology and oceanography at the college level and offered short courses in writing, geology, paleontology, and oceanography in Tucson area schools. I am currently a Research Affiliate of the University of Arizona’s Southwest Institute for Research on Women and a SIROW Scholar ( I teach occasional writing workshops (e.g., Pima Community College West Campus, Pima County Public Library, Prescott Public Library, Sisters in Crime-Tucson, and Arizona Mystery Writers) and speak to groups about geoscience outreach through my mystery series.

Facebook page: Please drop by and check it out. For your convenience, I’ll be listing my workshops and events on that site, as well.

Newsflashes: CHASM was named a Finalist for the 2016 WILLA Award in Contemporary Fiction! My thanks to Women Writing the West [] and the judges who volunteered their time, and my congrats to all the winners and finalists.

Previously, CHASM was selected as a Finalist for the 2015 New Mexico/Arizona Book Award (Other Fiction). [Under my informal heading of “The Strange Tales and Misadventures of Frankie MacFarlane,” CHASM, a mystery/thriller, was somehow transferred from the Fiction/Mystery category of the NM/AZ Book Awards into the Fiction/Other category.] The story is set on a white-water raft trip down the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park.


Updates: All 6 Frankie MacFarlane novels are now available as ebooks. CHASM also is available in trade paper and hardcover (ISBN: 978-0-89672-915-5, paper; 978-0-89672-914-8, HC) and may be ordered through your local bookstore,, or the TTUP website (

Recent News:  Last year, “Bury the Secrets Deep,” an historical short story, was published in And all Our Yesterdays, a collection released by Darkhouse Books (trade paper and E-book). Darkhouse has bundled the anthology with two other mystery/crime anthologies. It’s available online under the title The Darkhouse Books Collection – Volume One.

Another short story, “Case #15-4037,” was included in So West, So Deadly, a mystery anthology published by the Desert Sleuths Chapter of Sisters in Crime last August. And one of my poems, “Unharvested Water,” appears in More Voices of New Mexico (Paul Rhetts and Barbe Awalt, eds., Rio Grande Books/LPD Press; ISBN-10: 1936744295; ISBN-13: 978-1936744299). The books may be ordered via local bookstores, Amazon, and Barnes&

Detailed synopses of all my mysteries are included on a separate Web page. Please use the directory at top of the page, or on the left. But here are short versions:

CHASM, Book 6: Attempted murder and a masquerading student turn geologist Frankie MacFarlane's whitewater raft trip down the Colorado River from sublime teaching experience to ordeal, as strangers with disparate agendas converge in the depths of the Grand Canyon. (Texas Tech University Press, 2015; ISBN: 978-0-89672-915-5, paper)

FRACTURE, geosleuth Frankie MacFarlane’s fifth adventure, is a quest mystery set in Tucson, Arizona and on the San Francisco Peninsula, California . The title refers to the San Andreas and related faults that mark the boundary between the North American Tectonic Plate and the Pacific Plate. The subject matter is timely. Since the release of Fracture in February, we have witnessed destructive quakes in New Zealand and Japan. The Japanese event was attended by an even more devastating tsunami. (TTUP, 2011; ISBN: 978-0-89672-685-7)

HOODOO, Book 4: While  on a field trip in southeastern Arizona, Frankie MacFarlane, her geology students, and her old friend, rancher Joaquin Black, discover a body in the Chiricahua National Monument. When Frankie and Joaquin become prime suspects, Frankie must decipher interlocking puzzles to clear their names and find the killer—or killers—before they strike again. (TTUP, 2008; ISBN: 978-0-89672-623-9)

QUARRY, Book 3: When Frankie returns to UC-Del Rio, CA, to defend her geology dissertation, what should have been a quick trip turns into a disaster. Her mentor is victim of a hit and run; someone's stalking her dissertation committee; the police seek her help in resolving an old murder; and a student's disappearance triggers a manhunt in the Mojave Desert. (TTUP, 2006; ISBN: 0-89672-574-4)

DETACHMENT FAULT, the sequel to DEATH ASSEMBLAGE, is set in Tucson, AZ, and the borderlands of Sonora, MX. After Frankie MacFarlane pulls a body from the Sea of Cortez, a friend disappears in Mexico, and a colleague and student are slain in Tucson, Frankie's search for answers leads her into the shadow world of money-laundering and the antiquities trade. (TTUP, 2004, ISBN: 0-89672-520-0; trade paper, 2012, ISBN: 978-0-89672-686-4).

DEATH ASSEMBLAGE, the first mystery featuring geologist Frankie MacFarlane, involves ancient and recent murders in Pair-a-Dice, Nevada. (TTUP, 2002; HC ISBN: 0-89672-481-6; PB ISBN: 0-89672-517-0)

Signed copies of all books may be ordered from Clues Unlimited [], Mostly Books [], and Antigone Books [], Tucson, and from the Poisoned Pen, Scottsdale []. Books also are available from online vendors, including Texas Tech University Press (


In 2007, TTUP released a new edition of my anthology, A SWEET, SEPARATE INTIMACY: WOMEN WRITERS OF THE AMERICAN FRONTIER, 1800-1922 (ISBN 978-0-89672-618-5). Copies may be ordered from any bookstore or online vendor, including Texas Tech University Press (, or by calling the Chicago Distribution Center at 1-800-621-2736.


My poems have appeared recently in, among others, OASIS Journal 2012; ROUNDUP! Western Writers of America Presents Great Stories of the West from Today’s Leading Western Writers (Paul A. Hutton, ed., 2010); New Texas 2009: a Journal of Literature and Culture; SandScript 2009 Art and Literary Journal; and WHAT WILDNESS IS THIS: Women Write about the Southwest (2007; 2008 WILLA Award, Nonfiction). In my spare time, I'm researching/writing about my grandmother's life, incorporating her published and unpublished autobiographical articles, short stories, and poems into historical fiction.


My affiliations include the Geological Society of America, Western Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America, Arizona Geological Society, Women Writing the West, Sisters in Crime (National, Tucson, and Desert Sleuths chapters), Society of Southwestern Authors, and Arizona Mystery Writers.

Recent Awards:

2016 WILLA Award Finalist (Contemporary Fiction): CHASM.

2015 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award Finalist (FICTION:Other): CHASM.

2012 Poets & Writers grant for Tucson Sisters-in-Crime workshop: “Act II: Into the Belly of the Beast.”

2012 WILLA Award Finalist (Contemporary Fiction): FRACTURE.

2012 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award Finalist (FICTION:Mystery/Suspense):         FRACTURE.

2012 Will Inman Award (Poetry), Tucson Poetry Festival’s 29th Annual Statewide Contest: Five poems from On the Divide (a work in progress).

Finalist, ForeWord Magazine’s 2011 Book-of-the-Year Award (Mystery): FRACTURE.

Notable Book, 2011 Southwest Books of the Year: FRACTURE.

1st Place (Short Story), 2011 Society of Southwestern Authors Contest: “Owlshead Stew.”

2010 Poets & Writers grant for poetry reading at Other Voices Women’s Reading Series.

Finalist (Contemporary Fiction), 2009 WILLA Award: HOODOO.

1st Place (Poetry), SandScript 2009 Art and Literary Magazine: “Reality Check.”

Bronze Award (Mystery), ForeWord Magazine’s 2008 Books of the Year: HOODOO.

Panelists’ Pick (Notable Book), 2008 Southwest Books of the Year: HOODOO.

1st Place (Inspirational Poetry), 2008 Arizona State Poetry Society Contest: “The Waiting Game.”

2008 Artist-in-Residence, Djerassi, Woodside, CA (Winter).

Turquoise Award (Mystery), 2007 New Mexico Book of the Year:

Finalist (Contemporary Fiction), 2007 WILLA Award:

Gold Award (Mystery),
ForeWord Magazine’s 2006 Books of the Year: QUARRY.

Notable Book, 2006 Southwest Books of the Year:

2006 Arizona Humanities Council grant for presentation at the Arizona Book Festival.

Finalist (Adult Fiction), 2004 Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Book Award; Honorable Mention (Mystery),
ForeWord Magazine’s 2004 Books of the Year: DETACHMENT FAULT.

2004 Artist-in-Residence, Djerassi, Woodside, CA (Winter).

Amanda and Mike Tevis Fellowship for 2002 residency at the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, Woodside, CA.

Contact Me


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