Teresa Burrell – Teacher / Lawyer / Business Owner / Author

Teresa Burrel, a country girl from a small farm town in north western Minnesota.

I came to sunny California when I was very young, but not too early to have forgotten the cold winter months we left behind. I taught school for 12 years, practiced law for 12 years, owned and operated a business for 12 years, and am on my 12th year as an author. I think this is my final career and my longest since I still have a lot of books in my head.

My first book, The Advocate, a legal suspense mystery novel, was published in 2009. I have since written 11 more books in that series and three whodunnit mysteries in a spin-off series. The Advocate’s Labyrinth (#12 in The Advocate Series) was released in December. My most recent work is the third book in The Super Mystery Series, Recovering Rita. It launched a few days ago on May 11.

Recovering Rita – When a young girl goes missing from a Hutterite colony, the case is personal for Tuper. So his tech-loving sidekick, Lana, goes undercover. She quickly learns that Rita has a love interest on the outside, but as they start to think she eloped, another Hutterite girl disappears.

As Tuper seeks help from old friends, Lana hacks into their suspects’ backgrounds, but their leads hit a dead-end. Instead, she discovers a disturbing conversation about sex trafficking on the dark web.

Out of leads, Lana makes the ultimate sacrifice and sets herself up as bait. But their plan goes sideways, and Lana’s life is soon on the line.

Do you write in more than one genre? The majority of my books are mysteries. The Tuper Series is made up of whodunnits. The Advocate Series are legal suspense novels. But I have also written a marketing book for authors and three children’s books. They were fun to write, but my heart is primarily in the mystery genre.

What brought you to writing? When I was young, we only had two books in our house, the Bible and a book my Godparents gave me about a little girl who had a doll named Teresa. I was in awe that the book had my name in it. My older sister would bring books home from the library, and she taught me to read. I loved books and soon learned to lose myself in them. I would take the most wonderful adventures through books. I could go anywhere and be anything as long as I could read. I would sit and dream that someday I would write my own book and have my name on the outside. Back then, it was just a dream. I eventually made it a reality and discovered “To Write is to be anything you want.”

Tell us about your writing process: I use the Raymond Chandler method. He was known to have said, “I only write when I’m motivated, and I’m motivated every morning at 9:00.”

Writing is a business, and I happen to like my business. I start a little earlier than Raymond Chandler. I get up in the morning around six and walk into my office and start to write. I do that every day when I’m not on the road. I travel a lot doing book events, so I don’t write every day. I write until eleven, and then I stop. My goal (on writing days) is to complete 2000 words per day. I make it most days. During Covid, I’ve been able to write far more days because I wasn’t traveling. Pre-Covid, the length of time it took me to write a book ranged from four to eleven months. My last book was done in seven weeks—the only good thing for me that came out of this pandemic.

What are you currently working on? I’ve written twelve books in my Advocate Series, and they are written in alphabetical order. My next project will be the “M” word, The Advocate’s M______. I don’t know what the title is yet. I also have three books in a spin-off series, A Tuper Mystery Series. My latest book was from that series, Recovering Rita. It released May 11, 2021. But right now, I’m co-writing a book with a colleague. She’s an excellent writer and a lot of fun to write with. However, our writing process is very different. She’s a plotter, and I’m a pantser, so it has been a bit of a challenge for both of us. I’m really enjoying the process, though. It’s a nice break from working alone.

How do you come up with character names? I use a lot of character names of family and friends. I also enlist my street team to help me pick names for characters. They come up with some great ones. One of my characters is named Tuper. He’s an older man who lives in Montana and likes guns, gambling, and women. He’s loosely based on my brother. I used the name Tuper for him because that’s what I called him when I was young. (That’s a photo of him on the cover.)

Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? When I started writing, I did it just to see if I could. I wasn’t writing to get published but to fulfill a childhood dream. I enjoyed the process so much I decided to go for it. I named my first book The Advocate, and my second The Advocate’s Betrayal. When I wrote the third book, my publisher told me I had to pick a word that started with C and that started the alphabetical order. It wasn’t intentional until the third book. I have twelve books in the series now, which means I have fourteen more to go—I hope I can last that long. I don’t see myself retiring any time soon, so I will keep at that goal as long as I can.

I’m looking forward to getting back to in-person events. I miss being on the road and meeting my readers. That’s one of the highlights of this profession for me.

Do you have any advice for new writers? Just do it! If you want to write, then write. Don’t let anything hold you back. And don’t say you don’t have time. I wrote my first book while I was practicing law in juvenile court. I was working 12-14 hours a day, seven days a week. When I decided I wanted to write it, I set my alarm an hour and a half early each morning, and I would write until it was time to get ready for work. Six months later, I had my first novel. Twelve edits later, I had my first marketable book.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and your books? I just want to thank all my wonderful readers for their loyalty and support and for making my dream come true.

How do our readers contact you?

www.teresaburrell.com
teresa@teresaburrell.com
www.facebook.com/theadvocateseries

7 Comments

  1. June Longe

    It was my treat to find your interview this morning! Such a lovely way to learn even more about my friend. Teresa, you are my inspiration!

    Reply
    • Teresa

      Thank you, June. You are very kind.

      Reply
  2. MaryAnn Forbes

    I have read every book in the Advocate series and am looking forward to the release of M. I thoroughly enjoy the series.
    I read the first Tuper book and will definitely be reading the other 2.
    Congratulations and wishes for success on your newest release.

    Reply
  3. Alisha Henri

    A great interview from one of my favorite authors and friends. “Recovering Rita” is in my Kindle awaiting a moment, between work, household chores, and dogs, to begin reading it. I thoroughly enjoy Teresa’s books and am glad to read such an interesting interview.

    Reply
  4. Teresa Burrell

    Good Morning Everyone,

    I’ll be checking in from time to time today, so if you have any questions, please feel free to ask.

    Teresa

    Reply

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Lani Longshore – Stage Actor – Quilter – Author

After entertaining on the quilt lecture circuit, we created the new genre of quilting science fiction 

It’s great to be part of your blog world, George! Like you, I spent the better part of my life in other fields. While I began college as a poetry major, I graduated with a degree in Russian Political History. My intent was to join the diplomatic corps. But a frank discussion with my dad about life as a civil servant pushed me in another direction. I’ve been a secretary, a teacher and worked in human resources in the biotech and financial industries. My husband’s job brought us to California just in time for the dot-com bust. For many years I intended to return to the working world, but then I met Ann Anastasio, who introduced me to quilting. Together we created Broken Dishes Repertory Theatre, a quilting vaudeville troupe. We wrote one-act musical comedies about quilts and the women who make them. After entertaining on the quilt lecture circuit, we created the new genre of quilting science fiction with Death By Chenille, When Chenille Is Not Enough, and The Chenille Ultimatum, novels about quilters saving the world from aliens disguised as bolts of beige fabric. We thought The Chenille Ultimatum would be the last in the series, but then a friend said we absolutely had to write The Captain and Chenille because it was such a great title. We would have appreciated getting a suggestion for a plot as well, but you work with what you’ve got. Ann has lived in New Mexico since before When Chenille Is Not Enough was published, so we are used to writing long distance, but the pandemic has slowed our progress. We both joined the army of mask-makers in our home states when the need arose, for instance, which made my already messy sewing room a complete disaster. A lot of my creative energy has been shifted from writing to getting my quilting projects under control.

Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? My husband is a true technophile, so we have computers everywhere. My favorite is in a corner of the family room. It’s close enough to the kitchen to get tea and snacks but far enough away from the phone that I can ignore it. It’s adorable that you ask which distractions I “allow.” Distractions are worse than teenagers. Not only is there no arguing with them, you can’t even threaten to take away their car keys. HOWEVER, if I’m brutally honest, the time that distractions get the upper hand is when I’m uncertain where to go next in the scene I’m writing.

Has an association membership helped you or your writing? Absolutely! The California Writers Club has been a godsend. Ann and I were entertaining a quilt guild in San Jose and casually mentioned we were writing a novel. One of the women pulled out her CWC business card and suggested finding a branch nearby. That happened to be the Mt. Diablo branch, where Igal Levy had just started a critique group. Jack Russ, then the president of Mt. Diablo, established a committee to create what became Tri-Valley Writers. I joined Tri-Valley Writers after my term as Secretary to the Mt. Diablo branch ended. I joined two critique groups with this branch, which gave me the accountability I needed to finish the manuscript of Death By Chenille, which we published on Smashwords after hearing a presentation by Mark Coker, CEO. I’ve also published short stories in almost a dozen anthologies that I heard about through Tri-Valley Writers and a short story on BookTrack after one of their representatives gave a talk to the club.

Do you base any of your characters on real people? Yes, or at least parts of real people. Ann and I will combine the traits of people we know. We try to avoid having too much reality in our characters. Although we write cozy science fiction (meaning even our villains have a soft side), we don’t want anyone to say, “Hey, that’s me” – and not in a happy way.

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? Some settings are real, and some are fictional. Clearly, the alien planets are fictional, but even those planets have elements based on places we’ve known on Earth. All the quilt stores in our books are based on real stores.

Do you have any advice for new writers? Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Becoming a writer means being a life-long learner. Promise yourself that you will learn more and be a better writer for the next project, then submit your work for publication. It doesn’t matter if you don’t win the contest, or land the agent, or make the best-seller list with your self-published book. What matters is that you’ve tried. If you are convinced that this is the best work you can do at this moment, then do what you can to get it in front of readers. No one can tell your story like you can, so give readers a chance to hear your voice.

How do our readers contact you? Your website, blog links, any links you want to be posted? I post twice a week on Lani Longshore’s Blog at lani.longshore.wordpress.com. Mondays are about my writing life, Wednesdays are about my quilting life. There are also posts about the flowers in my garden when I haven’t accomplished anything either at the computer or in my sewing room. The entire Chenille series can be found as e-books on Smashwords.com. The Chenille Ultimatum is also available in a print edition on Amazon.com.

Death By Chenille https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/55823
When Chenille Is Not Enough https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/306399
The Chenille Ultimatum https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/815344
https://www.amazon.com/s?k=The+Chenille+Ultimatum&i=stripbooks&ref=nb_sb_noss

5 Comments

  1. Jeanne B. Brophy

    Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Is good advice for everyone. As a quilt teacher, I don’t know how many times I heard this statement: “I’ll enter my quilt at the Fair when I’m better”. I used to say I’m not ready to enter a quilt and be judged but when my class said that they didn’t accept to as I say not as I do, we all entered our quilts for the next Fair competition. I was critiqued but rather than being upset, I learned from their critique. I have entered my quilts almost every year since and yes, I have won several awards, including my first entry but every year my art is the best I can do at this time. Thank you, Lani

    Reply
  2. Violet Moore

    I’ve enjoyed traveling from California to fictional planets where humans become the aliens in Lani’s cozy sci-fi books. In real life, I avoid chenille like her otherworld characters must do to survive.

    Reply
  3. Victoria Shore

    As one of Lani’s quilting buddies , I can attest to her quirky and fun sense of humor and unique approach to the world. She and Ana are a fun read.

    Reply
  4. Thea

    Thank you for this delightful insight to my long time friend. Reading her books is just like listening to her (and Ann) telling me the story in person. Lani is a devoted writer and quilter with a special affinity for entertainment.

    Reply
  5. julie royce

    George, thank you for featuring Lani Longshore on your blog today. I’ve had the good fortune to be in Lani’s critique group for years, and yet, today I learned a couple of new things about her. Of course, one of the constants–and something that wasn’t new–was her sense of humor.

    Reply

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V. Z. Byram – Latvian-American Writer – MFA in Creative Writing – Goddard College

KIRKUS REVIEW: An authentic and tense portrait of everyday people dealing with war.

V. Z. Byram was born in a displaced persons camp in post World War II Germany of Latvian parents. They immigrated to the USA when she was three. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College, has won numerous writing awards, and taught literature and writing as an adjunct professor. She is a past president of the Philadelphia Writers Conference and currently sits on the board of Gulf Coast Writers Association in Fort Myers, Florida.

WRITER’S DIGEST JUDGE’S COMMENTARY: This was a powerful and beautifully written epic novel with historical significance. After reading to the end, I had to sit for a little while to digest it all, wiping away the tears. This novel is a moving tale of struggle and loss in a terrifying and often seemingly hopeless situation. I love the heroine, Mija, who is a testimony to the strength and power of women. She inspires us all with her determination to help others as well as her own family, risking her own safety in the process. As a parent, I can’t imagine what it’s like to try and protect your children in a war-torn, occupied country with such callous, ruthless enemies, first the Russians then German forces. The author succeeded in pulling us completely into the story, as I was worried about the kids throughout. I also loved the horse, Big Z, who became a character in his own right. Some of the scenes are superbly written, for example when Laima gives birth – I was transported to that room in 1940s Latvia. The pacing was fast and tense and kept me turning the pages. I also loved the setting, it was very interesting to learn about Latvia – it encouraged me to do further research. I like the cover and the author has written one of the best one-liners I’ve read in a while: “with her husband’s name on a hit list, the fight got personal.”

What brought you to writing? In July 1990, I stepped off a plane in Riga, Latvia for my first visit to my home country. Latvia had been under communism since the end of WWII. My first impression was that I walked into a time warp. Almost everything was just as it was at the end of World War II. The rubble was still there. Nothing had been rebuilt. The same trolleys and trains ran. Store shelves were bare. The few restaurants in existence did not have a menu. You either ate the meal they offered that day, or you didn’t eat there. I stayed with relatives and learned what my life would have been like if I had grown up there. I am very grateful that I grew up in the USA.

I had no idea I would go on to write a novel about Latvia during World War II. I was a computer programmer then. But between the stories I heard growing up in the USA and what I saw in 1990, an idea was born that wouldn’t go away and led to my writing Song of Latvia. I also went back to school for my MFA in Creative Writing and am now a full-time writer.

In 1991, Latvia regained its freedom. I go back to visit every couple of years. Every time I go, Latvia looks more and more like any other European country. Everything has been rebuilt. Before WWII, British writer Graham Greene dubbed Riga the “Paris of the North”. Travel writers are calling it that again and with good reason.

Do you write in more than one genre? Yes. I started writing historical fiction, which culminated in my debut novel. I also write poetry because sometimes I get an idea or thought that can only be expressed in a poem. I never thought about Memoir but like my novel, Memoir came to me. My younger daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer. After a fierce three-year battle, she passed away in July 2019. About six months later, I was so filled with grief that I thought I would explode. In an effort to lessen the pain, I started writing. First came a prose poem about her death. Then I started writing stories about her life, about when she first told me, about my experiences helping to care for my grandchildren who had asked me questions like, “Is my mom going to die?” Then I started writing about my own life as an exiled Latvian. A new idea was born. My daughter Tara loved Latvia as much as I did. We took a number of trips there together. Our last trip was the summer of 2018, a family trip with Tara, my husband (her Dad), her husband and their two teenaged children. I am now writing a Memoir which holds the intertwined stories of Tara’s battle with cancer and my own life as an exiled Latvian.

Do you base any of your characters on real people? The main characters in Song of Latvia are based on the personalities of people in my family and many of the things that happen to them happened in real life. However, I didn’t want to tell the story of one family. I wanted to tell the story of the whole country, so all of the minor characters are based on research I did about what happened to other people. Although many events are based on things that really happened, the writing is my own version of events and my book is truly a novel.

Do you outline or are you a pantser? I am both. I start with a rough outline that changes as I write. I know the beginning and the end. I have some vague ideas about what will happen in the middle. However, in the writing, my characters lead me in directions I don’t expect. For instance, I didn’t expect that my two main characters in Song of Latvia, Aleks and Mija, would wind up having their own chapters. I started with Mija as the main protagonist. And then one day I wrote a chapter in Aleks’ point of view. He refused to have just one chapter. I went back and gave him a voice in all the appropriate places.

What kind of research do you do? For Song of Latvia, much of my research involved traveling to Latvia and visiting the places I wrote about, interviewing relatives and other people, and visiting archives in Riga to look up records. I also did historical war research online and read period books written by Latvians and others. I did the research as needed, relative to where I was in the writing. When I got to the end of the novel and realized Mija would have to go to a particular town, I took a trip to Latvia just to visit that town for a few days. I walked the streets and talked to various people who lived there.

Looking in the future, what’s in store for you? After I completed Song of Latvia, I started writing a post WWII spy thriller based on the personality of my father, titled The Reluctant Spy. It starts in Germany (where I was born), moves to Brazil, and finishes in the USA. I am still working on it while I also work on the Memoir. I’m not sure which one will be finished first, but I know they will both come in their own time.

Order book: https://www.amazon.com/V.-Z.-Byram/e/B081LFL3NC

How do readers contact you? https://vzbyram.com

 

 

17 Comments

  1. Irene Gendron

    I loved Song of Latvia from the beautiful cover to the last page. It was so well written it swept me along through the trials and heartbreaks faced. Looking forward to Vee’s next book.

    Reply
  2. Vee

    Thanks, Bob.

    Reply
  3. Conrad Person

    Great insight into the historical novel writing process. I can see how having friends and relatives who lived through those catastrophic times would enrich the story far beyond the documentary record.

    Reply
    • Vee

      Thanks for your comments, Conrad.
      Vee

      Reply
  4. Cass V Collins

    Congratulations on the review. I look forward to reading more of your writing.

    Reply
    • Vee

      Thank you, Cass!

      Reply
  5. David Milley

    This interview’s a pleasure to read. Good insights into your writing process!

    Reply
    • Vee

      Thank you David.
      Vee

      Reply
  6. Neva Hodges

    I’m so happy for you for the good reviews you’ve received! They’re well deserved.

    Reply
    • Vee

      Thanks for your comments, Neva.
      Vee

      Reply
  7. Thonie Hevron

    Great interview, VeeZee. So wonderful to hear your story although I’m so sorry the loss of your daughter is part of it. Seems a long time ago we met at the 2011 SF Writers Conference. Glad to see your success, friend!

    Reply
    • Vee

      Hi Thonie,
      Wow, that conference was 10 years ago. I remember it well and the nice dinner we had. Thanks so much for your support!
      Vee

      Reply
  8. Michael A. Black

    You are an inspiration to us all. The account of your life moved me to tears. Too often we forget the human suffering that is attached to war and its aftermath. Best of luck to you with your writing.

    Reply
    • Vee

      Thanks very much, Michael.
      Vee

      Reply
  9. Violet Moore

    Great Writer’s Digest commentary for your intriguing historical fiction book.

    Reply
    • Vee

      Thank you, Vi.
      Vee

      Reply
  10. Bob

    Great review for a fantastic writer!

    Reply

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