Thank you so much for having me on your blog!
The pandemic has been a tumultuous time for so many of us writery folks. Still, I’ve been super busy and full of ideas. My most recent release is a gothic romance story called “The House Must Fall,” which is a queer homage to Edgar Allan Poe’s Fall of the House of Usher. It’s part of the Haunts and Hellions Gothic Romance Anthology, and you can order a special edition with extra goodies from HorrorAddicts.net.
I also re-released my Rock ‘N’ Romance series in May. The Rock Season, Road Trip, and You Fell First are all music-inspired stories full of hope, love, and rock ‘n’ roll featuring folks from the San Francisco Bay Area on their journeys toward a happily ever after. Here’s a quick excerpt from You Fell First. The scene is told from Deputy Calvin Graham’s perspective as he’s directing traffic during a storm where trees are threatening to block the road. Those of you from the Bay Area will recognize this as Crow Canyon Road.
Cars flew by, ignoring signs to slow down, and my field training officer, Sergeant Diaz, warned me this could be a seriously hazardous situation. Diaz and I had thrown down some flares to hopefully grab the attention of drivers multitasking in their SUVs.
I couldn’t help but be distracted myself. Way up high on the hillside, a lone tree trimmer was strung up in the tree, trying to cut back some limbs that had fractured but hadn’t dropped. The guy’d been up there for at least two hours and the crew kept a close eye on his progress. He’d come down a few minutes prior and was on his way up the second tree, and for the life of me, I couldn’t help but watch the graceful way he managed to climb the ropes like some sort of acrobat in Cirque du Soleil. He was obviously experienced. I turned back to watch the traffic but I kept glancing back, captivated by his movements.
The wind picked up and howled through the canyon, causing his ropes to sway. Someone in his crew shouted at him in Spanish and he flipped them off. I chuckled to myself at their camaraderie before I turned back around. In time to see my life flash before my eyes.
Diaz shouted as the SUV heading right for us skidded at a forty-five-degree angle. The driver overcorrected and clipped our patrol car, causing the front end to slam into me and knock me backward. The SUV crashed into the trees, one of which the trimmer was suspended from.
Everyone froze as that tree groaned and lurched sideways, falling into the tree next to it. The trimmer dangled between the two, frantically trying to grab on to one or the other. He swung to the other tree and wrapped his arms and legs around the trunk.
I was still trying to catch my breath from where the fall had knocked the wind out of me. Diaz ran to my side. “Sonofabitch, Graham! You alright dude? You went down hella hard.”
I nodded as I coughed and gestured for him to help me up.”Paramedics are on their way. You need to get checked out.”
A cracking noise came from the other tree the car had smashed against and it shifted, jolting the car. I heard another crack and then shouts from the public works crew.
I reached into the SUV and came out with both kids. I managed to get several steps away as the tree groaned once more and fell forward onto the car.
The tree trimmer screamed as the rope, which was caught in the second tree, pulled his legs away from the tree he was holding on to.
That was a female scream. That’s a woman up there!
I watched in horror as the woman was pulled towards the fallen tree. She held on to the other tree desperately but she was losing the battle.
One of the other workers was getting harnessed up so he could climb the other tree and grab ahold of the hanging woman. The crew was trying to get around the giant tree but I spotted a more direct route. I pulled out my Leatherman and climbed up the back of the SUV so I could get to where the rope was attached.
Time stopped for a moment as I looked up into the trees. She stared down at me and then she nodded.
“Sí officer, corta la cuerda!” An older man on her crew who’d been trying to get to the rope gestured for me to cut it, but I worried the sudden change in tension would cause her to let go. My heart was in freefall as I prayed she wouldn’t be.
Do you write in more than one genre? I do! I love challenging myself. I started with paranormal and contemporary romance, and now I’ve branched out into horror and supernatural suspense.
Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? Wherever I can, whenever I can. I have all the distractions, especially over this past year. My current workspace is a standing desk in the living room. Between my two cats and psycho black lab, my two teens, and my husband, who is also working from home, it’s quite chaotic in our 1000sqft house.
What are you currently working on? I’m currently working on a co-author project—remember what I said about challenging myself? It’s a gay romance set in the custom car world featuring a Puerto Rican family shop in Florida. It’s been so fun to have someone be just as excited about the story you’re working on as you are. We’re using Google Docs to go back and forth and writing a chapter at a time. I love it. My partner Sera Taíno and I are a good match.
Do you base any of your characters on real people? Well yeah. Anyone I know is fair game. Kidding. Maybe.
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? A sabbatical from teaching after 27 years. I’ll be full-time writing as I work on my health and my home. As far as writing is concerned, I have a queer anthology coming out June 8th called Love Is All Vol 4 with some fantastic authors, which will raise funds for charity. Later this year, I have two full-lengths—a contemporary romance set in Spain and a supernatural suspense follow-up to last year’s Healer. I’ve got lots to do to get those ready for launch!
Do you have any advice for new writers? Find your people! Whether it’s a formal group or a site like NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) that supports folks at all levels of their journey. Find a place where you feel accepted, where there are folks at different places in their journey, and where you feel supported. If all else fails, hit me up. I love to chat with folks, and brainstorming might be one of my superpowers… Maybe. If they actually exist.
How do our readers contact you?
Folks can find me at www.rlmerrillauthor.com, and I’m usually lurking @rlmerrillauthor on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. I love connecting with readers and other writers, so don’t hesitate to reach out! I also write horror-inspired music reviews for HorrorAddicts.net, and I hope to start attending shows again soon now that I’m vaccinated. Maybe I’ll see you at the rock show! Thanks to George for having me on the blog today, and Stay Tuned for more Rock ‘n’ Romance…
Debra Bokur has been at the writing game for more than 40 years but prefers to avoid saying exactly how many.
She’s worked as an editor and staff writer at newspapers and national magazines and as a full-time journalist (the real, old-fashioned kind), literary journal editor, screenwriter, and poet. She’s also done quite a bit of illustration work and spent several decades training horses and riders for competition in the sports of dressage and three-day eventing.
Debra is the recipient of multiple national writing awards, including a Lowell Thomas Award for travel journalism, and remains a columnist and feature writer at Global Traveler Magazine. She’s also senior researcher and writer for the Association of Safe International Road Travel. Both her jobs regularly take her to far-flung destinations in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. She doesn’t like flying but loves trains, prefers cold weather to hot; and strongly dislikes coffee, but drinks a truly impressive amount of tea on a daily basis.
Debra is the author of the Dark Paradise Mystery series from Kensington Books, including The Fire Thief (2020), The Bone Field (2021), and The Lava Witch (scheduled for release in 2022). When not traveling or writing, Debra spends her time hiking near her home high in the Rocky Mountains and renovating a haunted 1860s Victorian inn on the coast of Maine with her husband.
Do you write in more than one genre? I do. Besides crime/mystery fiction, I write magical realism and poetry. A lot of that has been published, and I’m working on a new mystery series that features elements of magical realism. Something I love to do, especially when working on a book, is to step away to write a short story, flash fiction piece, or poem. It helps me refocus. A topic I return to frequently is the re-telling of classic fairytales from a fresh or unusual angle.
You mentioned you prefer cold weather to hot, but your Dark Paradise Mystery series is set in Hawai’i. Why is that? I am definitely a cold weather person and am never happier than when the landscape is covered by deep snow or enveloped in cold winter mist. But Hawai’i is a definite exception—though my first trip there 25 years ago was under duress. I was the managing editor at a culinary magazine, and our food editor was suddenly unable to attend a food festival in Hawai’i that we’d agreed to cover. Our advertising team had already sold ad space around the expected story, and as anyone in magazine publishing knows, once ads have been sold, there’s absolutely going to be supporting editorial. I was the only staff member free to go. Plus, my husband had been invited to accompany me, and once he knew about it, there was no ducking out. So I went, grumbling all the way about sunburn, bugs, and the inferiority of palm trees to aspens. When we arrived, I realized I’d been a colossal idiot. It was pretty much love at first sight and is still the only tropical place I enjoy traveling to.
Over the years, I’ve been back many times, usually on assignment. During those excursions—and because of the fact that the magazines I’ve worked for have almost always focused on wellness, spirituality, herbal medicines, and similar topics—I’ve been deeply fortunate to have met and formed lasting relationships with elders, healers, and wisdom keepers from the Hawaiian culture. My book series grew out of my fascination with how such a remarkably beautiful landscape can harbor so much darkness.
Where do you write? What, if any distractions, do you allow? We live in a heavily forested corner of the Rocky Mountains at 8,400 feet, where I’ve created a mountain garden that’s home to numerous birds, foxes, rabbits, raccoons, and other wildlife. My writing room looks out on that space and is filled with meaningful objects that inspire me—books, letters, postcards, treasures, and talismans. While that’s the place I’m most productive and feel I do my best work, I’ve trained myself to write just about anywhere, which is necessary because of work travel. On planes, I’m too stressed to write (even though my husband is an experienced pilot who’s been trying for decades to explain bumpy air to me), but I’m particularly prolific on trains, buses, and in airports. As for distractions: cat, dog, and wildlife distractions are all completely acceptable, as are calls from my son (who’s been living in Iceland for a long time) and knocks on the door from my husband inviting me for a walk or announcing that a cake fell into his shopping cart at the store and I should stop working long enough to have a slice.
What brought you to writing? As the above references to animals and wildlife are no doubt clues, I was that intensely shy loner kid who always felt more comfortable hanging out with my pets and a good book than socializing with other humans. I was the eldest of five children, and our home was always filled with drama. I found that escaping into a story was a good way to cope. My mother used to read to us when we were young, and it was usually a mystery by Dashiell Hammett or Agatha Christie. As I got older, I discovered other authors and began writing my own stories. While I was spectacularly useless at math and science, I always excelled at writing and creative pursuits. I was lucky to be encouraged in that direction—and to have serious mentors later in life who became dear friends, including the late author Jack D. Hunter (The Blue Max and many other books), poet Ruth Moon Kempher, and literary journal publisher Colette Trent.
What kind of research do you do? Tons. Because my books deal with ancient Hawaiian legends and mythology, I spend lots of time reading works by anthropologists and other experts. One challenge is that much of Hawaiian history is oral, and the collected stories vary to a huge degree depending upon how the stories were handed down through individual families. After I have a working draft, I show it to one or more Native Hawaiian friends who let me know if I’m off track or have missed a vital point.
What is the best book you’ve ever read? Tough—but I’ll say Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman, which is stunningly imaginative and lyrical; and—not to be a cliché—The Lord of the Rings. I’ve re-read this trilogy at least two dozen times over the years, and it still acts as a portal, startles me with the beauty of the writing and imagery, and inspires me to be a better storyteller.
Please share your publication and new book information. The Bone Field (book #2 in my Dark Paradise Mystery series) is now available at all the usual outlets, as is the first book, The Fire Thief.
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-bone-field-debra-bokur/1137556797
Links to my articles on CrimeReads:
In The Pale-Faced Lie, David Crow presents a riveting account of growing up on the Navajo Indian Reservation with a mentally ill mother and violent father, an ex-con from San Quentin who groomed David to be his partner in crime.
DAVID CROW spent his early years on the Navajo Indian Reservation in Arizona and New Mexico. Through grit, resilience, and a thirst for learning, he managed to escape his abusive childhood, graduate from college, and build a successful lobbying firm in Washington, DC.
Today, David is a sought-after speaker, giving talks to various businesses and trade organizations around the world. Throughout the years, he has mentored over 200 college interns, performed pro bono service for the charitable organization Save the Children, and participated in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. An advocate for women, he is donating a percentage of his royalties from The Pale-Faced Lie to the Barrett House, a homeless shelter for women in Albuquerque. David and his wife, Patty, live in the suburbs of DC.
Do you write in more than one genre? I have only written non-fiction so characters are real people, and the book captures what they actually did. I hope to write fiction in the future.
What brought you to writing? I always wanted to write but knew the process is completely different from ordinary business writing, which I had always done before. I studied creative writing but must confess that my publisher was my greatest teacher. Sandra Jonas took a very rough manuscript and helped me create a readable book that has been quite successful. The creative writing process, in my opinion, requires a great deal of study and practice. There has been nothing easy or quick about it. On the contrary, it may be the hardest thing I have ever attempted.
Tell us about your writing process: I write every day, but it can be painful. I struggle to get into a rhythm and to move the process forward. It took nearly ten years to write the book. The last two working with Sandra were very challenging because I still had a significant learning curve.
Has an association membership helped you or your writing? I belong to several writers groups, including the Western Writers of America. I have attended the Writer’s Digest Annual meeting in NYC and several others. Every one of them has helped me better understand what it takes to be a successful writer.
Who’s your favorite author? I have several favorite authors and new ones all the time. I am finishing Kristin Hannah’s, The Four Winds, a novel about the Dust Bowl—it is excellent. I loved Larry McMurtry, Cormac McCarthy, Erik Larson, Jeff Guinn, Chris Enss, and countless others. I am an avid reader.
How do our readers find you and your work?
Laura Jensen Walker knew she wanted to be a writer ever since she read 103 books in Miss Vopelensky’s first-grade class.
A lifelong lover of mysteries, I never dreamed I’d someday be writing them!
Eager to see the world, I joined the Air Force at 19 and headed off into that wild blue yonder flying a typewriter across Europe. Although my clerk-typist job was boring, traveling was bliss. By the time I was 23, I had visited 15 countries and fallen in love with tea and the land of my heart—England. Later, I majored in journalism, but it took cancer at age 35 to push me to follow my writing dreams of becoming an author. My first book, Dated Jekyll, Married Hyde (non-fiction humor ala Erma Bombeck), came out in 1997. Since then, I’ve written ten humorous non-fiction books and ten novels (chick lit and cozies.)
Murder Most Sweet (Crooked Lane), featuring baker, breast-cancer survivor, and writer Teddie St. John, is my first cozy, released last fall during the pandemic. I wanted to see someone like me in a mystery—a woman who chose to “go flat” after having two mastectomies and is now living her best life. Breasts don’t make a woman. An early editor who read and loved my manuscript, said diversity is important in crime fiction, but diversity isn’t only about color. To my delight and gratitude Murder Most Sweet is nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel. Such a lovely surprise and honor.
Deadly Delights, the sequel to Murder Most Sweet, is my third cozy and twentieth book. (I never dreamed I’d have 20 books under my belt, and still more to come.)
August in Lake Potawatomi, Wisconsin, always means one thing: the annual baking contest. Picture The Great British Baking Show, writ Midwestern. Naturally, bon vivant baker-turned-mystery writer Teddie St. John has a pie in the ring. The white baking tent boasts an array of folding tables housing each entrant’s daily baked good. And at one of those tables sits the corpse of the lecherous head judge, his face half-buried in a delectable coconut cream pie with Teddie’s distinctive embossed rolling pin by his side…covered with blood. With the help of her friends, Teddie must concoct a recipe to clear her name–if the real killer doesn’t ice her first.
I’m thrilled by the great advance reviews Deadly Delights has received.
“Lively characters complement the twisty plot.”
“Deadly Delights moves along at warp speed… [Walker’s] writing and story development is top notch.”
—New York Journal of Books
The ironic thing about the ‘warp speed’ comment is that I wrote Deadly Delights in two-and-a-half months. For many, March and April 2020 were a scary, anxious time as we tried to understand and cope with this crazy pandemic, the likes of which hadn’t been seen in more than a century. Added to the overall anxiety, I have comorbidities that put me in a higher risk group. Scary. I couldn’t focus on anything, including writing and reading. I tried to escape in a good book—some I’d been eagerly anticipating for months—but couldn’t concentrate. Reading has been a joy and great escape my whole life. Except this time. Such a weird feeling—one that I’m happy to say has passed. I also didn’t write a single word on my third cozy during those first two months of the pandemic. The cozy that was due to my editor July 1. Luckily, I managed to get a two-week extension, then wrote like the wind to make that July 15 deadline. My journalism background of writing tight and fast saved me.
My second cozy, Hope, Faith, & a Corpse, a clerical mystery featuring the first Episcopal woman priest in Faith Chapel’s 160-year history, was released in January.
Do you write in more than one genre? I’ve written non-fiction and chick-lit in the past and plan to write more non-fiction and also historical fiction.
What are you currently working on? I’m writing a “Pandemic Postscript” to the memoir I wrote a few years ago that my agent loved but couldn’t sell due to my lack of platform. In non-fiction, it’s essential to have a “platform” of some kind, whether it’s being on the speaking circuit and regularly speaking to large groups around the country who will then buy your book at the back of the room, having a YouTube channel with a zillion subscribers, or having a large/decent social media following.
At the time—prior to signing my cozy contract—I’d been out of the writing/publishing world for more than a decade and no longer had a reader following. I’d stopped public speaking, wasn’t on Twitter, and only had a couple hundred Facebook friends. Multiple editors at several publishing houses told my agent how much they loved the writing in my memoir, but regretfully had to turn it down since I had no platform. Hopefully (fingers crossed) now that I have readers again, a monthly newsletter with a decent number of subscribers, a larger FB presence, and a (small) Twitter and Instagram following, my memoir, the book of my soul, will finally sell.
I’m also started working on my first historical fiction—the book of my heart, set in WWII England—but I’m not ready to say anything more about it yet.
We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave, or do they run the show? Oh, they run the show. Before I began writing fiction when I’d ask a novelist about how their work-in-progress was going, and they’d respond with something like, “I’m waiting for my character to reveal what’s next,” I’d inwardly scoff and think, “You’re the writer; you’re in charge!” Then I started writing my first novel. Ha! In fact, when I started writing my first cozy (now shelved), one of the minor characters, an Episcopal woman priest, let me know she was a major character deserving of her own book. Thus, Hope, Faith, & a Corpse was born.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? Outline is a dirty word in my house. I’m a total pantser. Mostly. Before I begin my WIP, I usually need to know what the ending is. That way, I have a starting point and an end point, and I fill in the middle. However, in both of my Bookish Baker mysteries, the endings I’d initially envisioned (including the murderer in one—I won’t say which one) changed as the story unfolded.
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? Hopefully, more cozies in both my series, the Bookish Baker Mysteries and Faith Chapel Mysteries and contracts for the book of my soul (my memoir) and the book of my heart (the historical fiction I’ve been yearning to write for more than three decades.)
How do our readers contact you?
Please contact me through my website, www.laurajensenwalker.com (if you sign up for my newsletter, you get a free gift!)
Facebook Laura Jensen Walker | Facebook
Readers can also connect with me on Twitter @LauraJensenWal1
DAVALYNN SPENCER is a Publisher’s Weekly and ECPA bestselling author with novellas in three Barbour collections, The 12 Brides of Christmas, The 12 Brides of Summer, and The Cowboy’s Bride.
Davalynn won the Will Rogers Gold Medallion for Inspirational Western Fiction and is the author of ten additional titles, both contemporary and historical. She blogs monthly for Christian Authors Network, Heroes, Heroines & History, contributes to the American Christian Fiction blog, and writes her own weekly inspirational blog. She appears on an area radio broadcast, Write Time Radio, and teaches writing workshops when not wrangling Blue the Cowdog and mouse detectors Annie and Oakley.
As the last author to join the Always a Wedding Planner collection, I had the advantage of coming into a story world that had already been created – a four-member team of friends who ran Weddings By Design in Loveland, Colorado. With the overall theme and setting established, I was free to concentrate on partner number four. I established a life, a personal story world, and a threatening challenge for my character, Saffron Fare, whom I made the chef for the business.
Each story is complete unto itself. In the writing of this collection, we four authors were in constant communication with each other, asking questions, double-checking on personalities, confirming the names and locations of key elements in a town like the business’s office. We’d often send emails to each other containing dialogue, followed by, “Would your character say it like this or not?” It was great fun reading excerpts from another author’s use of my character in a scene or two from her story.
I have contributed to several Barbour novella collections. Still, this one was unique in that all four stories focused on the same business yet were told from the point of view of a different business partner. We worked together to create the collection the same way our characters worked together in their wedding-planning business.
Where may our readers find you and your work?
Free Book and Quarterly Author Update: https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/h3d8g8
Amazon Author: https://amazon.com/author/davalynnspencer