Lynn Slaughter is addicted to chocolate, the arts, and her husband’s cooking.
After a long career as a professional dancer and dance educator, Lynn earned her MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. She writes coming of age romantic mysteries and is the author of the newly released Leisha’s Song; While I Danced, an EPIC finalist; It Should Have Been You, a Silver Falchion finalist; and Deadly Setup (forthcoming from Fire and Ice, 2022). Lynn lives in Louisville, Kentucky, where she’s at work on her next novel and serves as the President of Derby Rotten Scoundrels, the Ohio River Valley chapter of Sisters in Crime.
Tell us about your recent release and your other books. Leisha’s Song centers around a young woman in a year when everything in her life changes. On scholarship at a prestigious New England boarding school, Leisha never intended to fall in love with classical singing or get involved with Cody Harrington—let alone risk her life trying to find her missing teacher.
Leisha’s Song follows two other YA novels, While I Danced and It Should Have Been You. In While I Danced, Cass, an aspiring ballet dancer, deals with family and romantic problems when she discovers a betrayal that leaves her questioning whether she even wants to continue dancing. In It Should Have Been You, seventeen-year-old Clara’s twin sister, a piano prodigy, is murdered. Rumors swirl that Clara was involved in her twin’s demise. And then she starts receiving threatening notes, the first of which says: “It should have been you… But soon.”
What brought you to writing? Initially, writing fiction started as a therapy project! Age and injury had led to my retirement from dance, and I was grieving the loss of my career and identity as a dancer. I’d always loved reading young adult fiction. Teenagers had been my favorite age group to work with, so I guess it’s not surprising that I was drawn to young adult fiction. When I wrote my first novel about an aspiring dancer, I think it was a way to honor my old life and invent a new dream. Interestingly, my subsequent novels have all involved characters passionate about the arts.
Tell us about your writing process. First, I get the wisp of an idea for a story. For example, in the case of Leisha’s Song, I overheard a conversation at New York’s Port Authority between a young woman and her grandmother. It became apparent that the grandmother was sending her granddaughter off to boarding school in New England, and the teen was reluctant to go. It got me thinking about what it would be like to be a whip-smart young woman of color at a private school populated by mostly wealthy white students. So, I had a vague idea about a character and a setting. Since I’m a romantic mystery writer, I thought about what the mystery would be. I came up with the disappearance of a teacher Leisha was close to and a romance between Leisha and a boy who appoints himself her investigative sidekick. After that, I did a lot of thinking and writing about Leisha and her missing teacher and the people in their lives, past and present. That gave me tons of ideas for plot complications, conflicts, and the identities of folks who might have had a reason to want Leisha’s teacher to disappear. The story grew from there.
What are you currently working on? I’m excited that my fourth YA novel, Deadly Setup, about a young woman who goes on trial for the murder of her heiress mother’s fiancée, is coming out in 2022, so I’ll be working on final edits for that.
Meantime, I’m working on two projects which are a bit out of my comfort zone in that they’re not for young adults. The first is the expansion of a short story I wrote for Malice Domestic’s anthology, Murder Most Theatrical. My story, “Missed Cue,” is now a novel in which the identity of the murderer of a renowned ballerina has actually changed. I’ve had fun developing the personal life of the female homicide detective in charge of the case.
I’m also working on a middle-grade novel about Varney, a young vampire who hates the taste of blood and is convinced he’s landed in the wrong body.
How long did it take you to write your first book? A long time. I worked on it on and off for about ten years. The subsequent novels didn’t take nearly that long!
Do you have any advice for new writers? Never give up. Do lots of reading and write regularly (I call that my “butt-in-chair” prescription!). Study the craft of writing. Join writer’s organizations, take courses, find a helpful critique group, and be open to feedback. If more than one person tells you something is a problem, paying attention is a good idea.
Keep in mind that while lots of writing involves revision, the first order of business is to get something written to work with. The best piece of advice I received in my MFA program was: “You can’t fix a blank page.”
Lynn loves hearing from readers and invites you to visit her website, which also houses her blog: https://lynnslaughter.com/
Leisha’s Song is available at:
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Hi George and Readers, It’s a pleasure to be back. I’m excited to announce the first four Argolicus Mysteries are now available in a collection, Argolicus Series Books 1-4.
The stories are traditional mysteries with late Roman Italy as the backdrop. History changes, but people remain the same. That’s what I find is fun about writing historical mysteries.
The Roman Heir: Argolicus begins a journey home to retire from politics. As a personal favor, he delivers a book to a young scholar. But the young man’s father is murdered hours before, and Argolicus is tasked to find the killer among the patricians in an unfamiliar town where he knows no one.
The Used Virgin: The governor holds a family friend prisoner. When Argolicus visits to investigate, he unearths a greedy plot to tarnish a good man’s name. To expose the plot, he must challenge the governor’s venal power to reveal a scheme.
The Vellum Scribe: When Argolicus’ uncle finds a dead body, it starts a chain of treacherous alliances based on greed and envy based on old friendships. But then an ambush attack produces a clue.
The Peach Widow: A simple request from his mother sends Argolicus to settle a legal question in a family at odds. Perplexed by subterfuge and greed motivating each family member, he finds no clues until the farm dog starts to play.
What readers are saying:
- A story well told. A ‘world’ worth settling into!’
- ‘Transport you to that ancient time, so you can meet their people and see their lives.’
- ‘Absolutely wonderful.’
- ‘A rich tapestry of interactions that serve to draw the reader deeper in..’
- ‘Highlights some of the most basic of emotions: anger, possession, hurt, sympathy, loss and guilt and, of course, greed..’
- ‘No telephones, no computers, no scientific method as we understand it, no mysterious villains with international organizations – and it works. .’
- ‘If I had to put stars for this book, I have had to put six stars!’
- ‘A thoughtful atmospheric pierce with wonderful characters.’
- ‘For mystery lovers with a love of history.’
- ‘Packs not only a great mystery but also a lot of truly interesting information about the era.’
- ‘A world with very different rules for dealing with murder.’
I started writing these stories when I was researching for a longer book. One of the letters in Cassiodorus’ Variable, he wrote as Prime Minister for King Theodoric, mentions a strange punishment. Scholars wondered what could cause such a puzzling punishment that wasn’t much of a punishment.
I thought, Who better to put this mystery to rest than our hero, Argolicus. And, so, The Used Virgin came to life. It’s the only mystery in the series with no murder but an attempt to kill a man’s reputation.
Argolicus was a real person at the time of Theodoric’s reign in Italy. He is mentioned nine times in Cassiodorus’ Variae as praefectus urbis of Rome.
Argolicus is a learned man who turns detective at the bidding of friends and neighbors who know him as trustworthy, wise, and fair. His tools are the logic of Aristotle, the self-restraint of Epictetus, the theology of Arius, and the empirical insights of Marcus Aurelius, all sharpened to an edge by ferocious curiosity. He collects evidence, deciphers politics, and digs into the deepest secrets of the human heart.
Zara Altair writes traditional mysteries set in Ostrogoth, Italy. Meet Argolicus, the Roman patrician who thinks his way to finding a killer. The Argolicus Mysteries are The Roman Heir, The Used Virgin, The Peach Widow, and The Vellum Scribe.
The Grain Merchant, the fifth in the series, was recently released.
A mystery lover since childhood, she writes about writing for several publications, including ProWritingAid and International Thriller Writer. A member of Sisters in Crime., Zara lives in Beaverton, OR, where she reads, walks among trees, and shares space with a cat. She coaches mystery writers at Write A Killer Mystery. Find her video tutorials on YouTube.
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Although Sandy Sheehy was born in New York, after graduating from Vassar, she moved to Austin and lived there, then in Houston, Galveston and Albuquerque. She now divides her time between Texas and New Mexico. Sheehy and her husband, historian and University of New Mexico professor emeritus Charles McClelland, spend several months a year traveling internationally.
Sheehy has written frequently on human relationships and the natural environment. Her work has appeared in Town & Country, Forbes, House Beautiful, Self, Working Woman, and Money, among other national magazines. She is the author of Texas Big Rich (1990, William Morrow), a group portrait of the state’s financially fortunate, and Connecting: The Enduring Power of Female Friendship (2000, HarperCollins).
Sandy’s first novel, Deserts of the Heart, is a multicultural historical romance set in 1798 near Santa Fe (June 2021, White Bird Publications).
I have another book out this year: Imperiled Reef: The Fascinating, Fragile Life of a Caribbean Wonder, October 5 from the University of Florida Press, grew out of her love of scuba diving. “Drifting weightless above a coral head is the closest those of us alive today will ever come to visiting another planet,” she explains. This nonfiction book describes the natural history and ecology of the world’s second-longest barrier reef.
Do you write in more than one genre? Yes. My previously published books have been nonfiction.
Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? I write in the room my husband calls the “study.” It sounds small, but it’s the largest room in our 1940-vintage house, and it has a view of the Sandia Mountains.
Tell us about your writing process: I find I work best if I keep regular hours, getting up around 7:00 a.m., dressing, having breakfast, dealing with my email, and then writing for a couple of hours. I use the Authors Guild discussion posts as a warmup. Six days a week, I head for the pool at my health club and swim between three-quarters of a mile and a mile. On the seventh day, I meet with the other three members of my writers’ group. A couple of days ahead of time, we circulate whatever we’ve written that week so that we can discuss each other’s work at the meeting.
What are you currently working on? I’m writing a sequel to Deserts of the Heart. Set two years later (1800) in the same location, this one is a romantic murder mystery
Has an association membership helped you or your writing? You’re helping me right now, George. Fellow member Rosina Lippi (aka Sara Donati) has also been helpful. But everyone who’s actively involved in those AG discussions has taught me something.
How long did it take you to write your first book? It took me a year to research and another six months or so to write. Part of that process involved writing a proposal since it was nonfiction and my agent was shopping it.
Do you ever kill a popular character? If so, what happens to your story? I’m killing one right now. As a fan of murder mysteries, I prefer the ones where the reader has a chance to get to know and like the victim before he or she is killed. Doing so makes solving the mystery more than just an intellectual exercise.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? Whether I’m writing nonfiction or fiction, I always outline. I need to know where I’m going. Sometimes characters do step forward and take over the road along the way.
What kind of research do you do? For Deserts of the Heart, I visited the 18th century living history museum Rancho de las Golondrinas, “New Mexico’s Williamsburg,” the Pueblo Cultural Center, and several museums in the region. I also relied heavily on Internet sources, especially for details like clothing. For anyone who writes historical fiction, portraits posted online can be amazingly helpful.
Readers are welcome to check out my website, www.sandysheehy.com. I’d like to encourage anyone who wants to purchase my books to visit their local independent bookstore. Ordering online from Amazon or Barnes & Noble is convenient, of course, but those local shops need our support.
Dr. Eve Sprunt was the 2006 SPE President of the Society of Petroleum Engineers. In 2010 Eve received SPE’s highest recognition, Honorary Membership. She has 35 years of experience working for major oil companies, 21 years with Mobil, and 14 years with Chevron. In 2013 Eve received the Achievement Award from the Society of Women Engineers. She was the 2018 President of the American Geosciences Institute. She was the founder of the Society of Core Analysts in 1985. Her S.B. and S.M. degrees are from MIT (Earth and Planetary Sciences) and her Ph.D. (Geophysics) from Stanford. She was the first woman to receive a Ph.D. in Geophysics from Stanford. She has authored more than 120 editorial columns on industry trends, technology, workforce issues. She is the author of A Guide for Dual-Career Couples and Dearest Audrey, An Unlikely Love Story, and co-author with Maria Angela Capello of Mentoring and Sponsoring: Keys to Success. She speaks and consults on both energy issues and women’s issues.
My first book, A Guide for Dual-Career Couples, Rewriting the Rules (2016), was a labor of love that I started work on after I retired in late 2013 and published by Praeger in 2016. That book was prompted by my being horrified by how women were discriminated against by being part of a dual-career couple. The young women mistakenly thought that if they got some international experience at a convenient time in their career, that was needed. Instead, the industry wanted a trailing spouse and a willingness to go anywhere at any time.
I self-published the first manuscript I started, Dearest Audrey, An Unlikely Love Story, in 2019. I found an agent who got a publisher for A Guide for Dual-Career Couples.
At this point, the book I really want to promote is Dearest Audrey. I thought I knew my Auntie Audrey well. Still, when long after her death, I discovered letters she had written while in Pakistan as one of the earliest Fulbright scholars, I was captivated. While in Pakistan, Audrey had a brief encounter with an American photographer, whose marriage proposal forced her to choose between her hard-won career and love.
I write both self-help career guidance books and memoir/biography. The latter is a combo in that I have some interesting people in my life, such as Audrey, and have been advised that since I know them, I should “put more of myself in the story.” I’ve been working through the Tri-Valley Branch of the California Writers Club critique groups parts of my memoir/biography of my mother, Passionate Persistence. Starting when she was 49, my mother had 29 children’s fantasy books she wrote and illustrated, published. Her first book, The Wednesday Witch, sold well over a million copies and was translated into multiple languages. Combined, her books sold over nine million copies. My mother’s diaries, written between when she was 13 and 81, had been collecting dust in my home when I decided at the beginning of covid that it was now or never. I have been working on Passionate Persistence ever since. Reading those diaries, I was shocked that even though my four siblings and I were born within an eight-year time span, and we were all raised in Brooklyn in the same house, we had drastically different childhood experiences. When I left home, my mother’s career as a children’s book author finally took off. Deeply immersed in her career, Mother lost all interest in supervising my younger siblings. Too much supervision was not fun, but the consequences of too little were far worse.
Early in my career as a scientist, I realized that one way to get credit for my work was to document and publish it. Since I worked for giant corporations, I got very creative in finding ways to get company permission to publish and become actively involved in the editorial side of a couple of professional societies’ publications. By the time I shifted from focusing on technology to business and management issues, I had 23 patents and 28 technical publications. In 1994, I took on the voluntary position of Senior Technical Editor of the worldwide Society of Petroleum Engineers. That role came with a monthly column in the flagship journal that went out to over 100,000 members worldwide. I saw writing my column as “walking along the edge of a cliff and trying not to fall off.” I wrote from the “underdog” position about issues that bedeviled technical professionals. Despite or perhaps because of my risk-taking, I survived numerous layoffs, including two in which half of the people in my group were terminated. I quit calculating the odds that I still had a job after the second 50% layoff – my odds of survival were too small. In retirement, I enjoy being able to write without worrying about corporate censorship.
I’m currently working on a memoir/biography of my mother, Passionate Persistence, and A Guide to Career Resilience – When Silence is not the Answer. I began writing that book when we were collaborating on Mentoring and Sponsoring, Keys to Success. During the interviews we conducted for that book, I occasionally sensed that our interviewees were concealing what I view as the dark side of mentoring and sponsoring. Getting people to talk about problems is much more challenging than getting them to brag about their successes. We have had a few people share devastating experiences, and my co-author and I have been filling in the gaps from our own careers.
Tri-Valley has been very beneficial to me. I had never before been in a critique group, and the process has greatly benefited me. Writing bio/memoir is very different than writing business books, editorials, and technical papers. The feedback and suggestions have been invaluable. As a scientist, my goal was to write from a very analytical and objective perspective. I have applied those skills to interpreting the consequences of my mother’s actions but need to include the emotional impact of writing about them in the bio/memoir.
My first book published was my second book attempt. The agent found a buyer for the second, but they wanted it written from an entirely different perspective. I had written the manuscript trying to persuade management to change their approach to managing dual-career couples. Praeger used librarians to review book proposals. They said that my audience should not be management but members of dual-career couples. By the time the contract was negotiated, I had six weeks to get the manuscript submitted to be included in the next book catalog. My agent had taken over a month to work out the deal. (Praeger primarily sells through their catalog.) Since I was retired and working for myself, I realized that I wasn’t limited to regular working hours; I began working seven days a week, from morning into the night, and finished with about a week to spare. It was a fun exercise turning my first manuscript around to address the issues from the opposite perspective.
There are subplots even in bio/memoir. Weaving them into the main story can also be challenging.
Despite being an analytical person, when I write, I am a pantser. I write and rewrite and rewrite and rewrite.
The fictional book that may have had the greatest impact on my life is Robert Heinlein’s Time Enough For Love. I took away the idea that you can have multiple careers in life, and you can bluff your way through some things. One of my favorite non-fiction books is Powers of Ten, About the Relative Size of Things in the Universe by Philip Morrison, Phylis Morrison, and the Office of Charles & Ray Eames. I had Philip Morrison for the 6th level physics course at MIT, but this book wasn’t published until two decades after I graduated. For me, it signifies that as we go both up and down in scale, things become more and more esoteric and unknowable. My mother’s younger brother was a Physics professor at Berkeley. I would ask him, “What is the universe in?” His answer to me was always very unsatisfying. He said it was a shape that closed in on itself.
Readers can contact me through LinkedIn or FaceBook. Fortunately, my name is unique, so I’m easy to find.
Paula Chinick is the international award-winning author for Red Asscher~Living in Fear—a WWII spy thriller series, which includes Living in Turmoil and Living in War. She is a CWC Tri-Valley Writers past vice-president, president, and conference project manager. Paula’s publishing company, Russian Hill Press, has been in business since 2014.
I have published a WWII historical spy thriller series under the title Red Asscher, Living in Fear, Living in Turmoil, and Living in War. The stories are set in 1943. In the first novel, Anya Pavlovitch, a Russian expat working for the U.S. War Department, is asked to assist a naval officer who is being sent to Japanese occupied Shanghai. Throughout the series, the two try to flee China but find themselves caught up in situations that impede their escape.
What are you currently working on? I am currently working on a prequel set in Russia in 1898 through the revolution and ends in China in 1920, where the first book begins. The story centers on Anya’s parents.
What brought you to writing? I have been writing since I was a tween but didn’t get serious until I was laid off in 2008. In hindsight probably the best thing to have happened. I love the freedom that stream of consciousness writing allows. It may end up being crap, but it’s exciting to see the words appear on the page as your mind reels.
Tell us about your writing process: When I wrote my first book, I spent 8 hours a day writing and editing. It was my job, and I took it very seriously. In the other books, I relaxed a bit and would try to write 1000 words a day. Sometimes it worked, other times not so much. Currently, I’m taking a break. I recently adopted a puppy who is in training which occupies most of my waking hours.
What is the most challenging part of your writing process? It’s easy to write the beginning and the ending. What’s difficult is all the stuff in the middle. There are days, even weeks where my mind is blank. I try to research for inspiration; sometimes, it works; other times, I have to wait for the muse to strike.
Has an association membership helped you or your writing? Definitely. My membership with the California Writers Club has been invaluable in helping me to become a better writer, editor, and critiquing. It has opened doors to conferences, workshops, and seminars. All important outlets if you want to be a serious writer.
Who’s your favorite author? I fell in love with the Spanish author Arturo Perez-Reverte. I love historical fiction, and his writing inspires me. I also enjoy reread Jane Austin, D. H. Lawrence, and my favorite, Dashiell Hammett.
How long did it take you to write your first book? Off and on about ten years. I didn’t get serious until about four years before I published the first in the series. After the first one, it took about three years to publish the second and another three years for the third.
How do you come up with character names? I used a few family names and researched foreign names for those characters that were outside of the U.S.
What’s the most challenging thing about writing characters from the opposite sex? I don’t find it any more challenging than writing from the same sex but at a different age. I use a combination of characteristics from people or children I’ve known or know. I have men and women beta read to see if the characters are believable.
Do you ever kill a popular character? If so, what happens to your story? I kill a lot of my characters—it’s war, and people die.
How do you raise the stakes for your protagonist—for the antagonist? I try to place obstacles in front of them and make them figure out how to work around it or avoid it.
What authors did you dislike at first but grew to enjoy? I would have to say, Shakespeare. It was required reading in high school, and my head just wasn’t in it. It wasn’t until I attended the Ashland Shakespeare festival (for almost ten years) where I developed a love for his histories. I bought a thick book with all his plays and read them.
Do you base any of your characters on real people? I have, but they have since passed. I try not to defame them. I read biographies about them and pick and choose what I want to use. Some real characters I have placed in a bad light, but they were evil people who lived in a foreign country and have been dead for decades.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I’m a plotter. I create a rough outline that I constantly rewrite. I mainly use it to remind me where the plot is headed and my character’s traits. Sometimes I go off the trail and end up pantsing a bit. Sometimes I keep it. Sometimes I toss it.
What kind of research do you do? I use the internet a lot but try to get my questions answered by several different sources. I have purchased old Life magazines for insight into the language and history. I also read other’s historical writings from the period.
Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? I generally use real locations. I research old photographs to see the layout of streets, buildings, transportation, and attire in that period. I try to build a world that is believable. I may get a few things wrong, but for the most part, I think most readers are forgiving.
Do you have any advice for new writers? My only advice would be if you like to write then WRITE. It doesn’t matter if you wish to publish or not. Do it for yourself. Writing is something that you alone own, and no one can take it from you. If you wish to be a serious writer, then you need to join a writers group that offers critique, attend conferences, and build your vocabulary.
For further information, you can contact Paula at www.russianhillpress.com/contact
Russian Hill Press www.russianhillpress.com