I was born in London, England, a few years after World War II. I watched London being patched back into a vibrant commercial center. Sights of bombed-out buildings and devastation still linger in my memories.
At age 26, I moved to Saudi Arabia to work for Aramco (an oil company.) I worked there for four years and traveled widely in the region. I grew to love and be intrigued by the local people and their culture.
Years later, as I neared retirement, my family requested I write down some of the many stories I had told over the years. One theme kept appearing in these pieces, my driving a Chevy Blazer from London to the eastern province of Saudi Arabia – a journey of 5,500 miles in 15 days. That became my first book, a memoir, Journey to Self, published in September 2019 – available on Amazon.
While working on that book, I said I had no idea how to write a novel. It seemed overwhelming. However, after one workshop, I saw I had the basic framework for a fictional story. Having never been one to shy away from a challenge, I started work on it. My story is set around a Syrian family and covers themes such as:
- most Syrians, most Muslims, like ourselves, want to live in peace – that is not fiction,
- how to counter a ruthless dictator,
- the roles of men and women in Syrian society,
- how to hold grief, love, and fear while fighting for your life,
- how people, despite their dire circumstances, can imagine a hopeful future.
In the past few weeks, I have received feedback from a group of beta-readers, and so far, there have been no show-stoppers but plenty of words of encouragement. While working through the multiple drafts of this first novel, I started work on the sequel: Syrian Rebirth – Ahmed’s World. This is now a completed initial draft. I have in mind the third and final book in the series, Syrian Rebirth – Fatima’s World.
Syrian Rebirth – Rashid’s World. Rashid wished his family to be safe. He joined the fight against Syria’s brutal president. How would that affect him, his family, and his country?
What brought me to writing: Writing is a way for me to purge demons that hindered me for too many years. I learned to read as a child, but I truly hated and, in some ways, feared it. I read my first book for pleasure when I was 26 years old. To many people, that may sound horrifying, but it was my world as a youngster. Numbers and logic were my saving graces. I became a computer software engineer for a career. Reading never became a pleasurable activity for me. I missed reading the classics, much to my detriment.
Over the years, I have displayed some competence in various artistic mediums: drawing, painting, woodcraft, story-telling, and cooking. Then I started writing, and it became a passion. I have taken many classes, and some teachers have had a profound impact on my writing.
Tell us about your writing process: I arise early each day and make my wife’s coffee (a survival technique I learned early.) Depending on the priorities of the day, I make time most mornings to review and edit what I worked on the previous day. I try to dedicate an hour or two each day to writing new material or making revisions to pieces that are my focus at that time. If I do not manage to find time, I do not judge myself but try to use my sense of frustration as an impetus for the following day.
Do I kill popular characters? Yes. My novels are thrillers. I think in my first novel, more characters are dead than alive in the end. And several of the dead are good/popular characters. One of my favorite characters in that first novel is among the dead, and I still grieve their loss. Reading that section still causes my eyes to tear up. A few beta-readers admitted they cried when that death happened.
How do you raise the stakes for the protagonist? One of my teachers frequently tells me to keep winding up the tension and never let it go. I understand this and try to do that. But I do find when a sub-plot comes to its termination, then along with that, some of the protagonist’s tension is released. So in my novel, the tension is more like waves with spikes along them. Even though some tension may be released at times, it still adds to the overall tension.
How did I come up with Character Names. Most of my main characters are Arabic. So names like Joan, Paul, Marge, and Randy are inappropriate. Thankfully, lists of Arabic names can be found on the web. I have selected names with which I am comfortable, and I hope readers will not trip over. I have tried to have each name start with a different letter for easier recognition. In the forward to each book, I have listed out the main characters and their relationship so that readers have a quick reference, e.g. Rashid is married to Fatima.
Do I outline, or am I a pantser? At heart, I am a pantser, but I will admit that I have my thoughts reasonably outlined in my head before I tackle a section. What fascinates me is how my mind conjures up a scenario that appears on the page/screen without me consciously thinking about it. Sometimes, as I fathom out how to write a section, I will realize in my wordy/ugly first draft I left a hook or a character that will allow for a smooth continuance of the current storyline.
Sources of Expertise / Advice. I have read posts, articles, and books about the book’s locations, particularly from current day journalists. Also, I found a local Islamic Center and talked with one of the leaders about these novels. He gave me some useful information and encouraged me to continue working on them. He agreed that, basically, Syrian refugees are people who have been forced out of their homeland by violence and intimidation. They are desperate to find a safe environment in which to raise their children. They are no more inherently violent than we are.
Going forward, I have plenty of work integrating the comments that I received from beta readers and improving the readers’ experience of the novel. After that, I will reach out to a few agents and publishers. If those connections raise no interest, I am prepared to self-publish, which I did for my memoir.
A reader of this post may be able to assist me with achieving one of my next steps. Does anyone know a Syrian or a person from the Middle East who may be willing to read the revised beta draft of the novel? I would be appreciative if anybody could suggest a female as the book addresses gender roles in Syrian society. But I am looking for any person from that region who may be willing to review the revised draft.
My website can be found at: www.BDHWrites.com
My blog can be found at: www.BDHWrites.com/blog
My email address is: BDHWrites@gmail.com
Patti is the co-executive producer for a television series in pre-production titled THUMBS UP! about a boy with Autism and his special dog with opposable thumbs. She is the author of over seventy-five books and over two hundred fifty works in progress. Patti is the very first author to be chosen as a judge for the PBS KIDS GO contest to present the awards as well. She has been an educator, an agent, and an editor. Currently, she sits at home writing in pajamas in Las Vegas, NV, with her three world domination dogs.
England’s most famous witch trial took place in Lancashire in 1612. Ten of the so-called Pendle Witches were hanged at Lancaster Castle after being deemed guilty of witchcraft. Their ghosts reputedly haunt the village of Newchurch, where one of the witches is said to be buried.
Gwen Winter and her two brothers, Lance and Merle, travel to England with their Father to visit their Aunt. Gwen knows what she wants to see and do while there. She is determined to solve a mystery centuries-long, to search for clues of what happened to the sisters Pendle and why they had been accused.
Gwen finds out she has been carrying a family secret that will haunt her for the rest of her life. Will she be able to deal with the new found information long enough to solve the mystery, or will she fall into the deep dark folds of the family secret?
Find out in this first installment of the Ghost Tales Mystery Series, The Pendleton Witches.
Do you write in more than one genre? Actually yes! I write in cozy mystery, thriller, horror, MG, YA, Steampunk, Gaslamp, romance, rom-com, paranormal, fantasy, and many sub-genres
What brought you to writing? I have always dabbled in writing ever since I was a kid. I read a great deal also. My writing inspiration began when I started writing skits for plays when I was young. We used to put on a play once a week for the neighborhood kids and charge them five cents to watch. From there, I went on to work part-time for a newspaper, and the rest is history.
Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? I have an in-home office. I always write with some kind of background noise. If I get a phone call or someone pops in via social media, I sometimes welcome the distraction.
Tell us about your writing process: Hmm. I don’t have a process per se; I write when the bug bites. I normally try to write something every day after I sit down and check through email, have coffee, spend time with my pups or sit outside, depending on the weather. My writing time is usually done during the morning hours and falls into the afternoon.
What is the most challenging part of your writing process? Motivation! I’m a HUGE procrastinator! And writer’s block.
What are you currently working on? I have several books I’m currently working on at the moment. Cozy, primarily paranormal.
Has an association membership helped you with your writing? Tremendously! Years ago, I joined RWA and the local chapter in the state I was living in at the time. Back then, we were one of the largest with the most published authors. I learned a great deal from them over the years I was a member. I highly suggest to any writer to join as many as you can find.
Who’s your favorite author? Diana Gabaldon. She penned the Outlander series.
How long did it take you to write your first book? Eight months was A LOT of trial and error.
How long to get it published? One year with a traditional publisher back in 1989
We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave or run wild? Oh dear lord! Mine are always running amok in my brain!
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I used to be a pantser, but now I’ve finally learned, after 43 years, to outline and plot!
What is the best book you have ever read? G WELLS WAR OF THE WORLDS! I was thirteen years old and used to run home from school just to read all 600 pages of it!
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? Completing our television show, having many books on the best sellers list and published with two of my bucket list publishers.
Do you have any advice for new writers? Yes! STUDY the craft. Anyone can write a book…it takes great skill to write a GREAT one. Do your homework!
Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and your books? Our books are for everyone. We write books for children as young as two years old through adult. Our books are clean reads so every age can enjoy them. I write spooky, so anyone who reads RL Stine, Stephen King, and Dean Koonz will enjoy my books. I also write outside that box, so there are books for everyone.
How do our readers contact you? https://www.facebook.com/pattipetronemiller
Millicent Eidson is the author of the alphabetical Maya Maguire microbial mystery series. The MayaVerse at https://drmayamaguire.com includes prequels, “El Chinche” in Danse Macabre and “What’s Within” in Fiction on the Web, and a side story, “Pérdida” in El Portal Literary Journal. Author awards include Best Play in Synkroniciti and Honorable Mention from the Arizona Mystery Writers. Those who join the Reader List will receive a free e-book copy of “Monuments,” the 10-minute play taking place in the Santa Fe, New Mexico Plaza.
Dr. Eidson teaches a course about animal diseases (zoonoses) at the University of Vermont Larner College of Medicine. Her work as a public health veterinarian and epidemiologist began with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It continued at the New Mexico and New York state health departments.
Millicent critiques the twist ending of the award-winning film “The Power of the Dog” based on research for her first novel “Anthracis: A Microbial Mystery.” (152) The Power of the Dog: Confused by the Surprise Twist Ending? – YouTube
What’s your latest book title? “Borrelia: A Microbial Mystery” will be published in June 2022, first in e-book, then paperback, hardcover, and large print formats https://drmayamaguire.com/borrelia
Tell us a bit about Borrelia: As she begins a second year with the CDC, veterinarian Maya Maguire has had no time to recover from Arizona anthrax and its fallout on those closest to her. Squiggly spirochete bacteria transmitted by blood-sucking lice and ticks challenge her developing confidence while she manages an arrogant trainee. Immigrant-associated Borrelia in Europe during a summer heatwave is a chance to escape the overwhelming demands and one more opportunity to succeed.
What brought you to writing? Like many authors, a love of reading is my foundation for writing. I was blessed with book-obsessed parents who taught me to read by age two, so I’ve been absorbing written language before my first memory. When my grandfather gave me the complete works of Shakespeare at age seven, I was hooked. I wrote at every opportunity, although keeping a journal about my own life bored me.
Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? Unfortunately, having retired to a small apartment, I don’t have a separate office. So my computer table is in the corner of the combination dining room, living room, and kitchen. Fortunately, playing classical music from a local public radio station keeps me focused, and periodic gazes out at spectacular Lake Champlain keeps me peaceful.
Tell us about your writing process. I’m more alert and energetic for writing first drafts in the morning. I’ll take a lunch break, then work on editing for my writing workshops or promotional efforts. I learn so much from receiving and giving feedback, so it’s a major commitment to my process.
Who’s your favorite author? As mentioned previously, I can never get enough Shakespeare. For mysteries, having grown up in the Southwest, no one can match Tony Hillerman. With my novels having a medical twist, my queen is Tess Gerritsen.
How do you come up with character names? Choosing character names is fun. Sometimes it’s a nod or wink to family and friends. If the character represents a group or profession, I’ll look up real names and combine them in different ways while still keeping the sense of authenticity.
What is the most challenging thing about writing characters from the opposite sex? Fortunately, my husband is my first reader, so he’ll give me advice about male characters. He thought the male cowboy veterinarian who works for the U.S. Department of Agriculture was similar to some of my veterinary school classmates. So I doubled down on that character, and he has been a leading colleague and friend for my protagonist.
Do your protagonists ever disappoint you? Of course. There are a number of ways in which my protagonists differ from me, even though I use my own experiences in public health work. Borrelia, has a “Me, Too” subtheme. The protagonist’s decision-making is the subject of considerable debate, similar to the famous cases in real-life. The third book about coronavirus planned for late 2022 has three female protagonists, all balancing personal and professional lives. They make some difficult choices that are different than my own.
Do you ever kill a popular character? In the first draft of Anthracis, Maya Maguire’s love interest did not survive. All it took was a couple of early readers to suggest changing that ending, and I made the adjustment. Readers of Borrelia will be glad I did!
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? It’s a joy to sit at my computer and jump into my characters’ lives without knowing what they will do next. For me, immersion in their thoughts and feelings is the best way to make them vibrant for the reader.
What kind of research do you do? Despite being a pantser, my novels are solidly grounded in real science about these pathogens. PubMed is my source for finding old and new peer-reviewed scientific journal articles to augment my training and experience. CDC’s MMWR is a goldmine for breaking news about disease outbreaks. Because vivid settings are very important, I always research them even when they’re ones I’ve experienced.
Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? In my fiction reading, I like recognizing a location, so I generally use real ones. I want readers to experience my settings with all of their senses. For events that might be upsetting, I’ll create a fictional business. For agencies or groups that are real and can’t be changed, the characters and their actions are my creation, like an alternate universe where the real people and how they would handle their jobs are replaced by my fictional ones.
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? Because I’m planning an alphabetical microbial mystery series, I have more fascinating diseases and Maya Maguire’s character growth to share. For the third coronavirus novel, other characters take center stage for earlier outbreaks called SARS and MERS. It’s great looking forward to giving readers different perspectives on the unending battle against mysterious microbes.
How do our readers contact you?
Vinnie Hansen fled the howling winds of South Dakota and headed for the California coast the day after high school graduation.
A two-time Claymore Award finalist, she’s the author of the Carol Sabala mystery series, the novel Lostart Street, and over forty short works.
She claims to be still sane(ish) after 27 years of teaching high school English, despite the evidence of her tickling the ivories with ukulele bands. Vinnie lives in Santa Cruz with her husband and the requisite cat.
ONE GUN – After the Russos interrupt a burglary, they race to find the thief’s tossed handgun before his cohorts do; when two tweeners find it first, the characters find themselves on a collision course with tragic consequences.
What brought you to writing? I’m tacking “One Gun” on to this question.
One Gun has its roots in two real events. The first was the burglary of our house. The day before Thanksgiving, my husband and I came home from grocery shopping to find a thief leaving our house with a backpack stuffed with our belongings.
As I called 9-1-1, my husband gave chase. The burglar stopped, pulled a gun, aimed it at my husband’s head, and threatened to kill him.
Yet, when the young man continued to flee, my husband resumed his pursuit, thinking, I guess, that the thief couldn’t fire while running. However, he wheeled around with the semi-automatic while frantically dumping the items he’d stolen.
I won’t go into more detail except to say my husband didn’t die, and the burglar was apprehended but after he’d ditched the gun.
Sandy Hook was the second event that contributed to the writing of this book. All shootings are horrible. But as a retired teacher, I’m most deeply disturbed by the massacres at schools. And out of all these, Sandy Hook still distresses me the most. Twenty children were slaughtered. The innocence of the victims makes my stomach shrivel. The courage of the six school employees who died trying to protect them moves me to tears. And then there are the images of the children leaving the school. Terror stamped on their faces. They’ll carry the trauma for a lifetime.
My personal experience followed by this horrific national experience solidified that I wanted to use my writing ability to somehow address gun violence.
Yet, preachiness is a fatal flaw in fiction. I needed a good story. Our burglary wasn’t enough.
But what about the story of the gun used in the burglary? What happened to it? It was never recovered.
Do you base any of your characters on real people? As mentioned above, the burglary of our house was a catalyst for One Gun. A similar scene opens the book, although it serves only as a McGuffin to launch the story of the gun.
In the early drafts, the main characters, Ben and Vivi Russo, bore a remarkable resemblance to my husband and me.
While my husband and I are somewhat interesting people, we make boring characters. As do most “real” people. Real people—like real dialog—are not the stuff of good fiction.*
The biggest changes between the first draft of One Gun and draft 11C were to Ben and Vivi Russo—the two characters people are still bound to equate with my husband and me. However, Ben has gained a background entirely different from my husband’s. He’s no longer Jewish. He grew up in a different city, had a different career, and enjoys a different passion.
aining the distance to treat Vivi and Ben like characters is a huge part of why this novel took so long to write. Struggling to the point of artifice made One Gun a much better book.
*(There are exceptions, like my father, who was, as people say, a character.)
What are you currently working on? I never envisioned One Gun as the start of a series. However, publishers like the idea an author might be good for more than one book, so as soon as I had a complete draft of One Gun, I started a companion novel titled Crime Writer.
The books are connected by place. Both are set in Playa Maria, a fictionalized Santa Cruz (central coast of California). A few minor characters reappear in the second book, and there are a couple of references to the crime that occurred in One Gun. Both titles, though, could be read as a stand-alone.
Unlike One Gun, which has multiple points of view as the reader follows the trail of the gun, Crime Writer has a single protagonist, crime writer Zoey Kozinski. She’s had early success with her books but is currently stuck on the second book for a two-book contract. The story opens with Zoey on a police ride-along which ends up jump starting a lot more than her stalled writing.
I have a complete first draft of Crime Writer. Who knows how many drafts there will be? Perhaps fewer than with One Gun because I don’t have to work through personal issues to get to the story, and it doesn’t have the challenging multiple points of view.
On the other hand, every new piece of writing seems to raise my standards.
The virtual launch for One Gun will be via Bookshop Santa Cruz on Tuesday, June 28th, at 6 p.m. (Pacific Time). You can sign up for the Zoom event on Bookshop’s Events Page. Vinnie will be interviewed by Edgar-nominated author Susan Bickford, past president of the NorCal Chapter of Sisters in Crime.
Learn more about Vinnie at Vinnie Hansen
Lisa Towles is an award-winning crime novelist and a passionate speaker on fiction writing, creativity, and Strategic Self Care. Lisa has eight crime novels in print with a new title, a political thriller entitled The Ridders, forthcoming in November 2022. Lisa’s last four books have won numerous awards, including a First Place Win in the category of Mystery/Crime for her new series thriller, Hot House. Lisa is an active member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She has an MBA in IT Management and works full-time in the tech industry in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Hot House – PI Mari Ellwyn brings on a new partner to investigate the blackmailing of a federal judge, two missing journalists, and a dead college student.
What is the most challenging part of your writing process? Since Covid, I’ve found it increasingly difficult to manage my emotions well enough to be able to tap into my “create” energy and do it with consistency. It’s challenging to balance a general awareness of what’s going on in our world without getting pulled into the resulting emotional vortex, and that vortex can very easily derail my normal writing focus. I’m pretty good about getting myself back on track, and our daily drop-in writing events through Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America are such a wonderful resource in that context. I’m endlessly grateful for my writing friends and peers.
What are you currently working on? My new thriller, Hot House, the first in my new E&A series, is releasing on June 15. I’m working hard to promote that title through community events, digital media promotion, and engaging with readers. I’m also writing a new international thriller, struggling to find a daily writing groove with it, but I’m excited about the story, and I’ve got about 13k words so far.
What kind of research do you do, and did you base the location of Hot House on real places? I’m excited to answer this question because I got to research Hot House with my sister, who lives on the East Coast, and that was a very special trip for us. She flew out to LA, and I drove down, and we spent a week exploring parts of LA, Beverly Hills, and all the way down to San Diego to bring extra authenticity to the story. There’s a coffeehouse down there that I mention several times – a place called Cognoscenti’s that my main character, Mari, loves. So, all three of the E&A Series books take place in different parts of California.
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? My political thriller, The Ridders, will be published on November 30, 2022, and the next book in the E&A Series, Salt Island, will be released in June of 2023.
Do you have any advice for new writers? Write when you have the ENERGY to write. We’re all so busy that things always get in the way, so if you have a sudden passion to write at two in the morning or are about to eat lunch, pause whatever you’re doing and jump on it to capture that energy while it’s hot! You might be a little tired the next morning, but you’ll be glad you did.
Where can readers learn about Hot House? The Hot House page on my publisher’s website, indiesunited.net/hot-house, contains a Sneak Peek link to read the first two chapters, the book trailer, a synopsis, and editorial reviews.
Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and your books? If you read my last book, Ninety-Five, or when you read Hot House, please leave a positive review on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Goodreads if you enjoyed it. There’s almost nothing more important and valuable to a book’s success than positive reader reviews, and they’re a wonderful way to demonstrate support for authors and the books they spend so much time writing.
How do our readers contact you?