Terry Shames writes the popular Samuel Craddock series, set in the fictional town of Jarrett Creek, Texas. Nominated for numerous awards, she won the Macavity Award for Best First Novel, and her fifth novel won an RT Reviews award.
Terry’s latest book, Murder at the Jubilee Rally, is set at a motorcycle rally at the lake outside Jarrett Creek and includes a lot of the mayhem you might expect from a motorcycle rally—including murder. For more about Terry and to sign up for her newsletter and/ or purchase her books, visit www.Terryshames.com.
I thought since I’m at Bouchercon this week, I’d write about the conference and what I get out of it.
Bouchercon long before I was a writer. I had friends who wrote crime fiction, and they urged me to come as a fan. I loved it! And when I started writing crime fiction, I knew where to go for contacts, information, and support. This conference provides all of that!
For me, Bouchercon this year meant more than “talking crime.” I moved to Southern California a year ago, and settling into a new place has been challenging. I miss my old friends! I think it’s only now that I realize how profoundly the pandemic affected our lives. If there had been no pandemic, I would have gotten oriented at in-person meetings with both Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America in SoCal. Still, with in-person meetings rare to non-existent, I have found it sadly difficult to get established with writer friends in my new area.
So I was especially excited to attend Bouchercon for the first time since Dallas, 2019. It would be a chance to sit down and get to know people from SoCal, and it would also give me a chance to see old friends from the NorCal chapters. People like Susan Bickford, Diana Chambers, Ana Manwaring, Daisy Bateman, and Reece Hirsch, among others.
What is Bouchercon for if it isn’t to mingle and chat? The answer to that question is more complicated than just “mingle and chat.” Mingling and chatting with fans is always a pleasure, and since Bouchercon is primarily a fan conference, you hope to get some of that. But mingling and chatting with other authors is satisfying in a different way.
I ran into Lou Berney the first night of the conference, and we talked about why it was so wonderful to see our fellow authors in person. We agreed that authors are the only people who truly understand the challenges we go through as writers. The triumphs are easy to share with non-writers. But the daily grind of writing an xxx number of words, the frustration when you hit snags in your plot, or you realize you haven’t really got a handle on your characters is harder to convey to non-writers.
Most “civilians” will listen politely to complaints about a writer’s trouble, but a deep understanding is only possible with people who have been through it. And often, talking through your current frustrations with another author can help you get clarity and solve the problem. For example, who but another writer can understand and sympathize deeply with my most recent problem: I realized that I had written my action scenes backwards, that one event needed to happen before another. Changing it was a nightmare. Every writer I’ve shared that with has laughed along with me and immediately grasped the difficulty of the details that had to be addressed with the change. Non-writers look baffled.
Another thing that writers share at a conference is “the publishing situation”—the complaints, the triumphs, the questions: why isn’t my novel being picked up? Why did my publisher go out of business? Why did my publisher suddenly veer toward cozies and away from thrillers or vice versa? The answer always seems to be Publishing is going through a profound change. What a sentence that is! Publishing is always going through a change.
I’m not sure I’ve ever met an author who is perfectly happy with their publisher. There’s always that “little problem.” A best-selling author’s problems may be light years away from the problems a mid-list writer is facing, but there are always glitches. It’s an endless source of conversation among writers. Happily, “publishers” don’t usually include “editors. Many writers idolize their editors.
Add to this the conversations (usually whispered) about agents—do you need an agent? How do you get one? How do you know which one is right for you? How do you keep one? When is it time to move on? It’s part of the chat.
One thing that is often under-appreciated is panels. I’ve heard authors dismiss panels as something they aren’t interested in, but I think they’re missing a bet. At a “fan” conference like Bouchercon, often panel discussions are more geared toward readers than writers. But even those panels can be helpful to writers. For example, I attended a panel on family dynamics in crime fiction, and there were some golden answers to questions that I tucked away for use in my work. The panels are varied, and it’s a chance to hear what authors have to say about their process and their product. It’s a chance to find out new ways of promoting your work. And it can be a way of seeing your own work in a new light. Not to mention the chance to hear ideas that may spark your creative juices. When you are a panel participant, it gives you the opportunity to introduce your work to new readers.
I was thrilled to find that although this year’s Bouchercon was held just a couple of weeks before my next book comes out, the bookstore actually had a few copies of it. Murder at the Jubilee Rally will be the ninth book in my Samuel Craddock series and will be published by my new publisher, Severn House, in hardcover and e-book on October 4. The paperback will come out in a few months. I love the cover.
And here’s how I’m promoting the book at Bouchercon—wearing a motorcycle vest advertising “Jubilee Motorcycle Rally, Jarrett Creek, Texas.”
To end, I’ll paraphrase a quote I just heard that William Kent Krueger made in a recent interview: Make a commitment (to your writing) and stick to it! That’s the kind of advice you can get at Bouchercon than can change your writing!
Dr. Katherine Ramsland teaches forensic psychology at DeSales University in Pennsylvania, where she is the Assistant Provost. She has appeared as an expert in criminal psychology on more than 200 crime documentaries and magazine shows, is an executive producer of Murder House Flip, and has consulted for CSI, Bones, and The Alienist. The author of more than 1,500 articles and 69 books, including The Forensic Science of CSI, The Forensic Psychology of Criminal Minds, How to Catch a Killer, The Psychology of Death Investigations, and Confession of a Serial Killer: The Untold Story of Dennis Rader, The BTK Killer, she was co-executive producer for the Wolf Entertainment/A&E four-part documentary based on the years she spent talking with Rader. Ramsland consults on death investigations, talks to killers, pens a blog for Psychology Today, and is writing a fiction series based on a female forensic psychologist who manages a private investigation agency.
Elevator Pitch for I Scream Man: Forensic psychologist Annie Hunter’s PI team plunges into a perilous case of missing kids and a well-connected network of sex traffickers.
In which genres do you write? I started publishing in the mid-1980s, so I’ve covered a range of genres, mostly in nonfiction: biographies, adventure memoirs, travel, true-crime, writing craft, psychology, paranormal, encyclopedias, scientific analyses, textbooks, and even a cookbook. I’ve also written scripts and treatments for Hollywood. With fiction, I’ve published horror, paranormal urban fantasy, and now my private investigation series. I find that there’s a lot of cross-fertilization.
What inspired your current work, the Nut Crackers Investigation series? I teach forensic psychology, including a course called Psychological Sleuthing, on the psychology of investigation (which I designed and for which I wrote the textbook). I also consult on unusual cases, so it was natural to base a character and her investigative team on what I do. I’ve written a lot of nonfiction on forensic science, psychology, and investigation, so I’ve developed a network of consultants – and some are real characters. In the series, I connect Annie Hunter’s team to whatever consultant she might need, from digital to anthropology to meteorology (yes, there’s forensic meteorology!). Between access to plenty of cases, conversations with multiple offenders, and teamwork with many different professionals, I have a solid set-up for creating plots and characters.
How do you incorporate research or true events into your fiction? I generally start with a twisty crime I’ve come across that will call on my characters’ unique skills. On my core team is a cadaver dog handler, a PI who’s also an artist, and a psychologist with a specialty in suicidology and staged scenes. I research the crime, especially in legal documents, and sometimes talk to key personnel (including offenders). Then, like Law & Order, I spin my fictional scenario. Since I also know the psychological literature, I’m careful to develop characters along realistic lines. One more dimension is that I use actual settings, so I go experience them. I take a lot of photos. For example, after I set a scene in a recreational area, I traveled there to see where I might place an inconspicuous grave. Sometimes the places I see inspire me to turn them into settings. The tower in Ireland that poet W. B. Yeats owned, for example.
You’ve written 70 books, along with multiple other types of projects, and you often write more than one at once. How do you keep them straight? I once heard that a change is as good as a rest. I find this to be true. I work on multiple projects at once – including my day job as a professor and assistant provost. Each provides inspiration for the others. I merely keep them in separate folders on my computer, or in separate piles on my office floor. But when I tire of one project, or finish one, I’m glad to have something else to keep the juices flowing. I have no time for postpartum writing grief because another project is calling for attention.
What is your writing process? I’ve written a book, Snap: Seizing your Aha! Moments, which describes one of the best things to do for the creative process. A lot of people believe that flashes of insight happen at random, but I’ve discovered that you can set yourself up for these to occur regularly. In the book, I propose a program that I’ve found useful for generating the spark. I call it a “snap,” because the flash of genius that really counts is insight plus momentum – it snaps you toward action. It resolves your impasse. First, you create your mental salad. You really work at it, gathering all kinds of info and experiences to toss in. Use a routine so you can tap into body memories, too. Then you relax in whatever way works for you. For me, it’s walking. During this time, you let the brain’s association network mix and match to come up with a plot twist, a new character, the resolution of a scene, etc. I’ve been counting on this process for years. I love it.
What advice do you have for new writers? The most important thing a budding writer can do is to form a support group. This is not a critique group. It’s a small group of people who believe in their work and will be there to assure them when they have doubts. Maybe they’ll be proofreaders (mine are). Maybe they’re just cheerleaders. But they’re essential for the hard times that inevitably come to every writer.
You’ve been writing a blog for Psychology Today for ten years. What’s the theme? “Shadow-boxing,” the title and theme, is about our darkest impulses, as well as anything that may lurk beyond our awareness, “in the shadows.” I write a lot about crime and criminals, since that’s my primary field of expertise, but I also write about creativity, literature with dark edges, investigative techniques, and psychological conditions. Sometimes, I review books.
What can we look forward to in this series? I certainly hope readers will enjoy an investigative series with a deep dive into psychology. They’ll learn about psychological quirks as well as investigative tips. Since Annie Hunter is a forensic psychologist with private practice cases on the side, she has insight into criminal behavior that’s often missed by PIs and cops. Annie has a podcast, Psi Apps, and she’s open to a lot of oddities, including cases with paranormal aspects. And I hope to have weather events in every novel. Might be a hurricane, a tornado, a snowstorm, a flood. I love weather, and I love mysterious places. Wherever I go, I’ll take readers with me.
Annie Hunter’s House
How do our readers contact you? Readers can find me mostly on Facebook. I have three pages there. Also, the website has an email address.
Sisters in Crime
Writers Police Academy
Mystery Writers of America
Private Eye Writers of America
Lynn Wiese Sneyd is a professional writer and owner of LWS Literary Services, a boutique agency that coordinates book publicity campaigns for authors, assists with query letters and book proposals, and provides ghostwriting and editing services.
Her most recent books are The Horse Lover: A Cowboy’s Quest to Save the Wild Mustangs and Cowboy Up! Life Lessons from Lazy B, both of which she co-authored with H. Alan Day. A frequent presenter at writer’s conferences and workshops, Lynn is the literary consultant for the Tucson Festival of Books and the producer of “The Cowboy Up” podcast.
Before starting LWS Literary Services, Lynn served as the literary publicist for Russell Public Communications and a community relations manager at Barnes & Noble Booksellers. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a B.A. in English. A recipient of a Ragdale fellowship, Lynn currently resides in Tucson, AZ.
The Horse Lover was released in paperback on September 1, 2022, after eight years in hardcover. Lauded by Booklist in a starred review as “an instant classic, the award-winning memoir tells the story of the cowboy who started the first government-sponsored wild horse sanctuary and the adventures he had caring for and training 1500 wild mustangs. The University of Nebraska Press decided to publish a trade paperback version due to strong annual sales.
Do you write in more than one genre? Prior to ghostwriting The Horse Lover, I published a parenting book, some essays, and a handful of poems. My intention was to try my hand at fiction. But when Alan knocked on the door and shared his story, I knew his memoir needed to find a home. I edited the manuscript, but based on agents’ comments, we didn’t quite get the storytelling right. At my suggestion, Alan hired a few other editors. Again, no one was making the cut. One day, frustrated, I just blurted out, “Let me help you write it,” which was insane because I’d never written a memoir and had been on a horse only half a dozen times in my entire life. Alan, however, agreed. So we started from scratch and eventually figured out how to tell his story. I then went on to ghostwrite three other memoirs, one of them also with Alan.
What is the most challenging part of your writing process? Writing a creative nonfiction story, specifically a memoir means that you have to get the facts correct. Yes, some details rely on memory, but other details remain static over the years. The landscape in Arizona, for instance: is dusty, dry, and expansive. How does that differ from the landscape of the South Dakota Sand Hills? And how can you make the reader feel those differences? And what about the details of a ranch: the fencing, the corrals, the barn, the main house? As a ghostwriter, I had to rely on the author to share these details. Often, I corroborated my understanding of what I was hearing with facts and images researched on the Internet.
How do you go about writing something you don’t know? I still can’t believe I was involved in writing The Horse Lover. First of all, I grew up in Wisconsin riding a Schwinn bicycle, not a palomino, a paint, or any horse. Horses frightened me. Maybe that’s why I transferred from the horse-riding unit to the sailing unit at Girl Scout camp. So who ends up being my writing partner? Alan Day was one of the great American cowboys. Alan grew up on a 200,000-acre cattle ranch in southeastern Arizona, was practically raised on a horse, and had adventures that I only heard about on Netflix. I can’t tell you how often he described and diagramed what it was like being horseback in a football-field-sized corral with 100 frightened wild mustangs. Also, I really had to listen to his word choice and syntax and not insert my own versions, which tended to sound feminine. He’d usually catch the errors, and we’d have a good laugh and correct them. With all the memoirs, I probably spent as much time listening as writing.
Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? Captivating stories almost always have subplots. Sometimes I see them before I start writing. Other times, they present themselves. When I started writing The Horse Lover, I was concerned that the story, while fascinating, wasn’t enough for a full manuscript. It wasn’t until we were about one-third of the way through the manuscript that one of the main subplots presented itself. Alan was talking about the wild horses and absently said, “Reminds me of the time I roped a renegade bull.” I’m sorry, you did what??? It turns out the wild bull story was suspenseful and colorful and involved one of the horses he dearly loved. That’s when I started weaving stories about horses he had loved throughout his life into the wild horse narrative. 73,000 words later, we had a book!
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I’m finally trying my hand at fiction, something I’ve wanted to do for the past thirty years. I’m finishing the final draft of a novel that has to do with art and is set in the Midwest, where I grew up. It’s such a kick to create characters and a story. I’m eager to finish and see where the book lands.
For more information about The Horse Lover and Cowboy Up, visit www.alandayauthor.com.
For more information about LWS Literary Services, visit www.lwsliteraryservices.com.
And to listen to The Cowboy Up Podcast, tune in at https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-cowboy-up-podcast/id1521902050.
I’m a debut author, Canadian, and have just signed a two-book publication deal with Level Best Books. My first title, A Nice Place to Die, is due for release in early August 2022. Blood Relations, number two in the series, is due August 2023.
The books are set in Northern Ireland, where I was born and lived for over twenty years. They are police procedurals featuring DS Ryan McBride and his partner DS Billy Lamont, and while they deal with murder, I do add humour and focus on the setting and characters.
Like many of us, I’m sure, my journey to publication was long. I worked (in broadcasting) until I decided to take early retirement, write, and travel. Well, we all know what happened to travel!
As an unpublished writer, I entered a few competitions and won the Mainstream Mystery and Suspense Daphne du Maurier Award in 2019. I’ve been long-listed four times for the Crime Writers of Canada Arthur Ellis Awards, and I was finally shortlisted in the CWC Canadian Awards of Excellence in 2021.
I applied for a few grants to conferences. While I never received a grant, I did come to the attention of one of the committee members who had read and enjoyed my first few chapters. She asked me to send her the book to read. I did not, however, feel it was ready to send out for such professional scrutiny (she was a publisher!) and asked that she allow me some time. Two years later, with Covid in between and many more rewrites on my part, I resent the manuscript. This time she read the whole book and offered me a three-book contract. I ended up deciding to go with two books to start, publishing schedules are short, and I take a long time with my books!
I started out as a pantser. I wrote my first book, Abducted, in one linear process. Honestly, I can’t believe I did it that way. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. That manuscript, however, did get long-listed in the CWC annual awards competition. That gave me such a boost. I started my second book, the first in the Northern Ireland series. I began to write it the same way and quickly got lost in the plot. Frustrated, I took Simon Wood’s class, Plot Thickeners, via Sisters in Crime. He showed us how outlining and plotting out make life easier. I wouldn’t say I am a total outliner; I wish I was, but more like a hybrid.
I can’t say exactly the best book I ever read, but I love Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie series. I also love November Road by Lou Berney. I enjoy police procedurals so I must mention the wonderful British writer Susan Hill. And I just finished an older book, The Enchanted April, by Elizabeth von Arnim. It was fantastic.
The take-away for me on this journey is, don’t rush your work. Write the best book you can. Take classes, ask for help, write and rewrite. Join critique groups. Read in your genre and outside it. It’s taken me about four years to write A Nice Place to Die. The first edition of that manuscript was not very good. It’s a process. Certainly, for me, as a new writer, joining Sisters In Crime was the single most important thing I did—classes, critique partners, advice online, and making writer friends. Going to conferences is costly but worth it, and if you can afford a professional editor, so much the better. Enter competitions and apply for grants. Why not?
A Nice Place to Die is due for release in August 2022. – It’s 2016, and Northern Ireland remains a deeply divided province by years of distrust and hatred. But not all crimes are related to the troubles, and Northern Ireland’s past history is the least of Detective Sergeant Ryan McBride’s problems. He has enough to worry about with his latest murder inquiry. Unwilling to risk losing the case, he breaks the rules and fails to disclose a one-night stand he had with the victim. As to the investigation, it’s going nowhere fast as one-by-one, his prime suspects are murdered.
Blood Relations is due for release in August 2023 – Retired Chief Inspector Patrick Mullan is found brutally murdered in his bed. Ryan and Billy are called to his desolate country home to investigate. In their inquiry, they discover a man whose career was overshadowed by violence and corruption. Is the killer someone from Mullan’s past or his present? And who hated the man enough to kill him twice?
I’m a graduate of the Humber School for Writers in Toronto and BCAD, University of Ulster. I’m also a member of Sisters in Crime, Crime Writers of Canada, and the Suncoast Writer’s Guild.
Where can our readers contact you and order A Nice Place to Die?
Buy the book: https://amzn.to/3CGIzi0
My email is email@example.com
My website is jwoollcott.com