Millicent Eidson creates mystery/romantic suspense/women’s fiction mashups where the criminals are invisible disease organisms. Her previous blog is MILLICENT EIDSON – Veterinarian – Epidemiologist – Author – Author George Cramer (gdcramer.com). After a career as a public health veterinarian with CDC and two state health departments, she uses fiction to communicate One Health | CDC. She’s a member of Sisters in Crime (https://www.sistersincrime.org/) and Vermont-based Burlington Writers Workshop (https://bwwvt.org/). Her indie publishing company Maya Maguire Media released novels “Anthracis” (2021) and “Borrelia” (2022), plus “Microbial Mysteries: A Story Collection” (2023).
Her latest novel, Corona (Aug. 2023). Veterinarian Maya Maguire nears the end of her training as one of CDC’s epidemic shock troops. Assigned to the pandemic, her origin story comes full circle like an ouroboros—a dragon eating its tail.
As an author of medical thrillers, I’m often asked, “Why are you independent?” My short answer: Time, money, and control.
Retired from full-time public health work, I relish the independent author process—writing, publishing, and communicating with readers through promotion and marketing. Typically, I perfect a book for two years before release. I dedicate lots of time to writers workshops and editing to polish what I hope is a gem.
Like many authors, I initially explored traditional publishing by reaching out to small presses and literary agents who work with large publishers. But the more I learned about the process from my personal experience and the travails of other authors, I realized I’d have to make too many compromises.
Some fear that indie authors will publish inferior work without traditional publishers acting as gatekeepers. However, the amount of time and expertise these agencies bring to each author’s work can be variable. The book will be released on the publisher’s schedule, may take several years on the publishing timetable even if all goes well, and will earn the author a fraction of its sales revenues. Too many authors start out excited when they get an agent, then have to start over with changes in the agent, editor, or publisher. Depending on the contract, an author may not fully own their book.
Assistance and quality control can be obtained in multiple ways. Workshops, academic classes, support groups, social media, blogs, and podcasts offer ways to improve a writer’s craft. Some elements can be contracted out, one at a time or as a bundle, including editing, cover design, and printing/distribution. Hybrid publishing combines elements of traditional and self-publishing. I highly recommend the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi), https://www.allianceindependentauthors.org/, including its list of approved services. Some individuals or companies charge too much and deliver too little—be careful.
Learning the steps required for indie authors is daunting but fun. If approaching creative writing through the lens of lifelong learning, every aspect can be a joy. I’m a photographer and love spending hours editing my photos with Adobe Photoshop when designing my book covers. I’m a control freak who hates hyphens breaking up words at the ends of lines. I can turn those off and format my print books using Adobe InDesign, so each page looks exactly as I want, almost like the old typesetting process where every letter was placed in a tray. But I have even more control—through kerning (proportional spacing), I decide how close I want the letters next to each other, in a line, page, or the entire novel. I chose a 12.5 font to make the print easier for older readers.
Another major decision point is where and how to distribute one’s books. I’m a ‘wide’ author, which means I abhor exclusivity. I want to give readers every chance to find my books, no matter how they want to do that. I publish ebooks through Draft2Digital (D2D), which creates an EPUB file from Microsoft Word and distributes ebooks everywhere. At the same time, I upload directly to Amazon Kindle (not Kindle Unlimited, which prohibits publishing anywhere else). For print books (paperbacks, hardcovers, and large print), I publish through Amazon KDP and IngramSpark, which distributes to bookstores and libraries. That means I have two companies to work with in submitting each format for publication and receiving sales income, so four processes overall.
Indie authors who want even greater control, especially for the broadest access to promotions, prefer working with more publishers directly. So they’ll submit books to Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, etc., then stay with D2D and IngramSpark to reach the remaining outlets. An indie author has total control over their bandwidth for working with many book distributors.
Every day, it’s my choice to start creating chapters for the latest novel in my alphabetical series. Later in the day, I can work on editing and formatting my most recent novel, that’s finished the workshop process and is ready for publication. Finally, I can choose how much time I spend reaching out to readers through my newsletter, social media, book clubs, or other options. I can prioritize free promotional activities that require much time (like blogging) versus costly advertisements. Depending on other aspects of my life, I have complete flexibility in these decisions—work-life balance.
Each author can determine which part of the writing business they wish to commit to. But every time parts of publishing are delegated to someone else, the author spends money and loses control of the process. I enjoy tweaking my books and republishing them in the middle of the night if I get an idea of how to improve them. This week, it was adding a direct link at the end of each ebook to the subsequent one rather than just a link to my website. Have fun figuring out your own game plan!
website: HOME | DrMayaMaguire: “Pariah,” an experimental mystery/magical realism short story, is free with signups to my Reader list
Millicent Eidson | LinkedIn
Millicent Eidson (@EidsonMillicent) / Twitter
Millie Eidson (@drmayamaguire) • Instagram photos and videos
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?
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.
Dr. Eidson’s work as a public health veterinarian and epidemiologist began with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and continued at the New Mexico and New York state health departments. She is a public health faculty member at the University at Albany and the University of Vermont.
Book title? “Anthracis: A Microbial Mystery” was published wide October 2021 in e-book, paperback, hardcover, and large print formats ANTHRACIS (drmayamaguire.com)
Book blurb? In the hottest summer on record, the spectacular southwestern desert is alive with Bacillus anthracis spores. Maya Maguire, the new veterinarian with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, battles the largest anthrax outbreak in U.S. history. Anthracis takes us to the front lines with scientists betting their lives on the investigation outcome.
How long did it take you to write your first book? After being encouraged to turn a short story into a novel by a college professor, the first draft of “Anthracis” was written in just a month. I was obsessed with getting my story into the computer, sometimes writing for twenty-hour stretches.
How long to get it published? I workshopped “Anthracis” and edited it for two years before independent publication. I queried agents for a year of that time period and received positive feedback on my writing style. But there were elements they wanted changed to fit the current market, which I wasn’t willing to compromise on.
Do you write in more than one genre? Medical Thriller, Mystery, Romantic Suspense, Women’s Fiction – My novels are a genre mashup—a cross between Tony Hillerman and Tess Gerritsen. My medical detective solves disease outbreak mysteries with microbes as the criminals. Over the timeline of the alphabetical series, readers will share Dr. Maya Maguire’s life journey, worldwide travel, romances, and warm friendships. Short stories, a play, and a poem also allow me to stretch writing styles and points of view. Although not a requirement for mysteries, my novels all end with Maya achieving a Happy for Now (HFN) conclusion, hinting at the mystery to come in the next one.
What are you currently working on? I’m immersed in the series author challenge of letting potential readers know about “Anthracis,” editing “Borrelia,” and writing the first draft of “Corona.”
We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave, or do they run the show? Although the science is fact-based, I’m a “pantser,” and the characters have minds of their own. I sit down at the computer with them and see what they passionately want to achieve and what obstacles are standing in their way. Some secondary characters performing a function in the mystery investigation come to life and demand equal time on the stage.
Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? I believe subplots are essential for an entertaining, educational, and enlightening read. The world is complex, and our fictional characters should face tough challenges like we do. They should interact with diverse, rounded secondary characters when possible. I like to have at least one subplot or theme beyond the microbial mystery in each novel. Climate change will interweave the stories when appropriate depending on its influence on the microbes and animals. For “Anthracis,” Maya’s sense of being an outcast as a rare Asian in the Southwest resonates with anthrax threats to those crossing the international border.
What is the most challenging part of your writing process? My mysteries are science-based. I incorporate real details about the diseases and investigation process into the novels, applying them to fictional settings and characters. Making the science clear and emotionally compelling is challenging. The third novel is particularly difficult because I focus on the connection of coronaviruses in animals and people during past and current outbreaks. The timeline for my fictional characters is even more tightly woven into real life because we’re living through COVID, but the novel shares mysteries not commonly known.
Has an association membership helped you or your writing? I can’t imagine improving my writing skill or being brave enough to publish without the months workshopping my short stories and novel chapters with Burlington Writers Workshop, Green Mountain Writers, and Sisters in Crime. For publishing, the Alliance of Independent Authors and the Authors Guild offer invaluable information.
How do you use social media to communicate with readers? FaceBook offers incredibly supportive groups like Wide for the Win. I’m also on Twitter as @EidsonMillicent and Instagram as @drmayamaguire. My Readers who sign up at HOME (drmayamaguire.com) for my newsletter are a core source of support, and I periodically reward them with writing not available elsewhere. Currently, Readers will be emailed a free e-book and pdf copy of my award-winning short play “Monuments” about a pivotal night in the Santa Fe Plaza during summer 2020 and the movement to re-examine how we honor our heroes.
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I continue to hone my writing craft and share the MayaVerse with readers. I hope to publish two of the microbial mysteries each year. My ability needs to expand in reaching readers drawn to vivid characters in vibrant settings who want to make the world a better place with their work and relationships.
Do you have any advice for new writers? Strive to perfect your writing skills. Seek out university and other courses to optimize it. Develop a thick skin and seek feedback on drafts. Do everything possible to create a polished book that reflects your very best effort before starting the query process for traditional publishing or the steps for independent publishing. But you can still honor your unique vision. Ask yourself—what does this story bring to the world that’s not already in it?
Millicent discusses her first novel “Anthracis: A Microbial Mystery” at Microbial Mystery Author Dr. Millicent Eidson on Big Blend Radio – YouTube.
She can be found on Twitter, @EidsonMillicent, and Instagram, @drmayamaguire.