My Blog

ℹ️ Share Any Post From My Blog In 3 Clicks! Click Here To Learn More.
Sharing Posts To Social Media

Step 1: Select a post you would like to share by clicking the title from below. The blog will open on a separate page.

Step 2: On the resulting page, scroll to the bottom of the blog just above the comments section. Select a share icon.

Step 3: Customize & Post!

MARIKO TATSUMOTO – Romance – Thriller – Historical

Piano-playing, multi-award-winning author Mariko Tatsumoto immigrated to the U.S. from Japan with her family when she was eight. She was detoured from her passion of books by becoming the first Asian woman lawyer in Colorado. But like a pebble in a shoe, she couldn’t let go of her childhood dream and began writing novels. She lives in a small town in the Rocky Mountains, where she’s often found outdoors.

She is a member of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, Colorado Authors League, Historical Novel Society, and Romance Writers of America.

What is your latest book? BLOSSOMS ON A POISONED SEA is a thrilling coming-of-age romance based on the actual events of one of history’s most shocking industrial mercury poisoning disasters and corporate coverups that inspired Johnny Depp’s film Minamata. Two young people must fight a powerful corporation and the government to save their townspeople from a horrific neurological disease.

What made you write it? I recalled my mother showing me photojournalist W. Eugene Smith’s pictures of Minamata Disease victims in Life Magazine when I was young and wondered whatever happened to those people. I was horrified to learn there was no cure, and they kept suffering. I had to tell the world about the tragedy, which led to years of research. Ultimately, I decided to tell the story through two fictional characters.

What is it about? Yuki is the daughter of a poor fisherman. Kiyo is the son of a senior executive at Chisso. In 1956, they become friends, then gradually fell in love. But then all living things in the once beautiful Minamata Bay suddenly die. The impoverished people living around it begin suffering from a terrifying disease that causes agonizing pain, paralysis, and death … including Yuki’s family. As the sole wage earner, Yuki is reduced to low-paying, backbreaking work as a laborer and then as a housekeeper.

The city dwellers turn their backs on the dying fisherfolk. The corporation stonewalls, denying culpability. As the suffering spreads, Kiyo helps researchers find answers to the devastating neurological disease. But they’re blocked by the government and the corporate-influenced media.

Together, Yuki and Kiyo must fight the Japanese government and a powerful and ruthless corporation to save her family and the Bay.

Do you write in more than one genre? Yes. I published several middle-grade and Young Adult novels before turning to adult fiction. Without planning to do so, my books turned out to be primarily historical set in Japan or with Japanese protagonists, and often based on actual events:

AYUMI’S VIOLIN – set in 1959, drawing from my immigration experience
ACCIDENTAL SAMURAI SPY – set in 1868, inspired by the bloody political warfare to unify Japan under one rule
SWEPT AWAY – set in 2011, recounting the devastating tsunami in Japan
KIDNAPPED AT THE ICEFALL – contemporary novella set in Colorado
BLOSSOMS ON A POISONED SEA – set in the late 1950s in Minamata, Japan

I’ve also written two nonfictions: The Colorado Bed and Breakfast Guide and How To Write A Middle-Grade Book Kids Will Love

What kind of research do you do? Because my books are often based on actual events, I spend months or years studying the incidents, history, culture, politics, styles, and fashion around that time. This involves reading books and Internet sites and watching videos and movies made around that time. I sometimes need to learn a new sport. In Swept Away, I had to study sumo wrestling in order to write the lifestyle the protagonist must endure at a sumo training center. In Accidental Samurai Spy, I needed to learn the principles, techniques, and styles of sword fighting. A climber friend showed me the ropes of rock and ice climbing for Kidnapped at the Icefall. These sports were fascinating to learn.

What obstacles do you face when writing about historical figures? Despite painstaking hours of research, gaps in historical records pose challenges. In those instances, it may mean revising a part of the plot or a scene. I exercise creative license but try to maintain authenticity the best I can.

Going back in time half a century or more means that information at the time was all in print. If the place or incident is not well known, not many articles or books may have been written about it.

Do you ever kill a popular character? If so, what happens to your story? I often kill a likable character in a book. Sometimes several. These events force the protagonist to rethink life, learn, and make changes they would never have made. Readers remember and tell friends of these memorable moments. Shocking scenes stay with them, which is what writers want.

What are you currently working on? It’s another history fiction set in a World War II internment camp where Japanese Americans were incarcerated. Mine is different from other books written about the imprisonment because the subject matters I delve into were too shameful for the internees to have disclosed. That’s the part I like.

marikotatsumoto.com
marikotatsumoto@gmail.com
Instagram: @marikotatsumotoauthor
FB: MarikoTatsumotoAuthor
Twitter (X): @MarikoTatsumoto

George’s Conference Recommendation for 2024 – And Beyond

I’ve attended the Public Safety Writers Association conference held at the Orleans Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas for a decade. It is intimate, with around fifty attendees. The conference is reasonably priced.

PSWA has a first-day master’s class followed by two and half days of lectures and panels. For the most part, the attendees write crime, mystery, and thrillers. The catered meals are fantastic.

I highly recommend PSWA, especially if you want to meet and get to know authors in your field.

Here’s the link for the 2024 conference if you want details:

2024 PSWA Conference (policewriter.com)

 

ALICE FITZPATRICK — Meredith Island: Fact or Fiction?

Alice Fitzpatrick has contributed short stories to literary magazines and anthologies and recently retired from teaching in order to devote herself to writing full-time. She is a fearless champion of singing, cats, all things Welsh, and the Oxford comma. Her summers spent with her Welsh family in Pembrokeshire inspired the creation of the Meredith Island Mysteries series. Secrets in the Water is the first book in the series. Alice lives in Toronto but dreams of a cottage on the Welsh coast.

People who read the early drafts of Secrets in the Water often searched the internet for my Welsh island setting, expressing surprise when they couldn’t find it. Even though I insisted it came from my imagination, they weren’t entirely convinced. So, is Meredith Island fact or fiction? The truth is it’s a bit of both.

When I decided to write a traditional British mystery series, I wanted an isolated location. An island was perfect since I’ve always lived near large bodies of water and love the sea. While I feared using an actual location would involve endless hours researching minutia to avoid irate e-mails from readers saying I got it wrong, with a fictional setting, I could control everything—the geography, the weather, the flora and fauna.

I didn’t have to look far for inspiration. When I was a child, my British family moved to Wales, and each summer would welcome me to Tenby, a popular seaside resort on the south Pembrokeshire coast. It was during this time that I fell in love with the country and its people.

Like most places in the UK, Tenby has a long history. With evidence of settlement dating back to the Iron Age, the town was founded in 1093. To defend against opposing Welsh forces, the Norman Earl of Pembrokeshire ordered a fortifying wall to be built in 1245, much of which is still standing. The following seven hundred and fifty years saw Tenby’s rise and fall, including its success as a busy port, the site of an English Civil War battle and a plague epidemic, as well as the temporary hiding place of the fourteen-year-old future King Henry VII during the War of the Roses. The Victorians flocked to Tenby’s beaches and bath houses for the benefits they believed sea bathing provided, making it the popular holiday spot it is to this day.

On the other hand, Meredith Island has been uninhabited for most of its history. It wasn’t until the mid-nineteenth century that American industrialist Artemis Faraday, obsessed with all things British and the capital to indulge that obsession, bought the island, renaming it in honor of his young English bride, and built his vision of a Gothic manor house. When his wife died in childbirth, he abandoned the island to his workers. Except for a few incomers, all islanders can trace their family history to the Faraday estate.

While Meredith Island doesn’t have the elegant Georgian and Victorian row houses that overlook Tenby’s beaches, cozy stone cottages line the island’s cliffside road, which runs down to the harbor. There, you’ll find The Fish and Filly pub, The Sea Breeze restaurant, Craggy’s grocery store, a wharf for the ferry that connects the island to the mainland, and a shelter for fishing boats.

Because I visited Tenby during my teenage years, many of my memories are tinged with wonder and innocence. It was where I had my first crush and heartbreak when a young man took my address, promising to keep in touch but never did. It was also the location of my aunt and uncle’s hotel, where we often sat in the large kitchen and drank tea—sherry for my aunt—ate buttered scones and shared jokes. So my island became a place of young love and friendship, warm kitchens full of sweet smells, and a pub where people gather for a natter and gossip. But it’s also a place where people are murdered. It’s this jarring juxtaposition that sets the tone of the book as protagonist Kate Galway digs deep into the islanders’ memories of their youth to unearth clues about the identity of her aunt’s killer.

The first photo shows the remains of the medieval fortifying wall around Tenby, and the second is the church beside my cousin’s house, which inspired the church on my island.

Tenby is an ancient town with curious streets like Merlins Court, Upper and Lower Frog Street, Tudor Way, Crackwell Street, and Paragon. My fascination with these names led me to bestow upon my islanders similarly unconventional names, such as Basil and Peregrine Tully, Old Alred, Drucilla Cragwell, and Feebles, Gooley, and Smee.

But it wasn’t just the town that inspired me. All along the Pembrokeshire coast, jagged cliffs rise high above the water, creating a menacing seascape where I imagine Kate’s aunt drowned over fifty years ago. The church next door to my cousin Jim’s house is the inspiration for the island church presided over by the Reverend Imogen Larkin, and its graveyard is the islanders’ final resting place. At St. Govan’s Head, a long flight of stone steps leads down the steep cliff face to a 14th-century chapel built over the cave where St. Govan lived and preached seven centuries before. I took the liberty of reducing a similar building to ruins so that in A Dark Death, the second book in the series, a team of archaeology students can excavate it, only to discover something a lot more interesting than foundation stones.

Tenby has long been a vacation spot and inspiration for writers, including Lewis Carroll, George Eliot, Beatrix Potter, and Dylan Thomas. Likewise, for this humble crime writer, Tenby was the inspiration for an idyllic island community where everyone is family and life is celebrated with whiskey, tea, and home baking.

To learn about upcoming tales of the eccentric inhabitants of Meredith Island and to sign up for my newsletter, please visit www.alicefitzpatrick.com.

I belong to:
Crime Writers of Canada,
Sisters in Crime (including the Guppy and Toronto chapters),
Crime Cymru – a group of Welsh crime writers

Here are the buy links to my book:
Amazon.com: https://tinyurl.com/3hdme96k
Indigo: https://tinyurl.com/4shmb7fz

KIRSTEN WEISS – What Inspired Legacy of the Witch?

Kirsten is best known for her Wits’ End, Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum, and Tea & Tarot cozy mystery books. So, if you like funny, action-packed mysteries with complicated heroines, just turn the page…

You can find her at KirstenWeiss.com.

Inspiration can strike anywhere. A weird or funny thing I experienced. A newspaper article. A painting. However, the inspiration for Legacy of the Witch came from two ideas that I developed.

In the final book in my Doyle Witch series, the witches create a mystery school. I thought it would be fun to use that as the premise for a spin-off series.

Years ago, I enrolled in a mystery school by mail, The Builders of the Adytum. The organization mailed me black and white tarot cards to color in and meditate on, as well as odd little goldenrod booklets about obscure magical philosophies. Using Tarot cards as a form of occult study isn’t unique to the Adytum, though. The Golden Dawn, a famous magical society from the Victorian Era, required its members to create their own decks.

So I thought my fictional mystery school should have a deck as well. Since Legacy of the Witch is set in the more modern era, sending their lessons by email made more sense than USPS. And rather than just writing that emails and cards were received, I decided to include the emails and images of the cards in my spin-off book, Legacy of the Witch. And then, I went a little crazy and created an app for the cards, which I also included for readers.

Add to that a murder mystery set in Penn Dutch country villages, and it made sense to work in the folklore and folk magic of the region. The more I researched, the more ideas I got. Soon, hex signs and black Amish buggies worked their way into the spooky Pennsylvania woods. And a very real Pennsylvania rail trail became the setting for a murder.

The more I learned, the more ideas I had to play with, and what seemed like inspiration was just one idea logically following the next.

If you’d like to learn more about Legacy of the Witch, check out my website: https://www.kirstenweiss.com/mystery-school-2/legacy-of-the-witch

M.E. ROCHE – Loves Writing & Follows Characters

I’m the product of a Midwest upbringing, but I’ve lived on both coasts as well as in Ireland. As a registered nurse, I’ve had the opportunity to work in many facets of nursing. Once officially retired, I began volunteering with the local coroner—part of the sheriff’s department—in northern California.

My favorite books have always been mysteries.

What brought me to writing? I first decided to try my hand at writing when I discovered there were so few books written about or by nurses and nothing for young readers since the student nurse mysteries of the 1950s. I started with three young adult mysteries modeled on those early works. I liked the writing process—of having a character tell me where the story would go—and when I decided to bring my student nurses into adulthood, I began writing for an adult audience, and now I have an additional three mysteries and two standalones.

New Book My newly released novel, TOOTS, is a historical stand-alone work based on one of my great aunts, one of my grandmother’s sisters. Growing up, I only knew my aunt as living with my grandmother. She was quiet but warm and generally retreated to somewhere quieter in the house when my family of eight kids arrived. I don’t remember ever having any extended conversation. We were told that her husband and children had died in a fire, and she had come back to her family in Chicago from wherever they had been living. I began thinking about this story several years ago, and I wanted to know more, but there was no one from that generation left to ask. And so I began trolling the memories of my siblings and cousins, but they were no wiser

Research TOOTS required spending a lot of time with Ancestry.com and Newspapers.com and my local genealogy people at the library. The amount of information out there is amazing. My grandmother and her sister, Toots, came over from Ireland by themselves at ages 12 and 10. They came to work as servants—first in New York and later in Chicago. My grandmother married and stayed in Chicago, but Toots met and married a homesteader from Nebraska. So many questions! I began by tracking down the ship manifests. Census reports, marriage records, obituaries, and homestead records. Finally, I made a road trip to Nebraska to see the homestead for myself. But then…what happened after Nebraska?

I discovered that there is also a ton of information to be found in obituaries. A good example: I knew my grandfather was a train conductor on the Northwestern railroad, but I had always thought of him as a passenger conductor (he had passed before I was born); his obituary stated he was a freight conductor! Tracking down the routes—possibly through Nebraska—that his train would have taken in 1915 led me to the tiny town of Albion in Nebraska, where my aunt’s husband’s homestead happened to be. There is no one alive to verify my guess, but I’d say my grandfather played matchmaker for his sister-in-law!

Setting the Location: I think it’s important to know something about the setting of one’s story, which is why I felt the need to see Nebraska. How many people plan to visit Nebraska? It was, however, a great experience—visiting the Homestead museum and learning something about the Dust Bowl period, of which I knew little beyond The Grapes of Wrath. It is beautiful farm country; the cover for TOOTS is a photo of their homestead. Similarly, I lived in San Francisco and northern California for some time, as well as in Boston, so I enjoy adding bits of local color to stories set in those locations.

Writing Process My writing process is changing. I’ve always felt most creative in the early morning hours, but not so much now. I do my own editing and preparation for publishing, and the more I write, the more time it takes to complete these non-creative tasks. I’ve discovered that my head doesn’t work for editing in the early morning. So now, I have coffee, walk, have breakfast, and then work on editing. But as I finish those tasks required by a new book, I think I’m almost ready to start writing something creative again. We’ll see.

Current Project Before turning to the final edits and publishing aspects of TOOTS, I finished the first draft of a mystery that spans the two coasts and centers on an arson group of firefighters in Boston. In the first re-read of that draft, I saw some serious problems, and now I’m looking forward to seeing what can be done to fix those problems. After that, I have the start of a black widow murder mystery.

Please visit my website and sign up for my newsletter at https://www.meroche.com, where I am now adding a section for Book Clubs with questions and personal recipes.

DEBRA BOKUR – The Power in Story (Even When It’s a Fish Tale)

Debra Bokur is the author of the Hawai’i-based Dark Paradise Mysteries series published by Kensington Books (The Fire Thief, The Bone Field, and The Lava Witch), often favorably compared by Publisher’s Weekly and other reviewers to Tony Hillerman’s Southwest-based mysteries. She’s served as an editor on the staff of multiple national magazines, has been a feature writer for Global Traveler Magazine since 2007, and works as a book narrator and voice actor for Audible. Bokur divides her time between Colorado and coastal Maine and is working on a new series set in the 160-year-old haunted inn in Maine that she and her husband are restoring.

The summer before my junior year of high school, I worked at the concession stand at the local drive-in movie theater in St. Augustine, Florida. The much-anticipated release of the film Jaws, based on the novel of the same name by author Peter Benchley, was underway.

It was 1975. Everyone had appalling hairstyles and wore bell-bottom denims held up by double-ring leather belts. We drove ridiculous cars (do a Google search for “Pacer,” and you’ll see what I mean). Those very cars came to be parked by the speaker posts in the sandy lot in front of the drive-in’s huge movie screen, and their passengers — locals and schoolmates — all found their way to the concession counter to gather enough popcorn, soda, and reheated frozen pizza to carry them through to the film’s big wrap-up.

By the end of the summer, I knew the entire script by heart, had acquired a deep interest in story arc, and found a best friend. Her name was Ally (changed to protect her privacy), and she, like me, was a smart-alecky New England transplant who loved writing, books, and films. She still does, and we’re still friends, and to this day, we exchange book recommendations and snippets from our own writing. And we can each still quote a shocking number of lines from Jaws.

The most important thing we accomplished that summer was not to memorize blockbuster scripts or earn money to stash in our small bank accounts (a lot of which was diverted to buying books); it was to create a story for ourselves that had nothing to do with sharks, or navigating challenging home lives, or deciding on which scholarship programs to angle for: It was all about becoming the successful women that everyone in our neighborhoods insisted on telling us we could never be.

Back then, I had a half-formed fantasy of my future as a successful author who lived a double life as an international spy, cruising on assignment through the Swiss Alps in a vintage Jaguar (British Racing Green, natch) or piloting a sleek wooden Chris Craft speedboat between small harbors in the Greek Islands, waiting for an impossibly sexy co-spy to meet me on the dock in front of a private villa. The co-spy always carried a secret document hidden in the pages of a Dylan Thomas poetry collection and always smelled like sandalwood and neroli. My efforts, of course, would save humanity from a dire end; and, depending on the fantasy details of any particular day, also rescue at least one puppy and several children from the path of a tsunami.

Not too long ago, one of those countless subscription television networks ran a Jaws movie marathon, endlessly playing the original film in the legendary shark-attack franchise back-to-back. I left the television on and the film playing in the background while I did a deep clean of my kitchen cabinets and drawers. In no time at all, I was speaking along with the actors, the script seemingly lodged forever in one of those strangely shaped little rooms in my brain.

Hearing those lines again reminded me of how words can so easily get under our skin and infiltrate our psyche; how some stories stick with us, and the memory of them becomes a powerful link to moments that we share with others.

Today, my secret fantasies have less dramatic details but are far more meaningful: Most revolve around book sales and good reviews; of meeting readers who found something engaging in one of my novels and who can’t wait to read the next one; of walking into a bookstore in a faraway town and seeing my books prominently displayed on the shelves.

Sometimes, those things actually happen. Maybe, someday, there will be speedboats, Jaguars, and clandestine meetings on villa docks, too. Perhaps my spy fantasies were really all about the longing to make some kind of positive mark; doing something — even undercover — might change the world in a good way. Making sure the imaginary killers in my mystery series get caught and properly punished is how I practice.

We all have our own concession stand memories, I think; people we meet along the labyrinth trails of our lives who, if we’re lucky, become enduring friends. For authors, readers who come back time and again to read our latest work are exactly like that: friends whose names we may not know but to whom we are nevertheless indelibly connected.

Connections matter. Today, Ally, a gifted vocalist, sings as part of a successful musical group. She has an incredible family and a happy life, and she still writes stories that take my breath away. In the process of getting my own work out into the world, I’ve met and become friends with some marvelous authors and equally amazing readers. Is there a movie or song or book that triggers one of your own most powerful memories that brings you back to a place and time that you had no idea would become a seminal moment in your own journey? I hope so, and I hope you’ll share it in the comments here. Thank you for allowing me to share my own.

Professional affiliations:
Society of American Travel Writers,
Mystery Writers of America,
Sisters in Crime (National, Colorado and New England chapters),
Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers,
International Thriller Writers.

Here are links:
My website (all the purchase links are there):
https://www.debrabokur.com/ read more…

DP LYLE – But It Really Happened

But it really happened. I swear. – This is the defense fiction writers offer when someone says their story isn’t believable. “That could never happen,” they say. But it could. It did. Still, their disbelief lingers.

 

I write both fiction and non-fiction. When people inquire about the difference between creating the two, my response is, “They are exactly the same, only different.” With NF, the research comes first. It must be gathered, fact-checked, and organized. Then, the writing begins. With fiction, you must first know your characters, plot, and setting before researching the materials needed to create a story that rings true.

Fiction winters often base their stories on a true crime. A look at best-selling books and iconic movies over the years underlines this fact. The horrific slaughter of the Clutter family in rural Kansas became Truman Capote’s masterpiece In Cold Blood—a book that sits somewhere between fiction and true crime. Serial killer Ed Gein fashioned furniture and clothing from human skin and inspired Hitchcock’s Norman Bates in Psycho and Buffalo Bill in Thomas Harris’ Silence of the Lambs.

For fiction writers, a true crime book, a news story, or maybe a blog post sparks the idea. For my third Samantha Cody book, Original Sin, I created a snake-handling preacher character. My research led me to the National Book Award finalist Salvation on Sand Mountain by Dennis Covington. It chronicles the story of Glenn Summerford, pastor of the Church of Jesus with Signs Following, who employed a rattlesnake in the attempted murder of his wife. You bet that little wrinkle appeared in Original Sin.

Or Victor Borkov, the bad guy in my first Jake Longly story, Deep Six. His enemies often found themselves lashed to an iron ring and dropped into the Gulf of Mexico. Alive. This is based on the actions of Skylar Deleon. Look up sociopath. You’ll see his picture. Under the guise of buying their boat, Skylar and a thug friend convinced Jackie and Thomas Hawks to go for a test cruise. It ended with the Hawks bound to an anchor and dumped in the Pacific Ocean. Alive.

These true stories are unbelievable. Yet true. For fiction writers, the trick is to morph unbelievable facts into believable fiction.

We fiction writers owe a great debt to true crime writers. They do the heavy lifting, the research,  the telling of the crime, and we use that to inspire and create our stories. Ann Rule once told me that when she approached a true crime story, she looked for the person who was the heart of the story. Not the bad guy, often not the victim, but someone scarred by the crime. In fiction, we do the same but have the added freedom of not being bound to the facts.

The marriage between crime fiction and true crime is alive and well.

Keep your eyes open for Unbalanced coming soon.

DP Lyle, Award-winning author, lecturer, story consultant

Website: http://www.dplylemd.com
Criminal Mischief Podcasts: https://www.dplylemd.com/podcasts

Book Passage Corte Madera – Sisters in Crime Author Readings

Saturday, May 4, 2024, was a miserable day. But then again, it was a fantastic day. It began with a forty-minute drive that took over ninety. It was the heaviest rain I’ve seen this year. Seven or eight other authors said the same.

Then I arrived at Book Passage in Corte Maderaeverything changed.

New Liberty – Robbers and Cops – The Mona Lisa Sisters

Just steps inside the front door was a table displaying books. Three of those books were mine. (I am not a photographer) can’t describe the wonder feeling that enveloped me.

I walked up to the main counter and enjoyed another wonderful moment.

Mounted on the wall were the same three books. Wow! What a great day!

Things only got better. I joined nine other authors, all fantastic writers, for readings by each. We also enjoyed Jenn Prosser, M.D.’s reading about her wonderfully frightening podcast, Pick Your Poison. Sister in Crime-NorCal’s own Glenda Carroll collaborated with the amazing staff at Book Passage to put the program together.

Stop by  Book Passage Corte Madera 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera, CA • (415) 927-0960 to show appreciation. While there, ask about their impressive Mystery Writers Conference. This year, Friday, July 19 – Sunday, July 21, 2024.

 

MAILAN DOQUANG – Shares the Story of Her Debut Fiction Novel

Mailan Doquang holds a Ph.D. from the Institute of Fine Arts, NYU. She has published extensively on the art and architecture of medieval France, in addition to teaching at some of the top universities in North America. Mailan is an avid photographer, traveler, and runner. She is a Canadian transplant and a longtime resident of New York City. Blood Rubies is her debut.

Blood Rubies Elevator Pitch: A jewel thief’s life spirals out of control after a heist goes sideways and a loved one vanishes from a Bangkok slum. Pre-Order – Release Date May 7, 2024

What brought you to writing? Writing is central to my work as an architectural historian. I published a book on the role of ornament in French Gothic churches with Oxford University Press in 2018. I’ve also published academic articles and essays, catalog entries, and book reviews and created content for an EdTech startup. A few years ago, I realized that my favorite part of being an academic wasn’t research or teaching but writing. I wanted to write things that are accessible, so I decided to give fiction a try. I chose thrillers because they’re the books I enjoy most, and I wrote a mixed-race protagonist because they’re rare in this genre, and representation matters in every field.

How long did it take you to write your first book? Blood Rubies is my first novel. I drafted the book in under a year, but that doesn’t include the revisions I made with my agent, which went on for several months. The manuscript was clean by the time it got into my editor’s hands, so that process was quick and easy. By contrast, my Oxford book took six years to complete, from the time I started researching to the moment I sent the final draft to my editor.

We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave or run wild? My protagonist, Rune Sarasin, is impossible to control! It’s one of the things I love about her. Rune is a quintessential antihero. She steals, she’s rebellious, and she struggles with impulse control. That said, she’s also whip-smart and loyal—she’ll stop at nothing to save the people she loves. Antiheroes are fascinating because they’re unpredictable. They zig when we expect them to zag, which adds uncertainty to scenarios that might otherwise unfold in predictable ways. Running wild is a big part of their appeal.

Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I’m solidly in the pantser camp. What I enjoy most about writing fiction is the way stories reveal themselves to me, like I’m watching a movie or reading someone else’s novel, only very slowly. By the time I got to the midway point of Blood Rubies, Rune was so fully formed in my mind that her narrative voice dictated the rest of the story.

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? By training, I’m an architectural historian, so I work hard to create an authentic sense of place and space. It’s a point of professional pride! Most of my settings are real places I’ve visited. I incorporate some fictional locations into my stories, but even those are based on real places. I find it helpful to have a concrete point of departure that I can retool as needed.

What are you currently working on? I’m currently working on two projects. The first is the sequel to Blood Rubies, scheduled for publication in 2025; the second is a book about a Vietnamese American art curator whose life unravels after she becomes the victim of a violent crime.

Do you have any advice for new writers? Run your own race.

Memberships:
Crime Writers of Color
International Thriller Writers
Mystery Writers of America
Sisters in Crime
Sisters in Crime New York

Contact:
Instagram: @authormailan
Twitter: @AuthorMailan
Publisher: https://penzlerpublishers.com/product/blood-rubies/

Blood Rubies is available at:
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0CL199RSB
Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/blood-rubies-mailan-doquang/1144209733
Bookshop: https://bookshop.org/p/books/blood-rubies-mailan-doquang/20682930
Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/blood-rubies-3

MICHAEL COOPER – Historical Mysteries in the Holy Land

Michael Cooper writes historical fiction set in the Middle East; Foxes in the Vineyard, set in 1948 Jerusalem, won the 2011 Indie Publishing Contest grand prize, and The Rabbi’s Knight, set in the Holy Land in 1290, was a finalist for the CIBA 2014 Chaucer Award for historical fiction. In December of 2023, Wages of Empire, set at the start of WW1, won the CIBA 2022 Hemingway first prize for wartime historical fiction and the grand prize for young adult fiction.

A native of Berkeley, California, Cooper emigrated to Israel in 1966, studying and working there for the next decade; he lived in Jerusalem during the last year the city was divided between Israel and Jordan and graduated from Tel Aviv University Medical School. Now a pediatric cardiologist in Northern California, he travels to the region twice a year on volunteer missions for Palestinian children who lack access to care.

Do you write in more than one genre? I write in the historical fiction genre with added elements of mystery, action-adventure, mysticism, coming of age, and a dash of romance. Having lived in Israel during my formative years (between the ages of 17 and 28), I fell in love with the immediacy of history that awaited you around every corner—especially in Jerusalem. This comes in handy since all my novels are, at least in part, set in the Holy Land, and having lived and traveled extensively throughout Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, I have a wealth of first-person knowledge of the physical topography of this part of the world.

What are you currently working on? That’s easy. I’ve already completed the next book in the “Empire Series,” Crossroads of Empire, which immediately follows Wages of Empire and is also set at the beginning of WWI. This will be published in the Fall of 2024.

How long did it take you to write your first book? I began writing Foxes in the Vineyard and finished in about eight years. It took a while since I was also working full-time.

How long to get it published? It took about the same amount of time to write as to get published. Having finished Foxes in the Vineyard in 2003, it was published by being the grand prize winner in the 2011 San Francisco Writers Conference Indie Publishing Contest. The grand prize was a complete publishing package from iUniverse.

In writing historical fiction, how do you strike the right balance between history and fiction? The wonderful thing about crafting historical fiction is that historical events and characters provide the scaffolding for stories that are at once incredibly old and still being written since “history” is a continuum and flows from the past into our present.

It’s also invigorating to create compelling fictional characters—for their nobility, humor, brilliance, passions, human failings, and interesting, ingenious, and sometimes evil designs. These fictional characters allow me to play within the historical scaffolding.

I will leave it to the reader to determine if I’ve hit the “right balance” of historical and fictional characters in my current book, Wages of Empire.” But what is true for me in writing about all my characters—historical and fictional—are those wondrous times when the character takes over, dictating the action and dialogue. At these times, all I have to do is transcribe.

How did you research the novel, and did you learn anything that especially surprised you? I researched the historical backdrop for the book by reading iconic histories about the roots and initial months of the First World War. To capture the essence of the historical figures and to inform the development of the fictional characters, I devoured everything I could find in the way of autobiographies, biographies, and collected letters. For the reader, I’ve included some of these references at the end of the book in a section called “Suggestions for further reading.”

As to surprises I’ve experienced during research, I was often astonished by fascinating elements of hidden history, unsolved mysteries, and interesting, even bizarre, character traits of some historical characters. I also encountered some engaging and bizarre characters that insisted on being included in the final draft.

In this manner, storylines arose organically from the historical timeline and the historical characters themselves—creating a portrait that could be enhanced by the fictional characters who allowed for additional surprises, plot twists, betrayals, loves, and alliances. And as the book progressed, I loved watching the weave tighten as storylines were drawn together.

Regarding elements of hidden history that I uncovered during my research for Wages of Empire, I don’t want to issue any “spoiler alerts.” Still, one extraordinarily rich trove of evidence implicated Kaiser Wilhelm II as having acted in many ways to bring on the First World War. Though I would hasten to add, he certainly wasn’t singly responsible for it. However, as a narcissist in control of a global power, his unpredictability, his need to be acknowledged, his arrogance, his hypersensitivity to perceived slights, his excitement at the idea of flexing his muscles, his sense of entitlement, his clumsy and often insulting personal diplomacy—all these raised tensions in Europe, combining to bring Germany closer and closer to war.

What do you hope readers take away from the story? Wages of Empire is a novel about war that is being published in a time of war—both in Europe and in the Middle East. I hope the reader can appreciate the richness of this historical wartime setting since it offers all the elements for a compelling story: drama, heroism, conflict, tension, intrigue, action, betrayal, heartbreak, and romance. Indeed, the effect of armed conflict on history is itself dramatic since war accelerates history, often with dramatic changes in human and natural topography.

I also hope the reader feels the compelling tension between knowing and unknowing as they engage with the historical characters in the grip of their threatening present, infused with their anxiety at the uncertain outcome, their unknowable future. And that the reader, knowing their future, might be touched by the poignancy of their ignorance.

Michael’s Editorial Assistant

Lastly, I hope that Wages of Empire, a novel about war, will hold up a mirror to time past that reflects on current wars and present uncertainties. I hope the reader will ask questions—what do present wars have to do with the past? What do our present travails have to do with history? Because the answer is…everything.

You can learn more on his website, which also includes links to a variety of platforms where his books can be purchased: https://michaeljcooper.net/

Categories