Victoria Kazazian writes the Silicon Valley Murder series. She is at work on a cozy series debuting this fall, The Laughing Loaf Bakery Mysteries, which takes place in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Victoria’s recent release is Across the Red Sky, Book 2 in Silicon Valley Murder.
When CEO and eco philanthropist Rosalind Mabrey is murdered on a local running trail, the chief suspects are Mabrey’s three company co-founders. Since launching the company as a startup with Rosalind twenty years ago, each of the other founders has a reason for wanting to see her dead. Monte Verde police detective Dani Grasso, a runner herself, takes on the case alongside her mentor, Detective Jimmy Ruiz.
This book follows my debut mystery last year, Swift Horses Racing. The characters in that book came to life and started doing things of their own accord—both good and bad—and they demanded that I keep writing about them. George, I liked your question about whether my protagonist ever disappointed me–yes! One of mine made a huge mistake in my first book, and it was heartbreaking, but it made for a better story. His character arc will continue to play itself out in book 3 of this series, which is due out this summer.
On her first murder case, rookie Detective Dani Ruiz literally steps up her game in Across the Red Sky. She’s an avid video gamer who processes cases while playing video games after hours. She’s also grieving the loss of her tight-knit family, who have disowned her for choosing detective work over a job in her Italian grandfather’s grocery store chain.
What brought you to writing? As soon as I learned to read, I was writing. When I was a kid, I’d read a book, then get out a tablet of paper and write my own. Over the years, I wrote fiction secretly while working for tech companies in Silicon Valley as a technical writer, advertising copywriter, then marketing project manager. When I wrote user manuals for a software company, I created characters to use in the examples and developed a narrative through the manuals.
After having kids, I left the tech industry and became a high school English teacher. Teaching literature was one of the best things I could do for my writing. I learned what made a good story. I learned to love a variety of voices and to see the craft of writing in a new way. I also learned to use commas correctly!
How long did it take to write your first book? It took me two years to write my first (unpublished) mystery. Many authors have that starter novel in a drawer somewhere, the one in which they learn structure and work out the bugs in their writing. I learned a lot while writing that first one, but I don’t think it’ll ever leave the drawer. I finished Swift Horses Racing (my first published novel) within a year, then Across the Red Sky took me about four months from start to finish. I learned that I’m a “plantser” when it comes to writing—a “pantser” who plans. I dive in, and the story seems to write itself until I’m about three-quarters of the way through the book. Then I screech to a halt and outline the rest. I need a road map. Sometimes I come up with two different outlines for how the story could end.
Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? My setting in this series is Silicon Valley—the south San Francisco Bay Area and peninsula. I’ve created a fictional town on the west side of the valley called Monte Verde. It made me happy that one of my local writing friends thought it was a real town and tried to look it up on a map.
My books don’t go into technology at all; it’s the people in the valley that interest me. I am not much of a techie, but I’m surrounded by them (My husband is a software engineer.) They give me lots of material to write about. It’s a valley full of smart, talented, and very quirky people. Some with too much money and some who don’t have enough money to live on because they’re not working in tech. And there are women fighting to be recognized in the male-dominated tech industry, like my murder victim in Across the Red Sky.
The stakes are high in Silicon Valley for almost everyone. It makes a great setting for a mystery.
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I’m continuing my Ruiz-Grasso Silicon Valley Murder series with book 3, A Tree of Poison. The book starts with a home invasion gone wrong in the upscale town of Monte Verde. At the same time, I’m working on a culinary cozy mystery series set in the Santa Cruz Mountains – about a woman who turns in her husband for selling tech secrets and is relocated to a small town under the federal witness protection program. She starts a bakery and is determined to keep a low profile–until the body of a male underwear model turns up on her doorstep. It’s lighthearted, and I’m having so much fun writing it.
Do you have any advice for new writers? Write every day. Take your computer or notepad with you while waiting for your kid to finish soccer practice. Write instead of surfing the net on your phone (preaching to myself here). Write while dinner’s cooking. Write on your lunch break at work. It’s amazing how much you can get done in short bursts. Don’t edit what you’ve written till you’re done writing. Keep reading. Read really good books because that’s the best inspiration for writing one of your own.
Join a writing group or organization. Sisters in Crime has been a big help to me, with lots of resources and very encouraging members. I would not have gotten published as soon as I did without their help.
For more info on my books, go to my website: https://victoriakazarian.com/
Amazon Author Central page https://tinyurl.com/5y7uje6s
Rhonda Blackhurst is a die-hard indie author and enjoys empowering and educating others in the process. She has ten published novels: The Inheritance, a Hallmark-style fiction stand-alone; seven in The Melanie Hogan Mysteries; and the Whispering Pines Romantic Suspense.
In her day job, she has worked in the law enforcement arena in the victim witness field and as a paralegal for the past 20+ years; she recently took an early retirement from the Adams County District Attorney’s Office.
In addition to being an author and indie author consultant, she is a certified life coach with a program called “Rise From Victim to Victor—How to Make What Happens to You, Work for You.” She enjoys running, biking, hiking, spending time at their Arizona house, and anything outdoors. She, her husband, and their very spoiled Fox Face Pomeranian reside in a suburb of Denver.
What brought you to writing? I began writing at an age when no one realized where it would take me—four years old, and unfortunately, it was with crayon on the knotty pine walls of our family home. I didn’t draw pictures. I actually wrote what I thought were words because I apparently had something to say. And it’s never stopped. I spent endless hours sitting on the dock by the lake we lived by or in our fishing boat, dreaming of worlds and words. I wrote a lot of poetry back then. In Jr/Sr High School, I saw the movie Absence of Malice with Sally Field and Paul Newman, and from there, I was determined to be a journalist in New York City. To start, I wrote a few articles for the city newspaper about school events. I got derailed a bit in college, and when my babies were little, I wrote two novels with pen and paper. I still have those manuscripts in boxes. After moving to Colorado, I began writing as a stringer for the local newspaper, but my heart was in fiction. After my last child left home, I began taking writing seriously, joined writers’ groups, and published my first novel in 2012.
What are you currently working on? This past April, I published the last book in a cozy mystery series, Shear Misfortune, in The Melanie Hogan Mysteries.
When a fitness center is a locale for both health and murder,
exercise enthusiasts must weigh their odds of the outcome.
I am writing the first draft of Inn the Spirit of Murder, book one in a new cozy mystery series, The Spirit Lake Mysteries, and having a ball with it. It stars Andie Rose Kaczmarek, the Spirit Lake Inn owner and a life coach, who has a feisty nun as a sidekick. It contains a bit of paranormal activity and all the colorful small-town characters. New ideas for books in the series keep popping up as I write—a writer’s dream! I’ve worked in the law enforcement arena in some capacity—mostly as a paralegal and in the victim witness field—for the past 20+ years. I was immersed in the darkness of the world where there are often no winners in the end. Writing cozy mysteries was my way of being able to leave that darkness in the evenings while I wrote and tied up the ending of the story with a pretty red bow. Cozies give me hope because the good guys win in the end, something I didn’t often see in my day job.
How do you come up with your character names? Naming my protagonist and antagonist is perhaps the most indecisive part of my writing. But when I finally decide on a name, it solidly clicks. In the Abby series (The Whispering Pines Mysteries), the name Abby brings to mind both vulnerability and strength. I have no foundation to hang that on, but it’s such a strong connection in my mind that it’s become a fact. Her ex-husband’s villain in that series makes it his mission to track her down, so he is appropriately named Hunter. In the Melanie Hogan mysteries, I chose the last name of Hogan because one of the most famous governors of Minnesota was Hulk Hogan (Jesse Ventura), and it just seemed to fit. The protagonist in my new series, Andie Rose Kaczmarek, I struggled with the most. I think I changed the first name several times and went back to the first name I chose. And at this point, even if I wanted to, there’s no going back because she’s a character in the last book of the Melanie Hogan Mysteries, which is already published. However, her last name solidly clicked because Kaczmarek is Polish for “Innkeeper.”
Has an association membership helped you with your writing? A resounding Yes! I think writers’ groups are essential to an author. Just being in the same room as a bunch of creatives is energizing. And learning from one another is such a huge benefit. Writers are one of the most giving, helpful groups of people I’ve known. I’ve met so many who are willing to share what they know and help in any way they can. The first writing group I belonged to was Northern Colorado Writers, and theirs was the first conference I attended. They hold a special place in my heart. I’ve added Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and Sisters in Crime. I’m currently President of Sisters in Crime—Colorado Chapter. I strongly encourage writers, no matter where they are on their writing journey, to get involved in whichever groups they belong to, as well as conferences. Volunteering is the best way to get full advantage of the experience.
Do you have any advice for new writers? There is only one solid rule—write! You will never be a writer if you don’t eventually stop thinking about it and write. And don’t let anyone “should” on you. Your path is uniquely yours. For every person who says you must do it one way, there’s another who will disagree. Your path is your path. Have fun with it!
“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” ― Louis L’Amour
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In her youth, Kassandra Lamb had two great passions—psychology and writing. Advised that writers need day jobs and being partial to eating, she studied psychology. Now retired from a career as a psychotherapist and college professor, she spends most of her time in an alternate universe populated by her fictional characters. The portal to this universe (aka her computer) is located in Florida, where her husband and dog catch occasional glimpses of her.
Service dog trainer Marcia Banks tackles a locked room mystery in a haunted house. She has trained a dog to clear rooms for an agoraphobic Marine who was ambushed during combat. But the phantom attackers in his mind become the least of his troubles when Marcia finds his ex-wife’s corpse in his bedroom, with the door bolted from the inside.
All my books are mysteries, but I like variety, so I tend to explore different subgenres. I have one completed series of traditional mysteries, one series of cozy mysteries that is winding down, and I have started a new series of police procedurals. I’ve also written some romantic suspense stories under the pen name of Jessica Dale.
We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave, or do they run the show? Some behave, but many do not. My main characters tend to behave most of the time. An exception was the main character of my cozies, Marcia Banks (pronounced Mar-see-a, not Marsha). I originally gave her a few neuroses, so she’d have some things to overcome during the course of the series. The main one was a longing to “be normal,” as she had been teased as a kid over her name and because she was a pastor’s kid. Plus, she’s licking her wounds after a short but disastrous marriage. But then she decided to throw a strong resistance to commitment into the mix, which drove her love interest a bit crazy for a very long time.
Minor characters often assert themselves and insist on bigger parts in the stories. I had two minor characters do this in my Kate Huntington series. One, Skip Canfield, wooed his way both into Kate’s heart and into a main character role.
Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? I use some of both. If I’m only going to have good things happen in a location, I’ll probably use a real place. The last two of my series are set in Florida, where I live now. Locals get a kick out of seeing a location name and being able to say, “I know where that is,” or “I’ve been there.”
But if I’m going to have negative things happen, such as corrupt cops, I make up a location. I’ve added three fictitious counties and a fictional city to the Florida map, so far.
What is the best book you ever read? Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine, by Bebe Moore Campbell. It is set in the 1960s and 70s when I was a teen and young adult, and it addresses race relations in a very human way.
Ms. Campbell captured the thoughts, feelings, and internal conflicts of all of her characters, including the extremely bigoted white males! She handled the multiple points of view so well that I was inspired to try that approach in my Kate Huntington series. (I’ve since switched to one point of view, usually first person, in most of my stories.)
What are you working on now? I’ve started a series of police procedurals, and I’m really enjoying that new challenge. The protagonist was a secondary character in my Kate Huntington series, a homicide lieutenant who becomes increasingly frustrated with big-city politics (the Kate series is set in the Baltimore area) and with riding a desk instead of being out on the street. Judith Anderson takes a job as Chief of Police of a small city in Florida, figuring if she’s in charge, she can be more hands-on. In Book 1, Lethal Assumptions, she’s only eight days on the job when she finds herself chasing a serial killer.
I’m currently writing the first draft of Book 2, Fatal Escape, which deals with human trafficking and domestic abuse. But since I’m used to writing cozies (which are supposed to be “clean”), I’m trying to keep the gore and swearing to a minimum. I don’t want to offend my loyal readers.
Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? I usually do, especially in a full-length novel. Often the subplot is about the main character’s love life. My favorite kind of subplot, though, is one that ends up tying into the main plot at the end of the story.
In Fatal Escape, Judith’s love interest is the sheriff of the next county over. She calls him Sheriff Sam inside her head. She already has a drowning case on her plate—that could be a suicide or murder—when she gets a call from Sam to come to a murder scene on the boundary line between their two jurisdictions. They have a funny little back-and-forth in which each is trying to give the case to the other one.
Sam finally takes the case since Judith’s already got her hands full. But later, it turns out that the two cases are linked. I won’t say more for fear of spoilers, but I can hardly wait to write the chapter in which they make the connection. Every time I think about it, I want to rub my hands together and laugh diabolically.
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Kaye George, an award-winning novelist and short-story writer, writes cozy and traditional mysteries and a prehistory series, which are both traditionally and self-published: two cozy series, Fat Cat and Vintage Sweets; two traditionals featuring Cressa Carraway and Imogene Duckworthy; and the People of the Wind prehistory Neanderthal mysteries, Over 50 short stories have also appeared, mostly in anthologies and magazines. She reviews for Suspense Magazine and writes a column for Mysterical-E. She lives in Knoxville, TN.
Do you write in more than one genre? Kind of, but not really? Most of my writing is mystery, but I work in different sub-genres. I’ve had contracts for two 3-book cozy series and have a couple of other series that are more traditional. And my prehistory series, which doesn’t really fit anywhere, but I call it historical if I have to slot it somewhere. I have done a few horror short stories, but not many.
What are you currently working on? I finished up a psychological suspense novel, which is a huge departure for me. I read a lot in the genre and have wanted to write one for some time. So, I did it! It’s taken me a long time because I lay it down, do another project, and then return to it. I hope to be querying soon. It would be ideal if I could snag a new agent with this since I’m between agents.
Has an association membership helped you with your writing? I have to give a lot of credit to the Guppies chapter of Sisters in Crime. The critique groups, manuscript swaps, and especially the subsidized online classes have given me so much! I gave back for a few years, serving as treasurer, then president. I’m back to just being a member now—very restful.
How long did it take you to write your first book? Not long for the very first one, but that one will never see the light of day. I started on one that got me published after working on a specific one for about ten years. It took about a year to write CHOKE, my first published book, because, by that time, I had learned how to write a mystery. The ten-year book did get published, but the publisher failed, and it’s now languishing until I can find a new home for it. That one was called EINE KLEINE MURDER, but I’d like to change that title if it has a rebirth somewhere.
How long to get it published? The one I worked on for ten years got published a couple of years after the one I wrote in frustration at not getting published in 2011. That one was my first one, CHOKE. However, I jumped at a publisher when I should have been a little more selective. I ended up taking it back and self-publishing it a year later, in 2012. EINE KLEINE came out inf 2013.
What kind of research do you do? For regular books, I research the geography and weather of the area, sunset and sunrise times, too, at least. A whole lot more on occasion for a specific project. I often base a fictitious town on a real one, but I’ll use the real things about the real town. Of course, I research all my murder methods, police procedures, and body trauma. For police and forensics, the Citizens’ Police Academy I took in Austin was a valuable experience.
But for my Neanderthal series, tons and tons and tons of research. I try to keep up with new theories and discoveries, and there have been many of those over the past few years. Fans of that series have been wonderful about keeping an eye out and informing me of new developments, too. It takes me a full year to write one of those. I can write a book in other sub-genres in 9 or 10 months. I’m not a fast writer!
Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and your books? The long-awaited third Neanderthal mystery, DEATH IN THE NEW LAND, is finally out on July 10th. I’m very excited to have finally finished this!
How do our readers contact you?
PUBLIC FACEBOOK GROUPS:
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
Karen C. Whalen is the author of two mystery series for The Wild Rose Press: the Dinner Club Mysteries featuring Jane Marsh, an empty nester who hosts a gourmet dinner club, and the Tow Truck Mysteries starring Delaney Moran, a super feminine shoe-a-holic who drives a tow truck. Both are cozy mysteries about strong friendships and family ties set in Colorado. The first book in the Dinner Club series tied for First Place in the Suspense Novel category of the 2017 IDA Contest sponsored by Oklahoma Romance Writers of America.
Whalen worked for many years as a paralegal at a law firm in Denver, Colorado, and was a columnist and regular contributor to The National Paralegal Reporter magazine. Whalen loves to host dinner clubs, entertain friends, ride bicycles, hike in the mountains, and read cozy murder mysteries.
Toes on the Dash – Shoe-a-holic Delaney Morran inherits a tow truck business from her absent dad. The dead body of her ex-boyfriend is discovered in the trunk of her first towed vehicle. She must solve the crime and toughen up to make the business a success and feel the father-daughter connection she seeks.
Many authors count among my favorites, but three stand out the most. Laura Ingalls Wilder, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, and Erma Bombeck.
Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about her life as a homesteader’s daughter and wife during the years 1870 through 1890. I started reading Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s A Gift from the Sea, published over fifty years ago. Then I read through her five volumes of diaries and letters covering 1922 through 1944. Erma Bombeck wrote a newspaper column and humorous books about her life between 1965 and 1996. There are four things these writers have in common, which are also the reasons they are my favorites: they wrote about a very specific time period, they wrote about their own lives, they wrote with a strong sense of place (Laura the prairie, Anne the ocean, and Erma the suburbs) and they were talented women writers.
Lucky for them, they lived in exciting times and places. Also, they had interesting lives and a whole bunch of talent.
Erma Bombeck is the only one of the three whose life span overlapped with mine. I sent her a letter right before she died and she wrote me back. I keep that letter on my desk and look at it every day.
These women writers inspired me to write. First, I wrote a column for a paralegal magazine (paralegal being my original career). Erma Bombeck also wrote a column, and I’m proud to be remembered as a columnist, too. When I progressed to writing novels, I set my books in Colorado, an evocative western setting. My books are not memoirs, however; they are murder mysteries. My tow truck mystery series is a mash up of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum novels and Gemma Halliday’s High Heel Mysteries. So, all right, Janet Evanovich and Gemma Halliday are my favorite authors, too.
I will be forever thankful to the woman writers who have gone before me and inspired me. Because of them, I was able to achieve my own dream of becoming a published author. As Laura Ingalls Wilder is quoted as saying, “No one has ever achieved anything from the smallest to the greatest unless the dream was dreamed first.”
Thank you, Laura, Anne, and Erma, for daring to dream first.
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Barnes & Nobel: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/toes-on-the-dash-karen-c-whalen/1140989970?ean=2940160712291
Apple books: https://books.apple.com/us/book/toes-on-the-dash/id1609810860