PATY JAGER – Brings Westerns and Native American Stories

Paty Jager is an award-winning author of 55 novels, eight novellas, and numerous anthologies of murder mystery and western romance. All her work has Western or Native American elements, hints of humor, and engaging characters.Paty and her husband raise alfalfa hay in rural eastern Oregon. Riding horses and battling rattlesnakes, she not only writes about the Western lifestyle, but she also lives it.

Thank you, George, for inviting me to your blog. The Pinch, book 5 in my Spotted Pony Casino Mystery series, was published on February 22nd. It is available for pre-order.

Dela Alvaro, a disabled veteran and head of security for the Spotted Pony Casino, is doing a security check for a casino on the Oregon Coast when a child is kidnapped and Dela’s friend is murdered.

The idea for this story has been in my head for many years. I usually plan two writing retreats a year at the Oregon Coast. I stay a week and get a lot of writing done because I’m not catering to the animals or my husband. There aren’t any chores, and I write, walk on the beach, and write more.

On one such trip, I was walking along the beach, enjoying the briny salt air and the mist of the fog and waves. I noticed an older man with a boy about four or five out at the water’s edge. The boy was splashing and digging with a plastic shovel. I continued walking and noticed a boat close to the shore, or closer than any I’d witnessed before. My gaze gravitated to rocks sticking up out of the waves a good thirty or more feet from where the water lapped at the beach. Watching the splashing waves and enjoying the moment, I thought I saw the head of a seal bobbing by the rocks. That seemed dangerous, but they are good swimmers. I continued on and eventually turned around, heading back to where I’d entered the beach.

The boat was gone, and the older man walked up to the hotel without the boy. I looked around and didn’t see him anywhere. That was where my imagination kicked in. By the time I was back at the place I was staying, I’d come up with a kidnapping, a premise, and how it would play out. My only problem is that I was writing romance books at the time, and I didn’t see how to use this in western romance.

However, the idea stayed with me, and when I started writing mysteries, I kept coming back to the idea, trying first to make it fit with my character in the Shandra Higheagle mysteries, but I didn’t see how I could make it work. Then, when I started writing the Gabriel Hawke novels, I thought, now, I can use that story. But even though I took Hawke to Iceland for a book, I couldn’t find a plausible reason for him to be on the Oregon Coast.

Then came the Spotted Pony Casino mystery series and Dela Alvaro, my disabled veteran who is head of security for the Spotted Pony Casino on the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation. After four books where she has helped the FBI and Tribal Police track down killers, she has a reputation for running a tight security staff. She is invited to a Tribal casino on the Oregon Coast to help them tighten up security, and now I could finally see how my story and premise would play out.

When I decided now was the time to write the book, a friend and I went on a road trip to visit a casino on the Oregon Coast. I had planned to use that casino in the book. Still, when I started making fictional employees at the casino accomplices in the crime, I decided I needed a fictional casino. Then, my mind wasn’t tied to logistics anymore, either.

Even though I had visited the casino and talked to security staff, I kept running into things I hadn’t realized I’d need to know to write the story, and the emails I’d sent to the casino asking questions went unanswered. Having the epiphany to use a fictional casino as I do in the Spotted Pony Casino books freed up my mind to work on the kidnapping and murder rather than logistics.

This series points out the widespread danger that Indigenous people- mostly women, face. My main character lives with the fact that in high school, she left her best friend in a small town not far from the reservation because she didn’t want to leave when my character had to get back for basketball practice. She is found the next day murdered and sexually assaulted. In the first book where this character comes to life, Stolen Butterfly in my Gabriel Hawke novels, she helps find two women missing from the reservation and last seen at the casino.

In this book, she not only has to deal with a missing child but she is reunited with a best friend from her time in the military, only to have her murdered. One more slash to my character’s heart and one more spark to make her always find justice.

This book took a long time to come to fruition, but I believe it was worth it.

Recent Projects

I published Christmas Chaos in October to give readers of my Shandra Higheagle Mystery series some closure. A short story with Dela and Heath characters in my Spotted Pony Casino Mystery series is available in the Windtree Press Whispers anthology.

Blurb / Long- Dela Alvaro, head of security for the Spotted Pony Casino, is asked to do a security check of a casino on the Oregon Coast. She no sooner starts her rounds at the casino than a child is kidnapped. The parents are a dubious couple. Special Agent Quinn Pierce of the FBI has been out to get the father for some time.

One of Dela’s best friends from the Army appears, and they catch up, only to find her friend strangled the next morning after having divulged to Dela she may have photos of the kidnapping.

As Dela struggles with the violent death of yet another best friend, her lover, Tribal Officer Heath Seaver, arrives, and the two begin untangling the lies, bribes, and murders.

In the end, as Heath carries the child to safety, Dela must face a cunning killer alone.

Blurb / Short – Dela Alvaro, a disabled veteran and head of security for the Spotted Pony Casino, is doing a security check for a casino on the Oregon Coast when a child is kidnapped and Dela’s friend is murdered.

Groups I belong to:
Crimescene writers loop
Sisters in Crime
Niwa
Alli
Author’s Guild
20 Books 50
Links
Book link for The Pinch – Universal book link- https://books2read.com/u/38Y787
Social Media Links
TikTok – @authorpatyjager
Instagram – @patymjager
YouTube – @PatyJager
Facebook – Author Paty Jager
Twitter – @patyjag
website – https://www.patyjager.net
blogs – https://ladiesofmystery.com and https://writingintothesunset.net

7 Comments

  1. Carl Vonderau

    It’s amazing where the stories come from. Your fiction writing mind is always at work. The books sounds great.

    Reply
  2. Peg Roche

    Looking forward to reading “The Pinch”. I can picture the setting and am interested in your lead character. Those twice a year retreats sound like a great idea! Good luck with this new book. Thanks for the introduction, George!

    Reply
    • Paty Jager

      Peg, Thank you for stopping in and commenting. I do enjoy my retreats and get a lot accomplished when I’m there.

      Reply
  3. Kathleen Kaska

    I enjoyed reading about your latest mystery. You are such a prolific writer!

    Reply
    • Paty Jager

      Hi Kathleen, Thank you! I have fun coming up with the premises and hopefully enlightening people as well as entertaining them.

      Reply
  4. Michael A. Black

    Sounds like you use your powers of observation to come up with new plots, which is really neat. Your series sounds fascinating, but I have to ask…. did you ever find out what happened to the little boy? Best of luck to you.

    Reply
    • Paty Jager

      Hi Michael, No. I never knew what happened to the little boy. I never saw the older man again either. It is one of those mysteries that will rattle around in head and help me to come up with other scenarios for books.

      Reply

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BRUCE LEWIS – Journalist to Author

Bruce Lewis graduated from California State University at Long Beach with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. After completing the 36-week Copley Newspaper Training Program, working as a reporter for six California daily and weekly newspapers, he began a seven-year career as a general assignment reporter. During that period, he wrote over 5,000 stories and won six awards for best news and feature writing. He specialized in crime news, going undercover with cops and covering the courts, sheriffs, California Highway Patrol, and fire districts.

His post-retirement bucket list included writing one novel. That novel, Human Strays (published originally in November of 2021 under a different name and title), was intended to be his one and only. Like most writers, he got the fiction-writing bug. He wrote and published four novels in three years: 1-Angel of Mercy, 2-Human Strays, 3-Family Curse, 4-The Red Flock, and the novelette Love Storm. He is working on his fifth novel in the series, Bless Me, Father—For You Have Sinned.

After retiring and settling in Portland, Oregon, Bruce created a bucket list:

  • Create a family genealogy (completed in 2020)
  • Write a novel (completed in 2020)
  • Kick the bucket (just joking)

“The idea for my first thriller, Human Strays, baked for a decade before I wrote it. The idea came from a pro bono project I took on to benefit the Mendocino Coast Humane Society (MCHS),” said Lewis. “One of my fellow Mendocino Rotarians, the chair of the Human Society Board of Directors, asked me to help promote The Ark, the Society’s thrift store, a major source of funds to support its mission. As president and co-founder of Lewis & Summers Public Relations (based in Lafayette, California), it was a natural extension of work I was already doing for a half dozen clients on the coast.”

Bruce toured the Humane Society to help plan his fundraising strategy to save and house stray cats and dogs. An hour later, Lewis was coming out of a supermarket in Fort Bragg, where a homeless man dug food scraps out of a trash can.

“Buy a sandwich,” I said, handing him five dollars. He looked at it, stuck it in his pocket, and continued his treasure hunt, swallowing a few ounces of leftover soda from someone’s fast-food lunch.

“That evening, it hit me: homeless humans are strays like the dogs and cats temporarily housed at the shelter. They sleep outdoors and scrounge for food to survive.”

The First Novel –  Fast forward ten years to 2015, when Lewis retired: “My wife and I had moved to Portland, Oregon, where I began drafting Human Strays. The book’s theme is about veterinarian Jim Briggs’s effort to save a drug-addicted homeless woman by finding her a permanent home. If he could save one, Briggs figured he could save others.

Lewis said he wrote the book over two years, working primarily at Ovation, a busy coffee shop on the edge of Portland’s Field Park, under the Fremont Bridge.

“I’d walk a mile to the coffee shop with my laptop, write for an hour or two, then walk home. During these strolls, I thought of new characters, how to write scenes, and how to fix the organizational mess I created by using nifty author software to move chapters freely from one location to another. A steady diet of Moroccan Lattes and right-out-of-the-oven toasted coconut scones fueled my writing. The exercise walks didn’t hurt.”

“On any day at the coffee shop, I could be surrounded by a hubbub of cyclists getting their caffeine fix, women from a nearby yoga class gossiping about their lives, or a group of young mothers in hijabs giggling, and I could tune it out. That’s the beauty of being a newspaper crime reporter for seven years, turning out copy every day on deadline in a chaotic newsroom.”

Because of that experience, he says he can write for an hour, wash a load of clothes, eat lunch, read a book, and then come back and write more with no problem getting back into the story.

Writing What You Know – Human Strays is filled with unsheltered characters, primarily based on homeless people Lewis had observed on his daily walks, looking for ideas and photos for his blog, WalkingPDX. He often combined several homeless people he observed into a single character, careful not to make a person identifiable.

When he finished Human Strays, he pitched it to numerous agents and publishers before he found an independent publisher with more than 500 authors under contract.

Despite having written some 8,000 stories during his newspaper and public relations careers, he discovered he had much to learn about writing fiction when he turned in his manuscript. Six weeks later, the rejection letter said, ‘I’m sorry, we won’t be representing you. Our reviewer said the writing was good, but there was too much tell and too little show. It might be too much to fix. But good luck.’

“I laugh about it now,” said Lewis. “I had to Google show versus tell. I looked at some examples and rewrote the book in six weeks, adding about 20,000 words of show. The updated version of the manuscript was accepted two weeks after he re-submitted it.

The Writing Bug – Like most writers who publish a novel, Lewis got the fiction-writing bug. He wrote and published four novels in three years: 1-Angel of Mercy, 2-Human Strays, 3-Family Curse, 4-The Red Flock, and the romantic mystery Love Storm. He is currently working on his fifth novel in the series, Bless Me, Father—For You Have Sinned (Summer 2024).

Asked if he is a pantser (someone who writes by the seat of his pants) or a plotter (plots every chapter before starting), Lewis smiled and said, “I’m a plotting pantser.” I create a one-page outline—one chapter per line—and then write by the seat of my pants. I can visualize scenes and write them as if I were there. I believe that’s the result of covering hundreds of news events as a reporter.”

Asked how he could have a veterinarian as a protagonist in his books without having been one. “Easy,” he said. “I had dogs for 25 years, met many vets, and learned about dog care first-hand, including putting down our Beagle, Mac.” When in doubt, he visited the website of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).

Writing What You Know – “Of course, I make up stuff, but a good amount of my novels are sprinkled with lived experiences, like Veterinarian Jim Briggs saying goodbye to his dying mother in Human Strays:

Briggs leaned over and whispered to Susie, “I love you, Mom. I’ll miss you.” An instant later, her head flew off the pillow, her eyes bulging with terror, inches from Brigg’s face. He jumped back. Just as quickly, she lay back down, as inert as before.

Lewis confided, “This is just how it happened when I removed my Mom from life support on Mother’s Day 2004.

Bruce Lewis – Author

Website: http://www.TheAngelOfMercy.com
Email:  blewis16@icloud.com
Instagram: PDXWalker

3 Comments

  1. Deven Greene

    Thanks for the interesting insight into your writing career. Even though you are no longer working against a newspaper deadline, you are very productive! While generally “unseen,” the unhoused are an important topic of discussion these days. Best of luck with your next book, Bless Me Father–For You Have Sinned. Interesting title!

    Reply
  2. Michael A. Black

    A lot of reporters gravitate naturally to fiction writing. Your background seems to be tailor made for this. Good luck with your writing, but be careful around those homeless people. I found them sad but sometimes unpredictable and volatile. Good luck with your new book.

    Reply
  3. Pamela Ruth Meyer

    A model for bucket lists the world over. Inspiring post. Thanks, George and Bruce.

    Reply

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G.M. MALLIET – Mystery and Cozy Mystery

G.M. Malliet is an American award-winning author of mystery and cozy mystery novels. She is best known for writing the Agatha Award-winning Death of a Cozy Writer (2008), the first installment of the St. Just Mystery Series, named among the Best Books of 2008 by Kirkus Reviews.

 

The holder of degrees from Oxford University and the University of Cambridge, G.M. Malliet has wide experience in journalism and copywriting. Before switching to fiction writing, she wrote for national and international news publications (Thomson Reuters) and public broadcasters (PBS). She currently resides in the U.S.

Elevator Pitch: Max Tudor thought he’d left the world of deceit when he resigned from MI5 to become an Anglican priest. Then his bishop asks him to return to his Oxford college, St Luke’s, to investigate the death of its chaplain, and Max realizes there’s no leaving the past behind.

What brought you to writing? Writing was always just there. It’s the kind of thing you are compelled to do rather than take up idly on a whim. The longer I live, the more I wish I could cut back on the writing, but that compulsion is still there.

Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? My office is right in the middle of a several-story house, so it’s Grand Central Station. I think that might just be what I’m comfortable with. If I have too much quiet, I can’t really work.

Tell us about your writing process: The early stages of writing are always the fun part when you’re not committed to anything. That’s where the joy comes in.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process? What are you currently working on? Book 6 in the St. Just series. It is called Death and the Old Master.

Has an association membership helped you with your writing? Both SinC and MWA have provided friendships with seasoned experts willing to share their expertise.

How do you come up with character names? Like most authors, I use a baby naming site or the Census records.

Do you ever kill a popular character? I wanted to kill an early Max Tudor character. St. Martin’s wouldn’t allow it. I still regret caving.

G.M. Malliet is a member of:
Crime Writers’ Association (U.K.),
International Thriller Writers,
Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance,
Mystery Writers of America,
Sisters in Crime (former National Board member).

Contact me:
Website: Gmmalliet.com
Email me at gm at gmmalliet dot com.
I can’t always answer, but I love fan mail 😉

 

14 Comments

  1. Glenda Carroll

    “It’s fun but … it’s not.” Glad to hear someone else say that. I think that’s my motto. Get interview.

    Reply
    • G.M. Malliet

      There’s a meme or whatever going around FB that says, “We don’t do this because it’s easy. We do it because we thought it would be easy.” That sums it up perfectly, doesn’t it?

      Reply
  2. Joseph Bryce HAGGERTY Sr

    I’m sorry I don’t understand not being committed to anything when you start writing. I am always committed the story I have in my head. I’ll grant you the story doesn’t always go the way I intended, but I don’t think I was would have started writing if I wasn’t committed to the story.

    Reply
    • G.M. Malliet

      I’m committed (probably) to the place or theme or characters. but at the beginning, wide open!

      Reply
  3. Michal Strutin

    “…the fun part” indeed! On the reader end, just starting a new mystery is also fun. It so happens that the one I’m starting this evening is The Washing Away of Wrongs.

    Reply
    • G.M. Malliet

      Thank you Michal! I hope you like it!

      Reply
  4. Vinnie Hansen

    I enjoyed learning more about you, G.M.

    Reply
    • G.M. Malliet

      Thank you. So glad George gave me the opening!

      Reply
  5. Karen A Phillips

    Thanks for sharing “I wanted to kill an early Max Tudor character. St. Martin’s wouldn’t allow it. I still regret caving.” It is always interesting for me to hear what it’s like to be an author with a traditional publisher.

    Reply
    • G.M. Malliet

      Publishers tend to want to keep doing what worked in the past for them. But that means they miss a chance to break out into new areas.

      Reply
  6. Michael A. Black

    Ms. Malliet, I loved your comment abut your favorite part of writing is the early stages when you’re not committed to anything. So true. Best of luck to you.

    Reply
    • G.M. Malliet

      So true, yes. Right now I’m editing a short story and fixing the “Little Problems” that crop up as I go along. It’s fun but … it’s not.

      Reply

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SID MELTZER – Various Stops on His Way to Publication

After a long career in 9-to-5 jobs – caseworker, teacher, Probation Officer, urban planner, copywriter, and even aircraft carrier tour guide – Sid became a published author at the age of seventy-one. Whether or not he makes a dime from his thrillers, that alone is an accomplishment he’s proud of.

Two of his past jobs were particularly helpful when he began writing crime novels. As a Probation Officer, he learned to see things from a criminal’s point of view and to tip-toe past their minds’ many dark alleys. As a copywriter, he learned how to craft stories that draw readers in and keep them wanting more.

Murderer from Moscow is the sequel to his debut Kim Barbieri thriller, Unwitting Accomplice. The Russian mafia has to stop reporter Kim Barbieri from exposing their money laundering in NY—and they’re going to use the world’s most lethal poison to shut her up.

Will they succeed in killing her? Or will she succeed in putting them out of business for good?

What brought you to writing? As a copywriter for many years, I convinced customers to buy what my clients were selling. That was my job, and I was pretty good at it – according to the lawyers, suits, and clients who approved my work. When I retired, I decided to write to please a whole new audience – readers of crime novels like myself. I knew three things going in: Crime fiction readers could be a tough audience, I had a compelling story idea, and I was up to the task.

What’s the most challenging thing about writing characters from the opposite sex? The challenge is making my characters of the opposite sex credible and relatable to my readers of the opposite sex. Rightly or wrongly, male writers have a reputation among women readers for not doing female characters well. My protagonist, Kim Barbieri, is both a strong, tough woman unfazed by violence and a very human person dealing with everyday issues faced by women of a certain age in our society. I was determined to do right by her—and several female readers have told me I’d succeeded.

Do you outline, or are you a pantser? That’s not an either/or question, as far as I’m concerned. I do an outline, of course, to make sure all the moving parts conform to the story arc. But as I develop my characters, they often seem to take on a life of their own. They grow. They change. I then find myself becoming a pantser, letting them make decisions I hadn’t planned on. How does she react when she stumbles upon a crime scene? How does she deal with a crisis? Those become her decisions as much as mine. And her actions sometimes change the plot I’d so carefully laid out in the outline – for the better!

What kind of research do you do? They say, ‘Write what you know’. But when I develop an idea for a novel, I make it a point to include topics I know nothing about. For instance, to write my first thriller, Unwitting Accomplice, I learned the pros and cons of using specific weapons—knife, gun, poison, vehicle—to end a victim’s life without getting caught by the police. And for my second thriller, Murderer from Moscow, I learned all I could about one lethal weapon: poison. How many there are, how each enters the body, which organs each one attacks, and how long each takes to kill. For both books, there was a lot of physiology and chemistry jargon to master, and my challenge was to write everything I’d learned in an easily understood way that wouldn’t kill the desire of the average reader to go on to the next chapter.

Where do you place your characters? Real or fictional settings? My two thrillers take place in New York, a vibrant, dynamic, ever-changing metropolis with many unique neighborhoods and ethnic communities. I grew up there and found that if described well, a neighborhood, a street, or even a particular shop can become an interesting character.

The settings for my two thrillers are in neighborhoods I know especially well from my days as a New York State Probation Officer – Fort Greene in Unwitting Accomplice and Williamsburg in Murderer from Moscow. They’re both fully gentrified now, with upstanding citizens and excellent schools, and they both are a good place for my protagonist to come home to. But back in the day, they were both “bad” neighborhoods, with drug addicts, muggings, poverty, bad schools, high unemployment, etc.

Groups where you can find Sid:
Mystery Writers of America NY
Sisters in Crime, NY
Facebook groups:
• Authors and book lovers connect
• All things books
• Authors and writers promoting to readers
• Writers and authors promotions
• Author/publisher/editor/book readers
• Book authors, show off your books
• Book Promotion
• e-book authors promo
• crime fiction addict
• black rose writing authors
• indie writer book and self-promotion
• NY authors, writers, poets, book clubs, and literary organizations

You can read more about my thrillers at Sidmeltzer.com.
You can email me at sidmeltzer@aol.com.
You can order Murderer from Moscow on Amazon at tinyurl.com/5b3fjnyh or from Black Rose Writing.
You can order Unwitting Accomplice on Amazon at tinyurl.com/pjjs4v7t or from Rogue Phoenix Press.

 

2 Comments

  1. Michael A. Black

    Good interview, Sid. You sound like you have a good handle on writing and know how to make it work. Best of luck to you.

    Reply
  2. Pamela Ruth Meyer

    What a varied array of professions you’ve had, Sid. It sounds perfect for a mystery writer ( ; And thanks for the discussion about writing a POV gender that is different from your own. I’ve been working on writing my male detective POV character more believably. (I’m pretty sure he’s still too touchy-feely, if you know what I mean). Best of luck with MURDER FROM MOSCOW.

    Reply

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LISA TOWLES – Award Winning Crime Novelist

Lisa Towles is an Amazon bestselling and award-winning crime novelist and a passionate speaker on fiction writing, creativity, and self-care. She has eleven crime thrillers in print, and a new thriller, Codex, is forthcoming in June 2024. Her latest thriller, Terror Bay, won a NYC Big Book Award, Literary Titan Award, and she is a Crimson Quill Awardee from Book Viral. Her 2022 thriller Salt Island won five literary awards and is the second book in her E&A Investigations Series. Lisa’s deep commitment to helping other authors led her to develop her Author Spotlight blog and her new YouTube author interview series, Story Impact, which gives authors a powerful medium for promoting themselves as speakers and discussing the meaning and impact of their books to readers. Lisa has an MBA in IT Management, is a communications and marketing advisor, and is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers.

Tell us about your latest book. Terror Bay is a standalone psychological thriller about a San Francisco detective whose life falls apart after he’s shot in the line of duty. While in a coma, he “encounters” a female diver and wakes up to a sudden impulse to discover if she’s real and what she wants from him. In so doing, he discovers an ancient shipwreck, buried treasure, and the answer to a question that had haunted him since childhood.

What do you think are some challenges of the writing path? Being a published author requires two distinct skill sets – the creative aspects of writing and editing a book for publication and the business of writing. Writers need to be adept at social media, book promotion, cultivating a following, connecting with readers, and public speaking to talk about their books. These themes connect them to readers and explain why their books matter. So, a challenge is knowing what tasks to do yourself and what tasks to outsource to others. And this can be tricky.

Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? My books do have subplots, sometimes several. And the process of integrating all the threads into one is both an art and a science. I use plotting techniques like storyboarding to understand how subplots fit together, but some of those answers are just intuitive and require quiet time in my thinking chair…and time to allow the story to emerge.

What kind of research do you do for your books? Every book I write requires research, but Terror Bay required even more, such as diving research, medical research on coma and traumatic brain injuries and related recovery, regional research on the Puget Sound/Bainbridge Island setting, and historical research on the actual shipwreck and treasure on which the plot is based.

Besides promoting Terror Bay, what else are you currently working on? I’m working with my editor to prepare my next thriller, Codex, for release in June 2024, and I am writing a new standalone thriller about the oil and gas industry.

Do you have any advice for new writers? I always advise novice writers to honor the truth of the story that wants to emerge. There’ll be plenty of time to edit and polish that story later and align it with a specific reading market. But it’s so important (especially early on the writing journey) to allow yourself the freedom to just openly create and to give voice and wings to the story that wants to be told.

How do our readers contact you?

• Email: lisamarietowles@gmail.com
• Buy my books on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/author/lisatowles
• Follow me on social media: https://linktr.ee/authortowles

10 Comments

  1. Vinnie Hansen

    George and Lisa, You are so generous to our writing community. I appreciate you both and am happy I know you!

    Reply
  2. Pat Morin

    Lisa,

    I am so impressed with how prolific you are, and how interesting your plots seem, especially Terror Bay. Your advice is timely since my husband has completed his first thriller. I wonder, though, what did you mean by : “So, a challenge is knowing what tasks to do yourself and what tasks to outsource to others.” Can you name a task you outsource?

    Reply
    • Lisa Towles

      Hi Pat, Thank you and that’s exciting about your husband’s book! I do a lot on my own now, like graphic design and book trailers, but I do have some marketing tasks that I outsource to consultants, also cover and bookmark design, and I’m better now about asking for help when I need it 🙂

      Reply
      • Pat Morin

        Got cha. Thank you so much for your reply. Starting our list. 🙂

        Reply
  3. Pamela Ruth Meyer

    George and Lisa, thanks for sharing this. TERROR BAY sounds like the type of book that gets the little hairs on the back of my neck tingling–LOVE IT! As a writer still seeking a book deal, it was encouraging to learn about how Lisa threads in her subplots, and as one who writes historicals, I loved the discussion about research. It is amazing (and very fun) for me to chase down all those different little things I don’t really know enough about and learn them well enough to sew them into my stories. Lisa’s examples from writing this book really brought that home for me,

    Reply
    • Lisa Towles

      Thank you Pamela and so nice to meet you! 📚

      Reply
  4. Susan Dunn, AKA Sue Ward Drake

    Hi, Lisa. This sounds like a very cool What if in TERROR BAY. I love your writing. Are you expecting to put out any more E&A investigations stories?
    P.S. I totally agree about the two separate parts of the writing adventure. The business part is very Argh!-inducing.
    You’ve published a lot of books in a short span of time. Any tips on how to juggle the publishing part with the writing? And do you outline or plan your stories? Thanks.

    Reply
    • Lisa Towles

      Hi Susan, The last E&A book “should” be out end of this year, fingers crossed. I’m both a plotter and a pantser so I do outline the direction and specific plot points but I also leave space for new ideas that inevitably come up. Juggling publishing and writing, for me, depends on my timelines and schedule. Thank you for your great questions and support!

      Reply
  5. Michael A. Black

    Terror Bay sounds like a fascinating book, Lisa. Your advice on writing is first rate. Best of luck to you with your new one. I’ll keep an eye out for it.

    Reply
    • Lisa Towles

      Thank you Michael and lovely to meet you! 🙂

      Reply

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JOHN T. AQUINO – A Fiction Writer Penning a Fact-Based Story

I am an author, attorney, and retired journalist. My last journalism employment was covering legal cases for the Bloomberg Industry Group. I was the publisher and editor of several trade magazines, including Waste Age, Mortgage Banker, and Music Educators Journal, and vice president of finance and production for Hanley-Wood Inc. My short fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies, including Shakespearean Whodunnits, Royal Whodunnits, Jacobean Whodunnits, A Matter of Crime No. 2, and Malice, Matrimony, and Murder, as well as the UK publication Crimeupcopia: Rule Britannia, Britannia Waves the Rules. My  books include Truth and Lives on Film: The Legal Problems in Depicting Real Persons and Events in a Fictional Medium ( https://mcfarlandbooks.com/product/truth-and-lives-on-film-2/ ) and The Radio Burglar: Thief Turned Cop Killer in 1920s Queens ( https://mcfarlandbooks.com/product/The-Radio-Burglar/

Apart from my journalism work, most recently on court cases for Bloomberg Industry Group, the writing on my own has mostly been fiction, primarily short stories. (The most recent one appears in the anthology Malice, Matrimony, and Murder.) I took on my true crime book—The Radio Burglar: Thief Turned Cop Killer in 1920s Queens–for a personal reason that blossomed into the pursuit of a good story.

My wife’s mother was in the process of dying. In order to keep her mind occupied and entertained, I asked her to tell me the story of the Radio Burglar. For years, she had casually mentioned when the dinner-table conversation turned to crime that her uncle, Patrolman Arthur Kenney, had been killed in the line of duty by the Radio Burglar. Most of us were unsure what that really meant. But when I asked her to tell me the story, she described how the burglar had been so named because he had primarily stolen radios, which in 1926 were the most expensive item in homes and had the unfortunate attribute of calling attention to themselves—“Hey! This house has a radio!”

The burglar’s actions terrorized all of New York City and prompted the formation of police manhunt units. Kenney was part of one that spotted the burglar; he pursued him and was shot. He died a week later in the hospital. The manhunt intensified with the death of a member of the force. Two detectives picked up a clue—the New York Times later compared their work to Sherlock Holmes—and captured him at a celebrated sports event with Mayor James J. Walker in attendance.

The Radio Burglar confessed and tried. His confession forced his attorneys to employ an argument that had been offered in the trial of the accused murderer of President James Garfield in 1882. Kenney’s wounds had become infected at the hospital, and the defense contended that he had been killed not by the burglar’s bullet but by hospital malpractice. There was a conviction, an appeal before renowned Judge Benjamin N. Cardozo, and a trip to Sing Sing Prison.

But the story and the trauma suffered by the Kenney family didn’t end on death row. Nine years later, the Kennedys, the NYPD, and the city were involved in another sensational murder trial.

By the time of her death, I was able to show my wife’s mother a partial manuscript, which pleased her because she had always wanted to write a book. But there was more to do. My Bloomberg experience enabled me to pursue century-old court records to flesh out the story more, especially the trial transcripts. I interviewed other family members and their children. I almost lived at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., searching for and reading long, out-of-print memoirs of police officers and detectives who were involved in the case. And most important of all was the ability to access, online and on microfilm, the daily reports of over a dozen New York City newspapers that covered the events daily, as well as accounts on the trial from across the country.

When the book came out, I had good friends saying kindly and almost confidentially, “You have all this dialogue and comments. You must have made some stuff up.” I assured them that the quotes were all from the trial transcripts and newspapers, with the quotes documented in the notes. Even small stories, such as how a teenager told the police she was the burglar’s girlfriend and had accompanied him on his crime spree, actually happened. She was ultimately discovered to have made it up.

I think it is essential that the reader be comfortable in a book describing a “true crime” that the events actually happened as related. (I have another book, Truth and Lives on Film: The Legal Problems in Depicting Real Persons and Events in a Fictitious Medium, which explores how “based on a true story” can mean something different for filmmakers.) But I found out in writing The Radio Burglar that not only my legal reporting experience but also my storytelling background came into play, not in making things up but in making the faintly remembered real. For example, I was able to visit, either in person or through Google Maps—street view, some of the locations where the crimes and trials took place. But all I saw was how these places look one-hundred years later. The trial transcripts included photos of the crime scene and the backyards where the bullets were fired. But these were flat and faded. And so, I tried mentally to enter the images and imagine the feel, scent, and sounds of those backyards, remembering helping my mother hang laundry behind her house, going through neighborhoods in Long Island and Queens where my wife and her family lived, and hearing the scratchy music from 45 rpm records seeping out of the house next door. For the chase where Patrolman Kenney pursued the burglar, I recalled being pursued in alleys in tough neighborhoods of downtown Washington, D.C., with the gravel scattering and pinging as I ran.

After ten years of research and writing, the book was finally completed and published. I believe it’s an exciting story worth the retelling. I hope you think so, too.

 I am a member of the Mystery Writers of America, the Mid-Atlantic Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and the National Press Club (Silver Owl–+25 year member).

For contact information: http://www.johntaquino.com .

 

 

5 Comments

  1. Candace Hardy

    This book sounds fascinating, fun to write, and even more fun to read.

    Reply
  2. Michael a. Black

    Wow, John, his sounds like one hell of a good book. I’ll have to check it out. Best of luck to you.

    Reply
    • John T Aquino

      That “wow” makes a great deal to me, Michael. Thanks for sharing it.

      Reply
  3. Marie Sutro

    Thank you for sharing the story of The Radio Burglar. I’d never heard of it – such a fascinating case!!

    Reply
    • John T Aquino

      Thanks for your comment, Marie. I appreciate your taking the time and letting me know.

      Reply

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