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

3 Comments

  1. Susan

    George Cramer–thank you for interviewing Mariko–have heard her play the piano and loved it–will now buy her book too!
    And Thank you George for your enjoyable newsletter–love your life story, appreciate your tenacity (I grew up on a dozen different Indian reservations–parents worked Indian Public Health Service). Thanks again!

    Reply
    • George Cramer

      Susan, Thanks for your comments about Mariko and the blog.

      Reply
  2. Michael A .Black

    Congratulations on your book, Mariko. It sounds fascinating. Your book about the interment camps sounds equally fascinating. A few years back I had a Japanese woman in my Writing a Memoir class who had been a small child in one of those camps. Her recollections were gut-wrenching. I wish you much success. Good luck.

    Reply

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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

15 Comments

  1. Vinnie Hansen

    Nice to see you on here, Kirsten. I’ll see you in person soon.

    Reply
  2. Pamela Ruth Meyer

    Wonderful post, Kristen and George. I can’t help thinking… “See, AI, you don’t stand a chance.” Kristin, you help show the magic of HUMAN imagination. This was fun and inspiring. Best of luck with LEGACY OF THE WITCH!

    Reply
    • Kirsten Weiss

      Pamela:

      I think our only chance against AI is to be as creative as possible!

      Kirsetn

      Reply
  3. Peg Brantley

    Sometimes going down the research rabbit hole pays off!!!

    Reply
  4. Peg Roche

    It’s so interesting to see where your ideas have come from. Also, how one idea can lead to so many more angles! Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  5. Marilyb Meredith

    Great idea. Interesting post.

    Reply
  6. Ana

    Kirsten, I always enjoy your books!
    Ana Manwaring

    Reply
  7. Michael A. Black

    Interesting concept, Kirsten. Witch– I mean which of your books do you suggest reading first? Please don’t cast a spell on me for the bad pun. 😉
    Best of luck to you.

    Reply
    • Kirsten Weiss

      Haha! You can jump into the mystery school series with book 1, Legacy of the Witch. If you want more back story, then the Doyle Witch series it spun off of could be fun –it’s more witch cozy mystery than metaphysical, but there are connections. The first book in that series is Bound, and I think it’s free right now!

      Reply
  8. Marie Sutro

    Wow!! This sounds awesome!!!

    Reply
  9. Shelley Lee Riley

    Fascinating, and I’m looking forward to reading some of your books.

    Reply

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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/ (more…)

18 Comments

  1. Rhonda Blackhurst

    Great post! And coastal Maine? **swooning** I’ve always wanted to visit there someday. I hope “someday” gets here soon. haha! And I’m in love with the 160-year-old haunted inn you and hubs are restoring. What fun!

    Reply
    • Debra Bokur

      I hope to see you there someday… I’ll send you off on a private ghost hunt 🙂

      Reply
  2. Laurel Kallenbach

    Your devotion to telling stories—and revisiting them over and over again—is inspiring. Our lives would be dull and meaningless without stories in books, films, and told orally. Thanks for sharing your own story. And I can’t wait to read your next mystery series!!!

    Reply
    • Debra Bokur

      Thank you, Laurel. I realize you already know this, but you’re one of those enduring friends I mention. And a fabulous writer, as well.

      Reply
  3. Candace Hardy

    Debra, I just finished listening to Stories that Stick by Kendra Hall, and your story is a perfect example of the power of stories. I enjoyed when I was young a thousand years ago Native American books by Grace Moon, and the movie I watched a zillion times is Broadcast News. Diverse, I’m happy to say. Enjoyed your post.
    Candy

    Reply
    • Debra Bokur

      Wow, Candace thanks — I love that movie, too. I’m not familiar with author Grace Moon, but you’ve definitely put her on my radar!

      Reply
  4. Pamela Ruth Meyer

    This post was such fun, Debra ( and George). As others already said, it was a great trip down memory lane. Best of luck with LAVA WITCH.

    Reply
    • Debra Bokur

      Many thanks!

      Reply
  5. Peg Roche

    Really enjoyed your story, Debra, and look forward to reading the first of your books I just downloaded: The Lava Witch (the only one available).

    Thanks , George, for introducing Debra!

    Reply
    • Debra Bokur

      Thank you, Peg – I truly hope you enjoy the book! I had a lot of fun writing it.

      Reply
  6. Debra Bokur

    Wow, thank you, Donnell. You are both thoughtful and kind. And that music, right? I wonder if the filmmakers had any idea that decades after the film was born, that music would still be source of chills. I didn’t read the book until years after seeing the film, and I could still hear it in the background!

    Reply
  7. Donnell Ann Bell

    Debra, thank you for such a wonderful trip down Memory Lane. I graduated high school in 1975 and your details of the era are as precise as I remember, I cannot wait for your haunted ghost series. it will be a departure from your excellent Hawaiian mysteries, which will be a hard act to follow! Even in a promotional blog describing what brought you this point, your writing ability and wisdom shine. I suspect you owe it in part to concession stands, your friend “Ally” and to Peter Benchley’s JAWS. What kid doesn’t remember the lines from this thriller? I spent much of my time covering my eyes, particularly when Da ta . . . Da ta . . . Da.ta da.ta Da.ta played on the screen. All I can say in closing is this is a sensational blog, and . . . “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” Thanks George for sharing Debra Bokur with us!

    Reply
  8. Marie Sutro

    Love this!! Jaws will always be a favorite. The very best friendships are forged in popcorn, soda, and suspense!

    Reply
    • Debra Bokur

      Thanks, Marie! I agree on all accounts.

      Reply
  9. Michael A. Black

    Great Jaws story, Debra. I’ll have to check out your books. Be careful swimming.

    Reply
    • Debra Bokur

      Thank you, Michael! I tend to stick to lakes and pools these days, though I used to love that Jaws ride at Universal Studios 🙂

      Reply
  10. Heather Haven

    What a great post! And I love the phrase, “concession stand memories.” Thanks so much for sharing your life, hopes, and dreams. Putting aside the jaguars, they were very similar to mine.

    Reply
    • Debra Bokur

      Thanks, Heather — And for the record, I would consider an Aston Martin an acceptable substitution if a Jag isn’t part of the Universe’s plans 🙂

      Reply

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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

1 Comment

  1. Michael A. Black

    I’m familiar with D.P. Lyle’s work and he is an excellent writer. This one reminded me of an old Mark Twain quote: “The difference between fiction and real life is that fiction at some point has to make sense.”
    (I may not have gotten that one exactly as the esteemed Mr. Twain put it, but you get the idea.)
    Good luck with your new one.

    Reply

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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

6 Comments

  1. Marie Sutro

    Sounds like a fabulous read!!

    Reply
    • Mailan Doquang

      Thank you very much, Marie! I hope people enjoy it!

      Reply
  2. Rhonda Blackhurst

    Thank you for the post Mailan & George! It’s inspiring to read another author’s process and it’s impressive that you went from in-depth non-fiction writing to fiction. Your advice to other authors is timeless and something I remind myself of all the time when I find myself in that endless loop of comparisonitis.

    Reply
    • Mailan Doquang

      Thank you so much, Rhonda! When I started grad school, I had a moment of panic and said to my boyfriend (now husband), “What if everyone is smarter than me?” I think of his response whenever comparisonitis creeps in: “Don’t worry about how smart everyone else is. Focus on how smart you are.” I picked a good one!

      Reply
  3. Michael A. Black

    Congratulations on your first novel, Mailan. You sound like you have the perfect approach to being an author. The book and the protagonist sound intriguing. Best of luck to you.

    Reply
    • Mailan Doquang

      Thanks so much, Michael! I’m so excited for my book baby to be out in the world!

      Reply

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BRUCE BERLS & JIM ROWSON – Friends Chat & Collaborate

Bruce Berls and Jim Rowson are the authors of UNCOMMON SCENTS, a cautionary frolic with more humor and 80% less dystopia than the average near-future thriller. The authors are reclusive introverts rarely seen in public, so having them with us is thrilling.

Bruce: Thank you for coming today.

Jim: What are you on about? I’m in my living room, the same as you.

Bruce: I’ve known you since we were wee lads in high school.

Jim: We were both six feet tall when we met, so “wee lads” isn’t quite the right image. I think we bonded in high school because everybody else thought we were weird.

Bruce: We became fast friends right away – in tune with each other’s senses of humor, sharing a love of science fiction during its glory days in the 70s, and being there for each other as decades went by – roommates, best man, bad influences, someone to laugh at each other’s jokes and provide comfort in hard times. In 2021, I had been writing snarky articles about Microsoft for Bruceb News for twenty years, but it was slowing down. You were finishing your career at YouTube and would soon have free time for the first time in your life. The drab landscape of retirement stretched before us until you said casually, “Have you ever thought about writing a novel?” Technically, everything that has happened since then has been your fault. What in the world was in your head?

Jim: I’m completely astonished that I’m writing novels now. My background is in programming, where fictional stories are not an asset. I actually can’t remember ever taking a creative writing course while at school, though I would be delighted to boor you with details of the 20,000 lines of BCPL code I wrote in 1976. As an avid sci-fi reader, I’ve loved world building. My favorite books are those that have a new idea on every page, exploring how new ideas and tech impact society. Our collaboration started with building a world around technology that enables everyone to experience augmented reality without special equipment.

Bruce: I’m convinced that augmented reality will have an even larger impact on the world than computers and the internet. Instead of doing research, we invented injectable nanobots over lunch at an Italian restaurant. Then, we came up with a plausible explanation of how a large company would convince everyone to adopt them. The word “plausible” is doing a lot of work in that sentence.

Jim: Some near-future science fiction is heavily researched. It winds up being dystopian because whatever current trend you research – AI, climate change, bio-warfare, gene editing, drones – leads inevitably to the conclusion that we’re all doomed. We didn’t want to write that kind of story, so we just made stuff up.

Bruce: We’re plotters, not pantsers. UNCOMMON SCENTS has an Oceans 11-style plot involving corporate secrets and mixed-up MacGuffin envelopes moving from place to place. Collaboration was fun as we figured out how to get characters where they needed to be.

Jim: I’m pretty sure that the personalities of a few of your characters are drawn from me and our wives. Two questions: (1) How could you? Those things are private, and you’re well aware no one pressed charges. (2) Where did the characters come from? Is there any significance to the names?

Bruce: Obviously, you’re the inspiration for Spiro, our uber-nerd programmer who works at Arrgle and invents a way to augment people’s sense of smell. Congratulations! Cabalynne came out of thin air, a slightly pudgy young woman who spends her big scene in an ill-fitting ninja suit. As a leader of an online army of conspiracy believers, it’s appropriate that her name starts with “cabal.” She plays a minor role in UNCOMMON SCENTS, but she was a natural to become the protagonist in my second novel VEILPIERCER.

Jim: One of my favorite characters is Sanger Manjoo, a garrulous reporter whose voice was inspired by the Peter Falk character in the movie The In-Laws. I’d quote him, but we don’t have space, as Manjoo would want to buy you a cookie and learn in great detail how your day has gone.

Bruce: He pretends to be a New York Times reporter, so I drew his name from two real NYTimes reporters, David Sanger and Farhad Manjoo. The character’s name was originally intended to be an online pseudonym, but the two of us fell in love with him as we wrote the book, and now it’s impossible to imagine him with any other name. After finishing the book, we had to figure out how to publish it.

Jim: Yeah, we tried the traditional route. We sent off query letters to a bunch of agents that specialize in science fiction. Sadly, our impatience and their indifference got the best of us.

Bruce: I find it strangely thrilling to say that Uncommon Scents was rejected by some of the top agents in the business.

Jim: We ended up self-publishing through Amazon, partly because we couldn’t wait to get our hands on a printed copy. Now, we’re working on marketing, trying to find a way to stand out from the crowd.

Bruce: Our website at https://arrgle.com provides hours of riveting entertainment – articles in plain English about augmented reality, ChatGPT, and modern tech, along with sample chapters from our novels. Sign up for the weekly newsletter, which is far more than the usual marketing fluff.

Jim: You can also follow us at @ArrgleBooks on both YouTube and TikTok, where we pique our followers’ interests with quotes from famous authors, sci-fi book reviews, snippets from our work, and even my Mom’s chocolate chip cookie recipe.

Bruce: We’re working on two more novels. Both are set in the same world as UNCOMMON SCENTS, but neither is a sequel. I’m revising the sixth draft of VEILPIERCER, the story of a young woman who assembles an unlikely team for an assault on the most powerful computer on earth, seeking to expose the secrets of the wealthy. It has the same snarky tone as UNCOMMON SCENTS because it is literally impossible for me to write any other way.

Jim: And I’m working on a serious noir detective story called THE AVATAR MURDERS, also in the Arrgle universe. My detective, Kurt Hardash, solves mysteries using his eyes that, due to a mishap when young, can see both augmented and actual reality. He sees more than others, allowing him to solve a serial murder case and track down who killed his wife—less snark, more violence, including altercations with forks and kitchen appliances.

Bruce: Thank you, Jim. You’re my favorite collaborator.

Jim: If I was going to say lovely things about you, I think you know this is where they would appear.

Website: https://arrgle.com
Newsletter: https://arrgle.com/newsletter/
YouTube: @arrglebooks
TikTok: @arrglebooks

Contact: info@arrgle.com

4 Comments

  1. Nathan Berris

    I’ve read Uncommon Scents, it’s fabulous! I recommend it.

    Reply
  2. Cynthia McIntyre

    Disclaimer: I went to high school with Bruce and Jim. It would be difficult to find two smarter, nicer guys. That said, my completely unbiased opinion is that Uncommon Scents was a really fun and imaginative book. I enjoyed it very much and highly recommend it. Have you ever considered a podcast? You’d be great!

    Reply
  3. Shelley Riley

    If the characters in your novel are as entertaining as you two, it should be a very exciting read. I will enjoy taking a look at your collaboration.

    Reply
  4. MIchael A. Black

    Congratulations on Uncommon Scents. You two should have your own talk show. Good luck with your new projects.
    Write on.

    Reply

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