LAURIE STEVENS – Battles AI in Her Latest Novel

Laurie Stevens is the author of the Gabriel McRay thriller series. Her books have won twelve awards, including Kirkus Review’s “Best of” and a Random House Editors’ Book of the Month. International Thriller Writers says she’s “cracked the code” regarding writing psychological suspense, while Suspense Magazine claims she’s the “leader of the pack.”

Laurie’s short stories have appeared in many anthologies and magazines, and she co-edited the Sisters in Crime anthology Fatally Haunted. Laurie’s newest novel, THE RETURN (just released in January), pits human consciousness against artificial intelligence.

ELEVATOR PITCH: Completely reliant on automation and artificial intelligence to run their lives, human beings struggle to survive when a war destroys all the power grids across the globe. Pitting human consciousness against AI, The Return is a timely, suspenseful story of human survival, coming-of-age love, and the true power unleashed when our human hearts connect.

Do you write in more than one genre? When I completed the Gabriel McRay psychological suspense series, I thought I was strictly a crime fiction writer. Then, I began researching the tech that’s upcoming (yikes!) and got the idea for The Return, which is not only a sci-fi/fantasy but a Young Adult crossover. Quite a change!

Was it difficult to change genres? Changing genres blew me out of my comfort zone, for sure. I’m working on a psychological suspense stand-alone novel right now, and writing it feels like a visit with an old friend. That said, I really enjoyed exploring the sci-fi and fantasy elements of the new book. I never intended The Return to be YA, but my editor was once a middle-grade English teacher and said, ‘Do you realize you’ve hit all the hallmarks of a YA novel? I would recommend this to my students!”

Your Gabriel McRay novels featured a male detective, and The Return also features a young male protagonist. What’s the most challenging thing about writing characters from the opposite sex? When I first wrote the character of Gabriel McRay, I asked my husband if he hated shaving every day and other things like that, but then Gabriel sort of took over and began writing himself. A creative writing class at UCLA dissected my second book, Deep into Dusk, and most of the students enjoyed the “role reversals,” where Gabriel has a feminine side and his medical examiner girlfriend, Dr. Ming Li, has a masculine side. I swear I didn’t try to switch them up. Aiden Baylor, the protagonist from The Return, is a young man facing the challenges many young men face. Having a son made my job easier, but placing this young man in a future world created its own set of challenges. Teen crushes may never change, but how a kid 75 years from now pursues his interests is another story.

What kind of research did you do? To build a world dependent entirely on automation and tech, I spoke with tech professionals, got my subscription to Wired and other tech magazines, and read fiction books like Blake Crouch’s Upgrade and non-fiction such as The Fourth Age by Byran Reese. In the book The Digital World “Unplugs,” I had to research how people once lived off the land. I don’t mind. I am a research junkie. It’s my favorite part of the writing process.

Tell us a little about your new book. Well, you might have gathered a little info from the previous paragraph. Here’s the logline: Completely reliant on automation and artificial intelligence to manage their lives, human beings learn to survive, bond, and unlock the power of their minds when a war destroys all the power grids across the globe.

Believe it or not, I based the story on a question inspired by the biblical story of Adam and Eve and their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Why would God kick Adam and Eve out of Eden because they gained wisdom and awareness? What’s so bad about knowledge? I explore a possible answer in this book.

Do you have any advice for new writers? An acquisitions editor from a publishing house once asked me if I had any vampire manuscripts lying around or perhaps a story about wizards at a boarding school (you can imagine about what year this took place). I said, “No, I have a manuscript about a traumatized Los Angeles male detective, and every case he works triggers a key point in his psychological recovery.” That went over like a lead balloon with this editor. My advice is, you have to make a choice. If being published means the world to you, and an editor asks if you have a vampire manuscript, go home and write one.

If the message in your heart is of utmost importance to you, write it and hope it resonates with the gatekeepers or better yet – the readers.

How do our readers contact you?
You can always see my books at
To get in touch with me,

THE RETURN is available at:
Amazon at
Barnes and Noble
Apple Books:

Thanks for having me as a guest blogger. It’s been fun!


  1. Michael A. Black

    Congratulations on your success, Laurie. You sound like you’ve got some great ideas and books. Your interview was an inspiration. Now I’m going to bow the dust off that unhappy vampire masquerading as a wizard at that boarding school for exceptional youths. 😉 Best of luck to you.

  2. Marie Sutro

    Wow!! Sounds like a fantastic story!


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GIGI PANDIAN – USA Today Bestselling and Award-winning Author

Gigi Pandian is a USA Today bestselling and award-winning mystery author, breast cancer survivor, and locked-room mystery enthusiast. The child of cultural anthropologists from New Mexico and the southern tip of India, she spent her childhood being dragged around the world on their research trips and now lives in northern California. She’s been awarded Agatha, Anthony, Lefty, and Derringer awards and has been a finalist for the Edgar. She writes the Secret Staircase mysteries, Accidental Alchemist mysteries, and Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mysteries.

The Raven Thief: A locked-room mystery Publishers Weekly called a “brilliant homage to classic golden age authors” in a starred review.

One murder. Four impossibilities. A fake séance hides a very real crime. Secret Staircase Construction just finished their first project with Tempest Raj officially a part of the team―a classic mystery novel-themed home interior. Their client is now ready to celebrate her new life without her cheating ex-husband, famous mystery author Corbin Colt. First up, a party, and Tempest and Grandpa Ash are invited to the exclusive mock séance to remove any trace of Corbin from the property―for good. It’s all lighthearted fun until Corbin’s dead body crashes the party. The only possible suspects are the eight people around the séance table―a circle of clasped hands that wasn’t broken. Suspicion quickly falls on Grandpa Ash, the only one with actual blood on him. To prove her beloved grandfather’s innocence, Tempest must figure out what really happened―and how―or Ash will be cooking his delectable Indian and Scottish creations nevermore.

Do you write in more than one genre?  Everything I write is a lighthearted mystery (nothing dark or gritty), but I write in overlapping mystery subgenres. My Jaya Jones novels are adventure cozies, my Accidental Alchemist Mysteries are paranormal, and my new Secret Staircase Mysteries are locked-room mysteries.

Where do you write?  I used to be a café writer, but during the pandemic, I carved out a beautiful, yet tiny, space in my house, with bay windows next to my desk.

What, if any, distractions do you allow? I listen to rain sounds while writing, which is a wonderful vibe for ambient noise. My husband and I both work from home, so we set up our home offices at the far ends of the house so we wouldn’t distract each other! If our doors are closed, we send a text message to each other to see if we’re interruptible (my “door” is a curtain). If the door is open, we’re not doing deep work and can talk to each other.

What are you currently working on? I’m alternating between revisions for the third Secret Staircase Mystery and writing the next Accidental Alchemist Mystery.

How long did it take you to write your first book? I started writing as a hobby in 2001. It was only when I discovered National Novel Month five years later that I finally finished writing a whole draft. I was so excited that I sent it to the Malice Domestic grants competition for unpublished traditional mystery writers, and I was so surprised to win that year’s grant! That’s what got me to take my writing seriously. I joined Sisters in Crime, found a local writing community, and took workshops to learn how to make the book good. That took another two years.

Do you outline, or are you a pantser? An outline is my security blanket! But as soon as I begin writing, my characters take over, and my outline goes out the window.

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations?

I always start with real places and real history, then branch off into fiction. My Secret Staircase Mysteries are set in the fictional small town of Hidden Creek, California, which is quite similar to my town on a hillside in the San Francisco Bay Area, but with lots more freedom to create whatever I need for the story to work.

What kind of research do you do? As much as the Internet can be helpful, the most inspiring bits of information usually comes from tangible experiences, such as visiting a location or finding an old book in the library. I have dozens of paper notebooks filled with notes.

What is your favorite novel? My favorite book is Borrower of the Night by Elizabeth Peters, a perfect mix of mystery, romance, humor, and adventure. I discovered it at the perfect time, as a teenager, and it’s the book that made me want to be a writer.

Favorite movie? Romancing the Stone.

Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I have so many books and stories I want to write! The challenge is carving out time to write them.

Do you have any advice for new writers? Don’t compare your journey to anyone else’s.

How do our readers contact you?

My website, where you can send me a note or sign up for my email newsletter, which comes with my free Edgar-nominated short story “The Locked Room Library” —
My books —
Amazon —


  1. Thonie Hevron

    I’ve seen Gigi’s name as an active member of the San Francisco Bay Area writers’ community. This is the first time I’ve taken to read an interview. Thank you, George, for introducing us all to this remarkable author. I will be buying and reading books by Gigi Pandian!

  2. Donnell Ann Bell

    Gigi, such a delight to read about your process. Thanks, George for hosting her!

  3. Pamela Meyer

    Thanks George and Gigi, for this deeper look. I’m reading and loving the Raven Thief right now. I must say, Gigi, I’d need to ‘close my door’ sometimes too if I were writing two series (or is it three?) at the same time. How do you keep it all straight?

    • Gigi Pandian

      George, thank you again so much for hosting me! And thanks to everyone who stopped by!

    • Gigi Pandian

      So happy to hear you’re enjoying the book, Pamela. I only work on one book at a time! Once I hand over a draft to my critique partners or editor, THEN I can switch.

  4. Arthur Vidro

    This is an old-fashioned success story — Gigi has talent but also works super-hard on her stories and puts all the necessary blood, sweat, and tears into her writing and rewriting. She’s earned her success. She takes the time to make her writing as good as it can be. And the results speak for themselves.

    • Gigi Pandian

      Thank you so much, Arthur. I’m lucky that my family is very understanding when I disappear behind my office curtain to write 🙂

  5. Malena E.

    I’m a big fan of Gigi’s work and can’t wait to read The Raven Thief. Loved the first locked-room mystery novel so much. All of Gigi’s series are full of great plots, locations and characters. Can’t go wrong. Glad to hear there is another Tempest Raj book in the works.

    • Gigi Pandian

      Thank you so much, Malena! Now that Book 3 was accepted by my editor, I’m working on Book 4 🙂

  6. Heather Haven

    Gigi is a long-time favorite. She’s a lovely person and a wonderful writer. I love the Accidental Alchemist series.

    • Gigi Pandian

      Thank you, Heather! Dorian refuses to stick to my outline for the next Accidental Alchemist novel, so he’s derailing my revisions–but I’m still having fun 🙂

  7. Margaret Mizushima

    Congratulations on your success, Gigi! So glad you carved out a space of your own to write in. It’s important! Looking forward to reading The Raven Thief!

    • Gigi Pandian

      Thank you, Margaret! My office is a MESS right now as I’m surrounded by research notes, so I’ll have to clean it as soon as I hand this off to my editor.

  8. Alec Peche

    I’m listening to Under Lock and Skeleton Key (thanks to Chirp) at the moment. I’ve listened to 52% of the book and haven’t figured out who the murderer is. In fact, I don’t have a suspect yet, lol. Looking forward to the second book in this series.

    • Gigi Pandian

      Oooh, I’m glad my misdirection is working. Glad you’re enjoying the audiobook!

  9. Michael A. Black

    The story your writing is inspirational. You sound like you’re on the way to becoming a new Agatha Christie. Congratulations on your success and best of luck to you.

    • Gigi Pandian

      Thank you so much, Michael. I couldn’t dream of becoming Christie, but I’m having a lot of fun continuing to read books from the Golden Age of detective fiction and writing my own spin on the genre.


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GLENN QUIGLEY – Irish Author and Artist

Glenn Quigley is an author and artist originally from Tallaght in Dublin, Ireland, and now living in Lisburn, Northern Ireland, with his partner of many years. His first novel, The Moth and Moon, was published in 2018. When not writing, he paints portraits in watercolours and tweets too many photos of lighthouses. He maintains a website of his latest work at

The Knights of Blackrabbit book one: These Young Wolves  – Spinning off from the Moth and Moon trilogy, THE KNIGHTS OF BLACKABBIT book one: THESE YOUNG WOLVES sees burly former crime lord Vince Knight returning to Port Knot to take command of the Night Watch—the very people who spent a good deal of time trying to imprison him. Under the scrutiny of the island’s ruling council, a distrusting local population, and a certain dashing captain, Vince must battle against the criminals he used to lead.

The Knights of Blackrabbit book one: These Young Wolves was released on 20th December 2022 from Ninestar Press.

The Great Santa Showdown It’s two weeks before Christmas, and the official Santa Claus of the small town of Yuleboro is retiring. Bookstore owner Gregory and tree farmer John will have to battle through a tournament designed to test the skills of any would-be Kris Kringles. As they go head to head in the town’s first-ever Great Santa Showdown, will it be more than just the competition that heats up?

The Great Santa Showdown is available from JMS Books:

You can find my other published works on my Amazon page:

Do you write in more than one genre? I tend to write Historical Fiction* for my novels and contemporary for my short stories. That said, I am currently working on a contemporary novel.

(*Technically, as they’re set in an alt-history, my novels are Historical Fantasy, but that makes it sound like a world of “knights, wizards, and dragons” instead of “everyone is treated equally, regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation.”)

Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? I write in my spare bedroom/study with the door closed. I cannot have any other sounds except for the white noise of a howling thunderstorm and crackling fire that I found on Youtube. I started listening to it when writing the storm scene in my first novel, The Moth and Moon and found it really helps me concentrate. I can’t listen to music or TV as I can’t have any other voices or competing narratives playing while I’m writing.

We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave or run wild? They mostly behave themselves though if one character pushes to the front of my mind, they tend not to shut up until I’ve written their story. Very occasionally, one character will refuse to do what I want and insist on doing things their own way. For example, Lady Eva Wolfe-Chase was a side character in The Moth and Moon, but she insisted on becoming central to the plot of the follow-up novel, The Lion Lies Waiting. Sometimes, you’ve got to get out of a character’s way and let them have their turn in the spotlight.

Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? Absolutely. Subplots are essential to my work. They flesh out side characters and help build a world. In my Moth and Moon series, the setting is a little village on a remote island. Subplots help to establish the world and convince the reader that this is a living, breathing place. Sometimes the subplots tie directly into the main plot, sometimes, they’re there to justify a side character’s actions later in the story, and sometimes they add some flavour or shift the tone a little.

Do you base any of your characters on real people? In a way. I often cast actors in the roles of my characters, especially during a first draft. This helps to solidify them in my mind and gives me something to build from. Usually, by the time the story is finished, they’ve evolved and grown into their own thing. I have a character in my upcoming novel, The Knights of Blackrabbit, book one: These Young Wolves, who was inspired by the late actor James Robertson Justice. I took his on-screen persona (big, blustering, and physically intimidating) and applied it to the character of Captain James Godgrave. This was an enormous help in getting that character off the ground, so to speak. It was a foundation on which I could build. Similarly, in my new short story, The Great Santa Showdown, I cast two of my favourite Hallmark movie actors in the lead roles.

I’ve yet to consciously base a character on anyone I know personally, though reading back, I can spot some friends and family popping up in certain aspects. It’s funny how that happens without me being conscious of it at the time.

Do you outline, or are you a pantser? For The Great Santa Showdown, I had a rough idea for the plot first (a small town holding a competition to pick their new Santa Claus), but mostly I tend to start with an image or line of dialogue and build on that. Once I’ve got a sense of the story, I’ll work out a character arc (a story circle). This usually gives me enough sense of what the plot will need to be for the arc to make sense. So, I’m a little bit of both, I think.

What kind of research do you do? My novels are set in an alternate 18th century, so I have a lot of leeway when it comes to historical accuracy, but I still try to stick as close as I can to actual history. This tends to be less about world events and more about clothing/architecture/day-to-day life. I read a lot about small towns, fishing villages, boats, and clothing of the era. A lot of research is done online, which can be time-consuming as I have to check the sources on many things. The main character of The Moth and Moon trilogy, Robin Shipp, sails a Cornish lugger (a traditional fishing boat), and I read two books written by someone who sailed a similar boat in the late 20th century just to try and pick up some little details that I could use. I’ve also got a dictionary of Regency-era slang words, which is a fun read!

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? Fictional. I created a group of islands off the coast of Cornwall called the Pell Isles, and that’s where The Moth and Moon trilogy and its spin-off, The Knights of Blackrabbit series, are set. I find there’s much more freedom in a fictional location and a lot to keep track of. I have maps made of Merryapple (the island setting for The Moth and Moon) and Port Knot (the town where The Knights of Blackrabbit is set) to help keep things straight. For The Great Santa Showdown, I created the small, All-American town of Yuleboro and gave it lots of Christmas-themed street names, which I loved doing. Some of the best fun in writing comes from making up places you’d love to visit and making up people you’d love to meet there.


Where to find me online:
Twitter: @glennquigley
Instagram: @glennquigleyauthor

Other works by the author:
The Moth and Moon
The Lion Lies Waiting
We Cry the Sea
Use as Wallpaper
The Great Santa Showdown


  1. Michael A. Black

    It sounds like an interesting concept writing historicals set in an alternate universe. Do you use a big printed template to keep things straight or is it all in your head? Best of luck to you.

    • Glenn Quigley

      Thanks, Michael! I have a master timeline of all events mentioned, and that gets updated with each new story. Aside from that, I’ve got some notes about the technology used (it’s mostly clockwork stuff) so that I can drop those into the stories to maintain a sort of continuity. I try to steer as close to real world history as I can, for the same of simplicity.


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MacArthur lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. She wrote the Steampunk series, The Volcano Lady, and the Gaslight Adventures of Tom Turner, as well as the Noir-punk mystery Lou Tanner, P.I.: A Place of Fog and MurderShe has also written for several local and specialized publications, anthologies and was an accidental sports reporter for Reuters News.

Her storytelling changed direction recently to embrace the paranormal, her lifelong obsession, with her newest novel set in the Four Corner region of Colorado, not far from where she grew up.

Do you write in more than one genre? How did you start? I started this whole wild ride when I was complaining about the lack of quality and just plain absurdity of a Steampunk anthology I’d spent time reading. I was pretty furious that female characters, what few there were, were clearly written by fellows who rarely, if ever, spent time with women. The stories were weak excuses for swearing, ridiculous situations, and plotless meandering. My friend, inventor, and former movie prop specialist Jay Davis looked at me with that “quit your moaning” glare – up went his eyebrow – and he said the best words ever – “well, if you don’t like it, write one yourself.”

My first genre (first of many) was Steampunk. I loved the aesthetic, the fierce adventure, and the romantic notions. From there, I found Dieselpunk. If you aren’t familiar with the terms or genre, Steampunk is basically Victorian Age Science Fiction Fantasy. Dieselpunk is an early 20th Century Science Fiction Fantasy (Flash Gordon meets Philip Marlow or Sci-Fi WWI to WWII.) The “punk” is used to indicate an opposition to the establishment, such as the government or society as a whole. Thus both genres are filled to the brim with strong women (that anthology notwithstanding) doing exciting and dynamic things.

What brought you to writing? Heaven forbid I should suggest that the writing bug just hit me one day. I can’t think of a time when I wasn’t either writing or drawing. My mother, MaryMargaret Seldon, worked for companies that used those old mimeograph machines – you know those – purple ink, smeared pages – yes, those. The unreadable pages were marked on only one side and tossed away. She would bring them home so I could type up my stories on the clean side. Yup! Old Crown typewriter, long messy ribbon that had to be changed, an eraser that was like sandpaper and could rub a hole in your paper … that typewriter. Sometimes I wish I still had it.

Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? Ah, distractions. My nemesis. Social Media can be a true time killer because, for many of us, it isn’t just our marketing source. It is our means of connecting to damn near everything and everyone. So, I’m trying out Alec Peche’s sprint writing and setting brief writing times. My “pad” could probably fit on a puppy-pee pad. It’s small. So I write at my little desk or take it on the road. The Goddesses and the Muses invented the feather-light laptop (Bill and Steve, hush!) I have discovered coffee houses and breakfast joints all over the SF Bay Area, but my favorite is Linh’s Café on College at Ashby.

What are you currently working on? I decided during the Plague – excuse me, Pandemic – to try my hand at something new. I failed. Marvelously, I failed. I tried making an Eliza-punk story. Maybe later. Some Fan Fiction? Nope. Cozy Mystery? Definitely later, but not yet. And then I flopped around like the proverbial fish out of water. That’s when Sharon E. Cathcart told me about Sisters in Crime. Every weekend it was one lecture or another workshop. I couldn’t get enough, and with everything via Zoom, I was meeting people from all over the country. Now I belong to the Horror Writers Association, the Mystery Writers of America, The Thriller Writers Association, the Southwest Writers, and the Author’s Guild. I think I have a joining problem.

These days, I’ve embraced my love of the paranormal. I’ve always loved ghost stories, ancient curses, tombs and relics, magic, and mystery. That love drove me to write The Skin Thief, set in my old home state of Colorado, in the Canyons of the Ancients. As a child, I never had the opportunity to visit Mesa Verde or any of the ancient Puebloan sites. Now I get to write about a fictitious cliff dwelling with a terrifying, murderous spirit. Romantic Suspense meets Paranormal Thriller. What a blast to write.

Meanwhile, I haven’t exactly walked away from my Steampunk roots. I published a set of novellas called The Gaslight Adventures of Tom Turner. But novella sets aren’t popular with readers the way they had been. Also, I’m not the same writer I was in 2014. Thus I’ve determined that I am going to bring all the adventures together into one freshly revised and edited novel for re-release—new cover, new format, and perhaps a new title.

Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I am a proud OutPantser. I outline and go into intimate detail about each chapter, each character, and each situation. Then I throw that out after writing the first one thousand words. I re-write the outline, a tad bit more vague this time, and mostly stick to it. But I will confess, I often get to the middle with an ending clear in my mind and no roadmap on how I’m going to get from page 175 to page 300. That’s usually when something completely off the wall hits me – no, not the clock I should have used a larger nail for – another body, bigger guns, or even a twist on the McGuffin. Then I go back, re-write so that the new idea fits, and race to the finish line. Raymond Chandler (and MM Chouinard, who offered me good advice when I got stuck on my latest) said, “when in doubt, send in a guy with a gun.”

Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? Well, I must say the first thing the future holds is this blog interview. Thank you, George. Offering your blog to help your fellow authors is marvelous. Next up, getting my new blog and brand going. Never stop creating yourself. And never stop sharing – there will be a great deal of that coming in 2023. Thank you again, and here’s wishing everyone the best in the coming year.

You can find her at



  1. Jen

    Love this. MM Chouniard’s advice to me for a boring section – Kill someone.

  2. Karen A Phillips

    How fun to learn about author T. E. MacArthur. I looked at her many book covers and love the retro art! Thank you, George, for introducing me to yet another writer I had not known about. And, “Go Sisters In Crime”! I am also a member.

  3. Vinnie Hansen

    It was fun learning more about you, Thena. When I was teaching in a second-floor portable, students tromping up the stairs made the walls vibrate. The wall clock really did spring loose and hit me on the head. It hurt. I may have been mildly concussed.

    P.S. I have a photo of me somewhere sitting on the four corners. 🙂

  4. ana

    I loved (beta read) The Skin Thief! Excellent interview Thena and George.
    Thank you for bringing so many wonderful authors and books your way, George.

  5. Lisa Towles

    What a great blogpost, George. Love hearing about your process, Thena, and the fun things you’ve got in store. You’re a powerhouse and I’m delighted to see you getting visibility and recognition! 🙂

  6. Shelley Riley

    I enjoyed this interview. It’s alway nice to get a little insight into other authors.

  7. Michael A. Black

    It sounds like you’re revving up to create a whole bunch of neat stuff. Good luck and full steam ahead.


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George’s Conference Recommendations for 2023

I attended two writers’ conferences in 2022 in Las Vegas. The Public Safety Writers Association conference was held at the Orleans Hotel and Casino mid-July. It was intimate, with around fifty attendees. The other was 20Books Vegas 2022,  held at Bally’s—a cozy 1,900. Both are reasonably priced.

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

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

Here’s the link for the 2023 conference if you want details:

Join Us for the PSWA Conference (

20Books Vegas begins on Monday with a vendor’s day. Tuesday-Thursdays the presentations start at 9:00 a.m. (sharp); all sessions are forty-five minutes with a timer and are recorded.

While most attendees seem to work in fantasy and Si-Fi, there are more than enough sessions for the mystery and crime writers. The problem for me was that there were as many as ten sessions at a time, making it impossible to see all the presentations I wished to attend. One of my favorite presenters was Maxwell Alexander Drake. He was so valuable I attended four of his lectures. You are on your own for all meals—great room rates well below what you would typically expect to pay.

I recommend 20Books if you are interested in solid craft presentations. There are several meetups for crime, mystery, and police procedural writers.

Conference Sign Up – 20 Books Vegas  Registration opens 7 a.m. Pacific Time January 2, 2023

I plan to attend both in 2023.


  1. Peg (M.E.) Roche

    I joined and registered for both the conference and the workshop after reading George’s blog. Thanks, George!

  2. Shelley Riley

    Both of your suggestions merit consideration. I’m thankful that you took the time to share them with your followers. As always, adding the links is a plus. As one of your avid followers, I wish to thank you for all that you do for us.

  3. B. Lynn Goodwin

    Although these may not be the right conferences for me, I like your recommendations. And maybe it’s exactly right. I’m considering having someone hiding his identity in my next novel.


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NATIVE AUTHOR BRIAN LUSH’s Debut Novel is a Haunting Tale of Survival in a Dystopian Nightmare

Brian Lush is a music journalist based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is the founder of and was the founding editor of Rockwired Magazine, which ran from 2012 through 2017. An enrolled member of the Yankton Sioux Tribe in Southeastern South Dakota, he studied Creative Writing at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He received his B.A. in Creative Writing from the University of New Mexico.

Yankton Sioux writer Brian Lush spins a grim tale of war, occupation, and oppression in his debut novel Roger’s War – a gritty, dystopian coming-of-age story with a Native perspective.

With a war between Russia and Ukraine and a lull in a global pandemic, who wants to get lost in a tale of a world gone mad? It wasn’t exactly the kind of territory that writer Brian Lush wanted to mine in what would become his first novel, Roger’s War.

“This was where the muse led me,” says Lush. “The roots of his dystopian coming-of-age story stemmed from the nightmarish events of the 2018 Stoneman Douglas High School shootings and the belief by some that teachers should be armed. “It was pretty wild to imagine high school teachers being armed and yielding that kind of control over kids. Children! Back then, I thought I had at least a short story on my hands. However, life got in the way, and I had other commitments, and the story never saw the light of day. The idea was in the back of my head and then snowballed. The pandemic, and then this little story I had in my head about the abuse of power became this huge novel on how one young boy survives.”

Roger’s War is a tense and frantic narrative that illustrates the life of a young man coming of age in a frightfully repressed society. The country once known as the United States of America has descended into a second civil war. Emerging from the devastation is a rogue nation called Heartland – a totalitarian theocracy under the rule of a maniacal, self-proclaimed prophet known simply as Father and his lethal military. Plucked from the ashes of a war-torn America is a half-Native/half-black fourteen-year-old named Roger Bretagne.

After losing his family to Heartland’s devastating blitzkrieg, Roger is rounded up and matriculated into this stark, repressed, and dangerous new world. His new parents are powerful predators, the quiet country town he lives in is an oppressive hamlet gripped by fear, and his school – under the control of the beastly schoolmaster Brother Isaac – emphasizes brutal indoctrination. Somehow, sanity must prevail. In cautiously navigating the rocky road of this toxic milieu, Roger finds love, allies, and a burgeoning resistance movement hellbent on destroying Heartland and building a glorious future. Whatever that entails.

Roger is not a first when it comes to first-person narratives in worlds gone mad, but his half-Sioux/half-black lineage is a definite first in Native American fiction. Roger is a character that was very unexpected to me. There were a lot of surprises in the writing of this book, but the character of Roger felt like a revelation. While I took great pains to create a character and not put myself or anyone I loved in a fascist society, I feel like I ended up putting myself there. Roger was more than just a window into this world. We share the same heritage. It feels like I’ve got skin in the game.

Roger’s War is available on Kindle and paperback through

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  1. Michael A.Black

    Sounds like an interesting book, Brian, The way things are going, let’s hope people read it and take notice so things don’t turn out like the situation in your novel. I’ve thought about writing a dystopian novel, but it takes a lot of grit. I commend you on your undertaking it. Good luck.

    • Brian Lush

      Thank you for your kind words Michael.


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