Feb 6, 2023 | Historical, Mystery, Native American |
D. M. Rowell (Koyh Mi O Boy Dah), like her protagonist, Mud, comes from a long line of Kiowa storytellers. After a thirty-two-year career spinning stories for Silicon Valley start-ups and corporations, with a few escapes creating award-winning independent documentaries, Rowell started a new chapter, writing mysteries that also share information about her Plains Indian tribe, the Kiowas. She enjoys life in California with her partner of thirty-eight years, their son, and a feral gray cat.
Never Name the Dead: No one called her Mud in Silicon Valley. There, Mae was a respected professional who had left her Kiowa roots far behind. But when her grandfather called, she had to go back and face her childhood rejection by the tribe. She owed him that. What she didn’t expect was that this visit was only the start of a traditional four-day vision quest that would take her into dark places involving theft, betrayal, murder—and a charging buffalo. And that was only Day One.
What brought you to writing? A life-long passion for reading, specifically mystery novels, fueled my desire to write a mystery series. As a reader, I enjoy series with reoccurring characters and ongoing story arcs. Reading a series allows me to visit old friends year after year.
As I wrote NEVER NAME THE DEAD, I planned it to be a series starting with four books spanning four sequential days emulating a four-day Kiowa vison quest (with a few murders thrown in). The first book is the first day of the vision quest of self-discovery for my main character, Mud. The novel takes place in less than 24 hours, and the second book starts fifteen minutes after the first ends, taking Mud into her second day of the quest with another murder to solve. At the end of her fourth day and fourth book, Mud’s vision quest ends with Mud finding the way to unite her worlds—and solve another murder.
Tell us about your writing process: I try to write for 3 to 4 hours every day. While I’ll start the morning with the intent to write first thing, I let myself be distracted by daily tasks before feeling comfortable enough to sink into my story. I’m not a planner. I write as the story unfolds for me. I’ll start the story once I know the murderer, the victim, and why. After a few chapters, I’ll see the reveal. That gives me my endpoint. Everything in-between comes about as I write it.
The first draft captures the story. At the end of my first draft, I go back through the story to paint a deeper picture and get it in shape to hand off to my editor. I have an excellent editor at Crooked Lanes Book, Sara J. Henry. She knows just where and how to direct the critical trimming needed to make my story shine.
What kind of research do you do? In NEVER NAME THE DEAD, I share a lot of information and insights into the Kiowa tribe, culture, and history—all from the Kiowa perspective.
My research comes from a lifetime of learning from Kiowa elders in my family and tribe. The history and traditions shared in the novel come directly from our oral traditions, originally told by tribal elders.
I was fortunate to grow up with my Kiowa grandfather, C. E. Rowell. He was a master storyteller, artist, and recognized Tribal Historian. My grandfather taught me about our Kiowa history and introduced me to other elders, including a 101 years-old!
I spent over a decade collecting memories, songs, and stories from tribe elders to preserve for future generations. Much of the footage can be seen in my documentary, Vanishing Link, and in a series of Kiowa language lesson videos posted here, www.thekiowapeople.com.
How long did it take you to write your first book? Ten months.
I wrote my first draft of NEVER NAME THE DEAD while taking courses for the UCSDX Creative Writing program. I followed teacher extraordinaire Carolyn Wheat through Novel I, II, and III. At the end of the Novel courses, I had my first draft completed. It took two more drafts before I had the book ready for readers. From start to first draft, it took six months, then four more months to complete drafts two and three.
How long did it take to get it published? I was extremely lucky! I had an agent and a book deal with Crooked Lane Books nine months after finishing the novel.
How do you come up with character names? My main character has three names. LOL!
She is known as Mae in Silicon Valley, where she has built a digital marketing agency on the cusp of national attention. In Oklahoma’s Kiowa country, she’s called Mud, a childhood nickname that stuck.
The main character’s first two names were the easiest for me to come up with. Much in my writing honors my Kiowa culture. I wanted to add a bit of my mom’s side of the family into my novel by using my mom’s name, Mae, and her mother’s childhood nickname, Mud, for the main character’s names. It delighted me as a child to hear one of my great-aunts call my grandmother “Mud.” Even now, it makes me smile.
The hard part was finding how to explain the two names of the main character, especially “Mud.” That was resolved by adding a third name and a Kiowa Naming Ceremony. I won’t reveal any more about the names other than to say that Mud’s Kiowa name speaks to the journey Mae/Mud is on through the first four novels as she finds a way to blend her two worlds; traditional Kiowa spirituality and Silicon Valley tech savvy.
What are you currently working on? I’m working with my editor, Sara J. Henry, on edits for the second novel, SILENT ARE THE DEAD. The title has just recently been finalized.
Who’s your favorite author? I stretch favorite authors to include oral storytellers; that makes the question very easy to answer. My all-time favorite storyteller is my grandfather, the late C. E. Rowell. Grandpa excelled at bringing stories to life. He was an artist, master storyteller, and a man of distinction within the Kiowa tribe. He was a Tribal Elder recognized as the Tribe Historian and Reader of the Dohason and Onko pictoglyph calendars called Sai-Guat, or Winter Marks.
My grandfather brought the people and stories to life for me. No storyteller has captured my imagination as deeply. Grandpa inspired me to follow our traditions and be a storyteller.
C. E. Rowell sharing a story from one of the Kiowa Calendars with tribe members (1999)
Do you have any advice for new writers? Believe in yourself and write your stories! I didn’t write until late in life because I did not believe I could do it or do it well enough. Finally, I started writing for myself, and the story flowed. My happiest moment as a writer came when I finished the first draft. I wrote the book I always dreamed of doing!
How do our readers contact you?
Visit my website at www.dmrowell.com.
Be sure to say hello if you see me at Left Coast Crime or Bouchercon.
Feb 2, 2023 | Action & Adventure, Historical |
Zara Altair combines mystery with a bit of adventure in the Argolicus Mysteries, based in southern Italy at the time of Ostrogoth’s rule.
Meet Argolicus, a learned man who turns detective at the bidding of neighbors who know him as trustworthy, wise, and fair. He collects evidence, deciphers politics, and digs into the deepest secrets of the human heart. His tools are the logic of Aristotle, the self-restraint of Epictetus, the theology of Arius, and the empirical insights of Marcus Aurelius, and all sharpened to an edge by wry humor and ferocious curiosity.
Italians (Romans) and Goths live under one king, while Constantinople rules the Roman Empire. At times the cultures clash, but Argolicus uses his wit, sometimes with help from his tutor Nikolaos, to provide justice in a province far from the King’s court.
Zara Altair lives in Beaverton, Oregon. Her stories are rich in historical detail based on years of research. Her approach to writing is to present the puzzle and let Argolicus and Nikolaos find the solution encountering a bit of adventure and some humor in their search.
Discover the world of long-ago Italy in the Argolicus Collection, four mysteries that cover the range from a small farm to rich families where politics and murder collide.
Do you write in more than one genre? I do now. I’m working on a modern crime novel with a female detective, Death of a Lonely Cloud, to be published this year. And, A cozy mystery for next Christmas for a new series featuring Miss Chocolate, a fluffy chocolate-colored cat who lives on a boat.
What brought you to writing? I’ve been writing since I was a child. I can’t imagine myself not writing.
What is the most challenging part of your writing process? For me, the most difficult part of the writing process is building up the tension.
Do you base any of your characters on real people? Argolicus was a real person, but not much is known about him. Argolicus leads the privileged and leisurely life of a Roman patrician under the Ostrogoth rule of King Theodoric. Raised in the tradition of privilege, he was schooled by a Greek tutor, Nikolaos, who is now his companion but still drills him in Greek and martial arts.
Argolicus was a real person at the time of Theodoric’s reign in Italy. He is mentioned nine times in Cassiodorus’ Variae (iii 11, iii 12, iii 29, iii 30, iii 33, iv 22, iv 25, iv 29, iv 42) as praefectus urbis of Rome.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I outline the basic plot but planned scenes change as I am actually writing. I use the next plot point to make sure I’m headed toward it no matter how the scene changes.
What kind of research do you do? For the Argolicus stories, the research involved a lot of reading—many books in English and Italian. Plus, I went to Italy and interviewed history professors who referred me to more books. For each novel, I also interview experts in themes for the book, for example, civic structure and governance in the 6th Century for The Grain Merchant.
For the current novel, I took Detective B. Adam Richardson’s Writer’s Detective School, which is crammed with details about how a detective thinks and works. Plus, he has sessions where we can ask questions that pertain to our current work. I’ve also talked with the local coroner’s office and the sheriff.
What obstacles do you face when writing about historical figures? The biggest challenge is keeping my characters in sync with the times. For example, slavery is assumed and not an issue.
Do you have any advice for new writers? Stay with your story idea. It’s your story. Write it. Don’t worry about genre or subgenre. Just write the story. The big test of writing is that you finish the story.
Visit the website at https://zaraaltair.com.
Jan 26, 2023 | Historical, Mystery |
Boston native STEPHEN M. MURPHY graduated from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, and the University of San Francisco School of Law. After graduating from law school in 1981, he served as a law clerk to the justices of the New Hampshire Superior Court. While in New Hampshire, he worked on a murder trial that inspired his first Dutch Francis novel, Alibi. For over 34 years, he represented plaintiffs in personal injury and employment litigation. He is Past President of the San Francisco Trial Lawyers Association, which voted him Trial Lawyer of the Year in 2008. SuperLawyers have also named him as one of the Top 100 lawyers in Northern California. He is the author of several books and is a member of the Mystery Writers of America and Sisters-in-Crime.
ABIDING CONVICTION: Lawyer Dutch Francis defends a high-profile murder case in which a judge is accused of killing his wife, when his own wife, TV news broadcaster Ginnie Turner, goes missing. As he confronts an ineffectual police department, suspicious that he is involved in his wife’s disappearance, he decides to take matters into his own hands. Exhausted by the murder trial, he struggles to balance both responsibilities, pushing him to the brink of losing everything he holds dear. At first, he thinks Ginnie was kidnapped in retaliation for her recent stories about sex scandals. But after receiving bits of her in the mail—fingernails, hair—he realizes the kidnapper may actually want to punish him. Could his defense of the judge be the reason?
Do you write in more than one genre? Yes. I write mysteries, legal thrillers, and historical fiction set in Ireland. I am still trying to get the latter published.
Where do you write? I generally write at a local café called Simple Pleasures.
What, if any, distractions do you allow? I like to listen to music, preferably jazz, blues, or classic rock and roll while writing.
What are you currently working on? I am writing a mystery featuring a San Francisco judge whose father and son are charged with the murder of a high-tech executive in the Tenderloin.
How long did it take you to write your first book? It took me nearly ten years to write ALIBI, a legal thriller/murder mystery set in New Hampshire, based on my experience as a law clerk to the superior court.
How long to get it published? About five years.
What’s the most challenging thing about writing characters from the opposite sex? I confess to having great difficulty figuring out how women think, which I’m sure is a character defect on my part.
Do you have subplots? Yes.
If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? I tend to link my subplots by theme rather than plot. For example, in ABIDING CONVICTION, my latest Dutch Francis novel, the protagonist’s lawyer has to search for his missing wife while trying a high-profile murder case in which a judge is accused of killing his own wife.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? Both. I tend to write a rough outline at first, start writing, and when I have a first draft, go back and outline in more detail. I’ve tried outlining an entire book at the beginning but just couldn’t do it.
What kind of research do you do? For my Dutch Francis legal thriller series, I research the geography of the various towns in New Hampshire that are mentioned. Since I lived in New Hampshire for only one year –forty years ago – I find Google Maps and Google Earth invaluable to reacquaint me with the area.
What obstacles do you face when writing about historical figures? The biggest obstacle is creating realistic characters rather than just ones known to history. That means delving into their personal lives, other things they did that did not make them famous and personal relationships. For my Irish historical series, I include many historical figures and have to avoid getting caught up in the history and ignoring the stories I’m trying to tell.
What is the best book you have ever read? It’s tough to single out one book, so I’ll give you two. PRINCE OF TIDES by Pat Conroy and SHANTARAM by Gregory David Roberts. I’ve re-read both and found them just as enjoyable the second time around.
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I plan on writing novels in both the Dutch Francis and the Irish history series.
Do you have any advice for new writers? Learn to love the process. The publishing business is a rough one: full of rejection both by agents and publishers. Don’t write just to get published because that may never happen. If you love writing, write for yourself or to share with family and friends. Publication is an added bonus.
How do our readers contact you? steve@stephenMmurphy.com or www.stephenMmurphy.com. My website has a link to various booksellers for my books.
Nov 14, 2022 | Historical, Memoir, Mystery, Native American |
Lorna and Larry Collins grew up together in Alhambra, California. They have been married for fifty-seven years and have one daughter, Kimberly.
They worked together on the Universal Studios Japan theme park in Osaka. Larry was a Project Engineer responsible for the Jurassic Park, JAWS, and WaterWorld attractions. Lorna was the Document Control Supervisor in the Osaka field office.
Their memoir of that experience, 31 Months in Japan: The Building of a Theme Park, was a 2006 EPPIE finalist, and named one of Rebeccas Reads Best Nonfiction books of 2005.
Their mysteries, set in Hawaii, are Murder…They Wrote and Murder in Paradise.
Along with several friends, Lorna co-wrote the six sweet romance collections in the Aspen Grove Romance Anthologies series, set in Colorado. Directions of Love won the 2011 EPIC eBook Award as best anthology.
Her solo mystery/fantasy is a ‘beach read’ called Ghost Writer. She also wrote Jewel of the Missions: San Juan Capistrano and a children’s book, Lola, The Parrot Who Saved the Mission. Their joint venture is The Memory Keeper, a historical novel set in San Juan Capistrano in the 1800s, told from the point-of-view of a Juaneño Indian.
Larry’s collection of short stories is entitled, Lakeview Park. His latest project is his sci-fi series, The McGregor Chronicles. He has finished nine books in the series.
Their latest collaboration is Dominic Drive, from an idea of Lorna’s late brother, Ronald Travis Lund. (Available in ebook, paperback, hardcover, and audio.)
Dominic Drive is the coming-of-age story of Charlie Williams, a young man who has a difficult childhood but who remains optimistic and hopeful, told through the eyes of another young man who becomes as close as a brother to him. Set in the late 1950s and early 1960s, it captures life in a post-WWII community.
All their books are available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, their website (www.lornalarry.com), and other online book outlets. Follow Lorna’s blog at http://lornacollins-author.blogspot.com.
Do you write in more than one genre? We started writing a nonfiction memoir of our time spent working in Osaka on the Universal Studios Japan theme park, 31 Months in Japan: The Building of a Theme Park. We never expected to write and publish anything else. However, we attended a writing conference and got an idea for our first Mystery, Murder…They Wrote. This led to our second mystery, Murder in Paradise, and we have added several other genres since.
What is the most challenging part of your writing process? Since we write together, blending our voices into one seamless voice was initially a challenge. Also, Larry is a plotter, and Lorna is a “pantser.” (She writes by the seat of her pants.) Over the first few books, Larry learned to trust the characters, and Lorna became more disciplined. We sometimes disagree on plotlines, but we usually throw out both ideas and settle on another—better—one. After having written several books together, the process has become almost second nature.
What are you currently working on? After nearly three years of research, in 2014, we published The Memory Keeper, a historical novel set in San Juan Capistrano, California, between 1820 and 1890. We talked about a sequel and started the research for it. However, we both were pulled into other projects, and this one languished. When Larry finished Book 9 of The McGregor Chronicles, he was ready to get back to it. Meanwhile, Lorna had written quite a few chapters, but she needed Larry’s voice in the story. They are finally finishing the sequel to be called Becoming the Jewel, to be published soon.
Has an association membership helped you with your writing? After we wrote our first book, it was nominated for an EPPIE award from EPIC (The Electronic Publishing Industry Coalition). We attended their conference in 2006 and became members. There we met publishers, other authors, agents, and other industry professionals, from whom we learned a great deal. We did presentations and panels at over a dozen or more of their conferences, including one keynote address, and Lorna moderated the publishers’ panels. We remained members until the group disbanded several years ago.
Through members of EPIC, we joined PSWA (Public Service Writers Association). We have attended several of their conferences and learned a great deal about police procedures as well as how other safety professionals work. We have also made some great friends in the group.
What’s the most challenging thing about writing characters of the opposite sex? This is where writing together gives us a decided advantage. For the most part, Larry writes the male characters, and Lorna writes the female ones. With one exception: Larry writes most of the old ladies in our novels! For some reason, he started writing them in our first mystery, and he has continued ever since.
Do you ever kill a popular character? If so, what happens to your story? Between 1861 and 1863, a plague (black pox or smallpox) killed 90% of the Indian population of San Juan Capistrano. When we were writing The Memory Keeper, we knew at least one of our characters would have to die. Larry was set to lose one, but Lorna argued with him. If 90% of the native population died, then their family would have to lose more of their members.
When we reread the completed chapters about the plague, Lorna sobbed. She does so every time she rereads the book. A few chapters later, we needed to lose another character. He was a particular favorite, so his loss felt very personal to both of us.
In these cases, their loss was already part of the plot. (Larry is a plotter, remember?) The storyline already included their losses, so the storyline continued as planned.
What obstacles do you face when writing about historical figures? Because we write about the authentic history of San Juan Capistrano, California, and because history is so revered and protected here, we have to be 100% accurate. (History is like a second religion in town.) If we say a particular thing happened at a specific time, it did. Historical figures must be portrayed exactly as they were. So far, we have received no criticism about our historical accuracy, so we must have done a few things right. But in order to achieve this level of accuracy, we have to read a great many books and articles and interview many experts. About 95% of what we learn never makes it onto the pages of our books, but it is necessary for us to know it.
Do you have any advice for new writers? The first thing is to keep writing. Too many writers give up early. Second, join a critique group or take a college-level writing class. Third, when you think you are finished, find a few beta readers, who are NOT friends or family members, to read the complete work and give you feedback. This is where professional organizations can be of great help.
Once you get positive feedback, hire a professional editor. No one can properly edit their own work—including us.
Last, if you intend to self-publish, also invest in a professional cover artist. Since books are now purchased mostly online, the cover must stand out when seen as a thumbnail image. A professional can help you with an image that will sell your book.
Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourselves? Lorna is a well-respected professional editor. She had lots of experience in her former career in Document Control and carried it into her writing profession. She provides content and line editing as well as formatting for ebooks and print.
Larry is a professional cover artist with well over 100 published covers to his credit. He has designed nearly all of the covers for their books.
Nov 10, 2022 | Historical, Memoir, Uncategorized |
Dr. Eve Sprunt is a prolific writer and consultant on diversity and inclusion, as well as the transition from hydrocarbons to cleaner forms of energy. She is passionate about mentoring younger professionals, especially women struggling to combine parenting and professionalism and those facing cross-cultural challenges.
Her over 120 editorial columns addressed workforce issues, industry trends, and cross-cultural challenges. In addition to authoring 23 patents and 28 technical publications, she is the author of four books: A Guide for Dual-Career Couples (Praeger), Dearest Audrey, An Unlikely Love Story, A Guide to Career Resilience (Springer Nature) as co-author with Maria Angela Capello with whom she authored Mentoring and Sponsoring: Keys to Success (Springer Nature).
During her 35 years in the energy industry, Eve acquired extensive experience working for major oil companies on projects around the world. She was the 2006 President of the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE), the 2018 President of the American Geosciences Institute, and the founder of the Society of Core Analysts. She has received high honors from SPE, the Society of Women Engineers, and the Geological Society of America. Her bachelor’s and master’s degrees are from MIT, and she was the first woman to receive a Ph.D. (1977) from Stanford in Geophysics. She speaks and consults on women’s and energy issues and is an active member of the California Writers Club Tri-Valley Writers Branch.
A Guide to Career Resilience (with Maria Angela Capello), 2022
Mentoring and Sponsoring, Keys to Success (with Maria Angela Capello), 2020
Dearest Audrey, An Unlikely Love Story, 2019
A Guide for Dual-Career Couples, Rewriting the Rules, 2016
Do you write in more than one genre? Yes, self-help and memoir/biography
What brought you to writing? It runs in the family. My mother (Ruth Chew) wrote and illustrated 29 children’s fantasy chapter books. Mother’s first and best-selling book, The Wednesday Witch, sold over a million copies. My maternal grandfather was also a writer.
As a female scientist, when technical women were rare, documenting my work in writing (both within the company and in industry publications) improved my odds of getting credit for my work and enabled me to build my reputation.
I volunteered to serve as Senior Technical Editor of the Society of Petroleum Engineers for three years because the role included writing a monthly editorial column. I authored “edgy” articles on workforce issues. After my term ended, I continued writing bimonthly editorial columns for another seven years. I began writing books when I retired and was no longer subject to corporate censorship.
What are you currently working on? I am polishing a memoir/biography of my mother, Ruth Chew, who became a successful children’s book author/illustrator after I left home. Passionate Persistence is based on Mother’s 67 years of daily diaries and my memories. The Tri-Valley Writers critique groups and Lani Longshore (as a beta reader) have been tremendously helpful.
When the leader of my hiking group learned that I was receiving the 2022 Curtis-Hedberg Petroleum Career Achievement Award for outstanding contributions in the field of petroleum geology, she urged me to write a memoir about my career. I was astounded to be selected for that Geological Society of America’s award because my degrees are in geophysics, and I usually impersonated a petroleum engineer. However, my most significant technical contributions involved convincing the engineers that they had overlooked critical aspects of the geology.
How long did it take you to write your first book? The first book I wrote was the one I self-publishing in 2019, Dearest Audrey, An Unlikely Love Story. I found an agent for that manuscript, but in hindsight, I suspect she took me as a client because she was a fan of my mother’s children’s chapter books, which were out of print. Shortly after I signed agreements with the agent to represent both my work and my mother’s, an editor at Random House approached me about the republication of my mother’s books. The agent received a sizable commission on the agreement with Random House but never found a publisher for Dearest Audrey, despite representing it for several years.
That agent didn’t like my manuscript for A Guide for Dual-Career Couples but recommended that I go through the submission process for Praeger, which asked for an outline and sample chapters. Praeger accepted my proposal, and the agent spent months working on the contract, leaving me only about six weeks to get the manuscript completely revised if I wanted to have A Guide for Dual-Career Couples included in Praeger’s spring 2016 catalog. I realized that since I was working for myself, I could work 7-day weeks and long hours, and I met the deadline.
Eventually, I concluded the agent would never find a publisher for Dearest Audrey, so we agreed to dissolve our agreement. I hired a developmental editor through Reedsy, who guided me through the self-publication process. Dearest Audrey was published in 2019.
Self-help books like A Guide for Dual-Career Couples and my two books published by Springer, Mentoring, and Sponsoring, Keys to Success (2020) and A Guide to Career Resilience (2022), are accepted based on an outline and sample chapters. The writing and publication process can be very swift.
Passionate Persistence, The Life of Ruth Chew, which I hope will become my fifth book, may be a tough sell. I asked the developmental editor I used for Dearest Audrey to edit it and advise me on whether I should seek an agent or pursue self-publishing. After I left home, my mother was so focused on her successful career as an author my younger siblings ran wild. She wrote children’s chapter books, but her life was not a story for children.
About twice a week, I go hiking with a group of ladies. When the leader learned I was selected for the Geological Society of America’s lifetime achievement award, she said, “Who’s going to write your story? You need to do it.”
In A Guide to Career Resilience, my co-author and I share examples in which we successfully challenged the system. Both of us consider ourselves to be shy, but I don’t know anyone else who would. Our author at Springer objected to the concept that “forgiveness is easier than permission.” We included the concept and the examples but refrained from using the forbidden phrase. In our careers, my co-author and I leveraged that concept to surmount barriers.
My mother (the title character in Passionate Persistence) was an ambitious woman. She thought her older sister, Audrey (the heroine of Dearest Audrey), was afraid of her own shadow. Ironically, before writing Dearest Audrey, I accepted my mother’s assessment of Audrey despite ample evidence to the contrary – Audrey went on sabbatical to Pakistan in the mid-1950s, not knowing exactly where or what she would teach, and was traveling alone near the Khyber Pass when she met her true love.
Do you base any of your characters on real people? All the time. I always disguise their identity if I use them as a bad example.
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I plan to write about my life experiences but will weave them into a self-help book because those are easier to market than memoirs.
Do you have any advice for new writers? Join a writing group.
How do our readers contact you? Please contact me at www.evesprunt.com or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Oct 24, 2022 | Cozy, Historical, Mystery, Thriller |
Elizabeth Varadan is a former teacher who writes poetry, children’s fiction, and adult mysteries. She and her husband live in Sacramento, California. They love to travel and divide their time abroad between Braga, Portugal, and Galicia, Spain.
Varadan’s previous stories, flash fiction, and poems have appeared in literary magazines and anthologies. Imogene and the Case of the Missing Pearls, a middle-grade mystery featuring Sherlock Holmes, was published in 2015 by MX Publishing. Her story, “Kidnapped,” was included in the 2016 Holmes-related story collection, Beyond Watson, by Belanger Books, and “What the Raven Knew” was included in 2019 in Sherlock Holmes, Adventures in the Realms of Edgar A Poe. In 2017 Belanger Books published her picture book, Dragonella, both in English and Spanish, followed in 2018 by a children’s story collection, Carnival of the Animals. Her chapbook, Saudade, Thirty Poems of Longing, was published in 2019 by Finishing Line Press.
Deadly Vintage, a cozy mystery for adults, released in November 2019, also published by Belanger Books, is set in Braga, Portugal, as is Deadly Verse, its sequel. At present, she is working on a third book in the series, Deadly Variation.
DEADLY VARIATION Carla spies an old friend who says he’s in Braga as a tourist. A street singer sings a song in two languages. A man pats the friend on the shoulder and disappears. Moments later, Carla’s friend is dead.
What brought you to writing? I’ve scribbled for as long as I can remember. My mother encouraged me when I was a child. (She was an unpublished writer.) However, writing full-time had to wait for retirement. I was an elementary/middle school teacher for over 20 years; before that, I worked in insurance (claims), and there were university classes. There wasn’t time to take writing seriously. As for what brought me to writing originally, I think you could say “reading.” There’s something about a well-written page that pricks the imagination.
Has an association membership helped you with your writing? Absolutely. I belong to two writing groups that operate as beta readers, as well as the organization Sisters In Crime and the local Sacramento chapter, Capitol Crimes. (The latter two get professional speakers and nationally known mystery authors who give invaluable information and advice. And my publishers have also interacted in ways that have turned fellow authors and myself into what feels like a group of colleagues working together, supporting each other. In differing ways, all of them have helped me grow as a writer.
Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? I generally have one or two subplots going just to keep it realistic: i.e., in my mysteries, there’s a mystery to be solved, the main plot. But characters have ongoing peripheral lives; solving the mystery can’t happen in a vacuum. I try to make sure the subplot isn’t more interesting than the main plot (lol).
Do you base any of your characters on real people? No. I write fiction but have a very literal mind. If I tried to base a character on a real person, I would keep thinking, “but that didn’t happen . . .,” or “it didn’t happen that way . . .” The reality part would keep tripping up my story.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? Panster. I’ve tried outlining. I outlined a whole book once and found I no longer wanted to write it. It was like the outlining had given me closure on the plot. I really do like, as I write, to find out what’s happening as it unfolds. Sometimes, once the story is underway, I’ll semi-outline what needs to happen in the next scene or two and usually have a light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel idea of how the story ends. But sometimes, I don’t until the very last chapters.
What kind of research do you do? Suppose I’m doing something from another era. In that case, I look up everything I can think of that might have a bearing on the story: Novels or poetry written in the era (that my protagonist might read), novels about the era or subject, timetables, newspaper articles, weather reports. If set in another country, I look up restaurants and contact police departments (if a mystery is involved). You can overdo research and get lost, but if you sift out things that could become an “information dump” on the reader, all those remaining details can provide great texture that makes a setting believable.
Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? Both. I use real towns, real restaurants, hotels, rivers, museums, whatever.
But if something bad happens, I make up the particular café or building where it happens – unless it’s some very public space like a plaza, say, or park, someplace where anything could happen without reflecting on an establishment.
Do you have any advice for new writers? Well, the conventional wisdom is to “write every day,” but sometimes you can’t. It’s still good advice, although “new writers” have usually been writing as often as they could all their lives. So, to that suggestion, I would add “read every day” and read everything, every genre, style, nonfiction, and fiction. Next: take a writing class or two. You don’t have to have an MFA, but a couple of classes or workshops will point you in a good direction, and good books on writing can be a great follow-up. What else? find a good writing group or set of “beta readers.” Shop around. A good writing group’s members should support your strengths while pointing out what doesn’t work for them as readers. (As in, “what I don’t quite understand is why . . ..”) And they catch a lot of errors, as well (typos, repeated words, omitted words, etc.) A good group is invaluable. And last but not least, don’t lose heart or give up. You write because you love it. Keep loving it. Keep writing.
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Link to Trailer by Belanger Books https://vimeo.com/724543646?fbclid=IwAR0IL0xIFpUWW82LGkq1Aq0_aC7gFQ9MBAkpLRjLrvQcq34ehOnLcwoDgbw
Author page and list of books on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Books-Elizabeth-Varadan/s?rh=n%3A283155%2Cp_27%3AElizabeth+Varadan
The last phrase of your book’s logline got a chuckle-out-loud from me and your inspirational words warmed me right along with my morning coffee. I love how you describe the intertwining of your own life with the words and stories you put on the page. Also, your website and Facebook page are both lovely. Congratulations from a new fan in the Bronx.
Thank you so much for all your positive words and energy. Love hearing them! And absolutely love having a fan in the Bronx!
Thank you! The cover was designed by the very talented Kara Klontz.
So glad you’re writing! I’m having so much fun finally letting my stories out. I cannot thank the the Creative Writing Program at UCSD Extension and their very talented staff enough for helping me improve as a storyteller.
Thank you! It’s kinda fun making the story happen so quickly. So glad you are writing. Enjoy it!
It’s great that you’re continuing the family tradition of story telling with your writing, Ms. Rowell. Best of luck to you and “Mud.”
Thank you Michael! I hope you enjoy Never Name the Dead.I feel very fortunate to share our Kiowa stories in this way.
I agree with Karen. You ability to write four novels, each based on a day in a vision quest, is a remarkable achievement.
Well book 2 is showing me my folly. LOL! In my mind in works so well.
Fascinating post. Writing a novel that takes place in less than 24 hours sounds like a challenge! I started writing late in life, too. Absolutely love the cover!