CHARLENE BELL DIETZ – Move Over Susan B. Anthony

Charlene Bell Dietz lives in the central mountains of New Mexico. She taught kindergarten through high school, was a school administrator, and was an adjunct instructor for the College of Santa Fe. After retirement, she traveled the United States, providing instruction for school staff and administrators. Her writing includes published articles, children’s stories, short stories, and mystery and historical novels.

Elevator Pitch: Move over Susan B. Anthony. There’s an unsung woman asking for the vote 224 years before you, and murderous rebels and bigoted gentlemen can’t prevent spinster Lady Margaret Brent from wielding her power to defend Maryland settlers from plunder and obliteration.

The Spinster, the Rebel, and the Governor by Charlene Bell Dietz – Lady Margaret Brent, compelled to right wrongs, risks her life by illegally educating English women, placing her family at risk. She fights to have a voice, yet her father and brothers exclude her from discussions. Worried the king’s men may know of her illegal activities, she flees to the New World, where she can enjoy religious tolerance and her own land, believing she will be allowed a voice. Once in Maryland, she presents cases in provincial court, where she’s hired as the first American woman attorney. Still, she uncovers perilous actions there, prompting her to build a fort to shield those within from being murdered. Can Margaret Brent’s integrity and ingenuity protect Maryland from being destroyed?

Note:  The American Bar Association honors five deserving women attorneys each year with the Margaret Brent Award. Little has been written or is known about her because she left no primary source material. My research studied the conflicts and social mores of the times and places as well as what the gentlemen of note said about her. Her 134 cases tried before Governor Calvert’s provincial court gave me insight into her personality and voice. What’s astounding is even the gentlemen of the time, 1638-1648, hired her as their attorney.

One of life’s secrets nobody ever tells you is that life is full of unintended consequences. Bet if you think back through the last few days, you’ll discover several times when you wanted to or started to do something, and along with the doing of it, it changed. Maybe slightly, maybe a whole messy lot. I started to fix a leaky faucet. With my wrench and washers in hand, ready to go, the built-up calcium deposits stopped me. Argh. I’d need to get some Blaster-penetrating catalyst. A slight change of plans isn’t a big deal, but here’s how some more serious unintended consequences turned me into a writer.

Never, ever did I want to become a writer. My chosen college classes encompassed art history and studio classes, but I needed a saleable profession. Education became my life. Then, close to retirement, I inherited my mother’s elderly sister. Our family had no other female to be a caregiver (it seems it’s always a female—guess we’re designed to do these things).

Yikes! This redoubtable woman turned the air blue with her chain smoking and language. She started drinking at noon and until she turned out the lights at night, after smoking and reading in bed. This aunt read everything quickly, always begging for more books. Her stories encouraged my husband and me to drink rum and coke with her just to hear more. She ran away from high school at age sixteen to Chicago in 1923 to become an entertainer during prohibition a Flapper in the Roaring Twenties.

When she died, she had left me holding the memories of her incredible life. I couldn’t turn my back on her stories. These were too good not to be told.

After writing a few chapters, I saw a teaser on the internet. “Send us your first page, and we’ll tell you if you have talent.” Ha! I know the scheme, but I did it anyway. Here’s the opening line of my story: “Die, old lady, please just die.”

Within minutes, a New York editor contacted me and asked to see the rest of the few chapters. A week later, he emailed me and praised my quality writing with dialogue but told me this story wouldn’t go anywhere because I didn’t have a plot. Plot? I replied, “But this happens, and then this happens, and then…”  Clearly, my ignorance showed brightly.

He responded, educating me on why that wasn’t plotting. I told him I didn’t have a clue and asked if he would teach me. He agreed. My purse became lighter, but my head became fuller. Ten years later, The Flapper, the Scientist, and the Saboteur found a publisher and went on to win a Kirkus Review’s (starred review) and be named to Kirkus Review’s Best Book of 2018. Now, there’s a huge unintended consequence.

Because this first story received so many awards, it pushed me to continue writing. Each of my stories strives for suspense and mystery. Interestingly, they all have a historical element, which requires lots and lots of research. My current work in progress is a murder mystery series set in Albuquerque in 1967. This is the year marked by the downturn in America’s educational excellence. It takes place in a fictitious high school, Duke City High, and abounds with quirky characters, a flummoxed teacher, and dead bodies. My latest book is a historical biography novel about a spinster, an English woman in 1638, The Spinster, the Rebel, and the Governor. This story tightly follows historical events, revealing how she, as a woman, accomplishes the impossible and saves precolonial Maryland from destruction.

Contact: chardietzpen@gmail.com

https://inkydancestudios.com/ or Char Bell Dietz @CharBellDietz

Purchase: http://apbooks.net/srg.html

12 Comments

  1. Charlene Bell Dietz

    Thanks, George, for hosting an interview with me. So much fun. I’m in the middle of your gang infested book, NEW LIBERTY. I swear you plucked some of the kids right out of my high school classes. You depict a way too accurate portrait of gang members and their families. Yikes!

    Reply
  2. Peg Roche

    Loved hearing your story, Charlene, and that you took the time to hear the stories your aunt had to tell over rum and cokes and cigarette smoke! Good luck!

    Reply
    • Charlene Bell Dietz

      Peg, the rum and cokes sure beat the smoke. Ugh. However, it seemed to be time well spent, and my aunt totally enjoyed recounting her quirky past.
      Thank you for your comments.
      Best!

      Reply
  3. Donnell Ann Bell

    Loved The Flapper, the Scientist, and the Saboteur, can’t wait to read your latest, Charlene, off to purchase! I remember reading the queries for it and was intrigued even then.

    Reply
    • Charlene Bell Dietz

      Hi Donnell!

      Oh, I’m so behind on my stack of books to be read, and I keep finding more to add. Guess that’s our life. I’ve certainly enjoyed your mysteries. Excellent reads just before bed–ha-ha.
      Happy writing, and thanks for commenting.

      Reply
  4. Charlene Bell Dietz

    Oh, Michael–that opening line got me into a whole lot of trouble with my critique group. They argued that I just could not dare to start a book with such a mean, shameful thought.
    Convinced, I redid the beginning and this story went NO WHERE. My husband said, “Put it back in. That’s what caught the NY editor’s eye, right?” I put it back, and then the magic happened. Thank you for your comments about how I started writing. I have a tendency to jump up to my neck in stuff I know nothing about. I started bee keeping two years ago. Yikes! What an education. However, writing and bee keeping makes my heart sing.

    Happy writing to you!

    Reply
  5. Marie Sutro

    Thank you for sharing your story, as well as Margaret Brent’s!! Just bought the The Spinster, The Rebel, and the Governor and can’t wait to read it!!

    Reply
    • Charlene Bell Dietz

      Wow! Thank you so much, Marie. I’d love to meet and talk with you. I’m always so curious as to how readers respond to my writing. Even more so with this story. I learned so much, and I wonder if my readers learn too.

      Again, I really appreciate your reading my book!

      Reply
  6. Alfred J. Garrotto

    Thanks for sharing your initial writing experience and your humility. A self-centered writer would’ve said, “My writing is just fine. Ask any of my closest friends and they’ll tell you.”

    Reply
    • Charlene Bell Dietz

      Well, you just made me giggle. Alfred, I have found that I can use all the help I can get. After learning how to plot that editor also gave me other insights for writing with excellence,. I am quite lucky to have been opened minded for this help. Currently, I judge hundreds of books for contests, and I feel so joyful when I discover well-written stories. When I come upon one that “isn’t there yet” it’s all I can do to keep from contacting the author and saying, “This is what’s preventing your book from shining. Try doing such and such.” Sigh. That would get me into forbidden territory, I fear. Thank you for your comments.

      Reply
  7. Michael A. Black

    That’s one hell of an opening line. Your story of how you got started writing is like a novel itself. Good luck to you.

    Reply
    • Charlene Bell Dietz

      Michael, thank you! Just submitted a reply, but then it disappeared. Here goes another. That opening line created a whole bunch of trouble for me. My critique group argued with me about how I could not start a story with such a mean, unsympathetic first line. Hmmm. Finally, I got rid of it and started submitting it to agents and editors. It went NO WHERE. My husband reminded me it was that first line that grabbed the attention of the NY editor. It stood again as the opening line of the book, and bingo! The magic happened. I do have a tendency to jump into things I know nothing about–like last year I started bee keeping. Yikes! So much work, and what an education–but now writing and bees make my heart sing. I really appreciate your comments.

      Reply

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MICHAEL J. BARRINGTON – Whatever Happened to Punctuation?

Michael was born in Manchester, England. He lived in France and joined a French Order of Missionary priests. He spent ten years in West Africa, several of them during a civil war when he was stood up to be shot. He spent a year living as a hermit in Northern Ireland, was a teacher in Madrid, Spain, and as part of the British ‘brain drain’ taught at the Univ of Puerto Rico.

The owner of MJB Consultants, he flew all over the world monitoring and evaluating humanitarian projects and has worked in more than thirty countries. He is fluent in several languages, an avid golfer, and academically considers himself over-engineered, having three Masters’ Degrees and a Ph.D. On his bucket list is to pilot a helicopter, become fluent in Arabic, and spend a week’s retreat at Tamanrasset in the Sahara Desert.

Michael lives with his French wife, who designs and paints the covers of his books, and a Tibetan terrier in Clayton, California.

 I have just finished reading my third novel by Sally Rooney, followed by Cormac McCarthy’s latest,  Stella Maris, and I’d like to report the speech marks are missing! Punctuation goes in and out of fashion, and the marking of text with inverted commas to signify direct speech seems, in the current moment, is decidedly going out of fashion.

Cormac McCarthy called punctuation, “Weird little marks. I believe in periods, in capitals, in the occasional comma, and that’s it.” Since this was his first novel after a 16-year hiatus, I started reading it because I was intrigued by the subject matter, dedicated solely to a dialogue between two people, a woman who self-committed to a mental institution and a psychiatrist. It was a disaster. After twelve pages, I’d had enough and just couldn’t handle page after page with no italics. However, I was sufficiently intrigued to purchase the audiobook. And oh, my goodness, what a difference. I didn’t want to stop listening. I was enthralled by the female and male voices that gave color and texture to a dynamic, intriguing, and labyrinthine script.

But with Sally Rooney, not so. Why she has chosen to use this technique in her novels, only she can say. I found it gimmicky at best since her lack of italics didn’t enhance the flow of the story or blend with the rest of the text. But a greater irritant for me was her use in all three novels of another technique, the way she attributes the spoken word. No writer wants their characters to become disembodied, but attribution, clarifying for the reader who’s saying what, is key to maintaining good order in dialogue. It sustains the novel’s pace and orients and relieves the reader from unnecessary guesswork. As writers we shouldn’t have to send the reader window-shopping in search of a speaker to “assign” the script to! Distractions of that sort break the spell of the interactive flow, and are really an earmark of the inexperienced writer.

I’m speaking here, of course, of “she said” and “he said” the most common attributions, and their host of variants. When it’s evident who’s talking, the reader can readily do without them. Often enough, in a brisk exchange between two people once the talk gets rolling, it takes nothing more than a paragraph change, the customary tool for differentiating speakers, to make clear to the reader who’s saying what. Repeated attributions can serve to heighten the intent of the exchange two people are having. Beginning writers in particular are prone to suppose that “she said” and “he said” become too humdrum, are used too frequently, and need to be replaced by such alternatives as “she replied,” “he explained,” “he responded,” “she murmured,” “she protested,” and so on… all of which, when used judiciously, are useful.

Repeated indications as to who’s doing the talking can also be used for dramatic effect. And this is where Sally Rooney drives me crazy. A creative writing teacher advised, not to labor too much about attributions, “Go ahead and use “she said” and “he said” with little fear of over-use! They soon enough become mere transparencies for the reader, barely noted in passing as the reading proceeds.” If this is the case, why does it irritate and distract me from the story line making me want to stop reading? In Rooney’s Normal People on just one page I counted thirteen times her use of “he said, she said.”

An additional curiosity is Rooney’s point of view as she described her characters. In Beautiful World Where Are You much of its tension comes from the disconnect between the spare prose of the third-person sections, (I can’t remember seeing a semi colon in any of her books) with sometimes one paragraph filling an entire page, and the rambling soliloquies of the emails. Once they have been named, she ghosts her characters through page after page by simply referring to them as ‘she’ and ‘he,’ and given that she rarely fully develops them, I found it annoying and my attention flagging.

But there is a reason her books are bestsellers. In addition to her famous sex scenes, described as “the best in modern literary fiction,” she captures with unembellished, often plaintive prose, the angst of her millennium audience, albeit, her sometimes meandering chapters while reflecting the time and milieu, can be perplexing to those of us north of 40. But be that as it may, I still need my punctuation.

Michael’s latest book is No Room for Heroes: A novel of the French Resistance 1942-44.

Contact: majb7016@gmail.com

Books on website: www.mbwriter.net

3 Comments

  1. Harlan Hague

    Enjoyed the post and will welcome a discussion about the topic one of these days.

    Reply
  2. Mihael A. Black

    I totally agree. I refuse to read McCarthy’s books for exactly the reason you listed. I haven’t thought about an audio version, but I think I’ll pass. I remember struggling to get used to the James Joyce’s use of a dash instead of quotation marks in Dubliners. And what about the current “woke” trend of using the plural pronoun “they” in place of “he” or “she?’ It makes my blood boil. Writers like McCarthy corrupt the language by not following the basic rules of grammar, not that these rule can’t occasionally be ignored. Faulkner did the same thing in the long version of “The Bear,” but given his proclivity to tip the bottle, this was probably not totally intentional. Anyway, thank you for an entertaining and thoughtful blog posting. Good luck with your writing.

    Reply
  3. Pamela Ruth Meyer

    This post got me thinking, Michael. Very thought-provoking. Thank you.

    Reply

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

5 Comments

  1. Candace Hardy

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

    Reply
  2. Michael a. Black

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

    Reply
    • John T Aquino

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

      Reply
  3. Marie Sutro

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

    Reply
    • John T Aquino

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

      Reply

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KELLY OLIVER – The Joy and Challenges of Writing Real-Life Historical Characters

Kelly Oliver is the award-winning and bestselling author of three mystery series: the seven-book contemporary suspense series, The Jessica James Mysteries; the three-book middle grade kid’s series, Pet Detective Mysteries; and the soon to be seven-book historical cozy series, The Fiona Figg Mysteries.
Kelly is currently President of National Sisters in Crime.

When she’s not writing novels, Kelly is a Distinguished Professor of Philosophy Emerita at Vanderbilt University. To learn more about Kelly and her books, go to www.kellyoliverbooks.com.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Downton Abbey meets Agatha Christie in this charming historical cozy. “A delightful English countryside mystery with two handsome suitors and twists and turns worthy of Agatha Christie herself!” – Amanda Flower, USA Today Bestselling Author.

London, 1918 –
Fiona Figg finds herself back in Old Blighty, saddled with shuffling papers for the war office. Then, a mysterious card arrives, inviting her to a fancy house party at Mentmore Castle. This year’s Ascot-themed do will play host to a stable of animal defense advocates, and Fiona is tasked with infiltrating the activists and uncovering possible anti-war activity.

Disguised as the Lady Tabitha Kenworthy, Fiona is more than ready for the “mane” event, but the odds are against her when both her arch nemesis, dark-horse Fredrick Fredricks, and would-be fiancé Lieutenant Archie Somersby arrive unexpectedly and “stirrup” her plans. And when a horse doctor thuds to the floor in the next guest room, Fiona finds herself investigating a mysterious poisoning with some very hairy clues.

Can Fiona overcome the hurdles and solve both cases or will she be put out to pasture by the killer?

Today and every day, I’m grateful for writing. Writing enables me to live. It’s a necessity and not an option. Because of that, I’m especially thankful for readers. At this point, having readers respond to my writing is the most gratifying part of my life.

I began my writing career as a philosophy graduate student and then as a philosophy professor. I wrote nonfiction and scholarly works for decades. I wrote my first fiction, a mystery novel, almost ten years ago. Last December, I retired from Vanderbilt University to write novels full-time. I loved my philosophy career. But I was ready for a new challenge.

One of the greatest joys and challenges of my current writing projects is writing historical characters. I have three mystery series, and only one of them is historical. While I enjoy all of them, writing characters based on real-life people is especially fun.
For example, many of the characters in the latest Fiona Figg & Kitty Lane Mystery, Arsenic as Ascot—out next Tuesday and available for pre-order now—were inspired by real people.

Emilie Augusta Louise Lind af Hageby, known as Lizzy Lind, was a Swedish-born animal activist who founded the Purple Cross for horses and started the first veterinary field hospitals for military animals. She did enter medical school at the University of London to expose their vivisectionist cruelties. And she co-founded—with Lady Nina Douglas, Duchess of Hamilton—the Animal Defense Society with an office on Piccadilly. Nina used her estate at Ferne as a sanctuary for animals abandoned during the war, especially World War II, when food was in such short supply that many pet owners could no longer afford to feed themselves and their pets.

The character of Dr. Sergei Vorknoy is inspired by Dr. Serge Voronoff, known as the “monkey gland expert” and the “monkey gland doctor.” The real Dr. Voronoff, a Russian immigrant, grafted tissue from chimpanzee testicles onto wealthy men and their horses. He claimed the operation would restore youth and vitality and boost intelligence. He performed his operations mainly in France but also in England. This “side hustle” made him rich. Seems lots of wealthy men were ready to give it a go.

The novel Lady Sybil is loosely based on Lady Sybil Grant, daughter of Lord Archibald Primrose, Earl of Rosebery, who served as the prime minister of the United Kingdom from 1894–1895. He did close the gates to one of his estates, The Durdans when his son left to fight and never again reopened them. And after his wife, Hannah de Rothschild, died, he wore mourning for the rest of his life. He was also an avid horse lover and owned several stables and racehorses. He did not, however, hide horses from the War Office, and neither did his groom. Lady Sybil was known for her unconventional ways, including climbing trees, issuing orders with a bullhorn, and traveling with the caravan of Romani she allowed to camp on the estate. Don’t you just love this?

My recurring baddie, Fredrick Fredricks, is inspired by real-life spy Fredrick “Fritz” Joubert Duquesne, the South African huntsman who escaped from prison several times in outrageous ways, adopted several personae and generally charmed his way through high society posing as a New York journalist, a British army officer, and a Russian duke. One of his aliases was indeed Fredrick Fredricks. He was also the leader of an infamous Duquesne spy ring in World War II until his capture in one of the largest espionage convictions in United States history. Fredrick Fredricks is a fan favorite and one of mine, too!

Some of the joys of writing historical characters is learning about fascinating people like these. For a writer, their stories provide built-in plots, which is nice. The challenge is finding an appropriate voice and fleshing them out. Research only gets you so far. Sure. You can learn facts about someone’s life. But that doesn’t tell you who they were. Taking a journey into the head of a historical figure is both exhilarating and an enormous responsibility.

My goal is to tell a good story inspired by real-life characters and true events. Creative license is key to both starting and finishing any project. Without it, I would be paralyzed. Thankfully, at the end of the day, mine are fiction, not history books.

I love historical mysteries because I can learn about history while enjoying a rip-roaring good story.

What do you love about historical mysteries?

Arsenic at Ascot LINKS

Apple Books https://books.apple.com/us/book/arsenic-at-ascot/id6463619182

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/arsenic-at-ascot-kelly-oliver/1143980413

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0CD3N2XSH/

Amazon CA: https://www.amazon.ca/Arsenic-Ascot-Fiona-Kitty-Mystery-ebook/dp/B0CD3N2XSH/

Amazon AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/Arsenic-Ascot-Fiona-Kitty-Mystery-ebook/dp/B0CD3N2XSH/

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/arsenic-at-ascot

Kobo CA: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/arsenic-at-ascot

2 Comments

  1. Debra H. Goldstein

    Interesting — especially the part about who you based certain characters on.

    Reply
  2. Michael A. Black

    It sounds like you have tremendous knowledge of history and those figures who made their mark. Best of luck to you with your writing.

    Reply

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BOB MARTIN – 911

Bob Martin served the NYPD for 32 years in a wide variety of commands. These include the fabled Tactical Patrol Force (TPF), the Street Crime Unit, the Mounted Unit, the 72nd, 69th, and 6th Precincts, Queens and Bronx Detectives, and finally, the Commanding Officer of the Special Investigations Division. Martin was a charter member and played with the NYPD’s Finest Football Team for a dozen years. He served for twelve years on the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) “Committee on Terrorism” and traveled extensively, in this country and abroad, speaking on the subject. He retired as a Deputy Inspector in 2000 and began writing. In 2004, he led a law enforcement mission to Israel. His stories have been published in numerous magazines and newspapers. Bronx Justice, based on an actual case, his first novel, came out in 2016. His second book, the non-fiction 9/11 Remembered-Twenty Years Later, was published in June 2021.

In doing publicity for the 9/11 book, I was often asked about my motivation for writing both books. My answer was very simple-Bronx Justice was a book I wanted to write. 9/11 Remembered was a book I had to write. I retired in 2000 and was not involved in the response on that horrific day, but many of my NYPD friends were. Hearing the incredible stories of those that survived and the tales of those who made the ultimate sacrifice that day were awe-inspiring. Their bravery and willingness to sacrifice their own lives to try and save others filled me with tremendous sorrow and pride to have been a member of that department for 32 years. To see how these heroes were treated twenty years later, the violence and abuse heaped on these men and women on the streets of New York was sickening. I knew I had to get the stories of so many incredible first responders, true heroes, out for the public to learn.

Then Lieutenant, now Chief Terri Tobin, standing at the foot of the South Tower as it comes down. She was blown out of her shoes and hurled sixty feet across West Street, trapped in the debris. Her bullet-resistant Kevlar helmet was penetrated by a four-inch piece of concrete now embedded in her skull. She digs herself out and assists in getting a firefighter out from under an ambulance. When the North Tower falls, again she is hurled across West Street, this time with a two-foot piece of plate glass stuck between her shoulder blades. She continues to assist others until she’s finally transported to a New Jersey hospital, where she is treated for a severe concussion and broken ankle. Eighty stitches close her head and back wounds. And she wants to return to the Trade Center. That this incredible woman, if working the Summer of 2000 street unrest, could be ridiculed, cursed, and have objects thrown at her in the name of Justice, is unbelievable. There are many more stories similar to Chief Tobin’s.

The most challenging part of my writing process is (bonus points if you guessed)-Writing. My first book Bronx Justice took almost sixteen years to complete. For months on end, the manuscript sat in a drawer, unseen by human eyes, until I was blessed to meet a six-time NY Times best-selling author named Vincent Lardo. Vince got me into a writing group he was in, and for the first time, I had “Deadlines.” “Bob, you will read to the group next Thursday, send twelve new pages to the group by Monday. Under that pressure, the book was finished in two years.

9/11 Remembered came with its own deadline. I decided to write it in January 2021. It had to be completed well before the 20th anniversary of the attacks that September. The fact that I had decided that all proceeds from the book would be going to a 9/11 charity (The 3256 Foundation set up to honor NYPD Emergency Service Unit Sergeant and USMC Desert Storm veteran Mike Curtin who was killed on 9/11)
About – 3256 Foundation

https://www.3256-foundation.org › about

made getting it out as early as possible a must. It came out in June 2021.

So, in my case, deadlines make me sit down and write. That’s the reason I like writing for newspapers. I can see something in the paper that I feel needs commenting on, knock out a piece in about one hour, submit it, and generally get a yea or nay within twenty-four hours.

One tip I learned is-do not procrastinate in writing the piece and sending it in. I had seen a story that I wished to comment on, usually in the form of an Op-Ed, and debated about doing it for a day. When I submitted it, I got a reply from the editor along the lines of, “If I had seen this yesterday, it would have been in today’s edition. Unfortunately for you, we covered that story today.” So now, as soon as I get the idea, I write and submit the piece. I’ve been lucky enough to place stories in New York Newsday, the New York Post, and the Daily News.

My favorite authors are the usual suspects in the mystery/crime genre- Michael Connelly, Dennis Lehane, and in my humble opinion, the all-time master of dialogue, the late, great Elmore Leonard. His advice to aspiring writers to “leave out the parts people don’t read” is priceless.

I also love two authors who take their crime stories out West. Craig Johnson’s Longmire and C.J. Box’s Joe Pickett series have a special appeal to me. Johnson’s Sheriff Walt Longmire and Box’s Game Warden Joe Pickett are both set in Wyoming. As a member of the NYPD, I always knew that if the “shit hit the fan” and I needed help on the streets of New York, the cavalry would be riding to my rescue minutes after I put a call over the air. For Longmire and Pickett, it’s more likely hours in the wilds of Wyoming.

My advice to aspiring writers-get writing and get into a good writing group.

Links to my books

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=&ved=2ahUKEwjA8P2m6uD7AhXgrHIEHRAlBFkQFnoECAkQAQ&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2F11-Remembered-Twenty-Years-Later%2Fdp%2FB096LTWCB5&usg=AOvVaw1Yq3JK-0aojKZHNnS7iMTU

 

2 Comments

  1. Marisa Fife

    “I knew I had to get the stories of so many incredible first responders, true heroes, out for the public to learn.”

    This resonated with me after your heart-tugging description of what these courageous people endured while helping others during one of the worst events in American history.

    With the march of time, what 911 means is being eroded. That’s why I think it’s so important to remind people of what happened. I’m glad you do this through your books. Your background and connections no doubt lend an intimate, authentic point of view to this important part of history.

    Reply
  2. Michael A. Black

    Great post, Bob, and God bless you not only for your service in the NYPD, but also for helping the 9/11 charity fund. I’ll have to check out both books. Stay strong.

    Reply

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MICHAEL A. BLACK – Veteran – Police Officer – Western Author

Michael A. Black is the award winning author of 50 books. A retired police officer, he has done everything from patrol to investigating homicides to conducting numerous SWAT operations. He wrote eleven novels as Don Pendleton in the Executioner series and many Westerns in the Gunslinger series under the name A.W. Hart. His recent novel is in the Trackdown series, Devil’s Lair.

Devil’s Lair – With witnesses falling and a federal case against the cartel in ruins, ex-army ranger Steve Wolf and Special Agent Lucien Pike head to Mexico, chasing both a traitor and an irresistible reward. But betrayal thrives in the heart of darkness, dragging them into a merciless battle where survival is a blood-soaked quest with no mercy given or expected.

When death comes knocking, there’s no quarter given or expected.

Do you write in more than one genre? Most of my stuff is in the mystery and thriller genres. I’ve also been published in other genres, including westerns, sci-fi, horror, pulp fiction, young adult, and sports. Mysteries and thrillers will always be my first love, but I also believe in genre blending. My Western novel, Gunslinger:          Killer’s Ghost, is a Western but also a monster story.

What brought you to writing? I’ve been writing all my life. I wrote my first short story in the sixth grade. I was always begging the teacher to let me write a short story. One Friday, she relented and told me I’d have to read it in front of the class on Monday. I struggled all weekend. After I read it aloud, the teacher gave me a “D—Poor Work” grade and told me never to do it again. I look back on this experience as invaluable. It foreshadowed my entire writing career: I got my first assignment, my first deadline, my first writer’s block, and my first rejection, all in three days.

What are you currently working on? My latest book in the Trackdown series is Devil’s Lair. It follows the continuing adventures of ex-army ranger Steve Wolf, who served time for a war crime he didn’t commit and has been trying to clear his name while working as a bounty hunter. He also has some very powerful enemies who set him up and are trying to kill him. In this entry in the series, he gets to strike back a little.

Who’s your favorite author? If I had to pick a single writer who influenced me more than most, I’d have to say, John D. MacDonald. He was a real pro.

How long to get your first book published? My first one never got published. Looking back, It was that bad—a lot of rookie mistakes. I’d gotten some short stories published, so I knew a bit about writing. I wrote a second manuscript and felt it had legs. I sent it off with high hopes and optimism and started a third novel. I’d written the opening line one morning: It had been a year of ups and downs… Then the mailman came, and I found my second manuscript had come back with a rejection letter. I sat down and stared at the computer screen for a long while, trying to decide if I wanted to continue. After a time, the second line came floating to me: More downs than ups. I liked the sound of it and made a solemn vow right then and there that I was going to finish writing the manuscript and I was going to make it the best I could, even if I was the only person who would ever read it. This one eventually became my first published novel.

Do you ever kill a popular character? If so, what happens to your story? A few authors have done this, and I always thought it was a dumb move. I suppose you could make a case for your hero to die heroically, but it would pretty much end any chance of a continuing series. Arthur Conan Doyle killed off Sherlock Holmes and eventually had to bring him back.

How do you raise the stakes for your protagonist? It’s a simple formula: introduce conflict and make things worse as the plot progresses. Then, when it reaches critical mass… BOOM! You have your climax.

What obstacles do you face when writing about historical figures? The biggest problem is avoiding anachronisms. I just read a book set in 1913, and the author still had Maximillian as the emperor of Mexico. He was executed in 1867. Naturally, this ruined it for me, and I didn’t finish it. This unfortunate practice of rewriting history started a few years ago and needs to stop. It’s not only irritating, it breeds stupidity.

What is the best book you have ever read? I’d be hard pressed to pick just one, but I’d have to say James Dickey’s Deliverance is in my top ten. Dickey was a nationally recognized poet who spent ten years crafting the novel. The imagery is stunning, and the writing is lyrical. After I read it, I reread the opening and realized he’d foreshadowed the entire story in that first line.

Do you have any advice for new writers? You can’t be a good writer unless you’re first a good reader, so read all you can and learn from it. Take the time to perfect your craft, get feedback on your work, and try to write every day, even if it’s only one line.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and your books? If you’re looking for a good thriller, I’d appreciate it if you’d check out my new one, Devil’s Lair. It’s got a little something for everyone—action, thrills, and romance. And many thanks to you, Big George, for this opportunity to be on your blog once again.

How do our readers contact you?

Give me a shout at DocAtlas108@aol.com

I’m a member of the VFW, the FOP, the WWA (Western Writers of America), and the PSWA (Public Safety Writers Association).

4 Comments

  1. Thonie Hevron

    A wonderful interview, George and Michael! I loved Michael’s tips on craft and his insights into process. I also have read many of Michael’s books and he’s the real deal.

    Reply
  2. Vicki Weisfeld

    Laughed out loud at your first writing foray. Very efficient getting to that rejection! Thanks, Mike and George!

    Reply
  3. Violet Moore

    The Westerns are my favorites too.

    Reply
  4. Marilyn Meredith

    I’ve read many of Mike’s books–he’s definitely a pro. His Western series i my favorite.
    He’s also the program chair for the Public Safety Writers’ Association.

    Reply

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