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 (policewriter.com)

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.

3 Comments

  1. Peg (M.E.) Roche

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

    Reply
  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.

    Reply
  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.

    Reply

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KIRSTEN WEISS – Bringing Laughs & Entertaining Stories to Her Readers

Kirsten Weiss writes laugh-out-loud, page-turning mysteries. Her heroines aren’t perfect, but they’re smart, they struggle, and they succeed. Kirsten writes in a house high on a hill in the Colorado woods and occasionally ventures out for wine and chocolate. Or for a visit to the local pie shop.

Kirsten is best known for her Wits’ End, Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum, and Tea & Tarot cozy mystery books. So, if you like funny, action-packed mysteries with complicated heroines, just turn the page.

Gingerbread Dead – Tea and Tarot room owner Abigail has her hands full for the holidays. But when a business owner on her street is murdered in her small California beach town, she and her Tarot-reading partner Hyperion are on the case. Now, with a cranky cop on their tails, the duo must find a way to solve the crime and stay out of the slammer. All before a killer cancels their Christmas.

Do you write in more than one genre? I stick to mystery novels, but that genre has been broken into several niches. I’ve written cozy mystery, witch mystery, urban fantasy mystery, and even some steampunk mystery/suspense.

Do your protagonists ever disappoint you? No, though the way I write them sometimes does. But that’s why I edit the heck out of all my books. That way, I can fix character and other issues before publication.

Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? My stories are chock full of subplots. Since I write comedic mysteries, I usually rely on subplots for most of the humor. (Murder isn’t all that funny). And I like my heroes to have a life outside amateur detecting, something that will give them room to grow.

Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I work with a loose outline that allows me to plot my clues and red herrings but gives me enough flexibility to change things up a bit as I go along. Sometimes the best ideas strike as I’m writing. It feels like plotting and writing use two different types of thinking. Character actions or plotting ideas can seem obvious in the middle of a scene, but I don’t seem to catch those obvious twists and turns during the plotting process. Maybe I can get into a flow state while writing which allows easier access to the intuition, whereas plotting doesn’t get me there.

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? I like to stick to fictional locations based on real places. That way, if I mess up where a certain street or business is, no one will know! (And I most definitely will mess up actual locations).

Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I’m continuing to write in my Wits’ End, Tea and Tarot, and Paranormal Museum series. But I also have a literary fiction project coming out next year, tentatively titled The Mysteries of Tarot. It’s ostensibly a book on reading Tarot cards by Hyperion from the Tea and Tarot series, but it’s actually much, much more.

Do you have any advice for new writers? Successful writers are those who don’t give up, keep learning and writing, and just stick with it. So, stick with it!

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and your books? Since it’s the holiday season, readers may enjoy picking up the latest in my Tea and Tarot series, Gingerbread Dead. It’s got a lot of humor and holiday scone recipes in the back of the book.

How do our readers contact you? I’ve got a contact form on my website at KirstenWeiss.com. At the same site, readers can also pick up a free eBook copy of Fortune Favors the Grave, a Tea and Tarot novella.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kirsten.weiss
Twitter: https://twitter.com/KirstenWeiss
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kirstenweissauthor/
Where to buy Gingerbread Dead:
Kindle: https://amzn.to/3oMROVO
Apple Books: https://apple.co/3OS7VvL
Nook: https://bit.ly/3PPIJXX
Google Play: https://bit.ly/3Q7dxTW
Kobo: https://bit.ly/3cRy7cB

3 Comments

  1. ana

    Kirsten, I have Gingerbread Dead on my Kindle and can’t wait to read it (as soon as the NorCal SINC/MWA Holiday Party is over and my part of the organizing is done.) I enjoy your books. Thanks!

    Reply
  2. Michael A. Black

    Nicely done interview, Kirsten. I think a successful run of your series is in the cards. Best of luck to you.

    Reply
  3. Kirsten Weiss

    Thanks for having me on your blog today!

    Reply

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The Tables Are Turned—George Cramer Is Interviewed

With the impending release of George’s latest novel, Robbers and Cops, I suggested he let me interview him for his blog. I happen to know that George is a talented writer and that he’s also very modest. Tooting his own horn is not in this man’s DNA, but I insisted. So here it is: an interview with the author, the man himself.

Now I get to turn the tables on Big George and interview him about his new book and a few other things. Michael A. Black

Okay, George, let’s start with an easy one: In which genre(s) do you write? I’ll try to make it complicated. I began Robbers and Cops as somewhat of a memoir but got bored with the protagonist, switched to a police procedural thriller, and then stopped for eight years to write The Mona Lisa Sisters as historical-literary-woman fiction.

I also write some, very little, poetry. And I love writing flash fiction.

Why did you choose those? I get pieces of stories in my mind that determine what I’ll write. Flash fiction’s inspiration is about telling a story, beginning to end, on one page. Poetry is either about writing or a social issue, such as the 1864 massacre of a peaceful Arapaho and Cheyenne village in “Sand Creek.”

Now tell us a bit about your writing process–Plotter or Pantser? Outlining and I don’t get along. I begin writing with an idea and create ten thousand or so words either at the beginning or at the end. Then, I ponder how I got there, how or where the journey began. I take lots of detours.

Have you ever tried doing it the other way? Yes—total failure.

What do you need for your writing sessions? I still write in cursive, and my handwriting is so bad I need a laptop. Add a flat service and comfortable straight-back chair, and I’m set. I can be at my desk, kitchen table, library, or coffee shop. Conversations don’t bother me, except at home.

Does anything ever hamper your writing? Artificial sounds, music, radio, or television.

It must be hard to screen all of those out. Do you have a special place where you like to write? Libraries, surrounded by books.

What do you love about writing? The hope of using written words to paint a picture another person can experience in such a way as to place themselves in the setting and scene.

Painting a picture… That’s very metaphorical. Your first book references a rather famous picture—The Mona Lisa. Care to tell us what that one’s about? I was attending an introductory workshop when the instructor randomly handed out pictures of scenes. We were given fifteen minutes to describe the setting. Instead, I wrote the end of the manuscript. Eight years later, I finished the journey.

What’s the most challenging aspect for you about writing? It’s when I’m searching for the right colors (words) to paint that perfect scene.

What do you find to be the hardest thing about being a writer? Sitting down and writing that first word. Or when I’ve finished the manuscript, I’m about 10,000 words short. I don’t want to add fluff.

That’s interesting. Most writers try to cut words from a manuscript. How do you determine the proper length? When I finish adding 10K new words, I’ve cut at least 5K and have to go back again.

What is the easiest thing, if anything, about being a writer? The ability to take on any project that allows me to avoid sitting down and writing that first word. My best escape from creating new material is to self-critique and edit my already-written work.

Is there something that you always put in your books? Last year I heard that some author always puts his name somewhere in his work. I took that as a challenge, and I’m hidden in Robbers and Cops. In New Liberty, the first in the Hector Miguel Navarro Trilogy, George Cramer gives advice to a young detective.

Things you never put in your books: Steamy sex. I tried it once, but my two daughters were horrified that I would write about sex—never again.

What are your favorite books (or genres)? Now that is a tricky question. I like Bernard Cornwell immensely. I was not a fan of his until I read a few of his works while studying for an MFA at the Institute of American Indian Arts. But that is strictly for fun. Among my favorites for content and impact, I would have to include Hard Times: For These Times by Charles Dickens in 1854; and The Stranger, the 1942 novella by Albert Camus.

Those would be considered classics by most people. Which current writers influenced you the most? Right up there is The Round House by Louise Erdrich and Perma Red by Debra Magpie Earling. These two indigenous authors are incredible.

Anthony Marra’s A Constellation of Vital Phenomena should be a must-read for every person living in these trying times.

As far as right now, I choose Black Pearl by Donnell Ann Bell. I can’t wait to get her autograph and talk writing.

Are there any books you won’t buy? Horror stories by Stephen King. I can’t handle horror. However, I have a paper and hardback copy of Stephen King On Writing because he is such a phenomenal author.

All right, we’ve dallied long enough. Your new book is Robbers and Cops. Tell us about that one. I’m leaving that to you with the blurb you graciously wrote.

A fascinating odyssey of complex characters—robbers and cops that spans five decades in its telling. Imagine if Elmore Leonard had written The Grapes of Wrath, tossed in a dash of The Naked and the Dead, and finished up morphing into a pure Joseph Wambaugh police procedural. ~Michael A. BlackAmazon Bestselling Author.

Robbers and Cops will be released on November 1, 2022, and is available for pre-order.

 So would you say it’s a crime story or police procedural, or a sociological novel? Wow! I would have to say a thrilling sociological police procedural.

You’ve got an extensive background in police work and investigations. Has this helped you with your crime fiction? With Robbers and Cops, I wanted to build a story around two brothers. I met one of them when I helped a San Mateo detective take him into custody. My involvement in the incident was limited to hours, yet the story haunted me for decades. When I fell in love with writing, I used four decades of investigation experience to go from the ending back forty years in time and created the road that ended with my completed manuscript.

What is one of the most daring things you’ve done? Overcoming my fears while becoming a certified scuba diver without knowing how to swim so I could dive with my oldest son, a professional deep water diver—we never did.

That sounds like it would make a good story. Have you considered writing about your experience as a memoir or fictionalizing it into a novel? Never going to happen.

Who’s the most remarkable person you’ve ever met: My Dad.

You’ve got a lot of fans out there. Anything else you’d like to tell them? Please visit my blog and then come make a guest post about your work.

 All right. Thanks for the opportunity to let me place the master blog interviewer on the spot.

How do your readers contact you or buy your books?

Email: gdcramer@outlook.com
Website: https://gdcramer.com
Blog: https://gdcramer.com/george-cramer-blog/
FaceBook: http://www.facebook.com/george.cramer.56211

Buy Books: There is a buy link on my website.

Amazon – https://tinyurl.com/4xw228ft
Barnes and Nobel -: https://tinyurl.com/4t4h6x8y

20 Comments

  1. Camille Minichino

    What a team here! Thanks George and Mike, not only for your massive contribution to the world of great books, but for all you both do for authors.

    Reply
  2. Donnell Ann Bell

    40 years of research helped you write Robbers and Cops. I have been so self-absorbed with family, forgot I read this marvelous interview. Mike, you ask phenomenal questions that really help a person consider how to answer. Well done, you two.

    Reply
  3. Donnell Ann Bell

    Lovely interview. Thanks, Mike for interviewing George. George I’m honored you like Black Pearl, and I, sir, should be asking for YOUR autograph! Think I’ll try your library system for writing. I like absolute quiet too!

    Reply
  4. Marie Sutro

    Love that you still write in cursive! Can’t wait to read Robbers & Cops!!

    Reply
  5. Jonathan

    Always enjoy learning new things about you.
    Sounds like we need to plan a dive trip.

    Reply
  6. Madeline Gornell

    Great interview of a great guy! Kudos Mike and George!

    Reply
  7. Johanna Meadows

    What a great interview. Always good to hear about you George!

    Reply
  8. Violet Moore

    To Michael and George. One of the best interviews I’ve read .

    Reply
  9. Cynthia

    Great interview. I did not know you didn’t swim! I have pre ordered your current book Robbers and Cops!!! Can’t wait till it comes in…and you sign it!!

    Reply
  10. Elizabeth Varadan

    What a great interview. I’ve enjoyed reading the blog posts here, but especially enjoyed learning more about you and your books this time. Robbers and Cops definitely goes on my TBR stack.

    Reply
  11. Victoria Weisfeld

    What an entertaining interview! Thank you both, Mike and George.

    Reply
  12. Joseph Bryce HAGGERTY Sr

    George, your honesty was refreshing. I too don’t like horror stories, but one of my favorite books was Stephen King’s THE STAND. Mike is a great interviewer and obviously knows his way to get writers to say things they wouldn’t normally say. I truly enjoyed the interviewer and the interviewee. I admire both of you and look forward to reading ROBBERS and COPS.

    Reply
    • George Cramer

      Thanks, Joe. I’m glad you enjoyed both Mike and me. It was fun for us as well.

      Reply
  13. Michael A. Black

    George, you’ve done so much to support other writers that I couldn’t pass up this chance to turn the tables and have me interview you. I read an advance copy of Robbers and Cops and thought it was great. Thank you for letting me sit in your chair for this one. Stay strong.

    Reply
  14. Wanda Dean

    George, I so enjoyed this interview! You amaze me in many ways.
    Writing is a lot like painting as you say! And when you say you don’t add fluff, I sure can
    identify with that… Fluff just takes away from the words and the painting…
    I downloaded 2 of the books you mentioned and look forward to reading Robbers and Cops!

    Reply
    • George Cramer

      Hi Aunt Wanda, this must be a beautiful time in Western New York, especially for such a talented artist as you. Keep those brushes moving.

      Reply
  15. George Cramer

    Mike, Thanks for reversing the tables on me. You must be a detective! You forced information out of me that I would never have shared otherwise.

    Working on this blog has become joy.

    Thanks to all the folks who have posted here and those who visit and support the community of writers.

    Reply
  16. Lynn Carlson

    Have read many of your blog posts -enjoyed learning more about you! Thanks for supporting other writers.

    Reply
    • George Cramer

      Hi Lynn, thanks for dropping by and your kind comments.

      Reply

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VASEEM KHAN – Historical Fiction Sent From India

Vaseem Khan is the author of two award-winning crime series set in India. His debut, The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra, was a bestseller, translated into 16 languages, and a Sunday Times 40 best crime novels published 2015-2020 pick; the series won a Shamus Award in the US. In 2021, Midnight at Malabar House, the first in the Malabar House novels set in 1950s Bombay, won the Crime Writers Association Historical Dagger, and in 2022 it was shortlisted for the prestigious Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year award. MW Craven, CWA Gold Dagger winner.

ELEVATOR PITCH – THE DYING DAY by Vaseem Khan. Bombay, 1950. A 600-year-old copy of Dante’s The Divine Comedy vanishes, leaving behind a series of complex riddles and bodies. ‘The Da Vinci Code meets post-Independence India.

Do you have any advice for new writers? I wrote and submitted my first novel aged 17! It was awful. I spent the next 23 years and seven novels trying to get published before landing a four-book deal for my Baby Ganesh Agency series. Perseverance is important. But more crucially, it’s important to recognise that quality will out – it takes time and effort to bring your writing to the standard that agents and publishers consider publishable. On my website www.vaseemkhan.com you’ll find a blog piece entitled “Is this is a Dagger I see before me – lessons from 30 years of writing”. It might be useful.

What was your debut novel? And what happened next? My debut, The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra, was written after I went to work in India for ten years. It became a Times bestseller after I launched it on the BBC Breakfast sofa to an audience of several million! I then found myself having to write a novel a year. That has meant strict discipline. Luckily, I’m a deadline masochist!

 

Tell us about your writing process: Wake up. Drown in a few moments of existential angst. Remember that there are still books and cricket in the world, so it can’t be all meaningless. Write for about three hours until my brain stops working. Potter around for the rest of the day, avoiding any DIY assignments my wife would like me to tackle.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process? I’m a detailed plotter – that takes months to get right. My current historical series is compared to Agatha Christie in style – so much so that this year I’m speaking at the International Agatha Christie Festival. The books include complex clues and, sometimes, codes and cyphers, as well as a wealth of historical detail about the period when India became independent after 200 years of British rule. Balancing all these elements is a challenge!

What do you feel are your biggest writing achievements? Getting published after two decades of trying! Followed by winning a Crime Writers Association Historical Dagger, the world’s premier prize for historical crime fiction – for Midnight at Malabar House. In the book, we meet my protagonist, Persis Wadia, newly qualified as India’s first female police Inspector at a time when India is still an intensely patriarchal society. No one knows what to do with her, so they stick her in Bombay’s smallest police station – Malabar House – where all the rejects and undesirables are sent. And then a sensational murder – of an English diplomat – falls into her lap… and she’s off! In fiction, we love pioneers. There’s something mythic about a protagonist challenging the status quo. Persis, as a woman in a male dominated environment, is forced to prove, time and again, that she belongs. As a man, it wasn’t easy to write such a character!

Why do you write about India? I was born and grew up in England but lived in India for a decade in my twenties. It was an intense culture shock. In The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra, there is a chapter that takes place in a slum in Mumbai. I visited that slum while living in India, and it was eye-opening to observe poverty on a scale we simply can’t imagine in the West. At the same time, it was life-affirming to see the locals just getting on with things – especially the ever-grinning kids!

How do you come up with character names? A great character name is euphonious, meaning it is pleasing to the ear because it fits the character completely and makes them more real. I trawl through hundreds of online name lists to get just the right name.

We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave or run wild? The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra, introduced a middle-aged Mumbai policeman who must solve the murder of a poor local boy – whilst dealing with the odd dilemma of inheriting a baby elephant. What do you do when you live on the fifteenth floor of a tower block, and someone sends you an elephant? Read the book to find out! That elephant has become incredibly popular with readers around the world, so much so that I continue to get email about him. To be clear: he doesn’t talk or fly or solve the mysteries. The elephant is merely a symbol for India and allows me to showcase a different side of Chopra’s personality – he’s a very rigid and honest man. He has to gradually come to terms with the idea that he is responsible for this animal’s welfare.

What’s the most challenging thing about writing characters from the opposite sex? I wrote a female lead for the Malabar House series because I wanted to say something about the patriarchal, sometimes misogynistic society that was India in the 1950s. Persis is ambitious, so much so that she is sometimes quite ruthless in her desire to prove herself. And why shouldn’t she be? We allow male mavericks in crime fiction, so why not a female?

Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? Always! For instance, inThe Dying Day, the second book in the Malabar House series, we see twin plots. A 600-year-old copy of Dante’s The Divine Comedy vanishes from Bombay’s Asiatic Society, and the case lands on Inspector Persis Wadia’s desk. Uncovering a series of complex riddles written in verse, Persis – together with English forensic scientist Archie Blackfinch – is soon on the trail. But then they discover the first body.In a subplot, Persis must also investigate the murder of a beautiful white woman whose body is found on train tracks. Could the two cases be related? The trick is to plan in advance exactly how your subplots fit together. If they don’t hang together at all, I think it can sometimes lead to readers feeling cheated! .. Oh, and to date, only one person – an Australian reader – has claimed to have solved all the riddles in The Dying Day. The challenge is made!

Do you base any of your characters on real people? A lot! Early on in Midnight at Malabar House, Persis finds herself working with Archie Blackfinch, an English forensic scientist based in Bombay. They get off to a rocky start, but we know this is going to be one of those will-they-wont-they situations. And this presents a challenge for Persis. Because, of course, this is India just after Independence. The idea of an Indian woman in a relationship with a white Englishman… They’re both socially awkward people – but whereas Archie is one of those Englishmen who’d rather hack their own arm off than speak out of turn, Persis’s determination to succeed sometimes means that she’s a bit ruthless, such as when she almost shoots Archie’s ear off. I guess you could say there’s a lot of me in Archie. (Though my wife hasn’t shot my ear off. Yet.)

Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I’m getting ready to promote THE LOST MAN OF BOMBAY, the third book in my Malabar House series, out in August in the UK and Kindle in US on August 18, 2022, hardcover on November 22, 2022, in the US. Frankly, I’d buy it just for the amazing cobra on the cover! It’s set in 1950 in Bombay, India. In this one, a white man is found frozen to death in a cave in the Himalayan foothills. His face is crushed, making his identity a complete mystery. When the case lands on Persis’ desk, she discovers a notebook on the body holding a series of cryptic clues. As Persis and Archie Blackfinch chase down the clues, more murders occur in Bombay of Europeans. Could there be a serial killer loose in the city? Pre-orders really help, so don’t be shy!

How do our readers contact you?

Website: http://vaseemkhan.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/VaseemKhanOfficial/
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/VaseemKhanUK
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/vaseemkhanwriter/

FACEBOOK GROUPS:
The Book Group https://www.facebook.com/groups/readrecommendreview
UK Crime Book Club https://www.facebook.com/groups/ukcrimebookclub
Lost in a Good Book https://www.facebook.com/groups/1715381925391873
Mystery Readers Café https://www.facebook.com/groups/2024429557790696
Bookaholic Café https://www.facebook.com/groups/BookAholicCafe
Book Connectors https://www.facebook.com/groups/1466353170351020
Crime Fiction Addict https://www.facebook.com/groups/507750129408471
The Crime Book Club https://www.facebook.com/groups/CrimeBookClub
The Fiction Café Book Club https://www.facebook.com/groups/FictionCafe

1 Comment

  1. Michael A. Black

    It sounds like you’re really on a roll, Vaseem. Congratulations on your success. Your story is inspirational. Good luck and watch your ears. 😉

    0

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KATHERINE RAMSLAND – Forensic Psychology in Fiction

Dr. Katherine Ramsland teaches forensic psychology at DeSales University in Pennsylvania, where she is the Assistant Provost. She has appeared as an expert in criminal psychology on more than 200 crime documentaries and magazine shows, is an executive producer of Murder House Flip, and has consulted for CSI, Bones, and The Alienist. The author of more than 1,500 articles and 69 books, including The Forensic Science of CSI, The Forensic Psychology of Criminal Minds, How to Catch a Killer, The Psychology of Death Investigations, and Confession of a Serial Killer: The Untold Story of Dennis Rader, The BTK Killer, she was co-executive producer for the Wolf Entertainment/A&E four-part documentary based on the years she spent talking with Rader. Ramsland consults on death investigations, talks to killers, pens a blog for Psychology Today, and is writing a fiction series based on a female forensic psychologist who manages a private investigation agency.

Elevator Pitch for I Scream Man: Forensic psychologist Annie Hunter’s PI team plunges into a perilous case of missing kids and a well-connected network of sex traffickers.

In which genres do you write? I started publishing in the mid-1980s, so I’ve covered a range of genres, mostly in nonfiction: biographies, adventure memoirs, travel, true-crime, writing craft, psychology, paranormal, encyclopedias, scientific analyses, textbooks, and even a cookbook. I’ve also written scripts and treatments for Hollywood. With fiction, I’ve published horror, paranormal urban fantasy, and now my private investigation series. I find that there’s a lot of cross-fertilization.

What inspired your current work, the Nut Crackers Investigation series? I teach forensic psychology, including a course called Psychological Sleuthing, on the psychology of investigation (which I designed and for which I wrote the textbook). I also consult on unusual cases, so it was natural to base a character and her investigative team on what I do. I’ve written a lot of nonfiction on forensic science, psychology, and investigation, so I’ve developed a network of consultants – and some are real characters. In the series, I connect Annie Hunter’s team to whatever consultant she might need, from digital to anthropology to meteorology (yes, there’s forensic meteorology!). Between access to plenty of cases, conversations with multiple offenders, and teamwork with many different professionals, I have a solid set-up for creating plots and characters.

How do you incorporate research or true events into your fiction? I generally start with a twisty crime I’ve come across that will call on my characters’ unique skills. On my core team is a cadaver dog handler, a PI who’s also an artist, and a psychologist with a specialty in suicidology and staged scenes. I research the crime, especially in legal documents, and sometimes talk to key personnel (including offenders). Then, like Law & Order, I spin my fictional scenario. Since I also know the psychological literature, I’m careful to develop characters along realistic lines. One more dimension is that I use actual settings, so I go experience them. I take a lot of photos. For example, after I set a scene in a recreational area, I traveled there to see where I might place an inconspicuous grave. Sometimes the places I see inspire me to turn them into settings. The tower in Ireland that poet W. B. Yeats owned, for example.

You’ve written 70 books, along with multiple other types of projects, and you often write more than one at once. How do you keep them straight? I once heard that a change is as good as a rest. I find this to be true. I work on multiple projects at once – including my day job as a professor and assistant provost. Each provides inspiration for the others. I merely keep them in separate folders on my computer, or in separate piles on my office floor. But when I tire of one project, or finish one, I’m glad to have something else to keep the juices flowing. I have no time for postpartum writing grief because another project is calling for attention.

What is your writing process? I’ve written a book, Snap: Seizing your Aha! Moments, which describes one of the best things to do for the creative process. A lot of people believe that flashes of insight happen at random, but I’ve discovered that you can set yourself up for these to occur regularly. In the book, I propose a program that I’ve found useful for generating the spark. I call it a “snap,” because the flash of genius that really counts is insight plus momentum – it snaps you toward action. It resolves your impasse. First, you create your mental salad. You really work at it, gathering all kinds of info and experiences to toss in. Use a routine so you can tap into body memories, too. Then you relax in whatever way works for you. For me, it’s walking. During this time, you let the brain’s association network mix and match to come up with a plot twist, a new character, the resolution of a scene, etc. I’ve been counting on this process for years. I love it.

What advice do you have for new writers? The most important thing a budding writer can do is to form a support group. This is not a critique group. It’s a small group of people who believe in their work and will be there to assure them when they have doubts. Maybe they’ll be proofreaders (mine are). Maybe they’re just cheerleaders. But they’re essential for the hard times that inevitably come to every writer.

You’ve been writing a blog for Psychology Today for ten years. What’s the theme? “Shadow-boxing,” the title and theme, is about our darkest impulses, as well as anything that may lurk beyond our awareness, “in the shadows.” I write a lot about crime and criminals, since that’s my primary field of expertise, but I also write about creativity, literature with dark edges, investigative techniques, and psychological conditions. Sometimes, I review books.

What can we look forward to in this series? I certainly hope readers will enjoy an investigative series with a deep dive into psychology. They’ll learn about psychological quirks as well as investigative tips. Since Annie Hunter is a forensic psychologist with private practice cases on the side, she has insight into criminal behavior that’s often missed by PIs and cops. Annie has a podcast, Psi Apps, and she’s open to a lot of oddities, including cases with paranormal aspects. And I hope to have weather events in every novel. Might be a hurricane, a tornado, a snowstorm, a flood. I love weather, and I love mysterious places. Wherever I go, I’ll take readers with me.

Annie Hunter’s House

How do our readers contact you? Readers can find me mostly on Facebook. I have three pages there. Also, the website has an email address.

Website: https://www.katherineramsland.net/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/katherine.ramsland
Twitter: https://twitter.com/KatRamsland
Blog: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/shadow-boxing
Group Membership:
Sisters in Crime
Writers Police Academy
Mystery Writers of America
Private Eye Writers of America

 

17 Comments

  1. Vicki Batman

    Thank you, Katherine. I’ve appreciated your blogs, etc.

    Reply
  2. Marie Gallagher

    Hey K, I’m going to read your new book (I Scream Man) and suggest it to my Book Club!! Sounds like the kind of book I’m going to love reading!!!

    Reply
    • Katherine Ramsland

      Hey, Marie! Thanks. If your book club wants me to come in by Zoom, I’d be happy to.

      Reply
  3. Kassandra Lamb

    The series sounds fascinating. Can’t wait to read I Scream Man.

    Reply
  4. Valerie Brooks

    Hi Katharine, I’ve found immense help from your books. The snap idea is so worth nurturing. I’m so eager to read I SCREAM MAN. Congrats!

    Reply
    • Katherine Ramsland

      Thanks, Valerie. I’m glad I’ve been able to inspire you. I appreciate the post.

      Reply
  5. Margaret E Mizushima

    Just ordered I Scream Man! I’m looking forward to reading your new book and meeting Annie Hunter. I also use walking to come up with new plot ideas. I enjoyed your interview with George!

    Reply
    • Katherine Ramsland

      Thank you, Margaret. I hope you enjoy meeting my team and entering their adventure. Thanks for reading the blog.

      Reply
  6. Debra Bokur

    You had me at “forensic meteorology,” Katherine. I look forward to meeting Annie Hunter. As for creating momentum and sorting out plot lines and details, walking has been my solution throughout my own writing career. Nothing like a brisk ramble to shake things loose.

    Happy writing!

    Reply
    • Katherine Rams;and

      Hi Debra:

      Walking has always been my go-to for inspiration, and it always works. I’m glad you’ve had the same experience. Thanks for reading about my work. I hope you enjoy the book.

      Reply
  7. Ellen Kirschman

    Hi Katherine: I look forward to your new series. I am always interested in how other psychologists fictionalize their work.

    Reply
    • Katherine Rams;and

      Thank you, Ellen. I’m excited to be launching this series. Psychologists have more range than we usually see in fiction.

      Reply
  8. Joyce

    This book is right up my alley, Katherine, I can’t wait to read it. Sounds fabulous.

    Reply
    • Katherine Rams;and

      Thanks, Joyce! I appreciate it.

      Reply
  9. Katherine Ramsland

    Thank you. I appreciate your comment. Thanks for dropping by.

    Reply
  10. Michael A. Black

    Interesting insights on writing, especially regard set up the “snap.” Best of luck with your new book.

    Reply

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J. WOOLLCOTT – Writing Mysteries Set in Northern Ireland

I’m a debut author, Canadian, and have just signed a two-book publication deal with Level Best Books. My first title, A Nice Place to Die, is due for release in early August 2022. Blood Relations, number two in the series, is due August 2023.

 

 

The books are set in Northern Ireland, where I was born and lived for over twenty years. They are police procedurals featuring DS Ryan McBride and his partner DS Billy Lamont, and while they deal with murder, I do add humour and focus on the setting and characters.

Like many of us, I’m sure, my journey to publication was long. I worked (in broadcasting) until I decided to take early retirement, write, and travel. Well, we all know what happened to travel!

As an unpublished writer, I entered a few competitions and won the Mainstream Mystery and Suspense Daphne du Maurier Award in 2019. I’ve been long-listed four times for the Crime Writers of Canada Arthur Ellis Awards, and I was finally shortlisted in the CWC Canadian Awards of Excellence in 2021.

I applied for a few grants to conferences. While I never received a grant, I did come to the attention of one of the committee members who had read and enjoyed my first few chapters. She asked me to send her the book to read. I did not, however, feel it was ready to send out for such professional scrutiny (she was a publisher!) and asked that she allow me some time. Two years later, with Covid in between and many more rewrites on my part, I resent the manuscript. This time she read the whole book and offered me a three-book contract. I ended up deciding to go with two books to start, publishing schedules are short, and I take a long time with my books!

I started out as a pantser. I wrote my first book, Abducted, in one linear process. Honestly, I can’t believe I did it that way. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. That manuscript, however, did get long-listed in the CWC annual awards competition. That gave me such a boost. I started my second book, the first in the Northern Ireland series. I began to write it the same way and quickly got lost in the plot. Frustrated, I took Simon Wood’s class, Plot Thickeners, via Sisters in Crime. He showed us how outlining and plotting out make life easier. I wouldn’t say I am a total outliner; I wish I was, but more like a hybrid.

I can’t say exactly the best book I ever read, but I love Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie series. I also love November Road by Lou Berney. I enjoy police procedurals so I must mention the wonderful British writer Susan Hill. And I just finished an older book, The Enchanted April, by Elizabeth von Arnim. It was fantastic.

The take-away for me on this journey is, don’t rush your work. Write the best book you can. Take classes, ask for help, write and rewrite. Join critique groups. Read in your genre and outside it. It’s taken me about four years to write A Nice Place to Die. The first edition of that manuscript was not very good. It’s a process. Certainly, for me, as a new writer, joining Sisters In Crime was the single most important thing I did—classes, critique partners, advice online, and making writer friends. Going to conferences is costly but worth it, and if you can afford a professional editor, so much the better. Enter competitions and apply for grants. Why not?

A Nice Place to Die is due for release in August 2022. –  It’s 2016, and Northern Ireland remains a deeply divided province by years of distrust and hatred. But not all crimes are related to the troubles, and Northern Ireland’s past history is the least of Detective Sergeant Ryan McBride’s problems. He has enough to worry about with his latest murder inquiry. Unwilling to risk losing the case, he breaks the rules and fails to disclose a one-night stand he had with the victim. As to the investigation, it’s going nowhere fast as one-by-one, his prime suspects are murdered.

Blood Relations is due for release in August 2023 – Retired Chief Inspector Patrick Mullan is found brutally murdered in his bed. Ryan and Billy are called to his desolate country home to investigate. In their inquiry, they discover a man whose career was overshadowed by violence and corruption. Is the killer someone from Mullan’s past or his present? And who hated the man enough to kill him twice?

I’m a graduate of the Humber School for Writers in Toronto and BCAD, University of Ulster. I’m also a member of Sisters in Crime, Crime Writers of Canada, and the Suncoast Writer’s Guild.

Where can our readers contact you and order A Nice Place to Die?

Buy the book: https://amzn.to/3CGIzi0
My email is woollcottauthor@gmail.com
My website is jwoollcott.com
Twitter: @JoyceWoollcott

 

9 Comments

  1. Katherine Rams;and

    Good luck with your debut, Joyce. I hope it’s going well. This is a great novel for your launch. I enjoyed reading it.

    Reply
  2. Valerie J. Brooks

    Joyce, I’m a sucker for Irish writers. Full disclosure: my husband is of Irish descent and has the gift of the Irish when it comes to writing to me and professing his love.

    I’ll be sure to check out your novels. Thanks for all the juicy info about you and your journey.

    Reply
    • Joyce

      Ah Valerie, I think by now everyone has a bit of Irish in them, we get around you know! Thanks for the nice comment,
      Best,
      Joyce

      Reply
  3. DonnaRae Menard

    See I told you Joyce, it would be great. You’ve got positive vibe reviews everywhere. Good luck my friend. (Can I call you that?)

    Reply
    • Joyce

      Thank you DonnaRae! You’re the best,
      🙂
      Joyce

      Reply
  4. Michael A. Black

    Ireland has a long history of turning out fabulous writers so I’m wishing you the best of luck in continuing that tradition. It sounds like you’ll fit right in.

    Reply
    • J. Woollcott

      Thank you Michael! I appreciate your kind words,
      Joyce.

      Reply
  5. J. Woollcott

    Thanks Vicki,
    Might have something to do with the host’s excellent direction!
    J.

    Reply
  6. Vicki Batman

    Good morning, Joyce and George. Very good interview!

    Reply

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