KATHLEEN DONNELLY – Chasing Justice with a K-9

Award-winning author Kathleen Donnelly is a K-9 handler for Sherlock Hounds Detection Canines—a private narcotics dog company. She enjoys using her K-9 experience to craft realism into her fictional stories. Along with working dogs, Kathleen loves horses. She owns two horses and a bossy yet adorable pony. Kathleen’s love of the mountains inspired her setting for Chasing Justice. She enjoys escaping to the high country to hike and photograph the scenery and wildlife. Kathleen has a B.A. in Journalism from Colorado State University and formerly wrote for The Berthoud Weekly Surveyor, where she won a Colorado Press Award. Kathleen lives in Colorado with her husband and all their four-legged friends.

Please tell us about your upcoming release: Chasing Justice

After losing her military K-9, Marine Maya Thompson swears she’ll never work with dogs again. But when she returns home to Colorado and accepts a job with US Forest Service law enforcement, fate brings K-9 Juniper into her life just as another tragedy unfolds.

Chasing Justice is a must-read for dog lovers and crime fiction lovers alike.” ~Margaret Mizushima, author of the award-winning Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries, including Hanging Falls

Thanks so much for having me on your blog today, George! I enjoyed answering questions about my path to publication and inspiration for Chasing Justice, my debut novel and the first in a series. Stay tuned to my social media channels and newsletter for more information about future books.

How long to get it published? I started writing Chasing Justice in 2016. However, the idea had been rattling around in my brain for a couple of years. I knew I wanted a female protagonist who would be a K-9 handler. Once I had the concept figured out, I started writing. In 2017, Chasing Justice (then titled Free Base) was a finalist for the Claymore awards, but I hadn’t completed the book yet. However, being a Claymore finalist gave me a confidence boost, and I finished the book over the next few months.

I then entered the book into the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold Contest, where it took second place. I thought this would lead to immediate publication, but it received rejections when I sent the book out. I decided to send the manuscript to an editor who had just started freelancing. She’d previously worked at St. Martin’s Press, and the genres she specialized in included mystery and romance. Her edits showed me that while I had the possibility of a good book, I still had a lot to learn. I knew I had to start over except for the first three chapters.

I did just that and continued to study other books along with reverse engineering books that I liked. I started to understand what the editor was telling me. I went back to doing an outline, and I rewrote the entire book finishing it in the spring of 2020. I started querying my novel, and by July of 2020, I had a request to read the full manuscript from my agent Ella Marie Shupe who’s part of the Belcastro Agency. After reading the full manuscript, we talked on the phone, and soon after, Ella Marie offered me representation. We spent the fall of 2020 editing, and in January of 2021, Ella Marie started submitting to publishers. By spring, we had an offer from Carina Press, and I signed the contract a few months later. The rest, as they say, is history.

 We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave, or do they run the show? I would love to say that my characters behave, but they just don’t! They seem to have a mind of their own. I do an outline, and we have long talks during that process where I tell my characters to speak now or forever hold their peace. Most of the time, they listen. I have one character in Chasing Justice (I won’t say who because that would be a spoiler.) that started out completely different in previous drafts. I wanted this character to be responsible for certain actions, but in the end, that character won out and got their way.

Maya, my main character, is quite strong-willed and stubborn. We have had many discussions, but what I love about her is how honest she is and how much she wants to do the right thing. She has been a fun character to work with.

Then there’s my fictional K-9, Juniper. While Juniper’s character developed from K-9s that I’ve worked, she can definitely change course and do her own thing—especially if it involves ripping up her dog bed. When you read Chasing Justice, you will see Juniper loves to get her way and keeps Maya on her toes.

Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? Chasing Justice has a subplot that I left somewhat open for future stories. There are some small subplots within the novel as well. I used my outline to make sure the subplots made sense in the storyline and blended well with the entire arc of the novel. The freelance editor was very helpful in teaching me about weaving in subplots. The biggest lesson I learned was that you need to have a strong core of the story—one that can be put into a sentence. Once you have that core, you can develop subplots that go with that storyline. For example, Maya comes home to Colorado after being in the military but isn’t speaking to her grandfather. This plays into the main story, but the reason she and her grandfather aren’t speaking is a subplot.

My editor with Carina Press, Mackenzie Walton, also helped me figure out how to weave in and refine the subplots. Mackenzie’s edits on Chasing Justice were fantastic, and she did a great job of pushing me to become a better writer.

How do you raise the stakes for your protagonist—for the antagonist? I love the “what if” game. I spend time brainstorming and mind mapping ideas. I was lucky enough to take some classes from best-selling author Grant Blackwood. He showed us how mind mapping can help tweak the stakes for your character.

I considered ideas such as how a drug-running militia living in the mountains might work. I asked, who are they? Why are they doing this? What type of drug should they be making and trafficking? For most of us, meth and marijuana are the first drugs that come to mind. I wanted something different. I started googling and mind mapping different ideas for drug production. (So far, neither the DEA nor FBI have shown up at my door, after all, my googling. Phew!) I found out about a drug called Krokodil. It’s not common here in the United States. Having an unusual drug upped the stakes for my characters and their investigation.

One thing I learned along the way is to not raise the stakes by adding another plotline. That may sound simple, but I think that happens a lot with new fiction writers. Keep the main plot, and then figure out how you can make things more difficult for your characters. Even with the dog work, I thought, okay, if I’m working a dog in the mountains, what makes things more difficult? Often, in real life, it’s the environment, so I raised the stakes by adding weather issues such as wind and dangers in the forest like trees with broken branches called widowmakers. The “what if” game is a ton of fun!

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional? I created a fictional National Forest for my book. It’s loosely based on the location of the Roosevelt and Arapaho National Forests. I did this because many Coloradoans know the national forests well, and I didn’t want to worry about whether or not there really was a lake near a trailhead. I also thought that by creating a fictional national forest and towns, I would have more fictional leeway for the story.

 Do you have any advice for new writers? If you love writing, just stick with it! Learn all you can. Attend conferences and be open to feedback. Conferences allow writers to receive critiques from best-selling authors and editors with extensive backgrounds. Take notes, ask questions, and learn everything you can from them. I have so many published authors to thank for their help as I worked towards publication. I met most of them at conferences. Writing a novel and getting it published is a lengthy process with a big learning curve. Most importantly, enjoy the journey.

How do our readers contact you?

Readers are welcome to reach out anytime via email at: kathleen@kathleendonnelly.com

Here are more ways to connect with me:

Website: www.kathleendonnelly.com

Newsletter Sign-up: https://kathleendonnelly.com/#newsletter

Social Media:

 

Facebook@AuthorKathleenDonnelly 

Twitter–@KatK9writer

Instagram–@authorkathleendonne lly

Goodreadshttps://www.goodreads.com/author/show/22280955.Kathleen_Donnelly

Where to Purchase Chasing Justice: https://kathleendonnelly.com/chasing-justice/

 

 

18 Comments

  1. Madeline Gornell

    Great meeting you, Kathleen, and LOVE your LOVE for animals. All the best!

    Reply
    • Kathleen Donnelly

      Nice to meet you too, Madeline! I definitely do love all animals! They are just amazing! Thanks for reading my guest post and wishing you all the best! 🙂

      Reply
  2. Barbara Nickless

    Thanks for a terrific interview! Kathleen, I love reading about your journey. And–just a thought–maybe you could teach a class on how to reverse engineer a novel as part of the ongoing learning-to-write process. 🙂

    Reply
    • Kathleen Donnelly

      Thanks so much for stopping by and reading the post, Barbara! That’s a great idea for a class…I’ll definitely think about it! I have to give credit to Grant Blackwood for teaching it in the class I took from him, but it would be fun to dig deeper and do a longer course on reverse engineering. Thank you! 🙂

      Reply
    • George Cramer

      Barbara, I second your suggestion that Kathleen teaches a class about reverse engineering a novel.

      Reply
      • Kathleen Donnelly

        Thanks, George! I’ll definitely consider it. Reverse engineering would be fun to teach. I know it really helped me out and I still plan on doing it as I write more books. 🙂

        Reply
  3. Lisa Towles

    What a wonderful interview. Kathleen’s background and book sound so intriguing, can’t wait to read it!

    Reply
    • Kathleen Donnelly

      Thanks so much, Lisa! I hope you enjoy Chasing Justice! 🙂

      Reply
  4. Peg Brantey

    This interview is fantastic! I love the questions, George. Kathleen, I appreciate your candor, and wish you every success. You deserve it!

    Reply
    • Kathleen Donnelly

      Thanks so much, Peg! I really appreciate all you’ve done to help me and all the encouragement along the way! 🙂

      Reply
  5. Margaret Mizushima

    Wonderful interview, Kathleen and George. I appreciate the hard work you’ve done to get this debut ready for the world, Kathleen. Loved reading about your journey!

    Reply
    • Kathleen Donnelly

      Thank you so much, Margaret! And thank you for your help along the way!

      Reply
  6. Michael A. Black

    Great interview, Kathleen. It sounds like you’ve worked really hard to perfect your writing and now you’re reaping the results. Congratulations on your success and best of luck with Chasing Justice.

    Reply
    • Kathleen Donnelly

      Thanks so much, Michael! It’s been a lot of hard work, but a lot of fun along the way. 🙂

      Reply
  7. Donnell Ann Bell

    Terrific interview! Love that you added the weather as a potential antagonist. Colorado certainly perfect… beautiful one moment, two feet of snow the next, dry one second, fire season the next. Can’t wait to dig into Chasing Justice, Kathleen. Thanks, George!

    Reply
    • Kathleen Donnelly

      Thanks so much, Donnell! And thank you for all your support in this journey. I do love the mountains as an antagonist. I remember driving up Hwy 34 to Estes the year after the floods as this story was starting to develop in my mind. There was a combo of devastation and beauty. This juxtaposition really stuck with me and made me think about how the mountains can be their own character. Hope you enjoy Chasing Justice!

      Reply

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FRANK SCALISE – His Most Important Book Yet

Frank Scalise (Frank Zafiro) served with the Spokane Police Department from 1993 to 2013, holding many different positions and ranks. He retired as a captain. He writes gritty crime fiction from both sides of the badge. He is the author of over thirty-five novels, including the River City series of police procedurals and his hardboiled SpoCompton series. In addition to writing, Frank hosts the crime fiction podcast Wrong Place, Write Crime. He is an avid hockey fan and a tortured guitarist. He currently lives in Redmond, Oregon.

I spent twenty years and a day as a police officer. Along the way, I had a lot of the experiences that many police officers encounter, from the mundane to the extraordinary, from the sad to the scary, from the frustrating to the satisfying.

As a lifelong writer, I saw these experiences through that additional artistic lens. So when I started publishing short stories in 2004, it was no surprise that most of them were crime fiction. By the time I retired in 2013, I’d written dozens of stories and ten or so novels. Since then, I’ve added to that catalog, putting my novel count at around thirty-five.

But the latest one, The Ride-Along, may be my most important one yet.

Before you think that is an ego-driven, self-promoting bit of hyperbole, let me add that I don’t think everything I have to say is important. Most of it is just like the things we all say—in other words, the stuff of daily life. My books are meant to entertain and make readers feel and occasionally think a little—this one is different.

As police-involved deaths gained more and more public attention and this subject became a consistent (and loud) part of public discourse, I found myself in an uncommon position.

On the one hand, I’d done the job of law enforcement for two decades. My roles were many and varied, including the heavy lifting of patrol and investigations and leadership. Almost immediately after retiring, I embarked on a four-year mini-career teaching police leadership all over the US and Canada. As a result, I knew the profession well.

So I was frustrated by the lack of understanding shown by much of the public when it came to the job. By this, I mean everything from the ludicrous “shoot ’em in the leg after you kick the knife from his hand” crowd to those with more grounded criticisms. It wasn’t necessarily that they didn’t sometimes have valid points. It was that they were uninformed when it came to the realities of actual police work, and this lack of understanding often resulted in a wide swath of cops being seen in a bad light. Since I’ve known, and sometimes worked closely with, hundreds of men and women in the profession, I knew the high quality of dedicated people doing this difficult job. So that frustrated me.

At the same time, as I got a little distance from the day-to-day workings of the job—and, frankly, outside of the echo chamber of the profession—I saw places where we didn’t do things well. A fair chunk of this revolved around poor communication, or the lack of, with the public. In other words, we don’t do ourselves any favors with the attitude of “we don’t need to explain this to you.”

Some of the prevailing attitudes in the profession seemed wrong to me, too. Same with some of the overarching strategies that have been in place for decades. It seemed clear to me that law enforcement needed to change.

To be fair, we ask a lot of our cops. Some of those tasks would be better done by other professionals, with the result being a) better service delivery to the citizen and b) better use of our law enforcement resources elsewhere.

These two competing frustrations combined to create the most significant frustration of all. That was, I saw hardly anyone actually discussing the issue with the goal of understanding and problem-solving. Instead, things devolved into entrenched political positions. People debated with sound bites and chanted slogans. The best you could hope for was that they’d wait until the other party had finished speaking before launching into a diatribe… but most people sought to drown out the other instead. This tendency existed all across the opinion spectrum.

That wasn’t merely frustrating. It was maddening.

No one was listening.

So I wrote a book that forced people to listen to each other. I put two characters—a police officer and a police reformer—into the same patrol car for an entire graveyard shift. Due to their opposing views, sparks fly… and not the romantic kind.

Make no mistake; this is still a procedural. The officer and the ride-along go on calls for service. But they also talk. They get angry. They are challenged. But… they also listen a little bit.

Imagine that.

My goal in writing this book was to fairly present the ideas of both characters. Both are good people with strong convictions. Neither is a straw man for the other to beat up on and then convince of his/her views. Both get the opportunity throughout the book to tell their own truths.

It’s a bit of a spoiler here, but both also have moments in which they pause and actually consider what the other has said.

his isn’t a Pollyanna, Kum-bay-yah novel. There are ragged edges. After all, it is a Charlie-316 novel, and anyone reading the first four containing the Tyler Garrett arc will know better than to expect something utopian. But it does represent two people doing something I wish more of us would do, myself included.

Have an honest, hard conversation that includes listening as much as—or more than—speaking.

I’ve outlined the premise of The Ride-Along already, but for the sake of clarity, here’s the description:

The Tyler Garrett scandal rocked the Spokane Police Department two years ago. Now, a consent decree governs the agency, with Washington D.C. directing its reform. It’s a tumultuous time in the city, and public outcry over local and national events is high.

Change is in the air.

Officer Lee Salter is a third-generation cop who bleeds blue. Amid the departmental chaos, he does the only thing he can—be a good officer. That means showing up for every shift, responding to calls for service, and always doing the right thing. All the while, the Department of Justice and its local supporters hope to catch another officer in its net of reform.

Salter refuses to be that officer.

Melody Weaver is a teacher and activist who believes in a better way. Despite her demanding profession, she dedicates herself to the cause of reshaping policing in her city so that the terrible events—both local and national—can stop. To understand what needs to change, she needs to see the reality of the job up close.

That means a ride-along on the graveyard shift.

        • One night
        • Two people
        • And a nation's problems

As you can imagine, it’s a big night for both of them.

If you are looking for a police procedural, it’s in here. If you’re looking for something to make you think. No matter where you are on the opinion spectrum, there will be times you’ll pump your fist in agreement and others where you’ll shake your fist in disagreement. And I suspect there’ll be a few times where you might drop that fist entirely, cock your head, and consider something in a way you hadn’t before.

And that’s why I think this might be the most important book I’ve ever written.

 

9 Comments

  1. Sally Kimball

    Frank, I was with the Santa Clara County S/O for 5 years, and what an education. I was 21 when I applied and the experiential education of a lifetime. I cherish those days and look forward to reading your book.

    Reply
  2. Frank Zafiro

    @Madeline, hope you see your old hometown whenever you read my work.

    @Ellen, I’ll look forward to meeting you, too! I don’t know anything about Sokolove but I’ll check it out.

    @Marilyn, I remember that! My first-ever conference (LCC), and it was a great experience. I hope you enjoy the book, and I look forward to catching up with you again!

    @Michael, looking forward to meeting you as well. Hope you enjoy the read!

    Reply
  3. julie K royce

    Fabulous. I now have a new author to check out. I’m excited. It sounds like it’s the exact kind of novel I’d love.

    Reply
  4. Madeline Gornell

    Glad to meet you, Frank! Husband and I lived in Spokane for several years way back 70s. Fantastic career, congratulations! Continued success.

    Reply
    • Frank Zafiro

      Thanks, Madeline — hope you recognize your old hometown when you read my work!

      Reply
  5. Ellen Kirschman

    Hi Frank: I am a police psychologist. Yeah, the person you hope never to have to see. I’ve got 3 non-fiction books under my best and a series featuring police psychologist Dr. Dot Meyerhoff. I look forward to meeting you in person at PSWA sometime in the future (Not this year, unfortunately). I’m sending a copy of this blog to Coach Bruce Sokolove. Do you know him? If you don’t, you should.

    Reply
    • Frank Zafiro

      Hi Ellen — I’ll look forward to meeting you as well! I haven’t heard of Sokolove but I’ll check him out.

      Reply
  6. Marilyn Meredith

    I had the privilege of meeting Frank years ago at a mystery con in Seattle, and several attendees, including me and my husband, spent some time visiting with Frank. I am looking forward to reading the book also.

    Reply
  7. Michael A. Black

    Sounds like quite a boo, Frank. i can’t wait to check it out. Congratulations on your outstanding career in law enforcement and in your writing. I look forward to meeting you at the PSWA conference.

    Reply

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DONNELL BELL – Paranoia Has Been Very Good To Me

Leaving international thrillers to world travelers, Donnell Ann Bell concentrates on suspense that might happen in her neck of the woods – writing SUSPENSE TOO CLOSE TO HOME. Traditionally published with Bell Bridge Books, she has written four Amazon single-title bestsellers. Her most current release is Black Pearl, a Cold Case Suspense, book one of a series, and Until Dead, A Cold Case Suspense, Book two, to be released May 31, 2022. To sign up for her newsletter or follow her on social media, check out www.donnellannbell.com

Hi, George; thank you for inviting me to chat with your readers on your esteemed blog. Before I begin this extremely important subject, I’d like to ask your viewers, especially if they are reading this on their laptops, how many of you have a sticky note or an obstacle blocking your computer camera lens? I’m not a statistical guru, but I would wager the number is more than 50 percent. That, or your newer laptop comes with a device that does it for you.

Did you know that in 2020 (and quite possibly before), employers purchased software programs to monitor their off-site employees to verify they weren’t surfing unrelated work sites and were, in fact, working? People quickly started logging off at night to avoid these unwelcome electronic voyeurs.

I think about things like this because, as my blog title suggests . . . well, you know. I’m careful to research apps to ensure they aren’t loaded with malware. When I’m at my son and daughter’s homes, I whisper around Alexa, stare cryptically at the baby monitors, and don’t get me started on the Ring doorbell. I’ve even searched the dark web . . . All right, no, I haven’t gone anywhere near the dark web. But my antagonist in Until Dead, A Cold Case Suspense has.

I had so much fun creating an evil character who has in-depth knowledge of everything I fret about. At first, I thought I was being ridiculous, that my ideas were over the top. But I’ll have you know I have people—IT expert friends­—who not only didn’t laugh at my plot, they dove in and verified what I was writing.

So, imagine you’re on an FBI task force and an assassin with explosives, weapons, and IT skills, one who calls himself The Tradesman, has been hired to take out an assistant U.S. attorney? Would that make you . . . uncomfortable? I bring back my entire team (and a few newcomers) from Black Pearl, A Cold Case Suspense. Fortunately, this task force is smarter, braver, and far more qualified than the author. But I should warn you—there will be times in Until Dead, my task force is paranoid.

Until Dead, a Cold Case Suspense releases May 31, 2022, and is now available for preorder. Until Dead: A Cold Case Suspense – Kindle edition by Bell, Donnell Ann. Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

Pre-order at your favorite bookstore today!

“This outstanding follow-on to Donnell Ann Bell’s Black Pearl [is] highly recommended!” — Barbara Nickless, Wall Street Journal and #1 Amazon Charts Bestselling Author

 This killer won’t stop . . . until she’s dead

When Lt. Everett T. Pope is notified of an explosion in downtown Denver close to the judicial buildings, his first instinct is a gas leak. No such luck. As Incident Command and Pope’s own Major Crimes unit move in, he discovers he knows the intended victims—an Assistant U. S. Attorney—and Pope’s former partner, now a private investigator, has died shielding the injured AUSA with his body.

As ATF and the FBI take over investigating the bombing and unraveling motives behind the murder attempt, Pope is relegated to a peripheral role. But the injured AUSA’s aunt is a United States senator used to getting results. She turns to the team that solved the Black Pearl Killer murders with a very big ask—find her answers and locate the bomber.

FBI Special Agent Brian DiPietro must recall his entire cold case team from their far-flung assignments, knowing he’s being asked to do the impossible. The senator, however, doesn’t know the meaning of the word. All too soon, DiPietro finds his team working alongside ATF on a red-hot mission. One that uncovers a decades old cold case.

Thanks, George!

Connect with Donnell!
E-mail * Website * Twitter * Facebook

30 Comments

  1. Vicki Batman

    Love! Love! I used to do a sticky on the camera until I had troubles with Zoom. LOL. Actually was a camera driver problem. Won’t have Alexa or Ring or Tik Tok either.

    Reply
    • Donnell Ann Bell

      Vicki, I am adding you to my paranoid community. We meet on our back porches in disguise 😉

      Reply
  2. Patricia Stoltey

    Paranoia is good in these days of scammers and cybercriminals, Donnell. I haven’t covered my little camera eye with a post it note yet, but it does creep me out a little to think someone out there might be watching. I might have to become part of the “cover the eye” gang.

    Thanks to George for hosting so many of our much-appreciated Colorado authors!!

    Reply
    • Donnell Ann Bell

      Isn’t he amazing, Pat. So generous. Are you going to be at our meeting in June, I will get you your own personal eye patch! 🙂

      Reply
      • Patricia Stoltey

        My book club appearances will be via Zoom. Can you Zoom me an eye patch? 😀

        Reply
  3. Debra Bokur

    This sounds like a riveting read, Donnell! And as for the paranoia, I’m pretty certain they’re watching me, too.

    Reply
    • Donnell Ann Bell

      Hi, Debra! Oh my gosh, they got you, too?!!! Tin foil! 🙂 Thanks for dropping by!.

      Reply
  4. Lois Winston

    Great post, Donnell! And having already read Until Dead, I can recommend it to everyone. You’ve got another winner of a suspense.

    Reply
      • Ana

        Donnell you are a card! I can’t wait to read both books.
        Ana

        Reply
        • Donnell Ann Bell

          Thanks, Ana, back at you. I loved meeting you at LCC xoxo

          Reply
  5. CINDY SAMPLE

    Sounds like another bestseller, Donnell. I can’t wait to read it!

    Reply
    • Donnell Ann Bell

      Thank you, Cindy! I hope you’re feeling better. Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
  6. Brooke Terpening

    So loved your interview, Donnell! I’d be arrested if anyone ever saw my Googles while I research a crime novel.

    Reply
    • Donnell Ann Bell

      Brooke, if you’re arrested, I’ll bail you out. Or, we quite possibly might share a jail cell 😉 Thanks for visiting.

      Reply
    • Thonie Hevron

      Great interview! You’ve piqued my interest. Ill read this one when I finish The Black Pearl. Hope to see you in lector the PSWA Conference!

      Reply
      • Donnell Ann Bell

        Thank you, Thonie, I hope you enjoy both books. I’m hoping to attend. Right now it’s up to my mother’s health.

        Reply
  7. Margaret Mizushima

    Great blog post, Donnell, and you’ve described my paranoia quite well. Until Dead sounds like a great book, and I can’t wait to read it! Thanks for shining a spotlight on it to both you and George.

    Reply
    • Donnell Ann Bell

      Thanks, Margaret. It was fun to get that off my chest. Thanks, George!

      Reply
  8. Marie Sutro

    Totally with you on Ring. Great interview! 😉

    Reply
  9. Nanci Rathbun

    I, too, became ‘paranoid’ after researching and writing mysteries and crime thrillers, Donnell. One of the first things I do in a public place is look for the exits – just in case one of the criminals I write about happens to be having a meal in my favorite restaurant, too. Or maybe they’re browsing the local book store for ideas. *shivers*

    Reply
    • Donnell Ann Bell

      Nanci, I believe we may have been separated at birth! Thanks for stopping by 😉

      Reply
  10. Marilyn Meredith

    Oh, boy, you have definitely piqued my curiosity. Will be getting a copy of this latest book.
    Hope you’re coming to the PSWA conference.

    Reply
    • Donnell Ann Bell

      thank you, Marilyn. I’m still crossing my fingers and hoping to come to Las Vegas. My 88-year-old mom may have other plans. I hope you enjoy my latest cold case suspense.

      Reply
  11. Rhonda

    Oh, Donnell! I had to laugh at your “paranoia” because having worked at the DA’s office for so long, my own paranoia mirrors yours. My son finally said, “Mom, if you’re not talking about committing a murder, no one is interested in listening in on your conversations!” But mystery writers are ALWAYS talking about murder. lol!
    Looking forward to the great read!

    Reply
    • Donnell Ann Bell

      You and I don’t stand a prayer, Rhonda. Oh, wait, that sounds rather paranoid, doesn’t it? And you’re right, we’re always talking about murder 😉

      Reply
  12. Michael A. Black

    Hi Donnell. This sounds like a great followup to Black Pearl. Can’t wait to read it.

    Reply
    • Donnell Ann Bell

      Thanks, Mike! I had fun writing this one. You’re very kind. Thank you.

      Reply

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MARIE SUTRO – Follow the Exploits of SFPD Detective Kate Barnes

Marie Sutro is an award-winning and bestselling crime fiction author. In 2018, she won the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award for the Best New Voice in Fiction for her debut novel, Dark Associations. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and a volunteer with California Library Literacy Services.

 

 

Her great-grandfather, grandfather, and father served in the San Francisco Police Department, collectively inspiring her writing. She resides in Northern California and is currently working on the next Kate Barnes story.

April 26, 2022, is the release date for Dark Obsessions – The darkest woods hide the darkest of obsessions. SFPD Detective Kate Barnes heads to Washington and finds herself embroiled in a complex case of ever-increasing horrors.

Available for preorder at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, as well as independent bookstores

What brought you to writing? My love of writing burgeoned from an early love of reading. As an ardent bibliophile, the only thing I enjoy more than reading a book is writing one for the enjoyment of others.

In addition, I have always been a huge fan of mysteries and puzzles. Add to that a family legacy wherein my father, grandfather, and great-grandfather all served in the San Francisco Police Department, and crime writing was a natural choice.

What kind of research do you do? Given the nature of my writing, my research is extremely broad. In one sitting, I may go from perusing sales listings for boats (used for the Foul Rudder in Dark Obsessions) to reviewing autopsy photos. While I appreciate the accessibility of online research, I am a big proponent of visiting places and people whenever possible. I am willing to go wherever the answers can be found, including crimes labs, shooting ranges, nature preserves, police departments, and a variety of diverse locales.

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? One of my favorite things about reading is the ability to visit places I have never been to and may never get the chance to see. I always try to incorporate as many real locations in my stories as possible to give others the same opportunity. Fictional settings are reserved for places where a specific plot point or subplot point requires attributes I cannot get from real locations (ex. Aaru in Dark Obsessions). I spend a substantial amount of time on research to ensure fictional, and real places fit together seamlessly.

Has an association membership helped you with your writing? Being a member of Sisters in Crime has been an important part of my writing journey. One of the greatest benefits of membership has been the wonderful support of the Sisters in Crime writing community. They offer an ongoing wealth of informational programs ranging from technical writing assistance to research references and marketing tips.

Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? Subplots are a great way to add different types of suspense into the story while enriching the characters. They can also be great ways to strengthen the threads between books in a series. While I always start with a story outline, many of my subplots seem to pop up on their own as I write. Those moments when a new subplot takes off on its own are always magical.

Do you have any advice for new writers? The best advice I can give is to be open and enjoy the journey. While the path is fraught with challenges, it is also full of sources of inspiration and joy. New ideas and feedback are like sunlight. Be willing to pull the drapes wide open!

CONTACT INFORMATION:

Website:            https://www.mariesutro.com

Facebook:          https://www.facebook.com/MarieSutro

Instagram:         https://www.instagram.com/marie.sutro/

Twitter:              https://twitter.com/mariesutro

 

7 Comments

  1. Mary Hirsig Hagen

    Your writing career sounds great. You gave me ideas of what I should be doing in my mysteries that were so helpful. Thank you.

    Reply
  2. Cynthia Kuhn

    This is a fascinating interview—and I’m so looking forward to your new book, Marie.

    Congratulations on your many successes!

    Reply
  3. Donnell Ann Bell

    Lovely interview! Thanks George and Marie! Nice to learn about you through George’s blog!

    Reply
  4. John Schembra

    Nice interview! Congrats on your writing successes!

    Reply
  5. CINDY SAMPLE

    Great interview, Marie. I’ve enjoyed watching your journey from pre-published author to very accomplished award-winning author. Congrats on your latest release.

    Reply
  6. Michael A. Black

    Comment *Very inspiring interview, Marie. You have a great background for writing mysteries and it sounds like you thoroughly research your topics. Congratulations on your success and best of luck to you. I;ll keep an eye out for your books.

    Reply
  7. Margaret Mizushima

    Great interview, Marie and George! Congratulations on the new book, Marie, and looking forward to it! Love to hear about your inspirations and research!

    Reply

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CINDY SAMPLE – CEO Leaves Corporate World to Write

Cindy Sample is a former corporate CEO who decided plotting murder was more entertaining than plodding through paperwork. She retired to follow her lifelong dream of becoming a mystery author. Her eight-book Laurel McKay Humorous Mystery series is primarily set in the California Gold Country unless Cindy feels like traveling. Then the characters tag along with her on trips to Hawaii, the Caribbean, and Las Vegas.

Cindy is a five-time finalist for the LEFTY Award for Best Humorous Mystery, a two-time finalist for the SILVER FALCHION Award for best traditional mystery, and a two-time finalist for the Chanticleer MURDER & MAYHEM AWARD for best cozy mystery. BIRTHDAYS ARE MURDER, the first book in her new Spindrift Cove Mystery series set in Washington state, was just released.

BIRTHDAYS ARE MURDER – After Sierra Sullivan moves to Spindrift Cove, Washington, she soon discovers gigs for middle-aged entertainers are scarcer than good hair days. She reluctantly accepts a party-princess gig. Little does Sierra know she’ll soon be upstaged by a corpse and become the leading-lady suspect.

What brought you to writing? I discovered Nancy Drew in the first grade, and by the time I turned eight, I’d read all the books in the series. One night, I decided to use my spelling words and dashed off a sixteen-page sequel. It would have been longer, but my mother made me go to bed at 8:30. I received an A+ and was hooked. I knew I wanted to be a mystery author. Although it took a half-century for me to realize that dream.

What are you currently working on? I just released BIRTHDAYS ARE MURDER, the first book in my new Spindrift Cove Mystery series set on the Olympic Peninsula. I’m currently plotting the sequel while also writing DYING FOR A DECORATION, a holiday novella that will be the ninth book in my Laurel McKay Humorous Mystery series. Laurel manages to get in trouble without much prompting from me.

We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave, or do they run the show? In the first two Laurel McKay Mysteries, my characters behaved and aligned with my original plot concept. When I began writing DYING FOR A DAIQUIRI, the third book in the series, the victim absolutely refused to let me knock her off. So she was upgraded to a suspect. At the time, I was vacationing in Hawaii, the book’s setting. The next day, while dining at my favorite oceanfront restaurant, I visualized the new victim, a hula dancer who worked at Laurel’s brother’s Daiquiri bar. More suspects than I could ever have imagined walked into that story. At first, I was frustrated because I couldn’t figure out who the killer was. But I also discovered how much fun it is to play detective while writing a book. The murderer was finally revealed to me around page 170. Since then, I have let my characters evolve on their own.

Do you have subplots? I have a very fertile imagination and so do my characters. I never experience writer’s block, but I dream up so many plots that sometimes it’s difficult to choose. I try to weave in subplots about my protagonist’s family that are relatable to readers. Domestic issues can range from her eight-year-old son and teenage daughter to her bossy mother and feisty octogenarian grandmother. I also added a 150-pound Bernese Mountain dog in book seven who provides plenty of humor all by himself.

What kind of research do you do? I love my research, whether riding an ATV, performing at a ballroom dance competition, sampling daiquiris in Hawaii, or donuts in the Gold Country. My Laurel McKay series is known for its comic chase scenes. I’ve ridden backhoes (slowest chase scene ever), snowmobiles, wave runners, gondolas, stagecoaches, and tandem bicycles to make sure the details were just right. And I watch a ton of YouTube videos, too as well. Since Laurel and I are equally klutzy, the humor comes naturally to both of us.

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? I live in the California Gold Country, a beautiful area with historic gold mines, wineries, and apple orchards, close to the Sierra Nevada mountains. I wanted to profile the town and some of my favorite places. The series has become so popular locally that business owners frequently request that I “stuff a stiff” in their venue. The Spindrift Cove series is set in a fictional town which gives me more latitude in certain respects, such as the size of the local police force. But I also refer to real places on the Olympic Peninsula that people are familiar with. It’s an incredibly beautiful area, and I love showcasing it.

https://cindysamplebooks.com/

www.facebook.com/cindysampleauthor

Sign up for her newsletter at https://cindysamplebooks.com/newsletter/

 

25 Comments

  1. Madeline Gornell

    You continue to be inspirational, Cindy! great catching up on what you’re working on now, and continued success!

    Reply
    • CINDY SAMPLE

      Hi Madeline. How nice to see you here. It’s been so long! Thanks for reading the post.

      Reply
  2. Marilyn Meredith

    This was a great interview–and wow, you’ve come a long way since that festival in Elkgrove where I met you–and I think you just had your first book out. I’ve been following your career and congratulations on how far you’ve come. You books are such fun reads.

    Reply
    • CINDY SAMPLE

      Thanks, Marilyn. You were so helpful to me that day. You continue to inspire me with your wonderful books!

      Reply
  3. Linda Lovely

    I’m a long-time Cindy Sample fan. With all the current real-world mayhem, it’s a delight to have your mystery book mayhem mixed with mirth. And Cindy’s a master at it!

    Reply
    • CINDY SAMPLE

      Thanks so much, Linda. We can all use more humor these days!

      Reply
  4. Mary Hirsig Hagen

    Enjoyed getting to know about you and your writing. Thank you.

    Reply
    • CINDY SAMPLE

      Thanks, Mary. I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

      Reply
    • CINDY SAMPLE

      Thanks for reading the post, JoAnn.

      Reply
  5. Glenda Carroll

    Love your comments about finding the killer on page 170. I never know who did it until somewhere late in the book. I’m so glad other people do that, too. Best of luck with Birthdays are Murder.

    Reply
    • CINDY SAMPLE

      Thanks, Glenda. It sure makes it exciting when you don’t know whodunit until the end!

      Reply
  6. CINDY SAMPLE

    Thanks, Jana. That’s the magic of writing. Just let the characters do it for you!! Although sometimes they are a little slow and I have to help them out.

    Reply
  7. Jana Rossi

    Love finding out all the behind-the-scenes stuff that goes into writing a mystery. It sounds like research can be a lot of fun if you do it right! I never knew how you come up with all the plots and scenarios that your characters find themselves in and now I know… they come up with them themselves! Too funny! Love all your books, Cindy. Can’t wait for the new ones down the road.

    Reply
  8. Pamela S DuMond

    Nice interview! I’m glad you have a new series. Very fun.

    Reply
    • CINDY SAMPLE

      Thanks, Pamela. It’s been fun creating a whole new set of characters in a different environment.

      Reply
  9. Donnell Ann Bell

    Cindy and George, lovely interview! Don’t you hate it when your characters refuse to cooperate? And one that refuses to die as required? That’s beyond the pale if you ask me. Did you tie him/her up? Bribe him to come back as a spirit in the next series? Your problem is you don’t know how to negotiate with your characters. See me for valuable character tips when this happens next time! 🙂

    So fun seeing you shine!

    Reply
    • CINDY SAMPLE

      Donnell, you’re so funny. The character that refused to let me “off” her was smarter than me because it made for a much better plot. I now let my characters “guide” me for the most part. If they don’t behave, they could be the next victim!

      Reply
  10. Vicki Weisfeld

    Her joie de vivre really comes through! So glad she found her niche.

    Reply
    • CINDY SAMPLE

      Thanks so much, Vicki. I believe I have!

      Reply
  11. Michael A. Black

    It sounds like you’re having as much fun writing your books as the readers are reading them. Congratulations on your success and best of luck to you. I loved the “slowest chase scene ever.” Which book was that in?

    Reply
    • CINDY SAMPLE

      Thanks, Michael. The backhoe chase scene was in my first Laurel McKay mystery, DYING FOR A DATE. I was determined to have an original chase scene!

      Reply
  12. Karen Phillips

    Cindy Sample is as witty on the page as off. I love “I’ve ridden backhoes (slowest chase scene ever)”! She certainly does her homework when writing her books. The Laurel McKay series is a fun read and “Birthdays Are Murder,” Book One in the new series featuring Laurel’s slightly older cousin, Sierra, does not disappoint.

    Reply
    • CINDY SAMPLE

      Thanks so much, Karen. I’m glad you’ve been enjoying Laurel and Sierra’s adventures.

      Reply
  13. CINDY SAMPLE

    Thanks for hosting me on your blog, George.

    Reply

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M.M. CHOUINARD – Her Psychological Thrillers Will Grab You

M.M. Chouinard is the USA Today, Publishers Weekly, and Amazon Charts bestselling author behind The Vacation, a standalone psychological thriller, and the Detective Jo Fournier series, featuring The Dancing Girls, Taken to the Grave, Her Daughter’s Cry, The Other Mothers, and Her Silent Prayer (releasing April 7th, 2022). She loves animals, coffee, amateur genealogy, and anything to do with Halloween, Serial Killers, or the zombie apocalypse.

When the body of single mother Melissa Rollins is found trapped inside a bedroom closet in her immaculate suburban home, Detective Jo Fournier is horrified to find that Melissa’s heating was turned up to the max while she died of thirst. As she delves deeper into the case, Jo uncovers a link between Melissa and a recent cold case: another single mother who was tied up and brutally murdered. Then, as the team works around the clock to stop a twisted killer, someone from Jo’s past catches up with her. They’re watching her family’s every move, and they will stop at nothing to get revenge. Can Jo save the people she loves and catch the killer before it’s too late?

Do you write in more than one genre? So far, my published books have all been in crime fiction, although I have written a women’s fiction manuscript and several literary shorts. I cover several sub-genres within Crime fiction, including my published police procedural series and a published standalone psychological thriller. I’ve also written an action thriller, a private-eye novel, and a traditional mystery I hope will be published someday.

Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? I try to write in as many different locations as I can. I’ve been lucky enough to write full-time, and that means I have to work within deadlines, both those I put in place myself and those for my publisher. Writing on a schedule is an important part of that, and I can’t allow myself to lose time because I’m in an inhospitable environment for some reason. So I routinely write in cafes, at home, outside at parks, even at the doctor’s office. I write in quiet and noisy places, so I’m used to focusing in less-than-ideal settings when circumstances for me to do that.

Has an association membership helped you with your writing? I waited to join MWA and SinC until I had my first book contract, thinking it wasn’t a useful thing to do until I was a published writer. That was a HUGE mistake, and I’d advise every writer out there to immediately join whatever association brings together people in your genre. Between the events that have educated me on the publishing industry and craft, the write-ins that help keep me focused, and the ability to talk to people who’ve gone through things I’m going through, it’s all been invaluable.

How do you raise the stakes for your protagonist—for the antagonist? For me, there are two aspects to this. Raising the stakes for my protagonist in a within-book way is one thing, and it usually involves the antagonist taking action that impacts her in a personal way. Sometimes that means literally—my murderer may threaten her life or the life of someone she loves. But it always means psychologically. Even if the murderer isn’t threatening her directly, the murders they’ve committed always tap into some psychological struggle she has. So the race to get justice for a murdered child may tap into my protagonist’s own struggles with her mother, or a dysfunctional husband/wife relationship may challenge my protagonist to examine some dysfunctional attitudes she brings into her own romantic relationships.

In addition, I try to raise the stakes between books for the protagonist in my police-procedural series. She’s learning and growing, but life keeps handing her new challenges that build on the other things she’s learned.

What authors did you dislike at first but grew to enjoy? Hemingway. He was part of my curriculum fairly early in my school years (I believe when I was twelve or thirteen). At that age, I didn’t relate to the content or the pointedly masculine point of view. But what I did respond to even then was his writing style, and that kept me coming back. As I lived more life, his themes began to resonate with me, and I found myself fascinated with the points of view his work reflected.

 Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? I’ve done both, and I think there are plusses and minuses for each. One big concern for me is that I’m not in law enforcement. I have never been, and that means no matter how much research I do and how many people I consult with, I’m always in danger of getting something wrong or writing a character that inadvertently reflects badly on a given law enforcement agency (or newspaper, or other agency I write about). It’s one thing for a mistake I make to reflect badly on me, but I never want it to reflect badly on anybody else. So for my police-procedural series, I set the stories in a fictional Western Massachusetts county and do my best to reflect how law enforcement functions in the actual region without pulling anybody real into it.

Where can our readers find you and your books?

Website: www.mmchouinard.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mmchouinardauthor

Link to Her Silent Prayer on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09Q3QQL98/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i0

 

15 Comments

  1. Heather Haven

    I’ve read all of Cindy Sample’s books and so loved the first book in her new Spindrift Cove Mystery series, BIRTHDAYS ARE MURDER, that once finished, I started reading it again. I just love her work and her mind! And she absolutely writes the best and funniest murder chases in the business. A rock-solid mystery writer with some laughs thrown in for extra measure!

    Reply
  2. Jan M Flynn

    I have heard both Ana Manwaring and now George Cramer sing the praises of Michelle Chouinard, and now I see that I’ve been missing some wonderful reads — a situation that I intend to correct immediately. I learned a lot from your thoughtful answers to the interview questions, and, Michelle, you set a sterling example, in terms of work ethic and self-discipline, to other writers, myself most definitely included. What a pleasure to make your acquaintance here!

    Reply
    • Michelle Chouinard

      Jan, you’re too kind! The thought of missing a deadline is terrifying to me, lol, so I guess that’s my secret. 😉 It’s lovely to meet you! <3

      Reply
  3. Katy

    I love the way this incredible woman’s mind works, and I have enjoyed reading her work. I very much look forward to celebrating her brain babies for a very long time.

    Loved getting to read more of the process!!

    Reply
    • Michelle Chouinard

      Aw, thank you, Katy! BTW, ‘brain babies’ is now my new favorite phrase…<3

      Reply
  4. Ana Manwwaring

    I’m a total MM Chouinard fangirl and I’m itching to get my hands on the new book. I agree with Michelle about joining writers associations . I joined SINC and MWA long before I had books, and every step of my journey has been informed by the knowledge and talent within these groups. Michelle is one of my guiding lights. George too, for his informative interviews. Thanks both of you.

    Reply
    • Michelle Chouinard

      SinC and MWA are THE BEST. So much expertise and so many awesome people, like you! <3

      Reply
  5. Vinnie Hansen

    I enjoyed learning more about our multi-talented Michelle!

    Great advice about joining organizations. For short story writers, I also recommend the Short Mystery Fiction Society.

    I liked The Vacation and look forward to reading another of Michelle’s works.

    For what it’s worth, Hemingway was one of the three authors on whom I focused for my master’s degree oral exam. I’ve read every published thing he’s written, every major critical analysis of his work, and more than one biography. I’ve visited his homes in Key West, Paris, and Cuba and even have a file-cabinet novel titled Hemingway’s Lover!

    Reply
    • Michelle Chouinard

      How cool is that?! I’ve purposefully gone to some cafes he frequented in Paris, and read A Moveable Feast the last time I was there–I’d love to see his homes and meet the six-digited cats! I’m definitely glad I kept going back to Hemingway. 🙂

      Reply
  6. Peg (Margaret) Roche

    Thanks again, George, for introducing another very interesting author. I look forward to reading M. M. Chouinard in the near future.

    Reply
  7. Michael A. Black

    You certainly sound like you’ve got it all together when it comes to your writing. I envy you being able to write anywhere. I’m always too leery about writing in a public place because I’m always looking around and can’t drop my guard enough to get in the zone. If it works for you, more power to you, but remember to be aware of your surroundings. As far as researching cops, you should consider joining the PSWA. It’s an organization that both George and I belong to and it’s a great place to get advice on police procedures. Best of luck to you.

    Reply
    • Michelle Chouinard

      Hello! Well, if it sounds like I have it all together in terms of my writing, that means I’ve successfully pulled the wool over your eyes! 😉 Thanks for the tip–I just joined PSWA. 🙂

      Reply
  8. Donnell Ann Bell

    Hi, George, Hi, M.M Chouinard, I’ll have the pleasure of meeting you next week! Great interview, and I especially agree with your admiration of Hemingway and that the murderer isn’t threatening your protagonist direction. She’s still invested and that’s what counts. Enjoying reading book one of your series.

    Reply
    • Michelle Chouinard

      Hey Donnell! So excited to be a part of your panel next week! Can’t wait to meet you in person, and thanks so much for coming and checking out this interview! 🙂

      Reply

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