DONNELL ANN BELL – The Story Behind the Story

About the Author:  Donnell Ann Bell is an award-winning author who began her nonfiction career in newspapers. After she turned to fiction, her romantic suspense novels became Amazon bestsellers, including The Past Came Hunting, Deadly Recall, Betrayed, and Buried Agendas.

In 2019, Donnell released her first mainstream suspense, Black Pearl, A Cold Case Suspense, which was a 2020 Colorado Book Award finalist. In 2022, book two of the series was released. Until Dead, A Cold Case Suspense won Best Thriller in 2023 at the Imaginarium Conference in Louisville, Kentucky.  Currently, she’s working on book three of the series. Readers can follow Donnell on her blog or sign up for her newsletter at

Have you ever heard authors talk about a germ of an idea that led to their writing a novel? It’s crazy how one idea can take hold, and a 90,000-word book can result. That’s what happened behind many of my books. Still, when it comes to my romantic suspense novel Buried Agendas, a lone germ wasn’t what got me started. The ideas that flooded this book were more like an epidemic.

I’m married to a chemical engineer, so I lived daily with his adventures and misadventures in this necessary but often environmentally explosive industry. Chemicals make our lives easier, right? But if you put the wrong compounds or solutions together, you may blow up a lab. Discover too late that the ingredients used were toxic and leached into the soil or groundwater, you only wished you’d blown up a lab.

That was germ number one that made me want to write this book; what’s more, I thought I had the perfect expert at my disposal. Know what his response was when I started with my list of 20 questions? “Honey, I deal with this stuff all day. The last thing I want to do when I get home is talk about chemicals with my wife.”

On one hand, I sympathized with him. On the other hand, he hadn’t answered my questions, and my list was growing.

How did I handle that? Went around him, of course. We’d lived in Colorado for many years, and I’d met many of his contacts. To write Buried Agendas, I consulted with my husband’s colleagues, who, it turns out, were happy to talk with me about chemicals and what they do in their jobs. I spoke with plant managers, chemists, control room operators, an underground tank specialist, and shift supervisors. I was like the proverbial kid in the candy store as my plot gained traction, and I began to understand (in a simplistic, nontechnical way) what they were doing and why.

I still needed a cause and effect for my book, however. In a murder mystery, the cause of death is often explained by poison, drowning, a gunshot wound, etcetera. In Buried Agendas, I need to point to a newly created chemical that should have never been created.

This time, I needed specifics. So, I called up the Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 8. From there, I was put in touch with a very knowledgeable woman, who again was happy to talk to me about my scenario. You can imagine my elation (and considerable fright) when she confirmed my plot wasn’t far-fetched at all. Not only did we have a phone call, she also mailed me hundreds of pages of information to corroborate my thinking.

In a way, I’m glad my husband didn’t want to spend long hours discussing chemicals. After all, I received a synopsis of his job each evening, which created the germ in the first place. My hunting for specifics with others led to dozens of possibilities and, in my opinion, a more intriguing story.

Buried Agendas goes on sale June 16-30th on several digital outlets for the discounted price of $.99 Hope you enjoyed my trip down Memory Lane.










  1. Michael A, Black

    I missed this one the first time out, Glad to hear you’ve been busy writing. Keep it going.

    • Donn

      Thank you, Mike, I’m slowly getting back in the saddle.

  2. Ann Zeigler

    Donnell, it’s great to hear someone talk about how much fun it is to be a “plot detective,” always asking more people more questions until your characters finally have a real world to live (and make mischief) in. Congrats.

    • Donnell Ann Bell

      Ann, that’s the way I love to research. Plot detective. I love that term. Thanks for commenting 🙂

  3. Lois Winston

    As someone who has read and loved Buried Agendas, I can unequivocally state that Donnell wrote a realistic, suspenseful story that will keep you turning pages.

  4. Marie Sutro

    Love that you were able to get everything you needed from so many different sources. Way to stick with it!

    • Donnell Ann Bell

      Thank you, Marie! Hearing from different sources opens so many possible storylines; would you agree?

  5. Peg Brantley

    PERSISTENCE! I just love you, Donnell! xoxo

  6. Marilyn Levinson

    I always love to hear where my fellow writers get their ideas for the next novel. Wishing you many, many sales with this one!

    • Donnell Ann Bell

      Thank you, Marilyn. Your ideas and backstory are inspiring as well!

  7. Barbara Monaejm

    Wow, Donnell, sounds like a chilling story — and the research for it was fascinating.

  8. Pamela Meyer

    My favorite discussion topic is story inspiration. This one was a doozy. Donnell, you had been thoroughly bitten by this idea, and you weren’t letting go. I love ‘the go around.’ Not only did it get you what you needed to build your story but it preserved your marriage, too. Inspiration and grit. Well Done.

    • Donnell Ann Bell

      Ha! Pamela, I’m a little bit like Tom Skeritt’s character who starred in Steel Magnoias. Tom Skeritt has a great line in the movie–something like, “You, sir, are making me deal with my wife; I make it a point never to deal with my wife.” When you’re married to an engineer, at least in my one and only experience, you work around the black and white 😉 Thanks for your feedback on inspiration and for dropping by today.

  9. Donnell Ann Bell

    Thank you, Margaret. I’m finally coming back to the writing world. Thank you, George, for hosting me and my fellow authors!

  10. Mary Price Birk

    I love hearing about your writing and creative process! I’m looking forward to continuing to read your series! You create such a compelling story!

    • Donnell Ann Bell

      Mary, thank you! I appreciate your feedback so much!

  11. Margaret Mizushima

    Oh, Donnell…this looks like another good story! So glad you shared your germ of an idea and how it grew with us. Congratulations and best wishes with your work on book three in the Cold Case series. Looking forward to that one too!


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MARIKO TATSUMOTO – Romance – Thriller – Historical

Piano-playing, multi-award-winning author Mariko Tatsumoto immigrated to the U.S. from Japan with her family when she was eight. She was detoured from her passion of books by becoming the first Asian woman lawyer in Colorado. But like a pebble in a shoe, she couldn’t let go of her childhood dream and began writing novels. She lives in a small town in the Rocky Mountains, where she’s often found outdoors.

She is a member of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, Colorado Authors League, Historical Novel Society, and Romance Writers of America.

What is your latest book? BLOSSOMS ON A POISONED SEA is a thrilling coming-of-age romance based on the actual events of one of history’s most shocking industrial mercury poisoning disasters and corporate coverups that inspired Johnny Depp’s film Minamata. Two young people must fight a powerful corporation and the government to save their townspeople from a horrific neurological disease.

What made you write it? I recalled my mother showing me photojournalist W. Eugene Smith’s pictures of Minamata Disease victims in Life Magazine when I was young and wondered whatever happened to those people. I was horrified to learn there was no cure, and they kept suffering. I had to tell the world about the tragedy, which led to years of research. Ultimately, I decided to tell the story through two fictional characters.

What is it about? Yuki is the daughter of a poor fisherman. Kiyo is the son of a senior executive at Chisso. In 1956, they become friends, then gradually fell in love. But then all living things in the once beautiful Minamata Bay suddenly die. The impoverished people living around it begin suffering from a terrifying disease that causes agonizing pain, paralysis, and death … including Yuki’s family. As the sole wage earner, Yuki is reduced to low-paying, backbreaking work as a laborer and then as a housekeeper.

The city dwellers turn their backs on the dying fisherfolk. The corporation stonewalls, denying culpability. As the suffering spreads, Kiyo helps researchers find answers to the devastating neurological disease. But they’re blocked by the government and the corporate-influenced media.

Together, Yuki and Kiyo must fight the Japanese government and a powerful and ruthless corporation to save her family and the Bay.

Do you write in more than one genre? Yes. I published several middle-grade and Young Adult novels before turning to adult fiction. Without planning to do so, my books turned out to be primarily historical set in Japan or with Japanese protagonists, and often based on actual events:

AYUMI’S VIOLIN – set in 1959, drawing from my immigration experience
ACCIDENTAL SAMURAI SPY – set in 1868, inspired by the bloody political warfare to unify Japan under one rule
SWEPT AWAY – set in 2011, recounting the devastating tsunami in Japan
KIDNAPPED AT THE ICEFALL – contemporary novella set in Colorado
BLOSSOMS ON A POISONED SEA – set in the late 1950s in Minamata, Japan

I’ve also written two nonfictions: The Colorado Bed and Breakfast Guide and How To Write A Middle-Grade Book Kids Will Love

What kind of research do you do? Because my books are often based on actual events, I spend months or years studying the incidents, history, culture, politics, styles, and fashion around that time. This involves reading books and Internet sites and watching videos and movies made around that time. I sometimes need to learn a new sport. In Swept Away, I had to study sumo wrestling in order to write the lifestyle the protagonist must endure at a sumo training center. In Accidental Samurai Spy, I needed to learn the principles, techniques, and styles of sword fighting. A climber friend showed me the ropes of rock and ice climbing for Kidnapped at the Icefall. These sports were fascinating to learn.

What obstacles do you face when writing about historical figures? Despite painstaking hours of research, gaps in historical records pose challenges. In those instances, it may mean revising a part of the plot or a scene. I exercise creative license but try to maintain authenticity the best I can.

Going back in time half a century or more means that information at the time was all in print. If the place or incident is not well known, not many articles or books may have been written about it.

Do you ever kill a popular character? If so, what happens to your story? I often kill a likable character in a book. Sometimes several. These events force the protagonist to rethink life, learn, and make changes they would never have made. Readers remember and tell friends of these memorable moments. Shocking scenes stay with them, which is what writers want.

What are you currently working on? It’s another history fiction set in a World War II internment camp where Japanese Americans were incarcerated. Mine is different from other books written about the imprisonment because the subject matters I delve into were too shameful for the internees to have disclosed. That’s the part I like.
Instagram: @marikotatsumotoauthor
FB: MarikoTatsumotoAuthor
Twitter (X): @MarikoTatsumoto


  1. Ella

    Very interesting interview. It’s been a few weeks since I finished reading Blossoms on a Poisoned Sea and I’m still in awe of the author’s ability to create in words, an entire Japanese community with its multi-layered social strata and passionate controversies. The story and writing were so moving I’ve thought about the main characters as though they’re people I once knew. I’d highly recommend the book – it could support some lively book club and classroom discussion. As it’s based on a true story of dark choices for financial gain that resulted in an environmental disaster, reflection on the situation and outcome are highly pertinent to issues we face right now.

    • Mariko Tatsumoto

      Thank you, Ella! Such wonderful words to keep me writing!

  2. Mariko Tatsumoto

    Thank you, Michael. I hope you have a chance to read it and find it fascinating!

  3. Susan

    George Cramer–thank you for interviewing Mariko–have heard her play the piano and loved it–will now buy her book too!
    And Thank you George for your enjoyable newsletter–love your life story, appreciate your tenacity (I grew up on a dozen different Indian reservations–parents worked Indian Public Health Service). Thanks again!

    • Mariko Tatsumoto

      Thank you, Susan for supporting my writing! I wonder where you heard me play the piano.

    • George Cramer

      Susan, Thanks for your comments about Mariko and the blog.

  4. Michael A .Black

    Congratulations on your book, Mariko. It sounds fascinating. Your book about the interment camps sounds equally fascinating. A few years back I had a Japanese woman in my Writing a Memoir class who had been a small child in one of those camps. Her recollections were gut-wrenching. I wish you much success. Good luck.


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FELICIA WATSON – Life Long Writer

Felicia Watson, author of the ground-breaking romance Where the Allegheny Meets the Monongahela and the award-winning sci-fi novels, The Lovelace Series, started writing stories as soon as they handed her a pencil in first grade. She’s especially drawn to character-driven tales, where we see people we recognize, people who struggle with their mistakes and shortcomings, acknowledge them, and use that knowledge to grow into wiser human beings.

Where No One Will See:  Lucia Scafetti, a Philly private eye, has tried to move out of the shadow of her infamous crime family. But her life is upended when her notorious hitman father disappears while in search of the diamond he stole from his last victim. Lucia races to unravel the mystery of her father’s disappearance before a crooked and powerful cop beats her to it. Though Lucia’s allies are scanty and her enemies numerous, she tries to resist the questionable help on offer from her Mafiosi family. It looks like Lucia must finally decide on which side of the law she truly belongs, knowing the wrong choice could send her to prison – or an early grave.

Where No One Will See won Gold in the 2023 CIPA EVVYs, Mystery/Crime/Detective Category. The CIPA EVVYs are one of the longest-running book award competitions on the Indie publishing scene, running for nearly 29 years. The annual contest is sponsored by the Colorado Independent Publishers Association (CIPA), along with the CIPA Education and Literacy Foundation (ELF).

Do you write in more than one genre? I’ve written in three (romance, sci-fi, and now crime/mystery) genres. I read voraciously, almost every genre except horror, so I’m prompted to write in more than one genre.

What brought you to writing? I’m a born storyteller and love reading, so writing was a natural outcome of that. As soon as I started reading books in first grade, I couldn’t wait to tell my own stories, and I’ve been writing ever since.

Tell us about your writing process: I’m the plotiest plotter who ever plotted. My process is to ruminate on the story until I have my MC, their motivation, and a theme. From that, I write out a short plot summary. I do my research and then write a chapter-by-chapter outline. If scenes or snippets of dialogue come to me, then I stick them into the appropriate chapter as I outline. Next I make a calendar and plan out the plot beats on it and make sure the timing makes sense. Then, I write character sketches for all major characters and draw maps for important locations. Finally, I start to write. As I write, things always change, so I go back and update the outline and calendar, always saving copies of past versions.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process? I tend to under-write my first draft. Especially when it comes to visual description. I’m big on dialogue. I hear my characters more than I see them, so my first big edit involves fleshing out a lot of details.

What are you currently working on? I’m putting the finishing touches on the sequel to ‘Where No One Will See‘ and starting the process for the 3rd book in the Scaffeti mystery series.

Who’s your favorite author? I have three very different authors I love: Ursula K. Le Guin, Jane Austen, and Hunter S. Thompson. If forced to choose, I’d pick Le Guin.

We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave or run wild? They generally behave, but there have been times when I’ve tried to write a character doing or saying something that goes against their nature (to serve the plot), and I always get bogged down in those scenes. Once I figure out the problem, I have to re-write because if you know your characters, staying true to that knowledge is essential for portraying well-rounded people.

Do your protagonists ever disappoint you? No, but I did have a secondary character who did. I initially wrote him as the support for my MC in a moment of deep anguish before realizing he’d actually be angry at her and had no support at all in that moment. One of my beta readers even said he was disappointed in the character but felt the scene was true to his nature.

What authors did you dislike at first but grew to enjoy? That’s such a great question. One for me would be C. J. Cherryh. I think I was a little too young when I first tackled ‘Brothers of Earth‘ and found it slow-going. I wrote her off until ‘Downbelow Station‘ won the Hugo Award in 1982, and I decided to give her another chance. I had matured enough as a reader to be enthralled by her emphasis on character rather than action. In fact, Cherryh probably paved the way to my appreciation for Le Guin.

Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I plan to finish my 3rd mystery novel and then return to my sci-fi series. There are so many stories left to tell there.

Do you have any advice for new writers? My advice is the same as, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” Practice, practice, practice. There’s nothing like practice to improve your writing. Find a low-stakes arena (a class, a writing group, fanfiction) and experiment with everything: tragedy, comedy, erotica, slice of life, thrillers, all dialogue, no dialogue, drabbles, short stories, novels. Get feedback on everything you produce and listen to that feedback.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and your books? I love hearing from my readers! Comments, questions, concerns, or complaints – hit me up!

Contact info is:

Buy links:
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  1. carol willis

    I am encouraged that you write across genres. I’ve also written everything from psychological thriller, mystery, and romance, to sci-fi and everything in between. And I agree with you: There are so many stories to tell! Thank you for sharing.

    • Felicia Watson

      That’s great to hear, Carol. I think there are a lot more of us multi-genre authors than people realize. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  2. Felicia Watson


    Many thanks for featuring me on your blog!


  3. Felicia Watson

    Thanks, Michael – good to hear from a fellow plotter!

  4. Michael A. Black

    Your writing process sounds a lot like mine, Felicia. Congratulations on the new book and best of luck to you. I’ll keep an eye out for your stuff.


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ERICA WYNTERS – Marriage and Family Therapist – Romance Writer

Erica Wynters is the author of Marigolds, Mischief, and Murder, the first book of the Camelot Flowers Mystery series. She’s also written four novellas making up the series Alexandra Briggs Mysteries. She may have lived most of her life in the frigid Midwest, but now she spends her time in the warmth and sunshine of Arizona. She loves hiking, hunting down waterfalls in the desert, reading (of course), and napping. Can napping be considered a hobby? When not weaving tales of mystery with plenty of quirky characters, laughs, and a dash of romance, Erica works as a Marriage and Family Therapist, helping others find their Happily Ever Afters.

Marigolds, Mischief, and Murder: Gwen Stevens will do just about anything to prove she’s ready to take the reins of the family business Camelot Flowers. But when Gwen stumbles on the dead body of a high school friend, everything else in her life suddenly takes a backseat. Between a corpse, an attraction to two different inconvenient men, and a slew of suspects, can Gwen find the killer…before they have her pushing up daisies?

Do you write in more than one genre? I write cozy mysteries and romantic suspense, but all of my books share some common themes. There is always a love story, there is always some crime committed that must be solved, and there is always a happy ending. I love the combination of romance and mystery or suspense together. I wouldn’t want to write one without the other.

What are you currently working on? I’m writing the second book in my Camelot Flowers Mystery series. It was an exciting day when my publisher contacted my agent to ask if I’d be interested in writing a second book in the series. I immediately said yes. Without giving too much away, this book has all the charm and fun of the first book, Marigolds, Mischief, and Murder. There’s development in the love triangle between Gwen, Finn, and Chris. There’s a murder to be solved, and as always, someone Gwen cares about is the main suspect, which drives her to become involved in the investigation.

Has an association membership helped you with your writing? A month after finishing my first novel, I discovered the Romance Writers of America. I was so new to writing that I hadn’t even realized I’d just written a romance novel. So many of my preconceived notions were around historical romances with bare-chested men on the cover. At the time, I had no idea so many wonderful subgenres of romance existed. Joining my local chapter of Romance Writers of America was a game-changer. I met many generous authors who shared their wisdom, gave me advice, and cheered me along on this journey. It’s also where I met my first critique partner. I always tell new writers how important it is to find a writing community. I believe it’s hard to grow as a writer without feedback, and it is discouraging to walk the journey of being a writer alone. We need critique partners and cheerleaders; if those two roles can be combined, then even better.

How long did it take you to write your first book? I wrote my first book in just three weeks! I hadn’t even intended to write a book. The night before, I’d had a dream that I couldn’t get out of my head. By that night, I was still thinking about it. So, with my husband and my kids in bed, I sat down with my computer and told myself that I was going to write out the dream. It seemed like a good idea for a book, but I had no intention of doing anything more than getting that dream out of my head. Three weeks later, I had a finished novel. I spent every free moment I had writing, including too many late nights. It’s impractical to write a book that fast all the time. It takes me about three months now, but it was a fun experience and got me hooked on the excitement of watching a story unfold on the page.

Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? The second book in my Camelot Flowers Mystery series will come out next spring. I also have a romantic suspense set in New York City with a publisher, and it will hopefully come out in 2024. I’m also working to get a four-book series published soon. The series is romantic suspense and follows four best friends living in Chicago. Each friend has her own book, love story, and dangerous situation she has to overcome.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and your books? Besides being an author, I am a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in codependency and trauma. Because of that, all the romances in my books are healthy representations of relationships. It doesn’t mean couples never have problems, but those problems are never dealt with in a toxic way. Sometimes romance novels can romanticize, for lack of a better word, behavior that is fundamentally unhealthy or toxic. I don’t believe that’s necessary for a compelling romance. I want my books to show a healthier path to love.

Book Link:



  1. Juliet

    I loved Marigolds, Mischief and Murder. Very excited for the next book in the series and excited to hear about all the other books coming. It’s wonderful she uses her expertise to write about healthy relationships.

    • Erica Wynters

      Thanks, Juliet. I’m so glad you loved the book!!

  2. Michael A. Black

    Congratulations on your success, Erica. Writing a book in 3 weeks is awesome. Keep it going.

    • Erica Wynters

      Thanks, Michael! I didn’t do much else during those three weeks but write. My family was incredibly understanding!

  3. jill amadio

    Erica Winters is commendable for usinf her books to send a message. Readers can take heed of her characters’ situations. As a therapist, Erica is in a great position to offer advice in her subtle way.


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