SONJA DEWING – Traveler with Amazing Setting

Sonja Dewing uses her adventurous spirit and travels to inspire her short stories and novels. She’s worked as everything from a waitress in a haunted Inn to an Instructional Designer for an unnamed government agency.

 

Now she’s a full-time author and helps other writers through her business, The Women’s Thriller Writers Association. She was nominated for a Silver Falchion for Best Action/Adventure and won second place from the NM Press Women for her novel Castoffs of the Gods and her short story A Glass Mountain. Her published novels include Toy of the Gods, Gamble of the Gods, Castoffs of the Gods, and, coming soon, the final book in the Idol Maker series, Relics of the Gods.

You can start the series with Toy of the Gods – Leslie needs a break. Instead, she’ll have to face down an Inca god and drunken monkeys. Get your copy here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07P71ZKGB?tag=sdewing2309-20

What are you currently working on? I never just have one thing going on. I think that’s the curse of the over enthusiastic creative, perhaps, but I love being busy. I’m finishing book 4 in my series Relics of the Gods, and I’m producing a podcast – The 5 Minute Author, that’s all about writing and self-publishing tips, and I’m producing my first audiobook. I decided to try a short story audio first. It’s a short horror I wrote under a pen name called Evil Nuns from Space.

How do you raise the stakes for your protagonist? At some point in my book, I ask myself, what’s the worst thing that can possibly happen to my protagonist besides death? That question has always led to some fun and interesting twists. Like in Castoffs of the Gods, Leslie Kicklighter is exhausted from traveling the Amazon river all day but finds herself stranded, away from her friends, and has to find a way to get back to safety. It’s when we truly test our characters that we see what they are capable of.

Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I call myself a plantser (no – not misspelled). Before I start drafting a book, I have very specific scenes in my head. I’ll put those down as a rough outline, then fill in the rest of the story as I write.

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? All of my locations are fictional but based on real locations. When I was in the Amazon basin, I stayed in an eco-resort. I used that resort as my fictional resort in Toy of the Gods. My second book is based in New Mexico, where I live. Then book three is based in the Amazon again, and book four will be in New York City and Iceland, some of my favorite places.

What kind of research do you do? The best research I ever did was to travel to the Amazon in Peru. This was after I had written the draft of my first book. So when I came home, I spent a month rewriting the novel with the jungle as an antagonist. I learned so many things that I would never have gleaned from watching a YouTube video or reading about it. For my current book, Relics of the Gods, I traveled to New York and visited all the places that show up in the book.

How long to get it published? It was a long road for my first book. In search of an agent, I had several male agents tell me no one would read an adventure with a main female character. And I believed them. Until I finally changed my mind and went with a small publisher. I needed someone to tell me my book was good enough to publish. But then two things happened. A stranger gave me a 5-star review on Amazon, and I found out my publisher had never fully read the book. That’s when I took the book back and self-published it.

Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? Absolutely. Every character has their own goals, which are often not in sync with other characters. That’s what creates my subplots. For example, in Castoffs of the Gods, Leslie is in the Amazon to find and rescue her friend, AJ is there to find out more about her magic powers, Alex is there to steal an artifact, and others are there for other reasons. Each of those goals will conflict with the other and create subplots. I weave them in through the actions of the characters.

Do you have any advice for new writers? Yes. In your early writing career, please don’t give your writing to friends or family. They’ll tell you two things because they don’t understand that writing is a process (aka, like any job, it takes time to get it right). Either they’ll be really nice and tell you they loved it, or they think they need to be honest and tell you it’s terrible (which might discourage you from ever writing again!). Instead, find a review group of other writers who can share constructive criticism to make the story and your writing better.

How do our readers contact you? They can email me at sonja@womensthrillerwriters.com. They can check out my work at sonjadewing.com or find out more about my group at womensthrillerwriters.com

4 Comments

  1. Violet Moore

    I passed this quote on to my critique group.

    “It’s when we truly test our characters that we see what they are capable of.”

    Reply
    • Sonja

      Thanks Violet. 🙂

      Reply
  2. Michael A. Black

    Evil Nuns From Space… That sounds like an intriguing book. You sound like you take your writing seriously. I’m glad you didn’t listen to those male agents. Keep on trucking and good luck.

    Reply
    • Sonja

      Thanks Michael! 🙂

      Reply

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DEB RICHARDSON-MOORE – Journalist / Minister / Author

Deb Richardson-Moore is the author of a memoir, The Weight of Mercy, and four mysteries, including a 2021 Killer Nashville Silver Falchion finalist, Murder, Forgotten. All have been published by Lion Hudson of Oxford, England.

 

 

Deb is a former journalist and minister to homeless parishioners in Greenville, SC. She tells the story of her mid-career switch in The Weight of Mercy, a memoir that reveals the traumas and rewards of dealing with addiction and poverty. It has been studied at Harvard and Duke Divinity Schools.

Murder, Forgotten is a stand-alone in which an aging mystery writer is losing her memory. When her husband is murdered in their beachfront home, her grief is mixed with panic: Could she, deep in the throes of a new plot, have killed him? Upcoming in 2023: Deb’s latest work, Through Any Window, has been accepted by Red Adept Publishing in the U.S. Set in a gentrifying area of a vibrant Southern city, tensions are already high between old-timers and rich newcomers. When a double murder explodes, police must determine whether its roots are personal or the rocky result of urban renewal.

Do you write in more than one genre? After a 2012 memoir, I have stuck to murder mysteries.

What brought you to writing? A lifelong love of reading and a 27-year career as a feature writer for a newspaper. After leaving the demands of daily deadlines, I was finally able to write books.

Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? I write in my cheerful sunroom, with five uncovered windows and loads of happy artwork and family photos. At this point, I’m not in a race to see how many books I can produce! I do allow distractions – coffees and lunches out, volunteer work, speeches, travel.

What are you currently working on? I’m in the editing process of a mystery tentatively titled Through Any Window, which is set in a gentrifying neighborhood in a Southern city. People in new mansions live side by side with people in boarding houses and a homeless shelter and can see their neighbors’ lives through their windows.

Who is your favorite author? It’s a toss-up between Joshilyn Jackson and Jodi Picoult. I’m amazed at the breadth of their work.

How long did it take you to write your first book? In all, it probably took a year. When I was halfway through, my board of directors gave me a sabbatical to finish it. Without that nine weeks, I’m not sure I could have done it. I was in a deathly fight with my inner critic.

How long to get it published? Another three years. To my surprise, a publisher in England picked it up, then agreed to publish my fiction titles as well.

Do you ever kill a popular character? If so, what happens to your story? Yes, I did this once. ( I won’t say which book!) My writers’ group got into a major argument over it. One member thought it was breaking a contract with the reader. Others liked the surprise of it. I loved it because I believe it allowed the story to veer into a deeper, sadder place.

Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? You have to have subplots. In Through Any Window, one subplot whirls around the tensions of rich and poor living side by side, and another concerns a young man who recognizes a property where he once lived. The subplots give rise to possible motives for the murders.

Do you base any of your characters on real people? I wrote my three-volume Branigan Powers series about a homeless man who helps a news reporter (Branigan) solve murders. Because he glides through their town virtually unseen, Malachi sees and hears things that other people don’t. I based him on a dear friend, a homeless man who attended my church for 15 years. As for Branigan herself, I’m sure she has aspects of me, as does her friend, Liam, a pastor in a homeless ministry. (I also wrote my dog, Annabelle, into Murder, Forgotten).

Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I don’t know that term! But I don’t outline, so I guess I’m a pantser. I think it’s more exciting if you can constantly surprise yourself. I had so much fun writing Murder, Forgotten, because I couldn’t wait to see how it turned out. It was quite literally almost as much fun as reading a twisty thriller.

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? I mix them all together. The Branigan Powers series was set on my grandparents’ farm in northeast Georgia, but I plopped it near a city that doesn’t exist. In each book, Branigan usually travels to the South Carolina coast.  Murder, Forgotten was set on Sullivan’s Island, SC, and the eastern coast of Scotland. I mixed actual villages and streets and restaurants with fictional houses. Through Any Window is set in fictional Greenbrier, SC, but I draw on much of what is going on in Greenville — and any growing American city.

What is the best book you have ever read? Oddly, not one by my favorite authors. I’d have to say Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin. Or possibly Ira Levine’s Rosemary’s Baby. I get shivers thinking about both.

How do our readers contact you or learn more about you?

https://www.facebook.com/deb.richardsonmoore/
https://www.facebook.com/groups/readerswriterswordlovers
https://www.facebook.com/groups/286102814821828
https://www.facebook.com/groups/1284419714917352
https://www.facebook.com/groups/852252819063291
https://www.facebook.com/groups/357651988042629
https://www.facebook.com/groups/TheBookClubGirls

Contact for Deb: richardsonmoored@gmail.com
To purchase: www.debrichardsonmoore.com or any online seller

 

7 Comments

  1. Sue Miller

    Really looking forward to your next book

    Reply
  2. Donnell Ann Bell

    Oh my goodness, fascinating! My TBR is ridiculously long, but i have to add Ms. Richardson’s books. what a superb cover, I might add.

    Reply
    • Deb Richardson-Moore

      Thanks so much, Donnell.

      Reply
  3. Candace

    Thanks for this interview. What a fascinating author.

    Reply
    • Deb Richardson-Moore

      Thanks, Candace.

      Reply
  4. Michael A. Black

    It sounds like you do a lot of good work besides writing. Best of luck to you.

    Reply
    • Deb Richardson-Moore

      Thank you, Michael.

      Reply

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GLENDA CARROLL – “Everybody Counts or Nobody Counts”

Glenda Carroll is the author of the Trisha Carson mysteries that take place in the diverse San Francisco Bay area, from the tree-lined streets of Marin County to the fog-covered Golden Gate Bridge and the ‘play ball’ atmosphere of Oracle Park, home of the San Francisco Giants. They include Dead Code, Drop Dead Red, and Dead in the Water. Currently, Glenda is working on the fourth book in the series, Dead to Me. The underlying current in the series is open water swimming. When she isn’t writing or swimming, she tutors first-generation, low-income college-bound high schoolers in English.

Glenda authored an article, Why I like Michael Connelly’s Bosch, for the September 2022 issue of the Northern California Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America newsletter, Line Up. I’m sharing what she had to say about Harry Bosch with her permission.

When everything shut down at the start of the pandemic, I discovered Bosch, a police procedural series streaming on Amazon Prime. The seven-season crime series about Los Angeles police detective Harry Bosch is based on the books by Michael Connelly.

I liked the character of Bosch immediately. He was more than the tough on the outside, marshmallow on the inside detective. He didn’t talk much—he liked jazz.—and had a dog named Coltrane. His past was complicated. His mother was a prostitute who loved her son, fought for him, and was murdered. He ended up in the foster care system. Then, he married and divorced an FBI agent who morphed into a risk-taking professional gambler. Their daughter loved them both but understood that Harry, who spent evenings going over his cases and listening to jazz, was the stable parent. That complicated backstory came into play in each episode, while Harry took extra (and sometime not-so-legal) steps for the homeless and addicted.

It was that personal understanding and internal warmth that set him apart from the usual hardcore detective. He’d been there, down in the trenches, and never forgot it. The part of Harry Bosch couldn’t have been more perfectly cast. Titus Welliver, an actor I had never heard of before, stepped into the persona perfectly.

Somewhere during all this television time, I realized that Bosch was adapted from several police procedurals written by Michael Connelly. I wondered how true to the books the scripts were, so I became a steady customer of the San Rafael Public Library, reading the 20-odd books that Connelly wrote that featured Harry Bosch. To my surprise, the plots were followed, twist by twist. Even some of the dialogue found its way into the scripts. I thought about this for hours, and I really couldn’t say which was better—the books or the streaming series.

When Bosch concluded (you can still find it on Amazon Prime), another series, Bosch: Legacy popped up on Freevee with the same characters and tight plots.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen every episode of both series at least twice. I am currently Boschless, waiting for whatever comes next.

“(Trisha Carson is)…a smart, steadfast gumshoe who continues to flourish… Carroll’s writing bounces off the page.”  Kirkus Reviews

Books are available:  Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, Smashwords, and Kindle

You can reach Glenda at:

Ggcarroll43@gmail.com
Webpageglendacarroll.com
FB page: https://www.facebook.com/glenda.carroll
Twitter@ggcarroll
InstagramGlenda.carroll
Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Ms.-Glenda-Carroll/e/B00CIJ7HJ8/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

 

15 Comments

  1. Donnell Ann Bell

    Love this blog! I wasn’t big on the prime Bosch series. Your post makes me want to rethink it. Your books sound quite good, too, Glenda! Will heck them out!

    Reply
    • Glenda Carroll

      A few of my writer friends felt the same way you do. I’m just giving you my opinion. Maybe I just identified with the main character. (Although I’m not a cop but I understand how the past influences the present. You might want to try Michael Connelly’s book that feature Bosch.

      Reply
  2. Glenda Carroll

    I’ll check out the audio. Thanks for the tip!

    Reply
    • Claire

      I’ve found the audio pretty good. I really like the narrator for the Lincoln Lawyer books.

      Reply
      • Glenda Carroll

        I haven’t really tried audio books. Obviously, that should be my next step. Maybe I need to think of getting my own mysteries on audio.

        Reply
  3. Victoria Kazarian

    I love Connelly’s books, but I’m always afraid TV adaptations will disappoint me. This gives me encouragement to watch Bosch.

    Reply
    • George Cramer

      For the most part, I think the TV series did justice to Connelly’s work. I hope to see more of Titus Welliver. I think Titus was spot on for Bosch. Now whenever I think of Bosch, I see Welliver.

      Reply
  4. Kaye George

    I admit, I had to get used to Welliver in the part. It happened gradually, since I had a much different picture of Bosch from reading the books. He grew on me and I finished the series liking his portrayal. I’ve always been a Connelly fan, from the very beginning. He spoke at a conference, I think it was the one in Boise ID, but don’t quote me, and said he was thrilled to be there because it got him out of watching Finding Nemo for the 17th time with his toddler. This was years ago, after his first book propelled him to the top of the charts. He said he was stunned by that! I guess I pictured HIM as Bosch.

    Reply
    • Glenda Carroll

      Since I started with the TV series and then read the books, I could see and hear Titus Welliver (what a name!) in the part.

      Reply
  5. Ann Dominguez

    I think it’s time for me to try these books again. I love Connelly’s Lincoln Lawyer series. Thanks for the nudge!

    Reply
    • Glenda Carroll

      I liked the Lincoln Lawyer series as well. I use Michael Connelly books (and John Grisham’s, as well) as text books on how they encourage readers to turn the page. I even outlined one of Connelly’s Bosch police procedurals to understand his techniques of telling a story and getting the reader engaged and staying engaged. I learned a lot doing that (until I became so engrossed with the story I forgot to take notes.)

      Reply
  6. Susan Van Kirk

    I, too, am a big Bosch fan and I had the pleasure of hearing Connelly speak in Phoenix a few years ago. I really liked his latest Ballard/Bosch book.

    Reply
    • Glenda Carroll

      I would probably act like a tongue-tied teen if I ever met him.

      Reply
  7. Michael A. Black

    I like Connelly’s books as well, Glenda. Titus Welliver also does the voice of Bosch in the audio book versions of the novels. For the ones featuring Bosch and Connelly’s new character, Renee Ballard, actress Christine Lakin and Welliver do a fabulous duet. Good luck with your own series.

    Reply

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LOIS WINSTON – Shares A Bit of Blogging History

When George invited me for a return visit to his blog, I asked him if he had a topic he’d like me to discuss. He suggested how I got into blogging.

 

 

 

I started blogging back in 2010 after selling my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series because my publisher had insisted that I have a social media presence beyond my website. What they really wanted was for me to have a Facebook presence. My editor pretty much insisted. She was one of those people who posts her entire life on Facebook, something that boggles my privacy-conscious mind.

I loathe Facebook—with a passion. I’d heard and read too many horror stories about Facebook, and that was way back then. Over the years, it’s gotten far worse. Talk about a “bully” pulpit (and not the kind Teddy Roosevelt had in mind)! I wanted no part of it. I’d been bullied enough in my life prior to the creation of the “social” platform that gave free rein to the extremely unsocial and antisocial elements of society. I had sworn I’d be the last person on the planet not “Zucked” in.

But my editor insisted. So I caved and set up a Facebook page. Within minutes, I was inundated with friend requests from creepy looking guys from Third World nations. I should have trusted my gut. It then took me several hours to figure out how to delete my account. Zuckerberg doesn’t make it easy to leave once he’s snared you.

When I did finally navigate the labyrinth to the Delete Account key, I emailed my agent. We brainstormed other social media, and I came up with the idea of Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers, a blog that would be the online version of the magazine where my sleuth worked. Amazingly, my editor loved the idea—even if she wasn’t thrilled that I had deleted my Facebook account the same day I’d set it up. I appeased her further by also agreeing to set up a Twitter account for my sleuth and Pinterest pages to promote my books and the blog.

The blog has evolved over the past twelve years. I used to post five days a week but cut back to three a few years ago. I also used to have guests only on Fridays. Now I have as many guests as would like to come for a visit. This not only saves me time, but it’s a way of highlighting and networking with other authors, some of whom have become good friends over the years.

To be honest, I rarely post anything on Twitter. When I do, it’s book or writing-related, never personal or political. I usually forget to update my Pinterest pages. However, I’ve discovered that I do enjoy blogging. Along with Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers, I belong to two group blogs—The Stiletto Gang, where I blog on the fourth Wednesday of each month and Booklover’s Bench, where I blog every seventh Thursday. I also do guest posts at other authors’ blogs, such as this one I’m doing for George.

Social media has since grown to include Snapchat, TikTok, Instagram, and more. I won’t be joining any of them. Some people have said not being on all these sites adversely impacts the sales of my books. Maybe they’re right. Maybe I’d sell a few dozen more books a month if I spent hours each day on social media. But then, when would I have time to write my books?

Life is a series of choices, and we each must choose what we feel is right for us. I’d rather write my books than scroll down the rabbit hole of social media. What about you? How do you feel about social media? Post a comment for a chance to win an audiobook of Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun (US or UK only), the first book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series.

Guilty as Framed  –  An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 11

 When an elderly man shows up at the home of reluctant amateur sleuth Anastasia Pollack, she’s drawn into the unsolved mystery of the greatest art heist in history.

Boston mob boss Cormac Murphy has recently been released from prison. He doesn’t believe Anastasia’s assertion that the man he’s looking for doesn’t live at her address and attempts to muscle his way into her home. His efforts are thwarted by Anastasia’s fiancé Zack Barnes.

A week later, a stolen SUV containing a dead body appears in Anastasia’s driveway. Anastasia believes Murphy is sending her a message. It’s only the first in a series of alarming incidents, including a mugging, a break-in, another murder, and the discovery of a cache of jewelry and an etching from the largest museum burglary in history.

But will Anastasia solve the mystery behind these shocking events before she falls victim to a couple of desperate thugs who will stop at nothing to get what they want?

Buy Links
Paperback: https://amzn.to/3QLEYU5
Hardcover: https://amzn.to/3Ans5s6
Kindle: https://amzn.to/3tLnT3d
Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/guilty-as-framed
Apple Books: https://books.apple.com/us/book/guilty-as-framed/id6442846272
Nook: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/guilty-as-framed-lois-winston/1141500980?ean=2940185728703

17 Comments

  1. Lois Winston

    The winner of the free audiobook of Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun is Melinda Abraham. Melinda, I’ve sent you a private email. Please contact me if you didn’t receive it.

    Reply
  2. Lois Winston

    Thanks for stopping by, Candy. I hope you find a blogging topic that works for you, but one thing you might consider is blogging more often. Once a week instead of once a month might make readers remember to stop by to check out your blog more often, especially if you consistently blog on the same day of the week. Of course, that’s a lot more work and time invested. So you have to decide if it’s worth it to you. Good luck!

    Reply
  3. Candy

    Such an enlightening discussion. I blog once a month, and it’s stuff I find interesting such as odd facts about living in Mexico. But no one else finds it interesting, it seems. I also post about writer’s block which I seem to have permanently. I’ll keep searching for something that works. Thanks again for the story.

    Reply
  4. Violet Moore

    Lois, I used to blog about family memoirs with a hint of humor. After I switched to writing fiction, I corraled my straying characters into being my guests. They now provide a peek into my yet-to-be-published crime fiction novel with their humorous twists.

    Reply
    • Jessica Ferguson

      Such a wonderful post! I regret getting on social media but I do love keeping up with old classmates. Still…those “men in uniform” are plentiful and seem to multiply daily. You were smart, Lois!

      Reply
      • Lois Winston

        Jessica, we all have to decide where we want to spend our time. For me, there are other ways to keep up with people.

        Reply
    • Lois Winston

      Great idea, Violet! Some of my characters have done many guest posts for other authors, and I occasionally guest on my own (or should I say Anastasia’s?) blog.

      Reply
  5. Judith Jones

    I found a link to your blog via Sisters in Crime. I was curious what got you started blogging. (I’m an ex-blogger myself and I wrote about topics that didn’t genuinely interest me. So, I was glad to see the last of my blog a few years ago.) But when I read your blog’s origin story, I thought, “BRILLIANT!” What an exciting idea and what a great way to engage with your readers. Thank you for sharing! (BTW, I read the opening to your latest book – love that scene!)

    Reply
    • Lois Winston

      Thanks so much, Judith! Glad you enjoyed the scene. I hope enough to read the rest of the book! ;-D

      Reply
  6. Michael A. Black

    Excellent advice about the perils of social media, Lois. I’m glad you settled into the blog and that it suits your purposes. Best of luck with your new one. It sounds fascinating.

    Reply
  7. Melinda Abraham

    Lois, I share your loathing of Facebook and most social media. Much of it is not really social, it’s isolating and creepy. And what is with people thinking that everyone wants to follow everything that they do? Gee, check out this photo of the croissant that I enjoyed this morning. Now check out the giant margarita that I had with dinner.

    I do enjoy some blogs, including yours and George’s. Keep up the great work.

    Reply
    • Lois Winston

      Thanks, Melinda. So glad you like my blog. I completely agree with you regarding people who think everyone in the world wants to see what they’re eating for each meal. You can’t go to a restaurant these days without half the diners constantly taking photos of every course brought to the table!

      Reply
  8. Lois Winston

    Jim, I hope your wife doesn’t post anything personal on FB. It’s amazing how many people do so and wind up regretting it. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    Reply
  9. Jim Guigli

    I, too, dumped Facebook after a short time. At the time, MWA recommended everyone be on Facebook. After a few weeks of seeing nothing worthwhile, I was done. The whole thing struck me as stupid. My wife still has an account. She communicates with our relatives and her Barbara Pym group.

    Reply
  10. Lois Winston

    George, thanks again for inviting me to visit today.

    Reply
    • George Cramer

      Thanks for dropping by. I am flabbergasted that you use to post five a week. I do two, and it’s all I can do to keep up. Your posts inspire me to keep trying.
      Thanks for helping me in the early stages when I used some of your copyrighted content. You were gracious and forgiving. I continue to learn from you.

      Reply

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J.L. GREGER – Can Mysteries Educate as Well as Entertain?

J.L. Greger is a scientist turned novelist. She includes science and international travel in her award-winning mysteries and thrillers: The Flu Is Coming, Games for Couples, Dirty Holy Water, Fair Compromises, and seven others.

A woman scientist and her FBI colleagues rush to find who poisoned the food at a political rally with botulism toxin in order to kill their target—a woman candidate for the U.S. Senate.

A number of physicians and biologists have become novelists, including Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Homes series), Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park), Colleen McCullough (The Thorn Birds), and Vladimir Nabokov (Lolita). Agatha Christie worked in a pharmacy during World War II. Several have commented that they wrote novels because they wanted to arouse interest in the medical sciences and public health among their readers, i.e., Robin Cook (Coma) and the inventor of birth control pills Carl Djerassi (Cantor’s Dilemma).

Do novelists impact readers’ interest in science? Maybe. A number of undergraduate women and minorities majoring in biology at one university claimed Abby Sciuto, the forensic scientist for many years on the popular T.V. show NCIS, was a role model because she was a caring person even though she was a scientist.

Their comments were particularly interesting because the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation have invested millions of dollars trying to recruit women and minorities into scientific fields but have had limited success. It seems many students think of scientists as being weird, white males. One can’t wonder if this stereotype was enhanced by fictional villains, such as Dr. Jekyll, Dr. Strangelove, and Dr. Moreau.

As scientist and dean, I can tell you that recruiting and retaining women and minorities to faculty positions is not easy. Furthermore, it’s not fun being the only woman on a government panel.

What I decided to do? I decided to write mysteries and thrillers with a woman scientist Sara Almquist as my protagonist. Sara is a feisty woman who tired of the constant bickering among university faculty members and became a consultant on epidemiology for the FBI and other agencies, including the USAID, an arm of the State Department concerned with agriculture and public health issues internationally. She has a love interest but is too independent to marry him. He calls her “a nosy do-gooder,” and she reluctantly agrees with his assessment of her.

In each of the mysteries and thrillers in my Science Traveler Series, Sara investigates a different scientific issue as she helps law enforcement agencies solve murders. They include weight loss schemes, industrial sabotage in the biotechnology industry, and bubonic plague in livestock.

In my newest mystery FAIR COMPROMISES, Sara Almquist and her FBI colleagues rush to find who endangered the lives of a hundred attendees at a political rally by poisoning the food with botulism toxin. The poisoners’ target was a woman candidate for the U.S. Senate; the rest were just collateral damage. As these agents track clues from a veterans’ hall in Clovis to health spas of Santa Fe, they must make a multitude of personal and professional (perhaps too many) compromises.

What is known about botulinum toxins? One of the hottest anti-aging products offered at health spas is BOTOX or related botulinum products. I suspect many clients get rid of their wrinkles or make their lips look luscious, and pouty know little about the injections they are getting.

Botulinum products, such as BOTOX, are produced by the same bacteria (Clostridium botulinum) that grows in improperly canned vegetables and meat. Perhaps a few of you remember your mother using a pressure cooker when she canned vegetables to prevent the lethal effects of botulinum toxin.

Your mother was right. Scientists have found botulism toxin is the most toxic natural compound ever discovered. It literally paralyzes muscles. Hence, the victims of botulism poisoning die of paralysis of the muscles needed for respiration. The death rate used to be 90%. Now with an antidote, the death rate is 5-10%.

During World War II, botulism toxin was considered as a potential weapon of war. In the 1980 and 1990s, scientists discovered tiny amounts of it could be used and injected into muscles that spasmed in various neurological conditions. They also figured out that tiny injections of botulinum toxin would prevent the muscle contractions that caused crow’s feet around the eyes and worry lines.

How is botulinum toxin used in FAIR COMPROMISES? In this mystery, state public health officials quickly determine that botulism poisoning has caused double and blurred visions and headaches in dozens of people who attended a political rally the day before. The health officials requested the help of the FBI when they realized the symptoms of the senate candidate at the rally were much worse than those of others, and she was progressing rapidly to respiratory paralysis. They think she may have been targeted.

Thus FAIR COMPROMISES is a medical mystery in which the source of the toxin must be identified. At first, improperly home canned food served at the rally appears to be the source of the toxin. The mystery turns from being the analysis of a severe food safety breach to the investigation of a diabolical murder attempt using “cosmetic” botulism toxin when Sara, with the help of a talented lab crew, discovers a more sinister source of the toxin at a health and beauty spa in Santa Fe.

How are these bits of science in FAIR COMPROMISES useful?

  • It’s a reminder to home canners to follow recipe instructions carefully.
  • It helps consumers appreciate the scientific basis of public health regulations in regard to food processing and cosmetics.
  • It reminds women to get the facts before they select to “beat the aging process” with just an easy injection or cream.
  • Maybe it will generate interest in the science in general.

J.L. can be contacted at: https://www.jlgreger.com

FAIR COMPROMISES is available at: https://www.amazon.com/Fair-Compromises-Science-Traveler-Greger/dp/1735421421

18 Comments

  1. Valerie Brooks

    p.s. Is that a Havanese in your photo? If so, I have one and just love her.

    Reply
  2. Valerie Brooks

    Fascinating article! I love science and when I worked at a community college, the head of the science department was a woman. She spoke of the very issues you say hamper women going into science. You had to have a tough spine for some of the situations I heard about. Thanks for the botox info. I’ve tried to get my sister to stop injecting it, but at least she is doing it in a clinic setting. Still. … Now I will have to read your books! I love thrillers that have some meat on their bones. If you know what I mean.
    And welcome to George’s blog!

    Reply
  3. Candace

    But…but…but…I love Botox!!!

    Reply
    • J.L. Greger

      As I note in novel, it is a very effective drug for a number of conditions. It can do wonders to make some individuals look younger. However, Botox parties aren’t really safe. Please get your injections in a clinical setting.

      Reply
  4. j. L. Greger

    George, thanks for hosting me on your wonderful blog.

    Reply
  5. Victoria Weisfeld

    Medical mysteries are such fun! Especially like the public health angle J.L. Greger describes. There’s plenty of room for mayhem and misinformation! I have a master’s degree in public health, and even I’m surprised at the odd twists the field must follow.

    Reply
    • J. L. Greger

      I hope you enjoy this medical mystery- Four Compromises.

      Reply
  6. Joseph HAGGERTY

    This is scary business as evidenced by the last two years dealing with Covid. Chemical warfare is something I hate to think of, but I pray our Government thinks about constantly. Experts like Janet are essential to uncovering these threats and in making people more aware. I’m an old man and my vanity left with the loss of my hair so things like botox have no appeal to me. Just like Mr. Black stated I believe ladies should stay away from the use of Botox.

    Reply
    • J. L. Greger

      Botox has its medical uses and can be a very effective drug. But its distribution during so called Botox parties seems dangerous.

      Reply
  7. Michael A. Black

    Take a pass on the botox, everybody. I’ve known Janet for years. She’s a regular at the PSWA Conference and is always fascinating to listen to. Believe me, this lady can write and really knows her stuff. Her books are great reads. Do yourself a favor and pick up her series.

    Reply
    • J. L. Greger

      Thanks for your comments. Happy Holidays

      Reply
  8. Donnell Ann Bell

    I love this post! Welcome to George’s blog, Ms. Greger. I’m curious a statement you mentioned. You write: As scientist and dean, I can tell you that recruiting and retaining women and minorities to faculty positions is not easy. Furthermore, it’s not fun being the only woman on a government panel.

    Is there a shortage of women majoring in biology? I obviously understand how difficult it must be to reach your level of academia as far as hiring. But why is it difficult for women to be *retained* once they get there? Thank you, and what stellar company you’re in! I had no idea Agatha Christie worked in a pharmacy during World War II.

    Reply
    • J. L. Greger

      The number of women majoring in biology has increased but retention is a severe problem. There are many reasons. One is inflexibility in academia for family responsibilities. The major one is women generally don’t receive the same money or respect as men in similar positions.

      I can add diversity is important because it affects the type of research problems that are emphasized. I hope my books encourage women and minorities to select careers in science. I try to show in my books a few possibilities besides the traditional academic ones.

      Reply
  9. Ashley-Ruth M. Bernier

    Such a cool article! As the daughter of a Black female Ph.D. in neuroscience, I grew up hearing about the situation described in your post—a lack of women and minorities in high positions within university faculty and in health-related fields. Luckily, I had my mom as an example (and because she worked at 2 HBCUs, I saw plenty of others), but I think it’s awesome that you wrote a series featuring a female scientist to give others that great example. Your book sounds very interesting, and I’d certainly love to read it! (On that note, I bet my mom would, too!)

    Reply
    • J. L. Greger

      First off, your mother is to be congratulated.
      Maybe she’d enjoy one of my books for Christmas. Faculty in nursing schools have often commented they like my insider comments.

      Reply
  10. Elizabeth Varadan

    Goodness, this was such an interesting post! The book sounds fascinating, and the scientific facts do, too, and so relevant to the quick fixes on aging that still seem to plague so many women. I will be on the lookout for her books.

    Reply
    • J. L. Greger

      I try to find different and relevant scientific topics for all my books.
      I focused on the emerging areas of cultured and artificial meats in Games for Couples. That book allowed me to explore the problems faced by biotech companies. I focused on new approaches to weight control in Murder…A Way to Lose Weight.

      I guess that’s my point. Science is interesting.

      Reply

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BARBARA NICKLESS – Wall Street Journal and Amazon Bestselling Author

Barbara Nickless is a Wall Street Journal and Amazon Charts bestselling author. Her newest series features forensic semiotician Dr. Evan Wilding—a man whose gift for interpreting the signs left by killers has led him to consult on some of the world’s grisliest cases.

 

“Dr. Evan Wilding is absolutely my new favorite fictional human.” (Danielle Girard, USA Today & Amazon #1 Bestselling Author of The Ex)

Dark of Night: When an historian is found dead from a cobra bite, only Dr. Evan Wilding can read the signs around her strange death—and follow the path to the priceless treasure behind her murder.

Groups: Mystery Writers of America (including the Colorado chapter—RMMWA) and Sisters in Crime (including Sisters in Crime – Colorado).

Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? I’m fortunate to have a room of my own, filled with books and decorated with items that inspire me—Egyptian paintings on papyrus, black and white photos taken in Africa, globes, and maps. I wish I could say I don’t allow any distractions, but I’m not that disciplined. My phone and internet access are right there in the room with me. But I always start my day with the phone in a drawer, and I don’t allow myself to log on to the internet until lunch unless I know there’s something I have to take care of.

Tell us about your writing process: I wish I could go straight from my bed to my desk—Dennis Lehane says he prefers to write first thing in the morning when he’s still in a dream state. But I have to start my day with breakfast, or I’d pass out at my computer after the first hour. So, breakfast while I read the news, then I make coffee and head upstairs to my study. I spend the morning writing new material and the afternoon editing and doing research, taking an early afternoon break for exercise. The late afternoon and evening hours are for items related to the business of writing or social media. Maybe a glass of wine and some reflection on the day’s work. Almost always a walk. I try to preserve my weekends as much as possible to spend with family and friends.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process? The fact of a deadline. It’s a blessing and a curse. I’m so very grateful to have a deadline because it means my book will go out into the world after my publisher has worked their magic. But I never feel I can give the book everything it deserves. It’s a bit reminiscent of a time in college when I was taking a trig test, and the professor gave us a twenty-minute warning. After that, all my brain could process was “twenty minutes.”

What are you currently working on? I’m writing the third book in the Evan Wilding series, tentatively titled Play of Shadows. It’s about sibling rivalry, domineering fathers, and the question of how early in life humans show a penchant for evil. It’s also about mazes and the minotaur and the undeciphered hieroglyphic script of Crete.

Has an association membership helped you with your writing? Yes, in the most wonderful ways. The combination of moral support, shared stories, and practical craft lessons is invaluable. Writing can be lonely, and even though I’m a profound introvert, I’ve learned that having a writing community is priceless.

What’s the most challenging thing about writing characters from the opposite sex? For me, it’s describing men and women from the POV of a man. As a writer, I have to portray a woman the way a man (in particular, my protagonist) would see her—the details he would notice, the things about her he’d find most important. And I have to be equally careful to describe a male character the way another man would see him.

Do your protagonists ever disappoint you? It’s more the other way around. If I’m not bringing everything to the table, I’ll disappoint my characters—and I’ll be disappointed in the results.

Do you have any advice for new writers? Separate your goals into two categories: Those you have control over (improving your craft, reading a lot of other authors, how much time you spend at the desk) and those you don’t (whether or not a particular story or novel sells, how it will be received by the reading public, what the reviewers will say). Focus all of your energy on the things you can control and do your best to forget the rest.

Readers can reach me through my website: https://www.barbaranickless.com

And they can buy my books on Amazon (or at any other bookseller): Amazon Barbara Nickless

 

4 Comments

  1. Sonja Dewing

    I’m the same way about breakfast! I’ve tried to write before breakfast but my stomach won’t have it. Thank you for the inspirational words.

    Reply
  2. Barbara Nickless

    Thank you, Michael and Elizabeth! I do love to stretch myself with each book, even if only in a small way.

    Reply
  3. Michael A. Black

    I found it interesting that you opted for a male protagonist rather than a female one, but it sounds as if your confidence has allowed you to pull it off. I found you advice very inspirational. Good luck with your new one.

    Reply
  4. Elizabeth Varadan

    I really enjoyed Barbara’s advice re: the two categories for goals, what you can contro and what you can’t. I also was struck by her advice for writing in the p.o.v. of the opposite gender. I haven’t tried it, as I don’t have the confidence that I would get it right. On the other hand, I just finished reading Magpie Murders, where much of the narrative is by a remale narrator, and I felt she rang very true. I had to wonder, how did he get it so right? Still, I think it’s a challenge, and hats off to Nickless. I love any mystery dealing with foreign lands, so I’m interested in her books, for sure!

    Reply

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