MEGHAN JOYCE TOZER – Writer, Music Historian, and Lyric Soprano

Meghan Joyce Tozer is a writer, music historian, and lyric soprano born and raised outside Boston, Massachusetts. After earning a B.A. from Harvard in English and American Literature and Language, she moved to California to pursue a M.M. in voice performance and a Ph.D. in Musicology from UC Santa Barbara. Now she lives among the redwoods in San Francisco’s East Bay with her husband, their two young children, and their dog. Her debut novel, Night, Forgotten, came out in November 2022 and is available now wherever books are sold.

Night, Forgotten (published November 1, 2022): Night, Forgotten is “an artfully crafted story… that will leave readers gasping” (Library Journal), a poignant and page-turning psychological thriller about a young woman whose life changes in an instant, perfect for fans of “grip lit” like GONE GIRL and THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN.

Much of Meghan’s public writing has appeared under the pen name Emily Lindin, including her annotated middle school diary: UnSlut: A Diary and a Memoir (Lerner, 2015). As the founder of The UnSlut Project, she’s advocated for survivors of sexual assault and abuse on platforms such as ABC with Katie Couric, CNN, The Doctors, Al Jazeera America, NPR, and at dozens of high schools and universities around North America.


Do you have any advice for new writers? Create boundaries around your writing time, and treat it as nothing less than sacred.

How long did it take to get Night, Forgotten published? Exactly five years. I wrote the first draft during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in November 2017. The idea was to kick myself in the pants, and it worked. After countless drafts, working with two editors, and sharing the manuscript with a handful of “sensitivity” readers, I traditionally published Night, Forgotten on November 1, 2021, with W by Wattpad Books.

Where do you write? I do my best work by myself, surrounded by nature. At least once a year, I give myself a writing retreat at a remote cabin, where I can follow the creative spirit without distractions or interruptions. But most days, I write at home in my study, looking out to the redwood trees.

Where to Buy / Contact Info:
@meghanjoycetozer on Instagram
@EmilyLindin on Twitter



  1. Michael A. Black

    You are so fortunate to be gifted both as a singer and a writer. Congratulations on the publication of your first novel. I’ll have to check it out. Best of luck to you.

    • Meghan Joyce Tozer

      Thank you, Michael! Let me know if you guess the twist 🙂


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Beach Bum – Biker – Sailor – Cop – PI – Author

The heading is my life in a nutshell. It’s my birthday, so I’m taking a break from the usual routine to tell you a little bit about me and answer two questions posed by fellow authors—who tried to stump me—they failed.

If you don’t already know, I’m an enrolled descendant of the Karuk Tribe of California. Combining police, private investigator, and corporate experience, I have about forty years of investigative experience. Earning a BA – History from California State University – Hayward took me a dozen years of poor scholarship. Nearly four decades later, I returned to school at Las Positas College. I took a break to earn an MFA-Creative Writing Program from the Institute of American Indian Arts, Santa Fe, before finishing an AA in English from Las Positas.

I was fortunate to conduct and manage thousands of investigations throughout the Americas, Europe, and Asia. After forced retirement, I kept my investigative skills honed by volunteering as an investigator at the San Leandro, California, Police Department.

I want to begin with a shout-out to an incredible mentor, Ramona Ausubel. Ramona was one of my mentors at the Institute of American Indian Arts. She is a fantastic author, and her latest novel THE LAST ANIMAL is the People Magazine Book of the Week. PRE-ORDER NOW!

Besides writing, my passion was long-distance motorcycle riding on my 2001 Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic—my first scooter was a 1959 or 60 Honda 50 (I got stopped for drag racing on it). My sixty-year biker life ended last year when an accident left me with several broken bones—it wasn’t the first time.

Shelley Riley asks: What inspired you first to start telling tall tales? I’m not one of those who has been writing all their life. I was about to turn sixty-seven when the most incredible place I ever worked, PALM, was bought out, and the layoffs began. I ran security and investigations and got advance notice of pending layoffs. Near the end, my name came through.

Feeling strong and unprepared to retire, I began an unsuccessful job search. I learned all about age discrimination. I had sworn never to enter a Senior Center until a writing class was offered. I falsely believed it would help my stellar resume, so I signed up.

To my surprise, it was a fiction writing class. Amazingly, I fell in love with writing and gave up looking for any other type of work. I have two stand-alone novels, and Book One in the New Liberty – A Hector Miguel Navarro series comes out in a few weeks.

Michael A. Black asks: Your writing of dialogue in your books is fresh and realistic, yet it also moves the story along. What tips would you give to other writers for writing convincing and authentic dialogue? I learned early on that I had to leave out the normal jibber-jabber that occurs in our everyday conversations. However, dialogue has to seem natural and to the point, adding to the plot and character development. When I began writing, I included a lot of unnecessary chit-chat. With rewriting and the help of Critters, I started writing more explicit dialogue—there has to be a reason. I ask myself: Why am I writing this? I cut, reevaluate, and rewrite if the conversation is unclear or without purpose. Occasionally, the dialogue seems to wander. When this happens, I’m laying the groundwork for a future event or character development of someone not in the conversation.

I try to add a touch of humor at least once in each chapter, helping humanize my characters.

May will be busy as New Liberty is released, and I will be doing readings and book signings. I hope you can join me at one or more events.

1. 5/9/2023 – New Liberty release – available for pre-order
2. 5/10/2023 – I will moderate the Upstate South Carolin Sisters-in-Crime Mystery Book Club. Michael A. Black with be discussing Chimes at Midnight.
3. 5/13/2023 – Las Positas College Literary Festival – Book signing with local and indigenous authors. Tommy Orange is the keynote speaker. It’s FREE!
4. 5/18/2023 – Barnes & Noble, El Cerrito, 6:00 – 7:330 – Book signing with Lisa Towles
5. 5/20/2023 – NorCal Spring Author Showcase, Orinda Books, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. – I will read and sign
6. 5/272023 Barnes & Noble, Dublin – 1:00 – 3:00 Book signing.
7. 5/28/2023 – Barnes & Nobel, Walnut Creek – 2:00 – 4:00 p.m Book signing

You can find me at:

California Writers Club – Mt. Diablo
Crime Writers of Color
Sisters-in-Crime – NorCal
Sisters-in-Crime – Colorado
Sisters-in-Crime – Coastal Cruisers
Mystery Writers of America – NorCal

If you can, pop over to Lois Winston’s blog. Her guest today has the initials: GDC.

Links for my books:
The Mona Lisa Sisters
Robbers and Cops
New Liberty -Book 1 in the Hector Miguel Navarro Series



  1. Violet Moore

    Your schedule looks exciting and busy. Good to see you skipped the author persona for a special birthday as a beach bum.

    • George Cramer

      It is good to be visiting the beach. I watched surfers in their wet suits yesterday. We young and foolish ones wore bathing suits, nor did we have tethers. I never learned to swim, so I rode the waves back in or treaded water.

  2. Steve Simpson

    Hi George !
    Happy Birthday !
    Thank you for being the person you are ! I have certainly enjoyed the times shared on the rides you organized and coordinated. Your kindness, warm personality and enthusiasm has always given me a sense of inclusion and friendship. I truly appreciate you, and all the joy and wisdom give freely to your friends !
    Thank you, have a Wonderful Birthday !

    • George Cramer

      Hi Steve,
      I always got more from our riders than I could ever give. Thanks for the kind words.
      Take Care & Stay Safe

  3. John Bluck

    You helped me a lot with my writing. I’m very grateful. Your books are wonderful. Cheers!

    • George Cramer

      Thank you John, especially for the support you have directed my way.

  4. Glenda F Carroll

    It is a pleasure to read about you and your writing habits.

    • George Cramer

      Thanks, Glenda. You just might be much more interesting.

      • McMahon Jim

        Congratulations on your success!

        • George Cramer

          Thanks, Jim. It’s been a while. Stay Safe

  5. Michael A. Black

    Happy birthday, George and thanks for answering my question about your dialogue writing skills. Your biography reads like a novel in itself. Your indomitable spirit is inspiring, as is your writing talent. You remind me of a real life Travis McGee. I’m looking forward to the release of New Liberty. Thanks for all you do to help other writers. Stay strong,

    • George Cramer

      Thanks to you, Big Mike, for all that you do to help your brother and sister writers. Take Care & Stay Safe.

  6. Karen A Phillips

    Fun to learn more about you, George! Happy Birthday! And I have to ask, did you ride your motorcycle sans helmet?

    • George Cramer

      What happened? I coulda sworn I responded to you with thanks.

      I didn’t own a helmet until I was about 30 and strapped ’em on the back when I was in states without helmet laws. I was glad that I had one on when I went down a few times. I was especially happy when I went down in Oregon and got a life flight to the hospital.


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L. C. HAYDEN – Research is Invaluable

Hayden is the author of the popular Harry Bronson and Aimee Brent mystery series. Her books have hit the Pennsylvania Top 40, the B&N Top 10, and the Kindle Best Seller Lists. Her works have been finalists for the Agatha, LCC, Silver Falchion, and Reader’s Choice Awards.

Her angel/miracle series are International Best Sellers.

Hayden is also a popular speaker. She presents workshops, has spoken to clubs, and major cruise lines have hired her to speak while cruising worldwide. From October 2006 to October 2007, Hayden hosted Mystery Writers of America’s only talk show, Murder Must Air.

Kuyuidokado, Nevada’s Paiute’s chief councilman, is murdered.
When reporter Aimee Brent arrives at the reservation, she stumbles upon secrets—secrets that could lead to her death. It’s up to Aimee to unravel them before more people fall victim to the grand scheme of That Last Ghost Dance.

Do you write in more than one genre? Yep, I most definitely do. In addition to thrillers, mysteries, and suspense, I’ve done children’s books to honor my grandkids. When my first grandson was little, I entertained him by telling him stories, most of which I made up. Then it dawned on me, why not write them down and publish them so he’d have something to hold on to? I also do a series of inspirational stories, true accounts about people who have experienced a miracle or an angel in their lives. I’ve also done paranormal, how-to, young adult, and others. But my love remains with the mystery and the inspirational genre.

What brought you to writing? That’s something that’s always been in my blood. I was born to tell stories. My latest release, That Last Ghost Dance has a bit of a different answer. For some reason or the other, I’ve always been fascinated by the American Natives. I recently had my DNA done, and I found out I’m mostly Native American! History has shown us how much they have suffered, and I wanted to honor them. That Last Ghost Dance is set in the Paiute’s Pyramid Lake Reservation, and the book was released in November 2022, Native American Month.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process? Having confidence in myself. I write something and feel it will not hold the readers’ interest. That’s when I turn to my readers. I send them what I’ve written and ask for their honest opinion. When they tell me all’s going well, and they’re eager to read the rest, then I’m free to continue writing with confidence. Weird, eh?

How long to get it published? My story is an overnight success story. I wrote my first novel, and wide-eyed with anticipation and hope, I sent it out to make the rounds. Ten years later, it found a home. Yep, my overnight success only took ten years! My question for that is: self-pub, where were you back then?


We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave or run wild? My two favorite series that I write are the Harry Bronson Thrillers Series and the Aimee Brent. I find both of them to be strong-willed. So much so that they take me down these rabbit holes that bring tears to my eyes as I write about their experiences. I feel their pain and sorrow. I feel threatened when they are threatened. But I also feel their joy and love. I root for their success and, at times, wonder if they will succeed.

Do your protagonists ever disappoint you? I wouldn’t exactly say disappoint me. Instead, they intrigue me. They put themselves in such dangerous situations that I don’t know how they’ll get out. However, in my latest, That Last Ghost Dance, one of my major characters makes a terrible mistake that not only disappoints me but also sends Aimee spiraling down. I tried to fix his mistake, but at this point, it seemed unfixable, and my heart ached for Aimee.

Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? I strongly believe in subplots. We, humans, have more than one thing at a time going on. Why wouldn’t our characters? My subplots are stories themselves that need to be told and developed. Each subplot stems from the character’s point of view and is therefore incorporated into the main plot line. Like the main story, the subplots have crises and tensions that directly affect the plot and characters.

Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I am definitely a pantser. From the beginning, I know how the story will begin and end. But I have no idea how I’ll get there. Sometimes, the person I thought was guilty isn’t. That, of course, surprises me, which in turn, I believe will surprise the reader. I love the thrill of not knowing what’s going to happen next. Of course, this means that I often have to go back and foreshadow something, re-write a scene, or face that dreadful writer’s block. But I don’t mind. I do, however, advise aspiring authors to outline so they won’t have to face all the problems we pantsers encounter.

What kind of research do you do? Firsthand when possible. Visit the place, take lots of pictures, and make important contacts. For example, for That Last Ghost Dance, I visited the reservation and met folks who would be willing to answer the multitude of questions that would arise as I wrote the story. I believe that by being there, I can capture the place’s atmosphere.


  1. Kate Wiederkehr

    Love your books!! They always keep me captivated!

    • L. C. Hayden

      Thanks, Kate. So sweet of you to say that!

  2. Susane (Kathie) Hamilton

    That was a GREAT interview and I really enjoyed it, just as I enjoy your books!!! The Last Ghost Dance was such an amazing read and I enjoyed it so much!! I loved hearing how you put your thoughts and words into such great adventures!! You have A special talent for making your characters have such a good impact on your readers!! I’m really looking forward to more Aimee Brent books and I am really curious to see what Bronson gets himself into next!! Great Interview and I’m really ready for more of your great stories!!!!!

    • L. C. Hayden

      Thanks, Kathie. I’m so glad to hear you’re looking forward to more Aimee Brent and Bronson books. Here’s a hint: I’m writing the next Bronson novel and Bronson’s niece gets kidnapped.

  3. Michael A. Black

    It sounds like you’re a born storyteller and it’s great that continuing in a great Native American tradition of telling stories. Best of luck to you in your writing. you are an inspitation.

    • L. C. Hayden

      Aww, Michael, that’s kind of you to say that. I never thought about it, but I was born a storyteller. Even as a little girl (not that I’m much bigger now!) I always enjoyed making up stories and telling them.

  4. Ana

    Great interview and amazing author L.C. Hayden. Enjoy very much reading her books. Haven”t read That Last Ghost Dance, but definitely has piqued my interest to read it.

    • Dee Gott

      Great interview!

      • L. C. Hayden

        Thanks, Dee. George did a super job!

    • L. C. Hayden

      Thanks, Ana, for reading my books! I really appreciate that! Hope you get a chance to read That Last Ghost Dance.

    • George Cramer

      Believe me, The Last Ghost Dance is a good read–you’ll enjoy it.

      • L. C. Hayden

        Thanks, George. And thanks for a great interview. I enjoyed doing it!


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KASSANDRA LAMB – The Bittersweet Task of Letting Go of Old Friends (i.e., Characters)

In her youth, Kassandra Lamb had two great passions—psychology and writing. Advised that writers need day jobs—and being partial to eating—she studied psychology. Her career as a psychotherapist and college professor taught her much about the dark side of human nature but also much about resilience, perseverance, and the healing power of laughter. Now retired, she spends most of her time in an alternate universe populated by her fictional characters. The portal to this universe (aka her computer) is located in North Central Florida, where her husband and dog catch occasional glimpses of her.


Should auld acquaintance be forgot

The last year has been eventful for Marcia and her husband, Will. They’ve successfully launched their private investigation agency and completed their family with an adorable but creatively energetic baby girl. They’re about to ring in the New Year with friends and neighbors, but there’s something more than champagne bubbling in Mayfair, Florida.

The octogenarian matriarch of the town is always looking for ways to boost the community’s economy. Her latest scheme is the addition of a row of shops along Main Street. But a few of her new tenants have something more nefarious in mind than simply selling their wares.

When old hostilities set off New Year’s fireworks, a shopkeeper ends up dead, and two friends of Marcia’s are prime suspects. Determined to clear them, Marcia and Will—with Buddy’s help, of course—set out to uncover the real Grim Reaper.

I’m ending a mystery series this month for the second time in my writing career. And letting go of old friends, i.e., the series’ characters, is not any easier this time around.

There are lots of good reasons for ending a series, one of them being that the main character(s) have reached the culmination of their character arc. They start out with flaws, issues, neuroses to overcome, and over the course of the series, they mature and grow.

When it gets to the point where those issues are mostly resolved, their arc is complete, and it’s time to let go.

I’m happy for my main characters, Marcia and her husband. Their lives are going well, and they have an adorable baby girl now. I’m happy they will get to enjoy the fruits of their labor. (And I’m excited about the new series I’m starting.)

But on the other hand, it feels like good friends—or maybe grown children would be a better analogy—are moving to the other side of the world. It’s not just that they are going away, but I won’t be keeping in touch with them. I won’t know what’s happening in their lives. No phone calls, no emails, no texts!

And it’s not just the main characters I will miss. These stories were set in a small fictitional Florida town called Mayfair, a town I have grown to love as much as Marcia does.

I’m going to miss all the quirky neighbors—the octogenarian town matriarch who wears brightly colored muumuus and flip-flops, and the regal Black woman, a retired schoolteacher, who lives next door and who always has a pitcher of iced tea in her fridge and some sound advice to offer.

And even more secondary characters—the matriarch’s niece, sweet Susanna Mayfair, who shares Marcia’s love of horses, and her son Dexter, not the brightest bulb in the package but a truly loveable guy. And Marcia’s friends, the Mayfair diner’s owner Jess, and Marcia’s fellow service dog trainer, Carla, and her best friend, Becky. Oh, and Marcia’s mom and her new stepfather.

Most of these characters have also grown and changed over the course of the 13-book series. And I feel like they are my friends and neighbors too.

But I’m leaving them and Mayfair behind. I won’t be able to stroll down its streets again—the fictitious Black Lab Buddy on his leash—waving at folks or stopping to gossip.

Yes, it’s time to let Marcia and her crew have some peace and quiet. No more murderers or other culprits will be coming their way, making life scary and difficult in their little town. I’m happy for them.

But I’m sure gonna miss all those good folks!





  1. Kassandra Lamb

    Thank you so much, George, for having me as a guest.

    • George Cramer

      Glad you were able to stop by and share your story with us.

  2. Pamela Ruth Meyer

    I enjoyed this emotion-evoking and fun post, Kassandra. Thanks. Your explanation for why you choose to stop writing a series is clear and logical. What do you think of series that don’t seem to quit even after the couple is married with children and happy? For instance, Victoria Thompson’s Gaslight Mysteries Series or some TV shows like Bones. So many still enjoy them–maybe insert here that I still enjoy them–and they have many readers/viewers. Do you think that in these cases, the characters are still growing and changing?

    • Kassandra Lamb

      I do think that series are sometimes extended beyond their natural end. Sometimes I can’t help wondering if it’s because the author and/or publisher wants to keep making money off a successful series, so they keep it going when they probably shouldn’t.

      TV shows perhaps fall into a different category. I’m a huge Law and Order, Special Victims fan, and they’re going on their twenty-something season, and it still seems fresh to me…but they’ve had a lot of characters come and go. Those new characters can develop and change, and Olivia Benson and Fin provide the continuity (and they’ve changed as well over the years).

  3. Kassandra Lamb

    I always leave the door ever so slightly ajar, Michael. I might very well write another novella or two down the road.

  4. Michael A. Black

    Parting is such sweet sorrow… But don’t close the door completely. Maybe, down he road, you’ll find your way back to Mayfair again. Good luck.


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DONNA DARLING – Mystery in Puerto Rico

Donna Darling writes short stories and novels for readers of all ages. Her debut novel, an historical fiction titled The Three Marias, is inspired by her Puerto Rican roots. When not writing, she enjoys sketching her characters or drawing a scene from her story.

She is a member of the California Writers Club and belongs to a writer’s group of published authors who meet weekly.

Donna lives in Northern California with her family. She enjoys traveling and weaving stories with history.

Puerto Rico, 1895. Three sisters are embroiled in rebellion, betrayal, and lost love. A secret threatens their bond when caught in a web of murder during the Spanish American War. After the massive hurricane of 1899, the three Marias are faced with the difficult choice to stay and rebuild or leave their home and their land.

Answering a few of George’s questions:

I write short stories, flash fiction, and novels. I’ve tried poems and children’s, but it’s not my “thing.” I started writing when my children were small. I remember writing a story for each one to match their personality and age.

My son cried when he heard The Giving Tree by Shell Silverstein, then saw a gray hair on my head. He thought it was all over. I wrote an additional page for him, with an illustration at the end. Sorry Mr. Silverstein—Then I started coloring my hair.

Subplots are fun for me, and I think they keep the reader interested. Too many, and you lose them. It’s a balance, and you do have to keep the thread going. Remember to tie it all together at the end for a satisfying finish, and it’s a winner in my mind.

Although I do steal ideas from real life, I do not use real people in my stories. In The Three Marias, the characters are fictional, set against a backdrop of actual historical events in Puerto Rico during the Spanish American War.

Research is important, and sometimes I get lost in it. I’m fascinated by history and envision my characters living through historical events. I place them in the setting. What is going on around them? What trees or plants are native to their area? Wildlife? I think about my character’s daily life. What do they eat? What music do they listen to? How do they hear it? Live, or is there a phonograph, radio, or other? How do they speak? Formal or slang? Is there an accent? I research fashion, hair, and anything that might influence my character. What is happening in the world during that time? It takes time, but everything adds to the story.

It took me about ten years to write The Three Marias. Life happened. I took breaks and returned to the project that captured my heart. I hope you enjoy reading The Three Marias, available on Amazon.

Here’s a link to my book, available on Amazon:
Link to my Facebook page:


  1. Brian

    Has all the elements – Machetes and pistols, strong women in a patriarchy that tests them, civil war and a love story to boot! Telemundo are you listening?
    Congratulations Donna. Now onto the sequel. 😆

  2. Josephine E Mele

    Donna bring life on the plantation to life. We feel the loss her family suffers both emotionally and financially during the revolution. It’s a story of family, determination, and courage. We cheer on the three Marias and hope for the best.

  3. Camille Minichino

    Highly recommended! Donna’s family is so well characterized you’ll think they’re your neighbors. A great story.

  4. Alexandra Gomes

    Thank you Donna for taking the time over the years to write your book. I didn’t really know much about the history of PR but with all the details page by page it really transported you to that time. You can definitely tell alot of research went into Three Maria’s. Can’t wait for more to come!

  5. Marie Sutro

    It is so easy to get lost in research. Love the hair dye story!!

  6. Michael A. Black

    Good for you for amending The Giving Tree for your son. I hope you gave it a happy ending. You sound like you do a lot of research for your books. Best of luck to you with your writing.

  7. Karen A Phillips

    I feel so good when I hear another author say their novel took many years to write. My first novel took ten years, also! And very good point about too many subplots and you lose the reader. And about the importance of tying it all together at the end for a satisfying finish.


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J.L. GREGER – It’s Wise to Take Advice from Your Characters

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, Murder: A Way to Lose Weight, Games for Couples; Dirty Holy Water, Fair Compromises, and seven others. For more info, see:



Experts on writing sometimes say, “There are two types of writers—plotters, and pantsers. I think that’s an oversimplification because I suspect ninety percent of writers are both. I also think that mystery and thriller writers do more plotting than romance writers because the details of the plot are generally more intricate. (It will be interesting to see if readers of this blog will disagree with my assumptions.)

Pantsers (people who write by the seat of their pants) often say, “I just listen to my characters when I write.” As a writer of mysteries and thrillers, I think plotting is essential. But I admit, my characters or the location often demand a change in the plot.

Let me give you an example. I knew from the first inception of my newest novel Bungle in the Jungle, that it would be a thriller. I didn’t want to write a mystery like Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile about a small group in an isolated location on a river cruise. I wanted to write about the real world. So, I set the novel mainly in Manaus—a crime-ridden metropolis on the Amazon River—which serves as a gateway for tourists and entrepreneurs to the Amazon biome.

The more I thought about Manaus, the more I realized this thriller had to have lots of action. I couldn’t send my protagonist—scientist Sara Almquist—to a medical conference on tropical diseases (like malaria and Dengue fever) and have her uncover clues over drinks in a bar or on tours of medical labs. She needed to be thrown into the milieux of this gritty city. That meant it was logical for Sara to be mugged. Generally, I avoid writing scenes in which the middle-aged Sara must physically defend herself without the help of professional law enforcement officers, but Sara “thought” it was necessary.

The more I thought about Manaus, I realized it was a bit like the Western U.S. before 1860. The city is isolated. It takes time for help to arrive from the rest of Brazil. Although mid-size ocean liners sail to the port of Manaus on the Amazon, it takes more than three days for a ship to sail from Manaus to major Brazilian cities on the Atlantic coast. (Please note: Manaus is a thousand miles inland on the Amazon River.) The road and railroad systems to Manaus are pathetic. It takes two days to drive from Manaus to Brasília and even longer to reach São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro. One of the characters in my novel describes Manaus as “like an island in the South Pacific surrounded by jungle instead of ocean.”

Hence, my characters “told” me they should be free to solve their problems in their own ways. (Please note: Gun control laws in Brazil are almost non-existent. Corruption of all types is prevalent in central Brazil.) The net result was Sara and her boyfriend Sanders participated in more “irregular” actions than in previous novels.

One of the problems with writing a thriller with lots of action is it’s harder to develop the characters. Thus, I started the novel with an argument between Sara and Sanders. I continued this underlying tension between the two main characters throughout the book. The characters “thought “this allowed them to establish a new norm in their relationship by the conclusion of the novel.

Here’s the start of Bungle in the Jungle:

“Your plan won’t work.”
“Yes, it will.”
“No, it won’t.”
Sanders’s upper lip quivered. “It will, if you are your usual talkative, do-gooder self.”
Sara Almquist ignored Eric Sanders’s uppity tone. He’d become more edgy since he’d been assigned to head the U.S. diplomatic mission to Brazil. It wasn’t surprising. He was the temporary replacement for a U.S. ambassador who had become too enmeshed in Brazilian politics. Sanders had been warned not to make the same mistake. The State Department hadn’t even conferred the title of ambassador on him but had given Sanders the title of chargé d’affaires.

Do you agree with the characters that their relationship needs to be fixed?

The bottom line: Plot your story carefully and then take advice from your characters and their location.

I hope you enjoy what my characters “decided” to do after they and I, as the author, accepted the limitations and glories of the breathtaking Amazon River. And the surrounding jungle.

Blurb for Bungle in the Jungle:

The U.S. consulate in Manaus, Brazil, is a Bungle in the Jungle. Can Sara Almquist and the new Acting Ambassador to Brazil figure out how the consulate staff became enmeshed in the illegal international trade of drugs and cultural artifacts?

Bungle in the Jungle is in press and should be available by the time you read this blog. Check my Amazon webpage:





  1. Barbara Hodges

    I’m looking forward to reading this, Janet. It’s always fun to see what Sara is up to. Hopefully, the issues with print cover are over.

    • J. L. Greger

      Thanks for the comment. Thank you also for designing the mysterious cover.

  2. Marisa

    “As a writer of mysteries and thrillers, I think plotting is essential.”

    I’ve found this true for myself as well. I consider myself a pantser, but there are times when I stop and outline as well so that everything makes sense. Great post, and congrats on your new book release!

    • J. L. Greger

      thanks for your comments. Sometimes, I think the difference in plotters and panthers is overrated because most of us are a blend. I also think even mysteries vary in how much pre-plotting they need.

  3. Bruce Lewis

    Love the writing and location choice.

    • J. L. Greger

      Thanks for the comment.
      Modern Brazil in general and Manaus specifically are really complex places. I think the reader will get a view of Brazil missed by people who only have seen shots of Rio during Carnival.

  4. Michael A. Black

    Congratulations, Janet on your new humdinger of a thriller book. Your description of how you worked out the plot is almost like a story in itself. Best of luck with Bungle in the Jungle.

    • J. L. Greger

      Thanks for the comment.

      I should mention that Sanders being appointed the U.S. charge d’ affaires to Brazil is pretty close to the truth. In 2020 there were comments in the U.S. Senate that the U.S. ambassador to Brazil had gotten too involved in Brazilian politics. I guess he wasn’t officially removed but he resigned. The U.S. government appointed a charge d’ affaires, not an ambassador, to Brazil. for those who want to check facts: a permanent ambassador has now been appointed to Brazil


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