VERA CHAN – Reporter – Editor – Author

Vera Chan, Murderers’ Feast in Midnight Hour: A Chilling Anthology of Crime Fiction by 20 Authors of Color, edited by Abby L. Vandiver

Vera Chan has likely published a million words — most of them true. The former reporter and editor marks her fiction debut with Murderers’ Feast in the Midnight Hour anthology edited by Abby Vandiver. A UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism alum, she has worked at daily newspapers and the world’s biggest online destinations covering everything from lifestyle and entertainment to news features and search trends. Her mystery-in-progress Following won her the Sisters in Crime’s Eleanor Taylor Bland award. Her unpublished humor novel The Mounted Position garnered second place for fiction at the inaugural Effie Lee Morris Women’s National Book Association Literary Awards, San Francisco Chapter. Both manuscripts are out on submission through the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency. Her day job is as senior manager, worldwide journalism relations at Microsoft.

“Men had been murdered for less. And yet John Manley still lived. Five days, surrounded by false friends and his truest enemies. Every last one of them, cowards.

My short story Murderers’ Feast is what I call corporate noir. It’s dark yet tongue-in-cheek, about an insufferable gazillionaire throwing a five-day retreat with people he has screwed over. The story even includes kombucha (which runs freely in some corporate cafeterias) as a deadly weapon.

Like many journalists, I’ve always wanted to write fiction. As a kid, I devoured books, gravitating to British classics like Martin Pippin in the Apple Orchard, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Pride and Prejudice, Rebecca. Mystery has always been a favorite genre, and there too, British authors dominated childhood favorites (e.g., Agatha Christie, G.K. Chesterton, Dorothy Sayers, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle). That said, nothing tops Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe & Archie Goodwin canon. I’ve even sought out radio plays and various screen interpretations. Sadly, nothing has captured the series’ trenchant charm (imagine a young Robert Downey Jr. as Goodwin). I’ll refrain from ranting about how Hollywood grievously lags behind the Brits in honoring its mystery classics with a cinematic treatment and charismatic casting.

Having my fiction debut alongside the works by established authors is miraculous. I joined Crime Writers of Color (CWOC), an association founded by award-winning authors Kellye Garrett, Gigi Pandian, and the legendary Walter Mosley. What’s brilliant is how the group embraces not just published authors but also emerging writers, which makes a huge difference in trying to navigate an already challenging field. Abby Vandiver proposed an anthology in a Groups.IO thread, and Midnight Hour came together in stunning speed — during a pandemic. The miracle is how nobody questioned having a newbie in the mix: I keep waiting for someone to say, “How the hell did this one sneak in?” So far, I haven’t been found out.

I must confess, while I’m giddy about being part of a groundbreaking anthology, the kicker for me is that Midnight Hour will be at Target! I shop locally when I can and boycott chains that don’t compensate employees fairly. I’ve revered Target for many reasons, among them as a place that made high design accessible to plebes, even with something as prosaic as a broom.

Getting into publishing hasn’t been easy: I often joke, grimly, that I’m trying to break into an industry even more challenging than journalism. (I use a more colorful term than “challenging.”) Finding my spectacular agent took years; now, she suffers on my behalf in the excruciating pace of submissions, made worse by the pandemic. My decision to go “traditional” rather than self-publish lies partly in my “traditional” journalism route and because of my parents. My father was trained as a chemist and my mother an English teacher: When they escaped the Cultural Revolution to the United States, they ran their own mercantile and restaurant businesses. Witnessing their sacrifices made me leery to pursue an entrepreneurial route. Plus, reasonable or not, I feel writing is a wonderful indulgence and a privilege that I can justify by making it part of a larger business.

As for those stories on submission: The Mounted Position is about shy hapless tech writer Abba Welles-Lee who, despite being practiced in the arts of evading intimacy, finds herself dragooned into the bruising yet comical world of martial arts. (The title refers to a mat wrestling maneuver.) Finding an agent took so long, I wrote Following, which centers around amateur private eye Brenna Hom, tasked with spying on the wayward children of moneyed Asian parents during the most accelerated pace of digital communication innovation in the history of the world.

 I’ve been so restless about those books making the rounds that I’m writing a third — a mystery satire about a series of deaths accompanied by messages written in excruciating business jargon.

As you might guess, work is the pattern, which may explain why I also like police procedurals. Indeed, this draft could be pitched as Janet Evanovich meets Ed McBain.

The other commonality is martial arts: Watching (too) many kung fu movies with stellar fighting women has made me impatient with stories featuring insipid females. And yes, those Hong Kong action films inspired me to take martial arts, where I met my husband. I’m not great, but I’m still at it after 35 years and volunteer-teach at Cal.

Because whether it’s work, play, or getting published, it’s about putting up the good fight. Thanks, George, for letting me get a couple of rounds in your marvelous blog.

This link will take you to my website: http://verahcchan.com/

This link will take you to all the outlets where you will find Midnight Hour: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/673674/midnight-hour-by-abby-l-vandiver/

1 Comment

  1. Michael A. Black

    Congratulations on your story being in the anthology. That’s always a great feeling, especially if it’s your first one. Best of luck to you.

    Reply

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LISA TOWLES – More Joy, Please!

Helping other writers is my passion

Why? I didn’t have a lot of help in the early part of my writing journey, and so I feel driven to use what I’ve haphazardly learned to help other writers cultivate a better beginning to their journey – by showing them how to get help, feel supported, and stay inspired. One of the ways I do that is by writing and speaking about Writer Self Care.

Obviously, writing is what you love. Now it’s time to get serious about loving what you do.

How? Minimize what you don’t like to do as a means of building more JOY into your daily process. I’m specifically talking about writing, but this idea works in many contexts. So how do you do that? Start with self-reflection.

For this part, we need to get off the treadmill, so to speak, long enough to gain a perspective on what we’re doing. Take an afternoon off from writing or a day or two to rest your hands, rest your brain, and create some space to assess and recalibrate.

Which parts of your writing life and process bring you the most happiness and satisfaction? Research?

And which parts do you dread because they drain your life force? Editing? Marketing? Promotion and outreach?

Let’s dig into this a bit because I have good news: there’s a way around the pain. I know what you’re thinking, though. You’re a writer, so that means you’re gritty, and you’re accustomed to pushing through obstacles. That’s a good thing. But you might also be wasting a lot of time and creative energy agonizing about what you don’t want to do, finding ways to procrastinate, and ultimately not meeting your writing goals.

Here’s a solution: Outsourcing.

Outsourcing is an old concept primarily based on supply chain engineering and the economics of leveraging available resources. The aim is efficiency and cost-savings (and there are many definitions of “costs”). The vast benefits include reducing the size of your to-do list, leveraging specialists who have expertise in the areas you need, and saving you time.

Another benefit I’ve discovered is that the feeling of having people on my writing/publishing “team” helps me feel more supported, more empowered, and less alone.

Examples:

I hired a graphic designer to design a book cover for me, and now she’s designed a few social media ads that are sized correctly for each platform (Facebook, Instagram, etc.).

In preparation for my forthcoming book release, I’d been searching for someone to help me with social media – not so much posting, but more like ad placement, targeting, and trafficking. So through a marketing friend, I found a social media manager who’s been helping me with Facebook and Instagram ads and advising me on hashtag strategies, audience targeting, and timing. It feels so wonderful to have a grownup sitting at the table with me to help coordinate and manage the parts of the process I’m not good at, and I’ve learned so much from her.

Where to get help:

For the parts of the writing and publishing process that you dread, maybe there’s someone who finds joy in those specific tasks. And maybe the work they do for you will help bring refinement and visibility to their skills. And by getting support for these things, you’ll be freeing up more of your time and mental energy for the things you love doing most (more joy).

If you’re traditionally published, your publisher or agent might have resources available for you to consult with or a list of trusted vendors you can hire to perform the work for you.

How do you decide whether to outsource or not? You might want to create a mailing list and start publishing monthly email newsletters. Consider why you need this resource, whether this feels like the right time for it, how hard it would be to learn it yourself, and how much you’re willing to pay a freelancer to do it for you. The upcoming Sisters in Crime NorCal workshop on October 16th will include an author panel on developing author newsletters featuring bestselling authors MM Chouinard and Gigi Pandian. Click here to register.

Most people think of the writer’s journey as being very solitary. But as I’ve grown as a writer, I’m realizing that writing is a team sport, and the process works better that way – for you and for the team that’s supporting your success.

One of the most important symbols of self-care is saying no. And outsourcing some of your most unpleasant tasks is a compassionate way to maintain boundaries, prioritize your mental wellness, and keep yourself pumped up for what you want to do most – create!

To learn more about Writer Self Care, check out this blog post: https://digitalraconteur.wordpress.com/2021/08/01/self-care-for-writers/

And to stay updated on my book and writing news, you can subscribe to my email newsletter here: http://eepurl.com/hFmk8P.

Till next time,

Lisa Towles

Lisa Towles is the author of the award-winning crime novels Choke and The Unseen. Her 7th novel, Ninety-Five, will be released in November of 2021. Learn more about Ninety-Five and read a sample here: https://www.indiesunited.net/ninety-five.

 

 

15 Comments

  1. Michelle Chouinard

    Love this post! Love the resources for hiring help. You really are a person who loves to help others, and I’m very lucky to know you. You inspire me!

    Reply
  2. Glenda Carroll

    I couldn’t agree more to taking a break. In a few days, the creativity switch turns to go. Thanks for this encouraging, informative article.

    Reply
  3. Heidi Noroozy

    Great advice, Lisa! I’m looking forward to learning more from you at the SinC workshop tomorrow.

    Reply
  4. Susan Alice Bickford

    Nice reminders!

    Reply
  5. Joseph Bryce HAGGERTY Sr

    Wow, how enlightening. I hate marketing and putting things on social media drives me crazy. I have created three different websites, which I can’t even find now and I’m trying to open something up with Amazon publishing without success. I feel like such a dummy. What you’ve written in this blog will hopefully help, if I can afford it.

    Reply
  6. Ana

    Lisa I’m blessed to have you on my team! Good advice and excellent recommendations. Thanks! And to you too George for your wonderful, informative blog. I’ve “met” many new authors and learn something new every post.

    Reply
  7. Kathleen Rockwood

    Delightful post! So encouraging to know there are people like this out there.

    Reply
  8. C. F. Francis

    Thank you so much for not making us feel like we have to do it all and, if we can’t, we’re failing. Marketing and social media are my nemesis. I spend way too much time trying to figure them out (unsuccessfully, I might add) when I’d rather be writing.

    Reply
  9. Mar Preston

    I thought I had to do it all. Learn every new platform and gimmick. You’re so right, Lisa. I’ve used fiverr and had 4 out of 5 good experiences. Maybe if funds were low you could barter for someone else’s work. Good writing advice.

    Reply
    • LISA TOWLES

      Excellent point about bartering. I’m finding that we’re all good at something that someone else isn’t. Thank you for reading and for your kind comment. 🙂

      Reply
  10. Julie Royce

    We need more successful writers like Lisa–upbeat, knowledgeable, and willing to help.

    Reply
    • LISA TOWLES

      Thank you for reading, Julie, and appreciate your kind comment. Best wishes, Lisa

      Reply
  11. Michael A. Black

    Thanks, Lisa. I found this one very interesting and full of good advice. You’re right, writing is a lonely profession and it’s nice to find people like yourself who’ve gone through the school of hard knocks and are willing to help others. Thanks and best of luck to you.

    Reply
    • LISA TOWLES

      Thank you Michael, lovely to meet you! 🙂

      Reply

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NANCI RATHBUN – Don’t Miss Out on the Listening Experience

Nanci Rathbun is the author of four mystery/crime thriller novels available in print, ebook, and audiobook format. Look for the PI Angelina Bonaparte Crime Thrillers at your favorite retailer—in whatever format you prefer.

 

The audiobook market has grown from forty-two million in 2013 to over two billion in 2019. But there are those who dispute whether listening is ‘cheating.’ Is it equivalent to reading? Or is it somehow ‘less’?

My personal prejudices came to a full stop in 2016, after a severe reaction to meds following cataract surgery. I spent weeks in the dark, unable to solace myself with reading, and reluctantly turned to audio to escape scream-out-loud boredom and recenter my focus outside of my painful situation.

A whole new world opened up to me during that rough patch. A world of voice acting that took me back to my childhood as an Army brat living overseas and listening to Armed Forces Radio. A world that enticed me to construct characters and settings in my head in a different way from when I read. A world that somehow activated a way of experiencing the written word as visual imagery.

I think we’re wired that way. Our ancestors gathered around fires to hear stories that educated and enlightened, as well as entertained. Wisdom stories like fables taught community values. Stories like Genesis taught the philosophy of existence and humanity’s place in the cosmos, and some stories, like the epic of Gilgamesh, used fictional narrative to exalt heroes and culture.

So are listening and audiobooks a lesser form of reading? Recent brain studies have shown that both reading and listening activate the same areas of the brain, giving evidence that they are on a par neurologically. Listening predates reading by millennia and continues to attract its own unique audience. And listening opens up a world that might not exist to vision-impaired persons and persons who struggle with learning disabilities.

And last but not least, listening to audiobooks allows us to be entertained while accomplishing other tasks that we might find boring, repetitive, or difficult: exercising—I walk farther when listening to an audiobook; cleaning—put on some Motown and get it done faster; driving—long road trips through open prairies or the Utah salt flats don’t make my chin hit my chest; and even dealing with insomnia—YouTube and sleep stories for adults (yes, that’s a thing!) have saved me from many a wakeful night.

So while reading is my choice in general, listening has captured a place in my heart as well. Like a good parent, I can’t claim one sibling is better than the other. Vive la difference!

How do our readers contact you?

Website: https://nancirathbun.com
Email: contact@nancirathbun.com
Links to each book across all retailers: https://tinyurl.com/NanciRathbunBooks
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorNanciRathbun/
Twitter handle: @nancirathbun
Twitter link: https://twitter.com/NanciRathbun
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7199317.Nanci_Rathbun
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Nanci-Rathbun/e/B00E9E7QCI
BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/nanci-rathbun

6 Comments

  1. Madeline Gornell

    Great meeting you, Nanci! I listen to audio books, or BBC audible selections as I fall asleep most nights. I only have one book in audio, only listened to finished product once. Didn’t like the experience! Continued success.

    Reply
  2. Lynn

    Nanci,
    I think you are right. I love reading but at the end of a hard day on the computer my tired eyes welcome a break. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  3. Francelia Belton

    I love, love, love audiobooks! It’s what I listen to everyday on my work commute. I don’t know how I would survive without them. LOL. But I listen to audiobooks for all my drives, walking the park, and sometimes while I am cooking dinner.

    I’m going to add your books to my collection now. Thanks, Nanci! 🙂

    Reply
  4. Marilyn Meredith

    Several of my books are in audio version and I must admit I’ve never listened to them.
    I have listed to many audio books while on long trips and always try to find really long ones so they last. Great blog post!

    Reply
  5. Michael A. Black

    I totally agree with you, Nanci. Audio books are very entertaining. I do most of my listening when I’m driving and it makes the trip really enjoyable. Having a good reader is essential. Several of my books ave been released on audio but I find listening to my own work somewhat problematic. I think you “hear” the prose one way when writing it, and sometimes it sounds different when someone else reads it. But all things considered, I think audio books are great. Best of luck to you with your series, both in print and on audio.

    Reply
    • Nanci Rathbun

      Thanks, Michael. One advantage for authors is that listening to the audio version before publishing the written version can really help you detect problems in phrasing or repetition. All the best to you in your writing journey.

      Reply

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BARBARA BUTTERFIELD – Is currently working on her 60th novel.

Ms. Barbara Butterfield is California-born and raised and currently resides in a suburb of Phoenix, Arizona, where she lives with her favorite feline friend: Baybee.

Romance, integrity, suspense, playfulness, and personal growth are all values that play a vital role in her novels. More importantly, the gospel and spiritual growth are also an aspect of life into which she delves.

Ms. Butterfield has written for many years, her first novel having been penned at the age of fourteen. She also studied writing and journalism, becoming the Editor-In-Chief of the school’s newspaper.

My latest work, “A Curious Christmas,” will be coming out shortly. These days, I primarily write in the military and law enforcement genres, so this light-hearted romance with a touch of psychology, mixed with a healthy dose of poignancy, is a bit different for me.

“A Curious Christmas” synopsis: Alysha Dunsworth is running from haunting memories of tragedy but soon discovers there’s no guarantee of winning the race.

Two recently published novels were a particular favorite to write: “The Last Flag” and its sequel: “Partners in Crime.”

     

 At the time, Charles and Zach, the two leading characters, were co-workers of mine. I used their names because of their personalities and the way they interacted with each other, but the storyline was created.

Because of their inspiration, those books were so much fun to write. Total ‘guy’ books, these two novels don’t even have a leading lady.

The Last Flag goes from Charles and Zach serving in the Marine Corps to Partners in Crime, where we see they have been discharged (honorably, though just barely) and now recruited into the FPI (Federal Piracy Interdiction), which is a division of the FBI and the trouble they get into there. When all is said and done, and the angst and laughter have subsided, Charles and Zach save the day and go from being toast…to heroes. Both are exceptionally entertaining yet complex stories.

So, years ago, friends said, ‘you ought to write a book.’ It seems they got a warped kick out of my letters. One person even complimented me by saying my humorous writing style was a cross between Erma Bombeck and Dave Barry. I have to admit that was quite humbling.

One day, while waiting for the moving van to arrive, I was bored. Everything was packed, except the computer. I sat down and tapped out a single paragraph that later developed into a 7-book series, and that was that. Now, eighteen novels later, I’m still writing.

I write in my living room at a little table that I pull over in front of my easy chair, with my old laptop (that I should replace.)

I write from emotion, which means I feel what I write. Consequently, my books are not written sequentially, but each chapter is written based on how I’m feeling at the time and then inserted where it belongs in the story, like driving from San Francisco to Los Angeles by way of Denver.

Writing comes very easily to me. In twenty years of writing, I can only think of one time that I had ‘writer’s block.’ I had a friend at the time who was a lawyer in Texas, I lamented to him, and within minutes he sent me a 1-page ‘idea.’ I was off and running, and “The Rogue of Port Cuevas” was born (my own 1800’s pirate’s story).

For me, the most challenging aspect of writing is suspense. I’m in too much of a hurry to let my readers know what’s going to happen. So, I have to pace myself. Not always an easy thing to do. That said, the only people that die in my novels are the bad guys. The bad guy in “For Love or Money” was particularly obnoxious, and he did get it good in the end.

I do my research online. Google can be handy. But also, as applicable, my friends can be a resource: an RN (who also edits for me), a retired USAF colonel who was a pilot, a retired USMC captain, etc. I belong to one writers association, and the expertise of its members is also a good resource.

I rarely use an outline to write from. But I have at times, depending on how convoluted the plot/sub-plots are.

My characters are created, but I often use my friend’s names for my characters. I’m fascinated by names, so when I run across one that is particularly interesting, odds are… it’ll turn up in a book.

Another aspect of my writing is that I create the covers. I have used some ‘stock’ photography, but I moved into doing my own cover and interior galleys quite some time ago.

I orchestrate the whole gig: models, locations, props, and costuming. For “Journeys with Jesus,” I produced a music video to compliment the story. It was a unique and moving experience to watch the production unfold and see the story spring to life.

I choreograph the entire production: scene by scene and time it to include both camera time and costume changes. Depending on the complexity, I’ll host a pre-production meeting. In short, it’s a lot of work, but also a lot of fun.

Lastly, hmmm, advice for new writers? Writing can be a special and unusual calling. It can be rewarding and frustrating. Getting into writing is one of the hardest things you will ever attempt. It almost seems as if literary agencies exist merely to reject your work, thereby kicking you to the proverbial emotional curb. Roll with it, learn, and keep going.

I self-publish for this very reason. It still gets the book out there where people can read it and like it. In my case, people love my work and have told me so. But all I get from agencies are rejections. Hence, I self-publish…and keep going.

Also, writing doesn’t pay, not until you build a name and reputation, and that can be a long, hard climb, and it surely doesn’t happen overnight, if at all. So, you write not for the money, but because it is the heart of who you are.

So, in short, write. If there’s a story inside of you, it will find a way to make itself known.

Also, you never write a final copy when you first sit down at the computer. You will write and then fix it. Then read it, and change it. Eventually, you’ll end up with a manuscript that is just the way you want it.   If you’re having a hard time starting, just sit down, jot out a paragraph and see where it leads. Remember, you don’t always need a map to see where the road may lead.

Readers are welcome to contact me at my email babsbutterfield@hotmail.com. Books may be purchased through any online retailer like amazon.com or Barnes & Noble, etc.

 

2 Comments

  1. Gail Chavez

    It has been such a joy working with Barb and reading her books. A few are not my cup of tea and she has shared that is the writer’s prerogative. But I love reading them and about the characters she creates. Journey’s with Jesus is one of my favorites. Keep writing Barb and never let go of the dream.

    Reply
  2. Michael A. Black

    Wow, sixty novels and still going strong is an inspiration to writers everywhere. Keep going. Best of luck to you.

    Reply

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DANNY R. SMITH: Homicide Investigator -Private Investigator – Consultant – Author

Nothing Left to Prove is a gut-wrenchingly honest story of one cop’s career and his unique insights battling PTSD and being forced to leave the profession he loved.

 

Danny R. Smith spent 21 years with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the last seven as a homicide detective. He now lives in Idaho, where he works as a private investigator and consultant. He is blessed with a beautiful family and surrounded by an assortment of furry critters whom he counts among his friends.

Danny is the author of the Dickie Floyd Detective Novel series, the Rich Farris Detective series, and his law enforcement memoir, Nothing Left to Prove. He writes about true crime and other topics in his blog, The Murder Memo.

He has appeared as an expert on numerous podcasts and shows, including True Crime Daily and the STARZ channel’s WRONG MAN series. He is the host of Unsolved Murders with Danny Smith on the Dr. Carlos Crime Network podcast.

Please tell us about your current book and any comments about any other of your books: Nothing Left to Prove is my latest penning and the first nonfiction I have written. Previously, I’ve only published detective novels. I have two series: The Dickie Floyd Detective series and a spinoff of it named for the new lead character, the Rich Farris Detective series.

Do you write in more than one genre? Technically I write in two genres, true crime, and crime fiction.

What brought you to writing? My shrink. I had no notion of writing before a psychiatrist suggested that it would be therapeutic for me. Before meeting with him, I was asked to complete a questionnaire that would help him evaluate my mental health as it related to my ability to continue working as a homicide detective. It was immediately clear that there was no way to answer the form questions in the space provided, so I wrote across the form, “SEE ATTACHMENT.” I went to work on my computer, explaining in detail to this counselor just what it was about my job that had turned me into a banana. After reviewing my fourteen-page type-written response, Doc looked at me and said, “You should write for a living. Honestly.”

Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? When my younger daughter married and ran away with an Army captain (with our blessings, of course), I converted her bedroom with a wonderful view of our property and neighbor’s farmland into an office—perhaps finished and moved in before the newlyweds reached Fort Hood, Texas—and that is where I spend much of my time pondering and writing, writing and pondering. I also waste more time than I should on social media. (That’s a confession. There are many more in my memoir.)

Tell us about your writing process: Most have heard the terms “plotters” and “pantsers” used to describe the two most common styles of writing prose. The first is done by plotting out the book in its entirety before starting a manuscript; the latter is a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants method, and that is what I do. I begin with a general idea, and I start writing. When I am on a roll, it flows nicely. Other times, I get stuck in a rut and have to walk away. The best part about being a pantser is that I’m as surprised as my readers about what happens in my books.

 What are you currently working on? Now that my memoir is published, I’m back to writing fiction. I’ve started working on book 7 for the Dickie Floyd novels, which will be a pleasant surprise to my fans. (I had said after book 6 that it was the last for that series, and many of my readers were unhappy about it.)

Who’s your favorite author? Currently, Dennis Lehane. I love his style of writing, and all of his novels are phenomenal. Longtime favorites include Elmore Leonard and Joseph Wambaugh.

What’s the most challenging thing about writing characters from the opposite sex? There are just some things a guy doesn’t know or understand about women. Okay, back that up—we know very little about them! However, I married a fabulous one, raised two beautiful, confident, and smart daughters, and I have worked with some terrific female cops. So, in the same way, I have survived nearly thirty years of marriage. I have one secret about writing women characters: ask one or more of them to help you understand what makes them tick.

Do your protagonists ever disappoint you? Honestly, Dickie and Floyd drive me crazy, one wound too tightly, the other more worried about having fun that you’re amazed every time he comes alive in the dead-serious moments that matter most. But you have to read the series to know which is which.

Do you base any of your characters on real people? I do. Many of my cop characters are loosely based on people I’ve worked with over the years. The reason is quite simple—nobody can invent more interesting characters than the men and women with whom I was privileged to serve.

What kind of research do you do? Fortunately, most of my work falls under the often advised “write what you know” classification. In the third Dickie Floyd novel, Echo Killers, my antagonists are former soldiers from Fort Hood. I came up with the idea while touring the army base while I was in Texas visiting my daughter and son-in-law, so as I wrote the book, I had a direct source for technical information. I also had my son-in-law beta read that book to be certain I hadn’t screwed anything up.

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? My settings are predominately Los Angeles, and I use a lot of real locations to give people that L.A. feel.

Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I’ll continue writing crime fiction, but I also plan to write a few true crime books from some of the cases I handled as a homicide detective: a Native American burned alive by skinheads; a seamstress murdered by her evil daughter, who had also murdered her first husband. Both of those will make very compelling true crime reads.

Do you have any advice for new writers? Study your craft and hone your skills. I have eight books published now, and I learn with each effort. More than anything else, though, write.

How do our readers contact you?   I’m on Facebook as Danny R. Smith, Twitter as @dickiefloyd187, Instagram as author_dannyrsmith. I have a Facebook group: Dickie Floyd Novels VIP. My blog is The Murder Memo (https://murdermemo.com or dickiefloydnovels.com), and there you can sign up for my newsletter. You can find my books on Amazon or through my website: dickiefloydnovels.com/books/

4 Comments

  1. Joseph Bryce HAGGERTY Sr

    Danny, I read A GOOD BUNCH OF MEN and loved it. I especially love the banter between the two detectives. That was very familiar to me. Although, you left out the foul language which is common among police detectives. They do their best not to use it in front of the public, but to each other, Katie bar the door. The detectives did manage to degrade and belittle each other as they worked their case and I loved how they always bounced back to doing the job. Great interview and I will definitely be reading more of your books.

    Reply
  2. Vicki Batman

    So interesting to learn about you! Keep on keeping on.

    Reply
  3. Madeline Gornell

    Great interview! Keep on writing…as you say and plan to do.

    Reply
  4. Michael A. Black

    Danny is a good friend and a fabulous writer. He’s walked the walk and knows how to write about it, too. I highly recommend his books, be they fiction or memoir. I’m glad to hear that he’s working on book seven in the Dickie Floyd series. I can’t wait to read it. If you haven’t checked this man’s work out, do so. you won’t be disappointed.

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Black’s Back … And he’s still quick on the draw

I close off the Gunslinger Series.

 

Michael A. Black is the award winning author of 43 books, most of which are in the mystery and thriller genres. He has also written in sci-fi, western, horror, and sports genres. A retired police officer, he has done everything from patrol to investigating homicides to conducting numerous SWAT operations. Black was awarded the Cook County Medal of Merit in 2010. He is also the author of over 100 short stories and articles, and wrote two novels with television star Richard Belzer (Law & Order SVU). His Executioner novel, Fatal Prescription, won the Best Original Novel Scribe Award. His latest novels are the Trackdown series (Devil’s Dance, Devil’s Fancy, Devil’s Brigade, and Devil’s Advocate) and Legends of the West (under his own name), Dying Art and Cold Fury (under Don Pendleton), and the Gunslinger series (Killer’s Choice, Killer’s Brand, Killer’s Ghost, Killer’s Gamble, and Killer’s Requiem) under the name A.W. Hart.

Last January, Paul Bishop, the acquisitions editor at Wolfpack Publishing, contacted me and said they wanted me to finish off the Gunslinger series that I, and a few others, have been writing under the house name of A. W. Hart. I’d already written three other books in the series, Gunslinger: Killer’s Chance, Gunslinger: Killer’s Brand, and Gunslinger: Killer’s Ghost. I had a great time writing each one of those. With my westerns, I try to make them as historically accurate as I can while still paying homage to the western mythology that has popularized the genre.

Sometimes this is easier said than done. Remember, writing westerns today, unless the book is set in modern times, deals with a rather bleak era. I mean, think about it. How entertaining would it be to read something that has total historical accuracy regarding a harsh, cruel era before toothpaste, toothbrushes, mouthwash, deodorants, personal hygiene practices, etc.? Thus my cowboys break the historical mold and take baths when they can. And I also like to pay homage to the western mythology that has been popularized through the ages. The quick draw, for example, was pretty much a myth that originated in those movies and TV shows of a bygone era. However, my intention in writing the books is to entertain. I still get a thrill each time I watch James Arness walking on that dusty street to face down the bad guy in the opening credits of Gunsmoke. Sure it probably wasn’t anything like that in the real Old West, but like I said, that’s entertainment.

As I’ve said, it’s been a blast writing this series. I started with Gunslinger: Killer’s Chance, which has Connor, Abby, and Hicks rescuing a Chinese man named Lee, who’s tracking the whereabouts of his missing fiancée. The book touches on the way the Chinese immigrants were exploited while building the railroad system in the western United States. Naturally, Mr. Lee is something of a martial artist. (Anybody remember Kung Fu? Bruce Lee came up with the concept, but was considered “too Chinese” for the role by the television big wigs and was replaced with “round eye” actor David Carradine.) There’s also a professional gunman who has a business card with the chess symbol of a rook printed on it.

THE REGULATOR

WIRE RANDALL D. LANDECKER  SANTA FE

Gunslinger: Killer’s Brand has a powerful man who, along with his sons, runs roughshod over the entire territory adjacent to his large ranch called The Dominion. Added to that one are an ex-buffalo soldier who’s charged with murder, a group of mysterious masked riders, and a courtroom scene reminiscent of To Kill a Mockingbird. Gunslinger: Killer’s Ghost is my version of a western monster story as an enormous, mysterious creature stalks a mining encampment.

So when the opportunity to finish off the series by tying up the ongoing story arc that had been running since the first book was offered, I jumped at the chance. I quickly penned Gunslinger: Killer’s Gamble, which has the trio traveling through a California town and becoming involved in a big poker tournament as well as a boxing match. The first American Heavyweight Champion, John L. Sullivan, makes an appearance, as well as an actual western poet named Joaquin Miller. There’s way more to it than that, including Abby deciding to leave Hicks and her brother to be with a beautiful female gambler. This one sets up the final confrontation between our heroes and the mysterious man who’s been their nemesis from the beginning.

In Gunslinger: Killer’s Requiem, all of the questions about who Connor and Abby really are and the secret that River Hicks has been concealing since the first book are answered in a slam-bang, traditional western-style showdown. Let’s see; besides the revelation of the major villain and all the plot revelations, there’s a bounty hunter with a sawed-off rifle called the Mule’s Leg, a maniacal fanatic known at The Dark Deacon who leads a band of army-trained mercenaries, a masterful gunman whose skills rival those of River Hicks himself, the Pinkerton Detective Agency’s best detective, and a host of other surprises. I even found a way for the Bard himself, William Shakespeare, to make an appearance in this one. Romeo, Juliet, and Hamlet are all on hand.

I hope you’ll make A. W. Hart’s day and check out these last two books in the series. Although I finish off the story arc, there’s a chance our trio of heroes could return to strap on the guns one more time if the demand is great enough. In any case, I guarantee, if you like westerns, you won’t be disappointed.

Contact Information: docatlas108@aol.com

 

Legends of the West: A Deputy Marshal Bass Reeves Western

 I had to include this image because Mike likes it, but the real reason, it is my favorite Michael A. Black novel. gdc

 

12 Comments

  1. John Schembra

    Love the Gunslinger series, Mike. You breathe life into your characters, and your settings. Very enjoyable reading!

    Reply
  2. Thonie Hevron

    This is a fun series! I missed one or two and have to get them. Thanks for this post, Mike and George!

    Reply
  3. Michael A. Black

    I appreciate everyone stopping by to check this one out, and my special thanks to Big George for giving me the opportunity to be on his great blog once again. It’s always nice to hear from everyone, especially those who are far away. Stay strong, everybody, and take care.

    Reply
  4. Fleur Bradley

    Gotta check these out… Great to know more about this series. And that last photo really is the best.

    Reply
  5. Marilyn Meredith

    I love this series! Of course Mike is one of my favorite authors and a good friend. This was a great post. And yes, back in the day, they didn’t bathe often or even change their clothes. The women wore long skirts that dragged in the dirt and through whatever else was in the road. Not nearly as romantic as the times were made out to be in the movies. But believe me, though Mike writes authentic Westerns, they are also full of adventure and surprises, and wonderful characters.

    Reply
  6. John Bluck

    Mike, I read several of your Gunslinger books as well as the Trackdown series, and I thoroughly enjoyed them. I like the way your characters come to life on the page. I also enjoyed your action-packed books because scenes from them pop into my mind’s eye just like an excellent radio drama can make you “see” everything that happens just as if you’re watching a high-budget Hollywood movie.

    Reply
  7. Vicki Batman

    So nice to learn more about you. My hubby is from Dodge City and the truth about back then is rather boring.

    Reply
  8. Scott Decker

    Very interesting Mike. I’m going to order my copy of “Gunslinger: Killer’s Chance.” I watch reruns of “Rawhide” starring Clint Eastwood in his breakout role as Ramrod Rowdy Yates. Thanks for the great interview.

    Reply
  9. Donnell Ann Bell

    I learn something every time I read either one of Michael A. Black’s novels or read one of his blogs. I have been meaning to buy Gunslinger, shame on me! But in truth, I’ve just finished up D.V. Berkom’s Retribution and Gunslingler (her protagonist is a woman), so I imagine along with Quick Draw, that rarely happened as well. I don’t think I will ever be able to watch Matt Dillon and not think of your comment 😉 Thanks for the education, Mike. I’m big into Westerns right now! Can’t wait to read yours. George, thank you!!!

    Reply
  10. Joseph Bryce HAGGERTY Sr

    How can you not like Mike’s Killer series. It’s action backed has great characters both good and bad and as he said includes some historical aspects. I’m a slow reader, but with Mike’s book I have tendency to read through them faster than usual because their exciting, suspenseful and interesting. Plus I love westerns. Thanks Mike for taking on these adventures.

    Reply
  11. Mar Preston

    You are a marvel, Mike. You keep writing good books. How? You must have a clone in your closet named Mike Black.

    Reply
  12. Madeline Gornell

    You are amazing, Mike, and I keep you in the front of my mind as a guiding light to write, write, write. Finished Killer Requiem last night, and loved it! Which you should take as high kudos because I don’t read westerns, except for yours. Smile. Hope to get an Amazon review up today (or tomorrow) There are so many things you do so well in your writing–like making your characters real people I can identify with…and more.

    And prolific–how you do it amazes me. Anyway, enjoyed your post!

    Reply

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