Daisy Bateman is also a world-renowned expert in Why You Should Buy That.
In what passes for a normal life, she works in biotech. She lives in Alameda, California, with her husband and a cat, only one of whom wears a tuxedo on a regular basis, and a puppy on a mission to chew the world into tiny pieces.
Murder Goes to Market is my debut, published last year by Seventh Street Books, and was nominated for the Lefty for Best First Novel. Briefly, it’s the story of Claudia Simcoe, an ex-techie who opens an artisan marketplace in a town on the Sonoma coast and subsequently has to deal with the murder of her least-favorite tenant.
What brought you to writing? I was brought to writing by a lifetime of reading and making up my own stories to go with the books I loved. Mystery has always been my favorite genre, and when it came to what I wanted to write, there was no question that there would be a body or two.
Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? These days, I mostly write at home, at my dining room table. In the Before Times, I did some of that too. Still, most of Murder Goes to Market was written on the ferry between Alameda and South San Francisco, crossing the Bay on my way to work. Sadly, that route has been temporarily discontinued during the pandemic, so I’m left to do my writing without the possibility of seeing a dolphin. (In the absence of potential sea mammals, I’m mostly distracted by the Scylla and Charybdis of Candy Crush and Twitter.)
What are you currently working on? I just sent off the revisions for the second Marketplace book, A Dismal Harvest, which is due to come out next March. (When I hope to finally have an in-person book launch!) At this point, most of the heavy lifting should be done (she said optimistically), and it’s all over but the copy-edits. So I’m taking advantage of the free time to try something new in a standalone mystery. Stay tuned for more!
Has an association membership helped you or your writing? Absolutely—I’ve been a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime for many years. The knowledge I’ve gained and the friends I have made in both organizations have been very important to my writing career. From meeting members of my writing group through the Sisters in Crime mailing list to the current weekly write-ins with the NorCal MWA chapter, the organizations can be vital for bringing a sense of community to what is a very solitary endeavor.
How long did it take you to write your first book? Aside from juvenilia, I wrote my first book as a college undergrad, scribbling longhand in a repurposed binder, sitting on the lawn in front of the faculty club. From that point, until I finished it, I think was three or four years. Then a much shorter time for it to be rejected by every agent I could find who might in a borrowed copy of Jeff Herman’s Guide be appropriate (this was, shall we say, a while ago).
How long to get it published? That first book was never published, and if there is any justice in the world, it never will be. Between that time and Murder Goes to Market, there were three more books, one closed publisher, and a number of years that I would rather not specify. As an author, I would say that my primary characteristic is grim determination.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I work in a style I call “chaotic neutral.” Basically, I should outline, but I’m too lazy to do it well. So I start with an approximate plot, add notes to the end of the manuscript as I write, and then go back and try to make sense of it later. I would not recommend this approach to others.
What kind of research do you do? Cheese research! I’m joking, but not totally. Since artisan foods are at the heart of my books, it’s essential for me to get to know what’s out there and how it’s all made. (And, incidentally, if there’s any part of the process that could provide a good murder weapon!)
Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? San Elmo Bay, the town where the Marketplace Mysteries is set, is fictional, but its location on the Sonoma coast is real enough, and I hope that people who are familiar with the area find things about it they recognize.
Do you have any advice for new writers? Always have the next thing in the hopper. Publishing is a rough business, and no matter how confident you are in your current project, there’s always the chance that it’s one you’re going to have to end up shelving. And when that happens, the only thing that makes it easier is to know you have something else up your sleeve.
Where can our readers find you?
Madeline (M.M.) Gornell has nine published Literary Mystery novels, some of which have garnered awards, such as Uncle Si’s Secret (PSWA award winner), Death of a Perfect Man, Lies of Convenience (Hollywood Book Festival Honorable Mention), Reticence of Ravens (finalist for Eric Hoffer 2011 fiction Prize, the da Vinci Eye for cover art, and the Montaigne Medal for most thought-provoking book), Counsel of Ravens ( London Book Festival Honorary Mention and LA Book Festival Runner-Up), Rhodes The Mojave-Stone (Honorable Mention in the San Francisco Book Festival), Rhodes The Movie-Maker received Honorable Mention in The Great Midwest Book Festival, Rhodes The Caretakers. Her latest, Rhodes Never Forgotten, recently received Honorable Mentions in the LA Book Festival, The San Francisco Book Festival, and The New York Book Festival.
Settings and character uniqueness are her inspiration, and she currently continues to be inspired by the Mojave Desert—its beauty and all the human tales—as she likes to say, “blowing on the Mojave winds…”
Madeline lives with her husband and assorted canines in Newberry Springs on Route 66.
For some, the unknown future is far more interesting than past or present realities. The Mojave Desert, especially along Route 66, offers endless possibilities for exploration into past happenings, experiencing the intensity of the desert environment in the present, and positing unknown futures. And, of course, for creating fanciful fiction spanning all time periods.
Thank you so much, George, for inviting me to your blog! For me, scenery and characters are writing’s “Holy Grail,” and I think I will be answering several of your excellent questions by just talking about setting and characters in terms of my novels.
For sure, settings have inspired all my books. Years ago, we lived in North Bend, WA, at the base of Mt. Si. Thus, the inspiration for Uncle Si’s Secret—my trying to share the magnificent and grandiose Pacific Northwest. And tell a story—and a murder—at the same time. It took many rejections before finally being published. And of course, when it was, I was on cloud nine!
When leaving Puget Sound and before ending up in the Mojave, we looked around several western states from a base in Ridgecrest, California (with two dogs and a cat!) That locale inspired Death of a Perfect Man. One particular street in the town seemed to call to me and plays in several key scenes. Setting had worked its magic again. When finally settling in San Bernardino County, CA, in the high desert, all my other books have been inspired by the “new to me” at the time, and now still awesomeness of the Mojave Desert in my area.
My characters are completely made up (I think!). They are people I would like or be interested in knowing more about—even the villains. And indeed, to your character questions, getting the right name is part of my development process. I’m fond of Welsh names and managed to squeeze “Delyth” into my latest.
For me, characters are the vehicle for a reader to experience my story. Through their eyes—actually all their senses—a reader experiences(I hope) my plot. What they see, the smells, the touches—not just their dialogue and my narrative. I have nattered on in past writings about developing characters, and honestly, I am still challenged by telling my story through their eyes the best I can. For me, writing isn’t an end accomplishment but a continuing process. To your question about aspiring writers, that would most probably be my advice—always challenge yourself to do better. As an aside, I write in 3rd person, and my lead characters are of the opposite sex.
And to answer one more of your excellent questions, my favorite authors are Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, and P.D. James.
Finally, I’d like to put in a plug for Public Safety Writers Association. I haven’t been able to attend conferences lately, but PSWA writers are the nicest and most supportive, information-laden and eager to share, group of writers I’ve ever met. My first novel was a prize winner at PSWA, and again put me on cloud nine!
Joseph B. Haggerty Sr. Author of the novels: Shame: The Story of a Pimp and An Ocean in the Desert Contributor to the PSWA anthology: Felons, Flames and Ambulance Rides Award-winning poet, writer, and lecturer on the sexual exploitation of women and children in prostitution and pornography.
I’m Joseph B. Haggerty Sr. a retired vice detective and academy instructor from the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C. (35 yrs). I was a Senior Special Agent in Investigations with the Office of the Inspector General for Amtrak (6 yrs). In 2009, I received an award, Heroes of the Heart, from the organization Children of the Nights in California and was recognized as one of the top ten law enforcement officers in the country for rescuing children from the street. I was President of the Writers League of Washington for nine years. I have been a member of the Public Safety Writers Association since 2010. I have a self-published novel, Shame: The Story of a Pimp, which I wrote based on my experiences investigating child predators in prostitution. I was honored to have 3 short stories and 2 poems published in the PSWA anthology, Felons, Flames and Ambulance Rides. I also have another book from Oak Tree Press, titled, An Ocean in the Desert. A number of my poems have been published in my FOP lodge newspaper and Tears on the Walls was recorded on a CD titled Heroes Unsung. I am married with six children, eleven grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.
The first book I wrote was because of the way, and movies and television portray prostitution. They make it look glamorous, safe, and profitable. Most serial killers either start out killing prostitutes or easily convert to killing them. For one good reason, they are easy targets. Pimps are the real problem on the street. They are the real criminals. Prostitutes are the pawns used to make the pimps money and are sacrificed just as easily. I wanted to write about what the street is really like. As a vice detective specializing in going after the pimps in Washington, D.C.( excluding Congress), I learned a great deal about how the pimps do their business and how they get their victims and hold them. My book, Shame, The Story of a Pimp, is just that. It’s a story of a pimp from birth to death, how he learned about pimping and became a pimp. It’s a story of sex and violence because that’s the story of prostitution. It’s a story of the sexual exploitation of children by pimps. It’s a story of the pimp world and pimp law. I interviewed over 5000 prostitutes who worked the D.C. streets in my over twenty-seven years on the street and also interviewed hundreds of pimps. Some of my cases are intertwined in the book. I changed names and locations, but the events are the same.
I’ve also written a book, An Ocean in the Desert, where two private investigators specialize in finding missing children. If they find the child has been a victim of a sexual predator, they offer the child’s family an additional service to guarantee their child will never return to that predator.
I’m in the process of writing a third book, tentatively named Craig’s Follies, which is about a male prostitute who became a professional informant for several police departments across the country as well as Washington, D.C.
A publisher has agreed to publish a book of my short stories about the street and my life as an investigator.
As a Public Safety Writers Association(PSWA) member, I have learned a great deal about writing and other aspects of law enforcement, medical situations, and firefighting. Through the list/serv and our conferences, I have had numerous questions, answers, and ideas for handling plots, characters, setting, point of view, and numerous ways to kill people. PSWA has given me confidence and encouragement for the submissions I have made to the various writing contests for which I have won many awards. I would recommend PSWA to anyone thinking about writing or who has been fortunate enough to have a book, short story, or poetry published.
I wrote my first book in less than a year, finishing it in 1987. I wrote it longhand on a legal pad. It took another couple of years to have it put on a computer disc. After finally having it on my computer and another couple of years of editing, I took it to a literary agent. The agent turned me down, saying the book needed too much editing. I went to another literary agent and got the same answer. I did more editing. I couldn’t afford a real editor as the book was over 500 pages. I went to a third agent, who said I had a snowball’s chance in hell of getting published as an unknown writer. In 1999, I joined a writers group, The Writers’ League of Washington. Through their encouragement and confidence-building, I decided to go the route of self-publishing, and my book, Shame, The Story of a Pimp, was published in 2008.
In Shame, I have several subplots. There are three main subplots. Shame’s mother gets involved with a gambling pimp who rips off the mob. I had one of Same’s women kidnapped by another pimp, and a rescue attempt is made. The third is a policewoman who goes undercover as a prostitute to discover the truth about a murdered friend. One other thing, I’m not sure you could call them subplots, but I didn’t want to just concentrate on Shame’s women. A number of other women worked the street, and the reader will read about them. I wanted the reader to know how they got to where they were. I wanted the reader to see the whole street.
With my first two books, I wrote as a pantser, but with Craig’s Follies, I am outlining. I am also writing a book with another member of PSWA, and we’re outlining with that book.
I have to say that my favorite books are the ones that inspired me to write. The first is The Stand, by Stephen King. I’m not a big Stephen King fan, but the characters he created in The Stand are extraordinary. I am a slow reader, and The Stand is a big book, which was a challenge to me. Still, the characters he created were the driving motivation to read the book in its entirety. The second book that inspired me was Cathedral by Nelson Demille. This book was about Irish terrorists that take over St. Patrick’s cathedral in New York. This was one of those books you can’t put down. The action was non-stop, with great characters and a great story.
You can reach me at: email@example.com
Lynn Slaughter is addicted to chocolate, the arts, and her husband’s cooking.
After a long career as a professional dancer and dance educator, Lynn earned her MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. She writes coming of age romantic mysteries and is the author of the newly released Leisha’s Song; While I Danced, an EPIC finalist; It Should Have Been You, a Silver Falchion finalist; and Deadly Setup (forthcoming from Fire and Ice, 2022). Lynn lives in Louisville, Kentucky, where she’s at work on her next novel and serves as the President of Derby Rotten Scoundrels, the Ohio River Valley chapter of Sisters in Crime.
Tell us about your recent release and your other books. Leisha’s Song centers around a young woman in a year when everything in her life changes. On scholarship at a prestigious New England boarding school, Leisha never intended to fall in love with classical singing or get involved with Cody Harrington—let alone risk her life trying to find her missing teacher.
Leisha’s Song follows two other YA novels, While I Danced and It Should Have Been You. In While I Danced, Cass, an aspiring ballet dancer, deals with family and romantic problems when she discovers a betrayal that leaves her questioning whether she even wants to continue dancing. In It Should Have Been You, seventeen-year-old Clara’s twin sister, a piano prodigy, is murdered. Rumors swirl that Clara was involved in her twin’s demise. And then she starts receiving threatening notes, the first of which says: “It should have been you… But soon.”
What brought you to writing? Initially, writing fiction started as a therapy project! Age and injury had led to my retirement from dance, and I was grieving the loss of my career and identity as a dancer. I’d always loved reading young adult fiction. Teenagers had been my favorite age group to work with, so I guess it’s not surprising that I was drawn to young adult fiction. When I wrote my first novel about an aspiring dancer, I think it was a way to honor my old life and invent a new dream. Interestingly, my subsequent novels have all involved characters passionate about the arts.
Tell us about your writing process. First, I get the wisp of an idea for a story. For example, in the case of Leisha’s Song, I overheard a conversation at New York’s Port Authority between a young woman and her grandmother. It became apparent that the grandmother was sending her granddaughter off to boarding school in New England, and the teen was reluctant to go. It got me thinking about what it would be like to be a whip-smart young woman of color at a private school populated by mostly wealthy white students. So, I had a vague idea about a character and a setting. Since I’m a romantic mystery writer, I thought about what the mystery would be. I came up with the disappearance of a teacher Leisha was close to and a romance between Leisha and a boy who appoints himself her investigative sidekick. After that, I did a lot of thinking and writing about Leisha and her missing teacher and the people in their lives, past and present. That gave me tons of ideas for plot complications, conflicts, and the identities of folks who might have had a reason to want Leisha’s teacher to disappear. The story grew from there.
What are you currently working on? I’m excited that my fourth YA novel, Deadly Setup, about a young woman who goes on trial for the murder of her heiress mother’s fiancée, is coming out in 2022, so I’ll be working on final edits for that.
Meantime, I’m working on two projects which are a bit out of my comfort zone in that they’re not for young adults. The first is the expansion of a short story I wrote for Malice Domestic’s anthology, Murder Most Theatrical. My story, “Missed Cue,” is now a novel in which the identity of the murderer of a renowned ballerina has actually changed. I’ve had fun developing the personal life of the female homicide detective in charge of the case.
I’m also working on a middle-grade novel about Varney, a young vampire who hates the taste of blood and is convinced he’s landed in the wrong body.
How long did it take you to write your first book? A long time. I worked on it on and off for about ten years. The subsequent novels didn’t take nearly that long!
Do you have any advice for new writers? Never give up. Do lots of reading and write regularly (I call that my “butt-in-chair” prescription!). Study the craft of writing. Join writer’s organizations, take courses, find a helpful critique group, and be open to feedback. If more than one person tells you something is a problem, paying attention is a good idea.
Keep in mind that while lots of writing involves revision, the first order of business is to get something written to work with. The best piece of advice I received in my MFA program was: “You can’t fix a blank page.”
Lynn loves hearing from readers and invites you to visit her website, which also houses her blog: https://lynnslaughter.com/
Leisha’s Song is available at:
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Hi George and Readers, It’s a pleasure to be back. I’m excited to announce the first four Argolicus Mysteries are now available in a collection, Argolicus Series Books 1-4.
The stories are traditional mysteries with late Roman Italy as the backdrop. History changes, but people remain the same. That’s what I find is fun about writing historical mysteries.
The Roman Heir: Argolicus begins a journey home to retire from politics. As a personal favor, he delivers a book to a young scholar. But the young man’s father is murdered hours before, and Argolicus is tasked to find the killer among the patricians in an unfamiliar town where he knows no one.
The Used Virgin: The governor holds a family friend prisoner. When Argolicus visits to investigate, he unearths a greedy plot to tarnish a good man’s name. To expose the plot, he must challenge the governor’s venal power to reveal a scheme.
The Vellum Scribe: When Argolicus’ uncle finds a dead body, it starts a chain of treacherous alliances based on greed and envy based on old friendships. But then an ambush attack produces a clue.
The Peach Widow: A simple request from his mother sends Argolicus to settle a legal question in a family at odds. Perplexed by subterfuge and greed motivating each family member, he finds no clues until the farm dog starts to play.
What readers are saying:
- A story well told. A ‘world’ worth settling into!’
- ‘Transport you to that ancient time, so you can meet their people and see their lives.’
- ‘Absolutely wonderful.’
- ‘A rich tapestry of interactions that serve to draw the reader deeper in..’
- ‘Highlights some of the most basic of emotions: anger, possession, hurt, sympathy, loss and guilt and, of course, greed..’
- ‘No telephones, no computers, no scientific method as we understand it, no mysterious villains with international organizations – and it works. .’
- ‘If I had to put stars for this book, I have had to put six stars!’
- ‘A thoughtful atmospheric pierce with wonderful characters.’
- ‘For mystery lovers with a love of history.’
- ‘Packs not only a great mystery but also a lot of truly interesting information about the era.’
- ‘A world with very different rules for dealing with murder.’
I started writing these stories when I was researching for a longer book. One of the letters in Cassiodorus’ Variable, he wrote as Prime Minister for King Theodoric, mentions a strange punishment. Scholars wondered what could cause such a puzzling punishment that wasn’t much of a punishment.
I thought, Who better to put this mystery to rest than our hero, Argolicus. And, so, The Used Virgin came to life. It’s the only mystery in the series with no murder but an attempt to kill a man’s reputation.
Argolicus was a real person at the time of Theodoric’s reign in Italy. He is mentioned nine times in Cassiodorus’ Variae as praefectus urbis of Rome.
Argolicus is a learned man who turns detective at the bidding of friends and neighbors who know him as trustworthy, wise, and fair. His tools are the logic of Aristotle, the self-restraint of Epictetus, the theology of Arius, and the empirical insights of Marcus Aurelius, all sharpened to an edge by ferocious curiosity. He collects evidence, deciphers politics, and digs into the deepest secrets of the human heart.
Zara Altair writes traditional mysteries set in Ostrogoth, Italy. Meet Argolicus, the Roman patrician who thinks his way to finding a killer. The Argolicus Mysteries are The Roman Heir, The Used Virgin, The Peach Widow, and The Vellum Scribe.
The Grain Merchant, the fifth in the series, was recently released.
A mystery lover since childhood, she writes about writing for several publications, including ProWritingAid and International Thriller Writer. A member of Sisters in Crime., Zara lives in Beaverton, OR, where she reads, walks among trees, and shares space with a cat. She coaches mystery writers at Write A Killer Mystery. Find her video tutorials on YouTube.
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My latest novel, The Carnevale Conspiracy, was released on July 20, 2021. This is my 17th published suspense novel. My next release won’t be out until early in 2022.
Please give us a short pitch. “Bob and Liz Danforth are on the vacation of a lifetime-Venice, Italy during Carnevale. But, when they are caught up in the diabolical actions of a secret organization, patterned after the 11th Century’s Hashashiyan, or Order of Assassins, their trip becomes a nightmare of herculean proportion.”
Evil Deeds is one of my early novels. It was based on the actual kidnapping of our 2-1/2-year-old son in Greece when I served there with the U.S. Army. Evil Deeds is the first of 7 books in my Danforth Saga. Here’s what N.Y. Times Best-Selling Author Sheldon Siegel wrote about this novel: “Another tightly plotted, deftly executed page-turner from a master of suspense and international intrigue. Joseph Badal writes timely stories with authority and compassion. Highly recommended.”
What brought you to writing?: Our family has had a tradition of passing stories down from generation to generation. That tradition, along with an insatiable appetite for reading, combined to make me want to be a writer from an early age. But I was diverted from a writing career and spent most of my adult years either in the military or in the banking/finance industries. I finally got serious about writing in my late fifties and had my first novel published in 2003.
What are you currently working on? My current project in the 4th book in my Lassiter/Martinez Case Files series features two female detectives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Barbara Lassiter and Susan Martinez have been described as the best female detective duo since the Cagney & Lacey television series. Barbara and Susan are smart, courageous, and professional. They aren’t superheroes but rather are real life protagonists who have to balance careers, personal relationships, and personal problems while confronting believable villains, bureaucrats, and power brokers.
Has an association membership helped you or your writing?: When I decided to get serious about writing a novel, I joined Southwest Writers Workshop in Albuquerque. This was one of the best decisions I have made regarding furthering my writing career. The classes and conferences sponsored by SWW and the friends I made in that organization have contributed mightily to honing my craft and advancing my career.
Who’s your favorite author?: I can’t even begin to answer this question with one name. It’s a bit like asking, “Which of your children do you love the most?” If you will allow me to, I would like to list a few of my favorites: Michael Connelly, Robert Ludlum, Elmore Leonard, Tony Hillerman, James Lee Burke, Steven Pressfield, Steve Brewer, Donald Westlake, David Morrell, Doug Preston, James Clavell, etc. I’ve learned at least one thing about writing from each of these writers which have made a large difference in my career.
How long did it take you to write your first book?: My first published book, The Pythagorean Solution, fermented in my brain for a good thirty years. When I finally sat down and wrote the story, I felt overwhelmed with passion and was driven to complete the work. I finished the first draft in three months. But then the hard work began. I worked with an editor who was demanding and critical. It took three years for me to “get it.” The book was published in 2003. Thanks to the help I received from that editor, The Pythagorean Solution was optioned by a movie production company in 2003.
We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave, or do they run the show?: When I began writing, I was under the false impression that all I needed was a good plot. I quickly was disabused of that thinking. I learned that characters really drive a story. In a sense, the characters do drive the story. But it’s not as though they are anarchical. They still have to answer to me. I love creating irreverent, sometimes diabolical characters, but I always put a governor on them so that they don’t get out of control. If a character truly misbehaves, I always have the option of killing them off.
What’s the most challenging thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?: Although I always include strong female characters in my books, my first stories had male protagonists. When I decided to write my first Lassiter/Martinez Case Files book, Borderline, I was confronted with a problem. I realized that female protagonists needed to be more complex. Being married, I should have come to that conclusion early on. Now that I am deep into my 4th book in that series, I find myself challenged and thrilled to write female protagonists.
Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc?: I don’t outline. I am a pantser, so I never quite know where my plot is heading. My books are replete with subplots which seem to appear in my head during the writing process and, at that moment, appear too attractive to ignore. I believe that these subplots are what add depth and breadth to a story.
What kind of research do you do?: I do extensive research for all of my books. In some of my international thrillers, technology becomes important, which requires me to do research via interviews with experts or on the internet. In books like Death Ship, The Nostradamus Secret, and The Carnevale Conspiracy, where much of the stories are located overseas, I travel to those locations as much as possible to ensure accuracy of sites, customs, etc. Since I was in the military, weaponry has changed dramatically. Again, I interview experts and rely on the internet to keep current.
Do you have any advice for new writers?: I frequently speak to writers groups. The advice I give aspiring authors is, first, put your story on paper. Don’t worry about how good or bad it is. Just put your butt in a chair and write. And don’t use the excuse that “I don’t have the time to write.” If you’re passionate about something, you’ll always find the time. I also tell aspiring authors to not fall in love with their work. Pick it apart, critique it, edit it, then edit it again and again.
Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and your books?: I am the luckiest guy in the world. I am doing what I always wanted to do. I am passionate about writing, and I still get a thrill when I see one of my titles in a store. Writing is hard work, but it’s worth every second I put into it.
How do our readers contact you?:
I am on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.