SYRL KAZLO – See Her Write About Murder and Dachshunds

Syrl, a retired teacher, lives in upstate New York with her husband and two lively dachshunds. She writes the Samantha Davies Mystery series featuring Samantha Davies and her loveable dachshund, Porkchop. When not writing, she is busy hooking, rug hooking, and enjoying her family. Her newest book, number four in the series, Pups, Pumpkins, and Murder, will be released on September 19th.

What brought you to writing? While I’ve always been an avid reader, I’m not one of those writers who was born with a pen in their hands. I was an editor for my high school’s newspaper and enjoyed writing for it, but I wasn’t into becoming an author yet. That would come many years down the road.

Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? I write in a small bedroom on my laptop at a small desk. The operative word here is small. I try not to stop until I have accomplished my self-imposed daily word limit, which I’ve set at 1,000 words. My only distraction is my dachshund when he barks to be fed. There’s no ignoring that. Oh, yes, and the Spam calls that inevitably come when I’m writing.

What are you currently working on? Right now, I’m working on Chilled to the Dog Bone, book 5, in my Samantha Davies Mystery series. It involves a Fireman’s Ball, a skillet toss, outhouse races, and of course, a corpse. All set during the winter in beautiful upstate New York.

How do you come up with your characters’ names? Many of the names are from people I know in real life. I have a friend who wanted to be the murderer in one of my books; hence I named the perp after her. I now have to keep a running list of all the names I’ve used in order not to repeat any.

We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave or run wild? I’d like to think mine are well-behaved, but my main character, Samantha’s side-kick, her Southern Belle cousin, Candie, is known to be a wild card. Candie has been engaged eleven times and tells it like it is. Then there’s Sam’s octogenarian neighbor, Gladys, who dyes her gray curls to suit the occasion, red for Valentine’s Day, green for Saint Pat’s. She is a force to behold.

Do you base your characters on real people? Absolutely! Beware, or you might wind up in one of my books. People love that they are an inspiration for a character. Candie is modeled after a good friend from a writer’s group. Hank was inspired by my husband, who also was a police officer. I love dachshunds, and Porkchop, Sam’s dog, was named after my Porkchop.

Do you outline, or are you a pantser? Oh, my. I had a sketchy outline for the first 4 books in the series, but with Chilled to the Dog Bone, that has gone completely by the wayside. I’ve pansted the whole thing. I don’t know why, but it just flowed that way.

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? I live in a beautiful area of upstate New York near the Adirondacks and Lake George. My settings are a conglomeration of this area, small towns, and lovely people with lots to do and places to go. These are close-knit communities where almost everyone knows you, which is the same in my books.

Blog: https://www.sakazlo.com/
Facebook: S.A.Kazlo.
Twitter: @sakazlo
Mavens of Mayhem – Sisters In Crime: www.upperhudsonsinc.com

6 Comments

  1. Carol White

    Sounds like a fun book! I’m looking forward to reading it.

    Reply
  2. Pamela Ruth Meyer

    Do you think you were able to ‘pants’ your way through your fifth book because you had the experience of the first four books under your belt? Do you think it has to do, in some way, with self-confidence? Thanks for this post. It was fun.

    Reply
    • Syrl Ann Kazlo

      Pamela, Not sure why writing this book was so different than the others. Maybe because I know my characters so much better now than when I first started the series. I can anticipate their moves and how they’d react in certain situations.

      Reply
    • George Cramer

      It seems to me that Syrl grew greatly in confidence and experience during that writing journey. Way to go from one Pantser to another.

      Reply
  3. Michael A. Black

    Sounds like you’ve got a formula that works well for you, Syrl. Best of luck to you and the pooches.

    Reply
    • Syrl Ann Kazlo

      Michael, I don’t know what I’m doing right but that heavens it is working for me. Thank you for your kind comments.

      Reply

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JAMES T. BARTLETT – Journalist – Public Safety Writers Association Member

Originally from London, James T. Bartlett is the author of Anthony Award-nominated The Alaskan Blonde: Sex, Secrets, and the Hollywood Story that Shocked America, a true crime book reexamining a scandalous 1953 murder that began in Alaska and ended with a suicide in Hollywood.

 

 

As a travel and lifestyle journalist and historian, he has written for the Los Angeles Times, BBC, Los Angeles Magazine, ALTA California, High Life, Hemispheres, Westways, Frommers, Crime Reads, American Way, Atlas Obscura, The Guardian, Daily Mirror, Real Crime, Variety, Whitechapel Journal, Sunday Life, History Ireland, and Bizarre, among others.

He also wrote the Gourmet Ghosts alternative guides to Los Angeles and has appeared on Ghost Adventures and The UnXplained, while his short story “Death Under the Stars” features in the recent Sisters in Crime Los Angeles anthology Entertainment To Die For.

The Alaskan Blonde: In October 1953, Alaskan businessman Cecil Wells was shot dead in what his badly-beaten wife Diane said was a home invasion turned deadly, but then the police got a tip she was having an affair with Black musician Johnny Warren, and the murder became a national sensation. Seventy years later, The Alaskan Blonde reexamines this unsolved cold case.

My main job is as a journalist covering travel and lifestyle, but I have managed to carve out a small niche in true crime, as it was initially a big part of the two alternative Gourmet Ghosts guides I wrote about Los Angeles in 2012 and 2016.

I have only written one mystery short story, but I get to live vicariously in that world through my wife, Wendall Thomas. She has just finished Cheap Trills, her fourth book in the Cyd Redondo Mysteries series, and I am in awe of people like her who can create fictional stories out of their imagination.

Working in true crime means there is usually no need to create a killing, a suspect, evidence, or the complex machinations of how it gets solved by the end of the book. Life is not that simple, but history is bursting with real examples of murder and mayhem, lots of them unsolved or unresolved.

Also, as I am sure many PSWA members know, things happen in actual criminal cases that you could never write as fiction because people would not believe it. I came across a number of those with my recent book The Alaskan Blonde: Sex, Secrets, and the Hollywood Story that Shocked America, so buy me a beer one day, and I will tell you about them!

What brought you to writing? My paternal grandfather Jim – who died before I was born – was a respected daily newspaperman in England, where I come from, and that may be where the seed of my being a journalist/writer began.

Otherwise, it comes from being naturally curious. I like to meet people and want to know how things work – the stranger or more obscure, the better. To that end, I always try to write like I talk, with enthusiasm, and I try to write about things I am interested in and would want to read about.

That curiosity certainly led me to The Alaskan Blonde, which reexamines a sensational murder case that happened in Fairbanks in 1953 and ended with a suicide in Hollywood six months later.

What kind of research do you do? For The Alaskan Blonde, I came across a brief article about the murder in the Los Angeles Times archives while I was writing Gourmet Ghosts 2, and had thought: “Well, what happened next?”.

When I couldn’t find anything more substantial about the investigation on Google, I was hooked, so I initially requested police/FBI/archive files as a jumping-off point and then tried to track down living family members to ask them what they remembered about the case.

Being a complete outsider – not family, not from Alaska, not from America, not even born when the murder happened –helped, believe it or not. My English accent did too, but after meeting initial skepticism about why I cared about something that happened so long ago, I was astonished to find out that no one I talked to really knew what happened in 1953. It was simply not talked about and had even been brushed aside as Alaska fought for statehood.

Assembling as many pieces of evidence as I could, I went down many rabbit holes on the internet and, as is necessary, became somewhat obsessed with it all, but by the final chapter of the book, I felt that I could write what I think happened on the night of the murder.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process? For The Alaskan Blonde, the hardest thing was interviewing family members and friends and then deciding what was necessary to go in the book, which, after much structural re-arranging, I felt needed a chronological narrative.

Most of the interviewees had been children in the 1940s and 1950s, and almost without exception, the shock waves from the murder still affected them today and had affected their entire lives – and that of their children, too. As such, I often felt uncomfortable and wondered why I was bringing up something so many of them still found it difficult to talk about who I was.

How long did it take to get it published? It took five years of work before the book was ready for people to read. After publication, I was relieved and pleased to get several supportive emails from those family members, thanking me for what I had done: they felt they could finally talk about something that had been a black hole in their history.

Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? The everyday life of a journalist is about finding and researching ideas, then pitching them in a way that intrigues an editor. The research and writing are the fun part; getting a paying gig is a challenge!

I tend to write at home, as I don’t like to be too far from teabags, milk, and a kettle, but just as often, you’ll find me at the library. Sometimes I’ll listen to music, as it can give me an energy boost and make me write like a demon, but just as often, I’ll wear noise-canceling headphones so I can have silence. I don’t have a set schedule, but I like to work late when the mood takes me. My wife prefers to write in the early morning, and we often pass each other like ships at night.

What are you currently working on? Most recently, I published a Gourmet Ghosts (Pocket Guide) featuring some wild Los Angeles true crime stories about a Catalina Island pirate, a 1930s “Bonnie & Clyde,” and the rumor that Jack the Ripper was in the City of Angels before he bought death to London.

As for my next book project, it may be another Fairbanks story (a suspicious suicide from the 1970s), but that depends on whether my friend at Fairbanks PD finds anything on microfiche that was in cold storage – literally.

You can find out more at www.thealaskanblonde.com and www.gourmetghosts.com and email him at jbartlett2000@gmail.com

 

4 Comments

  1. Pamela Ruth Meyer

    Thanks for this, James. I enjoy learning about a book’s origin story. It’s also interesting how sometimes what we expect to work against us (like you NOT being from Alaska) ends up being a plus rather than a negative. Best of Luck with ALASKAN BLONDE.

    Reply
    • James T. Bartlett

      Thanks Michael – they’re certainly easier for me than fiction, because the structure etc is already in place. And honestly, as we all know, there’s nothing more fascinating and strange than what people will do in real life…

      Reply
  2. Michael A. Black

    Sounds like you’ve got a lock on those true crime mysteries, James. Best of luck to you.

    Reply
    • James T. Bartlett

      Thanks Michael – they’re certainly easier for me than fiction, because the structure etc is already in place. And honestly, as we all know, there’s nothing more fascinating and strange than what people will do in real life…

      Reply

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Eighteenth Annual Public Safety Writers Association’s Conference

This last week was the Eighteenth Annual Public Safety Writers Association’s Conference. Among the many accomplished authors there, I spent time with three friends from afar. It is always great to put real-life faces on our Zoom contacts. All three have been generous with their friendship, not to mention being awesome guests on my blog.

Peg Roche – Vicki Weisfeld – George Cramer – Sally Handley

SALLY HANDLEY – South Carolina

My introduction to PSWA came about when George Cramer contacted me to learn how his book, Robbers and Cops, could be considered for our Upstate SC Sisters in Crime Mystery Book Club. I invited George to be our moderator for the second quarter of 2023. In addition to his book, he chose books by two other PSWA members, Donnell Bell, and Michael  Black. As a result, many PSWA members attended our monthly book club that quarter. When I learned about their conference, I joined PSWA and registered to participate. I’m so glad I did. The panel discussions have been terrific, and I’ve met so many wonderful writers and public safety professionals. The conference was a great experience. – Sally Handley

Where to find Sally:
Website: www.sallyhandley.com
Blog: https://www.sallyhandley.com/blog/

M.E. (Peg) ROCHE – Florida

I really enjoy and learn from George Cramer’s blog, and it wasn’t until I read his glowing report of the last PSWA conference that I learned of the Public Safety Writers Association. I immediately applied to join and registered for this year’s conference. Because my novels involve law enforcement characters, and my own experience is somewhat limited, I was thrilled to learn of this untapped resource. In addition, Mike Black wrote a wonderful welcome email to PSWA and encouraged my participation in the upcoming conference; I felt I’d possibly found my niche. This year’s conference has been a great experience, providing me with a wealth of information and the enjoyable opportunity to meet writers who share my goals. – M. E. Roche 

Where to find Peg: www.meroche.com

 

VICKI WEISFELD – New Jersey

Vicki was a member of the conference panel about The Art of Revision. Here she shares some of the panel’s conclusions.

The discussion, moderated by Frank Zafiro, began with a discussion of “pantser” versus “plotter.” While this often comes across as a divide between two groups of authors, in truth, most of those on the panel seemed to adopt a more hybrid approach. The pantsers, who love the thrill of discovery and the spontaneity of their process, sometimes have to take stock of where they are in a story and proceed with a bit more of a plan. The plotters, no matter how detailed their outline or how many post-its and 3X5′ cards they have created, often are open to ideas and directions they could not initially anticipate. Suffice it to say, whatever the chosen approach, the author must work out a way forward through the thicket of fictional possibilities that best suits them.

Much the same goes for editing and revision. Reading the manuscript multiple times, on the screen or aloud, focusing on different aspects (dialog, flow, language), using a critique group or beta reader—whatever it takes to give a manuscript the attention it needs. My novel, Architect of Courage, had numerous readers of all or a portion, plus a review of the policing aspects by a New York City detective whose specialty was terrorism. All this input is essential to shaping the final product like any other research.

Vicki did not mention that her novel, Architect of Courage, was awarded second place in the stiff competition for the best-published novel.

Where to find Vicki:  www.vweisfeld.com

The PSWA is an association of writers existing to support people involved in creating content about public safety:

People with public safety careers who write stories, poetry, or non-fiction about their incredible experiences.
Mystery, thriller, and other writers who write about public safety characters and situations.
Publishers, editors, and other professionals

If you wish to learn more about the Public Safety Writers Association, follow this link https://policewriter.com/  

 

13 Comments

  1. Peg Roche

    Thanks, George! It was your blog last year that prompted my joining and it was great to finally meet. Everything about the conference was wonderful and I feel I really learned a lot. Everyone was so welcoming. I’m already looking forward to next year! Peg

    Reply
  2. Jim Christ

    Unhappily, I had to miss the late morning sessions on Sunday, including the one on blogging, etc. I wish I had been able to attend that one, for sure. I enjoyed meeting several talented authors, and I learned a great deal from the knowledgeable presenters and panelists. A big shout out to the skillful moderators for “my” two panels–Frank Scalise and Kelli Peacock. I also want to recognize Kelli for putting together an outstanding conference program. This was my first PSWA conference, but I’ve been to dozens of national conferences for administrators and school board members, and the PSWA’s printed program was one of the best I’ve seen.

    Reply
  3. Bob Doerr

    George, Good seeing you again, and I second everyone’s comments on the conference and PSWA.

    Reply
  4. Marie Sutro

    PSA sounds fantastic!!

    Reply
  5. Marilyn Meredith

    George is a gem and good friend. Loved meeting these three authors in person at our wonderful conference.

    Reply
  6. John Schembra

    Was nice to meet you all at the conference. Thanks for joining us in Las Vegas, and I’m glad you had a wonderful experience! Welcome to the PSWA!

    Reply
  7. Barbara Hodges

    Loved seeing all of you. What talented authors.

    Reply
  8. James L’Etoile

    Wonderful to meet all three of your guest bloggers at PSWA. I appreciated their enthusiasm and contributions on the panel sessions. George, it was great to see you recognized for your ongoing efforts and incredible support.

    Reply
  9. Donnell Ann Bell

    I am so sorry I missed it! My goodness, George, are you really that tall? You’re towering over those women. Peg, Sally, and Vicki, congratulations! Hope everyone had a wonderful time and learned lots. Best,

    Reply
  10. Thonie Hevron

    These three authors are indicative of the talent in the PSWA. I’m thrilled that each one of them has joined. They all bring a unique perspective and expertise to our group. Besides, they are nice folks!

    Reply
  11. Jim Guigli

    Thank you, George.

    For Vicki: When is the editing finished? Someone said, “When you stop editing,”

    Reply
  12. Michael A. Black

    My thanks to Peg, Sally, and Vicki for their participation at the conference and the panels. They were all outstanding. And thank you, George, for all that you contributed to the panels and the conference as well. George was awarded a PSWA Appreciation Award this year for his constant and unwavering support of authors on his incredible blog. He was also a big hit on the panel about AI. His participation on that one was done as a favor to me. Thanks, George. Stay strong.

    Reply

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CHRISTOPHER G. JONES – Pen Name Topper Jones

Author Christopher G. Jones, Ph.D./CPA, goes under the pseudonym Topper Jones for his detective novels featuring surfing crime-fighter Thaddeus Hanlon and his sassy partner Bri de la Guerra. All That Glisters—book one in the series—has a release date of September 20, 2023, and is being published by The Wild Rose Press in both print and e-book format.

Before devoting himself full-time to writing, Jones worked in public accounting and higher education, where he taught accounting, computer information systems, and business writing. To be close to his family, he makes his home in the southwestern desert rather than his native California, but every chance he gets; he treks the 450 miles to the Pacific Coast to get in a little “water therapy” and catch a few waves.

All That Glisters is an edgy contemporary whodunit involving financial skullduggery, high-level political intrigue, and a behind-the-scenes view of cyber sleuthing. Here’s the pitch:

When the facts don’t add up in his surf buddy’s bizarre death, forensic consultant (and daddy-to-be) Thaddeus Hanlon investigates, volunteering to go undercover to pick up where best friend Rafi Silva left off in a secret probe of the U.S. gold stockpile—every last bullion bar.

Rafi’s spunky fiancée, Bri de la Guerra, has suspicions of her own and soon joins Thad on the hunt for answers. Together, the two amateur sleuths delve deep, stumbling onto a financial a-stock-apse in the making, triggering a brutal manhunt along the Eastern seaboard meant to silence anyone looking to set the ledger straight.

How long did it take you to write your first book? All that Glisters was 45 years in the making. I got the initial idea for ATG in 1977 after reading Robin Cook’s medical thriller Coma. I thought: If a physician can write a bestseller, why can’t a certified public accountant? We were both professionals. All I needed was a preposterous premise.

Rather than have my protagonist discover [Spoiler Alert] human organs being illegally harvested for the black market as in Coma, I decided to have my main characters discover “something” equally chilling regarding the financial markets—a disturbing “something” that would upend everything. Total economic meltdown and the consequences! Banks failing, riots in the streets, and breadlines stretching from coast to coast.

A few years later, while working as a strategy consultant at Bain & Company, I penned the first draft of ATG on my morning commute into downtown Boston. Fortunately, that draft never found a home. The writing was amateurish and unschooled. So, I took classes in creative writing and kept plugging away at my craft.

When I retired from my day job some forty years later, I pulled out my abandoned proverbial “novel in the drawer.” With the help of a developmental editor specializing in mysteries, I rewrote the thing from scratch. All except the preposterous premise.

What’s the premise, you say?

You’ll have to read the book to find out. 😉

Do you outline, or are you a pantser? Both! I’m a big fan of the late Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat!® approach to story structure, so I tend to “beat out” the major plot points in my novels, complete with scene cards. Each card has a short scene description identifying the Hero/Heroine, Goal, Obstacles, and Stakes, along with notes on the emotional change from scene opening to scene close.

As I write the scene, magic sometimes happens, and the “players” don’t behave as expected. I end up channeling the characters, leading to surprises I never would have imagined during the outline phase of the project.

Listening to the Muse means trusting the “pantsing” side of my brain. When that happens, I’m more than happy to rewire the plot. So, for my writing process, it’s both plotting and pantsing. But, always plotting first.

How do you raise the stakes for your protagonist—for the antagonist? At the novel’s midpoint, halfway through the book. Up to then, in my mysteries, the protagonists usually have been navigating the down-a-rabbit-hole world of sleuthing without much success. We’ve seen them search for clues, learn who to trust, and eliminate some dead ends. But they need a breakthrough to solve the case.

For example, by the middle of All That Glisters, the protagonists have run into a wall in their investigation. The only way they can scale that impasse is by learning to “color outside the lines.” When the protagonists decide to go rogue to find the killer, the antagonist takes notice and doubles down to avoid exposure. Things get serious. The pace quickens. And more bodies drop.

What are you currently working on? Book Two in the Thad Hanlon & Bri de la Guerra Mystery Series has been workshopped, reviewed by beta readers, and is currently under revision. Here’s the logline:  Newly licensed private investigator, Thad Hanlon, takes a break from catching waves along the California Central Coast to land his first client—a former exotic dancer from Bakersfield looking for her surf prodigy son who has gone missing in the wake of a string of ritualistic murders terrorizing Oceano Beach.

Do you have any advice for new writers? Workshop your work! Whatever it takes, get feedback from people interested in your success. And be open to what fellow writers have to say. They can tell when something isn’t working when characters behave out of character, and when your language isn’t capturing your intention. Listen and revise accordingly.

You can often find writing critique groups at your local library or through state and local writing organizations. I found my “writing safe space” through the Heritage Writers Guild, a local chapter of the League of Utah Writers. The Writers Improvement Group (WIG for short) meets each week to review what we wrote since the last session. Knowing I need to have “something for WIG” motivates me to get words on the page. The weekly goal: five pages double-spaced. In my case, my critique group functions as both a sounding board and an accountability group. Everyone needs a little encouragement. Especially writers!

Links:

Book Link: https://topperjones.com/product/all-that-glisters
Website: https://topperjones.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TopperJonesAuthor
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/topperjones_author/
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/christopher-g-jones-a566253/

Groups I belong to:

Mystery Writers of America
League of Utah Writers
Heritage Writers Guild
Utah Mystery Writers
International Thriller Writers

5 Comments

  1. Ilona Fridl

    Great advice! I hope your novel does well. It sounds interesting.

    Reply
  2. Lucy Kubash

    I agree accountability groups are good. I meet regularly in Zoom with a group and it does help keep me moving forward. Best of luck with your new book

    Reply
  3. Randy Overbeck

    Glad you found a way to give a good story premise new life!

    Reply
  4. Barb Bettis

    Sounds like an exciting book, Topper. And congratulations on being a plotter who listens to his pantsing side 🙂 Best of luck with this book and the one in process.

    Reply
  5. Jennifer Wilck

    Love the premise of the book. Good luck with it!

    Reply

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LESLIE BUDEWITZ – Living a Life of Crime in Montana

Leslie Budewitz is a three-time Agatha Award winner and the best-selling author of the Spice Shop mysteries, set in Seattle, and Food Lovers’ Village mysteries, set in NW Montana, where she lives. As Alicia Beckman, she writes moody stand-alone suspense set in the Northwest, including Bitterroot Lake and Blind Faith. Leslie is a past president of Sisters in Crime and former board member of Mystery Writers of America.

It’s a delight to be here, George, and to chat with you and your readers about my books. My newest cozy mystery, Between a Wok and a Dead Place, the seventh Spice Shop Mystery, will be out July 18. When her life fell apart at age 40, Pepper Reece never expected to find solace in bay leaves. But her impulsive purchase of the Spice Shop in Seattle’s famed Pike Place Market turned out to be one of the best decisions she ever made. Between selling spice and juggling her personal life, she also discovers another unexpected talent—for solving murder.

Pepper loves a good festival, especially one serving up tasty treats. So what could be more fun than a food walk in the city’s Chinatown–International District, celebrating the Year of the Rabbit? But when her friend Roxanne stumbles across a man’s body in the Gold Rush, a long-closed residential hotel, questions leap out. Who was he? What was he doing in the dust-encrusted herbal pharmacy in the hotel’s basement? Why was the pharmacy closed up—and why are the owners so reluctant to talk? As the clues pile up, it’s clear that someone’s fortunes are about to take a deadly change.

Do you write in more than one genre? Like a lot of authors, I have many stories to tell. My cozies—whether the classic small-town setting of my Food Lovers’ Village mysteries or the city life of my Spice Shop mysteries—focus on an amateur sleuth who uses her skills, resources, and connections to solve a crime that affects her community. While the cozy is the lighter side of mystery, often seasoned as mine with food and humor, the focus is always the impact of a crime on the community. It’s a flexible kind of story, with plenty of room for exploring social issues. Murder is a social issue, after all, and people are social creatures, with a full range of problems. I hope that when readers finish a Spice Shop book, they feel they’ve learned something about Seattle, food, and the experiences of other people—and had a fun, entertaining read.

As Alicia Beckman, I write moody suspense, what I think of as “women’s lives, plus crime.” I’ve also published more than two dozen short mysteries—six are collected in Carried to the Grave and Other Stories, the wrap-up to the Food Lovers’ Village series. Some of my shorts are cozy, some are historical, and a few verge on noir. The short story allows a writer to explore specific ideas, take a quick detour, or try a new style, without the commitment of a full book.

What brought you to writing? I’d always been interested, but it didn’t seem like a career path! During a personal crisis in my late 30s, my creative instincts became both my way through a difficult time and the way forward. Turns out that’s not uncommon: When we are broken open, an essential part of us emerges.

Tell us about your writing process. I call myself a planner. Story emerges from the characters: these people in this place confronting these challenges and obstacles. I get to know them in a very organic way, asking who they are and how they would behave in a particular situation, and taking lots of notes. Then I organize those snippets of dialogue, setting, and action, filling in as much as I can before beginning to commit to actual sentences and scenes. For me, outlining is a highly kinetic, right-brain process of discovery—not the arbitrary decision making some pantsers seem to think it is—and if I try to short-circuit it, I run into trouble.

These days, I write full-time, after practicing law while writing my first several books. I try to keep office hours, writing in the morning and tackling business and promotion in the afternoon.

What are you currently working on? My desk is a mess write—er, right—now, as I revise the 8th Spice Shop mystery, To Err is Cumin, coming in July 2024. When Pepper spots a ratty wingback chair put on the curb for the taking and snaps it up, she bites off more trouble than she can chew.

Has an association membership helped you with your writing? Like many members of Sisters in Crime, especially the Guppies, I would not be published without those organizations, or without Authors of the Flathead, a multi-genre group here in NW Montana. Virtually every opportunity I have had in this business has come from being part of those groups. I am the last original Guppy, and so pleased with how the chapter has evolved. Serving as president of Sisters in Crime (2015-16) was both challenging and joyful, and without a doubt, one of the great privileges of my professional life.

Do your protagonists ever disappoint you? No, but they often surprise me. They are human, with their own experiences and perspectives. I love when they force me to dig deeper into my own heart, assumptions, and understanding of human interaction.

This was especially true in The Solace of Bay Leaves, where Pepper confronts her misconceptions about an old friend—who turns out to have her own flawed view of their relationship. And in Blind Faith, my second stand-alone written as Alicia Beckman, I took a deep dive into the community where I was raised. In the process, each of my main characters reassesses some of their own decisions and beliefs.

Do you have any advice for new writers? Read, write, repeat. Learn to read like a writer. Connect with other writers. Find what you love about the work and commit to it. Write the stories only you can write.

How do our readers contact you?
Website: www.LeslieBudewitz.com – Newsletter subscribers receive a free short story.
Facebook: www.Facebook.com/LeslieBudewitzAuthor
Instagram: www.Instagram.com/LeslieBudewitz
Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen: http://www.MysteryLoversKitchen.com – 12 cozy authors cook up crime and recipes.

4 Comments

  1. Pamela Ruth Meyer

    Dear Leslie,
    As one far behind you on the publishing trail, I thank you for all your contributions to writers and writing, particularly SinC and its Guppy Chapter, which have come to feel like family to me. It’s also reassuring to see one author who can experience success in so many different writing genres. (I’m writing a historical and so was particularly intrigued to see you’ve even written in that category).
    PS: Loved the title of your newest… Between a WOK and a Dead Place. You, dear Leslie, truly (wait for it)… Wok.

    Reply
  2. Vicki Batman

    a very nice interview!

    Reply
  3. Michael A. Black

    Great writing advice, Leslie, and I love your titles. Best of luck to you.

    Reply
  4. Leslie Ann Budewitz

    Thanks for the invitation, George! Your questions got me thinking!

    Reply

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M.E. ROCHE – Registered Nurse / Author

Since growing up in the Midwest, M. E. Roche has lived on both coasts as well as in Ireland. As a registered nurse, she’s had the opportunity to work in many facets of nursing and volunteer with her local coroner—part of the sheriff’s department—in northern California. Her favorite books have always been mysteries.

 

 

Her first three books were young adult mysteries, introducing Nora Brady as a student nurse. Nora has since moved on to three adult mysteries, and the newest ONCOLOGY has just been released on Amazon. In addition, M. E. has written the standalone mystery novel: BIGAMY, set in the 1930s. She is currently working on another standalone set in the Dust Bowl era.

ONCOLOGY – Cancer Treatment Can Be Murder has Nora working as an RN in an oncology clinic. When a former patient suffers a heart attack while on a cruise, an autopsy is done as required; this shows no evidence of prior cancer treatment. The medical examiner in San Diego who did the autopsy notifies his friend, the medical examiner in Jacobsport, who is Nora’s friend—the one who got her the job in oncology. Determining how this might have happened and how many other patients might have been affected is a complicated undertaking for this inexplicable situation. Determining who is responsible while not raising any alarms can also be risky for Nora and her friends.

What brought you to writing? Like many, I thought about writing long before I sat down to do it. At some point, it’s that “If not now, when?” The shortage of nurses has always been a problem, never more notable than the present. While I had never read the books written in the 1950s and 60s about nursing students who solved mysteries, I knew of them, read them later in life, and decided they needed an update, which is what my first three novels attempted to do—the idea being to attract young readers to the nursing profession. After completing those, I decided I wanted to bring Nora Brady into adulthood and wanted her to become a detective without completely giving up her nursing career.

Your Writing Process: I start with a vague idea of what a story will be about, but I love letting the characters shape the direction of the narrative. I find that writing first thing in the morning, after a cup of coffee or two and maybe the early news, is the best time for me—sitting at my desktop and letting the words come…or maybe not come. I’ll give the process an hour or so, then take a walk and let the day begin. I seldom go back to work in progress, rather using later in the day for editing or correspondence. When writing, I prefer no distractions, but later in the day, I may have an easy listening station playing.

Current Project: I often have several projects going on at the same time. Right now, I’m working on finishing a novel I started some time ago about a series of crimes that transverses the country, from the northwest coast to the city of Boston. It involves inter-agency workings that I’m attempting to learn and manage. In addition, I’m working on another novel set in the 1930s about a great-aunt of mine who immigrated from Ireland and ended up marrying a man in Nebraska—a homesteader. He eventually dies, and she’s left with all the problems that ensued for many wiped out during the Dust Bowl era. It raised so many questions and has necessitated quite a bit of research, not just in that era but also about my family. Most of the family had made it to Chicago, so how did she end up in Nebraska?

Setting the Location for a Novel: The Nora Brady novels are set in the fictional Jacobsport, California, which is based on Eureka, California. I was told I should have used the actual name of the town and places, that it would be more relatable for readers, but I worried about getting too close to home with actual places or people. Eureka readers will tell me they see the places I describe, but I hope there’s just enough anonymity. However, when Nora goes down to San Francisco, I use actual streets and landmarks. This is also what I do for the background in Boston. When I was writing Bigamy, however, I did base the story on actual people in a small town in New York state, where relatives of the characters still lived. I couldn’t chance using real names or locations, so I moved the story to New Jersey and a fictional town.

Kind of Research: There is some research for every novel, even where my nursing is involved, as things have become so specialized. When writing about law enforcement, I try to stay pretty clear of legal and procedural specifics and instead focus on the character’s deductive reasoning. In my volunteer work with the coroner, I did several ride-alongs with the sheriff’s deputies; that chance to talk with the deputies over several years was invaluable.

When writing about another era, I try to read as much as I can, both fiction and non-fiction, about the period until I have something of a feel for the time. There are always details, however. If I use an actual town and want to talk about transportation, I have to be sure of what might have been available. If I write about peanut butter, was it even a product at that time? If I write about the characters meeting in an Irish parish, was there one in the area? Readers do recognize the accuracy of details. I want things to be realistic and relatable.

Please consider visiting my website at:   www.meroche.com

 

 

6 Comments

  1. Pamela Ruth Meyer

    Peg, I’m so glad you described your typical writing day here. I’m just now in a situation where I have more time to write than I ever have before. I’ve always felt most productive in the morning, as you describe to be the case for you in this post. But I’ve been struggling with when to do the daily walk, fearing I may never ‘get to it’ if I don’t walk before I start to write. Does that happen to you, or are you disciplined enough to fit that walk in every day–after a bout of new writing?

    Reply
    • Peg Roche

      Hi Pamela: I’m so sorry I didn’t see your comment earlier! I do find that I’ll end up skipping that walk if I don’t do it first thing. I usually write for an hour or so, walk, and then try to get back to it either after the walk or sometimes in the afternoon if other things are planned. You’re right, though. I find I have to be disciplined as it’s easy for me to be distracted!

      Reply
  2. Michael A. Black

    It sounds like you’re juggling a lot of different projects at the same time which is always challenging for a writer. But your background in nursing probably prepared you to handle many things at once. I’m looking forward to hearing more about you and Nora Brady at the PSWA Conference. Best of luck to you.

    Reply
    • Peg Roche

      Hi Mike: I’m so sorry I didn’t catch your comment earlier. Thanks for taking the time. You’re right, there is some juggling involved, and it does take planning, which I’m sure you know from all your books! It was a pleasure meeting you and the conference was just great! Already looking forward to next year! Thanks again!

      Reply
  3. Peg Roche

    Thanks for the opportunity, George!

    Reply
    • George Cramer

      So glad you could stop by and share your story.

      Reply

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