FLEUR BRADLEY – Mystery Puzzle Master

Fleur Bradley has loved puzzles and (scary) mysteries ever since she first discovered Agatha Christie novels. She’s the author of numerous mysteries for kids, Midnight at the Barclay Hotel, which was on many award lists, including the Reading the West, Agatha and Anthony Awards, Sasquatch Award, and won the SCBWI Crystal Kite Award, Sunshine State Young Readers Award, and the Colorado Book Award.

A reluctant reader herself, Fleur regularly does librarian and educator conference talks on ways to reach reluctant readers. Originally from the Netherlands, she now lives in Colorado with her family and entirely too many rescue animals. Find out more about Fleur at http://www.ftbradley.com and follow her on Twitter @FTBradleyAuthor.

Daybreak on Raven Island: From the critically acclaimed author of Midnight at the Barclay Hotel comes a thrilling new middle-grade mystery novel inspired by Alcatraz Prison.

Tori, Marvin, and Noah would rather be anywhere else than on the seventh-grade class field trip to Raven Island prison. Tori would rather be on the soccer field, but her bad grades have benched her until further notice; Marvin would rather be at the first day of a film festival with his best friend, Kevin; and Noah isn’t looking forward to having to make small talk with his classmates at this new school.

But when the three of them stumble upon a dead body in the woods, miss the last ferry back home, and then have to spend the night on Raven Island, they find that they need each other now more than ever. They must work together to uncover a killer, outrun a motley ghost-hunting crew, and expose the age-old secrets of the island all before daybreak.

Do you write in more than one genre? Although most people know me as the author of mysteries for kids, I also write short stories and YA. It’s good to stretch your writing muscle a little, I think. I also make sure I read a lot outside my own genre, so I know what’s going on.

Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? I write in my home office—I’m so fortunate to have one! For years, I wrote in waiting rooms (while my kids were in gymnastics or art classes), food courts, and my dining room. It’s so nice to have a dedicated space. My kids are grown, so that helps too. I have all the time to write.

Tell us about your writing process: I usually start with a broad concept—the crime, since I write mystery, and what I want the book to feel like. That last part is a little vague, but I know a good recipe for a book when I see it, even if it’s just in my imagination.

Setting is a big part of my process too. It creates the mood, and with some research, I usually find ways to use setting. My most recent book, Daybreak on Raven Island, is set on a fictionalized version of Alcatraz. I used the real-life setting as inspiration for everything from the horror feel of the book to the mysteries my three kid characters are trying to solve.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process? Probably letting it go once it’s time for publication. You can edit forever. That’s just the truth. There comes a time to let readers pass judgment.

Has an association membership helped you with your writing? Both MWA and SinC here in Colorado have been hugely helpful. They cheer me on and provide simple camaraderie. It’s nice to have people to talk mystery with.

On the children’s writers side, I love my local chapter of SCBWI. I’m very lucky here in Colorado to have so many writer friends.

What authors did you dislike at first but grew to enjoy? I was not a fan of Stephen King until I started reading his short stories. I still don’t always have the patience for his really long books, but I can appreciate the storytelling now.

Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I love outlining, and the longer I’m doing this, the more I believe in outlining. It just takes too much time to edit without a solid outline. I teach outlining workshops now; I’m such a believer.

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? I like to take a real-life setting and then fictionalize it, so I can make it what I want. For Midnight at the Barclay Hotel, I used the Stanley Hotel here in Colorado (from The Shining, in case you’re not familiar). For Daybreak on Raven Island, I ‘built’ Raven Island based on Alcatraz. It’s such an incredible tool. Setting can change a story completely, so I try to have that figured out early on in my process.

Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? Daybreak on Raven Island just came out, so I’m spending a lot of time doing virtual and in-person events. Writing-wise, I’m working on another mystery for kids and another for teens. I hope to finish both by the end of 2022 and then will have to see if they find a home somewhere. There are no guarantees in publishing.

Do you have any advice for new writers? Stay positive, and surround yourself with people (especially fellow writers) who lift you up. Publishing is tough and full of rejection. You want friends to pick you up when you’re down and buy you cake when there’s something to celebrate.

How do our readers contact you?

Here’s my website: Fleur Bradley (ftbradley.com)

I hang out on Twitter: Fleur Bradley – preorder DAYBREAK ON RAVEN ISLAND! (@FTBradleyAuthor) / Twitter

And Instagram: Fleur Bradley (@fleurbradley) • Instagram photos and videos

6 Comments

  1. Marilyn Meredith

    I met Fleur long ago at I think a Left Coast Crime convention. I loved Midnight at the Barclay Hotel and looking forward to reading the new one.

    Reply
  2. Margaret Mizushima

    So glad that you have another book out, Fleur! I can’t wait to read it. And I can’t wait until my granddaughter is old enough so that we can read them together! Best wishes for this new book!

    Reply
  3. Marie Sutro

    Fleur is absolutely right! Friends who pick you up are worth their weight in gold!

    Reply
  4. Debra Bokur

    I haven’t read this one yet, Fleur, but look forward to it. I loved what you did with the Stanley Hotel in Midnight at the Barclay Hotel. You have a keen sense of setting and atmosphere that adds so much to the fun plot. And, about cake…. Yes. Absolutely!

    Reply
  5. Fleur Bradley

    Thank you so much for the kind words, Michael. It means a lot, especially coming from you. Hope we get to catch up in person again sometime, been too long!

    Reply
  6. Michael A. Black

    Fleur Bradley is talent personified. I enjoy all of her books and short stories and her YA books are so good they appeal to readers of all ages. I’m thrilled to see she has a new one out. I’m going to order it today. Best of luck to you, Fleur.

    Reply

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RYAN RIVERS – Juggles Writing with Single Parenthood

Ryan Rivers is the author of the Bucket List Mystery series, featuring ICU nurse Sho Tanaka and former tween TV detective Levi Blue.

By day, Ryan teaches technical writing and stops the spread of unnecessary adverbs and vague pronoun references. By mid-afternoon/early evening, he fights crime with his trusty sidekick/toddler son. Together they have uncovered who, in fact, has got your nose and tracked the elusive Peekaboo. They live, eat, and occasionally sleep in North Texas with their Brussels griffon pup.

Ryan is a member of the Alliance of Independent Authors. Visit him at http://www.ryanriversbooks.com

Arbor Day Can Be Deadly is a lighthearted novella in The Bucket List cozy mystery series.

Sho Tanaka is running from his problems. Placed on extended leave after a traumatizing incident led to his prescription drug addiction, the once-successful ICU nurse flees to his estranged sister in Texas. But when the tiny town’s Arbor Day Festival ends with him getting accidentally punched in the face, he makes an unexpected friend in the man who comes to his aid.

Former tween TV detective Levi Blue plans to never be forgotten. Fearing his father’s fate of an early death, he returns home to check in on his fan museum’s progress when a fight between the mayor and police chief takes out an innocent bystander. So, turning on the fading celebrity charm, he ropes the new guy into his mission of hunting down his missing construction manager.

Still feeling like a fish out of water, Sho reluctantly helps his benefactor question the mayor, who claims to be afraid for her life. And Levi’s “experience,” tells him they’ve stumbled onto a crazy conspiracy full of corruption, fraud… and sudden threats to their lives.

If you like complex characters, laugh-out-loud moments, and clean whodunits, I invite you to download this novella for free: https://BookHip.com/QWCVWAW

Tell us about your writing process: As a full-time academic and single parent, I look for any pocket of time to write. Sprints have been invaluable to my writing process.

I wrote most of my Bucket List Mystery novella in 5-minute sprints, while my son hung out in his crib after diaper changes. In the afternoons, we’d stroll in the park, and I’d dictate into my phone in 15-minute sprints. When you do that consistently, the words add up, and I soon had a first draft to edit.

All the “best practices” say I should write in the morning, but I find it therapeutic and relaxing to write in the evening, right after my son goes to bed. Writing in the evening diverts my focus from any bad events from the workday, and I actually sleep much better.

How do you come up with character names?: My stories take place in a fictional Texas Hill Country town, located between Austin and San Antonio. Many of my character’s names are inspired by Texas towns and landmarks – Abilene, Odessa, Wayland, Vaughn. My son and I road trip through the Hill Country often, so I keep a running list of character names.

I also have a secret, slightly embarrassing way of coming up with characters’ names. I started writing during the pandemic – while caring for an infant, – so there were lots of moments where I was too tired to read, write, or think.

Naturally, I watched a lot of trashy reality TV, and what’s trashier than the boozy socialites on the Real Housewives of New York? So, yes, I have one character in every story named after a housewife – Aviva, Ramona, Sonja. If you know your Housewives’ history, it’s only a matter of time before Jill, Bethenny, and Dorinda appear.

What kind of research do you do? Each of my Bucket List Mysteries centers around a hobby or community event—aerobics, barbecue competition, community theatre—, so I first research these worlds. I spend lots of time in half-price/discount bookstores; college towns are known for eclectic tastes, so I find sources here I wouldn’t otherwise.

I also watch a lot of YouTube videos and documentaries on my hobby – this helps be visualize the settings and listen to speech patterns for writing dialogue.

I take lots of notes, and eventually, characters (or suspects, victims, and killers) emerge. Once I understand the world these characters could live in, motives for murder and deep secrets emerge.

I then brainstorm how to join this world with my other fictional world of Bluebonnet Hills, Texas. Sho and Levi bridge both worlds, so I need plausible ways for them to, for example, become extras in an aerobics video.

As I work, flashes of scenes or snippets of dialogue pop into my head. When I can visualize a scene, I know I’m on the right track. I take lots of notes and clumsily organize them into a plot. Then, I take off and see where the characters land.

Other authors have more efficient research processes, but I find immersing myself in these worlds helps me construct realistic plots and characters.

What are you currently working on?: Right now, I’m editing Aerobics Can Be Deadly, the first novel in the Bucket List Mysteries.  

Fearing his father’s fate of an early death, former tween TV detective Levi Blue begins his bucket list. He enlists his new best buddy Sho Tanaka to help him train for a triathlon.

But the triathlon training detours when Levi instead takes part in the filming of an aerobics video with fitness icon Barbara Lou Sinclair. Stop me if you’ve read this before, but someone ends up dead, and it’s up to Levi and Sho to crack the case and keep Bluebonnet Hills safe.

Aerobics Can Be Deadly will be published in September 2022, but you can preorder it from your preferred eBook retailer: https://books2read.com/u/mgEnw0

Looking to the future, what’s in store for you?: Hopefully more Bucket List Mysteries. My novels are an “alphabet mystery” series. The keyword for each title starts with the next letter of the alphabet: Aerobics Can Be Deadly, Barbecue Can Be Deadly, Comedy Can Be Deadly, etc. With this system, I pretty much have the next 26 years planned out!

I also enjoy writing shorter fiction in this world. Those novellas and short stories are titled with a holiday: Arbor Day Can Be Deadly, Halloween Hoedowns Can Be Deadly, etc.

I have ideas for other cozy series, but for now, I enjoy my regular visits with Sho, Levi, Jenny, and the residents of Bluebonnet Hills.

Email: ryan@ryanriversbooks.com

Website http://www.ryanriversbooks.com

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/21947004.Ryan_Rivers

5 Comments

  1. Linda M. Au

    Great interview! So fun! (But the headline has a typo with “Parenthool.” Sorry, I’m a proofreader by trade.)

    Reply
    • George Cramer

      Well, Linda, I don’t feel too bad about getting caught because, look at how many of us, including Ryan, read it the way it is now. 🙂

      Reply
  2. Michael A. Black

    Good luck on reaching number 26. I’m sure people have told you this, but you’re a dead ringer for George Jetson. 😉

    Reply
    • Ryan Rivers

      George is a distant cousin, Michael 😉

      Reply
  3. Ryan Rivers

    Thanks for featuring me, George!

    -Ryan

    Reply

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PATTI PETRONE MILLER – Prolific Multi-Genre Writer

Patti is the co-executive producer for a television series in pre-production titled THUMBS UP! about a boy with Autism and his special dog with opposable thumbs. She is the author of over seventy-five books and over two hundred fifty works in progress. Patti is the very first author to be chosen as a judge for the PBS KIDS GO contest to present the awards as well. She has been an educator, an agent, and an editor. Currently, she sits at home writing in pajamas in Las Vegas, NV, with her three world domination dogs.

England’s most famous witch trial took place in Lancashire in 1612. Ten of the so-called Pendle Witches were hanged at Lancaster Castle after being deemed guilty of witchcraft. Their ghosts reputedly haunt the village of Newchurch, where one of the witches is said to be buried.

Gwen Winter and her two brothers, Lance and Merle, travel to England with their Father to visit their Aunt. Gwen knows what she wants to see and do while there. She is determined to solve a mystery centuries-long, to search for clues of what happened to the sisters Pendle and why they had been accused.

Gwen finds out she has been carrying a family secret that will haunt her for the rest of her life. Will she be able to deal with the new found information long enough to solve the mystery, or will she fall into the deep dark folds of the family secret?

Find out in this first installment of the Ghost Tales Mystery Series, The Pendleton Witches.

Do you write in more than one genre? Actually yes! I write in cozy mystery, thriller, horror, MG, YA, Steampunk, Gaslamp, romance, rom-com, paranormal, fantasy, and many sub-genres

What brought you to writing? I have always dabbled in writing ever since I was a kid. I read a great deal also. My writing inspiration began when I started writing skits for plays when I was young. We used to put on a play once a week for the neighborhood kids and charge them five cents to watch. From there, I went on to work part-time for a newspaper, and the rest is history.

Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? I have an in-home office. I always write with some kind of background noise. If I get a phone call or someone pops in via social media, I sometimes welcome the distraction.

Tell us about your writing process: Hmm. I don’t have a process per se; I write when the bug bites. I normally try to write something every day after I sit down and check through email, have coffee, spend time with my pups or sit outside, depending on the weather. My writing time is usually done during the morning hours and falls into the afternoon.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process? Motivation! I’m a HUGE procrastinator! And writer’s block.

What are you currently working on? I have several books I’m currently working on at the moment. Cozy, primarily paranormal.

Has an association membership helped you with your writing? Tremendously! Years ago, I joined RWA and the local chapter in the state I was living in at the time. Back then, we were one of the largest with the most published authors. I learned a great deal from them over the years I was a member. I highly suggest to any writer to join as many as you can find.

Who’s your favorite author? Diana Gabaldon. She penned the Outlander series.

How long did it take you to write your first book? Eight months was A LOT of trial and error.

How long to get it published? One year with a traditional publisher back in 1989

We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave or run wild? Oh dear lord! Mine are always running amok in my brain!

Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I used to be a pantser, but now I’ve finally learned, after 43 years, to outline and plot!

What is the best book you have ever read? G WELLS WAR OF THE WORLDS! I was thirteen years old and used to run home from school just to read all 600 pages of it!

Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? Completing our television show, having many books on the best sellers list and published with two of my bucket list publishers.

                                                   

Do you have any advice for new writers? Yes! STUDY the craft. Anyone can write a book…it takes great skill to write a GREAT one. Do your homework!

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and your books? Our books are for everyone. We write books for children as young as two years old through adult. Our books are clean reads so every age can enjoy them. I write spooky, so anyone who reads RL Stine, Stephen King, and Dean Koonz will enjoy my books. I also write outside that box, so there are books for everyone.

How do our readers contact you? https://www.facebook.com/pattipetronemiller

1 Comment

  1. Michael A, Black

    Wow, Patti, you certainly have written in numerous genres. Your writing process sounds fascinating and ingenious. Best of luck to you.

    Reply

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NICK CHIARKAS – Veteran – Police Officer – Attorney – Author

Nick Chiarkas grew up in the Al Smith housing projects in the Two Bridges neighborhood on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. When he was in the fourth grade, his mother was told by the principal of PS-1 that “Nick was unlikely to ever complete high school, so you must steer him toward a simple and secure vocation.” Instead, Nick became a writer, with a few stops along the way: a U.S. Army Paratrooper; a New York City Police Officer; the Deputy Chief Counsel for the President’s Commission on Organized Crime; and the Director of the Wisconsin State Public Defender Agency. On the way, he picked up a Doctorate from Columbia University, a Law Degree from Temple University; and was a Pickett Fellow at Harvard. How many mothers are told their child is hopeless? How many kids with potential simply surrender to desperation? That’s why Nick wrote “Weepers”—for them.

 

Weepers: The murder of an undercover cop in a New York City Housing Project in 1957 has unexpected ties to the unsolved disappearance of a young father walking home in those same Projects with his son, Angelo, on Christmas Eve 1951. The only witness to the cop killing is Angelo, now 13, as he was on his way to set fire to a grocery store at 2:00 am. The killers saw him. These events forge a union between a priest, a Mafia boss, a police detective, and Angelo, a gang member. In Weepers, we see that if you drop a rock into the East River, the ripples will go all the way to Italy. In the end, Weepers shows us that the courage of the underdog—despite fear and moral ambiguity—will conquer intimidation.

Awards for Weepers:

• Firebird Grand Prize Best Book Award (2022)
• Best Mystery Novel for 2017 the John E Weaver Excellent Reads Award by Earthshine. https://www.speakuptalkradio.com/nick-chiarkas-firebird-book-award-winner/
• Award Winner – Best Novel of 2016 by the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA)
• Award for Best Book Award by Midwest Independent Publishers Association (MIPA)
• Award for Best Young Adult Novel for 2016 by Bookvana
• Award for Best Crossover (Mystery & Young Adult) Best Books Award for 2017
• Award for Best Young Adult Coming-of-Age by Readers’ Favorite for 2018

Nunzio‘s Way: Nunzio drifted back to his childhood there on the Lower East Side. The narrow, trash-lined streets and alleys weaved together decaying brownstone tenements with common toilets—one per floor. Alone at ten years old, after his mother died, he learned to survive in one of the most notorious neighborhoods in the city. He shoveled coal and guarded the produce stored there by the ships docked off South Street to pay for living in the cellar at 57 Canon Street. After school, Nunzio mostly walked the streets. He recalled the putrid smell of decomposing cats and dogs covered with a trembling blanket of insects, rats, and things he didn’t recognize. And lying in the gutter against the sidewalk on Pike Street was a horse, with old and fresh whip wounds, shrouded in a cloak of flying and crawling insects. Only three years later, at the ripe age of thirteen, Nunzio killed his first man, a hulking longshoreman people called “the bear.” His life and the lives of four of his friends changed forever. Plenty of other horrors and hardships confronted him throughout his life, but when he closed his eyes, Nunzio saw the horse.

“Nunzio’s Way” In 1960, Declan Arden, an ambitious New York City lawyer, asked his boyhood friend and client, Nunzio Sabino, the most powerful organized crime boss of his time, to help him win the election for mayor. Nunzio agrees to help Declan, telling him, “In this city, you can have anything you want if you kill the right four people.” In Italy, after killing a top member of the Gomorra, Heather Potter, arrives in New York City seeking vengeance on the people who murdered her family. Those people include Nunzio Sabino and Mac Pastamadeo. Mac is the father of Angelo, the leader of the Weepers gang.

NICK’S FAVORITE WORKSPACE

Five fun facts most people don’t know about me (Nick Chiarkas)

  1. I received the Law Enforcement Commendation Medal from the Sons of the American Revolution, and I received the Equal Justice Medal from the Legal Aid Society – These two awards are not in conflict but in harmony. I believe that no one is above the law’s enforcement nor below its protection.
  2. I raised my two oldest children mostly as a single dad – just the three of us. They taught me a lot.
  3. I was one of a handful of NYPD cops sent to Woodstock in 1969 to provide security – it was incredible.
  4. While in an Army hospital, I received a very kind letter from J.D. Salinger.
  5. I was in the movie The Anderson Tapes (Starring: Sean Connery, Dyan Cannon, and Christopher Walken).

Available at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, University of Wisconsin Bookstore, Mystery to Me, other local independent bookstores, and from the publisher.

8 Comments

  1. Madeline Gornell

    Great interview, Nick! You should be sooo proud of your accomplishments. A true inspiration…. continued success!

    Reply
  2. Donnell Ann Bell

    Oh my goodness. From your mother’s low expectations to a stunning career. As a police officer tasked with security at Woodstock, could you define “incredible?”

    Congratulations on a stellar career, and George, I hope you’re enjoying your road trip! Be careful out there.

    Reply
  3. Joseph Bryce HAGGERTY Sr

    Nick, you seem to me a contradiction, but a steadfast believer in the law. Even with all of its faults, I too, believe in the law. Justice can come in many forms. Your experiences are amazing and it is obvious you have worked hard. Not that I am anybody of importance, but you have convinced me to read your books Thank you for sharing your well deserved awards and your resume of law enforcement.

    Reply
  4. Nick Chiarkas

    Thank you, Mike, I truly appreciate your generous words, my friend.

    Reply
  5. Marilyn Meredith

    Great interview! What a history–amazing!
    That teacher had no idea about you.

    Reply
    • Nick Chiarkas

      Thanks for your kind words, Marilyn. They are most appreciated, my friend.

      Reply
  6. Michael A. Black

    Wow, what a life story! Hearing all that Nick has accomplished is an inspiration to us all. He’s the stuff that true heroes are made of–a true self-made man.

    Reply

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SHELLEY RILEY – From the Kentucky Derby to Fantasy

Shelley Riley had a deep love for horses from an early age, and this love took her from humble beginnings at the Alameda County Fairgrounds to the storied barn area of Churchill Downs.

 

The story of Casual Lies began on a snowy January day in Lexington, Kentucky. While attending a thoroughbred sale, Shelley glanced up and made eye contact with a tiny, fuzzy eight-month-old foal that nobody else seemed to want. And the rest is the stuff of fairytales.

That nondescript colt went on to take Shelley and her husband Jim, an accomplished horseman in his own right, on an adventure of a lifetime. They went on to compete in all three Triple Crown Races—another first at the time. By finishing second in the 118th running of the Kentucky Derby in 1992, Casual Lies rewarded Shelley with the highest finish for a horse trained by a woman in the history of the Kentucky Derby. A record that still stands thirty years later.

In Casual Lies – A Triple Crown Adventure, Shelley gives the reader a fun look behind the scenes of what that adventure was like for her and Jim.

Why did you wait two decades to write your memoir about Casual Lies? It would have been far different if I had written the memoir right after the Triple Crown. I had a lot of material, mainly since I’d been writing a Daily Diary for both the Daily Racing Form as well as one for a San Francisco Bay Area newspaper. By waiting, the book became less a purge and more of a cathartic remembrance of a remarkable horse who electrified my world for far too short a time.

In 2012, I joined the Tri-Valley Branch of the California Writer’s Club. My thought was to go from writing special feature articles for local newspapers and get an idea of how to finish a middle-grade novel that I’d started many years before. Instead, I was encouraged to write a memoir. It was the best advice I’d received since Charlie Whittingham had encouraged me to run Casual Lies in the Kentucky Derby.

Two things happened by sitting down and rereading the daily diaries I’d written. I reconnected with the things that made my horse special. I remembered all the fantastic things that we experienced because of Casual Lies. Truthfully, it’s still hard to believe it really happened.

Using the equity in our house, I’d bought a tiny colt that nobody else wanted. I shared how he grew into a headstrong, charismatic horse that took us on a journey you couldn’t have replicated if you had all the money in the world.

Fans from all over the world have read Casual Lies – A Triple Crown Adventure. You’ll laugh, you might cry a little, and trust me when I say I had no trouble poking fun at myself.

Although Casual Lies didn’t win the Kentucky Derby, he still holds a place in history. But for me, he was my bright-eyed and mischievous Stanley.

So how did you go from writing a memoir to penning Sword and Sorcery Fantasy novels? When I was a kid, I was an avid reader. But each book always had to have something to do with horses. As I grew older, my taste in literature became increasingly eclectic. Ernest Hemingway, Jack London, Wilbur Smith, Larry McMurtry, Steven King, Dean Kootz, etc. the list would be endless. But my all-time favorite, as it turns out, is J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, with Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove a close second.

A perfect book doesn’t come with enough pages. A good story involves a fellowship that you can feel a part of. For me, a good story is one where you find yourself invested in the fellowship’s success, you’re a part of the team, and when the story comes to an end, you’re loath to say goodbye to your new friends.

I love writing short stories. I find that a thought or an image often triggers my inspiration. The idea for Into Madness – The Born from Stone Saga came from pictures I took of gargoyles situated atop a gothic cathedral when I was touring Europe.

It was one of these shots that brought about Mystislav, a dragon made of stone, who comes to life under a full moon. He flies across the city and lands on the donjon tower of Carolingian castle. Mystislav hears the cries of a newborn babe and . . .

It wasn’t a short story, but it was a strong beginning for a YA Fantasy. As it turned out, the beginning was the easy part. Now I had to write a story. It took over four years.

Tell us about Into Madness, your first book in the Born From Stone series. The marketing blurb goes like this; After a decade in hiding, captured, and imprisoned, Ravin Carolingian is left to question everything she thought she knew about herself.
Still, as the line between ally and enemy blurs, one thing becomes clear. If Ravin’s going to help the Carolingian people, she must first escape the evil that walks the halls of the place she once called home.

As a reader, I like strong characters, adventure, and scenes that engage the reader’s senses. So that is how I chose to write this story. It never ceases to amaze me how the characters occasionally grab the bit and runoff—going in an entirely different direction than I had first imagined.

So what is the title of the second book, and when is the release date? The second book is Hearts Divided, and the third is The Reckoning. Hearts Divided is nearing completion. I have been receiving good-natured demands for the release date. Words in bold type like; NOW! and TOMORROW? have been hitting my inbox. Those types of demands tend to light a fire. Every writer knows that you don’t want to piss off the reader.

16 Comments

  1. Violet Moore

    Hello Shelley, I am pleased to see you featured on George’s blog. It’s one of my favorites for meeting new writers and refreshing friendships with others.

    I enjoyed reading Casual Lies but being an advanced reader for Into Madness was an adventure into a new world.

    Reply
    • Shelley Lee Riley

      Hi Vi, It’s been a minute, for sure. We need to get together on the phone and compare notes. Your comments on Into Madness were invaluable and greatly appreciated.

      Reply
  2. Rhonda Lane

    Had to refresh my memory, so I watched a video of the ’92 Derby. Casual Lies almost had the Derby winner Lil E. Tee. So close.

    They both shot out in front of the rest of the pack, including the hotshot favorite Arazi.

    Here’s the video: https://youtu.be/5mBQxqtsyTc

    I can’t wait to read the book about it.

    Both Casual Lies and Into Madness are on my Kindle.

    Reply
    • Shelley Lee Riley

      Thank you, Rhonda. I must confess that whenever I watch the replay of the race, I still hold my breath. So close and yet . . .

      Still, first or second on the day, I was a winner for having the uncommon good fortune of having horses in my life and Casual Lies in particular.

      I’m thrilled that you’re going to read my books. I hope you enjoy them both.

      Reply
  3. Vinnie Hansen

    It was fun to read this and get to know you better, Shelley. You gave your horse a great name. Who knew that it would become a book title?

    You are the third person I know who has taken inspiration from gargoyles. The other two are Gigi Pandian and Kirsten Weiss, both of whom have gargoyle characters in one of their series.

    Reply
    • Shelley Lee Riley

      Thank you, Vinnie. As a prolific writer yourself, whose excellent work I’ve become familiar with, you understand how important a title can be to our finished story. A superb runner tends to make for a great name in horse racing. A few come to mind; Secretariat, California Chrome, and Seattle Slew, to name just a few. But all horses have to be named before they run their first race. I dedicated an entire chapter in the memoir to naming thoroughbreds, and I gathered a few fun stories about how some of the better-known horses came by their names. Also, thanks for the heads-up; I will check out Gigi and Kirsten’s books.

      Reply
  4. Marie Sutro

    Congrats on a wonderful story, and on making Derby history!

    Reply
    • Shelley Lee Riley

      Thank you, Marie. I wish I could say that it was a dream come true, but in reality, I never even imagined that in over two decades of racing, I would one day saddle a horse in the Kentucky Derby, let alone all three legs of the Triple Crown. And then along came a horse that wouldn’t be denied. That was a miracle.

      Reply
  5. CINDY SAMPLE

    Your story is so fascinating, Shelley. I’ve just downloaded CASUAL LIES. I can’t wait to read it.

    Reply
    • Shelley Lee Riley

      Thank you, Cindy. I do hope you enjoy reading Stanley’s story. Around the barn, Casual Lies was called Stanley. I’ve often said I should have named the memoir The Horse With Two Names. I tried to give the reader a look at all the things you don’t get to see on the day of race telecasts. Which means I had no problem poking fun at myself.

      Reply
  6. Linda

    I am among those readers patiently waiting for the release of Hearts Divided.

    Reply
    • Shelley Lee Riley

      Oh, Linda, how you pile on the guilt and bless you for it, for I need both the carrot and a liberal amount of the stick.

      Reply
  7. Michael A. Black

    Shelley, your personal life sounds like an adventure. It’s interesting how you gravitated to fantasy. Good luck with your writing and your horses.

    Reply
    • Shelley Lee Riley

      Thank you so much for your comment, Michael. Adventure is the perfect word to describe my life. I’ve often thought about how different it might have been if my father hadn’t bought me my first horse for $250. To go from riding a mixed breed mare near Moffatt Field in the 1960s to saddling a horse in the Kentucky Derby, even I find that hard to believe.

      Reply
  8. Donnell Ann Bell

    Fascinating interview, George and Shelley! That’s some serious love for horses to use the equity in your house. Thanks for introducing us to Shelley, George! Best wishes on Casual Lies!

    Reply
    • Shelley Lee Riley

      Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment, Donnell. And yes, buying horses with borrowed money is not something I would do now. Still, at the time, and with many years ahead of us, it didn’t seem like such a risk. When we first started training horses, many years before Casual Lies came along, we would buy horses on what was called a run-out. By way of explanation, with a run-out, a set price is set for the horse in question, and then they were paid for through their future earnings. If there were no earnings, the breeder received nothing. We only did that one time, and we didn’t make any money, nor did the breeder. Usually, the horses you could buy on a run-out weren’t very well-bred. But it was a start, and we learned a lot from that experience. I treated every horse that came into my barn the same, no matter the pedigree. A good horse can come from anywhere. Look at this year’s Kentucky Derby winner. He was claimed for $30,000 and went on to win the Run for the Roses.

      Reply

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ANA MANWARING – Newspaper Columnist – Poet – Author – Educator

Ana Manwaring is a former newspaper lifestyle columnist. Her poetry, personal narratives, book reviews, and short stories have appeared in diverse publications, including the California Quarterly, KRCB Radio, Morning Haiku, and Mystery Readers Journal.

 

A graduate of the University of Denver (B.A.) and Sonoma State University (M.A.), Ana teaches creative writing, produces the monthly North Bay Poetics poetry event on Zoom, and operates her editing company, JAM Manuscript Consulting—“Spread Excellence.” She’s also the 2022 SinC-NorCal programs chair. In her “past life,” she has prepared taxes, taught ESL, worked for a PI, consulted brujos and out-run gun totin’ maniacs on lonely Mexican highways—the inspiration for the JadeAnne Stone Mexico Adventures.

Ana, husband David, ace gopher hunter Alison, and a host of birds, opossums, skunks, deer, fox, coyotes, and occasionally the neighboring goats co-habitat an acre of Northern California.

After earning her M.A., Ana finally answered her mother’s question, “What are you planning to do with that expensive education?” Be a paperback writer. (ebook and audiobook, too!)

The JadeAnne Stone Mexico Adventures: A missing persons case to locate an American gone missing in the resorts of Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo turns investigator JadeAnne Stone’s life into a nightmare of secrets, betrayals, and pursuit as she and her dog are ensnared in a web of trafficking. Who will she trust as loyalties shift and greed rules?

JadeAnne and I are thrilled to be back on George’s blog. Since our first visit, we’ve published books two and three of the JadeAnne Stone Mexico Adventures. And now we’re unpublishing them. Why on earth? Because I’ve been picked up by Indies United Publishing House who is re-releasing second editions of all three books and publishing the 4th this year. An Ambitious publishing schedule, but penance for taking 28 years from being threatened on a lonely stretch of the Pan American Highway in Michoacán (the inspiration and inciting incident) to publication of Book 1, Set Up. I’m paying my dues now with the new covers, more revision, and editing, as well as finishing Coyote—Pursuit and Terror Across the Border (there’s going to be an exciting chase, shoot-out, and lots of suspense), which will release in November.

Set Up re-released February 16, 2022.

People ask about my writing process. Unfortunately, I’m lousy at discipline and routine. The most challenging part of the process is getting myself to sit down at the computer to write. I always find pressing things to accomplish first. Today it was weeding. But I’m really fortunate to be blessed with a large, light-filled writing studio on the second story of a barn behind my house. I look into oaks and eucalyptus and can watch the birds, the play of light and shadow through the leaves, listen to the soft susurrus of the breeze off the coast, and, when I’m not distracted, write. I’m making good use of our wonderful Sisters in Crime write-ins (I attend 1 Pm and 10 Pm currently) and my M/W/F Study Hall with my writing students. I use the social writing time for outlining, revision, poetry writing, blogging, or brainstorming character names, which often come through reading my mail. In book 4, we’re going to have two new bad guys: Denver “Zeke” Stoner and Slim Killins. I have no idea who they are or what parts they’ll play yet, but when I went to mark my mail-in Recall ballot in the California recall election, there they were. The good news, I get to my desk every day since COVID and sometimes three times, even if I’m not specifically writing, but I’m most productive with high-intensity writing stints like NaNoWriMo.

A huge help in launching my writing career (besides retiring in January) is Sisters in Crime NorCal. I can’t stress enough how beneficial professional organizations and conferences can be to your development as a writer, marketer, and speaker. I’ve met many wonderful writers and readers who’ve helped me, taught me, and encouraged me. I’m a member of several branches of SINC, MWA NorCal, California Writers Club, and a Left Coast Crime attendee and participant. I’m looking forward to our LCC after two years without a conference. I’m excited about Albuquerque, too. The big chase scene culminating in the climax of Coyote will take place between Albuquerque and Denver, and I’m going to take a few days while I’m in the “area” to scout out locations. I try to experience my settings whenever I can. However, I’ll leave the shoot-out to vicarious experience and my imagination—but I’ll know what the air feels like and how the trees smell!

I write in more than one genre. I’m currently completing a memoir of my years in Mexico, and occasionally I write book reviews and short personal essays. I have two poetry chapbooks published, and I’m working on a third of “found” poems on climate change. I’m also writing the great American dysfunctional family novel told in three voices: the dying matriarch with dementia, the elder daughter who is deceased, and the resentful second daughter. Luckily the dead sister is pretty funny.

Two events brought me to writing: I’ve always loved reading stories and wrote a short story entitled “Me and My Dinosaur” instead of writing my third-grade dinosaur report. My teacher Mrs. Clancy loved it, and I got to read it to the class. (This trick worked again in Medieval History at University—I wrote a short story instead of writing a term paper, Another A, but no public reading). The second push toward writing was when I was 11 or 12, and a palm reader predicted I’d be a bestseller by the time I was 50. Isn’t 70 the new fifty?

I’m on my way! Set Up released on 2/16, The Hydra Effect releases 5/18, Nothing Comes After Z 8/17, and Coyote 11/16.

Find me at:

 

 

 

7 Comments

  1. Madeline Gornell

    Great meeting you, Anna! You should be very proud of all your accomplishments! Continued success.

    Reply
  2. Vinnie Hansen

    Slim Killins. Hah! A bit of dark humor. Love it. Reminds me of an Elmore Leonard name.

    Thanks, George, for the excellent job you do promoting and putting together these posts. Every time I learn something new about my writing buddies.

    Reply
  3. CINDY SAMPLE

    Fun interview, Ana. Congratulations on the new editions! Can’t wait to read the latest release.

    Reply
  4. JoAnn Ainsworth

    Congratulations, Ana, on the new editions from Indies United Publishing House!

    Reply
  5. Vicki Weisfeld

    Love the palm reader! What a diverse set of experiences, to entertain your Muse with. Best wishes for continued success.

    Reply
  6. Donnell Ann Bell

    What a charming blog, and darn it, I wish I’d come up with the title Nothing Comes After Z!!! I met the lovely Ana at Left Coast Crime a couple of weeks ago, an absolute pleasure.

    Thanks, George, best wishes, Ana!

    Reply
  7. Michael A. Black

    What type of dinosaur was it? 😉 It sounds like your books ate a lot of fun. I’ll have to keep an eye out for them. Good luck.

    Reply

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