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

I close off the Gunslinger Series.

 

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

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

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

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

THE REGULATOR

WIRE RANDALL D. LANDECKER  SANTA FE

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

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

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

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

Contact Information: docatlas108@aol.com

 

Legends of the West: A Deputy Marshal Bass Reeves Western

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

 

12 Comments

  1. John Schembra

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

    Reply
  2. Thonie Hevron

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

    Reply
  3. Michael A. Black

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

    Reply
  4. Fleur Bradley

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

    Reply
  5. Marilyn Meredith

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

    Reply
  6. John Bluck

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

    Reply
  7. Vicki Batman

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

    Reply
  8. Scott Decker

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

    Reply
  9. Donnell Ann Bell

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

    Reply
  10. Joseph Bryce HAGGERTY Sr

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

    Reply
  11. Mar Preston

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

    Reply
  12. Madeline Gornell

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

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

    Reply

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MARGARET MIZUSHIMA – Award Winning and Internationally Recognized Author

Margaret Mizushima writes the award-winning and internationally published Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries. She serves as president of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of Mystery Writers of America and was elected the 2019 Writer of the Year by Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. She lives in Colorado on a small ranch with her veterinarian husband, where they raised two daughters and a multitude of animals.

Margaret’s the Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries, are police procedurals set in a small town in the Colorado high country. Married forty years to a veterinarian, Margaret enjoys setting up puzzling crimes for her protagonists to investigate—Deputy Mattie Cobb, her K-9 partner Robo, and veterinarian Cole Walker. Together these three heroes battle murder and mayhem in the fictional town of Timber Creek, Colorado.

Margaret’s seventh book in the series is now available. In Striking Range, the past and present collide when Deputy Mattie Cobb and her K-9 partner Robo are torn between investigating her father’s cold case and the death of a young mother whose body is found near Timber Creek. As a deadly storm batters the area, taking its toll on the investigative team, Mattie and Robo search for the woman’s missing infant, hoping to find the baby before it’s too late. But Mattie soon realizes that a killer, who may be the mastermind behind it all, is within their midst, ready to strike again.

What brought you to writing?  It seems like I wanted to write and publish a book for most of my life, but I needed to help my husband earn a living and raise our two daughters first. As soon as I retired from my first career as a speech pathologist, I began studying the art and craft of novel writing. I wrote several books before trying my hand at mystery writing. My first book in the series, Killing Trail, was picked up by Crooked Lane Books (New York) and released in 2015. We’ve been launching a new book together every year since.

Where do you write? Tell us about your writing process.  After my daughters moved away from home, I converted an upstairs bedroom into my office. I’m a great believer in having one’s own writing space. When I’m writing the first draft of a new book, I try to go upstairs and get started by 8:00 a.m. each morning. I scan my email, answer any that need immediate attention, and then switch from business mode to creative.

I usually light a candle and set a timer for forty-five minutes. During that time, I let nothing interrupt me. (Distractions in the form of social media and phone calls are all around, but unless from family, I do my best to ignore them.) After forty-five minutes, I take a break for fifteen, get up and stretch, answer any messages I need to, and then sit back down for another forty-five-minute stretch. Called the Pomodora Method, these short sprints of giving full concentration to a task help hold my attention best. Unless I have an appointment or something scheduled, I keep up these cycles until I’ve reached 1000 words. Using this method, I can usually write the first draft of a book in about four months. Then I revise several times before sending it to my editor.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process? Figuring out the plot. In every episode, I need to weave in my character arcs, a homicide or two, a social issue that I want to spotlight, work that my veterinarian character has to do that helps solve the crime, work that my K-9 character Robo has to do to turn up clues and work that my K-9 handler Mattie has to do. I love developing the premise of each book, choosing the theme, and working out the series arcs for my characters. It’s the nitty-gritty details of the puzzle, the clues, and the red herrings that are hard to wrestle into submission.

We hear about strong-willed characters. Do yours behave, or do they run the show? I think having characters strike off on their own is part of the challenge, but it’s also part of the fun. When one of my characters takes off in a direction I didn’t plan, I have to pause and ask if this direction will serve my overall plot or is it going to lead me to a dead end. Sometimes I’m surprised when a character finds a clue I didn’t know was there. For example, in the second episode in the series, Stalking Ground, the detective and Mattie find the victim’s diary under the passenger seat of her car. I had no plan for that and was as surprised as they were. But what a happy turn it took in the story, and what a wonderful vehicle for giving my investigative team more evidence to work with!

How do you come up with character names? I give my series a western flavor, and so I tried to come up with names that are more common here in the west. I actually listen to the names of participants in rodeos and keep a running list. Cole Walker, the veterinarian in the book, has a name that resonates with the west. Mattie, my K-9 handler, was the name of one of my classmates. (We attended school in a small town in Colorado.) And the dog’s name, Robo? His was inspired by an actual K-9 partner that one of my consultants had when she worked in law enforcement in Bellingham, WA. Her Robo was a wonder dog, just like the Robo in my books. He could do it all, from tracking a fugitive or a missing person to finding narcotics or gunpowder to finding evidence after a crime. The stories I heard about the real Robo inspired the skillset that my fictional Robo demonstrates in every book.

What are you working on next? I’m working on the eighth book in the series, as yet unnamed. It will launch in the spring of 2023. I invite readers to get to know Mattie, Robo, and Cole—each mystery stands alone, but if you want the full effect of the character’s stories, start with Killing Trail.

Thank you for hosting me on your blog today, George. I appreciate the opportunity to talk about my writing process and the Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries.

You can find Margaret at:

Website: https://margaretmizushima.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorMargaretMizushima
Twitter: https://twitter.com/margmizu
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/margmizu/

11 Comments

  1. Madeline Gornell

    Great meeting you. Margaret! I’m unfamiliar with your series, but now very interested. Much success! I need some of your discipline(smile)

    Reply
  2. John Schembra

    Sounds like an interesting series. I will give it a try! You have a very disciplined writing process. Mine’s more chaotic. Congrats on you writing success!

    Reply
    • Margaret Mizushima

      Thanks for checking in with us today, John, and thanks also for giving my books a try. I hope you like them. I have to be disciplined to get anything finished! But right now, my life is so chaotic that I’m having trouble getting started on book eight. Must put my nose to the grindstone soon. Take care and hope all is well with you and your writing process!

      Reply
  3. Donnell Ann Bell

    Love this author, George. thank you for spotlighting her. Interesting processes, Margaret. Can’t wait to read your latest!

    Reply
    • Margaret Mizushima

      Thanks, Donnell! So nice of you to stop by, and thanks for reading the books!

      Reply
  4. Michael A. Black

    This sounds like a fascinating series. Your disciplined approach is obviously serving you well. Best of luck to you with your writing. I’m looking forward to checking out your books.

    Reply
    • Margaret Mizushima

      Thanks so much for your comment, Michael. I’m afraid I have to be disciplined or I will never get things done. 🙂 I hope you enjoy the books. Take care and happy reading!

      Reply
  5. vicki batman

    So nice to get to know you and your books.

    Reply
    • Margaret Mizushima

      Vicki, thanks so much for visiting George’s blog today. I appreciate your comment and hope you’re finding time to read this summer. It’s hard to believe that fall is just around the corner! Take care.

      Reply
  6. Rhonda Blackhurst

    Congratulations Margaret! It’s such an awesome series with fantastic characters!

    Reply
    • Margaret Mizushima

      Thanks so much, Rhonda! I appreciate you and your support so much! Hope to see you at SinC-Colorado book club this Saturday to hear you talk about your book, Abby’s Redemption. Hugs!

      Reply

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BRIAN YOUNG – Navajo Author of The Healer of the Water Monster

Brian Young is a graduate of Yale University and Columbia University. He is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation. He enjoys reading, watching movies, playing video games (when he has time), and keeping physically active.

What brought you to writing? When I first wrote The Healer of the Water Monster, I lived in Albuquerque and worked as a meat cutter, and contributed to the native film community as a screenwriter and director. I first envisioned Healer as a movie, possibly a trilogy of feature films. But when I sat down to write it, I knew that a film interpretation wasn’t feasible. The scope and size of Healer’s story was growing in ways that would require an extensive budget to successfully depict. At that time, no one was willing to financially produce native stories because of the prejudiced idea that “Native stories don’t sell.” So, I made the decision to write Healer first as a book because those limitations that filmmaking imposed don’t exist with prose writing. It also helps that I love writing.

How long did it take you to write your first book? Such a long time! Six or seven years? The first draft took me like two months because I was really motivated and in love with the story. I already had daydreamed about the plot points and character growth paths. I did revisions to it for three years. But I was using techniques from screenwriting. I’d have huge paragraphs at the beginning of chapters and scenes going into great detail of the land and environment, then like five pages of nothing but dialogue. I had to grow as a storyteller, definitely as a prose writer. That’s why I decided that getting an MFA was going to help me get Healer published. I was super fortunate but also did a tremendous amount of work to get into Columbia’s MFA for Creative Writing. Through that program, I learned the tools, techniques, and unique abilities that prose writing has.

How long to get it published? I hear this process can take a long time. But for me, it was very short. To complete my MFA program, I did a ground-up revision of Healer for my thesis. I took a third year to rewrite every single sentence of my manuscript. Columbia University’s School of the Arts hosts an agent mixer for third-year writing students and alumni. It was there that I met my agent. I pitched Healer to him, and he wanted to read my manuscript. I wasn’t fully finished with my revision, and he agreed to wait.

A month later, I had finished the revision and sent it to him. When he offered me his representation, I cried. I literally spent ten minutes in my room praying and saying thank you to the Navajo Holy Beings. After accepting his offer through an email, he wanted to go right into sending it out to publishers and editors. After another revision I felt was needed, my agent and I sent Healer out to publishing houses and editors. The rejections came first, as they usually do. But then, we got some interest. My agent set up some meetings, and I had the massive fortune to meet with Rosemary Brosnan, who was gearing up to launch Heartdrum, a native-focused imprint of HarperCollins. I had some immediate gut vibes that told me Rosemary was the one who was going to help bring Nathan’s story across the finish line. After we met, Rosemary offered a pre-empt and my agent worked his magic. By the end, I had a signed two-book deal! It was finalized the day I picked up my mom and sister from LaGuardia for my graduation from Columbia. I had experienced so many setbacks and heartbreaks before. But all that hardship was worth it when I showed my mom my contract. All in all, it took four months, getting an agent then a book deal. After that, Rosemary and I did another revision (I’ve lost count of how many revisions I did), and that is the version that went to print.

We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave, or do they run the show? In my opinion, if your protagonist isn’t making decisions that shape the environment, world, people around them, then why are they the protagonist? Nathan, the protagonist of The Healer of the Water Monster, definitely runs the show. Both he and I agreed that his actions would have consequences for the worlds around him. There are very precious few stories that depict native children as heroes whose actions shape the world around them. So, throughout all the revisions and from the very start, both Nathan and I wanted him to be as active as he could possibly be. I speak of him as an actual person because I spent seven years with him! Actually more, because he is in my next book!

Do you outline, or are you a pantser? On that spectrum, I am more of an outliner. I love seeing the story in its entirety. It’s actually my favorite part of the writing process. I love looking at the macro-level of the story and tinkering with plot points and action beats. When writing a new story, I’ll often do a 27 chapter outline and write a paragraph describing what happens in each chapter and break it down further into scene outlines for each chapter.

That being said, my initial 27 chapter outline usually becomes useless because at the halfway point in the actual writing of the story is when I’ll diverge from the outline. Or I’ll discover some story bits or character emotions that I overlooked when writing the whole story. It’s also here in the middle of the story that the characters start to do their own actions and say their own words. When I’m in the zone, I don’t know what the characters are going to do. It’s like I’m reading a new book that is being written right in front of my eyes.

So, I like to start with having an outline down but will concede to the characters when they start to fully come into their own.

Do you have any advice for new writers? My biggest advice is “Write what you love.” I can’t stress enough that this is a long journey that you are on. From inception to publication, it took me seven years to turn The Healer of the Water Monsterinto a book. You, new writers, are going to be with the story that you are writing for a very long time. If I didn’t love the story or characters, I’m not sure if I would have been as committed to its publication, nor am I sure if I would have been able to devote seven years of my life to Healer. If you love your story, the sacrifices and effort needed to publish a book will be worth it.

People can buy The Healer of the Water Monster on Amazon, but I recommend Red Planet Comics and Books (native owned and operated in Albuquerque, NM)
https://redplanetbooksncomics.com/products/healer-of-the-water-monster?_pos=1&_sid=a217895af&_ss=r

To reach me, here is my author website: https://brianlyoung.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BYoungWrites
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/byoungwrites/

5 Comments

  1. Thonie Hevron

    What an interesting story about Brian Young’s journey to bring Healer to fruition. I’m looking forward to reading it.

    Reply
  2. Glenda Carroll

    Congratulations on the publication of The Healer. You are to a great start in your writing career.

    Reply
  3. Michael A. Black

    The story of your novel’s evolution reads like an adventure story itself. Congratulations on realizing your dream and completing your MFA. Best of luck to you with your future writing.

    Reply
  4. Madeline Gornell

    Great meeting you, Brian. Sounds like you’ve gotten a great start to wonderful writing career. Much success!

    Reply
  5. Alec Peche

    Congrats on getting a book deal. You mention that you love outlining and start with a detailed 27 chapter outline. As a pantser, that sounds like my version of a monster. I’m curious as to whether there were any pantsers in your MFA class?

    Reply

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LAURA JENSEN WALKER – Agatha-Nominated Cozy Mystery Author

Laura Jensen Walker knew she wanted to be a writer ever since she read 103 books in Miss Vopelensky’s first-grade class.

A lifelong lover of mysteries, I never dreamed I’d someday be writing them!

Eager to see the world, I joined the Air Force at 19 and headed off into that wild blue yonder flying a typewriter across Europe. Although my clerk-typist job was boring, traveling was bliss. By the time I was 23, I had visited 15 countries and fallen in love with tea and the land of my heart—England. Later, I majored in journalism, but it took cancer at age 35 to push me to follow my writing dreams of becoming an author. My first book, Dated Jekyll, Married Hyde (non-fiction humor ala Erma Bombeck), came out in 1997. Since then, I’ve written ten humorous non-fiction books and ten novels (chick lit and cozies.)

Murder Most Sweet (Crooked Lane), featuring baker, breast-cancer survivor, and writer Teddie St. John, is my first cozy, released last fall during the pandemic. I wanted to see someone like me in a mystery—a woman who chose to “go flat” after having two mastectomies and is now living her best life. Breasts don’t make a woman. An early editor who read and loved my manuscript, said diversity is important in crime fiction, but diversity isn’t only about color. To my delight and gratitude Murder Most Sweet is nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel. Such a lovely surprise and honor.

Deadly Delights, the sequel to Murder Most Sweet, is my third cozy and twentieth book. (I never dreamed I’d have 20 books under my belt, and still more to come.)

August in Lake Potawatomi, Wisconsin, always means one thing: the annual baking contest. Picture The Great British Baking Show, writ Midwestern. Naturally, bon vivant baker-turned-mystery writer Teddie St. John has a pie in the ring. The white baking tent boasts an array of folding tables housing each entrant’s daily baked good. And at one of those tables sits the corpse of the lecherous head judge, his face half-buried in a delectable coconut cream pie with Teddie’s distinctive embossed rolling pin by his side…covered with blood. With the help of her friends, Teddie must concoct a recipe to clear her name–if the real killer doesn’t ice her first.

I’m thrilled by the great advance reviews Deadly Delights has received.

“Lively characters complement the twisty plot.”
—Publishers Weekly

Deadly Delights moves along at warp speed… [Walker’s] writing and story development is top notch.”
—New York Journal of Books

The ironic thing about the ‘warp speed’ comment is that I wrote Deadly Delights in two-and-a-half months. For many, March and April 2020 were a scary, anxious time as we tried to understand and cope with this crazy pandemic, the likes of which hadn’t been seen in more than a century. Added to the overall anxiety, I have comorbidities that put me in a higher risk group. Scary. I couldn’t focus on anything, including writing and reading. I tried to escape in a good book—some I’d been eagerly anticipating for months—but couldn’t concentrate. Reading has been a joy and great escape my whole life. Except this time. Such a weird feeling—one that I’m happy to say has passed. I also didn’t write a single word on my third cozy during those first two months of the pandemic. The cozy that was due to my editor July 1. Luckily, I managed to get a two-week extension, then wrote like the wind to make that July 15 deadline. My journalism background of writing tight and fast saved me.

My second cozy, Hope, Faith, & a Corpse, a clerical mystery featuring the first Episcopal woman priest in Faith Chapel’s 160-year history, was released in January.

Do you write in more than one genre? I’ve written non-fiction and chick-lit in the past and plan to write more non-fiction and also historical fiction.

What are you currently working on? I’m writing a “Pandemic Postscript” to the memoir I wrote a few years ago that my agent loved but couldn’t sell due to my lack of platform. In non-fiction, it’s essential to have a “platform” of some kind, whether it’s being on the speaking circuit and regularly speaking to large groups around the country who will then buy your book at the back of the room, having a YouTube channel with a zillion subscribers, or having a large/decent social media following.

At the time—prior to signing my cozy contract—I’d been out of the writing/publishing world for more than a decade and no longer had a reader following. I’d stopped public speaking, wasn’t on Twitter, and only had a couple hundred Facebook friends. Multiple editors at several publishing houses told my agent how much they loved the writing in my memoir, but regretfully had to turn it down since I had no platform. Hopefully (fingers crossed) now that I have readers again, a monthly newsletter with a decent number of subscribers, a larger FB presence, and a (small) Twitter and Instagram following, my memoir, the book of my soul, will finally sell.

I’m also started working on my first historical fiction—the book of my heart, set in WWII England—but I’m not ready to say anything more about it yet.

We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave, or do they run the show? Oh, they run the show. Before I began writing fiction when I’d ask a novelist about how their work-in-progress was going, and they’d respond with something like, “I’m waiting for my character to reveal what’s next,” I’d inwardly scoff and think, “You’re the writer; you’re in charge!” Then I started writing my first novel. Ha! In fact, when I started writing my first cozy (now shelved), one of the minor characters, an Episcopal woman priest, let me know she was a major character deserving of her own book. Thus, Hope, Faith, & a Corpse was born.

Do you outline, or are you a pantser? Outline is a dirty word in my house. I’m a total pantser. Mostly. Before I begin my WIP, I usually need to know what the ending is. That way, I have a starting point and an end point, and I fill in the middle. However, in both of my Bookish Baker mysteries, the endings I’d initially envisioned (including the murderer in one—I won’t say which one) changed as the story unfolded.

Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? Hopefully, more cozies in both my series, the Bookish Baker Mysteries and Faith Chapel Mysteries and contracts for the book of my soul (my memoir) and the book of my heart (the historical fiction I’ve been yearning to write for more than three decades.)

How do our readers contact you?

Please contact me through my website, www.laurajensenwalker.com (if you sign up for my newsletter, you get a free gift!)
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/laurajensenwalker/
Facebook Laura Jensen Walker | Facebook
Readers can also connect with me on Twitter @LauraJensenWal1

5 Comments

  1. Glenda Carroll

    Following your dreams at any age, whether you’re 35 or 75, is the only way to go. Good for you!!

    Reply
  2. Lynn

    Thank you for your service and developing a character who doesn’t define herself with body parts.

    Reply
  3. Jennifer

    I swing back and forth between which series I like more – the Bookish Baker mysteries or Hope, Faith and a Corpse. I like mystery plots in the HFC, but I love Teddie. I think she’s inspiring and offers a fresh perspective in the cozy world. Many readers will appreciate her because many women are either breast cancer survivors or have had a breast cancer scare. Teddie turns it into a reason to change her life, and I love that.

    Reply
  4. Kathy levernier

    Your fabulous?
    Love your writing. We lived in Wisconsin, and
    Enjoy the British baking show. So so fun.
    Your cover’s are both such great fun.
    CONGRATULATIONS 20 books.

    Reply
  5. Michael A, Black

    Yours is a truly inspiring story. Good luck with your writing and thank you for your service to our country.

    Reply

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Fleur Bradley – Agatha and Colorado Book Award Nominee

Hunting ghosts and solving the case before checkout? All in a weekend’s work.

Fleur Bradley is the author of the spooky middle-grade mystery Midnight at the Barclay Hotel (Viking Books for Young Readers, Aug. 2020). She’s passionate about two things: mysteries and getting kids to read. Fleur regularly does (virtual) school visits and speaks at librarian and educator conferences on reaching reluctant readers. Originally from the Netherlands, Fleur now lives in Colorado Springs with her family and entirely too many rescue pets.

Midnight at the Barclay Hotel – When JJ Jacobson convinced his mom to accept a surprise invitation to an all-expenses-paid weekend getaway at the illustrious Barclay Hotel, he never imagined that he’d find himself in the midst of a murder mystery. He thought he was in for a run-of-the-mill weekend ghost hunting at the most haunted spot in town, but when he arrives at the Barclay Hotel and his mother is blamed for the hotel owner’s death, he realizes his weekend is going to be anything but ordinary.

Now, with the help of his new friends, Penny and Emma, JJ has to track down a killer, clear his mother’s name, and maybe even meet a ghost or two along the way.

Other titles of Fleur’s: Super Puzzletastic Mysteries (anthology story, mystery for kids), and the Double Vision trilogy (HarperCollins Children’s)

Do you write in more than one genre? I write mysteries, mostly for kids, but I also like to write short stories. In fact, for the first ten years or so of my writing career, that’s mostly what I wrote. I try to still write a few every year—they’re fun to write, plus the time investment isn’t as huge as a novel-length work. Short stories are also a great way to flex your writing muscle—they’re tough to write.

What brought you to writing? I was a new mom (many years ago!), and I really wanted to do something that was just my own. As an avid reader, I decided to try my hand at fiction writing since all I needed was a pen and paper. I still love that most about writing: I start with a blank page and can make it anything I want.

 What, if any, distractions do you allow? Right now, I write at the kitchen table mostly. It’s so unglamorous, really… Sometimes I try to find a different corner of the house to work in just to break the monotony. Covid times being what they are, writing at a coffee shop or library is still off the table. Once I’m into the story though, I forget about everything else. I can write anywhere.

Tell us about your writing process: I usually have the spark of an idea—whether it’s a broad feel of a book (for Midnight at the Barclay Hotel, I wanted to write an Agatha Christie-style mystery for kids) or a good twist or even just the start of the story. Then I let that bounce around my brain a while, until I feel I have all the ingredients to the story figured out—so the mystery, tone, setting, characters. Then I work on an outline and sample chapters that I would eventually send to my agent. She’ll tell me what works, what doesn’t, and I tweak that and write the rest.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process? The most challenging part is the analytical part of my brain that needs to produce a solid plot and outline, and the creative part that just wants to get writing already to see where the characters take me…. It’s truly a battle of wills some days! But that outline is necessary to keep me on track.

What are you currently working on? I’m finishing edits on my next mystery for kids, and I’m getting ready to write the first draft of a YA mystery. I always have several projects going at once—it keeps me from getting bored.

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? I like to take a real location and then create a fictional version of it so that I can write my own rules. For Midnight at the Barclay Hotel, I created the Barclay Hotel based on the Stanley Hotel (from the book/movie The Shining) in nearby to me Estes Park, Colorado. I took some of the elements of the Stanley—the beautiful architecture and woodwork, the ghost stories, the Colorado setting—and amplified them to make for a more exciting story material.

Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I’m hoping to be able to in-person school and bookstore visits again—I miss seeing people in person, like everyone else I’m sure. The mystery for kids I’m working on now should be out from Viking/Penguin Random House in summer 2022, and then I plan to write another mystery for the 8-12 age group—it’s been such a joy to write mysteries for kid readers, I expect I’ll be writing lots more.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and your books? To toot my own horn for a minute: I was honored to be nominated for an Agatha Award and the Colorado Book Award for Midnight at the Barclay Hotel. If any blog readers get a chance to read the book, let me know what you think!

For more information on Fleur and her books, visit www.ftbradley.com, and on Twitter @FTBradleyAuthor.

7 Comments

  1. Marilyn Meredith

    Fleur, we met long ago at I think a Bouchercon conference in Seattle. What your are doing is so exciting! I will definitely recommend your books to all the mom’s I know for their kids. Will try Midnight at the Barclay Hotel for myself.

    Reply
  2. Tammy Qualls

    Thanks for this blog post! I will be picking this book up for my 9 year old at our local bookshop!

    Reply
    • Fleur Bradley

      Thank you, Tammy! I hope your 9 year-old enjoys the book.

      Reply
  3. Margaret Mizushima

    Love Midnight at the Barclay Hotel, Fleur. We hope to see you in in-person meetings again soon, too!

    Reply
    • Fleur Bradley

      I can’t wait to see everyone again in person! Feels like it’s been forever…

      Reply
  4. Michael A. Black

    I have read Midnight at the Barclay Hotel and can say that I’m certainly not a young adult, I thoroughly enjoyed Fleur’s book. I’ve read her short stories, too and can say that she’s a really good writer who can write entertaining stories for reader s of all ages. I look forward to her next one.

    Reply

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Sabrina Flynn – Explorer – Swimmer – Author

Sabrina Flynn is the author of Ravenwood Mysteries, set in Victorian San Francisco.

When she’s not exploring the seedy alleyways of the Barbary Coast, she dabbles in fantasy and steampunk. She has a habit of throwing herself into wild oceans and gator-infested lakes.

Her new historical mystery, Beyond the Pale, is the eighth book in the Ravenwood Mystery series. An innocent accused. An infamous hotel. And a murder everyone wants to hide.

While recovering from a brutal beating, Atticus Riot is arrested for the murder of his ex-agent—the same agent who left Riot for dead. His wife and partner, Isobel Amsel, watches helplessly as he’s taken to San Francisco’s notorious ‘sweat box’ for interrogation by an inspector with a grudge.

Desperate to save her husband, Isobel seeks out the one ally they have—only he’s in the infamous Hotel Nymphia, neck-deep in a murder investigation with a ghastly corpse and over three hundred suspects. In exchange for the inspector’s aid, Isobel agrees to work as a consulting detective on his case.

Now Isobel needs to prove Riot’s innocence while tracking down a killer no one wants to be caught. The diverging trails lead to an old friend, a tangled web of secret lives, and one all-consuming question: where’s the line between justice and murder?

Do you write in more than one genre? I feel comfortable writing in all genres. I’m currently published in historical mystery, epic fantasy, Gaslamp fantasy, and have a WW1 thriller I’m editing along with a planned contemporary mystery series. It’s always hard for me to pin a genre on the novels I write. Ravenwood Mysteries is a mix of mystery, history, romance, action and adventure, wild west, Victorian, and noir.

Tell us about your writing process: I just tell myself a story. I’ll start at a point or with a vague idea, and that’s pretty much it. My writing process is a lot like hiking to a distant mountain. I know the starting point; I know where I want to end up, but I have no clue what lies between those two points. And sometimes, the twists and turns and obstacles along the way take me to an entirely different mountain. But that’s all right. It’s the journey that’s exciting.

*Note from George: I love Sabrina’s example of hiking from a point to a distant mountain and all the obstacles one faces.

We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave, or do they run the show? I’m an organic writer. So my characters definitely run the show. I don’t know what they’re going to say until I type it, then end up laughing at whatever joke they cracked. There have been numerous times when I want them to do one thing, and they just won’t do it. For example, in the first book, Atticus Riot showed up with a gentleman’s walking stick. I didn’t know why he had a walking stick. I tried to make him limp, but he wouldn’t limp. So I tried to take it away from him, and that didn’t work either. I said, ‘Fine, keep the stick!’ And it wasn’t until halfway through the book that I was like… ‘Oooh, that’s why you have the stick.’ Then in book three, I discovered the stick had sentimental value, so I’ve learned to just go along with the unexpected.

What’s the most challenging thing about writing characters from the opposite sex? I grew up with four brothers, so I actually find writing feminine women difficult. It’s hard for me to connect and understand women (or men) who are stylishly dressed, are worried about breaking a nail, or getting sweaty because it will mess up their hair. I’m not big on talking about feelings in my prose either. I’d rather show it than tell it. So I think that’s something my readers notice pretty quickly with my writing. Several readers have compared Ravenwood Mysteries to some classic noir authors like Raymond Chandler.

Do you ever kill a popular character? If so, what happens to your story? Death is the end of a story. It’s a common everyday occurrence where life goes on for the living. So it’s not something that’s thrilling to me or even shocking in a book. It’s just… death. It’s much more interesting to me as a reader (and writer) to read about people who survive against all odds. Writing characters who live and thrive despite difficult circumstances is the hard part. Death is easy to write.

In my epic fantasy series, I came to a place where the hero could have died this epic death that would’ve been perfect for him, but I found keeping him alive left more of an impact.

Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? Oooh, do I ever. I come from an epic fantasy background, so I naturally write overarching storylines into my mystery series. I plant seeds throughout my books for future books in the series. For example, the first sentence in the first chapter of the first book (From the Ashes) isn’t explained until book four of Ravenwood Mysteries. I did the same with another subplot that’s been woven throughout the series, and that will finally be addressed in book nine. I usually have multiple storylines and mysteries going at once, which keeps things interesting.

What kind of research do you do? Lots of reading. And not just from one source. Newspaper archives are great, but they can be slanted one way or the other, so I look for other sources as close to 1900 as I can find. It’s a great way to pick up the actual language of the time and not fictionalized vocabulary and slang.

I’m also very hands on whenever possible. When I lived across from San Francisco, I tried to visit whatever place I was writing about. But so much of San Francisco was destroyed in the 1906 fire that most places have changed locations or were destroyed. Isobel, one of my protagonists, is big on sailing, so I took a sailing class in the bay to get a better feel of it. And when my protagonist was learning lock-picking, I bought a set of lock picks to practice with.

But I think my most drastic bit of research was when I tossed a protagonist overboard into San Francisco Bay, and a beta-reader claimed she would’ve drowned, been eaten by a shark, or died of hypothermia. So I jumped off a ferry at Alcatraz and swam to Aquatic Park in San Francisco sans wetsuit. She didn’t argue with me anymore.

Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? Hopefully, lots of ocean swimming, trail running, and writing!

Where can we find you and your latest work, Beyond The Pale: http://www.sabrinaflynn.com

My books are on all the major online retailers. Here are some links.
Website: http://www.sabrinaflynn.com
Bookbub profile: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/sabrina-flynn
Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/beyond-the-pale-25
Apple books: https://books.apple.com/us/author/sabrina-flynn/id747418916
Indiebound.org https://www.indiebound.org/search/book?keys=author%3AFlynn%2C%20Sabrina

 

 

 

17 Comments

  1. Glenda Carroll

    If only that Beta reader knew that Bay swimming is one of your favorite things! Great interview.

    Reply
    • Sabrina Flynn

      That’s actually how I got into ocean swimming, Glenda! Before I did the Alcatraz swim, I’d only swum in lakes and jumped in the waves at beaches. I wasn’t even that used to cold water at the time, except for once-a-year camping trips.

      I got double calf cramps from the cold on the swim too…

      Reply
  2. Darlene Dziomba

    OMG you jumped off a ferry at Alcatraz? That’s going above and beyond to prove you’re right. I love your spunk and spirit.

    Reply
    • Sabrina Flynn

      Thank you, Darlene! Considering the things I did as a teenager and young adult, it’s amazing I made it to adulthood.

      Reply
  3. Lani Longshore

    Tell us more about that WWI thriller –

    Reply
    • Sabrina Flynn

      An American spy goes missing in occupied France, but his 18-year-old daughter, Emily Locke, refuses to admit he’s dead. Keeping one step ahead of the British Intelligence agent sent to bring her back, Emily finds herself behind enemy lines with a hunter on her heels and fearful whispers of a White Lady.

      It’s currently untitled, Lani. 🙂

      Reply
      • Lani Longshore

        Sounds cool! I look forward to reading it.

        Reply
  4. Madeline Gornell

    Great “meeting” you, Sabrina! Fascinating life, and fascinating books that I’m now looking forward to reading.

    Reply
    • Sabrina Flynn

      Thank you, Madeline. Hope you enjoy the series!

      Reply
  5. Rich Lovin

    I was often in the Bay area while in the Navy and found Sabrina’s details to be accurate.
    She includes threads between her books that help expand a character’s personality.
    I quickly learned to get comfortable and devote time to her books because once I started
    I would not stop. There is no fluff in her books. Every detail is important.

    Reply
  6. Marilyn Meredith

    I loved this post! You must be very brave to jump into the bay and swam to shore. When I was younger I was a strong swimmer, and loved to swim in the ocean–but don’t think I’d have tried that one. And I agree, that the characters tend to do their own thing even when you had other ideas for them.

    Reply
    • Sabrina Flynn

      So glad you enjoyed it, Marilyn! SF has a huge open water swimming community, so there are a ton of events and races. It’s a lot of fun. 🙂

      Reply
  7. Nanci Rathbun

    I really relate to Sabrina’s writing process and to the way her characters sometimes take over. It’s happened to me more than once. Glad to learn that I’m not in need of mental health intervention (at least, it’s not the reason I need it :;).

    Reply
  8. Thonie Hevron

    Thanks for this insightful interview. I’m fascinated by Sabrina’s process and her genre-bending fiction.

    Reply
  9. Michael A. Black

    You must be a pretty strong swimming to having made that trek from Alcatraz. I took the ferry on a tour and thought about how difficult it might be. So after having done that, what’s your thoughts on the three convicts who made the escape? Did they drown or not? Good luck with your writing.

    Reply
    • Sabrina Flynn

      Thanks, Michael. 🙂 And I definitely think the convicts made it as long as they were fairly good swimmers before they were incarcerated. The air temperature is often cooler than the water in SF, so they would have time to acclimatize to the cold.

      Today there are open water swim race events with hundreds of swimmers all the time in the Bay. Alcatraz is only 1.5 miles. I’ve since swum the Golden Gate three times, and swam from the Golden Gate to Bay Bridge. Love being in the water!

      Reply

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