LISA TOWLES – Supports Writers While Writing Thrilling Novels

Lisa Towles is a crime novelist, a passionate speaker, and an avid supporter of other writers. Her 12th crime novel, Codex, will be released on June 20th by Indies United Publishing and was called “Fast-paced and ingenious” by The Prairies Book Review.

 

 

Lisa lives in northern California and works in the tech industry.

Tell me about your forthcoming book and what kind of readers you’re targeting. Codex, my new (standalone) psychological thriller, aligns with my other books’ pace, vibe, and style – fast-paced, high-concept action thrillers with impact, meaning, and relevance. They’re written for readers who like puzzles and complex plots involving games, conspiracies, politics, corruption, and espionage. I think Codex delivers all of that with a punch.

What are the themes of Codex, and how will they help readers identify with Angus? Mental health and substance abuse are two predominant themes with which Angus struggles throughout all of the challenges put before him. And then, the themes of loss and grief are an important part of how Angus’ mind and heart transform as the story evolves. I think it’s an emotional book to read, and it certainly was to write as well, but not without its rewards.

What is a challenge your character faces in this story, and how does he respond to it? Angus is confronted by two strangers at different points in the story – one gives him a lavish gift, and another tells him that the life he thought he’d lived wasn’t real – that the accident that killed his wife was no accident, and that she was about to expose an unthinkable technology and a massive coverup. Realizing the danger and burden that his wife had faced alone wakes up his mind and inspires his broken heart to find the truth about her killer and expose her story to the world.

What types of research did Codex require? I did a lot of CIA organizational research for this book (online and through a personal contact), historical research on CIA programs, regional research of Half Moon Bay and the peninsula, Texas, and New Mexico, as well as mental health and substance abuse, military, legal, and corporate research. It’s all fun because I learn so much from research and from my characters as we’re on this journey together.

Do you start with a character, a crime, a setting, or something else? They’re all different in the way that they announce themselves to me, and there’s always some catalyst that lets me know that it’s time to put my fingers to the keyboard. For Codex, Angus Mariner showed up as broken and rock bottom. Having been there, I could identify with how he felt and seeing the world from that jaded, dark, vulnerable place.

What are some activities on your writing journey that don’t involve writing? Research for story, plotting, and setting; social media and marketing; graphic design; community engagement to set up events; book clubs to engage with readers; making book trailers; and I’m now hosting a YouTube author interview series called Story Impact that’s so much fun.

What’s next after Codex? Specimen is a young adult thriller that Indies United Publishing will release on December 3, 2024. I’m excited about this story because it confronts some very contemporary themes of gaming, diversity, inclusion, and controversial science and technology. It takes place all over San Francisco and in the Marshall Islands. To learn more about Specimen (and see another awesome cover design from viladesign.net), click here.

Learn more at www.lisatowles.com or follow her at linktr.ee/authortowles.

Pre-order Codex here: https://a.co/d/5eLZmCw

 

5 Comments

  1. George Cramer

    FYI Folks, Lisa makes fabulous trailers.

    Reply
  2. Michael A Black

    It sounds like you did a great job researching and writing this one, Lisa. Best of luck to you.

    Reply
    • Lisa Towles

      Thank you Michael! 📚✍️

      Reply
  3. Donnell Ann Bell

    Lisa, love learning about new authors. Thank you to George for the introduction. You book also sounds fascinating and right up my interest alley! Warning: My TBR stack may soon fall through the floor! Great interview and best wishes!

    Reply
    • Lisa Towles

      Thank you so much and nice to meet you!

      Reply

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DONNELL ANN BELL – The Story Behind the Story

About the Author:  Donnell Ann Bell is an award-winning author who began her nonfiction career in newspapers. After she turned to fiction, her romantic suspense novels became Amazon bestsellers, including The Past Came Hunting, Deadly Recall, Betrayed, and Buried Agendas.

In 2019, Donnell released her first mainstream suspense, Black Pearl, A Cold Case Suspense, which was a 2020 Colorado Book Award finalist. In 2022, book two of the series was released. Until Dead, A Cold Case Suspense won Best Thriller in 2023 at the Imaginarium Conference in Louisville, Kentucky.  Currently, she’s working on book three of the series. Readers can follow Donnell on her blog or sign up for her newsletter at www.donnellannbell.com.

Have you ever heard authors talk about a germ of an idea that led to their writing a novel? It’s crazy how one idea can take hold, and a 90,000-word book can result. That’s what happened behind many of my books. Still, when it comes to my romantic suspense novel Buried Agendas, a lone germ wasn’t what got me started. The ideas that flooded this book were more like an epidemic.

I’m married to a chemical engineer, so I lived daily with his adventures and misadventures in this necessary but often environmentally explosive industry. Chemicals make our lives easier, right? But if you put the wrong compounds or solutions together, you may blow up a lab. Discover too late that the ingredients used were toxic and leached into the soil or groundwater, you only wished you’d blown up a lab.

That was germ number one that made me want to write this book; what’s more, I thought I had the perfect expert at my disposal. Know what his response was when I started with my list of 20 questions? “Honey, I deal with this stuff all day. The last thing I want to do when I get home is talk about chemicals with my wife.”

On one hand, I sympathized with him. On the other hand, he hadn’t answered my questions, and my list was growing.

How did I handle that? Went around him, of course. We’d lived in Colorado for many years, and I’d met many of his contacts. To write Buried Agendas, I consulted with my husband’s colleagues, who, it turns out, were happy to talk with me about chemicals and what they do in their jobs. I spoke with plant managers, chemists, control room operators, an underground tank specialist, and shift supervisors. I was like the proverbial kid in the candy store as my plot gained traction, and I began to understand (in a simplistic, nontechnical way) what they were doing and why.

I still needed a cause and effect for my book, however. In a murder mystery, the cause of death is often explained by poison, drowning, a gunshot wound, etcetera. In Buried Agendas, I need to point to a newly created chemical that should have never been created.

This time, I needed specifics. So, I called up the Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 8. From there, I was put in touch with a very knowledgeable woman, who again was happy to talk to me about my scenario. You can imagine my elation (and considerable fright) when she confirmed my plot wasn’t far-fetched at all. Not only did we have a phone call, she also mailed me hundreds of pages of information to corroborate my thinking.

In a way, I’m glad my husband didn’t want to spend long hours discussing chemicals. After all, I received a synopsis of his job each evening, which created the germ in the first place. My hunting for specifics with others led to dozens of possibilities and, in my opinion, a more intriguing story.

Buried Agendas goes on sale June 16-30th on several digital outlets for the discounted price of $.99 Hope you enjoyed my trip down Memory Lane.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

20 Comments

  1. Michael A, Black

    I missed this one the first time out, Glad to hear you’ve been busy writing. Keep it going.

    Reply
    • Donn

      Thank you, Mike, I’m slowly getting back in the saddle.

      Reply
  2. Ann Zeigler

    Donnell, it’s great to hear someone talk about how much fun it is to be a “plot detective,” always asking more people more questions until your characters finally have a real world to live (and make mischief) in. Congrats.

    Reply
    • Donnell Ann Bell

      Ann, that’s the way I love to research. Plot detective. I love that term. Thanks for commenting 🙂

      Reply
  3. Lois Winston

    As someone who has read and loved Buried Agendas, I can unequivocally state that Donnell wrote a realistic, suspenseful story that will keep you turning pages.

    Reply
  4. Marie Sutro

    Love that you were able to get everything you needed from so many different sources. Way to stick with it!

    Reply
    • Donnell Ann Bell

      Thank you, Marie! Hearing from different sources opens so many possible storylines; would you agree?

      Reply
  5. Peg Brantley

    PERSISTENCE! I just love you, Donnell! xoxo

    Reply
  6. Marilyn Levinson

    Donnell,
    I always love to hear where my fellow writers get their ideas for the next novel. Wishing you many, many sales with this one!

    Reply
    • Donnell Ann Bell

      Thank you, Marilyn. Your ideas and backstory are inspiring as well!

      Reply
  7. Barbara Monaejm

    Wow, Donnell, sounds like a chilling story — and the research for it was fascinating.

    Reply
  8. Pamela Meyer

    My favorite discussion topic is story inspiration. This one was a doozy. Donnell, you had been thoroughly bitten by this idea, and you weren’t letting go. I love ‘the go around.’ Not only did it get you what you needed to build your story but it preserved your marriage, too. Inspiration and grit. Well Done.

    Reply
    • Donnell Ann Bell

      Ha! Pamela, I’m a little bit like Tom Skeritt’s character who starred in Steel Magnoias. Tom Skeritt has a great line in the movie–something like, “You, sir, are making me deal with my wife; I make it a point never to deal with my wife.” When you’re married to an engineer, at least in my one and only experience, you work around the black and white 😉 Thanks for your feedback on inspiration and for dropping by today.

      Reply
  9. Donnell Ann Bell

    Thank you, Margaret. I’m finally coming back to the writing world. Thank you, George, for hosting me and my fellow authors!

    Reply
  10. Mary Price Birk

    I love hearing about your writing and creative process! I’m looking forward to continuing to read your series! You create such a compelling story!

    Reply
    • Donnell Ann Bell

      Mary, thank you! I appreciate your feedback so much!

      Reply
  11. Margaret Mizushima

    Oh, Donnell…this looks like another good story! So glad you shared your germ of an idea and how it grew with us. Congratulations and best wishes with your work on book three in the Cold Case series. Looking forward to that one too!

    Reply

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MARIKO TATSUMOTO – Romance – Thriller – Historical

Piano-playing, multi-award-winning author Mariko Tatsumoto immigrated to the U.S. from Japan with her family when she was eight. She was detoured from her passion of books by becoming the first Asian woman lawyer in Colorado. But like a pebble in a shoe, she couldn’t let go of her childhood dream and began writing novels. She lives in a small town in the Rocky Mountains, where she’s often found outdoors.

She is a member of the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, Colorado Authors League, Historical Novel Society, and Romance Writers of America.

What is your latest book? BLOSSOMS ON A POISONED SEA is a thrilling coming-of-age romance based on the actual events of one of history’s most shocking industrial mercury poisoning disasters and corporate coverups that inspired Johnny Depp’s film Minamata. Two young people must fight a powerful corporation and the government to save their townspeople from a horrific neurological disease.

What made you write it? I recalled my mother showing me photojournalist W. Eugene Smith’s pictures of Minamata Disease victims in Life Magazine when I was young and wondered whatever happened to those people. I was horrified to learn there was no cure, and they kept suffering. I had to tell the world about the tragedy, which led to years of research. Ultimately, I decided to tell the story through two fictional characters.

What is it about? Yuki is the daughter of a poor fisherman. Kiyo is the son of a senior executive at Chisso. In 1956, they become friends, then gradually fell in love. But then all living things in the once beautiful Minamata Bay suddenly die. The impoverished people living around it begin suffering from a terrifying disease that causes agonizing pain, paralysis, and death … including Yuki’s family. As the sole wage earner, Yuki is reduced to low-paying, backbreaking work as a laborer and then as a housekeeper.

The city dwellers turn their backs on the dying fisherfolk. The corporation stonewalls, denying culpability. As the suffering spreads, Kiyo helps researchers find answers to the devastating neurological disease. But they’re blocked by the government and the corporate-influenced media.

Together, Yuki and Kiyo must fight the Japanese government and a powerful and ruthless corporation to save her family and the Bay.

Do you write in more than one genre? Yes. I published several middle-grade and Young Adult novels before turning to adult fiction. Without planning to do so, my books turned out to be primarily historical set in Japan or with Japanese protagonists, and often based on actual events:

AYUMI’S VIOLIN – set in 1959, drawing from my immigration experience
ACCIDENTAL SAMURAI SPY – set in 1868, inspired by the bloody political warfare to unify Japan under one rule
SWEPT AWAY – set in 2011, recounting the devastating tsunami in Japan
KIDNAPPED AT THE ICEFALL – contemporary novella set in Colorado
BLOSSOMS ON A POISONED SEA – set in the late 1950s in Minamata, Japan

I’ve also written two nonfictions: The Colorado Bed and Breakfast Guide and How To Write A Middle-Grade Book Kids Will Love

What kind of research do you do? Because my books are often based on actual events, I spend months or years studying the incidents, history, culture, politics, styles, and fashion around that time. This involves reading books and Internet sites and watching videos and movies made around that time. I sometimes need to learn a new sport. In Swept Away, I had to study sumo wrestling in order to write the lifestyle the protagonist must endure at a sumo training center. In Accidental Samurai Spy, I needed to learn the principles, techniques, and styles of sword fighting. A climber friend showed me the ropes of rock and ice climbing for Kidnapped at the Icefall. These sports were fascinating to learn.

What obstacles do you face when writing about historical figures? Despite painstaking hours of research, gaps in historical records pose challenges. In those instances, it may mean revising a part of the plot or a scene. I exercise creative license but try to maintain authenticity the best I can.

Going back in time half a century or more means that information at the time was all in print. If the place or incident is not well known, not many articles or books may have been written about it.

Do you ever kill a popular character? If so, what happens to your story? I often kill a likable character in a book. Sometimes several. These events force the protagonist to rethink life, learn, and make changes they would never have made. Readers remember and tell friends of these memorable moments. Shocking scenes stay with them, which is what writers want.

What are you currently working on? It’s another history fiction set in a World War II internment camp where Japanese Americans were incarcerated. Mine is different from other books written about the imprisonment because the subject matters I delve into were too shameful for the internees to have disclosed. That’s the part I like.

marikotatsumoto.com
marikotatsumoto@gmail.com
Instagram: @marikotatsumotoauthor
FB: MarikoTatsumotoAuthor
Twitter (X): @MarikoTatsumoto

7 Comments

  1. Ella

    Very interesting interview. It’s been a few weeks since I finished reading Blossoms on a Poisoned Sea and I’m still in awe of the author’s ability to create in words, an entire Japanese community with its multi-layered social strata and passionate controversies. The story and writing were so moving I’ve thought about the main characters as though they’re people I once knew. I’d highly recommend the book – it could support some lively book club and classroom discussion. As it’s based on a true story of dark choices for financial gain that resulted in an environmental disaster, reflection on the situation and outcome are highly pertinent to issues we face right now.

    Reply
    • Mariko Tatsumoto

      Thank you, Ella! Such wonderful words to keep me writing!

      Reply
  2. Mariko Tatsumoto

    Thank you, Michael. I hope you have a chance to read it and find it fascinating!

    Reply
  3. Susan

    George Cramer–thank you for interviewing Mariko–have heard her play the piano and loved it–will now buy her book too!
    And Thank you George for your enjoyable newsletter–love your life story, appreciate your tenacity (I grew up on a dozen different Indian reservations–parents worked Indian Public Health Service). Thanks again!

    Reply
    • Mariko Tatsumoto

      Thank you, Susan for supporting my writing! I wonder where you heard me play the piano.

      Reply
    • George Cramer

      Susan, Thanks for your comments about Mariko and the blog.

      Reply
  4. Michael A .Black

    Congratulations on your book, Mariko. It sounds fascinating. Your book about the interment camps sounds equally fascinating. A few years back I had a Japanese woman in my Writing a Memoir class who had been a small child in one of those camps. Her recollections were gut-wrenching. I wish you much success. Good luck.

    Reply

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George’s Conference Recommendation for 2024 – And Beyond

I’ve attended the Public Safety Writers Association conference held at the Orleans Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas for a decade. It is intimate, with around fifty attendees. The conference is reasonably priced.

PSWA has a first-day master’s class followed by two and half days of lectures and panels. For the most part, the attendees write crime, mystery, and thrillers. The catered meals are fantastic.

I highly recommend PSWA, especially if you want to meet and get to know authors in your field.

Here’s the link for the 2024 conference if you want details:

2024 PSWA Conference (policewriter.com)

 

2 Comments

  1. Michael A Black

    Tagging up with my good buddy, George at the PSWA Conference is always a delight. He’s absolutely right, the conference is always a good time and informative too. I’m looking forward to this one. Hope to see you there. It’s still not too late to register.

    Reply
    • Barbara Hodges

      I love this conference. It’s the only one I will not miss. It’s like getting together with a bunch of friends. On top of that I always learn something and discover more great books.

      Reply

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ALICE FITZPATRICK — Meredith Island: Fact or Fiction?

Alice Fitzpatrick has contributed short stories to literary magazines and anthologies and recently retired from teaching in order to devote herself to writing full-time. She is a fearless champion of singing, cats, all things Welsh, and the Oxford comma. Her summers spent with her Welsh family in Pembrokeshire inspired the creation of the Meredith Island Mysteries series. Secrets in the Water is the first book in the series. Alice lives in Toronto but dreams of a cottage on the Welsh coast.

People who read the early drafts of Secrets in the Water often searched the internet for my Welsh island setting, expressing surprise when they couldn’t find it. Even though I insisted it came from my imagination, they weren’t entirely convinced. So, is Meredith Island fact or fiction? The truth is it’s a bit of both.

When I decided to write a traditional British mystery series, I wanted an isolated location. An island was perfect since I’ve always lived near large bodies of water and love the sea. While I feared using an actual location would involve endless hours researching minutia to avoid irate e-mails from readers saying I got it wrong, with a fictional setting, I could control everything—the geography, the weather, the flora and fauna.

I didn’t have to look far for inspiration. When I was a child, my British family moved to Wales, and each summer would welcome me to Tenby, a popular seaside resort on the south Pembrokeshire coast. It was during this time that I fell in love with the country and its people.

Like most places in the UK, Tenby has a long history. With evidence of settlement dating back to the Iron Age, the town was founded in 1093. To defend against opposing Welsh forces, the Norman Earl of Pembrokeshire ordered a fortifying wall to be built in 1245, much of which is still standing. The following seven hundred and fifty years saw Tenby’s rise and fall, including its success as a busy port, the site of an English Civil War battle and a plague epidemic, as well as the temporary hiding place of the fourteen-year-old future King Henry VII during the War of the Roses. The Victorians flocked to Tenby’s beaches and bath houses for the benefits they believed sea bathing provided, making it the popular holiday spot it is to this day.

On the other hand, Meredith Island has been uninhabited for most of its history. It wasn’t until the mid-nineteenth century that American industrialist Artemis Faraday, obsessed with all things British and the capital to indulge that obsession, bought the island, renaming it in honor of his young English bride, and built his vision of a Gothic manor house. When his wife died in childbirth, he abandoned the island to his workers. Except for a few incomers, all islanders can trace their family history to the Faraday estate.

While Meredith Island doesn’t have the elegant Georgian and Victorian row houses that overlook Tenby’s beaches, cozy stone cottages line the island’s cliffside road, which runs down to the harbor. There, you’ll find The Fish and Filly pub, The Sea Breeze restaurant, Craggy’s grocery store, a wharf for the ferry that connects the island to the mainland, and a shelter for fishing boats.

Because I visited Tenby during my teenage years, many of my memories are tinged with wonder and innocence. It was where I had my first crush and heartbreak when a young man took my address, promising to keep in touch but never did. It was also the location of my aunt and uncle’s hotel, where we often sat in the large kitchen and drank tea—sherry for my aunt—ate buttered scones and shared jokes. So my island became a place of young love and friendship, warm kitchens full of sweet smells, and a pub where people gather for a natter and gossip. But it’s also a place where people are murdered. It’s this jarring juxtaposition that sets the tone of the book as protagonist Kate Galway digs deep into the islanders’ memories of their youth to unearth clues about the identity of her aunt’s killer.

The first photo shows the remains of the medieval fortifying wall around Tenby, and the second is the church beside my cousin’s house, which inspired the church on my island.

Tenby is an ancient town with curious streets like Merlins Court, Upper and Lower Frog Street, Tudor Way, Crackwell Street, and Paragon. My fascination with these names led me to bestow upon my islanders similarly unconventional names, such as Basil and Peregrine Tully, Old Alred, Drucilla Cragwell, and Feebles, Gooley, and Smee.

But it wasn’t just the town that inspired me. All along the Pembrokeshire coast, jagged cliffs rise high above the water, creating a menacing seascape where I imagine Kate’s aunt drowned over fifty years ago. The church next door to my cousin Jim’s house is the inspiration for the island church presided over by the Reverend Imogen Larkin, and its graveyard is the islanders’ final resting place. At St. Govan’s Head, a long flight of stone steps leads down the steep cliff face to a 14th-century chapel built over the cave where St. Govan lived and preached seven centuries before. I took the liberty of reducing a similar building to ruins so that in A Dark Death, the second book in the series, a team of archaeology students can excavate it, only to discover something a lot more interesting than foundation stones.

Tenby has long been a vacation spot and inspiration for writers, including Lewis Carroll, George Eliot, Beatrix Potter, and Dylan Thomas. Likewise, for this humble crime writer, Tenby was the inspiration for an idyllic island community where everyone is family and life is celebrated with whiskey, tea, and home baking.

To learn about upcoming tales of the eccentric inhabitants of Meredith Island and to sign up for my newsletter, please visit www.alicefitzpatrick.com.

I belong to:
Crime Writers of Canada,
Sisters in Crime (including the Guppy and Toronto chapters),
Crime Cymru – a group of Welsh crime writers

Here are the buy links to my book:
Amazon.com: https://tinyurl.com/3hdme96k
Indigo: https://tinyurl.com/4shmb7fz

6 Comments

  1. Michael A. Black

    Great blog post, Alice. You sound like you have some great writing plans and should be the next Agatha Christie. Best of luck to you.

    Reply
  2. Pamela Ruth Meyer

    Wow, George and Alice, this thought-provoking post really shows how much of ourselves and our lives we pour into who we become and what we write.

    Reply
    • Alice Fitzpatrick

      It’s hard to escape even when we think we’re not doing it, at least for me. So much go what we write comes out of our unconscious. You’ve just got to trust that creative side of the brain that it will come out right.

      Reply
  3. Peg Roche

    Loved the background for your mystery and just signed up for your newsletter!

    Reply
    • Alice Fitzpatrick

      Thank you, Peg. I hope you enjoyed the story I send to all my newsletter subscribers. There is a lot more Welsh in the coming books.

      Reply

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KIRSTEN WEISS – What Inspired Legacy of the Witch?

Kirsten is best known for her Wits’ End, Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum, and Tea & Tarot cozy mystery books. So, if you like funny, action-packed mysteries with complicated heroines, just turn the page…

You can find her at KirstenWeiss.com.

Inspiration can strike anywhere. A weird or funny thing I experienced. A newspaper article. A painting. However, the inspiration for Legacy of the Witch came from two ideas that I developed.

In the final book in my Doyle Witch series, the witches create a mystery school. I thought it would be fun to use that as the premise for a spin-off series.

Years ago, I enrolled in a mystery school by mail, The Builders of the Adytum. The organization mailed me black and white tarot cards to color in and meditate on, as well as odd little goldenrod booklets about obscure magical philosophies. Using Tarot cards as a form of occult study isn’t unique to the Adytum, though. The Golden Dawn, a famous magical society from the Victorian Era, required its members to create their own decks.

So I thought my fictional mystery school should have a deck as well. Since Legacy of the Witch is set in the more modern era, sending their lessons by email made more sense than USPS. And rather than just writing that emails and cards were received, I decided to include the emails and images of the cards in my spin-off book, Legacy of the Witch. And then, I went a little crazy and created an app for the cards, which I also included for readers.

Add to that a murder mystery set in Penn Dutch country villages, and it made sense to work in the folklore and folk magic of the region. The more I researched, the more ideas I got. Soon, hex signs and black Amish buggies worked their way into the spooky Pennsylvania woods. And a very real Pennsylvania rail trail became the setting for a murder.

The more I learned, the more ideas I had to play with, and what seemed like inspiration was just one idea logically following the next.

If you’d like to learn more about Legacy of the Witch, check out my website: https://www.kirstenweiss.com/mystery-school-2/legacy-of-the-witch

15 Comments

  1. Vinnie Hansen

    Nice to see you on here, Kirsten. I’ll see you in person soon.

    Reply
  2. Pamela Ruth Meyer

    Wonderful post, Kristen and George. I can’t help thinking… “See, AI, you don’t stand a chance.” Kristin, you help show the magic of HUMAN imagination. This was fun and inspiring. Best of luck with LEGACY OF THE WITCH!

    Reply
    • Kirsten Weiss

      Pamela:

      I think our only chance against AI is to be as creative as possible!

      Kirsetn

      Reply
  3. Peg Brantley

    Sometimes going down the research rabbit hole pays off!!!

    Reply
  4. Peg Roche

    It’s so interesting to see where your ideas have come from. Also, how one idea can lead to so many more angles! Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  5. Marilyb Meredith

    Great idea. Interesting post.

    Reply
  6. Ana

    Kirsten, I always enjoy your books!
    Ana Manwaring

    Reply
  7. Michael A. Black

    Interesting concept, Kirsten. Witch– I mean which of your books do you suggest reading first? Please don’t cast a spell on me for the bad pun. 😉
    Best of luck to you.

    Reply
    • Kirsten Weiss

      Haha! You can jump into the mystery school series with book 1, Legacy of the Witch. If you want more back story, then the Doyle Witch series it spun off of could be fun –it’s more witch cozy mystery than metaphysical, but there are connections. The first book in that series is Bound, and I think it’s free right now!

      Reply
  8. Marie Sutro

    Wow!! This sounds awesome!!!

    Reply
  9. Shelley Lee Riley

    Fascinating, and I’m looking forward to reading some of your books.

    Reply

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M.E. ROCHE – Loves Writing & Follows Characters

I’m the product of a Midwest upbringing, but I’ve lived on both coasts as well as in Ireland. As a registered nurse, I’ve had the opportunity to work in many facets of nursing. Once officially retired, I began volunteering with the local coroner—part of the sheriff’s department—in northern California.

My favorite books have always been mysteries.

What brought me to writing? I first decided to try my hand at writing when I discovered there were so few books written about or by nurses and nothing for young readers since the student nurse mysteries of the 1950s. I started with three young adult mysteries modeled on those early works. I liked the writing process—of having a character tell me where the story would go—and when I decided to bring my student nurses into adulthood, I began writing for an adult audience, and now I have an additional three mysteries and two standalones.

New Book My newly released novel, TOOTS, is a historical stand-alone work based on one of my great aunts, one of my grandmother’s sisters. Growing up, I only knew my aunt as living with my grandmother. She was quiet but warm and generally retreated to somewhere quieter in the house when my family of eight kids arrived. I don’t remember ever having any extended conversation. We were told that her husband and children had died in a fire, and she had come back to her family in Chicago from wherever they had been living. I began thinking about this story several years ago, and I wanted to know more, but there was no one from that generation left to ask. And so I began trolling the memories of my siblings and cousins, but they were no wiser

Research TOOTS required spending a lot of time with Ancestry.com and Newspapers.com and my local genealogy people at the library. The amount of information out there is amazing. My grandmother and her sister, Toots, came over from Ireland by themselves at ages 12 and 10. They came to work as servants—first in New York and later in Chicago. My grandmother married and stayed in Chicago, but Toots met and married a homesteader from Nebraska. So many questions! I began by tracking down the ship manifests. Census reports, marriage records, obituaries, and homestead records. Finally, I made a road trip to Nebraska to see the homestead for myself. But then…what happened after Nebraska?

I discovered that there is also a ton of information to be found in obituaries. A good example: I knew my grandfather was a train conductor on the Northwestern railroad, but I had always thought of him as a passenger conductor (he had passed before I was born); his obituary stated he was a freight conductor! Tracking down the routes—possibly through Nebraska—that his train would have taken in 1915 led me to the tiny town of Albion in Nebraska, where my aunt’s husband’s homestead happened to be. There is no one alive to verify my guess, but I’d say my grandfather played matchmaker for his sister-in-law!

Setting the Location: I think it’s important to know something about the setting of one’s story, which is why I felt the need to see Nebraska. How many people plan to visit Nebraska? It was, however, a great experience—visiting the Homestead museum and learning something about the Dust Bowl period, of which I knew little beyond The Grapes of Wrath. It is beautiful farm country; the cover for TOOTS is a photo of their homestead. Similarly, I lived in San Francisco and northern California for some time, as well as in Boston, so I enjoy adding bits of local color to stories set in those locations.

Writing Process My writing process is changing. I’ve always felt most creative in the early morning hours, but not so much now. I do my own editing and preparation for publishing, and the more I write, the more time it takes to complete these non-creative tasks. I’ve discovered that my head doesn’t work for editing in the early morning. So now, I have coffee, walk, have breakfast, and then work on editing. But as I finish those tasks required by a new book, I think I’m almost ready to start writing something creative again. We’ll see.

Current Project Before turning to the final edits and publishing aspects of TOOTS, I finished the first draft of a mystery that spans the two coasts and centers on an arson group of firefighters in Boston. In the first re-read of that draft, I saw some serious problems, and now I’m looking forward to seeing what can be done to fix those problems. After that, I have the start of a black widow murder mystery.

Please visit my website and sign up for my newsletter at https://www.meroche.com, where I am now adding a section for Book Clubs with questions and personal recipes.

5 Comments

  1. Michael A Black

    Sounds like you’ve got a very interesting family and a great plan for writing. Looking forward to hearing more about your upcoming projects.

    Reply
  2. Pamela Ruthj Meyer

    Great Aunts are the best! Love this idea. And the title, TOOTS, is absolutely perfect.

    Reply
  3. John Schembra

    Interesting background, Peg! You are very meticulous in your writing. and I’m betting it shows in the quality of the book and the story! Looks interesting- I’ll be ordering my copy tomorrow!

    Reply
  4. Marie Sutro

    It must have been so fun to follow your characters into adulthood!

    Reply
  5. Rhonda Blackhurst

    Nice to “meet” you! I imagine you’re happy to be retired from the medical arena after the COVID nightmare. I do my best creating in the morning hours (after working out, walking the dog, and breakfast), but I find I can edit/revise and do business items any time of the day. Wishing you all the best on your new release.

    Reply

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DEBRA BOKUR – The Power in Story (Even When It’s a Fish Tale)

Debra Bokur is the author of the Hawai’i-based Dark Paradise Mysteries series published by Kensington Books (The Fire Thief, The Bone Field, and The Lava Witch), often favorably compared by Publisher’s Weekly and other reviewers to Tony Hillerman’s Southwest-based mysteries. She’s served as an editor on the staff of multiple national magazines, has been a feature writer for Global Traveler Magazine since 2007, and works as a book narrator and voice actor for Audible. Bokur divides her time between Colorado and coastal Maine and is working on a new series set in the 160-year-old haunted inn in Maine that she and her husband are restoring.

The summer before my junior year of high school, I worked at the concession stand at the local drive-in movie theater in St. Augustine, Florida. The much-anticipated release of the film Jaws, based on the novel of the same name by author Peter Benchley, was underway.

It was 1975. Everyone had appalling hairstyles and wore bell-bottom denims held up by double-ring leather belts. We drove ridiculous cars (do a Google search for “Pacer,” and you’ll see what I mean). Those very cars came to be parked by the speaker posts in the sandy lot in front of the drive-in’s huge movie screen, and their passengers — locals and schoolmates — all found their way to the concession counter to gather enough popcorn, soda, and reheated frozen pizza to carry them through to the film’s big wrap-up.

By the end of the summer, I knew the entire script by heart, had acquired a deep interest in story arc, and found a best friend. Her name was Ally (changed to protect her privacy), and she, like me, was a smart-alecky New England transplant who loved writing, books, and films. She still does, and we’re still friends, and to this day, we exchange book recommendations and snippets from our own writing. And we can each still quote a shocking number of lines from Jaws.

The most important thing we accomplished that summer was not to memorize blockbuster scripts or earn money to stash in our small bank accounts (a lot of which was diverted to buying books); it was to create a story for ourselves that had nothing to do with sharks, or navigating challenging home lives, or deciding on which scholarship programs to angle for: It was all about becoming the successful women that everyone in our neighborhoods insisted on telling us we could never be.

Back then, I had a half-formed fantasy of my future as a successful author who lived a double life as an international spy, cruising on assignment through the Swiss Alps in a vintage Jaguar (British Racing Green, natch) or piloting a sleek wooden Chris Craft speedboat between small harbors in the Greek Islands, waiting for an impossibly sexy co-spy to meet me on the dock in front of a private villa. The co-spy always carried a secret document hidden in the pages of a Dylan Thomas poetry collection and always smelled like sandalwood and neroli. My efforts, of course, would save humanity from a dire end; and, depending on the fantasy details of any particular day, also rescue at least one puppy and several children from the path of a tsunami.

Not too long ago, one of those countless subscription television networks ran a Jaws movie marathon, endlessly playing the original film in the legendary shark-attack franchise back-to-back. I left the television on and the film playing in the background while I did a deep clean of my kitchen cabinets and drawers. In no time at all, I was speaking along with the actors, the script seemingly lodged forever in one of those strangely shaped little rooms in my brain.

Hearing those lines again reminded me of how words can so easily get under our skin and infiltrate our psyche; how some stories stick with us, and the memory of them becomes a powerful link to moments that we share with others.

Today, my secret fantasies have less dramatic details but are far more meaningful: Most revolve around book sales and good reviews; of meeting readers who found something engaging in one of my novels and who can’t wait to read the next one; of walking into a bookstore in a faraway town and seeing my books prominently displayed on the shelves.

Sometimes, those things actually happen. Maybe, someday, there will be speedboats, Jaguars, and clandestine meetings on villa docks, too. Perhaps my spy fantasies were really all about the longing to make some kind of positive mark; doing something — even undercover — might change the world in a good way. Making sure the imaginary killers in my mystery series get caught and properly punished is how I practice.

We all have our own concession stand memories, I think; people we meet along the labyrinth trails of our lives who, if we’re lucky, become enduring friends. For authors, readers who come back time and again to read our latest work are exactly like that: friends whose names we may not know but to whom we are nevertheless indelibly connected.

Connections matter. Today, Ally, a gifted vocalist, sings as part of a successful musical group. She has an incredible family and a happy life, and she still writes stories that take my breath away. In the process of getting my own work out into the world, I’ve met and become friends with some marvelous authors and equally amazing readers. Is there a movie or song or book that triggers one of your own most powerful memories that brings you back to a place and time that you had no idea would become a seminal moment in your own journey? I hope so, and I hope you’ll share it in the comments here. Thank you for allowing me to share my own.

Professional affiliations:
Society of American Travel Writers,
Mystery Writers of America,
Sisters in Crime (National, Colorado and New England chapters),
Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers,
International Thriller Writers.

Here are links:
My website (all the purchase links are there):
https://www.debrabokur.com/ (more…)

18 Comments

  1. Rhonda Blackhurst

    Great post! And coastal Maine? **swooning** I’ve always wanted to visit there someday. I hope “someday” gets here soon. haha! And I’m in love with the 160-year-old haunted inn you and hubs are restoring. What fun!

    Reply
    • Debra Bokur

      I hope to see you there someday… I’ll send you off on a private ghost hunt 🙂

      Reply
  2. Laurel Kallenbach

    Your devotion to telling stories—and revisiting them over and over again—is inspiring. Our lives would be dull and meaningless without stories in books, films, and told orally. Thanks for sharing your own story. And I can’t wait to read your next mystery series!!!

    Reply
    • Debra Bokur

      Thank you, Laurel. I realize you already know this, but you’re one of those enduring friends I mention. And a fabulous writer, as well.

      Reply
  3. Candace Hardy

    Debra, I just finished listening to Stories that Stick by Kendra Hall, and your story is a perfect example of the power of stories. I enjoyed when I was young a thousand years ago Native American books by Grace Moon, and the movie I watched a zillion times is Broadcast News. Diverse, I’m happy to say. Enjoyed your post.
    Candy

    Reply
    • Debra Bokur

      Wow, Candace thanks — I love that movie, too. I’m not familiar with author Grace Moon, but you’ve definitely put her on my radar!

      Reply
  4. Pamela Ruth Meyer

    This post was such fun, Debra ( and George). As others already said, it was a great trip down memory lane. Best of luck with LAVA WITCH.

    Reply
    • Debra Bokur

      Many thanks!

      Reply
  5. Peg Roche

    Really enjoyed your story, Debra, and look forward to reading the first of your books I just downloaded: The Lava Witch (the only one available).

    Thanks , George, for introducing Debra!

    Reply
    • Debra Bokur

      Thank you, Peg – I truly hope you enjoy the book! I had a lot of fun writing it.

      Reply
  6. Debra Bokur

    Wow, thank you, Donnell. You are both thoughtful and kind. And that music, right? I wonder if the filmmakers had any idea that decades after the film was born, that music would still be source of chills. I didn’t read the book until years after seeing the film, and I could still hear it in the background!

    Reply
  7. Donnell Ann Bell

    Debra, thank you for such a wonderful trip down Memory Lane. I graduated high school in 1975 and your details of the era are as precise as I remember, I cannot wait for your haunted ghost series. it will be a departure from your excellent Hawaiian mysteries, which will be a hard act to follow! Even in a promotional blog describing what brought you this point, your writing ability and wisdom shine. I suspect you owe it in part to concession stands, your friend “Ally” and to Peter Benchley’s JAWS. What kid doesn’t remember the lines from this thriller? I spent much of my time covering my eyes, particularly when Da ta . . . Da ta . . . Da.ta da.ta Da.ta played on the screen. All I can say in closing is this is a sensational blog, and . . . “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” Thanks George for sharing Debra Bokur with us!

    Reply
  8. Marie Sutro

    Love this!! Jaws will always be a favorite. The very best friendships are forged in popcorn, soda, and suspense!

    Reply
    • Debra Bokur

      Thanks, Marie! I agree on all accounts.

      Reply
  9. Michael A. Black

    Great Jaws story, Debra. I’ll have to check out your books. Be careful swimming.

    Reply
    • Debra Bokur

      Thank you, Michael! I tend to stick to lakes and pools these days, though I used to love that Jaws ride at Universal Studios 🙂

      Reply
  10. Heather Haven

    What a great post! And I love the phrase, “concession stand memories.” Thanks so much for sharing your life, hopes, and dreams. Putting aside the jaguars, they were very similar to mine.

    Reply
    • Debra Bokur

      Thanks, Heather — And for the record, I would consider an Aston Martin an acceptable substitution if a Jag isn’t part of the Universe’s plans 🙂

      Reply

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DP LYLE – But It Really Happened

But it really happened. I swear. – This is the defense fiction writers offer when someone says their story isn’t believable. “That could never happen,” they say. But it could. It did. Still, their disbelief lingers.

 

I write both fiction and non-fiction. When people inquire about the difference between creating the two, my response is, “They are exactly the same, only different.” With NF, the research comes first. It must be gathered, fact-checked, and organized. Then, the writing begins. With fiction, you must first know your characters, plot, and setting before researching the materials needed to create a story that rings true.

Fiction winters often base their stories on a true crime. A look at best-selling books and iconic movies over the years underlines this fact. The horrific slaughter of the Clutter family in rural Kansas became Truman Capote’s masterpiece In Cold Blood—a book that sits somewhere between fiction and true crime. Serial killer Ed Gein fashioned furniture and clothing from human skin and inspired Hitchcock’s Norman Bates in Psycho and Buffalo Bill in Thomas Harris’ Silence of the Lambs.

For fiction writers, a true crime book, a news story, or maybe a blog post sparks the idea. For my third Samantha Cody book, Original Sin, I created a snake-handling preacher character. My research led me to the National Book Award finalist Salvation on Sand Mountain by Dennis Covington. It chronicles the story of Glenn Summerford, pastor of the Church of Jesus with Signs Following, who employed a rattlesnake in the attempted murder of his wife. You bet that little wrinkle appeared in Original Sin.

Or Victor Borkov, the bad guy in my first Jake Longly story, Deep Six. His enemies often found themselves lashed to an iron ring and dropped into the Gulf of Mexico. Alive. This is based on the actions of Skylar Deleon. Look up sociopath. You’ll see his picture. Under the guise of buying their boat, Skylar and a thug friend convinced Jackie and Thomas Hawks to go for a test cruise. It ended with the Hawks bound to an anchor and dumped in the Pacific Ocean. Alive.

These true stories are unbelievable. Yet true. For fiction writers, the trick is to morph unbelievable facts into believable fiction.

We fiction writers owe a great debt to true crime writers. They do the heavy lifting, the research,  the telling of the crime, and we use that to inspire and create our stories. Ann Rule once told me that when she approached a true crime story, she looked for the person who was the heart of the story. Not the bad guy, often not the victim, but someone scarred by the crime. In fiction, we do the same but have the added freedom of not being bound to the facts.

The marriage between crime fiction and true crime is alive and well.

Keep your eyes open for Unbalanced coming soon.

DP Lyle, Award-winning author, lecturer, story consultant

Website: http://www.dplylemd.com
Criminal Mischief Podcasts: https://www.dplylemd.com/podcasts

1 Comment

  1. Michael A. Black

    I’m familiar with D.P. Lyle’s work and he is an excellent writer. This one reminded me of an old Mark Twain quote: “The difference between fiction and real life is that fiction at some point has to make sense.”
    (I may not have gotten that one exactly as the esteemed Mr. Twain put it, but you get the idea.)
    Good luck with your new one.

    Reply

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Book Passage Corte Madera – Sisters in Crime Author Readings

Saturday, May 4, 2024, was a miserable day. But then again, it was a fantastic day. It began with a forty-minute drive that took over ninety. It was the heaviest rain I’ve seen this year. Seven or eight other authors said the same.

Then I arrived at Book Passage in Corte Maderaeverything changed.

New Liberty – Robbers and Cops – The Mona Lisa Sisters

Just steps inside the front door was a table displaying books. Three of those books were mine. (I am not a photographer) can’t describe the wonder feeling that enveloped me.

I walked up to the main counter and enjoyed another wonderful moment.

Mounted on the wall were the same three books. Wow! What a great day!

Things only got better. I joined nine other authors, all fantastic writers, for readings by each. We also enjoyed Jenn Prosser, M.D.’s reading about her wonderfully frightening podcast, Pick Your Poison. Sister in Crime-NorCal’s own Glenda Carroll collaborated with the amazing staff at Book Passage to put the program together.

Stop by  Book Passage Corte Madera 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera, CA • (415) 927-0960 to show appreciation. While there, ask about their impressive Mystery Writers Conference. This year, Friday, July 19 – Sunday, July 21, 2024.

 

5 Comments

  1. Linda

    What a wonderful adventure, George. You put in the hard work and look where it got you. Keep it up and you’ll reach your impossible dreams.

    Reply
  2. Michael A. Black

    Hey, Big Guy, congratulations. I wish I could have been there.

    Reply
  3. Marie Sutro

    So sorry I missed it!! Sounds fabulous!!

    Reply
  4. Shelley Lee Riley

    .Your hard work has paid off! Your books were prominently displayed at this Sisters In Crime event, and I can well imagine how thrilled you must have felt. It’s great to see your efforts recognized and appreciated. Thank you for sharing this wonderful experience with us.

    Reply

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