Jun 5, 2023 | Crime, Mystery, Thriller |
Born in Illinois, as a military dependent, Michelle moved between San Diego, California, and Charleston, South Carolina. She enrolled at the University of California Santa Cruz before attending Michigan State University, where she completed a Pediatric residency program. After over twenty years in clinical medicine, Michelle now works as a medical consultant.
As a member of Crime Writers of Color, Sisters in Crime, and Capitol Crimes, her writing interests cover many genres—mystery, paranormal, and thrillers. If not writing, you can find her outside gardening or bicycling.
Murder in Gemini – When not practicing medicine, Dr. Myaisha Douglas writes mysteries. But murder intervenes when the sister of a friend suddenly dies. Myaisha suspects murder. Her writing group investigates the homicide, hoping to publish a true crime story. The investigation becomes deadly when Myaisha uncovers an important secret behind a necklace.
I write mystery, thrillers, suspense, and fantasy stories. The location varies, but I prefer to write at a desk. Long term, it protects my back. Anyone considering a long-term career in writing should use supportive equipment to protect their musculoskeletal health. Carpal tunnel syndrome, cubital tunnel syndrome, and back pain cause serious discomfort.
A window is necessary for my writing. It allows my mind to wander and stimulates creativity. I write piecemeal as ideas arise, primarily on weekends and evenings. Once I get in a groove, I can’t be distracted. It’s not uncommon for me to write for ten to twelve hours straight. My routine is unscheduled and directed by inspiration. Breaks never last over two weeks.
Editing is challenging—not because I don’t like it. I prefer editing to composing an original manuscript. The first step in my process is what I call free writing. Whatever comes to mind goes on the page. After I finish the WIP, I go back and construct a cohesive narrative. The critique group receives the manuscript. I’ll work on the WIP and send it to my developmental editor. Once the editor comments, I review the manuscript again and discuss it with my critique partners. I use ARCs to get feedback and complete another comprehensive review before sending it to the copyeditor. The proofreader is the final step before publishing. Currently, I am working on a standalone suspense thriller.
Before I decided to publish, I joined Capitol Crimes, a chapter of Sisters in Crimes. Serving on the educational committee for SIC gave me insight into the publishing business that otherwise would have required years of experience. I also found my critique group through Capitol Crimes. Crime Writers of Color brought me a support group and resources important to any author.
I write stories I want to read. Therefore, my protagonists are carefully designed—no matter how flawed. As a physician, I work with people. While I never base a character on a specific person, they provide ideas about how characters behave—mannerisms and colloquialisms.
The plan is to continue writing good stories with enduring characters. My characters could be your friend or neighbor. If the stories make you smile, cry, or laugh, I’m satisfied. Books should evoke emotions.
Last year, I started a publishing business and intend to invest time and effort into its success. Longevity is key for the writing career I desire. Publishing has taught me valuable skills and introduced me to inspiring people. I’m enjoying the journey.
I belong to Capitol Crimes, Sisters in Crime, and Crime Writers of Color.
Jun 1, 2023 | Cozy, Crime, Thriller |
Current Secretary and Past President of the Upstate SC Chapter of Sisters in Crime, Sally Handley is the author of the Holly and Ivy cozy mystery series and the stand-alone suspense novel, Stop the Threat. Additionally, she writes a series on the new Kindle Vella platform entitled The Adventures of Trixie, written from her faithful companion’s point of view. Finally, Sally writes an occasional blog entitled “On Writing, Reading and Retirement” at www.sallyhandley.com. Also a member of PSWA, she is currently busy writing the sixth book in her cozy series entitled The Toxic Blooms Mystery
On Genre – I consider myself primarily a cozy mystery writer. That is the genre I love to read, so it was just a natural choice for me when I started to write. But after I attended a local Citizens’ Police Academy, I was motivated to write a suspense novel based on a discussion we had with the School Resource Officer. The question of arming teachers came up. I asked myself, “What might really happen if we did that?” And that question led me to write my first suspense novel.
On Writing Process – So my writing process is not very complex. Once I get an idea, I mull it around in my head for a bit, but then I just sit down at my kitchen island and start typing. For me, the story evolves based on the things the characters say and do. When I get to a point where I’m unsure about what comes next, I take a legal pad and pen, and a big mug of coffee over to the couch and plot. I ask a bunch of what-ifs and consider where the story might go depending on the scenarios I consider. That usually gets me back to work. Admittedly, it sometimes takes more than one mug of coffee.
On Characters – Next to plotting, character development, to me, is really the key to engaging the reader. In writing a series, the challenge is creating characters your readers enjoy spending time with so they’ll want to continue reading the series. In Stop the Threat, I had a huge cast of characters ranging from School Board Members to teachers to students and their parents. The challenge there was creating a cast of intriguing characters with whom the reader could identify.
You ask if my characters ever disappoint me. Never. But they do surprise me. I’m better at writing dialogue than description, so oftentimes, my characters will say something, and how another character reacts can be rather unpredictable, taking the story in a whole new direction.
On Association Membership – When I moved to South Carolina, one of the first things I did was join the Upstate SC Chapter of Sisters in Crime. The first person I met was Judy Buch, another cozy mystery writer. We hit it off and formed our own critique group, which now includes fellow authors Wayne Cameron and Cindy Blackburn. They are my most trusted and treasured resource. Because writing is mostly a lonely endeavor, having like-minded partners to read and assess your work is invaluable. And, since all writers are subject to bouts of self-doubt, it’s great to have folks cheer you up and keep you from succumbing to the depths of discouragement. Also, I recently joined the Public Safety Writers Association and have already gotten answers to questions about how police would handle a certain situation from author Michael A. Black. My advice to any writer is join a writer’s group. You won’t regret it.
On Research – I’m not a traditional researcher, but I am frequently amazed at how the information I sometimes didn’t even know I needed just comes to me. My cozy mystery sleuths, Holly and Ivy, are look-alike sisters who like to garden. Their knowledge of plants helps them solve crimes. A few years ago, I took a day trip to an arboretum in North Carolina. Lo and behold, they had an exhibit entitled Wicked Plants, based on a book of the same title by Amy Stewart. That book helped me select the perfect poison in book 4 of my series.
My favorite research story happened very recently. I attended a wedding in New Jersey last November and stayed at a hotel in Morristown. They just happened to be hosting a Goth convention at the hotel the same weekend. Amazingly, in the book I’m currently writing, I have a Goth character. I can’t really say why I chose a Goth character. I just sort of pictured her when I was writing. Anyway, it occurred to me that I really didn’t know very much about Goth culture. So, I introduced myself to a guy on the elevator, explained what I was doing, and asked if he’d be willing to talk to me. Ever so graciously, he invited me to join him and some friends he was meeting in the lobby. I spent about an hour with them. I learned a lot. Talk about serendipity!
I have to say that Stop the Threat involved more research than my cozy mysteries require. I interviewed the School Resource Officer and did lots of online research about guns and gun training. I also read everything I could about schools who had armed their teachers. My critique group and my book club friends were wonderful in forwarding any articles they came across on the topic – another reason to be part of a group. (Wish I had known about PSWA back then.)
The book I’m working on now involves GMOs, and my working title is The Toxic Blooms Mystery. When I began writing this book, I realized, to my horror, that a basic idea that I had about GMOs was erroneous. I knew I had to step back and do some serious research. Then I remembered a young neighbor of mine, who once did some clerical work for me when I was a marketing consultant. She’s now a biology teacher, so I contacted her. We scheduled a Zoom call, and within an hour, she helped me develop a basic plotline for the book. She also agreed to be a beta reader when I’ve finished my first draft.
So, reflecting back on what I’ve written here, I realize there’s a well-known adage that ties it all together –“it’s not what you know, but who you know.” For me, associates, topic experts, and beta readers are the best resources a writer can have.
Where to find me:
• Website: www.sallyhandley.com
• Blog: https://www.sallyhandley.com/blog/
• Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sally.handley1/
• Linked-in: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sallyhandleyinc/
• Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16850782.Sally_Handley
• Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/sally-handley
May 29, 2023 | Action & Adventure, Mystery |
Suzanne Baginskie recently retired after twenty-nine years as a paralegal/office manager with the same law firm. Formerly a short story writer, she has written and sold many fiction and non-fiction stories. During Covid-19 in 2021, she authored her first book, Dangerous Charade, submitted it to a traditional publisher, and was offered a five-book contract to write a series. Her FBI Affairs novels blend mystery and suspense with a bit of romance. Suzanne has been writing ever since her mother gave her a diary for her eighth birthday. Unknowingly, her mother’s inspirational nudge helped the writer inside her emerge.
Dangerous Charade begins when an undercover mission in a Las Vegas Casino goes wrong. FBI Agent Noelle Farrell’s cover is blown, and someone wants revenge. She’s sent to Florida under the Witness Protection Program, where she runs into her old partner, Agent Kyle Rivers. He’s assigned to keep her safe. Deep in hiding, someone targets Noelle. Kyle vows to protect her, unaware she has a secret—one her assailants already know.
How long did it take you to write your first book? Six months during Covid-19, and here’s why. I entered a Harlequin contest advertised for romantic suspense novels with a six-month deadline. They asked for the blurb, a synopsis, and three chapters. My submission was chosen, and the novel had to be finished in the required time. After working at a law firm, I worked well under pressure. When I sent the completed manuscript in, my book made the final ten but didn’t win. Two months later, a new traditional publisher advertised for romance manuscripts. I submitted Dangerous Charade. Shortly after, I signed a contract for a series. Each book can be read as a standalone.
How do you come up with character names? I use three different ways. Sometimes, I search for the first name in an old baby name book, which shows the meanings, origins, and derivations. My surnames are borrowed from the daily obituary page. I also used the telephone book’s white pages before they became obsolete. At times, I feature one of my friends or family’s names, first or last. Then I see if they mention it after they read the book. It’s one way to see if they really read them.
We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave or run wild? I write high-profile female characters who work alongside their macho FBI male partners in the Cybercrime, Human Trafficking, and Homicide Division of the FBI. The circumstances they face are basically the same for both sexes when working on a mission alone or with a partner. Therefore, my female agents harbor the qualities of critical thinking, good communication, make dire decisions in dangerous situations, and are brave enough to risk their lives to bring down the perps in a run wild way. All the titles of my book begin with Dangerous.
Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? I set my novels in real towns. Analytical, I tend to research so I can use the correct interstates they’d travel and some highlights of the city to add to the ambiance. I also like inserting the weather because it may play a role in my books. My first novel is set in the small fishing town of Crystal Springs, Florida, the second in Allentown and the mountains of Pennsylvania, and the third in Daytona Beach, Florida. My continuing FBI theme of Cybercrime, Human Trafficking, and Homicide is based on the Orlando area. It ranks third in the nation for the highest human trafficking crimes.
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I’m writing my next book, Dangerous Undercurrents, Book Four in my FBI Affair
s series, and I hope to have it completed very shortly. I’m a frequent cruiser and a Thalassophile (a lover of the ocean.) This book will take my FBI characters off dry land and have them board a cruise ship without any weapons to solve an undercover mission on a seven-day cruising adventure.
Book Link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B09JPCX2CX
Groups I belong to:
Mystery Writers of America
Florida Mystery Writers of America
Romance Writers of America
Florida Writers Association
Florida Gulf Coast Sisters-in-Crime
May 25, 2023 | Uncategorized |
Lis Angus is Canadian; she grew up in Alberta but moved to Ontario for university and has lived there ever since. Early in her career, she worked with children and families in crisis, switching later to work as a policy advisor, business writer, and editor while raising two daughters. Though she loved writing stories as a child and teenager, she didn’t come back to writing fiction until she retired. Her first novel, NOT YOUR CHILD, was published in April 2022. Lis is a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, Crime Writers of Canada, Capital Crime Writers, and the North Grenville Writers Circle. She lives with her husband south of Ottawa, where she is working on her second suspense novel.
NOT YOUR CHILD: A strange man insists Susan’s twelve-year-old daughter Maddy is his granddaughter, abducted as a baby — then Maddy disappears, but he has an alibi.
How my book reached Amazon #1 Best Seller status: George, I’m glad to be back as a guest on your blog. You last hosted me last year when my debut novel, NOT YOUR CHILD, was first released by The Wild Rose Press. I was thrilled to be a published writer, and the book got off to a great start after its launch in April 2022. But this year, as another April approached, I realized that sales had slowed to a trickle.
That was disappointing, especially since I knew readers were giving the book great reviews. But was it too late to try to reach a wider audience?
I decided to announce a celebration of the book’s one-year anniversary with a promotional push in April 2023 to attract new readers. I had no idea how well the effort would work, but I was optimistic.
As things turned out, the “push” was way more successful than I anticipated, resulting in (spoiler alert!) over 2,100 sales and reaching Amazon’s #1 Best Seller status in three countries. Here’s how I went about it.
Reducing the Price: My first task was to persuade my publisher to reduce the ebook price (normally US$4.99) to 99¢. They were dubious, saying that a price cut wouldn’t necessarily increase sales, and even if it did, a reduced price would reduce the per-book royalty, thus likely wiping out any net benefit.
I argued that expanding the book’s readership was a benefit in itself, particularly if it built an audience for future books. Furthermore, without a promotional push, sales would likely stay at the then-current low level, so the downside risk of reducing the price was not large.
I laid out my “anniversary” marketing plan, which included applying to several sites that promote books at discounted prices. My publisher reluctantly agreed to set the book’s price at 99¢ for two weeks, from April 12-26. This price is applied to ebooks on Amazon (Kindle), Apple, Google Play, and Barnes & Noble (Nook).
Like most small presses, my publisher expects its authors to shoulder most of the work and expense of promoting their books. So the cost of this promotion would fall to me. I decided that expanding my reader base was a worthwhile investment, regardless of whether my royalties ended up covering the cost.
Applying for a BookBub Featured Deal: BookBub, founded in 2012, has over four million subscribers in the US, Canada, the UK, and Australia. Readers sign up to receive daily email offers of free or discounted ebooks in genres of their choice. Authors and publishers pay to have their books promoted to BookBub’s subscribers.
I learned that BookBub Featured Deals are widely considered the gold standard of online book marketing opportunities, often resulting in significant increases in book sales. BookBub reportedly accepts only 10-20% of applications for Featured Deals; some authors say they’ve applied numerous times without being accepted.
Somehow, I managed to be accepted on my first try, though only for the three “international” markets: Canada, UK, and Australia. I also applied for the US, the largest market by far, but I didn’t get that one. My Deal was scheduled for Friday, April 21.
Lining up US Promos: Even though I didn’t have a BookBub Deal for the US market, my 99¢ price was available there as well. I thought reaching out to readers in that market was worth a try. So, after some research, I applied to three US promo sites that offered discounted books to readers, and promos were scheduled for the following dates:
- Book Adrenaline (April 14)
- Robin Reads (April 15)
- Fussy Librarian (April 17)
Launching the Anniversary Month: I began the month by sending a note to my newsletter subscribers, announcing the one-year milestone and asking them to help me by recommending the book to friends who they thought would enjoy the book.
I had already lined up several guest blogs on author sites during the month and sent links from these to my subscribers as well.
On April 12, when the 99¢ price kicked in, I posted it to my Facebook Page, Twitter, and Instagram and “boosted” the post for two weeks to expand its reach.
Hitting Amazon #1 Bestseller status: To get a baseline, I checked each country’s Amazon listing to find my ebook’s “bestseller rank” before the promo started and tracked changes throughout.
Amazon US: on April 11, my book had a Kindle ranking of 184,509. Four days later, on April 15 — presumably, as a result of the Book Adrenaline and Robin Reads promos — it had risen to a Kindle rank of 2,553. Not only that but to my surprise, it was ranked #1Best Seller in the “Parenting Teenagers” category. (I don’t consider my book a source of parenting advice, but the #2 book was also a thriller!) It was also #25 in Kidnapping Thrillers.
Amazon International: On April 20 (the day before the BookBub Featured Deal), my book’s Kindle rankings were as follows:
- Amazon Canada: 34,381
- Amazon UK: 100,472
- Amazon Australia: 69,470
A day later, by the end of April 21:
- Amazon Canada: kindle book #3, Suspense #1, Kidnapping Thriller #1
- Amazon UK: kindle book #26, Mysteries #10
- Amazon Australia: kindle book #8, Suspense Thriller #1
Amazon recalculates its sales ranks every hour, and my “Best Seller” status didn’t last long. But these results far outstripped my expectations. A lot of readers had clearly decided to buy my book, but to know what exactly that meant, I had to wait for actual sales figures.
Results: Here are the April sales figures I’ve received from my publisher, though the final numbers still need to be confirmed. Most of the sales were through Amazon, but some were also through Google and Nook.
· BookBub deal countries (Canada, UK, and Australia): 1,470 books
· US (no Bookbub deal, smaller promos): 360 books
· Another 350 books sold through Apple Books, for which I don’t yet have a country breakdown.
In total, I now have something over 2,100 new readers—way more than I expected.
In conclusion: I definitely met and exceeded my goals for this promotional push. I probably haven’t recouped the full cost of the promotion, but I am well satisfied with the results nevertheless.
Purchase links: https://books2read.com/notyourchild
May 22, 2023 | Action & Adventure, Fantasy, Mystery |
Gigi Pandian is a USA Today bestselling and award-winning mystery author, breast cancer survivor, and locked-room mystery enthusiast. The child of cultural anthropologists from New Mexico and the southern tip of India, she spent her childhood being dragged around the world on their research trips and now lives in northern California. She’s been awarded Agatha, Anthony, Lefty, and Derringer awards and has been a finalist for the Edgar. She writes the Secret Staircase mysteries, Accidental Alchemist mysteries, and Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mysteries.
The Raven Thief: A locked-room mystery Publishers Weekly called a “brilliant homage to classic golden age authors” in a starred review.
One murder. Four impossibilities. A fake séance hides a very real crime. Secret Staircase Construction just finished their first project with Tempest Raj officially a part of the team―a classic mystery novel-themed home interior. Their client is now ready to celebrate her new life without her cheating ex-husband, famous mystery author Corbin Colt. First up, a party, and Tempest and Grandpa Ash are invited to the exclusive mock séance to remove any trace of Corbin from the property―for good. It’s all lighthearted fun until Corbin’s dead body crashes the party. The only possible suspects are the eight people around the séance table―a circle of clasped hands that wasn’t broken. Suspicion quickly falls on Grandpa Ash, the only one with actual blood on him. To prove her beloved grandfather’s innocence, Tempest must figure out what really happened―and how―or Ash will be cooking his delectable Indian and Scottish creations nevermore.
Do you write in more than one genre? Everything I write is a lighthearted mystery (nothing dark or gritty), but I write in overlapping mystery subgenres. My Jaya Jones novels are adventure cozies, my Accidental Alchemist Mysteries are paranormal, and my new Secret Staircase Mysteries are locked-room mysteries.
Where do you write? I used to be a café writer, but during the pandemic, I carved out a beautiful, yet tiny, space in my house, with bay windows next to my desk.
What, if any, distractions do you allow? I listen to rain sounds while writing, which is a wonderful vibe for ambient noise. My husband and I both work from home, so we set up our home offices at the far ends of the house so we wouldn’t distract each other! If our doors are closed, we send a text message to each other to see if we’re interruptible (my “door” is a curtain). If the door is open, we’re not doing deep work and can talk to each other.
What are you currently working on? I’m alternating between revisions for the third Secret Staircase Mystery and writing the next Accidental Alchemist Mystery.
How long did it take you to write your first book? I started writing as a hobby in 2001. It was only when I discovered National Novel Month five years later that I finally finished writing a whole draft. I was so excited that I sent it to the Malice Domestic grants competition for unpublished traditional mystery writers, and I was so surprised to win that year’s grant! That’s what got me to take my writing seriously. I joined Sisters in Crime, found a local writing community, and took workshops to learn how to make the book good. That took another two years.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? An outline is my security blanket! But as soon as I begin writing, my characters take over, and my outline goes out the window.
Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations?
I always start with real places and real history, then branch off into fiction. My Secret Staircase Mysteries are set in the fictional small town of Hidden Creek, California, which is quite similar to my town on a hillside in the San Francisco Bay Area, but with lots more freedom to create whatever I need for the story to work.
What kind of research do you do? As much as the Internet can be helpful, the most inspiring bits of information usually comes from tangible experiences, such as visiting a location or finding an old book in the library. I have dozens of paper notebooks filled with notes.
What is your favorite novel? My favorite book is Borrower of the Night by Elizabeth Peters, a perfect mix of mystery, romance, humor, and adventure. I discovered it at the perfect time, as a teenager, and it’s the book that made me want to be a writer.
Favorite movie? Romancing the Stone.
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I have so many books and stories I want to write! The challenge is carving out time to write them.
Do you have any advice for new writers? Don’t compare your journey to anyone else’s.
How do our readers contact you?
My website, where you can send me a note or sign up for my email newsletter, which comes with my free Edgar-nominated short story “The Locked Room Library” — www.gigipandian.com
My books — www.gigipandian.com/books
Amazon — amazon.com/author/gigipandian
May 18, 2023 | Memoir, Uncategorized |
David Haldane, a former Los Angeles Times staff writer, has published three books: an award-winning memoir entitled Nazis & Nudists, a short-story collection called Jenny on the Street, and, his latest, an Amazon bestselling compilation of essays exploring life on a tropical island. He has also written and produced radio features, for which he was awarded a Golden Mike by the Radio & Television News Association of Southern California.
Haldane, along with his wife and two young children, currently divides his time between homes in Joshua Tree, California, and Northern Mindanao, Philippines, where he writes a weekly column for the Mindanao Gold Star Daily called “Expat Eye.” A compendium of those pieces was published earlier this year under the title A Tooth in My Popsicle and Other Ebullient Essays on Becoming Filipino, a book expressing the joys, triumphs, tribulations, exigencies, and hilarities of expatriate life. You can get it on Amazon.
What brought you to writing? Many years ago, living in a barren unheated apartment in Berlin, Germany, during the coldest winter months, I hit rock bottom. Specifically, I felt lonely, hopeless, abandoned, and extremely depressed at having to wear my fur coat inside and constantly seeing my breath as white wisps of steam. In utter desperation, I started writing letters to friends back home, especially an old girlfriend who’d given me the boot. It became a daily ritual that saved my life. I’ve been writing ever since.
Do you write in more than one genre? Having spent most of my life working as a journalist, I am naturally drawn to nonfiction. After getting laid off in what came to be known as the Mother of All Recessions, however, I later expanded my notion of nonfiction to include, well, things that weren’t entirely true. As in short stories. Mostly, though, I work somewhere between those two extremes in the realms of narrative nonfiction—i.e., stuff that reads like fiction but isn’t—and personal (often also narrative) essay, which pretty much describes my columns. These days, that’s where I really live.
Where do you write? I write wherever I have to, which can range from hotel rooms on my laptop to in bed on my cell phone. Where I prefer to write, though, is in the spacious office on the top floor of the dream house my wife and I built overlooking Surigao Strait at the northernmost tip of Mindanao Island in the Philippines. It has a 180-degree view of the ocean dotted with distant islands and, frankly, is the place wherein I was born to contemplate the blank page. The only distraction I allow is my two-year-daughter and her three-year-old cousin coming in to visit bearing cookies. They are especially fond of jumping on the couch to see whether they can reach the ceiling, a habit I find quite annoying but also hopelessly enchanting. And definitely uninterruptible.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? Because most of my writing happens in short bursts, I am, by instinct, a pantser. The idea of plotting something long and complicated is terribly intimidating to me and, frankly, something I can’t even imagine ever doing. What has become an inevitable part of my process, however, is sometimes jotting quick notes after getting an idea, probably in case I forget what it is. Which, I must admit, has happened more than once. After more years of doing this, than I care to admit, I am finally beginning to feel confident in knowing the difference between a mere idea and a genuine story. Still, I don’t always know exactly where it’s going until I sit down to write, which is why the notes help.
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I plan to give up writing and become a dog catcher. Just kidding. Actually, in the near term, I have a book tour coming up covering Manila, Cebu, Cagayan de Oro, and Surigao City. Beyond that, I guess I’ll just keep writing books as long as I can and hope someone keeps publishing them. I would like to publish a second edition of my latest book here in the Philippines, which would simplify the logistics a lot. I would also like to do a sequel, another collection of columns starting where this one left off. I’ve co-written a young adult novel with a friend I’ve known since high school, for which we’re seeking a publisher. And I just ordered a professional microphone to make my office a studio. Back in 2015, I recorded an audio version of my memoir using the facilities at the radio station I worked for then. I’d like to do the same thing with this new book, but without the benefit of that station.
Do you have any advice for new writers? Sure. First, don’t do it for the money because you probably won’t make much. Pray that writing by actual living human beings rather than AI bots will continue to be a thing, at least until you die. And hope that the next generation retains the ability to read. Finally, don’t become a writer unless you absolutely have to. If it’s not an obsession, don’t even bother.
BUY THE BOOK:
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-tooth-in-my-popsicle-david-haldane/1142712082
May 15, 2023 | Mystery |
Karen C. Whalen is the author of two mystery series for The Wild Rose Press: the Dinner Club Mysteries featuring Jane Marsh, an empty nester who hosts a gourmet dinner club, and the Tow Truck Mysteries starring Delaney Morran, a super feminine shoe-a-holic who drives a tow truck. Both are cozy mysteries about strong friendships and family ties set in Colorado. The first book in the Dinner Club series tied for First Place in the Suspense Novel category of the 2017 IDA Contest sponsored by Oklahoma Romance Writers of America. Whalen worked for many years as a paralegal at a law firm in Denver, Colorado, and was a columnist and regular contributor to The National Paralegal Reporter magazine. Whalen loves hosting dinner parties, entertaining friends, riding bicycles, hiking in the mountains, walking on the beach, and reading cozy murder mysteries.
Eyes on the Road
Tow truck drivers, underappreciated heroes of the highway
Even though tow truck drivers help stranded drivers, fix flats, and move hazardous stalls from the side of the road, they are often underappreciated and overly criticized for being rude, predatory, or shady. I understand drivers in need of help are stressed and angry about their situation, and, of course, tow truck drivers may be testy as well from dealing with irate customers, but let’s give the tow man or tow woman a break because they are putting their lives on the line for you. Really? Yes, really!
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the tow truck driver’s average fatality rate is more than 15 times the rate of workers in other U.S. private industries combined. The leading cause of death is motor vehicle incidents, which are frequently accidents on the side of the road. Whew! Those are some serious statistics.
In my previous life, I worked as a paralegal at a law firm that represented tow truck companies. These car haulers are a crazy breed with interesting stories to tell. That all of the tow truck drivers I met were men made me think…a woman in the industry would need to be tough to compete in this dangerous profession. What if the woman was young and inexperienced? Had never changed a tire before? Never even drove a truck before? That’s where I came up with the idea for the Tow Truck Mysteries.
And, better yet, what if she drove her truck in high heels to set herself apart?
Ridiculous? Yes, but fun, too!
A profession that provides an essential service in cheerless situations can use a little humor. And humor can be a great mechanism for dealing with stress. So, I invite you to look at the Tow Truck Murder Mysteries starring Delaney Morran, the super feminine shoe-a-holic who drives a tow truck. Three books have been released, Toes on the Dash, Hands on the Wheel, and Eyes on the Road. The fourth, Friends Come to Call, with a Christmas setting, will come out this fall.
Join my newsletter by clicking here: https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/y6o8y8.
Let me know if you signed up, and I’ll send you a free e-copy of the first book, Toes on the Dash.
And don’t forget when you see a tow truck operator at work: slow down and pull over.
https://www.facebook.com/whalencozyauthor (author page)
May 11, 2023 | Crime, Mystery |
Susan Mangiero is a newly minted MFA in Professional and Creative Writing from Western Connecticut State University. She is writing her first cozy mystery book about a financial advisor who disappears with his clients’ retirement money. Susan is the author of a seminal financial risk management book, half a dozen book chapters, and over fifty articles published in leading magazines and newspapers. Her award-winning investment blog, read by 1.4 million viewers, was a commonsense source of information about important economic issues. A big believer in positive messaging, Susan donated hundreds of copies of her book about kindness to a variety of non-profits. Susan’s insights about fraud and fiction draw from her experiences as a Wall Street trader, testifying investment expert, university professor, and avid reader. Susan is a member of the Connecticut chapter of Sisters in Crime.
Why do you write about trust? The topic of trust is important. We shape our behavior according to the level of trust we have in someone. We buy a book when we trust the writer to entertain or inform us. We donate our money to organizations we think will use it for charitable purposes. We transact with companies we believe will deliver quality products and services. We elect leaders we think will act in our best interests. Trust, including a belief in ourselves, is integral to nearly every decision we make. Broken trust is hard to repair. In real-life, misplaced trust can have disastrous consequences. In fiction, misplaced trust makes for thrilling stories. Agatha Christie quipped, “Where large sums of money are concerned, it is advisable to trust nobody.” Stephen King said, “The trust of the innocent is the liar’s most useful tool.” William Shakespeare said, “Love all, trust a few.”
What are your observations about the impact of fraud? When it exists (and not every fraud allegation equates to actual fraud), fraud creates victims. The fallout from crimes of fraud is heartbreaking for those who had nothing to do with breaking the law. I remember working on a financial reporting matter late at night with a team of accountants and other economists. As I made my way to the break room, I passed rows of unlit, empty desks adorned with family pictures. I feared innocent employees would lose their jobs when news of the fraud became public, and the company lost sales as a result. In another matter, I had to read dozens of victim statements, each describing the loss of savings, the loss of homes, and the loss of businesses due to the actions of the convicted swindler. Another fraud case had me reviewing documents about the significant loss of pension monies for people who had already retired. The result was a lowering of benefits for people on a fixed income. The face of fraud is human.
Is there a fraud personality? The answer is likely yes, but I leave the official diagnosis to psychologists. (My Ph.D. is in finance with a minor in math.) Based on my anecdotal experience, I characterize fraudsters as lacking empathy for others and holding themselves in high regard. You would be correct to think of fraudsters as narcissists. They rationalize their fraud as justifiable. They are risk-takers who are in denial about the adverse impact of their actions on others. Fraudsters typically start small. They boldly cheat on a larger scale if not caught early on. Fraudsters do not wear a sign that flashes, “Beware.” To the contrary, fraudsters are often leaders with positions of authority and influence. They exploit the trust placed in them by others. The best way to prevent fraud is to implement rigid controls that make it hard for someone to steal.
Do fraudsters make memorable literary villains? Yes and no. Deception drives the plot of a well-written mystery book. To the extent that fraud is a kind of deception, a fictional swindler is a natural villain, especially if their hoax seriously injures a likable protagonist. We feel great disdain for the arrogant insurance executives in The Rainmaker by John Grisham and pathos for Rudy, the leukemia victim who died due to the executives’ corrupt denials to pay for his treatment. In the film titled Sea Change, based on a novel by Robert B. Parker, we sympathize with the character who fraudulently assumed her dead sister’s identity and pocketed money stolen from the bank that employed her sister. We do not blame her since she uses the ill-gotten gains to care for her ailing mother. We barely acknowledge the bank’s faceless depositors and borrowers even though they are victims of her fraud.
Do fraudsters make memorable fictional villains? Yes and no. A villainous fraudster is not always the figment of someone’s imagination. Nonfiction bookshelves are replete with accounts of con artists such as Bernie Madoff, Elizabeth Holmes, and Charles Ponzi. Deception drives the Top of Form – Bottom of Form plot of any good mystery book. To the extent that fraud is a kind of deception, a fictional swindler is a natural villain, especially if their hoax seriously injures a likable protagonist. We experience great disdain for the arrogant insurance executives in The Rainmaker by John Grisham and pathos for Rudy, the leukemia victim who died as of result of their corrupt denials to pay for his treatment. In the film titled Sea Change, based on a novel by Robert B. Parker, police chief Jesse Stone looks the other way when he discovers that a kindly woman fraudulently assumed her dead sister’s identity and pocketed money stolen from the bank that employed her sister, to help her ailing mother. We interpret Jesse Stone’s decision as an act of compassion even though the bank’s loss injures depositors and borrowers.
What are your recommendations for writing about fictional fraudsters? Focus on the emotional complexity of both the protagonist and the trickster. What are the circumstances that led the fraudster to act? Why does the main character trust the fraudster? How does the protagonist deal with the fraud once discovered? Is the fraudster vilified? Is the fraudster seeking redemption? Avoid technical jargon and onerous sub-plots. Fraudulent schemes typically take the form of complex business arrangements. The fraudster’s goal is to try to avoid detection. It is unrealistic to expect a lay reader to closely follow the intricacies of a complicated hoax, nor is it desired. If we must constantly look up the meaning of legal or financial terms or try to decipher a Rubik’s Cube of financial finagling, we might opt for a story by another author.
Fraud Awareness & Prevention, SAS Institute Inc.
Fraud Prevention Checklist, Bank of America
Occupational Fraud 2022: A Report to the Nations, Association of Certified Fraud Examiners
Susan Mangiero’s Social Media and Website Links:
Susan Mangiero Profile – LinkedIn
Susan Mangiero Account – Twitter
Susan Mangiero – Website
May 8, 2023 | Crime, Mystery, Native American, Poetry |
Laurel S. Peterson is a Professor of English at Norwalk Community College. She has two poetry chapbooks, That’s the Way the Music Sounds and Talking to the Mirror, and two full-length collections, Do You Expect Your Art to Answer? and Daughter of Sky. She has written two mystery novels Shadow Notes and The Fallen. She served as the town of Norwalk, Connecticut’s Poet Laureate from April 2016 – April 2019.
The Fallen – Clara Montague is dreaming again, and her dreams always lead to trouble. She survives a drive-by shooting that kills a cop but complicates her relationship with police chief Kyle DuPont. The hidden motives behind the shooting lead Kyle and Clara to New Orleans. Will Clara’s visions be enough to keep them safe from Kyle’s past?
Do you write in more than one genre? In addition to writing mysteries, I am a poet with four published books of poetry and two more looking for homes. I’m also working on a multi-genre work of poems and photographs. I tried including essays, but my writing group said they were just poems with too many words! The collection is about grief, so it may never find a home, but I’ve enjoyed the challenge of finding images that would extend my thinking rather than illustrate it.
I started taking photography classes online during the pandemic when, as a community college professor, I spent all my time staring at a screen, grading papers, and responding to frantic student emails. I needed something that wasn’t more words, and I had always wanted to learn to take better pictures. I signed up through a local gallery for a workshop with Thom Williams https://www.instagram.com/tmwilliamsphotography/, a fabulous and patient teacher.
What fascinates me about multi-genre writing is how it fragments forms, which so reflects modern existence. How can writers use that rupture and sense of existential threat to reflect something profound about the human experience? All writers try to do that on some level, but I like to try things that I’m not yet sure I can do.
What is the most challenging part of your writing process? Writing. Not funny? During the pandemic, a friend asked if I did yoga. Yes, I said, but I’m having a hard time just getting to the mat. Many people I knew in graduate school enrolled to give themselves deadlines for writing. It’s an expensive way to create self-discipline, but hey. If I focus on a project, it’s easier. I recently got involved with Writing the Land, https://www.writingtheland.org/, which pairs a writer with a land trust and asks them to write three poems about it during a one-year period. Being part of the project means I get to go on long walks in quiet places, which feels healing.
What are you currently working on? In addition to the multi-genre work I describe above, I’m also revising an old mystery manuscript. This will require setting and character changes. The original book was located partly in Atlantic City, but since Kyle DuPont is a local police chief, I need to shift the setting to Connecticut. Part of the story will now occur on one of Connecticut’s Native American reservations. It’s fun to see how malleable story can be.
Do you base any of your characters on real people? I base many of my characters on real people. Isn’t writing mysteries at least partly about revenge?
In case you’re wondering about people recognizing themselves, I rely on the Anne Lamott idea that people will either always see themselves or will never see themselves in your work, whether they are there or not. Of course, no characterization is exact. That would be cruel.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? Half and half. I write about 80 or 90 pages, and then I get stuck and need to outline the rest so I know where I’m going. That first spurt motivates me because it’s the fun part, where I’m fleshing out the story and trying to create energy in the characters and setting. After that, writing feels more like a puzzle, ensuring I have all the storylines active and intertwined successfully, making sure the characters are developing. There’s a lot of double-checking and rereading while moving forward in smaller increments.
Do you have any advice for new writers? If there’s anything else you can do with your life and still have a great time, do it. Writing eats at you and you can never retire. You always want more from it. (I just want to be published; ok, now I’m published but I want to be in a better publication; Ok, I’ve got a story out, but now I want a novel; Ok, I’ve got a novel out, now I want two or sixteen novels; Ok, I’m published, but now I want to make money at it; Ok, I’ve made a little money, but I want an Edgar…) Do you see? It’s a terrible idea to take up writing. Save yourself.
How do our readers contact you?
You can reach me at my website, www.laurelpeterson.com,
Instagram or Twitter (both @laurelwriter49)
All my books are available at Amazon or on Bookshop
May 4, 2023 | Cozy, Crime, Mystery |
Karen A. Phillips enjoys writing mysteries, MG/YA fantasy, and poetry. She resides in northern California and is a proud member of Sisters In Crime and Willamette Writers.. . . and yes, she does take boxing lessons.
Thank you for having me on your blog, George. I’m excited to be here!
A DEADLY COMBO – What do boxing and vintage trailers have in common? Meet Raquel (AKA Rocky) Nelson, a retired single woman with an attitude and love for boxing.
Sisters Rocky and Bridget enjoy each other’s company at a vintage trailer fest until they stumble over a corpse. The dead guy is none other than the local trailer restorer Bridget was overheard threatening to kill. Mounting evidence leads police to focus on Bridget as a person of interest. Desperate to prove her sister innocent of murder, Rocky dons her deerstalker cap and goes sleuthing until she runs into police detective Thompson who warns her off his case in no uncertain terms. But Rocky is tenacious, if not stubborn. Combined with a 78-year-old father who becomes her sidekick, Rocky uses her courage and skills learned in boxing lessons to protect her family and keep from becoming the killer’s next victim.
My debut mystery is A DEADLY COMBO – a blend of traditional and cozy genres. The inspiration for my story came from attending my first vintage trailer fest at a winery. About fifteen trailers in all colors and styles were spread out over a carpet of green grass. The owners, known as “trailerites,” invited the public inside their vintage trailers. They loved to talk about how they found their trailer (typically abandoned in a field somewhere) and how they restored the trailer to its former glory. Stepping into each trailer was like stepping back in time. It was so much fun, and then the thought occurred to me, “Wouldn’t this be a great place to find a dead body?” And thus, A DEADLY COMBO was born!
I must admit I caught the vintage trailer bug and did purchase my own trailer. I needed to have first-hand knowledge for my book, right? I bought what I could afford, a square Aristocrat Starliner. However, I quickly learned how much of a money pit owning a vintage trailer can be. Alas, I sold my trailer after a couple of years. If I ever get rich, I will buy an Airstream Bambi. The Airstream is a classic, and the Bambi is a compact model, so easier to haul.
The title of my book, A DEADLY COMBO, is a shorter version of A Deadly Combination. The title hints at how the victim dies and is a nod to the sport of boxing. My protagonist takes boxing lessons. I thought it would be a unique hobby for an amateur sleuth and would come in handy in several ways. Believe it or not, I take boxing lessons. The trainer in my story is patterned after my own coach. Boxing is a great way to stay in shape, and I highly recommend it.
Have you ever been to a vintage trailer fest or owned a vintage trailer? Have you ever taken boxing lessons?
Karen is a member of:
California Writers Club
Sisters in Crime
Visit her at https://karenaphillips.com/
Interesting blog, Michelle. i’m glad you’re taking care of your back by writing at a desk. I assume you use a computer, which is a good thing considering nobody can read a doctor’s handwriting. 😉 (Pardon the bad joke, but I couldn’t resist.) You’ve now joined the annals of other writer/physicians like Arthur Conan Doyle and Michael Crichton. I wish you much success. Good luck.
Thank you, Michael. Pun appreciated. Happy writing, and reading.