Pestilence – In a changing world,
Impacted by global warming, a strange new fungus grows in the damp, humid climate. People have discovered its mind-altering effects – and everyone’s using. Dr. David Leeman has discovered a medicinal use for this compound – a miracle cure, to end antibiotic resistance and treat incurable disease.
Terry is an early beneficiary of the wonder-drug. She’s taking part in clinical trials, but her partner, Alex, is furious. He’s bitterly opposed to the pharmaceutical industry and won’t support her. Little Jessica is developing a drug habit, using the new legal high – then she develops a skin problem.
Dr. Leeman realizes, too late, that his wonder-drug has created a pathway for a new pandemic – a fungal disease that is causing mass deaths across the globe.
As civilization collapses, the three come together, forming a healing commune to boost their immune systems and fight the pathogen. But will they find a cure?
I’ve always enjoyed apocalyptic thrillers, so perhaps it was natural that this would be the theme of my first novel.
‘Pestilence’ published in January 2021, is a pandemic story about a deadly fungus that brings about the end of the world. The idea came to me when I was 16 years old. I was a keen horror fan, inspired by James Herbert. But the story got shelved and wasn’t published for another 30 years, by which time it had evolved into a thriller, substantially changed and improved.
It was pure coincidence that the year I spent pitching the book to agents was the year a real pandemic happened! I’m hoping people will think this makes the book more topical and enhances its appeal!
In the day job, I’m a freelance writer, covering health, travel, and lifestyle topics for a wide range of magazines. I also have non-fiction books on WWII, travel, and freelance writing.
How I Became a Writer – I’d always wanted to be a professional writer, but I had to get a proper job while I lived with my parents and ended up trying to build a career in marketing. The opportunity to become a writer came when I was 36 years old and took voluntary redundancy. With support from my husband, I decided to try my luck at freelance writing, and I’m still doing it 11 years later, so I must have done something right. I write every day from the sunniest room in the house – it’s bright and cozy when the sun’s out. I work from 8 am to 5 pm, taking a break for lunch. I also go for a walk in the afternoons.
My Current Work in Progress – Today I’m writing an article about a cold war nuclear bunker for a general interest magazine. The British government’s preparations for nuclear war in the 1950s were startling, and it came as quite a shock when I first found out how close we’d come to possible nuclear annihilation. They had the leaflets printed for circulation to the public, telling people how to survive nuclear fallout, but they were never distributed because the immediate threat of nuclear war never came.
My Favourite Character in the Novel – In my fiction, the end of the world is caused by a fungal pathogen, not nuclear war! I enjoyed writing the bad guy scenes the most. My bad guy, Alex, is a complicated character with a passion for animal welfare but a tendency to lash out and become violent with people. He’s spent a lot of time in jail, and in the book, he ends up in situations that challenge his character, exposing both the good and the bad. I’d be interested to hear from readers, whether they empathize with him or think he’s a nasty piece of work.
My Favourite Writers – Since becoming a professional writer, I’ve tried to read more widely. I still like James Herbert, but I also like Peter James, Paula Hawkins, and I’m particularly fond of autobiographies and memoirs. My latest read is Without Conscience, a non-fiction book about psychopaths!
Advice for New Writers – My best advice for new writers is to persevere. Even if you take a break, you can always come back to writing when the time is right for you. I suspect I didn’t have what it takes to be a professional writer when I was 16, but I do now.
Also, if you’re struggling with a particular project (remember that book?), it can help to take a long break from your work, because then when you look at it afresh, you can see more clearly which parts are good and which parts need to be improved.
When I drafted Pestilence, I was a pantser. I had a list of ideas but didn’t plot the story well. If I write another novel, I will plan it carefully to save time and energy. Then there will be fewer edits required along the way!
Amazon Author page Author.to/SusieKearley
My blog www.susiekearley.blogspot.com
USA Today and Amazon bestselling and award-winning author Lois Winston writes mystery, romance, romantic suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, children’s chapter books, and nonfiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name.
Kirkus Reviews dubbed her critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” In addition, Lois is a former literary agent and an award-winning craft and needlework designer who often draws much of her source material for both her characters and plots from her experiences in the crafts industry.
When I first began writing years ago, I wrote romance and romantic suspense, but when the chick lit craze hit the publishing world, my agent suggested I try writing one. That’s when I discovered I had a knack for writing humor. Who knew? I flub every joke I’ve ever tried to tell!
The first book I ever sold straddled a line between women’s fiction and chick lit. Talk Gertie to Me was a humorous fish-out-of-water story about a mother and daughter. The second book I sold was Love, Lies and a Double Shot of Deception, the first book I ever wrote. But with only a few exceptions, my life since late 2009 has been consumed by Anastasia Pollack, the reluctant amateur sleuth of my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries. That’s when I signed a contract for the first three books in the series, which debuted in 2011.
One of those exceptions came about as a result of an invitation from Amazon. In 2015 they embarked on a new publishing venture. Kindle Worlds was a foray into fan fiction where anyone could write novellas that tied into handpicked existing series. To get the project up and running, Amazon invited additional authors, many recommended by the series authors, to create the first novellas.
There were few rules we had to follow in creating these companion novellas. Authors could use as little or as much of the existing series world as they wanted. We could even change the tone of the original books in the series.
I was asked to write a novella based on author CJ Lyons’ Shadow Ops Series. CJ writes what she calls “Thrillers with Heart.” Since writing the first of the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, I’ve turned my back on the dark romantic suspense of my early books to concentrate on humorous tales. I figure there’s already too much in this world keeping us up at night. I want to give my readers an escape from the real world.
Since I had the freedom to create a novella in a different tone from the Shadow Ops books, I reimagined CJ’s domestic thriller series as a humorous caper. If you’re not familiar with capers, think Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series. Capers are a mashup of suspense or romantic suspense and humor. They’re often similar to amateur sleuth or cozy mysteries but without the restrictions regarding language, violence, or sex.
The Kindle Worlds program disbanded a few years later. The novella authors were allowed to republish their work as long as they received permission from the series author and all references to the original series were removed or changed.
I’m not the fastest writer, and Anastasia tends to keep me busy. I finally got around to updating my novella a few months ago after the release of A Sew Deadly Cruise, the ninth and latest Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery. However, I held off publishing the novella so it wouldn’t compete with the release of that book.
I changed the title of the novella from Mom Squad, expanding and rebranding it as Moms in Black, a Mom Squad Caper. If the novella does well, I plan to write two more Mom Squad Caper novellas for a 3-novella series, but right now, I’m hard at work on the tenth Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery.
Moms in Black – A Mom Squad Caper
When Cassandra Davenport applies for a job at www.savingtheworld.us, she expects to find a ‘green’ charity. Instead, she becomes the newest member of a covert organization run by ex-government officials. Dubbed the Mom Squad, the organization is the brainchild of three former college roommates—attorney general Anthony Granville, ex-FBI agent Gavin Demarco, and tech billionaire Liam Hatch—all of whom have lost loved ones at the hands of terrorists. Financed by Hatch, they work in the shadows and without the constraints of congressional oversight, reporting directly to Granville.
Demarco heads up one of the six groups that comprise the new operation. He hires Cassandra as the newest member of his New Jersey based team. In the course of monitoring possible terrorist threats, the Mom Squad discovers a link to Cassandra’s ex-husband. Before she’s fully trained, Cassandra is thrust into a world where her ex may be involved with radicalized terrorists bent on killing as many Americans as possible.
And while they’re saving the world from an imminent attack, what in the world will Cassandra do about all that sexual tension simmering between her and her new boss?
Buy Links (pre-order now; available 2/8/21)
Kindle https://amzn.to/2VZHTOcKobo https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/moms-in-black
Apple Books https://books.apple.com/us/book/moms-in-black/id1544138743
Newsletter sign-up: https://app.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/z1z1u5
Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog: www.anastasiapollack.blogspot.com
Terese Marie Mailhot – A New York Times bestseller
Selected by Emma Watson as the Our Shared Shelf Book Club Pick for March/April 2018
A PBS Newshour/New York Times Now Read This Book Club Pick
A New York Times Editor’s Choice
Winner of the Spalding Prize for the Promotion of Peace and Justice in Literature
Finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award for English–Language Nonfiction
A Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Selection
An NPR Best Book of the Year
“There are so many sentences I had to read again because they were so true and beautiful. It’s a memoir of pure poetry and courage and invention. Whenever I think about it, my heart clenches with love.” —Cheryl Strayed, The New York Times Book Review.
“A sledgehammer . . . Her experiments with structure and language . . . are in the service of trying to find new ways to think about the past, trauma, repetition, and reconciliation, which might be a way of saying a new model for the memoir . . . If Heart Berries is any indication, the work to come will not just surface suppressed stories; it might give birth to new forms.” —The New York Times.
Do you write in more than one genre? Yes! I have a novel coming out soon! It’s untitled.
What brought you to writing? I loved my mother’s writing very much. She was the first person who really taught me about writing. I would watch her work nightly on poetry or essay, and I always thought it was honorable work.
Where do you write and do allow any distractions? I write in my bedroom, because it’s the only room in the house I could set up an office. I invite distractions. I’m very lucky in my life. This pandemic has taught me to value family time and I’ve also learned how to enjoy being sidetracked. Those moments of distraction can be inspiring and energizing.
Tell us about your writing process: I write every day until I make my wordcount goal. Then I take a few months off and revise. If it’s for something more urgent, I work relentlessly, nonstop, until it’s as good as it gets for that deadline.
What is the most challenging part of your writing process? Time. Work life getting in the way.
What are you currently working on? The novel. I’m giving it time. I finished the first draft, so it’s about time to revise.
Who’s currently your favorite author? Kiese Laymon or Jesmyn Ward or James Baldwin … it’s too hard to choose!
How long did it take you to write your first book and published? It about 6 years to write. It sold two weeks from the time I sent it out and was published a year after.
We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave, or do they run the show? I like the outsiders. I like writing from the perspective of black sheep types, because their interiority is electric and perceptive, willful, and neglected.
Do your protagonists ever disappoint you? Yes.
Do you try to make the antagonist into a more human character? I think flawed characters are my favorite. I like people written off or disregarded, or people who are misunderstood.
Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? I think there are underpinned themes in all the work I do. I think, in my current novel, there’s an underpinned theme of joy and collectivity, and I think of it like taste. Like, there should be many dimensions to a good dish. There should be a lot to savor or value in good food. Maybe I’m hungry. It shouldn’t be overbearing the main course.
Do you raise the stakes for your protagonist—for the antagonist? I like work with little plot. I just throw wrenches at my characters until something strikes me.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? Both.
What kind of research do you do? A lot. As much as humanly possible from all kinds of sources.
What is the best book you ever read? Giovanni’s Room.
Do you have any advice for new writers? You can do it. It’s harder for some, but nothing is impossible.
Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and your books? I write for the women I love. I write for my mother.
How do our readers contact you? Teresemailhot.com
Welcome – What book would you like to tell our readers about?
Don’t Leave Yet, How My Mother’s Alzheimer’s Opened My Heart (She Writes Press, 2015) recounts my journey toward understanding our complicated mother-daughter relationship as she struggles through the early stage of dementia-type Alzheimer’s, and my ultimate discovery of compassion and love that goes beyond familial duty.
Do you write in more than one genre? I enjoy the challenge of poetry, creating, and recreating experiences to connect with readers. Finding a precise image or metaphor and using concise and descriptive language engages my mind in sometimes unexpected ways. The discovery can be exhilarating.
What brought you to writing? I was an English major at the University of Wisconsin -Milwaukee. I admired twentieth-century novelists and poets and wondered if I had it in me to create my own work. It wasn’t until after my father died that I began to explore poetry as a way to express grief. A decade later, when my mother was diagnosed with dementia-type Alzheimer’s, my teacher, the terrific poet Ellen Bass, suggested I might explore my experiences further if I went beyond the parameters of poetry. It was then that I turned to prose. It allowed an expansiveness I needed to convey all that I wanted to say. I started by writing vignettes, followed by full scenes with characters, dialogue, and description. Soon I had pages of material with a sense of connectedness.
Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? I write in my home office, where morning light provides a calm atmosphere and from where I can observe a yellow rose tree and a bevy of finches on the thistle feeder. I don’t tolerate distractions. But I don’t mind my Shih Tsu, Cody, who snores ever so slightly on his bed directly behind me.
Tell us about your writing process: I usually begin writing with a black ballpoint and a Mead notebook. I wrote most of my memoir in notebooks. When I had enough material, I transcribed it into a document on my laptop. I labeled each draft so as not to lose anything interesting or significant. Now I use the same process when writing poetry.
What is the most challenging part of your writing process? Revision is the most challenging. Yet, it’s the part of writing that I enjoy most. I revisit each image and metaphor. When a metaphor doesn’t do its job, I make a list of ten others and then choose the one I think works the best. I also read a poem out loud to gauge the effectiveness of line endings and stanzas. I admit I’m a perfectionist.
What are you currently working on? I’ve recently discovered some old poems that go back several years. I’m trying to revise them but often find myself starting over. I hope to also return to blogging in the near future.
Has an association membership helped you or your writing? The poetry critique group of California Writers Club Tri-Valley Branch, which I lead two times a month, has offered much-needed support as I labor with some of my poems. The members are careful listeners, and they offer critique with enthusiasm. I’ve found the structure and discipline necessary to keep on writing.
Who’s your favorite author? It’s hard to choose just one. I always look forward to reading Jack Kerouac, John Irving, and Jennifer Lauck. My favorite author of all time is John Steinbeck.
What is the best book you ever read? The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. I’ve read it at least three times. I admire its structure, honesty, and intense feeling.
How long did it take you to write your first book? It took five years to write Don’t Leave Yet. I belonged to a writing class in 2004 with Ellen Bass, reading pages each week from my notebook for critique. My mother passed away in 2008, and I was uncertain as to whether or not I could continue to write our story. Ellen, and my fellow writers, were instrumental in my effort to bring the manuscript to its completion a year later.
How long to get it published? Don’t Leave Yet was a finalist in the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Conference writing competition in the memoir category in 2011. One agent from San Francisco who attended the Conference found the book interesting, but that was it. I pursued other agents with no luck. Then I heard about Brooke Warner, the publisher of She Writes Press. I worked with an editor she recommended. She Writes published my memoir in 2015.
What authors did you dislike at first but grew to enjoy? When I read Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, I thought I might cross her off my list. But when I discovered Truth and Beauty, I was hooked.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I began writing Don’t Leave Yet without an outline. By the time I completed the third chapter, I had decided an outline was necessary since I wove together scenes of the present with those of the past. It was a way of keeping characters and events clear in my mind.
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I plan to continue placing my poems in literary journals if I’m lucky. I will also enter my chapbook, Treading Water, in more literary competitions with the goal of publication. It was recently named a finalist in Blue Lights Press writing contest.
Do you have any advice for new writers? First and foremost, be true to yourself. Write what’s meaningful and what you love. Observe the world. Read widely. And don’t ever let others tell you that you can’t write.
How do our readers contact you?
— R. Scott Decker, PSWA Vice President and author of Recounting the Anthrax Attacks.
Introduction – As I continue to write and refine my style, I find my mind visualizing the words as I form a sentence. I struggle not to use the same word twice on a page, to stay in the active voice, alter sentence length, and so on. My goal is that writing becomes second nature. It takes work.
I am also finding that I visualize spoken words and unconsciously critique the speaker’s use of words and phrases. My mind sees the spoken words on a page. I find myself cringing at certain phrases used in abundance and not always in the correct form. I evaluate discussions and media commentary for what would be suitable or unsuitable in written narrative. Overuse and misuse of the King’s English has become my unintended pet peeve.
I’m not alone. At the beginning of the year, two young TV announcers/anchors presented their list of overused and abused words. They put “literally” at the top of their list. Unfortunately, many celebrities, including Hollywood A-listers and popular talk show hosts, did not see the broadcast or pay attention if they did. At the top of my list for this season is “moving forward.” It’s everywhere—sports, politics, and the nightly news. Some examples:
Commentator during the fourth game of the 2020 Stanley Cup Finals – “We will continue to monitor COVID test positive results moving forward.” Redundant?
Tom Bevan, opening of the 9/29/2020 Presidential Debate – “Forward-looking vision for the future.” What?
A prolific and widely-read romance author recently penned advice for fellow writers: “I think the biggest mistake an author makes when writing a rough draft is stopping and rereading/editing their work. The key is to keep moving forward and get the whole story out.” Could forward be left out without losing the meaning? I vote, yes.
Second on my list is “transparency” and its negative, “lack of transparency.” When did this one replace the more articulate, “lying by omission,” “not being truthful,” “hiding the facts, “without explanation?” Candidate Joe Biden used “transparency” more than once during the 9/2020 Presidential Debate. Even my personal hero, Chris Wray, Director of the FBI, uses “transparency” in his public addresses.
Landing at third on my overuse list are adverbs—those ending in “-ly.” Usually (oops) they waste oxygen. What morning talk show doesn’t broadcast “literally” during every airing?
New Words and Terms – And there is the use of new words when the tried and true won’t do. For 2020 we have “impactful.” And “content” to describe information. “Break it down” for explaining things. “Deeper look” has replaced closer look and scrutiny. During a Las Vegas Springs Preserve TV ad this past summer, the narrator said, “during a rain event” to describe when it rains; and repeated it three times in one minute! And there is “price point” to describe price; “skill set” to mean skills. Is there no end?
Summing Up – Writing benefits from brevity, using less words to say more. More often than not, it lends itself to a faster paced narrative. As writers, we must embrace the use of a wide and varied vocabulary. Word’s thesaurus feature is a good start. I find reading the work of prominent authors especially useful, such as that of John McPhee. As I took breaks in my book writing to read his tome, Coming into the Country (FSG, 1991), I kept a list of words he used that were unfamiliar to me. The list grew to more than one hundred by the time I finished the book. I kept a dictionary close at hand.
POSOH is a partnership between UW Madison researchers, The College of Menominee Nation’s Sustainable Development Institute
Posoh, Justin “Jud” Gauthier here, currently serving an indeterminate sentence chained to an accursed desk where I try to not write bad screenplays. Not to write bad screenplays? I don’t know. Great start, Jud. Wording aside, I discovered my love of screenwriting at the tail end of my dirty thirties. I’m a lifelong cinefile, and I used to believe my first movie memory was seeing Bladerunner in a theatre with my parents. I turned six in ’82, and it’s an indelible memory, the spinner flying through that futuristic, cyber-punk downtown L.A., the Geisha, forty-stories tall, demurs on the side of a skyscraper. That moment broke reality for me. I wanted to crawl into that screen. To be a part of whatever that world was. I’ve been trying to break reality ever since.
It turns out I have an earlier movie memory that places my first theatre-going experience somewhere in January ’81. At four years old, I remember it was cold, and we’d parked far away from the little Crescent Theater in downtown Shawano, Wisconsin. There was a bit of a crowd, mostly native, to see the premiere of Windwalker. I remember the heavy, his face smudged with black and white paint, stalking through the snow. I remember mom and dad on the drive home talking about the film in a way only indigenous activists who grew up through the turbulence of the sixties and seventies could. “Why can’t they get it right?” “It’s something anyways.” I fell asleep and probably had a nightmare about the Fish Head Song video from Saturday Night Live. It really upset me at the time, not to mention how sorry I felt for Mr. Bill. I had a lot going on at four.
Since we’re all the way back in January 1981 and I’ve shared a sliver of the influence pop culture has had on my screenwriting style, let me offer a more expanded view as we travel through the 80’s, the ’90s, and into the early aughts, hang on:
Live from New York! It’s Saturday Night! I’m a Pepper, he’s a Pepper, she’s a Pepper, wouldn’t you like to be a Pepper too? Tron. Speak & Spell. Mikey likes it! Atari. Friday Night Videos. Hulkamania. Don’t squeeze the Charmin. The Goonies. Iran-Contra. UHF/VHF. Just say no. Make a run for the border. Colors. Nintendo. It’s morning in America. MTV. Who ya gonna call? Mr. Yuck stickers. Mortimer Ichabod. The Breakfast Club. Live Aid. Where’s the Beef? *Gasp The Hamburglar. Challenger explosion. Know what I mean, Vern? My Adidas. The death of Optimus Prime. The Mc DLT. Hands Across America. Spuds McKenzie. Robocop. Avoid the Noid! Max Headroom. Bart Simpson. Stonewashed Jeans. Not the Momma! Casey Kasem’s American Top 40. I have sinned! It’s gotta be the shoes! Screech Powers. Cassette singles. In West Philadelphia born and raised. Akira. Ripped Jeans. Minute Maid Orange Soda. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall. Swatches. Boyz n’ the Hood. Super Nintendo. Lollapalooza. Johnny Carson retires. Read my lips, no new taxes. Crystal-clear Pepsi. Cross Colours. Compact Discs. Desert Storm. Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Starter jackets. Sega! Wu-Tang. Li’l Penny. Bigmouth bottles. L.A. riots. The Fab Five. A sphincter says what? A Bronx Tale. O.J. 1-800-COLLECT. Clerks. Oklahoma City bombing. Brett Favre > Vicodin. Nintendo64. Tupac. Biggie. Sammy Sosa and Mark McGuire. It depends on what the meaning of “is” is. Dance Dance Revolution. Gotta catch ‘em all. DVD. JNCO Jeans. South Park. Smell what the Rock is cooking. Giga Pets. PlayStation. Yo Quiero Taco Bell? Half Baked. Fossil watches. Amazon. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. 9-11. Grand Theft Auto III. Right about here’s good.
October-ish 2001: A couple of friends and I decided to write a feature-length comedy about our experiences attending the Flandreau Indian School together in the early nineties. We worked hard for the first few months, then it took close to two years to finish. We ended up with a 100+ page script spread across several interesting media choices: 3.5” floppy disk, Mead notebook (no cover), yellow legal pad, various napkins, and loose papers. It was a comedy, I guess. We laughed. Looking back, it was too rough-hewn. We weren’t screenwriters though we each had flashes. I enjoyed the process, especially working with friends. Of course, that old script is lost now, spread to the winds of time. And for the best, I think, considering our title, “Tipi Creepin’.”
Fast-forward again: NBA Street Vol. 2. Johnny Cash died. Katrina. Dick Cheney shoots that guy. MP3 Players. Yahoo! Chat. Limewire. You are not the father. YouTube. Obama Phones. MySpace. iPhone. Facebook. Sandy. PlayStation 4. Flight 370 disappears. David Bowie and Prince die. Cubs win! Cubs win! Yeah, somewhere in here, I think.
2015-16 to present: After being accepted as a soil science major at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2011, I graduated in 2015 with a BA in Creative Writing, go figure. Soon thereafter, I heard about the Lo-Rez MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts and applied as soon as possible. I was in a real creative lull, as evidenced by my YouTube channel featuring a “life” hack video on preparing Mac and Cheese using a beurre manié technique for the cheese powder. It’s incredible.
IAIA is an amazing wellspring of creativity and was a great course correction for me. I found screenwriting through camaraderie with the screenwriting students. I changed majors from short fiction to screenwriting on my first day at the program. In the intervening years, I’ve been developing my skills by tackling as many varied genres and forms of screenwriting projects as possible. I also stay in touch with my screenwriting cohort and instructors, a real Murderer’s Row if I ever saw one.
In 2019, I was honored to land the role of Larry in the 1491’s play, “Between Two Knees” at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. I’d always aspired to acting but never thought I’d have the opportunity. It’s easily the most rewarding creative endeavor I’ve been involved with to date. It was a lot of hard work in memorization, timing, and choreography, but man, oh man, what an amazing script, cast, and crew. I’m optimistic for the future of theatre in a post-vaccine world, so keep an eye out for Between Two Knees coming to a theater near you!
Early 2020, I sold a romantic comedy short named “Adelina” to Meet Cute for their audio podcast series. It was amazing to hear the pages I’d worked on for weeks performed by talented voice actors and foley artists. Currently, I’m partnering with a fellow writer on developing a drama series.
You can reach me at:
Being a writer is being a lifelong learner. . .
I’m a guest this month for George’s blog, and if not for him, I would have made a huge blunder in my most recent book, EMBERS OF MURDER. I thought I understood the military. I guess I should have watched more television. I have a character in the book from NCIS. I thought it was a part of the military command. Fortunately, I happen to be talking to George about it, and he enlightened me that it’s a civilian personnel activity of the Navy. My character’s rank was changed from Lieutenant to Special Agent. Whew!
Each book brings about research. Whether it’s using Google Earth to stand on the streets of cities, I have never visited or trying to understand how various law enforcement agencies work across the world.
Like many authors, I occasionally glance outside, expecting to see an unmarked van surveilling my house to determine if I’m a criminal. Sometimes my research determines how long it takes someone to die from X poison. Did you know that most human bodies don’t burn into ashes if they die in a house fire? Well, you do now. Smoke inhalation is what kills them. I have a head filled with random knowledge ready in case the question is ever asked on Jeopardy.
I also shop online for random stuff as a part of my story. Where can I get a tank of nitrogen gas? How about a helium tank? Did you know that the mini helium tanks that you buy from party stores have twenty-one percent air in them? You can’t die inhaling the gas from a party-store purchased helium-filled balloon. Instead, you have to buy your helium tank from a welder’s supply. There you go… more random knowledge.
When I mentioned that EMBERS OF MURDER would be about an arsonist, a reader wrote to me to say that he investigated fires for an insurance company and could be a resource for any fire questions. He was very helpful and suggested I use isopropyl alcohol to start a fire rather than gasoline as it doesn’t leave a residue that can be traced.
It’s all fiction, so why bother to get technical parts of the story right? Because bad information can be a distraction. I watched an episode of “ER” in the late 1990s. They portrayed something so medically inaccurate that I never again watched the show. I missed the next decade of shows because of my outrage with that single inaccuracy. I lost faith in ER’s writers.
I feel the same way about fiction stories. Even though I’m reading fiction, there are parts of every story that need to be true or believable. A character needs to behave like they have for the past five books. Science must be true whether the story is set on earth or some imaginary planet. I have an arsonist trying to hide their work, and I can’t achieve that if I start a brushfire with gasoline and expect that the fire people can’t figure that out. Duh.
Sometimes the research is routine (What’s on the menu of a Queenstown pub-restaurant). Other times I’ll spend nearly an hour going down a rabbit hole fascinated by what I looked for. For example, I’ve never visited Israel, yet I had a part of EVERGREEN VALLEY MURDER related to the Dead Sea. Before I knew it, an hour passed as I looked at the sea with online pictures and Google Earth and read a little history of the area.
Being a writer is the best way to keep your brain engaged with the world around us!
Author of Jill Quint, MD Forensic Pathologist series (12 books), and Damian Green series (4 books)
Contact: www.AlecPeche.com or Author@AlecPeche.com
Mescalero / Chiricahua Apache and Diné Navajo from New Mexico.
Crisosto Apache is an alumnus from Insitute of American Indian Arts (AFA 1992 / MFA 2015) and Metropolitan State University of Denver (BA, 2013) for English and Creative Writing. His work also includes Native LGBTQI / ‘two spirit’ advocacy & public awareness.
“Entirely new, experimental, and worth the effort of reading. Passionate in places, contemplative in others, he travels from that ancient past toward the distant universe.”—Linda Hogan
“These poems record not only the nine months of history occurring while the poet formed in gestation… it attempts to make sense of the whirling world of chromosomes, of snow across body-laden battlefields, the whirl of strobe lights in a sex club, and the spiral which meets in the center where isdzán and haastiń (woman and man) become indistinguishable. Apache’s collection challenges our footing on things we thought we knew.”—James Thomas Stevens
Do you write in more than one genre? Though most of my writing falls under the poetry genre, more specifically the Native American Literary genre, I am trying to develop my narrative elements by writing a memoir. The emphasis for the memoir is my experience growing up on my Mescalero Apache reservation in New Mexico as a gay male, as well as my experience off the reservation in urban areas as a marginalized Native American.
What brought you to writing? I originally started my education wanting to be an artist, a painter. During my adolescent years, I did a lot of illustration in my spare time and read a lot of poetry-the classics. I was mostly drawn to the fantasy style of artwork. My illustration got me a scholarship to the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in the fall of 1989. I studied two-dimensional design my first two semesters when I was approached by Arthur Sze, the head of the Creative Writing department at the time. He convinced me to change my major, and that was my introduction to writing. I can say I have always acknowledged myself as a lifetime student of Arthur Sze because of the influence taught through his courses and the materials offered. My second manuscript, titled “Ghostword,” is highly influenced by a modern Japanese writer introduced to me by Arthur. The writer is Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, and the book “A Fool’s Life” (Eridanos Press). I have carried carbon copy excerpts from the book distributed in his class until I finally found the book in a reprinted collection of Akutagawa’s work. Until I located a copy, “A Fool’s Life” had been out of print. So, my second manuscript is a kind of conversation or life response.
Tell us about your writing process: My writing process varies from time to time. First, I must say it is important for me to distinguish myself as an artist first before identifying myself as a writer. My identity as an artist is what fuels my creative aspiration for writing. Most of my creative bursts come during the night. I am sometimes awakened by jolting moments to write. When this occurs, I do get up and go directly to my computer and begin typing. It is during these moments many of the fundamental ideas come through for my poetry. The writing is almost automatic, and it feels closer to being on “automatic pilot.” Many of the poems in my book GENESIS have come from these waking moments. Some of the approaches for my writing focus on the juxtaposition of my indigenous language and the English language. Through translation, I found this technique interesting how the language interacts as meaning and description. It is fascinating to me to examine the interaction of language and the mapped direction the language interaction takes me, which resembles the action of “unfolding” or “uncovering.” I always look forward to reading other writers’ work because I draw influence and encouragement from what is written. I often think and wonder if the “jolting wake” in the night comes from the influence of reading, where my mind finally assembles ideas for my writing.
What is the most challenging part of your writing process? The most challenging part of my writing process is finding time to focus on the writing and revision process. Because my time is mostly dedicated to my teaching job as an English professor (and all the facets of faculty responsibilities) and my volunteer position as the Associate Editor of Poetry for The Offing online magazine, it can sometimes be challenging to find dedicated time to focus on my writing. I have a small office in my house where I have a small library and a computer. I sometimes have closed the door and try to focus on my writing. I keep the door closed when I am not in my office so I can separate the concept of the room as not part of the house. When I am in my office, I am usually in the headspace of work. It is especially important now in these current times of the pandemic. I do take my time seriously when I am in my office and focusing on my creative written work.
Do you have any advice for new writers? About writing, my only encouragement is to just write. The act of writing is the most important part of the writing process, even though it may be bad writing. I save all my scribblings and voice recorded entries to various folders on my computer. I learned to carry with me a voice recorder to voice my ideas. I used to carry a small notebook but often misplaced them. My voice recorder fits into my pocket and works simply fine. It is important to find or reserve time to focus on writing. It is simply not enough to assemble and collect ideas. Much of the writing process is composing ideas into the structure and revising. Working on a manuscript also takes a lot of time and care. Deciding how much material should go into a working manuscript and to what order also is part of the process that deserves much consideration. If you are a beginning writer and have made it to the point of assembling a manuscript, then you deserve recognition and congratulations. It is a huge accomplishment to assemble a manuscript. Publishing your work is also important. Finding places to publish your writing can be challenging. Rejection is part of the writing process. Do not criticize yourself for rejection. Sometimes it is all about timing. Most of my publishing opportunities come from my network of friends who write. Establish a network. To summarize, make time to read, submit & publish, and most importantly, keep writing.
How do our readers contact you? Your website, blog links, any links you want posted?
GENESIS book order Link: http://amzn.to/2FzG409
My website: http://crisostoapache.com/books-2/
Lost Alphabet’s website: http://www.lostalphabet.com/genesis/
What does an emerita professor from the University of Wisconsin-Madison do when she no longer leads a research lab? She writes!
Most efforts to recruit women and minority students to science majors are minimally successful. Thus, I was fascinated when a woman professor reported a number of minority and women students majoring in biology claimed they first considered a career in science after they’d become fans of the kooky Abby on NCIS television program.
That’s when I decided the heroine in my mystery and thriller novels would be a woman scientist. I quickly decided I didn’t want my heroine tied down to a laboratory but wanted her to have skills that would make her a valued consultant by a variety of agencies. Hence, my heroine Sara Almquist emerged as a globe-trotting epidemiologist who dislikes the constraints of university departments and loves her Japanese Chin dog Bug. Sara and Bug have been together now in eight novels in my Science Traveler Series, even though Sara’s human love interests have evolved over time.
The first, The Flu Is Coming, explores the psychological effect of a police-enforced quarantine on an upscale, gated community where a new type of flu virus kills nearly half of the residents in less than a week. The Centers for Disease Control recruits epidemiologist Sara Almquist to find ways to limit the spread of the epidemic. As she pries into the residents’ lives, she finds promising scientific clues, but violence ensues when she learns too many of the residents’ secrets. https://www.amazon.com/dp/0578423251
In Murder…A Way to Lose Weight, the second novel in the Science Traveler Series, Sara helps police discover who killed the diet doctor—an ambitious partner, disgruntled patients, or old-timers with buried secrets. Sara consults on public health issues in Bolivia in Ignore the Pain and tries to increase scientific cooperation between Cuba and the U.S. in Malignancy. However, in both countries, she learns too much about the international drug trade and is nearly ambushed by drug dealers several times.
I’m fond of the fifth book in the series I Saw You in Beirut because it allowed me to write about my experiences as a science consultant in Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates. In this thriller, Sara must examine her past to find the clues needed to extract a nuclear scientist from Iran. https://www.amazon.com/ dp/0960028544
My sixth book, Riddled with Clues, is based “loosely” on a friend’s notes (a CIA operative in Laos during the Vietnam War) and my experiences working with homeless veterans as part of a pet therapy team with my real dog Bug. In this mystery, Sara is attacked after listening to the strange tale of an undercover drug agent recovering at the VA hospital in Albuquerque. As she fights to survive, she keeps receiving riddled clues from a homeless veteran. https://www.amazon.com/dp/1938436237
I think A Pound of Flesh, Sorta has one of the most mischievous first chapters I’ve read in a thriller. A box of animal guts is delivered to Sara’s home. Did I mention the box is ticking and contaminated with bacteria that cause the plague? The police and Sara can’t decide if the box is a threat, a plea from a rancher fearing another round of plague in his livestock, or a clue needed to solve a series of mysterious “accidents.” https://www.amazon.com/ dp/0960028560
My latest novel is Dirty Holy Water. In this psychological mystery, Sara’s world is turned upside down. Instead of being a trusted FBI consultant about to vacation in India with her boyfriend, she’s the chief suspect in the murder of a friend. Sara soon realizes the difference between a villain and a victim can be alarmingly small. https://www.amazon.com/dp/0960028587
I try to make my readers feel like they are part of the action in my novels in several ways. The settings are real. I’ve visited the foreign locations mentioned in my books, and I pay attention to details. Even the foods served in restaurants are consistent with the restaurants’ menus. The characters have carefully researched backstories, sometimes based on those of real people. There is a theme in each novel that reflects a current issue. For example, scientific patents and immunotherapy for the treatment of cancer are featured in Malignancy, and water pollution is a focus point in Dirty Holy Water. I include two pages called “The Science Behind the Story” at the end of each novel. It’s a way to assure my readers that the scientific facts mentioned in my books are accurate. Two of my books (Malignancy and Murder: A Way to Lose Weight) won the annual contest conducted by the Public Safety Writers Association. Many have been finalists in the New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards competition.
To learn more about me, visit my website: http://www.jlgreger.com and my Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/J.L.-Greger/e/B008IFZSC4%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share.
THANKS, GEORGE, FOR WELCOMING ME AT YOUR BLOG SITE.
Please tell our readers about your upcoming release: Traitor in the Realm is a story about four teens, two worlds, and one perilous summer. Teen artist, Kallan MacKinnon, becomes trapped with her family in a medieval kingdom that is under attack. She and her foster brother, Matthew Webbe, tangle with magical beings and prehistoric creatures in their attempt to reach the gateway back to Earth before it closes forever. Their friendship is tested when they meet Carys and Cadoc Dunstan, magically gifted twins from the new world. The Earth teens must determine if it is worth risking their lives to save a foreign realm from a homegrown threat and how much they are willing to sacrifice in exchange for safe passage home.
Kallan and Matthew encounter a world quite different from our own, yet similar in many ways. The story is an adventure tale that revolves around friendship and the meaning of family and home. In addition, individuals react to their place in society and the expectations others place on them. Kallan and Matthew each discover hidden talents and must decide when and if they want to use them, despite the inconvenience and risks involved.
Do you write in more than one genre? Yes. I write poetry, contemporary stories, and fantasy tales. I also write nonfiction articles about a local symphony for community newspapers.
What brought you to writing? I worked as a research meteorologist and a science and math teacher before I began writing fiction. I’ve always been an avid reader and love learning new words and facts. I’m also fascinated by the ability of books to transport me into other worlds. After a lifetime of being steeped in books, story ideas eventually began to come to me, and I decided to write them down and share them with others.
Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? I mostly write in my home office. Before the pandemic closed everything down, I also worked in coffee shops and at the library. I don’t play music while I’m writing. At home, it’s easy to avoid distractions. In public places, I am pretty good at shutting out what’s going on around me. As a child, I would often get engrossed in a book to the point that others had to raise their voice or get right in front of me to attract my attention. That skill of getting immersed in the current task helps me with writing as well.
Tell us about your writing process: Once a story idea comes to me, I jot down important points about it, then do research if necessary. When I write the first draft, I tend to write the story out without a lot of editing. However, with the novel, I found myself editing chapters before the first draft was completed. On the second and subsequent drafts, I may do a lot of revision. I look for characters’ motivations and consistency in actions, and I add in more sensory information to round out the story. I let a scene play out in my mind as I write it and imagine the sounds, scents, and tastes the characters might be aware of, as well as the visual elements.
What is the most challenging part of your writing process? Coming up with new story ideas. Once I have an idea or a character occurs to me and won’t leave me alone, the process begins, and I can write the first draft.
What are you currently working on? The second novel in the Next World Over Series.
Has an association membership helped you or your writing? I have been a member of the Tri-Valley Branch of the California Writers Club for about nine years. Tri-Valley Writers’ presentations, workshops, conferences, and critique groups have all helped me with various aspects of the craft and making the switch from writing nonfiction to fiction.
Who’s currently your favorite author? Elizabeth Strout, for her storytelling, characters, and lovely, long descriptive sentences.
How do you come up with character names? I like to look at the meaning of names and choose names that relate to characters’ personalities and characteristics of locations. For Traitor in the Realm, I used mostly Celtic names.
We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave, or do they run the show? Sometimes, aspects of my characters’ personalities or motivations arise that I wouldn’t be aware of if I didn’t, in a sense, let them speak for themselves as I write. Occasionally, new characters pop up on their own. Dolph, one of the characters in Traitor in the Realm, simply appeared in my mind as I was writing a scene. He turned out to be a fun character with a quirky personality.
Do you base any of your characters on real people? No, not consciously. Some character traits may come from people I’ve met, but generally, those are features of many people, not one individual.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I make a broad outline first, but I leave myself open to new directions and new characters as I write. Stephen James refers to the “pantser” process as organic writing. I prefer that term also, and I like to allow for that process to play out.
What kind of research do you do? For Traitor in the Realm, I used a variety of reference books and the internet to research prehistoric animals, Neanderthals, and aspects of the middle ages that I wanted to include in the story. For woodland scenes, I drew on childhood memories and trips over the years to upstate New York, as well as visits to parks in California. I toured several castles on vacation in Scotland and England a few years ago, which helped me visualize the royal castle in the story.
What is the best book you ever read? It’s hard to choose only one, but Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens, is one of the best.
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? More books in the Next World Over series. Also, I’d like to publish a book of poems and haiku and a collection of short stories.
Do you have any advice for new writers? Keep at it. Read books about writing and do practice exercises. Get support from others through a writing club and/or a critique group. Give yourself time to absorb critique partners’ comments. Your initial reaction may change upon reflection. One person pointing out a weakness may simply reflect that person’s bias, but if three or more people give you the same message, there is probably something amiss that you need to address.
How do our readers contact you? Your website, blog links, any links you want posted?
Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Patricia-J-Boyle/e/B08QGD335B
Goodreads author page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/20991018.Patricia_J_Boyle