Paty Jager is an award-winning author of 55 novels, eight novellas, and numerous anthologies of murder mystery and western romance. All her work has Western or Native American elements, hints of humor, and engaging characters.Paty and her husband raise alfalfa hay in rural eastern Oregon. Riding horses and battling rattlesnakes, she not only writes about the Western lifestyle, but she also lives it.
Thank you, George, for inviting me to your blog. The Pinch, book 5 in my Spotted Pony Casino Mystery series, was published on February 22nd. It is available for pre-order.
Dela Alvaro, a disabled veteran and head of security for the Spotted Pony Casino, is doing a security check for a casino on the Oregon Coast when a child is kidnapped and Dela’s friend is murdered.
The idea for this story has been in my head for many years. I usually plan two writing retreats a year at the Oregon Coast. I stay a week and get a lot of writing done because I’m not catering to the animals or my husband. There aren’t any chores, and I write, walk on the beach, and write more.
On one such trip, I was walking along the beach, enjoying the briny salt air and the mist of the fog and waves. I noticed an older man with a boy about four or five out at the water’s edge. The boy was splashing and digging with a plastic shovel. I continued walking and noticed a boat close to the shore, or closer than any I’d witnessed before. My gaze gravitated to rocks sticking up out of the waves a good thirty or more feet from where the water lapped at the beach. Watching the splashing waves and enjoying the moment, I thought I saw the head of a seal bobbing by the rocks. That seemed dangerous, but they are good swimmers. I continued on and eventually turned around, heading back to where I’d entered the beach.
The boat was gone, and the older man walked up to the hotel without the boy. I looked around and didn’t see him anywhere. That was where my imagination kicked in. By the time I was back at the place I was staying, I’d come up with a kidnapping, a premise, and how it would play out. My only problem is that I was writing romance books at the time, and I didn’t see how to use this in western romance.
However, the idea stayed with me, and when I started writing mysteries, I kept coming back to the idea, trying first to make it fit with my character in the Shandra Higheagle mysteries, but I didn’t see how I could make it work. Then, when I started writing the Gabriel Hawke novels, I thought, now, I can use that story. But even though I took Hawke to Iceland for a book, I couldn’t find a plausible reason for him to be on the Oregon Coast.
Then came the Spotted Pony Casino mystery series and Dela Alvaro, my disabled veteran who is head of security for the Spotted Pony Casino on the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation. After four books where she has helped the FBI and Tribal Police track down killers, she has a reputation for running a tight security staff. She is invited to a Tribal casino on the Oregon Coast to help them tighten up security, and now I could finally see how my story and premise would play out.
When I decided now was the time to write the book, a friend and I went on a road trip to visit a casino on the Oregon Coast. I had planned to use that casino in the book. Still, when I started making fictional employees at the casino accomplices in the crime, I decided I needed a fictional casino. Then, my mind wasn’t tied to logistics anymore, either.
Even though I had visited the casino and talked to security staff, I kept running into things I hadn’t realized I’d need to know to write the story, and the emails I’d sent to the casino asking questions went unanswered. Having the epiphany to use a fictional casino as I do in the Spotted Pony Casino books freed up my mind to work on the kidnapping and murder rather than logistics.
This series points out the widespread danger that Indigenous people- mostly women, face. My main character lives with the fact that in high school, she left her best friend in a small town not far from the reservation because she didn’t want to leave when my character had to get back for basketball practice. She is found the next day murdered and sexually assaulted. In the first book where this character comes to life, Stolen Butterfly in my Gabriel Hawke novels, she helps find two women missing from the reservation and last seen at the casino.
In this book, she not only has to deal with a missing child but she is reunited with a best friend from her time in the military, only to have her murdered. One more slash to my character’s heart and one more spark to make her always find justice.
This book took a long time to come to fruition, but I believe it was worth it.
I published Christmas Chaos in October to give readers of my Shandra Higheagle Mystery series some closure. A short story with Dela and Heath characters in my Spotted Pony Casino Mystery series is available in the Windtree Press Whispers anthology.
Blurb / Long- Dela Alvaro, head of security for the Spotted Pony Casino, is asked to do a security check of a casino on the Oregon Coast. She no sooner starts her rounds at the casino than a child is kidnapped. The parents are a dubious couple. Special Agent Quinn Pierce of the FBI has been out to get the father for some time.
One of Dela’s best friends from the Army appears, and they catch up, only to find her friend strangled the next morning after having divulged to Dela she may have photos of the kidnapping.
As Dela struggles with the violent death of yet another best friend, her lover, Tribal Officer Heath Seaver, arrives, and the two begin untangling the lies, bribes, and murders.
In the end, as Heath carries the child to safety, Dela must face a cunning killer alone.
Blurb / Short – Dela Alvaro, a disabled veteran and head of security for the Spotted Pony Casino, is doing a security check for a casino on the Oregon Coast when a child is kidnapped and Dela’s friend is murdered.
Groups I belong to:
Crimescene writers loop
Sisters in Crime
20 Books 50
Book link for The Pinch – Universal book link- https://books2read.com/u/38Y787
Social Media Links –
TikTok – @authorpatyjager
Instagram – @patymjager
YouTube – @PatyJager
Facebook – Author Paty Jager
Twitter – @patyjag
website – https://www.patyjager.net
blogs – https://ladiesofmystery.com and https://writingintothesunset.net
Jennifer J. Chow writes cozies filled with hope and heritage. She is an Agatha, Anthony, and Lefty Award-nominated author. Her newest series is the Magical Fortune Cookie mysteries; the first book is Ill-Fated Fortune (February 2024). Jennifer’s previous series is the L.A. Night Market Mysteries. Death by Bubble Tea was reviewed by the New York Times, featured in Woman’s World, and hit the SoCal Indie Bestseller List.
Jennifer currently serves as Immediate Past President on the board of Sisters in Crime and blogs at chicksonthecase.com. She is an active member of Crime Writers of Color and Mystery Writers of America
Felicity Jin and her mother run a magical bakery in the quaint town of Pixie, California. Their life is charmed—until a prediction from one of Felicity’s handmade fortune cookies comes true in an unlucky, murderous way.
Researching the Fortune Cookie – Book research takes you down unexpected paths. When I first thought up my new series, I figured fortune cookies would be an excellent treat for my baker protagonist to make. I mean, what’s more Chinese American than a fortune cookie?
Turns out there’s a lot of interesting history (and some drama) behind the humble cookie. I’d grown up eating and serving a lot of fortune cookies. My family, after all, owned a Chinese restaurant. At the end of every meal, I’d be sure to bring a customer their check along with a free fortune cookie.
Little did I know then that in uncovering the convoluted history of the fortune cookie, I’d find Japanese roots. After online research and a thorough reading of Jennifer 8. Lee’s The Fortune Cookie Chronicles, I traced the cookie’s origin to tsujiura senbei. This wafer-like cookie from the Kyoto region of Japan also has an enclosed fortune, although it has a more savory flavor than the modern fortune cookie.
In America, California is definitely the birthplace of the fortune cookie, with entrepreneurs from San Francisco and Los Angeles claiming to be the original makers of the cookie. And around World War II, both Japanese and Chinese restaurants appeared to serve the treat. With the incarceration of Japanese Americans during that tumultuous period, though, the manufacturers of the cookies shifted. Chinese bakeries started making fortune cookies—and eventually developed a mechanized process to mass-produce them.
So, through my research, I learned that fortune cookies aren’t tied to my Chinese roots like I’d expected. I hint at this fact in Ill-Fated Fortune, the first in my Magical Fortune Cookie mysteries. However, they could be considered American—at least the sweet vanilla version. In the end, I guess that factoid accurately reflects my main character: Felicity Jin, the third generation in her family to live in the U.S.
Connect with Jennifer online and sign up for her newsletter at JenniferJChow.com
Ill-Fated Fortune released 2/20/24
Here’s a buy link: https://read.macmillan.com/lp/ill-fated-fortune/
FACEBOOK GROUPS (though I’m not really that active anymore):
Bruce Lewis graduated from California State University at Long Beach with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. After completing the 36-week Copley Newspaper Training Program, working as a reporter for six California daily and weekly newspapers, he began a seven-year career as a general assignment reporter. During that period, he wrote over 5,000 stories and won six awards for best news and feature writing. He specialized in crime news, going undercover with cops and covering the courts, sheriffs, California Highway Patrol, and fire districts.
His post-retirement bucket list included writing one novel. That novel, Human Strays (published originally in November of 2021 under a different name and title), was intended to be his one and only. Like most writers, he got the fiction-writing bug. He wrote and published four novels in three years: 1-Angel of Mercy, 2-Human Strays, 3-Family Curse, 4-The Red Flock, and the novelette Love Storm. He is working on his fifth novel in the series, Bless Me, Father—For You Have Sinned.
After retiring and settling in Portland, Oregon, Bruce created a bucket list:
- Create a family genealogy (completed in 2020)
- Write a novel (completed in 2020)
- Kick the bucket (just joking)
“The idea for my first thriller, Human Strays, baked for a decade before I wrote it. The idea came from a pro bono project I took on to benefit the Mendocino Coast Humane Society (MCHS),” said Lewis. “One of my fellow Mendocino Rotarians, the chair of the Human Society Board of Directors, asked me to help promote The Ark, the Society’s thrift store, a major source of funds to support its mission. As president and co-founder of Lewis & Summers Public Relations (based in Lafayette, California), it was a natural extension of work I was already doing for a half dozen clients on the coast.”
Bruce toured the Humane Society to help plan his fundraising strategy to save and house stray cats and dogs. An hour later, Lewis was coming out of a supermarket in Fort Bragg, where a homeless man dug food scraps out of a trash can.
“Buy a sandwich,” I said, handing him five dollars. He looked at it, stuck it in his pocket, and continued his treasure hunt, swallowing a few ounces of leftover soda from someone’s fast-food lunch.
“That evening, it hit me: homeless humans are strays like the dogs and cats temporarily housed at the shelter. They sleep outdoors and scrounge for food to survive.”
The First Novel – Fast forward ten years to 2015, when Lewis retired: “My wife and I had moved to Portland, Oregon, where I began drafting Human Strays. The book’s theme is about veterinarian Jim Briggs’s effort to save a drug-addicted homeless woman by finding her a permanent home. If he could save one, Briggs figured he could save others.
Lewis said he wrote the book over two years, working primarily at Ovation, a busy coffee shop on the edge of Portland’s Field Park, under the Fremont Bridge.
“I’d walk a mile to the coffee shop with my laptop, write for an hour or two, then walk home. During these strolls, I thought of new characters, how to write scenes, and how to fix the organizational mess I created by using nifty author software to move chapters freely from one location to another. A steady diet of Moroccan Lattes and right-out-of-the-oven toasted coconut scones fueled my writing. The exercise walks didn’t hurt.”
“On any day at the coffee shop, I could be surrounded by a hubbub of cyclists getting their caffeine fix, women from a nearby yoga class gossiping about their lives, or a group of young mothers in hijabs giggling, and I could tune it out. That’s the beauty of being a newspaper crime reporter for seven years, turning out copy every day on deadline in a chaotic newsroom.”
Because of that experience, he says he can write for an hour, wash a load of clothes, eat lunch, read a book, and then come back and write more with no problem getting back into the story.
Writing What You Know – Human Strays is filled with unsheltered characters, primarily based on homeless people Lewis had observed on his daily walks, looking for ideas and photos for his blog, WalkingPDX. He often combined several homeless people he observed into a single character, careful not to make a person identifiable.
When he finished Human Strays, he pitched it to numerous agents and publishers before he found an independent publisher with more than 500 authors under contract.
Despite having written some 8,000 stories during his newspaper and public relations careers, he discovered he had much to learn about writing fiction when he turned in his manuscript. Six weeks later, the rejection letter said, ‘I’m sorry, we won’t be representing you. Our reviewer said the writing was good, but there was too much tell and too little show. It might be too much to fix. But good luck.’
“I laugh about it now,” said Lewis. “I had to Google show versus tell. I looked at some examples and rewrote the book in six weeks, adding about 20,000 words of show. The updated version of the manuscript was accepted two weeks after he re-submitted it.
The Writing Bug – Like most writers who publish a novel, Lewis got the fiction-writing bug. He wrote and published four novels in three years: 1-Angel of Mercy, 2-Human Strays, 3-Family Curse, 4-The Red Flock, and the romantic mystery Love Storm. He is currently working on his fifth novel in the series, Bless Me, Father—For You Have Sinned (Summer 2024).
Asked if he is a pantser (someone who writes by the seat of his pants) or a plotter (plots every chapter before starting), Lewis smiled and said, “I’m a plotting pantser.” I create a one-page outline—one chapter per line—and then write by the seat of my pants. I can visualize scenes and write them as if I were there. I believe that’s the result of covering hundreds of news events as a reporter.”
Asked how he could have a veterinarian as a protagonist in his books without having been one. “Easy,” he said. “I had dogs for 25 years, met many vets, and learned about dog care first-hand, including putting down our Beagle, Mac.” When in doubt, he visited the website of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).
Writing What You Know – “Of course, I make up stuff, but a good amount of my novels are sprinkled with lived experiences, like Veterinarian Jim Briggs saying goodbye to his dying mother in Human Strays:
Briggs leaned over and whispered to Susie, “I love you, Mom. I’ll miss you.” An instant later, her head flew off the pillow, her eyes bulging with terror, inches from Brigg’s face. He jumped back. Just as quickly, she lay back down, as inert as before.
Lewis confided, “This is just how it happened when I removed my Mom from life support on Mother’s Day 2004.
Bruce Lewis – Author
Joan Long is the author of the locked-room-style mystery THE FINALIST, which was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel. She is a third-generation Floridian who earned a degree in English/Creative Writing from Florida State University and a graduate degree in Journalism and Communications from The University of Florida. She has written for universities, public television, healthcare corporations, a magazine, and more.
Joan was a finalist in a Minotaur Books/Malice Domestic Best First Mystery Novel Competition and was a short-listed finalist for a William Faulkner-William Wisdom Award for Best Novel-in-Progress. Her short story “The Extra Ingredient” is published in the Anthony Award-winning anthology Malice Domestic 14: Mystery Most Edible.
Has an association membership helped you with your writing? Absolutely! Joining writing associations is probably the best thing I’ve done for my writing career. I’m a member of Sisters in Crime and its Guppy chapter, Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, and the Authors Guild. Through these organizations, I continually learn the craft and business of writing. They also help me make connections with other authors. I’ve met some of my best friends through these groups.
How do you come up with character names? I use multiple sources—baby registries, online name generators, old phone books, and church directories. I try to begin each name with a different letter and vary the syllable lengths. As a reader, I find it confusing when character names are too similar. And because I want to be nice to audiobook narrators, my main characters’ names don’t end in s or th.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? Outlining works best for me. I begin with a logline, followed by a brief synopsis and the outline. However, my outlines constantly change. They evolve as the story grows.
What kind of research do you do? Setting is an important element in my debut novel, The Finalist. Because the story takes place on a tropical island, I researched plants, flowers, local foods, charter boats, satellite radios, and—ahem!—how long it takes a person to dig a grave in sand.
Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? I prefer fictional settings that are loosely based on real locations. Key Island—the fictional location of The Finalist—takes place on a private island in the Caribbean. My work-in-progress is set in Florida in a fictional community near the Gulf of Mexico. Obviously, I like to write about warm-weather places!
Do you have any advice for new writers? I recommend learning the craft and becoming active in a writing community. I also suggest keeping a “Happiness Journal” or something similar. Remembering the great things that happen can help on days when writing is a challenge. Did you receive a wonderful blurb or a five-star review? Did you find your book in a library? Has your word count increased? Whatever it is that made your day, write it down. One of my favorite moments happened when I was going up an escalator. A woman riding the down escalator recognized me and shouted, “I’m reading your book!” I smile every time I think about it.
Many thanks to George Cramer for inviting me to post on his blog.
My website is https://joanlongbooks.com.
Here is my buy info:
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-finalist-joan-long/1141005243
Apple Books: https://books.apple.com/us/book/the-finalist/id1610738358
Lenore Hart is the author of eight novels and editor of the fantastic fiction anthology series The Night Bazaar. A Shirley Jackson Award finalist, she’s also published short stories in fantasy magazines and literary journals. She’s been a recipient of grants, awards, and writing fellowships from the NEA and arts organizations in Florida, Virginia, Ireland, and Germany. Her work has been featured on “Voice of America” radio and the PBS-TV series “Writer to Writer.” She teaches at The Ossabaw Island Writers Retreat. Her most recent release is The Night Bazaar London: Ten Tales of Forbidden Wishes and Dangerous Desires. (Northampton House Press, Dec.)
“A good horror has its place in literature.” – Thomas Hardy (Tess of the D’Urbervilles)
Mr. Hardy, how right you were. I write novels in horror and several other genres: historical, literary, contemporary, horror, and dark fantasy. I’m also the editor of a fantastic fiction anthology series called The Night Bazaar. Some writers consider it odd not to specialize, much less mix several genres in one work. I see no contradiction. Reality is certainly tinged with horror at times – from the personal sort to horrific events on the world stage. And, as a category, horror has been ubiquitous in both genre and literary works, including gothic works by 19th-century authors revered in the literary canon. The genre persists and travels well.
I began my writing career decades ago, tired of passive female characters in plots (mostly) conceived by men: warm bodies who said little and screamed much, hoping for rescue by a male protagonist. I first wrote gothic fiction to create the female heroes I’d wanted to read.
I expected this choice to be questioned, but hadn’t expected to be reviled or verbally abused. But one such encounter in the mid-1990s occurred at a crowded booksellers’ conference in Atlanta. I was talking to the owner of a regional press about my first novel, which was set in Florida, where he was based. “Oh, horror. I never read it. I wouldn’t tolerate it in my office. It’s not literature but despicable junk. Morally reprehensible,” he concluded, smirking at others in the booth.
I was suddenly conscious of the people around me, a silent, complicit audience to his contempt and intended shaming. I briefly doubted the wisdom of my choice.
But he’d said, I never read it. Then how could he intelligently judge? He wasn’t merely being sanctimonious but reveling in ignorance of the entire genre. Did he also consider Edgar Allan Poe’s works’ morally reprehensible’? Was Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, one of the purest examples of gothic fiction ever written, really ‘despicable junk’? If so, then Shakespeare, Mary Shelley, Sheridan Le Fanu, Ambrose Bierce, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Shirley Jackson must also be simply genre hacks posing as literati.
Is some genre work slipshod? Sure. As are some so-called ‘literary novels.’ I should’ve said, “Novels of horror, fantasy science fiction, or any other genre can be, and often are endowed with the same craftsmanship as ‘fine’ literature.” Over the years, this has remained the case in works by such writers as Vincent LaValle (The Changeling), Stephen Graham Jones (The Only Good Indians), and Jess Kidd (The Night Ship). But I was new to publishing back then, unsure of myself, and simply departed, fuming.
Reticence is no longer the default, though – for me or for horror. Several aspects of the new ascendance of the genre are thrilling. For one, it’s been widely recognized as not just worthy and legitimate but a desirable part of the literary conversation – as should’ve been the case all along. Also, delightful is the merging over the last few years of horror with some of my own lifelong interests – myths, folktales, and fairytales – in the currently popular subgenre of Folk Horror. Those themes are timeless. Every possible plot and character type inhabits these dreamlike, compelling, archetypal stories, whatever culture they originate from.
For human beings, it seems, a bit of fright is pleasurable. Aristotle claimed we could get fear out of our systems by indulging in it safely through the arts. This may be partly why horror’s popularity persists, but it’s more complicated. As children, we experienced fear and mystery daily, inhabiting a world we did not comprehend. One built to a larger scale than we could cope with, run by strange, sometimes threatening ogres called adults. We existed at the mercy of everything and everyone: the neighbor’s growling dog and needle-wielding nurses. The darkness in the closet and under the bed. Aware of our helplessness and the frequent, patronizing refusal of adults to help or even listen. No wonder children identify with the protagonists in scary stories!
I read at adult level by age nine, and my parents were not nearly as vigilant as those of today. Also, a Saturday afternoon horror double-feature was at a nearby rococo hole-in-the-wall called the Vogue Theater. Sometimes, I went with my little sister, at others with two boys from the neighborhood who were competing for my affection. I sat in the middle, and each held one of my hands while giant grasshoppers, leech women, or triffids loomed between the worn red velvet curtains.
At home, though, I read scary fiction in solitude. I craved the barely-glimpsed terrors of an ancient manor in a Poe story, the unseen but horribly perceived presence of ghosts in Shirley Jackson’s novels. Not the bloody, ham-handed slasher plots or the laughably obvious monsters in poorly crafted paperbacks. The stories that captivated me didn’t bludgeon their audience. Instead, they lulled the reader into a sense of safe but pleasurable anticipation, stretching taut nerves until they sang, then allowing one to emerge unscathed after savoring strong emotions and impossible fears without risk.
The most vivid, well-crafted chills have always been delivered by authors who mostly keep the horror just offstage, wisely understanding they could never create anything to outdo their readers’ personal ideas of ultimate terror. Often, they isolate the protagonist, physically or psychologically, much the way a child dwells alone in an oversized world, his warnings or cries falling on deaf ears. How much more satisfying it feels to get a handle on this fear later, after having already read and viewed it, experiencing intense dread for a limited time, yet emerging unscathed.
When I was nine, I liked being scared. Many decades later, I still do – by a well-crafted book or film. It’s cathartic. Far less frightening than the all-too-real threats of climate change, endless wars, and economic doom.
Horror fiction will endure, challenging us to safely consider the unthinkable, venture from our comfort zones, and challenge our preconceptions. There, we can confront and face down our greatest fears and yet survive. The horror authors will survive as well because readers will always need them.
I belong to the writers’ organizations below and, in some cases, serve on their boards:
The Connecticut Poetry Society
The European Writers Council
North Florida Writers
The Historical Novel Society
The Horror Writers Association
The Irish Copyright Licensing Agency (managerial board)
The Irish Writers Centre
The Irish Writers Union (executive board)
Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America
Society of Authors (Ireland)
Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (Fellow, member of Boxwood Collective)
Trade paperback: https://www.amazon.com/Night-Bazaar-London-Forbidden-Dangerous/dp/1950668223/ref=sr_1_1?qid=1703701296&refinements=p_27%3ALenore+Hart&s=books&sr=1-1
KOBO eBook: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-night-bazaar-london
INDIEBOUND/BOOKSHOP Trade paperback: https://bookshop.org/p/books/the-night-bazaar-london-ten-tales-of-forbidden-wishes-and-dangerous-desires-lenore-hart/20980323?ean=9781950668229
G.M. Malliet is an American award-winning author of mystery and cozy mystery novels. She is best known for writing the Agatha Award-winning Death of a Cozy Writer (2008), the first installment of the St. Just Mystery Series, named among the Best Books of 2008 by Kirkus Reviews.
The holder of degrees from Oxford University and the University of Cambridge, G.M. Malliet has wide experience in journalism and copywriting. Before switching to fiction writing, she wrote for national and international news publications (Thomson Reuters) and public broadcasters (PBS). She currently resides in the U.S.
Elevator Pitch: Max Tudor thought he’d left the world of deceit when he resigned from MI5 to become an Anglican priest. Then his bishop asks him to return to his Oxford college, St Luke’s, to investigate the death of its chaplain, and Max realizes there’s no leaving the past behind.
What brought you to writing? Writing was always just there. It’s the kind of thing you are compelled to do rather than take up idly on a whim. The longer I live, the more I wish I could cut back on the writing, but that compulsion is still there.
Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? My office is right in the middle of a several-story house, so it’s Grand Central Station. I think that might just be what I’m comfortable with. If I have too much quiet, I can’t really work.
Tell us about your writing process: The early stages of writing are always the fun part when you’re not committed to anything. That’s where the joy comes in.
What is the most challenging part of your writing process? What are you currently working on? Book 6 in the St. Just series. It is called Death and the Old Master.
Has an association membership helped you with your writing? Both SinC and MWA have provided friendships with seasoned experts willing to share their expertise.
How do you come up with character names? Like most authors, I use a baby naming site or the Census records.
Do you ever kill a popular character? I wanted to kill an early Max Tudor character. St. Martin’s wouldn’t allow it. I still regret caving.
G.M. Malliet is a member of:
Crime Writers’ Association (U.K.),
International Thriller Writers,
Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance,
Mystery Writers of America,
Sisters in Crime (former National Board member).
Email me at gm at gmmalliet dot com.
I can’t always answer, but I love fan mail 😉
June Gillam writes the Hillary Broome crime fiction series. She is sketching out a new thriller trilogy she’ll fine tune at 2024’s Thrillerfest in New York. A native of California’s Central Valley, June loves the company of writers and readers and was honored with a Jack London Award for service to the writing community. Just out on Audible is Nest of White Crows, book five in the Hillary Broome series.
Legacy of the Wild Vines, book six in the Hillary Broome Crime Fiction series, to be released in spring 2024:
In Legacy of the Wild Vines, a professor on a summer trip to Rome tries to keep her sixteen-year-old gay daughter safe amidst a rash of kidnappings, but when her daughter vanishes, the professor must probe the secrets of a remote Italian village to help find her daughter before it’s too late.
June at the 2023 CA State Fair Authors Booth
Along with Archy the cockroach, “expression is the need of my soul,” as the little poet typed onto paper left in columnist Don Marquis’ typewriter at the Chicago Sun Times office back in the mid-20th century. Archy typed no capital E since he could not operate the shift key with his tiny body flung as he did every night when the journalists went home. For details, see E. B. White’s “From The Best of Archy and Mehitabel.” https://rb.gy/604efi
Like Archy, I started out as a poet and then an academic papers writer until I was hired as a full-time faculty member in English at San Joaquin Delta College in 1990. It was then it hit me that I didn’t know how to write stories even though many of my poems wanted to become stories. Over the next ten years, I studied fiction and had a few short stories published, then took the craft deeper as part of my doctoral work in Transformative Learning and Change at the California Institute of Integral Studies. My dissertation was a cooperative inquiry, published in 2009 as a monography: Women Writing Stories Containing Conflict. I was thrilled.
However, Lambert Academic Publishing priced it at well over $100 and I could not get them to reduce the price. That was when I decided I wanted to be in control of my price points. As a result, Gorilla Girl Ink was born as my imprint and has published all my books: poetry, writing, fiction, and just last year, a children’s picture book with my daughter as illustrator.
So, I’ve been an Indie-published writer since 2012 with Gorilla Girl Ink. Thanks to the support of fantastic sister writers and critique groups along the way, I’ve had a bit of success and enjoyed the ride. But Indie publishing is a lot of work beyond the writing. It includes finding, hiring, and supervising editors, cover designers, formatters, etc. Recently, a medium-sized publisher, Bedazzled Ink, has approached me because of the platform I’ve built with Gorilla Girl Ink. They are interested in publishing my next book, a thriller trilogy set in San Francisco and Lake Tahoe.
The pros and cons of Indie vs Trad publishing are presented on websites such as the well-balanced Book Bub and Writers Digest assessments.
Although not every point in these comparisons holds true all the time, they are worth the effort to consider. After more than ten years as an Indie, I am now ready to focus my time on my writing rather than the publishing of it. I am eager to turn over the publishing tasks to Bedazzled Ink and concentrate on writing, marketing, and teaching workshops, which I enjoy. https://www.bedazzledink.com
My advice for new writers is to join a writer’s group for support and camaraderie. Take a look to see if the San Joaquin Valley Writers branch of the CA Writers Club could be a good fit for you. Check us out at https://www.sjvalleywriters.org
Readers may contact me about my books and upcoming workshops starting in February at https://www.junegillam.com/contact
Groups I belong to include
San Joaquin Valley Writers
Capitol Crimes, Sisters in Crime
Mystery Writers of America
Gold Country Writers
Links to buy my work:
Nest of White Crows, Hillary Broome book 5, Audible https://rb.gy/462wuh
June Gillam’s Amazon Author Page: https://amzn.to/2ZX5OjK
Nearly fifty of David Poyer’s novels and nonfiction are in print with major publishers. He’s also published oral history, travel, biographical nonfiction, and collaborated on memoirs. He’s been translated into Japanese, Dutch, Italian, Hungarian, and Serbo-Croatian, and rights have been sold for films. Writers he’s mentored have been taken on by major literary agencies, published by major houses, appeared on New York Times Top Ten bestseller lists, won the International Latino Book award and other prizes, and become college teachers. He currently teaches at the Ossabaw Island Writers’ Retreat.
His latest, The Academy, was published by St. Martin’s/Macmillan in December.
“The Academy, a profoundly human story, is a captivating and fitting finale to the Lenson series from David Poyer, a master in modern naval fiction.” – Quarterdeck Magazine.
“This long-running naval series continues full-steam ahead. . . [Poyer generates] top-notch suspense.” – Publishers Weekly
“The Lenson series is an intriguing alternate history saga […] Fans of the long-running series—will be well pleased.” – Booklist
David Poyer is set to captivate readers once again with THE ACADEMY, just published by St. Martin’s/Macmillan. Known for his gripping military fiction, Poyer brings to life a tale of courage, honor, and the complexities of life within the hallowed halls of a military academy. With high ethical stakes and a suspenseful past-and-present narrative, it’s Poyer’s capstone novel in the Dan Lenson series.
In his final tour of duty after a harrowing career at sea, Lenson is appointed Superintendent of the US Naval Academy at Annapolis. He begins at a difficult time: Congress is cutting military budgets in the wake of a devastating world war, calls for radical reform are upending traditions, and Dan himself faces legal jeopardy for his actions during the war. And when a Category 5 hurricane threatens to overwhelm the coast, Dan must fight to rescue the Academy itself.
Parallel to this narrative runs the dramatic story of Dan’s years as a first-class mid, many years before. A plebe he coaches commits suicide, and Dan is drawn into the investigation. The decisions he makes will shape how he comes to lead troops in battle and at peace.
What brought you to writing? I’m four years old, sitting on the porch with my mother. She’s reading to me, which she did a lot, and I’m grateful! But her stock answer for my questions, and I was full of questions in those days, was “God made it.”
Where did the moon come from? “God made it.” The sky? “God made it.” I ask her, then, “Where do books come from?” And she says – a sentence that changes my life – “Writers write them.”
I realized what I was here for.
Now, I didn’t start right away. I felt I had to go out, live, and see the world. In 1976, I was in the Navy when an accident dictated several months of leave in a cast to my waist. So I bought a desk and a typewriter and tried to write 50 to 60,000 words and have them all be different.
The result was The Hill, a YA novel about cross-country running and a small-town scandal. No one’s ever read it, though I’m thinking about publishing a limited edition. Maybe next year?
Tell us about your writing process. I believe waiting for inspiration is unfruitful and frustrating and a self-limiting strategy for a career novelist.
A group of contractors reports to a building site. Do they stand around waiting for inspiration as to what they will build? No. They have blueprints, lists of materials, timelines, and milestones. They may change a partition wall here and there, beef up a structure, or adjust to a new zoning regulation. But in general, they know where they’re going. They can work with a minimum of stress and uncertainty.
I operate the same way. My outlines run 10 to 15 single-spaced pages, organized by chapter. That charts my course, though I’m still free. When inspiration does strike, I’ll follow. But I modify the outline as I go. This synopsis becomes a sales tool for film rights or, sequels, or promotion.
How long did it take to write your first book? How long to get it published? As I said, I didn’t send out the first manuscript. The second, White Continent, is speculative fiction about a group establishing a technologically advanced colony in Antarctica. They declare independence and then have to defend themselves. It’s a Utopia, an Erewhon. I sent it out fifteen times and got it back fifteen times. So I put it away and started on another.
But if you persist, the Universe gives up on discouraging you. A newspaper editor persuaded me to pull the manuscript out and send it to a friend at Lippincott. Lippincott didn’t like it, but my editor’s friend’s secretary read the first page while it was in the mail room getting boxed up to go out. She liked that page, so she stole it and took it home. Read it and made her boyfriend read it the next time he came over. As luck would have it, he was an agent. He sold it to the first publisher he sent it to.
Do you ever kill a popular character? I have, though not without soul-searching. One of my recurring characters in the Dan Lenson books is SEAL Master Chief Teddy Oberg. He’s captured in a raid, tortured, sent to a horrific POW camp in Xinjiang, escapes, and leads a Uighur rebellion in Western China.
Over several volumes in my War with China arc, Oberg grew steadily darker. Eventually, in Violent Peace, he had to be terminated with extreme prejudice by a CIA agent, Andres Korzenowski. (A bow to Heart of Darkness. Joseph Conrad’s real name was Korzienowski.) Some readers saw this coming. Others, who identified with Teddy as a fighter and overlooked his misogyny and ruthlessness, protested. But an author has to be true to the fact: governments feel no sense of loyalty when their tools outlive their usefulness.
Where do you place your settings – real or fictional locations? Saul Bellow says each writer has an “arcanum,” a milieu in which they can set any story. Mine is the Navy, the sea, and diving, with a sideline in Pennsylvania, where I grew up.
The Lenson novels are the most popular. The 22 books trace Dan’s arc as he begins in The Circle as an ensign and ends – in the final volume – as Superintendent of the US Naval Academy, a vice-admiral facing retirement.
The Hemlock County novels deal with the struggle of the people against the greed that’s historically plagued the Northern Appalachians: extractive industries, organized crime, and governmental corruption.
The Tiller Galloway novels are about a black sheep diver. Tiller joined the Coast Guard, served in Vietnam, then got tangled up with a cartel and went to prison. As an ex-con, he tries to make a living as a dive boat and salvage captain.
The Whiteness of the Whale and Ghosting are sailing novels set on the high seas.
So you can see how the settings of my books have reflected my arcanum!
Do you have any advice for new writers? This spring, I pulled together a group of articles and talks I’d published over the years. I rewrote and ordered them into chapters. Writing in the Age of AI came out from Northampton House Press in July. It explains how I approach writing how the process can be made easier, and advises writers on the best ways to deal with AI technology. Everything I know about writing is in that book!
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? Finishing the Lenson series feels like retiring from the Navy, which I did after 30 years of active and reserve service. Like retiring from university teaching, which I did for 16 years. But I’m not going to stop writing. A day without writing feels like a day not fully lived.
There might be another Galloway. I may have one more sailing book. A memoir? Maybe. Right now, I’m taking a year off to mull things over. Digitize my photographs, overhaul the boat, and we’ll see what comes next.
Perhaps this account will inspire a few fans of your blog. I hope they’ll also pick up The Academy and enjoy the concluding – and, I hope, satisfying – chapter in Dan Lenson’s long, star-crossed career!
Naval Academy Alumni Association,
Surface Navy Association,
American Society of Naval Engineers,
Civilian Marksmanship Program,
Ossabaw Writers Retreat,
Writers Conference of Northern Appalachia,
Kevin Anderson Associates,
Eastern Shore of Virginia Public Library board,
Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.
Buy link: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250273086/theacademy
Michael was born in Manchester, England. He lived in France and joined a French Order of Missionary priests. He spent ten years in West Africa, several of them during a civil war when he was stood up to be shot. He spent a year living as a hermit in Northern Ireland, was a teacher in Madrid, Spain, and as part of the British ‘brain drain’ taught at the Univ of Puerto Rico.
The owner of MJB Consultants, he flew all over the world monitoring and evaluating humanitarian projects and has worked in more than thirty countries. He is fluent in several languages, an avid golfer, and academically considers himself over-engineered, having three Masters’ Degrees and a Ph.D. On his bucket list is to pilot a helicopter, become fluent in Arabic, and spend a week’s retreat at Tamanrasset in the Sahara Desert.
Michael lives with his French wife, who designs and paints the covers of his books, and a Tibetan terrier in Clayton, California.
I have just finished reading my third novel by Sally Rooney, followed by Cormac McCarthy’s latest, Stella Maris, and I’d like to report the speech marks are missing! Punctuation goes in and out of fashion, and the marking of text with inverted commas to signify direct speech seems, in the current moment, is decidedly going out of fashion.
Cormac McCarthy called punctuation, “Weird little marks. I believe in periods, in capitals, in the occasional comma, and that’s it.” Since this was his first novel after a 16-year hiatus, I started reading it because I was intrigued by the subject matter, dedicated solely to a dialogue between two people, a woman who self-committed to a mental institution and a psychiatrist. It was a disaster. After twelve pages, I’d had enough and just couldn’t handle page after page with no italics. However, I was sufficiently intrigued to purchase the audiobook. And oh, my goodness, what a difference. I didn’t want to stop listening. I was enthralled by the female and male voices that gave color and texture to a dynamic, intriguing, and labyrinthine script.
But with Sally Rooney, not so. Why she has chosen to use this technique in her novels, only she can say. I found it gimmicky at best since her lack of italics didn’t enhance the flow of the story or blend with the rest of the text. But a greater irritant for me was her use in all three novels of another technique, the way she attributes the spoken word. No writer wants their characters to become disembodied, but attribution, clarifying for the reader who’s saying what, is key to maintaining good order in dialogue. It sustains the novel’s pace and orients and relieves the reader from unnecessary guesswork. As writers we shouldn’t have to send the reader window-shopping in search of a speaker to “assign” the script to! Distractions of that sort break the spell of the interactive flow, and are really an earmark of the inexperienced writer.
I’m speaking here, of course, of “she said” and “he said” the most common attributions, and their host of variants. When it’s evident who’s talking, the reader can readily do without them. Often enough, in a brisk exchange between two people once the talk gets rolling, it takes nothing more than a paragraph change, the customary tool for differentiating speakers, to make clear to the reader who’s saying what. Repeated attributions can serve to heighten the intent of the exchange two people are having. Beginning writers in particular are prone to suppose that “she said” and “he said” become too humdrum, are used too frequently, and need to be replaced by such alternatives as “she replied,” “he explained,” “he responded,” “she murmured,” “she protested,” and so on… all of which, when used judiciously, are useful.
Repeated indications as to who’s doing the talking can also be used for dramatic effect. And this is where Sally Rooney drives me crazy. A creative writing teacher advised, not to labor too much about attributions, “Go ahead and use “she said” and “he said” with little fear of over-use! They soon enough become mere transparencies for the reader, barely noted in passing as the reading proceeds.” If this is the case, why does it irritate and distract me from the story line making me want to stop reading? In Rooney’s Normal People on just one page I counted thirteen times her use of “he said, she said.”
An additional curiosity is Rooney’s point of view as she described her characters. In Beautiful World Where Are You much of its tension comes from the disconnect between the spare prose of the third-person sections, (I can’t remember seeing a semi colon in any of her books) with sometimes one paragraph filling an entire page, and the rambling soliloquies of the emails. Once they have been named, she ghosts her characters through page after page by simply referring to them as ‘she’ and ‘he,’ and given that she rarely fully develops them, I found it annoying and my attention flagging.
But there is a reason her books are bestsellers. In addition to her famous sex scenes, described as “the best in modern literary fiction,” she captures with unembellished, often plaintive prose, the angst of her millennium audience, albeit, her sometimes meandering chapters while reflecting the time and milieu, can be perplexing to those of us north of 40. But be that as it may, I still need my punctuation.
Michael’s latest book is No Room for Heroes: A novel of the French Resistance 1942-44.
Books on website: www.mbwriter.net
After a long career in 9-to-5 jobs – caseworker, teacher, Probation Officer, urban planner, copywriter, and even aircraft carrier tour guide – Sid became a published author at the age of seventy-one. Whether or not he makes a dime from his thrillers, that alone is an accomplishment he’s proud of.
Two of his past jobs were particularly helpful when he began writing crime novels. As a Probation Officer, he learned to see things from a criminal’s point of view and to tip-toe past their minds’ many dark alleys. As a copywriter, he learned how to craft stories that draw readers in and keep them wanting more.
Murderer from Moscow is the sequel to his debut Kim Barbieri thriller, Unwitting Accomplice. The Russian mafia has to stop reporter Kim Barbieri from exposing their money laundering in NY—and they’re going to use the world’s most lethal poison to shut her up.
Will they succeed in killing her? Or will she succeed in putting them out of business for good?
What brought you to writing? As a copywriter for many years, I convinced customers to buy what my clients were selling. That was my job, and I was pretty good at it – according to the lawyers, suits, and clients who approved my work. When I retired, I decided to write to please a whole new audience – readers of crime novels like myself. I knew three things going in: Crime fiction readers could be a tough audience, I had a compelling story idea, and I was up to the task.
What’s the most challenging thing about writing characters from the opposite sex? The challenge is making my characters of the opposite sex credible and relatable to my readers of the opposite sex. Rightly or wrongly, male writers have a reputation among women readers for not doing female characters well. My protagonist, Kim Barbieri, is both a strong, tough woman unfazed by violence and a very human person dealing with everyday issues faced by women of a certain age in our society. I was determined to do right by her—and several female readers have told me I’d succeeded.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? That’s not an either/or question, as far as I’m concerned. I do an outline, of course, to make sure all the moving parts conform to the story arc. But as I develop my characters, they often seem to take on a life of their own. They grow. They change. I then find myself becoming a pantser, letting them make decisions I hadn’t planned on. How does she react when she stumbles upon a crime scene? How does she deal with a crisis? Those become her decisions as much as mine. And her actions sometimes change the plot I’d so carefully laid out in the outline – for the better!
What kind of research do you do? They say, ‘Write what you know’. But when I develop an idea for a novel, I make it a point to include topics I know nothing about. For instance, to write my first thriller, Unwitting Accomplice, I learned the pros and cons of using specific weapons—knife, gun, poison, vehicle—to end a victim’s life without getting caught by the police. And for my second thriller, Murderer from Moscow, I learned all I could about one lethal weapon: poison. How many there are, how each enters the body, which organs each one attacks, and how long each takes to kill. For both books, there was a lot of physiology and chemistry jargon to master, and my challenge was to write everything I’d learned in an easily understood way that wouldn’t kill the desire of the average reader to go on to the next chapter.
Where do you place your characters? Real or fictional settings? My two thrillers take place in New York, a vibrant, dynamic, ever-changing metropolis with many unique neighborhoods and ethnic communities. I grew up there and found that if described well, a neighborhood, a street, or even a particular shop can become an interesting character.
The settings for my two thrillers are in neighborhoods I know especially well from my days as a New York State Probation Officer – Fort Greene in Unwitting Accomplice and Williamsburg in Murderer from Moscow. They’re both fully gentrified now, with upstanding citizens and excellent schools, and they both are a good place for my protagonist to come home to. But back in the day, they were both “bad” neighborhoods, with drug addicts, muggings, poverty, bad schools, high unemployment, etc.
Groups where you can find Sid:
Mystery Writers of America NY
Sisters in Crime, NY
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You can read more about my thrillers at Sidmeltzer.com.
You can email me at email@example.com.
You can order Murderer from Moscow on Amazon at tinyurl.com/5b3fjnyh or from Black Rose Writing.
You can order Unwitting Accomplice on Amazon at tinyurl.com/pjjs4v7t or from Rogue Phoenix Press.