This week, I revisited a few posts from bygone years. The oldest post was February 28, 2013. Here is what I wrote way back then:
Yesterday I glanced at the cover of a recent issue of AARP’s magazine. There on the cover was the “Hook.” Find the Work You Love!
Today is an anniversary of sorts. One year ago today, I was laid off from a great job. I have found work I love, writing, however so far sans pay. It would be nice to find a paying job.
I had to look at the article. Maybe this can help me find something that pays?
The article presents several senior citizens’ stories but is primarily about two women, Maz Rauber and Amy Reingold. The two write “juicy novels for young adults” under the pseudonym Ella Monroe.
They have an exciting and inspiring tale about the job they love. If you visit this URL, you can read the article and watch a video interview of the duo.
In the eight ensuing years, a lot of water has passed under the bridge (cliché alert). I accepted the reality of age discrimination and gave up looking for a new job, earned an MFA, and published my debut novel, The Mona Lisa Sisters.
The URL for the article no longer works. I did find a URL (https://us.macmillan.com/author/ellamonroe/) for Ella Monroe but did not locate the interview.
There were two comments left, one by my best friend Jim Kennemore, who passed away last year. I miss him every day.
The other by my youngest daughter, Katie Cramer Rosevear, who has been an inspiration to me. She is a successful businesswoman, give her a visit at http://www.lolaandivy.com
Watched the video…Interesting. So you want to collaborate on a book? Just kidding. You know I think if you are serious (and I believe you are), I think you ought to write and submit some short stories to different publications. The pay might be small, maybe nonexistent, but if you can get published, you begin a resume. I thought about submitting that D.C. story of mine to HOG magazine a few years ago, but it was way too long…anyway, good luck with it all…JAK
Katie Cramer Rosevear:
Happy one year of writing, Dad! Thank you for inspiring me every day! Xo
Her new romantic comedy mystery, Temporarily out of Luck is the third in the Hattie Cooks mysteries and follows Temporarily Employed and Temporarily Insane.
Here’s a bit from TOOL: Great job. What man? And murder. Newly employed at Wedding Wonderland, Hattie Cooks is learning the industry from a woman she greatly admires. When her former brother-in-law is found dead in his luxury SUV, all fingers point to Hattie’s sister, who is planning her own I Dos.
Detective Allan Wellborn is caught between a rock and a hard place—Hattie’s family and investigating the murder of a well-connected Sommerville resident, the same loser who was once married to Hattie’s sister. Determining who’s the bad guy—or gal—isn’t going to be easy and sure to piss off someone. Can Hattie beat the clock to find out who murdered Tracey’s ex before she is charged with the crime and her wedding is ruined?
Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? I start my day with an early workout, eat breakfast, shower, and am usually working at my desk by 9-ish. I get all the nuts and bolts out of the way, then move to writing. I like music in the background, like classical guitar, Simply Frank, 70’s. My two malt-poos plop on the couch but sit up when I move about in case they might miss something.
Who’s currently your favorite author? In my early mom years, I discovered Dick Francis and have followed on to Felix Francis, who I met last year at Bouchercon—a fun thrill for me. I like Sophie Kinsella, Marian Keyes, Jill Mansell, Carl Hiassen. And revisit Emilie Loring, Mary Stewart.
How long did it take you to write your first book? I tackled my mystery head-on and had a good draft in less than a year. I subbed to some contests and did well. I met my critique partner in my local RWA chapter, and we traded work. She changed my life with her six 800-word short stories for Woman’s World magazine. I got the rhythm and wrote my own shorts. Soon I was subbing stories and sold lots. I still like writing them and have indie pubbed several collections. After a while, I tackled my mystery with new eyes and was offered a contract.
Do you base any of your characters on real people? Lordy, the things people say, what they wear, what they look like! These details make characters really come alive and not be paper dolls. My sons live in fear they might do something and end up in my book (and yes, they have. LOL.).
What is the best book you ever read? I’ve only read two books and then instantly reread them—A Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Devereaux and Come to Grief by Dick Francis. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier is up there. In eighth grade, my English teacher assigned our class to read a book and give an oral book report. I was terrified! However, I managed, and afterward, the teacher told me I could have read a more challenging book. I asked my friend what she read. She said, “Rebecca.” That book pushed me into reading more adult books, specifically Agatha Christie.
A little bit about Vicki: Funny, sweet, and quirky, Vicki Batman’s stories are full of her hallmark humor, romance and will delight all readers. She has sold many award-winning, and bestselling romantic comedy works to magazines and, most recently, three humorous romantic mysteries. An avid Jazzerciser. Handbag lover. Mahjong player. Yoga practitioner. Movie fan. Book devourer. Cat fancier. Best Mom Ever. And adores Handsome Hubby.
Find Vicki Batman at:
Author Central: https://www.amazon.com/author/vickibatman/
Sheldon Siegel is the New York Times, USA Today, and Amazon best-selling author of the critically acclaimed legal thriller series featuring San Francisco criminal defense attorneys Mike Daley and Rosie Fernandez.
Sheldon is the author of the thriller novel The Terrorist Next Door featuring Chicago homicide detectives David Gold and A.C. Battle. Sheldon’s books have been translated into a dozen languages and sold millions of copies worldwide. A native of Chicago, Sheldon earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois in Champaign in 1980 and his law degree from the University of California-Berkeley in 1983. He specializes in corporate and securities law with the San Francisco office of the international law firm of Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP. Sheldon began writing his first book, SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES, on a laptop computer during his daily commute on the ferry from Marin County to San Francisco. A frequent speaker and sought-after teacher, Sheldon is a San Francisco Library Literary Laureate. He is a former member of the National Board of Directors and the Past President of the Northern California chapter of the Mystery Writers of America, and an active member of the International Thriller Writers and Sisters in Crime. His work has been displayed at the Bancroft Library at the University of California at Berkeley. He has been recognized as a Distinguished Alumnus of the University of Illinois and a Northern California Super Lawyer. Sheldon lives in Marin County with his wife, Linda, and a 17-year-old tabby cat named Betty. They also have twin sons named Alan and Stephen. He is a lifelong fan of the Chicago Bears, White Sox, Bulls, and Blackhawks. His twelfth Mike Daley/Rosie Fernandez story, FINAL OUT, was released on January 26, 2021. He is currently working on his next novel.
What brought you to writing? I always wanted to be a writer, but I don’t know why. I’ve discussed this with other writers, most of whom have said that it seems that there is something hot-wired into our system to try to tell stories. It’s a bit presumptuous for us to think that we have something interesting to say. I have no formal training. I studied accounting in college at the University of Illinois, and I’ve been a corporate lawyer with a big law firm in San Francisco for more than 35 years. I have never handled a criminal case (not even a parking ticket), but I’ve written twelve best-selling novels about murder trials. I like to tell people that I’m a fraud on multiple levels.
Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? When I was practicing law full time, I used to write on a laptop computer on the ferry between Marin County and my firm’s office in San Francisco. I no longer work full-time, so I do most of my writing at home in the spare bedroom in our house. It’s a great luxury to be able to write almost full-time.
Tell us about your writing process: I start with a light outline. It helps me to know the beginning and the ending. I write a series, so I know that the books will feature Mike Daley and Rosie Fernandez and will be set in San Francisco. I outline in greater detail about 50 pages ahead of wherever I am in the story. I try to write to the end of the outline, and then I outline another 50 pages. I generally try to write straight through from beginning to end, but I sometimes skip ahead and write the ending. I spend about 50 percent of my time on the first 100 pages because if I make a mistake in the early part of the book, I’ll pay for it later. Once I get to the midway point in the book, I don’t stop until I get to the end. I tend to write long and cut. I usually do at least six full drafts. The first draft takes about eight months, the second about two months. The remaining drafts take a couple of weeks.
What is the most challenging part of your writing process? I’m self-taught, so I find plotting to be challenging. First drafts are more difficult than second and third drafts. There’s nothing scarier than looking at a blank sheet of paper. Once I have something in the computer, I know that I can go back and fix it.
Has an association membership helped you or your writing? I have been a member of MWA, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers for years. I served on the national board of MWA and as the president of the Northern California Chapter years. These organizations provide a supportive environment for writers since we spend so much of our time in front of our computers.
How long did it take you to write your first book? It took three years. I had the idea for my first book, Special Circumstances, for about ten years before I started writing it. I took one creative writing class at Book Passage in Corte Madera, which was very helpful. Then I worked on the book in short increments on my commute to work and late at night.
How long to get it published? I got very lucky. When I finished the manuscript for my first book, I was introduced to an agent who was friends with one of the attorneys at our law firm. She agreed to read the manuscript as a favor to my colleague. The agent liked the manuscript and agreed to represent me. She submitted it to multiple houses in New York, and they liked it. Two weeks later, I had a two-book deal with Bantam for a six-figure advance. The chances that this would happen again are one in a million, so I am very grateful.
We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave, or do they run the show? My characters have minds of their own. At times, I feel like I’m just a stenographer. That’s why my outlines are so light—my characters tend to misbehave, and they rarely follow the plotline that I’ve started.
Do you try to make the antagonist into a more human character? Yes. Good guys are interesting when they have flaws, and bad guys are interesting if they have some positive elements. Characters who are all good or all bad are one-dimensional.
Do you have any advice for new writers? Read a lot and write a lot. Work on your craft so that you can make your story as good as it can be. It’s fine to read a few books about writing, but it’s better to spend your time writing than reading books about writing. I would recommend Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and On Writing by Stephen King.
How do our readers contact you?
“The Felony Murder Rule is a real winner.” Michael A. Black
Thonie Hevron is a retired 911 dispatcher who makes her home in Petaluma in the Sonoma Wine Country, California with her husband, Danny. When not writing, Thonie rides horses and enjoys traveling. Her work has appeared in Beyond Borders: 2014 Redwood Writers Anthology and Felons, Flames and Ambulance Rides: Public Safety Writers 2013 Anthology. She is the author of four award-winning mystery/thriller novels, By Force or Fear, Intent to Hold, and With Malice Aforethought, are currently available on Amazon but will be re-published by Aakenbaaken & Kent (A&K) in the future. A&K has published the fourth mystery, Felon with a Firearm.
Please tell us about Felony Murder Rule and any comments about any other of your books: All the titles are elements of the main crime. My newest book is titled, Felony Murder Rule, which mandated a sentencing enhancement for felonies committed in which a homicide results. In 2018, this rule was abolished in California with one exception. The book takes place in 2018 before the court ruling. Meredith and Nick are tossed into a decades old crime involving her father. The clock is ticking as rival criminal factions jockey to use her to find a cache of stolen money.
At home one night, sheriff’s detective Meredith Ryan surprises an intruder leaning over her baby’s crib. Unable to catch him, she launches a dangerous journey to protect her family. The death of her father the next day steers her onto a path of deceit and mystery where the two incidents are connected by the mysterious man in her nursery. With Nick, her husband, they unravel her father’s involvement in a robbery/homicide years ago. To find the hidden loot, competing crime rivals plot to use her family as bargaining chips. Meredith and Nick must find the truth in the next 24 hours before the criminals close in on her family.
My series is called the Nick and Meredith Mysteries, but they’re really more thrillers than classic mysteries. They are stand-alones but follow Sonoma County Sheriff’s detectives on different cases. In By Force or Fear (an element of stalking), Meredith is stalked by a judge while she tracks a killer. Intent to Hold (an element of kidnapping) follows Nick and Meredith as they go to Mexico to rescue a relative being held hostage by a cartel. With Malice Aforethought is a necessary component of murder and a homicide is what the detective partners are investigating when they stumble upon a militia with violent plans.
What are you currently working on? I’m currently re-editing my first book, By Force or Fear. My current publisher, Aakenbaaken & Kent, has committed to re-publishing the three previous Nick and Meredith Mysteries. I want it ready when he hollers for it. They are currently on Amazon and self-published.
Has an association membership helped you or your writing? Yes, as a matter of fact. I belong to two such organizations. First, I joined the Police Writer Association back in 1997 or so when I first began to write seriously. It’s morphed into the Public Safety Writers Association. The thought of a bunch of police/fire/medical emergency personnel writing was captivating. Writing is a solitary enterprise—or at least, it used to be. The bottom line is you get what you give: I’ve gotten so much from these members. Expertise and experience sharing, networking, and building relationships with professionals from across the continent (including Canada). Sometimes, it’s just a shoulder (Marilyn, did you hear that?), but I found a terrific mentor and some darn good friends in this group. The second, Redwood Writers is my local writers club. Through membership and volunteering, I found out about goal setting, marketing strategies, immense help with the writing craft, and again, building relationships.
We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave, or do they run the show? My first novel took me almost a decade to write, so I was pretty clear on who was going to do what. By the time I was underway with the second manuscript, I had a plan, but these darn main characters decided to hijack the story. Originally, Nick and Meredith were partners and not supposed to fall in love. But things being what they are, in Intent to Hold, their feelings for each other emerged. By the third story, With Malice Aforethought, they both knew a relationship was unavoidable. So yeah, they tend to run the show.
Do you base any of your characters on real people? Funny, people ask me that all the time. Most of my characters are a mash-up of people I’ve known throughout my career in law enforcement. The criminal types are complete fiction, but the cop and civilians are part ‘so-and-so’ with a dash of ‘that guy.’ The only exception was a peripheral character in Malice. One of my readers recognized him (we had both worked with him), and we got a good laugh. He’d passed away at that point.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I’m an inveterate outliner. I like structure, and in mysteries/thrillers, the author has to intersperse clues and red herrings in appropriate places. I don’t like to go back and do it, so I plan them out. But, as I said above, sometimes the characters have their own agendas and take over the story. Thank God for computers. I’d hate to have to do all that on a typewriter.
What is the best book you ever read? Hands down, Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove. It has everything: drama, history, humor, romance, physicality, and horses.
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I’ve got another book percolating while I do my edits. It will be a new set of characters that I hope readers will be equally fascinated with. For now, it’s set in Ireland. I’ve never been there, but once Covid 19 is under control, I plan on traveling there and anywhere else where I can persuade my husband to go. He’s ready, too.
Comment by Michael A. Black: Thonie Hevron’s latest novel, The Felony Murder Rule, is a real winner. The engaging characters had me rooting for Meredith and Nick all the way through this complex case that involves a crime from the past that comes to roost in the present. Ms. Hevron’s smooth and elegant writing style, combined with the intricate plot and excellent characterization, makes it a very pleasant reading experience. ~ Michael A. Black, author of Legends of the West, Dying Art and Cold Fury in the Executioner series (as Don Pendleton), and Gunslinger: Killer’s Brand (as A.W. Hart).
Where can our visitors contact you or buy your books?
With Malice Aforethought,
Intent to Hold
By Force or Fear
Felony Murder Rule
Featured book on Local Authors Distributor FB page
Facebook Thonie Hevron Author Page
Paranormal Romance: The Moonseed Trilogy
Bridge to the Past (vol. 1), Borrowed Promises (vol. 2), and Into the Mist (vol. 3) Two young women born a century apart, restless, and desperate for different lives, each escape death only to awaken in each other’s bodies. Gentle Victoria has become Katherine Kamarov, a brash young widow living in rural California circa 1890 and accused of murdering her husband. Meanwhile, the sensuous Katherine has come forward in time to assume Victoria’s identity as a beautiful and wealthy heiress in modern-day San Francisco. Expecting to be snatched back to their own times at the end of one year, each woman tries to resist investing her heart in her borrowed life but ends up falling hopelessly in love. As the story accelerates toward the magical night of the new spring moon, Victoria, and Katherine both question whether they must remain victims of fate or can find some way to keep the lives and the loves that have captured their hearts.
What inspired you to write this story? My heroine came to me when I was on holiday in beautiful California wine country, which became the setting for my story. Victoria materialized in my imagination fully formed. The first thoughts she shared with me told of her longing to escape her meaningless life and to find love and a sense of belonging. Intrigued, I began to follow her into a story that troubled me, challenged me, and ultimately gratified me as she found answers to questions and solutions to problems we both shared.
What brought you to writing? My first memorable writing project was a short story I wrote in first grade about a poodle. It was reprinted in the school newsletter—my first publishing success! Later I was fascinated by my aunt’s old Underwood typewriter. I would tap out sheets and sheets of meandering stories just so I could staple them together to make “books.” I don’t recall a definitive moment when I decided I was a writer. I just always felt like one.
Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? My favorite place to write is at my desk in my little home study, surrounded by books and pictures of the people and places I love best. I need quiet when I write, so I don’t play music or write in busy places like coffee shops. I am by nature so single-minded that I can hardly talk and drive a car at the same time. I write the same way, totally immersed in my story or essay. I prefer using a computer to writing longhand because it’s faster and easier to change or correct. Some authors complain that computers are too artificial, that one loses fluidity between the brain and the pen moving across the page, but that’s not a problem for me.
Do you have any advice for new writers? If you’re writing fiction, think about how you will eventually market your work. For example, choose a setting or a profession, or talent for your character that will generate photos you can post on social media. Also, read other authors in the genre you like. Learn what makes their books work. Take notes. Diagram story and character arcs and try to see patterns you can imitate. Don’t worry about copying style. As you write, your own voice will emerge. Trust it. Let it take you where you want to go. Finally, join a local writers group and network with others who are invested in learning the craft and helping each other succeed.
What else have you written? My first published book was inspirational nonfiction, A Devotional Walk with Forgiveness. From that platform, I launched a weekly devotional blog on forgiveness that I’ve kept going for seven years. In 2019 I indie published a collection of these devotionals in Forgiving Day by Day: Practicing God’s Ways in Our Relationships. I’ve published true stories about forgiveness in anthologies by Christian publishers and most recently in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Forgiveness Fix. I’m currently researching a historical novel set in first-century biblical times as well as attempting to write my first screenplay.
Who is your favorite author, and why? Although I admire many modern authors, two who remain at the top of my list are Dean Koontz and Daphne du Maurier. They are both brilliant storytellers and expert wordsmiths. Koontz sometimes gets too weird and dark for me, but his writing is flawless, every comma in place, every paragraph honed to a precision edge. Du Maurier is pure pleasure. I would love to trade places with her for a day and feel the magic of her genius flow through my fingers to produce a manuscript as enduring as Rebecca.
Final thoughts? I believe we read stories to discover ourselves in a character’s reflection or to learn something new and interesting about how life works. Although it’s true that we can’t travel through time to escape our troubles, we can follow a character into her story, adopting her reality and caring about how things turn out for her, and in that imaginary escape discover real relief, pleasure, and satisfaction for ourselves.
For more about me or to purchase my books, please visit my Amazon Author Page at https://amzn.to/2NIpWCN
Many thanks to my CWC friend and colleague, George Cramer, for posting my thoughts on your blog!
END OF WATCH
MURDER IN MCHENRY
FIGHTING CRIME WITH “SOME DAY” AND LENNY
Do you write in more than one genre? I’ve written nonfiction, fiction, comedy, poetry, short stories, and articles that required research.
What brought you to writing? What got me into writing was going to grad school. I did lots of research (I really enjoy doing research. I would rather turn in large term papers than take a test.) I was doing a paper on dreams related to Post Shooting Trauma and contacted Massad Ayoob for an interview. He was very kind and informative. I asked him if he would like a copy when I finished the paper. He said yes. Then he did something I never expected. He took it to the editor of POLICE MARKSMAN magazine, and they wanted to publish it. If not for Mr. Ayoob’s kindness, I probably wouldn’t have a writing career that spans almost 40 years.
Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? I have a loft in my home. I have converted it into my Man Cave. It not only has my computer but has my filing cabinets, a stereo, and my awards for both writing and police work.
Tell us about your writing process: I like to come up with an idea and write and rewrite. The difficult part is finding something that not only interests me but will be of interest to readers.
What are you currently working on? Right now, I am working on a short story for the Public Safety Writers Association writing contest.
Has an association membership helped you or your writing? Yes. The Wednesday Warrior Writers, a Las Vegas group of local writers, meet 2 Wednesdays a month. We put together two books. The one I like the best is I PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE… a book of 54 short stories dealing with patriotism, heroism, and Americana. The book is published locally by Houdini Publishing. All profits from the sale of the book go to nonprofits that serve active military, veterans, and first responders. We have raised approximately one thousand dollars for the USO at Las Vegas’ McCarran Airport, two hundred for VETERAN’s VILLAGE, and a couple hundred for T.A.P.P.S. an organization of professional musicians who play trumpet and volunteer their time and talent to make sure veterans who pass away receive Taps played on a real trumpet, not a recording. For all our veterans have done for this country, they deserve a real final tribute for their service and sacrifice.
Who’s your favorite author? I would have to say my favorite author is Michael Connelly and his Harry Bosch series. My other favorite, W. E. B. Griffin, just passed away last year.
How long did it take you to write your first book? My first book (End of Watch) was written and rewritten many times and eventually self-published. My second book, FIGHTING CRIME WITH “SOME DAY” AND LENNY, was originally published by Universe.
How long to get it published? It was probably done within a year.
How do you come up with character names? Sometimes I will look in phone books. If I do that, I mix first and last names. Other times I think about names I like and create an identity that way. “Some Day,” my character in the comedy book, was a spoof on Dragnet’s Joe Friday.
We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave, or do they run the show? I think most of my characters are individuals. Even those in my many short stories work together with their partners.
What’s the most challenging thing about writing characters from the opposite sex? Keeping the storyline clean. Would I let my wife read this?
Do your protagonists ever disappoint you? I don’t think so. They may stumble along the way, but they learn a life lesson by the end of the story.
Do you ever kill a popular character? If so, what happens to your story? I wrote a fiction short story, and I killed off a character, a K9. I figured if Disney could kill Ole Yeller, I could kill my character. I took for granted that people would realize it was fiction. The story was published in the FOP Journal. I received a call from the office staff; a K9 officer wanted to speak to me. I called the officer, and she told me she wanted to meet the handler in the story. I told her it was impossible since the story was fiction. She yelled, “You bastard!” you had me and my entire family crying, and it was make believe!
Do you base any of your characters on real people? Yes, but with a lot of literary license.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? Probably a bit of both. I like doing research, but with short stories, I like to sit in front of the computer and let the story flow.
What kind of research do you do? I like doing interviews. Getting the story from the protagonist and letting him check my material to see if it correct.
Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? I use fictional locations. I try to keep it beautiful but general, so people think they know what location I am writing about.
What is the best book you ever read? I would have to say almost all the works of W. E. B. Griffin. He combined history and characters into a story that worked so well you didn’t want to put any of his books down.
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I have been thinking about a story for years. I just didn’t know if I wanted a fictional story about a location that I know from experience or to make it completely fictional. Also, do I really want to get involved in a long writing process or stay with short stories?
Do you have any advice for new writers? Don’t be overcome by rejection. Use rejection as a learning tool. Find a writers group or gentle critique group. Also, learn to love writing and storytelling but don’t expect to become rich. If you do, then you will be disappointed.
How do our readers contact you? email@example.com
My Trackdown Series Continues
You’ll recall that old saying, a rolling stone gathers no moss. Well, last year was indeed a busy one for me. With the COVID-19 virus confusion canceling the college classes that I teach, as well as the PSWA Conference for which I’m the program director, I found myself with more time to write. I managed to produce five novels and a couple of short stories. One of the novels was a western, which I wrote under my A.W. Hart pseudonym (Gunslinger: Killer’s Ghost), but the other four were under my own name and introduced a whole new series that I’m very excited about.
The first novel in my new Trackdown series, Devil’s Dance, debuted on November 15th from Wolfpack publishing. It begins the saga about former Army Ranger, Steve Wolf, who’s wrongly convicted of a war crime in the waning days of the Iraq war. Unbeknownst to Wolf, he is actually caught up in an elaborate scheme perpetrated by a very rich and eccentric man who will stop at nothing to obtain an ancient artifact stolen from the Iraqi National Museum of Art. Upon his release from a four-year prison term, Wolf is approached by his mentor, ex-green beret Jim McNamara, who convinces Wolf to join him in the business of Bail Bond Enforcement.
“Bail Bound Enforcement?” Wolf asks. “What’s that?”
“Bounty hunting,” McNamara replies. “Twenty-first Century style.” And so their picaresque adventures begins.
Based in Phoenix, Arizona, where McNamara and his daughter operate Trackdown, Incorporated out of their house in Phoenix, Arizona, Wolf reluctantly agrees to join Mac. The pair cross paths with some undesirable characters as they head down south of the border to apprehend a wanted fugitive. Unbeknownst to Wolf, his old enemies from Iraq, a PMC called the Vipers are also in Mexico on the trail of the same fugitive, who is in possession of the priceless stolen artifact being sought by the very rich and unscrupulous man. The trail leads them all to El Meco, the abandoned Mayan ruins. Wolf finds himself suddenly battling alone against a small army of vicious foes in a conflict where the only outcome is either survival or death.
Trackdown #2, Devil’s Fancy, came out on December 15th and continued the saga of Wolf and McNamara as they try to fit the pieces of this developing puzzle together and suddenly find themselves in the crosshairs of a highly professional and extremely deadly squad of mercenaries who give no quarter. Dodging more bullets than he did in a combat zone, Wolf must overcome the stacked odds against him if he is to survive this deadly endgame.
Next up was Trackdown #3, Devil’s Brigade, which was released on January 15th. This one finds our heroes being badgered by the FBI over the incident that occurred in Mexico, as well as a shootout involving federal agents in Devil’s Fancy. A lucrative bounty takes Wolf and Mac to a lawless encampment inside a large city in the Pacific Northwest. However, the same powerful, rich man who set Wolf up years ago is still shadowing him, hoping to gain possession of a priceless artifact that is now in Wolf’s unknowing possession. To accomplish this end, the sinister rich man employs another professional killer. A former CIA fixer who is set to come at Wolf with unrelenting efficiency. Just when it seems things couldn’t get worse, Wolf and McNamara must unexpectedly rescue Mac’s grandson, who has been taken to a militia compound and held hostage. Facing CIA killers, crazed militia forces, and overwhelming odds, Wolf once again finds himself outnumbered and outgunned in a brutal showdown where a young child’s life hangs in the balance.
These three lead to a finale of sorts in Trackdown #4, Devil’s Advocate, which came out on February 15th. When a possible path for Wolf to clear his name materializes, he jumps at the chance. However, he’s still being stalked by the shadow-like foes who are being funded by the same rich sociopath who set Wolf up for the false charges back in Iraq. Wolf and McNamara find themselves facing a brutal gang of ruthless bikers as well as the group of highly proficient CIA-trained killers. This time their quest ultimately takes them to Belize, where they discover an ultimate betrayal and finally come face-to-face with the man behind it all. With the odds stacked against him once again, Wolf finds himself in a desperate struggle to save an innocent life, but will it cost him his last chance at redemption? You’ll have to wait until February to find out.
So, as you can see, it was a rather hectic and busy year. And what, you may ask, is ahead at 2021?
Right now, I’m not sure if the Trackdown series will continue. Like any new venture, a lot will depend on the sales. Like the first season of a new TV series, the four books described above do offer completion of the original story arc. Or do they? I’m being a bit coy about this because I am awaiting a contract for a fifth book in the series as I write this, and have an idea about how I’d like the saga of Steve Wolf to continue. I’ve also been contacted about finishing off the Gunslinger series under the A.W. Hart moniker and have three new short stories set to come out in various magazines. And then, of course, I’m hopeful that once this COVID-19 thing is firmly in our rearview mirrors, we’ll be able to move ahead with the PSWA Conference in July.
Another milestone for me was being inducted into the Illinois Martial Arts Hall of Fame. Although the virus KOed the pageantry of being presented with the plaque at the formal dinner, it was presented to me at one of the limited, socially distanced book signings I was able to host in November. Through all of last year’s ups and downs, I tried to remain positive and continued to be thankful for all my good friends, one of whom is George Cramer, who once again invited me to be on his blog. Thanks, George, and let’s all look forward to doing a lot of writing in the coming year. Thanks for tuning in.
Michael A. Black
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
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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