MICHAEL A. BLACK – Veteran – Police Officer – Western Author

Michael A. Black is the award winning author of 50 books. A retired police officer, he has done everything from patrol to investigating homicides to conducting numerous SWAT operations. He wrote eleven novels as Don Pendleton in the Executioner series and many Westerns in the Gunslinger series under the name A.W. Hart. His recent novel is in the Trackdown series, Devil’s Lair.

Devil’s Lair – With witnesses falling and a federal case against the cartel in ruins, ex-army ranger Steve Wolf and Special Agent Lucien Pike head to Mexico, chasing both a traitor and an irresistible reward. But betrayal thrives in the heart of darkness, dragging them into a merciless battle where survival is a blood-soaked quest with no mercy given or expected.

When death comes knocking, there’s no quarter given or expected.

Do you write in more than one genre? Most of my stuff is in the mystery and thriller genres. I’ve also been published in other genres, including westerns, sci-fi, horror, pulp fiction, young adult, and sports. Mysteries and thrillers will always be my first love, but I also believe in genre blending. My Western novel, Gunslinger:          Killer’s Ghost, is a Western but also a monster story.

What brought you to writing? I’ve been writing all my life. I wrote my first short story in the sixth grade. I was always begging the teacher to let me write a short story. One Friday, she relented and told me I’d have to read it in front of the class on Monday. I struggled all weekend. After I read it aloud, the teacher gave me a “D—Poor Work” grade and told me never to do it again. I look back on this experience as invaluable. It foreshadowed my entire writing career: I got my first assignment, my first deadline, my first writer’s block, and my first rejection, all in three days.

What are you currently working on? My latest book in the Trackdown series is Devil’s Lair. It follows the continuing adventures of ex-army ranger Steve Wolf, who served time for a war crime he didn’t commit and has been trying to clear his name while working as a bounty hunter. He also has some very powerful enemies who set him up and are trying to kill him. In this entry in the series, he gets to strike back a little.

Who’s your favorite author? If I had to pick a single writer who influenced me more than most, I’d have to say, John D. MacDonald. He was a real pro.

How long to get your first book published? My first one never got published. Looking back, It was that bad—a lot of rookie mistakes. I’d gotten some short stories published, so I knew a bit about writing. I wrote a second manuscript and felt it had legs. I sent it off with high hopes and optimism and started a third novel. I’d written the opening line one morning: It had been a year of ups and downs… Then the mailman came, and I found my second manuscript had come back with a rejection letter. I sat down and stared at the computer screen for a long while, trying to decide if I wanted to continue. After a time, the second line came floating to me: More downs than ups. I liked the sound of it and made a solemn vow right then and there that I was going to finish writing the manuscript and I was going to make it the best I could, even if I was the only person who would ever read it. This one eventually became my first published novel.

Do you ever kill a popular character? If so, what happens to your story? A few authors have done this, and I always thought it was a dumb move. I suppose you could make a case for your hero to die heroically, but it would pretty much end any chance of a continuing series. Arthur Conan Doyle killed off Sherlock Holmes and eventually had to bring him back.

How do you raise the stakes for your protagonist? It’s a simple formula: introduce conflict and make things worse as the plot progresses. Then, when it reaches critical mass… BOOM! You have your climax.

What obstacles do you face when writing about historical figures? The biggest problem is avoiding anachronisms. I just read a book set in 1913, and the author still had Maximillian as the emperor of Mexico. He was executed in 1867. Naturally, this ruined it for me, and I didn’t finish it. This unfortunate practice of rewriting history started a few years ago and needs to stop. It’s not only irritating, it breeds stupidity.

What is the best book you have ever read? I’d be hard pressed to pick just one, but I’d have to say James Dickey’s Deliverance is in my top ten. Dickey was a nationally recognized poet who spent ten years crafting the novel. The imagery is stunning, and the writing is lyrical. After I read it, I reread the opening and realized he’d foreshadowed the entire story in that first line.

Do you have any advice for new writers? You can’t be a good writer unless you’re first a good reader, so read all you can and learn from it. Take the time to perfect your craft, get feedback on your work, and try to write every day, even if it’s only one line.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and your books? If you’re looking for a good thriller, I’d appreciate it if you’d check out my new one, Devil’s Lair. It’s got a little something for everyone—action, thrills, and romance. And many thanks to you, Big George, for this opportunity to be on your blog once again.

How do our readers contact you?

Give me a shout at DocAtlas108@aol.com

I’m a member of the VFW, the FOP, the WWA (Western Writers of America), and the PSWA (Public Safety Writers Association).


  1. Thonie Hevron

    A wonderful interview, George and Michael! I loved Michael’s tips on craft and his insights into process. I also have read many of Michael’s books and he’s the real deal.

  2. Vicki Weisfeld

    Laughed out loud at your first writing foray. Very efficient getting to that rejection! Thanks, Mike and George!

  3. Violet Moore

    The Westerns are my favorites too.

  4. Marilyn Meredith

    I’ve read many of Mike’s books–he’s definitely a pro. His Western series i my favorite.
    He’s also the program chair for the Public Safety Writers’ Association.


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Millicent Eidson creates mystery/romantic suspense/women’s fiction mashups where the criminals are invisible disease organisms. Her previous blog is MILLICENT EIDSON – Veterinarian – Epidemiologist – Author – Author George Cramer (gdcramer.com). After a career as a public health veterinarian with CDC and two state health departments, she uses fiction to communicate One Health | CDC. She’s a member of Sisters in Crime (https://www.sistersincrime.org/) and Vermont-based Burlington Writers Workshop (https://bwwvt.org/). Her indie publishing company Maya Maguire Media released novels “Anthracis” (2021) and “Borrelia” (2022), plus “Microbial Mysteries: A Story Collection” (2023).

Her latest novel, Corona (Aug. 2023). Veterinarian Maya Maguire nears the end of her training as one of CDC’s epidemic shock troops. Assigned to the pandemic, her origin story comes full circle like an ouroboros—a dragon eating its tail.

As an author of medical thrillers, I’m often asked, “Why are you independent?” My short answer: Time, money, and control.

Retired from full-time public health work, I relish the independent author process—writing, publishing, and communicating with readers through promotion and marketing. Typically, I perfect a book for two years before release. I dedicate lots of time to writers workshops and editing to polish what I hope is a gem.

Like many authors, I initially explored traditional publishing by reaching out to small presses and literary agents who work with large publishers. But the more I learned about the process from my personal experience and the travails of other authors, I realized I’d have to make too many compromises.

Some fear that indie authors will publish inferior work without traditional publishers acting as gatekeepers. However, the amount of time and expertise these agencies bring to each author’s work can be variable. The book will be released on the publisher’s schedule, may take several years on the publishing timetable even if all goes well, and will earn the author a fraction of its sales revenues. Too many authors start out excited when they get an agent, then have to start over with changes in the agent, editor, or publisher. Depending on the contract, an author may not fully own their book.

Assistance and quality control can be obtained in multiple ways. Workshops, academic classes, support groups, social media, blogs, and podcasts offer ways to improve a writer’s craft. Some elements can be contracted out, one at a time or as a bundle, including editing, cover design, and printing/distribution. Hybrid publishing combines elements of traditional and self-publishing. I highly recommend the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi), https://www.allianceindependentauthors.org/, including its list of approved services. Some individuals or companies charge too much and deliver too little—be careful.

Learning the steps required for indie authors is daunting but fun. If approaching creative writing through the lens of lifelong learning, every aspect can be a joy. I’m a photographer and love spending hours editing my photos with Adobe Photoshop when designing my book covers. I’m a control freak who hates hyphens breaking up words at the ends of lines. I can turn those off and format my print books using Adobe InDesign, so each page looks exactly as I want, almost like the old typesetting process where every letter was placed in a tray. But I have even more control—through kerning (proportional spacing), I decide how close I want the letters next to each other, in a line, page, or the entire novel. I chose a 12.5 font to make the print easier for older readers.

Another major decision point is where and how to distribute one’s books. I’m a ‘wide’ author, which means I abhor exclusivity. I want to give readers every chance to find my books, no matter how they want to do that. I publish ebooks through Draft2Digital (D2D), which creates an EPUB file from Microsoft Word and distributes ebooks everywhere. At the same time, I upload directly to Amazon Kindle (not Kindle Unlimited, which prohibits publishing anywhere else). For print books (paperbacks, hardcovers, and large print), I publish through Amazon KDP and IngramSpark, which distributes to bookstores and libraries. That means I have two companies to work with in submitting each format for publication and receiving sales income, so four processes overall.

Indie authors who want even greater control, especially for the broadest access to promotions, prefer working with more publishers directly. So they’ll submit books to Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, etc., then stay with D2D and IngramSpark to reach the remaining outlets. An indie author has total control over their bandwidth for working with many book distributors.

Every day, it’s my choice to start creating chapters for the latest novel in my alphabetical series. Later in the day, I can work on editing and formatting my most recent novel, that’s finished the workshop process and is ready for publication. Finally, I can choose how much time I spend reaching out to readers through my newsletter, social media, book clubs, or other options. I can prioritize free promotional activities that require much time (like blogging) versus costly advertisements. Depending on other aspects of my life, I have complete flexibility in these decisions—work-life balance.

Each author can determine which part of the writing business they wish to commit to. But every time parts of publishing are delegated to someone else, the author spends money and loses control of the process. I enjoy tweaking my books and republishing them in the middle of the night if I get an idea of how to improve them. This week, it was adding a direct link at the end of each ebook to the subsequent one rather than just a link to my website. Have fun figuring out your own game plan!

website: HOME | DrMayaMaguire: “Pariah,” an experimental mystery/magical realism short story, is free with signups to my Reader list

Email: drmayamaguire@gmail.com
Millicent Eidson | LinkedIn
Millicent Eidson (@EidsonMillicent) / Twitter
Millie Eidson (@drmayamaguire) • Instagram photos and videos



  1. Marisa Fife

    “I enjoy tweaking my books and republishing them in the middle of the night if I get an idea of how to improve them. This week, it was adding a direct link at the end of each ebook to the subsequent one rather than just a link to my website. Have fun figuring out your own game plan!”

    I’m a fellow Indie author and public health advocate (Oncology RN here, but I have an Animal Science background and I adore the Veterinary side of things as well).

    I love that you encourage people to have fun developing their author game plan. This is one of the fun aspects of being an Indie author that I enjoy. I like the adventure of the unknown, the creative control, and the independence. And the middle of the night is the best publication time : )

  2. Michael A. Black

    Wow, you sound like a dynamo, Millicent. You’ve given a lot of good information on being and Indie. Keep up the good work and best of luck to you.


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Do you remember the Fifth Dimension singing, “Up, up and away in my beautiful balloon?” I always thought this uplifting—pun intended—song was about setting goals and dreaming of a better future. The lyrics inspired my imagination. How did you interpret the lyrics?

How important is imagination? Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” I don’t think he was saying knowledge was unimportant but rather that it was limited to what we currently know and understand. Imagination is unlimited and allows us to explore new ideas and discover more knowledge.
Thus, it’s not surprising that child development experts stress the importance of encouraging the imagination of kids. Jean Piaget, probably the most famous child psychologist, thought imaginative play was necessary for a child’s emotional and intellectual development. For example, children using stones, leaves, and dirt found in the garden as they pretend to cook like Mom is an example of imagination and problem-solving in children.

Books can encourage imagination and problem-solving skills in children. In essence, a good children’s book should resemble the song lyrics— “Up, up, and away in my beautiful balloon.” It should spark a child’s imagination and encourage a child to think about goals.
A book can’t meet its goal if it’s not fun. That means successful books for two-to-eight-year-old kids must:

• be colorful,
• have an engaging plot with some humor,
• have pretty or exciting illustrations and
• Perhaps it contains several repeatable phrases. Think of lines from The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss. “And then something went BUMP! How that bump made us jump!”

Children get an added benefit from books. Adults must read the book to children under five at least the first couple of times.

Books are perfect gifts for the kids in your life. The holidays—Halloween, Christmas, Hannukah—are coming. Books are perfect gifts. Books don’t need to be assembled like complex mechanical toys. They won’t let kids destroy teeth like candy. They don’t make obnoxious noises that drive adults crazy. They don’t break or stop functioning before the holiday is over. Books are easy to wrap and ship. Books are the perfect gift for the kids in your life.

Writers of novels get an added benefit when they buy a book for a child. They’re building a potential future audience.

Come Fly with Elf is a new picture book for children. In this book, Elf is a tiny, energetic dog with big ears who dreams of flying in a hot air balloon. The protagonist of Come Fly with Elf is based on my naughty, five-pound Papillon named Elf.

Why does Elf have this dream? Elf and I live near Albuquerque, and every year, the city sponsors a Balloon Fiesta. In 2023, it was from October 7 to October 15. Some dogs are afraid of hot air balloons when they sail overhead. The real Elf watches them without barking.

Children will identify with Elf. He pouts when he doesn’t get what he wants and complains, “I’m on a shelf – all by myself.” Elf is sassy and manipulates his mom by barking, as shown in the illustration. Eventually, in the book, Elf gets to ride in a hot air balloon. During the process, he and the child reading the book learn about hot air balloons. They also learn an important life lesson. Elf says hear the end, “I want to be free. I want to be me. But I want Mom to be happy.”

The illustrations were done by someone who loves dogs and hot air balloons. She gave Elf different expressions to match his moods. The real dog can move his ears to match his feelings. The illustrations not only show Elf but also various aspects of ballooning. The illustrator and I also tried to introduce humor in the book with Elf’s sassy comments.

I think you’ll find Come Fly with Elf appeals to kids-at-heart (whether three or eighty years old) who have impossible dreams and love dogs.

COME FLY WITH ELF is available at https://www.amazon.com/Come-Fly-Elf-J-Greger/dp/1735421472/

My website is: https://www.jlgreger.com
My Amazon author page is:
I can be reached at: janet.greger@comcast.net


  1. J. L. Greger

    Mike, Thanks for the kind comment.

    George, thanks for letting me appear on this blog.

    Unfortunately the real Elf has been very ill. He has an autoimmune disease that’s destroying his muscles. He’s distracted me from writing. Sorry I’m so slow in responding.

  2. Michael A. Black

    Janet is one of those rare authors who can write books fro both children and adults. She’s also one of the smartest people I know. I’m glad to see her getting the exposure on George’s fabulous blog. She’s also scheduled to be one of he featured speakers at the next PSWA Conference.


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FELICIA WATSON – Life Long Writer

Felicia Watson, author of the ground-breaking romance Where the Allegheny Meets the Monongahela and the award-winning sci-fi novels, The Lovelace Series, started writing stories as soon as they handed her a pencil in first grade. She’s especially drawn to character-driven tales, where we see people we recognize, people who struggle with their mistakes and shortcomings, acknowledge them, and use that knowledge to grow into wiser human beings.

Where No One Will See:  Lucia Scafetti, a Philly private eye, has tried to move out of the shadow of her infamous crime family. But her life is upended when her notorious hitman father disappears while in search of the diamond he stole from his last victim. Lucia races to unravel the mystery of her father’s disappearance before a crooked and powerful cop beats her to it. Though Lucia’s allies are scanty and her enemies numerous, she tries to resist the questionable help on offer from her Mafiosi family. It looks like Lucia must finally decide on which side of the law she truly belongs, knowing the wrong choice could send her to prison – or an early grave.

Where No One Will See won Gold in the 2023 CIPA EVVYs, Mystery/Crime/Detective Category. The CIPA EVVYs are one of the longest-running book award competitions on the Indie publishing scene, running for nearly 29 years. The annual contest is sponsored by the Colorado Independent Publishers Association (CIPA), along with the CIPA Education and Literacy Foundation (ELF).

Do you write in more than one genre? I’ve written in three (romance, sci-fi, and now crime/mystery) genres. I read voraciously, almost every genre except horror, so I’m prompted to write in more than one genre.

What brought you to writing? I’m a born storyteller and love reading, so writing was a natural outcome of that. As soon as I started reading books in first grade, I couldn’t wait to tell my own stories, and I’ve been writing ever since.

Tell us about your writing process: I’m the plotiest plotter who ever plotted. My process is to ruminate on the story until I have my MC, their motivation, and a theme. From that, I write out a short plot summary. I do my research and then write a chapter-by-chapter outline. If scenes or snippets of dialogue come to me, then I stick them into the appropriate chapter as I outline. Next I make a calendar and plan out the plot beats on it and make sure the timing makes sense. Then, I write character sketches for all major characters and draw maps for important locations. Finally, I start to write. As I write, things always change, so I go back and update the outline and calendar, always saving copies of past versions.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process? I tend to under-write my first draft. Especially when it comes to visual description. I’m big on dialogue. I hear my characters more than I see them, so my first big edit involves fleshing out a lot of details.

What are you currently working on? I’m putting the finishing touches on the sequel to ‘Where No One Will See‘ and starting the process for the 3rd book in the Scaffeti mystery series.

Who’s your favorite author? I have three very different authors I love: Ursula K. Le Guin, Jane Austen, and Hunter S. Thompson. If forced to choose, I’d pick Le Guin.

We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave or run wild? They generally behave, but there have been times when I’ve tried to write a character doing or saying something that goes against their nature (to serve the plot), and I always get bogged down in those scenes. Once I figure out the problem, I have to re-write because if you know your characters, staying true to that knowledge is essential for portraying well-rounded people.

Do your protagonists ever disappoint you? No, but I did have a secondary character who did. I initially wrote him as the support for my MC in a moment of deep anguish before realizing he’d actually be angry at her and had no support at all in that moment. One of my beta readers even said he was disappointed in the character but felt the scene was true to his nature.

What authors did you dislike at first but grew to enjoy? That’s such a great question. One for me would be C. J. Cherryh. I think I was a little too young when I first tackled ‘Brothers of Earth‘ and found it slow-going. I wrote her off until ‘Downbelow Station‘ won the Hugo Award in 1982, and I decided to give her another chance. I had matured enough as a reader to be enthralled by her emphasis on character rather than action. In fact, Cherryh probably paved the way to my appreciation for Le Guin.

Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I plan to finish my 3rd mystery novel and then return to my sci-fi series. There are so many stories left to tell there.

Do you have any advice for new writers? My advice is the same as, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” Practice, practice, practice. There’s nothing like practice to improve your writing. Find a low-stakes arena (a class, a writing group, fanfiction) and experiment with everything: tragedy, comedy, erotica, slice of life, thrillers, all dialogue, no dialogue, drabbles, short stories, novels. Get feedback on everything you produce and listen to that feedback.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and your books? I love hearing from my readers! Comments, questions, concerns, or complaints – hit me up!

Contact info is:
e-mail: feliciatheauthor594@gmail.com
website: https://www.feliciawatsonwrites.com

Buy links:
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Where-No-One-Will-See-ebook/dp/B0BRYFJPNX
Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/where-no-one-will-see-felicia-watson/1142863199
Bookshop.org: https://bookshop.org/p/books/where-no-one-will-see-felicia-watson/19574693
Apple: https://books.apple.com/us/book/where-no-one-will-see/id6445343642



  1. carol willis

    I am encouraged that you write across genres. I’ve also written everything from psychological thriller, mystery, and romance, to sci-fi and everything in between. And I agree with you: There are so many stories to tell! Thank you for sharing.

    • Felicia Watson

      That’s great to hear, Carol. I think there are a lot more of us multi-genre authors than people realize. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  2. Felicia Watson


    Many thanks for featuring me on your blog!


  3. Felicia Watson

    Thanks, Michael – good to hear from a fellow plotter!

  4. Michael A. Black

    Your writing process sounds a lot like mine, Felicia. Congratulations on the new book and best of luck to you. I’ll keep an eye out for your stuff.


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THE MONA LISA SISTERS – Now Available on Audible

the mona lisa sistersThe Audible release of The Mona Lisa Sisters on October 9, 2023, marked my first foray into putting my work on audiobooks.

After listening to author Alec Peche talk about the number of books she has released as audiobooks, I reached out to Lois Winston for help understanding audiobooks. Lois took the mystery and fear out of ACX in about a half hour. I was able to begin the process.

After completing all of ACX’s questions—extremely easy— I uploaded my manuscript. When these tasks were complete, I began the search for a narrator. There was a simple choice among a mere 200,000 or so. What!

I found the project tool and narrowed the search to over one hundred.

Listening to maybe twenty narrators, I narrowed the search to six or seven. The three at the top of my wish list were all royalty-sharing listed artists. I listened again to all three and dropped one. I sent an offer to my top choice. Her response was, “I belong to SAGA/AFTA. I can’t work for less than $250.00 an hour.” I didn’t care for her response when I pointed out she was listed as available for royalty sharing. I hope she corrects that before another new author wastes time listening to her.

On to my second choice, Connie Elsberry, she accepted my offer. Connie was a dream to work with, responsive and always timely—a consummate professional. Her voice was perfect for my female protagonist. Connie captured the protagonist and the story as if it were her own. I especially appreciated how she was able to communicate and deliver the emotions where I envisioned them. Listening to her recordings, I had to wipe my eyes once or twice.

Will I do it again? You bet.

I created a new project for Robbers and Cops and have asked several narrators to audition.

The Mona Lisa Sisters at Audible is waiting for you.

1 Comment

  1. Michael A. Black

    Your fortitude in venturing into the realm of audio books is inspiring. Good luck with the new project.


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SARALYN RICHARD – The Captivating Charm of Detective Fiction

Galveston Author Saralyn Richard

Saralyn Richard is the author of award-winning mysteries that pull back the curtain on people in settings as diverse as elite country manor houses and disadvantaged urban high schools. An active member of International Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America, Saralyn teaches creative writing and literature.
Her favorite thing about being an author is connecting with readers like you.

Detective fiction, also known as police procedurals or crime fiction, began in the English-language literature in the mid-nineteenth century with Edgar Allan Poe’s C. Auguste Dupin, a brilliant thinker who used “rationcination” to solve crimes. (The word detective hadn’t been invented yet, but Dupin’s name has its roots in “duping” or “deception.”) The enormously popular Dupin was followed by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot.

All three of these fictional detectives became larger-than-life and inspired generations of mystery authors. Thus, a subgenre of mystery fiction was born and has grown into one of the most preferred types of novels today. I’ve enjoyed detective fiction since I was a young girl (Nancy Drew), so I’ve had plenty of opportunities to analyze what makes it so engaging.

1. First, we have the age-old concept of good vs. evil. The detective is the force for good, seeking truth, determined to restore order by bringing evildoers to justice. How can the reader help rooting for that kind of hero?
2. A well-written detective novel invites the reader to follow the clues to join in solving the intellectual and emotional puzzle of the mystery. This participatory involvement brings readers close to writers who have laid out the puzzle for them. Whether I’m able to figure out the puzzle before the big reveal at the end or not, I’m thoroughly in sync with the author as I read along.
3. Detective novels reaffirm certain principles of culture and life. They underscore that bad things happen; that sometimes people fall prey to sin, corruption, and inhumanity; but also that when injustices occur, there are those who will work hard to right the wrongs. Crime doesn’t pay.

Detective Oliver Parrott, the righter of wrongs in my Detective Parrott Mystery Series, (whose last name is a nod to Poirot), carries all the charm of a good guy up against extremely difficult odds. Young, African American, and raised by a single mother in an impoverished neighborhood, Parrott is an outsider in the opulent Brandywine Valley, where many of America’s wealthiest and most powerful live. Parrott’s intelligence, ambition, and strong moral compass give him the power to see beyond the glitz and secrecy and dare to challenge it.

Unlike Poirot and the traditional detectives, Parrott shares much of his life’s experience as he goes after criminals. His fiancée is doing a tour of duty in Afghanistan with the Navy. His cousin has recently been killed as an innocent bystander by police fire. Parrott’s struggles are woven into the mystery in a way that makes him authentic and relatable. In each of the three books in the series (and a fourth coming before year’s end), the reader comes to know Parrott in a deeper way—he becomes as close as a neighbor, a relative, a friend. Like many other readers, I can’t wait to go along on Parrott’s next adventure. How about you?

Follow Saralyn and subscribe to her monthly newsletter at http://saralynrichard.com.


  1. Gay Yellen

    I’m really looking forward to the next Parrot!

  2. Kathleen Kaska

    Great blog post, Saralyn, I love all the Parrott comparisons, especially Debra’s.

    • Saralyn Richard

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Kathleen. Your journey with Parrott is almost as long as mine!

  3. Michael A. Black

    It sounds like you’re well-versed in the history of the mystery, Saralyn. Good luck with your series.

    • Saralyn

      Thanks for the compliment and good wishes, Michael.

  4. Anne Louise Bannon

    There are also Wilkie Collins’ books The Woman in White and The Moonstone. I like your point about righting wrongs. That does make a mystery pay off.

    • Saralyn

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Anne. I need to read Collins’ books. I’ve meant to for a long time.

      • Sherrill Joseph

        Saralyn, you’ll enjoy Wilkie Collins. The Moonstone (1868) is considered the first full-length mystery novel! There are two competing detectives: Sgt. Cuff of Scotland Yard, and Franklin Blake, an amateur sleuth.

  5. Peg Brantley

    I’ve been watching Lupin, and am tempted to check out the books created by Maurice Leblanc beginning in 1905. Even though Lupin is certainly not a detective, I feel there might be some crossover characteristics. Very nice post. Thank you Saralyn and George!

    • Saralyn

      I like your thinking, Peg. We can learn so much from authors, characters, and books.

  6. Debra H. Goldstein

    In some ways your Detective Parrott makes me think of the Sidney Poitier role in In The Heat of the Night. Love your books

    • Saralyn

      Thanks for the comparison and the compliment, Debra. In some ways, Mr. Tibbs charted the course for detectives like Parrott, who are smart, morally grounded, and dedicated to finding truth and justice, no matter what.

  7. Saralyn Richard

    Many thanks to the incredible George Cramer for hosting me today. The vast community of mystery writers is made small and cozy by writers and readers like George and you. Thank you for reading, and I look forward to your comments.


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ELLA AHRENS – Becoming the Writer You Want to Be—at Any Age

Ella Ahrens writes from the Piedmont Region of the Southern Appalachians. She grew up on stories of hard times and harder decisions, including her grandparents “running shine” through the coal mines of Southeast Kansas. She is a trained court reporter turned professional copywriter, teaches GED Prep, and writes crime thrillers about ordinary people and deadly decisions. Her most recent publications include short stories for Writer’s Digest Online and Shotgun Honey.

What brought you to writing? Storytelling is a big part of my family heritage, but it never occurred to me to write fiction until much later in life. I was lucky enough to travel with my husband’s career for about ten years and became an expert at reinventing my own. But the one constant was that I was always writing something. An article, an online blog for a parenting magazine, you name it. So, I totally understand people with crazy and unconventional schedules. I finally realized I could write from anywhere. Along the way, I picked up writing classes and started writing sales copy for everyone, from Washington insiders making their own career moves to an inventor who revolutionized the solar panel industry. Add a couple of tattoo artists, an assisted living community, a non-profit or two, and several personal coaches—you get the picture.

One evening, my husband tossed me a copy of Writer’s Digest magazine and dared me to enter their fiction contest. I love working with my clients but was craving something more creative, so I took his dare. I wrote my first fiction piece and won. I still have a copy of the check framed over my desk to remind myself it’s okay to be a bit cheeky and aim for the big publications, even when you’re the new kid on the block.

Writing fiction became my guilty pleasure when I wasn’t writing sales copy. If I have any regrets at all, it’s that it took too long to write what I love. And here we are, with a new career twist when most people my age are checking their retirement funds.

Do you base any of your characters on real people? You bet! I’ve lived in eight states (a couple of them twice), and as the saying goes, I’ve seen a thing or two. People-watching is a writer’s superpower. We watch. We listen. And then we weave everything we absorb into a very sophisticated experience. It’s how writers, especially fiction writers, hit that pure note of realism readers crave. Sure, there’s an occasional neighbor who tempts me to immortalize them in some shady deal gone wrong, but so far, they’re all safe. So far. I live in an HOA, so there’s still time…

My secret to finding the perfect character is going out to breakfast with my husband. Stick with me here. I find a small local diner and order coffee. I promise, that if you can’t find a character before you hit the bottom of your cup, you need sleep.

Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I used to hate that question because someone always feels you don’t understand them. It’s a very either/or situation. When I write, I’m solidly in the gray, and nothing is what it seems. The same is true of my writing process. The Virgo in me wants a neat and tidy, formal, multi-tiered outline, complete with Roman numerals, and fully color coded. Notebooks of location scouting should also be included. It’s the control I need to assure myself I might be talented enough to pull this off. But the honest answer is that the best thing I’ve ever written was when I was up against a deadline and had a 102 fever. I just let it play in my head and took notes on the screen. See, nothing is as it seems.

I’m a recovering outliner. But I am in total awe of those who can pull it off.

Has an association membership helped you with your writing? When you’ve been writing for more than twenty years, it’s daunting to realize changing from commercial writing to fiction is essentially starting over. I was looking for a been-there-done-that story, and my search took me to Sisters in Crime. I joined, took a few classes, and realized I found my tribe. They led me to our local Sisters in Crime of Upstate South Carolina, and I have to say, the support from both is what keeps me at my desk. As I write this, no fewer than three have checked in to see how my writing day is going. They keep me challenged, encouraged, and most of all, loving the process. I’m also a member of the South Carolina Writers Association, and, after a long search, found the perfect critique group. They do exist!

Do you have any advice for new writers? It’s such a cliché to say the best advice is to write, but there it is. Let’s get a little vulnerable here. When you write, the inspiration you’re afraid you might not have on any given day shows up with a synchronistic flair; the energy flows and the skills improve. When you write, you chase away any doubt and silence the voice in your head that reminds you that real estate is still an option. And if you’re a writer choosing this as a second, third (or tenth) career—and I want to shout this part—don’t hesitate! You have experience to draw from. Give yourself permission to screw it up and do better the next day. Fall in love with the process because it’s intoxicating.

Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? Crime. Loads and loads of crime. I knew my genre was crime writing and thrillers from day one. My dad was an attorney and a judge; I am a trained court reporter. Most kids my age grew up watching Leave It to Beaver, but I grew up with private investigators reenacting potential crime scenes in my living room and watching The Rockford Files. I enjoy writing short fiction and have half a dozen pieces submitted because they challenge me. So, there’s a lot more of that in my future. If you can write a tight short story and take a reader on the same emotional ride, with the same attachment to the characters—and still feel the heat, you’ve done your job as a writer. What I didn’t realize was they provide a perfect place to audition characters and locations. So, my love of short fiction has me deep into writing my first novel, Good for the Game, coming in 2024. Which, by the way, began as a short story.

You can connect with Ella at her website, EllaAhrens.com, and follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Groups I belong to:
Sisters in Crime-National
Sisters in Crime of Upstate South Carolina-Treasurer/Website Committee
Sisters in Crime Grand Canyon Writers
Triangle Sisters in Crime
South Carolina Writers Association
Social Media:
Website: https://ellaahrens.com/
Instagram: @EllaAhrensAuthor https://www.instagram.com/ellaahrensauthor
Twitter/X: @EllaKAhrens https://wwwtwitter.com/ellakahrens
Facebook: EllaKAhrens https://www.facebook.com/ellakahrens
Facebook Groups:
Upstate SC Sisters in Crime https://www.facebook.com/groups/upstatescsistersincrime
Spirit of Ink https://www.facebook.com/groups/spiritofink
Short Mystery Fiction Society https://www.facebook.com/groups/608752359277585


  1. Ana Manwaring

    Ella, I’m inspired! Thanks for a delightful interview. I look forward to the launch!

    Ana Manwaring (SinCNorCal)

    • Ella

      Thank you, Ana! Have a great week.

  2. George Cramer

    When I travel, I’m like you with people watching. I carry a small notebook and make notes about people and their conversational tones and any odd behavior. Thanks to you I just put a new notebook in the pocket for around town. Thanks

    • Ella

      Only one? Just kidding. I’m a notebook junkie, too. If people watching is a writer’s super power, notebooks are our kryptonite. I think it would be fun to sit down with a bunch of writers and just pass around the notebooks for a quick peek into their worlds. Thanks George!

  3. Kathleen Donnelly

    I really enjoyed learning about your writing journey, Ella! I also love people watching at local coffee shops, etc. for character inspiration. 🙂

    • Ella

      Thank you, Kathleen. People are so wonderfully complex, aren’t they? And how different they can be from location to location! My favorite for crime is a diner, but imagine the difference if you went to an upscale farmers’ market, or a perfume counter at the mall. The possibilities are wildly endless. So much fun…

  4. Michael A. Black

    Wow, Ella, you sound like a writing dynamo. Just reading your interview got me charged up. Good luck with your novel and please don’t ever lose the enthusiasm you have.

    • Ella

      Thank you, Michael. Happy to know other writers are out there getting excited about their writing on a Monday. Please keep in touch and let me know how you keep the enthusiasm high at your desk.


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JAMIE ADAMS – Writing Cozies and Beyond

Jamie fell in love with books at an early age. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott opened her imagination and sparked a dream to be a writer. She wrote her first book as a school project in 6th grade. Living in the Ozarks with her husband, twin daughters, and a herd of cats, she spends most of her free time writing, reading, or learning more about the craft dear to her heart.


Homicide at High Noon – Money is missing from the gold mine, and Lily is a suspect! The company auditor is determined to prove her guilty, but turns up dead, making Lily a murder suspect. Will Lily find the missing money and the killer before they set their sights on her?

Do you write in more than one genre? Yes, I do, but not at the same time. This past year, I’ve been working on cozy mysteries, which are fun to write. I’ve self-published several historical romances. I grew up watching old westerns with my dad and have a passion for that era. There are several genres I enjoy reading, and I can’t help but want to try them as a writer. I’ve been working on a time travel story for several years, off and on. It has been so much fun to work on.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process? A year ago, I would have said plotting was the more challenging part of my writing process. But after having some help from my amazing publisher, I’ve learned to look forward to plotting before I write. My stories used to be very character-driven, but plotting has given the book more balance. Today, the most challenging part of the process is finding time to write.

What are you currently working on? I’m midway through the Ghost Town Mysteries series. It is a new genre for me, and I wrote all my other books in the third person. After reading several cozy mysteries, I discovered it’s almost a 50/50 split between telling the story in first person and third person. I’d always thought writing in the first person would be too difficult. But wanting to challenge myself, I tried it and found the story developed so much easier when written in first person.

What are you currently working on? As I write this, I’m working on book four of the series. Still untitled, the story continues with my main character, Lily, and her sisters living in a small town with a popular ghost town attraction. In Grady, California, everyone knows everyone. The tight community has a few skeletons in the closet, and one not so secret is a family feud, giving the book a Hatfield’s and the Mcoy’s kind of feel with a twist. The death of one participant reveals more family secrets, one of which puts a target on Lily’s back.

What kind of research do you do? Research is one of the best parts of writing a book. I love to read and learn new things, so while it’s necessary to do research, it can easily distract me from the primary goal. Digging deep to make the story authentic was entertaining for my historical romances. Cozy mystery writing has led me in different directions that have had me looking over my shoulder. I used the internet to gather most of the information I needed. For book number three of my current series, I had to research how to hire a hitman. One of these days, men in black wearing dark glasses may show up at my door.

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? So far, they have all been fictional. Sometimes, I use a familiar area like the woods around our house and our long gravel road when describing details, but the setting itself has always been fictional. I sketch a rough-looking map to keep buildings and locations in order.

I love to hear from my readers. You can learn more about me and my books at:

Book two of The Ghost Town Mysteries, Homicide at High Noon, is now available in digital and print: https://www.gemmahallidaypublishing.com/jamie-adams


  1. Michael A. Black

    It sounds like you have a very orderly and disciplined approach to writing which should ensure your success. Keep it up and best of luck to you.

    • Jamie Adams

      Thank you, Michael! I appreciate that.


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KATHLEEN DONNELLY – Leads Her Readers Through the Eyes of a Forest Service K-9 Handler

Award-winning author Kathleen Donnelly has been a handler for Sherlock Hounds Detection Canines—a Colorado-based narcotics K-9 company—since 2005. Her debut novel, Chasing Justice, won a Best Book Award from the American Book Fest and was a 2023 Silver Falchion finalist in the Suspense category and Readers’ Choice Award. She lives near the Colorado foothills with her husband and four-legged coworkers. Sign up for Kathleen’s newsletter to receive her free short story eBook collection, Working Tails.

Hello friends, and thank you, George, for having me as a guest today on your fabulous blog. This is my second visit here, and I’m excited about the release of Hunting The Truth, Book #2 in the National Forest K-9 series. Here’s a little more about my writing background and process.

Hunting The Truth Quick Summary: “Hide, Maya. Don’t let the bad people find you.” Those are the last words Forest Service law enforcement officer and K-9 handler Maya Thompson ever heard her mother say. Returning to the Colorado mountains, ex-soldier Maya is no longer a scared little girl. She’s here to investigate her mother’s cold case. After new DNA evidence surfaces, Maya and her K-9 partner, Juniper, track a suspect deep into the forest and directly into grave danger…

What brought you to writing? I have always loved reading and writing stories. My parents believed in reading to both my brother and me when we were kids. Listening to the stories was my favorite part of the day, and it wasn’t long before I was reading as many books as I could. I would often complain to my mom that I didn’t like how a book ended or I didn’t like something that happened in the story. She would tell me to write my own story and come up with a different ending or create a new character. I was also one of those kids who would wake up in the middle of the night and couldn’t go back to sleep. I would wake up my parents and tell them I was bored.

Looking back, my poor parents! I’m sure they never thought they’d get any sleep. My mom once again told me to lie in bed and make up stories. So, I did. Over time, I started to write them down. The dream of being a mystery writer came when I first read Mary Higgins Clark in high school. Here was a female author who wrote stories I couldn’t put down. I wanted to do the same thing.

I didn’t start writing fiction until I was an adult. I wrote my first full novel when I was about 30. I was hooked, and I haven’t stopped writing since. I now have three books written in the National Forest K-9 series. The first two are published, and the third book, Killer Secrets, will be out on March 26, 2024. I have many more ideas for more books in the National Forest K-9 series and a new series as well.

Do you have any advice for new writers? I would tell new writers to stay true to themselves. What I mean by that is write what you love. Write what is you. Don’t worry about trends or if someone tells you something isn’t going to work. Learn your craft, but stay true to yourself.

Go to conferences to network, take classes from other authors, and study the business if you want to publish. I would encourage new writers to learn about different paths to publication. There’s no right or wrong way.

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? My books are set in a fictional national forest, and most mountain towns are fictional. I did include the real town of Fort Collins, CO, in Hunting The Truth. My decisions were based on two of my favorite authors—Craig Johnson and William Kent Krueger. Before I started writing the National Forest K-9 series, I was lucky enough to ask both about their decision regarding fictional versus real locations. They both had similar answers.

When you have a fictional town and forest, you don’t have to worry about landmarks, rivers, lakes, etc. being in an exact location. You have more fictional liberty. But adding a real town can give the reader a sense of location if they look up the city on a map.

From there, I created the fictional Pino Grande National Forest and envisioned it in the area of the Roosevelt and Arapaho National Forests. In Hunting The Truth, I have Maya drive from the fictional town of Pinecone Junction to the real town of Fort Collins. I grew up in the Fort Collins area, so it was fun to include that location in my book.

What kind of research do you do? I love doing research and learning more about the jobs and settings I portray in the National Forest K-9 series. My research has included taking the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office citizens academy, talking to other K-9 handlers and trainers, and riding with a mountain deputy. I was also lucky enough to connect with a U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officer and K-9 handler. His knowledge has been invaluable, and I really appreciate how willing he is to answer questions.

About ten years ago, a new neighbor moved in next door to us, and I found out he was a retired Chief of Police. I asked him if I could ask some questions, and he was open to answering anything I wanted to know. His knowledge has been helpful.

A recent law enforcement expert I’ve connected with is Patrick O’Donnell, who has the Cops and Writers podcast. His Facebook group and Patrick himself have been fantastic with sharing law enforcement knowledge.

For my mountain setting, I’ve learned a ton about the mountains, which was my goal as I wanted the setting to be a character in my novels. My dad worked for the Forest Service as a researcher and is deeply knowledgeable about the forests in our area. I feel fortunate to have so many great resources so that I can make my book as realistic as possible.

How do you raise the stakes for your protagonist—for the antagonist? I’ve taken classes from best-selling author Grant Blackwood. He was the one who really helped me figure this out. Grant called, raising the stakes, “dialing up.” Basically, this is asking ourselves, how can we make things worse for our characters? This includes both the protagonist and antagonist, and if you can play those character motivations off each other and make it personal, even better.

For example, in Hunting The Truth, Maya solves the murders of a friend, her mother, and her grandmother. In real life, that’s (hopefully) never going to happen. This was my way of “dialing up” the story and making it personal for Maya, giving her even more motivation.

Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I’m excited to have Hunting The Truth out now and a third book in the National Forest K-9 series, Killer Secrets, coming out in March 2024. I also have some new series ideas that will include K-9s and my other passion—horses.

Website: www.kathleendonnelly.com
Newsletter Sign-up: https://kathleendonnelly.com/#newsletter

Social Media:

Where to Purchase Hunting The Truth


  1. Violet Moore

    Kathleen, I’ve read Hunting the Truth. It certainly was a book that made “dialing up” a priority.

    • Kathleen Donnelly

      Hi Violet! Thanks so much for reading Hunting The Truth. I’m thrilled that you enjoyed the book and the “dialing up.” Have a great day! 🙂

  2. Paty Jager

    I’m pleased to meet you, Kathleen. Now I have to go get one of your books. I also write books set in a wilderness, only my character is a Fish and Wildlife State Trooper. I look forward to reading your series.

    • Kathleen Donnelly

      Hi Paty! It’s great to meet you too. Your books sound fantastic. Our local game wardens have quite an interesting job. I looked at your website and you have so many great sounding books! Thanks for stopping by and reading my guest post. 🙂

  3. Marie Sutro

    Love that your mom encouraged you to write your own endings!!

    • Kathleen Donnelly

      Hi Marie! My mom was my biggest cheerleader and always encouraged my writing. I’m so grateful she did. 🙂

  4. Marilyn Meredith

    Great interview! I loved all your writing advice. The books sound great.

    • Kathleen Donnelly

      Hi Marilyn! Thanks so much for stopping by and reading my guest post. I’m so glad you loved the writing advice. 🙂

  5. Michael A. Black

    Doggonit, Kathleen, your stories made me laugh. It sounds like you’ve learned a lot and put it all together to write your series Best of luck to you and Maya.

    • Kathleen Donnelly

      Hi Michael, Doggonit, I love it! 🙂 Thanks so much for stopping by today.

  6. Margaret Mizushima

    Great interview Kathleen and George! I love your series, Kathleen, and loved reading Hunting the Truth! I look forward to your next book?

    • Kathleen Donnelly

      Thanks so much, Margaret! I love your Timber Creek K-9 series too and can’t wait for your next book to come out. Thanks for visiting today. 🙂


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PATRICIA CRANDALL – Award-Winning Author

Patricia Crandall is the author of ten books and a 2023 winner of the Besties of the Capital Region Awards, Author Category. Her latest book, Murder, Mayhem and Ghost Stories, is a series of short stories the author has successfully published in various magazines and newspapers over the years. The third edition of her book, The Dog Men, was also released in the spring of 2023. Patricia is a member of Sisters in Crime (Mavens) and the National Association of Independent Editors and Writers. She lives with her husband, Art, and a rescue cat, Bette, at Babcock Lake in Grafton Mountains near Petersburgh, New York. She has two children and three grandchildren who live nearby.  www.PatriciaCrandall.com

September 5, 2023, Murder, Mayhem and Ghost Stories, by Patricia Crandall, was published by The Troy Book Makers is available at Independent Bookstores and on Amazon.com.


“Mystery stories are meant to thrill and entice you, the reader, while engaging your thought process to see if you can figure out who has committed the evil deed. I invite you to such a challenge, one I’m sure is worthy of your ability and interest, to solve the crimes before the end of the various stories. Murder, Mayhem and Ghost Stories is a series of short and very short stories about murder, mayhem and ghostly happenings that I have successfully written and published over the years. Most were for a particular magazine requiring a specific number of words, e.g., 100 to 2000 words. The book is divided into categories, and there is one very special story written by my Granddaughter, Nicole St. Onge, No Guts, No Gory, which will satisfy your mysterious needs.

Writing and publishing these stories have been my enthusiastic path to writing many full-length books. So, take the leap into these pages and enjoy a good read.” P. Crandall

Heidi Morrell, Windsor Products, Los Angeles, CA: Patricia’s writing is thrilling and exceptional.

Lee Pigeon, Passages, Counselling Services: Patricia Crandall is a seasoned writer. A perfect Saturday Eve is a breezy warm night while entering a whole other world in one of Patricia Crandall’s richly written stories.

Judith Luci Writes: Love her books!

Where can we buy your books?



Contact Author Representative: MarciagRosen@gmail.com


  1. Patricia Crandall

    Thank you Michael for your kind words. They are appreciated.

  2. Michael A. Black

    Congratulations on the new book, Patricia. Short story collections are an excellent way to introduce your writing to new readers. I’ll have to check out Murder, Mayhem, and Ghost Stories. Good luck


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