Victoria Kazazian writes the Silicon Valley Murder series. She is at work on a cozy series debuting this fall, The Laughing Loaf Bakery Mysteries, which takes place in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Victoria’s recent release is Across the Red Sky, Book 2 in Silicon Valley Murder.
When CEO and eco philanthropist Rosalind Mabrey is murdered on a local running trail, the chief suspects are Mabrey’s three company co-founders. Since launching the company as a startup with Rosalind twenty years ago, each of the other founders has a reason for wanting to see her dead. Monte Verde police detective Dani Grasso, a runner herself, takes on the case alongside her mentor, Detective Jimmy Ruiz.
This book follows my debut mystery last year, Swift Horses Racing. The characters in that book came to life and started doing things of their own accord—both good and bad—and they demanded that I keep writing about them. George, I liked your question about whether my protagonist ever disappointed me–yes! One of mine made a huge mistake in my first book, and it was heartbreaking, but it made for a better story. His character arc will continue to play itself out in book 3 of this series, which is due out this summer.
On her first murder case, rookie Detective Dani Ruiz literally steps up her game in Across the Red Sky. She’s an avid video gamer who processes cases while playing video games after hours. She’s also grieving the loss of her tight-knit family, who have disowned her for choosing detective work over a job in her Italian grandfather’s grocery store chain.
What brought you to writing? As soon as I learned to read, I was writing. When I was a kid, I’d read a book, then get out a tablet of paper and write my own. Over the years, I wrote fiction secretly while working for tech companies in Silicon Valley as a technical writer, advertising copywriter, then marketing project manager. When I wrote user manuals for a software company, I created characters to use in the examples and developed a narrative through the manuals.
After having kids, I left the tech industry and became a high school English teacher. Teaching literature was one of the best things I could do for my writing. I learned what made a good story. I learned to love a variety of voices and to see the craft of writing in a new way. I also learned to use commas correctly!
How long did it take to write your first book? It took me two years to write my first (unpublished) mystery. Many authors have that starter novel in a drawer somewhere, the one in which they learn structure and work out the bugs in their writing. I learned a lot while writing that first one, but I don’t think it’ll ever leave the drawer. I finished Swift Horses Racing (my first published novel) within a year, then Across the Red Sky took me about four months from start to finish. I learned that I’m a “plantser” when it comes to writing—a “pantser” who plans. I dive in, and the story seems to write itself until I’m about three-quarters of the way through the book. Then I screech to a halt and outline the rest. I need a road map. Sometimes I come up with two different outlines for how the story could end.
Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? My setting in this series is Silicon Valley—the south San Francisco Bay Area and peninsula. I’ve created a fictional town on the west side of the valley called Monte Verde. It made me happy that one of my local writing friends thought it was a real town and tried to look it up on a map.
My books don’t go into technology at all; it’s the people in the valley that interest me. I am not much of a techie, but I’m surrounded by them (My husband is a software engineer.) They give me lots of material to write about. It’s a valley full of smart, talented, and very quirky people. Some with too much money and some who don’t have enough money to live on because they’re not working in tech. And there are women fighting to be recognized in the male-dominated tech industry, like my murder victim in Across the Red Sky.
The stakes are high in Silicon Valley for almost everyone. It makes a great setting for a mystery.
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I’m continuing my Ruiz-Grasso Silicon Valley Murder series with book 3, A Tree of Poison. The book starts with a home invasion gone wrong in the upscale town of Monte Verde. At the same time, I’m working on a culinary cozy mystery series set in the Santa Cruz Mountains – about a woman who turns in her husband for selling tech secrets and is relocated to a small town under the federal witness protection program. She starts a bakery and is determined to keep a low profile–until the body of a male underwear model turns up on her doorstep. It’s lighthearted, and I’m having so much fun writing it.
Do you have any advice for new writers? Write every day. Take your computer or notepad with you while waiting for your kid to finish soccer practice. Write instead of surfing the net on your phone (preaching to myself here). Write while dinner’s cooking. Write on your lunch break at work. It’s amazing how much you can get done in short bursts. Don’t edit what you’ve written till you’re done writing. Keep reading. Read really good books because that’s the best inspiration for writing one of your own.
Join a writing group or organization. Sisters in Crime has been a big help to me, with lots of resources and very encouraging members. I would not have gotten published as soon as I did without their help.
For more info on my books, go to my website: https://victoriakazarian.com/
Amazon Author Central page https://tinyurl.com/5y7uje6s
The last post here was a fictional account of a soldier returning from the Vietnam War. This post is a letter written by a Vietnam War Veteran. I have not changed a single word.
While going through my diary I ran across a letter I wrote shortly after returning from Vietnam and thought it might be of interest to some who would take the time to read it or not. Let me know what you think.
I am a Marine and from the day I entered boot camp in 1964 I was taught that Marines are fearless. From the moment I landed in Danang Vietnam in October of 1967 I feared for my life. Can I put a date on incidents that increased that fear no not really. The memories of my thirteen months in Vietnam are locked away in my mind. On occasion when I am asked to remember those days I do so with reluctance.
My first thought of dying was probably in November of 1967 when the sirens went off and I heard the screaming sound of rockets overhead and the explosions of 120mm rockets as they impacted on the flight line. I grabbed my rifle and helmet and ran for the bunkers on the flight line in the revetments. I didn’t think it was possible for anyone to run that fast. With my fellow Marines we dashed the hundred yards to the bunkers as rockets landed all around us. When the rockets struck the shrapnel flew around us, it was pieces of fiery gold metal, and somehow we ran faster. On one occasion a rocket struck an aircraft ahead of me and the explosion knocked me back. I dodged to the right and angled to the bunker away from the exploding A-6.
These attacks occurred on an irregular basis throughout my tour.
On one occasion when I ran for my position at the bunker at the entrance to our hangars a rocket struck the aviation fuel tank 29 yards from the command bunker and the tank exploded and burned all night long. The sides of the tank seemed to melt as the tank collapsed. I remember seeing a man on a bicycle pedaling by as if the devil himself was chasing him. We laughed at the time but I thought afterwards how I emphasized with the man and felt his fear.
On a weekly basis I would travel to the Air Force’s side of Danang’s airfield and I saw the open sided sheds that were 15’ high and filled with shiny aluminum caskets. They were the dead waiting to be transported back home. That sight still haunts me as I think of the 50,000 men killed in a futile war.
I remember hearing that a truce was declared between the North Vietnamese and the US only no one told the Viet Cong. They kept on attacking. In January of 1968 during Vietnam’s Tet or New Years the Viet Cong began a massive assault on South Vietnam. We heard they had overrun Hue and several other Marine bases. Our turn came shortly after. The rocket attacks intensified, on one occasion the rockets struck all around as we were in the chow hall. I dropped my utensils and ran for the nearest bunker. I tripped on the wooden sidewalks leading to the bunker, falling face down and splitting my lip when my teeth smashed through my lip. My partners scooped me up and carried me to the bunker and later to the medical center where the Corpsman stitched my lip . I remember him saying “Your mouth is dirtier than your asshole!” When he saw the startled look on my face he said there were more germs on my lips than on my anus
My friends joked that I should get Purple Heart for being injured during combat. I thought of all the Marines out in the jungles being wounded and killed by bullets and booby traps and thought my injury paled in comparison to their traumas.
One night during a rocket attack a missile struck the bomb dump at the end of the runway and blew down dozens of our tin roof screen sided huts. There was a mushroom cloud rising into the sky and I thought they had finally gone the final step and dropped an Atomic bomb on us and I would surely die a horrible death from the radiation. Shortly after they hit the Flare dump in the same area and I saw the most spectacular fireworks show I had ever seen. We were standing on the top of our bunker between our huts photographing the explosion dressed in our underwear, a flak jacket and helmet when the First Sergeant came up to us and told us to get our ass’s inside the bunker. Shrapnel was whizzing all about us piercing the side of our hut and the sandbags of our bunker. I still have pieces of shrapnel as a reminder of how close I came to being maimed or killed.
When the Viet Cong over ran the base we ran to our bunkers on top of the revetments and began shooting at the black pajama clad Viet Cong as they ran down the run way caring satchel bombs to throw under our aircraft. Suddenly bullets started striking the metal below our sand bags. We discovered it wasn’t the Viet Cong shooting at us, it was the Air force. I thought that it would be a hell of a thing to be killed by “friendly fire.”
Speaking of “friendly fire” shortly after Martin Luther King was killed back in the States a black soldier went berserk and began firing a M-79 grenade launcher into our living area scaring the hell out of me and every other Marine in the area. Fortunately he was captured before he could complete his revenge attack on the “white people” who had assassinated his hero. Was I scared, hell yes I was scared every day I was “in country.”
The last thirty days were the worst. Rumor had it that more men were killed in the month before they rotated back then any other day of their tour. The happiest day of my life was when the plane carrying me home lifted off the runway in December of 1968. When I flew over the San Francisco bay to land at the SF airport a lady commented on how muddy the water was and I said “yes it is but it’s my home and I’m so glad to be back here alive and not in a silver box!”
My first wife can testify to my lingering fears; when a siren would go off and I would jump out of bed and run for the door. She caught me and held me till the fear and shaking stopped. My second wife can tell you how movies about the war in Vietnam would ignite those old fears so bad that she wouldn’t allow me to watch those films.
I was in Country during the intense spraying of “Agent Orange” to defoliate the jungles to expose the trails and hiding spots of the Viet Cong. Did this cause the degenerative nerve disease Multiple Sclerosis? I don’t know and I don’t think my Neurologist Doctor Joanna Cooper can say for certain. The cause of MS is still unknown but the possibility is there.
I returned to the States in December of 1968 and was advised I would get an early out in December instead of May 1969. I was still credited with a full four years of service. I received a letter from Sgt Major at Treasure island advising me that Marine Corp in its infinite wisdom promoted me to Staff Sergeant, added a metal and then invited me to Treasure Island to accept the stripes and ribbon. I declined seeing an re-enlistment pitch coming.
David R. Evans USMC 2113468
David R. Evans-6580
USMC 1964-1968 Semper Fi
The Public Safety Writers Association, 2022 writing contest awarded “Coming Home” second place in flash fiction. The 302-word story chronicles the welcome a Vietnam Veteran received upon his arrival in San Francisco, California. The ending is open to the reader’s interpretation.
I’m still running. I’m running from something; I’m not sure what. It’s time to stop running.
It could have been the reception I received at the San Francisco Airport on that cold and foggy day. I had worn the uniform for what seemed an eternity. I took a cab into the city, but it had started before then. First, the baggage handler threw my duffle bag at me, and then the cabbie acted as though I was Typhoid Mary.
I’m confused. I only did what was expected of me. Why this?
Dropped at the Greyhound Bus Depot, I was treated as a pariah. People glowered at me, most backed away. One woman spat on me after saying something about babies, a killer. I had never imagined a woman could do something like that.
The bar was the same; one drink and I walked away. I found myself standing in front of a Harley-Davidson dealer. I went in—it was different. “Hi, welcome home, welcome to Dudley Perkins.”
The man treated me with dignity. Maybe that’s why I bought an Electra Glide in blue. I threw the uniform into a Dempsey dumpster. I didn’t go back for my duffle bag.
Now five days later, I’m in Utah, stopped alongside a lonely highway. Leaning against the motorcycle, I stare at a stark rock formation in a long-dead sea bed. The trees, those with foliage, display orange and yellow leaves that shift and drop as a cold wind passes through the lonely valley. I feel as cold and lonely as the scene in front of me as I prepare to say goodbye to a world that no longer cares.
Rhonda Blackhurst is a die-hard indie author and enjoys empowering and educating others in the process. She has ten published novels: The Inheritance, a Hallmark-style fiction stand-alone; seven in The Melanie Hogan Mysteries; and the Whispering Pines Romantic Suspense.
In her day job, she has worked in the law enforcement arena in the victim witness field and as a paralegal for the past 20+ years; she recently took an early retirement from the Adams County District Attorney’s Office.
In addition to being an author and indie author consultant, she is a certified life coach with a program called “Rise From Victim to Victor—How to Make What Happens to You, Work for You.” She enjoys running, biking, hiking, spending time at their Arizona house, and anything outdoors. She, her husband, and their very spoiled Fox Face Pomeranian reside in a suburb of Denver.
What brought you to writing? I began writing at an age when no one realized where it would take me—four years old, and unfortunately, it was with crayon on the knotty pine walls of our family home. I didn’t draw pictures. I actually wrote what I thought were words because I apparently had something to say. And it’s never stopped. I spent endless hours sitting on the dock by the lake we lived by or in our fishing boat, dreaming of worlds and words. I wrote a lot of poetry back then. In Jr/Sr High School, I saw the movie Absence of Malice with Sally Field and Paul Newman, and from there, I was determined to be a journalist in New York City. To start, I wrote a few articles for the city newspaper about school events. I got derailed a bit in college, and when my babies were little, I wrote two novels with pen and paper. I still have those manuscripts in boxes. After moving to Colorado, I began writing as a stringer for the local newspaper, but my heart was in fiction. After my last child left home, I began taking writing seriously, joined writers’ groups, and published my first novel in 2012.
What are you currently working on? This past April, I published the last book in a cozy mystery series, Shear Misfortune, in The Melanie Hogan Mysteries.
When a fitness center is a locale for both health and murder,
exercise enthusiasts must weigh their odds of the outcome.
I am writing the first draft of Inn the Spirit of Murder, book one in a new cozy mystery series, The Spirit Lake Mysteries, and having a ball with it. It stars Andie Rose Kaczmarek, the Spirit Lake Inn owner and a life coach, who has a feisty nun as a sidekick. It contains a bit of paranormal activity and all the colorful small-town characters. New ideas for books in the series keep popping up as I write—a writer’s dream! I’ve worked in the law enforcement arena in some capacity—mostly as a paralegal and in the victim witness field—for the past 20+ years. I was immersed in the darkness of the world where there are often no winners in the end. Writing cozy mysteries was my way of being able to leave that darkness in the evenings while I wrote and tied up the ending of the story with a pretty red bow. Cozies give me hope because the good guys win in the end, something I didn’t often see in my day job.
How do you come up with your character names? Naming my protagonist and antagonist is perhaps the most indecisive part of my writing. But when I finally decide on a name, it solidly clicks. In the Abby series (The Whispering Pines Mysteries), the name Abby brings to mind both vulnerability and strength. I have no foundation to hang that on, but it’s such a strong connection in my mind that it’s become a fact. Her ex-husband’s villain in that series makes it his mission to track her down, so he is appropriately named Hunter. In the Melanie Hogan mysteries, I chose the last name of Hogan because one of the most famous governors of Minnesota was Hulk Hogan (Jesse Ventura), and it just seemed to fit. The protagonist in my new series, Andie Rose Kaczmarek, I struggled with the most. I think I changed the first name several times and went back to the first name I chose. And at this point, even if I wanted to, there’s no going back because she’s a character in the last book of the Melanie Hogan Mysteries, which is already published. However, her last name solidly clicked because Kaczmarek is Polish for “Innkeeper.”
Has an association membership helped you with your writing? A resounding Yes! I think writers’ groups are essential to an author. Just being in the same room as a bunch of creatives is energizing. And learning from one another is such a huge benefit. Writers are one of the most giving, helpful groups of people I’ve known. I’ve met so many who are willing to share what they know and help in any way they can. The first writing group I belonged to was Northern Colorado Writers, and theirs was the first conference I attended. They hold a special place in my heart. I’ve added Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and Sisters in Crime. I’m currently President of Sisters in Crime—Colorado Chapter. I strongly encourage writers, no matter where they are on their writing journey, to get involved in whichever groups they belong to, as well as conferences. Volunteering is the best way to get full advantage of the experience.
Do you have any advice for new writers? There is only one solid rule—write! You will never be a writer if you don’t eventually stop thinking about it and write. And don’t let anyone “should” on you. Your path is uniquely yours. For every person who says you must do it one way, there’s another who will disagree. Your path is your path. Have fun with it!
“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” ― Louis L’Amour
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In her youth, Kassandra Lamb had two great passions—psychology and writing. Advised that writers need day jobs and being partial to eating, she studied psychology. Now retired from a career as a psychotherapist and college professor, she spends most of her time in an alternate universe populated by her fictional characters. The portal to this universe (aka her computer) is located in Florida, where her husband and dog catch occasional glimpses of her.
Service dog trainer Marcia Banks tackles a locked room mystery in a haunted house. She has trained a dog to clear rooms for an agoraphobic Marine who was ambushed during combat. But the phantom attackers in his mind become the least of his troubles when Marcia finds his ex-wife’s corpse in his bedroom, with the door bolted from the inside.
All my books are mysteries, but I like variety, so I tend to explore different subgenres. I have one completed series of traditional mysteries, one series of cozy mysteries that is winding down, and I have started a new series of police procedurals. I’ve also written some romantic suspense stories under the pen name of Jessica Dale.
We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave, or do they run the show? Some behave, but many do not. My main characters tend to behave most of the time. An exception was the main character of my cozies, Marcia Banks (pronounced Mar-see-a, not Marsha). I originally gave her a few neuroses, so she’d have some things to overcome during the course of the series. The main one was a longing to “be normal,” as she had been teased as a kid over her name and because she was a pastor’s kid. Plus, she’s licking her wounds after a short but disastrous marriage. But then she decided to throw a strong resistance to commitment into the mix, which drove her love interest a bit crazy for a very long time.
Minor characters often assert themselves and insist on bigger parts in the stories. I had two minor characters do this in my Kate Huntington series. One, Skip Canfield, wooed his way both into Kate’s heart and into a main character role.
Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? I use some of both. If I’m only going to have good things happen in a location, I’ll probably use a real place. The last two of my series are set in Florida, where I live now. Locals get a kick out of seeing a location name and being able to say, “I know where that is,” or “I’ve been there.”
But if I’m going to have negative things happen, such as corrupt cops, I make up a location. I’ve added three fictitious counties and a fictional city to the Florida map, so far.
What is the best book you ever read? Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine, by Bebe Moore Campbell. It is set in the 1960s and 70s when I was a teen and young adult, and it addresses race relations in a very human way.
Ms. Campbell captured the thoughts, feelings, and internal conflicts of all of her characters, including the extremely bigoted white males! She handled the multiple points of view so well that I was inspired to try that approach in my Kate Huntington series. (I’ve since switched to one point of view, usually first person, in most of my stories.)
What are you working on now? I’ve started a series of police procedurals, and I’m really enjoying that new challenge. The protagonist was a secondary character in my Kate Huntington series, a homicide lieutenant who becomes increasingly frustrated with big-city politics (the Kate series is set in the Baltimore area) and with riding a desk instead of being out on the street. Judith Anderson takes a job as Chief of Police of a small city in Florida, figuring if she’s in charge, she can be more hands-on. In Book 1, Lethal Assumptions, she’s only eight days on the job when she finds herself chasing a serial killer.
I’m currently writing the first draft of Book 2, Fatal Escape, which deals with human trafficking and domestic abuse. But since I’m used to writing cozies (which are supposed to be “clean”), I’m trying to keep the gore and swearing to a minimum. I don’t want to offend my loyal readers.
Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? I usually do, especially in a full-length novel. Often the subplot is about the main character’s love life. My favorite kind of subplot, though, is one that ends up tying into the main plot at the end of the story.
In Fatal Escape, Judith’s love interest is the sheriff of the next county over. She calls him Sheriff Sam inside her head. She already has a drowning case on her plate—that could be a suicide or murder—when she gets a call from Sam to come to a murder scene on the boundary line between their two jurisdictions. They have a funny little back-and-forth in which each is trying to give the case to the other one.
Sam finally takes the case since Judith’s already got her hands full. But later, it turns out that the two cases are linked. I won’t say more for fear of spoilers, but I can hardly wait to write the chapter in which they make the connection. Every time I think about it, I want to rub my hands together and laugh diabolically.
Landing Page link https://misteriopress.com/bookstore/to-bark-or-not-to-bark-a-marcia-banks-and-buddy-mystery/
BOOKBUB PROFILE: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/kassandra-lamb
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Steve Rush is an award-winning author who won joint first prize in the 2020 Chillzee KiMo T-E-N Contest and was a finalist in the 2020 Page Turner Awards.
His experience includes tenure as a homicide detective and chief forensic investigator for a national consulting firm. He was once hailed as “The best forensic investigator in the United States” by the late Joseph L. Burton, M.D, under whom he mastered his skills and investigated many deaths alongside Dr. Jan Garavaglia of Dr. G: Medical Examiner fame. Steve has investigated 900+ death scenes and taught classes related to death investigation. His specialties include injury causation, blood spatter analysis, occupant kinematics, and recovery of human skeletal remains.
Do you write in more than one genre? In addition to my latest release, Kill Your Characters: Crime Scene tips for Writers, I write suspense/ thrillers and have three nonfiction books in the Christian market.
What brought you to writing? I began writing after reading multiple novels and watching the masters unfold stories page after page. A homeless man’s murder prompted me to write my first novel (Façade, written pseudonym Shane Kinsey) after I identified the deceased by skin removed from his thumb. (In the novel, a killer uses skin from a dead man’s thumb to leave a bloody thumbprint at his murder scenes.) Wings E-press was accepted and published in 2010. I was hooked.
Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? I write at home ninety-nine percent of the time. I shut off my surroundings and become a spectator in my characters’ world. The other percent is in a hotel/condo while on vacation or a weekend getaway. I get involved to the extent I have no clue of anything happening around me.
Tell us about your writing process: I am a pantser. I tried to outline and found myself deviating from my notes more and more. I have an idea of story and denouement and write as the story unfolds in my thoughts. I like to ask “What if?” and go from there.
What are you currently working on? I am writing about a high-school senior who lost his parents in a fire-bombing.
Who’s your favorite author? Dean Koontz
How long did it take you to write your first book? Several years writing while working a full-time job that required travel across the U.S.
Do you ever kill a popular character? If so, what happens to your story? My latest book is all about killing characters, so, yes, I kill characters when necessary to advance the story and keep the others honest.
What authors did you dislike at first but grew to enjoy? Stephen King. The first novel of his I read left me wondering if he is a writer I should continue to read. I read The Green Mile and others and believe King is in the top five of the best-writer list.
Do you base any of your characters on real people? No.
Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? Both.
Do you have any advice for new writers? I will elaborate below. Add suspense. Increase tension. Write what you know.
Writers and editors differ in opinion when it comes to book-length fiction. They suggest we turn off our self-editor and get words on the page. Edit the work after we have a first draft. While the advice works well in most cases, some authors prefer to edit along the way. One author reviews and edits the writing done in a previous session. Another author edits while writing. (Both are New York Times best-selling authors.)
Some authors are outliners; others are pantsers. I am a pantser. I find editing along the way works best for me.
Whatever method you choose, the most crucial aspects to remember when writing inciting incidents, especially crime scenes, are authenticity and credibility. This is where more-than-a-few writers see a stop sign. How can we write what we know if we don’t know it?
Facts support our efforts. I learned this from the cases I investigated as a homicide detective and forensic investigator. They prompted me to write, Kill Your Characters—Crime Scene Tips for Writers.
Facts paint images we want readers to see as if everything happens in their presence. We show readers how to kill. We show how to collect evidence, how to investigate deaths, and how to put together a case for prosecution. Each endeavor must embrace appropriate facts.
Elements of story direct readers where we want them to go until a twist of facts proves otherwise. This includes misdirection. Some facts inserted in the story alter the outcome. Details in fiction reflect real-world situations. Unbelievable instances in life frequently prove to be true, although many come as a surprise to us. When readers see events as too easy and convenient, skepticism turns focus away from our story.
The next step begins when the protagonist arrives and examines the scene. Choices rest on their training from that time forward. The difference between a protagonist’s competence and incompetence depends on their level of expertise. That expertise, or the lack thereof, comes from the facts we give them.
As writers, we share ideas visualized in our minds. We invite our audience to see our inciting incidents. We reveal bits and pieces of the story, one scene after another. We perform our job well when we grab their attention and keep them reading.
True-to-life facts support and give credibility to our stories. What better way to intrigue our readers?
Kill Your Characters—Crime Scene Tips for Writers
There’s a dead body on the floor, and your detective character has to learn every detail about the crime in order to solve the case and bring the murderer to justice. If you’re not an experienced forensic investigator, how can you describe the manner of death accurately so that the evidence means what you want it to mean?
Kill Your Characters by former detective and forensic investigator Steve Rush gives you the tools you need to pass the inspection of all the armchair detectives (and more than a few real ones) out there. Discover your ultimate empowerment source for writing the page-turning inciting incident you have always wanted to write. Become a master and save hours of research effort searching elsewhere for accurate information.
This book will help you answer: How did your character die? What were the circumstances of the murder? What weapon did the killer use? What evidence was left behind? How can you build a rock-solid case against the suspect?
Kill Your Characters will help you answer these questions and more with facts to back up your fiction. When plotting the next murder scene for your story, you may run into obstacles such as how the detectives determine the time of death or the forensic evidence left by a gunshot wound. Steve Rush’s extensive experience is accumulated in a series of writing tips that will significantly improve your story. Kill Your Characters is for any author looking to elevate their murder scenes with credible and authentic details.
Order your copy here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1947521780
Public Safety Writers Association members can submit their work to an annual contest. The winners are revealed at the annual conference. This year’s winners were announced on July 17, 2022. I was delighted to learn that the poem I had submitted, “Sand Creek,” was awarded second place.
The First People trusted you
to protect, and
to feed our people.
You betrayed The People.
You stole the food the Great White Father sent
to nourish The People,
our children, our future.
You betrayed The People.
Instead, you raped our women
beheaded our children.
You failed the Great White Father.
You betrayed The People.
Your soldiers murdered The People.
You murdered The People.
You failed the Great White Father.
You betrayed The People.
We died for your sins,
When you murdered the people.
You failed the Great White Father.
You betrayed The People.
To learn more about the Public Safety Writers Association, visit https://policewriter.com
Lynn was the company Historian for Levi Strauss & Co. in San Francisco for 25 years. Her biography of the company’s founder, Levi Strauss: The Man Who Gave Blue Jeans to the World, won the Foreword Reviews silver INDIE award.
Her latest book, American Dude Ranch: A Touch of the Cowboy and the Thrill of the West, is a cultural history of the dude ranch, America’s original vacation. The book has been reviewed in The Wall Street Journal, True West, and Denver Post.
Her first work of fiction, Dudes Rush In, is a historical novel set on an Arizona dude ranch in the 1950s. The book won a Will Rogers Medallion Award and placed first in Arizona Historical Fiction at the New Mexico-Arizona book awards.
Lynn got obsessed with the dude ranch when she worked for Levi’s She has amassed a large collection of traditional and unusual ranching memorabilia. She works as a consulting archivist and historian when she’s not writing. Her clients include the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, California; Beaulieu Vineyard in Rutherford, California; the Desert Caballeros Western Museum in Wickenburg, Arizona; and the Chemehuevi Indian Tribe in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. She lives in Sonoma County, California.
American Dude Ranch: A Touch of the Cowboy and the Thrill of the West, was published March 2022. “Dude ranches are more interesting than City Slickers would have you believe. They’ve influenced American culture for 140 years, from food to film to gender relations.”
Lynn’s other published works include:
- Arequipa Sanatorium: Life in California’s Lung Resort for Women, 2019. Winner of the WILLA award for Scholarly Nonfiction from Women Writing the West.
- Arizona’s Vulture Mine and Vulture City, 2019. Finalist for the New Mexico-Arizona book award.
- A Short History of Sonoma, 2013.
Lynn Shares Her Story: I’ve been writing since I was a kid, but I didn’t get paid for it until 1985 when I sold my first article to a historical journal. And until 2020, all of my published work was nonfiction about the history of the West. In that year, Pronghorn Press released my first novel, Dudes Rush In, which was a story that had been bouncing around in my head for nearly ten years.
I wanted to write a historical novel about a dude ranch (with a bit of mystery in the story), and one night the characters and plot started running through my head like someone turned on a movie projector. The ranch itself, called the H Double Bar, was based on a real dude ranch in one of my favorite places, Wickenburg, Arizona – once called the Dude Ranch Capital of the World. Yes, though I am a dudine (I don’t ride), I’ve stayed at dude ranches and loved every minute.
I worked on the novel sporadically for a few years, in between writing my other books. But in 2019, I made a commitment to finish the story, even though the process of writing fiction was so different from writing history. I wondered if I’d be able to do it, but the experience turned out to be some of the most fun I’ve ever had as a writer. I had a plan or outline for each chapter because that’s how I organize my nonfiction. My characters had other ideas, so I just took them where they wanted to go. I’ve always heard novelists talk about how little control they had over their stories, and now I know what they meant.
When I turned in the manuscript of Dudes Rush In to the publisher, I went right to work on my next history book, which came out in March of this year: American Dude Ranch: A Touch of the Cowboy and the Thrill of the West. Making the switch from fictional to real dude ranching wasn’t hard at all. I had been researching dude ranches since my time at Levi’s, and I decided that I wanted to look at their 140-year-history from a cultural standpoint. I’d found so many links between dude ranching and movies, food, clothing, the role of women, literature, and more. And that’s where all the best stories were.
Right now, I’m about halfway finished writing my second novel. It’s a sequel to Dudes Rush In, which will probably be called Dude or Die. Then I’ll put my history hat back on and will write the story of a young Boston writer and poet who joined a dangerous western expedition in 1871 and ended up dying in one of the West’s most infamous massacres.
Groups: I am the 2022 President-Elect of Women Writing the West and a member of Western Writers of America.
Today’s guest suffered a bout with Covid and couldn’t make it. So, I decided to share one of my flash fiction stories.
The award-winning poem Sand Creek will be posted on Thursday, August 4, 2022.
Coming Home will be posted on Thursday, August 18, 2022.
Fifty years ago, Agent Orange covered the young lieutenant from head to foot. Not yet known as a killer, his platoon cursed the mess left by the defoliant. Later, Peter laughed at their ghost-like photo images. Now in his seventies, he mused, I’m just another casualty of the Vietnam War. The doctors gave him six weeks.
I have one last shot at Joe. The best time, late afternoon.
Pete needed an experience he could savor. Only a mile to Joe’s, the old man took his time wandering through the forest of changing colors. He first came here on a spring day before he left for Vietnam. The trees had been shielded by leaves in brilliant shades of green—young and strong, much as he had been. The approaching winter turned the landscape into a strange rainbow of orange, yellow, red, and brown. Pete saw his cold and bleak future reflected in nature’s cycle of life, death, and rebirth.
Only I won’t be reborn.
He arrived early, perfect timing for an afternoon nap. Joe would be doing the same. A rock shelf provided enough warmth for Pete to enjoy a brief respite from the pain that came with the cancer.
Pete assembled his gear when he awoke.
Joe had been his elusive quarry for many years. Today might be the day.
Standing in the shallow current, Pete made his first cast. The fly dropped with a loud plop. This won’t do. Joe will never come up for something so clumsy.
Pete’s fourth cast drifted as if on a cloud. His hand-tied mayfly floated to the water’s surface. Joe struck—stronger than Pete ever imagined—much stronger.
Be careful. Work slowly. Joe can break the three-pound test. He has before.
With a skill honed over decades, Pete worked his quarry back and forth, ever closer. Until he slid his net under a still combative Joe, the fish everything Pete could have hoped for in a native Brown Trout—a real trophy—at least eight pounds.
With the compassion of a true sportsman, Pete removed the small barbless hook. He held Joe up to the sky, an offering to the gods. He knelt, and with tenderness bordering on love, Pete gently returned Joe to the swiftly moving water.
This is the best day of my life!
In a few months, it will have been fifty years since the end of the Vietnam War. American Warriors who survived the armed conflict are still dying from the effects of Agent Orange.
Terri Benson has published three novels and nearly a hundred articles and short stories. In addition to The Pickup Artist, her credits include November 2021—The Angel and The Demon, Book #1 of Lead Me Into Temptation, a historical romance; 2012—An Unsinkable Love, a historical romance set on the Titanic and in the New England Garment Manufacturing District. She works at a Business Incubator, and her hobbies include camping, jeeping, and dirt biking. More info at https://www.terribensonwriter.com/
The Pickup Artist, A Bad Carma Mystery, was released on April 1, 2022, from Literary Wanderlust. A female classic car restorer discovers her newest project comes complete with a serial killer who now has her in his headlights, and, by the way, she’s also the local LEOs #1 suspect.
I’m currently working on more Bad Carma Mysteries and Lead Me Into Temptation books.
Do you write in more than one genre: Yes, I write both mysteries and historical romance, but no matter what I’m writing, there is bound to be romance, mystery, and a little bit of history.
Tell us about your writing process: I’m a bit odd in that I come up with a title first. Then I figure out what scenario I can see working with that, then I write. Since both my series are fairly defined by the series titles, I know what kind of book I’ll be writing from the start.
Has an association membership helped you with your writing? Absolutely. I’ve belonged to Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers for more than a decade, and I fully credit the great friendships I’ve made there with dozens of amazing writers, agents, editors, and publishers—including the two who published my last two books (The Pickup Artist and The Angel and The Demon)—to those friendships. I had access to hundreds of workshops from RMFW and Pikes Peak Writers that helped me hone my craft, getting me to the point agents and editors would look at my work. I also found the publisher for An Unsinkable Love pre-RMFW via a contact in a critique group I belonged to. I can’t recommend “finding your tribe” enough for new and not so new writers. I’m also a member of Sisters in Crime.
How long did it take you to write your first book? My “first” book took 20 years, but I’ve never submitted it to anyone – eventually, I probably will. My first “published” book took four months to write, and since it was for an open call for books about the Titanic, it had a due date to submit. I remember meeting my best friend, who is my most critical beta reader, and her passing the manuscript from her car to mine in the dark at about 8:00 at night the day it was due to be submitted. If a cop had seen us, they’d have suspected a drug deal! I made edits and submitted it with less than 10 minutes to spare. It was published about a year later, in time for the 100th anniversary of the Titanic’s sinking.
How do you come up with character names? I drive through a cemetery every day to get to work and eat lunch there almost every day (it’s very pretty and quiet, with frequent visits by deer). I often wander around and write down names to use. And for Renni in the Bad Carma Mysteries, when I needed to have her full name be mentioned, I ended up with Renault Landaulette Delacroix because her father was a car-obsessed Frenchman.
We hear of strong-willed characters. Mine run wild and crazy! I’ve discovered some amazing things about my characters over the years, but only when they let me. And sometimes that plays havoc with the story! Do yours behave or run wild?
Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into your story? I always have subplots because my characters demand it. I also think it makes the story more real and in-depth if things are going on between characters that impact and enhance the main plot. It might be a romance with sub-characters or a situation with a car that causes problems to make Renni’s life more difficult, but also helps show her faults and foibles and/or that of other characters.
Do you base any of your characters on real people? My Ed Benson character is patterned off my brother-in-law, with his blessing. But he did go from being a middle-aged white guy to a billionaire inventor who is the spitting image of Morgan Freeman (again, with Ed’s blessing) because that’s what the character wanted.
What kind of research do you do? I do a ton of research. With Bad Carma, I need to have a selection of cars to restore and know what kinds of equipment I’d find and how they’d be used in a restoration shop. For my books, because they all have some historical plotlines, I do a lot of historical research to find out what was happening when the car was being made or the era the romance is set in. I like to know interesting facts that I can use (sparingly!) in the story to give my readers a little tidbit they won’t have known. My favorite tidbit in An Unsinkable Love was that the Titanic had floor tiles that were more expensive than marble – a new product called Linoleum!
Where do you place your settings – real or fictional locations? I generally have settings in the west, around the Four Corners area, because I know those places from spending my life living there or camping and traveling around there. But Unsinkable was set on the Titanic and in the New England garment manufacturing district, so I don’t feel obligated to use any particular place except what works for the story.
Why did you choose to have a female classic car restorer as your protagonist in the Bad Carma Mysteries? I’ve always loved old cars, especially those pre-1950, and think that perhaps if I had my life to do over, I might have been Renni! Then I could work on the cars instead of just going to as many car shows and auctions as I can and check out the intricate details on the older cars. My research has uncovered hundreds of potential vehicles to use in my stories, and I find more all the time. The Divco delivery van pictured is what Renni drives to shows and is based on one owned by a guy here in town who let me climb around it and lent me a book on the Divco history. Renni hitches it to a custom-made “Jim Dandy” teardrop trailer. I found the plans for the trailer online and was intrigued because it has an ahead-of-its-time swing away hitch, allowing the kitchen area to be at the front of the trailer rather than the rear like most do. The 1950’s era Mercedes Gullwing pictured is just an amazingly beautiful car and will be featured in a future Bad Carma.
Do you have any advice for new writers? Learn everything you can about craft. Join writer groups. Find a critique group. Don’t try to do this alone. It’s more fun, you will be a better writer faster, and you’ll make friends that understand the angst of writing.
Where can our readers learn more about you and where to buy your books?
My website: https://www.terribensonwriter.com/
My books are available at:
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-pickup-artist-terri-benson/1140930664?ean=9781956615029
As well as most book distributors.