Apr 20, 2023 | Mystery, Police Procedural / Crime |
D.P. Lyle is the Amazon #1 Bestselling; Macavity and Benjamin Franklin Award-winning; Edgar(2), Agatha, Anthony, Shamus, Scribe, and USA Today Best Book(2) Award-nominated author of 22 books, both fiction and non-fiction.
Dr. Lyle hosts the Crime Fiction Writer’s Blog and the Criminal Mischief: The Art and Science of Crime Fiction podcast series. He has worked with many novelists and with the writers of popular television shows such as Law & Order, CSI: Miami, Diagnosis Murder, Monk, Judging Amy, Peacemakers, Cold Case, House, Medium, Women’s Murder Club, 1-800-Missing, The Glades, and Pretty Little Liars.
Do you write in more than one genre? I write both fiction and non-fiction. In the latter category, I have three reference-type books on forensic science and three in my Q&A series, where I take story questions from writers and explain the needed science and show how it might be used in their story. I have two older thriller series (Dub Walker and Samantha Cody) and two active ones (Jake Longly and Cain/Harper). The Jake books are comedic but still deal with serious crimes filtered through Jake’s quirky brain. The Cain/Harper series is darker, and these stories are more true thrillers.
What brought you to writing? I grew up in the south where they won’t feed you if you can’t tell a story. Southern storytelling’s a great tradition that goes back centuries and has created many of the great names in literature. I grew up around people (family, friends, classmates) who could spin a yarn and I could do so myself. But writing a tale is a different animal. Twenty five years ago, I took a couple of writing classes at the University of California, Irvine, joined a pair of writing groups, and began writing. Took a while, and a lot of words, but finally it all worked out.
Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? I have a sound-proofed music studio/media room/office where I do most of my writing. Or I’m out in the pavilion we have off our kitchen. I don’t avoid distractions, I need them. If it’s quiet, my mind wanders so I always have the TV or music on. Helps me concentrate. I was the same in med school. I had to have music to study.
Tell us about your writing process: My first few books were outlined but the past dozen or so I avoided that. I simply have a few scenes in mind and start the story and see where it goes. I like that much better. More fun, and more creative, I think. I write the first draft fast and avoid any major editing during that process. I might clean up a few plot things along the way, but I wait for the second draft to begin any real editing. In other words, get the story on paper, then fix it. You can edit garbage but you can’t edit a blank page. All that said, I use Scrivener, which I love, so I usually know and make notes on the next few chapters/scenes while I’m writing—as they come to mind—but I don’t do a complete outline. Rather, planning the next few scenes as I go along is part of the writing process for me.
What is the most challenging part of your writing process? The first draft. The heavy lifting. I love the editing process. It’s where the story really takes shape and becomes publishable. After the first draft, you know all your characters, how they think, what they say, and what they do. So, when you begin the re-writes the characters come alive and the interactions among them are more realistic.
How long did it take you to write your first book? Two and a half years. Then another decade that included four changes of title, four changes of location, and a change in protagonist. And 27 re-writes. The only things that stayed the same were the bad guy and the basic story. I published other stuff along the way but finally after 10 years this story became STRESS FRACTURE, my first Dub Walker book.
Do your protagonists ever disappoint you? Not really. I like my main characters even with all their flaws and quirks. Sometimes they do stupid things, at least things I wouldn’t do, but that’s part of who they are. My series characters are “set in their ways” to some extent but the other characters in a given story are fair game for creating interesting folks. I love minor characters as they can be so much fun to write and add to any story. A great example is the movie NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. The minor characters here are amazing and add so much depth and flavor to the tale.
Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? Sure. I think virtually all stories do. The key, I think, is that the subplots should support and not distract from the main story. They add depth and texture, but should not take over the story or, conversely, seem to be simply tacked on. Subplots can help a story in many ways, including revealing character, creating complications and stress for the protagonist (or villain), as well as adding backstory, mood, and richness to the story.
Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? Both. I prefer to create small towns and more rural locations that are completely made up. Other times I create made up places in real settings. Maybe an office building, a bar/restaurant, a house or neighborhood, whatever, and place it in a real location. Map apps come in handy here. My Dub Walker series is set in around my hometown, Huntsville Alabama. In these stories, I use many real places but I also make up toters. Some of the made up ones are actually real places that I have altered in some way.
What is the best book you have ever read? That’s a tough one. Several that always stuck in my mind are Verne’s JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH, Hemingway’s THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA, Steinbeck’s IN DUBIOUS BATTLE, Forsyth’s THE DAY OF THE JACKAL and Puzo’s THE GODFATHER. Then there’s Elmore Leonard’s RIDING THE RAP and James Lee Burke’s BLACK CHERRY BLUES.
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? My next Jake Longly book, CULTURED, is coming in May, 2023 and my latest Cain/Harper story, TALLYMAN just came out in August 2022. So now, I’m working on the next books in each of these series.
Do you have any advice for new writers? Read—read—read, write—write—write, repeat. Writers must read—-a lot. And not just in their genre but rather in many other genres. Consider this a broader education in storytelling as any reading will help you write a better story.
How do our readers contact you? The best way is through my website: dplylemd.com. That will connect you to my books, my blog, my podcasts, and my old radio show.
Apr 17, 2023 | Crime, Mystery, Thriller |
The heading is my life in a nutshell. It’s my birthday, so I’m taking a break from the usual routine to tell you a little bit about me and answer two questions posed by fellow authors—who tried to stump me—they failed.
If you don’t already know, I’m an enrolled descendant of the Karuk Tribe of California. Combining police, private investigator, and corporate experience, I have about forty years of investigative experience. Earning a BA – History from California State University – Hayward took me a dozen years of poor scholarship. Nearly four decades later, I returned to school at Las Positas College. I took a break to earn an MFA-Creative Writing Program from the Institute of American Indian Arts, Santa Fe, before finishing an AA in English from Las Positas.
I was fortunate to conduct and manage thousands of investigations throughout the Americas, Europe, and Asia. After forced retirement, I kept my investigative skills honed by volunteering as an investigator at the San Leandro, California, Police Department.
I want to begin with a shout-out to an incredible mentor, Ramona Ausubel. Ramona was one of my mentors at the Institute of American Indian Arts. She is a fantastic author, and her latest novel THE LAST ANIMAL is the People Magazine Book of the Week. PRE-ORDER NOW!
Besides writing, my passion was long-distance motorcycle riding on my 2001 Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic—my first scooter was a 1959 or 60 Honda 50 (I got stopped for drag racing on it). My sixty-year biker life ended last year when an accident left me with several broken bones—it wasn’t the first time.
Shelley Riley asks: What inspired you first to start telling tall tales? I’m not one of those who has been writing all their life. I was about to turn sixty-seven when the most incredible place I ever worked, PALM, was bought out, and the layoffs began. I ran security and investigations and got advance notice of pending layoffs. Near the end, my name came through.
Feeling strong and unprepared to retire, I began an unsuccessful job search. I learned all about age discrimination. I had sworn never to enter a Senior Center until a writing class was offered. I falsely believed it would help my stellar resume, so I signed up.
To my surprise, it was a fiction writing class. Amazingly, I fell in love with writing and gave up looking for any other type of work. I have two stand-alone novels, and Book One in the New Liberty – A Hector Miguel Navarro series comes out in a few weeks.
Michael A. Black asks: Your writing of dialogue in your books is fresh and realistic, yet it also moves the story along. What tips would you give to other writers for writing convincing and authentic dialogue? I learned early on that I had to leave out the normal jibber-jabber that occurs in our everyday conversations. However, dialogue has to seem natural and to the point, adding to the plot and character development. When I began writing, I included a lot of unnecessary chit-chat. With rewriting and the help of Critters, I started writing more explicit dialogue—there has to be a reason. I ask myself: Why am I writing this? I cut, reevaluate, and rewrite if the conversation is unclear or without purpose. Occasionally, the dialogue seems to wander. When this happens, I’m laying the groundwork for a future event or character development of someone not in the conversation.
I try to add a touch of humor at least once in each chapter, helping humanize my characters.
May will be busy as New Liberty is released, and I will be doing readings and book signings. I hope you can join me at one or more events.
1. 5/9/2023 – New Liberty release – available for pre-order
2. 5/10/2023 – I will moderate the Upstate South Carolin Sisters-in-Crime Mystery Book Club. Michael A. Black with be discussing Chimes at Midnight.
3. 5/13/2023 – Las Positas College Literary Festival – Book signing with local and indigenous authors. Tommy Orange is the keynote speaker. It’s FREE!
4. 5/18/2023 – Barnes & Noble, El Cerrito, 6:00 – 7:330 – Book signing with Lisa Towles
5. 5/20/2023 – NorCal Spring Author Showcase, Orinda Books, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. – I will read and sign
6. 5/272023 Barnes & Noble, Dublin – 1:00 – 3:00 Book signing.
7. 5/28/2023 – Barnes & Nobel, Walnut Creek – 2:00 – 4:00 p.m Book signing
You can find me at:
California Writers Club – Mt. Diablo
Crime Writers of Color
Sisters-in-Crime – NorCal
Sisters-in-Crime – Colorado
Sisters-in-Crime – Coastal Cruisers
Mystery Writers of America – NorCal
If you can, pop over to Lois Winston’s blog. Her guest today has the initials: GDC.
Links for my books:
The Mona Lisa Sisters
Robbers and Cops
New Liberty -Book 1 in the Hector Miguel Navarro Series
Apr 13, 2023 | Mystery, Thriller |
Hayden is the author of the popular Harry Bronson and Aimee Brent mystery series. Her books have hit the Pennsylvania Top 40, the B&N Top 10, and the Kindle Best Seller Lists. Her works have been finalists for the Agatha, LCC, Silver Falchion, and Reader’s Choice Awards.
Her angel/miracle series are International Best Sellers.
Hayden is also a popular speaker. She presents workshops, has spoken to clubs, and major cruise lines have hired her to speak while cruising worldwide. From October 2006 to October 2007, Hayden hosted Mystery Writers of America’s only talk show, Murder Must Air.
Kuyuidokado, Nevada’s Paiute’s chief councilman, is murdered.
When reporter Aimee Brent arrives at the reservation, she stumbles upon secrets—secrets that could lead to her death. It’s up to Aimee to unravel them before more people fall victim to the grand scheme of That Last Ghost Dance.
Do you write in more than one genre? Yep, I most definitely do. In addition to thrillers, mysteries, and suspense, I’ve done children’s books to honor my grandkids. When my first grandson was little, I entertained him by telling him stories, most of which I made up. Then it dawned on me, why not write them down and publish them so he’d have something to hold on to? I also do a series of inspirational stories, true accounts about people who have experienced a miracle or an angel in their lives. I’ve also done paranormal, how-to, young adult, and others. But my love remains with the mystery and the inspirational genre.
What brought you to writing? That’s something that’s always been in my blood. I was born to tell stories. My latest release, That Last Ghost Dance has a bit of a different answer. For some reason or the other, I’ve always been fascinated by the American Natives. I recently had my DNA done, and I found out I’m mostly Native American! History has shown us how much they have suffered, and I wanted to honor them. That Last Ghost Dance is set in the Paiute’s Pyramid Lake Reservation, and the book was released in November 2022, Native American Month.
What is the most challenging part of your writing process? Having confidence in myself. I write something and feel it will not hold the readers’ interest. That’s when I turn to my readers. I send them what I’ve written and ask for their honest opinion. When they tell me all’s going well, and they’re eager to read the rest, then I’m free to continue writing with confidence. Weird, eh?
How long to get it published? My story is an overnight success story. I wrote my first novel, and wide-eyed with anticipation and hope, I sent it out to make the rounds. Ten years later, it found a home. Yep, my overnight success only took ten years! My question for that is: self-pub, where were you back then?
We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave or run wild? My two favorite series that I write are the Harry Bronson Thrillers Series and the Aimee Brent. I find both of them to be strong-willed. So much so that they take me down these rabbit holes that bring tears to my eyes as I write about their experiences. I feel their pain and sorrow. I feel threatened when they are threatened. But I also feel their joy and love. I root for their success and, at times, wonder if they will succeed.
Do your protagonists ever disappoint you? I wouldn’t exactly say disappoint me. Instead, they intrigue me. They put themselves in such dangerous situations that I don’t know how they’ll get out. However, in my latest, That Last Ghost Dance, one of my major characters makes a terrible mistake that not only disappoints me but also sends Aimee spiraling down. I tried to fix his mistake, but at this point, it seemed unfixable, and my heart ached for Aimee.
Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? I strongly believe in subplots. We, humans, have more than one thing at a time going on. Why wouldn’t our characters? My subplots are stories themselves that need to be told and developed. Each subplot stems from the character’s point of view and is therefore incorporated into the main plot line. Like the main story, the subplots have crises and tensions that directly affect the plot and characters.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I am definitely a pantser. From the beginning, I know how the story will begin and end. But I have no idea how I’ll get there. Sometimes, the person I thought was guilty isn’t. That, of course, surprises me, which in turn, I believe will surprise the reader. I love the thrill of not knowing what’s going to happen next. Of course, this means that I often have to go back and foreshadow something, re-write a scene, or face that dreadful writer’s block. But I don’t mind. I do, however, advise aspiring authors to outline so they won’t have to face all the problems we pantsers encounter.
What kind of research do you do? Firsthand when possible. Visit the place, take lots of pictures, and make important contacts. For example, for That Last Ghost Dance, I visited the reservation and met folks who would be willing to answer the multitude of questions that would arise as I wrote the story. I believe that by being there, I can capture the place’s atmosphere.
Apr 10, 2023 | Action & Adventure, Crime, Historical, Mystery |
Claudia Riess is the author of seven novels, four of which form her art history mystery series published by Level Best Books. She has worked in the editorial departments of The New Yorker and Holt, Rinehart and Winston and has edited several art history monographs. Stolen Light, the first book in her series, was chosen by Vassar’s Latin American history professor for distribution to the college’s people-to-people trips to Cuba.
To Kingdom Come, the fourth and most recent will be added to the syllabus of a survey course on West and Central African Art at the University of Cincinnati. Claudia has written a number of articles for Mystery Readers Journal, Women’s National Book Association, and Mystery Scene magazine. At present, she’s consulting with her protagonists about a questionable plot twist in Chapter 9 of the duo’s murder investigation unfolding in book 5; working title: Dreaming of Monet, scheduled for release in winter 2023.
To Kingdom Come, released May 31, 2022 – Amateur sleuths Erika Shawn, an art magazine editor, and Harrison Wheatley, an art history professor, are caught up in a multiple murder case involving the repatriation of African art seized during the colonial era. The story alternates between present-day events and those described in a journal penned in the late 1890s. Much of the action takes place in London, the scene of the crimes and quest for redemption.
The backstory to an art mystery series – My introduction to the art world came at a very early age and was as much a part of the natural course of events as learning to read and being read to—Winnie the Pooh, Mary Poppins, Alice in Wonderland—and being told laugh-out-loud stories, ad-libbed by my father, about a little girl named Jeanie, clearly my alias, and her adventures with her anonymous daddy, clearly my own. And like bedtime stories, my introduction to art—my association with art—was, and is, bound up with family, with adventure, with safe harbor. It began with outings to museums. We lived in Brooklyn, and a few great ones were a short subway or car ride away: The Metropolitan, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Frick. And typically, these outings were followed by take-out Chinese food and talks around the kitchen table about what we had seen that day. We debated about which painter’s perspective best described the real world and what the real world really was. Color and light? Shape and dimension? And what about imagination? Created imagery? Inner reality that distorted the exterior world? Talks of the relative nature of beauty and truth were woven into these conversations, and all the while, we were savoring our chicken chow mein and fried rice with lobster sauce.
Because of my background, for a good many years, my idea of the art world was a romanticized one. It was not until later in life, after I’d written a couple of rom-com-like novels and murder mysteries, did I consider writing an art suspense novel. By then, I’d learned a lot more about the art world: About how the price of art is virtually uncontrolled, dependent on the whims of collectors and dealers and the transient tastes and fads of the times. And on the seamier side: art was ransomed, forged, used to launder money, stolen, and sold on the black market. That the art world is, in fact, a world in which the most sublime of human instincts collide with its basest. What a great amalgam for fiction!
So I began to write my art mystery series. I’m a stickler for historical accuracy, so I take off from it, filling in the gaps with events that conform to its character and, therefore, might have been. Then, in a butterfly-effect maneuver, I fast-forward to the present and drop a pair of resourceful lovers (I’m an incurable romantic) into the challenging set of circumstances that have evolved—multiple murders included—and see if the sleuthing duo can sort it out. For instance, in Knight Light, the third in the series, my inspiration came from two quotes. From the painter Marcel Duchamp: “Not all artists are chess players, but all chess players are artists.” And from World Chess Champion Alexander Alekhine: “Chess for me is not a game, but an art.” Interesting! From there, I discovered that the two had actually been teammates on the French chess team in the 1933 Chess Olympiad and, furthermore, that Alekhine’s death in 1946 has been considered a cold case to this day. My fiction took off from there, integrated with the facts.
Although To Kingdom Come, the fourth and most recent book in the series, is basically structured on the same criteria as the three books before it, it’s the first one inspired not by a subject I was at least moderately in the know about, but by one that I was essentially unfamiliar with, that is, the Benin Bronzes. I knew that they existed, yes. I had seen several of these amazing works on exhibit. But it was not until I, by chance, came across a news article about African agents in the fields of the arts and government pressing for their return that I was minimally clued in. I wanted to learn more. Although not my only source, Dan Hicks’s The Brutish Museums: The Benin Bronzes, Colonial Violence, and Cultural Restitution was the main one, and the line that most made my blood boil and led me to writing To Kingdom Come is this: “The sacking of Benin City in 1897 was an attack on human life, on culture, on belief, on art, and sovereignty.”
It took a while to drum up the courage to write the book. I took notes, made outlines, and procrastinated. I was afraid of being accused of either exploiting or trivializing the subject, especially in these understandably sensitive times, when writers engaged in the intimacy of fiction are apt to be criticized for stepping outside their lanes—of race, religion, social status, cultural heritage.
I asked myself how I’d feel if the tables were turned if a fiction writer for whom the Holocaust is not directly related to their history—part of who they are—were to create a story in which the Holocaust is a pivotal plot point. I answered that provided they’re mindful of the sensibilities of others, it’s fine—welcome, really.
Anyway, as fellow humans, aren’t our histories from a broader perspective integrated, the divisions of “otherness” blurred? In the end, I decided it’s possible to preserve the sanctity of a group’s heritage without its becoming sacrosanct. We buy travel guides, visit foreign lands, read history books and memoirs, and write fiction. Why else, if not to reach beyond our own frontiers in the hope of understanding what to others is familiar ground?
Organizations of which Riess is a member:
Sisters in Crime (SinC)
National Association of Independent Writers and Editors (NAIWE)
Women’s National Book Association (WNBA)
Historical Novel Society
Amazon Link: Amazon.com: To Kingdom Come: An Art History Mystery: 9781685121105: Riess, Claudia: Books
Apr 6, 2023 | Action & Adventure, Fantasy, Historical |
Glenn Quigley is an author and artist originally from Tallaght in Dublin, Ireland, and now living in Lisburn, Northern Ireland, with his partner of many years. His first novel, The Moth and Moon, was published in 2018. When not writing, he paints portraits in watercolours and tweets too many photos of lighthouses. He maintains a website of his latest work at www.glennquigley.com.
The Knights of Blackrabbit book one: These Young Wolves – Spinning off from the Moth and Moon trilogy, THE KNIGHTS OF BLACKABBIT book one: THESE YOUNG WOLVES sees burly former crime lord Vince Knight returning to Port Knot to take command of the Night Watch—the very people who spent a good deal of time trying to imprison him. Under the scrutiny of the island’s ruling council, a distrusting local population, and a certain dashing captain, Vince must battle against the criminals he used to lead.
The Knights of Blackrabbit book one: These Young Wolves was released on 20th December 2022 from Ninestar Press. www.ninestarpress.com
The Great Santa Showdown It’s two weeks before Christmas, and the official Santa Claus of the small town of Yuleboro is retiring. Bookstore owner Gregory and tree farmer John will have to battle through a tournament designed to test the skills of any would-be Kris Kringles. As they go head to head in the town’s first-ever Great Santa Showdown, will it be more than just the competition that heats up?
The Great Santa Showdown is available from JMS Books: https://www.jms-books.com/glenn-quigley-c-224_559/the-great-santa-showdown-p-4550.html
You can find my other published works on my Amazon page: https://viewauthor.at/glenquigley.
Do you write in more than one genre? I tend to write Historical Fiction* for my novels and contemporary for my short stories. That said, I am currently working on a contemporary novel.
(*Technically, as they’re set in an alt-history, my novels are Historical Fantasy, but that makes it sound like a world of “knights, wizards, and dragons” instead of “everyone is treated equally, regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation.”)
Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? I write in my spare bedroom/study with the door closed. I cannot have any other sounds except for the white noise of a howling thunderstorm and crackling fire that I found on Youtube. I started listening to it when writing the storm scene in my first novel, The Moth and Moon and found it really helps me concentrate. I can’t listen to music or TV as I can’t have any other voices or competing narratives playing while I’m writing.
We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave or run wild? They mostly behave themselves though if one character pushes to the front of my mind, they tend not to shut up until I’ve written their story. Very occasionally, one character will refuse to do what I want and insist on doing things their own way. For example, Lady Eva Wolfe-Chase was a side character in The Moth and Moon, but she insisted on becoming central to the plot of the follow-up novel, The Lion Lies Waiting. Sometimes, you’ve got to get out of a character’s way and let them have their turn in the spotlight.
Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? Absolutely. Subplots are essential to my work. They flesh out side characters and help build a world. In my Moth and Moon series, the setting is a little village on a remote island. Subplots help to establish the world and convince the reader that this is a living, breathing place. Sometimes the subplots tie directly into the main plot, sometimes, they’re there to justify a side character’s actions later in the story, and sometimes they add some flavour or shift the tone a little.
Do you base any of your characters on real people? In a way. I often cast actors in the roles of my characters, especially during a first draft. This helps to solidify them in my mind and gives me something to build from. Usually, by the time the story is finished, they’ve evolved and grown into their own thing. I have a character in my upcoming novel, The Knights of Blackrabbit, book one: These Young Wolves, who was inspired by the late actor James Robertson Justice. I took his on-screen persona (big, blustering, and physically intimidating) and applied it to the character of Captain James Godgrave. This was an enormous help in getting that character off the ground, so to speak. It was a foundation on which I could build. Similarly, in my new short story, The Great Santa Showdown, I cast two of my favourite Hallmark movie actors in the lead roles.
I’ve yet to consciously base a character on anyone I know personally, though reading back, I can spot some friends and family popping up in certain aspects. It’s funny how that happens without me being conscious of it at the time.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? For The Great Santa Showdown, I had a rough idea for the plot first (a small town holding a competition to pick their new Santa Claus), but mostly I tend to start with an image or line of dialogue and build on that. Once I’ve got a sense of the story, I’ll work out a character arc (a story circle). This usually gives me enough sense of what the plot will need to be for the arc to make sense. So, I’m a little bit of both, I think.
What kind of research do you do? My novels are set in an alternate 18th century, so I have a lot of leeway when it comes to historical accuracy, but I still try to stick as close as I can to actual history. This tends to be less about world events and more about clothing/architecture/day-to-day life. I read a lot about small towns, fishing villages, boats, and clothing of the era. A lot of research is done online, which can be time-consuming as I have to check the sources on many things. The main character of The Moth and Moon trilogy, Robin Shipp, sails a Cornish lugger (a traditional fishing boat), and I read two books written by someone who sailed a similar boat in the late 20th century just to try and pick up some little details that I could use. I’ve also got a dictionary of Regency-era slang words, which is a fun read!
Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? Fictional. I created a group of islands off the coast of Cornwall called the Pell Isles, and that’s where The Moth and Moon trilogy and its spin-off, The Knights of Blackrabbit series, are set. I find there’s much more freedom in a fictional location and a lot to keep track of. I have maps made of Merryapple (the island setting for The Moth and Moon) and Port Knot (the town where The Knights of Blackrabbit is set) to help keep things straight. For The Great Santa Showdown, I created the small, All-American town of Yuleboro and gave it lots of Christmas-themed street names, which I loved doing. Some of the best fun in writing comes from making up places you’d love to visit and making up people you’d love to meet there.
Where to find me online:
Other works by the author:
The Moth and Moon
The Lion Lies Waiting
We Cry the Sea
Use as Wallpaper
The Great Santa Showdown
Apr 3, 2023 | Mystery, Thriller, Young Adult |
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. Her career as a psychotherapist and college professor taught her much about the dark side of human nature but also much about resilience, perseverance, and the healing power of laughter. Now retired, 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 North Central Florida, where her husband and dog catch occasional glimpses of her.
Should auld acquaintance be forgot…
The last year has been eventful for Marcia and her husband, Will. They’ve successfully launched their private investigation agency and completed their family with an adorable but creatively energetic baby girl. They’re about to ring in the New Year with friends and neighbors, but there’s something more than champagne bubbling in Mayfair, Florida.
The octogenarian matriarch of the town is always looking for ways to boost the community’s economy. Her latest scheme is the addition of a row of shops along Main Street. But a few of her new tenants have something more nefarious in mind than simply selling their wares.
When old hostilities set off New Year’s fireworks, a shopkeeper ends up dead, and two friends of Marcia’s are prime suspects. Determined to clear them, Marcia and Will—with Buddy’s help, of course—set out to uncover the real Grim Reaper.
I’m ending a mystery series this month for the second time in my writing career. And letting go of old friends, i.e., the series’ characters, is not any easier this time around.
There are lots of good reasons for ending a series, one of them being that the main character(s) have reached the culmination of their character arc. They start out with flaws, issues, neuroses to overcome, and over the course of the series, they mature and grow.
When it gets to the point where those issues are mostly resolved, their arc is complete, and it’s time to let go.
I’m happy for my main characters, Marcia and her husband. Their lives are going well, and they have an adorable baby girl now. I’m happy they will get to enjoy the fruits of their labor. (And I’m excited about the new series I’m starting.)
But on the other hand, it feels like good friends—or maybe grown children would be a better analogy—are moving to the other side of the world. It’s not just that they are going away, but I won’t be keeping in touch with them. I won’t know what’s happening in their lives. No phone calls, no emails, no texts!
And it’s not just the main characters I will miss. These stories were set in a small fictitional Florida town called Mayfair, a town I have grown to love as much as Marcia does.
I’m going to miss all the quirky neighbors—the octogenarian town matriarch who wears brightly colored muumuus and flip-flops, and the regal Black woman, a retired schoolteacher, who lives next door and who always has a pitcher of iced tea in her fridge and some sound advice to offer.
And even more secondary characters—the matriarch’s niece, sweet Susanna Mayfair, who shares Marcia’s love of horses, and her son Dexter, not the brightest bulb in the package but a truly loveable guy. And Marcia’s friends, the Mayfair diner’s owner Jess, and Marcia’s fellow service dog trainer, Carla, and her best friend, Becky. Oh, and Marcia’s mom and her new stepfather.
Most of these characters have also grown and changed over the course of the 13-book series. And I feel like they are my friends and neighbors too.
But I’m leaving them and Mayfair behind. I won’t be able to stroll down its streets again—the fictitious Black Lab Buddy on his leash—waving at folks or stopping to gossip.
Yes, it’s time to let Marcia and her crew have some peace and quiet. No more murderers or other culprits will be coming their way, making life scary and difficult in their little town. I’m happy for them.
But I’m sure gonna miss all those good folks!
SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS:
BOOKBUB PROFILE: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/kassandra-lamb
AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE: http://www.amazon.com/Kassandra-Lamb/e/B006NB5WAI/
Mar 30, 2023 | Cozy, Young Adult |
A hybrid author, Donna writes squeaky-clean historical and contemporary suspense. She has been published more than 50 times in books; is a member of several writer’s groups; facilitates a critique group; teaches writing classes; ghostwrites; edits; and judges in writing contests. She loves history and research, traveling extensively for both, and is an avid oil painter.
A Mommy By Christmas: – A community care center, a calico cat, and Christmas—can a single middle-aged woman bring a town together in time to celebrate the King’s birthday? Can a widowed father find a reason to join in? And can the pair see God at work in their lives?
Do you write in more than one genre? I write both contemporary and historical mysteries, usually sprinkled with romance.
Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? I usually write at my desk in my basement office, but at least two days a week, I write away from home. Distractions are many when you work from home: cats, laundry, meals, and my hubby across the desk from me.
Tell us about your writing process: I usually start with a short synopsis. Sometimes I write this by hand rather than on the computer. Then I schedule out the chapters to write and what day that will be. I try not to write on the weekends, but if I get behind…well, suffice it to say, the entire household knows when I fall behind.
What are you currently working on? I am working on a historical mystery, the second in my Mail-Order Romance series, released on December 31st. You can find the preorder here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BLZMWNTD
Do you base any of your characters on real people? I love to base my characters on people I know. I’ve learned that folks love to see themselves in print. Sometimes I use their real names—after asking their permission, of course. A Mommy By Christmas has several examples of real people: the veterinarian is named after a friend; the couple that helps my heroine with the dinner are real names of a dear couple; and the veterinarian’s last name is the surname of dear friends whose son died tragically last year.
Do you have any advice for new writers? Never quit. Let the stories flow. Trust God to get them into the hands of those who need to read them.
Groups I’m connected with:
American Christian Fiction Writers
Writers on the Rock,
Pikes Peak Writers,
Christian Women Writers,
Faith, Hope, and Love Christian Writers,
Christian Authors Network
How do our readers contact you?
www.DonnaSchlachter.com Stay connected so you learn about new releases, preorders, and presales, and check out featured authors, book reviews, and a little corner of peace. Plus: Receive a free ebook simply for signing up for our free newsletter!
Mar 27, 2023 | Historical, Mystery, Thriller |
Donna Darling writes short stories and novels for readers of all ages. Her debut novel, an historical fiction titled The Three Marias, is inspired by her Puerto Rican roots. When not writing, she enjoys sketching her characters or drawing a scene from her story.
She is a member of the California Writers Club and belongs to a writer’s group of published authors who meet weekly.
Donna lives in Northern California with her family. She enjoys traveling and weaving stories with history.
Puerto Rico, 1895. Three sisters are embroiled in rebellion, betrayal, and lost love. A secret threatens their bond when caught in a web of murder during the Spanish American War. After the massive hurricane of 1899, the three Marias are faced with the difficult choice to stay and rebuild or leave their home and their land.
Answering a few of George’s questions:
I write short stories, flash fiction, and novels. I’ve tried poems and children’s, but it’s not my “thing.” I started writing when my children were small. I remember writing a story for each one to match their personality and age.
My son cried when he heard The Giving Tree by Shell Silverstein, then saw a gray hair on my head. He thought it was all over. I wrote an additional page for him, with an illustration at the end. Sorry Mr. Silverstein—Then I started coloring my hair.
Subplots are fun for me, and I think they keep the reader interested. Too many, and you lose them. It’s a balance, and you do have to keep the thread going. Remember to tie it all together at the end for a satisfying finish, and it’s a winner in my mind.
Although I do steal ideas from real life, I do not use real people in my stories. In The Three Marias, the characters are fictional, set against a backdrop of actual historical events in Puerto Rico during the Spanish American War.
Research is important, and sometimes I get lost in it. I’m fascinated by history and envision my characters living through historical events. I place them in the setting. What is going on around them? What trees or plants are native to their area? Wildlife? I think about my character’s daily life. What do they eat? What music do they listen to? How do they hear it? Live, or is there a phonograph, radio, or other? How do they speak? Formal or slang? Is there an accent? I research fashion, hair, and anything that might influence my character. What is happening in the world during that time? It takes time, but everything adds to the story.
It took me about ten years to write The Three Marias. Life happened. I took breaks and returned to the project that captured my heart. I hope you enjoy reading The Three Marias, available on Amazon.
Here’s a link to my book, available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B0BKXRZH4J/ref=cm_cr_arp_mb_bdcrb_top?ie=UTF8
Link to my Facebook page: https://m.facebook.com/
Mar 23, 2023 | Crime, Mystery, Police Procedural / Crime |
I wonder how I would’ve ever gotten where I am today without mentors. This includes the mom down the street who took me under her wing when my mother struggled with her own demons. Early in my law enforcement career (as a meter maid), there was a motor officer who introduced me to the concept of “badge-heavy” and changed my adversarial attitude with the public while I issued tickets–I didn’t have to be a jerk. Later, Fred, a patrolman, was another crucial association. He invited me to testify to the county grand jury as part of an investigation of our police administration. Standing up for the integrity of the job was a beautiful burden. These people were life mentors who taught me valuable lessons that extend through my life today.
But let’s talk about mentors for writers.
Pat Tyler – In most other industries, colleagues could look upon newbies as potential competition. While I’ve found that all writing teachers aren’t necessarily mentors, I can say I have never seen professional acrimony toward another. My first true writing mentor, Pat Tyler, during her Jumpstart Writing class, encouraged me with provocative prompts. She provided a safe, non-judgmental place to read and hone my stories. Then, she pointed me toward Redwood Writers (a branch of the California Writers Club), where I found much more to learn. The motto of the club is “writers helping writers.” It made a significant impact in my writing career.
Sharon Hamilton – Sharon is a prolific romance writer I met through the Redwood Writers. Soon after I joined the club, the idea of signing your emails with your author name and including the links to your work. Sharon barely knew me but spent half a day helping me set this up. This little thing stayed with me. She’s a living example of “writers helping writers.”
Marilyn Meredith – Another invaluable mentor is Marilyn Meredith. She’s a board member of the Public Safety Writers Association, who I met in 2014 at the club’s annual conference. Marilyn is an experienced author who helped me navigate small press publishing and writing ethics. She’s a prolific author of over 40 books who gets up in the middle of the night (4 AM) to accomplish her myriad goals. Even with huge family demands, she writes and promotes almost every day. A lady in the most refined sense, she’s also a model of Christianity—not the clichéd version. She walks the walk. She’s unpretentious, accepts people the way they are, and believes in sharing her gifts—as she has with me. I’ll bet she never even considered herself a mentor. But she is. She continually inspires me to be better.
Recently, I was privileged to be offered a contract job for multiple books. I’d be paid a flat rate for each, and the publisher would reap the royalties. It was a dream come true. But the time frame was strenuous-three books in six months. Yikes. With the support of my family, friends, and colleagues, I signed the contract. The colleague who facilitated this offered me one piece of advice. Write the book, then go back and edit.
So, I did that. In all my years of writing, I’d always thought a thousand words a day was optimum. But with the timeline I had, I had to kick it up a notch. I wrote consistently and turned in 2500 words per day. With the aid of a flexible outline, I completed all three before the deadline. Even though I’d signed on the dotted line, I had no idea that I could do that much work. Until I did it.
That one simple piece of advice changed my work habits forever. I look upon that colleague as a mentor, although he’s too modest to agree with me.
How did mentors change your writing? Do you have one or many? Do you help new writers as they begin this arduous journey?
Even if you don’t consider yourself a mentor, I want to suggest why you should consider it.
- It could change someone’s life—really. Think about words of encouragement you heard that motivated you. Be that person. (see above)
- It will take you out of your own world—we create them in our heads, don’t we? Telling another person about your process attaches words to abstract thoughts. Sharing can enlarge thoughts if you listen. For both of you.
- You’ll be building a writers’ community based on the positive aspects we’re talking about here.
- The life you change may be your own. Sometimes, verbalizing the process gives us a clearer picture. Sharing and giving aren’t unique to humans, but we’ve refined it through evolution.
Let’s keep working and helping each other.
Thonie is the author of four police procedural mysteries set in the Sonoma Wine Country. While three of the books are on Amazon now, they will be re-edited, re-covered, and re-published by Rough Edges Press, an imprint of Wolfpack Press. The fifth book in this series will debut sometime in 2023.
Thonie’s website is www.thoniehevron.com
Author Facebook page: Thonie Hevron Author
By Force or Fear
Intent to Hold
With Malice Aforethought
Felony Murder Rule
Mar 20, 2023 | Action & Adventure |
Jamie Collins’ binge-worthy Secrets and Stilettos series is about four high-profile women who are hired to co-anchor a daytime talk show. Collins infuses her books with grit, sizzle, and heat reminiscent of the talented writers (Jackie Collins, Sidney Sheldon, and Olivia Goldsmith) on which she cut her writing chops, reading and emulating their iconic styles. As a former model/actress, Collins’ stilettos have been everywhere, from nightclubs in Japan to the Playboy mansion to dinner with a Sinatra. Her aim is to delight and entertain readers of women’s fiction everywhere.
Blonde Up! is the fast-paced first book in this fun, drama-filled series. Casey Singer is determined to shine bright… but keeps getting in her own way. Can she grasp fame before her star burns out? If you like off-the-hook heroines, searches for identity, and global adventures, then you’ll love Jamie Collins’ wild ride.
Start with the prequel, Sign On!, which is available for free download on Collins’ author website at https://www.jamiecollinsauthor.com/free-book-offer.
Collins is currently working on Pretty Sensation! which is the first book in the spin-off Show Series, slated for release this summer.
What brought you to writing? I have always wanted to be an author. Even as a child, I would write stories and poems and keep countless journals. I pursued a degree in creative writing after exhausting most local colleges’ English literature offerings and received a degree in Fiction Writing from Columbia College in Chicago, where I lived. Later, I became certified in secondary education in Language Arts.
How did this series come to be? I had the idea for this series based on the premiere of The View way back when it first aired on television. I wrote the massive first draft on a train ride from a suburb outside of Chicago to my job downtown daily due to a compulsion to live in the story’s world. It took about eighteen months to complete it. Many years later, a writing coach encouraged me to break up the manuscript into four separate books featuring each woman’s backstory, which I did. Thus, the Secrets and Stilettos series was born.
We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave or run wild? It has always been my aim to write about strong female protagonists. That said, the road to redemption is quite different for each of these women. Strong-willed is an understatement for Casey Singer in book #1, for sure!
Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? Much like the paperback tomes that I loved to read as a young adult, I most enjoy storylines that involve multiple threads and plot twists, which serve to ramp up the drama. Each book in the series can be read as a stand-alone and contain many plot layers and compelling minor characters. All of these components will be brought forward in the second tier of the series as well to keep the delicious excitement going and pages turning.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? While I started out as a pantser, my writing method is more intentional today. I have a background in education, so I adhere to the benefits of using character sheets, outlines, and note cards to keep things from running off the rails. This, blended with the thrill of discovery when the spirit moves me, keeps the writing fun, fresh, and authentic.
Do you base any of your characters on real people? Yes. Each of my characters has a unique and lifelike existence. I utilize traits and personality types compiled from people I know or have known. So, my characters are a mix of real-life people and my creation. I find character building to be one of the strongest pillars of storytelling and the most enjoyable. I am fascinated by human nature and psychology. Having realistic and compelling characters helps to amplify the stories and creates a connection with the readers in a way they love.
Do you have any advice for new writers? I would encourage anyone who feels the passion to write—to do so much and often. Writing is a skill that one can learn but also needs to be nourished. There is no fast track to success; only you can define what that means for you. Take advantage of all the support and information that is out there for authors at all stages. As an author, you get to make up people, worlds, and stories for a living. It’s the perfect job. I could not think of a more perfect gift to share with others!
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? Plans are in place for the completion and successive launches of all four books in the next tier, the Show Series, starting with Pretty Sensation! This is followed by additional series projects with even more heat and sizzle to include gorgeous male protagonists, a nod to the sexy senior set, as well as a foray into the paranormal/historical realm with some exciting new titles. Jump onto my mailing list to stay in the know regarding news and new releases at https://www.jamiecollinsauthor.com. I would love to connect with you!
Follow me on social media, and feel free to reach out.
My books are available on all retail platforms including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. Click here to buy https://www.jamiecollinsauthor.com/copy-of-books.
Thanks, everyone for your kind comments. And thanks George for a great interview.
Wow, D. P., you’ve made so much out of your intersecting interests in forensic science and fiction writing, and then you’ve gifted us in the writing realm with that. Thank you.
Insightful interview! Thank you to DP Lyle for his medical knowledge and his fiction. Love his humor, especially. I did notice an unfamiliar word, “toters” in the sentence: “I use many real places but I also make up toters.”
I’ve followed Dr. Lyle for years and the man is a legend. Thanks for the tips on writing and for sharing your story. Good luck with your new one.