MARY KELIIKOA – Write What You Know – Maybe Not

Mary Keliikoa is the author of award-winning Hidden Pieces and Deadly Tides in the Misty Pines mystery series, the award nominated PI Kelly Pruett mystery series, and the upcoming Don’t Ask, Don’t Follow out June 2024. Her short stories have appeared in Woman’s World and in the Peace, Love and Crime anthology.

 

A Pacific NW native, she admits to being that person who gets excited when called for jury duty. When not in Washington, you can find Mary with her toes in the sand on a Hawaiian beach. But even under the palm trees and blazing sun, she’s plotting her next murder—a novel that is. www.marykeliikoa.com

There’s an adage that would-be writers often hear when working on their first pieces: write what you know. In fact, in the beginning, and even now, it was advice that I heard quite often. And I don’t disagree. There is wisdom to that. Among other things, when one is so busy making things up, as we fiction writers do, it’s nice to lean into some solid information that we have personal knowledge about. It saves on research, for sure. But let’s face it—one’s knowledge base can only go so far. And I believe that in addition to what you know, writing what you want to learn about, understand, or what fascinates you can add richness to a story.

When I wrote the first book in the Misty Pines mystery series, HIDDEN PIECES, I decided to set the series in a place I was familiar with. That’s why I chose the Oregon coast, where my parents moved our family when I was a toddler.

While I don’t remember much about those early years, by the time I reached the age of five, many things about the coast stuck: the mist and the cool weather that never seemed to end, and that saturated our clothes was near the top. But also the moss laden trees in the towering forests. The hum of the ocean waves reverberating in the air. The sheer rock cliffs and violent eddies at their base. The call of the seagulls overhead, the bark of sea lions on the rocks, and the brackish smell of seaweed.

I also knew the people that chose that area as home. The family-like atmosphere where everyone knows your business. That the worry lines on the face of a fisherman’s wife don’t soften until he’s safely back across the bar. That fish and chips, and beer are necessary fare when gathering to tell tall fish tales at the local gathering hole.

I know the intriguing items that wash up along the ocean beaches, which was an absolute treat for the treasure hunter in me. From glass fishing floats and sand dollars to various creatures in the tidal pools, I could spend hours running along the ocean shores.

Setting I knew. But I also wanted to explore what I wanted to understand. In the Misty Pines series, that is grief—and the desperate need for redemption. In Hidden Pieces, I focused on a true crime that happened in my hometown where two girls went out walking and a car stopped. One girl never made it home. Using that as a backdrop, I explored how an individual might cope with a tragedy like that in their life…or perhaps not cope so well.

In DEADLY TIDES, the second book in the series out now, I went in another direction. I was interested in a phenomenon that has occurred with some regularity in the Pacific Northwest: severed feet washing ashore. Crazy enough, that has been happening for over the past decade. As to who the feet belong to, sadly, many have been victims of accidents, and some due to suicide. However, I write mystery with a dose of suspense, so of course, I chose a more nefarious cause.

Which brings me back to why those feet washed ashore—and understanding what might drive someone to such a gruesome act. And that led me back to that element of grief and how it might change a person.

Sometimes, it takes them to the edge, questioning their own existence. Sometimes, it has them acting out in a way they would not otherwise. Sometimes, grief morphs into bitterness and erodes an individual’s very core.

I explore this in the Misty Pines series through my main characters because it is a subject that I am familiar with…but want to understand. And here’s what I’ve learned.

Grief is a pesky neighbor that shows up at one’s window unannounced and knocks insidiously until it’s let in. There’s always the option to hide—close the window shade and pretend not to be home. But at some point, you have to come out. And grief, like that neighbor, will be waiting. Sometimes, it’s best to just let them in because they aren’t going anywhere—and one might as well learn to live peaceably next door to it because the alternative could be dire…at least that’s the direction I take in my novels. Like those feet, which thankfully I never ran across, severed or otherwise, when out beachcombing as a kid.

Now that I have a better understanding of grief… I’m on the lookout for the next thing to understand that fascinates me and that I can weave into my next story. I have a feeling it won’t be a problem!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Mary.Keliikoa.Author
Twitter: https://twitter.com/mary_keliikoa
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mary.keliikoa.author/
Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/mary-keliikoa
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/20038534.Mary_Keliikoa

AUTHOR WEBSITE: www.marykeliikoa.com

 

4 Comments

  1. Michael A. Black

    Mary, your rather spooky narrative about the Pacific Northwest and the feet washing ashore sent chills down my spine. Your writing talent is evident. And I used to groan every time I got a notice to appear for jury duty. I was a cop so they never choose me. Best of luck to you.

    Reply
    • Mary Keliikoa

      Michael, I appreciate that! I had the same problem when I worked in the legal field. Thankfully, they didn’t seem as concerned when I was able to claim “mystery writer” on my information!

      Reply
  2. Donnell Ann Bell

    Mary, fascinating blog about your life and setting. Your memories of the Pacific Northwest are how I, an occasional visitor, remember it as well. I also get excited about jury duty 😉 Must be the need for unexpected and new material. Best wishes.

    Reply
    • Mary Keliikoa

      Thank you, Donnell Ann! The Pacific NW, and the coastal range in particular, really are characters all their own!! I think you’re right about the jury duty too, LOL. Always need that material!

      Reply

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NANNETTE POTTER – International Thrillers Inspired by Faith

An adventuress at heart, Nannette Potter lives vicariously through her fearless and impetuous characters, inventing lives balanced on a knife’s edge. PIERCE THE DARKNESS, her debut international thriller, inspired by her Christian faith, was a 2022 Claymore Award finalist. Beyond writing, she loves spending time with family and traveling the globe, where she dreams up future novels while sipping mango margaritas. An active member of Sisters in Crime, she lives with her soulmate and husband, Mark, in California’s Central Valley.

Pierce the Darkness Elevator Pitch In a high-stakes thriller, Genevieve “Blade” Broussard, a disgraced impalement artist, plunges into a treacherous web of deceit. As Blade uncovers a sinister plot to assassinate world leaders at the United Nations, she must risk everything to stop the scheme before the delicate scales of world stability shatters.

What brought you to writing? My mother’s love of reading undeniably shaped my passion for literature. While it might sound somewhat clichéd, I’ve always wanted to write. I vividly recall the moment when I sat at my brother’s typewriter and penned my first story at the age of ten. From that moment, I was hooked. I wrote for the high school newspaper, took journalism and creative writing courses in college, and wrote confessionals (which wasn’t profitable) to build my publishing portfolio.

Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? My hubby and I have been empty nesters for a while, so I converted an extra bedroom into my writing space. But I write anywhere and everywhere! I’ve been known to write in my favorite coffee bistro, a hotel room, in a car (as a passenger), and even at a zoo. And distractions? Distractions are my weakness, especially when I’m researching. It’s so easy to go down rabbit holes online.

What are you currently working on? I’m thrilled to be working on Book 2 of my trilogy. One of my favorite aspects of writing is inventing new characters and exploring new locations. And did I happen to mention I am a total research aficionado?

Who’s your favorite author? My “favorite” books have changed over the decades, almost like a comfortable, evolving friendship with reading. Little Women was my first “chapter” book companion, inspiring me to dream of writing like Jo and igniting my love for storytelling. Then, in my romantic phase, I was enthralled by The Wolf and the Dove by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss. The Inspector Lynley Mysteries, written by Elizabeth George, marked a decade of discovering a whole new mystery genre. And once I read the Sigma Force series by James Rollins, I was hooked on thrillers.

How do you come up with character names? This is my favorite part of storytelling. Before I began writing PIERCE THE DARKNESS, I knew the first name of my main character—Blade. As I delved into crafting her backstory, I thought about her heritage, and I couldn’t decide between French or Cajun. Eventually, I settled on Genevieve “Blade” Broussard. But normally, before I name a character, I already have an idea of their ethnicity, gender, and a fragment of their backstory. I comb through the internet, searching for names by nationality until the name rings true for my character. This can take weeks to finalize.

Do you outline, or are you a pantser? To kick off my creative process, I use a storyboard divided into three acts, a colorful jungle of post-it notes. For the initial draft, I go old-school and write in longhand. It’s messy and crude, but this is where the magic happens for me. Once I transcribe it into my computer, I switch to editing mode.

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? I always use real locations in my writing; a big part of PIERCE THE DARKNESS takes place in Italy. Since my husband and I love to travel, it was an easy sell to travel there. As I stepped into Blade’s shoes and explored Florence and Rome in person, I realized some of the assumptions based on my research didn’t quite match up with reality. I loved strolling down the same streets as my character, visiting the Duomo di Firenze, and even choosing a safe house in Rome. I was living my dream!

Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I’m naturally excited to celebrate the launch of my thriller! Now, it’s time to get back to work promoting this book and writing the next one. But that’s what I love about storytelling; there is always something new to learn. Whether it’s honing my writing skills, navigating the world of publishing, or mastering social media, it can all feel a bit overwhelming at times. But I’m committed to lifelong learning, and there’s no better way to do that than through writing. Traveling to an unknown city or country and discovering what makes that place unique is always on my calendar. And I plan to attend two conferences in 2024. There are many great options to choose from, but I’m leaning towards attending Thrillerfest in New York and Bouchercon in Nashville. Exciting times ahead!

Do you have any advice for new writers? Never, ever, ever wait for the perfect time to write. Just write. Take whatever snippets of time you can find and make the most of it.

How do our readers contact you?

Website: www.nannettepotter.com
Facebook: Nannette Potter
Instagram: Nannette Potter

Where can readers purchase your book?
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Bookshop
Google Play
Kobo
Apple Books

Groups I belong to:
Sisters in Crime – National
Sisters in Crime – Guppy Chapter
Sisters in Crime – Northern California
Sisters in Crime – Orange County
The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi)

 

5 Comments

  1. Donnell Ann Bell

    Do you have a romance background? I know so many who love The Wolf and the Dove by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss. Long hand is a wonderful way to cement the plot. I write my first draft in shorthand, then print it out, then type. Wonderful Q&A. Nice to meet you, Nannette!

    Reply
  2. Nannette Potter

    Thank you all for your comments. Travel and writing, my dream come true!

    Reply
  3. Debra Bokur

    There are plenty of great studies that confirm writing in longhand actually stirs creativity and helps you work out details as you go. I’ve written the first draft of all my books in those fun “Decomposition Books,” and have them all stacked in a corner of my writing room. Glad to hear it’s a thing!

    Reply
  4. Carl Vonderau

    Nice writing advice, Nannette. I write longhand too for the first draft. And I also love to visit actual locations where the story will take place.

    Reply
  5. Michael A. Black

    Great writing advice, Nannette. Love the title of your book. Best of luck to you.

    Reply

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KELLY OLIVER – The Joy and Challenges of Writing Real-Life Historical Characters

Kelly Oliver is the award-winning and bestselling author of three mystery series: the seven-book contemporary suspense series, The Jessica James Mysteries; the three-book middle grade kid’s series, Pet Detective Mysteries; and the soon to be seven-book historical cozy series, The Fiona Figg Mysteries.
Kelly is currently President of National Sisters in Crime.

When she’s not writing novels, Kelly is a Distinguished Professor of Philosophy Emerita at Vanderbilt University. To learn more about Kelly and her books, go to www.kellyoliverbooks.com.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Downton Abbey meets Agatha Christie in this charming historical cozy. “A delightful English countryside mystery with two handsome suitors and twists and turns worthy of Agatha Christie herself!” – Amanda Flower, USA Today Bestselling Author.

London, 1918 –
Fiona Figg finds herself back in Old Blighty, saddled with shuffling papers for the war office. Then, a mysterious card arrives, inviting her to a fancy house party at Mentmore Castle. This year’s Ascot-themed do will play host to a stable of animal defense advocates, and Fiona is tasked with infiltrating the activists and uncovering possible anti-war activity.

Disguised as the Lady Tabitha Kenworthy, Fiona is more than ready for the “mane” event, but the odds are against her when both her arch nemesis, dark-horse Fredrick Fredricks, and would-be fiancé Lieutenant Archie Somersby arrive unexpectedly and “stirrup” her plans. And when a horse doctor thuds to the floor in the next guest room, Fiona finds herself investigating a mysterious poisoning with some very hairy clues.

Can Fiona overcome the hurdles and solve both cases or will she be put out to pasture by the killer?

Today and every day, I’m grateful for writing. Writing enables me to live. It’s a necessity and not an option. Because of that, I’m especially thankful for readers. At this point, having readers respond to my writing is the most gratifying part of my life.

I began my writing career as a philosophy graduate student and then as a philosophy professor. I wrote nonfiction and scholarly works for decades. I wrote my first fiction, a mystery novel, almost ten years ago. Last December, I retired from Vanderbilt University to write novels full-time. I loved my philosophy career. But I was ready for a new challenge.

One of the greatest joys and challenges of my current writing projects is writing historical characters. I have three mystery series, and only one of them is historical. While I enjoy all of them, writing characters based on real-life people is especially fun.
For example, many of the characters in the latest Fiona Figg & Kitty Lane Mystery, Arsenic as Ascot—out next Tuesday and available for pre-order now—were inspired by real people.

Emilie Augusta Louise Lind af Hageby, known as Lizzy Lind, was a Swedish-born animal activist who founded the Purple Cross for horses and started the first veterinary field hospitals for military animals. She did enter medical school at the University of London to expose their vivisectionist cruelties. And she co-founded—with Lady Nina Douglas, Duchess of Hamilton—the Animal Defense Society with an office on Piccadilly. Nina used her estate at Ferne as a sanctuary for animals abandoned during the war, especially World War II, when food was in such short supply that many pet owners could no longer afford to feed themselves and their pets.

The character of Dr. Sergei Vorknoy is inspired by Dr. Serge Voronoff, known as the “monkey gland expert” and the “monkey gland doctor.” The real Dr. Voronoff, a Russian immigrant, grafted tissue from chimpanzee testicles onto wealthy men and their horses. He claimed the operation would restore youth and vitality and boost intelligence. He performed his operations mainly in France but also in England. This “side hustle” made him rich. Seems lots of wealthy men were ready to give it a go.

The novel Lady Sybil is loosely based on Lady Sybil Grant, daughter of Lord Archibald Primrose, Earl of Rosebery, who served as the prime minister of the United Kingdom from 1894–1895. He did close the gates to one of his estates, The Durdans when his son left to fight and never again reopened them. And after his wife, Hannah de Rothschild, died, he wore mourning for the rest of his life. He was also an avid horse lover and owned several stables and racehorses. He did not, however, hide horses from the War Office, and neither did his groom. Lady Sybil was known for her unconventional ways, including climbing trees, issuing orders with a bullhorn, and traveling with the caravan of Romani she allowed to camp on the estate. Don’t you just love this?

My recurring baddie, Fredrick Fredricks, is inspired by real-life spy Fredrick “Fritz” Joubert Duquesne, the South African huntsman who escaped from prison several times in outrageous ways, adopted several personae and generally charmed his way through high society posing as a New York journalist, a British army officer, and a Russian duke. One of his aliases was indeed Fredrick Fredricks. He was also the leader of an infamous Duquesne spy ring in World War II until his capture in one of the largest espionage convictions in United States history. Fredrick Fredricks is a fan favorite and one of mine, too!

Some of the joys of writing historical characters is learning about fascinating people like these. For a writer, their stories provide built-in plots, which is nice. The challenge is finding an appropriate voice and fleshing them out. Research only gets you so far. Sure. You can learn facts about someone’s life. But that doesn’t tell you who they were. Taking a journey into the head of a historical figure is both exhilarating and an enormous responsibility.

My goal is to tell a good story inspired by real-life characters and true events. Creative license is key to both starting and finishing any project. Without it, I would be paralyzed. Thankfully, at the end of the day, mine are fiction, not history books.

I love historical mysteries because I can learn about history while enjoying a rip-roaring good story.

What do you love about historical mysteries?

Arsenic at Ascot LINKS

Apple Books https://books.apple.com/us/book/arsenic-at-ascot/id6463619182

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/arsenic-at-ascot-kelly-oliver/1143980413

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0CD3N2XSH/

Amazon CA: https://www.amazon.ca/Arsenic-Ascot-Fiona-Kitty-Mystery-ebook/dp/B0CD3N2XSH/

Amazon AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/Arsenic-Ascot-Fiona-Kitty-Mystery-ebook/dp/B0CD3N2XSH/

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/arsenic-at-ascot

Kobo CA: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/arsenic-at-ascot

2 Comments

  1. Debra H. Goldstein

    Interesting — especially the part about who you based certain characters on.

    Reply
  2. Michael A. Black

    It sounds like you have tremendous knowledge of history and those figures who made their mark. Best of luck to you with your writing.

    Reply

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BARBARA HOWARD – Pentagon Veteran, Treasure Hunter, Author

 Barbara Howard is an author of mystery stories featuring a female amateur sleuth, diverse characters, and a dash of romance. Books include the Finding Home Mystery Series, Final Harvest, Charlotte’s Revenge, and Milo’s Journey. She is a first-generation tech geek turned master gardener. Ms. Howard returned to her Midwestern hometown after an extensive career as a Department of Defense Project Manager at the Pentagon and KPMG Finance and Accounting, Eastern Region. She spends most of her time treasure hunting, spoiling her fur babies, growing veggies, and plotting whodunits.

Please share your elevator pitch with us: The Taste of RainCollege student and part-time health aide Amira Connors wants nothing more than to graduate and successfully launch a non-profit with her latest crush, Attorney Darius Browne. But when a nursing home patient (Claire Stewart) shares shocking details surrounding her husband’s death, Amira pieces together the fractured memories and helps law enforcement identify the actual killer. But is he? Or have Claire’s ramblings entangled Amira into becoming the next target?

Has an association membership helped you with your writing? I belong to several associations, and each relationship is beneficial. I consider Sisters in Crime a shining star above them all. The networking, publishing, and educational resources are top-notch. I’ve built many friendships through my affiliation with SinC.

How do you come up with character names? If you’ve ever contacted me through a direct message (DM) with the classic line “Hello beautiful” or to interest me in cryptocurrency, chances are your name has been added to my list of character profiles. Most often, the murder victim.

What’s the most challenging thing about writing characters from the opposite sex? Making sure that they don’t sound like my ex-husband. Just kidding, sort of. I spent the majority of my career in the Pentagon, tech, and financial firms, all predominantly male environments. I have plenty of voices in my head (I’ve dubbed them the Ghosts of Briefings-Past) that feed my stories.

Do you base any of your characters on real people? Each character is my personal Frankenstein—a patchwork of several people I’ve known. I determine the character’s backstory, internal struggle, goals, and passions. Then, I go shopping for traits and behaviors that match the people I’ve met throughout my life. I’m a quilter, and piecing the fabric is my favorite part of that process. I suppose that has translated into my writing process and makes it fun for me.

Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I am a flexible plotter. I map out everything and try to stick to it. I  need a clear path and goal for each scene. However, I allow room for the characters to breathe and grow. If that causes the plot to take unexpected twists and turns, I go with the flow. PS: That always happens, and it’s another part of the fun.

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? Each setting has components from different places where I’ve lived, worked, or visited. Once I decide what the setting should look and feel like, I pull from my experiences in similar places to create it. That way, every time I walk through a scene with a character, it feels very real to me. And I hope that authenticity conveys over to the reader as well.

   

Do you have any advice for new writers? Try not to compare yourself to other authors. Find your own voice. Continue perfecting your craft. Learn something new every day. And trust the process.

Recent projects: Contributing author to the wedding-themed cozy mystery anthology Malice, Matrimony, and Murder.

Memberships:
Sisters in Crime,
Great Lakes Fiction Writers,
Crime Writers of Color,
Mystery Writers of America,
Gamma Xi Phi

Facebook groups:
Building Relationships Around Books,
Cozy Crime Collective,
World of Black Writers,
Gamma Xi Phi,
Women Reading Great Books,
Tattered Page Book Club

Links:
Contact – http://www.authorbarbarahoward.com
Buy – https://linktr.ee/BarbaraHoward

7 Comments

  1. Michael A. Black

    Nice to meet you, Barbara. You really gave some excellent advice. I especially liked the term “flexible plotter.” I’m going to have to steal that one. 😉 Also, I’m going to have to stop saying, “Hello beautiful” so I don’t accidentally end up as one of your murder victims. Best of luck to you.

    Reply
    • Barbara Howard

      Hi Michael, I certainly don’t want to discourage you from sharing those lovely greetings through DM. Perhaps I should frame it as I would honor the next person with the important role of murder victim in my next mystery. Because we all know that in crime fiction, the action doesn’t start until the body drops. 🙂

      Reply
  2. Marla Bradeen

    Love this interview, Barbara! I bet all of those spammers never expected to be featured in your books. Thanks for sharing Malice, Matrimony, and Murder, and congrats on your new series!

    Reply
    • Barbara Howard

      Thanks, Marla! The anthology is a wonderful collection and you get to meet new authors and fall in love with their books. What could be more fun than that?

      Reply
  3. Barbara Howard

    Thank you for welcoming me into your community and allowing me to share about my journey and anthology, Malice, Matrimony, and Murder.

    Reply
    • Kathleen Kalb

      Great interview — and I’m “borrowing” that idea for naming victims!

      Reply
      • Barbara Howard

        Hi Kathleen, you never know where inspiration comes from, right? Sometimes they “slide into your DMs” 🙂

        Reply

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NANCY LYNN JARVIS -Enjoy Her Multi-Profession Journey to Writing

Nancy Lynn Jarvis wore many hats before she started writing cozy mysteries. After earning a BA in behavioral science from San Jose State University, she worked in the advertising department of the San Jose Mercury News, as a librarian, as the business manager for Shakespeare/Santa Cruz, and as a realtor.

Nancy’s work history reflects her philosophy: people should try something radically different every few years, which she applies to her writing and life. She has just started growing hops commercially.

Elevator pitch for Santa Cruz Ghost Stories – If you want to be entertained or, in some cases, made to shiverꟷ by the creative minds of writers telling you their Santa Cruz ghost stories, this is the book for you. There’s even an AI-generated ghost story so you can see what future ghosts may look like.

I belong to Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and Santa Cruz Women of Mystery. I’m on too many writer-related Facebook groups to list.

Do you write in more than one genre? Does editing count if I contributed a story to the book? Mostly, I write cozy-style mysteries, where I began and am currently working, but I keep getting sidetracked. After the fourth book in my Regan McHenry Real Estate Mysteries series, I swerved into a stand-alone novel titled Mags and the AARP Gang.

A little later, I thought my book covers needed refreshing, and while searching online for ideas, I found a graphic that I thought would make a perfect cookbook cover… not that I ever intended to do a cookbook. I bought it and showed it to some writers I knew, instructing them to talk me down from an increasingly growing and intruding idea that I should ask other cozy mystery writers to contribute recipes from their books and create a cookbook. They failed miserably. Over one hundred of them submitted recipes and delightful autobiographies, and the result was Cozy Food: 128 Cozy Mystery Writers Share Their Favorite Recipes.

I was asked to write a short story for a proposed anthology titled Santa Cruz Noir. I thought that was the wrong vibe for my community and convinced seventeen other writers to contribute stories about our weird hometown. The result was Santa Cruz Weird.

After that, I finished the Regan McHenry Real Estate Mysteries series and began another one, PIP Inc. Mysteries, about a downsized law librarian who turns to private investigation to support herself. Things were going well. I was four books and six thousand words into book five in the series when I sold a ghost story for an anthology.

I was not bragging—okay, maybe I was a bit—to friends who suggested I do another anthology, this time one full of ghost stories. Santa Cruz Ghost Stories is in the final throes before publication and hopefully will be ready for preorder on December 1st.

What brought you to writing? I started writing as a game because I was bored. I was a realtor in 2008 when the real estate market collapsed. My husband and I had our own small real estate company, and we decided to take a time-out until things settled down. Within three weeks, I was going crazy with too much time on my hands.

I had just finished reading everything Tony Hillerman had written and thought it might be entertaining to see if I could take what I thought was a great beginning and terrific book ending and somehow connect the two of them. Instead of Navajo police officers on the Big Reservation, I decided to set my story in the world of real estate in Santa Cruz. I wrote about what I knew and what I saw. The result was The Death Contingency. I’ve never stopped because it only took one book to get hooked on writing.

We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave or run wild? I start each book by writing a short psychological profile (behavioral science was my college major) about each character. Still, they typically start out with me using the name and persona of someone I know. They quickly get renamed because the first time I want them to do something they wouldn’t do, they have to be changed into a character who will do what I want them to do.

It usually works well, but in the PIP Inc. Mysteries series I’m doing now, the protagonist continues to be based on a person I know. Like my character, she was a law librarian turned private investigator. My Pat character is half her age and has green eyes because the real Pat said she always wanted green eyes, but other than that, she is pretty much herself. (And yes, she is a markswoman with a magnum 357 in her briefcase.)

I have had some problems with the primary characters in this series, though. Pat was supposed to be interested in two men: Tim, the deputy sheriff she met on her first case, and Mark, an attorney she’s had a crush on for some time, for several books. But the chemistry between Pat and one of the men was so strong that it only took one book for her to choose her love.

Supposedly, having characters wed is the kiss of death in cozy mysteries, but Pat and her guy made me break the rules. In Dearly Beloved Departed, there’s a wedding scene.

Do you ever kill a popular character? If so, what happens to your story? I’ve only killed one character I loved, and readers probably did, too. It broke my heart to do it, so much so that I spent time curled up on a sofa in my office sobbing and shaking after writing the murder scene. It had to happen, though, for the story to work properly.

What kind of research do you do? You’d think there wouldn’t need to be much research done to write contemporary mysteries, but you’d be mistaken…wildly so. I’ve delved into everything from bone spurs on primitive human heels, redwood trees, the evolution of cat litter, and the history of sin eaters, to name a few topics I’ve researched. I now have more useless facts crammed into my brain than most people. For me, it’s imperative to get small details right to make the stories believable so I may spend considerable time researching something only a few paragraphs long in the books.

How do our readers contact you?

They can contact me from my website http://www.nancylynnjarvis.com. They can also find me on Facebook, where I am Nancy Lynn Jarvis, or on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2918242.Nancy_Lynn_Jarvis

Buy books at https://www.amazon.com/s?k=nancy+lynn+jarvis&i=stripbooks&sprefix=Nancy+Lynn+Jarvis%2Caps%2C450&ref=nb_sb_ss_c_0_17

 

 

6 Comments

  1. Pamela Ruth Meyer

    Wow, George and Nancy, this was great fun. Even though what Nancy describes going through after killing off one of her favorite characters was terribly heart-wrenching and sad, I honestly love hearing that our made-up people touch us that much. No wonder writing them as close as we can into reality feels so potent, heh?

    Reply
  2. Marisa

    “I bought it and showed it to some writers I knew, instructing them to talk me down from an increasingly growing and intruding idea that I should ask other cozy mystery writers to contribute recipes from their books and create a cookbook. They failed miserably. Over one hundred of them submitted recipes and delightful autobiographies, and the result was Cozy Food: 128 Cozy Mystery Writers Share Their Favorite Recipes.“

    I LOVE this! I enjoy cooking myself and I bet this has some great recipes in it.

    I have also pursued a few different jobs/careers myself. Need to keep things interesting!

    : )

    Reply
  3. Nancy Lynn Jarvis

    George, thanks for having me on your blog. It was great meeting you at the Two Birds Bookstore reading. I look forward to seeing you again. Have you considered writing a short story with a ghost for the next time I’m crazy enough to try this again?

    Reply
    • George Cramer

      Nancy, I doubt I have a ghost of a chance at writing a ghost story.

      Reply
  4. Michael. A. Black

    It sounds like you have way more than a ghost of a chance at success here, Nancy. Keep ’em coming and don’t wait for anyone to say, “Boo!” Good luck.

    Reply

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KAYE GEORGE – The Journey Can Be Long

Kaye George is an award-winning novelist and short-story writer who writes cozy and traditional mysteries and a prehistory series, both traditionally and self-published. Her two cozy series are Fat Cat and Vintage Sweets. The two traditional series feature Cressa Carraway and Imogene Duckworthy. The People of the Wind prehistory mysteries take place within a Neanderthal tribe. About 50 or more short stories have also been published, mostly in anthologies and magazines, though a few are for sale separately. She used to review for Suspense Magazine and now writes a column for Mysterical-E from her home in Knoxville, TN.

PITCH FOR SONG OF DEATH: Aspiring conductor Cressa Carraway arrives at her grandmother’s cabin at a rural Illinois lake resort, hoping to find the ideal place to finish composing the symphony she needs to earn her master’s degree. Instead, she finds her grandmother’s corpse in the lake. The authorities dismiss the death as an accidental drowning, but when Gram’s best friend drowns in the exact same spot, Cressa knows something is off-key in this idyllic setting.

The Journey Can Be Long – And it can be round-about. I had a new novel come out in August, but it wasn’t really a new novel. It’s actually the first one I ever completed that I thought had a chance of being published. It wasn’t the first one published, however.

Before I started keeping good records, I was querying that novel, now called SONG OF DEATH, so I don’t know exactly how many rejections I got on it. But, eventually, after CHOKE was published in 2011 after 65 queries, SONG did find a home at Barking Rain Press in 2013.

SONG will always be very dear to me because I set it at my mother’s lake cabin. I know she would love that, but she wasn’t here when I started to get published. She’s a BIG part of why I write, though. She used to want to write a novel and would even tell me some of her plots. The only one I remember is the parrot plot. She wanted someone to think they were hearing a murder inside a house, but eventually, it was disclosed that the parrot was very loud and screechy. And yelled, “Murder!” Okay, I know some of her plots were better than that, but I can’t remember them.

Here’s an amusing query story. One New York agent turned down SONG OF DEATH because it’s set at a lake resort in central Illinois, and this New York agent knew there weren’t any lake resorts in Illinois. Right. It’s set at a REAL Illinois lake resort. And it’s far from the only one. So there.

Anyway, I’m so pleased to be able to carry through on this, this getting published thing, even if my mom couldn’t. Snags and detours and side roads I’ve encountered.

Because that’s not the end of the SONG OF DEATH story, Barking Rain went under after publishing that one and the sequel. Barking Rain changed the title to EINE KLEINE MURDER. I know. I thought it was not the most accessible. The main character is a musician, so it’s a play on a piece by Mozart, EINE KLEINE NACHTMUSIK. She, Cressa Carraway, is a musician because I’m a musician. “Write what you know.” Right? She’s a keyboard player, though, not a violinist like me, because they are much more useful.

The piece she composes during this novel is called SONG OF LIFE, but a murder mystery is better suited to SONG OF DEATH, right?

I had high hopes for this series. It was going to be my one magnum opus and go on for many, many sequels. Cressa composes and eventually conducts, and my dream was she would be a guest conductor worldwide. I would have to visit the places she went and write off the trips on my taxes. Great plan.

Things don’t always go the way you plan them.

I kept writing more things, different series, and lots of short stories, and I had great success at Untreed Reads with my Neanderthal mysteries. So, maybe about a year ago, I asked Jay Hartman, the editor there, if they wanted to reissue my Cressa Carraway books with my original titles and new covers. He said yes!

Then things changed again. Untreed Reads had a shuffle, and Jay is no longer there. But the Cressa e-books were still published in August, two on the same day. SONG OF DEATH and the second one, REQUIEM FOR RED. There should be paperbacks by the time this blog runs. I hope!

Oh, and that first published novel, CHOKE, in 2011? Things didn’t work out with that publisher at all. I took it back in a year and self-published it in 2012, then went on to do three more in that series.

I would always much rather have a publisher, though. I’d rather write than do all the pubby things, for sure!

When the third Cressa Carraway novel comes out, it will be my sixteenth novel! I sometimes have to pinch myself. I love being a mystery writer! And I know my mom would love reading my books.

I owe George Cramer my thanks for letting me post here today. Thanks a million!

Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/Death-Cressa-Caraway-Musical-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B0CGF6KNVS/

Contact Links and Groups:

https://www.bookbub.com/authors/kaye-george

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4037415.Kaye_George

https://www.instagram.com/kayegeorge13/

https://sinc-guppies.org/

https://www.pinterest.com/kayegeorge/

Local SinC chapter https://www.easttn-sinc.com/

https://shortmystery.blogspot.com/

 

7 Comments

  1. M. E. Bakos

    Kaye,
    Thank you for sharing your journey. Publishing can be a long and twisty path. I always enjoy your writing.

    Reply
    • Kaye George

      You’re welcome, and it sure can be! Thanks!!

      Reply
  2. Marilyn Levinson

    Great post, Kaye. Reading it, I just learned things about you I never knew.:)

    Reply
    • Kaye George

      Thanks, Marilyn! Stick around. There’s probably more. 🙂

      Reply
  3. Pamela Ruthj Meyer

    Wow, Kaye, the tale of your paths to publication may be the perfect story to demonstrate the need to be able to roll with the punches and just keep going. I really needed this right now. Thanks, and best of luck with the re-issue of what feels to me like your ‘grandma’ tale–SONG OF DEATH. I bet she’d have been so very, very proud of you.

    Reply
    • Kaye George

      I’m so happy this is helpful, Pamela! Good luck with all your writing.

      Reply
  4. Kaye George

    Thanks for hosting me today, George! I hope others can benefit from my long and winding road saga.

    Reply

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AMY RIVERS – 2021 Indie Author of the Year

Amy Rivers is an award-winning novelist and the Director of the Writing Heights Writers Association. She was named 2021 Indie Author of the Year by the Indie Author Project. Her psychological suspense novels incorporate important social issues with a focus on the complexities of human behavior. Amy was raised in New Mexico and now lives in Colorado with her husband and children.

ELEVATOR PITCH Ripple Effect – Forensic psychologist Kate Medina continues to pursue the leaders of a trafficking ring that has plagued her hometown. Still, time is running out, and her sister’s life is on the line. Will Kate uncover the truth in time to save Tilly?

Ripple Effect, the final installment of my psychological suspense series, A Legacy of Silence, was published on October 24, 2023. I’m both elated and relieved. I figure most authors experience this feeling. You pour your blood, sweat, and tears into your creative work like a parent preparing their children for adulthood. You do the best you can to prepare it for the world, but then you have to let go, knowing that you won’t be able to protect it from harsh critics, but also hopeful that it will find someone who will love it for exactly who it is.

Readers who will love our book as much as we do.

Like any relationship, we want to find the perfect match. A reader who will feel all the things we intended them to feel when we wrote the book. Someone who will introduce our book to their friends, taking our work from relative obscurity all the way to the bestseller lists.

Have I taken the metaphor too far? Seriously, my husband says that no matter what I’m writing, it’s a relationship book, and I guess that extends to all aspects of my life. I’ve always been fascinated with human motivation, prompting me to study psychology, victimology, and criminal behavior. I want to know what makes people tick, and the easiest way for me to understand this is through relationships.

This was certainly true in my work as the director of a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners program serving two rural counties in my home state of New Mexico. Working closely with the first responders who provided services to victims of sexual assault and abuse, it was often my job to talk through secondary trauma and attend to the emotional needs of the nurses in my program. Empathy and a genuine desire to understand people supported those efforts and has inspired me to write about issues of interpersonal violence in what I hope is an authentic and accurate way.

A Legacy of Silence deals with human trafficking and also sisterhood. The books touch on family bonds and romantic relationships while also looking at PTSD, anxiety, sexual predation, and murder. And there’s a reason. Real life is complicated. As humans, we’re constantly juggling–family, career, ambition, passion–and when life throws us some turmoil, those other things don’t just disappear. We work through them with varying degrees of success, and our behavior and actions affect our relationships.

I’m excited that the story is now complete. Ripple Effect marks the end of the saga and hopefully the beginning of some peace for Kate and Tilly and all the people they love. I’ve been immersed in A Legacy of Silence for four years, and I’m looking forward to starting something new. That said, I have a feeling that Kate and Tilly aren’t done with me. I hope everyone enjoys the complete series!

LINKS

https://hype.co/@amyrivers (contains all my social media links)

Facebook Groups:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/1500281960190454
https://www.facebook.com/sincco
https://www.facebook.com/coloradoauthorsleague

1 Comment

  1. Michael A. Black

    Congratulations, Amy on finishing the series. It sounds like a fascinating set of books dealing with an important subject. Best of luck to you and keep writing.

    Reply

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BOB MARTIN – 911

Bob Martin served the NYPD for 32 years in a wide variety of commands. These include the fabled Tactical Patrol Force (TPF), the Street Crime Unit, the Mounted Unit, the 72nd, 69th, and 6th Precincts, Queens and Bronx Detectives, and finally, the Commanding Officer of the Special Investigations Division. Martin was a charter member and played with the NYPD’s Finest Football Team for a dozen years. He served for twelve years on the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) “Committee on Terrorism” and traveled extensively, in this country and abroad, speaking on the subject. He retired as a Deputy Inspector in 2000 and began writing. In 2004, he led a law enforcement mission to Israel. His stories have been published in numerous magazines and newspapers. Bronx Justice, based on an actual case, his first novel, came out in 2016. His second book, the non-fiction 9/11 Remembered-Twenty Years Later, was published in June 2021.

In doing publicity for the 9/11 book, I was often asked about my motivation for writing both books. My answer was very simple-Bronx Justice was a book I wanted to write. 9/11 Remembered was a book I had to write. I retired in 2000 and was not involved in the response on that horrific day, but many of my NYPD friends were. Hearing the incredible stories of those that survived and the tales of those who made the ultimate sacrifice that day were awe-inspiring. Their bravery and willingness to sacrifice their own lives to try and save others filled me with tremendous sorrow and pride to have been a member of that department for 32 years. To see how these heroes were treated twenty years later, the violence and abuse heaped on these men and women on the streets of New York was sickening. I knew I had to get the stories of so many incredible first responders, true heroes, out for the public to learn.

Then Lieutenant, now Chief Terri Tobin, standing at the foot of the South Tower as it comes down. She was blown out of her shoes and hurled sixty feet across West Street, trapped in the debris. Her bullet-resistant Kevlar helmet was penetrated by a four-inch piece of concrete now embedded in her skull. She digs herself out and assists in getting a firefighter out from under an ambulance. When the North Tower falls, again she is hurled across West Street, this time with a two-foot piece of plate glass stuck between her shoulder blades. She continues to assist others until she’s finally transported to a New Jersey hospital, where she is treated for a severe concussion and broken ankle. Eighty stitches close her head and back wounds. And she wants to return to the Trade Center. That this incredible woman, if working the Summer of 2000 street unrest, could be ridiculed, cursed, and have objects thrown at her in the name of Justice, is unbelievable. There are many more stories similar to Chief Tobin’s.

The most challenging part of my writing process is (bonus points if you guessed)-Writing. My first book Bronx Justice took almost sixteen years to complete. For months on end, the manuscript sat in a drawer, unseen by human eyes, until I was blessed to meet a six-time NY Times best-selling author named Vincent Lardo. Vince got me into a writing group he was in, and for the first time, I had “Deadlines.” “Bob, you will read to the group next Thursday, send twelve new pages to the group by Monday. Under that pressure, the book was finished in two years.

9/11 Remembered came with its own deadline. I decided to write it in January 2021. It had to be completed well before the 20th anniversary of the attacks that September. The fact that I had decided that all proceeds from the book would be going to a 9/11 charity (The 3256 Foundation set up to honor NYPD Emergency Service Unit Sergeant and USMC Desert Storm veteran Mike Curtin who was killed on 9/11)
About – 3256 Foundation

https://www.3256-foundation.org › about

made getting it out as early as possible a must. It came out in June 2021.

So, in my case, deadlines make me sit down and write. That’s the reason I like writing for newspapers. I can see something in the paper that I feel needs commenting on, knock out a piece in about one hour, submit it, and generally get a yea or nay within twenty-four hours.

One tip I learned is-do not procrastinate in writing the piece and sending it in. I had seen a story that I wished to comment on, usually in the form of an Op-Ed, and debated about doing it for a day. When I submitted it, I got a reply from the editor along the lines of, “If I had seen this yesterday, it would have been in today’s edition. Unfortunately for you, we covered that story today.” So now, as soon as I get the idea, I write and submit the piece. I’ve been lucky enough to place stories in New York Newsday, the New York Post, and the Daily News.

My favorite authors are the usual suspects in the mystery/crime genre- Michael Connelly, Dennis Lehane, and in my humble opinion, the all-time master of dialogue, the late, great Elmore Leonard. His advice to aspiring writers to “leave out the parts people don’t read” is priceless.

I also love two authors who take their crime stories out West. Craig Johnson’s Longmire and C.J. Box’s Joe Pickett series have a special appeal to me. Johnson’s Sheriff Walt Longmire and Box’s Game Warden Joe Pickett are both set in Wyoming. As a member of the NYPD, I always knew that if the “shit hit the fan” and I needed help on the streets of New York, the cavalry would be riding to my rescue minutes after I put a call over the air. For Longmire and Pickett, it’s more likely hours in the wilds of Wyoming.

My advice to aspiring writers-get writing and get into a good writing group.

Links to my books

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=&ved=2ahUKEwjA8P2m6uD7AhXgrHIEHRAlBFkQFnoECAkQAQ&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2F11-Remembered-Twenty-Years-Later%2Fdp%2FB096LTWCB5&usg=AOvVaw1Yq3JK-0aojKZHNnS7iMTU

 

2 Comments

  1. Marisa Fife

    “I knew I had to get the stories of so many incredible first responders, true heroes, out for the public to learn.”

    This resonated with me after your heart-tugging description of what these courageous people endured while helping others during one of the worst events in American history.

    With the march of time, what 911 means is being eroded. That’s why I think it’s so important to remind people of what happened. I’m glad you do this through your books. Your background and connections no doubt lend an intimate, authentic point of view to this important part of history.

    Reply
  2. Michael A. Black

    Great post, Bob, and God bless you not only for your service in the NYPD, but also for helping the 9/11 charity fund. I’ll have to check out both books. Stay strong.

    Reply

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LYNN HESSE – Judging a Writing Contest is Judgmental

Lynn Hesse is the award-winning author of the novels: Well of RageMurder in MobileAnother Kind of Hero, A Matter of Respect, Murder in Mobile, Book 2, and The Forty Knots Burn. Her last two novels won the 2023 Georgia Independent Authors Association Awards for Best Police Procedural, Best Cover Adult Fiction, Best Suspense/Thriller, and the Spotlight on Georgia Fiction.

 

Outside my bedroom window, the monarch butterfly gathering pollen from my yellow lantana reminds me why I keep judging and entering contests. Surely, it’s not optimism. One day, my writing may brighten a person’s day or make them stop and think, but… Writing is part of my creative life force, a compulsion. I want my voice heard and appreciated, or I wouldn’t write. I need the reinforcement of positive feedback, and I assume others do, too. Of course, first-place winner has a nice ring to it. With second place, I never know if the piece needs more work or if the introverted, quirky protagonist or the reoccurring southern blue-collar themed plot wasn’t relatable to my judges. One academic beta reader told me my language was beautiful, but she couldn’t relate to the characters. Usually, it’s my plain language that critics dismiss as unworthy of their time.

In the past, I judged local writers’ contests in the Atlanta area, and this year, I sponsored a crime-fiction contest for a regional writer’s association. In the second instance, I made up the guidelines for submission and listed Shunn’s formatting rules as an expectation. Nobody followed them. I was left with the dilemma of whether to give monetary prizes for submissions that took my time to wade through novice mistakes: single spacing, no indentions, and page numbers literally in the middle of the pages, not in the footer. I hadn’t anticipated the necessity to clarify that the submissions wouldn’t be read if they didn’t follow standard manuscript formatting, and I felt the weight of responsibility as a solo judge. I caved.

In one contest, I followed strict guidelines set up by a guest agent and scored the writers on different categories such as character development, plot, pace, voice, use of language, grammar, and conflict. The agent picked the winners in each genre and non-genre category from the accumulated scores. I suspect this ten-page scoring system was more equitable for the contestants but a stretch for busy authors trying to complete their short story and novel deadlines.

Again, manuscript formatting wasn’t a priority in this example.

Being jaded, I wondered if the judges narrowed the field for the guest agent and helped find their next breakout novelist. Rather like a professor assigning each student of education to make a children’s book for their final, thus giving the professor material for their thesis. Moving forward, minus my opinion, five judges scored each entry in the second contest example. Although there was a comment section dedicated to giving positive feedback on each entry, I suspected the writers griped about the critical, unjust comments.

I have felt slighted when a one-judge panelist’s comments ran toward the negative, and they didn’t try to filter out their preferences, if not bias, in what they read. It reminds me of reviewers who don’t like your genre or miss that it’s a police procedural, not a mystery, and make comments based on their misconceptions.

With my hesitations put aside about judging others’ work or having mine judged, I’ve decided this fall to volunteer to read and judge ten spooky stories written by 3rd-8th graders. I will fill out the provided scoring form on each submission, and because I love spooky stories by imaginative children, I can gladly forego formatting guidelines. My expectations are minimal. I hope they can write a sentence. My fear is that they’ll write words on the page in a pretty shape like I did in the first grade and think this frazzled adult mind can figure out the puzzle. “You are as sweet as the morning flowers,” I wrote to my mother, who realized by my pouting face that she had missed something important. All the necessary words were present on the paper, plus a red crayon drawing of a flower, but not in any logical order. My overworked mother and father stayed up into the “wee hours of the night,” figuring out what my grade-school mind and heart was trying to say. Mother laminated and framed this early work.

May I do justice to the budding children, the writers of unfiltered truth, and hear their voices.

My mother and sister taught elementary children with hearing and learning disabilities in Atlanta and Lamar and Monroe Counties in Georgia. They will haunt and curse me if I crush a child’s fledgling spirit. The beast of responsibility is nipping at my heels again. To mitigate my bias, I’ll include in the comment section Mr. Kurt Vonnegut’s advice to first please yourself: “If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.” Believe in your story and hone your skills.

     

    A Matter of Respect                Forty Knots Burn

Lynn’s short story “Sabotage and A Murder Mystery” is published in Malice, Matrimony, and Murder, 25 Wedding Cozy Mystery and Crime Fiction Stories published by Marla Bradeen and available in November 2023 at local retailers.

“Shrewd Women” was reprinted in CrimeucopiaBoomshalalaking, Modern Crimes in Modern Times, UK in June 2023 and published by Onyx Publications and Discovery Podcast in 2022. Bitter Love,” a humorous view of a homicide detective having a lousy day, appeared in Crimeucopia, The I’s Have It by Murderous Ink Press, 2021, UK. “Jewel’s Hell” was in the Me Too Short Stories: An Anthology edited by Elizabeth Zelvin, published in 2019 by Level Best Books. Lynn left law enforcement to write and lives with her husband and his six rescue cats near Atlanta, Georgia, where she performs in several dance troupes.

Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Matter-Respect-Murder-Mobile-Book-
Blog https://www.lynnhesse.com
X https://www.twitter.com/lynnhesseauthor
Instagram https://www.instgram,com/lynnhesse_author
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/lynn.hesse2
Scribblers Web https:www.scribblersweb.com
Libro https://libro.fm/audiobooks/9781667083896-well-of-rage

4 Comments

  1. Lynn Hesse

    Thank you, Sandra. This morning I am thinking about objects I hold sacred and objects I’ve lost. I wonder if my children or the children I have nurtured will write or dance about them when my spirit joins my ancestors.

    Reply
  2. Sandra Hughes

    A beautiful and sensitive account of what it means to have the responsibility of judging the creativity of others. I especially related to your commitment to not squash the tender efforts of children. Your accomplishments and tenacity as a writer are amazing!

    Reply
  3. Lynn

    Thank you, Michael. The Spooky Story Contest for sixth graders was fun, a bit dark— childhood fears written down until the details of one story stopped me. A child was writing about being abused. I requested the school counselor be contacted. Of course, the submissions were anonymous.

    Reply
  4. Michael A. Black

    Great account of the difficulties of judging. (Been there myself, groan.) My hats off to you for your dedication. It’s admirable when an accomplished writer like you takes the time to give something back. Good luck.

    Reply

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MARISA FIFE – A Halloween Story

Marisa Fife is a registered nurse, medical editor, and public health writer. She holds a BS in Pre-Veterinary & Animal Science from the University of Massachusetts and a BSN in Nursing from Johns Hopkins University.
Her work experiences have led her from monitoring songbirds for biological surveys, to rehabilitating wildlife, to caring for oncology patients on bone marrow transplant floors. Her first fiction novella, The Woman in Brown, was published in 2022. Her first children’s novel, Will and the Clan of Shadows, is now available.

She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), Mystery Writers of America (MWA), and Sisters in Crime (SINC) professional writing organizations.”

Crisp, tart, red apples. Cool nights. Slinking black cats. Orange, red, and gold leaves. Melted caramel, sweet spices, and chocolate perfume the air. Warty, squat, saffron-hued pumpkins with shriveled, twisting green stems lurk on mossy brick steps. Hulking, angular Victorian houses filled with creepy shadows, their front yards decorated with enormous plastic skeletons. (My favorite display was a life-sized plastic skeleton horse pulling a cart filled with cheerily waving faux human skeletons).

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. There’s just something playful, mischievous, and youthful about the season that I love. The costumes crack me up. So do the purple frosted cupcakes with candy monster eyes, bat-shaped sprinkles, and raspberry filling designed to look like blood. As a child, I loved movies like The Addams Family (1991) and books like Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz. Vincent Price enthralled me as much as Alfred Hitchcock, and I still adore the film Dracula (1931), even if Castle Dracula is infested with armadillos. There are no armadillos native to Transylvania, alas. Perhaps Dracula had an affection for delightfully odd, armored, nocturnal pets with the ability to spread leprosy and dig deep holes in his garden.

Growing up in New England, with Salem and its witchcraft history close by, Halloween was an all-out event. Trick or Treaters, young and old, would gallop, skip, and walk the leaf-littered sidewalks dressed as werewolves, witches, and Wednesday Addams. Colorful candies would fill our pillowcases as we went house to house in the dark. The stars would sometimes burn bright, and the air buzzed with anticipation and magic. If we were lucky, a full moon would grace us with a ghostly silvered world, and the wind would play tricks by making the shadows move––or was there some thing actually lurking there?

I always hoped it was a thing.

I became enamored with Halloween when I was small, helping my mother prepare our carved pumpkin. She cut a spooky face with a knife, and I scooped out the pumpkin’s slimy innards. We toasted the seeds and ate them by the window while watching the trick or treaters go by before we went out in the night ourselves in whatever costume we had begged our parents for that year.

These experiences were the inspiration for my newest novel, The Curse of the Devil’s Purse Inn, a paranormal mystery for ages nine and up. The Sanglier family plans a relaxing vacation in Witchville, Massachusetts, but encounters eerie incidents at the ominous Devil’s Purse Inn. I wanted to write a book that captured things I love about Halloween: magic, mystery, mischief, and fun. And, of course, it also includes lots and lots and lots of candy.

I must leave you now to set up my life-sized skeletons in the front yard. This year’s theme is Jason and the Argonauts (1963). Wishing you all a fantastic Halloween season.

Best site for book purchasing/links to me: https://www.marisafife.com/

 

4 Comments

  1. Michael A. Black

    Great description of what makes Halloween so special to so many. Best of luck with your new book.

    Reply
    • Marisa

      Hi Michael,

      Thank you, appreciate it! And Happy Halloween 🙂

      Reply
  2. Brian

    You sold this at “warty, squat, saffron-hued pumpkins…” ! Like a character.

    Reply
    • Marisa

      Hi Brian,

      Thank you so much for your comment! I love this type of pumpkin and get a kick out of describing them in writing.

      Reply

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