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!
https://hype.co/@amyrivers (contains all my social media links)
Helen Starbuck, no relation to the coffee bunch, is an award-winning author of the standalone suspense novels Legacy of Secrets, Finding Alex, and The Woman He Used to Know, and the Annie Collins Mystery Series. A native, her books are set in Denver and other Colorado locations. Her writing companion is her cat Bean.
A Cold Case of Conscience, an Annie Collins Mystery – Helping Detective Frost review cold cases, Annie Collins can’t resist the pull of a recent murder that may be connected to a 20-year-old cold case. To further complicate matters, Annie’s husband’s ability to tolerate the repercussions of her involvement with Frost is at an end, forcing her to choose between helping Frost or potentially damaging her marriage.
Writers and their characters are strange bedfellows. The fiction writing process is an odd one, for me at least. I often wonder if other writers have strong-willed characters and if they behave or run wild? My characters are very opinionated. They don’t run wild, but boy can they be hard to wrangle. They often come to me in the middle of the night with, “Have you thought about this?” Propositions to let me know they’ve decided to do something different or that I have taken them in the wrong direction. It’s my imagination—I don’t need meds—but I’ve begun to wonder if my characters live in an alternate universe that I am allowed to tap into. Their worlds are very real to me.
I hadn’t planned on writing a series, but I like my characters so much that I ended up doing just that. And they often morph into ways I hadn’t planned on. Detective Frost, a character in my Annie Collins Mystery Series, was supposed to be a one-off character, but he decided to be a mainstay of the series. It didn’t take a lot to persuade me; he’s a very likable, irascible character who keeps Annie, my main character, grounded. Angel Cisneros was, initially, just going to be Annie’s neighbor—a lawyer for her to bounce ideas off, but no major romance. Then he decided to fall in love with her and become more than a friend. That was not my plan. Although now, I can’t imagine telling the story any other way.
Characters can also be a major pain. The first three books in the series, The Mad Hatter’s Son, No Pity in Death, and The Burden of Hate, seemed to flow from my brain to the page without too much difficulty. There were times when I struggled or boxed myself into a corner or got lost in the weeds, but my characters talked to me, and ideas were abundant. After The Burden of Hate was published, they went silent. I joke that I put my main characters through such hell in Burden, that they didn’t want anything to do with me. But it was true—they weren’t giving me any help. I came up with four different plot ideas, none of which I was keen about, and all of which were vetoed by my editor and my beta readers. I was stymied.
It was at that point that two brand new characters appeared and told me a story about a family filled with secrets and a daughter’s search for answers. At a writing seminar, the teacher put several copies of iconic paintings on the table and told us to pick one that spoke to us and write about it for fifteen minutes. A picture of an old, abandoned farmhouse in the midst of a field of grass called to me, and Kate Earnshaw and Evan Hastings started talking. That was the beginning of Legacy of Secrets, a standalone romantic suspense novel.
Annie Collins and Angel Cisneros from the series were still refusing to talk to me, so I decided to stop stressing about it and let other stories come. And they did. Driving to Boulder along Highway 93 one afternoon, the beginning to Finding Alex popped into my head with the thought that the drop offs along both sides of the highway would be a perfect place to leave a body. But, I thought, what if the person wasn’t dead and stumbled out into the highway in front of a detective’s car? Blake Halloran and Alex Kincaid began telling their story. In The Woman He Used to Know, a scene between Nick Ryan and Elizabeth Harper that ends disastrously and later places Nick in a compromising position popped into my head clear as a bell.
Four years later, after my three standalone novels were written and published, Annie and Angel finally decided to talk to me. Unfortunately, they wanted to tell me all about their private lives and weren’t all that interested in a mystery. I gave in to them and wrote a number of short stories about their lives to keep them talking. I struggled with a plot, and I struggled with them, but at last, a plot for book four materialized.
A Cold Case of Conscience will be out in 2023, and Annie, Angel, and I are happy to be talking again. I haven’t decided if book four will be the last in the series, but there are plenty of other characters who are anxious to tell their stories. It’s important to listen to them.
Colorado Author’s League
Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers
Sisters in Crime (National and Colorado chapter)
Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America (National and local)
Frequently accused of drinking too much tea and getting lost deliberately, award-winning writer Debra Bokur is the author of the Dark Paradise Mysteries series (Kensington Books). She’s also a contributing author to Spreading the Word: Editors on Poetry (The Bench Press, 2001) and the former poetry editor at Many Mountains Moving literary journal. Bokur is an award-winning journalist and longtime contributor to national publications, including Global Traveler Magazine. She divides her time between Colorado and coastal Maine.
The Lava Witch – In a remote, mountainous area of a Maui forest near Haleakalā volcano, the naked body of a young woman is found hanging from a tree. The devil is in the details: the woman’s nostrils, mouth, and lungs are packed with lava sand. Her hands are bound in twine, and her feet are charred and blackened, suggesting a firewalking ceremony. Detective Kali Māhoe’s suspicions are immediately aroused. It has all the signs of ritual torture and murder.
But Kali’s investigation soon leads her down a winding trail of seemingly unconnected clues and diverging paths—from the hanging tree itself, a rare rainbow eucalyptus, to rumors of a witch haunting the high areas of the forest, to the legend of the ancient Hawaiian sorceress Pahulu, goddess of nightmares. Casting a shadow over it all—the possibility of a Sitting God, a spirit said to invade and possess the soul.
Aided by her uncle, Police Captain Walter Alaka’i, Officer David Hara, and the victim’s brother, Kali embarks down the darkest road of all. One that leads to the truth of the mountain’s deadly core and a dark side of the island for which even Kali is unprepared.
“This procedural keeps readers guessing all the way to the gratifying solution. Fans of Tony Hillerman will be enthralled.” —Publishers Weekly STARRED REVIEW on The Lava Witch
“A cool police procedural with engaging characters and fascinating components.” —Kirkus Reviews on The Lava Witch
Controlling the Weather – Thanks for inviting me to post on your site today, George. As I prepare for the launch of The Lava Witch, I’ve been mulling over a few concepts that I suspect may be common among both readers and writers of mystery/crime fiction, all of which have coalesced into the notion of controlling the weather.
Consider this: Nearly everything in the world operates according to forces that are out of our control — day and night, tidal waves, tornadoes, disease outbreaks, growing old, watching the neighbors paint their house the wrong color. That’s plenty to dwell on, even on a sunny day, while we can still bolt up and down staircases with ease. When you add in the forces of malevolence, things take a much darker turn.
Like most people, I’ve encountered evil firsthand. Sometimes it’s shiny or dressed up with beguiling surface beauty meant to mislead and confuse; sometimes, it doesn’t bother to pretend to be anything but what it is —cruelty, malice, and deliberate mayhem unleashed to disrupt or destroy the lives and equilibrium of others.
While I’ve never actually talked to other mystery writers or readers about this, I’m sure I’m not alone when I say how satisfying and fulfilling it is to see darkness overcome by goodness and light. I believe it’s one of the reasons we love to read mysteries and thrillers. I know it’s one of the reasons I find it gratifying to write them. Sure, remedying all the ills of the real world and conquering evil in its multitude of forms is beyond my powers as a single human being; but as an author, I can control storms and decide when the sun comes out, and make certain that those who deliberately bring about pain, grief, and misery — at least within the pages of my books — are made fully accountable for their actions. And, I get to bring readers along for the ride, setting off with them on difficult journeys that I know will lead, at last, to a moment of resolution and healing.
How do our readers contact you?
Groups I belong to:
- Sisters In Crime (National, Colorado, and New England chapters)
- Mystery Writers of America
- Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers
- Colorado Authors League
- International Thriller Writers
- Society of American Travel Writers