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
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/
Feb 9, 2023 | Poetry, Uncategorized |
Welcome – What book would you like to tell our readers about?
Don’t Leave Yet, How My Mother’s Alzheimer’s Opened My Heart (She Writes Press, 2015) recounts my journey toward understanding our complicated mother-daughter relationship as she struggles through the early stage of dementia-type Alzheimer’s, and my ultimate discovery of compassion and love that goes beyond familial duty.
Do you write in more than one genre? I enjoy the challenge of poetry, creating, and recreating experiences to connect with readers. Finding a precise image or metaphor and using concise and descriptive language engages my mind in sometimes unexpected ways. The discovery can be exhilarating.
What brought you to writing? I was an English major at the University of Wisconsin -Milwaukee. I admired twentieth-century novelists and poets and wondered if I had it in me to create my own work. It wasn’t until after my father died that I began to explore poetry as a way to express grief. A decade later, when my mother was diagnosed with dementia-type Alzheimer’s, my teacher, the terrific poet Ellen Bass, suggested I might explore my experiences further if I went beyond the parameters of poetry. It was then that I turned to prose. It allowed an expansiveness I needed to convey all that I wanted to say. I started by writing vignettes, followed by full scenes with characters, dialogue, and description. Soon I had pages of material with a sense of connectedness.
Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? I write in my home office, where morning light provides a calm atmosphere and from where I can observe a yellow rose tree and a bevy of finches on the thistle feeder. I don’t tolerate distractions. But I don’t mind my Shih Tsu, Cody, who snores ever so slightly on his bed directly behind me.
Tell us about your writing process: I usually begin writing with a black ballpoint and a Mead notebook. I wrote most of my memoir in notebooks. When I had enough material, I transcribed it into a document on my laptop. I labeled each draft so as not to lose anything interesting or significant. Now I use the same process when writing poetry.
What is the most challenging part of your writing process? Revision is the most challenging. Yet, it’s the part of writing that I enjoy most. I revisit each image and metaphor. When a metaphor doesn’t do its job, I make a list of ten others and then choose the one I think works the best. I also read a poem out loud to gauge the effectiveness of line endings and stanzas. I admit I’m a perfectionist.
What are you currently working on? I’ve recently discovered some old poems that go back several years. I’m trying to revise them but often find myself starting over. I hope to also return to blogging in the near future.
Has an association membership helped you or your writing? The poetry critique group of California Writers Club Tri-Valley Branch, which I lead two times a month, has offered much-needed support as I labor with some of my poems. The members are careful listeners, and they offer critique with enthusiasm. I’ve found the structure and discipline necessary to keep on writing.
Who’s your favorite author? It’s hard to choose just one. I always look forward to reading Jack Kerouac, John Irving, and Jennifer Lauck. My favorite author of all time is John Steinbeck.
What is the best book you ever read? The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. I’ve read it at least three times. I admire its structure, honesty, and intense feeling.
How long did it take you to write your first book? It took five years to write Don’t Leave Yet. I belonged to a writing class in 2004 with Ellen Bass, reading pages each week from my notebook for critique. My mother passed away in 2008, and I was uncertain as to whether or not I could continue to write our story. Ellen, and my fellow writers, were instrumental in my effort to bring the manuscript to its completion a year later.
How long to get it published? Don’t Leave Yet was a finalist in the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Conference writing competition in the memoir category in 2011. One agent from San Francisco who attended the Conference found the book interesting, but that was it. I pursued other agents with no luck. Then I heard about Brooke Warner, the publisher of She Writes Press. I worked with an editor she recommended. She Writes published my memoir in 2015.
What authors did you dislike at first but grew to enjoy? When I read Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, I thought I might cross her off my list. But when I discovered Truth and Beauty, I was hooked.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I began writing Don’t Leave Yet without an outline. By the time I completed the third chapter, I had decided an outline was necessary since I wove together scenes of the present with those of the past. It was a way of keeping characters and events clear in my mind.
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I plan to continue placing my poems in literary journals if I’m lucky. I will also enter my chapbook, Treading Water, in more literary competitions with the goal of publication. It was recently named a finalist in Blue Lights Press writing contest.
Do you have any advice for new writers? First and foremost, be true to yourself. Write what’s meaningful and what you love. Observe the world. Read widely. And don’t ever let others tell you that you can’t write.
How do our readers contact you?
Jan 30, 2023 | Crime, Mystery |
Bruce Lewis was a crime reporter for several California daily newspapers, where he earned six awards for best news and feature writing. Bruce is the author of the Kim Jansen Detective Series. His debut novel, Bloody Paws, won a Maxy Award for best mystery novel of 2021. Bloody Pages, a mystery novel dealing with intergenerational violence, was released on August 11, 2022. Bloody Feathers, Book 3 in the series, will be released on March 3, 2023. On December 11, 2022, his publisher, Black Rose Writing, posted the first of Bruce’s ten episodes, Death of the Stray—A Veterinarian’s Revenge, to Kindle Vella. He is working on a fourth novel, with the working title, Bloody Robes.
Bloody Feathers A bullet explodes the cremation urn of a beloved bookseller during his memorial, sending shrapnel into a dozen mourners, including Detective Kim Jansen. As she recovers, Jansen finds herself tangled in four mysteries tied to John James Audubon’s The Birds of America, one of the world’s most valuable books.
Who’s your favorite author? – Stephen King. King is a master storyteller—as we all know—whose writing technique is invisible, with his characters driving every story at a mad pace. For light reading, I enjoy Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch, C. J. Box’s Joe Pickett, and Nevada Barr’s Anna Pidgeon.
What is the best book you have ever read? Shipping News by Annie Proulx. The quality and complexity of her writing is astounding. I read it long before I became a novelist. It would be interesting to re-read it and see what magic I could glean for my own books. I wish I had her talent.
How long did it take you to write your first book? – I got the idea a dozen years before starting it. In late 2019, I started writing it at a relaxed pace. I’d walk a mile and a quarter down to a coffee shop, write for an hour, then walk home. I would do that a few times a week. I wrote parts on my iPad and some on my iPhone while riding buses in Portland, Oregon, where I lived for six years. Bloody Pages, book 2, took 90 days. The difference: a publisher encouraging the next book in what would become a series, learning tricks from other novelists, and creating an outline before starting. As a former newspaper reporter accustomed to working on a deadline, I’m a fast writer. I suspect I could write the next one in less.
How do you come up with character names? They pop into my head. I try to keep them simple, so they don’t distract from the storytelling. Sometimes, I use versions of family names for the fun of it. For example, my mother’s first and middle name was Dorothy Maxine, and my grandmother was a Reid. I combined them into Maxine Dorothy Reid. In Bloody Paws, she’s a homeless meth addict. No, my mother, who passed away many years ago, was not a drug addict or homeless, nor was my grandmother, who died 25 years before I was born.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I practice a hybrid style. I’m a planning pantser. I create a one-page outline of the entire book, one line per chapter. Before I write, I add another paragraph or two describing what happens in each chapter. I always know the beginning and end of the book before I start to write. With a direction in mind, I write by the seat of my pants to fill in details. I see each chapter like you would see a scene in a movie. I visualize it, then write what I see.
Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? I do both. If I think a particular location, like a restaurant, might object to what I write (such as a serial killer as one of their regular patrons), I’ll use a fictional name. Otherwise, I use real names and real locations I’ve visited personally.
What advice do you give to up-and-coming writers? Don’t fret about how long it takes or obstacles that might arise. Just get the story down on paper. Once it’s down, you can begin shaping it the way you like. And, for gosh sake, don’t worry about getting an agent or writing a bestseller. And write a little or a lot every day to achieve your goal.
What is the most challenging part of the writing process? The editing. I love writing. Hate the editing. VERY important, but also VERY Tedious. I’m working on ways to produce a cleaner manuscript as the story unfolds rather than do all the editing at the end. Polishing creates the gem. I wish I were more patient with the process.
-Oregon Writers Colony – https://oregonwriterscolony.org/contact (member news
-Willamette Writers—Portland Chapter
-California Writers Club—Mt. Diablo Branch
-Portland Audubon Society
-Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum
My contact information
Where books are available
Online: Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble
Independent Bookstores: Powell’s (Portland), Reasonable Books (Lafayette), and Gallery Books (Mendocino)
Jan 23, 2023 | Uncategorized |
Late last year Denise and I were chatting at a California Writers Club – Mt. Diablo Branch meeting about the challenges we writers face. She gave me some advice that worked for me. Recently I was able to convince her to write an article for the blog.
Before we jump in to that, here is a little about Denise..
Denise P. Kalm, BCC, was trained as a personal/executive coach at John F. Kennedy University and as a creativity coach by Eric Maisel. She has been practicing as a coach for over 10 years; her client base includes many IT professionals, engineers and scientists. Her 30+ years of experience in IT, as well as her experience with numerous life transitions informs her work. She earned her MS in Biochemical Genetics at the University of Michigan, and though she hasn’t worked in the field, keeps up on the latest research.
Where I Started – Just like many of you, I loved the idea of writing and seeing my name in print. I wanted to see what people thought of my work and to keep creating it for the rest of my life. But then, there’s that blank page staring at me. Whether you still enjoy writing on paper (I do, when not near a device) or prefer to write on a device, the emptiness of an unfilled page is intimidating.
I tried a variety of tricks. If I didn’t finish a story or a chapter, I could come back to a non-blank page. I tried writing prompts, no success. Even when I had a clear idea in my head of what I wanted to say, once I sat down, my brain said, “not today.” I’m a big Natalie Goldberg fan, but couldn’t seem to get the words to flow on demand.
The only exception came when I did some writing for newspapers. The challenge is that news has a short shelf life. If you want to respond to an issue, you need to get it done quickly. It also has to be short. All writers know the truth of Blaise Pascal’s famous words, “I have made this longer than usual because I have not had time to make it shorter.” Writing tight is tough and often takes more edits. And yet, when I worked on these kinds of pieces, writer’s block simply didn’t happen.
The Great Insight – I confess I didn’t analyze or understand why the newspaper work just flowed. As my career shifted from being a super-techie, I found a niche doing a variety of writing for software companies. White papers, articles, public relations, customer success stories, product briefs, etc., became a staple of my workday. At work, there’s always a deadline, so I didn’t have the luxury of sitting around for days, simply thinking about it. I had to write.
Some of the pieces were easier, because they were based on templates. You just followed the “script, putting in the specifics of a product. But most of the work was highly creative. Part of the competitiveness of a software company is in the attractive reading on the website or in print to hand out at conferences. If people don’t read about what you sell, you aren’t going to sell as much of your software.
At first, I struggled a little. But whenever I got stuck, I would take a short walk, just to clear my head. I never focused on what I was working on and just let my mind drift. But inevitably, I would come back with a clear idea of how to construct the piece. Often, I would come up with a great title at the same time.
In a shorter time than you might expect, I could get to work and just start writing. Even when I was crafting a long article or a talk, I had begun to craft ways of approaching it. Who’s the audience? What’s the message I need to convey? Have I narrowed it down to fit in the allowed word count?
As I got better (and faster) at this kind of writing, more assignments came my way. The fun part is I could swap writing for something I didn’t want to do.
When asked to take on blog writing for the company, I felt the same way I did when I wrote a short story that turned out well. Exhilarated, happy, in flow. And the numbers of readers slowly increased, giving me immediate feedback and reward.
Writing ALL the time makes a difference. You need a deadline. You need to craft rules for each type of piece. Just like with cooking, it matters if you’ve done your mise en place – your preparation. Even if you aren’t writing for an employer, you can define those rules and ask the right questions upfront. This serves to get you grounded. If you struggle with your “assignment,” go for a short walk. It has to be outside, in nature. I’ve found a treadmill doesn’t spawn the same creativity.
I hated hearing that the best writers write every day. It seemed too tough an obligation. But they’re right. Just as Malcolm Gladwell noted, it can take 10,000 hours to achieve excellence (and we can all get better). If you only write a few hours a week, you may find it hard to keep improving.
Challenge yourself to write something every day, even if it’s just some of the planning and strategy for your writing. Letters, fleshed out ideas, stories—it all counts if you put in your best effort. I NEVER have writers block anymore! You can do it too.
She is a published author
Lifestorm, – A novel
Career Savvy – Keeping & Transforming Your Job,
Tech Grief – Survive and Thrive Through Career Losses (with Linda Donovan)
First Job Savvy – Find a Job, Start Your Career
Retirement Savvy – Designing Your Next Great Adventure
All are available on major sites as paperbacks and e-books.
Web site: www.denisekalm.com
Blog site: Right on the Left Coast | Denise Kalm | Substack
Keep rising my friend!
Your schedule looks exciting and busy. Good to see you skipped the author persona for a special birthday as a beach bum.
It is good to be visiting the beach. I watched surfers in their wet suits yesterday. We young and foolish ones wore bathing suits, nor did we have tethers. I never learned to swim, so I rode the waves back in or treaded water.
Hi George !
Happy Birthday !
Thank you for being the person you are ! I have certainly enjoyed the times shared on the rides you organized and coordinated. Your kindness, warm personality and enthusiasm has always given me a sense of inclusion and friendship. I truly appreciate you, and all the joy and wisdom give freely to your friends !
Thank you, have a Wonderful Birthday !
I always got more from our riders than I could ever give. Thanks for the kind words.
Take Care & Stay Safe
You helped me a lot with my writing. I’m very grateful. Your books are wonderful. Cheers!
Thank you John, especially for the support you have directed my way.
It is a pleasure to read about you and your writing habits.
Thanks, Glenda. You just might be much more interesting.
Congratulations on your success!
Thanks, Jim. It’s been a while. Stay Safe
Happy birthday, George and thanks for answering my question about your dialogue writing skills. Your biography reads like a novel in itself. Your indomitable spirit is inspiring, as is your writing talent. You remind me of a real life Travis McGee. I’m looking forward to the release of New Liberty. Thanks for all you do to help other writers. Stay strong,
Thanks to you, Big Mike, for all that you do to help your brother and sister writers. Take Care & Stay Safe.
Fun to learn more about you, George! Happy Birthday! And I have to ask, did you ride your motorcycle sans helmet?
What happened? I coulda sworn I responded to you with thanks.
I didn’t own a helmet until I was about 30 and strapped ’em on the back when I was in states without helmet laws. I was glad that I had one on when I went down a few times. I was especially happy when I went down in Oregon and got a life flight to the hospital.