Ana Manwaring is a former newspaper lifestyle columnist. Her poetry, personal narratives, book reviews, and short stories have appeared in diverse publications, including the California Quarterly, KRCB Radio, Morning Haiku, and Mystery Readers Journal.
A graduate of the University of Denver (B.A.) and Sonoma State University (M.A.), Ana teaches creative writing, produces the monthly North Bay Poetics poetry event on Zoom, and operates her editing company, JAM Manuscript Consulting—“Spread Excellence.” She’s also the 2022 SinC-NorCal programs chair. In her “past life,” she has prepared taxes, taught ESL, worked for a PI, consulted brujos and out-run gun totin’ maniacs on lonely Mexican highways—the inspiration for the JadeAnne Stone Mexico Adventures.
Ana, husband David, ace gopher hunter Alison, and a host of birds, opossums, skunks, deer, fox, coyotes, and occasionally the neighboring goats co-habitat an acre of Northern California.
After earning her M.A., Ana finally answered her mother’s question, “What are you planning to do with that expensive education?” Be a paperback writer. (ebook and audiobook, too!)
The JadeAnne Stone Mexico Adventures: A missing persons case to locate an American gone missing in the resorts of Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo turns investigator JadeAnne Stone’s life into a nightmare of secrets, betrayals, and pursuit as she and her dog are ensnared in a web of trafficking. Who will she trust as loyalties shift and greed rules?
JadeAnne and I are thrilled to be back on George’s blog. Since our first visit, we’ve published books two and three of the JadeAnne Stone Mexico Adventures. And now we’re unpublishing them. Why on earth? Because I’ve been picked up by Indies United Publishing House who is re-releasing second editions of all three books and publishing the 4th this year. An Ambitious publishing schedule, but penance for taking 28 years from being threatened on a lonely stretch of the Pan American Highway in Michoacán (the inspiration and inciting incident) to publication of Book 1, Set Up. I’m paying my dues now with the new covers, more revision, and editing, as well as finishing Coyote—Pursuit and Terror Across the Border (there’s going to be an exciting chase, shoot-out, and lots of suspense), which will release in November.
Set Up re-released February 16, 2022.
People ask about my writing process. Unfortunately, I’m lousy at discipline and routine. The most challenging part of the process is getting myself to sit down at the computer to write. I always find pressing things to accomplish first. Today it was weeding. But I’m really fortunate to be blessed with a large, light-filled writing studio on the second story of a barn behind my house. I look into oaks and eucalyptus and can watch the birds, the play of light and shadow through the leaves, listen to the soft susurrus of the breeze off the coast, and, when I’m not distracted, write. I’m making good use of our wonderful Sisters in Crime write-ins (I attend 1 Pm and 10 Pm currently) and my M/W/F Study Hall with my writing students. I use the social writing time for outlining, revision, poetry writing, blogging, or brainstorming character names, which often come through reading my mail. In book 4, we’re going to have two new bad guys: Denver “Zeke” Stoner and Slim Killins. I have no idea who they are or what parts they’ll play yet, but when I went to mark my mail-in Recall ballot in the California recall election, there they were. The good news, I get to my desk every day since COVID and sometimes three times, even if I’m not specifically writing, but I’m most productive with high-intensity writing stints like NaNoWriMo.
A huge help in launching my writing career (besides retiring in January) is Sisters in Crime NorCal. I can’t stress enough how beneficial professional organizations and conferences can be to your development as a writer, marketer, and speaker. I’ve met many wonderful writers and readers who’ve helped me, taught me, and encouraged me. I’m a member of several branches of SINC, MWA NorCal, California Writers Club, and a Left Coast Crime attendee and participant. I’m looking forward to our LCC after two years without a conference. I’m excited about Albuquerque, too. The big chase scene culminating in the climax of Coyote will take place between Albuquerque and Denver, and I’m going to take a few days while I’m in the “area” to scout out locations. I try to experience my settings whenever I can. However, I’ll leave the shoot-out to vicarious experience and my imagination—but I’ll know what the air feels like and how the trees smell!
I write in more than one genre. I’m currently completing a memoir of my years in Mexico, and occasionally I write book reviews and short personal essays. I have two poetry chapbooks published, and I’m working on a third of “found” poems on climate change. I’m also writing the great American dysfunctional family novel told in three voices: the dying matriarch with dementia, the elder daughter who is deceased, and the resentful second daughter. Luckily the dead sister is pretty funny.
Two events brought me to writing: I’ve always loved reading stories and wrote a short story entitled “Me and My Dinosaur” instead of writing my third-grade dinosaur report. My teacher Mrs. Clancy loved it, and I got to read it to the class. (This trick worked again in Medieval History at University—I wrote a short story instead of writing a term paper, Another A, but no public reading). The second push toward writing was when I was 11 or 12, and a palm reader predicted I’d be a bestseller by the time I was 50. Isn’t 70 the new fifty?
I’m on my way! Set Up released on 2/16, The Hydra Effect releases 5/18, Nothing Comes After Z 8/17, and Coyote 11/16.
Find me at:
Judy Lussie uses her cultural background to write stories about Asian-American women. Her latest novella, Bought Daughter, is based on her grandparents’ immigration to America.
Judy writes women’s contemporary novels. Lake Biwa Wishes and the sequel Second Time Around were her first two novels. Her short stories have been included in several anthologies. Her most recent novel is titled Bought Daughter.
The original Moy sisters and their mother. The baby is Judy.
Bought Daughter: When she was a child, Mei-Ling’s poverty-stricken father sold her to a wealthy family. Despite her status as a Bought Daughter, she was determined to go to America. When the Chinese missionary Ah Pu proposed marriage and travel to the New World, she jumped at the chance, even though she did not believe in his God. Could a Christian and an atheist succeed in marriage? Would her past forever haunt her?
What brought you to writing? While on the Board of Directors of Presbyterian publishing Corporation, I was asked to write a week’s worth of devotions for These Days Magazine. At the time, I was the Technical Information Director of Lawrence Livermore Lab in California. This was my first experience in paid non-technical writing. As a result, I received many letters from old friends and compliments from new readers. One man wrote that his wife suffered the same disease I had–polymyositis. The following year he wrote that his wife had died. I offered my prayers. Then later he wrote that he met a widow whom he asked to marry and thanked me for supporting him with my letters. Until then, I never realized how writing could help another person.
Has association membership helped you or your writing? Yes. California Writers Club Tri-Valley Branch (of which I was Program Chair), San Francisco Writers Conference (5-year volunteer), and several writing classes. I met many New York Times best-selling authors and learned more about the art of writing, publishing, and marketing.
Who is your favorite author? I have many, but Lisa See, Erica Jong, and Catherine Coulter are at the top of my list. Each one writes in a different sub-genre, but all are great writers. Lisa See writes historical novels, Erica Jong writes women’s novels, and Catherine Coulter writes crime fiction.
Do you base your characters on real people? Yes. The characters in Bought Daughter are based on my grandparents, aunts, and uncle. The character Kyoko in Second Time Around is based on my granddaughter (when she was 3). I tried making up characters, but they seemed phony.
What kind of research do you do? The research for Bought Daughter fell into my lap. While visiting Angel Island Immigration Station, I was told I could find more information in NARA (National Archives and Records Administration). Previously, as a technical information manager, I was required to send NARA information with strict requirements. Finally, I became a user instead of a contributor. When I entered the facility, I showed them my grandparents’ travel info and signed up as a researcher. The attendant wheeled a cart full of papers in both Chinese and English, which they photocopied for me. With all that information, I knew I had to share it with others. I also use online resources. Taryn Edwards provided a comprehensive list of historical resources.
Where do you place your settings –real or fictional locations? I feel my story is more accurate in the locations I visited. For my first two books, I lived in Japan for two years and skied in many ski resorts around the world. For Bought Daughter, I lived in Chicago Chinatown as a child. I visited China as an adult.
Do you have any advice for new writers? Write, write, write. Even if you just put the manuscript on a shelf. Read, read, read. Highlight passages that move your heart and soul.
Thank you, George Cramer, for inviting me to be a guest blogger.
I can be contacted by email at Sursum Corda Press, LLC. I welcome your comments and questions.
Daniel Hobbs has been a city manager in seven cities across the country, in Maryland, Texas, Michigan, and California. My career took me overseas as an American local government official to W. Germany, Poland, and Japan.
I have been married to a wonderful, patient woman for 35 years, a beautiful native of Peru, who endures my anxieties and writing distractedness with good humor.
Ben Leiter is the author of four published books, available on Amazon and Kindle:
- CITY MANAGEMENT SNAPSHOTS: ON THE RUN
- BABY BOOMERS’ LOVE-BETRAYAL
- GOD’S BETRAYAL: THE CREDO
- BETRAYAL OF FATHER GARZA
Is there a thread or theme that ties your books together, even though they are of different genres? Yes, very much so. Together, these four books examine the cataclysmic collision between the expectations of the baby boomer generation and the primal forces of politics, religion, and romance.
Why the pen name Ben Leiter? If you read any of my books, you’ll understand why immediately with the authentic, explosive nature of the material and the controversy of storylines and subplots.
Using a pen name provides me the psychological freedom to write what I want; to explore themes without embarrassing me or my family.
The name Ben Leiter translates “been leader” if you use the German pronunciation of the last name. It describes my previous profession as a city manager in seven cities.
Why do you write? Answer: To find out what I think; to figure out why I think what I think; to investigate “what it’s all about.” And to avoid boring people with my strong opinions in conversations. If I put my views on the written page, I must present them in an intelligent and interesting fashion, or the reader won’t turn the page.
Also, writing fiction allows me to explore my favorite theme of betrayal and its sub-themes involving politics, religion, and romance.
What do you want to achieve? Writing objective? Validation as a good writer who has something to say worth reading.
Favorite authors? Answer: John Le Carré, Len Deighton, Michael Connelly; Gillian Flynn, Andy Weir, Anne Lamott, Dennis Lehane, Tom Wolf, Robert Crais, Martin Cruz Smith, Leon Uris, Don Winslow. I’m reading Winslow’s The Cartel for the third time, as I did Flynn’s Gone Girl.
I’ve met and talked with Andy Weir and Bob Woodward.
Bob Woodward and I shared common associations from decades ago in Rockville, Maryland, outside of Washington, D.C.
Can you describe the impact any books have had on you? I’d rather have lunch—at the risk of being lunch—with Hannibal Lector from Silence of the Lambs than with the female protagonist in Flynn’s Gone Girl. That wife-protagonist is like real-world-scary. She’s out there walking around, for sure. Flynn’s book ranks with Catcher in the Rye; The Spy Who Came in from the Cold; and Exodus.
A Leon Uris book, Trinity, provided insight into what we Irish call The Troubles— the colonization atrocities of the English. (I’m part English too, but the Irish always wins out—so much more colorful.)
Tell me about your protagonist in your most recent book. Why will readers like him? My hero protagonist, Father Gabriel Alphonso Esquivel Garza, is a Hispanic-Schwarzenegger-Rambo-renegade Catholic priest with a Zorro complex. He refuses to let principles keep him from doing what is right. He is merciless in defense of children.
Are you a Pantser (write by the seat of the pants, ad hoc) or a Plotter (outline in detail before writing)? Both—here’s how and why. I rely on The Muse, or inspiration, or whatever has caught my fancy at the moment to fling words on paper. Once I have enough “somethings” on paper, I start organizing and putting them into a table of contents with detailed notes under each chapter, which is the equivalent of an outline. I then keep adding, revising. I move stuff I delete to the end of the working draft, to be probably brought forward at a future time after it has “matured.” Advice: never throw anything away.
I experience difficulty deleting my pet phrases and scenes. Some famous author said that your favorite computer key should be the delete key.
How do you vet your work? Three critique groups; two California Writing Club memberships; past developmental editing by Scott Evans, author and English professor at the University of the Pacific.
Strengths and weaknesses of your manuscripts? From the professional writing feedback I have received over the years, the strengths of my work seem to be the imagination, the creativity of the work, and the character (good and bad) of my protagonists.
My drafts have received deserved hits by critique groups for not always letting the reader know immediately what is going on and where we are at. I accept that criticism because I want to pull the reader in. I want the reader to do a little bit of head work.
I love John LeCarré’s writing with its exceptional use of indirection. I remember becoming frustrated in one of his books because I found myself on page 65 and had no idea what was going on. Then I realized. I was in the same situation as the book’s protagonist, trying to identify the traitor in The Circus, LeCarré’s name for British intelligence. The protagonist reflected the puzzle-palace-nature of the events swirling about him. Well done, John.
I also plead guilty to occasional finger waving and sermonizing, which I detest in an explicit form. I prefer my characters to carry that water for me in a hopefully more subtle fashion.
Any indications of a writing life earlier? Over my city management career, I penned many professional articles on everything from strategic planning to embezzlement, which appeared in nationwide publications. At one point, I even had my own column in a newspaper.
I always tried to make my articles interesting or to have a twist. For example, one article carried the all too true title; SOMEONE IS STEALING THE TAXPAYERS’ MONEY!
As budget director for a large Texas city, I always wanted to tell “the story” behind the numbers. I saw too many budget staff letting themselves get lost in the numbers or “hiding” in the numbers. I felt it important to be clear to my boss, the city manager, his bosses, the city council, and the public about exactly what the budget meant for them for the following year.
I continually rewrote the 20-page budget message at the beginning of the 500-page budget document to get the message right. One of my senior staff, exasperated at my numerous revisions, said, “You’re just a frustrated novelist.” I demurred at the time, but she was correct.
Two of my favorite quotes from that same government staff, one from a very talented colleague, “Numbers are our friends.”
Late in my career, in a job interview with a city council, I was asked why I had published so many articles. The unexpected question triggered a response that I did not know I possessed, “I guess it’s a way to leave a legacy.”
What is your educational background? I am a Case Western Reserve University Ph.D.-in-political-science-drop-out. But, I did secure a Master of Public Administration and a Master of Urban Affairs, an interdisciplinary planning degree.
My B.A. held a major in political science, with minors in English, Philosophy, and Theology.
Other writing observations? I have been pleasantly surprised by the number of people who share my love of books, reading, ideas, and writing.
I relish the open-endedness of the mental challenge of writing. I will never be able to exhaust it. It will wear me down first, I fear.
I respect the work ethic required to become a successful writer, whether commercially published or not.
I admire the creativity of the process and the final product.
I have had Stephen King’s experience, where I get into the story or one of the characters, and it takes on a life of its own and goes places I had not planned.
Since I developed my “rule” years ago never to go back and read a book the second time, this writing occupation gives me the justification and permission to revisit old book-friends.
I should be able to handle the rejection. In my past career, along with the public accolades and good salary, I experienced an enormous amount of criticism—it came with the job territory—on an almost weekly basis. I’m used to it; maybe I miss it and need it.
While my brother has become an accomplished amateur oil painter, I paint with words.
I want to be as accomplished as he in my own artistic genre. But better than oil painting, I can constantly revise my work.
Another reason for writing—it keeps the mind sharp. My family shows too much history of Alzheimer’s. Maybe writing will delay or forestall some of the mental ravages of old age.
Then there is the possibility that I might have something to say. Having been around for decades, I would expect myself to paint some life pictures accurately, if not brilliantly, perhaps with some insight, too, especially if I have been paying attention. Have I? Perhaps I can say something memorable about this thing we all share called the human condition. If I can, then what becomes fascinating are all the ways there are to describe this common experience: short stories, poems; essays; novels.
I like the sound of “I am a writer.”
I have always been a bookworm, loved to read. The mid-westerner in me must justify all those academic credentials and insists on looking for a practical application—writing is it.
I have been energized by writing.
Any final reflection? In my case, the most important contributor to writing was my reading at an early age and continuing non-stop the rest of my life. I was that ten-year-old kid continuing to read under the sheets after my father told me to turn the light off and go to sleep.
My website is http://benleiter.com.
Rose Owens writes middle-grade fiction, short story, essay, and memoir.
As a professional storyteller, she often tells stories that she has written. The name of her blog site is Rose the Storylady: Making a Difference through Storytelling and Writing http://www.rose-the-storylady.com. That title explains her motivation for blogging. She is a past vice-president for the Tri-Valley Branch of California Writers. She currently serves as the Newsletter Editor. She edits the Toolbox column in that newsletter, which provides other members a place to ask questions and share information. Rose has become somewhat of an amateur Zoom expert. She hosts storytelling, family chats, a cooking club and art club for her family, and online meetings. Zoom links for her two storytelling programs (Storytelling for All Ages and an Interactive Storytelling Program for preschool and lower elementary students) are posted on her website. Http://www.rosethestorylady.net
Rose is the author of the Maryalise Trilogy (middle-grade fantasy novels) that are available on Amazon. She has also authored a picture book: Who Was There: A Nativity Story for Children. She has been published in the Las Positas and Tri-Valley Writers’ Anthologies. Rose’s essay, “We Live in a Mobile Home,” contains family stories about the process of recovering from a fire that destroyed the interior of her home. It was published in the BYU Alumni Magazine. A BYU Family Recovers from a House Fire with Humor and Help
The Poemsmiths of the Mojave High Desert branch of California Writers have selected two of Rose’s poems, “How Far to Bethlehem” and “They Pity Me in the Village,” for inclusion in the anthology, From Silence to Speech: Women of the Bible Speak Out. Rose recently attended the online Surrey International Writing Conference, where she participated in an Author Showcase and had the opportunity to talk about her books.
Rose lives in Livermore, California. She arrived fifty-five years ago and has settled in nicely. She is the mother of seven children and the grandmother of twenty-five. She finds inspiration for her writing as she crafts, cooks, gardens, walks, and participates in other activities.
Tell us about your recent release and other books. Maryalise and the Snatched Fairy (published 2020) is the third book of my Maryalise trilogy. Maryalise is a fairy child hidden in the mortal world with no memory of her previous life. In Maryalise and the Singing Flowers (2019), she discovers her identity, learns to use magic, and ultimately goes down into an underground cavern without magic to rescue her father, who the evil fairy, Villiana, has imprisoned. In Maryalise and the Stolen Years (2019), she must discover how Villiana has stolen years of magic from the people who are buried in an old forgotten cemetery. William (another fairy) and Cuthelburt (a ghost) help her in this quest. In Maryalise and the Snatched Fairy (2020), she goes into the Fairytale Dimension to rescue William, who has been stolen by Villiana. She interacts with the Cheshire Cat, Snow White’s stepmother, the Hansel and Gretel Witch, the Chicken House, and Baba Yaga. Blackie (who is actually a dragon in disguise) helps her. All three books have been self-published on Amazon. She has also published a picture book: Who Was There: A Nativity Story for Children, available on Amazon.
What brought you to writing? I have always enjoyed writing. As an elementary school student, I wrote poetry and an impossible fairytale story. When I was in junior high school, I wrote very mushy, sentimental love stories. Fortunately, none of these early writings have survived. I wrote poetry and essays during my child-rearing years. In 2007 I registered for a creative writing class. Since that time, I have written essays, poetry, stories, and novels. The idea for my Maryalise trilogy happened because my teacher gave her students a prompt to write on in class. Maryalise emerged from my imagination, and her adventures have been chronicled in three books.
Tell us about your writing process I have learned that when I get an idea, I should write it down—even if I don’t have time to develop it fully. Otherwise, that idea disappears into the void. The Idea for Maryalise and the Snatched Fairy came in a dream. The sensation of being snatched and carried away into the void woke me in the middle of the night. I wrote the details down and went back to sleep. When I looked at my notes in the morning, I realized that I had the idea for my third Maryalise book. When I am working on a book, I start my writing time by reviewing the previous chapter and making minor edits. Then, I am ready to begin the next chapter. After I finish writing, I think about what needs to come next. I process that information during the day and before I go to sleep at night. When I am writing shorter pieces, I usually wait several days before I edit them.
What are you currently working on? I am writing a non-fiction piece about the Bank of Vernal. The 80,000 bricks for this bank were mailed from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Vernal, Utah via the US Postal System. I am using the same research to write The Outlaw Trail, a middle-grade historical fiction novel about the son of William Coltharp (the man who built the Bank of Vernal). Butch Cassidy and Josie Bassett are two of the historical characters who appear in this novel.
There have been a lot of versions of The Three Little Pigs published. But one day, I thought, What About Mama? I am working on telling her story.
How long did it take you to write your first book? It was about three years from the time I created the character of Maryalise until I finished the book. However, it took about ten years to write the Maryalise trilogy. I waited until I had finished all three books before I published them. This turned out to be a good decision because I was able to make minor changes in the first books based on what happened in the third book in the trilogy.
Do you have any advice for new writers?
- Keep a notebook or computer file of ideas.
- Write regularly.
- Edit and edit again.
- Save the pieces that don’t fit into your current project. They may be useful later.
- Find a compatible critique group, listen to the other members. But don’t change your work just because someone else has a different idea.
- Organize your computer files. (I’m still working on this)
- Save backups of your work in 2-3 different places. Save a hard copy. Email a copy to yourself.
- Don’t be afraid to try a new genre.
- Search with your planned title on Amazon or Google it. You want to know what other books have similar titles.
Where do you write? Distractions? I usually write on my computer. Sometimes I am sequestered in my storytelling room, and sometimes I write in the family room. I’m able to tune out the distraction of the television noise and just write. Having a regular schedule for writing keeps me from procrastinating my writing to a time later in the day that never seems to arrive.
How do your readers contact you?
My readers can contact me through my blog http://www.rose-the-storylady.com.
Book links on Amazon:
Maryalise and the Singing Flowers Maryalise and the Singing Flowers (Maryalise Trilogy Book 1) – Kindle edition by Owens, Rose. Children Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.
Maryalise and the Stolen Years Maryalise and the Stolen Years (Maryalise Trilogy Book 2) – Kindle edition by Owens, Rose. Children Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.
Maryalise and the Snatched Fairy Maryalise and the Snatched Fairy (Maryalise Trilogy Book 3) – Kindle edition by Owens, Rose. Children Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.
Who Was There: A Nativity Story for Children Who Was There?: A Nativity Story for Children – Kindle edition by Owens, Rose. Religion & Spirituality Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.
The title of his latest book is Florida Grand Theft & Other Tales: Crime and Sci-fi Short Stories.
John G. Bluck is the author of five books, some in the crime/mystery genre and others science fiction. He worked for thirty years for NASA and retired as a public affairs officer. Prior to that, he was the daytime crime reporter/photographer for WMAL-TV (now WJLA) in Washington, D.C. During the Vietnam War, Bluck was an Army journalist at Ft. Lewis, Washington.
Another of his recent books, Death in the Holler, earned praise in a BookLife review printed in the January 11, 2021, issue of Publishers Weekly magazine. “For Southern murder mystery fans, this whodunit and its heart-of-gold protagonist will hit a bullseye. Murder, gangs, and black-market marijuana run rampant in this testosterone-filled thriller. . . . Bluck’s mystery keeps readers quickly flipping the pages with short, fast-moving chapters.”
Tell us about your most recent book. My latest book is Florida Grand Theft & Other Tales. It’s a collection of sixteen crime and science fiction short stories; some are strictly fictional crime stories. Others are solely in the science fiction genre. Many of the yarns combine both crime and sci-fi genres. Florida Grand Theft was released on October 4. The first image below is for the paperback and the second is for the eBool.
I began writing a couple of the stories as long as fifteen years ago when I was working at NASA. Over the years, I edited and revised them numerous times. One of those stories is the “DNA of History.” In it, ant-sized extraterrestrials visit a young boy, affecting his entire life. A second sci-fi story that I began developing a long time ago is “Adventures in Time.” In this story, an astronaut transmits a message as his ship careens toward a black hole.
I dreamed up other stories only months ago. That’s obvious when you read one of them, “Big Brother’s Bracelets,” which is related to the current pandemic and Covid-19. In this story, a feuding couple has to adjust their lives.
In the first story in the book, “Florida Grand Theft,” a young woman short of money tells how she’s tempted to steal a purse. In “Death by Snub Nose,” a hobo is accused of murder. These are among the crime and sci-fi stories I wrote recently, as is “Buzz.” Buzz is a robotic bee who’s an undercover agent.
Why do you write in more than one genre? I spent much of my life in a career path that’s linked to both crime and science-fiction. When I was in the army, I wrote news stories for an army newspaper and read army news on a couple of local radio stations.
After that, I worked a few years in Washington, D.C., as the television daytime crime cinematographer for WMAL-TV (now WJLA). I mainly covered homicides and bank robberies. Naturally, I covered other stories, too, including sports, politics, and even Watergate. I was in a pool of about six or seven still and motion picture photographers who filmed the submission of President Nixon’s letter of resignation.
Then NASA hired me to be a documentary producer. I saw many fascinating things at NASA that were true, but which might as well have been science fiction. I saw huge rocket engines; walked under the Space Shuttle; peered through telescopes, and wandered through laboratories, machine shops, wind tunnels, as well as many other locations.
When I explored NASA and filmed news for TV, I met many kinds of people. Whether they were in bad or happy situations, they taught me about human nature. Covering news “on the scene” in city streets and later working in science and engineering environments gave me a myriad of potential story ideas related to both crime and science.
How do you create your characters? Lately, I’ve been consulting a psychology book to try to shape some of my characters’ personalities so that they are vastly different from each other. This can lead to conflict and drama.
I don’t try to dictate what a character will do all of the time. I like to put characters with different personality traits into the same room or location. I begin to write dialogue rapidly. I permit the characters to talk, to say what they want. This is hard to describe, but it’s as if they wake up and begin to speak. I simply type what they’re saying. That’s why I say I don’t try to make the characters do or say what I want them to say.
However, there are times when something specific has to happen—a climax, a turning point. Then I might dictate that a tree will fall, a ship will sink, or a fire will erupt. The characters then have to react to the situation based on who they are and their personalities, which I have assigned to them. Sometimes, that personality changes when a character starts to act and come alive. I’ve found that if I “listen” to my characters, rather than try to shape them too much, the people who populate my books are more realistic, more human.
Do you outline, or do you write as you go? When I design a novel (plot it), I like to outline “sort of.” That is, I use the Act I, Act II, and Act III format. I know where the climax is supposed to be. I write the beginning and the end first and perhaps the climax, and then I fill in the middle of the story. Each scene is like a bubble or a block. I note what “should” happen in a scene.
But as I go along, I let the characters have a lot of freedom, and they may take me off on a tangent. Also, sometimes when I’m writing, a character will just pop up. This is where the “sort of” comes into my writing process. I then have to decide if an unexpected path taken by a character is good or is merely a diversion that takes the story too far off course.
I like to work in this hybrid—mostly planned—but freewheeling kind of a way.
What’s your next book going to be about? Its potential title is Murder at NASA. Luke Ryder, the protagonist of my last mystery novel, Death in the Holler, is called into work undercover to solve a cold-case killing at NASA Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, where I worked last at the agency. I’m quite familiar with the Ames campus, which some Hollywood producers have called a great location to make a movie. I doubt that Ames would ever be the set for a major movie, but the place has so many good locations for me to use in a novel. I’m almost salivating; I’m ready to completely plot my ideas and turn the characters loose at Ames.
How do our readers contact you?
Readers can message me through my website: http://www.bluckart.com.
They can visit my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/JohnGBluckSciFi.
My Twitter page is located at: https://twitter.com/JohnBluck1.
Readers can sign up for my e-mail list by visiting: http://eepurl.com/cJh_pP.