Daisy Bateman is also a world-renowned expert in Why You Should Buy That.
In what passes for a normal life, she works in biotech. She lives in Alameda, California, with her husband and a cat, only one of whom wears a tuxedo on a regular basis, and a puppy on a mission to chew the world into tiny pieces.
Murder Goes to Market is my debut, published last year by Seventh Street Books, and was nominated for the Lefty for Best First Novel. Briefly, it’s the story of Claudia Simcoe, an ex-techie who opens an artisan marketplace in a town on the Sonoma coast and subsequently has to deal with the murder of her least-favorite tenant.
What brought you to writing? I was brought to writing by a lifetime of reading and making up my own stories to go with the books I loved. Mystery has always been my favorite genre, and when it came to what I wanted to write, there was no question that there would be a body or two.
Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? These days, I mostly write at home, at my dining room table. In the Before Times, I did some of that too. Still, most of Murder Goes to Market was written on the ferry between Alameda and South San Francisco, crossing the Bay on my way to work. Sadly, that route has been temporarily discontinued during the pandemic, so I’m left to do my writing without the possibility of seeing a dolphin. (In the absence of potential sea mammals, I’m mostly distracted by the Scylla and Charybdis of Candy Crush and Twitter.)
What are you currently working on? I just sent off the revisions for the second Marketplace book, A Dismal Harvest, which is due to come out next March. (When I hope to finally have an in-person book launch!) At this point, most of the heavy lifting should be done (she said optimistically), and it’s all over but the copy-edits. So I’m taking advantage of the free time to try something new in a standalone mystery. Stay tuned for more!
Has an association membership helped you or your writing? Absolutely—I’ve been a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime for many years. The knowledge I’ve gained and the friends I have made in both organizations have been very important to my writing career. From meeting members of my writing group through the Sisters in Crime mailing list to the current weekly write-ins with the NorCal MWA chapter, the organizations can be vital for bringing a sense of community to what is a very solitary endeavor.
How long did it take you to write your first book? Aside from juvenilia, I wrote my first book as a college undergrad, scribbling longhand in a repurposed binder, sitting on the lawn in front of the faculty club. From that point, until I finished it, I think was three or four years. Then a much shorter time for it to be rejected by every agent I could find who might in a borrowed copy of Jeff Herman’s Guide be appropriate (this was, shall we say, a while ago).
How long to get it published? That first book was never published, and if there is any justice in the world, it never will be. Between that time and Murder Goes to Market, there were three more books, one closed publisher, and a number of years that I would rather not specify. As an author, I would say that my primary characteristic is grim determination.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I work in a style I call “chaotic neutral.” Basically, I should outline, but I’m too lazy to do it well. So I start with an approximate plot, add notes to the end of the manuscript as I write, and then go back and try to make sense of it later. I would not recommend this approach to others.
What kind of research do you do? Cheese research! I’m joking, but not totally. Since artisan foods are at the heart of my books, it’s essential for me to get to know what’s out there and how it’s all made. (And, incidentally, if there’s any part of the process that could provide a good murder weapon!)
Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? San Elmo Bay, the town where the Marketplace Mysteries is set, is fictional, but its location on the Sonoma coast is real enough, and I hope that people who are familiar with the area find things about it they recognize.
Do you have any advice for new writers? Always have the next thing in the hopper. Publishing is a rough business, and no matter how confident you are in your current project, there’s always the chance that it’s one you’re going to have to end up shelving. And when that happens, the only thing that makes it easier is to know you have something else up your sleeve.
Where can our readers find you?
My latest thriller, The Unseen, was published in June 2019 by 9mm Press and was a Distinguished Favorite for the 2018 IPPY Awards in the Thriller category and was the winner of the Crime Fiction category of the 2019 NYC Big Book Award.
“Lisa Towles weaves an exquisite tale of deception, ancient scrolls, and kidnapping that spans continents and lifetimes. Beautifully rendered, The Unseen is a must-read for thriller lovers!” (Cat Connor, Author of The Byte Series)
My standalone thriller Choke was published in 2017 by Rebel, and it’s about a bioengineer who develops a cigarette that cures lung cancer. That book was a Distinguished Favorite in the 2017 IPPY Awards and the 2018 NYC Big Book Award in the category of Thriller.
My four previous books were published under my previous name, Lisa Polisar, including Escape: Dark Mystery Tales (2010, Nukeworks Publishing), The Ghost of Mary Prairie (2007, University of New Mexico Press), Blackwater Tango (2002, Hilliard & Harris), and Knee Deep (2001, Port Town Publishing).
What is the most challenging part of your writing process? Trusting my writing voice enough to allow it to lead the way. Learning to let go of the reins and not try to control everything is a hard lesson. But I’ve discovered that my best writing comes out when I get out of the way, listen, and let my characters take over.
Plotter or Pantser? My outlining style is like driving with my low beams on. I don’t really plan chapter-by-chapter, but I keep a list of upcoming scenes, so I typically know what to do for the next 3-4 chapters. I often get glimpses of how a book is supposed to end and have no idea how I’m going to get there. And that’s the whole fun! -?
What are you currently working on? I’m writing my first series right now – a California-based thriller series, and I’m about 80% done with Book 3. I’m also writing a new standalone thriller.
Has an association membership helped you or your writing? Oh my goodness, yes. The Mystery Writers of America NorCal community means so much to me and was an important anchor to help me get through 2020. More recently, I re-joined Sisters in Crime NorCal and have been enjoying their frequent write-ins, including a small group that writes from 10-11 pm weeknights. Both organizations have some really wonderful programming that keeps me connected to the how and why of crime writing.
Favorite books/authors: I have so many favorites it’s hard to narrow it down, but I’ll list four:
• Montana, 1948 by Larry Watson is one of my early favorites. I love that book because it’s about what I care about the most in my books – secrets.
• The Resurrectionists by Michael Collins
• The Club Dumas by Arturo Perez Reverte
• The Quantum Spy by David Ignatius.
How long did it take you to write your first book? I think about six months. I wrote my first book when I was 20 after I finished reading the book Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. I wrote that book, called Real Horizons, longhand on legal pads. I wouldn’t allow myself to buy a new legal pad until I’d filled in every inch of the current one because I didn’t want to jinx it, so to speak. That book was never published, but it was one of my most important accomplishments because when I finished it, I could finally say that I’d started a creative project that I actually finished.
What’s the most challenging thing about writing characters from the opposite sex? I think characterization, in general, can be very challenging. My book The Ghost of Mary Prairie is a heartland suspense that takes place in Grady, Oklahoma, in 1960. The main character is Jake Leeds, a 15-year-old boy. I don’t have any brothers, so I’m still a bit bewildered by that book, and I don’t really know why Jake Leeds’ voice and presence was so strong in my head.
What kind of research do you do? Exhaustive research. Internet research, but that’s top down, so I also try to link up with someone in the field I’m writing about to consult with an actual expert who has more foundational (professional training) knowledge in the field I’m writing about. And before the internet was so widely used, I used to connect with someone from the Chamber of Commerce in whatever area I was researching to ask for maps, feedback, local resources, and people in a community who could answer questions. To me, the most important thing about research is to get a hands-on experience of what I’m writing about.
Do you have any advice for new writers? I feel like I wasted a lot of time, in my early 20’s, trying to be good instead of trying to be me. I read constantly, I still do, focusing on the classics and the masters. In my desire to be taken seriously as a writer, I think I was trying too hard to emulate those masters. In so doing, I think I hindered my authentic writing voice from coming out. So my advice to novice writers is to read a lot, write, and just keep writing to cultivate your unique voice. That’s the voice of your creative passion, the voice that will sustain you.
How do our readers contact you?
My writing website: http://lisatowles.com/
Amazon Author Central: https://www.amazon.com/Lisa-Towles/e/B001JS7KWI?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1618725756&sr=8-1
My writing blog: https://digitalraconteur.wordpress.com/
Facebook Author Page: Lisa Towles | Facebook
Linkedin Profile: www.linkedin.com/in/lisatowles/
Being a writer is being a lifelong learner. . .
I’m a guest this month for George’s blog, and if not for him, I would have made a huge blunder in my most recent book, EMBERS OF MURDER. I thought I understood the military. I guess I should have watched more television. I have a character in the book from NCIS. I thought it was a part of the military command. Fortunately, I happen to be talking to George about it, and he enlightened me that it’s a civilian personnel activity of the Navy. My character’s rank was changed from Lieutenant to Special Agent. Whew!
Each book brings about research. Whether it’s using Google Earth to stand on the streets of cities, I have never visited or trying to understand how various law enforcement agencies work across the world.
Like many authors, I occasionally glance outside, expecting to see an unmarked van surveilling my house to determine if I’m a criminal. Sometimes my research determines how long it takes someone to die from X poison. Did you know that most human bodies don’t burn into ashes if they die in a house fire? Well, you do now. Smoke inhalation is what kills them. I have a head filled with random knowledge ready in case the question is ever asked on Jeopardy.
I also shop online for random stuff as a part of my story. Where can I get a tank of nitrogen gas? How about a helium tank? Did you know that the mini helium tanks that you buy from party stores have twenty-one percent air in them? You can’t die inhaling the gas from a party-store purchased helium-filled balloon. Instead, you have to buy your helium tank from a welder’s supply. There you go… more random knowledge.
When I mentioned that EMBERS OF MURDER would be about an arsonist, a reader wrote to me to say that he investigated fires for an insurance company and could be a resource for any fire questions. He was very helpful and suggested I use isopropyl alcohol to start a fire rather than gasoline as it doesn’t leave a residue that can be traced.
It’s all fiction, so why bother to get technical parts of the story right? Because bad information can be a distraction. I watched an episode of “ER” in the late 1990s. They portrayed something so medically inaccurate that I never again watched the show. I missed the next decade of shows because of my outrage with that single inaccuracy. I lost faith in ER’s writers.
I feel the same way about fiction stories. Even though I’m reading fiction, there are parts of every story that need to be true or believable. A character needs to behave like they have for the past five books. Science must be true whether the story is set on earth or some imaginary planet. I have an arsonist trying to hide their work, and I can’t achieve that if I start a brushfire with gasoline and expect that the fire people can’t figure that out. Duh.
Sometimes the research is routine (What’s on the menu of a Queenstown pub-restaurant). Other times I’ll spend nearly an hour going down a rabbit hole fascinated by what I looked for. For example, I’ve never visited Israel, yet I had a part of EVERGREEN VALLEY MURDER related to the Dead Sea. Before I knew it, an hour passed as I looked at the sea with online pictures and Google Earth and read a little history of the area.
Being a writer is the best way to keep your brain engaged with the world around us!
Author of Jill Quint, MD Forensic Pathologist series (12 books), and Damian Green series (4 books)
Contact: www.AlecPeche.com or Author@AlecPeche.com
Our guest today is Alec Peche author of Mystery and Thriller.
Who knows the most about how to get away with murder?
Jill, Nathan, and Angela head to New Zealand and Australia on a trip that is part work and part vacation. Jill is speaking at a forensic conference, while her friends are meeting with wineries to conduct business.
Dr. Jill Quint is a forensic pathologist by training. She left her crime lab to pursue her own winery but was called back by old colleagues to comment on cases. Those referrals expanded into a business where Jill offers second opinions on the cause of death. She also has her PI license and can be hired to investigate a suspicious death. Her friends assist her with cases by bringing their own skills like accounting, interviewing, and social media research. Nathan is her partner and is a world-renown wine label designer.
New Zealand has a reputation as a very safe country, so why are people dying in the cities she visited so far on her trip? They aren’t dying by gunshot or stabbing, rather these are unusual ‘accidents.’ In time, it becomes clear that these deaths are staged as ‘how to get away with murder’ events by a professional.
As Jill and friends transition to Australia, will the killer follow them? Is Jill the final target?
Read Forensic Murder for a crime story set down under.
When did you realize you wanted to write novels? Probably sometime in my 40s after reading a bad book. Throughout my high school and college classes, I was at best an average student, and I hated creative writing. I could rarely think of something to write about when I had to do it for a class.
How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication? In July 2012, I made my first attempt at writing a mystery. I fumbled around looking for a format on what to do. I hit a wall early in that I didn’t know who my characters were or much beyond the story’s premise. I tried software and a few books, but my page was still empty. Then I decided I would just sit down and write a page, then the page became several pages and flowed into chapters and a story. I had no contacts in the writing world, and I felt like my style of writing was cheating as I had no list of characters or an outline. I was a pantser but didn’t know there was such a thing. I finished the book in the spring of 2013, and I had a friend who was my first reader, and she said she enjoyed it. She didn’t tell me it was the best book she’d ever read or that it would be a bestseller. She told me where the holes in my story were. I came out of the business world and had never written more than a three-page memo, so I hired an editor who taught me a little about grammar and style. I published that book in September of 2013. I’ve gone back and re-written it a few times. You don’t use contractions when writing in business, and so I didn’t do that in my first two books. That makes any dialogue stiff, so creating contractions and more casual dialogue was part of the book’s improvements since being first released. I read Stephen King’s memoir ON WRITING and heaved a sense of relief when I learned that many authors don’t outline.
Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author? Indie for all 14 books.
Where do you write? Ninety-five percent of my writing is done in my office on a desktop computer in Word. I’ll occasionally write on my iPad, but I like the big screen and mechanical keyboard in my office.
Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? Silence! My characters are talking to me in my head as I type, and that’s all the ‘noise’ I need to write.
How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular? A fair amount of my real life is in my books. My three best friends are the series recurring characters. I worked for over thirty years in hospitals. Not as a physician, but with a lot of physicians over the years. Generally, every book setting is a vacation I’ve taken. I visited Australia and New Zealand two years ago. In FORENSIC MURDER, there are cities in the two countries that I didn’t visit (Wellington, Christchurch, the island of Tasmania), so I used Google Earth to fill in the blanks.
Describe your process for naming your characters? I used to keep a telephone book’s white pages around and randomly pick names. Now, that I have many countries that I set my stories in, I’ll google ‘popular first names or surnames in Israel or Quebec’, and pick a name.
Real settings or fictional towns? A little of both. My protagonist in one series lives in a made-up city in the central valley of California, and my protagonist in my second series lives on Red Rock Island, an actual island in San Francisco Bay.
If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why? Harry Potter, the popularity of that book series is quite the empire. Also, it’s a mystery and an adventure. Of course, if I had written it, probably the last two books in the series would have been less dark.
Everyone, at some point, wishes for a do-over. What’s yours? I wished I had picked a different pen name.
What’s your biggest pet peeve? There’s so much strife in the world at the moment, who has the mental energy for pet peeves?
You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves? Another person, a big dog, and shelter.
What was the worst job you’ve ever held? Hand cutting onions at Jack in the Box. I would have to go into the walk-in refrigerator to slow down the tears. To this day, I hate onions.
What’s the best book you’ve ever read? Hard to say. I’ve listened to On Writing 2-3 times, Harry Potter – first in series, Ron Chernov’s Bios of Washington and Grant, JD Robb’s In Death Series. They are all very immersive stories.
What’s on the horizon for you? I’m playing with proposals in my head of starting a new series in Urban Fantasy or Paranormal Mysteries. But first, I need to finish FORENSIC MURDER for its release date of November 2.
Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books? My writing process is evolving. I haven’t hit on the perfect path that works for every book.
USA Today bestselling and award-winning author Lois Winston
Lois Winston writes mystery, romance, romantic suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, children’s chapter books, and nonfiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Kirkus Reviews dubbed her critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” In addition, Lois is a former literary agent and an award-winning craft and needlework designer who often draws much of her source material for both her characters and plots from her experiences in the crafts industry.
Up until fairly recently, I juggled three careers, one of which gave me the idea for my long-running Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series. Until retiring last year, I worked for decades as a designer and editor in the consumer crafts industry, primarily designing needlework for kit manufacturers and magazine and craft book publishers. However, I have been known to wield a nasty glue gun from time to time and have the scars to prove it! But it’s been well worth the pain, given the accompanying inspiration it’s provided. (see below)
I began my writing career in the romance genre. My first published book, Talk Gertie To Me, which was more humorous women’s fiction than romance, was published in 2006. Love, Lies and a Double Shot of Deception, a romantic suspense, came out in 2007. By then, I had decided to take my writing in a different direction with a mystery series. Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun was the first book in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries. I sold the series at the end of 2009, and the first book was released in January 2011.
But I said I juggled three careers, didn’t I? After selling my first book, the agency which represented me invited me to join them as an associate, which made me, for a time, an author, an agent, and a designer. With the changes that have occurred in publishing the last few years, coupled with the death of two of our agents and the retirement of one, the agency owner decided it was time to close shop after nearly fifty years in business. So now I’m back to one career. Truthfully, it’s the one I love most because it enables me to live 24/7 within my imagination.
The idea for the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries came about thanks to a conversation my agent had with an editor. The editor was looking for a crafting mystery series. My agent figured, with my background, I was the perfect person for the project. I hadn’t read any crafting mysteries at that point, and when I began researching them, I discovered that most featured amateur sleuths were shop owners. I wanted to come up with something different and tapped into my own industry experiences as a crafts editor, making Anastasia the crafts editor at a women’s magazine.
The idea for the first book came about from a combination of events. My husband had recently lost his job, and although he’s nothing like Anastasia’s husband (thank goodness!), it sent me into a tailspin of worry regarding money. Although I juggled three careers at the time, none of them provided me with a steady income. On top of that, I was having mother-in-law problems. Finally, when I first started contemplating the series, The Sopranos was still on HBO. I’m a Jersey girl. How could I not set a mystery in my home state and involve the Mafia in some way?
All of these elements, along with just having sustained a painful burn from my hot glue gun, came together to form the basis for both the first book and the overall series: When Anastasia Pollack’s gambling-addicted husband permanently cashes in his chips in Las Vegas, her life craps out. She’s left with two teenage sons, a mountain of debt, and her nasty, cane-wielding communist mother-in-law—not to mention a loan shark demanding fifty thousand dollars.
Given the premise for the series, I knew it had to be humorous. I’ve always been drawn to quirky characters. They make me laugh. I think we all need more laughter in our lives, especially with everything going on right now! Releasing those endorphins is the only thing sustaining many of us these days.
In crafting quirky characters, I usually take traits from various people I know, exaggerate them, and blend them together to create unique characters. Let’s face it, most people aren’t as quirky or funny in real life as they are on the printed page. The exception is Lucille, Anastasia’s mother-in-law. With a few minor differences, Lucille’s personality (along with her communist leanings) mirrors that of my now deceased mother-in-law. Hence, the mother-in-law problems I mentioned above—and the reason why some of my husband’s relatives no longer speak to me!
There are now nine full-length novels and three novellas in the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series, which have received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist and an Amazon #1 Bestseller. The latest book is A Sew Deadly Cruise, released October 1st.
Come for the laughs, stay for the mystery!
A Sew Deadly Cruise – An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 9
Life is looking up for magazine crafts editor Anastasia Pollack. Newly engaged, she and photojournalist fiancé Zack Barnes are on a winter cruise with her family, compliments of a Christmas gift from her half-brother-in-law. Son Alex’s girlfriend and her father have also joined them. Shortly after boarding the ship, Anastasia is approached by a man with an unusual interest in her engagement ring. When she tells Zack of her encounter, he suggests the man might be a jewel thief scouting for his next mark. But before Anastasia can point the man out to Zack, the would-be thief approaches him, revealing his true motivation. Long-buried secrets now threaten the well-being of everyone Anastasia holds dear. And that’s before the first dead body turns up.
Craft projects included.
Apple iBooks: https://books.apple.com/us/book/a-sew-deadly-cruise/id1526052822
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