TERRI BENSON – Old Cars & Pickup Artists

Terri Benson has published three novels and nearly a hundred articles and short stories. In addition to The Pickup Artist, her credits include November 2021—The Angel and The Demon, Book #1 of Lead Me Into Temptation, a historical romance; 2012—An Unsinkable Love, a historical romance set on the Titanic and in the New England Garment Manufacturing District. She works at a Business Incubator, and her hobbies include camping, jeeping, and dirt biking. More info at https://www.terribensonwriter.com/

The Pickup Artist, A Bad Carma Mystery, was released on April 1, 2022, from Literary Wanderlust. A female classic car restorer discovers her newest project comes complete with a serial killer who now has her in his headlights, and, by the way, she’s also the local LEOs #1 suspect.

I’m currently working on more Bad Carma Mysteries and Lead Me Into Temptation books.

Do you write in more than one genre:  Yes, I write both mysteries and historical romance, but no matter what I’m writing, there is bound to be romance, mystery, and a little bit of history.

Tell us about your writing process: I’m a bit odd in that I come up with a title first. Then I figure out what scenario I can see working with that, then I write. Since both my series are fairly defined by the series titles, I know what kind of book I’ll be writing from the start.

Has an association membership helped you with your writing? Absolutely. I’ve belonged to Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers for more than a decade, and I fully credit the great friendships I’ve made there with dozens of amazing writers, agents, editors, and publishers—including the two who published my last two books (The Pickup Artist and The Angel and The Demon)—to those friendships. I had access to hundreds of workshops from RMFW and Pikes Peak Writers that helped me hone my craft, getting me to the point agents and editors would look at my work. I also found the publisher for An Unsinkable Love pre-RMFW via a contact in a critique group I belonged to. I can’t recommend “finding your tribe” enough for new and not so new writers. I’m also a member of Sisters in Crime.

How long did it take you to write your first book? My “first” book took 20 years, but I’ve never submitted it to anyone – eventually, I probably will. My first “published” book took four months to write, and since it was for an open call for books about the Titanic, it had a due date to submit. I remember meeting my best friend, who is my most critical beta reader, and her passing the manuscript from her car to mine in the dark at about 8:00 at night the day it was due to be submitted. If a cop had seen us, they’d have suspected a drug deal! I made edits and submitted it with less than 10 minutes to spare. It was published about a year later, in time for the 100th anniversary of the Titanic’s sinking.

How do you come up with character names? I drive through a cemetery every day to get to work and eat lunch there almost every day (it’s very pretty and quiet, with frequent visits by deer). I often wander around and write down names to use. And for Renni in the Bad Carma Mysteries, when I needed to have her full name be mentioned, I ended up with Renault Landaulette Delacroix because her father was a car-obsessed Frenchman.

We hear of strong-willed characters. Mine run wild and crazy! I’ve discovered some amazing things about my characters over the years, but only when they let me. And sometimes that plays havoc with the story! Do yours behave or run wild?

Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into your story? I always have subplots because my characters demand it. I also think it makes the story more real and in-depth if things are going on between characters that impact and enhance the main plot. It might be a romance with sub-characters or a situation with a car that causes problems to make Renni’s life more difficult, but also helps show her faults and foibles and/or that of other characters.

Do you base any of your characters on real people? My Ed Benson character is patterned off my brother-in-law, with his blessing. But he did go from being a middle-aged white guy to a billionaire inventor who is the spitting image of Morgan Freeman (again, with Ed’s blessing) because that’s what the character wanted.

What kind of research do you do? I do a ton of research. With Bad Carma, I need to have a selection of cars to restore and know what kinds of equipment I’d find and how they’d be used in a restoration shop. For my books, because they all have some historical plotlines, I do a lot of historical research to find out what was happening when the car was being made or the era the romance is set in. I like to know interesting facts that I can use (sparingly!) in the story to give my readers a little tidbit they won’t have known. My favorite tidbit in An Unsinkable Love was that the Titanic had floor tiles that were more expensive than marble – a new product called Linoleum!

Where do you place your settings – real or fictional locations? I generally have settings in the west, around the Four Corners area, because I know those places from spending my life living there or camping and traveling around there. But Unsinkable was set on the Titanic and in the New England garment manufacturing district, so I don’t feel obligated to use any particular place except what works for the story.

 

Why did you choose to have a female classic car restorer as your protagonist in the Bad Carma Mysteries? I’ve always loved old cars, especially those pre-1950, and think that perhaps if I had my life to do over, I might have been Renni! Then I could work on the cars instead of just going to as many car shows and auctions as I can and check out the intricate details on the older cars. My research has uncovered hundreds of potential vehicles to use in my stories, and I find more all the time. The Divco delivery van pictured is what Renni drives to shows and is based on one owned by a guy here in town who let me climb around it and lent me a book on the Divco history. Renni hitches it to a custom-made “Jim Dandy” teardrop trailer. I found the plans for the trailer online and was intrigued because it has an ahead-of-its-time swing away hitch, allowing the kitchen area to be at the front of the trailer rather than the rear like most do. The 1950’s era Mercedes Gullwing pictured is just an amazingly beautiful car and will be featured in a future Bad Carma.

 

Do you have any advice for new writers? Learn everything you can about craft. Join writer groups. Find a critique group. Don’t try to do this alone. It’s more fun, you will be a better writer faster, and you’ll make friends that understand the angst of writing.

Where can our readers learn more about you and where to buy your books?

 My website: https://www.terribensonwriter.com/

My books are available at:

 Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Books-Terri-Benson/s?rh=n%3A283155%2Cp_27%3ATerri+Benson

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-pickup-artist-terri-benson/1140930664?ean=9781956615029

As well as most book distributors.

 

 

1 Comment

  1. Michael A, Black

    Terri, you certainly have a unique method for coming up with names. I tend to avoid cemeteries as much as I can. Bad mojo for me. I love going to those old car shows, too. I’ll keep an eye out for your books.

    Reply

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ALBERT VANDE STEEG – Discusses the Lives of Cops AND Life Under Nazi Occupation

Good morning. I am Albert vande Steeg, an immigrant from the Netherlands. My careers include ranch hand, police officer (detective) contractor, and a builder of missionary buildings in fourteen foreign nations; Europe, Africa, South America, and the South Pacific.

Cops have many stories that relate humor, intrigue, serious crime, and danger. Most of these stories are told when cops get together and they “one-up” each other. Others are told at family gatherings. When the stories are good and told well, someone will say, “you should write a book.” That is what my former partner said, and six months later, The Black Band had its first draft.

Yes, it was a struggle to get published. Having no experience and no writers club or conferences to guide, I found the Writer’s Market with all the publishers and agents listed. Reading this taught me how to persevere. Six months later, the contract was offered, and nine months later, The Black Band was published by Oak Tree Press.

The Black Band has been rewritten and titled “The Canopy.” Many of the stories found in the book originated at the cop bar, The Canopy. That is where stories were told and retold over mugs of beer and giant “Texas” cheeseburgers.

 

Writing about places is easier if one is familiar with the setting, so the descriptions are natural and real. Maps are used to correct street names and create a community the reader will identify as genuine.

Finding names for characters posed a real difficulty. Remembering created names of people not known brought a memory fog to writing. The solution was to name all the good and liked characters the first name of a friend or person that is admired and the last name of another such person. The bad guys then became people who are not liked or admired, again mixing first and last names. That is easy to do when doing police work.

For instance, there was a particular thief who stole calves from farmers. Knowing that many farmwives use the cash they receive from selling calves for their grocery fund, I was offended because my early years were spent in hunger during WWII. His name and that of a Sergeant who stole a pistol from the evidence locker became the name of the calf thief.

Speaking of hunger reminds me of that time enduring the pangs of hunger and the fear of living under the Nazi occupation, a story told each year to the fifth graders at our local elementary school.  Having heard the war and immigration story, these students and their teachers suggested that it would be a good read if written.

That was the birth moment for writing The Dutch Winter. I knew how it started and how it would end; the plot and stories would flow as writing began for a historical novel. It had to be a novel in order to include the many stories told by parents, uncles, and aunts and historical accuracy for locations and events.  The research was done by touring the sites in Holland and subscribing to a group that publishes Dutch war events, and I interviewed people who lived during that time.

Since there is a retirement home with many Dutch residents nearby, it is easy to find people in their nineties who would tell their stories over a nice lunch at their favorite restaurant.  There I found a spry ninety-three-year-old lady who carried messages for the underground resistance as a girl of sixteen. She was a lovely lady with great humor who cried when telling of the horrors she experienced.

The Dutch Winter is not limited to one hero or heroine. The Dutch were patriotic and brave in their zeal to resist Germany and protected the lives of the underground fighters and Jews from capture and extermination in concentration camps.

Another main character is a Dutch patriot that returned to Holland from Minnesota to fight the Nazis. He is paired with the girl who delivered messages, and they fight side by side, and, as every story needs some romance, they marry.

That required that I know where he came from and be familiar with his hometown. I chose a small country town where a friend was born and raised. Along with a map and internet search of the town, Pease, Minnesota became real.

To ensure that the cities, streets, and places in Holland were spelled correctly and placed geographically, I secured maps of these places to verify accuracy.

All my writings bring the characters to life with their beliefs and practices. During WWII, it took faith in God and strength of character to survive hunger and fear. Thirty thousand Dutch died of starvation during the winter of 1944-45. The majority were grandfathers who gave what little they had to their children and grandchildren and then searched for food and died on the streets, too weak to continue.

That patriotism and spiritual strength is evident in The Dutch Winter.

The Dutch Winter and The Canopy are available to order at any bookstore or Amazon.

My website is Albertvandesteeg.com  and my email is albertvandesteeg@gmail.com

2 Comments

  1. Thonie Hevron

    Thanks for this informative post, Al and George. I’m definatley interested in the Dutch WWII novel. I’ll see you at the conference.

    Reply
  2. Michael A. Black

    It’s great to hear from you again, Al, and I’m looking forward to checking out your books at the upcoming PSWA conference. Having met you before, i can say are a true gentleman in every sense of the word. I’m glad you’re telling these stories of suffering and sacrifice. As you said, they need to be heard. Good luck to you.

    Reply

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WALLACE STEGNER – Angle of Repose – A Review

Reminder: This blog is meant to support authors and their work. It is and will remain apolitical. I reserve the right to edit out comments of a political nature. Thanks to all of you who make this a place to share and review work.
A while back, I mentioned that I would start keeping a few Thursdays open for my posts and a few book reviews. Well, today, I’m starting with Wallace Stegner.

Stegner’s Angle of Repose is a 1972 Pulitzer Prize winner and a fine example of many facets of excellent writing craft. However, I found a “sameness” that permeated the work. Throughout, Oliver Ward struggles to satisfy his wife, Susan Burling Ward. He never quite convinces himself that he is worthy enough for her. His melancholy haunts the reader at every turn. Susan’s feeling of desolation and desire for a more genteel and literary life, expressed in her thoughts and letters, adds to the deep sense of sorrow. This sameness made it challenging for me to read more than one chapter at a time. That said, Stegner’s expert artisanship is evident throughout the novel. His craft is so powerful, so apparent that he can break “the rules” of writing at will with no harm to the story.

Stegner develops his characters so artfully that they become living, breathing people whose attributes and flaws make them into human beings we know and understand. He does not overload the reader with long and exhaustive descriptions. Instead, over many chapters, he reveals small details so that our view of the characters develops as the story unfolds. He gives the reader no more than what is essential.

When the Ward family is separated at the Cheyenne train station, the reader sees and feels hopelessness as a young man runs along the train. The emotion is palpable; one can feel the sorrow. The behavior of another is so vivid one can almost feel the glass he leans against. The family’s estrangement never ends.

Exposition is another tool used well by Stegner. Often writers use exposition to give the reader large doses of information that slows the pacing and can be a distraction. Stegner overcomes that with his exposition in the correspondence between Susan and a lifelong friend. Early on, he uses it to raise the possibility of a lesbian relationship between the two women.

In one of her longer letters, Susan speaks of a trip to San Francisco where she visits several other women from the East who have followed their husbands west. She and the women are alike in their shared feelings of loss.

Wallace Stegner’s Angle of Repose gives the reader many fine examples of his craft. It is not a novel that I enjoyed, nor is it something I would recommend as light reading. However, this is a must-read for writers, students of the craft, and history buffs.

Stegner, Wallace. Angle of Repose. New York: Vintage Books, 2014. Print

 

1 Comment

  1. Michael A. Black

    Your review is thoughtful and well written. It reminds me of how book reviews used to be back in the day. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.

    Reply

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ALMA KATSU – Historical – Fantasy – HORROR

Alma Katsu. Photo by Evan Michio

Alma Katsu is the award-winning author of seven novels. Her latest is The Fervor, a reimagining of the Japanese internment that Booklist called “a stunning triumph” (starred) and Library Journal called “a must-read for all, not just genre fans” (starred). Red Widow, her first espionage novel, is a nominee for the Thriller Writers Award for best novel, was a NYT Editors Choice, and is in development for a TV series.

 

Something strange is taking place in the waning days of WWII. Meiko, the Japanese wife of a U.S. fighter pilot, follows a mysterious and deadly disease spreading through the Japanese internment camps. Archie Mitchell, a preacher whose wife is killed during the explosion of a fu-go, or fire balloon, is seized with confusing thoughts of revenge. Fran Gurstwold, a reporter intent on escaping from her newspaper’s “pink collar ghetto,” is determined to write up the fire balloon incidents despite the Army’s embargo. And Aiko, Meiko’s daughter, escapes from camp and makes a dangerous solo journey back to Seattle when she’s told her mother has died. It’s all tied together by a forgotten episode in Meiko’s past: a trip taken with her researcher father to a remote island reportedly linked to the Japanese underworld.

Do you write in more than one genre? I’ve been writing historical combined with supernatural or horror or fantasy for six books, but in 2021 my first spy novel, Red Widow, was published. I got the opportunity to write Red Widow because I’d had a long career in intelligence and wanted to try to write a spy thriller that was a little unlike the usual fare—and had a publisher who was willing to take the chance! Overall I’d say writing in more than one genre is a big challenge: readers who like, say, mysteries aren’t necessarily going to pick up your romance novel. Then you have the challenge of trying to market to two separate audiences—it’s tougher than it sounds.

Tell us about your writing process: Generally, I write all morning, from about 7 am until noon, when I make lunch for the family, then write again in the afternoon until I sneak in a little exercise before making dinner. I take care of business during those hours, too: promotion, talking to agents and editors. Evenings are interviews or taping panels and reading ARCs for blurbs. I’m very lucky to do this full-time, but it is a lot of work.

For the historical horror novels, it starts with a quick sprint of research that helps me find the quirky characters and odd little-known facts that will give the book its magic. Then there’s a fairly detailed outline, and I start drafting. I generally draft from beginning to end these days, no jumping around to do favorite scenes first. First drafts are terse. I’ll do a couple more drafts, smoothing prose, filling in plot gaps, finding new twists, understanding the characters better, deepening and enriching. Then it goes to the agent for a first read, and that’s when the real work begins.

How long did it take you to write your first book? My first book, The Taker, took 10 years to get to a publishable state. I’d come back to writing fiction after a long break, and it took a long time to get my sea legs back. It was like I’d been lying on the couch eating potato chips for a decade, and I decided I wanted to run a marathon.

How long to get it published? Once it got to the point where I felt fairly confident it was publishable, it went fast. But those 10 years were filled with querying, and it wasn’t ready, so a lot of rejection and trying to fix the problems without having the chops to do it, which is why it took so long.

Do your protagonists ever disappoint you? I find protagonists much harder to write than antagonists. Villains are interesting, and my villains often end up taking over the book. Anti-heroes aren’t quite the thing these days and often come off as cliché.

Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? My books are ALL sub-plots. Except for Red Widow, my books are usually multiple POV, and all those sub-plots have to come together in a satisfying way by the end. It is a ton of work. I use spreadsheets to keep track of everything.

What obstacles do you face when writing about historical figures? Three of my books are historical fiction based on real-life events. The first, The Hunger, is a reimagining of the story of the Donner Party. Most of the characters are based on real people, and I learned after that, people you have to be circumspect about doing that. It can be ghoulish to some readers. If you need to drastically change a real person’s life to make it fit your story, you’re better off creating a completely fictional character. My most recent book, The Fervor, is mostly fictional characters but it’s based on two real-life incidents: the explosion that caused the only deaths on the US mainland during WWII, and the internment of people of Japanese descent.

   

How do our readers contact you?

Alma’s website https://www.almakatsubooks.com/

Twitter https://twitter.com/alm

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/almakatsu/

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/AlmaKatsuBooks/

Penguin Random House page https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/667268/the-fervor-by-alma-katsu/

5 Comments

  1. Mary

    I admire your tenacity and discipline. Need to take lessons. Your writing journey is inspiration. Thank you.

    Reply
  2. Barbara Nickless

    What a wonderful interview! Thank you for sharing your process, Alma, and for giving us a peek into your books. I literally have Red Widow at the top of my TBR pile next to my reading chair. I picked it up after reading a review that praised its many strengths. I look forward to reading The Fervor as well–thank you for shining a light on a dark and often overlooked period of American history.

    Reply
  3. Margaret Mizushima

    Congratulations on your new book. It sound like a really good one, and I’ve added it to my reading list. Also happy that Red Widow was published. It sounds good too!

    Reply
  4. Michael A. Black

    It sounds like your disciplined approach to writing is working our very well for you. I’m glad you’re writing about the internment of the Japanese Americans in WW II. President Roosevelt’s been given a pass on this for the most part and it was a disgraceful period in our history. I had a woman of Japanese decent in my Writing the Memoir class a few years ago and she’d been born in one of those camps. She wrote a fabulous memoir about what her family went through. Best of luck to you.

    Reply
    • Alma Katsu

      Michael, thank you for the kind words. I bet that was a terrific memoir, and glad she wrote it as we’re losing so many from that generation. It would be a shame if their stories were lost, too.

      Reply

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MARLA K. MORRIS – Combines True Crime and Fiction

Who Am I? I’m a lifelong central Ohio native educated at Capital University Law School. I enjoy true crime and police detective television shows like NCIS, Snapped, and Columbo. I have three grown children and two grandchildren. I enjoy adult coloring and diamond dot painting. My bucket list includes travelling to all fifty states and taking a Mediterranean cruise. I write true crime peppered with a bit of fiction.

What is your most recent release? Sweet Burial was released last month.  My inspiration was a true crime perpetrated in the central Ohio area in the early 90s. It’s a tale involving sex, lies, videotape, and murder. Rarely do newlyweds who experience marital conflict jump immediately to the drastic option of divorce. Christian Wright and his bride Chloe choose instead to engage the professional services of a marriage counselor soon after entering into what was supposed to be wedded bliss.  While initially there’s no physical violence between them, their relationship is rife with emotional, verbal, and psychological harm. Just as they are on the verge of ending it all, they learn Chloe is with child. Sadly, the birth of their son isn’t the blessed event they hoped it would be. Their child is differently-abled. Chloe embraces their son, while Christian rejects him as if he is a defective toy. A flimsy facade of family perfection is perpetuated to outsiders looking in for years. There is nothing Christ-like nor morally correct about the deadly choices Christian Wright ultimately makes, forever turning his family’s life upside down.

What was your debut title? His Dream, Her Nightmare was my first book. It’s a tale of misplaced trust. Our romantic choices do not always serve us well. This is even truer when duty or tradition rather than authentic love compels one to stay in a toxic relationship or marriage. Unfortunately, a young lovesick Winnie is unable to realize her condition will only lead to calamity. Winnie is determined to stand by her man Nelson even though he doesn’t value her worth as a woman nor her loyalty to him. To honor her vows, she is committed to him despite his criminal past, infidelity, and controlling ways. At her tipping point, when she is ready to finally leave their imbalanced union, Nelson won’t let her. Winnie disappears suddenly after they celebrate his milestone thirtieth birthday. With the help of his crafty lawyer, Nelson is able to stave off suspicions of her family, friends, and most importantly, the authorities for years. He is able to live his happily ever after as a free man until he meets his karmic end.

Why did you start writing? I originally tried to have a YouTube content creator highlight the real life case chronicled in my novella on her true crime channel. After forwarding research to no avail, I decided to tell the story myself. It explores how a woman who went missing in the mid-seventies from the Columbus area. She left behind her young children, a good job, and her jealous husband, who coincidently was a convicted rapist.  Because of its brevity, many readers are clamoring to learn more about whether justice is served for the main character Winnie. To that end, I’m working on the sequel, Her Dream, His Nightmare: The Saga Continues to be released in August of this year.

My writing grew out of my grieving process. I lost my mother to Covid-19 a little over a year ago, three days before Christmas 2020. The fictional main character murdered in my first book was a long-term friend of my mother’s. Pat, who is a staunch advocate for justice in the book, is the portrayal of my mother. The victim was among the first to benefit from facial reconstruction techniques developed at the Smithsonian.

I like writing about crimes in the past when gumshoe detective work rather than high tech science was the primary means to solving murder cases. I prefer settings in the 70s to 90s, because it forces the reader to imagine a time when cell phones, closed circuit television, and DNA either weren’t prevalent or at times nonexistent. Lastly, I have lived in Columbus all of my life, so there are references to many old restaurants, landmarks, and of course, the Ohio State Buckeyes.

What is your current project? Currently, I’m working on Misplaced Danger: A Fatal Prescription. It explores the interconnected lives of a greedy doctor and his drug addicted patient. Living on opposite ends of town, both are on paths to doom. The main character Teddy, a late bloomer, has challenging stressors at home and on his job. He has the misfortune of being referred to Dr. Ben Eagleston, who prescribes seemingly innocuous meds that only make his life worse. It’s full of plot twists. What’s more, it too is based on actual headline events from my sleepy hometown.

Are there any unique quirks in your writing? Without giving spoilers, I will point out two hidden themes. In Sweet Burial, there is a food or cooked dish mentioned in almost every chapter, even in a serious court trial scene. In Misplaced Danger, there will be direct and indirect avian references.

What is on your writing horizon? A series centered around femmes fatales is the future project brewing on the outer reaches of my creativity.  I have a working title, subtitles, and cover ideas. The antagonists will be ruthless, fierce, and violent women underestimated by their prey.

What advice would you give to another writer? Admittedly, I am a novice. If I had to give tips or advice to an even newer writer than myself, it would be two things. One, a writer writes. Keep a notebook handy to jot down ideas. Take time to write every day. My benchmark is daily word count because I have figured out my natural rhythm for writing.  Two, set aside time to work on your craft.  There are so many moving parts to this writing and publication process. The more you expose yourself to honing your craft, the better your completed works will be.

How do our readers contact you?

Amazon Central Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Marla-K-Morris/e/B09DP1XLSL/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1

Blog: Marlaz Memoz: https://www.blogger.com/blog/posts/848832704092691407?hl=en&tab=jj

TikTok: marlamorris3

Sweet Burial available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Sweet-Burial-Tragedy-That-Beneath-ebook/dp/B09F86M2PR

4 Comments

  1. DONNARAE MENARD

    I’m thinking true crime might be in my future as a more serious reader. I don’t think I could stay the course as far as a sprinkling of fiction, I’d be dropping it in by the cupful. You took some hard subjects, and I heartfully wish you the best.

    Reply
  2. Katherine brinston

    I have read both of your books and enjoyed ever bit of them keep writing waiting on the new one to come out what a amazing writer and story teller

    Reply
  3. Michael A. Black

    Wow, for such a nice lady, you certainly write about gruesome subjects, but I think that’s great. Your writing advice is certainly solid and right on the mark. Best of luck to you. Keep those pages coming.

    Reply

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