Joan Long is the author of the locked-room-style mystery THE FINALIST, which was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel. She is a third-generation Floridian who earned a degree in English/Creative Writing from Florida State University and a graduate degree in Journalism and Communications from The University of Florida. She has written for universities, public television, healthcare corporations, a magazine, and more.
Joan was a finalist in a Minotaur Books/Malice Domestic Best First Mystery Novel Competition and was a short-listed finalist for a William Faulkner-William Wisdom Award for Best Novel-in-Progress. Her short story “The Extra Ingredient” is published in the Anthony Award-winning anthology Malice Domestic 14: Mystery Most Edible.
Has an association membership helped you with your writing? Absolutely! Joining writing associations is probably the best thing I’ve done for my writing career. I’m a member of Sisters in Crime and its Guppy chapter, Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, and the Authors Guild. Through these organizations, I continually learn the craft and business of writing. They also help me make connections with other authors. I’ve met some of my best friends through these groups.
How do you come up with character names? I use multiple sources—baby registries, online name generators, old phone books, and church directories. I try to begin each name with a different letter and vary the syllable lengths. As a reader, I find it confusing when character names are too similar. And because I want to be nice to audiobook narrators, my main characters’ names don’t end in s or th.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? Outlining works best for me. I begin with a logline, followed by a brief synopsis and the outline. However, my outlines constantly change. They evolve as the story grows.
What kind of research do you do? Setting is an important element in my debut novel, The Finalist. Because the story takes place on a tropical island, I researched plants, flowers, local foods, charter boats, satellite radios, and—ahem!—how long it takes a person to dig a grave in sand.
Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? I prefer fictional settings that are loosely based on real locations. Key Island—the fictional location of The Finalist—takes place on a private island in the Caribbean. My work-in-progress is set in Florida in a fictional community near the Gulf of Mexico. Obviously, I like to write about warm-weather places!
Do you have any advice for new writers? I recommend learning the craft and becoming active in a writing community. I also suggest keeping a “Happiness Journal” or something similar. Remembering the great things that happen can help on days when writing is a challenge. Did you receive a wonderful blurb or a five-star review? Did you find your book in a library? Has your word count increased? Whatever it is that made your day, write it down. One of my favorite moments happened when I was going up an escalator. A woman riding the down escalator recognized me and shouted, “I’m reading your book!” I smile every time I think about it.
Many thanks to George Cramer for inviting me to post on his blog.
My website is https://joanlongbooks.com.
Here is my buy info:
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-finalist-joan-long/1141005243
Apple Books: https://books.apple.com/us/book/the-finalist/id1610738358
G.M. Malliet is an American award-winning author of mystery and cozy mystery novels. She is best known for writing the Agatha Award-winning Death of a Cozy Writer (2008), the first installment of the St. Just Mystery Series, named among the Best Books of 2008 by Kirkus Reviews.
The holder of degrees from Oxford University and the University of Cambridge, G.M. Malliet has wide experience in journalism and copywriting. Before switching to fiction writing, she wrote for national and international news publications (Thomson Reuters) and public broadcasters (PBS). She currently resides in the U.S.
Elevator Pitch: Max Tudor thought he’d left the world of deceit when he resigned from MI5 to become an Anglican priest. Then his bishop asks him to return to his Oxford college, St Luke’s, to investigate the death of its chaplain, and Max realizes there’s no leaving the past behind.
What brought you to writing? Writing was always just there. It’s the kind of thing you are compelled to do rather than take up idly on a whim. The longer I live, the more I wish I could cut back on the writing, but that compulsion is still there.
Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? My office is right in the middle of a several-story house, so it’s Grand Central Station. I think that might just be what I’m comfortable with. If I have too much quiet, I can’t really work.
Tell us about your writing process: The early stages of writing are always the fun part when you’re not committed to anything. That’s where the joy comes in.
What is the most challenging part of your writing process? What are you currently working on? Book 6 in the St. Just series. It is called Death and the Old Master.
Has an association membership helped you with your writing? Both SinC and MWA have provided friendships with seasoned experts willing to share their expertise.
How do you come up with character names? Like most authors, I use a baby naming site or the Census records.
Do you ever kill a popular character? I wanted to kill an early Max Tudor character. St. Martin’s wouldn’t allow it. I still regret caving.
G.M. Malliet is a member of:
Crime Writers’ Association (U.K.),
International Thriller Writers,
Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance,
Mystery Writers of America,
Sisters in Crime (former National Board member).
Email me at gm at gmmalliet dot com.
I can’t always answer, but I love fan mail 😉
Austin S. Camacho is the author of eight novels about Washington DC-based private eye Hannibal Jones, five in the Stark and O’Brien international adventure-thriller series, and the detective novel Beyond Blue. His short stories have been featured in several anthologies, and he is featured in the Edgar nominated African American Mystery Writers: A Historical and Thematic Study by Frankie Y. Bailey. He is a past president of the Maryland Writers Association, past Vice President of the Virginia Writers Club, and one of the directors of the Creatures, Crimes & Creativity literary conference – now in its 10th year.
Subtle Felonies – Is retired basketball star Xander Brown missing or kidnapped? His crazy family and dangerous friends draw DC detective Hannibal Jones into a deadly chase to find – or rescue – a complex man. In public, Xander is a husband, father, partner, and friend, but who is he in private? Which role took him away?
Do you write in more than one genre? Yes. My primary work is detective fiction – The Hannibal Jones mystery series. I love writing about a private eye’s adventures. My mysteries have complex plots and tend to be deep character studies. But writing about a PI walking the mean streets of Washington, DC, I’ve noticed the stories getting darker and grittier because I strive for realism. But I also write straight-up thrillers. The Stark & O’Brien novels feature a mercenary soldier and a jewel thief who have formed a personal protection company and do odd jobs for the CIA. It’s great fun and not as dark as the noir style of my mysteries. I’m told the action in my thrillers feels more like the Indiana Jones movies.
Who’s your favorite author? There are too many to name, but if I have to choose one, it would be Raymond Chandler. His prose is near poetry, and let’s face it, Phillip Marlowe is the detective we all chase in our writing. But Ross McDonald wrote the best plots of any mystery writer I’ve read. And Elmore Leonard created the best characters, bar none.
Do you base any of your characters on real people? I have never based a character on a real person. However, some of my characters are an amalgam of people I’ve known or read about. Some real life people are almost archetypes – Rupert Murdoch and Elon Musk are examples. Oddly, several people I know personally have accused me of using them as the model for one of my characters. I guess my fictional people are real enough that they see themselves in them.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I have to outline and don’t understand how anyone can write otherwise. In order to build a puzzle that is a good mystery, I have to plant clues at the right times, and pacing is important in mystery AND thriller fiction. And I have to know where the story is going in order to cut unnecessary stuff. How do you do that without an outline? Of course, during the writing, things change, and the story will veer away from the original outline, but I always know where I’m going, so I never get lost in the story and never feel writer’s block.
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? As soon as I finish a Hannibal Jones novel, ideas appear for another. But I’m also starting a new series about a Black female professional assassin named Skye. It is being so much fun to write.
Do you have any advice for new writers? Stick with the basics. Write every day. Write to the end of your story before you begin to rewrite. Accept that your first draft is just piling sand into your sandbox. You build your castle in the rewrites, and you can expect to do that three or four times. And join a strong critique group. Others will always see things in your writing that you miss.
I am an active member of:
Mystery Writers of America (Mid-Atlantic Chapter),
International Thriller Writers,
Sisters in Crime,
Virginia Writers Club,
Maryland Writers Association.
Public Safety Writers Association
Reach me on
Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/austin.camacho.author/
Twitter at @ascamacho
website – https://ascamacho.com/
Buy my latest, Subtle Felonies, at https://www.amazon.com/Subtle-Felonies-Hannibal-Jones-Mystery/dp/B0CBWN5V1X/
Or see all my novels at https://www.amazon.com/s?k=Austin+S.+Camacho&i=stripbooks&s=review-count-rank&crid=27N759Y4XYN1R&qid=1653645317&sprefix=austin+s.+camacho%2Cstripbooks%2C70&ref=sr_st_review-count-rank
Galveston Author Saralyn Richard
Saralyn Richard is the author of award-winning mysteries that pull back the curtain on people in settings as diverse as elite country manor houses and disadvantaged urban high schools. An active member of International Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America, Saralyn teaches creative writing and literature.
Her favorite thing about being an author is connecting with readers like you.
Detective fiction, also known as police procedurals or crime fiction, began in the English-language literature in the mid-nineteenth century with Edgar Allan Poe’s C. Auguste Dupin, a brilliant thinker who used “rationcination” to solve crimes. (The word detective hadn’t been invented yet, but Dupin’s name has its roots in “duping” or “deception.”) The enormously popular Dupin was followed by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot.
All three of these fictional detectives became larger-than-life and inspired generations of mystery authors. Thus, a subgenre of mystery fiction was born and has grown into one of the most preferred types of novels today. I’ve enjoyed detective fiction since I was a young girl (Nancy Drew), so I’ve had plenty of opportunities to analyze what makes it so engaging.
1. First, we have the age-old concept of good vs. evil. The detective is the force for good, seeking truth, determined to restore order by bringing evildoers to justice. How can the reader help rooting for that kind of hero?
2. A well-written detective novel invites the reader to follow the clues to join in solving the intellectual and emotional puzzle of the mystery. This participatory involvement brings readers close to writers who have laid out the puzzle for them. Whether I’m able to figure out the puzzle before the big reveal at the end or not, I’m thoroughly in sync with the author as I read along.
3. Detective novels reaffirm certain principles of culture and life. They underscore that bad things happen; that sometimes people fall prey to sin, corruption, and inhumanity; but also that when injustices occur, there are those who will work hard to right the wrongs. Crime doesn’t pay.
Detective Oliver Parrott, the righter of wrongs in my Detective Parrott Mystery Series, (whose last name is a nod to Poirot), carries all the charm of a good guy up against extremely difficult odds. Young, African American, and raised by a single mother in an impoverished neighborhood, Parrott is an outsider in the opulent Brandywine Valley, where many of America’s wealthiest and most powerful live. Parrott’s intelligence, ambition, and strong moral compass give him the power to see beyond the glitz and secrecy and dare to challenge it.
Unlike Poirot and the traditional detectives, Parrott shares much of his life’s experience as he goes after criminals. His fiancée is doing a tour of duty in Afghanistan with the Navy. His cousin has recently been killed as an innocent bystander by police fire. Parrott’s struggles are woven into the mystery in a way that makes him authentic and relatable. In each of the three books in the series (and a fourth coming before year’s end), the reader comes to know Parrott in a deeper way—he becomes as close as a neighbor, a relative, a friend. Like many other readers, I can’t wait to go along on Parrott’s next adventure. How about you?
Follow Saralyn and subscribe to her monthly newsletter at http://saralynrichard.com.
Former Metropolitan Opera violinist Erica Miner is an award-winning author, screenwriter, arts journalist, and lecturer. Her debut novel, Travels with My Lovers, won the Fiction Prize in the Direct from the Author Book Awards, and her screenplays have won awards in the WinFemme, Santa Fe, and Writers Digest competitions.
Based in the Pacific Northwest, Erica continues to balance her reviews and interviews of real-world musical artists with her fanciful plot fabrications that reveal the dark side of the fascinating world of opera. Aria for Murder, set at the Metropolitan Opera, published by Level Best Books in October 2022, is the first in her Julia Kogan Opera Mystery series. The sequel, Prelude to Murder, which takes place at the Santa Fe Opera, is due for release in September 2023. The third book in the series, set at San Francisco Opera, will follow in 2024.
PRELUDE TO MURDER follows the further adventures of young violinist Julia Kogan, who leaves her home base, the Metropolitan Opera, for a guest appearance with the Santa Fe Opera. Teaming with a Shakespeare-quoting detective, Julia finds enough ambition, intrigue, and jealous wrangling behind the scenes to ensure plenty of suspects when murder takes center stage.
A Note From the Author: In my 21 years as a violinist at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, I witnessed deadly accidents, suicides, onstage fatalities, and other nefarious goings-on behind the scenes that far surpassed what took place onstage. What occurs behind that “Golden Curtain” can be as startlingly dramatic as any opera plot. The potential for murder and mayhem at an opera house is virtually limitless.
I was convinced both opera lovers and mystery novel aficionados would be fascinated by an insider’s view of the egos, rivalries and jealousies that make an opera house tick. With the help of my wicked writer’s imagination, I tossed my unsuspecting violinist protagonist into the fray: my “Opera Mystery” series was born.
I was convinced both opera lovers and mystery novel aficionados would be fascinated by an insider’s view of the egos, rivalries, and astonishing behavior of individuals who made the opera house tick. I discovered that the potential for murder and mayhem at an opera house is virtually limitless: it’s always “dark and stormy” at the Metropolitan Opera. Thus, with the help of my wicked writer’s imagination, I tossed my unsuspecting young violinist protagonist into the fray, and voilà: my Julia Kogan “Opera Mystery” series was born.
What brought you to writing? I actually started writing before I started playing the violin. In grade school, I was placed in an after-school program for Creative Writing. I loved the whole process, creating characters and plots and weaving them together to tell stories. My love of writing began at that time and has kept going throughout my adult life. Even when I was performing at the Met Opera, I took writing classes whenever I could fit them into my schedule. After I left the Met, I went back to my lifelong love of writing as my creative outlet. I still love telling stories!
Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? I feel most comfortable and productive writing on my desktop Mac in my office. I have everything I need within reach and within sight. In front of me are shelves holding my favorite screenplays, musical scores, books on writing, copies of my own books, photos of beloved family members, and even stuffies—a minion and a Brünnhilde Teddy bear—to keep me company and inspire me to make up great stories. When I’m stuck or need to contemplate for a moment, I look around at my familiar accoutrements, and I’m motivated to keep going. What I can’t abide in the way of distractions is noise: music, outdoor landscaping, and such. That is the worst distraction for me.
What are you currently working on? The third book in my Opera Mystery series is due for release in September 2024. Meanwhile, I will keep my musical writing muse active by reviewing performances in my local Seattle concert halls and opera houses.
How do you come up with character names? Creating character names is one of my favorite parts of writing a novel. Often I am inspired to use names of close relatives and friends who have made a deep impression on me, some of them since childhood, who have similar traits to those of my characters.
Do you base any of your characters on real people? In my Opera Mystery novels, I’m always tempted to base my characters on people I’ve worked with at the Met Opera, whether in the orchestra, onstage, or backstage. I like to combine the characteristics of different colleagues into one character, though sometimes I have based a character wholly on a real person.
What kind of research do you do? I have had extensive training in musicological research, so I do exhaustive studies to ensure I have a historical basis, both for the operas I include in my plots, the opera houses where they are performed, and the cities in which they are located. The history of opera, its composers, and its performances are absolutely fascinating. I delve into the composers’ lives, how and why they wrote a particular opera, the singers who have performed those works since the beginning, and all kinds of other fascinating facts. Then I weave it all into my stories.
Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? So far, I’ve used real locations. The first in the series took place at my home base, the Metropolitan Opera in New York. After being there for 21 years, I knew the place inside out, and it seemed the logical and perfect place to set my first Opera Mystery. When one reader suggested I set a sequel at Santa Fe Opera, I jumped on it. No other major opera company performs in the middle of the desert of New Mexico. After that, various opera companies asked if I would consider writing mysteries taking place at their opera houses. There are so many amazing opera venues and so many wonderful theatres from which to choose, all of them having their own unique characteristics. So, for the time being, I’m more than happy to place my stories in real locations. It would be fun at some point, however, to fabricate my own opera house in a made-up location, too.
“Erica Miner has created a world few people know or have access to. A mystery with music beyond the words on the page. If all music aspires to the human voice, this author has found hers from the start.” Gabriel Valjan, Agatha & Anthony nominated author of the Shane Cleary Mystery series
“Erica Miner is the Agatha Christie of the opera world.” – Richard Stilwell, international opera star
“Prelude to Murder is a tantalizing peek behind the curtain of the world-renowned Santa Fe Opera. There’s plenty of mayhem on the bill, sumptuous history, and metaphysical frights set against bloody arias and deadly recitativo.”
-James W. Ziskin, Anthony, Barry, and Macavity Award-winning author
How do our readers contact you?
Web site: https://www.ericaminer.com
Email ‘ email@example.com
SOCIAL MEDIA HANDLES:
[These are for currently available Aria for Murder. Will send links for Prelude to Murder when available]
Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/Aria-Murder-Julia-Kogan-Mystery/dp/1685121985/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=
Barnes & Nobel – https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/aria-for-murder-erica-miner/1142495216?ean=9781685121983
Third Place Books – https://www.thirdplacebooks.com/book/9781685121983
GROUPS I BELONG TO:
Sisters in Crime
Pacific Northwest Writers Association
International Thriller Writers
EPIC Group Writers