The Tables Are Turned—George Cramer Is Interviewed

With the impending release of George’s latest novel, Robbers and Cops, I suggested he let me interview him for his blog. I happen to know that George is a talented writer and that he’s also very modest. Tooting his own horn is not in this man’s DNA, but I insisted. So here it is: an interview with the author, the man himself.

Now I get to turn the tables on Big George and interview him about his new book and a few other things. Michael A. Black

Okay, George, let’s start with an easy one: In which genre(s) do you write? I’ll try to make it complicated. I began Robbers and Cops as somewhat of a memoir but got bored with the protagonist, switched to a police procedural thriller, and then stopped for eight years to write The Mona Lisa Sisters as historical-literary-woman fiction.

I also write some, very little, poetry. And I love writing flash fiction.

Why did you choose those? I get pieces of stories in my mind that determine what I’ll write. Flash fiction’s inspiration is about telling a story, beginning to end, on one page. Poetry is either about writing or a social issue, such as the 1864 massacre of a peaceful Arapaho and Cheyenne village in “Sand Creek.”

Now tell us a bit about your writing process–Plotter or Pantser? Outlining and I don’t get along. I begin writing with an idea and create ten thousand or so words either at the beginning or at the end. Then, I ponder how I got there, how or where the journey began. I take lots of detours.

Have you ever tried doing it the other way? Yes—total failure.

What do you need for your writing sessions? I still write in cursive, and my handwriting is so bad I need a laptop. Add a flat service and comfortable straight-back chair, and I’m set. I can be at my desk, kitchen table, library, or coffee shop. Conversations don’t bother me, except at home.

Does anything ever hamper your writing? Artificial sounds, music, radio, or television.

It must be hard to screen all of those out. Do you have a special place where you like to write? Libraries, surrounded by books.

What do you love about writing? The hope of using written words to paint a picture another person can experience in such a way as to place themselves in the setting and scene.

Painting a picture… That’s very metaphorical. Your first book references a rather famous picture—The Mona Lisa. Care to tell us what that one’s about? I was attending an introductory workshop when the instructor randomly handed out pictures of scenes. We were given fifteen minutes to describe the setting. Instead, I wrote the end of the manuscript. Eight years later, I finished the journey.

What’s the most challenging aspect for you about writing? It’s when I’m searching for the right colors (words) to paint that perfect scene.

What do you find to be the hardest thing about being a writer? Sitting down and writing that first word. Or when I’ve finished the manuscript, I’m about 10,000 words short. I don’t want to add fluff.

That’s interesting. Most writers try to cut words from a manuscript. How do you determine the proper length? When I finish adding 10K new words, I’ve cut at least 5K and have to go back again.

What is the easiest thing, if anything, about being a writer? The ability to take on any project that allows me to avoid sitting down and writing that first word. My best escape from creating new material is to self-critique and edit my already-written work.

Is there something that you always put in your books? Last year I heard that some author always puts his name somewhere in his work. I took that as a challenge, and I’m hidden in Robbers and Cops. In New Liberty, the first in the Hector Miguel Navarro Trilogy, George Cramer gives advice to a young detective.

Things you never put in your books: Steamy sex. I tried it once, but my two daughters were horrified that I would write about sex—never again.

What are your favorite books (or genres)? Now that is a tricky question. I like Bernard Cornwell immensely. I was not a fan of his until I read a few of his works while studying for an MFA at the Institute of American Indian Arts. But that is strictly for fun. Among my favorites for content and impact, I would have to include Hard Times: For These Times by Charles Dickens in 1854; and The Stranger, the 1942 novella by Albert Camus.

Those would be considered classics by most people. Which current writers influenced you the most? Right up there is The Round House by Louise Erdrich and Perma Red by Debra Magpie Earling. These two indigenous authors are incredible.

Anthony Marra’s A Constellation of Vital Phenomena should be a must-read for every person living in these trying times.

As far as right now, I choose Black Pearl by Donnell Ann Bell. I can’t wait to get her autograph and talk writing.

Are there any books you won’t buy? Horror stories by Stephen King. I can’t handle horror. However, I have a paper and hardback copy of Stephen King On Writing because he is such a phenomenal author.

All right, we’ve dallied long enough. Your new book is Robbers and Cops. Tell us about that one. I’m leaving that to you with the blurb you graciously wrote.

A fascinating odyssey of complex characters—robbers and cops that spans five decades in its telling. Imagine if Elmore Leonard had written The Grapes of Wrath, tossed in a dash of The Naked and the Dead, and finished up morphing into a pure Joseph Wambaugh police procedural. ~Michael A. BlackAmazon Bestselling Author.

Robbers and Cops will be released on November 1, 2022, and is available for pre-order.

 So would you say it’s a crime story or police procedural, or a sociological novel? Wow! I would have to say a thrilling sociological police procedural.

You’ve got an extensive background in police work and investigations. Has this helped you with your crime fiction? With Robbers and Cops, I wanted to build a story around two brothers. I met one of them when I helped a San Mateo detective take him into custody. My involvement in the incident was limited to hours, yet the story haunted me for decades. When I fell in love with writing, I used four decades of investigation experience to go from the ending back forty years in time and created the road that ended with my completed manuscript.

What is one of the most daring things you’ve done? Overcoming my fears while becoming a certified scuba diver without knowing how to swim so I could dive with my oldest son, a professional deep water diver—we never did.

That sounds like it would make a good story. Have you considered writing about your experience as a memoir or fictionalizing it into a novel? Never going to happen.

Who’s the most remarkable person you’ve ever met: My Dad.

You’ve got a lot of fans out there. Anything else you’d like to tell them? Please visit my blog and then come make a guest post about your work.

 All right. Thanks for the opportunity to let me place the master blog interviewer on the spot.

How do your readers contact you or buy your books?

Email: gdcramer@outlook.com
Website: https://gdcramer.com
Blog: https://gdcramer.com/george-cramer-blog/
FaceBook: http://www.facebook.com/george.cramer.56211

Buy Books: There is a buy link on my website.

Amazon – https://tinyurl.com/4xw228ft
Barnes and Nobel -: https://tinyurl.com/4t4h6x8y

20 Comments

  1. Camille Minichino

    What a team here! Thanks George and Mike, not only for your massive contribution to the world of great books, but for all you both do for authors.

    Reply
  2. Donnell Ann Bell

    40 years of research helped you write Robbers and Cops. I have been so self-absorbed with family, forgot I read this marvelous interview. Mike, you ask phenomenal questions that really help a person consider how to answer. Well done, you two.

    Reply
  3. Donnell Ann Bell

    Lovely interview. Thanks, Mike for interviewing George. George I’m honored you like Black Pearl, and I, sir, should be asking for YOUR autograph! Think I’ll try your library system for writing. I like absolute quiet too!

    Reply
  4. Marie Sutro

    Love that you still write in cursive! Can’t wait to read Robbers & Cops!!

    Reply
  5. Jonathan

    Always enjoy learning new things about you.
    Sounds like we need to plan a dive trip.

    Reply
  6. Madeline Gornell

    Great interview of a great guy! Kudos Mike and George!

    Reply
  7. Johanna Meadows

    What a great interview. Always good to hear about you George!

    Reply
  8. Violet Moore

    To Michael and George. One of the best interviews I’ve read .

    Reply
  9. Cynthia

    Great interview. I did not know you didn’t swim! I have pre ordered your current book Robbers and Cops!!! Can’t wait till it comes in…and you sign it!!

    Reply
  10. Elizabeth Varadan

    What a great interview. I’ve enjoyed reading the blog posts here, but especially enjoyed learning more about you and your books this time. Robbers and Cops definitely goes on my TBR stack.

    Reply
  11. Victoria Weisfeld

    What an entertaining interview! Thank you both, Mike and George.

    Reply
  12. Joseph Bryce HAGGERTY Sr

    George, your honesty was refreshing. I too don’t like horror stories, but one of my favorite books was Stephen King’s THE STAND. Mike is a great interviewer and obviously knows his way to get writers to say things they wouldn’t normally say. I truly enjoyed the interviewer and the interviewee. I admire both of you and look forward to reading ROBBERS and COPS.

    Reply
    • George Cramer

      Thanks, Joe. I’m glad you enjoyed both Mike and me. It was fun for us as well.

      Reply
  13. Michael A. Black

    George, you’ve done so much to support other writers that I couldn’t pass up this chance to turn the tables and have me interview you. I read an advance copy of Robbers and Cops and thought it was great. Thank you for letting me sit in your chair for this one. Stay strong.

    Reply
  14. Wanda Dean

    George, I so enjoyed this interview! You amaze me in many ways.
    Writing is a lot like painting as you say! And when you say you don’t add fluff, I sure can
    identify with that… Fluff just takes away from the words and the painting…
    I downloaded 2 of the books you mentioned and look forward to reading Robbers and Cops!

    Reply
    • George Cramer

      Hi Aunt Wanda, this must be a beautiful time in Western New York, especially for such a talented artist as you. Keep those brushes moving.

      Reply
  15. George Cramer

    Mike, Thanks for reversing the tables on me. You must be a detective! You forced information out of me that I would never have shared otherwise.

    Working on this blog has become joy.

    Thanks to all the folks who have posted here and those who visit and support the community of writers.

    Reply
  16. Lynn Carlson

    Have read many of your blog posts -enjoyed learning more about you! Thanks for supporting other writers.

    Reply
    • George Cramer

      Hi Lynn, thanks for dropping by and your kind comments.

      Reply

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MICHAEL A. BLACK – From the Wild West to Modern Day Bounty Hunter

Our guest today is Michael A. Black, author of over 47 books, including his latest series featuring ex-army ranger Steve Wolf as a modern-day bounty hunter.

Michael A. Black is the award-winning author of 47 books, most of which are in the mystery and thriller genres. He has also written in sci-fi, western, horror, and sports. A retired police officer, he has done everything from patrol to investigating homicides to conducting numerous SWAT operations.

 

Black was awarded the Cook County Medal of Merit in 2010. He is also the author of over 100 short stories and articles and wrote two novels with television star Richard Belzer (Law & Order SVU). His Executioner novel, Fatal Prescription, won the Best Original Novel Scribe Award. His latest novels are the Trackdown series (Devil’s Dance, Devil’s Fancy, Devil’s Brigade, Devil’s Advocate, and Devil’s Vendetta) and Chimes at Midnight (under his own name), Dying Art and Cold Fury (under Don Pendleton), and the Gunslinger series (Killer’s Choice, Killer’s Brand, Killer’s Ghost, Killer’s Gamble, and Killer’s Requiem) under the name A.W. Hart.

Let’s start with something off the beaten track. Tell us something about yourself that isn’t in your bio. Okay…One of the reasons I was interested in writing westerns is that Zane Grey is a distant relation of mine.

You have a new book out. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about it? I’d be glad to. It’s the latest installment of my Trackdown series about disgraced ex-army ranger Steve Wolf, who was wrongfully accused and convicted of a war crime in Iraq and sentenced to prison. Upon his release, his mentor, Big Jim McNamara, picked him up and helped him get back on his feet with Mac’s bail enforcement business, i.e., bounty hunting. Wolf and McNamara had several adventures through the first four books in the series (Devil’s Dance, Devil’s Fancy, Devil’s Brigade, and Devil’s Advocate), and the newest one takes up where the last one left off. It’s called Devil’s Vendetta.

Sounds like a devilish series; what’s the new one about? Devilish is right. Wolf’s goal is to clear his name since he was wrongfully convicted, and through the first four books, he fought to do this by trying to bring the rich and powerful adversary who framed him to justice. In the fourth book, he came close to succeeding, but as everyone knows, nothing is simple when it comes to our justice system. Devil’s Vendetta continues this theme and begins a new story arc. In this book, Wolf receives a call from his mother in North Carolina that his younger brother, Jimmy, has fallen in with a bad crowd, and an intervention is needed. After going back home for the first time since his release from prison, Wolf finds the old adage, “You can’t go home again,” grievously accurate. His hometown has a bit of a problem with political corruption and a growing crystal meth epidemic. To make matters worse, Wolf’s brother and his friends have concocted a dangerous scheme to rip off a drug kingpin. Wolf finds himself battling against superior odds trying to save what family he has left.

And this one continues the series, correct? It does. It’s actually number five in the series. Numbers six and seven are also coming out in short order as well.

You’ve got three new books coming out together? Right. Number six is Devil’s Breed, which takes up where Devil’s Vendetta left off, and then number seven, Devil’s Reckoning, follows in short order. My publisher, Wolfpack, is releasing all three books in the space of about a month (October 4th, October 25th, and November 15th) under their new Rough Edges imprint. I’m feeling a little bit like Charles Dickens. He used to do a chapter a week when his novels were serialized in the newspaper.

That certainly does sound like a quick succession. How long did it take you to write these? I started working on these three last year (2020) in August. I wrote straight through to this past August, with a few other projects interceding from time to time. It was a busy year.

It sounds like it. Three novels in a year is pretty impressive. Actually, I managed to squeeze in a fourth one, but that was a co-author project. I did a novella, too. They don’t call me the fastest keyboard in the Midwest for nothing.

That sounds like a well-earned title. So does the series continue beyond these seven books? Well, each book is a story in itself, with continuing plot threads. At this point, the series could end, but I’ve left enough of a thread that it could continue. That’ll be up to the readers.

What are you working on currently? After spending so much time with Wolf and Mac, I had a yearning to do something different. I also write westerns and had an idea on the back burner for a while. It’s set in 1913 during the early days of motion pictures. It’s got a troubled veteran of the Philippine/American War, a silent movie being filmed, real-life author Ambrose Bierce, the Mexican Revolution, and of course, some nefarious goings-on.

Sounds ambitious. Good luck with that one. But, before we let you go, I have a question about a group you are active in, the Public Safety Writers Association. I understand that you are not just engaged but, in fact, chair the annual PSWA Conference. Please tell us about that.

Sure. I’ve been a member of the PSWA for a number of years and work with the other board members to run the annual conference in July. We always host it in July at the Orleans in Las Vegas and have a great time. I’ve been to many writer’s conferences, and I can truly say that the PSWA Conference is the best. It’s all about sharing your experiences and becoming a better writer. The people are great, and the members come from a variety of backgrounds. It’s affordable and always a lot of fun. Check out the PSWA website for a glimpse of this past conference.

Thanks for stopping by.

Always a pleasure to be on the best of the best blogs, George. Thanks for having me.

How can our readers contact you and buy your books:

Well. Someone in China hacked my website, and I still haven’t gotten around to organizing another one, but all of my books (Ebooks or paperbacks) are available on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble,  or at your local bookstore. If you want to get hold of me, my email is DocAtlas108@aol.com. I’m always glad to hear from people.

Whatever you wish to list here, like links to seller/buy sites or any URL.

Devil’s Vendetta: A Steve Wolf Military Thriller (Trackdown Book 5) – Kindle edition by Black, Michael A.. Literature & Fiction Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

Devil’s Breed: A Steve Wolf Military Thriller (Trackdown Book 6) – Kindle edition by Black, Michael A.. Literature & Fiction Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

19 Comments

  1. Michael A. Black

    Thanks, Joe. I value your friendship as well. Thanks for stopping by.

    Reply
  2. Joseph Bryce HAGGERTY Sr

    I certainly agree with what everyone has said about Michael’s books and will continue being a buyer. I’ve already read 5 of his books and only have 42 to go. The thing I like about Mike is not only his friendship, but it’s the help he has given me with my writing. He is unselfish and generous with his critiques without being condescending. As a novice writer it is good to have a friend who is such a professional.
    George, as always, your interviews are first rate.

    Reply
  3. Michael A. Black

    Raymond, Rick, and Maddie thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment. Your friendship and support means a lot to me.

    Reply
  4. Madeline Gornell

    Congrats, Mike! You are amazing…off to Amazon right now…

    Reply
  5. Rick McMahan

    Another really good series from you, Mike. I enjoy the characters and storylines. Keep it up, brother.

    And a great interview.

    Reply
  6. Raymond Benson

    I’ve known Mike a LONG time. He’s a consummate professional and I’m happy to know him.

    Reply
  7. Michael A. Black

    Thanks, to all of you who’ve stopped by and especially to those who commented.
    I appreciate your support. These comments, coming from such a talented group of writers means a lot to me. You’re the best.

    Reply
  8. D. Record

    Congratulations on your series. Look forward to reading your latest book and when your Western comes out.
    Continued success. You’re an inspiration to the rest of us.

    Reply
  9. Mysti Berry

    congrats to one of the hardest-working writers in crime today!

    Reply
  10. Dave

    I have always enjoyed Mike’s novels and stories. You get a real sense of the street in them. Not only are his books entertaining, but they remain authentic as well, obviously written by one who’s been there. Can’t wait to dig into the newest one(s), lol!!!

    Reply
  11. CAMILLE MINICHINO

    OK, it took me a minute, but now I get it. Mike BLACK distantly related to Zane GREY. Good one, just like all your books!

    Reply
  12. Martin G

    Mike’s books are well-written. Looking forward to his latest.

    Reply
  13. Nick Chiarkas

    Excellent Blog Post. I will pick up your book and read it with a glass of bourbon.

    Reply
  14. Nick Chiarkas

    Excellent blog; I’ll pick up your book and read it with a glass of bourbon.

    Reply
  15. Bob Doerr

    Hi Mike, looking forward to reading these!

    Reply
  16. Steve Rush

    Hi Mike,

    I purchased Devil’s Vendetta two days ago and look forward to reading it and the others in the series. Thanks for sharing a bit about yourself and your writing.

    Reply
  17. Victoria Weisfeld

    Ordered my copy of Mike’s new one. Coming soon . . . But can I keep up??

    Reply
    • John Schembra

      Mike is a friend and a terrific, prolific author. I’ve read a couple of his Executioner books and a couple of his westerns. I’ve enjoyed every one. He is an amazing writer.

      Reply
    • George Cramer

      Victoria, I know what you mean. I just ordered the last two in an effort to get caught up.

      Reply

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VALERIE J. BROOKS – Author of the Femmes-Noir Angeline Porter Trilogy

Valerie J. Brooks is a multi-award-winning author of femmes-noir thrillers where the women are badass and take center stage. The first in the Angeline Porter Trilogy Revenge in 3 Parts, was a finalist for the Nancy Pearl Book Award. NYTimes bestselling author Kevin O’Brien called her second novel Tainted Times 2 “… a real nail-biter from the first page to the last.”

 

Valerie is a member of Sisters in Crime and the Pacific Northwest Writers Association. She teaches workshops and classes on writing noir and creating plot twists.

1 Last Betrayal A former criminal defense attorney receives an alarming text and races in desperation to Florida only to find a ransacked apartment, a poisoned dog, and a missing half-sister.

Let me tell you a story – When I was sixteen, I worked as a New England Tel & Tel switchboard operator. Back then, this was a prime job for someone my age, but it could also be boring, sitting there, waiting for lights that indicated a call.

One day, I connected a call from a Laconia phone booth to a Massachusetts number. I asked the caller to deposit the correct amount of change for the three-minute call, connected the two numbers, and closed the switch. I went on to other calls.

After three minutes were up, I went back to the call. As I did with all calls made from a phone booth, I pulled back the switch to listen in on the call so I could break in during a lull in the conversation without the caller knowing.

What I heard felt so dangerous that I couldn’t talk. The man from the Boston number was setting up a hit with the man in the phone booth. I wish I could remember the conversation, but I did understand that the Boston man gave instructions to the man in the phone booth to kill someone who lived in Belknap Acres, a ritzy, gated residential area that was rumored to have an armed guard at the gate.

I wrote down the two phone numbers and the name of the Boston man associated with the number. I wrote down the few specifics I was able to hear. The conversation was short.

After they hung up and I disconnected the line, I questioned what I heard. Was I imagining it? Was it a joke? But I’d heard too many rumors about Belknap Acres and what went on there, who lived there, why there was an armed guard. I had no idea who was supposed to be killed, but I did have an address.

I had to work a little longer before I could signal the switchboard foreman that I needed to speak with her. We went into her office, and I told her about what I had heard.

“I’m sorry, but I can’t do anything about this,” she said. “You know we’re not allowed to listen in on calls, and we would have to explain how we heard this information.”

I knew the rules but thought this situation would be different. Someone was going to get killed.

All afternoon, I worried about the call. The hit was planned for that evening. I decided to tell my parents when I got home. They were strict with us kids about living by the rules, but I figured they wouldn’t care that I listened in, not for something like this, and Dad often talked about how corrupt Massachusetts was.

Right away, my mom called the FBI. We figured that someone would take the info over the phone, and that would be that.

Instead, twenty minutes later, two FBI special agents knocked on our door. My parents invited them in. One sat down across from me while the other stood by the door. They wore street clothes, no suits. The agent who asked me questions seemed like anyone I’d run into in town—non-descript shirt and pants, a little overweight, a kind smile. I answered all his questions and gave him the piece of paper that I had saved with all the info. The agent spoke softly and made me feel comfortable, not what I’d pictured from an FBI agent. He thanked me for calling them. I asked him if he’d let us know what happens. He just smiled and said, “No. You won’t find out anything about this unless, for some reason, something happens that the news finds out about.”

He thanked my parents, and they left. We never heard anything else. My dad said they must have been working on a local case, and it could have had to do with the information I gave them.

That was the beginning of my interest in mobs and the FBI.

Now to back up a bit – I’d always loved dark stories, gothic tales of secrets, and writers like Wilkie Collins and Daphne du Maurier. Later I fell in love with Jean Ryss novels. Growing up in New Hampshire added to my interest. As children who were expected to be seen and not heard during adult gatherings, we heard plenty. Families worked hard to be perceived as perfect, but we knew better. Perception is a tricky bit of flimflammery because truth seeps out. And who better to know this than children who seemed to be invisible. Early on, I was aware of what I would later call hypocrisy, but because it didn’t pertain to me at the time, I didn’t explore it until much later when I moved to Oregon and began writing.

My interest in the underbelly of life took full bloom while taking college courses in film noir. I loved the voice, the tropes, and the truthful examination of our culture, lifestyles, and capitalistic drive/greed. For me, noir dispelled the fantasy idea of “happy ever after” and “justice wins.” Perry Mason was a fantasy of good winning over evil. Of course, we need fantasy to escape the hard realities at times, but I just couldn’t write like that or write in black and white. As the brilliant Dennis Lehane says, “I live in the gray.”

Living in the gray when you’re a writer sometimes makes the work harder. How do I give a satisfying ending? What do my characters do that make them fascinating? Usually, my characters are like me, except they push boundaries as I never would. For example, Angeline has killed two mobsters in self-defense. Could I ever do that? I don’t know, but I love her for it.

Being a pantser, I start my thrillers with a setting. I might have an idea about the character, but as in my first of the Angeline Porter Trilogy, I wanted to set my story in Paris. Having been to Paris in 2015 and having taken many notes, Angeline came to life, stepping off the Metro. With the second in the trilogy, the setting had to be New Hampshire, where I grew up. There’s not as much action, but there’s a lot of atmosphere and secrets that Angeline discovers, setting her on a direct path to the third thriller I just finished, 1 Last Betrayal. The secrets lead her to trying to save a sister she never knew she had. Off to Hollywood, Florida, where mobsters ruled back in the day. Its history made me yearn to know more about the setting, which was perfect for the “final showdown” with the mob.

Now I’m immersed in the promoting and launching of the third thriller. I miss my characters. Miss them terribly. I’m tempted to write another Angeline story. “We shall see,” as my Brit mom used to say. One thing I know for sure—I need to start writing again. Whatever the story.

Valerie’s short story prequel to the Angeline Porter trilogy is available for free.
Download it here: “Lake Winnisquam 1982

https://valeriejbrooks.com

https://www.facebook.com/FemmesNoirFiction/

https://www.instagram.com/valeriejbrooksauthor/

https://twitter.com/ValinParis

https://www.pinterest.com/valinparis/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/valeriejbrooks/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bmlKViIkOnk&t=30s

https://www.tiktok.com/@valeriebrooksauthor

 

17 Comments

  1. ana

    What a story! That call must have been chilling. Can’t wait to read your books.

    Reply
    • Valerie J. Brooks

      Ana,
      Thanks so much for stopping by! For a 16-year-old is was chilling and exciting. I used to watch PERRY MASON with mom, and I always loved the idea that justice wins out in the end. But as I got older, that went away.
      My books are available on Amazon. Let me know what you think! I love getting fan mail.
      Valerie

      Reply
  2. Valerie J. Brooks

    Thank you, George, for inviting me to your blog.
    Sharing stories like this is the equivalent of sitting around the fire and swapping tales, something we rarely do anymore.
    It was so nice to meet everyone and thanks for your comments.
    Valerie

    Reply
  3. Valerie Brooks

    Thank you, George, for inviting me to your blog.
    Sharing stories like this is the equivalent of sitting around the fire and swapping tales, something we rarely do anymore.
    It was so nice to meet everyone and thanks for your comments.
    Valerie

    Reply
  4. John Schembra

    Wonderful story! What an experience for a 16-year-old to experience! I agree with Mike- you should turn your experience into a novel- It would be a good one. Imagine the adventures the operator could get involved in!

    Reply
    • Valerie Brooks

      Hi John,
      I have thought about that! It would make a great novel AND I wouldn’t have to deal with cell phones!
      Thanks for dropping by,
      Valerie

      Reply
  5. Donnell

    Fantastic story. I call events like this germs. They grow and cultivate. Soon they’re so contagious you develop the writing disease. Great story and well done!

    Reply
    • Valerie Brooks

      Thanks so much, Donnell!
      Isn’t it interesting that these gems sometimes don’t pop up until the mind wants to let them loose? As writers, I think we have a deep well of memories that contribute to our stories.
      Thanks for the kudos!
      Valerie

      Reply
  6. Michael A. Black

    What a neat story. It could be the beginning of a neat novel, especially with the obtuse supervisor. That woman must have been in on it. 😉 Back when there were still payphones, the operators used to routinely listen in when calls were made to police departments or to report an emergency. One time we’d arrested one of the local knucleheads (We called him Big Lip Louie). He went to bond court and was release on his own recognizance,but had to walk back from court. On the way he stopped at a pay phone to call the station and anonymously threatened the arresting officer by name. Louie thought he was being slick calling from the pay phone and then hanging up. The trouble was the operator was listening and she cut in after he’d hung up and gave us the location of the payphone. It was a simple matter of swooping down and checking the area. The incoming calls were all recorded on our end, and Louie had a distinctive voice. We grabbed him and took him back to jail. Best of luck with your new book. It sounds like a real winner.

    Reply
    • Valerie Brooks

      Whoops, something happened and my reply didn’t go through. Let’s try this again.
      Michael,
      Well, they never said small-time criminals were smart. I love the name Big Lip Louie. I’m assuming he had a big lip or was lippy?
      You must have a wealth of stories to tell!
      Thanks for your well wishes!
      Valerie

      Reply
    • Donnell

      Sounds like Mike as nd Valerie dhould co-write a story:)

      Reply
  7. Victoria Weisfeld

    What an interesting launch to your career! If FBI agents had shown up at my front door–even if my mother had called them–I’m sure I would have fainted. Then picked myself up and been mightily curious about what they’d do next. Best of luck with the new book.

    Reply
    • Valerie Brooks

      Hi Victoria!
      The odd thing was I didn’t know my dad had called the FBI. As I knew nothing about whom to report it to, that was a surprise although he did say he’d take care of it.
      What was surprising to me was these FBI agents seemed so “normal” and not of the super hunky variety. But. hey, I was 16!
      Thank you for the best wishes!
      Valerie

      Reply
      • Valerie Brooks

        I still don’t know who actually called the FBI–Mom or Dad. I suspect my Mom as I wrote in the story. But it was a long time ago.
        Recently while at Bouchercon, I told this story when I was on a panel about getting details right. A man in the audience suggested I go through the Freedom of Information process to get the details.
        As a writer, I am curious. But I don’t know yet if I will or not.

        Reply
  8. Marilyn Meredith

    Great post. I was a phone operator once–eaons ago–long distance and sometimes Information. Believe me, we all listened into celebrities conversations,even the supervisors, never anything exciting though. It was a dfferent time. As an information operator we could answer any questions if we knew the answer even how to cook something. What was the weather like? We looked out the window. Whenever I needed a job back then, I became a phone operator.

    Reply
    • Valerie Brooks

      Hi Marilyn,
      Yes, we did listen in, but not very often as we were watched carefully. Although we had celebrities in the area who vacation in the Lakes Region, they didn’t use phone booths. LOL. But those were the days that people made person-to-person calls, collect calls, and some others I can’t remember, and those could be interesting.
      But, wait, I wasn’t supposed to be listening in. Ah, at least you could look out the window. Ours was like a basement. Just artificial light as I recall. And as a 16-year-old, it was boring! Plus, we were given split shifts which really interfered with our social life.
      Thanks for sharing your phone operator experience!
      Valerie

      Reply
  9. Elizabeth Varadan

    Wow that sounds so chilling to have heard a “hit” being planned over the phone. I’m so glad your mom thought of calling the FBI. I haven’t read your books yet but now I want to. (A wonderful aspect of blogs is making discoveries like this.)

    Reply

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J. WOOLLCOTT – Writing Mysteries Set in Northern Ireland

I’m a debut author, Canadian, and have just signed a two-book publication deal with Level Best Books. My first title, A Nice Place to Die, is due for release in early August 2022. Blood Relations, number two in the series, is due August 2023.

 

 

The books are set in Northern Ireland, where I was born and lived for over twenty years. They are police procedurals featuring DS Ryan McBride and his partner DS Billy Lamont, and while they deal with murder, I do add humour and focus on the setting and characters.

Like many of us, I’m sure, my journey to publication was long. I worked (in broadcasting) until I decided to take early retirement, write, and travel. Well, we all know what happened to travel!

As an unpublished writer, I entered a few competitions and won the Mainstream Mystery and Suspense Daphne du Maurier Award in 2019. I’ve been long-listed four times for the Crime Writers of Canada Arthur Ellis Awards, and I was finally shortlisted in the CWC Canadian Awards of Excellence in 2021.

I applied for a few grants to conferences. While I never received a grant, I did come to the attention of one of the committee members who had read and enjoyed my first few chapters. She asked me to send her the book to read. I did not, however, feel it was ready to send out for such professional scrutiny (she was a publisher!) and asked that she allow me some time. Two years later, with Covid in between and many more rewrites on my part, I resent the manuscript. This time she read the whole book and offered me a three-book contract. I ended up deciding to go with two books to start, publishing schedules are short, and I take a long time with my books!

I started out as a pantser. I wrote my first book, Abducted, in one linear process. Honestly, I can’t believe I did it that way. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. That manuscript, however, did get long-listed in the CWC annual awards competition. That gave me such a boost. I started my second book, the first in the Northern Ireland series. I began to write it the same way and quickly got lost in the plot. Frustrated, I took Simon Wood’s class, Plot Thickeners, via Sisters in Crime. He showed us how outlining and plotting out make life easier. I wouldn’t say I am a total outliner; I wish I was, but more like a hybrid.

I can’t say exactly the best book I ever read, but I love Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie series. I also love November Road by Lou Berney. I enjoy police procedurals so I must mention the wonderful British writer Susan Hill. And I just finished an older book, The Enchanted April, by Elizabeth von Arnim. It was fantastic.

The take-away for me on this journey is, don’t rush your work. Write the best book you can. Take classes, ask for help, write and rewrite. Join critique groups. Read in your genre and outside it. It’s taken me about four years to write A Nice Place to Die. The first edition of that manuscript was not very good. It’s a process. Certainly, for me, as a new writer, joining Sisters In Crime was the single most important thing I did—classes, critique partners, advice online, and making writer friends. Going to conferences is costly but worth it, and if you can afford a professional editor, so much the better. Enter competitions and apply for grants. Why not?

A Nice Place to Die is due for release in August 2022. –  It’s 2016, and Northern Ireland remains a deeply divided province by years of distrust and hatred. But not all crimes are related to the troubles, and Northern Ireland’s past history is the least of Detective Sergeant Ryan McBride’s problems. He has enough to worry about with his latest murder inquiry. Unwilling to risk losing the case, he breaks the rules and fails to disclose a one-night stand he had with the victim. As to the investigation, it’s going nowhere fast as one-by-one, his prime suspects are murdered.

Blood Relations is due for release in August 2023 – Retired Chief Inspector Patrick Mullan is found brutally murdered in his bed. Ryan and Billy are called to his desolate country home to investigate. In their inquiry, they discover a man whose career was overshadowed by violence and corruption. Is the killer someone from Mullan’s past or his present? And who hated the man enough to kill him twice?

I’m a graduate of the Humber School for Writers in Toronto and BCAD, University of Ulster. I’m also a member of Sisters in Crime, Crime Writers of Canada, and the Suncoast Writer’s Guild.

Where can our readers contact you and order A Nice Place to Die?

Buy the book: https://amzn.to/3CGIzi0
My email is woollcottauthor@gmail.com
My website is jwoollcott.com
Twitter: @JoyceWoollcott

 

9 Comments

  1. Katherine Rams;and

    Good luck with your debut, Joyce. I hope it’s going well. This is a great novel for your launch. I enjoyed reading it.

    Reply
  2. Valerie J. Brooks

    Joyce, I’m a sucker for Irish writers. Full disclosure: my husband is of Irish descent and has the gift of the Irish when it comes to writing to me and professing his love.

    I’ll be sure to check out your novels. Thanks for all the juicy info about you and your journey.

    Reply
    • Joyce

      Ah Valerie, I think by now everyone has a bit of Irish in them, we get around you know! Thanks for the nice comment,
      Best,
      Joyce

      Reply
  3. DonnaRae Menard

    See I told you Joyce, it would be great. You’ve got positive vibe reviews everywhere. Good luck my friend. (Can I call you that?)

    Reply
    • Joyce

      Thank you DonnaRae! You’re the best,
      🙂
      Joyce

      Reply
  4. Michael A. Black

    Ireland has a long history of turning out fabulous writers so I’m wishing you the best of luck in continuing that tradition. It sounds like you’ll fit right in.

    Reply
    • J. Woollcott

      Thank you Michael! I appreciate your kind words,
      Joyce.

      Reply
  5. J. Woollcott

    Thanks Vicki,
    Might have something to do with the host’s excellent direction!
    J.

    Reply
  6. Vicki Batman

    Good morning, Joyce and George. Very good interview!

    Reply

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KASSANDRA LAMB – To Bark or Not To Bark – K9s for Veterans

In her youth, Kassandra Lamb had two great passions—psychology and writing. Advised that writers need day jobs and being partial to eating, she studied psychology. Now retired from a career as a psychotherapist and college professor, she spends most of her time in an alternate universe populated by her fictional characters. The portal to this universe (aka her computer) is located in Florida, where her husband and dog catch occasional glimpses of her.

Service dog trainer Marcia Banks tackles a locked room mystery in a haunted house. She has trained a dog to clear rooms for an agoraphobic Marine who was ambushed during combat. But the phantom attackers in his mind become the least of his troubles when Marcia finds his ex-wife’s corpse in his bedroom, with the door bolted from the inside.

All my books are mysteries, but I like variety, so I tend to explore different subgenres. I have one completed series of traditional mysteries, one series of cozy mysteries that is winding down, and I have started a new series of police procedurals. I’ve also written some romantic suspense stories under the pen name of Jessica Dale.

We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave, or do they run the show? Some behave, but many do not. My main characters tend to behave most of the time. An exception was the main character of my cozies, Marcia Banks (pronounced Mar-see-a, not Marsha). I originally gave her a few neuroses, so she’d have some things to overcome during the course of the series. The main one was a longing to “be normal,” as she had been teased as a kid over her name and because she was a pastor’s kid. Plus, she’s licking her wounds after a short but disastrous marriage. But then she decided to throw a strong resistance to commitment into the mix, which drove her love interest a bit crazy for a very long time.

Minor characters often assert themselves and insist on bigger parts in the stories. I had two minor characters do this in my Kate Huntington series. One, Skip Canfield, wooed his way both into Kate’s heart and into a main character role.

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? I use some of both. If I’m only going to have good things happen in a location, I’ll probably use a real place. The last two of my series are set in Florida, where I live now. Locals get a kick out of seeing a location name and being able to say, “I know where that is,” or “I’ve been there.”

But if I’m going to have negative things happen, such as corrupt cops, I make up a location. I’ve added three fictitious counties and a fictional city to the Florida map, so far.

What is the best book you ever read? Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine, by Bebe Moore Campbell. It is set in the 1960s and 70s when I was a teen and young adult, and it addresses race relations in a very human way.

Ms. Campbell captured the thoughts, feelings, and internal conflicts of all of her characters, including the extremely bigoted white males! She handled the multiple points of view so well that I was inspired to try that approach in my Kate Huntington series. (I’ve since switched to one point of view, usually first person, in most of my stories.)

What are you working on now? I’ve started a series of police procedurals, and I’m really enjoying that new challenge. The protagonist was a secondary character in my Kate Huntington series, a homicide lieutenant who becomes increasingly frustrated with big-city politics (the Kate series is set in the Baltimore area) and with riding a desk instead of being out on the street. Judith Anderson takes a job as Chief of Police of a small city in Florida, figuring if she’s in charge, she can be more hands-on. In Book 1, Lethal Assumptions, she’s only eight days on the job when she finds herself chasing a serial killer.

I’m currently writing the first draft of Book 2, Fatal Escape, which deals with human trafficking and domestic abuse. But since I’m used to writing cozies (which are supposed to be “clean”), I’m trying to keep the gore and swearing to a minimum. I don’t want to offend my loyal readers.

Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? I usually do, especially in a full-length novel. Often the subplot is about the main character’s love life. My favorite kind of subplot, though, is one that ends up tying into the main plot at the end of the story.

In Fatal Escape, Judith’s love interest is the sheriff of the next county over. She calls him Sheriff Sam inside her head. She already has a drowning case on her plate—that could be a suicide or murder—when she gets a call from Sam to come to a murder scene on the boundary line between their two jurisdictions. They have a funny little back-and-forth in which each is trying to give the case to the other one.

Sam finally takes the case since Judith’s already got her hands full. But later, it turns out that the two cases are linked. I won’t say more for fear of spoilers, but I can hardly wait to write the chapter in which they make the connection. Every time I think about it, I want to rub my hands together and laugh diabolically.

Landing Page link https://misteriopress.com/bookstore/to-bark-or-not-to-bark-a-marcia-banks-and-buddy-mystery/

WEBSITE: https://kassandralamb.com

FACEBOOK:  https://www.facebook.com/kassandralambauthor

INSTAGRAM:  https://www.instagram.com/kasslamb/

BOOKBUB PROFILE:  https://www.bookbub.com/profile/kassandra-lamb

Buy Links:

AMAZON:  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0B3WNQY1Z

NOOK: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/to-bark-or-not-to-bark-a-marcia-banks-and-buddy-mystery-kassandra-lamb/1141653124

APPLE:  https://books.apple.com/us/book/id6442979080

KOBO:  https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/to-bark-or-not-to-bark-a-marcia-banks-and-buddy-mystery

GOOGLE PLAY:  https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=UHh4EAAAQBAJ

FACEBOOK

Cozy Mystery Book Promotion  –  https://www.facebook.com/groups/411905245685888/

Get Cozy with a Cozy Mystery – https://www.facebook.com/groups/6187961084/

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Murder and Mayhem Cozy Mysteries – https://www.facebook.com/groups/170170699796894/

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8 Comments

  1. Donnell Bell

    I’m digging into To Bark or Not Bark tonight. I’m excited to read about the corpse inside a locked room, and very excited to read your police procedurals.

    Reply
  2. Jackie Layton

    Police procedurals sound fun!

    Reply
  3. Vinnie Hansen

    My friends are conjoining here. Kassandra, meet my Drop-In writing friend, George. George, meet my misterio press cohort, Kassandra.

    Candace, I’m also not a big cozy reader but I’ve enjoyed what I learned about dogs and training dogs in this series.

    Reply
  4. Valerie

    I’m in awe that you can do multiple genres. I’d never be able to write cozies because I can’t keep my characters from using the f bomb. LOL. Thanks for the interview, both of you. Loved learning more about my SinC sister.

    Reply
  5. Candace

    Enjoyed the interview. I feel inspired to sample all your sub genres. I’m not a cozy fan, but I am a dog fan.

    Reply
  6. Michael A. Black

    It sounds like you’re adept at blending your knowledge of psychology into your writing. Best of luck to you.

    Reply
    • Kassandra Lamb

      Thanks, Michael. And thank you for stopping by!

      Reply
  7. Kassandra Lamb

    Thanks so much, George, for having me over to chat today!

    Reply

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