RHONDA BLACKHURST – Writer – Certified Life Coach – Indie Author Consultant – Coffee and Dark Chocolate Connoisseur

Rhonda Blackhurst is a die-hard indie author and enjoys empowering and educating others in the process. She has ten published novels: The Inheritance, a Hallmark-style fiction stand-alone; seven in The Melanie Hogan Mysteries; and the Whispering Pines Romantic Suspense.

In her day job, she has worked in the law enforcement arena in the victim witness field and as a paralegal for the past 20+ years; she recently took an early retirement from the Adams County District Attorney’s Office.

In addition to being an author and indie author consultant, she is a certified life coach with a program called “Rise From Victim to Victor—How to Make What Happens to You, Work for You.” She enjoys running, biking, hiking, spending time at their Arizona house, and anything outdoors. She, her husband, and their very spoiled Fox Face Pomeranian reside in a suburb of Denver.

What brought you to writing? I began writing at an age when no one realized where it would take me—four years old, and unfortunately, it was with crayon on the knotty pine walls of our family home. I didn’t draw pictures. I actually wrote what I thought were words because I apparently had something to say. And it’s never stopped. I spent endless hours sitting on the dock by the lake we lived by or in our fishing boat, dreaming of worlds and words. I wrote a lot of poetry back then. In Jr/Sr High School, I saw the movie Absence of Malice with Sally Field and Paul Newman, and from there, I was determined to be a journalist in New York City. To start, I wrote a few articles for the city newspaper about school events. I got derailed a bit in college, and when my babies were little, I wrote two novels with pen and paper. I still have those manuscripts in boxes. After moving to Colorado, I began writing as a stringer for the local newspaper, but my heart was in fiction. After my last child left home, I began taking writing seriously, joined writers’ groups, and published my first novel in 2012.

What are you currently working on? This past April, I published the last book in a cozy mystery series, Shear Misfortune, in The Melanie Hogan Mysteries.

When a fitness center is a locale for both health and murder,
exercise enthusiasts must weigh their odds of the outcome.

 I am writing the first draft of Inn the Spirit of Murder, book one in a new cozy mystery series, The Spirit Lake Mysteries, and having a ball with it. It stars Andie Rose Kaczmarek, the Spirit Lake Inn owner and a life coach, who has a feisty nun as a sidekick. It contains a bit of paranormal activity and all the colorful small-town characters. New ideas for books in the series keep popping up as I write—a writer’s dream! I’ve worked in the law enforcement arena in some capacity—mostly as a paralegal and in the victim witness field—for the past 20+ years. I was immersed in the darkness of the world where there are often no winners in the end. Writing cozy mysteries was my way of being able to leave that darkness in the evenings while I wrote and tied up the ending of the story with a pretty red bow. Cozies give me hope because the good guys win in the end, something I didn’t often see in my day job.

How do you come up with your character names? Naming my protagonist and antagonist is perhaps the most indecisive part of my writing. But when I finally decide on a name, it solidly clicks. In the Abby series (The Whispering Pines Mysteries), the name Abby brings to mind both vulnerability and strength. I have no foundation to hang that on, but it’s such a strong connection in my mind that it’s become a fact. Her ex-husband’s villain in that series makes it his mission to track her down, so he is appropriately named Hunter. In the Melanie Hogan mysteries, I chose the last name of Hogan because one of the most famous governors of Minnesota was Hulk Hogan (Jesse Ventura), and it just seemed to fit. The protagonist in my new series, Andie Rose Kaczmarek, I struggled with the most. I think I changed the first name several times and went back to the first name I chose. And at this point, even if I wanted to, there’s no going back because she’s a character in the last book of the Melanie Hogan Mysteries, which is already published. However, her last name solidly clicked because Kaczmarek is Polish for “Innkeeper.”

Has an association membership helped you with your writing? A resounding Yes! I think writers’ groups are essential to an author. Just being in the same room as a bunch of creatives is energizing. And learning from one another is such a huge benefit. Writers are one of the most giving, helpful groups of people I’ve known. I’ve met so many who are willing to share what they know and help in any way they can. The first writing group I belonged to was Northern Colorado Writers, and theirs was the first conference I attended. They hold a special place in my heart. I’ve added Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and Sisters in Crime. I’m currently President of Sisters in Crime—Colorado Chapter. I strongly encourage writers, no matter where they are on their writing journey, to get involved in whichever groups they belong to, as well as conferences. Volunteering is the best way to get full advantage of the experience.

Do you have any advice for new writers? There is only one solid rule—write! You will never be a writer if you don’t eventually stop thinking about it and write. And don’t let anyone “should” on you. Your path is uniquely yours. For every person who says you must do it one way, there’s another who will disagree. Your path is your path. Have fun with it!

“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” ― Louis L’Amour

Connect with me at:

 

 

2 Comments

  1. Michael A. Black

    I really enjoyed reading your philosophical approach to setting things right in your fiction writing. As you said, working with victims and seeing the dark side of our society can take its toll. It’s great you’ve found a way to cope and be creative at he same time. Thank you for your service and your work with victims.

    Reply
    • Rhonda Blackhurst

      Thank you so much, Michael! Working with victims has been a calling. 🙂

      Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

VERA CHAN – Reporter – Editor – Author

Vera Chan, Murderers’ Feast in Midnight Hour: A Chilling Anthology of Crime Fiction by 20 Authors of Color, edited by Abby L. Vandiver

Vera Chan has likely published a million words — most of them true. The former reporter and editor marks her fiction debut with Murderers’ Feast in the Midnight Hour anthology edited by Abby Vandiver. A UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism alum, she has worked at daily newspapers and the world’s biggest online destinations covering everything from lifestyle and entertainment to news features and search trends. Her mystery-in-progress Following won her the Sisters in Crime’s Eleanor Taylor Bland award. Her unpublished humor novel The Mounted Position garnered second place for fiction at the inaugural Effie Lee Morris Women’s National Book Association Literary Awards, San Francisco Chapter. Both manuscripts are out on submission through the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency. Her day job is as senior manager, worldwide journalism relations at Microsoft.

“Men had been murdered for less. And yet John Manley still lived. Five days, surrounded by false friends and his truest enemies. Every last one of them, cowards.

My short story Murderers’ Feast is what I call corporate noir. It’s dark yet tongue-in-cheek, about an insufferable gazillionaire throwing a five-day retreat with people he has screwed over. The story even includes kombucha (which runs freely in some corporate cafeterias) as a deadly weapon.

Like many journalists, I’ve always wanted to write fiction. As a kid, I devoured books, gravitating to British classics like Martin Pippin in the Apple Orchard, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Pride and Prejudice, Rebecca. Mystery has always been a favorite genre, and there too, British authors dominated childhood favorites (e.g., Agatha Christie, G.K. Chesterton, Dorothy Sayers, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle). That said, nothing tops Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe & Archie Goodwin canon. I’ve even sought out radio plays and various screen interpretations. Sadly, nothing has captured the series’ trenchant charm (imagine a young Robert Downey Jr. as Goodwin). I’ll refrain from ranting about how Hollywood grievously lags behind the Brits in honoring its mystery classics with a cinematic treatment and charismatic casting.

Having my fiction debut alongside the works by established authors is miraculous. I joined Crime Writers of Color (CWOC), an association founded by award-winning authors Kellye Garrett, Gigi Pandian, and the legendary Walter Mosley. What’s brilliant is how the group embraces not just published authors but also emerging writers, which makes a huge difference in trying to navigate an already challenging field. Abby Vandiver proposed an anthology in a Groups.IO thread, and Midnight Hour came together in stunning speed — during a pandemic. The miracle is how nobody questioned having a newbie in the mix: I keep waiting for someone to say, “How the hell did this one sneak in?” So far, I haven’t been found out.

I must confess, while I’m giddy about being part of a groundbreaking anthology, the kicker for me is that Midnight Hour will be at Target! I shop locally when I can and boycott chains that don’t compensate employees fairly. I’ve revered Target for many reasons, among them as a place that made high design accessible to plebes, even with something as prosaic as a broom.

Getting into publishing hasn’t been easy: I often joke, grimly, that I’m trying to break into an industry even more challenging than journalism. (I use a more colorful term than “challenging.”) Finding my spectacular agent took years; now, she suffers on my behalf in the excruciating pace of submissions, made worse by the pandemic. My decision to go “traditional” rather than self-publish lies partly in my “traditional” journalism route and because of my parents. My father was trained as a chemist and my mother an English teacher: When they escaped the Cultural Revolution to the United States, they ran their own mercantile and restaurant businesses. Witnessing their sacrifices made me leery to pursue an entrepreneurial route. Plus, reasonable or not, I feel writing is a wonderful indulgence and a privilege that I can justify by making it part of a larger business.

As for those stories on submission: The Mounted Position is about shy hapless tech writer Abba Welles-Lee who, despite being practiced in the arts of evading intimacy, finds herself dragooned into the bruising yet comical world of martial arts. (The title refers to a mat wrestling maneuver.) Finding an agent took so long, I wrote Following, which centers around amateur private eye Brenna Hom, tasked with spying on the wayward children of moneyed Asian parents during the most accelerated pace of digital communication innovation in the history of the world.

 I’ve been so restless about those books making the rounds that I’m writing a third — a mystery satire about a series of deaths accompanied by messages written in excruciating business jargon.

As you might guess, work is the pattern, which may explain why I also like police procedurals. Indeed, this draft could be pitched as Janet Evanovich meets Ed McBain.

The other commonality is martial arts: Watching (too) many kung fu movies with stellar fighting women has made me impatient with stories featuring insipid females. And yes, those Hong Kong action films inspired me to take martial arts, where I met my husband. I’m not great, but I’m still at it after 35 years and volunteer-teach at Cal.

Because whether it’s work, play, or getting published, it’s about putting up the good fight. Thanks, George, for letting me get a couple of rounds in your marvelous blog.

This link will take you to my website: http://verahcchan.com/

This link will take you to all the outlets where you will find Midnight Hour: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/673674/midnight-hour-by-abby-l-vandiver/

7 Comments

  1. John G. Bluck

    I believe you’ve taken the right path to be traditionally published, though it is difficult to do it. There are so many new books each year, and there are so few large publishing companies. Those firms dominate much of the book market.
    Having worked in journalism, I agree it’s much harder to break into book publishing (fiction especially) than it is to be a successful journalist. To be a good reporter, you need to dig out the facts and report them accurately, often avoiding adjectives. To write fiction, you must invent or adapt facts. You need to fashion believable, flawed characters.
    I look forward to “Murderers’ Feast” in the “Midnight Hour” anthology. Frankly, I sometimes wonder why there seems to be less interest in short story volumes in the publishing industry than in novels. I would think readers would enjoy reading shorter pieces in this fast-paced world, which speeds up more and more as time goes on.

    Reply
  2. Deven Greene

    Murderer’s Feast sounds like a great read. Love the idea of corporate noir – w tongue-in- cheek to boot!

    Reply
  3. Heidi Noroozy

    Thanks for sharing your writing journey, Vera. I’ll look forward to reading your story in the anthology.

    Reply
  4. Susan Alice Bickford

    Really fun reading this. I’ll be looking for the anthology.

    Reply
  5. Stella Oni

    I love this candid piece on your writing journey. So happy to be part of Midnight Hour too.

    Reply
  6. Michael A. Black

    Congratulations on your story being in the anthology. That’s always a great feeling, especially if it’s your first one. Best of luck to you.

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.