Ms. Barbara Butterfield is California-born and raised and currently resides in a suburb of Phoenix, Arizona, where she lives with her favorite feline friend: Baybee.
Romance, integrity, suspense, playfulness, and personal growth are all values that play a vital role in her novels. More importantly, the gospel and spiritual growth are also an aspect of life into which she delves.
Ms. Butterfield has written for many years, her first novel having been penned at the age of fourteen. She also studied writing and journalism, becoming the Editor-In-Chief of the school’s newspaper.
My latest work, “A Curious Christmas,” will be coming out shortly. These days, I primarily write in the military and law enforcement genres, so this light-hearted romance with a touch of psychology, mixed with a healthy dose of poignancy, is a bit different for me.
“A Curious Christmas” synopsis: Alysha Dunsworth is running from haunting memories of tragedy but soon discovers there’s no guarantee of winning the race.
Two recently published novels were a particular favorite to write: “The Last Flag” and its sequel: “Partners in Crime.”
At the time, Charles and Zach, the two leading characters, were co-workers of mine. I used their names because of their personalities and the way they interacted with each other, but the storyline was created.
Because of their inspiration, those books were so much fun to write. Total ‘guy’ books, these two novels don’t even have a leading lady.
The Last Flag goes from Charles and Zach serving in the Marine Corps to Partners in Crime, where we see they have been discharged (honorably, though just barely) and now recruited into the FPI (Federal Piracy Interdiction), which is a division of the FBI and the trouble they get into there. When all is said and done, and the angst and laughter have subsided, Charles and Zach save the day and go from being toast…to heroes. Both are exceptionally entertaining yet complex stories.
So, years ago, friends said, ‘you ought to write a book.’ It seems they got a warped kick out of my letters. One person even complimented me by saying my humorous writing style was a cross between Erma Bombeck and Dave Barry. I have to admit that was quite humbling.
One day, while waiting for the moving van to arrive, I was bored. Everything was packed, except the computer. I sat down and tapped out a single paragraph that later developed into a 7-book series, and that was that. Now, eighteen novels later, I’m still writing.
I write in my living room at a little table that I pull over in front of my easy chair, with my old laptop (that I should replace.)
I write from emotion, which means I feel what I write. Consequently, my books are not written sequentially, but each chapter is written based on how I’m feeling at the time and then inserted where it belongs in the story, like driving from San Francisco to Los Angeles by way of Denver.
Writing comes very easily to me. In twenty years of writing, I can only think of one time that I had ‘writer’s block.’ I had a friend at the time who was a lawyer in Texas, I lamented to him, and within minutes he sent me a 1-page ‘idea.’ I was off and running, and “The Rogue of Port Cuevas” was born (my own 1800’s pirate’s story).
For me, the most challenging aspect of writing is suspense. I’m in too much of a hurry to let my readers know what’s going to happen. So, I have to pace myself. Not always an easy thing to do. That said, the only people that die in my novels are the bad guys. The bad guy in “For Love or Money” was particularly obnoxious, and he did get it good in the end.
I do my research online. Google can be handy. But also, as applicable, my friends can be a resource: an RN (who also edits for me), a retired USAF colonel who was a pilot, a retired USMC captain, etc. I belong to one writers association, and the expertise of its members is also a good resource.
I rarely use an outline to write from. But I have at times, depending on how convoluted the plot/sub-plots are.
My characters are created, but I often use my friend’s names for my characters. I’m fascinated by names, so when I run across one that is particularly interesting, odds are… it’ll turn up in a book.
Another aspect of my writing is that I create the covers. I have used some ‘stock’ photography, but I moved into doing my own cover and interior galleys quite some time ago.
I orchestrate the whole gig: models, locations, props, and costuming. For “Journeys with Jesus,” I produced a music video to compliment the story. It was a unique and moving experience to watch the production unfold and see the story spring to life.
I choreograph the entire production: scene by scene and time it to include both camera time and costume changes. Depending on the complexity, I’ll host a pre-production meeting. In short, it’s a lot of work, but also a lot of fun.
Lastly, hmmm, advice for new writers? Writing can be a special and unusual calling. It can be rewarding and frustrating. Getting into writing is one of the hardest things you will ever attempt. It almost seems as if literary agencies exist merely to reject your work, thereby kicking you to the proverbial emotional curb. Roll with it, learn, and keep going.
I self-publish for this very reason. It still gets the book out there where people can read it and like it. In my case, people love my work and have told me so. But all I get from agencies are rejections. Hence, I self-publish…and keep going.
Also, writing doesn’t pay, not until you build a name and reputation, and that can be a long, hard climb, and it surely doesn’t happen overnight, if at all. So, you write not for the money, but because it is the heart of who you are.
So, in short, write. If there’s a story inside of you, it will find a way to make itself known.
Also, you never write a final copy when you first sit down at the computer. You will write and then fix it. Then read it, and change it. Eventually, you’ll end up with a manuscript that is just the way you want it. If you’re having a hard time starting, just sit down, jot out a paragraph and see where it leads. Remember, you don’t always need a map to see where the road may lead.
Readers are welcome to contact me at my email firstname.lastname@example.org. Books may be purchased through any online retailer like amazon.com or Barnes & Noble, etc.
Mark Langley – Talks About his Approach to Writing
My latest book, Death Waits in the Dark, is the second in a series concerning Arthur Nakai, a former Marine, ex-Shadow Wolf for the CBP. He has left that life and runs his own outfitting business in Northwest New Mexico. His wife, Sharon, a local KZRV news reporter and sometimes anchor, is still struggling with the loss of their first child, and the two of them are trying to move forward in their marriage. This is stressed in my first book, Path of the Dead, and begins to reshape them in Death Waits in the Dark.
I have always wanted to tell stories. After a terrifying car crash in my thirties, I sat in the hospital wondering what if I hadn’t made it? What if I was alive only with the help of machinery? What had I done with my life? From that moment on, I decided to live and go where I always wanted to go: the American Southwest. My parents took me there on a vacation when I was twelve, and the land had been a part of my soul ever since. I had to go back. I had to go back to what I felt was my home. Upon doing so, the urge to write of characters that inhabited that land grew evermore present inside me. I took a two-week trip and dictated everything I saw, felt, smelled, and heard into an old Panasonic tape recorder. That trip became Path of the Dead.
I’ve been told I do things a little backward. I normally think of a title and then create a story around it. Then I sit down and create characters along with backstories and begin to work out the plotline. I may go through several drafts, but I sit down at my laptop and let the Characters take over when I have all I need.
The third book in my Arthur Nakai series, When Silence Screams, is about a missing nineteen-year-old from Santa Fe. When Arthur is visited by the girl’s mother and her brother, she has been missing for six months. The family believes she has been sold into sex-trafficking. While Arthur is searching for her, he learns of a fifteen-year-old girl that has vanished, leaving only her bicycle behind. Then a young woman in her early twenties is fished out of a lake on the Navajo reservation with a ghastly revelation. Are the three connected? Arthur will have to find out.
After reading about the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls on the reservations in both the US and Canada, I created this story. Like Shirley, Becenti tells Arthur, “When a white girl goes missing from a golf course, the world hears about it. Let it be an Indian, and no one cares.” When I read that in 2016 alone, 5,712 girls and women went missing, I had to tell a story that would make people aware and think. I don’t tell the reader how to think but encourage them to form their own opinions.
Currently, I am reading Craig Johnson’s Longmire series as well as Anne Hillerman’s continuations of her father’s works. I confess I don’t get a lot of time to read, but I have read my author idols: Robert B. Parker, Mickey Spillane, and Ernest Hemingway, along with Ian Fleming and John D. MacDonald (whom I share a birthday with).
Path of the Dead took me about 20 years to write. I have a favorite saying John Lennon said years ago: “Life is What Happens To You While You’re Busy Making Other Plans.” I began Path of the Dead under the title Navajo Wind, then met the woman who became my wife, worked hard, took her adolescent daughter as my own, and life took over. Other things became more important. For the next 20 years, it was an on-again-off-again romance with writing. Then, at the end of 2016, after retiring, I decided to take my one chance at making my dream come true. And thank God, it did. A few months later, I had an agent and a two-book deal with Blackstone Publishing.
Character names seem to fall into place as I develop the persona of each character. If the name flows, I use it. If it doesn’t, I keep searching. The names have to feel real, not contrived, for me to create a character around them.
As most writers can attest to, you can think all you want about how they would react. Still, whether they are having a conversation, involved in some action, they tend to have a mind and will of their own and do things you hadn’t thought of. Their own “humanity” comes to the surface.
I don’t believe that a man can’t write from a woman’s perspective or vice versa. A lot of Sharon’s actions and words are my wife’s. I think that adds to the reality of their marriage. And my readers have told me they love the characters because they are believable. In Death Waits, I deal with PTSD and Arthur’s military past. Having never had that experience, I turned to my friends that had joined after high school and had been in Afghanistan. I sat and listened and learned a great deal. Then I did a lot of research, and that made me able for Arthur to convey that bond of brotherhood and talk of his past truthfully.
I love having subplots. In Path of the Dead and Death Waits in the Dark, I use them. I find that even if they are little things that actually have happened in the area Arthur calls home, not only will the readers that live in that area remember them, but other readers will see the subplot as an interesting little detour.
Arthur’s looks are based on a Native actor. Sharon is based on a TV reporter I got to know. Jake Bilagody resembles my grandfather in stature. In When Silence Screams, a few characters are based on friends I had in high school and my first job.
I always outline. I find it is much better to have a road map than to wing it. I outline the story as a whole, then each chapter. That always seems to change, however, when the characters take over the narrative.
I compile folders, if not binders, of research concerning what the story will be involving. That is both the hardest part and the most enticing part of being a writer—learning about things of which you had no idea.
I tell my readers that 98% of the locations are real. I have been there, driven the hard-packed roads, and tried to bring those places to life. Then, the other 2% are fictional because there is so much more leeway to accomplish what a writer needs to.
When Silence Screams will be out next August, but right now, I am researching book four, “GLASS.” It concerns the terrible grip crystal meth has on the reservations. In this age of Covid, I cannot visit the area as I have in the past. I rely on doctors near me and the internet to explore this scourge. Glass will be set for release in 2022.
The best advice I have for other writers is to never give up. Perseverance is the key. Never give up on your dream and goal, and NEVER give up on yourself. If you do, then you have lost. No matter how many naysayers there are, they do not understand your dream or goal. That cannot even imagine it. Only you do. Live your truth.
Here is my contact information:
Mystery/Thriller, Supernatural, Military
In Blood Debt, San Francisco Homicide Investigator and Vietnam veteran Vince Torelli strives to clean up the violence in San Francisco. But, after a suspect in a double murder is killed during an attempted arrest, he finds himself protecting the good police officers of the city he considers family. His efforts put him in the line of fire when he’s targeted. The brother of the suspect victim wants revenge on the officers responsible, and he’ll stop at nothing. He kidnaps Vince, a man obsessively loyal to his job as well as those he works with and defends, a man as smart and committed to his principles as the criminals he catches almost without fail. Vince knows best, though; a blood debt always demands payment.
How long have you wanted to write? When I was a young boy, my mother instilled in me a love of books and reading. I read mostly adventure stories, in particular, a lot of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and I admired how he could spin such wonderful stories. I vowed at a young age to write my own stories someday, as I knew the joy I got from books. I wanted to someday write books that would give that joy to others.
How long did it take you to reach your goal of publication? Many years! With growing up, school, college, the Army, becoming a police officer, marriage, and raising two children, there just wasn’t time for me to write, though I never lost the desire. The opportunity came when the kids were in college, and I had finished my master’s degree. One afternoon, another sergeant and fellow Vietnam Veteran and I were swapping stories from our tours in the police department briefing room. Other officers heard us and stopped to listen. They told me later that day I should write my stories down, they would make a good book. That night, I began writing.
Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author? Traditionally published. I researched small publishers, on the advice of a genuinely nice lady, and very prolific author I had met at a writer’s conference and was lucky enough to have one accept my manuscript. I have been with them, Writers Exchange, for 18 years, and all five of my books have been published by them. I have two new novels currently in their queue undergoing editing. I hope to have them published by mid-2021. By the way, that nice lady and I are fast friends and have been for 20 years.
Where do you write? A small 4th bedroom in my house was converted to an office/writing room. It gives me the privacy I need to concentrate, with no interruptions from family (other than the dogs). I have a TV in there. I tune to soft rock music, at low volume, as a background when writing. I find I am more proficient when writing with the background music. It helps me concentrate.
Where do you find your characters? How do you name them? All of them are drawn from real life, at least the main characters. I’ve patterned them after friends, family, and other people I know or have known. Obviously, I change the names, but I have had some readers recognize the character and ask me if the character is based on them, or on so-and-so. I usually tell them, “not entirely.” A couple of times, I have used their real names, with permission, of course, because the name suits the character. Those persons really get a kick out of being in the book!
I try to develop names that suit the characters. If a tough guy is needed, I’m not going to name him Chad, or Chip, or Timmy, etc. I chose Vince Torelli as the name for the protagonist in five of my books—a tough, dedicated, homicide inspector with San Francisco PD. An Italian name, to me, rings of toughness. Of course, the character’s personality has to echo the tough name. I also like to have the protagonist exhibit compassion at times, too. I try to avoid cliché names like “Reaper,” “Savage,” and the like.
Real settings or fictional towns? I use both. In M.P., a Novel of Vietnam, all the locations were real, and all the military units, from whichever side, were real and operated in the area at the time setting of the book. All the areas mentioned in the Torelli books, in San Francisco and the greater Bay Area, are real, as are all towns, streets, highways, hotels, restaurants, etc. I even used the address of my childhood home in one of the books! I like to think it adds a sense of realism when the reader knows or has visited the areas where the scenes take place.
If you could have written any book already written, which one would it be? Any of the Tarzan books! ERB is my absolute favorite author, and I have read almost everything he has written (80 books), a lot of them more than once. His writing is what got me hooked on reading and inspired me to become a writer. By the way, I have 73 of his books in my bookcase.
One other book is The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. An absolutely amazing book, skillfully written. I felt I was on the boat with him. Some of the best descriptive writing I’ve read.
You’re stranded on a deserted island.. what must you have? All my ERB books, my reading glasses, and a Lazy-boy recliner
Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books? As I mentioned, I have written seven books—five published (in Kindle and paperback) and two at the publisher’s. I have posted the first chapters of all my published work on my webpage, including a couple of short stories (non-published). Please take a few minutes to visit the site, learn more about me, view some photos, and read the excerpts. Between the five books and a short story, I have been fortunate to receive eight writing competition awards.
A big thank you to my friend, and award-winning author, George Cramer, for inviting me to post at his blog.
If any of you read a book of mine or the short stories, I would love to hear from you. Please post a review at Amazom.com, or send it directly to me so I can post it at other sites.
Thanks for taking the time to read about me and my writing. I appreciate it.
Best wishes, John
Website and links: www.jschembra.com https://www.facebook.com/Books-by-John