LAURIE STEVENS – Battles AI in Her Latest Novel

Laurie Stevens is the author of the Gabriel McRay thriller series. Her books have won twelve awards, including Kirkus Review’s “Best of” and a Random House Editors’ Book of the Month. International Thriller Writers says she’s “cracked the code” regarding writing psychological suspense, while Suspense Magazine claims she’s the “leader of the pack.”

Laurie’s short stories have appeared in many anthologies and magazines, and she co-edited the Sisters in Crime anthology Fatally Haunted. Laurie’s newest novel, THE RETURN (just released in January), pits human consciousness against artificial intelligence.

ELEVATOR PITCH: Completely reliant on automation and artificial intelligence to run their lives, human beings struggle to survive when a war destroys all the power grids across the globe. Pitting human consciousness against AI, The Return is a timely, suspenseful story of human survival, coming-of-age love, and the true power unleashed when our human hearts connect.

Do you write in more than one genre? When I completed the Gabriel McRay psychological suspense series, I thought I was strictly a crime fiction writer. Then, I began researching the tech that’s upcoming (yikes!) and got the idea for The Return, which is not only a sci-fi/fantasy but a Young Adult crossover. Quite a change!

Was it difficult to change genres? Changing genres blew me out of my comfort zone, for sure. I’m working on a psychological suspense stand-alone novel right now, and writing it feels like a visit with an old friend. That said, I really enjoyed exploring the sci-fi and fantasy elements of the new book. I never intended The Return to be YA, but my editor was once a middle-grade English teacher and said, ‘Do you realize you’ve hit all the hallmarks of a YA novel? I would recommend this to my students!”

Your Gabriel McRay novels featured a male detective, and The Return also features a young male protagonist. What’s the most challenging thing about writing characters from the opposite sex? When I first wrote the character of Gabriel McRay, I asked my husband if he hated shaving every day and other things like that, but then Gabriel sort of took over and began writing himself. A creative writing class at UCLA dissected my second book, Deep into Dusk, and most of the students enjoyed the “role reversals,” where Gabriel has a feminine side and his medical examiner girlfriend, Dr. Ming Li, has a masculine side. I swear I didn’t try to switch them up. Aiden Baylor, the protagonist from The Return, is a young man facing the challenges many young men face. Having a son made my job easier, but placing this young man in a future world created its own set of challenges. Teen crushes may never change, but how a kid 75 years from now pursues his interests is another story.

What kind of research did you do? To build a world dependent entirely on automation and tech, I spoke with tech professionals, got my subscription to Wired and other tech magazines, and read fiction books like Blake Crouch’s Upgrade and non-fiction such as The Fourth Age by Byran Reese. In the book The Digital World “Unplugs,” I had to research how people once lived off the land. I don’t mind. I am a research junkie. It’s my favorite part of the writing process.

Tell us a little about your new book. Well, you might have gathered a little info from the previous paragraph. Here’s the logline: Completely reliant on automation and artificial intelligence to manage their lives, human beings learn to survive, bond, and unlock the power of their minds when a war destroys all the power grids across the globe.

Believe it or not, I based the story on a question inspired by the biblical story of Adam and Eve and their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Why would God kick Adam and Eve out of Eden because they gained wisdom and awareness? What’s so bad about knowledge? I explore a possible answer in this book.

Do you have any advice for new writers? An acquisitions editor from a publishing house once asked me if I had any vampire manuscripts lying around or perhaps a story about wizards at a boarding school (you can imagine about what year this took place). I said, “No, I have a manuscript about a traumatized Los Angeles male detective, and every case he works triggers a key point in his psychological recovery.” That went over like a lead balloon with this editor. My advice is, you have to make a choice. If being published means the world to you, and an editor asks if you have a vampire manuscript, go home and write one.

If the message in your heart is of utmost importance to you, write it and hope it resonates with the gatekeepers or better yet – the readers.

How do our readers contact you?
You can always see my books at https://lauriestevensbooks.com
To get in touch with me, laurie@lauriestevensbooks.com

THE RETURN is available at:
Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/The-Return-Amazon
Barnes and Noble https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-return-laurie-stevens/1144524026?ean=9798223883234
Kobo https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-return-250
Apple Books: https://books.apple.com/us/book/the-return/id6474872190
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1497892

Thanks for having me as a guest blogger. It’s been fun!
Laurie

2 Comments

  1. Michael A. Black

    Congratulations on your success, Laurie. You sound like you’ve got some great ideas and books. Your interview was an inspiration. Now I’m going to bow the dust off that unhappy vampire masquerading as a wizard at that boarding school for exceptional youths. 😉 Best of luck to you.

    Reply
  2. Marie Sutro

    Wow!! Sounds like a fantastic story!

    Reply

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MARY SEIFERT – Mixes Math & Logic into Fiction

A former math teacher, Mary ties numbers and logic to her Katie and Maverick Mysteries, peppered with intricate puzzles, a bit of history, a geocache, and a tasty cocktail recipe. When she’s not writing, she’s making incredible memories with family and friends, walking her dog, whose only speed is faster, carefully deleting reference to murder from her web browser, and pretending to cook. You can find her nibbling chocolate and sipping wine, both of which sometimes occur while she is writing and reading.

RECENT RELEASE-CREEPS, CACHE & CORPSES – March 7, 2024

ELEVATOR PITCH: When Katie’s spring break plans for a romantic getaway with her beau fall apart, and she skips the chance to go skiing with her dad and the sister she’s very recently met, she and Maverick accompany a group of friends attending the memorial service for a student’s mother. However, it is spring break, so there will also be salon treatments, shopping, and sightseeing. But, from the moment they arrive, tension fills the air as the oddball innkeeper and her nephew appear to be harboring secrets.

Katie and her friends are in town less than 24 hours when, during a geocache outing, Katie and her students discover a dead body concealed in a remote area of a county park. Unfortunately, the victim just happens to be one of the few people in town they’ve already met, and Katie’s group is getting the side-eye from the local cops.

The suspects are numerous, and the motives tricky, but Katie and those close to her are shocked when the sheriff leaps ahead to arrest one of their own. How can Katie find enough evidence to convince him otherwise, especially when she’s been warned to leave it to the professionals—many times?

NEW PROJECT FOR EARLY SUMMER RELEASE: Katie Wilk tries to reconcile her definition of family with her new reality, a half-sister she never knew she had. Caught in the frenzy of end-of-the-school-year activities, it’s easy to avoid her half-sister until she’s accused of murder, and Katie knows she can’t let anything get in the way of their future relationship, whatever that may look like.

Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? I write in our sunroom with my dog cuddled at my feet, a cup of black tea at my right hand, the laptop in front of me, and lots of room to pace. I’ve learned I work best in quiet, so I’ve settled on early morning when silence is golden in my house. Later in the day, everything breaks loose.

Who’s your favorite author? My favorite author changes every time I finish a new book. However, I am and will forever be a fan of Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Isaac Asimov, Charles Dickens, Nancy Drew, and Ellery Queen. Of course, then there are the children’s authors….

How long did it take you to write your first book? It wasn’t the writing of the first book that took so long but the rewriting. And it took seven more years to get my great publisher.

How do you come up with character names? I have used familiar names for ALL the good guys–the names of my children, my husband, my friends, and my extended family. I take more time with the antagonists because I don’t want anyone to say, “What do you have in for….?” but sometimes I reread the mug my friend gave me and chuckle. “Please do not annoy the writer. She may put you in a book and kill you.”

Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? I hope all my books contain two complete stories. There is the crime itself that needs to be solved, but because Katie is a high school teacher and club adviser, there are difficulties she helps her students survive as well.

How do you raise the stakes for your protagonist—for the antagonist? Posing problems–math, geocache, social, puzzles–to Katie Wilk is one way I raise the stakes for her. Katie was trained in encryption as a Mathematical Cryptanalyst, and all of my stories include a code of sorts, the solution of which adds an unexpected hurdle to the path of my egotistical (I am so bright, no one can catch on to my clues) antagonist. Of course, so far, my crimes have included a corpse and someone close to Katie accused of the crime, so there’s always that at stake for Katie.

What kind of research do you do? I love research and can get lost down the rabbit hole for days. I talk to professionals in the areas of expertise that might show up in my story now or later. I’ve taken a class with a gun instructor and a fabric artist, talked to pharmacists, a church curator, realtors, surgeons, lawyers, a police officer, a pathologist, an ER doctor, ice fisherpeople, a dog trainer (essentially a dog-whisperer who can make a dog do almost anything), therapy dog volunteers, and Search-and-Rescue evaluators. We finesse the cocktail recipes at the back of my books with multiple taste tests and — ooops. I’m spiraling out of control.

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? My stories take place in outstate Minnesota. I love history and attend seminars in our local area. At one such event, I learned that in 1872, the governmental powers decided they couldn’t afford to build and support all the county seats WAY OUTWEST, so they merged Monongalia with Kandiyohi Counties. Monongalia’s county seat would have been Columbia. Plaque markers still exist. Most of my stories take place in a NOW fictional Columbia, MN, the county seat of Monongalia County. Still, I can use my local landmarks and familiar geography to color my stories. However, one of my stories has taken place in my real hometown – another location I know and love. Therefore, the answer to the question is a resounding YES – real and fictional.

Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? With Book 8, which will be released in early summer, Katie and Maverick are destined to discover more bodies and solve more crimes.

Do you have any advice for new writers? My advice is to never give up doing what you love to do.

How do our readers contact you? maryseifertauthor@gmail.com
LINK to AMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0B2N876FZ
LINK to Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/Mary%20seifert
LINK to KOBO: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/search?query=mary+seifert&fclanguages=en.
GROUPS
Facebook
Katie and Maverick Cozy Mysteries
Sisters in Crime
Mystery Writers of America
LINKS
Webpage: www.maryseifertauthor.com
Facebook: Katie and Maverick Cozy Mysteries
Instagram: maryseifertauthor
TikTok: maryseifertauthor
LinkedIn: Mary KG Seifert
X: @mary_seifert
Email: maryseifertcozies@gmail.com

6 Comments

  1. Pamela Ruth Meyer

    This was an inspirational post, George and Mary. Once again, it is proof that a few good ideas, hard work, and determination are the best ingredients for getting us where we want to go.

    Reply
    • Mary

      Thanks so much and it was such fun. We do what we love with the daily grind – light roast for me.

      Reply
      • George Cramer

        Mary,

        Thanks for your unforgettable post and advice. I agree with all except light roast. It’s medium or nothing for me.

        Reply
        • Mary

          🙂
          (sometimes I wish I drank coffee!)

          Reply
  2. Michael A. Black

    It sounds like you’ve got a winning formula: Interesting Ideas + Mary Seifert = X. Since I was never that good at math, I’ll solve it for you by saying that X = Great Writing. Best of luck to you.

    Reply
    • Mary

      Michael, that was ingenious. Thank you most sincerely! Obviously your math skills are much better than you give yourself credit for.
      Best always,
      Mary

      Reply

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JENNIFER J. CHOW – Cozies and Fortune Cookies

Jennifer J. Chow writes cozies filled with hope and heritage. She is an Agatha, Anthony, and Lefty Award-nominated author. Her newest series is the Magical Fortune Cookie mysteries; the first book is Ill-Fated Fortune (February 2024). Jennifer’s previous series is the L.A. Night Market Mysteries. Death by Bubble Tea was reviewed by the New York Times, featured in Woman’s World, and hit the SoCal Indie Bestseller List.

Jennifer currently serves as Immediate Past President on the board of Sisters in Crime and blogs at chicksonthecase.com. She is an active member of Crime Writers of Color and Mystery Writers of America

Felicity Jin and her mother run a magical bakery in the quaint town of Pixie, California. Their life is charmed—until a prediction from one of Felicity’s handmade fortune cookies comes true in an unlucky, murderous way.

Researching the Fortune Cookie  – Book research takes you down unexpected paths. When I first thought up my new series, I figured fortune cookies would be an excellent treat for my baker protagonist to make. I mean, what’s more Chinese American than a fortune cookie?

Turns out there’s a lot of interesting history (and some drama) behind the humble cookie. I’d grown up eating and serving a lot of fortune cookies. My family, after all, owned a Chinese restaurant. At the end of every meal, I’d be sure to bring a customer their check along with a free fortune cookie.

Little did I know then that in uncovering the convoluted history of the fortune cookie, I’d find Japanese roots. After online research and a thorough reading of Jennifer 8. Lee’s The Fortune Cookie Chronicles, I traced the cookie’s origin to tsujiura senbei. This wafer-like cookie from the Kyoto region of Japan also has an enclosed fortune, although it has a more savory flavor than the modern fortune cookie.

In America, California is definitely the birthplace of the fortune cookie, with entrepreneurs from San Francisco and Los Angeles claiming to be the original makers of the cookie. And around World War II, both Japanese and Chinese restaurants appeared to serve the treat. With the incarceration of Japanese Americans during that tumultuous period, though, the manufacturers of the cookies shifted. Chinese bakeries started making fortune cookies—and eventually developed a mechanized process to mass-produce them.

So, through my research, I learned that fortune cookies aren’t tied to my Chinese roots like I’d expected. I hint at this fact in Ill-Fated Fortune, the first in my Magical Fortune Cookie mysteries. However, they could be considered American—at least the sweet vanilla version. In the end, I guess that factoid accurately reflects my main character: Felicity Jin, the third generation in her family to live in the U.S.

Connect with Jennifer online and sign up for her newsletter at JenniferJChow.com

Ill-Fated Fortune released 2/20/24

Here’s a buy link: https://read.macmillan.com/lp/ill-fated-fortune/

FACEBOOK GROUPS (though I’m not really that active anymore):
https://www.facebook.com/groups/DialCforCozy
https://www.facebook.com/groups/726103940858234/

8 Comments

  1. Carl Vonderau

    I didn’t know that fascinating history about fortune cookies. Sounds like a great series.

    Reply
  2. Michael A. Black

    Jennifer, I just broke open my fortune cookie and it says: Ms. Chow will have much good fortune and success. It sounds like you’re riding the crest of the wave. Best of luck to you.

    Reply
    • Jennifer J. Chow

      Ha, Michael! That’d be an amazing fortune. Thank you!

      Reply
  3. Margaret Mizushima

    How cool, Jennifer! I’ll have to tell my husband about this. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    • Jennifer J. Chow

      Hurrah, Margaret! And, yes, let your husband know.

      Reply

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G.M. MALLIET – Mystery and Cozy Mystery

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).

Contact me:
Website: Gmmalliet.com
Email me at gm at gmmalliet dot com.
I can’t always answer, but I love fan mail 😉

 

14 Comments

  1. Glenda Carroll

    “It’s fun but … it’s not.” Glad to hear someone else say that. I think that’s my motto. Get interview.

    Reply
    • G.M. Malliet

      There’s a meme or whatever going around FB that says, “We don’t do this because it’s easy. We do it because we thought it would be easy.” That sums it up perfectly, doesn’t it?

      Reply
  2. Joseph Bryce HAGGERTY Sr

    I’m sorry I don’t understand not being committed to anything when you start writing. I am always committed the story I have in my head. I’ll grant you the story doesn’t always go the way I intended, but I don’t think I was would have started writing if I wasn’t committed to the story.

    Reply
    • G.M. Malliet

      I’m committed (probably) to the place or theme or characters. but at the beginning, wide open!

      Reply
  3. Michal Strutin

    “…the fun part” indeed! On the reader end, just starting a new mystery is also fun. It so happens that the one I’m starting this evening is The Washing Away of Wrongs.

    Reply
    • G.M. Malliet

      Thank you Michal! I hope you like it!

      Reply
  4. Vinnie Hansen

    I enjoyed learning more about you, G.M.

    Reply
    • G.M. Malliet

      Thank you. So glad George gave me the opening!

      Reply
  5. Karen A Phillips

    Thanks for sharing “I wanted to kill an early Max Tudor character. St. Martin’s wouldn’t allow it. I still regret caving.” It is always interesting for me to hear what it’s like to be an author with a traditional publisher.

    Reply
    • G.M. Malliet

      Publishers tend to want to keep doing what worked in the past for them. But that means they miss a chance to break out into new areas.

      Reply
  6. Michael A. Black

    Ms. Malliet, I loved your comment abut your favorite part of writing is the early stages when you’re not committed to anything. So true. Best of luck to you.

    Reply
    • G.M. Malliet

      So true, yes. Right now I’m editing a short story and fixing the “Little Problems” that crop up as I go along. It’s fun but … it’s not.

      Reply

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JUNE GILLAM – Social Justice Crime Fiction / Indie to Traditional

June Gillam writes the Hillary Broome crime fiction series. She is sketching out a new thriller trilogy she’ll fine tune at 2024’s Thrillerfest in New York. A native of California’s Central Valley, June loves the company of writers and readers and was honored with a Jack London Award for service to the writing community. Just out on Audible is Nest of White Crows, book five in the Hillary Broome series.

Legacy of the Wild Vines, book six in the Hillary Broome Crime Fiction series, to be released in spring 2024:

In Legacy of the Wild Vines, a professor on a summer trip to Rome tries to keep her sixteen-year-old gay daughter safe amidst a rash of kidnappings, but when her daughter vanishes, the professor must probe the secrets of a remote Italian village to help find her daughter before it’s too late.

June at the 2023 CA State Fair Authors Booth

Along with Archy the cockroach, “expression is the need of my soul,” as the little poet typed onto paper left in columnist Don Marquis’ typewriter at the Chicago Sun Times office back in the mid-20th century. Archy typed no capital E since he could not operate the shift key with his tiny body flung as he did every night when the journalists went home. For details, see E. B. White’s “From The Best of Archy and Mehitabel.” https://rb.gy/604efi

Like Archy, I started out as a poet and then an academic papers writer until I was hired as a full-time faculty member in English at San Joaquin Delta College in 1990. It was then it hit me that I didn’t know how to write stories even though many of my poems wanted to become stories. Over the next ten years, I studied fiction and had a few short stories published, then took the craft deeper as part of my doctoral work in Transformative Learning and Change at the California Institute of Integral Studies. My dissertation was a cooperative inquiry, published in 2009 as a monography: Women Writing Stories Containing Conflict. I was thrilled.

However, Lambert Academic Publishing priced it at well over $100 and I could not get them to reduce the price. That was when I decided I wanted to be in control of my price points. As a result, Gorilla Girl Ink was born as my imprint and has published all my books: poetry, writing, fiction, and just last year, a children’s picture book with my daughter as illustrator.

So, I’ve been an Indie-published writer since 2012 with Gorilla Girl Ink. Thanks to the support of fantastic sister writers and critique groups along the way, I’ve had a bit of success and enjoyed the ride. But Indie publishing is a lot of work beyond the writing. It includes finding, hiring, and supervising editors, cover designers, formatters, etc. Recently, a medium-sized publisher, Bedazzled Ink, has approached me because of the platform I’ve built with Gorilla Girl Ink. They are interested in publishing my next book, a thriller trilogy set in San Francisco and Lake Tahoe.

The pros and cons of Indie vs Trad publishing are presented on websites such as the well-balanced Book Bub and Writers Digest assessments.

https://insights.bookbub.com/indie-vs-traditional-publishing-which-path-right-you/

And https://www.writersdigest.com/getting-published/17-pros-and-cons-of-traditional-publishing-vs-self-publishing#:~:text=Traditional%20Publishing%20Pros&text=Traditional%20publishers%20do%20not%20charge,upfront%20payments%20are%20not%20legitimate.

Although not every point in these comparisons holds true all the time, they are worth the effort to consider. After more than ten years as an Indie, I am now ready to focus my time on my writing rather than the publishing of it. I am eager to turn over the publishing tasks to Bedazzled Ink and concentrate on writing, marketing, and teaching workshops, which I enjoy. https://www.bedazzledink.com

My advice for new writers is to join a writer’s group for support and camaraderie. Take a look to see if the San Joaquin Valley Writers branch of the CA Writers Club could be a good fit for you. Check us out at https://www.sjvalleywriters.org 

Readers may contact me about my books and upcoming workshops starting in February at https://www.junegillam.com/contact

Groups I belong to include
San Joaquin Valley Writers
Capitol Crimes, Sisters in Crime
Mystery Writers of America
Gold Country Writers

Links to buy my work:
Nest of White Crows, Hillary Broome book 5, Audible https://rb.gy/462wuh
June Gillam’s Amazon Author Page: https://amzn.to/2ZX5OjK

9 Comments

  1. Michal Strutin

    My first fiction (just finished my second) was published by Bedazzled. They have an excellent contract, based on the Authors Guild model contract. Helpful and easy to work with.

    Reply
  2. Karen A Phillips

    Hi June – I’m excited to hear about your upcoming trilogy set in San Francisco and Lake Tahoe! Good luck with Bedazzled.

    Reply
  3. Nancy Schoellkopf

    Congrats, June, on the new trilogy and the new publisher. Eager to hear more about both!

    Reply
  4. Rebecca Partridge

    I look forward to reading Nest of Crows. I enjoyed House of Hoops–especially with its Sacramento setting. Best wishes as you start working with Bedazzled Ink. Are they a hybrid or a traditional press?

    Reply
    • June Gillam

      Hi Rebecca. They are a medium sized traditional publisher. They are in the Bay Area and we spoke at a couple events then they asked me to lunch and we came to an understanding. Super excited!

      Reply
  5. Michael A. Black

    You’ve got an interesting background, June, and writing poetry is an excellent way to develop your prose skills as well. Best of luck to you on your new series.

    Reply
  6. Bill VanPatten

    I highly recommend Nest of White Crows! I’m privy to a draft of The Legacy of Wild Vines and know it will be well received.

    Reply
    • June Gillam

      Thanks, Bill. I’m honored by praise from a terrific writer like yourself!

      Reply

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