Mar 23, 2023 | Crime, Mystery, Police Procedural / Crime |
I wonder how I would’ve ever gotten where I am today without mentors. This includes the mom down the street who took me under her wing when my mother struggled with her own demons. Early in my law enforcement career (as a meter maid), there was a motor officer who introduced me to the concept of “badge-heavy” and changed my adversarial attitude with the public while I issued tickets–I didn’t have to be a jerk. Later, Fred, a patrolman, was another crucial association. He invited me to testify to the county grand jury as part of an investigation of our police administration. Standing up for the integrity of the job was a beautiful burden. These people were life mentors who taught me valuable lessons that extend through my life today.
But let’s talk about mentors for writers.
Pat Tyler – In most other industries, colleagues could look upon newbies as potential competition. While I’ve found that all writing teachers aren’t necessarily mentors, I can say I have never seen professional acrimony toward another. My first true writing mentor, Pat Tyler, during her Jumpstart Writing class, encouraged me with provocative prompts. She provided a safe, non-judgmental place to read and hone my stories. Then, she pointed me toward Redwood Writers (a branch of the California Writers Club), where I found much more to learn. The motto of the club is “writers helping writers.” It made a significant impact in my writing career.
Sharon Hamilton – Sharon is a prolific romance writer I met through the Redwood Writers. Soon after I joined the club, the idea of signing your emails with your author name and including the links to your work. Sharon barely knew me but spent half a day helping me set this up. This little thing stayed with me. She’s a living example of “writers helping writers.”
Marilyn Meredith – Another invaluable mentor is Marilyn Meredith. She’s a board member of the Public Safety Writers Association, who I met in 2014 at the club’s annual conference. Marilyn is an experienced author who helped me navigate small press publishing and writing ethics. She’s a prolific author of over 40 books who gets up in the middle of the night (4 AM) to accomplish her myriad goals. Even with huge family demands, she writes and promotes almost every day. A lady in the most refined sense, she’s also a model of Christianity—not the clichéd version. She walks the walk. She’s unpretentious, accepts people the way they are, and believes in sharing her gifts—as she has with me. I’ll bet she never even considered herself a mentor. But she is. She continually inspires me to be better.
Recently, I was privileged to be offered a contract job for multiple books. I’d be paid a flat rate for each, and the publisher would reap the royalties. It was a dream come true. But the time frame was strenuous-three books in six months. Yikes. With the support of my family, friends, and colleagues, I signed the contract. The colleague who facilitated this offered me one piece of advice. Write the book, then go back and edit.
So, I did that. In all my years of writing, I’d always thought a thousand words a day was optimum. But with the timeline I had, I had to kick it up a notch. I wrote consistently and turned in 2500 words per day. With the aid of a flexible outline, I completed all three before the deadline. Even though I’d signed on the dotted line, I had no idea that I could do that much work. Until I did it.
That one simple piece of advice changed my work habits forever. I look upon that colleague as a mentor, although he’s too modest to agree with me.
How did mentors change your writing? Do you have one or many? Do you help new writers as they begin this arduous journey?
Even if you don’t consider yourself a mentor, I want to suggest why you should consider it.
- It could change someone’s life—really. Think about words of encouragement you heard that motivated you. Be that person. (see above)
- It will take you out of your own world—we create them in our heads, don’t we? Telling another person about your process attaches words to abstract thoughts. Sharing can enlarge thoughts if you listen. For both of you.
- You’ll be building a writers’ community based on the positive aspects we’re talking about here.
- The life you change may be your own. Sometimes, verbalizing the process gives us a clearer picture. Sharing and giving aren’t unique to humans, but we’ve refined it through evolution.
Let’s keep working and helping each other.
Thonie is the author of four police procedural mysteries set in the Sonoma Wine Country. While three of the books are on Amazon now, they will be re-edited, re-covered, and re-published by Rough Edges Press, an imprint of Wolfpack Press. The fifth book in this series will debut sometime in 2023.
Thonie’s website is www.thoniehevron.com
Author Facebook page: Thonie Hevron Author
By Force or Fear
Intent to Hold
With Malice Aforethought
Felony Murder Rule
Mar 6, 2023 | Uncategorized, Young Adult |
MARISA FIFE holds a BS in Pre-Veterinary & Animal Science from the University of Massachusetts and a BSN in Nursing from Johns Hopkins University. Her work experiences have led her from monitoring songbirds for biological surveys to rehabilitating wildlife to caring for Oncology patients on bone marrow transplant floors.
Her first fiction short story, The Woman in Brown, was published in 2022.
The Woman in Brown is a historical suspense short story set in America in the 1930s about two damaged people on the run trying to escape the clutches of a cold-blooded killer.
Do you write in more than one genre? I like exploring many genres, my favorites being mystery, suspense, fantasy, romance, and westerns. I also love a good horror-comedy. I also enjoy writing for different audiences, such as adults and children. Everything’s fun to explore, really.
What are you currently working on? A quirky contemporary fantasy/mystery novel and a historical mystery novella. Then revisions, revisions, revisions on my 2022 writing projects.
Who’s your favorite author? Laurie R. King, author of the Mary Russell series, the first of which is The Beekeeper’s Apprentice. I’ve been hooked on this series since I was a teen and can’t recommend it enough.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I do a little of both as needed. When I first start writing a story, the planning stage involves a lot of brainstorming and organic free writing. I add in structure with an outline, but I’m not afraid to switch up that outline as needed, depending on how the story is proceeding. This allows me freedom while also keeping my feet on the ground.
What kind of research do you do? If I’m writing about a real-world place, I try to go there and take in how it is and what perceptions I have while I’m in it. Then most of my research moves online. I review newspapers and magazines and try to keep to verified historical sources when seeking facts about a particular time or place. If it’s a story set in contemporary times, I’ll watch news clips from the last few years to see what’s going on in that area or read first-hand accounts from people who live in that location if they are available.
If it’s not a real-world place, I base my fantasy settings on a mashup of actual places in the world or someplace made up that pops into my mind based on my experiences. Movies are also a fun place to find possible fantasy settings, characters, and storylines. Lastly, I read a few current books in whatever genre that I’m writing in to get a feel for what’s trending out there and why it trends.
What is the best book you have ever read? Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I think it holds a warning to humankind that is still relevant today in our age of ground-breaking scientific and technological innovation.
Groups I belong to:
Mystery Writers of America
Sisters in Crime
Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
How do our readers contact you?
Readers may contact me at www.marisafife.com.
My short story, The Woman in Brown, is available on Amazon as an ebook, audiobook, and paperback here.
Feb 23, 2023 | Mystery, Police Procedural / Crime, Thriller |
Helen Starbuck, no relation to the coffee bunch, is an award-winning author of the standalone suspense novels Legacy of Secrets, Finding Alex, and The Woman He Used to Know, and the Annie Collins Mystery Series. A native, her books are set in Denver and other Colorado locations. Her writing companion is her cat Bean.
A Cold Case of Conscience, an Annie Collins Mystery – Helping Detective Frost review cold cases, Annie Collins can’t resist the pull of a recent murder that may be connected to a 20-year-old cold case. To further complicate matters, Annie’s husband’s ability to tolerate the repercussions of her involvement with Frost is at an end, forcing her to choose between helping Frost or potentially damaging her marriage.
Writers and their characters are strange bedfellows. The fiction writing process is an odd one, for me at least. I often wonder if other writers have strong-willed characters and if they behave or run wild? My characters are very opinionated. They don’t run wild, but boy can they be hard to wrangle. They often come to me in the middle of the night with, “Have you thought about this?” Propositions to let me know they’ve decided to do something different or that I have taken them in the wrong direction. It’s my imagination—I don’t need meds—but I’ve begun to wonder if my characters live in an alternate universe that I am allowed to tap into. Their worlds are very real to me.
I hadn’t planned on writing a series, but I like my characters so much that I ended up doing just that. And they often morph into ways I hadn’t planned on. Detective Frost, a character in my Annie Collins Mystery Series, was supposed to be a one-off character, but he decided to be a mainstay of the series. It didn’t take a lot to persuade me; he’s a very likable, irascible character who keeps Annie, my main character, grounded. Angel Cisneros was, initially, just going to be Annie’s neighbor—a lawyer for her to bounce ideas off, but no major romance. Then he decided to fall in love with her and become more than a friend. That was not my plan. Although now, I can’t imagine telling the story any other way.
Characters can also be a major pain. The first three books in the series, The Mad Hatter’s Son, No Pity in Death, and The Burden of Hate, seemed to flow from my brain to the page without too much difficulty. There were times when I struggled or boxed myself into a corner or got lost in the weeds, but my characters talked to me, and ideas were abundant. After The Burden of Hate was published, they went silent. I joke that I put my main characters through such hell in Burden, that they didn’t want anything to do with me. But it was true—they weren’t giving me any help. I came up with four different plot ideas, none of which I was keen about, and all of which were vetoed by my editor and my beta readers. I was stymied.
It was at that point that two brand new characters appeared and told me a story about a family filled with secrets and a daughter’s search for answers. At a writing seminar, the teacher put several copies of iconic paintings on the table and told us to pick one that spoke to us and write about it for fifteen minutes. A picture of an old, abandoned farmhouse in the midst of a field of grass called to me, and Kate Earnshaw and Evan Hastings started talking. That was the beginning of Legacy of Secrets, a standalone romantic suspense novel.
Annie Collins and Angel Cisneros from the series were still refusing to talk to me, so I decided to stop stressing about it and let other stories come. And they did. Driving to Boulder along Highway 93 one afternoon, the beginning to Finding Alex popped into my head with the thought that the drop offs along both sides of the highway would be a perfect place to leave a body. But, I thought, what if the person wasn’t dead and stumbled out into the highway in front of a detective’s car? Blake Halloran and Alex Kincaid began telling their story. In The Woman He Used to Know, a scene between Nick Ryan and Elizabeth Harper that ends disastrously and later places Nick in a compromising position popped into my head clear as a bell.
Four years later, after my three standalone novels were written and published, Annie and Angel finally decided to talk to me. Unfortunately, they wanted to tell me all about their private lives and weren’t all that interested in a mystery. I gave in to them and wrote a number of short stories about their lives to keep them talking. I struggled with a plot, and I struggled with them, but at last, a plot for book four materialized.
A Cold Case of Conscience will be out in 2023, and Annie, Angel, and I are happy to be talking again. I haven’t decided if book four will be the last in the series, but there are plenty of other characters who are anxious to tell their stories. It’s important to listen to them.
Colorado Author’s League
Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers
Sisters in Crime (National and Colorado chapter)
Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America (National and local)
Jan 26, 2023 | Historical, Mystery |
Boston native STEPHEN M. MURPHY graduated from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, and the University of San Francisco School of Law. After graduating from law school in 1981, he served as a law clerk to the justices of the New Hampshire Superior Court. While in New Hampshire, he worked on a murder trial that inspired his first Dutch Francis novel, Alibi. For over 34 years, he represented plaintiffs in personal injury and employment litigation. He is Past President of the San Francisco Trial Lawyers Association, which voted him Trial Lawyer of the Year in 2008. SuperLawyers have also named him as one of the Top 100 lawyers in Northern California. He is the author of several books and is a member of the Mystery Writers of America and Sisters-in-Crime.
ABIDING CONVICTION: Lawyer Dutch Francis defends a high-profile murder case in which a judge is accused of killing his wife, when his own wife, TV news broadcaster Ginnie Turner, goes missing. As he confronts an ineffectual police department, suspicious that he is involved in his wife’s disappearance, he decides to take matters into his own hands. Exhausted by the murder trial, he struggles to balance both responsibilities, pushing him to the brink of losing everything he holds dear. At first, he thinks Ginnie was kidnapped in retaliation for her recent stories about sex scandals. But after receiving bits of her in the mail—fingernails, hair—he realizes the kidnapper may actually want to punish him. Could his defense of the judge be the reason?
Do you write in more than one genre? Yes. I write mysteries, legal thrillers, and historical fiction set in Ireland. I am still trying to get the latter published.
Where do you write? I generally write at a local café called Simple Pleasures.
What, if any, distractions do you allow? I like to listen to music, preferably jazz, blues, or classic rock and roll while writing.
What are you currently working on? I am writing a mystery featuring a San Francisco judge whose father and son are charged with the murder of a high-tech executive in the Tenderloin.
How long did it take you to write your first book? It took me nearly ten years to write ALIBI, a legal thriller/murder mystery set in New Hampshire, based on my experience as a law clerk to the superior court.
How long to get it published? About five years.
What’s the most challenging thing about writing characters from the opposite sex? I confess to having great difficulty figuring out how women think, which I’m sure is a character defect on my part.
Do you have subplots? Yes.
If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? I tend to link my subplots by theme rather than plot. For example, in ABIDING CONVICTION, my latest Dutch Francis novel, the protagonist’s lawyer has to search for his missing wife while trying a high-profile murder case in which a judge is accused of killing his own wife.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? Both. I tend to write a rough outline at first, start writing, and when I have a first draft, go back and outline in more detail. I’ve tried outlining an entire book at the beginning but just couldn’t do it.
What kind of research do you do? For my Dutch Francis legal thriller series, I research the geography of the various towns in New Hampshire that are mentioned. Since I lived in New Hampshire for only one year –forty years ago – I find Google Maps and Google Earth invaluable to reacquaint me with the area.
What obstacles do you face when writing about historical figures? The biggest obstacle is creating realistic characters rather than just ones known to history. That means delving into their personal lives, other things they did that did not make them famous and personal relationships. For my Irish historical series, I include many historical figures and have to avoid getting caught up in the history and ignoring the stories I’m trying to tell.
What is the best book you have ever read? It’s tough to single out one book, so I’ll give you two. PRINCE OF TIDES by Pat Conroy and SHANTARAM by Gregory David Roberts. I’ve re-read both and found them just as enjoyable the second time around.
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I plan on writing novels in both the Dutch Francis and the Irish history series.
Do you have any advice for new writers? Learn to love the process. The publishing business is a rough one: full of rejection both by agents and publishers. Don’t write just to get published because that may never happen. If you love writing, write for yourself or to share with family and friends. Publication is an added bonus.
How do our readers contact you? steve@stephenMmurphy.com or www.stephenMmurphy.com. My website has a link to various booksellers for my books.
Jan 5, 2023 | Uncategorized |
Not long ago, Vicki published the tips below in the Public Safety Writers Association’s newsletter. She previously posted the tips on her blog (https://vweisfeld.com). The purpose is to help all of us in “reader relations.” I can’t think of a better way to start the new than by sharing her words.
Readers may be quite willing to help an author but may not know how or may need to be reminded (possibly more than once). You can use these tips in your own promotion—take copies to readings, put them in your own blog or newsletter, etc., etc.—or, if you’re a reader who wants to give a boost to your favorites.
I developed this list around the time my mystery/thriller, Architect of Courage (reviews are great, btw) was published. But I saw it could be a generic product others could use—just a small Thank You for all the support the writing community has given me.
I hope you find it useful—reprint it freely! And customize it with a picture of you or your book (instead of the blue box), and links to your content in #s 8, 9, and 10.
Friends and family members can be incredibly patient when they ask an author solicitous and innocent-sounding questions—like “How’s the book coming?”—and are met with blank looks, or, worse, groans and sighs.
Most authors today—OK, James Patterson’s an exception, and so’s JK Rowling—find that reaching “The End” is just the beginning of their work. Now they have to let the world know about it.
If you have a sense of how much time and effort authors invest in their books, maybe you’ve wondered “What can I do? How can I help?” Yes, indeed, there are things you can do that will help! And, whatever you find time to do, you can be sure it will be greatly appreciated!
Ten ways you can help promote an author or book you admire:
1. Buy your friends’ books. They may have written it with readers like you in mind.
2. Don’t be too quick to pass around a book; instead, encourage others to buy it. Amazon (or book stores), and the author’s publisher keep most of the price of the book. If a book sells for $16, the author receives $2 to $4.
3. Remember, books make great gifts! Maybe a friend or family member needs a thank-you or has a special day coming up.
4. Word of mouth is the most powerful form of book marketing. So, tell people about a book you’ve loved. Don’t be afraid to repeat yourself. Marketers say it takes 13 to 15 repetitions before a message “sticks.”
5. What you say about the book in an Amazon or Barnes & Noble review will influence other would-be purchasers. No need for cringy flashbacks to high school book reports. Just say the two or three things you’d tell a good friend who asked, “Read any good books lately?” Reviews are vital to a book’s success.
6. Share a few words about what you’re reading on social media—GoodReads, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc.
7. If you enjoyed a book, your book club might too! Many authors are willing to participate in book club discussions in person or by Zoom, etc. People who’ve read my book have invited me to their book clubs, and it’s a fun change-of-pace for me.
8. You can “follow” your favorite authors on Amazon. Search for one of their books, click on the author’s name, and if they have an author page, it will come up with a big “follow” button.
9. If your author has a newsletter, sign up! Author newsletters often include interviews, reviews, and favorites.
10. An author’s blog and website are other ways to keep track of new releases and to learn more about the authors you like to read. Remember, they create them for you.
Many thanks, and happy reading!
Vicki blogs at www.vweisfeld.com
I’m with you Thonie, Marilyn is also a mentor of mine, not just about writing, but about living. The most important mentor I’ve had in regards to writing has got to be Michael Black. He has a gift in the sense of not being critical, but being constructive. He’s certainly made a different in my writing. That’s the wonderful thing about the PSWA group, so many of our members are more than willing to offer ideas, suggestions and literary help. I would have to say that the entire membership of PSWA, at least the ones who have attended the conferences in the last 14 years I have been a mentors to me.
So true, Joe! Some terrific folks willing to help.
Thonie, I’ve read two of your books, and I thoroughly enjoyed them. Thank you for telling your personal story here. Cheers!
Thanks for stopping by, John.
Thank you for this insightful article, and congratulations on your success. I look forward to reading your novels.
Thanks, Steve. I hope you enjoy them.
Thanks for sharing this! What a great reminder that a rising tide floats all boats–so let’s keep helping each other!
How lovely, Thonie, I have so many mentors I couldn’t possibly name them all. I hope I have returned the favor. I have certainly tried. Congrats on managing such a hectic schedule!
Donnell, I’ve almost read through all your books. You are fast becoming my favorite author! Thanks for stopping by and commenting.
What an amazing compliment. I am fast becoming one of yours 🙂 Thank you!
Thonie, so great to see your successes over the years. Thank you for mentioning me, although I really didn’t do very much. But it is nice, when you’re first starting out, to have someone point you toward something you can do, until you find your voice, pacing and footing. There’s a lot more to writing great books than just the writing of them. An encouraging word is always helpful to me as well, even with my books out. Everyone always looks up to someone.
One thing you probably never knew was that I was one of those people you gave a ticket to “badge heavy”. I came back to my car when you were writing me up! No talking could talk you out of it, either! As it should be…
I didn’t have the heart to tell you that, but now I can! LOL. All the best for your future successes to come. Sending love and yes, love Florida. I think I’ve always been a Southern Girl at heart. Found my home.
Offline, Sharon and I figured out that it wasn’t me who gave her that darn ticket!
Rest assured I got my humility handed to me on a plate by this cop who I truly respected. The nature of the job is a negative for the public (tickets for being a minute late…) but I like to think after my epiphany that I made it less miserable.
Thanks so much for having me today. As always, I appreciate your kind thoughts. I’m looking forward to seeing you in Las Vegas for the Public Safety Conference in July! You’re one of my favorite folks.
I’ll be there with bells on. By the way, you just made me blush. Awh, Shucks.
I have 3 favorite writers and Thonie is one of the three. I also have my wife and sis-in-law hooked on Thonie’s books. She is a great writer and, even better, is a great person with a tremendous imagination. We always are anxious to read Thonie’s next book. Knowing we have three to read soon is a great bonus.
Thonie is an inspiration to all of us. She’s a fabulous writer and I’m looking forward to her next book.
Thanks, Mike. I hope you recognized some unnamed mentor(s) in that post. You’re a pal and I treasure your help through the years.
Wonderful post! Thanks, George & Thonie. Paying it forward is the best way to journey on in this career. 🙂
Thanks, Rhonda. This is best as a shared journey.
Terrific article. Thonie is a great writer- I have read all her books and thoroughly enjoyed them. Only one thing I disagree with- Knowing this wonderful, kind person, I find it hard to believe she ever could have been a “jerk” 🙂
Thanks for your kind thoughts, John. But there was a time when I had my role in law enforcement all wrong. I thank God that officer had the sand to speak to me. He opened me to the path of many valuable life lessons.
Love this article! Mentors matter and everyone has something to give. Thanks for sharing!
Thank you, Marie. I agree!
Wonderful essay – it’s good to give thanks!
But WOW, 2500 words a day? Hope you still enjoy writing!
Thonie, thank you. I’ve always admired you and your words are extremely kind. My biggest mento was a woman named Willma Gore who is no longer with us. She and I were in a writing group together and she taught me so much about writing. The group was founded and run by Shirley Hickman who taught me so much about grammar. Both women were, and is Shirley’s case, are close friends.
You’re in my personal hall of fame–both as a writing mentor and friend. Hope to see you in July!