ANA MANWARING – Newspaper Columnist – Poet – Author – Educator

Ana Manwaring is a former newspaper lifestyle columnist. Her poetry, personal narratives, book reviews, and short stories have appeared in diverse publications, including the California Quarterly, KRCB Radio, Morning Haiku, and Mystery Readers Journal.

 

A graduate of the University of Denver (B.A.) and Sonoma State University (M.A.), Ana teaches creative writing, produces the monthly North Bay Poetics poetry event on Zoom, and operates her editing company, JAM Manuscript Consulting—“Spread Excellence.” She’s also the 2022 SinC-NorCal programs chair. In her “past life,” she has prepared taxes, taught ESL, worked for a PI, consulted brujos and out-run gun totin’ maniacs on lonely Mexican highways—the inspiration for the JadeAnne Stone Mexico Adventures.

Ana, husband David, ace gopher hunter Alison, and a host of birds, opossums, skunks, deer, fox, coyotes, and occasionally the neighboring goats co-habitat an acre of Northern California.

After earning her M.A., Ana finally answered her mother’s question, “What are you planning to do with that expensive education?” Be a paperback writer. (ebook and audiobook, too!)

The JadeAnne Stone Mexico Adventures: A missing persons case to locate an American gone missing in the resorts of Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo turns investigator JadeAnne Stone’s life into a nightmare of secrets, betrayals, and pursuit as she and her dog are ensnared in a web of trafficking. Who will she trust as loyalties shift and greed rules?

JadeAnne and I are thrilled to be back on George’s blog. Since our first visit, we’ve published books two and three of the JadeAnne Stone Mexico Adventures. And now we’re unpublishing them. Why on earth? Because I’ve been picked up by Indies United Publishing House who is re-releasing second editions of all three books and publishing the 4th this year. An Ambitious publishing schedule, but penance for taking 28 years from being threatened on a lonely stretch of the Pan American Highway in Michoacán (the inspiration and inciting incident) to publication of Book 1, Set Up. I’m paying my dues now with the new covers, more revision, and editing, as well as finishing Coyote—Pursuit and Terror Across the Border (there’s going to be an exciting chase, shoot-out, and lots of suspense), which will release in November.

Set Up re-released February 16, 2022.

People ask about my writing process. Unfortunately, I’m lousy at discipline and routine. The most challenging part of the process is getting myself to sit down at the computer to write. I always find pressing things to accomplish first. Today it was weeding. But I’m really fortunate to be blessed with a large, light-filled writing studio on the second story of a barn behind my house. I look into oaks and eucalyptus and can watch the birds, the play of light and shadow through the leaves, listen to the soft susurrus of the breeze off the coast, and, when I’m not distracted, write. I’m making good use of our wonderful Sisters in Crime write-ins (I attend 1 Pm and 10 Pm currently) and my M/W/F Study Hall with my writing students. I use the social writing time for outlining, revision, poetry writing, blogging, or brainstorming character names, which often come through reading my mail. In book 4, we’re going to have two new bad guys: Denver “Zeke” Stoner and Slim Killins. I have no idea who they are or what parts they’ll play yet, but when I went to mark my mail-in Recall ballot in the California recall election, there they were. The good news, I get to my desk every day since COVID and sometimes three times, even if I’m not specifically writing, but I’m most productive with high-intensity writing stints like NaNoWriMo.

A huge help in launching my writing career (besides retiring in January) is Sisters in Crime NorCal. I can’t stress enough how beneficial professional organizations and conferences can be to your development as a writer, marketer, and speaker. I’ve met many wonderful writers and readers who’ve helped me, taught me, and encouraged me. I’m a member of several branches of SINC, MWA NorCal, California Writers Club, and a Left Coast Crime attendee and participant. I’m looking forward to our LCC after two years without a conference. I’m excited about Albuquerque, too. The big chase scene culminating in the climax of Coyote will take place between Albuquerque and Denver, and I’m going to take a few days while I’m in the “area” to scout out locations. I try to experience my settings whenever I can. However, I’ll leave the shoot-out to vicarious experience and my imagination—but I’ll know what the air feels like and how the trees smell!

I write in more than one genre. I’m currently completing a memoir of my years in Mexico, and occasionally I write book reviews and short personal essays. I have two poetry chapbooks published, and I’m working on a third of “found” poems on climate change. I’m also writing the great American dysfunctional family novel told in three voices: the dying matriarch with dementia, the elder daughter who is deceased, and the resentful second daughter. Luckily the dead sister is pretty funny.

Two events brought me to writing: I’ve always loved reading stories and wrote a short story entitled “Me and My Dinosaur” instead of writing my third-grade dinosaur report. My teacher Mrs. Clancy loved it, and I got to read it to the class. (This trick worked again in Medieval History at University—I wrote a short story instead of writing a term paper, Another A, but no public reading). The second push toward writing was when I was 11 or 12, and a palm reader predicted I’d be a bestseller by the time I was 50. Isn’t 70 the new fifty?

I’m on my way! Set Up released on 2/16, The Hydra Effect releases 5/18, Nothing Comes After Z 8/17, and Coyote 11/16.

Find me at:

 

 

 

7 Comments

  1. Madeline Gornell

    Great meeting you, Anna! You should be very proud of all your accomplishments! Continued success.

    Reply
  2. Vinnie Hansen

    Slim Killins. Hah! A bit of dark humor. Love it. Reminds me of an Elmore Leonard name.

    Thanks, George, for the excellent job you do promoting and putting together these posts. Every time I learn something new about my writing buddies.

    Reply
  3. CINDY SAMPLE

    Fun interview, Ana. Congratulations on the new editions! Can’t wait to read the latest release.

    Reply
  4. JoAnn Ainsworth

    Congratulations, Ana, on the new editions from Indies United Publishing House!

    Reply
  5. Vicki Weisfeld

    Love the palm reader! What a diverse set of experiences, to entertain your Muse with. Best wishes for continued success.

    Reply
  6. Donnell Ann Bell

    What a charming blog, and darn it, I wish I’d come up with the title Nothing Comes After Z!!! I met the lovely Ana at Left Coast Crime a couple of weeks ago, an absolute pleasure.

    Thanks, George, best wishes, Ana!

    Reply
  7. Michael A. Black

    What type of dinosaur was it? 😉 It sounds like your books ate a lot of fun. I’ll have to keep an eye out for them. Good luck.

    Reply

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ELLEN KIRSCHMAN, PhD. – Public Safety Psychologist – Author

Ellen Kirschman, PhD. is an award-winning public safety psychologist and author of I Love a Cop: What Police Families Need to Know, I Love a Firefighter: What the Family Needs to Know, lead author of Counseling Cops: What Clinicians Need to Know, and four mysteries, all told from the perspective of police psychologist Dr. Dot Meyerhoff. She blogs with Psychology Today and is a member of Sisters-in-Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and the Public Safety Writers Association.

Thanks, George, for inviting me back just in time for the December 12th launch of my latest, never-before-published fourth Dot Meyerhoff mystery—The Answer to His Prayers—and my first venture into the world of independent publishing.

Poor Dot is in trouble again. She’s trying to plan her wedding to Frank when a 911 dispatcher takes the worst call of her young life. As Dot helps track down the possible arsonist, she proves herself a sensitive yet doggedly persistent sleuth—even when ordered to mind her own business. The case drags her through the seedy underbelly of her small town and finally to the local prison where she meets the imprisoned puppet master Badger, who is an unexpected acquaintance from her past. Badger believes Dot is the only one who can help him get what he wants most in life—contact with a son he’s never met. Stopping at nothing, including kidnapping, his efforts to bend Dot to his will endangers Dot and everyone she loves.

Crime is not the only thing on Dot’s mind. Her anxiety about getting married is causing rifts in her relationship with Frank. Memories of her family and her first marriage are overwhelming, prompting Dot to start therapy with Dr. Philipp Rogoff. Their relationship is contentious. Dot thinks Rogoff doesn’t know what he’s doing. Rogoff thinks Dot is resistant to his advice and only pretending to want help.

I had a good time writing this book, especially the dueling relationship between Dot and Dr. Rogoff. Therapists make the worst clients. Ask me; I’ve been on both sides of the couch. I loved writing about Rivka Meyerhoff, Dot’s plucky widowed mother. Rivka’s rants about anti-Semitism are timely, given the recent rise in hate crimes against Jews. Even though I am Jewish, writing and thinking deeply about what it means to be Jewish in the modern world is a first for me. I have written about religion before. Buddhism is at the heart of The Fifth Reflection, as the mother of a missing child cloaks her pain with kindness, frustrating the police who need her cooperation to catch the abductor.

What I’m Working on Now: Moral choice and moral pain are themes in many of my books, including my WIP, a standalone that is taking up a lot of my time. The provisional title is Call me Carmela. It’s the story of a young girl searching for her birth parents. What she discovers will destroy one family and heal another. The theme is courage: The courage to let go of someone you love, the courage to overcome trauma to help someone who needs you, and the courage to pursue justice, no matter the cost.

For the first time ever, I joined NaNoWriMo with my buddy, Anne Gelder, author of much short fiction and the enchanting, off-beat novel, Bigfoot and the Baby. Another first, I joined up with a NaNoWriMo sub-group of the NorCal Sisters-in-Crime chapter. About ten of us, including our blog host George Cramer, met online almost every day for a short chat and shared writing time. It was more helpful than I anticipated. It helped me stay on track, kept me accountable, and reduced the isolation that is part of any writer’s life. These groups will continue after NaNoWriMo. I intend to keep on going.

Another first is the entrance into the world of independent publishing. When my traditional publisher rejected The Answer to His Prayers, I decided to get my rights back so that I could publish the series all under one roof. I am working with an online marketer. All four books are now available as eBooks on Amazon, with a boxed set coming in January. So far, so good. The first book in the series, Burying Ben, was a #1 best seller in the Kindle Store, Literature & Fiction, Women Sleuths, Police Procedurals, and Jewish American Fiction. The others are also doing better than ever before. Stay tuned to see where this heads.

Thanks again, George, for the opportunity to vent, crow, and indulge in SSP. I am happy to assist my fellow writers with any questions they may have about police psychology, PTSD, psychotherapy, self-publishing, etc. Your readers can follow my occasional blog on Psychology Today or sign up for my occasional newsletter at www.ellenkirschman.com. New signers get a copy of my mini-memoir about my short-lived career as a dance hall hostess.

28 Comments

  1. Lisa Towles

    Great interview, George and Ellen, wonderful to hear more about your milieu and your forthcoming projects! #inspiration

    Reply
    • Ellen Kirschman

      Thanks Lisa. Good luck with your launch of 95, it’s really a good read.

      Reply
  2. Vinnie

    Good books. I look forward to reading the fourth, Ellen.

    Reply
  3. Thonie Hevron

    I’ve read all your books and am eagerly awaiting the new one! Happy Holidays, Ellen. Hope to see you next year at PSWA.

    Reply
  4. Marilyn Meredith

    This was a wonderful post. So glad to see what you’ve accomplished. I too hope you can come to the next PSWA conference. Also wondered about your independent publishing experience and your online marketer. Would be a great panel topic.

    Reply
    • Ellen Kirschman

      Hi Marilyn
      I am waiting to see how being an indie works out. So far, so good. Fingers crossed we’ll both be at PSWA.

      Reply
  5. Joseph Bryce HAGGERTY Sr

    I’ve read I Love A Cop and Burying Ben. That means I’ll be reading more of your books because I enjoyed those two so much. I Love A Cop was very insightful and made me see things I hadn’t seen before in my 41 years in law enforcement. Keep up the great work you do as well as your writing.

    Reply
    • Ellen Kirschman

      Hi Joe- what a compliment coming from you, such an experienced LEO. I’m blushing.

      Reply
  6. Ellen Kirschman

    Hi Vicki: thanks for reading and writing. So nice to meet new readers.

    Reply
  7. Ellen Kirschman

    Hi Margaret: Thanks for your wishes. I do hope our paths cross in person some day.

    Reply
  8. Heidi Noroozy

    Ellen, your WIP sounds intriguing! I’ll look forward to reading it. I’m also glad you will continue with the SinC Norcal drop in writing lessons. They help keep me on track!

    Reply
    • Ellen Kirschman

      Hi Heidi
      Our online writing groups are fun and helpful. See you soon. I’ll miss all next week, but I’ll be back.

      Reply
  9. John G. Bluck

    Thank you for the interesting write-up about your books. I’m wondering if in your writing process you purposely pit different psychological types of persons against one other. Or do you just rely on your inner muse to guide you when creating characters?

    Reply
    • Ellen Kirschman

      Hi John- interesting question. A combo of experience, inner muse, research, and an eye for individual differences.

      Reply
  10. John Schembra

    Congrats on your new release, Ellen! I’ll be checking our your books!

    Reply
    • Ellen Kirschman

      Hi John
      Thanks so much. Hope to see you at PSWA next year.

      Reply
  11. Vicki Batman

    So interesting to learn about you.

    Reply
  12. Vicki Weisfeld

    She manages to weave current issues into these books in what sounds like a most effective way. Her WIP also sounds fascinating! The whole “birth parent” question is becoming increasingly complicated!

    Reply
    • Ellen Kirschman

      Thanks Vicki. Things are getting more complicated every day.

      Reply
  13. Margaret Mizushima

    Ellen, congratulations on becoming a hybrid author. I know this transition has been a lot of work, and I wish you all the best. I hope we get a chance to meet at a conference sometime, and I look forward to reading your new book! Happy Holidays, blessings, and peace.

    Reply
    • Ellen Kirschman

      Hi Margaret: Thanks for your good wishes, I need all those I can get. Hope our paths cross in person in the near future.

      Reply
  14. Michael A. Black

    Good to hear about your latest writing ventures, Ellen. I hope to see you at the next PSWA conference. Good luck with your new one.

    Reply
    • Ellen Kirschman

      Thanks Mike. I share your hopes to meet up again at PWSA. Good luck with your new book as well.

      Reply
  15. Donnell

    My goodness, there are so many books I would love to own as a result of reading this blog. Thank you, George, for hosting Ms. Kirschman. I plan to look over her long list of books.

    Reply
    • Ellen Kirschman

      Thanks Donnell. All four in the series will be available as ebooks on 12/11. Some may even be free!

      Reply

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GLENDA CARROLL -Sportswriter – Open Water Swimmer – Author

Glenda Carroll writes the Trisha Carson mysteries that take place in the San Francisco Bay area, from Oracle Park, home of the San Francisco Giants to the beautiful lakes in the East Bay to the tree-lined streets of Marin County.

Her mysteries are set in the world of open water swimming. The third book of the series Dead Code will be published by Indies United Publishing House. The launch date is October 27, 2021. Books one and two, Dead in the Water and Drop Dead Red, introduced Trisha Carson, a 40-something woman trying to find her way in the world, and her family to the mystery reading community.

When not writing, she tutors high school and college students for Canal Alliance, San Rafael, in English and occasionally History. These are first-generation teens who understand that education is the way out of poverty.

What brought you into writing? Good question. I never, ever thought I would write fiction. For almost twenty years, I was a sportswriter for the Marin Independent Journal. I covered mostly water sports: sailing and sailboat racing, boating (in general), surfing, some swimming. I remember someone once asked me, “Do you have a novel in there?” I was miffed. “How can you write about something that isn’t true?” I huffed and puffed. But I found that not only could I use my imagination and find dead bodies in all types of strange locations. But I liked doing it!

What is your writing process? Several years back, I entered a NaNoWriMo 6-word contest about writing. “Write like a hurricane. Edit later,” was my prize-winning entry. That seems to be what I do. I blast through the first draft. After that, it’s torture. I write draft after draft. I often take out big chunks of copy and put them in a special deleted file. I’m not sure why I keep them. I have never used anything that I’ve buried in that file. For Dead Code, three people volunteered to be my Beta readers. It was the first time I was that organized to ask for help. They were great…excellent suggestions that made the manuscript better.

Have you ever had writer’s block? Oh yes. When I was writing the first book in the series Dead in the Water, I reached a point where I didn’t know what to say and what to type. At those times, I would go out and cut the grass. I had an old-fashioned push mower, and it was in the middle of summer. Maybe it was the dripping sweat that kickstarted my brain, but when I came back inside to my cool house, my mind was working again.

How do you come up with characters’ names? For the protagonist of the series, Trisha Carson, I knew her age and researched the popular girls’ names the year she was born. After that, I began to use the names of family members. In all the books, there is a character I called Inspector Carolina Burrell, San Francisco Police Department. That moniker contains my granddaughter’s name and the name of a former San Francisco Giants outfielder, Pat Burrell. I used my sons’ first names for ballplayers on the Giants. My grandson Caden’s name was used for a secret swimming spot, Caden’s Corner. If you’re related to me or even someone I admire, your name will be usurped at some point.

Do you have subplots? There is definitely a subplot in Dead Code. As I mentioned earlier, the first two books of the series are firmly set in the world of open water swimming, and the plots are water-oriented. Dead Code moves away from being totally involved with water into the world of hacking. (There are swimming scenes for those who can’t get enough of H2O.) Just as I finished the first draft, I had my identity stolen. My hacker found his way into my bank accounts, health care, phone, and email. I tore my hair out for about a week, trying to understand what was going on and how to stop it. I knew I had to add that to the manuscript. I rewrote the whole thing so Trisha could share my pain. She hated it as much as I did.

Do you outline, or are you a pantser? Honestly, I seem to start in the middle and work toward the beginning and the end. I usually don’t know ‘who did it’ until I write it. However, I tried to become more organized with book two. For Drop Dead Red, I carefully worked out an outline. Then I started writing. I didn’t make it through the first chapter before I strayed from the outline. I’m not sure why I can’t stick to an outline. I just can’t. I wish I could.

“(Trisha Carson is)…a smart, steadfast gumshoe who, in her second book, continues to flourish…Carroll’s writing bounces off the page.” Kirkus Reviews

What are you currently working on? As I mentioned, I am approaching the finish line with Dead Code. This is a different subject for me, involving hackers and ransomware. I only had a cursory knowledge of the computer crime world. I needed to read everything I could on the subject, and I even lurked on a few hacker bulletin boards. My sister’s sweetheart started his own computer security firm ages ago, and he was happy to answer all my questions, from the simplest to the most complex. He even made a few plot suggestions.

Advice to new writers?

First, keep reading—everything you can. But be critical (in a good way) of the text. How does the author use verbs? What are transitions like? What makes you say, “I wish I wrote that sentence, paragraph, chapter?” Does the ending work?

Second. Do your best to keep that inner voice that tells you. You don’t know what you’re doing at bay. Half the time, I never know where the story is going until I write it. However, I am beginning to have confidence that something, maybe even something worth reading, will come out of the process.

Third. Write. Even when you don’t want to.

Looking to the future, what is in store for you? As you might guess, I write about open water swimming, because I swim in open water (as well as a pool). I swim in rivers, lakes, the ocean, and over the past year in the chilly San Francisco Bay. I’ve raced in more than 150 open water events in Northern California and Hawaii, and Perth, Australia. Currently, I am training for an Alcatraz swim in early September. I was swimming along the other day in the choppy Bay, putting in the distance, and the idea came to me for the next book. A swimmer is making their way across the Bay, and she is being escorted by a pilot boat. The swimmer gets a bit off course, and when she turns to look back at the boat, something is strange. She swims over to it, and the pilot (the captain or driver of the boat) has disappeared. The swimmer and the empty boat are in the middle of the Bay, alone. Sound interesting?

How can our readers contact you?

Ggcarroll43@gmail.com
Webpage: glendacarroll.com
FB: Author page: https://www.facebook.com/Carrollandfriends
Personal FB page: https://www.facebook.com/glenda.carroll
Twitter: @ggcarroll
Instagram: Glenda.carroll
Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Ms.-Glenda-Carroll/e/B00CIJ7HJ8/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

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14 Comments

  1. Thonie Hevron

    What a fun interview! The new book sounds fascinating. As a former Marinite, now a Petaluman, I love the local aspect of these stories. Thanks George and Glenda!

    Reply
    • Glenda Carroll

      Petaluma isn’t that far away. In fact, it’s a destination in Dead Code toward the end. Glad you liked the interview.

      Reply
  2. Vinnie Hansen

    I loved reading this and learning more about you and your books, Glenda. “Write like a hurricane. Edit later,” would make a perfect motto for Nanowrimo.

    Reply
    • Glenda Carroll

      Thanks for the kind comments. I wish I could put off the ‘edit later’ part to the next millennium sometimes.

      Reply
  3. Ana Brazil

    “I didn’t make it through the first chapter before I strayed from the outline.” Love this!

    Reply
    • Glenda Carroll

      I know. I am such a klutz when it comes to following an outline.

      Reply
  4. Heidi Noroozy

    Such great writing advice, Glenda! And I learned something new about you too: I didn’t know you were a sports writer. Your idea for the next book sounds exciting!

    Reply
    • Glenda Carroll

      I’m just hoping the idea for the next book doesn’t come true when I’m doing the Alcatraz swim.

      Reply
  5. Rebecca Salazar

    Always something up your sleeve- just one of the many reasons I love yah, Sis!

    Reply
  6. Glenda Carroll

    Thx! The hurricane part is fun; the edit later, not so much.

    Reply
  7. Michelle Chouinard

    I also am a big believer in the ‘write like a hurricane, edit later’ approach and I love that you won a contest with those six words! Congratulations on the new book. 🙂

    Reply
  8. Alec Peche

    Glenda,
    I love the premise for your next book! I can imagine the terror and bewilderment of the swimmer.

    Reply
    • Glenda

      Me too. A swimmer’s nightmare.

      Reply

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R.L. MERRILL -Author – Teacher – Mentor

Thank you so much for having me on your blog!

The pandemic has been a tumultuous time for so many of us writery folks. Still, I’ve been super busy and full of ideas. My most recent release is a gothic romance story called “The House Must Fall,” which is a queer homage to Edgar Allan Poe’s Fall of the House of Usher. It’s part of the Haunts and Hellions Gothic Romance Anthology, and you can order a special edition with extra goodies from HorrorAddicts.net.

I also re-released my Rock ‘N’ Romance series in May. The Rock Season, Road Trip, and You Fell First are all music-inspired stories full of hope, love, and rock ‘n’ roll featuring folks from the San Francisco Bay Area on their journeys toward a happily ever after. Here’s a quick excerpt from You Fell First. The scene is told from Deputy Calvin Graham’s perspective as he’s directing traffic during a storm where trees are threatening to block the road. Those of you from the Bay Area will recognize this as Crow Canyon Road.

Cars flew by, ignoring signs to slow down, and my field training officer, Sergeant Diaz, warned me this could be a seriously hazardous situation. Diaz and I had thrown down some flares to hopefully grab the attention of drivers multitasking in their SUVs.

I couldn’t help but be distracted myself. Way up high on the hillside, a lone tree trimmer was strung up in the tree, trying to cut back some limbs that had fractured but hadn’t dropped. The guy’d been up there for at least two hours and the crew kept a close eye on his progress. He’d come down a few minutes prior and was on his way up the second tree, and for the life of me, I couldn’t help but watch the graceful way he managed to climb the ropes like some sort of acrobat in Cirque du Soleil. He was obviously experienced. I turned back to watch the traffic but I kept glancing back, captivated by his movements.

The wind picked up and howled through the canyon, causing his ropes to sway. Someone in his crew shouted at him in Spanish and he flipped them off. I chuckled to myself at their camaraderie before I turned back around. In time to see my life flash before my eyes.

Diaz shouted as the SUV heading right for us skidded at a forty-five-degree angle. The driver overcorrected and clipped our patrol car, causing the front end to slam into me and knock me backward. The SUV crashed into the trees, one of which the trimmer was suspended from.

Everyone froze as that tree groaned and lurched sideways, falling into the tree next to it. The trimmer dangled between the two, frantically trying to grab on to one or the other. He swung to the other tree and wrapped his arms and legs around the trunk.

I was still trying to catch my breath from where the fall had knocked the wind out of me. Diaz ran to my side. “Sonofabitch, Graham! You alright dude? You went down hella hard.”

I nodded as I coughed and gestured for him to help me up.”Paramedics are on their way. You need to get checked out.”

A cracking noise came from the other tree the car had smashed against and it shifted, jolting the car. I heard another crack and then shouts from the public works crew.

I reached into the SUV and came out with both kids. I managed to get several steps away as the tree groaned once more and fell forward onto the car.

The tree trimmer screamed as the rope, which was caught in the second tree, pulled his legs away from the tree he was holding on to.

That was a female scream. That’s a woman up there!

I watched in horror as the woman was pulled towards the fallen tree. She held on to the other tree desperately but she was losing the battle.

One of the other workers was getting harnessed up so he could climb the other tree and grab ahold of the hanging woman. The crew was trying to get around the giant tree but I spotted a more direct route. I pulled out my Leatherman and climbed up the back of the SUV so I could get to where the rope was attached.

Time stopped for a moment as I looked up into the trees. She stared down at me and then she nodded.
“Sí officer, corta la cuerda!” An older man on her crew who’d been trying to get to the rope gestured for me to cut it, but I worried the sudden change in tension would cause her to let go. My heart was in freefall as I prayed she wouldn’t be.

Do you write in more than one genre? I do! I love challenging myself. I started with paranormal and contemporary romance, and now I’ve branched out into horror and supernatural suspense.

Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? Wherever I can, whenever I can. I have all the distractions, especially over this past year. My current workspace is a standing desk in the living room. Between my two cats and psycho black lab, my two teens, and my husband, who is also working from home, it’s quite chaotic in our 1000sqft house.

What are you currently working on? I’m currently working on a co-author project—remember what I said about challenging myself? It’s a gay romance set in the custom car world featuring a Puerto Rican family shop in Florida. It’s been so fun to have someone be just as excited about the story you’re working on as you are. We’re using Google Docs to go back and forth and writing a chapter at a time. I love it. My partner Sera Taíno and I are a good match.

Do you base any of your characters on real people? Well yeah. Anyone I know is fair game. Kidding. Maybe.

Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? A sabbatical from teaching after 27 years. I’ll be full-time writing as I work on my health and my home. As far as writing is concerned, I have a queer anthology coming out June 8th called Love Is All Vol 4 with some fantastic authors, which will raise funds for charity. Later this year, I have two full-lengths—a contemporary romance set in Spain and a supernatural suspense follow-up to last year’s Healer. I’ve got lots to do to get those ready for launch!

Do you have any advice for new writers? Find your people! Whether it’s a formal group or a site like NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) that supports folks at all levels of their journey. Find a place where you feel accepted, where there are folks at different places in their journey, and where you feel supported. If all else fails, hit me up. I love to chat with folks, and brainstorming might be one of my superpowers… Maybe. If they actually exist.

How do our readers contact you?
Folks can find me at www.rlmerrillauthor.com, and I’m usually lurking @rlmerrillauthor on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. I love connecting with readers and other writers, so don’t hesitate to reach out! I also write horror-inspired music reviews for HorrorAddicts.net, and I hope to start attending shows again soon now that I’m vaccinated. Maybe I’ll see you at the rock show! Thanks to George for having me on the blog today, and Stay Tuned for more Rock ‘n’ Romance…

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Shelley Lee Riley – First a Racehorse Trainer & Owner – Now Author

Into Madness (Born from Stone Saga – Book 1 of 3)

After a decade in hiding, captured, and imprisoned, Ravin Carolingian believes she has nothing more to lose.  Instead of the execution she expected, Ravin faces a forced marriage to Brakken, the son of the man who killed her father and toppled her kingdom. Blinded by hatred, Ravin vows that marriage will never take place. Instead, she will exact revenge, no matter the cost.

Following a series of magical attacks, and as she fights the unnatural attraction she feels for Brakken, Ravin is left to question everything she thought she knew about herself.  Still, as the line between ally and enemy blurs, one thing becomes clear, if she is to help the Carolingian people, Ravin must escape the evil that walks the halls of the palace she once called home.

The second book in the trilogy, Heart’s Divided, is due to be published in May of 2021, and the third, The Reckoning, later that fall.

Do you write in more than one genre?     Memoir, short stories, and fantasy.

What brought you to writing? As a child, there wasn’t much I loved more than reading. Actually, there was nothing I loved more than horses. In my youth, I didn’t have a horse; I fed my passion by submersing myself in books: My Friend Flicka, Black Beauty, and any novel where the protagonist was a girl with a horse.

As an adult and a trainer of racehorses, I started writing freelance for industry publications, like Backstretch Magazine, Bloodhorse, and The Racing Form. From there, I branched out and started writing special feature articles for local newspapers, like The Contra Costa Times, Tri-Valley Herald, and Valley Times.

When I joined the Tri-Valley Branch of the California Writers Club, I was encouraged to write a memoir. My book is about the horse I owned and trained to run in all three legs of the American Triple Crown of Racing—the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes.

With international recognition for Casual Lies – A Triple Crown Adventure, I tried my hand at telling stories. Short stories kept my interest until a close friend encouraged me to try the NANOWRIMO challenge. Four years later, I published my debut novel, Into Madness.

Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author? I would have to say hybrid. Literary agents, through their query submission standards, make it difficult to hire them, emphasis on hiring them. To send a query, you must follow their detailed outline—and whatever you do, don’t deviate from their outline—and, by the way, don’t expect to get a response unless they pick you. Still, I prefer a readers’ opinion over an agent who’s looking for a reason to reject rather than enjoy.

Where do you write? And what about distractions? I sit at my kitchen table here in Central Oregon and gaze out at a bucolic scene for inspiration. Here are my distractions:

  • I get to watch as the deer clear cut my garden.
  • Squirrels chew off the sprinkler heads, trim the siding, and shorten the roof’s metal exhaust pipes.
  • Don’t even get me started on the Robins.
  • Pine needle hurricanes.
  • Still, the quail and their walnut-sized babies are as cute as all get out.

Do you ever develop plots or characters around real-life experiences? Memoir aside, in my first book of short stories, For Want of a Horse, I drew on my twenty-four-year experience with training racehorses. Some of the stories were real-life incidences, though a few I embellished.

The current novel that I’m writing and have tentatively named ‘Out of the Blue’ is a middle-grade novel about training and racing dragons. So, of course, after more than one-third of my life spent at the racetrack, I change everything that has to do with hoofed animals to winged animals.

Since dragons don’t eat hay and grain, I doubt children will like the idea of leading lambs down the shedrow at feeding time. Feeding the dragons was a problem to overcome. An essential part of the story, it had to be ironed out right from the start.

How do you come up with names for your characters? That’s the easy part of the creative process, at least for me. I develop a character in my head, and then the name comes easy. I Google popular names for specific eras in history—for instance, Irish names in the 8th century. I don’t use character names that aren’t easily pronounceable. To me, those types of names tend to slow down the reader.

Do you use real settings or make them up? Unless it’s a massive city like New York, London, Beijing, I like to make up a name located in a recognizable area. Heaven forbid that a real town resident reads my book and calls me out on a lake that doesn’t exist.

In my historical fantasy, Into Madness, I loosely based the world I built in a Baltic region. The landmasses and names are all created. However, there was a Carolingian in history. I liked it, so I used it. (My sister, who I lost to cancer, was named Carol. Might have something to do with the name choice and why I liked it.)

Have you ever developed a quintessentially eccentric character? At first read, this question seemed simple, but I found myself stumped. Once I begin to interact with them within the story, my characters become very real to me, and I don’t think of them as quirky or eccentric.

What is one of your favorite books? Why? Lonesome Dove — If I had not seen the mini-series first, I would’ve put this book down in the first chapter―pigs, dust, and rattlesnakes. For me, it started so slow; it was an effort to turn the pages. When I finished the book, I grieved. I grieved because there was not another page to turn, I grieved for the loss of the friends left behind within its pages, and I grieve even now―because I wasn’t the one who wrote it.

What’s your biggest pet peeve? As an author? Literary agents. ?

Looking to the future, what do you see? Finding within myself the focus necessary to finish the three novels I have in the works. And in particular, I am excited about the dragon racing novel. The characters are so endearing, and the plot elements are so current. My characters face prejudice, racism, bullying, climate change, species extinction, fair play, and hope within the story’s overall umbrella.

Any other thoughts you care to share? I have heard many reasons why writers write—the list is long. A good story is a gift. A gift that you get to share over and over again. And each time you share it, you enjoy it once again along with the recipient.

We don’t need to ask a comedian what’s the best part of his performance. It will always be the audience’s laughter, right? As an author, I find no greater pleasure than the thought that my words, my story, brings a few minutes or a few hours of entertainment into someone’s life.

What do you find to be the best part for a writer?  A review. A five-star review was recently posted on ‘Into Madness,’ in the comment section was a “ :)” and nothing more. While I like to hear my readers’ opinions, what they liked, what they wanted, still that smiley face was just as encouraging as any other review. It told me so much about how my story had affected my reader. And, just as important, that smiley face encouraged me to get to back work.

For those of you who hesitate to take the time to post a review, remember even something as simple as a smile is manna from heaven for the writer who has spent hundreds of hours alone bringing words to life.

How can our readers contact you?

 Bluntbookreviewer.blogspot.com
Casuallieskentuckyderby.blogspot.com
ShelleyLee01@yahoo.com

5 Comments

  1. Michelle Jenkins

    When is the 2 nd book coming out. I loved the furst!

    Reply
  2. Roberta Carpenter

    Loved the interview! We enjoy the same interests, reading and horses?

    Reply
  3. Christina McQuilkin

    Love this article!

    Reply
  4. Thonie Hevron

    Interesting interview, Ravin and George. Thanks for bringing these books to my attention.

    Reply
  5. Michael A. Black

    Interesting topics, Ravin. You certainly have an eclectic background and a lot of experiences to draw upon. I’m glad you’re putting them to use. I’ll keep an eye out for your racing dragons. Good luck.

    Reply

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