MARIE SUTRO – Follow the Exploits of SFPD Detective Kate Barnes

Marie Sutro is an award-winning and bestselling crime fiction author. In 2018, she won the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award for the Best New Voice in Fiction for her debut novel, Dark Associations. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and a volunteer with California Library Literacy Services.

 

 

Her great-grandfather, grandfather, and father served in the San Francisco Police Department, collectively inspiring her writing. She resides in Northern California and is currently working on the next Kate Barnes story.

April 26, 2022, is the release date for Dark Obsessions – The darkest woods hide the darkest of obsessions. SFPD Detective Kate Barnes heads to Washington and finds herself embroiled in a complex case of ever-increasing horrors.

Available for preorder at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, as well as independent bookstores

What brought you to writing? My love of writing burgeoned from an early love of reading. As an ardent bibliophile, the only thing I enjoy more than reading a book is writing one for the enjoyment of others.

In addition, I have always been a huge fan of mysteries and puzzles. Add to that a family legacy wherein my father, grandfather, and great-grandfather all served in the San Francisco Police Department, and crime writing was a natural choice.

What kind of research do you do? Given the nature of my writing, my research is extremely broad. In one sitting, I may go from perusing sales listings for boats (used for the Foul Rudder in Dark Obsessions) to reviewing autopsy photos. While I appreciate the accessibility of online research, I am a big proponent of visiting places and people whenever possible. I am willing to go wherever the answers can be found, including crimes labs, shooting ranges, nature preserves, police departments, and a variety of diverse locales.

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? One of my favorite things about reading is the ability to visit places I have never been to and may never get the chance to see. I always try to incorporate as many real locations in my stories as possible to give others the same opportunity. Fictional settings are reserved for places where a specific plot point or subplot point requires attributes I cannot get from real locations (ex. Aaru in Dark Obsessions). I spend a substantial amount of time on research to ensure fictional, and real places fit together seamlessly.

Has an association membership helped you with your writing? Being a member of Sisters in Crime has been an important part of my writing journey. One of the greatest benefits of membership has been the wonderful support of the Sisters in Crime writing community. They offer an ongoing wealth of informational programs ranging from technical writing assistance to research references and marketing tips.

Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? Subplots are a great way to add different types of suspense into the story while enriching the characters. They can also be great ways to strengthen the threads between books in a series. While I always start with a story outline, many of my subplots seem to pop up on their own as I write. Those moments when a new subplot takes off on its own are always magical.

Do you have any advice for new writers? The best advice I can give is to be open and enjoy the journey. While the path is fraught with challenges, it is also full of sources of inspiration and joy. New ideas and feedback are like sunlight. Be willing to pull the drapes wide open!

CONTACT INFORMATION:

Website:            https://www.mariesutro.com

Facebook:          https://www.facebook.com/MarieSutro

Instagram:         https://www.instagram.com/marie.sutro/

Twitter:              https://twitter.com/mariesutro

 

7 Comments

  1. Mary Hirsig Hagen

    Your writing career sounds great. You gave me ideas of what I should be doing in my mysteries that were so helpful. Thank you.

    Reply
  2. Cynthia Kuhn

    This is a fascinating interview—and I’m so looking forward to your new book, Marie.

    Congratulations on your many successes!

    Reply
  3. Donnell Ann Bell

    Lovely interview! Thanks George and Marie! Nice to learn about you through George’s blog!

    Reply
  4. John Schembra

    Nice interview! Congrats on your writing successes!

    Reply
  5. CINDY SAMPLE

    Great interview, Marie. I’ve enjoyed watching your journey from pre-published author to very accomplished award-winning author. Congrats on your latest release.

    Reply
  6. Michael A. Black

    Comment *Very inspiring interview, Marie. You have a great background for writing mysteries and it sounds like you thoroughly research your topics. Congratulations on your success and best of luck to you. I;ll keep an eye out for your books.

    Reply
  7. Margaret Mizushima

    Great interview, Marie and George! Congratulations on the new book, Marie, and looking forward to it! Love to hear about your inspirations and research!

    Reply

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MARK COGGINS – See What Has to Say About Writing Successful Crime Fiction

Mark Coggins was born in the Four Corners region of New Mexico and is an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation. His work has been nominated for the Shamus and the Barry crime fiction awards and selected for best of the year lists compiled by the San Francisco Chronicle, the Detroit Free Press, and Amazon.com.

 

THE DEAD BEAT SCROLL – Private investigator August Riordan’s quest to avenge the death of his old partner drops him in the missing person case his partner was working when he died. An alluring young woman named Angelina is looking for her half-sister, but what Riordan finds instead is a murderous polyamorous family intent on claiming a previously unknown manuscript from dead Beat writer Jack Kerouac.

What brought you to writing? I composed my first published short story, “There’s No Such Thing as Private Eyes,” in the late ’70s for a creative writing class at Stanford University taught by Ron Hansen. This was shortly after I’d learned about Raymond Chandler and his distinctive writing style in another class, that one taught by Tobias Wolff. I was all of 19 years old when I typed out the original draft on my Smith-Corona portable, but it was eventually published in the mid-1980s in a revival of the famous Black Mask magazine, where Hammett and Chandler got their start.

In addition to being my first appearance in print, the tale also introduces my series character, San Francisco private eye August Riordan.

Tell us about your writing process: I maintain a research folder on my computer for each novel I write. In it goes digital photographs, Word and PDF files, links to web pages, etc.—anything that can be stored on disk. I also have a small notebook in which I write a variety of things, including location descriptions, snatches of dialog, plot ideas, and similes. The dialog can be imagined or something I’ve overheard.

Of course, the reason I have the notebook is to draw upon the entries when I’m writing. If I decide to use an item from the notebook, I put a tick mark beside it, so I know I’ve already put it in a novel. But even when I don’t select something I can use directly, I find thumbing through the notebook can be helpful, especially when I’m suffering from writer’s block. Somehow, just reading through everything I’ve jotted down can be inspirational, and I usually come up with an idea to get me back on track again.

Do you ever kill a popular character? If so, what happens to your story? Yes, in The Dead Beat Scroll, I killed a character named Chris Duckworth. (This isn’t a spoiler since the book begins with news of Duckworth’s death.) Duckworth was Riordan’s sidekick for five of the seven books. Many readers found his personality and the byplay between Riordan and him to be one of the most entertaining aspects of the novels. Although Riordan and Duckworth are estranged at the time of Duckworth’s death, I hope Riordan’s regard for Duckworth and the real grief he experiences come across in the book. I found the process of writing the final scene in the novel—which is a celebration of life for Duckworth—to be particularly poignant. I hope some of that poignancy is transmitted in the text.

What kind of research do you do? The first research I do is on Bay Area locations, where most of my books take place. I usually walk around a neighborhood I’m going to set a scene in, taking both pictures and notes that I use to jog my memory when I get to the actual writing.

I also do research about the theme or social issue I’m using to drive the plot. For instance, in my novel Runoff, I researched electronic voting and the possibility of defeating the security of voting machines to rig an election. To do that research, I interviewed computer science experts on the topic and talked with poll workers who had an “on the ground” understanding of how the machines are used in a precinct.

For my novel Candy from Strangers, which was about cam girls, I interviewed a young woman who has a website where she solicits anonymous gifts.

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? My settings can probably best be described as hyper-real. I try very hard to set every scene in a real location—often in San Francisco—and many of my books feature black and white photographs of those locales.

Do you have any advice for new writers? I can’t emphasize enough the importance of critique groups. In addition to providing camaraderie and support, they give you feedback, encourage you to write to deadlines. Reading other writers’ work with an eye towards making suggestions for improvement helps me better understand what does and doesn’t work in fiction. Good writers read a lot, and even better writers read a lot and analyze what they are reading.

 

Website: https://www.markcoggins.com/

Twitter: @Mark_Coggins

The Dead Beat Scroll – https://www.amazon.com/Dead-Beat-Scroll-August-Riordan/dp/1643960318

Podcast (where I do serial readings of some of my books) – https://riordansdesk.buzzsprout.com/

 

4 Comments

  1. Mary Hagen

    Enjoyed your comments. Unfortunately, my critique group disbanded. I miss them.

    Reply
  2. Mar Preston

    I don’t miss my critique group meetings for anything, Mark. That’s sound advice. Something that is glaringly obvious to you may not be to anyone else. It can be humbling.

    Reply
  3. Michael A.Black

    Really sound advice, Mark. Thanks. I remember the short-lived revival of Black Mask and have several of them. I’ll have to look for your first story as well as check out your new one. Good luck.

    Reply
  4. Thonie Hevron

    Fascinating interview! Thanks for letting us get to know you.

    Reply

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DEVEN GREENE – Pathologist – Researcher – Traveler – Author

Fiction writer Deven Greene lives in the San Francisco Bay area. Ever since childhood, Deven has been interested in science.  After working as a biochemist, she went back to school and became a pathologist.  When writing fiction, she usually incorporates elements of medicine or science. Deven has penned several short stories. Unnatural, Erica Rosen MD Trilogy Book 1 is the first novel the author has published. Her recently completed novel, Unwitting, is the second novel in the trilogy.

After a suicide bomber explodes at a baseball game, Erica takes in a young autistic man who has been trained to be a suicide bomber, hoping to find the perpetrator behind the operation and prevent further bombings.

Any comments about any other of your books: Unwitting is the second novel in the Erica Rosen MD Trilogy. It can be read as a stand-alone, although I think the reader might enjoy knowing the protagonist’s background and others in her sphere, which would be learned in the first book of the trilogy, Unnatural.

Tell us about your writing process. My writing is generally plot-driven. I start with a concept or idea I find interesting, often something in popular culture or the news. After I research the topic, I come up with a suspenseful plot centered around that idea. Then it’s time to conjure up characters who can pull it off. Lastly, after spending a fair amount of time thinking about it, I come face to face with my computer screen and type.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process? I find that every time I re-read something I’ve written, I notice things to change. I suspect I often toggle the wording back and forth in some passages each time I see them. It is also difficult for me to decide when I’m done. Maybe I could improve the wording here or there, but at some point, I need to move on.

What are you currently working on? I am, of course, working on the last and final installment of my Erica Rosen MD Trilogy. The working title is Unforeseen. Again, Erica and those close to her will be involved.

Do you base any of your characters on real people? I absolutely do base my characters on real people. This is most true in Unwitting, where Erica becomes the caretaker for a young man inspired by one of my children. Other characters often have smaller similarities to people I have known. Some people may see themselves in particular individuals living in my books, but that is purely coincidental. Or is it?

Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I’m in between. I learned early on that if I have a detailed blueprint, it’s bound to run into insurmountable obstacles as I write. I definitely have a plan, who the good guys are and who the bad guys are, some things that happen along the way, and how it will end. But as I am writing, ideas, details, and even inconsistencies pop up unexpectedly, so I need to be flexible and allow myself to make changes as I go along.

What kind of research do you do? I do enough research to feel comfortable with what I’m writing about if I don’t already know the subject sufficiently. I read books, do internet searches, and talk to experts that I know. I’m not writing fantasy, so I try to be accurate.

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? For the most part, I use real locations. In the trilogy I’m writing, my protagonist, Erica Rosen, lives in San Francisco. I describe real places, such as Oracle Park baseball stadium. However, I often fabricate places such as homes, small stores, and towns.

Advice for new writers. Edit like crazy, and seek the opinion of others. It may be painful to hear criticism of your work, but it will help you in the end. There’s nothing worse than a rejection of your work without an explanation. Learn to appreciate whatever input others are willing to give you. You may not agree with it, and you don’t have to act on it, but you should at least listen with an open mind. One person may think your writing sucks, but if five out of five think it sucks, it probably does. Never fear, though. You can improve. It takes time to hone your writing skills.

Contact information:

Website:  https://www.devengreene.com

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/dgreenewriter/

Twitter:  @DGreeneauthor

Instagram:  devengreeneauthor

 

 

17 Comments

  1. Violet Moore

    Both your books were well written, great plot with twists that kept me guessing where the story would go next.

    Reply
    • Deven Greene

      Thanks, Vi. I appreciate your editing skills in getting them into tip-top shape.

      Reply
  2. Glenda Carroll

    You and I write about similar locations; one of them being Oracle Park. Your series sound great. Can’t wait to read it.

    Reply
    • Deven Greene

      I made special trips to San Francisco to check out the places included in my books. I don’t know about you, but although I’d walked around the city many times, I didn’t pay that much attention to detail until I was going to write about it.

      Reply
      • Glenda Carroll

        I worked for the SF Giants for 8 years working the games so I know the ins and outs of the ballpark. There are many little rooms and passageways that are perfect for mysteries.

        Reply
  3. Mar Preston

    Enjoyed your comment about forensic pathologist weirdness. Like psychiatrists are the weirdest of medical doctors.

    Reply
    • Deven Greene

      Psychiatrists can be pretty strange, but in my experience forensic pathologists beat them on the weirdness scale. That said, there are weirdos in every branch of medicine (and in every other occupation – probably even writers, not that I know any).

      Reply
  4. John Schembra

    I’ve read both of your books and really enjoyed them. The characters are varied and vibrant, the plot exciting, and you paint a picture with your words- I can “see” the characters and settings, and feel the tension from wondering “what will happen next?”
    The story flows nicely, and your writing skill is spot on! You are a master at weaving an intricate, exciting, story.
    Looking forward to the third installment!

    Reply
    • Deven Greene

      Thanks, John. As you know, we writers never get tired of positive feedback.

      Reply
  5. Jim Hasse

    I loved “Unnatural” and am about to finish “Unwitting.” I’ve come to really care about Erica and her buddy, Daisy. Erica’s husband, Lim, is a cool guy and a great partner. It is interesting how you brought the American and a Chinese culture together. Lim’s understanding, or rather misunderstanding, of English idioms has made for some funny situations.

    I normally wouldn’t be into romance, but you’ve done an excellent job writing mysteries with a touch of romance. There is a soft side to all your characters. It is obvious that Dr. Erica is a compassionate doctor.

    I am looking forward to “Unforeseen.”

    Reply
    • Deven Greene

      Thanks for the kind words, Jim. I hope you didn’t find too many punctuation errors in the interview above. (Inside joke).

      Reply
  6. John G. Bluck

    The premise of your book, “Unwitting,” is very good. I’ve always wondered what would motivate a person to become a suicide bomber. I like the process that you use to plan and research your novels. Also, you note that you are flexible, permitting your characters and the situations in which they find themselves to take you along slightly different directions at times. I look forward to checking out “Unwitting.”

    Reply
    • Deven Greene

      If you do read it, I’d of course love to find out what you think of it.

      Reply
  7. Madeline Gornell

    Great meeting you, Deven, and learning about your process! Love hearing how other writers think and work. So agree, “Edit like crazy, and seek the opinion of others.”

    Reply
    • Deven Greene

      Yes, I can’t overemphasize how important constructive criticism is. Still, it’s nice to hear from friends or relatives that your work is perfect. Just don’t believe it.

      Reply
  8. Michael A. Black

    Being a pathologist gives you an interesting perspective that you can bring to your writing. Your writing process sounds a lot like mine. Your trilogy sounds interesting. Best of luck to you with your writing.

    Reply
    • Deven Greene

      I certainly use my pathology background in my writing. I am not, however, a forensic pathologist – they tend to be the weirdest of an already weird group.

      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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