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 16, 2023 | Cozy, Mystery |
Marcia Rosen (aka M. Glenda Rosen) is the award-winning author of eleven books, including The Senior Sleuths and Dying To Be Beautiful Mystery Series and The Gourmet Gangster: Mysteries and Menus (Menus by her son Jory Rosen). She is also the author of The Woman’s Business Therapist and the award-winning My Memoir Workbook. For 25 years, she was the owner of a successful national marketing and public relations agency.
An Agatha, Raymond, Sherlock, and Me Mystery: Murder At The Zoo, will be published on March 14, 2023, by Artemesia Publishing.
March 2023: When she was a young girl, Miranda Scott read dozens of mystery books by authors such as Agatha Christie and Raymond Chandler, and she loved characters like Sherlock Holmes. Then she began hearing their voices in her head suggesting what she should and should not do. After a body is tossed into the lions’ habitat at the Zoo where she is the senior veterinarian, Miranda and Detective Bryan Anderson find themselves investigating several murders and dealing with a group of bad guys, while gangster friends of her father’s are trying to protect her. Miranda and Bryan alternate between flirting and fighting off romantic feelings. Murder seems to keep getting in their way! “An Agatha, Raymond, Sherlock and Me: Murder at The Zoo” is hard to put down! You’ll enjoy getting to know the characters as you read this engaging mystery.” Cat Harper, National Steinbeck Center
I start writing on blue, pink, or purple lines paper, then transfer what I like onto the computer. I realize it would probably be cumbersome to many, but I write, rewrite, write, and rewrite many times. Then it goes to my editor. Once she has done her magic, I still review the entire book and usually accept about 80 percent of her suggestions. I do accept all her corrections regarding punctuation, spelling, and grammar, aware that is not any part of my skill set.
I’m currently working on the first book in my new cozy mystery series:
An Agatha, Raymond, Sherlock, and Me: Murder At The Zoo, will be published March 14, 2023, by Artemesia Publishing (www.apbooks.net)
After a body is tossed into the lions’ habitat at the zoo where she is the senior veterinarian, Miranda and Detective Bryan Anderson find themselves investigating several murders and dealing with a group of bad guys, while gangster friends of her father are trying to protect her. Plus, Miranda and Bryan alternate between flirting and fighting off romantic feelings.
A clever, intriguing, and gripping new cozy mystery filled with exciting twists and turns, bizarre murders, and fascinating characters, including several dead authors who seem to speak to Veterinarian Miranda Scott. A fan since childhood of Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler, and Sherlock Holmes, their voices seem to live in her head frequently telling her what to do…and not do. Especially when it comes to solving mysteries. Murders, deceit, revenge, a gangster father, and a godfather also often get in the way of a fine romance!
Yes. Association memberships have been very helpful to me many times and in a number of ways. There is support, friendship, good connections, and opportunities to promote a book and publish articles on Association sites. They are an excellent resource for information on some murder/police details. I’m a member of:
Public Safety Writer’s Association
Sisters-in-crime (Croak&Dagger) New Mexico
Women Writing the West
National Association of Independent Writers & Editors
My advice for new writers, even old ones who have been writing for quite some time, is the same I give to myself when I have a moment of faltering. Believe in yourself, listen to your own voice, not others, be willing to ask for help and get good help, and even be willing to pay for it. Be persistent. Know you have the right to be a writer!
March 14, 2023 Murder At The Zoo will be available at the above plus www.aptbooks.net
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.
Mar 2, 2023 | Crime, Mystery |
Damyanti’s short fiction has been published at Smokelong, Ambit, Litro, Puerto del Sol, and she helps edit The Forge literary magazine. Her Amazon-bestselling crime novel, You Beneath Your Skin, was optioned for screen. Her next crime novel, The Blue Bar, was published by Thomas & Mercer and was one of 2023’s Most Anticipated Mysteries & Thrillers on Goodreads. She’s an active member of Sisters in Crime and a member and volunteer at Crime Writers of Color.
THE BLUE BAR – In gritty, glam Mumbai, a dynamic police officer and a bar girl in love are unaware that a serial predator is watching them both.
Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? – I’m not very fussy about where I write, but it turns out I write little at my desk. I can get words out at the library, at a food court, and on a park bench, but at home, it is mostly the sofa or the bed. At food courts and parks, I see a lot of color and movement, which helps me focus. I block out the sound with white noise on my headphones.
What is the most challenging part of your writing process? I’d say the copy-edits. By this time, I’m so familiar with the manuscript and have changed it so many times that it’s impossible to see it with any clarity, and they come to me with tight deadlines from my publisher. I need a lot of help to see what’s going wrong at the language level with the text.
Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? I definitely write subplots. In my crime novels, romance is often a subplot employed To provide an echo or a contrast to the theme that the protagonists illustrate with their lives.
Sometimes, they bring in a bit of relief from what can be some very dark and gruesome main storylines.
It can also heighten the conflict and tension in the dominant story: a romance subplot between the protagonists of a crime novel definitely heightens the stakes. It’s not about a victim and a rescuer anymore: it is about two people who love each other, and the reader feels more deeply invested in their fates.
How do you raise the stakes for your protagonist—for the antagonist? A powerful antagonist would often help raise stakes for the protagonist and vice versa. If the protagonist and antagonist are evenly matched, they can truly challenge each other, and the outcome of their conflict is in doubt till the end, keeping the reader turning the pages.
Time running out—like ticking clock, as well as inclement weather, can raise stakes. If the protagonist or antagonist’s family or love lives are involved, the stakes of a violent event will soar. When the beef is personal, reader engagement rises.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I began my writing life as a literary short story writer, so I thought I could be a pantser all my life. While writing crime novels, though, I realized I needed at least a cursory outline in order to work faster. These days I must write outlines because I need to flesh out the books I’m planning for my agent and editor. I veer off the story in the telling, so in a way, that’s pantsing, but I’m a pantser with an outline.
What is the best book you have ever read? The best book is always the last favorite book I read, but the one I keep going back to at times of personal turmoil is Old Man and the Sea, where an old man battles over days and miles with a fish bigger than his boat.
He wins, but sharks feed on the fish on the way to the shore, and he tows back an enormous skeleton.
It brings back to me the beauty of human endurance and the triumph and futility of all effort— a healthy reminder that nothing lasts. The biggest wins mean nothing against the sharks of mortality, and that’s part of life. We need to find our meaning elsewhere.
What are you currently working on? I’m finishing up the edits of THE BLUE MONSOON, the second in the Blue Mumbai Series contracted with Thomas & Mercer, and this crime novel is about religion, caste, and castration in the background of a hair factory in Mumbai.
It’s the sequel to THE BLUE BAR, which was published on January 1 this year, and was a number 1 International Release on Amazon.
Where can our followers buy your books? https://linktr.ee/damyantibiswas
List of Facebook groups:
The Savvy Writer’s Snug
Psychological Thriller Readers
ITW Debut Class Authors
Women reading Great books
Literary Crime Novels
Curated Book Resources
Feb 27, 2023 | Uncategorized |
If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It
G.P. Gottlieb is the author of Charred: A Whipped and Sipped Mystery (D.X. Varos Publishing 2023), the third in her culinary mystery series. She is host for New Books in Literature, a podcast channel on the New Books Network, and has interviewed over 170 authors. You can read more about her at her site: https://www.gpgottlieb.com/, on Facebook: authorgottlieb, and Instagram: WhippedSipped.
In the first draft of Charred: A Whipped and Sipped Mystery (DX Varos 2023), I just wrote whatever popped into my head. I created superfluous back stories for nearly every character, including a few of protagonist Alene Baron’s many employees in the café. I included details that nobody cares about, mentioned the protagonist’s run-in with a mean girl in middle school even though she’s a grown woman with children of her own, and went on for pages about her sister.
I let my imagination go wild. I also covered memories of Alene’s mother who died of breast cancer, her post-graduation trip to Greece, and her thoughts about several previous boyfriends. There were pages and pages about her ex-husband. None of it was important to the story, which takes place during the summer of 2020. You might remember that was when a highly contagious and poorly understood virus was galloping across the globe, killing millions, and forcing many of us to hide in our homes.
The pandemic is one of several struggles my protagonist faces. It doesn’t play a leading role, but rumbles in the background like a volcano about to erupt. I remember those months of worrying about homeless people and those forced to beg on streets that were empty of cars or pedestrians. We could walk for miles (in sweet home, Chicago), and see very few other people braving the possibility of crossing paths with the virus.
The characters in my book were frightened, like all of us. I wanted to tell those stories – it didn’t matter if they were going to be cut later because they helped me get into the characters’ heads. The pandemic was like a simmering evil presence, sitting in the corner holding a weapon – everyone was afraid, but we all went about our business because there is a limit to how much time any of us can spend staring at the walls before we go mad.
In ongoing chapters, my protagonist struggles with a decision about admitting something important. In my first draft, she flashes back to missing her cousin’s funeral while she was traveling in Greece with her best friend. She remembers the sun, the history, and that her guilt boiled down to disappointing her parents. When she finally faces her current dilemma, the reader understands that she’s conscious of all the wrong decisions she’s made, even though I cut those early travel scenes.
After I’ve filled extraneous pages with a myriad of unnecessary details, and the first draft is achingly long, I start the process that will turn it into a readable novel. My goal is to focus on telling a story in which each chapter moves the action, and the combination of all the chapters form a forward thrusting arc. I make sure that the pandemic is tucked behind a wall – still there, but not pounding on the glass to be let in.
Each time I’ve completed another draft, I’d show it to my editor/teacher, who has a gift for striking out what can go unsaid, and highlighting what needs more attention. This is the third book she’s helped me pull together with ideas for re-ordering chapters, adding missing information, strengthening the climax, and polishing the ending.
Sometimes I wonder if I could save time and effort by avoiding my propensity for long, blabby explanations and my need to tell you everything I know about any given person or situation. That happens both in writing and real life. But my method has worked for three books now, and as we often say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it*.”
*The phrase has been attributed to a government official during the administration of President Jimmy Carter, but there are enough earlier quotes to keep it solidly in the, “It is said” realm of aphorisms.
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!