Syrl, a retired teacher, lives in upstate New York with her husband and two lively dachshunds. She writes the Samantha Davies Mystery series featuring Samantha Davies and her loveable dachshund, Porkchop. When not writing, she is busy hooking, rug hooking, and enjoying her family. Her newest book, number four in the series, Pups, Pumpkins, and Murder, will be released on September 19th.
What brought you to writing? While I’ve always been an avid reader, I’m not one of those writers who was born with a pen in their hands. I was an editor for my high school’s newspaper and enjoyed writing for it, but I wasn’t into becoming an author yet. That would come many years down the road.
Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? I write in a small bedroom on my laptop at a small desk. The operative word here is small. I try not to stop until I have accomplished my self-imposed daily word limit, which I’ve set at 1,000 words. My only distraction is my dachshund when he barks to be fed. There’s no ignoring that. Oh, yes, and the Spam calls that inevitably come when I’m writing.
What are you currently working on? Right now, I’m working on Chilled to the Dog Bone, book 5, in my Samantha Davies Mystery series. It involves a Fireman’s Ball, a skillet toss, outhouse races, and of course, a corpse. All set during the winter in beautiful upstate New York.
How do you come up with your characters’ names? Many of the names are from people I know in real life. I have a friend who wanted to be the murderer in one of my books; hence I named the perp after her. I now have to keep a running list of all the names I’ve used in order not to repeat any.
We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave or run wild? I’d like to think mine are well-behaved, but my main character, Samantha’s side-kick, her Southern Belle cousin, Candie, is known to be a wild card. Candie has been engaged eleven times and tells it like it is. Then there’s Sam’s octogenarian neighbor, Gladys, who dyes her gray curls to suit the occasion, red for Valentine’s Day, green for Saint Pat’s. She is a force to behold.
Do you base your characters on real people? Absolutely! Beware, or you might wind up in one of my books. People love that they are an inspiration for a character. Candie is modeled after a good friend from a writer’s group. Hank was inspired by my husband, who also was a police officer. I love dachshunds, and Porkchop, Sam’s dog, was named after my Porkchop.
Do you outline, or are you a pantser? Oh, my. I had a sketchy outline for the first 4 books in the series, but with Chilled to the Dog Bone, that has gone completely by the wayside. I’ve pansted the whole thing. I don’t know why, but it just flowed that way.
Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? I live in a beautiful area of upstate New York near the Adirondacks and Lake George. My settings are a conglomeration of this area, small towns, and lovely people with lots to do and places to go. These are close-knit communities where almost everyone knows you, which is the same in my books.
Mavens of Mayhem – Sisters In Crime: www.upperhudsonsinc.com
Lynn Slaughter is addicted to the arts, chocolate, and her husband’s cooking. After a long career as a professional dancer and dance educator, Lynn earned her MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. Her first mystery for adults, MISSED CUE, came out this month from Melange Books. She is also the author of four award-winning young adult romantic mysteries: DEADLY SETUP, LEISHA’S SONG, IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN YOU, and WHILE I DANCED. Lynn lives in Louisville, Kentucky, where she’s at work on her next novel, serves on the board of Louisville Literary Arts, and is an active member and former president of Derby Rotten Scoundrels, the Ohio River Valley chapter of Sisters in Crime.
MISSED CUE: When ballerina Lydia Miseau dies onstage in the final dress rehearsal of Romeo and Juliet, homicide detective Caitlin O’Connor is faced with the most complicated case of her career. She strongly suspects that someone murdered the ballerina, and her investigation uncovers several people close to the star who had reasons to kill her. But the autopsy reveals no apparent cause of death. If Lydia Miseau was murdered, who did it, and how?
Meantime, Caitlin’s worried about her partner at work, who’s drinking way too much. And then there’s her own hot mess of a personal life. She has a bad habit of getting involved with married men. She knows it’s wrong, so why does she keep entangling herself in unhealthy relationships?
Writing About Adults Instead of Teens – I was a teenager when it occurred to me that many grownups I knew weren’t’… well, actually grown up. Granted, as teenagers, we had less experience and could claim our share of dumb decisions and impulsive behavior. At thirteen, I decided it would be no problem to explore an abandoned castle with my friends—except it turned out the place wasn’t abandoned, and an elderly lady with a shotgun chased us off her property. And I shudder when I think about willingly getting in a car three years later with one of my crazier boyfriends who thought it would be fun to show me what it felt like to go 100 miles an hour on the freeway.
But were the adults around me so different? As far as I could tell, they were doing some pretty dumb stuff, too. The glamourous mother of the girls who lived on the floor below me in our apartment building was cheating on her married lover by having an affair with the local barber. Then there was my best friend who came home from school one day to find her mother passed out dead drunk on the kitchen table. And did I mention my yearbook advisor the year I was the editor who chased me around the classroom after the last day of school, trying to put the moves on me?
So, when people ask me if it’s very different to write about adult protagonists rather than teenage ones, I’m not quite sure what to say. Yes, developmentally, the challenges in adulthood are distinctively different, but adults seem to me to be every bit as capable of messing up their lives.
Take the protagonist in my first mystery for adults, MISSED CUE. Homicide detective Caitlin O’Connor is terrific at her job, a hard-working crackerjack professional known for her ability to close cases. And she’s a good, caring person who’s loyal to her friends and terribly worried about her fellow detective who’s been drinking non-stop ever since his wife left him. The problem is that her private life is a hot mess. She has a bad habit of getting involved with married men and has finally decided to go into therapy to figure out why she keeps doing something she feels horribly guilty about.
Then there’s Lydia Miseau, the revered ballerina whose suspicious onstage death Caitlin is investigating. Lydia is universally admired for her brilliant dancing and kindness toward everyone associated with the ballet company. Even the janitor loves her! But as Caitlin digs into Lydia’s life, she discovers the star dancer’s behavior was every bit as imperfect as her own, and several people close to the ballerina had reasons to want to harm her.
As a writer for young adults who’s now dipped my toe into writing for adults, I’ve discovered the waters aren’t so very different. Likable, flawed, and vulnerable characters continue to interest me. Perfect people not only don’t exist in real life, but they’re incredibly boring to write and read about.
And in both my young adult novels and now MISSED CUE, I enjoy writing about characters who grow and change during their journeys. Caitlin not only solves the case but gets a better handle on her personal life.
A hallmark of young adult literature is some sense of hope that in the end, our youthful protagonists can move toward a more positive future.
Hope’s not a bad thing for us adults, either. The idea that throughout our lives, we can continue to solve problems, grow, and mature is one I find incredibly appealing.
Visit my blog at www.lynnslaughter.com
Missed Cue (forthcoming, Melange Books, 2023)
Deadly Setup (Fire and Ice/Melange Books, 2022), Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards Silver Medalist
Leisha’s Song (Fire and Ice/Melange Books, 2021): Agatha Nominee, Silver Falchion Award, Moonbeam Bronze Medalist, Imadjinn Award for Best YA Novel
While I Danced (Write Words), EPIC Finalist
It Should Have Been You (Page Street), Silver Falchion Finalist
The first book in the Hector Miguel Navarro Series, New Liberty, is available from many sources. I’m taking this opportunity to share a teaser and Chapter 1.
Outside Phoenix, two gangs rule…
…and one police officer is caught in the middle.
How will he stop them?
Hector’s parents, wealthy east coast college professors, raised him to work towards making the world a better place. In New Liberty, Arizona, gangs have ravaged the city. As a young police officer who lost his mentor, he struggles with the question.
Why did his partner kill himself?
Across town, a small sickly-looking man approaching fifty is about to make a move. DeShawn “The Knife” Galloway has a reputation as a contract assassin who prefers to kill with the Japanese Tanto. And It’s time to take control.
The war will start on his terms.
In a world of human trafficking, drugs, and violence, two people’s lives are about to be intertwined in a way where only one can survive.
But this story isn’t all black and white.
This dark urban crime novel will grab you as it reveals far more than just greed and power. This one will keep you turning the pages.
A Hector Miguel Navarro Novel
And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider’s name was Death, and
Hades followed him. And they were given authority . . . to kill with sword
and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth. Rev. 6:8
They were alive moments ago.
“I told you to use the GPS. Why’d you buy a Lexus if you aren’t going to use the gadgets?” The old woman chides her even older husband.
“The map program takes too long. Besides, the boy’s graduation isn’t until tomorrow.”
“I know, but we’re not even in Phoenix. We should have been there an hour ago. Admit it. We’re lost.”
“Okay. I’ll pull over and set the GPS. Will that make you happy?” The man was tired from the long drive. Even breaking the drive into two days from Oakland to the Arizona city was more than he should have undertaken at seventy. His wife had suggested they spend a few days in Los Angeles, maybe even visit Disneyland, but the old man had insisted. She had been right. I should have skipped poker with the boys this time.
“Now we’re lost, exhausted, and you finally agree with me. That doesn’t help much.” She was younger by a decade and had offered to help with the driving. The old man was always stubborn and refused to give up the wheel. “This neighborhood looks pretty sketchy. I don’t think we should stop here?”
“We’ll be fine. Besides, there’s no one around.”
A minute later, absorbed in entering the address in the GPS, it’s difficult for the old man with his arthritic hands and new trifocals. Hearing a banging on his side window, and without thinking, he hits the down switch.
“Hey, old brother, whatcha doing?” Standing next to the car door is a skinny kid, fifteen or sixteen. It’s hard to see his face. He’s wearing a dark hoodie with the front cinched down. His hands are jammed deep into the pockets.
“I’m checking my map. We’ll be going.”
“I don’t think so,” the kid says as his right hand appears. He’s holding a small pistol, barely visible in his large hand.
“He’s got a gun,” screams the woman.
“That’s right, Bro. You and the sister get out and walk away.”
The man may be in his seventies, but he’s not about to let a teenage punk rob him. Reaching to put the car in gear, he says, “No.”
The old man doesn’t hear the shot or feel the twenty-five-caliber bullet that passes through his skull and into his brain. The small lead slug comes to rest against the right side of his skull, ending his life. His wife screams as another teenager opens the passenger door and drags her out of the car. Drawing her head back exposes her neck. She sees the Ka-Bar. The blade, dull and heavy, is meant for work, not slicing throats. As the boy saws her neck open, cutting the carotid arteries, blood gurgles until she is dead.
“Don’t get blood on the seat,”
“That’s why I pulled her out. What about the old dude?”
“He didn’t bleed much.”
* * *
Now that they have killed the old couple, they aren’t sure whether to run or take the Lexus. Their problem worsens when three men emerge from Ernesto’s Pool Hall.
“What’re you doing?” demands Jerome. “Geronimo” Dixon. The easily recognized president of the 4-Aces. Even at fifty, he is an imposing figure towering over the men behind him. The man stands six feet five and carries three-hundred pounds—no fat—packed on a muscular frame.
The frightened shooter’s answer is a whisper, almost apologetic. “We jacked them for the Lexus. The old man gave us shit. We had to off him and the old lady.”
“Who the hell gave you permission to jack a car in 4-Aces territory?”
“No one, we didn’t. . .”
“Shut up and gimme the piece. What else you got?”
The boy hands over the small pistol and the other gives up the K-Bar, “All we got.”
Geronimo turns to one of the men standing behind him. “Get DeShawn.”
Within minutes, DeShawn “The Knife” Galloway is at his side—Geronimo motions for the young killers to stand behind the Lexus. Out of earshot, he hands their weapons to Galloway. “This’s going to bring a load of shit our way. Make the idiots disappear.”
“Forever.” The tone of Geronimo’s voice leaves no doubt.
“The old couple?”
“I ought to. If they weren’t innocent civilians, I would.” Geronimo lets out a sigh. “Leave them.
“Don’t nobody touch da bodies, nothing. No DNA to tie the Aces to this shit.”
Galloway calls the other men over and tells the first, “You drive. We gotta clean this up.” To the second, “Put the fools in my Escalade. You ride with me.”
Showing false bravado, the shooter speaks up. “Why?” Stepping close to Galloway, he looks down at the much older and shorter man and repeats, “Why?” adding, “I ain’t no fool, old man.”
Galloway raises his head and gazes into the face of the shooter. His expression is as lifeless as his eyes. The shooter does his best to maintain a defiant pose and succeeds for perhaps three seconds. His body begins to shake. The shivers betray the boy’s fear; without another word, he walks to the Escalade and death.
Here’s the link to the trailer created by Lisa Towles: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kvrdESP4jTI
Wendy Whitman has a unique background through her decades-long work as an executive and producer for Court TV and HLN, covering almost every major high-profile murder case in America. Through her knowledge of the most detailed aspects of the crimes, Ms. Whitman has become an expert on the subject of murder in America. Before attending Boston University School of Law, Whitman worked for comedians Lily Tomlin and George Carlin. After graduating from law school, the author embarked on what turned out to be a twenty-year career in television covering crime. She spent fifteen years at Court TV and another several at HLN for the Nancy Grace show, where she appeared on air as a producer/reporter covering high-profile cases. Whitman received three Telly Awards and two GLAAD nominations during her tenure at Court TV. Her debut crime thriller novel, Premonition, was released last year. The sequel, Retribution, will be out this July.
RETRIBUTION: After the shattering conclusion of Cary’s quest for justice for the victims of a suspected serial killer in Premonition, Retribution picks up with her cohorts continuing their investigation to hunt down the person responsible for the heinous murders. Who will be next? More importantly, who will come out on top in this deadly game of vengeance?
What brought you to writing? My passion for murder victims and what they have gone through drove me in large part to begin writing. After Court TV and then on Nancy Grace’s show at HLN covering high-profile murder cases, I always felt I had a book in me. I wanted to share my knowledge of the legal system with the public. Although I initially thought I’d write a non-fiction book, I realized I could do everything I wanted in a fictional novel. So one night, I sat down and didn’t stop writing until the early morning hours of the following day. My first crime thriller, Premonition, was a labor of love. I incorporated twenty-plus true cases throughout the book, which I think is unique for a crime thriller, and gave it that extra touch of realism. My second novel, Retribution, picks up where the first one left off. Since I began my writing journey, I have found ideas popping into my head all the time. I am already working on my third novel.
Tell us about your writing process: I didn’t have a plan when I began writing Premonition. The words just flowed out of me. But as the first draft progressed, I knew I had to make a daily schedule in order to complete the book in a reasonable amount of time. So I decided every day, no matter what came up, I would write a certain number of pages; usually, that was twenty or so. Often when I was out and about running errands, an idea would pop into my head, and I would pull over if I was driving and make a note of it. Then when I got home, I would continue to write until I reached my goal for the day. They say, “write what you know.” That thought guided me throughout each writing session. This technique worked well for me, and I completed the first draft in under four months.
Do you base any of your characters on real people? This can be a tricky question to answer. I think one of the most common questions an author gets asked is: “Am I in your book?” As I wrote my novels, I found that I automatically drew upon my experiences; my life. So in that regard, you could say every character has some basis in reality. However, none of my characters were based on one single person. They were either composites or, in some cases, completely made up. Although some situations in the book may be loosely based on actual events, the characters in those situations are not necessarily actual people. When writing fiction, it is especially important to distinguish your characters from the real people in your life: they are not one and the same.
What kind of research do you do? Generally speaking, when an author is writing a fictional novel, there is less research to do than if they were to write a non-fiction book. However, in the case of Premonition and Retribution, since I included references to many true cases in both novels, I had to be careful to get the facts straight. I chose certain murders to highlight in each book for different reasons. Some cases I chose had been neglected by the media; others because the protagonist or killer in the novels was fixated on them. I looked up each case to ensure I remembered the crimes’ details correctly so the books would be as accurate as possible.
Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? The answer to this is both. Again “write what you know” is a good guideline for any author. The best way to maintain true authenticity throughout a novel is to write about something you have firsthand knowledge of. My novels are set in Connecticut, in the general area where I reside. Although in certain cases, I modified the name of a town or business. Each was based on an actual place. In certain instances, I used the real name because I thought it was important for the setting. So my books have both real locations and fictional ones inspired by real places.
Do you have any advice for new writers? The first piece of advice I would give a new writer is twofold: the overused but critically important “write what you know” and write about something you are passionate about. That combination is a winning formula. Part of the reason I think it was relatively easy for me to complete the first draft of my debut crime thriller, Premonition, in under four months was because I had so much knowledge bottled up inside of me about a topic, i.e., murder. Readers can distinguish between an author who knows what they are writing about and one who does not. Trying to pen a novel about a topic you don’t have a handle on will go nowhere. You can’t fake it; write from the heart, and nothing can stop you. One last piece of advice: when writing, don’t stress about whether you will find an agent or a publisher. How will you promote the book? These are distractions that need to be put on the back burner until you have finished the actual task of writing. Take pride and pleasure in your creation; most of all, have fun with it.
Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and your books? Writing my first novel, Premonition, was therapeutic for me for several reasons. Having covered some of the most horrific murder cases for decades, I wanted to find a release from the horror of it all. Writing turned out to be the outlet I needed. I wanted my debut crime thriller to pay homage to murder victims and their families. I think I accomplished that goal, and I believe that intention is what makes my novels distinctive from other thrillers. The tagline of my website is: Bringing True Crime Experience to Crime Thrillers. That is exactly what I tried to do with Premonition. The story continues with Retribution, and I am currently working on a third novel to complete the trilogy.
*Facebook: Renee’s Reading Club; A Novel Bee; Global Girls Online Book Club; Peace Love Books; Wild Sage Book Blog
*Sisters in Crime National and Sisters in Crime-CT
*ITW (International Thriller Writers)
*Amazon Link: https://amzn.to/3IEbXqs
This last week was the Eighteenth Annual Public Safety Writers Association’s Conference. Among the many accomplished authors there, I spent time with three friends from afar. It is always great to put real-life faces on our Zoom contacts. All three have been generous with their friendship, not to mention being awesome guests on my blog.
Peg Roche – Vicki Weisfeld – George Cramer – Sally Handley
SALLY HANDLEY – South Carolina
My introduction to PSWA came about when George Cramer contacted me to learn how his book, Robbers and Cops, could be considered for our Upstate SC Sisters in Crime Mystery Book Club. I invited George to be our moderator for the second quarter of 2023. In addition to his book, he chose books by two other PSWA members, Donnell Bell, and Michael Black. As a result, many PSWA members attended our monthly book club that quarter. When I learned about their conference, I joined PSWA and registered to participate. I’m so glad I did. The panel discussions have been terrific, and I’ve met so many wonderful writers and public safety professionals. The conference was a great experience. – Sally Handley
Where to find Sally:
M.E. (Peg) ROCHE – Florida
I really enjoy and learn from George Cramer’s blog, and it wasn’t until I read his glowing report of the last PSWA conference that I learned of the Public Safety Writers Association. I immediately applied to join and registered for this year’s conference. Because my novels involve law enforcement characters, and my own experience is somewhat limited, I was thrilled to learn of this untapped resource. In addition, Mike Black wrote a wonderful welcome email to PSWA and encouraged my participation in the upcoming conference; I felt I’d possibly found my niche. This year’s conference has been a great experience, providing me with a wealth of information and the enjoyable opportunity to meet writers who share my goals. – M. E. Roche
Where to find Peg: www.meroche.com
VICKI WEISFELD – New Jersey
Vicki was a member of the conference panel about The Art of Revision. Here she shares some of the panel’s conclusions.
The discussion, moderated by Frank Zafiro, began with a discussion of “pantser” versus “plotter.” While this often comes across as a divide between two groups of authors, in truth, most of those on the panel seemed to adopt a more hybrid approach. The pantsers, who love the thrill of discovery and the spontaneity of their process, sometimes have to take stock of where they are in a story and proceed with a bit more of a plan. The plotters, no matter how detailed their outline or how many post-its and 3X5′ cards they have created, often are open to ideas and directions they could not initially anticipate. Suffice it to say, whatever the chosen approach, the author must work out a way forward through the thicket of fictional possibilities that best suits them.
Much the same goes for editing and revision. Reading the manuscript multiple times, on the screen or aloud, focusing on different aspects (dialog, flow, language), using a critique group or beta reader—whatever it takes to give a manuscript the attention it needs. My novel, Architect of Courage, had numerous readers of all or a portion, plus a review of the policing aspects by a New York City detective whose specialty was terrorism. All this input is essential to shaping the final product like any other research.
Vicki did not mention that her novel, Architect of Courage, was awarded second place in the stiff competition for the best-published novel.
Where to find Vicki: www.vweisfeld.com
The PSWA is an association of writers existing to support people involved in creating content about public safety:
People with public safety careers who write stories, poetry, or non-fiction about their incredible experiences.
Mystery, thriller, and other writers who write about public safety characters and situations.
Publishers, editors, and other professionals
If you wish to learn more about the Public Safety Writers Association, follow this link https://policewriter.com/