MILLICENT EIDSON – Veterinary Epidemiologist Tackles Scary Diseases from Animals

Millicent Eidson is the author of the alphabetical Maya Maguire microbial mystery series. The MayaVerse at https://drmayamaguire.com includes prequels, “El Chinche” in Danse Macabre and “What’s Within” in Fiction on the Web, and a side story, “Pérdida” in El Portal Literary Journal. Author awards include Best Play in Synkroniciti and Honorable Mention from the Arizona Mystery Writers. Those who join the Reader List will receive a free e-book copy of “Monuments,” the 10-minute play taking place in the Santa Fe, New Mexico Plaza.

Dr. Eidson teaches a course about animal diseases (zoonoses) at the University of Vermont Larner College of Medicine. Her work as a public health veterinarian and epidemiologist began with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It continued at the New Mexico and New York state health departments.

Millicent critiques the twist ending of the award-winning film “The Power of the Dog” based on research for her first novel “Anthracis: A Microbial Mystery.” (152) The Power of the Dog: Confused by the Surprise Twist Ending? – YouTube

What’s your latest book title? Borrelia: A Microbial Mystery” will be published in June 2022, first in e-book, then paperback, hardcover, and large print formats https://drmayamaguire.com/borrelia

Tell us a bit about Borrelia: As she begins a second year with the CDC, veterinarian Maya Maguire has had no time to recover from Arizona anthrax and its fallout on those closest to her. Squiggly spirochete bacteria transmitted by blood-sucking lice and ticks challenge her developing confidence while she manages an arrogant trainee. Immigrant-associated Borrelia in Europe during a summer heatwave is a chance to escape the overwhelming demands and one more opportunity to succeed.

What brought you to writing? Like many authors, a love of reading is my foundation for writing. I was blessed with book-obsessed parents who taught me to read by age two, so I’ve been absorbing written language before my first memory. When my grandfather gave me the complete works of Shakespeare at age seven, I was hooked. I wrote at every opportunity, although keeping a journal about my own life bored me.

Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? Unfortunately, having retired to a small apartment, I don’t have a separate office. So my computer table is in the corner of the combination dining room, living room, and kitchen. Fortunately, playing classical music from a local public radio station keeps me focused, and periodic gazes out at spectacular Lake Champlain keeps me peaceful.

Tell us about your writing process. I’m more alert and energetic for writing first drafts in the morning. I’ll take a lunch break, then work on editing for my writing workshops or promotional efforts. I learn so much from receiving and giving feedback, so it’s a major commitment to my process.

Who’s your favorite author? As mentioned previously, I can never get enough Shakespeare. For mysteries, having grown up in the Southwest, no one can match Tony Hillerman. With my novels having a medical twist, my queen is Tess Gerritsen.

How do you come up with character names? Choosing character names is fun. Sometimes it’s a nod or wink to family and friends. If the character represents a group or profession, I’ll look up real names and combine them in different ways while still keeping the sense of authenticity.

What is the most challenging thing about writing characters from the opposite sex? Fortunately, my husband is my first reader, so he’ll give me advice about male characters. He thought the male cowboy veterinarian who works for the U.S. Department of Agriculture was similar to some of my veterinary school classmates. So I doubled down on that character, and he has been a leading colleague and friend for my protagonist.

Do your protagonists ever disappoint you? Of course. There are a number of ways in which my protagonists differ from me, even though I use my own experiences in public health work. Borrelia, has a “Me, Too” subtheme. The protagonist’s decision-making is the subject of considerable debate, similar to the famous cases in real-life. The third book about coronavirus planned for late 2022 has three female protagonists, all balancing personal and professional lives. They make some difficult choices that are different than my own.

Do you ever kill a popular character? In the first draft of Anthracis, Maya Maguire’s love interest did not survive. All it took was a couple of early readers to suggest changing that ending, and I made the adjustment. Readers of Borrelia will be glad I did!

Do you outline, or are you a pantser? It’s a joy to sit at my computer and jump into my characters’ lives without knowing what they will do next. For me, immersion in their thoughts and feelings is the best way to make them vibrant for the reader.

What kind of research do you do? Despite being a pantser, my novels are solidly grounded in real science about these pathogens. PubMed is my source for finding old and new peer-reviewed scientific journal articles to augment my training and experience. CDC’s MMWR is a goldmine for breaking news about disease outbreaks. Because vivid settings are very important, I always research them even when they’re ones I’ve experienced.

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? In my fiction reading, I like recognizing a location, so I generally use real ones. I want readers to experience my settings with all of their senses. For events that might be upsetting, I’ll create a fictional business. For agencies or groups that are real and can’t be changed, the characters and their actions are my creation, like an alternate universe where the real people and how they would handle their jobs are replaced by my fictional ones.

Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? Because I’m planning an alphabetical microbial mystery series, I have more fascinating diseases and Maya Maguire’s character growth to share. For the third coronavirus novel, other characters take center stage for earlier outbreaks called SARS and MERS. It’s great looking forward to giving readers different perspectives on the unending battle against mysterious microbes.

How do our readers contact you?

 

2 Comments

  1. Michael A. Black

    It sounds like you’re fighting the good fight both in real life and on the fictional page. I too love Shakespeare and try to mention him or his works in all my writing. Stay safe and good luck with your writing.

    Reply
    • Millie Eidson

      Michael, thank you so much! Yes, a Shakespeare addict will be a point-of-view character for some chapters in the third “C” novel which I’m still writing, and she goes to a performance in London’s Globe Theatre, a place I enjoyed visiting.

      Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

DEBRA BOKUR – Award Winning Author Takes Her Readers Into Hawaiian Mystery

Frequently accused of drinking too much tea and getting lost deliberately, award-winning writer Debra Bokur is the author of the Dark Paradise Mysteries series (Kensington Books). She’s also a contributing author to Spreading the Word: Editors on Poetry (The Bench Press, 2001) and the former poetry editor at Many Mountains Moving literary journal. Bokur is an award-winning journalist and longtime contributor to national publications, including Global Traveler Magazine. She divides her time between Colorado and coastal Maine.

The Lava WitchIn a remote, mountainous area of a Maui forest near Haleakalā volcano, the naked body of a young woman is found hanging from a tree. The devil is in the details: the woman’s nostrils, mouth, and lungs are packed with lava sand. Her hands are bound in twine, and her feet are charred and blackened, suggesting a firewalking ceremony. Detective Kali Māhoe’s suspicions are immediately aroused. It has all the signs of ritual torture and murder.

But Kali’s investigation soon leads her down a winding trail of seemingly unconnected clues and diverging paths—from the hanging tree itself, a rare rainbow eucalyptus, to rumors of a witch haunting the high areas of the forest, to the legend of the ancient Hawaiian sorceress Pahulu, goddess of nightmares. Casting a shadow over it all—the possibility of a Sitting God, a spirit said to invade and possess the soul.

Aided by her uncle, Police Captain Walter Alaka’i, Officer David Hara, and the victim’s brother, Kali embarks down the darkest road of all. One that leads to the truth of the mountain’s deadly core and a dark side of the island for which even Kali is unprepared.

Recent Reviews:

“This procedural keeps readers guessing all the way to the gratifying solution. Fans of Tony Hillerman will be enthralled.” —Publishers Weekly STARRED REVIEW on The Lava Witch

“A cool police procedural with engaging characters and fascinating components.” —Kirkus Reviews on The Lava Witch

Controlling the Weather – Thanks for inviting me to post on your site today, George. As I prepare for the launch of The Lava Witch, I’ve been mulling over a few concepts that I suspect may be common among both readers and writers of mystery/crime fiction, all of which have coalesced into the notion of controlling the weather.

Consider this: Nearly everything in the world operates according to forces that are out of our control — day and night, tidal waves, tornadoes, disease outbreaks, growing old, watching the neighbors paint their house the wrong color. That’s plenty to dwell on, even on a sunny day, while we can still bolt up and down staircases with ease. When you add in the forces of malevolence, things take a much darker turn.

Like most people, I’ve encountered evil firsthand. Sometimes it’s shiny or dressed up with beguiling surface beauty meant to mislead and confuse; sometimes, it doesn’t bother to pretend to be anything but what it is —cruelty, malice, and deliberate mayhem unleashed to disrupt or destroy the lives and equilibrium of others.

While I’ve never actually talked to other mystery writers or readers about this, I’m sure I’m not alone when I say how satisfying and fulfilling it is to see darkness overcome by goodness and light. I believe it’s one of the reasons we love to read mysteries and thrillers. I know it’s one of the reasons I find it gratifying to write them. Sure, remedying all the ills of the real world and conquering evil in its multitude of forms is beyond my powers as a single human being; but as an author, I can control storms and decide when the sun comes out, and make certain that those who deliberately bring about pain, grief, and misery — at least within the pages of my books — are made fully accountable for their actions. And, I get to bring readers along for the ride, setting off with them on difficult journeys that I know will lead, at last, to a moment of resolution and healing.

How do our readers contact you?

Groups I belong to:

  • Sisters In Crime (National, Colorado, and New England chapters)
  • Mystery Writers of America
  • Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers
  • Colorado Authors League
  • International Thriller Writers
  • Society of American Travel Writers

14 Comments

  1. Donnell Ann Bell

    Yay, Kali Māhoe is back. I so enjoyed her in The Bone Field. The plot sounds amazing, Debra! Congratulations on your release and a starred review!

    Reply
  2. Margaret Mizushima

    Our heroes and heroines are always battling weather, terrain, and evil, which makes for a thrilling story. Thanks for this post, Debra and George. And like you, Debra, this mystery writer enjoys watching darkness succumb to the light.

    Reply
    • Debra Bokur

      Thank you, Margaret. Here’s to Team Light 🙂

      Reply
  3. Barbara Nickless

    We must never give up the battle against evil–in the real world as well as in our fictional ones. Thanks for a great post!

    Reply
    • Debra Bokur

      Much appreciated, Barbara. The quest is everything.

      Reply
  4. Debra Bokur

    Thanks, Michael! It’s nice to be able to escape to the Islands, even if only in my imagination — especially on Rocky Mountain days like this when there are snow flurries blowing through my newly planted spring garden.

    Reply
  5. Joseph HAGGERTY

    I love inventing a little super natural even when it’s manufactured. The mystery of the investigation is one thing but when something comes along that can’t be explained, it adds to the mystery and since it’s fiction who can say if it’s real. Loved this post.

    Reply
    • Debra Bokur

      Thanks, Joseph – a little mystery keeps things interesting, I think.

      Reply
  6. Michael A. Black

    Your summary sounds like a fascinating novel, Debra. You’re totally right about being able to control things as an author. We need more books set in Hawaii. Best of luck to you.

    Reply
  7. Peg Brantley

    Justice being served while we’re alive to see it is one of the reasons crime fiction is so fabulous! Great post, thank you!

    Reply
    • Debra Bokur

      You’re very welcome. Agreed about crime fiction — and instant karma isn’t so bad, either!

      Reply
  8. Mare Sutro

    Overcoming the darkness is what it is all about. Thanks for sharing these wonderful insights!

    Reply
    • Debra Bokur

      It’s important not to let the darkness win, whatever form it takes.

      Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.