SID MELTZER – Various Stops on His Way to Publication

After a long career in 9-to-5 jobs – caseworker, teacher, Probation Officer, urban planner, copywriter, and even aircraft carrier tour guide – Sid became a published author at the age of seventy-one. Whether or not he makes a dime from his thrillers, that alone is an accomplishment he’s proud of.

Two of his past jobs were particularly helpful when he began writing crime novels. As a Probation Officer, he learned to see things from a criminal’s point of view and to tip-toe past their minds’ many dark alleys. As a copywriter, he learned how to craft stories that draw readers in and keep them wanting more.

Murderer from Moscow is the sequel to his debut Kim Barbieri thriller, Unwitting Accomplice. The Russian mafia has to stop reporter Kim Barbieri from exposing their money laundering in NY—and they’re going to use the world’s most lethal poison to shut her up.

Will they succeed in killing her? Or will she succeed in putting them out of business for good?

What brought you to writing? As a copywriter for many years, I convinced customers to buy what my clients were selling. That was my job, and I was pretty good at it – according to the lawyers, suits, and clients who approved my work. When I retired, I decided to write to please a whole new audience – readers of crime novels like myself. I knew three things going in: Crime fiction readers could be a tough audience, I had a compelling story idea, and I was up to the task.

What’s the most challenging thing about writing characters from the opposite sex? The challenge is making my characters of the opposite sex credible and relatable to my readers of the opposite sex. Rightly or wrongly, male writers have a reputation among women readers for not doing female characters well. My protagonist, Kim Barbieri, is both a strong, tough woman unfazed by violence and a very human person dealing with everyday issues faced by women of a certain age in our society. I was determined to do right by her—and several female readers have told me I’d succeeded.

Do you outline, or are you a pantser? That’s not an either/or question, as far as I’m concerned. I do an outline, of course, to make sure all the moving parts conform to the story arc. But as I develop my characters, they often seem to take on a life of their own. They grow. They change. I then find myself becoming a pantser, letting them make decisions I hadn’t planned on. How does she react when she stumbles upon a crime scene? How does she deal with a crisis? Those become her decisions as much as mine. And her actions sometimes change the plot I’d so carefully laid out in the outline – for the better!

What kind of research do you do? They say, ‘Write what you know’. But when I develop an idea for a novel, I make it a point to include topics I know nothing about. For instance, to write my first thriller, Unwitting Accomplice, I learned the pros and cons of using specific weapons—knife, gun, poison, vehicle—to end a victim’s life without getting caught by the police. And for my second thriller, Murderer from Moscow, I learned all I could about one lethal weapon: poison. How many there are, how each enters the body, which organs each one attacks, and how long each takes to kill. For both books, there was a lot of physiology and chemistry jargon to master, and my challenge was to write everything I’d learned in an easily understood way that wouldn’t kill the desire of the average reader to go on to the next chapter.

Where do you place your characters? Real or fictional settings? My two thrillers take place in New York, a vibrant, dynamic, ever-changing metropolis with many unique neighborhoods and ethnic communities. I grew up there and found that if described well, a neighborhood, a street, or even a particular shop can become an interesting character.

The settings for my two thrillers are in neighborhoods I know especially well from my days as a New York State Probation Officer – Fort Greene in Unwitting Accomplice and Williamsburg in Murderer from Moscow. They’re both fully gentrified now, with upstanding citizens and excellent schools, and they both are a good place for my protagonist to come home to. But back in the day, they were both “bad” neighborhoods, with drug addicts, muggings, poverty, bad schools, high unemployment, etc.

Groups where you can find Sid:
Mystery Writers of America NY
Sisters in Crime, NY
Facebook groups:
• Authors and book lovers connect
• All things books
• Authors and writers promoting to readers
• Writers and authors promotions
• Author/publisher/editor/book readers
• Book authors, show off your books
• Book Promotion
• e-book authors promo
• crime fiction addict
• black rose writing authors
• indie writer book and self-promotion
• NY authors, writers, poets, book clubs, and literary organizations

You can read more about my thrillers at Sidmeltzer.com.
You can email me at sidmeltzer@aol.com.
You can order Murderer from Moscow on Amazon at tinyurl.com/5b3fjnyh or from Black Rose Writing.
You can order Unwitting Accomplice on Amazon at tinyurl.com/pjjs4v7t or from Rogue Phoenix Press.

 

2 Comments

  1. Michael A. Black

    Good interview, Sid. You sound like you have a good handle on writing and know how to make it work. Best of luck to you.

    Reply
  2. Pamela Ruth Meyer

    What a varied array of professions you’ve had, Sid. It sounds perfect for a mystery writer ( ; And thanks for the discussion about writing a POV gender that is different from your own. I’ve been working on writing my male detective POV character more believably. (I’m pretty sure he’s still too touchy-feely, if you know what I mean). Best of luck with MURDER FROM MOSCOW.

    Reply

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JOSEPHINE (JO) MELE – World Travel – Memoir and Cozy Mystery Author

Josephine (Jo) Mele is a world traveler, tour guide, magazine editor, and life-long mystery reader. Author of: The Odd Grandmothers, a memoir of three generations of her Italian immigrant family, and The Travel Mystery Series: Bullets in Bolivia, Homicide in Havana. Mystery in Monte Carlo, Bandits in Brussels, Death on the Danube, Corpse in the Castle, Sicilian Sanctuary, and she is about to release Incident in India. Jo lives in Contra Costa County and is a member of Sisters in Crime and the California Writers Club.

Mark Twain is credited with saying, “Write what you know.” I’ve been fortunate enough to travel around the world with my job as a tour director, and I am an avid mystery reader. I decided to blend the two. The teacher in me feels the need to share what I’ve learned about the culture, history, and people of places I’ve traveled to. I love to cook and eat, so food plays an important part in each book, to the dismay of my critique group, who often call for a lunch break after I read.

In my cozy mysteries, I spotlight a current event or problem the locals face. In Bullets in Bolivia, large corporations were taking control of the water; human trafficking was the theme in Sicilian Sanctuary.

June Gordon, my protagonist, has one job; to come back with the same number of people she left with. Fate often has other plans, and June finds herself tripping over bodies, rescuing victims, helping the police, or fighting off the bad guy. She’s known at police stations and emergency rooms around the world. I never know what June will get us into, and after eight books, I’m getting a little afraid of traveling with her. Today, she has me in India, saving a young girl from an honor killing. Yes, I’m a pantser.

I recently spoke at a book reading. At the Q&A session, a precocious ten-year-old asked how long I’d been writing and why I chose to self-publish. I told her I’d been drafting short stories about my extended family for a long time, and my writing teacher and friend Camille Minichino suggested I put the stories together in a memoir. I wrote The Odd Grandmothers and decided to publish it on Amazon in 2019. I wanted to get my books out quickly and not wait years for an agent to sell my book to a publisher. I didn’t want the honor of being the oldest person to publish my first book. Self-publishing is the route I chose.

My relatives loved the memoir and said they’d learned things about our family history they never knew.

My sister said, “I remember some of this much differently.”

Thanks for taking the time to read about my adventure into writing. If you have any questions or comments, you can reach me at jomele@comcast.net. My books are available at Amazon or at Reasonable Books in Lafayette, CA.

8 Comments

  1. Violet Moore

    My twin sister and I remember childhood events and even a few later events differently. It reminds me of what a memoir writing workshop instructor told the group. “Memoirs are creative nonfiction.”

    Reply
    • Jo Mele

      I was surprised to hear that happens with twins too. My sister was two years younger and would say,”DId you make that up? I don’t remember it.”

      Reply
  2. Michael A. Black

    Wow, your books sound fascinating. Your protagonist really gets around. Best of luck to you with your writing.

    Reply
    • Jo Mele

      My mother always warned me as I was leaving on a trip to “not talk to strangers.” If she only knew!

      Reply
  3. Pamela Ruth Meyer

    My goodness, Jo, you have blended so many different parts of yourself into your writing! It must feel greatly fulfilling to complete yourself this way. Best of Luck on your continuing adventures with June.

    Reply
    • Jo Mele

      I wanted my grandchildren to remember that I was once young and always adventurous.

      Reply
  4. ana manwaring

    Wow! These sound like my kind of book! I just ordered books 1 &2 from Amazon. I can’t wait to get reading and armchair traveling!
    Ana

    Reply
    • Jo Mele

      Thank you. I hope you enjoy reading my books, traveling to unusal destinations, and love the food.

      Reply

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