LYNN SLAUGHTER – Dancer and YA Author

Lynn Slaughter is addicted to chocolate, the arts, 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. She writes coming of age romantic mysteries and is the author of the newly released Leisha’s Song; While I Danced, an EPIC finalist; It Should Have Been You, a Silver Falchion finalist; and Deadly Setup (forthcoming from Fire and Ice, 2022). Lynn lives in Louisville, Kentucky, where she’s at work on her next novel and serves as the President of Derby Rotten Scoundrels, the Ohio River Valley chapter of Sisters in Crime.

Tell us about your recent release and your other books. Leisha’s Song centers around a young woman in a year when everything in her life changes. On scholarship at a prestigious New England boarding school, Leisha never intended to fall in love with classical singing or get involved with Cody Harrington—let alone risk her life trying to find her missing teacher.

Leisha’s Song follows two other YA novels, While I Danced and It Should Have Been You. In While I Danced, Cass, an aspiring ballet dancer, deals with family and romantic problems when she discovers a betrayal that leaves her questioning whether she even wants to continue dancing. In It Should Have Been You, seventeen-year-old Clara’s twin sister, a piano prodigy, is murdered. Rumors swirl that Clara was involved in her twin’s demise. And then she starts receiving threatening notes, the first of which says: “It should have been you… But soon.”

What brought you to writing? Initially, writing fiction started as a therapy project! Age and injury had led to my retirement from dance, and I was grieving the loss of my career and identity as a dancer. I’d always loved reading young adult fiction. Teenagers had been my favorite age group to work with, so I guess it’s not surprising that I was drawn to young adult fiction. When I wrote my first novel about an aspiring dancer, I think it was a way to honor my old life and invent a new dream. Interestingly, my subsequent novels have all involved characters passionate about the arts.

Tell us about your writing process. First, I get the wisp of an idea for a story. For example, in the case of Leisha’s Song, I overheard a conversation at New York’s Port Authority between a young woman and her grandmother. It became apparent that the grandmother was sending her granddaughter off to boarding school in New England, and the teen was reluctant to go. It got me thinking about what it would be like to be a whip-smart young woman of color at a private school populated by mostly wealthy white students. So, I had a vague idea about a character and a setting. Since I’m a romantic mystery writer, I thought about what the mystery would be. I came up with the disappearance of a teacher Leisha was close to and a romance between Leisha and a boy who appoints himself her investigative sidekick. After that, I did a lot of thinking and writing about Leisha and her missing teacher and the people in their lives, past and present. That gave me tons of ideas for plot complications, conflicts, and the identities of folks who might have had a reason to want Leisha’s teacher to disappear. The story grew from there.

What are you currently working on? I’m excited that my fourth YA novel, Deadly Setup, about a young woman who goes on trial for the murder of her heiress mother’s fiancée, is coming out in 2022, so I’ll be working on final edits for that.

Meantime, I’m working on two projects which are a bit out of my comfort zone in that they’re not for young adults. The first is the expansion of a short story I wrote for Malice Domestic’s anthology, Murder Most Theatrical. My story, “Missed Cue,” is now a novel in which the identity of the murderer of a renowned ballerina has actually changed. I’ve had fun developing the personal life of the female homicide detective in charge of the case.

I’m also working on a middle-grade novel about Varney, a young vampire who hates the taste of blood and is convinced he’s landed in the wrong body.

How long did it take you to write your first book? A long time. I worked on it on and off for about ten years. The subsequent novels didn’t take nearly that long!

Do you have any advice for new writers? Never give up. Do lots of reading and write regularly (I call that my “butt-in-chair” prescription!). Study the craft of writing. Join writer’s organizations, take courses, find a helpful critique group, and be open to feedback. If more than one person tells you something is a problem, paying attention is a good idea.

Keep in mind that while lots of writing involves revision, the first order of business is to get something written to work with. The best piece of advice I received in my MFA program was: “You can’t fix a blank page.”

Lynn loves hearing from readers and invites you to visit her website, which also houses her blog: https://lynnslaughter.com/

Leisha’s Song is available at:

IndieBound

Barnes and Noble

Amazon

3 Comments

  1. Michael A. Black

    Dancing and vampires! Just be careful if Count Dracula walks up and asks you to dance a waltz. Your books sound like they’re very entertaining. Good luck with your writing.

    Reply

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Fleur Bradley – Agatha and Colorado Book Award Nominee

Hunting ghosts and solving the case before checkout? All in a weekend’s work.

Fleur Bradley is the author of the spooky middle-grade mystery Midnight at the Barclay Hotel (Viking Books for Young Readers, Aug. 2020). She’s passionate about two things: mysteries and getting kids to read. Fleur regularly does (virtual) school visits and speaks at librarian and educator conferences on reaching reluctant readers. Originally from the Netherlands, Fleur now lives in Colorado Springs with her family and entirely too many rescue pets.

Midnight at the Barclay Hotel – When JJ Jacobson convinced his mom to accept a surprise invitation to an all-expenses-paid weekend getaway at the illustrious Barclay Hotel, he never imagined that he’d find himself in the midst of a murder mystery. He thought he was in for a run-of-the-mill weekend ghost hunting at the most haunted spot in town, but when he arrives at the Barclay Hotel and his mother is blamed for the hotel owner’s death, he realizes his weekend is going to be anything but ordinary.

Now, with the help of his new friends, Penny and Emma, JJ has to track down a killer, clear his mother’s name, and maybe even meet a ghost or two along the way.

Other titles of Fleur’s: Super Puzzletastic Mysteries (anthology story, mystery for kids), and the Double Vision trilogy (HarperCollins Children’s)

Do you write in more than one genre? I write mysteries, mostly for kids, but I also like to write short stories. In fact, for the first ten years or so of my writing career, that’s mostly what I wrote. I try to still write a few every year—they’re fun to write, plus the time investment isn’t as huge as a novel-length work. Short stories are also a great way to flex your writing muscle—they’re tough to write.

What brought you to writing? I was a new mom (many years ago!), and I really wanted to do something that was just my own. As an avid reader, I decided to try my hand at fiction writing since all I needed was a pen and paper. I still love that most about writing: I start with a blank page and can make it anything I want.

 What, if any, distractions do you allow? Right now, I write at the kitchen table mostly. It’s so unglamorous, really… Sometimes I try to find a different corner of the house to work in just to break the monotony. Covid times being what they are, writing at a coffee shop or library is still off the table. Once I’m into the story though, I forget about everything else. I can write anywhere.

Tell us about your writing process: I usually have the spark of an idea—whether it’s a broad feel of a book (for Midnight at the Barclay Hotel, I wanted to write an Agatha Christie-style mystery for kids) or a good twist or even just the start of the story. Then I let that bounce around my brain a while, until I feel I have all the ingredients to the story figured out—so the mystery, tone, setting, characters. Then I work on an outline and sample chapters that I would eventually send to my agent. She’ll tell me what works, what doesn’t, and I tweak that and write the rest.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process? The most challenging part is the analytical part of my brain that needs to produce a solid plot and outline, and the creative part that just wants to get writing already to see where the characters take me…. It’s truly a battle of wills some days! But that outline is necessary to keep me on track.

What are you currently working on? I’m finishing edits on my next mystery for kids, and I’m getting ready to write the first draft of a YA mystery. I always have several projects going at once—it keeps me from getting bored.

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? I like to take a real location and then create a fictional version of it so that I can write my own rules. For Midnight at the Barclay Hotel, I created the Barclay Hotel based on the Stanley Hotel (from the book/movie The Shining) in nearby to me Estes Park, Colorado. I took some of the elements of the Stanley—the beautiful architecture and woodwork, the ghost stories, the Colorado setting—and amplified them to make for a more exciting story material.

Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I’m hoping to be able to in-person school and bookstore visits again—I miss seeing people in person, like everyone else I’m sure. The mystery for kids I’m working on now should be out from Viking/Penguin Random House in summer 2022, and then I plan to write another mystery for the 8-12 age group—it’s been such a joy to write mysteries for kid readers, I expect I’ll be writing lots more.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and your books? To toot my own horn for a minute: I was honored to be nominated for an Agatha Award and the Colorado Book Award for Midnight at the Barclay Hotel. If any blog readers get a chance to read the book, let me know what you think!

For more information on Fleur and her books, visit www.ftbradley.com, and on Twitter @FTBradleyAuthor.

7 Comments

  1. Marilyn Meredith

    Fleur, we met long ago at I think a Bouchercon conference in Seattle. What your are doing is so exciting! I will definitely recommend your books to all the mom’s I know for their kids. Will try Midnight at the Barclay Hotel for myself.

    Reply
  2. Tammy Qualls

    Thanks for this blog post! I will be picking this book up for my 9 year old at our local bookshop!

    Reply
    • Fleur Bradley

      Thank you, Tammy! I hope your 9 year-old enjoys the book.

      Reply
  3. Margaret Mizushima

    Love Midnight at the Barclay Hotel, Fleur. We hope to see you in in-person meetings again soon, too!

    Reply
    • Fleur Bradley

      I can’t wait to see everyone again in person! Feels like it’s been forever…

      Reply
  4. Michael A. Black

    I have read Midnight at the Barclay Hotel and can say that I’m certainly not a young adult, I thoroughly enjoyed Fleur’s book. I’ve read her short stories, too and can say that she’s a really good writer who can write entertaining stories for reader s of all ages. I look forward to her next one.

    Reply

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Give a Shout Out to Shannon Brown

Shannon Brown is the author of Parlor Tricked, a funny psychic novel.

Parlor Tricked – A reluctant psychic, a dead rock star, and a cursed linen outlet. It’s just another day in suburban Ohio. Victoria Maldene is convinced she is the only non-psychic born into a family of mediums until the day she gets a visit from the town’s most famous resident. Victoria doesn’t want to follow in the family business. Her mom and her sister may have psychic visions, but Victoria doesn’t. She’s too busy going to school and working part-time at the local linen outlet to worry about the paranormal. What Vicki doesn’t know is the linen outlet now stands where a cursed theater used to be.

When Victoria starts to see unexplainable things and people no one else can, she brushes it off. Then she meets a famous rock star who grew up in her part of Ohio. Meeting Johnny Billingsley is quite a conversation starter, especially since he died thirty years ago. Johnny wants to pass along a message to his family, and the only one who can help him is Victoria. Will she be able to help, or will Johnny’s secret remain hidden forever? Find out in the hilarious Parlor Tricked.

Beyond the Music – Ellen Daniels was all alone until love showed up at her door. Too bad her new boyfriend’s not all he seems. In the summer of 1966, 21-year-old Ellen Daniels moved to Canada to help out her family’s business. Now the business is failing, and she’s miles away from everything she knows and loves. Then one day, an enigmatic stranger shows up. Ellen finds herself falling in love even though her mysterious new boyfriend has something to hide. Can she trust him, or will she get sucked back into the rhythms of the life she left behind in Indiana?

Rock’n’Roll in Locker Seventeen. An ordinary teen has just discovered the fate of the world’s most famous missing rock star. What happens next will blow your mind. In 1964 Ricky Stevenson had it all, then he mysteriously vanished. Thirty years later, the truth is revealed and turns 17-year-old Steven’s life inside out. So, where has Ricky been, and why? All will be revealed once you read Rock’n’Roll in Locker Seventeen.

 Pete’s Potato Problem – Pete has a problem. A new restaurant has opened up in town and taken away all his business. Then Pete gets an idea. The annual Pingleton Potato Festival is coming up. Pete knows if he enters his recipe in the big contest, people will fall in love with his food once again. Then Pete discovers someone is buying up all of his secret ingredients. What will Pete do? Will, he closes up shop, or will Pete find an unexpected way to solve his potato problem?

 Do you write in more than one genre? Yes. Whatever genre strikes me. I’ve done Young Adult, New Adult, Light Paranormal, and a picture book.

What brought you to writing? I had an idea that I always thought might make an interesting book. Years ago, I worked a holiday job at a mall bookstore. They also ran a temporary kiosk. After the holidays ended, the booth had nothing on sale. No one was interested any more, so it was completely dead. Anyway, I got assigned to this dead kiosk, and the first day I brought a few magazines. I read through them all and was so bored, so the next day I brought a notebook. The manager asked me what it was for. I said to keep track of my schedule. While at the kiosk, I started writing my first book and didn’t stop.

Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? In my home office. I sometimes listen to music. I sometimes get distracted by the internet, but I try not to let that happen when I am in the zone.

Tell us about your writing process: I sit at my computer and try to get into the zone where ideas flow. Sometimes it happens, other times not as much. Sometimes that zone will hit me other places, and I will write freehand. Some people call it the muse.

What are you currently working on? A novel about a woman who feels like she can no longer relate to the present time, so she slides back into the 80s/90s state of living.

How long did it take you to write your first book? I don’t remember. Rewrites and edits took forever. I wrote the first draft of the third book in the trilogy in a month for NaNoWriMo one year. I need to finish prepping it and release it soon.

 How long to get it published? I tried to do it the old-fashioned way initially with query letters. That is achingly slow. It takes months for people to get back to you and some people want you to query them exclusively. When I was trying, the book world was changing, and traditional publishers were not keeping up. Eventually, I got with the times and added it to Amazon and other online booksellers.

We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave, or do they run the show? I let them do what they seem to want to do. I don’t know if strong-willed is the right word for them, however. I guess it depends on the character and situation they find themselves in.

What’s the most challenging thing about writing characters from the opposite sex? Trying to gauge how they would view the opposite sex without making them unlikable.

Do you try to make the antagonist into a more human character? Often my antagonists are not necessarily human in the first place. They are in a struggle the characters must face.

How do you raise the stakes for your protagonist—for the antagonist? It depends on the story; I don’t have a formula.  I wish I did.

Do you base any of your characters on real people? Not really, though people assume I do. I’ve heard it is so and so based on me, more than once. I’ve added single characteristics from people to characters but never a whole character.

Do you outline, or are you a pantser?  Pretty much a pantser, though I may do smaller sub-outlines if I get stuck.

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? Fictional locations that seem like they could be real places. Often the towns or parts of the cities are loosely based on real places.

What is the first book you ever read? I’m not sure. The first book I ever bought myself was a funny spin on the Bremen Town Musicians’ German fairy tale. I bought it at Long’s Drugs in a rack by the check stand, after my dad gave me some money and told me to pick something out. I don’t know what attracted me to that book, but it was a good one. I read it a lot.

Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? Publishing the third book in my trilogy. It’s almost ready to go. Writing more and trying to get back into promoting my stuff.

How do our readers contact you? Your website, blog links, any links you want to be posted?

 www.locker17.com.

http://www.zazzle.com/locker17

http://www.facebook.com/RocknRollInLockerSeventeen

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007YAYJWY

https://www.amazon.com/Petes-Potato-Problem-Shannon-Brown/dp/1717477356

https://www.amazon.com/dp/171999899X?ref_=pe_870760_150889320

https://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Music-Shannon-Brown-ebook/dp/B01MA67IEQ/

 

3 Comments

  1. John Bluck

    I like your answer to the question, “Do you try to make the antagonist into a more human character?” Your response was that your characters aren’t necessarily human in the first place.
    And I’m glad that you let your characters do what they want to do on the page instead of you forcing them to fit into a mold. I’ve read your writing, and I must say it’s excellent. Keep on dreaming up those new stories!

    Reply
  2. Shelley L Riley

    Wow, I was quite taken with the premise behind Shannon’s novel Parlor Tricked. In particular, when I got to the line in the marketing blurb about Victoria, our protagonist, meeting the town’s most famous resident. Unfortunately, this man’s famous only in the historical sense. The guy’s been dead for thirty years. Now that’s definitely got me wanting to read the first page. I’m engaged and heading off to Amazon to take a look.

    Reply
  3. Michael A. Black

    Good interview, Shannon. Best of luck with your writing. Keep listening to that muse.

    Reply

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Shelley Lee Riley – First a Racehorse Trainer & Owner – Now Author

Into Madness (Born from Stone Saga – Book 1 of 3)

After a decade in hiding, captured, and imprisoned, Ravin Carolingian believes she has nothing more to lose.  Instead of the execution she expected, Ravin faces a forced marriage to Brakken, the son of the man who killed her father and toppled her kingdom. Blinded by hatred, Ravin vows that marriage will never take place. Instead, she will exact revenge, no matter the cost.

Following a series of magical attacks, and as she fights the unnatural attraction she feels for Brakken, Ravin is left to question everything she thought she knew about herself.  Still, as the line between ally and enemy blurs, one thing becomes clear, if she is to help the Carolingian people, Ravin must escape the evil that walks the halls of the palace she once called home.

The second book in the trilogy, Heart’s Divided, is due to be published in May of 2021, and the third, The Reckoning, later that fall.

Do you write in more than one genre?     Memoir, short stories, and fantasy.

What brought you to writing? As a child, there wasn’t much I loved more than reading. Actually, there was nothing I loved more than horses. In my youth, I didn’t have a horse; I fed my passion by submersing myself in books: My Friend Flicka, Black Beauty, and any novel where the protagonist was a girl with a horse.

As an adult and a trainer of racehorses, I started writing freelance for industry publications, like Backstretch Magazine, Bloodhorse, and The Racing Form. From there, I branched out and started writing special feature articles for local newspapers, like The Contra Costa Times, Tri-Valley Herald, and Valley Times.

When I joined the Tri-Valley Branch of the California Writers Club, I was encouraged to write a memoir. My book is about the horse I owned and trained to run in all three legs of the American Triple Crown of Racing—the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes.

With international recognition for Casual Lies – A Triple Crown Adventure, I tried my hand at telling stories. Short stories kept my interest until a close friend encouraged me to try the NANOWRIMO challenge. Four years later, I published my debut novel, Into Madness.

Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author? I would have to say hybrid. Literary agents, through their query submission standards, make it difficult to hire them, emphasis on hiring them. To send a query, you must follow their detailed outline—and whatever you do, don’t deviate from their outline—and, by the way, don’t expect to get a response unless they pick you. Still, I prefer a readers’ opinion over an agent who’s looking for a reason to reject rather than enjoy.

Where do you write? And what about distractions? I sit at my kitchen table here in Central Oregon and gaze out at a bucolic scene for inspiration. Here are my distractions:

  • I get to watch as the deer clear cut my garden.
  • Squirrels chew off the sprinkler heads, trim the siding, and shorten the roof’s metal exhaust pipes.
  • Don’t even get me started on the Robins.
  • Pine needle hurricanes.
  • Still, the quail and their walnut-sized babies are as cute as all get out.

Do you ever develop plots or characters around real-life experiences? Memoir aside, in my first book of short stories, For Want of a Horse, I drew on my twenty-four-year experience with training racehorses. Some of the stories were real-life incidences, though a few I embellished.

The current novel that I’m writing and have tentatively named ‘Out of the Blue’ is a middle-grade novel about training and racing dragons. So, of course, after more than one-third of my life spent at the racetrack, I change everything that has to do with hoofed animals to winged animals.

Since dragons don’t eat hay and grain, I doubt children will like the idea of leading lambs down the shedrow at feeding time. Feeding the dragons was a problem to overcome. An essential part of the story, it had to be ironed out right from the start.

How do you come up with names for your characters? That’s the easy part of the creative process, at least for me. I develop a character in my head, and then the name comes easy. I Google popular names for specific eras in history—for instance, Irish names in the 8th century. I don’t use character names that aren’t easily pronounceable. To me, those types of names tend to slow down the reader.

Do you use real settings or make them up? Unless it’s a massive city like New York, London, Beijing, I like to make up a name located in a recognizable area. Heaven forbid that a real town resident reads my book and calls me out on a lake that doesn’t exist.

In my historical fantasy, Into Madness, I loosely based the world I built in a Baltic region. The landmasses and names are all created. However, there was a Carolingian in history. I liked it, so I used it. (My sister, who I lost to cancer, was named Carol. Might have something to do with the name choice and why I liked it.)

Have you ever developed a quintessentially eccentric character? At first read, this question seemed simple, but I found myself stumped. Once I begin to interact with them within the story, my characters become very real to me, and I don’t think of them as quirky or eccentric.

What is one of your favorite books? Why? Lonesome Dove — If I had not seen the mini-series first, I would’ve put this book down in the first chapter―pigs, dust, and rattlesnakes. For me, it started so slow; it was an effort to turn the pages. When I finished the book, I grieved. I grieved because there was not another page to turn, I grieved for the loss of the friends left behind within its pages, and I grieve even now―because I wasn’t the one who wrote it.

What’s your biggest pet peeve? As an author? Literary agents. ?

Looking to the future, what do you see? Finding within myself the focus necessary to finish the three novels I have in the works. And in particular, I am excited about the dragon racing novel. The characters are so endearing, and the plot elements are so current. My characters face prejudice, racism, bullying, climate change, species extinction, fair play, and hope within the story’s overall umbrella.

Any other thoughts you care to share? I have heard many reasons why writers write—the list is long. A good story is a gift. A gift that you get to share over and over again. And each time you share it, you enjoy it once again along with the recipient.

We don’t need to ask a comedian what’s the best part of his performance. It will always be the audience’s laughter, right? As an author, I find no greater pleasure than the thought that my words, my story, brings a few minutes or a few hours of entertainment into someone’s life.

What do you find to be the best part for a writer?  A review. A five-star review was recently posted on ‘Into Madness,’ in the comment section was a “ :)” and nothing more. While I like to hear my readers’ opinions, what they liked, what they wanted, still that smiley face was just as encouraging as any other review. It told me so much about how my story had affected my reader. And, just as important, that smiley face encouraged me to get to back work.

For those of you who hesitate to take the time to post a review, remember even something as simple as a smile is manna from heaven for the writer who has spent hundreds of hours alone bringing words to life.

How can our readers contact you?

 Bluntbookreviewer.blogspot.com
Casuallieskentuckyderby.blogspot.com
ShelleyLee01@yahoo.com

5 Comments

  1. Michelle Jenkins

    When is the 2 nd book coming out. I loved the furst!

    Reply
  2. Roberta Carpenter

    Loved the interview! We enjoy the same interests, reading and horses?

    Reply
  3. Christina McQuilkin

    Love this article!

    Reply
  4. Thonie Hevron

    Interesting interview, Ravin and George. Thanks for bringing these books to my attention.

    Reply
  5. Michael A. Black

    Interesting topics, Ravin. You certainly have an eclectic background and a lot of experiences to draw upon. I’m glad you’re putting them to use. I’ll keep an eye out for your racing dragons. Good luck.

    Reply

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