Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Past is a Foreign Country, by Jeannette de Beauvoir




The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” These famous opening words to an L.P. Hartley novel encapsulate the real problem with studying history. It’s not just a matter of dates; it’s a matter of a whole culture that needs to be understood. And so, because the job is immense, we tend not to do it.

Unless, of course, we’re novelists, who go boldly where (in many cases) we should probably have feared to tread.

I integrate some history, in some way, into nearly all of my books, even the mystery novels. Whether it’s personal history (a family secret, an obscure act from the past, a hidden relationship) or community history (an old murder, a reinvented personality, a buried treasure), there’s a lot there that can provide a perfect backdrop for a modern mystery to be solved by a modern sleuth… as long as the author gets it right.

Because, after all, the past is indeed a foreign country, and they do in fact do things differently there. It may feel romantic to write a novel that takes place in Arthurian Britain, or the antebellum South, or feudal Japan, but really entering into those times in order to make a story feel at home there takes a lot of mental, physical, and emotional energy!

For me, it’s always worked the other way. I don’t know that I’ve ever consciously chosen an era; I think that they choose me. I grew up in Angers, France, where history seeps into the air one breathes: it’s a medieval city, but when I was a child, most people were still recovering from the German occupation of the country—so both the middle ages and World War II have always called to me for understanding and exploration.

And once you find a place and time that calls to you, the stories follow. Invariably. Because when you step away from the dates and kings and factoids that are the way we learn history and really step into the past as a foreign country, the stories pop out. My most recent mystery, Deadly Jewels, seemed to write itself once I learned that in 1940 the British royal jewels had been carefully prised from their settings by the king and his two daughters, then shipped off secretly to Montréal for safekeeping in case of a German invasion: oh, goody! A secret! Wherever there’s a secret, there’s the possibility of intrigue, of blackmail, of the past coming back to haunt the present.

The first Martine LeDuc mystery, Asylum, pretty much wrote itself as well. In reading about the history of Montreal, a city I love, I came across a list of children who’d been buried in an asylum’s graveyard, and that story pretty much hit me in the face. Why were so many children in an asylum in the first place? and why did so many of them die? That led me to uncover the truth about both the Duplessis orphans and the CIA’s MK-Ultra program, and gave me an instant mystery for my very modern-day detective to solve.

No matter what time and place you write about, you have to do research. Just as someone writing a hard-boiled police procedural wouldn’t fail to find out about the caliber of various guns and the habits of underworld criminals, so the mystery writer dipping into the well of the past must spend time in their chosen “foreign country.” And it’s hard work. We might well love to write, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy, or that it isn’t work. And it can be emotionally draining. I’ve spent a lot of time with my head in places that I’d really rather not go and learning things that I didn’t want to know, because that’s how you explore another culture: by immersion in it, all of it, the pretty parts and the dark places.

And as a mystery writer, it’s almost always those dark places that intrigue. It’s a safe way to explore some of the darkness we experience today, whether in our own times or in our own lives. It puts things in a kind of perspective. And, like any travel, it enriches the traveler.

There are a lot of mysteries that take place in the past, as well as other writers who take buts of the past on which to base present-day mysteries. Why not explore one or two of them? It’s a wonderful way to learn just how “they do things differently there.”



Although Jeannette de Beauvoir grew up in Angers, France, her American mother kept the home well-stocked with Golden Age mystery novels, and everything that has happened since can probably be traced back to reading them at a very young age. She writes historical and mystery fiction (often combining the two) and her most recent novel, Deadly Jewels, concerns a Montréal murder from WWII, disappearing diamonds, a neo-Nazi group, errant stepchildren, and—of course—several meals involving poutine. Find her on Amazon, Goodreads, Criminal Element, or her website.


 BLURB:

When Martine LeDuc, publicity director for Montréal, is summoned into the mayor's office, she's pleasantly surprised to find the city is due for a PR coup: a doctoral researcher at McGill University claims to have found proof that the British crown jewels were stored in Montréal during WWII. Martine is thrilled to be part of the excavation project, until it turns out that the dig's discoveries include the skeleton of a man with diamonds in his ribcage and a hole in his skull. Is this decades-old murder leading her too far into the dangerous world of Canada’s neo-Nazi networks, or is there something going on that makes the jewels themselves deadly? Is history ever really completely buried? With pressing personal issues crowding into her professional life, Martine needs to solve not only the puzzle of the jewels, but some more recent crimes―including another murder, a kidnapping, and the operation of an ancient cult in Montréal―and do it before the past reaches out to silence her for good.












 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

CAN A BROKEN CHARACTER STILL OFFER HUMOR? WHY NOT?





by Diann Adamson

                                        From:    Suppose, Lillian Dove Series

                I forced my eyes open. My hands were tied behind my back, my legs restrained. The room whirled like a beat up, wobbly merry-go-round.
I rolled onto my side and vomited. The tang and gag of alcohol and bile sickened me.
            I was in a small barn. The air held a hint of manure. Sacks were piled against the wall across from me. A wheelbarrow. A rake. Pitchfork. Bucket.
Where was I?
I shut my eyes to steady my swirling. It was cold. I was freezing. No, I was drunk. Hung over. I knew the chill.
I saw a slippery slope of failure in my future.
I was drunk, ruined, but alive. Was there hope?
An insight occurred to me. Of course, I was alive. Thompson couldn’t kill me. Cole told him not to until I told him where the memory card was, and I couldn’t have told him because I had no idea what Kenny had done with it.
Or had I? Did I make something up to get him to stop? When had he stopped? No memory of that. Nor any memory how I’d gotten here.
Another insight. If I’d lied in my drunken state, Cole wasn’t a fool. He’d check out anything I’d said. I’d bet on it.
Get your wits about you, Lillian. Sober up.
First, how long had I been passed out? Hadn’t someone said Cole was going to ship out product at midnight. Was it Thompson who’d said it? Stone? Kelly? Did it matter who had said it? What time was it? If Cole didn’t find the memory card, would he have me killed? If he did find it, would he kill me anyway?
I didn’t want to hang around to find out.
The shed was dim. I lifted up as high as I could to get a better advantage. A lack of trained stomach muscles and another round of retching slumped me back onto my side.
 I landed in what I’d already vomited.
I needed to move. If for no other reason than to have a clean empty space for another stomach attack. Wiggling got me nowhere but dizzier. I took a deep breath. My nose stung and felt swollen. My throat burned.
 I pushed my shoes against the floorboard for traction, allowing me to move without too much wobble in a quarter circle turn. I could see shelves of garden products: weed killer, fertilizer, smaller tools for hand digging, colored jars. A garden shed. Not a barn. I was outside someone’s home. Maybe somewhere with other houses close by.
 I made another quarter turn. It was about all the farther I could go before another wretch of alcohol discharged. The wall I looked on now held ropes, chains. And beneath those, a riding lawn mower.
A sharp pain zinged me. It was so intense, my legs drew up without needing command. And then…oh, no. A horrible odor pillowed. I was going to be sick from both ends! The smell was disgusting.  Nauseated, I gagged. Retched.
Oh, no!

     Let’s start with the premise that we are all broken, in some way.  Being damaged is the major theme for all the Lillian Dove series.  Yet, while she may be a little more broken than others, there is also the awareness that we all have our problems, addictions, habits, compulsions. 

Addictions: certain foods, soda, shopping.  

Compulsions: like buying another book when we have a shelf-load.

Not to worry, I’ll get to all of the books I buy. And if I don’t, I like the feeling of a room full of books. Some like people like antique furniture, plants, dvds, I like books. We all have a “thing.”

In the scene sampling above, Lillian has had something so tragic happen to her she wonders if she will survive with her sanity intact. Take that level of tragedy and then place her in a shed tied up, vomiting, and--an onset of diarrhea. Suddenly the tone lightens. Diarrhea?  Funny? Yes, it can be funny. Embarrassingly funny. Add  more? Why not? Add to that situation someone else being thrown in the shed with her, double funny. So much is at play….suspense, danger, and a human weakness when having uncontrollable bowels.

As a writer, I need to place my protagonist in the worst possible scenario, then bring her to a point of fighting back.  Lillian  responds to a challenge because if she doesn’t, she will never move forward. Sometimes she reacts from anger. Other times she counters out of stubbornness. Then again, she has wrangled for those who couldn’t or because it was the right thing to do.  
This scene is another means of showing Lillian’s strength of conviction. It also inables double the suspense and double the fun. Double the tragedy, double the embarrassment. Double the victory if survived.

For me, when writing this scene, I wanted something real; something which could happen to any of us in this same situation and would instigate more defiance. No matter what is happening to her body, no matter the embarrassment, or the discomfort for the other person with her, she still needs to escape.

Nothing happens to me without doubling the challenge.

If a story is a thriller, horror, or highly suspenseful, a tidbit of humanness can offer a reader a way to giggle, breathe, digest what has happened, or see themselves more clearly in the situation. My mother always claimed when it rains it usually pours. I’ve found that to be true in most of my life-challenging events.

     Amazon: Suppose




Bio:

   D. J. Adamson is the author of the Lillian Dove Mystery series and the Deviation science fiction-suspense trilogy.  Suppose, the second in the Lillian series has just been released.  She also teaches writing and literature at Los Angeles colleges. And to keep busy when she is not writing or teaching, she is the Membership Director of the Los Angeles Sisters in Crime, Vice President of Central Coast Sisters in Crime and an active member of the Southern California Mystery Writers. Her books can be found and purchased in bookstores and on Amazon. To find her, her blog L’Artiste, or her newsletter that interviews and reviews authors go to http://www.djadamson.com. Make friends with her on Facebook or Goodreads.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Origins of THE PERFECT SUSPECT by Nancy Sweetland



"The Perfect Suspect" came out of nowhere one weekend when I was visiting "Up North" Wisconsin, and thought what a great thing it would be to have a cabin of my own in the boonies to just write. Especially since I was having trouble coming up with a story for my next book.

The "what ifs" took over. What if I bought a cabin, sight-unseen, in the far north woods. What if, when I went there, I found a man, shot to death, in the bedroom? What if he turned out to be my first ex-husband—with a reconstructed face?  

And "The Perfect Suspect" took off from there.  It was an interesting ride, building the world of a very small town with a blustery sheriff, a hunky deputy, and possible trouble at the nearby Casino. The handsome deputy's returning ex-fiance put a crimp in the developing love story between the heroine and the deputy. An unsavory funeral director added to the mix, along with a second ex-husband's plea for a reunion with the heroine. Does he succeed? Who killed the dead man? And why? It was fun for me to find out, and I hope readers will enjoy their trip to fictional Boomer, Wisconsin, with all that goes on there.

Cover Blurb:

Twice divorced and wary about relationships, Jen Wright buys a cabin sight-unseen in far north Boomer, Wisconsin, to get away to write her next novel. She doesn’t expect to find her first ex-husband (but with a reconstructed face) shot to death in the bedroom. A note in his pocket declares, “J set me up.”
She also doesn’t expect to be attracted to handsome Deputy Ross Tyler, recently rejected by his fiancé. Like Jen, he’s unwilling to risk his heart again. Is there a chance for a relationship there? Do either of them want one?
She’s the perfect suspect and blustery Sheriff Sturge isn’t going to let her forget it. When the murder gun is found in her van, the sheriff is even more convinced of her guilt.
Jen’s second ex-husband shows up after being in prison for forgery, here to do a job for the sheriff. He won’t tell Jen what it is, or why he should do it. He definitely wants to get back together with her. She’s not interested.

The PI she hires to investigate the murder is killed in a car crash on a winding logging road and his briefcase is missing. Jen’s sure it’s no accident but can’t convince the law there’s a connection to the murder. Jen realizes she’s actually living a good plot for her next book…but unless she can uncover some answers, she may have to write the story from jail.

Link to The Perfect Suspect:  http://amzn.to/1Yb7vCZ 
Nancy's website: nancysweetlandwrites.com





Bio:  Nancy got her first rejection when she was thirteen and she’s been writing ever since.
“That first effort was an essay about why not to be a nature lover. I’m sure that the publication realized that what they’d received was from a kid, but they were kind and wished me luck in my future endeavors. That wouldn’t happen today, but it was encouraging - imagine! Me, a high-school kid, getting a letter from the editors at Woman’s Day. I was hooked.”
First published in children’s picture books (“The Dragon of Cobblestone Castle,” “The Motherless Bug,” “Funny-talk Freddy (which won the Jade Ring award from the Wisconsin Regional Writers Association), and “Yelly Kelly,” Nancy went on to publish many short fictions and poems for children’s publications as well as feature and photo-feature articles and essays in local, regional and national magazines.
Publication of more picture books, “God’s Quiet Things,” ‘If I Could,” and a revision of “Yelly Kelly” followed, along with an early reader chapter book, “The Second Street Snoops,” and in 2009, “The Door to Love,” a romance novel set in romantic Door County, Wisconsin. Since then, “Wannabe,” set in Green Bay and Door County, “The House on the Dunes,” also a Wisconsin book, and now “The Perfect Suspect.” An historical romp, “The Countess of Denwick” will be out later this year from Divine Garden Press.
“I do love to write, but sometimes it’s really hard to buckle down and get to it, especially when the sun is shining and the golf course–or the piano–or a good book beckons.”
Nancy is a mother of seven, with five step-children, 31 grandchildren and now five great grandbabies. It’s a busy family, with lots always going on.





Friday, June 24, 2016

Without a Doubt by Nancy Cole Silverman


I’ve always believed the story picks the writer.   For me, an idea taps me on the shoulder and until I sit down and write it, the damn thing won’t leave me alone.  At times it can get to be almost pesky. Like a nuisance gnat. It interrupts my day and side tracks my thoughts to the point I forget where I’m going or what I’m doing. Until finally, I sit down and start playing with the idea. Usually this means sketching out a few scenes or maybe a little dialog. Thing is, once I do that, I’m done for.  Suddenly, I’m captive and whisked off into a new world, a hostage to my own imagination until I finish the project. 

Sound familiar?

I have to say, coming from twenty-five years in talk radio, where I wrote both news and commercial copy for a living, I know it’s possible to write a story or a message without that magical muse-like connection. However, most of my professional life was tied to a clock, tight deadlines and an even stricter word count that didn’t allow for the muse to linger on my keyboard. Back then, it was always a matter of trying to beat the clock.  But when it comes to  writing a novel, to sitting down and spending months and sometimes even years on a draft, I think the writer has to feel compelled to write a story only that he or she could tell. In my opinion, writing a novel falls into the category of an obsession.

I felt that way about the Carol Childs Mysteries. After retiring from radio, I wasn’t looking to recreate the world I had left. In fact, I was quite busy founding an equestrian newspaper and happy as a cowgirl at camp writing and reporting on Southern California’s busy horsey-set.  It wasn’t until I was thrown from my horse and laid up that I realized I was avoiding the muse in my life and while recuperating, started thinking about writing about what I knew best.  Radio.

Maybe it was because I’d been on the head, having fallen off my horse, but the idea wouldn’t leave me alone.  Soon I found myself sketching out some character profiles, and because I live in Los Angeles, creating a talk radio station like those I had worked for.  

But more than anything else, I wanted to create a real female character driven by both her need and desire to advance herself and her career. And I wanted to show how she’d change.  I didn’t want to create a superhero or an unbelievable cliché of a woman with a predictable happy arch to her being. What I wanted was a real working woman, one who has faced a lot of the day-to-day challenges most of us have faced in the workplace and then gone home to have dinner by herself over the kitchen sink. Trouble is, like good news, that’s not sexy enough for the airwaves.  I’d have to spice it up a bit, and coming from a background of news and talk radio, I didn’t have to think that hard.  So I created Carol Childs, a middle-aged, single working mom, in the midst of a career change. When the series opens, opportunity has knocked and Carol’s been given the chance – or more correctly, she’s created the opportunity –  to follow her dream and become a field reporter for the local radio station where she has been working on the sales side.  She’s as excited as she is unsure of herself, and her boss, a twenty-one-year-old whiz kid, named Tyler Hunt, is her biggest challenge and refers to her as The World’s Oldest Cub Reporter.

Sexism, ageism and difficult personalities are no stranger to anyone who’s ever worked in corporate America and creating a believable world behind the mic quickly became a delightful obsession for me.  For the main story line, I could pull from the headlines of those stories Carol would be called upon to investigate.  For the subplots, I need only look behind the mic, where I could create the internal conflict that went on inside a busy newsroom or any office in America.

Without thinking about it, I was back inside a news station with the hard graphic violence of murder and sex trafficking taking place off the page, while behind the mic, gallows humor offered a lighter side.  Feminism, jealousy and office conflicts, not to mention why some news stories always seem to lead the news, are all topics I’ve enjoyed tackling in these soft-boiled modern day mysteries.  After all, you can take the girl out of radio, but you can’t take the radio out of the girl. 

Stay tuned. 

Synopsis:

As radio reporter Carol Childs investigates a series of Beverly Hills jewelry heists, she realizes her FBI boyfriend, Eric, is working the same case. Even worse, she may have inadvertently helped the suspect escape. The situation intensifies when the suspect calls the radio station during a live broadcast, baiting Carol deeper into the investigation.

In order for her to uncover the truth, Carol must choose between her job and her personal relationships. What started out as coincidence between Carol and Eric becomes a race for the facts-pitting them against one another-before the thieves can pull off a daring escape, leaving a trail of dead bodies behind, and taking the jewels with them.



SHORT BIO:

Nancy Cole Silverman credits her twenty-five years in news and talk radio for helping her to develop an ear for storytelling. But it wasn't until after she retired that she was able to write fiction full-time. Much of what Silverman writes about is pulled from events that were reported on from inside some of Los Angeles' busiest newsrooms where she spent the bulk of her career. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Bruce, and two standard poodles.

Below are buy links for WITHOUT A DOUBT

Amazon.com: amzn.to/1oBzuxa
Barnes&Noble: bit.ly/24pQM18


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

When I Knew I Wanted to be a Writer by Tekla Miller


Authors are always asked when they knew that they wanted to be a writer. It never occurred to me that I would one-day be a published author. When I retired early my friends urged me to write about my twenty-year career with the Michigan Department of Corrections including as a warden of a men’s maximum security prison. But I brushed them off. After all the most exciting material I had written all those years were my monthly reports and annual budgets. Trust me, these don’t make best-seller material.

The transition from a challenging work world to retirement might have been easier if I had mapped out my future. The only plan I had made was when I could access my retirement money. Yet all that agonizing about what I would do with the rest of my life didn’t foretell the direction my future would take. That revelation came to me after one specific event.

Tired of staring at the walls in my home, I determined to do what so many of my predecessors had done. I became a consultant. Within a month of that decision I got my first job. I was hired to be a keynote speaker at the Massachusetts Sheriffs’ Association conference on the female offender. I was flown to Boston, put up in a nice hotel, chauffeured around and paid $500 for a thirty-minute speech. I was delighted and knew I had made the correct choice. I couldn’t make that much money for a half hour of writing, especially when I didn’t have the skills. I left Boston flying high on my success and good career move.

When I got home I promptly deposited my $500 check and made plans on how to spend it. Shortly after, the bank notified me that the check bounced. I was stunned.

The administrative assistant to the association’s executive director apologized and sent a money order. Little did I know that by the time I had contacted the association, the executive director was under investigation for mismanagement of funds. When I discovered this, I decided that perhaps I should try writing.

As a former warden, I could relate to the hard work and persistence it takes to be a published writer. It was the writing part that had me scared. So after a conversation with a friend, I followed his advice and took creative writing classes. But first, I bought a computer and learned how to type.

Though the decision to write opened up an exciting and dynamic world to me, I wasn’t prepared for the humiliation and rejection it also brought. As a warden, I had developed a thick skin and stubborn streak. Yet even armed with those traits, I often found myself curled into a fetal position sucking my thumb after being rejected by an editor thirty years younger than I.

My training as a warden did pay off because I was persistent despite the rejections. I've endured because of my new- found colleagues that I have met through workshops, conferences, associations and my critique group. They not only persuaded me to never give up, they have also made me a better writer.

However, I had to be willing to take chances, accept a significant life-change, make mistakes, face rejections, while exercising perseverance and seizing opportunities. I also learned that money isn’t the reason I write. It is the joy of creating something that is thought provoking and stimulates others to action. Joy for me is found in the letters I receive from readers. One example is the letter from a former female gang member who now works with troubled youth and attributes her change to reading my first memoir The Warden Wore Pink.

Another example is the letter from a teenager that heard me speak to her high school street law class. At that time she was under house arrest and wore an ankle monitor. Whatever I said that day inspired her to read both my memoirs. She graduated from high school and went to college to study criminal justice.

Yet nothing prepared me for the telephone call I received from Jeff Deskovic, a native of New York State. At the age of seventeen, Jeff was found guilty and sentenced to prison for fifteen years to life based on a coerced confession of the rape and murder of a schoolmate. After sixteen years in prison Jeff had exhausted all his appeals and was denied parole. He faced the bleak reality that he would never be exonerated and perhaps never be released from prison. 

I believe that providence plays a major role in our lives. It did in Jeff’s. He borrowed Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul from the prison library (there is a Chicken Soup for everyone’s soul) Jeff read an essay I had written about a mentally ill prisoner titled, “The Feeling of Success.” Jeff checked my credentials at the back of the book and discovered my first memoir, The Warden Wore Pink. Jeff wrote to the publisher and my friend, Julie Zimmerman and told Julie his story. She then contacted our mutual friend, Claudia an advocate for the wrongly accused. Claudia took up Jeff’s cause and convinced The Innocence Project to handle his case although they had previously turned down Jeff’s request to work on his behalf. The Innocence Project then persuaded the district attorney to run the existing DNA evidence from the original crime scene. The result proved Jeff’s innocence. Jeff, at the age of 33 and after 16 years, was released from prison on September 20, 2006.

I learned from all three readers that there is no amount of money we can earn from our writing that can replace the reward we get from giving back a person’s life.

So why do we write? Author, Ann Lamott said it best in her book, Bird by Bird: “Because of the spirit, I say. Because of the heart. Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again.”

Today I am delighted that people approach me and ask, “Are you Tekla Miller, the author?”
After being known as “The Warden” for so many years and now recognized as an author, I am proud to answer, “Yes, I am.”


Tekla Dennison Miller
Mother Rabbit: Oak Tree Press
The Warden Wore Pink
A Bowl of Cherries
Life Sentences
Inevitable sentences





Monday, June 20, 2016

How I Came to Write MAGGIE DOVE by Susan Breen



My first novel, The Fiction Class, was the story of a woman who teaches a fiction class. 

Coincidentally, I teach a fiction class! I teach for Gotham Writers in Manhattan, and so I felt a degree of comfort in the setting. I knew what the students would say and I knew what the teacher would say. The story unfolded in front of me like one of those carpets that unfurl in front of royalty. Nothing in life is easy, but it was a comparatively simple book to write.

So, when it came time to write the next book, I thought, I’ll do that again. Except this time, it will be a mystery writer teaching classes. I figured I would structure the novel in a similar fashion, with ten individual lessons, and mystery writing exercises to go with it.

All I needed was a protagonist.

So I thought about that for a while, and the character of Maggie Dove began to flicker in front of me. I knew she had to be a mystery writer. She wouldn’t be fantastically successful, but moderately so, and I thought she should live in a village (unlike Arabella Hicks, the protagonist of The Fiction Class, who lived in the city of Yonkers.) I’m sure I was influenced by my love of Miss Marple. But I also live in a village and am intrigued by the intimate rhythms of life here.

So I started to write about Maggie Dove, but it soon became clear to me that she did not want to teach a mystery class. I’m not one who usually lets characters take charge. I feel that as the writer I’m the boss. But she was so relentlessly unenthusiastic about teaching a class that I began to ask myself, What’s the problem here? What’s wrong with Maggie Dove?

She was in a state of suspended animation, I realized. Not only did she not want to teach a class. She didn’t want to do anything, except wait for her life to end.  She had endured a terrible trauma. Maggie Dove’s daughter died when she was only 17 and Maggie’s husband died a year before that. These two losses had so completely thrown Maggie off her course that she just couldn’t right herself. She didn’t want to right herself, because to do so would be to forget. That, I felt sure, was the guiding principle of her life. She would not forget those she loved.

But then, something annoying happened to Maggie. A new neighbor moved next door to her. He was a selfish, grasping man and he wanted Maggie to remove the oak tree that grew on her front lawn. Maggie loved that oak tree. Her father planted it, her daughter played on it. There was no way she was going to cut down that tree. Her anger blasted her out of her lethargy, and then she found that neighbor dead on her front lawn, and the prime suspect was a man her daughter loved. Peter Nelson was her daughter’s fiancé.

Now Maggie had no choice. She couldn’t let Peter be accused of the crime. She had to find the real killer, but could she do that without getting killed herself?

That was the question that set me off as I began to write.



Susan Breen’s first mystery novel, Maggie Dove, is being published by the Penguin Random House Alibi digital imprint in June 2016. Her first novel, The Fiction Class, won a Washington Irving Book Award from the Westchester Library Association. Her stories and articles have appeared in many magazines, among them Best American Nonrequired Reading, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, composejournal.com and anderbo.com. She teaches at Gotham Writers in Manhattan. She’s a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters-in-Crime. Breen lives in a small village on the Hudson River with her husband, two dogs and one cat. Her three children are flourishing elsewhere.

Blurb: Maggie Dove is a “cozy mystery with bite” about a grieving woman forced to investigate a murder in her small Hudson Valley village when someone she loves is accused of the crime.




Saturday, June 18, 2016

Always Busy--Sometimes Too Busy!

Me again, and I'm not really complaining. Like I often say, "I'm too  busy to be bored."

Who'd have thought at my age I'd still be so busy.

This afternoon I'm conducting a class at the Porterville Art Gallery, 151 N. Main St., in Porterville, from 1-4 about Creating Memorable Characters. Whether I'll have any students or not is questionable. I alerted the paper, but never saw anything about it. I made a poster for the gallery and promoted like crazy on Facebook and Twitter.

I write program plans for people wanting to start new facilities or other types of programs, and several folks have contacted me. I never begin until I get a down payment--learned from experience. My fear is that the money will all come at once. My policy is to do the job for the first one who pays me. So at the moment it's a waiting game.

I've also been busy judging a writing contest--but the entries were short so it was easy enough to do. I didn't get nearly as many entries to judge as I've received in the past.

I've also gone over the work of three writers for a workshop that will happen right before the Public Safety Writers Association's Conference.

Because we're getting older, a nice way of putting it, I like to spend time with my husband too. So I've gone to town more often than I really like to.

We have a houseful of people always--my granddaughter,her husband and their two little girls live with us, as do my great grandson and his bride. My son and his wife are right next door. So there is always someone to visit with.

And yes, I'm writing a new Rocky Bluff mystery and planning a blog tour for my next DeputyTempe Crabtree mystery, Seldom Traveled, which is due out in August.


Here is a picture of two of my great-granddaughters and their ducks.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Why I Keep Writing by Marilyn Meredith

A guest was scheduled for today, but life, as it does sometimes, got in her way. So I'm filling her spot.

With all the bad stuff that's going on in the world today, I'm sure there are those who wonder why I keep on writing, and I have several reasons.

The number one reason is I can't really do much about all the world's troubles. Oh, our country is in my prayers every day--and I do think that's important. But even in the small patch of world that I live in everyday, I don't have much control. Again, my family is always in my prayers, but things happen that I can't fix.

The one and only place I do have some control is the fictional worlds that I've created. I must confess though, that oftentimes, the characters take off and do things I never expected. However, when I'm writing, I'm in a world where the horrible events that bombard us from the news and Facebook every day are not a part of the fiction I'm creating.

Another reason I keep on writing is for me--I know my characters so well and I want to know what's going to happen to them next--and the only way is to write the next book.

My readers--and any potential readers is another motivation to write. Recently I had a physical exam by a female PA, and she asked me if I still had the energy to do things. When I told her I got up early every morning to write my latest book, her eyes lit up. She wanted to know all about what I wrote and of course I told her. She wanted to know where she could buy my books and I told her they were on Amazon. Right then she went to Amazon and found my name and my long list of books. She was thrilled.

And last but not least, I enjoy writing. And I'm going to finish up this post and get back to the latest in the Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery series that I write as F. M. Meredith.

In August, my next Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery should be available--Seldom Traveled. 

Marilyn


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Please Welcome Shannon Muir




As writers, we open ourselves up to a world of possibilities. Every scene laid out, every word chosen, every aspect of a character created, defines what we write – but until we choose each one, there are so many paths to take. I've found life is like that, too.

I started out wanting to write for television animation as a teenager. Unable to learn those specific skills, I came to discover that overall script structure skills would go a long way to helping me. So I went to college for radio and live-action television, expecting to find a writing component as part of it. It turned out they didn't really offer courses on that (my local university focused on production), but one of the instructors wrote professionally at a point in his past and did direct studies with me.

While the late David K. Terwische worked with me on writing, I made the most of my degree program l to appreciate what everyone else did to bring a script to life; I also tried my hand at radio, something that never crossed my mind before going there. Being on the radio opened me up to learning about jazz, a music genre I'd never really spent much time with before. I would come to want to learn more about the women of the genre, and get to start my own show, Women of Jazz, which continues to be on the air on KEWU-FM as of 2016 – many years after I left. From this radio experience I wrote not only an award-nominated  script by a college honor society, but learned what became the inspiration for my short story, "Ghost of the Airwaves," available from Pro Se Press as a Single Shot.

Unable to focus much on writing in the radio and television department, I also became a double major in English. However, I soon learned that my love for genre fiction did not translate well into a literary fiction environment, and ended up concentrating on poetry which I had loved doing as a child but moved away from. I'd later draw on that sense of poetic rhythm when partnering with my now-husband Kevin Paul Shaw Broden on the webcomic FLYING GLORY AND THE HOUNDS OF GLORY (http://www.flying-glory.com), which turns 15 years old in June of 2016. However, as in the radio and television department, I learned the basic building block skills of prose so when my time came to be in anthologies like NEWSHOUNDS and THE DAME DID IT from Pro Se Press, my love of the genre and the knowledge of story building, I was ready to grab the opportunity. More opportunities are set to follow, and I continue to pursue others. There will be more to come, even though it took a while to get here.

You never know where life's experiences will take you.

That's not to say the initial spark of animation fell to the wayside; even that provided an interesting journey. My first jobs moving to Los Angeles were actually in television animation production, which were opportunities I didn't even imagine existed. If I hadn't have been so passionate on wanting to be a writer, I probably wouldn't have walked away from such an amazing situation I didn't realize I currently had. That side of things has been a rockier road, but not without other great adventures; besides production work on several shows since I have written for one animated series, and spent some time in production for virtual worlds for kids. The initial show that inspired me, VOLTRON, has seen three relaunches in the years since I became a professional, and I have worked on none of them in a professional capacity. That being said, during the first relaunch, I was approached by the company that owns VOLTRON – World Events Productions – and paid for my suggested layout of their Denubian Galaxy to be rendered as a visual starmap for the show's website; additionally, I know my starmap was used as reference by the writers.

While the latest rendition of the show – VOLTRON: LEGENDARY DEFENDER - draws a whole new take on the universe, I know I made an impact from the treatment I receive from other fans, which I appreciate. My efforts in those early years played a role in them maintaining their passion for over thirty years. Most of all, even though I've not been as involved as I dreamed of being all those years ago by actually writing a VOLTRON script, that initial spark opened the door to every adventure you've read about. To reach out and try to contact the production company and hearing back from their head writer with feedback encouraging me to keep trying is one choice I will never regret.

So whether you're a writer – or even a reader, with a world of life choices before you – embrace your possibilities and find your direction.
Write your story.

~ ~ ~

GHOST OF THE AIRWAVES
A "Single Shot" Short Story

From Pro Se Productions’ Single Shot line comes a tale of mystery and murder set against the backdrop of the Golden Age of Radio! Through this stand alone digital single, Author Shannon Muir introduces the world to Ghost of the Airwaves!

Ghost of the Airwaves is the suspenseful tale of radio actress Abigail Hanson, whose husband died under mysterious circumstances. Everyone believes the culprit is caught until a mysterious typed letter from "Ghost of the Airwaves" comes through her mail slot. Abigail becomes determined to find out who killed her husband and uses her own observant eye to help coax the police along. But, as she delves deeper into the mystery, Abigail may learn she should have stayed behind the microphone…to stay alive!






ABOUT SHANNON MUIR
SHANNON MUIR's fiction is both to entertain as well as explore issues of the the human condition and female identity, primarily with female protagonists. The genres she focuses in include mystery, action and adventure, fantasy, science fiction, as well as thought-provoking stories in contemporary settings.

Her latest releases are "Tragic Like a Torch Song" in THE DAME DID IT from Pro Se Press, and the short story "Meeting the Monster" in the Emby Press anthology SUPERHERO MONSTER HUNTER: THE GOOD FIGHT. She also has genre fiction work with Pro Se Press including the Single Shot New Pulp tale"Ghost of the Airwaves," preceded by her debut genre fiction story "Pretty as a Picture" in the anthology NEWSHOUNDS. From her personal self-published projects, best known titles include the rural-noir inspired THE WILLOWBROOK SAGA and THE TRUTH REVEALED SAGA (soon to be collected and re-released as the first book of a continuing series called THE MYANNA MOORE MYSTERIES).

Other self-published projects include THE PHOENIX COLLECTION (combining THE PHOENIX RISES and THE PHOENIX BURNS); THE HEART'S DUTY COLLECTION (including the previously published THE HEART'S DUTY and TOUCH THE STARS). She's also author of FOR THE LOVE OF AIRAGOS and A SPONTANEOUS KIND OF HOLIDAY. Anthologies of short fiction and poetry are LIVES REFLECTED, AT THE END OF INNOCENCE'S ROAD and SEARCH FOR A WOMAN. She's also written textbooks based on her animation experience entitled GARDNER'S GUIDE TO WRITING AND PRODUCING ANIMATION and GARDNER'S GUIDE TO PITCHING AND SELLING ANIMATION. Also available is a book collecting all her full lyrics as well as the history of the FLYING GLORY AND THE HOUNDS OF GLORY webcomic over its first ten years, entitled FLYING GLORY FLASHBACK. Her first published story was in the anthology ARIA KALSAN: MYSTERIES OF THE FUTURE. She has also been co-writing and providing all of the in-story lyrics for the webcomic FLYING GLORY AND THE HOUNDS OF GLORY since it debuted in 2001.

She is also known as administrator of the blogs THE PULP AND MYSTERY SHELF and INFINITE HOUSE OF BOOKS, along with her DISCOVERWORDS blogs.

Shannon holds a BA in Radio-TV and English from Eastern Washington University in Cheney, Washington, which she considers to be her hometown. She also holds an MA in Communications from California State University, Fullerton, along with additional education in screenwriting, project management, and library technician studies, while in the process of completing a certification in General Business with Emphasis in Marketing from UCLA Extension. Besides working in animation production, Shannon has written television scripts for animation. She is married to FLYING GLORY AND THE HOUNDS OF GLORY collaborator and fellow New Pulp writer Kevin Paul Shaw Broden. They live in California in the United States.

 

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Formatting Problems in Books and Manuscripts

When did it become popular to format a work of fiction with no paragraph indent and double spacing between each paragraph? (I mean like this blog is formatted.)

For non-fiction this works, but not fiction.

I don't understand why a writer wouldn't look at a book published by a large publisher and see how they format the paragraphs and do what they do.

The biggest problem I've found with a manuscript formatted with the double space to denote a paragraph is it makes it difficult to realize when there is a change in the point of view. I realize that sometimes, along with the double space for paragraphs the writers doesn't really understand point of view--and that is a whole other problem.

When someone is sending a manuscript off to a publisher, one of the first things they should do is check the publisher's guidelines. Usually, the guidelines will spell out how they want the manuscript formatted. 

Even if the content of the book or manuscript is wonderful, the extra space between every paragraph is annoying to me--and I bet to others who read a lot of books.

My advice is never do anything that will annoy or distract a reader. That goes for a lot of things, but a biggie for me is the extra space between every paragraph.

For a blog, this formatting works fine.

Okay, folks, that's my rant for the day.

Marilyn aka F. M. Meredith

Coming soon, Seldom Traveled, the next Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery.


Friday, June 10, 2016

POLITICS AND PLOTS by Laurel S. Peterson



Thanks for inviting me to write about what triggered the plot of Shadow Notes, Marilyn. I’m happy to be here today.

In my story, Clara Montague comes home after fifteen years away because she dreams that her mother is in danger. (Clara has a sixth sense.) A few days after she arrives home, her mother’s therapist is murdered. Did her mother do it? Since Constance won’t talk to her, Clara decides to research her mother’s past through volunteering on a local election campaign because the candidate is one her mother’s oldest enemies. Enemies know as much as friends, right?

Like many people I know, I don’t consider myself a political person. However, Adrienne Rich, the feminist poet, once famously said that the personal was political. She meant that who we were in color, shape, size, gender, national origin and so on determined for us a set of political values, a set of needs that could only be answered politically.

Living as I do in a wealthy area of the country, I see the disparities in my community on almost a daily basis. These disparities were highlighted for me when some colleagues and I started a women’s center at the community college where I teach. We were funded by a local branch of a national service organization. Many wealthy women use the organization both to do a lot of good, and as a social networking tool.

This fascinated me, and I became almost like an anthropologist documenting the habits of another species. Strict but unspoken rules about how one dressed, wedding rituals, working or not working, having kids or not having kids, what one did with the children after one had them, house sizes, locations, and decoration projects, husbands’ jobs, personal fitness, and so on were complex and exhausting. One day, two of the women commented that the seats in the hallway of the college were dusty between the cushions and the wall. I thought that my students, worried about how they were going to pay for their classes or food for their kids that week, had bigger problems than a little dust. So parodying and investigating and thinking about the culture clash in my community became a central component of the plot through my protagonist Clara’s awareness of her own and her family’s privilege.

This political component is also developed through the senate campaign that occurs in the story. What makes candidates trustworthy? What are their values? How do people negotiate power in relationships, be they personal or social? When does our use of power cross over into abuse? And how does one counter those abuses of power, especially when that power often comes with lots of money behind it?

I used Shadow Notes to explore these questions. I’d love to hear your answers, too! Thanks for reading.


Book Blurb: Clara Montague’s mother Constance never liked—or listened—to her but now they have to get along or they will both end up dead. Clara suspects she and her mother share intuitive powers, but Constance always denied it. When Clara was twenty, she dreamed her father would have a heart attack. Constance claimed she was hysterical. Then he died.

Furious, Clara leaves for fifteen years, but when she dreams Constance is in danger, she returns home. Then, Constance’s therapist is murdered and Constance is arrested.

Starting to explore her mother’s past, Clara discovers books on trauma, and then there’s a second murder. Clara realizes that only in finding the connection between the murders and her mother’s past can she save her mother and finally heal their relationship.   



BIO: Laurel S. Peterson is an English professor at Norwalk Community College in Connecticut. Her poetry has been published in many literary journals and she has two poetry chapbooks. Her first mystery, Shadow Notes, has just been released by Barking Rain Press. 
Twitter @laurelwriter49


Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Something Exciting has Happened

It's the kind of thing that usually only happens in the movies or stories.

A grandson I haven't seen since he was three contacted me via email this past week. He's now 40, so it's been a long, long time. I never expected to hear from him again.

His mother and my son married when they were too young because she expected a baby. They split up when the baby was only months old. She left with him and moved far away. Then she asked if we would take care of him while she was in the Army boot camp. My son had returned home, so of course we said "yes." Jeffrey was 3. One day his mother called and said, "Bring Jeffrey and his things to the airport." It was a tiny municipal airport and I did what she asked, taking his clothes, and toys and even his BigWheel. She scooped him and his belongings up and that's the last we saw of him.

Of course I sent presents, things his mom said he wanted. She remarried and told my son that her husband wanted to adopt Jeff. My son agreed because he thought it would be best for Jeff. As it turned out it never happened, but we didn't know that at the time. That marriage broke up after several years--but after awhile we didn't hear anymore.

My son, Mark, grieved, but after many years he married a lovely young woman with three school-age kids and he loved them like his own. He was diagnosed with cancer and died within a year. It was difficult time.

With Mark gone, though we did wonder about Jeff, we didn't expect to ever hear from him again.

This week he contacted me, said he's been following me on Google and this blog. We've done a lot of catching up via photos etc. It's been amazing and heart warming.

Our son Mark at the ocean he loved.
 
His son Jeff

Monday, June 6, 2016

A new sleuth finds home in the "Cape Cod of the Midwest" by Christine DeSmet


A new sleuth finds home in the “Cape Cod of the Midwest”

by Christine DeSmet


            We’re all “armchair travelers.” The love of a new place, its history and geography and people makes cozy mysteries fun for us all.

I’m inspired by the heart and hardiness found in Door County, Wisconsin—the Cape Cod of the Midwest.

My Fudge Shop Mystery Series features Belgian American Ava Oosterling and Grandpa Gil, whom she lovingly calls “Gilpa.”

They co-own Oosterlings’ Live Bait, Bobbers & Belgian Fudge & Beer in Fishers’ Harbor, a fictional village in real Door County.



The county is a thumb of land in Lake Michigan surrounded by 300 miles of coastline and dotted with 11 lighthouses. Book 2 of my series, Hot Fudge Frame-Up, features the Eagle Bluff lighthouse, which provides summer tours.

Along with fudge recipes, humor and quaintness fill my mysteries. Because that’s Door County! Fast food chains are banned in the county’s upper half. Two-lane, winding roads take you past fields of flowers, beaches, and cherry orchards. The county is a top cherry producer in this country. Ava created Cinderella Pink Fudge—yummy cherry-vanilla. In the series’ debut, First-Degree Fudge, Ava’s fudge is used to choke a famous actress to death and hide diamonds. Done with tasty humor and quaintness!



Ava is the 21st century Hercule Poirot, also Belgian. I was inspired by that character created by Agatha Christie. I was also inspired by local history.

Curly Lambeau—for which the Green Bay Packers’ Lambeau Field is named,—was a Belgian. The Packers and Poirot debuted during the same season practically, in 1919 and 1920.

This Wisconsin region courted the Belgians in the 1850s with land for sale at $1.25 an acre. Over 15,000 Belgians immigrated here. All of Door County’s population today is just 28,000. The area has the largest U.S. rural population of Belgians.



            Book 3, Five-Alarm Fudge, also weaves important history into the modern-day mystery, including the Great Fire of the 1800s (often called the Peshtigo Fire), which happened the same day as the Chicago Fire. The other event involves a Marian sighting by a true-life young Belgian nun, Adele Brise. Ava and Gilpa search for a fudge recipe believed to have been hidden from the Great Fire by the nun.

            History of a place creates rich stories for TV and movies, too. I’m marketing with a producer a screenplay and TV series based on the incredible story of Donaldina Cameron. In the early 1900s she saved Chinese girls and young women from enslavement in San Francisco. It’s an inspiring story of how just one person has the power to change things in his or her own neighborhood, an entire city, or even a country. You’ll also find that same gumption in Ava Oosterling.

Please stop by Oosterlings’ Live Bait, Bobbers & Belgian Fudge & Beer. Join Gilpa at the harbor, watch him work on his boat, and feel the summer breeze while Ava serves you Cinderella Pink Fairy Tale Fudge.

            Ava and Gilpa thank you for leaving a book review at Amazon, Goodreads, and other places. Let others know about their tasty adventures and the wonderful history of Wisconsin.
            Thank you for visiting Marilyn’s blog. I’d love to hear from you!



Christine DeSmet writes the Fudge Shop Mystery Series (Penguin Random House). She teaches writing at University of Wisconsin-Madison Continuing Studies, including a June retreat. Christine is a Belgian American who grew up on a farm near Barneveld, Wisconsin.


You can also write to her at University of Wisconsin-Madison, christine.desmet@wisc.edu.