Saturday, December 26, 2009

Looking for a Promotional Opportunity in 2010?


As you can see by the short list of Upcoming Appearances, not too many authors have books coming out in the next few months.  That doesn't mean you can't take advantage of a promotional opportunity by being interviewed or by submitting an article or some other interesting item for posting.
  • Has your book been nominated for an award?
  • Has your book received terrific reviews?
  • Do you have something interesting or helpful to share?
  • Are you an agent or editor with some "tips?"

If you've been interviewed by the blog in the past, feel free to share your latest news and keep us apprised of your successes.

Instructions for requesting an interview, posting opportunity, or book review appear in the right sidebar of the blog, as does a list of my past interviewees.  Please pass this opportunity along to other published writers and industry professionals you know.

Best wishes for much success in 2010!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Press Release: LIKE A VIRGIN by Eve Summers

Can you think of a better way to start the festive season than deep inside a new-release book about an online romance gone right? Aurora is a virgin when it comes to online-dating. A mousy schoolteacher in real life, she wants to be something more online, someone else, like a Bond girl who drinks champagne, travels the world and does skydiving.

So she fibs on her online profile and meets the hunk of her dreams: tall, dark in an expensive-chocolate way, and extremely handsome. But when he sends a limo to pick her up, he’s expecting a Bond girl. When you embellish the truth online, when is a good time to come clean?

“Like a Virgin” by Eve Summers, is published on December 24, 2009 by Red Rose Publishing.

LINK: http://redrosepublishing.com/bookstore/product_info.php?products_id=636

(Not quite your scene? Then how about a hot white-sand beach, a hot toffee-coloured bad boy and a frosty cocktail glass? All that and more in “Fiji on Fire, Fiji on Ice” at http://redrosepublishing.com/bookstore/product_info.php?manufacturers_id=155&products_id=363.)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Seasonal Blog Post by Bill Kirton

A former guest of the Author Exchange Blog has posted an entertaining [according to me] vignette on his blog about a conversation between Joseph and Mary.


Merry Christmas - and let your imagination soar when you write during the holidays!



Sunday, December 20, 2009

Author Interview with LOU ALLIN


Lou Allin lives in the Boreal forest of Ontario, Canada with a menagerie of pets including the two pictured at left.  She has published half a dozen mysteries, as well as short stories and poetry.  (You really need to check out the neat dog pics on her site.  Freya, a beloved forever friend, is pictured at right.)
Tell us about the writing and communication classes you taught.

I'm retired now, thankfully, but I taught at a community college, so the emphasis was on the practical. Business writing, tech writing, and report writing to future law enforcement personnel. I invented scenarios where students took notes when I reported a crime such as a poodle snatching. Spellcheck wreaked havoc: "She tied up her dog and left for twenty minuets." Or "She said her former husband took the dog for breading purposes." As well, I taught a presentations class so that I could sit back and enjoy the show. In Canada, everyone wanted to demonstrate how to tape a hockey stick. Then there was the one on artificially inseminating a cow. Talk about gestures. Ouch. That course more than any other encouraged confidence. Students who had been in tears in the beginning wanted to talk forever once they had some practice. The fear of public speaking is greater than any other. Once it’s conquered, look out, World.

You live deep in the Boreal forest of Ontario, Canada. First, tell us a bit about your paradise and then tell us how living in paradise affects your writing.

Living in Northern Ontario on a pristine eight-mile-by-eight meteor-crater lake frozen from January to May inspired me to show my country to the world by writing about it. Behind our property were hundreds of miles of crown land with my own trails in every direction. Making a path by impressing your feet for twenty years is far more honourable than bulldozing a road. I had two canoes, a motorbike, cross country skis, and snowshoes. It was a paradise if you didn't mind doing your own plowing and facing -40F temperatures. Did I mention heating a three-story house with wood? But the forest and its treasures were my personal museum, from mushrooms to jellies to moose, bear, and beavers. Even falling over a log might mean that I found a rare chocolate tube slime in front of my nose. I miss it very much because there’s no wilderness on southern Vancouver Island even if the realtors do greet you with “Welcome to Paradise.”

You’ve written short stories, poetry, and mysteries. Which do you prefer writing, and why?

I moved up in a logical, expanding fashion, from poetry to stories to novels. I still write a story now and then. In fact I have a fifty-page novella coming out next year written for adults who are reluctant readers and need high interest with low skill levels. Being an author who writes unconscionably long sentences and sends readers to the dictionary, I had a new challenge. And I like to think that I retain my poetic sense in the prose in my novels.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer?

I had a serious back problem which left me able to walk miles, but not sit. After several months being off work with this torment, I decided that I would write, even if it were ten minutes a day. So I plotted while lying on my back all afternoon and spent the next morning tapping at the computer. Ten minutes became fifteen, thirty, until I had that book. This forced me to be very efficient. I had to know exactly where I was going. My record was ten pages in an hour. I still consider Murder, Eh? from that year my best-plotted book, but I’ve resorted to my lazy ways.

What is the title of your most recently published book? Briefly tell us what it’s about and let us know where we can buy it.


My most recently published book is Man Corn Murders, a standalone set in the harsh desert of red-rock Utah. A young Cleveland reporter and her aunt take their RV on a vacation into the last area of the US ever mapped: Escalante Grand Staircase National Monument. In a cave off the beaten path, they discover the mummifying body of a missing student. It's primarily a library printing, but it can be bought at Amazon.com.

What are you working on now and when/where do you expect it to be available?

My hi-lo book will be out in 2010 and so will the second in my Vancouver Island series set where the rainforest meets the sea. The novella is called That Dog Won't Hunt, and the series book is called (I am Quite Sure) She Felt No Pain. The second title comes from a sinister poem by Browning about a psychopath: “Porphyria’s Lover.” My first series had the “murder” titles, as in Northern Winters are Murder, Blackflies are Murder, Bush Poodles are Murder. Straightforward, but I ran out of ideas for that design. My eight-year-old mini-poodle wants a Return of the Bush Poodle book, but I told her that we don’t live in the bush anymore.

Writers, especially new writers, are always looking for tips and helpful information. What is the single most important “tip” you can give to a new writer?

It's hard to choose one. What we Canadians call “bum glue” might be the first step. A page a day can yield MORE than a book in only a year. The trick is to keep at it because a lapse of a day can turn into a week, then a month.

Are you a member of any writer’s organizations? Why? Why not?

I am British Columbia-Yukon-International Vice President of the Crime Writers of Canada and also Membership Czarina. In the beginning, I joined for the camaraderie and connections. Now on the executive end I can promote Canadian crime writing and help new authors. Our mentorship program pairs published writers with aspiring authors. It’s a learning experience for both.

One of your current pooches, Nikon, appears in your new mystery series. Tell us why pets are important and what, specifically, they bring to a series character in a novel.

Muddy paws aside, I couldn't imagine a life without a dog or two or three. Pets let a person see the world through different eyes, encourage responsibility (for the young), and get you outside. One of my plotting problems is arranging elements so that my dog isn't abandoned or in distress when the main character disappears during the big chase at the end of the novel. It’s obvious when a dog is merely a part of the scenery and not a soul mate.

FUN QUESTION: German Shepherds and poodles? Why do they make a picture-perfect partnership?


They are total opposites. One is dedicated to serious work. The other is self-indulgent and makes me laugh. They both fit nicely into the passenger area in the back of my truck cab now that the seats have been removed and a cushy platform installed.

What are the addresses of your website(s) and blog(s):

My website is http://www.louallin.com/.
Occasionally I blog as guest author.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

E-mail Glitch & Interview Requests

Earlier this week, we lost six-hours' of e-mails that were sent to the blog's e-mail address.  I'm aware of at least two interview requests that were lost.

If you e-mailed us your request for an interview and have not yet received a reply, please resend your request--it's likely your request got inadvertently dropkicked into cyberspace.

I apologize for any inconveninece

Friday, December 18, 2009

Book Signing: Debbi Mack

Debbi Mack will be signing her mystery novel IDENTITY CRISIS at Little Professor Book Center, 1532 Liberty Road, Eldersburg MD 21784, from 1 - 3 p.m. on Sat., Dec. 19, 2009. For information, call 410-795-8535. Debbi's Web site is http://www.debbimack.com and her blog, My Life on the Mid-List, is http://midlistlife.wordpress.com/.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Author Interview with DON BREDES


Don Bredes lives in Vermont, where he stumbles across real-life crimes that become the basis of his mystery novels.  Okay, so it happened once, but it got his mystery series started!  He is also the author of screenplays and a man with many hobbies:  gardening, cooking, tennis, hiking, birdwatching, reading, kite-flying, star-gazing, mountain biking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing.  Good thing Vermont has four seasons,or he'd be wearing himself out!

During a brief chat, you told me that you “backed into” writing a mystery series. How did that come about?

Hector Bellevance is the hero/sleuth and narrator/main character of my contemporary literary suspense series set in the fictional small town of Tipton in Vermont's northeast corner, hard by the border with Quebec. The series consists of three novels, COLD COMFORT (2001), THE FIFTH SEASON (2005), and THE ERRAND BOY (2009). Over the past ten years, writing about Hector's life, his past, his friends, and his harrowing travails, I've come to know and respect him as if he were a real person. And yet, if the first novel in the trilogy had succeeded as I had initially conceived it, Hector Bellevance never would have come to be.

One colorful September day back in 1984 two acquaintances of mine, Roland and Maram Hanel, were brutally slain in their isolated ski chalet in the hills of Jay, Vermont, each shot multiple times with a 9mm machine pistol. Nothing was stolen from the house, nor did investigators uncover any helpful clues. The case remains open today, and the Hanels' executioners are unknown.

More than 10 years passed before I got around to looking into the crime myself with a loose plan to use the peculiar circumstances surrounding my neighbors' deaths (and the frustrated investigation) in a novel about the dismal solve-rate in this country of stranger-on-stranger homicides. I talked to the state police detectives, the state's crime lab technicians, the medical examiner, the state's attorney, Maram's parents in Montreal, the Florida Coast Guard, and many others. The 650-page novel I spent three years writing featured a Vermont dairy farmer who, because of how he reported happening upon the victims' bodies, finds himself the prime suspect in the killings. Even his own wife is not sure of his innocence. So he embarks on his own stubborn, clumsy, and willful investigation. By the end of the story, he manages to exonerate himself, although he does not ever find the true killers.

My agent sent THE SUGARWOODS MURDERS to half a dozen publishers. They all passed. Meanwhile, an old friend, the novelist Howard Frank Mosher, read the manuscript. He said, "Don, I think what you've got here is actually a mystery. It's a genre novel, but the book you've written is almost anti-genre. What this story needs is a sleuth character who solves the crime."

Howard was right. That's how Hector Bellevance was born. I spent two more years rewriting the book, introducing Hector, a Boston Police Department homicide dick who has retired from the department under a cloud--he's the half-brother of the accused dairy farmer--and inventing an outlandish set of motives and villains partly inspired by the factual events. The revised literary mystery, called COLD COMFORT, came in at 370 pages or so.

It took another year and a new agent to seal a two-book deal with Shaye Areheart at Harmony Books for COLD COMFORT and a sequel. At the time, I told everyone, "Hey, the good news is I sold my suspense novel! The bad news is I have to write another one." It was a good line, but the truth was I really wasn't sure I could write another one. These things don't come easy to a writer like me. My stories tend to be less plot-driven than character-driven. They're quirkier and more surprising than the more standard plot-driven mysteries, and they take longer to write.

Tell us about your screenplays.

I have always been interested in screenwriting--but mostly in the abstract, not so much as a practical pursuit, since screenplays, in general, are so mechanical. They aren't finished products in their own right, but, instead, are blueprints--tools for other artists to use as they see fit.

I have been working freelance since 1974. In 1978, when I was out in California on a Wallace Stegner Fellowship in fiction at Stanford, I turned down a Hollywood producer's offer to spend the summer on the beach in Malibu (rent-free) to draft a screenplay based on my popular first novel, HARD FEELINGS.

What was I thinking?

Well, I was thinking that I'd had enough of California and that I wanted to return to my home and friends in Vermont. If I sometimes regret the decision, I am glad that the HARD FEELINGS script was eventually written by W.D. Richter, a big-time screenwriter who has written "Norma Rae," among other scripts, and he did a much better job than I would have done. The film was made by a Canadian studio, Astral-Bellevue-Pathe and bought for US distribution by 20th Century Fox, but it was never widely released.

Many years later I wrote two feature-length screenplay adaptations based on two fine novels by my friend, Howard Mosher. Both films were independently produced by a small independent company here in Vermont and released internationally. "Where the Rivers Flow North" starred Rip Torn and Michael J. Fox, and "A Stranger in the Kingdom" had an ensemble cast including Ernie Hudson and Martin Sheen. They're available on DVD.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer?

My biggest challenge has been to persevere in the face of discouragement and impecuniousness. But I have always thought of myself as a writer, no less so during those times when the difficulties inherent in many a writer's life were most trying, so I have managed to keep at it, day by day by day.

What is the title of your most recently published book? Briefly tell us what it’s about and let us know where we can buy it.


I latched onto another inspiringly awful local crime (Google "Carl Drega" if you'd like to know more), and over the next three years I wrote the second Hector Bellevance suspense/mystery, THE FIFTH SEASON. It was well received. "Kirkus Reviews" said, "Bredes writes superbly and creates compelling believable characters." And Marilyn Stasio in the "New York Times Book Review" wrote, "...inexplicable outbursts of violence take years, generations even, to fester into a poisonous hatred of one's neighbors--a position that Bredes argues with grave eloquence in this disquieting novel."

The third book in the series, THE ERRAND BOY, was released this fall. This one was also inspired by an unresolved crime, the Orville Gibson murder in Newbury, Vermont, 1957. Gibson's killers were known to the community and to the police, but at their trial no one would testify against them. They died unpunished.

What are you working on now and when/where do you expect it to be available?

I am some 450 pages into a young adult dystopian fantasy, which ought to create a stir, I think, as long as I can figure out how to end it. It might be described--very loosely--as an American GOLDEN COMPASS. I hope to have it finished in six months. When it will appear is anybody's guess, though--perhaps in the spring of 2011 at the earliest.

Writers, especially new writers, are always looking for tips and helpful information. What is the single most important tip you can give to a new writer?

My salient bit of advice is a commonplace, I suppose, but it's worth repeating. Ambitious, determined writers must read as much as they can of the kind of thing they think they would like to write--and they must read it studiously, to note exactly what makes a certain work of fiction engaging and effective.

Do you have any upcoming book signings or appearances? If so, give us all the details.

I'm sorry to say that my modest fall book tour has ended, but I am always available to participate in the discussions held by reading groups interested in my work.

FUN QUESTION: You grow vegetables and flowers in your garden; what is your favorite garden plant, and why?

That's hard to say. I have so many favorites. Tomatoes, of course, are the queen of every vegetable garden, but I love broccoli for its reliability, its season-long production, and its robust nutritional value. Rhubarb is a wonder and a joy. And then there's basil.

What are the addresses of your website(s) and blog(s):

www.DonBredes.com

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Interview with DANA LITTLEJOHN


Dana Littlejohn is a writing dervish who makes her second appearance as her novel, Happy Feet, is about to be released.  Originally from Brooklyn, New York, she now lives in Indianapolis with her family.

According to your website, you’ve published 19 books. What are some of the challenges and rewards of being multi-published.

The challenges come with finding new ideas to write about or at least take a new twist to an old idea. As far as the rewards go, it’s pretty cool when people recognize your name and tell you how much they love your writing.

Your books have been published by several publishers.  How do you choose what houses to submit your manuscripts to?

It depends on what the genre is mostly. Most of my stories have interracial couples so I look for a I/R friendly publisher.

Share with us your thoughts of ePublishing versus traditional publishing.

I think there are pros and cons to ePublishing. With ePublishing my name is out there. People know me as a romance author. Recognition, release dates, and royalties come quicker with ePublishing. I do have my stories in an anthology available now and one coming in 2010 and they took a few years to come to completion.

You’ve indicated to me in a previous interview that characterizing the men in your books is a challenge. Why do you think that is?

I want my men to be as different as any man you could meet in the real world. With each book, creating a totally different man each time gets harder, but is more rewarding. The last thing I want is for a diehard fan of mine to say is ‘dang, all the guys in Dana’s books look and act the same.’

What is the title of your most recently published book? Briefly tell us what it’s about and let us know where we can buy it.

My latest book will be out next week, it’s called Happy Feet. It will be available at Phaze. I realized I had not done a fetish story and thought it might be fun. It is about a woman name Kerri. She has a secret admirer and with the help of her friend he confesses his crush for her. During their time of getting to know each other he reveals his love of her feet. At first she’s freaked out, but then she learns she could get to like it.

What are you working on now and when/where do you expect it to be available?

I’m doing the final edits on To Have and to Hold. It will be released from Red Rose Publishing early 2010.

Are you a member of any writer’s organizations? Why? Why not?

I am a member of RWA and EEA so that I can keep up with what is going on in the romance world with trade publishing and e-publishing.

FUN QUESTION: What do you like better, dogs or cats, and why?

I am a total cat person. It’s not that I don’t like dogs, they’re cool, but cats are independent, sure of themselves and smart. My cat and I have a good understanding. When he wants some love he comes over, I rub him up and we’re good for a day or two. When I’m writing he’s nearby chillin’. I don’t bother him and he doesn’t bother me.

Do you have any upcoming book signings or appearances? If so, give us all the details.

Nothing concrete for 2010 as of yet, but the Black Expo in Indianapolis in July is a pending possibility.

Here’s your opportunity to tell us anything else you care to share.

I have a few books available now in print. The House is available at Whiskey Creek Press and so is The Last MacPhee and The Dioni Chronicles, both available at Red Rose Publishing. I also have my story in an anthology called Street Vices. It is an urban look at the 7 deadly sins. It is not a romance and is available on Amazon. Check my website for excerpts to these and all my other releases. So many wonderful things are going to happen for me in 2010. I would like to invite all the readers to my websites to keep in touch to be a part of it. I will have contests for signed print books and other prizes such as mugs, pens, bookmarks and so many other cool things.

What are the addresses of your website(s) and blog(s):

My main website is http://www.danalittlejohn.net/ and my second website is, http://www.liljohndana.webs.com/. I also have a blog, http://www.danalittlejohn.blogspot.com/ . You can also find me on MySpace, www.myspace.com/liljohndana and Facebook.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Interview with YVONNE EVE WALUS


Yvonne Eve Walus lives in New Zealand, where she writes mainstream, crime, romance, and soft-core science fiction.

In addition to being a novelist and poet, you are also a Doctor of Mathematics. How does that play in your novels?


I guess the biggest impact is that I’m trained in left-brain thinking. That’s the thinking that has to do with logic, analysis and orderliness…which may not sound like a lot of fun, but is quite useful when structuring a novel. Note that I did not say “plotting a novel”, because I’m not a detailed plotter - when I write my books, I use a mixture of loose planning and letting my fingers take over the keyboard.

Also, the heroine in my amateur detective crime fiction “just happens” to be a Doctor of Mathematics, and she uses her structured reasoning to solve the murder puzzles. But because she’s so very left-brained, she needs her artistic right-brained husband to add a creative dimension to her merciless logic.

How long have you been writing? In what genres do you write?

I’ve always enjoyed writing letters to friends and making up adventures, but I was in my twenties before I decided on a more structured approach to my hobby (see that word “structure” and the mathematical training coming through again?). I mainly write mainstream fiction, crime fiction, romantic fiction and soft-core science fiction (also known as women’s science fiction, because it deals with future societies and the impact of technology on people’s lives; men’s science fiction is cowboys in space).

Who is your favorite author and why do you like his/her work?

Terry Pratchett: for his original ideas, his quirky writing style and his fabulous sense of humour.

What is the biggest challenge you face as a writer?

Currently, my biggest challenge is changing writing hats. When I have my novelist hat on, I’ve discovered I can’t do any promotion work for my new releases. And it gets worse: when I have my novelist hat on, I can’t write articles for magazines (which are a major source of income for me); when I’m writing romance, I don’t remember how do write a murder mystery. Earlier this year, I tried to have 3 writing projects going simultaneously, and it ended up being very stressful.

What is the title of your most recently published book? Briefly tell us what it’s about and let us know where we can buy it.


In the romance line, it’s “Wild Thing” (under the pen name Eve Summers) published in October 2009, available from Red Rose Publishing (http://redrosepublishing.com/bookstore/product_info.php?products_id=621). In crime fiction, my “Murder @ Play” was published by Echelon Press in August 2009 (paper and e format, http://www.echelonpress.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=9_5_6_50&products_id=185)

What are you working on now and when/where do you expect it to be available?

I’m approving the final edits for “The Hanukkah Time Capsule” (that’s my science fiction line), and the e-book should be out by the time this interview comes out. I don’t have the exact URL for it, so please check http://www.echelonpress.com/.

Writers, especially new writers, are always looking for tips and helpful information. What is the single most important “tip” you can give to a new writer?

Writing is not a get-rich-quick scheme, and most writers can never afford to give up their day job. Writing is not glamorous: it’s a lengthy, solitary and usually difficult process. Still want to be a writer? Good. Writing is fun - do it for the love of it.

Do you prefer writing mystery or romance? What do you see as the challenges of each genre?

On the whole, I prefer writing mystery to romance (probably because of that mathematical training of mine again). But my murder mysteries are full-length books and take about a year to write. My romances are short e-books (on average 10,000 words), so the writing time for them is just a month or two, and only a six-month wait to see them published, which is great for somebody like me who loves instant gratification.

Are you a member of any professional writing organizations? Why? Why not?

Yes. I’m a member of Romance Writers of New Zealand, because their annual conference is so inspiring and motivating, it keeps me going for 12 months till the next conference. I’m also a member of Crime Writers Association for prestigious (read: snobbish) reasons.

Feel free to share anything of interest to other writers.

Three months ago, I formed a brainstorming circle with two fellow writers. They happened to be personal friends, which meant there were no trust issues or bashfulness to overcome. The objective was to see whether we could help each other overcome any “sticky” points in our works-in-progress: saggy middles, two-dimensional characters, dead-end plot turns, and so on. Initially, I was a little concerned that if I used their ideas, it wouldn’t feel like my book anymore, but it’s not like that at all. The ideas in the brainstorming sessions are thrown around, bounced back and forth, kneaded, stretched, turned upside down and inside out to such an extent, that nobody can possibly claim ownership (even if it was possible to copy-right ideas, which it’s not).

What are the addresses of your website(s) and blog(s):

http://yewalus.kiwiwebhost.net.nz/
http://yewalus.blogspot.com/

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Interview with the writing team of MORGAN ST. JAMES & PHYLLYCE BRADNER


Morgan St. James (left) and her sister, Phyllice Bradner (right), are the co-authors of the Silver Sisters Mysteries, humorous mystery novels about “identical twins as different as Goodwill and Gucci.” Each of the authors has published on her own, in addition to having separate careers. Morgan spent many years as an interior designer and Phyllice was an award-winning graphic designer.

How does this process of co-writing work? Do you each have separate duties? Do you alternate chapters? What’s the scoop?


PHYLLICE: We live in different states and when we first started writing together, our interaction was done mostly by phone and fax. Now, things are much easier as we email our chapters back and forth. About twice a year we have a kind of writer's retreat when we get together and brainstorm plot ideas and such. After a few days, we wear each other out and go back to our own desks to work. Trial and error has taught us that we each have specific strengths. Morgan is the "Type A" personality and can't wait for me to plod along. She is what I call an automatic writer, she sits down and bangs out a draft of the chapter. I am the consummate editor, so even if I'm not in writing mode, when I get that first draft, I just can't wait to start editing it. I clean it up, move things around and add the humorous bits--although Morgan throws in lots of humor, too. Then I send it back to her for another go-around. Our characters are patterned roughly after ourselves and the stories take place in locales that we know, so I sometimes write the draft chapter if it involves a place I'm more familiar with.

MORGAN: Almost everyone asks us that question. I guess the task of writing with someone thousands of miles away seems daunting to most people, but like everything else in both our lives, we figured out how to make it work. Besides the e-mails, we have marathon telephone conversations to both create and edit. Thank goodness for headsets and unlimited long distance telephone plans. Phyllice always refers to me as her A-Type sister…spurring her on. Sometimes I’m a real task master when she would rather draw whimsical cats and dogs than solve complex crime capers, but I always manage to draw her in. Most people think writing teams alternate chapters, and I’m sure many do, but Phyllice described how we do it quite well.

Now for the real scoop: how much arguing goes on and how do you resolve differences of opinion?

PHYLLICE: Although we do have some lively discussions, we never really argue. We decided early on that we had to put our egos aside when it came to editing. If one of us wants to cut something that the other has written, we don't take it as a personal attack. If one of us feels strongly enough to do battle when an item is cut, she's automatically the winner.

MORGAN: That’s true. We really didn’t know each other for so many years, now that we’ve reconnected through our writing, I don’t believe either of us could live with “rocking the boat.” Phyllice is pretty mellow and I’m rather hyper, but we manage to strike the balance so we can make final decisions that are best for the book, not for our personal likes or dislikes. One thing that I did stand staunch on…I wanted Las Vegas in the title of the latest Silver Sisters crime caper we’re working on. Victory. It is “Vanishing Act in Vegas.” Phyllice held out for not having real time action in any of our books, but rather a telling of the story, and I didn’t fight it after she explained why she felt that way.

Tell us about each of your solo writing endeavors.

PHYLLICE: I studied Journalism and Art in college and spent many years as a copywriter and graphic designer. Most of my published writing has been in the form of informational brochures: annual reports, travel brochures, political flyers, newsletters. I did publish two small books, "Touring Juneau" and "The Juneau Centennial Cookbook." The Silver Sisters mystery series is my first stab at fiction. I spend about half my time as a fine artist and I helped to found a cooperative art gallery in McMinnville, Oregon, where I now live.

MORGAN: I’m an “accidental writer.” I didn’t study writing or journalism. When I was an interior designer, a slick design magazine approached my partner and me about writing an article for them. We did, and I found I loved writing. They asked for more. My partner wasn’t interested, but I was. Many articles for them and other publications about diverse subjects followed during the next several years. “A Corpse in the Soup” was also my first published stab at fiction. In addition to the Silver Sisters mystery series, my short stories appear in several anthologies…Chicken Soup for the Shopper’s Soul, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Celebrating People Who Make a Difference, Writers Bloc II, The World Outside the Window. 2010 will see me using the pen name Arliss Adams for the release of my two-book romantic suspense set, “Devil’s Dance” and “The Devil’s Due,” as well as the short story “Anything But Paradise” in “Dreamspell Revenge.” Morgan St. James releases for 2010 include short stories “Tommorow in Dreamspell Nightmare” and “Trust No One” in “The Mystery of the Green Mist.” I also write columns for www.perpetualprose.com and the Las Vegas edition of www.examiner.com.

What is the biggest challenge each of you faces as a writer?

PHYLLICE: Time is my biggest adversary. I never have enough of it. I create art, run a little Boutique, operate a small guesthouse, and put quite a bit of volunteer time into my art gallery. So sometimes I have to force myself to sit down and work on the next chapter. If Morgan wasn't so good about getting me those drafts, it would never get done. Also, she is our agent, taskmaster, networker and marketer. I am especially challenged in the area of outreach.

MORGAN: Mine is the same as Phyllice’s…time!! It is really hard to fit 28 hours of work into 24 hours. I’m a workaholic, so one of my challenges is knowing when to rest. When to wrap it up for the night.    

What is the title of your most recently published book? Briefly tell us what it’s about and let us know where we can buy it.

PHYLLICE: Our latest book, Seven Deadly Samovars, is the second in the Silver Sisters Mystery Series. This comical crime caper takes place in Juneau and begins at Goldie Silver's antique shop. When a shipment of Russian samovars fails to arrive in Alaska, Goldie starts to track it down. The ladies from the Russian Orthodox church have ordered one of the fancy tea urns as a gift for the retiring priest, but before the wayward antiques are located, his young replacement is murdered. That’s just the tip of the iceberg in quiet little Juneau! After Goldie’s twin, the manipulative Beverly Hills advice columnist, Godiva Olivia DuBois arrives for a visit, the lost crate finally arrives. The samovars sell quickly, and Goldie has only one left when two menacing Russians bumble into her shop claiming that the fancy teapots belong to them and demanding their return. She throws them out, but by the next day it seems that the seven beautiful antiques are cursed. Everyone in town who received one of the samovars has been beaten or murdered, and two more customers are likely targets: a lady from Seattle and Godiva’s boyfriend, chef Caesar Romano. Our curvy sleuths, Goldie and Godiva, try to figure out what the thugs are really after. They are hot on their trail as they track the Russians from Alaska to Seattle and Los Angeles. To add to the fun, the twins’ eighty-year-old mother and uncle, Flossie and Sterling Silver, get into the act!

MORGAN: Our Silver Sisters books can be purchased at most on-line bookstores, as well as from our publishers. Paperback and e-book: L&L Dreamspell. Audio books (CD and MP3 download) Books in Motion. Our books are also carried by several libraries across the country. Since they are distributed by Ingram, brick-and-mortar bookstores and libraries can also order them.

What are you working on now and when/where do you expect it to be available?

PHYLLICE: We are working on the third book in the series, Vanishing Act in Vegas. The plot revolves around Mara the Magnificent, a beautiful female magician that Godiva's son is in love with. The twins start their sleuthing when Mara asks them to investigate the demise of a stagehand who fell to his death during her performance, and soon escalates into an investigation of Mara's death, too. There are lots of wrinkles and turns, and, as in the first two novels, there's a twist at the end. Morgan is also working on several other writing projects, I'll let her tell you the rest.

MORGAN: In addition to Vanishing Act in Vegas, I’m working books with two other writing partners: Welcome to Paradise,with Meredith Holland, a comedy that is the extension of the short story “Anything but Paradise” and You Don’t Say with Mike Dennis, a humorous but educational look at how we murder the English language with wrong spelling, redundancies, oxymorons, words that don’t exist…well, you get the picture. Mike and I currently write a column of the same name for the Sisters in Crime/Southern Nevada “On the Prowl” newsletter. I also edit the newsletter. And, I’m forever writing new short stories. They are my relaxation. My instant gratification, unlike the novels that take so long to write, I am a fast writer. I can write and polish a short story in an evening, and I love that.

Writers, especially new writers, are always looking for tips and helpful information. What is the single most important “tip” you can give to a new writer?

PHYLLICE: Learn to let go of the things you love. When you finish your first draft, get out the machete and whack out all the parts that bog the story down--even if they are your very favorite passages. Take out the run-on descriptions that break your reader's focus or lend nothing to the natural progression of the plot. I still mourn the loss of some of my best, but superfluous, creations--but I know they had to go.

MORGAN: I have two that I believe are imperative. Number One: Keep an open mind. Listen to what experienced authors, agents, publishers, and editors tell you. Then make an educated decision as to whether you will follow the advice, but don’t stonewall others’ ideas. Number Two: Don’t give up. Phyllice and I kept at it until we made our home with publishers we love. As for staying on a project you know has merit, it took me fourteen years to write “Devil’s Dance” and “The Devil’s Due,” but I didn’t give up and they’re coming out next year.

Are you a member of any writer’s organizations? Why? Why not?

PHYLLICE: I'm not much of a "joiner" so I don't belong to any writer's groups. Morgan's a hot pistol when it comes to joining writer's groups, though.

MORGAN: I’m a joiner and a networker. I belong to Sisters in Crime/LA and Sisters in Crime/Southern Nevada, Henderson Writers Group, Las Vegas Writers Group, and Public Safety Writers Group. I am also Vice President of Sisters in Crime/Southern Nevada.

Do you have any upcoming book signings or appearances? If so, give us all the details.

PHYLLICE: I will be doing a book signing at our local bookstore here in McMinnville, Third Street Books, in the spring. I haven't got a date yet.

MORGAN: I’ve cooled it for the month of December after doing five in November. I will be presenting “Crafting Twists and Dropping Clues” at the Las Vegas Writers Conference on April 17-19, 2010 at Sam’s Town Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada and “What’s The Point of Point of View” at the Public Safety Writers Conference on June 17-20, 2010 at the Orleans Hotel, Las Vegas. (My time slot to be announced.) I am also a guest author at the annual Brandeis University Book and Author luncheon, March 7, 2010, Las Vegas. I will be reading from “Seven Deadly Samovars,” at the Sisters in Crime/LA meeting on February 7 in Pasadena, California, and Phyllice and I will be interviewed on Dennis Griffin’s Blog Radio podcast sometime in January. I’m constantly adding new appearances, and try to keep them up-to-date on www.silversistersmysteries.com as well as my personal website, www.morganstjames-author.com. Details of the above listed events will be on the website as well.

FUN QUESTION: What do you like better, Goodwill or Gucci, and why?

PHYLLICE: I shop at Goodwill all the time. Some of my coolest clothes come from there. Just a few weeks ago I found the neatest cotton sweater with a scene on the front of a black cat looking out a window at a bird and on the back you saw the bird's view looking in at the cat. I would never, ever, buy anything Gucci…but then Morgan wouldn't be caught dead wearing my cute cat sweater.

MORGAN: I love clothes! I always try to be in style and love dressing up. I also enjoy sharp casual clothes. Makeup, hair, nails, it’s all important to me. Hmm. I’m starting to sound like Godiva! When I met my husband, I didn’t own a pair of flat shoes, except for a pair of Reeboks. The first time I visited Phyllice in Alaska, she said to bring boots. Okay, I did. They had three-inch heels and really didn’t work that well in the snow!

What are the addresses of your website(s) and blog(s):

http://www.katzanddawgs.com/
http://www.silversistersmysteries.com/
http://www.morganstjames.com/
http://allaboutarliss.blogspot.com/



Thursday, December 10, 2009

Author Interview with MIKE ANGLEY


Don't let his appearance fool you: in spite of his baby-face, Mike Angley is a serious adult.  He spent 25 years in the U.S. Air Force as a Special Agent with the Office of Special Investigations (OSI) and not at a desk job, either.  He also spent significant time in the Middle East, Japan, and South Korea neutralizing terrorist threats against the U.S. and other countries, as well as preventing theft of U.S. technology.

Clearly, your military past has provided much fodder for your Child Finder trilogy. Have you written fiction that wasn’t based on actual experience? What is your position on write what you know versus doing research and creating it as you go along?

My current trilogy is my first serious writing project, so I have no other major fiction efforts to compare it with, but I certainly don’t adhere too tightly to the notion that one must write what one knows. I like to think that my experiences in Air Force criminal investigations, counterintelligence, and counterterrorism inspired the Child Finder Trilogy – hard to escape the connection! But my next project could be so different, and I may not have sufficient personal experience to draw from, that it could require significant research. Even for Child Finder, I conducted a fair amount of research since the plot loosely follows certain historical events (like 9/11). I had to be sure I didn’t stray too far from reality.

How long have you been writing? What made you decide to write?

I have loved writing since I can remember. When I was very young, perhaps as young as eight or nine, I recall writing a lot of poetry. In high school, I wrote many short stories that my English teachers really liked. I also wrote lots of poetry in high school, but that was mostly to impress girls on whom I had crushes! A long-term goal in my life has always been to write novel length fiction, and since I especially like mysteries and thrillers, I gravitated toward that genre.

Do you have any daily routines, word/page counts, or Dos and Don’ts you’d like to share?

I’m a bit sloppy when it comes to writing routines – an odd character aspect for me because I am otherwise extremely organized and disciplined. I write when I feel motivated, and that is typically in the morning (have always been an “early riser”). If I don’t feel the motivation, I won’t write because the times I’ve tried to force myself into a routine, my writing has been terrible. When I approach a story, I have it in my head, more or less, from beginning to end. My first task is to outline the plot, chapter by chapter. I then set about drafting the chapters quickly without regard for how “clean” it appears or reads. Once I have a very rough manuscript, I go through a series of detailed edits…the fine tuning and spit polishing as I call it, to sculpt the story to make it as tight and as sharp as I can.

What is the biggest challenge you face as a writer?

The greatest challenge for me was not having a full appreciation of the work that goes into marketing and advertising. I think most authors approach writing with a lot of passion – the love of the art itself. That’s a great thing and should never be subdued. But the fact remains that the publishing world is a business, and agents and publishers look for talent they can sell. Increasingly, authors are expected to do more and more to promote their work and sell books, especially as the recession has tightened lots of belts! It was a hard mental shift for me to make at first, but now my head is in the right place and I approach both ends of publishing – writing and marketing – with equal vigor.

What is the title of your most recently published book? Briefly tell us what it’s about and let us know where we can buy it.


I am thrilled (pun intended) that my second mystery/thriller, Child Finder: Resurrection, released early! My publisher notified me that it is currently out (a month early), and available on Amazon. Signed copies will be available via my website once I receive a batch in the mail: http://www.childfinder.us. Other venues should pick it up within the next month or so. It’s the second book in the Child Finder Trilogy, and here’s a short blurb:

It has been a year and a half since Air Force Special Agent Patrick O’Donnell left the secret child rescue program after it went horribly off-track, resulting in murder and endangering his own family. And just when he thinks he’s comfortably put this painful past behind him, he receives a call from his mentor. The murky, shadowy, Top Secret community where he once was center-stage has been revised, revamped, resurrected!

The government needs his psychic skills more than ever. A sick, twisted, menacing child killer is on the loose, and no one but Pat can stop him. But Agent O’Donnell soon discovers this new nemesis is more than he bargained for. Nothing can prepare him for the psychotic genius he must fight…and the life and death cat-and-mouse game that entraps him! Once again, Pat must call upon his faith and strong spiritual connection with God to sustain and guide him, especially during his darkest hours as he battles…pure evil.

What are you working on now and when/where do you expect it to be available?


I’ve been plugging away at the third and final story in the trilogy, Child Finder: Revelation, which my publisher projects will launch circa December 2010. Now, I have to tell you, I get goose bumps as I write this story. As my website says, “The truth is not out there…it’s in here…and it’s not what you may think. Of course, it’s just fiction. It isn’t real…or is it?” In this story, Agent O’Donnell is dispatched to Korea on a TOP SECRET mission to crack the disturbing abduction of a high-ranking U.S. official’s children. What he discovers about their sudden disappearance — especially where they have been taken — shocks the foundation of international relations. But more intriguing is what makes these particular children so special. What O’Donnell learns about them, and himself, involves sensitive government secrets he regrets ever knowing. These new revelations will rock his faith, his concept of life, and his understanding of his place in the universe.

Writers, especially new writers, are always looking for tips and helpful information. What is the single most important “tip” you can give to a new writer?

Persistence, patience, perfection. Be persistent and don’t give up after the first few rejection letters (or even the first several dozen). Be patient with the process of finding an agent or publisher – it can take years. My journey was about 18 months. Strive for perfection in every aspect of writing. This includes your manuscript and every document you craft for a submission package. The business is so competitive, that your excellence must stand out in every way.


Child Finder has received excellent reviews all around, especially from within the military and the Military Writers Society of America. How does the military, in general, respond when a retiree decides to “tell stories” about his/her military experiences?

The community has been very supportive. My years of networking in my professional career helped me establish a strong base for my books. I not only enjoy the ability to sell to them, I also have leveraged many senior officials’ support in writing reviews and blurbs for my stories. Since I come from the intelligence community with access to the nation’s most sensitive secrets and programs, there was some initial apprehension in certain quarters about my writing. The plots have an “authentic” feel to them, but every word is fictional. Once the community saw that, they relaxed quite a bit!

Take this opportunity to share anything you’d like or that my readers might find interesting or helpful.

I’m often asked what I want my readers to take away from my stories. My answer is inspiration. Plain and simple, I want them to be inspired by my protagonist and his exceptional moral grounding. I want them inspired by his love of wife and children, his love of God, his dedication and devotion to his country. I want readers to believe again in the goodness of people. And with regard to Child Finder: Revelation, I want them to challenge everything they have come so comfortably to believe about life. Is there some strange truth out there that Uncle Sam wants to keep under wraps? Does this book finally unleash this revelation? Of course, it’s all fiction…right?

FUN QUESTION: You have a very cute picture of your dog, Brynn, on your website. Which are better--dogs or cats, and why? [Second question, purely for the satisfaction of my personal curiosity: Beagles aren’t very macho dogs--like German Shepherds or Dobermans are—and which one might assume a military man would prefer. Why a cute, little beagle?]

Ha! I love dogs and cats equally, but I’m terribly allergic to the latter, so a dog it is. My daughter, thirteen years old at the time, wanted a beagle in the worst way. She even had a beagle screen saver on her computer. The old softie in me relented. Brynn is a very sweet dog, very loyal, and never leaves my side.

What are the addresses of your website(s) and blog(s):

I encourage your readers to visit my website: http://www.childfinder.us for all kinds of information about my stories, my blog, my background, and purchasing information. It’s also the only way they can get a signed copy of the first two books (so far) short of visiting me at a book signing. I also have a newsletter they are welcome to subscribe to, which will put them in the running for a monthly free book giveaway.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Author Interview with BRAD PARKS


When I wrote my original introduction to Brad Parks’ interview, I lauded his award-winning journalism career. Since then, however, I’ve “spoken” to him several times via e-mail, read numerous other interviews and blog posts, and changed my mind. You can read the scoop about his awards and his entrepreneurial spirit on his excellent website (that’s where I got the information).

What his website may or may not tell you--depending on your degree of astuteness--is that he’s a very funny man. Downright, hilarious, in fact. He also bears the burden of a humongous crush on Paris Hilton. If you’re good, I’ll give you the link to a guest blog post he wrote recently that shares a few lesser-known facts about the talented Miss Hilton and how they relate directly to writing. My fervent hope is that if Brad thinks I’m a halfway good interviewer, he’ll post a comment with links to some of his other funny stuff. I can use a good laugh…or four.

Tell us how your career in journalism prepared you to write mystery fiction.

Two ways: One, it honed my writing muscles. I was a sportswriter for many years. Sports tends to be a little less news-driven and therefore a little more entertainment-oriented. So the job of a sportswriter, every single day, is to find a story and tell a story. And, depending on the day and the deadline – and how many different editions of the paper you need to fill – you can end up writing 2,000 words or more on deadline. That’s marvelous training for a novelist, because it really teaches you how to remove that filter between the brain and the page and let your words flow (because sometimes you don’t have a choice!). The second thing journalism did for me, especially once I became a news writer, was to force me into close contact with my source material. As a reporter, I got to meet fascinating people, hang out in some of the best – and worst – places, see a range of human experience I’m not sure I would have gotten to witness in another line of work. By the time I sat down to write FACES OF THE GONE, I didn’t have to do a stitch of research: I had already lived it all. It was just a question of taking what was already in my head and giving it that little fictional twist to make it fit my story.

What are your most and least favorite things about writing.

My wife and I have this debate all the time: I say if we hit the lottery and didn’t need the money, I’d never write another word; she says if we hit the lottery, I’d probably take about two weeks off, grow bored and disgusted with myself for not writing, and pick up where I left off with the last story. Ultimately, she might be right. Because, sure, there are times when I absolutely abhor writing, when everything I write reads like a tax document, when I am convinced I will do humanity a great service if I never let myself type another word. Those are definitely my least favorite times. And they do happen: I’m convinced self-loathing is an essential, unavoidable part of the writing process. Otherwise? There’s just no greater high than writing well. I live for that high.

I’m sure you have definite opinions about deadlines and “writer’s block.” Care to share them?

First of all, let’s define our terms, because a journalist has a very different understanding of “deadline” than a novelist. In publishing, you say your deadline is “January.” I’m sorry, that’s not a deadline. That’s a month. To a journalist, a deadline is “9 o’clock for first edition, 10:15 for second edition,” and so on. And can I tell you? There’s nothing more euphoric than knowing it’s the eighth inning, the Yankees have just scored three runs that changed everything, and you’ve got about 20 minutes to re-write as much of your 800-word story as possible. I never feel more alive than in those moments. Sometimes I wish I could collect that feeling, bottle it, and save it for later (or sell it at writing conferences). Because in those moments of extreme deadline, something has to come out of you. It may not be Shakespeare. It may barely be English. But it will be something. And if it’s horrible, you always have that excuse, “Well, I was on deadline.” But sometimes what comes out is actually quite good. It’s a tremendous exercise and it teaches you what you’re capable of as a writer.

As for writer’s block? Well, it does happen. And, for me, the absolute last place I need to be when it hits is sitting in front of the computer. Lately, my solution to writer’s block is to get in the car and drive somewhere, preferably on a highway. I find that’s the optimal level of engagement for my brain, because it gets me a little distracted – if I don’t concentrate on driving, I’ll run off the road – yet still leaves enough headspace to work through a problem. I wrote the third book in my series this summer and solved the vast majority of the plotting problems during a six-hour drive from New Jersey to Virginia. For an alternate view on writer’s block, you can also consider some advice I once got from Mary Higgins Clark. She’s an absolute gem of a woman, and I had the pleasure of being introduced to her at Book Expo America. When she learned I was a writer she said, “Well, you know the secret for avoiding writer’s block, right?” I said, “No, Mary, what’s that?” She replied, “Think of the royalty check.” I’d probably rather think of her royalty check than mine. But that’s another subject.

What is the biggest challenge you face as a writer?

Is there a greater challenge for any writer than the blank page? You know: The one with that cursor sitting there in the upper left corner, blinking insistently, mocking your lack of progress. Once I type that first sentence – a first sentence I actually like, as opposed to one I feel like throwing in a nearby sewer – I’m generally okay. But, man, the blank page can intimidating.

What is the title of your most recently published book? Briefly tell us what it’s about and let us know where we can buy it.
FACES OF THE GONE starts with four people being shot in the back of the head in a vacant lot in Newark, N.J. After this cheerful start, we meet Carter Ross, a dashing – or at least sometimes-dashing --investigative reporter for the Newark Eagle-Examiner. The victims seem to have nothing in common and there is no apparent motive for killing them. The cops are clueless, but the newspaper prints their wild (and erroneous) theory anyway, leaving Carter to find the killer. He enlists the aid of a colorful cast of characters – a gay Cuban intern, a smoking-hot city editor, a hooker, a grandma, a T-shirt salesman and others – and soon discovers there is a link between the victims after all. That puts him on the path of an ambitious killer, and then stuff starts blowing up.

You can find it (hopefully) wherever books are sold.

What are you working on now and when/where do you expect it to be available?

The next installment in the Carter Ross series, EYES OF THE INNOCENT, is already written. And it will be available whenever my publisher, St. Martin’s Press, chooses to release it. (The writer is often the last to know!). As I said above, the third, as-yet-untitled Carter Ross novel is also written. And I hope it’ll be made available just as soon after the second one as possible.

Writers, especially new writers, are always looking for tips and helpful information. What is the single most important “tip” you can give to a new writer?

This may sound counterintuitive, but: Don’t be afraid to write dumb. If you find yourself trying to prove to people how smart you are, do particle physics instead; they’ll be much more impressed. Otherwise, just relax, don’t take yourself so seriously, and concentrate on your story instead of your ego. I see too many bright people get almost paralyzed by their need to show their genius to the world in what they write. That need to be brilliant stifles creativity and – worse – stifles productivity. Unless you’re Ann Frank and wrote a diary you hid from the Nazis, your unfinished manuscript is simply never going to be published.

Are you a member of any writer’s organizations? Why? Why not?

I’m a member of the Mystery Writers of America and International Thriller Writers. Someday I might join the Romance Writers of America and Sisters in Crime as well, if they’ll let a Y chromosome crash their party. Why? Lots of reasons. Community. Camaraderie. Support. Writing is a solitary act but no writer – or at least not this writer – can stand alone. I’ve really enjoyed the interactions I’ve had with fellow writers, the vast majority of whom I’ve found to be gracious, talented and fun. Oh, and can I just say: Margery Flax, MWA’s administrator extraordinaire? Love that doll! Knowing her is worth the price of the MWA membership alone.  [Interviewer Comment:  As a member of both RWA and SinC, I can attest to the fact that both organizations welcome Y chromosomes at the party.  In fact, a Y was once president of RWA--bet you didn't know that!]

Do you have any upcoming book signings or appearances? If so, give us all the details.

Lots, actually. It might be best to hit my website (http://www.bradparksbooks.com/scoop.php) or my Booktour.com page (http://www.booktour.com/author/brad_parks). I’m also in the nascent phases of planning a New England swing for February – because where better to be in February than New England? – so if you live up that way and think you can round up a bunch of people who want to hear more drivel like this, e-mail me at brad (at) bradparksbooks.com.

FUN QUESTION: What do you like better, hot dogs or hamburgers, and why?

I’m an unabashed carnivore who very much enjoys his spot atop the food chain. I suppose if I was trapped on a desert island and could only have one with me, I'd go with hot dogs -- but only because you can eat them raw without fear of getting sick.

What are the addresses of your website(s) and blog(s):

http://www.bradparksbooks.com/


[DRUM ROLL]  And now, as promised, the link to the hilarious and entertaining blog post I raved about.  Writers, remember:  you HAVE to deliver on your promises:  http://dosomedamage.blogspot.com/2009/12/faces-of-divas.html

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Author Interview with LYNN FLEWELLING


Lynn Flewelling has, since the early 1980s, studied literature, veterinary medicine, and ancient Greek; she has worked as a necropsy technician, a house painter, an office worker, a freelance editor, a freelance journalist, an instructor of workshops, and a writer of fantasy novels that have received worldwide acclaim. She lives in Maine, USA with her husband.

Who is the one person who most encouraged or influenced you to be a writer—and why?

I'm afraid I must name two. Many years ago, back in junior high, Ray Bradbury's writing turned me from a reader to someone who wanted to write. That remained a dream I never thought could be realized for a long time, but I kept at it. The person who did and does most encourage me is my husband, Douglas. He's been there for me from the very start, encouraging, reading my stuff, commenting very honesty and sometimes pointedly. He had faith in my ability as a writer before I did. He's still my first reader, and the main person I bounce ideas around with.

How long have you been writing? You’ve written both fiction and non-fiction; what is your preference—and why?

I started telling myself and my friends stories when I was very young, organizing games of "let's pretend we're—" That was always my favorite form of play and I guess I'm still doing that as a writer. I wrote my first short story in seventh or eighth grade. We had a student teacher who taught a section on creative writing by putting up a list of titles and letting us choose one to create a story around. They were basically writing prompts. My first story was called "Three Days in an Ant Hill" and was science fiction. After that, however, there was very little creative writing taught, so I was on my own through high school. There was one creative writing class offered at the small university I attended, and it was taught by a gentle poet with leather patches on the elbows of his tweed jacket who really didn't get my science fiction, fantasy, and horror stories. At one point he called me into his office and kindly asked me if I was having emotional problems. It was a blow, but I got over it and began submitting stories here and there. I built up quite a pile of rejection letters, including one from Playboy, which every writer should have, or so I'm told. I'm really not a short story writer, though I have managed to sell a few over the years.

I started writing what became my first published fantasy novel, LUCK IN THE SHADOWS, in 1983, while I was interning with a veterinarian in DC (I wanted to be a vet at that point) and got fired for writing on the job. That, and my total lack of math skills indicated that I was probably on the wrong career path. After that, I stumbled into a proofreading job at an ad agency in Alexandria, Virginia, and when I mentioned that I'd done some writing, they made me a copywriter. That was quite exciting. Later we moved back to Maine and I landed a job, on the strength of my copywriting, doing home and garden articles for the statewide newspaper, and worked my way up to the arts and style section, where I interviewed people like Stephen King and Anne Rice. And all this time I was working on my novel. I finally got an agent in late 1994 and she sold LUCK IN THE SHADOWS and its sequel, STALKING DARKNESS, to Bantam Spectra within a few months. And that was the end of the day jobs for me. I've been a full time writer ever since.

To be honest, I like every type of writing I've done, and still do the occasional article on writing, and lots of blog essays. Each form has its own pleasures. But fiction writing is definitely my favorite. The fact that my eighth novel, THE WHITE ROAD, is coming out in May, 2010, attests to that. Writing fiction is like watching a movie in my head, but with all five or six senses engaged. I see the places and people in my mind's eye, hear their voices in my head, imagine what places smell like, what kinds of food they eat, what things feel like. It's like total sensory immersion. Perhaps that's what a drug trip is like for some people; I can't speak from experience on that one. I know I've had an especially good writing day when 1) things have happened in the story that I had no inkling of when I sat down to work and 2) I have trouble coming out of that altered mental state for an hour or so after I finish writing for the day.

Tell us about your cruise in May 2010.

I'm very excited about that! I was doing a book signing last year and a man walked up to me and asked if I'd like to teach a writing workshop on a cruise ship. I didn't really take him very seriously, and I was in the middle of a difficult writing project, so his business card gathered dust on my desk for a year. However, he called me up at few months ago and asked me again. I did some checking, found out he was a legitimate travel agent who sets up these theme tours, and said yes. Since then he'd taken me on a tour of a Royal Caribbean ship similar to the one I'll be on, and it's like a floating palace! I had no idea.

It's a seven-day cruise, with four days spent at different Caribbean ports of call, including St. Maartin's and St. Thomas, and three days at sea, when the workshop sessions will take place. There are three one-hour sessions per day, covering everything from character development to publishing, as well as evening salons for people to share their work. When I teach it's very interactive, with lots of time for Q & A. There will also be a cocktail party, and all sorts of shipboard entertainment that go with the cruise itself. I think it's going to be a really fun time, and a great opportunity for both budding writers and people with books in progress to get some valuable guidance and insight. More information can be found at my website. The price covers the workshop, the cruise, all meals, and many of the shipboard activities.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer?

Self doubt. Even after all the books I've written, it still crops up.

What is the title of your most recently published book? Briefly tell us what it’s about and let us know where we can buy it.

My latest, SHADOWS RETURN (Bantam Spectra), came out in July, 2008. It's the fourth book in the Nightrunner Series and it embroils my heroes Seregil and Alec in slavery and alchemy. Both their pasts come back to haunt them in this one. You don't necessarily have to have read the rest of the series to understand the book, but it would certainly enhance the experience. This was my return to the series after a nine year hiatus, during which I wrote my Tamir Triad. It was also me keeping my promise that the series was not a trilogy. Although SHADOWS RETURN is a complete story, the new book coming out in May, THE WHITE ROAD, is sort of a sequel, which builds on that arc with a completely different sort of adventure. If you like your fantasy a little on the dark side, these are the books for you.      


What are you working on now and when/where do you expect it to be available?

I'm currently working on Nightrunner book Number Six. That is it's working title, and Number Seven is under contract, as well. I also have a new, unrelated series on the drawing board, but it's too soon to talk about that one.

Writers, especially new writers, are always looking for tips and helpful information. What is the single most important “tip” you can give to a new writer?

The short answer: Just do it. The longer answer: Don't fret and agonize and moan about wanting to write or not knowing if you're good enough. You're not. Not yet. And you'll never be good enough if you don't write and write and write to hone your craft. Because that's how you do it. Writing classes and groups and books on writing can certainly help, but the real work is in the writing. And in that I include editing. You have to be able to look at your work with a clear and dispassionate eye, see the good, let go of what doesn't advance the plot, and learn to tell the difference. That takes time and practice.

Are you a member of any writer’s organizations? Why? Why not?

I am a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) because they are such great advocates for writers in my genre. Their services are too numerous to mention here, but include legal services, scam alerts, and guidance for beginning writers. They have a great website and anyone thinking of being a SF or fantasy writer should check them out. http://www.sfwa.org

I belong to a feminist online writer's group called Broad Universe, for much the same reasons. We celebrate and promote women speculative fiction writers, and some feminist men writers, too. http://www.broaduniverse.org

I also belong to The Outer Alliance, an online organization that supports gay speculative fiction, and is made up of both gay and straight writers, readers, and friends. It was recently established in response to some very homophobic comments made by certain writers and editors in the field. http://blog.outeralliance.org

Do you have any upcoming book signings or appearances? If so, give us all the details.

I'm sort of between book releases at the moment. I'm doing a small reception at the Olive Ave. Market in Redlands, CA on December 5, I'll be a Guest of Honor at ConBust at Smith College March 27-29, and of course there's the cruise. I'll be lining up more signings and appearances for White Road, which will probably include the World Fantasy, World Science Fiction, and Comic Con conventions. All of those will be posted to my website, Live Journal, Face Book, and Twitter.

FUN QUESTION: What do you like better – the mountains or the ocean—and why?

That's a tough one. I've lived with both and love them both deeply. I get the bends if I'm not in sight of one or the other. And I'm a bit spoiled, growing up in Maine where you don't have one without the other. If I absolutely must choose one, then I'll go for the ocean because it is constantly in a state of rapid change, and also because I'm an inveterate beachcomber. I can't walk on any beach without coming home with heavy pockets, full of stones and shells. I even have an aspirin bottle full of sand from Bondi Beach in my office.

What are the addresses of your website(s) and blog(s):

Website: http://www.sff.net/people/Lynn.Flewelling
Live Journal: http://otterdance.livejournal.com/
Face Book: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lynn-Flewelling/145593970532?ref=ts
Twitter Name: LynnFlewelling

   

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Book Review: THE STING of JUSTICE by Cora Harrison


Set in the kingdom of the Burren in the west of Ireland in 1509, Mara, judge and professor of the law school, must solve the murder of the local silversmith.  Sorley Skerritt, a greedy and unpopular man, meets his demise when a swarm of bees stings him to death.  Mara investigates the crime, and the people of her kingdom, hoping to bring the sting of justice to a wiley killer.

I don't usually find myself engrossed in historical mysteries, however, this excellent book snatched my interest immediately and never released it.

Both the plot and the characters drew me in, as did the peculiarites of medieval Irish law.  Each chapter is prefaced with a short excerpt of law that foreshadows the plot without giving it away and explains the mores of the sixteen century in the Burren.  Harrison paints vivid characters and a tangible setting that comes alive with her description and characterization.

My rating: (4 Star) Read it in a couple of sittings, in between other IMPORTANT stuff I had to do. You’ll really enjoy it.


The Sting of Justince will be released in hardcover on December 1, 2009 by Minotaur Books.
ISBN 978-0-312-37269-9

Visit the author website at: http://www.coraharrison.com/ or contact Anne Gardner, St. Martin's/Minotaur at (646) 307-5553 or anne.gardner@stmartins.com.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Want 10 Really Good Writing Tips?

I read this blog post today and it's fanastic--regardless of what you write.  Check it out and let me know what you think!

Click here for Copyblogger's excellent  post

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Author Interview with KATHLEEN KASKA


Kathleen Kaska is a writer of mysteries, trivia, travel, biography & poetry and lives in Texas.


When and why did you begin writing?

I started writing about twenty years ago, after I became confident about my teaching career and came to a point where I wasn’t spending all my spare time working on lesson plans and curricula. Before that, I read a lot and took creative writing workshops whenever possible.

You’ve published mystery trivia books and a mystery; you’ve also written several plays. Tell us about what motivated the variety and what you love most to write.

I always wanted to write mysteries. But it was important that I write as much as possible about anything. I was also interested in travel writing, and early on, I landed some small assignments, which lead to larger ones. Eventually, I became a staff writer for a monthly publication called AustinFit magazine.

After seventeen years of teaching, I took two years off to write. My husband and I moved to San Juan Island in Washington State. The island has an impressive group of writers, and an incredible community theatre. During those two years, I completed four novels, several short stories, and four plays that were produced by the theatre. It’s amazing what you can do when you don’t have a day job.

I love writing fiction. I just slip into another world and let my characters tell me their story. Non-fiction can be a struggle at times because I have to get everything correct—all the facts, names, dates, etc. When writing narrative nonfiction, which is what I am working on now, I have the added responsibility of staying in the true voice of my character, currently, a man whom I admire, but have never met because he died in 1963.

Do you have a writing schedule or any set rules that you follow?

I’m a morning person and do most my writing early in the day, sometimes as soon as I wake up. But right now my husband and I are traveling and promoting my latest book, so I write whenever I can catch a few minutes.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer?

Nowadays we all know that no matter what your publisher does for you, writers have to promote themselves. I’d much rather spend my time in my fantasy world of murder and mayhem, but I also realize that I need to show my face, engage in social networking, make phone calls, schedule book signings, and actively search out and involve myself in promotions.

What is the title of your most recently published book? Briefly tell us what it’s about and let us know where we can buy it.


My first mystery in the Sydney Lockhart series, Murder at the Arlington, was released in June. It takes place in 1952. Reporter Sydney Lockhart checks into the historic Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Before she unpacks, she discovers the body of the hotel’s bookkeeper. What began as a simple travel-writing assignment now turns into a murder investigation. The bad news is that Sydney becomes a suspect. Determined to clear her name and prove herself a reporter deserving more than just travel assignments, Sydney gets embroiled in the underworld of gangsters and gamblers. In her fight for the truth, she soon faces a more urgent battle—saving her own skin.

Murder at the Arlington is most easily obtained online through Amazon, and Barnes and Noble. For the last five months, I’ve visited dozens of independent bookstores asking them to stock my book and they have been very accommodating. For booksellers, my mystery is available through Ingram and Baker and Taylor.

What are you working on now and when/where do you expect it to be available?

I’m working on the final draft of the third Sydney Lockhart mystery, Murder at the Galvez, as well as a separate mystery series about animal rights’ activist Kate Caraway. Plus the narrative nonfiction that I mentioned, which is about an endangered species.

Writers, especially new writers, are always looking for tips and helpful information. What is the single most important “tip” you can give to a new writer?

This may sound like a cliché, but it’s important to write everyday. Even if you have a very busy schedule, commit to at least fifteen minutes a day. Soon fifteen will turn into 30 and before you know it you’ll be putting down hundreds of words a day; and by the end of a year, you’ll have enough to revise into a viable manuscript.

And don’t get discouraged. I wrote an article about biking-trails on Nantucket Island and tried for two years to sell it to many magazines and newsletters. On a lark, I sent it to a national publication and it was accepted as a feature for the annual travel edition, a much more prestigious publication than the others I had queried.

You enjoy membership in several writers’ organizations. Share with us how membership has, or has not, helped your writing career.

Writer’s organizations can help in several ways. They give you the opportunity to connect with other writers, join writers’ critique groups, take classes, and mainly network. Get involved. A writer needs to learn and experience what is going on out there.

Do you have any upcoming book signings or appearances? If so, give us all the details.

I’ll be a featured author at the 10th Annual Pulpwood Queen Girlfriend and Timber Guys Book Club Weekend this coming January in Jefferson, Texas. This is a book club that was started by local author Kathy Patrick and has grown to become the largest book group in the county.

FUN QUESTION: Whatever gave you, or your webmaster, the idea for your home page? It’s TERRIFIC!

Thanks. I really like the way it turned out. My webmaster is Pam Herber, of Friday Harbor, Washington. She is a close friend, a talented artist, and a fellow writer. Pam has read through several drafts of my mysteries. Since this series is set in the 1950s and my protagonist, Sydney Lockhart, travels from one historic hotel to another, we decided that the postcard image would best set the mood for these stories.


What are the addresses of your website(s) and blog(s):

My web site is http://www.kathleenkaska.com/ and my blog is kathleenkaskawrites.blogspot.com. I also have web pages with Mystery Writers of American (http://www.mysterywriters.org/), http://www.goodreads.com/, http://www.librarything.com/ and http://www.facebook.com/.