Category Archives: characters

Awesome Authors–Marilyn Meredith

author Marilyn MeredithToday on Awesome Authors, please welcome prolific mystery author, Marilyn Meredith.  Marilyn writes two different series with which you might be familiar: The Tempe Crabtree mystery series, and, writing as F.M. Meredith, The Rocky Bluff P.D. series.

(From the author’s bio): Marilyn Meredith is the author of over thirty published novels, including the award-winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, the latest Spirit Shapes from Mundania Press. Writing as F. M. Meredith, her latest Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novel is Dangerous Impulses from Oak Tree Press. Marilyn is a member of EPIC, Four chapters of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. Visit her at http://fictionforyou.com and her blog at http://marilymeredith.blogspot.com/

D: Hi Marilyn! Welcome to Awesome Authors. Please tell us a little about yourself and what you write.

M: I live in the foothills of the Southern Sierra (CA) near a place much like where my heroine, Deputy Tempe Crabtree lives. I lived many years by the beach in Southern California which was the inspiration for my Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery series.

I raised five children, have eighteen grandkids (raised some of them too), and now thirteen great-grands. I’m still married to the cute sailor I went on a blind date with years ago and when I’m not writing, we enjoy doing things with our family, and we’re avid movie goers.

D: How long have you been writing? Have you always written mysteries?

M: It seems I’ve written all my life—beginning when I was a child, however my first book didn’t get published until I was a grandmother. Though I wrote all through those years, I didn’t start sending manuscripts out until later, after the child rearing, PTAing, Camp Fire Girls, and many different jobs.

D: Tell us about your latest release. What was your favorite part of writing the book?

M: Spirit Shapes is number 12 or 13 in the Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series (depending upon whether or not you count the prequel). cover for Spirit Shapes

Ghost hunters stumble upon a murdered teen in a haunted house. Deputy Tempe Crabtree’s investigation pulls her into a whirlwind of restless spirits, good and evil, intertwined with the past and the present, and demons and angels at war.

Though there is often a touch of the supernatural along with a mystery, Spirit Shapes is full of all sorts of otherworldly beings as well as Native American lore—and always a favorite of mine to write about.

“…I’m often writing one series while promoting the latest in the other.”

D: What inspires you and why?

M: All sorts of things inspire me from all sorts of challenging weather to meeting a new and interesting person who might end up as a character in my book. I also love to hear people tell tales about their encounters with haunted places and ghosts. As for my other series, I know a lot of police officers and I am definitely thrilled to listen to their stories. The inspiration always leads my imagination on a new path to write about.

D: What do you find most challenging about writing two series? Why?

M: The most challenging is that I’m often writing one series while promoting the latest in the other. Writing each one is easy because there are so many differences between the two. The Deputy Tempe Crabtree series is written almost always from her point-of-view. Most of the action goes on in the mountains or on the Bear Creek Indian Reservation. The Rocky Bluff P.D. series is about many officers and their families so is written from several different points-of-view. The location is a beach community in Southern California. It’s like putting on a different mind-set for each series. One thing that helps me is I write the Tempe series as Marilyn Meredith and the Rocky Bluff P.D. series as F.M. Meredith. It’s a bit like changing my persona when I change author names.

“…my first book didn’t get published until I was a grandmother.”

D: Tell me about your process: do you plot or do you write by the seat of your pants?

M: A tad of both. I always begin by thinking about the new characters I’ll be introducing whether it will be the murder victim or those who wanted this person dead. Or perhaps I’ll decide to do a different way of presenting the crime and what kind of twists I might use. I start making notes about what I want to happen. Most of my stories take place over a short period of time, so I start making a daily calendar. On Tuesday this happens, etc.

When I begin writing, the story starts telling itself. Ideas come in a jumble and I always write them down otherwise I’d never remember. And of course, when I think I’m through, I have to go through and make sure I’ve tied up loose ends and not left anything out.

D: What do you like best about writing mysteries?

M: In my mysteries, though not all the personal issues may be completely tied up, the bad guy or gal always is discovered in the end. Unfortunately, real life isn’t always that way. I like being in control when it comes to conquering evil, no matter what form it might be in.

“I like being in control when it comes to conquering evil…”

D: Do your books have an underlying theme or message?

M: When I’m writing, I don’t think in terms of theme or giving a message, though sometimes when I’m done I realize that I have. One of the early readers of Spirit Shapes said the story left her feeling hopeful.

D: What advice would you give to new writers?

M: My first advice is to not talk about writing or what you’re going to write, but put your bottom in the chair and write—and write—and write.  Second one is to never give up. No matter how many rejections you get, learn from them, rewrite and keep on learning and submitting. (I received nearly 30 rejections for my first book that was finally published.)

D: Which writers have influenced you the most?

M: Probably Tony Hillerman when it came to writing about Native Americans. I also love both of J. A. Jance’s series. There are many, many more.cover for Raging Waters

D: What practices have you found to be most effective in promoting your work?

M: I love blogging and going on blog tours—when I go on a tour my sales go up. But lately Facebook has also been effective. Also when you go to a mystery convention, I like to find readers and make friends with them. Some of them actually buy my books.

D: If you could time-travel (either backward or forward) where would you go and why?

cover for dangerous impulsesM: If I could take with me what I know now, I’d go backwards enough so that I’d handle my writing career a bit differently. I’d learn more about writing first. When I thought my work was done, I’d find a good editor. Once I was published, I’d do lots of promotion.

D: I like it—always committed to the craft 🙂 . Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, Marilyn. Good luck with SPIRIT SHAPES.

Below is an excerpt for Marilyn’s latest release, SPIRIT SHAPES. For more information about the author, please see the links after the excerpt.

Excerpt from Spirit Shapes:

The icy atmosphere settled over Lorna Collins like a shroud, the spirits already making themselves known even before she stepped inside. She shivered but smiled. The haunts in this place, the Wilkinson House, should please her group of ghost hunters. The last two places she’d guided these enthusiasts had been a bust.

The evening began perfectly. Everyone arrived a few minutes before nine. Low clouds settled over the mountains. Looming up from atop a hillock, the two-story structure peered at them through darkened windows. The only light came from flashlight beams as the ghost hunters approached and climbed the rustic steps created from railroad ties.

Lorna gathered the group on the porch to give her instructions. Each person who came on this ghost hunt had been required to read and sign an agreement. The first rule was to keep an open mind. Participants could bring cameras and audio or visual taping devices. Phones could be on, since many used the cameras in their cells, as long as the ring tones were silenced. There were other rules, such as carrying proper identification in case someone noticed the lights in what was known to be an unoccupied structure and sent law enforcement to investigate. Since all other houses were located at least a half mile away, Lorna wasn’t worried about that kind of interruption.

“The quieter we can be as we move around, the more likely we are to hear or be able to tape any strange noises or voices. You can take as many photos as you like. There are two types of spirits we may encounter. One, someone who was alive at one time and has remained on this earthly plane for some reason. The ghost might not realize he or she is dead. Or perhaps it may have some unfinished business. These spirits could be good or bad, depending on what kind of person they were when they were alive.”

A slight murmur rose from the group.

“Don’t worry. They aren’t dangerous. You might also witness what is called a residual haunting. This is an echo of something that happened at another time.” Lorna paused. “I am obligated to tell you that though I’ve yet to encounter this kind of spirit, there are those that were never human. They are malevolent and some might call them demons.”

Again the group whispered among themselves.

“Because of that unlikely possibility, we’ll take a few seconds to put ourselves in the right frame of mind. If you are a religious person, say a prayer of protection.” Lorna bowed her head and counted to ten. “Okay. Here we go. Explore to your heart’s content.”

END EXCERPT

To buy Spirit Shapes in all formats directly from the publisher:

Mundania Press

And of course, it’s available on Amazon.

Website

Blog

Amazon Author Page

 


Interview on A Book and a Chat with Barry Eva

Old radio.jpgJust finished up another live interview, this time with the charming Barry Eva on A Book and a Chat. Barry’s a Brit living in Connecticut who has been hosting authors on his show for a few years now and is one of the best interviewers I’ve had the pleasure to work with. We had to deal with a couple of technical difficulties but all in all, a fun interview! Click here to listen.


Readers Want to Know…Yucatan Peninsula

Lately, I’ve gotten emails from readers asking how I came up with some of the scenes in Yucatan Dead and thought it would be fun to post the photographs that inspired them from my latest trip to Mexico. I’ve found actually traveling and researching a specific area and noting the sights, sounds, smells, and general feel of a place works wonders on my imagination and lends more credibility to the scenes.

Ek Balam

At the ruins of Ek’ Balam– a true Indiana Jones moment…

Before I left on the trip I’d been writing what I thought was going to be a mystery with my character, Kate Jones. This trip was supposed to be for researching a future novel. But Mexico changed all that.

And, as I’ve learned, you don’t argue with Mexico.

So, my mystery turned into a full-on thriller about the ruthless drug cartels that have destabilized so much of that country. Since I’m a novelist and basically lie for a living, I made up a group of off the grid commandos working deep in the jungle, fighting the cartels. Little did I know at the time, but groups of locals had steadily begun taking up arms against the cartels. Some of these groups have been backed/trained by the CIA and/or the DEA, as well as the Mexican government. Some continue to operate clandestinely. Many are now being hunted by the cartels, and the number of people from several ‘hot’ areas in Mexico who are requesting asylum in the United States has skyrocketed. Although there are still several places deemed by the State Department as safe to travel in Mexico, obviously, there are some areas you should avoid. Driving through Sonora and Sinaloa in an old jeep in the middle of a scathing hot September would be one of them 🙂

El Castillo

El Castillo at Chichen Itza

Back to the trip: in the book, I gave one of the drug cartels Kate ends up fighting against the name of El Castillo, which is the name of one of the main structures at the archaeological site of Chichen Itza. Visitors are no longer allowed to climb the pyramid after someone fell to their death a few years back, but it’s still mighty impressive to look at.

There’s a scene where Kate stumbles upon an undiscovered Maya site (of which there are said to be hundreds in Mexico and Guatemala) which had a cenote, or fresh water spring hidden beneath decades of jungle growth.

photo of jungle

It’s a jungle out there…

If you look closely, you’ll see an ancient wall underneath all that vegetation…

photo of hacienda

Hacienda

While inland, I stayed at a historic hacienda built on top of an ancient Maya site by the Spaniards in 1523. These Spaniards went so far as to use the stones of a Maya temple for its walls (the hacienda is now run as an eco-tourism resort managed by Maya). In Yucatan Dead, Kate is kidnapped and taken to a hacienda deep in the jungle to meet her nemesis, Roberto Salazar. The description of the place grew from my experience while at the hacienda, and my jumping off point was the entrance (note the brick wall–these were ancient Maya building materials, most likely from the temple that had stood there centuries before).

Hands-down, my favorite places were the ancient Maya archaeological sites of Ek’ Balam and Coba (Chichen Itza and Tulum were pretty fantastic, too, but sooo crowded, it was hard to get a good feel for them). The showdown between Kate and Salazar takes place at a fictitious Maya site that I based on a combination of them all. Here’s a bird’s-eye view of Ek’ Balam, one of the most recently discovered sites on the peninsula (yes, those are my hiking shoes):

photo of Ek' Balam

The ruins at Ek’ Balam

The next picture is where I got the idea for the entrance to the temple at the top of the pyramid. This is called the Temple of the Jaguar, and is located on the tallest pyramid at the site. You can still climb this structure as well as the rest of the buildings, although I’m not sure how long that will be true. More and more people are discovering the site and the impact of all those tourists on the ancient structures is growing.

Photo of Temple of the Jaguar

Temple of the Jaguar (Ek’ Balam)

Roughly translated, Ek’ Balam means black jaguar, or bright star jaguar, and the big cat figures prominently in Yucatan Dead. In the photo above, the teeth along the bottom form the lower jaw, depicting the open mouth of a jaguar.

photo of carved jaguar

Carving of a jaguar

There are carvings of winged beings, some sculpted with a distinctly smaller arm, allowing for the Maya belief that people born with physical differences had special powers.

picture of winged beings at ek' balam

Nohoc Mul

Nohoc Mul

This picture is of the pyramid at Coba, which you can still climb (as of 2013). It’s the tallest pyramid on the peninsula (138 feet) and when you’re at the top you can see dozens of mounds in the distance that are thought to be undiscovered ancient Maya sites. The view from the top is fantastic, to say the least, and was one of the high points of the trip.

A structure with a small room sits at the top of the pyramid, with a carving on the outside depicting the Descending God, an upside down dude with a helmet. He’s also referred to as the Honey God, since honey was one of Coba’s main trade products. No one really knows who or what he represents, but that’s their best guess.

An interesting tidbit: many of these sites are connected by what are called sacbes, or raised paved roads (usually white since they were/are covered in limestone and stucco). One of them runs from Coba all the way to the coast and many were used as trade routes between communities.

The Observatory at Chichen Itza

The Observatory at Chichen Itza

Another structure referred to in the showdown scene in Yucatan Dead resembles the Observatory at Chichen Itza, which is thought to have been used by the Maya for studying the cosmos.

And, of course what pictorial essay about Mexico would be complete without the obligatory Caribbean beach shot?

photo of beach at Tulum

Beach at Tulum

The Yucatan Peninsula was one of the most intriguing places I’ve been to and I plan to re-visit the area. It’s relatively safe, although you still need to be on the lookout for the ubiquitous gas station pumping scams and slow-moving farm machinery. Cartel violence has been reported just outside of Cancun, but is miniscule compared to other places in Mexico so don’t worry unnecessarily about going. Victims are generally related to the cartels in some way, either by being in the business or knowing someone in the business. Don’t take stupid chances like walking alone at night, or going into a dangerous area alone (just like when you go anywhere new). Otherwise, the Mexican people are warm and welcoming folks, and will treat you well if you treat them the same. Mexico is a fabulous country to visit and has many, many faces. I guarantee if you keep an open mind, you’ll enjoy what it has to offer.

Author sitting next to Hacienda arch


Awesome Authors–Laurie Boris

Today on Awesome Authors I’m thrilled to interview talented novelist and editor extraordinaire, Laurie Boris. A fellow minion, Laurie’s an associate editor and staff contributor for Indies Unlimited, and, in my opinion one of the best writers self-publishing today.  Laurie injects her special brand of humor into everything she does, be it a blog post, an interview, or a full-length novel dealing with terminal illness. Her writing’s fresh and approachable, and she has a way of deftly handling touchy subjects with empathy and sensitivity.  Here’s more about Laurie (from her bio):

Author Laurie Boris

Author Laurie Boris

Laurie Boris is a freelance writer, editor, proofreader, and former graphic designer. She has been writing fiction for over twenty-five years and is the award-winning author of The Joke’s on Me, Drawing Breath, Don’t Tell Anyone, and Sliding Past Vertical, due out in September 2013. When not playing with the universe of imaginary people in her head, she enjoys baseball, cooking, reading, and helping aspiring novelists as a contributing writer and editor for IndiesUnlimited.com. She lives in New York’s lovely Hudson Valley.

D: Hi Laurie! It’s great to have you here. Please tell us something about yourself.

 L: Thank you for your hospitality, DV. I like what you’ve done with the place. Okay, I’ve been writing novels since my husband dared me to finish one. That was over twenty years and nine novels ago. I’ve worked in advertising, marketing, graphic design, printing, publishing, and did a very short stint as a street performer and office-cleaner, neither of which I’d recommend to anyone as a career move. The pay was lousy and I always needed a shower afterward.

 D: Haven’t tried street performer yet but did the office cleaning thing. Yep—lousy pay and dirty work 🙂 .

 Describe your upcoming release, Sliding Past Vertical.cover for Sliding Past Vertical

 L: Due out in September, this is a romantic suspense novel about the consequences of leaping before looking. Set in 1987, it circles around Sarah Cohen, a 29-year-old graphic artist and ex-diving protégé living in Boston. Sarah is a walking disaster area. She means well, but with each ill-considered decision, she causes more harm to herself and others. The one good, constant thing in her life has been Emerson, who still lives in Syracuse. That’s where they went to college together, survived a rocky freshman-year romance, and became friends. Except that Emerson, an aspiring author, is still in love with her. When everything in Boston starts going awry for Sarah all at once, she considers some old advice from her high school diving coach: that when you mess up a dive, wind it backward until you find where you made your error. So she backs up and takes the plunge…to Syracuse, and into a vacancy in Emerson’s rooming house. This leads to sometimes amusing and sometimes tragic consequences…and nobody is safe.

“These stories needed to be told and I keep hearing from people who have gone through these things with families and loved ones and appreciated feeling understood and less alone.”

 D: Sounds like another great read! Both of your recent books, Drawing Breath and Don’t Tell Anyone, deal with issues not normally tackled by novelists. What made you decide to explore these themes?cover for Drawing Breath

 L: In the beginning, I needed to write these novels for myself. The story behind Drawing Breath was that I’d lost a dear friend to cystic fibrosis. The way I saw some people reacting to him, as if he had the plague, made me angry. His chronic coughing scared off women and got him fired from a few jobs. Somehow I wanted to correct that injustice in fiction. But letting the other characters get that close to him had unintended consequences. With Don’t Tell Anyone, I was trying to reconcile why my mother-in-law concealed what turned out to be advanced breast cancer. I wanted to know how she could do that to her children when she had all the treatment options available to her. So again, I turned to fiction to see how another family would handle it. In both cases, the first drafts came tumbling out, so I felt like there was some passion in them, enough to risk the possible stigma involved with choosing “heavy” subjects for publication. I’m glad I went there. These stories needed to be told and I keep hearing from people who have gone through these things with families and loved ones and appreciated feeling understood and less alone.

 D: Who/what are some of your favorite authors and book genres?

 L: I like big books and I cannot lie… Seriously, I like to sink into big, fat novels, mainly literary and historical fiction and lately, epic fantasy. Just a few of my favorite authors are Joyce Carol Oates, TC Boyle, Ian McEwan, Michael Chabon, Margaret Atwood, Anne Tyler, and John Irving. And the Russians, of course: Lolita and Anna Karenina are two of my favorite classics.

 D: Gotta love big books and the Russians 🙂 What are you currently working on?

 L: I’m writing the first of what (I hope) will be a series of books linked through the same characters. It’s set in Boston, one of my favorite cities. I’ve been missing it, and after three novels set in the Hudson Valley, where I currently live, I’m ready to travel and take on new material. And that street performer experience? I’m using it. See, nothing is wasted.

 D: What’s the worst advice you received from someone about writing?

 cover for Don't Tell Anyone L: That I should never write in a man’s point of view. No disrespect meant to the writing teacher who insisted women writers should stay out of men’s heads; I just agreed to disagree. And although I can never truly know what it’s like to be a man, or a woman much older than myself, or someone from a different religious, ethnic, or cultural background, empathy and a good imagination go a long way, in my opinion.

 D: I heartily agree. Why did you choose to “go indie” rather than publish traditionally?

 L: I like a challenge, I like independence, I’m a Virgo, and I like to be in control: a perfect combination for self-publishing. Now that print-on-demand resources like CreateSpace are available, I don’t have to buy three thousand books and store them in my garage for the mice to eat. So it’s economically feasible, as well.

 “…If it’s a passion for you, don’t quit. You might hit a moment where you despair that you aren’t “good enough” to write the story you have in your head. Trust that if you keep writing and learning, you will be.”

 D: What do you do when you’re not writing?

 L: I edit and proofread for other authors, I’m a contributing author and associate editor for IndiesUnlimited.com. Three days a week you can find me working in the public relations department of a nearby community college. Other than that, I swim, watch baseball, and take long walks. Sometimes I even sleep.

D: Bacon cheeseburger, or hummus and carrot sticks?

 L: Both! About three times a year, I get wicked cravings for bacon, chorizo, or pepperoni. I’ll have a bacon cheeseburger or some pepperoni pizza, and I’m done. But mainly I stick with the veggies.Cover for The Joke's On Me

 D: Only three times a year? I wish 😮  If you could time-travel, where would you go and why?

 L: I’d like to go to Paris in the 1920s. It looked like a great time and place to be a writer. I want to meet James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, and Hemingway. My grandmother stopped in Paris around that time, on her way from Poland with her sister to join the rest of her family in New York. She was fourteen. She bought perfume and silk stockings. It just sounded like a fun place and time to be part of.

D: That’s one of my favorite places/times in history, too. Can you imagine what the creative energy must have been like then? Phenomenal!

What advice would you give aspiring writers?

 L: If it’s a passion for you, don’t quit. You might hit a moment where you despair that you aren’t “good enough” to write the story you have in your head. Trust that if you keep writing and learning, you will be.

D: Fabulous advice, Laurie! Thanks so much for being here.

Here’s a short excerpt of Don’t Tell Anyone. (More information about Laurie and her books is listed below). If you haven’t read Laurie’s work, you’re missing one of the best writers working today. Go buy one  all of her books 🙂

EXCERPT:

Estelle had found the first lump by accident on the morning of Adam’s wedding. The night before, Charlie had given her a pill and she’d overslept. She’d rushed through her makeup, painting on eyebrows and coloring her cheeks. She’d been zipping herself into her dress, but it didn’t sit right in the bosom. As she slipped it this way and that and adjusted her bra, she felt something hard and uneven in her right breast, like the end of a chicken bone. She thought about all those medical shows, the books she’d read, and the women she’d known who’d gone through such things. They compared the size of their tumors to food: a pea, an orange, a grapefruit. This lump was nothing that familiar and nothing that round. This was like a knuckle, a dagger, a hand grenade. She sat on the edge of the bed and smoked three cigarettes in a row. The phone rang twice and each time she just sat on her damask spread and smoked.

The first time the answering machine picked up, the caller didn’t leave a message. That was Adam. Adam didn’t leave messages.

The second time it was Charlie.

“Hi, Mom. Just seeing when you want me to pick you up.”

This is meshugge, she thought. People do this every day. People got married. Other people dressed up and traveled for hours to see the bride and groom recite their vows and step on the wine glass. They ate fancy food and slipped checks into the groom’s pockets. They smiled, wished them well, gossiped about the in-laws, and debated the couple’s chances in the car on the way home.

Estelle didn’t know about that Liza. There was something wrong with the way she was raised by her father, like a boy. Adam needed a woman. But she seemed like a smart girl, a practical girl. Estelle hoped to God Liza was smart enough to figure out how to make the marriage work.

The phone rang again. If she didn’t answer, the boys would think something was wrong and rush over. She couldn’t tell them, not on Adam’s wedding day. Whatever her opinions about Liza, Adam seemed happy. She wouldn’t make this the day he found out the time bomb went off.

It was Charlie, asking how she’d slept.

Fine. She’d slept fine. “Your father,” she said, “may he rest in peace, he couldn’t drop dead on the golf course like everybody else? He couldn’t go quietly in his sleep? No, he had to have a massive coronary in the middle of synagogue on Yom Kippur and make the newspapers and scar the entire community for life.”

“I’m sure he didn’t do it on purpose, Mom. Although if you have to go, it might as well be memorable.”

“Adam could have gotten married anywhere. A catering hall. Or that beautiful park on the river. But no, he had to pick Temple Beth Make-the-rest-of-your-mother’s-hair-fall-out.”

“You need more Valium?”

Estelle lit another cigarette. “Bring the bottle.”

END EXCERPT

Buy links:

Amazon author’s page: http://www.amazon.com/author/laurieboris
Don’t Tell Anyone (US): http://www.amazon.com/Dont-Tell-Anyone-ebook/dp/B00AGPB3KA
Don’t Tell Anyone (UK): http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dont-Tell-Anyone-ebook/dp/B00AGPB3KA

To find out more about Laurie and her books, check out the links below:

Website/Blog: http://laurieboris.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/laurie.boris.author
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/laurie.boris.editor
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/LaurieBoris
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4824645.Laurie_Boris


Awesome Authors–Judy Alter

Tophoto of authorday on Awesome Authors I have the distinct pleasure of interviewing mystery author, Judy Alter. I ‘met’ Judy after joining one of the best writing organizations around, Sisters In Crime (SINC), and its fabulous sub-group, the Guppies (short for the Great Unpublished).  SINC was formed in 1986 by mystery author Sara Paretsky to promote the professional development and advancement of women crime writers to achieve equality in the industry, and is a must-join for both female and male authors in the genre. It’s a great group of people and I owe SINC a debt of gratitude for all the support and information they’ve offered over the years.

And now, on to Judy’s interview:

D: Hi Judy! Thanks for being here 🙂 Tell us a little about yourself and your latest release.

 J: Thanks for inviting me—I’m delighted to be here.

My latest book is the fourth Kelly O’Connell Mystery, Danger Comes Home. In this book realtor/renovator Kelly finds her daughter is hiding a runaway fifth grader, her good friend Joe seems to be going back to his gangsta ways and ignoring his lovely wife, Theresa, and a drug dealer has moved into her beloved historic Fairmount neighborhood in Fort Worth. cover for Danger Comes Home

 For variety, I threw in a former Hollywood diva (so she claims) who is now a recluse and wants Kelly to do her grocery shopping for her. Kelly’s husband, Mike Shandy, badly injured in an auto accident in the third book, has been transferred from the Central District station of the Fort Worth Police to the Narcotics Division, so he’s well aware of the danger Kelly is bringing home with her friendship with the young girl and her mother. It’s a wild ride, but Kelly manages to protect her daughters and not scare Mike too much.

D: Sounds like a fun read! Where do you find inspiration for your writing?

“…I take inspiration from experiences in my own life. One of my daughters says the first Kelly book is “highly autobiographical.”

J: The inspiration for the Kelly O’Connell books comes from the part of Fort Worth I live in, adjacent to Fairmount with its authentic Craftsman houses. The first book was Skeleton in a Dead Space, which came about partly because there’s a dead space in my kitchen and partly because, at a stop sign in Fairmount one day, I looked at a house and thought “There’s a skeleton in a dead space in that house.” It went from there.cover for Skeleton in a Dead Space

 The Blue Plate Mysteries (so far just Murder at the Blue Plate Café) are based on a café in a small East Texas town where I ate frequently, and I have another book on the back burner, called right now The Perfect Coed, that came about after I heard a rumor of doctors’ wives (I was one once) who “serviced” airline pilots while their husbands were at work. I substituted coeds for the doctors’ wives.

 I guess long story short I take inspiration from experiences in my own life. One of my daughters says the first Kelly book is “highly autobiographical.”

 D:  When did you realize you were a writer?

 J: By the time I was ten I was writing short stories, and I’ve been writing ever since. Always had jobs that involved writing, including directing a small academic press.

 D: What has your road to publication been like? Cover for Murderat the Blue Plate Cafe

J: Not as rocky as that of a lot of people. My first agent approached me. After that, though, I had a hard time finding agents and floundered for a while. Now I don’t have an agent but am published by a small press. It’s a great solution to the competitiveness of the quest for an agent.

“…I have something in common with the late Elmore Leonard—I left westerns because the western market left me.”

D: You’ve written both fiction and non-fiction for many years. What inspired you to transition from writing the Women of the American West series to cozy mysteries? Do you plan to write more YA fiction?

Cover for Sundance, Butch and MeJ: I have something in common with the late Elmore Leonard—I left westerns because the western market left me. Bantam stalled on the last manuscript I submitted and eventually discontinued their westerns. For several years I wrote YA non-fiction on assignment for companies that published for school libraries, but the yen to write a mystery was always there. I don’t plan to do any more young-adult books, either fiction or non-fiction, but you never know. These days, mysteries keep me busy.

D: What are you working on now?

J: I’m writing the fifth Kelly O’Connell mystery. It has no title yet but I think it will have the word “deception” in the title—maybe Deception in Strange Places. Kelly is of course the main character but the recluse from the fourth book is pivotal. In a way, this is her book.

 D: What is your process like? Do you write every day? Have a certain word count? Do you have a ritual that you enjoy doing before sitting down to write? cover for No Neighborhood for Old Women

 J: I wish I wrote every day but too much else goes on—I have some editing projects on my desk for my publisher and I keep my 2nd-grade grandson after school, which means homework. I also like to keep up with friends at lunch and dinner, so sometimes the day is gone before I even think about my WIP. This morning, for instance, by the time I did yoga, got the house underway (made beds, straightened the kitchen, watered the plants), answered email, cleared up some odds and ends, it was 10:30 before I actually got to work. But when I’m on a roll, I aim for a thousand words a day.

D: Do you find you work better with or without deadlines?

J: I’m fairly compulsive, so I get things in well before deadlines and don’t really need them. But they are there in the back of my mind.

“…Writing contemporary fiction doesn’t require as much [research] because I’m writing about a world I live in…”

D: How much research do you do when you write your books?

cover for LibbieJ: When I was writing historical fiction, I did tons of research—on the life of George Custer and his wife, for instance, for Libbie. Writing contemporary fiction doesn’t require as much because I’m writing about a world I live in. I did do research on the Craftsman movement for the Kelly books and a bit on East Texas for the Blue Plate Café books.

 D: In light of the huge changes in publishing, where do you think the industry is headed? Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

J: Where I see myself in five years is a funny question. I’m seventy-five but I still see myself as writing at eighty. Who knows? The biggest decision for me is whether to try self-publishing or not. I’m tempted but hesitant to undertake the cash outlay to do it right, and I wouldn’t want to do it any other way. My publisher is growing and maturing as a business, and some of the changes I hope for may come about. Besides, I don’t want to learn new programs to self-publish, though I did format a couple of older titles and they’ve done well on Amazon. Mattie, a historical novel set in nineteenth-century Nebraska, does well every month; my short story collection, Sue Ellen Learns to Dance and Other Stories, not so well, though I like the stories and a couple won awards.cover for Mattie

“…I still see myself as writing at eighty…”

D: What advice would you give to new writers?

J: Read. And don’t be easily discouraged. Don’t expect to make a fortune. Write for the joy of it.

D: Great advice. If you could time travel, either to the past or into the future, where would you go?

J: Hard one. Life was tough in the two historical eras that interest me—Scotland at the time of The Clearances (mid-eighteenth century) and the late nineteenth-century American West. I’m not at all interested in futuristic writing. In fact, I’m not much interested in time travel—quite happy to be in the twenty-first century.

D: Good point, although I think the research angle would be invaluable. Thanks again for visiting today, Judy. Good luck on the new series!

 Here’s a taste of Judy’s latest mystery, Danger Comes Home:

EXCERPT:

So there I was at midnight, my thoughts whirling about Lorna McDavid and her crumbling house, when I heard those ever-so-soft beeping sounds that indicate someone has disabled the alarm system. Startled I lay for a moment listening, and then I heard the back door open and gently close. That was enough to make me crawl out of bed, barefoot, in a T-shirt and underpants. I didn’t think about how I would confront an intruder in that outfit. Nor did I stop to wake Mike or take my gun. Mike’s always after me to take the handgun he bought me but I loathe the thing, though I will say there was one instance where having it in my hand saved my life. But now all I could think of was my girls—had someone crept out the back door with one of them as hostage? Too many bad things had happened in the last few years, so my imagination sometimes gets away with me.

I raced down the bedroom hall, through the living room, dining room and kitchen, and came to a crashing halt at the back door. A soft light glowed in the guest house, as though someone had a flashlight. Shoot! I hadn’t even thought to find one. It would have taken me too long. Note to self: put a flashlight on my bedside table.

Creeping now, rather than racing, I eased open the back door, closed it quietly, and crossed the yard. Peering into a window, I saw Maggie handing a sandwich and an orange to a young girl—a very tired and scared young girl with stringy hair and wrinkled clothes. Maggie’s small mutt and constant companion, Gus, sat on the floor staring wistfully at the sandwich. Gently, I opened the door.

END EXCERPT

To find out more about Judy and her books, click on the links below:

Web page

Blogs: http://www.judys-stew.blogspot.com; http://potluckwithjudy.blogspot.com

Facebook

Twitter: @judyalter

Amazon

Turquoise Morning Press

Smashwords

Barnes & Noble

 Authorgraph: http://www.authorgraph.com/authors/JudyAlter


Awesome Authors — Aron Joice

Now that Yucatan Dead’s up and running, I’m resuming the semi-bi-weekly Awesome Author interviews. Today’s guest is Aron Joice, fantasy author and animal rescuer extraordinaire. I came to know Ms. Joice through the indie network swirling around Indies Unlimited (www.indiesunlimited.com). If you have the chance, check out the informative blog–it has much to offer the indie writer, and the people who contribute and comment are some of the best folks around. So, without further fanfare, heeeeere’s Aron 🙂

photo of author Aron Joice

Aron Joice

D: Hi Aron! Thanks so much for being here. I’m curious: what made you decide to become a writer? Why did you choose fantasy as a genre?

A: I have written stories since grade school. I always had a vivid imagination, and told fantastic stories (mom called them fibs). I would get on a bus and pretend I was from France and couldn’t speak English, or I was a mysterious Indian princess. I believe I embarrassed her just a bit. She encouraged me to start writing my fantasies down and I did.

I absolutely love fantasy. My YA isn’t as sophisticated and adult as most. It really is for the younger person who loves magic worlds. Like many people I have faced some challenges where I didn’t think that I’d survive. It is a safe place for me. I have to say, I am also an avid mystery reader and devour cerebral thrillers. Fantasy is a place to escape.

D: Can youVanished tell me a little bit about your latest book? What was your favorite part about writing it?

A: Well, Vanished Book two in The Lost Children of Managrail series takes a turn from where Book one ended. The journey for the two young heirs continues and magic still abounds. Lila, heiress to the throne finally gets her act together and delivers. The entire trilogy is about complex male/female relationships. Throughout the story many have to make difficult choices realizing the end result could destroy someone they love. It is really about love and how it can heal and destroy.

I just love to write. I am a very visual person and when I write it is like there is a mini-me watching a movie of my thoughts. I even hear music. I immerse myself in the process. Yes, I’m certifiable.

D: Love your cover for The Rising. Who was the designer?TheRising

A: Thank you. She is the sorceress from the White Realm, and a real piece of work. Richard K Green handled the graphic design.

D: Do you outline or are you more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants writer?  How long does it take you to finish a novel?

A: I’m more by the seat of my pants. I know how it will begin and I always know my ending. I give the characters free reign during the middle. I oooh a lot! I’m a sucker for action, and even though it’s fantasy, I try to make it believable

The first draft flows right along. I have never had a block where I couldn’t continue. I can finish the first draft and two rewrites in about 2-3 months, if I don’t get distracted. I love to garden and the weather is nice right now, so I’m bouncing back and forth. I do have a deadline, although it is self-imposed I want to meet it.

“It is really about love and how it can heal and destroy.”

D: What are you working on now?

 A: Union Book three, the last in the trilogy. This will be a large book for me. I pray that I deliver what is floating around in my gray cells. I also have another book that I’m working on simultaneously which isn’t YA fantasy, but adult fiction based on current events. It is very different for me. I am excited about it, but it is real life and gritty. I will publish this under another name. My YA is very innocent and it will be a shocking difference in styles. I feel a responsibility to my young readers, and I want them to grow with my characters.

D: Give us a ‘day in the life’ of author Aron Joice.

A: Can you say BORING?  I rescue animals that are abandoned, mistreated, and otherwise suffer at man’s hand. Before I have a cup of coffee their needs come first. Then breakfast, and I sit down to check my emails, and write. I’m doing very little social networking since the two books take up a good part of the day. I end every day by reading. It is the last thing I do except to say thank you for all the wonderful people I have met on my journey.

D: Where do you see yourself in five years?

A: If I’m still this side of the grass, I’ll be writing. If the world calms down, I’d like to do some traveling. I was fortunate to have seen a good part of the world in my 20’s and 30’s. Somehow I ended up in many places where young men carried M-16s. As I said, “I like adventure.” It is scary out there, but I love learning from other cultures.

“I feel a responsibility to my young readers, and I want them to grow with my characters.”

D: Where do you see the publishing industry in five years?

A: Where is my crystal ball? You know things are changing daily. I keep up with most of it, but I’m not sure. There will probably be some fantastic digital improvements, maybe interactive e Books won’t cost as much to produce. I have been interested in that for quite a while. I hope we never lose bound books. It would break my heart; there still isn’t anything like holding a book and reading it, at least to me. Traditional publishing will be forced to change; in what manner I’m not sure. It is going to get very competitive. I believe the problem with most of the world is greed, straight across the board. It is in every walk of life, and big business? What can I say? There is more people writing, reading, and it is exciting. We have to cherish this gift and pay anything good forward. I interviewed a 12-year-old writer. I absolutely loved her. Her attitude and confidence put many an adult writer to shame. She is the future and if we can mentor the young writers, they will step it up.

D: What made you decide to go indie rather than traditional publishing?

A: I knew right out of the gate the chances of getting an agent or a traditional publishing deal were slim to none. I wanted to go through the motions, get feedback, learn, and keep moving forward. I gave myself six months to get an agent; if I weren’t successful I would approach the Indie Avenue. I was greener than green. I lucked out when I found some great blogs/sites and I am so grateful for what I gleaned from all of them. I’m still polishing, asking questions, and paying attention. I have so much respect for everyone over at Indies Unlimited; there couldn’t be a better family in which to belong. (Totally agree, Aron  🙂 )

D: What advice would you give to new writers?

Love what you do, or don’t do it. Believe in yourself, and be open to constructive criticism. Let the trolls roll off your back and pity them. Pay attention; know how important social networking is in the digital age. Find a family of writers who will treat you kindly, but be honest with you. If they can do that, the rest will follow.

The following excerpt is from Vanished: Book 2 of The Lost Children of Managrail:

PROLOGUE

He remembered their childhood in a series of flashes; even then she had the power to bend him to her will. On one hot summer day, she climbed higher up the mountainside, taunting him, laughing, beckoning him to follow, and he did. That was the way it always was and had been until now….

Standing at the water’s edge, Simian watched the longboats close in on Lila. It reminded him of a hawk circling a rabbit trapped in brambles. Escape for Lila was impossible, and he didn’t care to find a solution.

Managrail had fallen, destroyed by the Fergay. Whether it was by luck or providence, many survived. Now Dirth, a village by the sea, was home, and had brought new adversaries. Moments away from capture, Lila called upon the Light Bringers for help. The magical talismans answered and she vanished.

It is time for stories of old to be retold and a council of war to form. The White Realm and the sorceress have been waiting for one hundred years.

CHAPTER 1

Instinctively, I wrapped my arms around my body. The air around me cold and still, I thought if I breathed too hard the sky would break into a million shards. Blinded by the absence of color, I tried to grapple with the starkness of my surroundings. Am I dead? Am I in heaven? That would be surprising, based on my recent behavior. Something about this place seems familiar…. Have I been here before? I remembered what the sprites had said about the White Realm when they rescued me. “Evil lives here and evil hunts for the lost.”

Well, right now, I definitely fit into the “lost” category. The White Realm. Is that where I am? I closed my eyes, sucking in the air, and heard muttering from behind me. I turned and found myself facing the bedraggled longboat crew cowering in fear. “I can’t believe this!” Just moments ago, inches from their grasp, I had disappeared into blinding rays of light shooting toward the heavens.

Now facing me, one man whispered to another, “She must be a witch. May all the gods protect us. How else did we land in hell?”

“Well, well, look who decided to join me. Now remind me, you planned to do what with me? Sell me into slavery? Tut, tut, not nice.”

“Please, lady, if we hadn’t followed our captain’s orders, we’d have been flogged or worse—keelhauled. If you are agreeable, we can be on our way. Everything forgotten?”

“To where, the sea? Can you guess where you are? For now, you stay with me, but don’t get too close,” I said, pointing my finger like a weapon. My bravado fooled them, but deep inside, I was a little shaky. I had no idea what to do. I thought I would somehow try to find a way out of this predicament.

“Follow me.”

END EXCERPT

Here’s the book trailer for The Rising: Book 1 of the Lost Children of Managrail:

To find out more about Aron and her books, click through the links below:

Aron’s Website
Connect with Aron on Twitter
Facebook
Amazon Buy Link
Smashwords Buy Link


Awesome Authors–Susan Russo Anderson

Today on Awesome Authors I’m pleased to introduce Susan Russo Anderson, author of the Serafina Florio historical mysteries. I firstgagasue_3 became aware of Susan on Twitter and through the fabulous writer’s group, Sisters in Crime, then went on to work with her on an anthology with several other talented indie authors. The first book in her intriguing mystery series, DEATH OF A SERPENT, is set in nineteenth-century Italy and features Serafina Florio, an amateur sleuth who happens to be a midwife. Kindle Book Review says DEATH OF A SERPENT is “… for readers who love mystery/suspense and drama that will propel you into another world and hold you spellbound until the end.”

D: Hi Susan! It’s great to have you here. Please tell us something about yourself.

 S: Thanks, DV, it’s a thrill to be here. Wow, great question, where do I start? I’m just a simple mom and gran doing the best she can to write great stuff. And I love the act of writing.

 But I did read this quote from Jean Paul Sartre, “We are our choices.” And if I could choose the perfect activity it would be eating ice cream and sipping the perfect coffee while writing in the morning. And the next best thing is reading an unputdownable book.

 And although I love my kindle and the ability to carry lots of books wherever I go to say nothing of the ability to sneak read a book instead of listening to a boring sermon, I still love bookstores and rambling through them. There’s one in a resort town in Michigan that I love going to. It’s right next to an ice cream store and they play opera and it’s crowded with families on vacation and it’s just fun to be there.

 D: Bookstores and libraries—gotta love any place with books. 🙂 You write the Serafina Florio mysteries set in nineteenth-century Italy. What inspired you to write an historical mystery series? What did you find particularly interesting when doing research?

S: I’ve always found European history from 1848 onward to be fascinating, the yearning for freedom that everyone had. It started, I guess, with the American Revolution. And then of course there was the French Revolution. And all of a sudden people all over Europe showed an Covers_600unbelievable thirst for freedom and fought to overthrow their oppressors.

“I’ve always found European history from 1848 onward to be fascinating, the yearning for freedom that everyone had…”

 Well, it’s a long story, but the Italian Revolution in the 1860s was a devastation for Sicily. There were riots and epidemics and famine and ruin all over the place. It’s in this setting that Serafina does her sleuthing. And yet in this setting, life managed to go on. For me, someone who’s always had a cushy life, I just can’t imagine how people can go all normal, continuing on with their life in the face of hunger and catastrophe.

 I read this story of a mother who around dinner time would lock the windows and doors and have her children bang on pans while she rattled the plates so that the neighbors would think they were preparing the meal and wouldn’t know they couldn’t afford to eat. That story really got to me. It told me about the resilience of the human spirit.

 D: No kidding. People are amazing, especially in times of distress. Describe your newest release, DEATH IN BAGHERIA, in two sentences.

 S: When a headstrong aristocrat commissions Serafina to find her mother’s poisoner, the midwife turned sleuth travels to a windswept villa on Sicily’s gold coast where she begins her investigation of the baroness’s death. With the help of her friend, Rosa, two daring servants, and an unexpected visitor, she uncovers ugly entanglements that portend dire misfortune for the baroness’s heirs.

 D: What’s your favorite line from the book?

 S: In my Serafina books it’s Rosa who always gets the best lines. She is totally unfettered by convention, having been a madam. At the time of the story, she is retired and very rich and of a certain age so she takes lots of pleasure in food. It so happens that the cuisine at Villa Caterina where the mystery takes place is uninspired to say the least so Rosa is disgruntled for most of their stay. There’s an incident with the cook where we don’t know if she’ll recover but when Rosa hears that the cook survives, she says, “It figures. She can’t cook so she’ll live forever.”

 D: Rosa was definitely one of my favorite characters in Death of a Serpent. Who is your favorite character and why?

 S: My favorite character would have to be Serafina. She has faults; she is exuberant and colorful; she does most of the writing; she has a sixth sense, something I’d love to have; most important, she never gives up.

“…She has a sixth sense, something I’d love to have…”

 D: What are you currently working on?

 S: I’m working on two books at the same time, something I’ve never done before, two different series. I’m writing the fourth book in the Serafina Florio mystery series. She’s commissioned to go to Paris to investigate the death of Loffredo’s estranged wife. The plot is exciting and different and complex for many different reasons. The working title is Murder on the Rue Cassette and since I love Paris, even the Paris of the 1870s, I’m loving the writing experience.

 And I’m writing the first book of the Fina Fitzgibbons mystery series. She’s the great-great granddaughter of Serafina, named after her and inherits her notebooks and a brownstone Serafina bought when she arrived in this country. Fina is much younger, early twenties, and lives in Brooklyn with her boyfriend, Clancy, a cop assigned to the 84th Precinct. The working title is Dead In Brooklyn.

 D: What a great idea! Working an ancestral thread into your mysteries makes sense—it becomes a continuation of the original series. What advice would you give aspiring writers?

 S: Immerse yourself in the world you create and don’t fear what others might think.

 D: Sage advice, Susan. What’s the worst advice you received from someone about writing?

 S: Hmmm, let me think. That would have to be all those prejudicial rules against adverbs and adjectives. They’re a prison.

 D: LOL. They certainly can be. What do you like to read?DeathInBagheria_600

 S: Mysteries, thrillers, literary fiction.

“Immerse yourself in the world you create and don’t fear what others might think.”

 D: What do you do when you’re not writing?

 S: Social networking, working out, walking, hanging out with my grandkids.

 D: Tell us about the most exciting place you have ever visited.

 S: I’ve been to lots of exciting places—Iraq, most countries in Europe—but the most exciting of all is the world of the imagination. John Milton said it much better, though: “The mind is its own place and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.”

 D: Love that quote. So true. What jobs other than writer have you held?

 S: I taught creative writing, worked for an airline, for an opera company, for lots of advertising agencies, and for a publisher.

 D: If you could time-travel, where would you go and why?

 S: Paris, August 1944. I’d love to experience firsthand the excitement of the liberation

 D: I think Paris is a good bet in just about any timeline. Liberation day would be an amazing experience.

I’d love it if you’d provide an excerpt of DEATH IN BAGHERIA for us to read…

S: In this excerpt from Death In Bagheria, Serafina and Rosa talk to the baron, husband of the deceased whose death Serafina has been commissioned to investigate:

Bagheria, Sicily. March 1870

“The baron was showing me his new steamer. You can see it through the telescope if you like.”

Rosa shook her head, dismissing the offer with a wave of her hand.

He smiled at the madam. “In the harbor now, being loaded with supplies.”

“It sails when?” Rosa asked.

“Late today.” He paced before them. “We hope to make North America in ten days, not a record, but respectable, especially for this time of year—early for steaming into northern waters.”

“Do you carry passengers?”

He nodded. “A few. There’s room for over two hundred men, women, and children, most of them in steerage, but these days, our profit is from carrying cargo, not people; now we ship citrus to New York and Boston, perhaps New Orleans or San Francisco in the future.” He rubbed his hands together. “Next year, my son tells me, when families who can afford better accommodation begin to leave, we plan on refitting part of the upper deck with first-class cabins, but for now, our need is for space below deck.”

“When who begins to leave?” Rosa asked.

“Our bankers bet on hard times, a mass exodus from Sicily within the next five years, growing stronger in the next decades.”

Serafina and Rosa were silent.

“There’s unrest all over the Europe. I’m afraid for France, that idiot Emperor trying to slap around the Kaiser—doesn’t know what he’s in for. And Italy struggles while Garibaldi fights Austria and the papal states. If more banks fail, the future of the merchant class in the south will be grim. The new world calls, and that’s where we come in.” The baron smiled.

Serafina swallowed. She imagined her son, Vicenzu, looking out at her from behind the windows of their empty apothecary shop, saw in her mind the streets of Oltramari which, lately, seemed rustier, dustier. But no, she rejected his words: after all, what did he know? She turned to Rosa, who caught her mood, reached over, and patted her hand.

“The ship’s named after the baroness,” Serafina said, looking at Rosa.

The baron nodded.

“A shame she’s missing this day,” Serafina said.

He furrowed his brows. “Afraid you’re wrong there. She wanted nothing to do with our business. She hated it. How did she think …” His question hung in the air.

To break the mood, Rosa said, “Such an honor, having a ship named after—”

“Hated all talk of business.” Red faced, the baron heaved himself over to the hearth, grabbed an iron, and poked at smoldering embers. “Drat those servants! Don’t know how to tend a fire?”

Recovering somewhat, he sat across from them and crossed his legs. “What is it you wish to discuss—my married life? How my wife loathed me, couldn’t bear the sight of me? How we slept in separate rooms, seldom spoke? How she never cared a fig for my business, didn’t want to hear my thoughts on European history or its future? I disgusted her! I suppose she assumed aristocrats cultivated coins from the soil or grew them in huge pots and stored them in the larder. Unspeakably stubborn, Caterina, just like her father and his father before him. Blind to the change, killing themselves out, that’s what they’re doing. But …” He looked up at her portrait, then at a spot in the room as if he could see her shade. “She was so beautiful, like an angel when she walked into a room, and a poet with words, so charming, they flowed from her lips.” He stopped, as if reluctant to leave the memory. “And I loved her.”

The two women were silent until Serafina asked, “Your business, is that what killed her?”

*****

D: Thank you so much for being here today, Susan. I look forward to reading the rest of the Serafina Florio series. I’m also eagerly anticipating her great-great granddaughter’s own books. 🙂

Links to find out more about Susan are below:

 Susan’s Bio:

Susan Russo Anderson is a writer, a mother, a grandmother, a widow, a member of Sisters In Crime, a graduate of Marquette University. She has taught language arts and creative writing, worked for a publisher, an airline, an opera company. Like Faulkner’s Dilsey, she’s seen the best and the worst, the first and the last. Through it all, and to understand it somewhat, she writes.

DEATH OF A SERPENT, the first in the Serafina Florio series, published January 2012. It began as a painting of the Lower East Side and wound up as a mystery story. NO MORE BROTHERS, a novella, published May 2012, the second in the Serafina Florio series. The third book, DEATH IN BAGHERIA, published in December. You can read excerpts on Amazon and on her websites, http://www.susanrussoanderson.com  and http://www.writingsleuth.com

In between writing, revising and editing, she writes for several blogs and reviews books.

Website: http://susanrussoanderson.com

Twitter: @susanrussoander

FB: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Susan-Russo-Anderson/349374975075796

Amazon author’s page: http://www.amazon.com/Susan-Russo-Anderson/e/B006VCJ0ZC


Guest Blogging Today on Blog-A-Licious-Authors

Should you use first person POV or third? I’m blogging about the age-old question today on Blog-A-Licious Authors. Stop by and share your strategies…

http://blogaliciousauthors.blogspot.com/2013/04/dv-berkom-should-i-write-in-first-or.html


Guest Blogging Today on Buried Under Books!

Today I’m discussing where I find inspiration for my writing on Buried Under Books. Stop by and check it out. 🙂

http://cncbooksblog.wordpress.com/2013/03/01/ripped-from-the-headlinesusing-the-news-to-spark-the-muse/


Inside The Mind of a Killer: Researching Your Antagonist

So there I was, minding my own business writing one of those truly twisted novels that grabs hold of you and has to come out when I came to the killer’s debut. I’d never attempted to write a character quite so creepy and wasn’t relishing that first passage. In fact, I continually wrote around him, putting off the scene until I felt I could do justice to him instead of creating a killer cliché. Yes, I could have abandoned the effort and gone on to something else, but a disturbing dream I’d had several months prior provided the inspiration for the story and I felt compelled to follow it through. The result was my novel, Serial Date.

ImageHow do you write a fresh psychopath? Readers today have been clubbed over the head with serial killers (pardon the pun) to the point that it’s become a joke in many literary agencies and publishing houses. The only way I could think to do it was to go to my default: research. I love learning new things. Researching has a way of surprising you with oddball connections, often to be used in ways you’d never expect. A reference here, a notation there, it’s similar to a treasure hunt. Like I said, I love research.

Until I started to investigate killers.

Now, I haven’t lived what anyone would call a sheltered life, but I’d so far avoided learning specific details about the habits of serial killers. The information I came across in my search made my skin crawl.

Reality is so much more frightening than fiction.

The information creeped me out to the point I’d find myself vacuuming the living room, unsure how that Hoover ended up in my hand. One thing to understand about me: I don’t like housework. I’ll let dust and dirt accumulate until I can’t find the couch or someone decides to visit. Apparently, I found something I like even less.Image

I followed this routine whenever I delved into the bizarre world of a psychopath, and though you could eat off my living room floor, my manuscript was going nowhere. No closer to fleshing out my killer, (I know- another pun. Sorry) he wouldn’t budge from the twisted caricature of a human being I’d created and I was close to giving up. Sure, I could give him odd quirks and mannerisms, but it felt as if I was making him play dress up: all show, no substance.

That is, until I dug a little deeper and discovered the science behind the psychopath. A series of articles on NPR.org (http://n.pr/vVfWlF ) discussing the biological basis for psychopathic behavior led me ever deeper into the complexities of a killer’s mind. Fascinated, I began to read white papers on personality disorder, multiple personalities, cannibalism and the like. Where once I’d been stymied by what motivated someone to kill, an ocean of ideas began to form around what my antagonist’s early life was like, his taste in music, food, what made him tick.

Soon, I had seventeen pages of articles, notes and sketches, all revolving around my antagonist. I knew him, knew what made him get out of bed in the morning, why he chose the victims he did. Most importantly, I knew how he justified killing. That was my ‘eureka’ moment.

Understanding my antagonist helped me move past the visceral recoil from the heinous crimes I read (and wrote) about and gave a more human face to the killer. I learned there’s an entire area of scientific inquiry emerging that uses genetic testing and MRIs to map the brains and biological processes of psychopaths, on occasion admitting the results of these tests as evidence in court trials.

Can the fact Imagethat a person has the genes and/or brain structure associated with violent behavior be enough to reduce a defendant’s culpability in a trial? It’s a new take on an age-old question.

Whatever the answer may be, for now I can’t wait to write the killer’s scenes and try to work in some small kernel of research to help the reader understand him better. Yeah, still pretty creepy, but it worked.

Now, where the heck is that couch?

Originally posted on The Unpredictable Muse and Indies Unlimited


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