Tag Archives: mystery

Awesome Authors–Ellis Vidler

photo of the authorMy guest today on Awesome Authors is the fabulous mystery-suspense author, Ellis Vidler. I’ve known Ellis since I found the supportive writer’s group, Sisters-in-Crime, and their sub-group, the Guppies. Ellis is an author, editor, and speaker. She grew up in North Alabama, studied English and art at All Saints College for Women, and thoroughly enjoyed studying creative writing under the great Scott Regan. She also taught elements of fiction at a community college. Her home is now the South Carolina Piedmont with her husband and dogs.

(From the author’s bio): As a child in the South, Ellis spent long, hot days imagining herself an Indian or pioneer or musketeer. At night she (and her whole family) read. From Tarzan and D’Artagnan to Anne Shirley and Nancy Drew, she lived them all. No angst in her childhood. So what did she do as an adult? Write fiction, what else? She loves creating characters and making them do what she wants, but mostly they take off on their own and leave her hurrying to catch up.

Hi Ellis! Thanks for joining us 🙂 Tell us a little about yourself and your writing:

EV: I grew up on everything from Tarzan to Nancy Drew and Jane Eyre, and I’ve always loved reading and writing. My career began with illustrating and morphed into editing and technical writing. Now I write fiction and love it.

DV: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

EV: I can’t remember not wanting to be a writer.

DV: What compels you to write?

EV: The characters in my head—they want to have their stories told, even though the stories evolve and shoot off in new directions as I write them.cover for cold comfort

DV: What do you enjoy most about writing in the crime genre? Dislike? How much research goes into one of your books?

EV: Suspense is what I aim for, but there’s always an element of romance. Relationships are part of life, and for me, they make a story richer. I can’t stick with the required elements long enough for them to be called romances. For example, in Prime Target (coming out late this year) the main characters don’t meet until Chapter 10, a no-no in romance, but that’s the way it worked out. It’s a love story on my terms.

I research everything, trying to get the details right. It’s an obsession, but it’s also a good way to get sidetracked. One interesting fact can lead me down a lengthy detour.

“Relationships are part of life, and for me, they make a story richer…”

DV: Sounds familiar 🙂 In the McGuire Women series, your protagonists have psychic abilities. Why did you choose to go in that direction with your main characters? What were the challenges you faced?

cover for time of deathEV: My grandmother was psychic. I think hers was considered telepathy. She knew when any of her family was ill or injured, no matter where they were. I was there and saw it, so I know it was real. After Haunting Refrain came out, I found out her brother had the same ability. Psychic ability has always fascinated me, in spite of the charlatans. One of my cousins has some of it; however, none of the family “gift” passed to me.

DV: Do you ever include your own life experiences in your plots?

EV: Yes, they do work their way in, but I alter them to fit the story. My main characters tend to like what I like and experience many of the same things. In Cold Comfort, Claire is with Riley in a small plane. The events of the flight and the storm actually happened to me and my husband—proof that ignorance is bliss.

DV: What are you currently working on?

EV: I just approved my first audio book, Time of Death (Note: see link at end of interview) Haunting Refrain will be out next month. I have two terrific narrators and can’t wait for the books to be released. Also, I’m trying hard to wrap up Prime Target and get it to my beta readers. I love it, but the story is different, and I don’t know how it will go over.cover for prime target

DV: That sounds intriguing! I can’t wait… What’s your process when you write? Do you outline or just get an idea and run with it?

EV: Until now I’ve been a pantser, running with a vague idea, but I’m determined to have something of an outline for the next book. I’d like to know if something’s not going to work before I’ve written 100 pages.

DV: I know that feeling 😛 Tell us about your road to publication. What words of wisdom would you like to impart to writers who are just starting out?

EV: Study your craft and persevere. My first book, Haunting Refrain, was much more luck than judgment. I had no idea how little I knew. It’s amazing that a publisher actually wanted it. I’ve been both traditionally and self-published. There are pros and cons to each. Writers have to decide which one suits them. Personally, I like the control I have in doing it myself and intend to stick with “indie” publishing.

“…I’m determined to have something of an outline for the next book. I’d like to know if something’s not going to work before I’ve written 100 pages.”

DV: Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Where do you see the publishing industry in 5 years?

EV: Ideally, I’d like to have several more books out. Ebooks are becoming more and more popular, but I don’t think print books are going to disappear. With the advent of earbuds and tiny players, audio is gaining too. It’s a very exciting time for writers—lots of change and opportunity but the main thing is still to produce a good story. That won’t change.

DV: What strategies work best for you when promoting a novel?

EV: Goodness, I’ve tried so many. Twitter, Facebook, freebies (I doubt if I’ll do any more of those), ads on certain reader sites… I have a blog with lots of articles, I but rarely post now.

Luck, timing, and word of mouth are the best, and you have no control over any of those things.

“It’s a very exciting time for writers—lots of change and opportunity but the main thing is still to produce a good story.”

DV: If you could travel back in time (or forward) where would you go and why?

EV: I wouldn’t give up electricity, hot water, the microwave, or the Internet. I like my creature comforts. 🙂  I’d probably go back to my twenties (a long time ago) and get serious about my writing sooner.

DV: Hmm. Good idea. Now, if I could just figure out where I put that pesky Time Machine… Thanks so much for stopping by today, Ellis! Good luck on your new releases 😀

If you’d like to find out more about Ellis and her work, please check out the links below:

Amazon author page:

Facebook

Twitter

Website

Blog

Buy links (Amazon):

Haunting Refrain

Time of Death

Time of Death Audio (NEW!)

Cold Comfort  (On sale for .99!)


Awesome Authors–Donnell Ann Bell

Photo of authorToday on Awesome Authors it’s my pleasure to welcome fellow Sister-in-Crime member and bestselling romantic suspense writer, Donnell Ann Bell! Donnell and I have known each other a long time, having been members of the Guppies (the Great Unpublished), a sub-group of Sisters-In-Crime. Donnell grew up in New Mexico and has a background in court reporting and non-fiction writing. She’s also acted as coordinator for the Daphne du Maurier writing contest put on by the Kiss of Death chapter of RWA, which I had the good fortune to judge a few years back. She currently calls Colorado home.

Extra: Donnell is giving away a book to one lucky commenter today, so tell us something fun or leave a comment about the interview and you could win your choice of one of her fabulous romantic suspense novels 😀

(From the author’s website): Donnell Ann Bell is the author of two Amazon bestsellers, Deadly Recall and The Past Came Hunting, both of which were nominated for the prestigious Golden Heart® from Romance Writers of America® in their unpublished formats. Also, in October Deadly Recall was nominated for an EPIC Award in the Suspense/Thriller category. Her third release, Betrayed, from Bell Bridge Books is now available (November 18, 2013).  Her website is www.donnellannbell.com

DV: Hi Donnell! Thanks for being here 🙂

Donnell: Hi, DV!  Happy to be here!  cover for Betrayed

DV: Tell us about your latest release, Betrayed.

Donnell: Thank you.  As I wrote above, Betrayed is my third release from Bell Bridge Books and this book, too, is written around my theme of SUSPENSE TOO CLOSE TO HOME and the places I’ve lived.  All my books are stand alone, but they revolve around the places I’ve lived, Colorado Springs, Albuquerque, and Betrayed takes place in Denver.  I write cop protagonists who encounter very strong women.

DV: You mention on your website that your debut mystery, The Past Came Hunting, was inspired by a country song. What else compels you to write?

Donnell:  I usually am compelled by an idea or something unfinished.  In The Past Came Hunting I was overwhelmed that a young girl who goes off with her bad news boyfriend could wind up in prison after being charged as an accessory to armed robbery and murder.  This bothered me so much that I had to make things right and give this poor girl her own happy ending.

I wrote an entire book after listening to a breaking news story about a man gunned down on the New Mexico capital steps.  These kinds of things don’t happen in Santa Fe very often.  I was on my lunch hour at the time and had to go into work.  That night I watched the news broadcasts, I scanned newspapers but I couldn’t find out why that man had been killed.  As I said, his story was unfinished, and it bothered me.  I wrote my first book based on that breaking news story.  If an idea resonates with me and I don’t like the ending, or can’t find the ending, I’ll finish the book.

“Although I like suspense, I’m really drawn to character development and conflict first.”

DV: Gotta hate an unfinished story 🙂What was your road to publication like?

Donnell:  Long 😉  I started writing fiction in 2001, and used that time to hone my craft.  I never seriously submitted because I didn’t feel I was ready.  In 2005, I felt I was close with Walk Away Joe.  In 2007, Walk Away Joe finaled in the Golden Heart.  Deadly Recall finaled in 2010.  In 2010, my agent and I parted ways.  My manuscript was on a New York publisher’s desk, but I was so impressed at RWA National with BelleBooks aka Bell Bridge Books, I decided to submit.  I loved Deborah Smith’s response to my query.  She said, “Hey, this sounds good.  Send it.  Send Deadly Recall, too.”  I did and I’ve been more than happy I did.     

DV: Your books have an overarching theme of the past influencing the present—either from suppressed memories of witnessing a murder as a child, or from making bad choices as a teenager. Will your next books continue that theme? What motivated you to explore this subject?

Donnell: Oh, great question.  Although I like suspense, I’m really drawn to character development and conflict first.  And I think our childhood shapes us.  The book I’m working on now has to do with cliques.  I’m not a fan.  I also detest bullies.  The tentative title of this book is called The Follower, and guilt will swamp my heroine over a childhood decision she makes that gets another killed.

“…everything’s better with deadlines.  I find them terrifying and effective—kind of like a muse with a whip 😉

DV:  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?

Donnell:  I try to write every day, and generally write the first draft in Greg shorthand.  (Yep, I’m that old <g>) Then I transcribe in a clean notebook, and eventually transfer it to the keyboard.  This helps because by then I have a comprehensive manuscript that is basically draft 3.  I have to get away from the computer to write and not get sidetracked by social networking.  I learned with the advent and now the onslaught of social media that I have ADHD.  I tried typing straight from the keyboard, but kept checking e-mail, Facebook and Twitter.  I can’t be trusted so I stick with my trusty notebook.

DV: Totally get that, Donnell 🙂  Do you find you work better with or without deadlines?

EPIC awardDonnell:  Oh, everything’s better with deadlines.  I find them terrifying and effective—kind of like a muse with a whip 😉  I’ve worked without them, but I kept editing and didn’t move very fast.  Is a book ever perfect, D.V.?  

DV:  Nope. Never 🙂 How much research do you do when writing your books?

Donnell:  Probably as much as you do, given what we write.  Gosh, it’s amazing how much I don’t know.  I’ll get on a roll and have to stop to check a fact or learn about a career, or check police procedure.  I find that every thread I create leads to more research.  Research follows me from draft all the way to the completed project.  I’m never done and I’m always double checking because technology is changing at such rapid speed.

“I usually am compelled by an idea or something unfinished…”

DV:  In light of the huge changes in traditional as well as self-publishing, where do you think the publishing industry is headed?

Donnell:  I think self-publishing has opened doors for writers and readers. I think it’s shown traditional publishers that readers don’t want the same ol’ same ol’ and that is a huge blessing.  I’ve always written out of the box and I’m grateful my publisher took a chance on me. 

I think self-publishing is making agents broaden their scope, and publishers take notice of self-pubbed authors to see how they fare. Unfortunately, I don’t see publishers taking chances on debut authors as much, and this worries me.  I see a lot of writers publish before they’re ready (in my opinion.)  As I said above, I studied and entered contests to gauge whether or not my manuscript was ready. It took me years, and the learning process was well worth the wait. It’s tempting to put our work out there, but even though I came from a nonfiction background, when it came to writing fiction, I had so much to learn.     

DV:  What advice would you give to new writers?

Donnell:  It’s so tempting, but don’t rush.  Learn craft.  Study The Heroes Journey, Debra Dixon’s Goal, Motivation and Conflict, enter contests to get feedback, and read, read, read.  Join a qualified critique group, and if writing is your passion, enjoy every minute.  Don’t believe every “rule” is gospel.  If a book needs a prologue, it needs a prologue. For every expert that tells you to do it a certain way, there are successful authors who prove him wrong.  Every writer develops a process.  Do what works for you.   

DV asked for an excerpt from my November 18, 2013 release, BETRAYED.  So I’ll just say thanks again, and hope your readers will check out BETRAYED.  I had a lot of fun writing it.

EXCERPT

Most of the team respected Kinsey and wanted to play.  And since she’d issued the unpopular decree, members of the male persuasion had tapered off.  But Cara had one beau who was certified trouble.  He was notorious for lurking in the distance.  He showed up constantly, much like the tall dude in baseball cap and sunglasses on the hill.

“He one of yours?” Kinsey asked.

Cara shaded her eyes and stared off in his direction.  “I wish.”

Kinsey kicked Cara a practice ball.  “Work on your dribbling.  Be right back.”

Trudging up the incline, prepared to set the kid straight, Kinsey stopped midway up the hill.  This was no high school student she was about to face.  This was an adult male watching her team.  He was too young to be one of their parents, and at the thought of a potential predator scoping out her girls, she pulled out her cell phone and prepared to call security.

“This is a closed practice,” she called moving upward.  “My players are on my clock now, so you’ll have to leave.”

“What if I’m not interested in the players?  What if I prefer the coach?” the wise guy asked.

Much like Cara had, Kinsey shaded her eyes against the afternoon sun.  She squinted some nice features into focus and stopped walking.  “Nate?”

“Hi ya, Kins.”

She gulped in disbelief.  She’d spent much of her high school career pining over this creep, and all he had to say to her was, “Hi ya, Kins?”

“I’m working.  Is there something I can help you with?”

He pulled aside his hand, revealing a badge clipped to his belt.  “Maybe.  I’m here on police business.”

An odd sense of disappointment clutched at her chest.  Somewhere she’d heard Nate had become a cop.  Of course he hadn’t had a secret crush on her all these years, awoken this morning, and come to his senses.

Really, Kins, he can still get to you? She’d been tied to celebrities, a man running for Congress had proposed.  Not that she’d accepted.  She was still incensed about Griff’s engagement ring comment in front of the Continental Miracles CEO.

Men.

Her inner lovesick teenager disappeared, and the unbendable coach returned.  “Does it concern one of my players?”

“It concerns you, Kins.”  He waved an arm around LBHS’s wide open space.  There weren’t a lot of students on campus after hours, but there were enough.  “Out here probably isn’t the best place to talk.”

END EXCERPT

DV: Thanks for stopping by, Donnell.  Good luck with your new book!

Donnell: Thanks so much for having me! 

DV: Like I mentioned at the beginning of the post, Donnell is giving away a book (reader’s choice) to one lucky commenter, so if you have any questions you’d like to ask her, or if you’d just like to share your thoughts on the interview, comments are open!

Check out Donnell’s author page or follow her on Facebook or Twitter  She’s also on Goodreads


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


Review: All the Blue-Eyed Angels by Jen Blood – Mystery

I just stumbled on a great review for my pal, Jen Blood’s debut mystery, All the Blue-Eyed Angels, by Tahlia Newland of Awesome Indies! If you’re looking for a terrific mystery by a great new author, All the Blue-Eyed Angels certainly delivers. Read all about it here:

Review: All the Blue-Eyed Angels by Jen Blood – Mystery.


%d bloggers like this: