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Dr. Richard has been involved in the field of Photonics for over 30 years. He received his BA in physics (honors) from the University of California Fullerton. He was in a full scholarship PhD program in physics at the University of California Irvine and a PhD program in philosophy at Claremont Graduate School. Dr. Richard completed his two dissertations (involving human interpretations of laser and electro-optical images) while under top secret clearance. He also has an advanced placement teaching credential, an advanced certification (from the University of Wisconsin) in laser and optical design; and other advanced certifications in fiber optics, computer programming, technology business development, financial products, dance, anatomy and physiology.

website & social links

WEBSITE → https://www.tetrastatum.com

TWITTERhttps://twitter.com/DrRichard_ISTAR

FACEBOOK → https://www.facebook.com/istarsfx

Would you call yourself a born writer?

 

Absolutely. I started writing advanced technology scripts for various industries 30 years ago.

What was your inspiration for Tetrastatum?

To create a new model of movie media that takes people to a more advanced mind set of viewing their own reality.

How long did it take you to complete the novel? 

My creative, academic skills and advanced technology skill set make it easy for me to write books in a short window of time —

Are you disciplined? Describe a typical writing day.

I think and create 24/7.

What did you find most challenging about writing this book?

I wanted to incorporate a novel with a new form of image time travel that will help people better take charge of their understanding or reality and how to control their destiny. It can be done, with my model, for any media.

What do you love most about being an author?

To see people stimulated about there ability to understand their power.

Did you go with a traditional publisher, small press, or did you self publish? What was the process like and are you happy with your decision?

Tetrastatum was a self-published book, but there are infinite other publication and lecture platforms for this kind of work.

About the Book

In their debut novel TETRASTATUM, authors Dr. Richard and Tim Smith combine heady concepts about the universe with a thrilling science fiction story about the search for a new kind of time travel. The result is a stunning mixture of dense cosmology and old-fashioned storytelling that will appeal to a wide readership, from science professionals to lay fans of science fiction.

Dr. Richard” and “Tim Smith” are the pseudonyms of Dr. Richard Connor and Marcus Rodriguez, respectively.

TETRASTATUM (‘the fourth state’) is the culmination of my 30 years working in the field of photonics,” Dr. Richard says. “I am an avid reader of sci-fi, and I wanted to create a new type of work that is both educational and entertaining in the genre. TETRASTATUM gives the reader a unique understanding of the existing laws of physics and extends them to provoke further thought from novice readers as well as advanced experts in the field.”

Kirkus Reviews notes that “authors Dr. Richard and Smith … tell their cerebral story with a heady mix of dense theory and absurdist humor.”

The Independent Review of Books declares:  “TETRASTATUM is like nothing you have ever read before. This is an impressive work of science fiction …”

The San Francisco Book Review adds that, “These recurring themes of characterization and distortion feed into the concern that is being voiced over the current state of our political climate…The layering of these themes is ultimately what gives TETRASTATUM a relevance that will keep readers turning pages and asking questions.”

“The book ultimately explains how human perceptions alter the future and puts forth a model based on quantum physics to explain ‘reality’,” Dr. Richard continues.  He calls science fiction “the perfect genre to explore socio-political ideas within the context of futuristic technologies and scientific theories.”

Dr. Richard and Smith are currently working with Norith Soth on adapting TETRASTATUM into a screenplay. Mr. Soth has penned work for Justin Lin (“Fast and Furious”), Stephen Chin (“War Dogs”), and Norman Reedus (“The Walking Dead”).

order your copy below

Amazon → https://tinyurl.com/y6tlmpbj

___________________

TG Wolff writes thrillers and mysteries that play within the gray area between good and bad, right and wrong. Cause and effect drive the stories, drawing from 20+ years’ experience in Civil Engineering, where “cause” is more often a symptom of a bigger, more challenging problem. Diverse characters mirror the complexities of real life and real people, balanced with a healthy dose of entertainment. TG Wolff holds a Master’s Degree in Civil Engineering and is a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime.

★ WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS: ★

Website → www.tgwolff.com

Twitter → @tg_wolff

Facebook → www.Facebook.com/tina.wolff.125

BOOK BLURB:

One night in Rome. One car. One dead scientist. Italian police investigate, but in the end, all they have are kind words for the new widow. Months later, a video emerges challenging the facts. Had he stepped into traffic, or was he pushed? The widow returns to the police, where there are more kind words but no answers. Exit the widow.

Enter Diamond. One name for a woman with one purpose. Resurrecting her CIA cover, she follows the shaky video down the rabbit hole. Her widow’s run unearths a plethora of suspects:  the small-time crook, the mule-loving rancher, the lady in waiting, the Russian bookseller, the soon-to-be priest. Following the stink greed leaves in its wake reveals big lies and ugly truths. Murder is filthy business. Good thing Diamond likes playing dirty.

“TG Wolff’s novel is for crime-fiction fans who like it action-packed and hard-edged. Written with feisty panache, it introduces Diamond, one of the most aggressive, ill-tempered, and wholly irresistible heroines to ever swagger across the page.” –David Housewright, Edgar Award-winning author of Dead Man’s Mistress

★★★★★ORDER YOUR COPY★★★★★

Amazon → https://amzn.to/2NgYhGg

 

Would you call yourself a born writer?

I call myself a born puzzler. I live to wonder, figure, solve, and twist things around. When someone reads my stories, they are seeing the end result of combining these. Words are one of my favorite mediums because you can do so much with them. Long stories, short stories, poetry, anagrams, histograms, crosswords, etc., etc., I also enjoy playing with numbers, shapes, and music.

What was your inspiration for WIDOW’S RUN?

A while back, I had heard a discussion on NPR about the classic private investigator detectives. It argued that one common characteristics, thr one that made them who they were, was having nothing to lose. No family to protect. No reputation to preserve. None of the bright spots of life that keep most of us on the straight and narrow. The concept struck me as freeing. I wanted to create that kind of character and see what kind of trouble we could get in to together.

Thus, Diamond was born. As WIDOW’S RUN is an origin story, it was a natural for her first case to be the one that made her who she is: solving her husband’s death. With no concern for consequences, wicked skills, and suicidal tendencies, I had a detective who ate rules for breakfast.

How long did it take you to complete the novel?

Color me embarrassed: I don’t know. I write for my own entertainment, so I didn’t sit down one day and decide to crank her out. I wrote Diamond as she came. First we toyed with each other, dancing around the structure that would guide us. I wanted short (because I tend to be long). She wanted fast. She wanted to do it alone. I knew she would need help. I wanted something people couldn’t put down. She wanted her husband’s killer. When we sat down to write, it happened fast. It was a few months to the first draft, since I do not write full time. Then came editing—my own, my beta team, and my professional editor. Pencil down was a year or so after I started. Didn’t feel like that long. But then, when you love what you’re doing…

Are you disciplined? Describe a typical writing day.

Disciplined? I am when I need to be. Most of the time, I don’t need to be.

A typical day depends on which day it is. I have two kinds, we’ll call them internal and external. On an internal day, I’ll walk, swim, drive, stare off my back porch like I’ve overdone the meds. On the outside, it doesn’t look like anything special is going on. But inside…oh, inside I’m in my private movie theatre watching scenes unfold, refold, and unfold again but better. Scene by scene, step by step. Who said what? What did her face look like? What did he drop? Was it sunny? Did anyone let the dog out? If I need to research something, I do, but lightly. If I need to try something, I do. Mostly, I daydream. And then it happens: the scene is set.

Time to go external, translating the “movie” into digital letters. This is where I “look” like a writer, sitting still and in front of a keyboard. It can take up to three or four internal days to get to an external one. When I do finally sit, words pour out. My fingers can’t keep up with my brain, so I always have solid days of editing ahead of me. But it’s all good, and after editing, it’s even better.

I don’t set blocks of time or days to write. I’m fortunate that I don’t have to. When the details fall into place, the story writes itself. I just have to keep up.

What did you find most challenging about writing this book?

I said previously how Diamond and I wrangled over the structure of the book. Neither of us wanted something that was a copy of something I’d previously done. This was her story. I purposely constrained myself to let her voice come through. First, the story would be told in under 13 chapters. Second, each chapter was limited to about 5,000 words. Finally, each chapter would have a story arc of its own while moving the main story along. Plotting the mystery was challenging as there was limited room to introduce suspects, reveal clues, and tie up all the ends. I had to be ruthless evaluating the value of scenes. Widow’s Run moves fast, making every word count.

What do you love most about being an author?

I love the “figuring” of the mystery. In order for the reader to have a credible puzzle to solve, all the details need to be developed and then sprinkled about in non-obvious ways. It’s like creating a scavenger hunt or hiding Easter eggs for kids. Playing the game is fun; creating the game is a thrill all its own.

I do love when people say I made them think or made them laugh. You always wonder if someone will connect with what you’ve created. When you write, it’s just you and a keyboard. It’s not like you’re on the Tour de France and people are cheering you along, ensuring you are on the right path. You put yourself out there in a very raw way. The positive feedback helps assure me that I’m not as weird as the voices in my head say I am.

Did you go with a traditional publisher, small press, or did you self publish? What was the process like and are you happy with your decision?

I am with Down & Out Books, who specializes in mysteries and thrillers. I am very happy working with Eric Campbell and Lance Wright. They understand the genre from both a reader and business standpoint, helping inform my stories and make them stronger. I believe in the value of a team. No individual can do everything well. When you have an understanding of your weak points and surround yourself with others who can shore you up, that’s when you get the best possible outcome. I don’t need someone who thinks like me; I got that covered. I need people who challenge me to make what is put in the reader’s hands better. That’s what Down & Out does.

 

William M. Hayes lives with his beautiful family in a small suburb in New York. His passion for writing became apparent in his twenties, and he dreams of retiring to a secluded beach house where he can write all day.

Website → www.williammhayes.com

Twitter → https://twitter.com/WMHayes_Author

Facebook → https://www.facebook.com/WilliamMHayesAuthor/

Would you call yourself a born writer?  No. I’m a storyteller.

What was your inspiration for Save Him? I needed a sci-fi/military story to fill my portfolio, and Save Him came to me.

How long did it take you to complete the novel? About six months. As for the rewrite, I lost count of the years.

Are you disciplined? Describe a typical writing day.  I’m a disciplined writer. I write three to four hours a day, six days a week.

What did you find most challenging about writing this book? Just about everything.

What do you love most about being an author? Telling a story.

Did you go with a traditional publisher, small press, or did you self publish? What was the process like and are you happy with your decision?  I self published. I was under the impression that traditional publishers don’t take on new clients these days. Do they?

About the Book

 

Rydel Scott, a brilliant scientist working at a secret military lab, accidentally discovers a form of time travel while working on a project designed to save wounded soldiers in the field. Rydel’s sister, a woman of faith, tells Rydel on her deathbed that she has received a message from God. The message—save Jesus Christ from the cross.

And Rydel Scott travels back in time to do just that.

It is believed even the smallest change to the past can cause catastrophic repercussions for future generations. An elite military unit is sent back in time to hunt Rydel down before he can alter history and possibly kill millions in the process.

The unit and its commanding officers, Colonel John Adams and Unit Commander Ray Catlin, become divided. Catlin, a devout Catholic, claims he witnessed a miracle by Jesus upon arrival in Jerusalem and fervently believes in Rydel’s mission. Adams hasn’t believed in God since he was a boy and his only concern is the safety of the people in the present. They must now choose between the fate of Christ and the fate of present-day mankind.

They must decide if they will Save Him.

Order Your Copy below

Amazon → https://tinyurl.com/y3veph29

 Barnes & Noble → https://tinyurl.com/y4rw4sgm

Brit Lunden is a prolific author who’s written over 50 books in assorted genres under different pen names. Bulwark was her first effort in adult fiction and was chosen by several of her fellow authors as the basis for a new series, A Bulwark Anthology.  Using her characters, they are creating new denizens in spin-off stories to this bizarre town. Brit Lunden lives on Long Island in a house full of helpful ghosts.

★ WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS: ★

Website → www.britlunden.com

Blog → https://britlunden.blogspot.com

Twitter → https://twitter.com/BritLunden

Facebook → https://www.facebook.com/britlunden

Would you call yourself a born writer?

I would call myself a born reader. I’ve read books my entire life and they have brought me great pleasure. I always wanted to write and only with the advent of online self-publishing engines has allowed me to fulfil my dream of writing. I didn’t consider myself an author until I started winning awards and recognition. I think I was surprised to be included in this category.

What was your inspiration for “The Devil and Dayna Dalton: The Bulwark Anthology (Book 9)?”

I wrote Bulwark, the first book in the Bulwark anthology, for a group of authors who never wrote any other books in the series. Later, I was approached by a new group of authors who asked if they could use Bulwark in a new anthology. I agreed and the series was born. I wrote this latest book because in the original I felt I had given Dayna Dalton a raw deal. When I read the reviews, I realized readers saw her as cunning and shallow. It made me think about what motivates people’s behavior. Sometimes, if you understand the components of a person’s life, you can sympathize with their actions. “The Devil and Dayna Dalton” is about a woman on fire internally, misunderstood, and under appreciated.

How long did it take you to complete the novel?

I wrote this story in three days.

Are you disciplined? Describe a typical writing day.

I am so disciplined, it’s painful. I work full time as the CEO of a global corporation. Writing is something I do when I need to decompress in the evenings. I’m up at six am, at meetings, in the office by 7 am. My assistant works with me all day on the social media that comes from promoting close to one hundred books of assorted authors and genres. Aside from my corporate job, I manage my son, author Michael Okon’s writing career. I leave work in the afternoon, watch reality TV, or do yoga and after I read with my grandchildren on FaceTime, only then do I begin to write. At 6 am the cycle starts again.

What did you find most challenging about writing this book?

The story just flowed. Once I wrote the first line I pretty much didn’t stop until Dayna finished telling me her story. The biggest challenge is always afterwards, finding the appropriate cover, formatting and marketing the book. The story is the easiest part.

What do you love most about being an author?

I am connecting with a diverse and fascinating audience. I love hearing reader’s take-away from my stories. The fact that I’ve entertained, started a conversation, shifted a perception, or even brought comfort is the most rewarding experience.

Did you go with a traditional publisher, small press, or did you self publish? What was the process like and are you happy with your decision?

I have self-published over fifty books. Currently, I am publishing my children’s line with a small press under the name, Carole P. Roman. My children’s books are both fiction and non-fiction. I also self-published a self-help book about the marketing and promotion of books. Finally, as Brit Lunden, I self-publish my adult fiction.

About the Book

Reporter Dayna Dalton’s reputation has been ruined since birth. The daughter of wild child, Becky Dalton, is expected to follow her mother’s footsteps; never given a chance to prove she’s different. Dana’s been in love with Clay Finnes since she was a teenager. Her unrequited love for Sheriff Finnes leaves her empty. He’s happily married and unavailable. Instead, Dayna finds herself stuck in the revolving door of bad relationships. But this is Bulwark, Georgia, a town where strange things are always happening. Dayna is doomed to this loveless life until she can find someone who will appreciate the depth of her character. Can she overcome her fears and look beyond her own perceptions to accept a greater love?

★★★★★ORDER YOUR COPY★★★★★

Amazon → https://amzn.to/2oemkM6  

After his graduation from Harvard Law School, Michael Bowen worked as a trial lawyer for thirty-nine years before retiring in 2015.  He focused on franchise and distribution disputes, but found time to assist in representing the Milwaukee Brewers baseball team in complex litigation over a proposal to put a maximum security prison across the street from County Stadium, and to represent numerous pro bono clients, including one who had been sentenced to death.  His career in fiction began with the 1987 publication of Can’t Miss, a “gently feminist” (St. Louis Post Dispatch) novel about the first woman to play major league baseball.  It continued through publication of one political satire and nineteen mysteries, culminating in 2019 with False Flag in Autumn, a follow-up to 2016’s Damage Control (“ . . . consistently delightful . . . . Bowen’s ebullient antidote to election season blues . . . . ” Kirkus Reviews).  During his legal career he also wrote numerous published articles on legal and political matters, and co-authored the Wisconsin State Bar treatise on the Wisconsin Fair Dealership Law (paperback and movie rights still available).  He lives in Fox Point, Wisconsin, a suburb of Milwaukee, with his wife Sara, who is also a Harvard Law School graduate and a published lecturer on Jane Austen and Angela Thirkel.  www.michaelbowenmysteries.com

False Flag in Autumn

INTERVIEW

Q:      Congratulations on the release of your latest book, False Flag in Autumn.  To begin with, can you give us a brief summary of what the story is about and what compelled you to write it?

A:      False Flag in Autumn asks why there wasn’t an “October surprise” before the 2018 mid-term elections, and whether there will be one before the presidential election in 2020.  It features Josie Kendall, whose memoirs will not be titled Nancy Drew Goes to Washington, a manipulative Washington apparatchik who is engaging, ambitious, cheerfully cynical, and (as she puts it) not possessed of “an overly delicate conscience.”  A rogue White House aide has tabbed her for the role of unwitting pawn in 2018’s planned October surprise, which leads to her being caught up in the more nefarious scheme planned for 2020.  Knowing that the stakes are high and could quickly get personal, Josie will have to decide whether to keep her head down and pray that the prospective victims die quickly and without too much pain, or to venture outside the Beltway bubble where the weapons are spin, winks, and leaks, into a darker world where the weapons are actual weapons.  She ends up on the side of the angels although, Josie being Josie, these angels play a little dirty.  I decided to write it because, after a lifetime as a reasonably savvy political junkie, I spent 2016 making one wrong prediction after another, and I wanted to see if I could at least imagine something weirder than what was actually going to happen.

Q:  What do you think makes a good political thriller?  Could you narrow it down to the three most important elements?  Is it even possible to narrow it down?

A:      The single most important element of a political thriller is heart.  The protagonist has to care about something – country, cause, ideology – larger than himself or herself, and the reader has to care about the protagonist and at least one of the potential victims.  As Lenin said, “The death of millions is a statistic.  The death of a single human being – that is a tragedy.”

The second indispensable element is believable action.  A punch in the mouth hurts; you don’t just shrug it off.  People don’t exchange snappy patter during fistfights. Most people have no idea of whether they could fire a gun at another human being, and in combat situations they don’t act like robots (or like Hollywood action heroes – but I repeat myself).

high_mbowen

The third critical element is human weakness, shared by the protagonist with other characters.  The protagonist should have at least occasional doubts, make serious mistakes, and perhaps shiver a bit at times when he (or, in this case, she) looks in the mirror.

Q:      How did you go about plotting your story?  Or did you discover it as you worked on the book?

A:      I firmly believe that plot flows from character.  I had detailed portraits of my main characters in my head before I typed the first word of the story.  Characters being true to themselves will go a long way toward shaping the plot because, after all, the plot is basically what the characters do, and well thought out characters won’t behave randomly.

I had the basic premise in my head before I booted up my computer.  I didn’t prepare a chapter-by-chapter plot outline, but I did work out a reasonably detailed synopsis of the plot in the initially successful pitch that I made to the first publisher I approached.  At the same time, twists and turns inevitably developed, and the plot evolved as I dealt with them.  I think it’s important for writers not to have too much of an ego-investment in their initial conceptions.  You know things that you don’t know you know, and that knowledge will bubble to the surface as you solve basic problems – e.g., after twenty pages of talk, I need an action scene pretty soon – that come up while you’re telling the story.

Q:      Tell us something interesting about your protagonist and how you developed him or her.  Did you do any character interviews or sketches prior to the actual writing?

A:      Since Josephine Robideaux Kendall was fifteen years old, she has wanted to work someday on the White House staff; to fly one day on Air Force One, working out talking points for the president to use in discussing a crisis that arose after the plane was in the air.  Her uncle says that her mind, like the rapids on Louisiana rivers, is fast but not deep, and she agrees.  She knows that she is smart but not (yet) wise, and that she is capable of serious moral lapses, but when they occur she confronts them honestly, without kidding herself.  I had developed Josie thoroughly in Damage Control, and in False Flag in Autumn I let her grow from the harrowing experience that she had in the earlier book as a result of her flippancy and misjudgments.

I prepared a sketch of her, but that was mostly for the benefit of the publisher.  I knew who Josie was and would be.  I didn’t do “interviews” with her.  That idea frankly never occurred to me.  On reflection, it would have been fun but I’m not sure it would have moved the ball very much.

Q:      In the same light, how did you create your antagonist or villain?  What steps did you take to make him or her realistic?

A:      The key to Hank Sinclair is that he’s book-smart but not gut-smart.  Washington is full of people like that (some of whom have run for president recently).  One of my law partners, who had worked on the staff of a governor and labored in that governor’s effort at a major party convention to get himself put on the ticket as the vice-presidential candidate, told me that the core, single-minded attitude of anyone on any elected official’s staff is “Can do.”  A staffer wants to accomplish whatever the candidate wants, regardless of what it takes, what the risks are, or whether it’s right or wrong.  Put that together with book-smart but not gut-smart and you get Watergate – or Hank Sinclair.  He doesn’t have to be evil.  He simply has to be useful to people who are.

Q:      How did you keep your narrative exciting throughout the novel?  Could you offer some practical, specific tips?

A:      The key to excitement is suspense, and the keys to suspense are foreshadowing and investment of the reader in the protagonist (or in whoever is in peril).  Action itself is very useful, but it is secondary to and derivative of suspense.  The reader doesn’t know what’s going to happen, and has to care whether one thing happens rather than another.  Once you’ve accomplished that, you can (as Raymond Chandler put it) have someone walk through the door with a gun in his hand.         It is very important to genuine excitement that action not be arbitrary, that it flow organically from the plot.  You can’t have your protagonist get into a fight just to prove to someone else (the leader of a gang of outlaws or terrorists that he’s trying to infiltrate, for example) that he’s tough or capable.  (That trope, by the way, was a staple of westerns and private-eye TV shows in the 1950’s and 1960’s.)      Finally, action has to conform to character.  Josie Kendall grew up in Louisiana and she knows how to handle firearms, but until she has to find out the hard way she doesn’t know whether she’d be any use in a firefight.  (Neither do I and, odds are, neither do you.)  As she says when considering options in a tight situation, no one will confuse her with Jack Reacher.

Q:      Setting is also quite important and in many cases it becomes like a character itself.  What tools of the trade do you use in your writing to bring the setting to life?

A:      The most important element of convincing setting is concrete detail.  In Vienna, lots of people ride bicycles at night.  In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, streetwalkers don’t ply their trade east of the Milwaukee River.  In Washington, D.C., everyone hates the Metro, locals have an aversion to tourists, and a lot of people who smoke hide their indulgence like eighth-graders sneaking behind the gym because the optics are bad and Washington is a city where people care about optics.  In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a key police force is the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff and his legions of deputies – and people are not particularly shy about smoking.

In a perfect world, an author can get to some facet of the essence of a particular place.  In the American south, generally, there is a sense of history, and in the American Midwest a sense of identification with a particular locale, that would seem alien to someone in, say, New Jersey or California.  In Washington, one such defining element is the perpetual tension between elected officials (especially presidents), who are viewed as transients, and the permanent government (or “deep state,” as some call it these days) that plans to run administrative agencies forever.  How do you figure out what that defining feature is for a particular place?  Three ways:  (1) live and work there for over a year; (2) marry someone from there; or (3) visit there for a while, keeping your eyes and ears open and your mouth shut.

Q:      Did you know the theme(s) of your novel from the start or is this something that you discovered after completing the first draft?  Is this theme recurrent in your other work?

A:      I have had the basic themes of my Washington crime stories firmly in mind since I published Washington Deceased some thirty years ago:  Washington is a place where people do things – both good things and evil things – for reasons that would make no sense in (say) San Francisco or Chicago or Atlanta; and where, somehow, for some reason (the genius of the Constitution?  Divine providence?) messy compromises get worked out and the United States muddles through one crisis after another without catastrophe and sometimes in startling triumph.  Somehow a zeitgeist of depraved and sordid cynicism leads to people rising above their limitations and actually shocking themselves by doing what’s right for their country.

Q:      Where does craft end and art begin?  Do you think editing can destroy the initial creative thrust of an author?

A:      Let’s not kid ourselves:  in mystery writing, art and craft are basically the same thing.  We’re telling stories about good and evil, free will and determinism, logic and intuition, causation and randomness.  Such storytelling is an art if it’s done right (that is, in a craftsmanlike way), and it’s a waste of time if it’s not.  It’s an art if it engages the reader, which can be done only by those with a confident command of the craft, and it’s a flop if it doesn’t, no matter what literary pyrotechnics attend it.  G.K. Chesterton wrote that it may be a finer thing to be a lyric poet than to be a wit, but it’s a lot easier to pretend to be a lyric poet than to pretend to be a wit.  The same thing is true of writing mysteries and thrillers:  their art and craft is that they work for readers (or they don’t).  If they don’t, you can tell right away, and you know that neither art nor craft is involved.

In theory, of course is it possible for conformist or mindless or ideology-driven editing to negate the creative brilliance shining through an author’s work.  In over thirty years of publishing fiction, however, I’ve never had a bad editor.  Every editor I’ve ever worked with has done everything he or she could to bring out what was best in my work and to cast aside what detracted from its quality.  Hence, I’m more than a little skeptical about whether this theoretical possibility is ever realized in practice.

Q:      What three things, in your opinion, make a successful novelist?

A:      That depends on the definition of “successful”.  If a “successful” novelist is one who writes bestsellers, then the three keys are (1) knowledge of the target demographic; (2) willingness and ability to tell a fast-moving story using an eighth-grade vocabulary; and (3) a talent for developing fresh premises to hang those stories on.  If a “successful” novelist is one who gets critical acclaim in high-minded publications, then the three keys are (1) achieving first-hand or at least second-hand contact with the people, mostly in New York, who determine the orientation of those publications; (2) willingness and ability to tell stories that reflect that orientation; and (3) a talent for developing fresh premises to hang those stories on.  If a “successful” novelist is one who writes stories that he or she (and, ideally, others) can still read with pleasure twenty years after those stories were published, then the three keys are (1) an imaginative knack for asking “What if . . . ?” and then following the implications of that question to an emotionally satisfying conclusion; (2) a willingness to pound a keyboard until your brains fall out and a coherent narrative structure has taken shape; and (3) a talent for developing fresh premises to hang the resulting stories on.  Careful readers will notice a theme here.

Q:      A famous writer once wrote that being an author is like having to do homework for the rest of your life.  Thoughts?

A:      I don’t agree.  Homework is something you do, even though you don’t want to, because you don’t have any choice.  Professional writers do have a choice.  Anyone who could be an author could, if nothing else, sell fraudulent securities or successfully manage a house of assignation.

Q:      Are there any resources, books, workshops, or sites about the craft that you’ve found helpful during your writing career?

A:      The closest I can come – and it’s not particularly close – is Evelyn Waugh’s memoir A Little Learning.  Beyond that, the truthful answer is no.  I don’t mean to suggest that I’m so good that I couldn’t have benefitted from resources such as these.  I simply mean that I never consulted them.  Because I was practicing law full time, I had to either write fiction during the times when my partners were playing golf, or not write fiction at all.  Studying about how to write better simply wasn’t an option, because even my partners didn’t play that much golf.

Q:      Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers about the craft of writing?

A:      Two things.  First, unless you so fervently want to write that nothing I might say could possibly dissuade you, then don’t take up writing as a profession.  Effective fiction should proceed from an urgent inner need that cannot be satisfied except by written expression.  Second, believe in the stories you tell.  There are plenty of successful writers who don’t, and in general they are unhappy people.

 

Author PhotoSusan McCormick writes cozy murder mysteries. She is also the author of GRANNY CAN’T REMEMBER ME, a lighthearted picture book about Alzheimer’s disease. She is a doctor who lives in Seattle. She graduated from Smith College and George Washington University School of Medicine, with additional medical training in Washington, DC and San Francisco, where she lived in an elegant apartment building much like the one in the book. She served nine years in the military before settling in the Pacific Northwest. She is married and has two boys, plus a giant Newfoundland dog.

Connect with Susan on the web:

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Find out more about THE FOG LADIES:

Amazon / B&N

INTERVIEW:

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, The Fog Ladies. To begin with, can you give us a brief summary of what the story is about and what compelled you to write it?

A:  THE FOG LADIES is a cozy murder mystery with a group of spunky older women and one overworked, overtired, overstressed medical intern who all live in an elegant apartment building in San Francisco where old ladies start to die. Mrs. Bridge falls off a stool cleaning bugs out of her kitchen light. Mrs. Talwin slips on bubbles in the tub and drowns. Are these deaths the natural consequences of growing old, or is it murder?

Years ago, I lived in an apartment building similar to the one in the book, and I always thought it would make a good setting for a cozy. The name of the book and the idea for the group of women came instantly, before anything else about the story. They call themselves the Fog Ladies because you can count on them like you can count on San Francisco early morning fog burning off by midday. Being a life-long cozy murder mystery lover, I concocted murders around them and set a killer loose in their apartment building.

TheFogLadies_w13428_cover

Q: What do you think makes a good cozy murder mystery? Could you narrow it down to the three most important elements? Is it even possible to narrow it down?

A:  Characters drive a cozy, and I tried to create a memorable cast of quirky yet identifiable  characters that will hopefully survive this killer in their building and persevere for more mysteries to come. Another cozy feature is an enclosed setting, like the elegant San Francisco apartment building in my story, so the victims and the killer are all known to each other and it is hard to hide.

Q: How did you go about plotting your story? Or did you discover it as you worked on the book?

A:  The first draft of THE FOG LADIES had far too few suspects, thanks to my hope of “letting the story write itself,” without an outline or plot points. That process gave me the wonderful characters of Chanterelle and Baby Owen, who wrote their own scenes. But without enough villains, I had to go back and turn perfectly lovely characters into potential killers. So now I outline everything, and plot it all ahead.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist and how you developed him or her. Did you do any character interviews or sketches prior to the actual writing?

A:  The Fog Ladies each have their quirks and foibles, and I created entire character sketches about each, plus every other character in the book. But sometimes things don’t go as planned, and that is the surprise and magic of writing. Enid Carmichael, a busybody with sharp hearing, discovers Starbucks lattes at the ripe old age of eighty. She loves the bitterness, the froth. I wrote that. Then she craved more lattes, and the next thing I knew, she was stealing Starbucks coupons from her neighbor’s newspaper to feed her addiction. She did that. Not me.

Q: In the same light, how did you create your antagonist or villain? What steps did you take to make him or her realistic?

A:  My killer has his motives, his hopes, his setbacks. The original draft of THE FOG LADIES, that first exciting but unplotted, unoutlined draft, included my villain’s voice sprinkled throughout the story. In re-reading, there were too many points of view, and to decrease reader confusion, I took his chapters out and stuffed all his thoughts into a scene toward the end. I miss his commentary throughout the book, but his perspective is still there.

Q: How did you keep your narrative exciting throughout the novel? Could you offer some practical, specific tips?

A:  The best part of writing for me, and the part that creates the most memorable and lively scenes, is the part of writing that is not planned. One of my characters wrote herself onto life support and expected me to resuscitate her. Exacerbating but interesting. The characters of ne’er do well teen parents Chantrelle and Big Owen and their baby were nowhere in my mind when I started to write. They created themselves, and the story is richer for them.

Q: Setting is also quite important and in many cases it becomes like a character itself. What tools of the trade did you use in your writing to bring the setting to life?

A:  I lived in an apartment building much like the one in THE FOG LADIES, minus the murders, when I did medical training in San Francisco. Elegant apartment buildings are found throughout San Francisco, especially in Pacific Heights, where the story is set. Tenants of all ages live together for years, providing the perfect cast of characters and cozy-type enclosed setting for a series of murders. I tried to describe the building, the love the old handyman had in polishing the wood and brass, and also the Fog Ladies’ apartments, aged and dated but still glorious, a little like them.

Q: Did you know the theme(s) of your novel from the start or is this something you discovered after completing the first draft? Is this theme(s) recurrent in your other work?

A:  The theme of murder and fear is a given in a cozy murder mystery. I always knew I wanted to write about growing old and female bonds of friendship. But some of the other themes of the book, like love, mistakes, even parenting, came only after the characters took over.

Q: Where does craft end and art begin? Do you think editing can destroy the initial creative thrust of an author?

A:  To me, craft is the careful planning and plotting I wish I’d done before the writing fun began, art is the fun I had when I didn’t know what was going to happen. Revision is the ick I had to endure because I didn’t plan and plot ahead. Editing is the tightening of phrases, condensing of scenes, overall improvement made once the manuscript is almost there. The fun creation part of writing lives through all the hard work that comes later.

Q: What three things, in your opinion, make a successful novelist?

A:  In life, I think the single most important attribute we take to any profession is showing up on time, with enthusiasm. A cruder way to say this is “butt in seat.” I am a doctor in a training hospital, and it applies to our medical residents trying to further their medical knowledge base, it applies to students in college, and my first job as a shopping mall Easter Bunny, and my second job as secretary, and my weirdest job as a mate on a sport fishing boat, and my current jobs as a doctor and author. Putting in the time and looking forward to putting in the time (or pretending to) go a long way to a successful career. For writing, it also helps to have imagination and a talent for storytelling.

Q: A famous writer once wrote that being an author is like having to do homework for the rest of your life. Thoughts?

A:  Until the book is in your hands in hard copy, you are never finished with that book. There are always tweaks to make it better, typos to discover, characters who need one more boost. Even once that book is out in the world, there is promotion and marketing, which means more writing, more time. And there is the next book, and the side book, and the book that’s screaming to be written even though you are writing the next book and the side book. It is never ending.

Q: Are there any resources, books, workshops or sites about craft that you’ve found helpful during your writing career?

A:  Elizabeth Lyon comes to mind as far as helpful books about editing. Reading cozy murder mysteries is immensely helpful in solidifying my cozy craft while enjoying this genre.

Q:  Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers about the craft of writing?

A:  Plotting and planning is smart, or you will end up with too few suspects or no side story of how a single mistake can change your life. However, you need to give your characters a little space to be themselves, because the surprises they bring, like Enid Carmichael’s latte binge or the trio of Chantrelle, Big Owen and Baby Owen, will delight you and your readers.

 

 

 

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Title: DARK JUSTICE
Author: Angela Smith
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 249
Genre: Romantic Suspense

BOOK BLURB:

She’s in love with her sister’s killer…

Lauren has loved Luke since first grade. They planned to marry—until he murdered her sister. The moment he was sentenced to prison, Lauren fled with her secret baby and made a new life. Now she’ll do anything to keep their daughter safe. But her hard won peace shatters when Luke is exonerated, and it sets her on a path of mixed emotions to discover the truth. Letting a killer into their tightly knit family is out of the question. Or is it?

She almost destroys her life by threatening his…

Prison stole his future with Lauren and twelve years of Luke’s life, so the last thing he needs from her is a knife in the back or a gun in his face. Lauren believes he killed her sister, and he has no plans to pick up where they left off. Luke can’t afford to trust her, but he wants nothing more than to convince her he’s worth fighting for.

Their daughter is in danger…

Luke is heartbroken when he learns they had a child together. Now his daughter is in danger. Lauren trusted the wrong person for far too long, but he hopes she’ll now trust him. Luke will risk everything to keep them safe. And Lauren will risk everything if she lets him into her heart.

 

★★★★★ORDER YOUR COPY★★★★★

Amazon → www.amzn.com/B07TZWHCC3

 Barnes & Noble → https://tinyurl.com/y4j5n4yd

 

Book Excerpt:

Luke—Twelve Years Ago

 

“All rise for the jury.”

I stand, my legs unsteady. The jurors filter in, one by one, their eyes downcast. Those who look, only glance at the prosecutor. Not me or my defense attorney.

Wayne’s breath hitches. It’s a whispery whoosh, a sound he likely doesn’t realize he’s made, but it tells me everything I need to know. I almost collapse in defeat.

He thinks they found me guilty. And by their expressions, I agree.

I size up the crowd gathering in the courtroom. Most of them sit on the prosecutor’s side. Clint is there. Once my best friend, but now I’m convinced he’s a killer. He’s next to Lauren. The love of my life and the one I presumed would stand by my side forever. But since she believes I killed her sister, I guess I can’t blame her for turning her back on me.

But Clint? Fear curls my spine. He’s charming, I’ll give him that, but he’s an absolute psycho. Nobody in Lauren’s family will listen, especially Lauren. And before all this, I wouldn’t have believed Clint is the killer. He killed her sister. How do I know she won’t be next? How can I protect her if I’m locked in prison for the rest of my life?

The judge drones on about the charge, then asks the jury if they’ve reached a decision. Wayne shifts and gives me a blink that tells me he wants to make sure I’m aware of what’s going on. I’m eighteen, for God’s sake. How could anyone my age understand criminal justice?

He’s warned me of how you can never predict a jury, but this group of fourteen holds their heads high as if they’ve never been surer in their lives. Two of them are alternate jurors, so it’s up to five men and seven women to decide my fate.

An older gentleman hands the bailiff the verdict. I hold my breath, and the judge reads. “We the jury find the defendant, Lucas Donovan Fuller, guilty of murder.”

Gasps fill the room. Chaos erupts, at least in my bones. More like a commotion, nothing too disastrous to alert the judge, and something he’s probably accustomed to. He only regards the crowd. A lot of loud talking, crying, and my mother’s wails. He’s way more patient than me and waits for everyone’s reaction to subside.

My muscles grow weak. I badly want to sit and wonder when I’m allowed. I want to reach out to Lauren. Tell her I’m sorry this happened, I didn’t do it, she has to trust me, and please, please don’t trust Clint. I open my mouth to say these things, but my attorney stations his hand on my shoulder, as if his one palm is going to keep me silent.

He warned me over and over not to react. I’m not allowed to speak. I am barely allowed to move, and I can’t look her way, although I shift to do so. The bailiff puffs out his chest and walks closer, as if I’m going to bolt.

“Calm down,” Wayne says. “We still have punishment. Don’t make a scene.”

Why shouldn’t I react? This is life changing. My life is over. I’m going to prison. The judge hasn’t declared a final sentence but after everyone’s testimony, I’ve started to believe my own guilt. I’m likely going to prison for the rest of my life.

****

Luke—Present Day

 

Luke Fuller’s pen scribbled across the page. His heart hammered while he wrote the words, ears filling with the deep drum of his heartbeat as if he was re-experiencing the event. Tired of writing, he shut the notebook and tossed it on the wrought-iron table beside him, along with his cap and shades. He stood and opened the grill to check the ribeye.

Food would be ready in a few minutes, and all he needed was right here. A little salt and pepper, paper plates and plastic forks to eat with, and a cooler full of drinks. Even a hundred feet from the river, the bullfrogs’ croaking put him at ease.

A sound he never expected to hear again.

He closed the grill, grabbed a beer from the ice chest, and lounged on the patio chair. It took a while for his heartbeat to settle. Writing these memories was difficult, harder than he expected, and his body ached from the flashbacks.

The sun descended, a showcase of gold fueled by rain clouds and humidity. He loved the open porch and didn’t want a screen to filter him and the outdoors. With bug spray, sleeping out here at night was a dream come true, despite the oppressive mugginess. Lightning flashed in the south, implying the much-needed shower was near. Nothing better than the clatter of rain on the roof.

Even the mosquitoes avoided the Texas July heat, but he’d take heat over the prison cell where he’d spent the past twelve years of his life. He’d take it over that any damn day.

LED lights strung across the porch offered a soft glow to ease him come sundown. He hated the darkness. Too many reminders of prison and the things he wanted to forget. But this darkness out in the country was peaceful, welcoming, different. Almost bearable.

A car drove up, the headlights zipping through the trees. His muscles tensed. He studied the nearby monitor attached to the front security camera. The car parked, the lights shut off. His lungs tightened, burned, then disintegrated when the woman stepped out and sauntered to the back.

She remembered. Friends always came to the back door. But she was no friend.

He blinked, his gut churning. Was he dreaming? Hallucinating after writing those memories? Lauren shone bright in his mind, even the seductive scent of honey and berries he once loved to sample behind her ear.

Her footsteps echoed up the stairs, and she came into view. She was no illusion. He remained sitting, nonchalant and drinking his beer as if he had no care in the world.

His mouth dried. The beer a sour tang. Her presence meant nothing good.

She thought he’d killed her sister. The entire community deemed him guilty before a jury of his peers sentenced him to life in prison. His sisters never stopped fighting to prove his innocence. He was released two months ago thanks to Adrienne and Charlotte and the team of defense attorneys who fought for him.

But he favored prison over the look of revulsion on Lauren’s face. A flowing skirt skimmed her knees, the imprinted flowers rivaling the charm of the countryside. Her slender body was as gorgeous as ever, heating him in ways better left ignored. She wore open-toed sandals. He never understood why she chose those shoes while hiking. They had to stop many times during their treks to pluck out grass burrs.

At one time, they didn’t mind the interruption.

Her dirty blonde hair was darker, accented by rich caramel, and the image of her ocean blue eyes burned in his memory. Despite the similarities, she wasn’t the same woman who once loved him.

He didn’t flinch when she pointed the pistol his direction. He continued to sip his beer, his ears tingling with the chatter of June bugs and crickets. If she wanted to shoot him, so be it.

Although he hadn’t killed her sister, he was just as much to blame. He had been selfish in spending his time with Lauren and didn’t mind leaving her sister alone. He trusted his best friend, had known him since grade school, but ignored his recent questionable tendencies. The town of Terrence was quick to point fingers while the real killer roamed free.

****

Lauren—Present Day

 

Lauren Cooper pointed the pistol at Luke, knees knocking and thighs quaking. She was proud of herself for keeping a steady grip despite her sweaty palms.

She’d practiced plenty, eyeing her target, strengthening her resolve. Today, Luke Fuller was her target. Maybe her first moving target—although he didn’t move, didn’t even flinch—and definitely her first human target. Still, she’d often imagined him on the other end of her gun.

What was she thinking? She risked losing her job over this, even facing jail time, for threatening with a firearm. Was it worth it to lose everything she’d worked so hard for? Even worse, to risk her daughter’s wellbeing?

Luke had murdered Elizabeth, was released, and now another man accused. But not just any man. Clint Merkel. A close friend. Almost family.

Thousands of times she’d confronted Luke in her dreams. Robbed him of life as brutally as he had robbed her twelve-year-old sister’s. More like nightmares. The man she once loved with all her heart. The jury had convicted him, but now he was exonerated. Doubts still clouded her mind. The newest facts couldn’t obliterate twelve years of certainty, no matter how credible.

Her spine clenched. She had tossed and turned and cried herself to sleep for years. Her emotions skyrocketed all over the place. Suppressed memories jumbled out of her. Memories of his kiss, his embrace, their shared lives, their plans. In high school, they’d been dubbed Luke and Lauren. She didn’t want to plan college without questioning where he’d go. They were a team, a couple and everybody—including her—presumed they’d stay together after high school.

Stupid to give her life away to a man, to halt her ambitions and plans. And then one fateful night the truth had been discovered, and the cops had placed the cuffs on his wrists.

He was still the most handsome man she had ever seen. Still captivated her. The sting of attraction needled through her muscles, her bones, her heartbeat. Her pulsed thrummed into her toes. She fought to stand her ground and reveal nothing about his effect on her.

Thunder boomed. She jumped. The rain began a harsh and fast hammering on the roof.

He sipped his beer, body relaxing as if knowing she wasn’t about to pull the trigger. He remained unaffected by the thunder, by the deluge, and by her presence.

“You going to shoot me or not?” He shrugged one shoulder, his drawl tightening the shivers in her stomach. Heat flared under her skin, the familiar anger—the reason she came here—blazed to her core. Him all casual, enjoying a beer while smoke billowed from his fire pit. The spices of the steak tore knots in her throat.

But she wasn’t only angry at him. She was angry at herself for letting him charm her.

The storm doused the dusk, but miniature lights lined the porch. She saw every inch of him and the way his gaze slid over her. They had studied each other for hours when they were younger, in love and carefree. The green of his eyes soaked up the earth and emitted the colors of eternity. They were harder, his face bearing a few scars only she might notice.

He dropped his beer to the table beside him. “What are you doing, Lauren? Just shoot me already. I’ve practically been dead these past years, anyway.”

Her throat closed. She refused to imagine what he experienced these last few years.

Luke shifted forward and frowned, let out a rickety cough, then perched his elbows on his knees. He swiped a hand over his face, then continued. “Look. I’m sorry about everything. Sorry you had to go through the loss of your sister and you believed I did it. Sorry I couldn’t comfort you. I’m… just sorry.”

His wobbly voice shattered her reserves. His movements broadcasted an unexpected nervousness. She let out a whoosh of breath, every fiber of her being sinking into a black hole of misery. Tears rolled out of her, hot and choking. Her grip on the gun wavered but remained clasped in her fingers.

He stood and swaggered toward her. His heavy-booted steps on the wooden planks thudded in her ears. She wanted to back away, but her butt rested against the porch railing and an invisible anchor rooted her to the ground.

She swayed.

Her hands shook, and her best interest was to put down the gun before somebody got hurt. Most likely her.

She lowered the pistol. He stopped in front of her and took it. She was too weak, too helpless to fight. His presence suctioned every bit of her power.

He set the gun on the ground. She jumped as another round of thunder boomed. Rain pounded the roof. Droplets hit her skin, but not enough to matter. She craved the cool refreshment. He stood facing her, his eyes boring into hers. She licked her lips as if drawing sustenance from that one small move, a move that drew his gaze to her mouth.

She swayed again, about to fall. He grabbed her and pulled her into his arms.

“Careful.” His words wisped across her ear and trailed down her spine to spool into a reservoir of lust in her loins.

She planted the top of her head against his chest and sobbed as he held her. Her shoulders shook, the tears escaping in violent torrents. She couldn’t stop no matter how hard she wanted to.

He smelled like mesquite smoke and musk, along with crisp grass cuttings under Texas sunshine. Stupid, stupid to imagine such things.

The tears were a release. A goodbye she never had a chance to say.

Had she believed he was capable of murder? She refused to listen to his sister when she begged. All the evidence pointed to him. The police, the prosecutor, even the city mayor had convinced her.

How could they all be wrong? Her mind churned with questions. Questions she should have asked before she’d threatened him with a gun.

His fingers skated up her hair, and he tucked a piece behind her ear. She straightened her spine and lifted her head, willing her body to fight the attraction as her tears dried.

“I don’t know if I believe it,” she finally said.

“What? That I didn’t do it?”

She nodded, her limbs weak and trembling.

“Well, if Clint didn’t do it, why did he run?”

She wondered the same thing, but Clint being a killer was terrifying, even more so than Luke, considering she’d entrusted her daughter with him.

She lowered her head and sniffled. He placed his fingers under her chin and forced her to look at him.

Not a force but a slow, gentle move. He had always been gentle. Clint had been the edgy one, the one who tested her nerves. And yet after Luke had been accused of murdering her sister, she had turned to Clint as a friend and let him take part in her life. How had he manipulated her? How had she allowed it? Her belly flopped, the drying tears searing her throat.

She’d always felt safe with Luke. Safe, yet vulnerable, because her heart was at risk.

He dropped his hand from her chin and finger brushed her hair. Her neck tingled. She longed to savor his mouth on hers after all these years.

“I’ve imagined being in front of you, begging you to listen.” His voice was a slow deep penetration to the core of her being. Something impossible to pull away from. “I did not kill your sister, and as much pain as I knew you were in, it broke my heart you never gave me a chance.”

She lifted her chin higher and stared straight into his eyes. “And I imagined having the chance to stand in front of you and kill you.”

A strangled sob escaped him. His eyes flickered. Her body grew warm with regret. Regret for her words, regret for refusing to hear him out so many years ago, and regret for wanting him so much she hurt.

“You’ve got that chance now. Why don’t you take it?”

Meet the Author

Angela Smith is a Texas native who, years ago, was dubbed most likely to write a novel during her senior year in high school. She always had her nose stuck in a book, even hiding them behind her textbooks during school study time. Her dream began at a young age when her sister started reciting ‘Brer Rabbit’ after their mom read it to them so often. She told her mom she’d write a story one day and never gave up on that dream even though her mom was never able to see it come to fruition. By day, she works as a certified paralegal and office manager at her local District Attorney’s office and spends her free time with her husband, their pets, and their many hobbies. Although life in general keeps her very busy, her passion for writing and getting the stories out of her head tends to make her restless if she isn’t following what some people call her destiny.

★ WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS: ★

Website → http://www.loveisamystery.com

Blog → www.loveisamystery.com/my-blog

Twitter → www.twitter.com/angelaswriter

Facebook → www.facebook.com/authorangelasmith

Goodreads → https://tinyurl.com/y48996ej

BookBub → https://tinyurl.com/yxr9ezxy

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