Welcome to Dames of Dialogue, Mary and Eric! Tell us one strange and provocative tidbit from your life that nobody has heard before.

MR: There is, if they did not throw it out when housekeeping at one time or another, archival footage in the BBC vaults of my riding around the office on Clive Sinclair’s prototype electric bike. It was extremely heavy due to the battery mounted at the back, and increasingly difficult to control. Thus the bike wobbled somewhat as I passed between desks delivering letters. Even so my young nephew thought it was quite the bees knees to see his aunt on TV.

Tell us about your latest book.

MR: Ten For Dying opens with the theft of a fragment of the Virgin’s shroud by two demons while an unconnected and maryreed.tenfordyingblasphemous ceremony is under way nearby to raise a woman from the dead. Murder and intrigue follow. Felix, commander of the palace guard, is ordered to solve the mystery but has to rely largely on his own wits to do so.

Unfortunately for him, an anonymous corpse is left at his house before… and his good friend John, former Lord Chamberlain, had sailed away into exile the morning after the theft. Among the characters are the diminutive magician Dedi of Egypt, Julian, popularly known as the Jingler because he wears so many protective charms his approach is announced by their jangling, General Belisarius’ wife Antonina, and the famous charioteer Porphyrius, not to mention Felix’s newest and somewhat mysterious mistress Anastasia.

When you’re writing, who’s in control, you or the characters?

EM: I am. How could it be otherwise? My characters only exist in the words I type onto the screen. I’ve always thought the idea of characters taking over is a bit of romantic hyperbole. Certainly there is more than a bit of mystery in the creative process. None of us are really sure why this or that idea bubbles up into our consciousness when it does. Why did that plot twist suddenly occur to me? Why did I decide John should say that to the emperor. (That…of all things…boy, is he in trouble now!) Well, perhaps we form the idea of a character in our minds and in our subconscious that idea influences other ideas. So I might admit that my idea of my characters sometimes takes control.

Who are your favorite authors, the ones you read when you should be doing something else? Why do they appeal to you?

EM: It’s hard for me to name favorite authors since I tend to go from one to another. I am a very promiscuous reader. Two favorites though are John D. MacDonald and Mickey Spillane. They are typical of writers I enjoy in that they write things I can’t imagine writing. There’s no way I could manage to think enough like Mike Hammer or Travis McGee to write convincingly about those guys. Which is precisely why I like reading about them.

Promotion is a big–and usually the most hated–part of being a writer. Can you share a little bit about how you promote?

MR: We’re promoting year-round to a certain degree. So we provide guest blogs and interviews, details of which, along  with relevant links, we announce in Necessary Evil, the BSP section of Orphan Scrivener, our e-newsletter. We tweet  @marymaywrite and @groggytales are our noms de Twitter) and blog — Eric has his own blog and I contribute each 18th of the month to the Poisoned Pen Press multi-author blog — and we both provide content to M. E. Mayer’s blog. M. E. is the shadow identity chosen by our British publisher Head of Zeus, and M. E.’s blog is heavy on reviews of Golden Age mysteries, of which I am a great fan. Then too there are appropriate signature lines, varied as much as possible to keep content fresh, on posts to mystery-related elists.

We also have a home page, hanging out on the Web’s virtual washing line at http://home.earthlink.net/~maywrite/ With our website we have made an effort to provide content that is not all about us, so for example it features a couple of games written by Eric, two of our ghost stories, and libraries of links to free e-texts of classic and Golden Age mysteries, ghost stories, and tales of the supernatural.

Who or what has been the biggest influence in your writing career and why?

EM: My wife Mary. Without her I wouldn’t have a writing career. At least not a career that included fiction writing. For years I made sporadic and unsuccesful efforts to sell science fiction short stories, mostly because that was the genre I read growing up. I was familiar with the magazines. Never mind that I stopped reading much sf in my early twenties. After we were married Mary managed, with difficulty, to talk me into collaborating with her to turn a vague idea I’d had for a sort of locked room mystery into an actual story. Ideas, of course, are a dime a dozen. As far as the mechanics of writing a mystery went, presenting suspects, parceling out clues, I didn’t have…well…a clue. So it was a learning process for me. Our  first co-authored story, An Obo Mystery, was set in Mongolia and appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. Over the years I’ve learned more about writing mysteries but Mary remains the puzzle maven.

What do you consider the single most satisfying aspect of being a writer?

MR: To tell our stories to readers we shall never meet nor know. It’s quite startling to consider John’s adventures have been read in places we shall never see for ten books now, particularly since when A Byzantine Mystery, the first short story about our protagonist, was published in Mike Ashley’s collection The Mammoth Book of Historical Whodunnits we had no notion we would write more of them, much less embark on a series of novels. So we are ever grateful to have had the opportunity to talk about John’s world and for the interest readers have shown in it.

What are your thoughts on the standard writing advice, “write what you know”?

EM: Basically it’s meaningless. Or only meaningful in a very trivial way. We all know everything we need to know to write whatever we want to write. Is there any writer who hasn’t experienced basic human feelings like love, hate, fear, joy, anger, curiosity? Settings and technical details can be researched. Neither Mary nor I, nor anyone living, has ever walked the streets of sixth century Constantinople, but we can read history, and more importantly I’ve lived in New York City and Mary has lived in Newcastle-on-Tyne. The particular details are not as important as knowing what it feels like to live in a big city.

How do you classify yourself as a writer? Fiction or non-fiction? Specific genre such as mystery, short story, paranormal or more general such as women’s fiction, Appalachian, etc.

MR: Primarily as writer of historical mysteries. We’ve also written two historical mysteries set in different eras from the Byzantine series and published several non-Byzantine short stories, as well as the Dorj stories set in contemporary Mongolia.

Describe your writing process once you sit down to write–or the preliminaries.

MR: First, get the coffee brewing, then look up any applicable notes for the chapter to be written, then sit down and type and see where I end up. Eric, however, is much more formal in that he prefers to work from an outline. He also serves as resident coffee wallah, an important role at Casa Maywrite.

Were books an important part of your household when you were growing up?

EM: Definitely. Starting out with Little Golden Books and later the adventures of Tom Swift Jr., my parents never failed to bring me a book when they went to town. Most of my reading came from the library though. The family scraped by on a teacher’s salary, which wasn’t what it is today, and to keep me supplied with books would’ve required living in a box under the bridge. Luckily the library was only about a mile distant. When I first started reading I’d come home with a stack of as many picture books as I could carry and in the summer, when I was free to read all the time, I’d exchange them for a fresh stack the next day.

Did the classics have any effect on you in your formative years? (Shakespeare? Alice in Wonderland? Gulliver’s Travels?)

EM: Is The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham a classic? Well, surely it must be. My grandmother read that to me before I could read for myself and it was magic. It transported me to an entirely different world, and one that was in many ways more attractive and exciting than the one I lived in. Great friends, wonderful adventures. So I became addicted to books because they took me out of my own humdrum existence and I even tried escaping into my own writing. I’m not sure it was altogether healthy but it certainly helped form me.


Maturity by Carolyn J. Rose

Maturity by Carolyn J. Rose

A few days ago I watched a group of high school seniors struggling to write two-page essays about their lives and their plans for the years after graduation.


These were kids who spend untold hours sharing information—sometimes what I consider to be way too much information—in conversations and phone calls and text messages. This was a topic that required no research or attributions. The assignment seemed like a no-brainer.


And yet, after putting down their names and the date and the class period, most of them came to a full stop. Hung up on how to begin, they stared at that blinking cursor.


I felt their pain. Hoping to hook readers who happen across my books but aren’t familiar with my name, I labor long and hard on first sentences and leading paragraphs. Years ago I learned to delay the stress of crafting that opening and leapfrog into the story by leaving a blank space and writing this: Something brilliant goes in this space and I know I’ll think of it later.


I passed along that advice and saw a few kids catch fire and start hammering their keyboards. Others, though, sat like statues. I offered another piece of time-worn writing advice. “Don’t worry about getting your sentences and paragraphs in order. You have that cut-and-paste function. Move things around and clean up transitions later.”


More fingers prodded the keys, but about a third of the class was still floundering. I hit them with the ever-popular first-draft dogma. “It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to be great or even good. It just has to be done. You’ll fix it later.”


Author Carolyn J. Rose

Author Carolyn J. Rose

That was enough incentive for a few to suck in deep breaths and tap hesitantly at the keys. But there were still three staring at their screens with expressions of fear, loathing, panic, and/or soul-searing anxiety. Trotting to their sides, I did a quick survey: “What are you having trouble with? What would help you?”


If you’re a writer, their responses won’t surprise you. They felt that what they wrote—in this first draft or any other—wouldn’t be good enough.


Thanks to that critical little voice in my head, I know Not-Good-Enough Territory well. In fact, I take up residence there every time I sit down to write.


The terrain is riddled with sinkholes and quagmires and quicksand. If a map exists, it’s not accurate. Storms swirl across the landscape and a sudden freeze is always imminent.


One trick to traversing this hostile land is to get moving and keep moving. If you write fast enough, you may outdistance the inner critic or develop enough momentum to leap across or plow through obstacles it throws in your path.


Another trick is to be your own BFF and make plenty of positive noise to drown out snarky comments that could bring you to a halt. If you can’t shut the inner critic up, then shut it down. Congratulate yourself on every simile and bit of dialogue. Cheer the completion of each paragraph. Reward yourself for every chapter.


I shared that philosophy and saw one boy take it to heart. In a few moments he was pounding away. Ten minutes later he had a full page. One of the others managed a paragraph before the bell rang. The third said she couldn’t work in a room filled with people, but made notes.


As for me, when I got to my keyboard, I took my own advice, shut the little voice down, and cranked out eight pages. They might not be good. They might be barely this side of dreadful. But they exist.


What are the tricks you use to get the job done? Leave a comment and share your strategy.

Carolyn J. Rose is the author of more than a dozen novels, including the Subbing isn’t for Sissies series (No Substitute for Murder, No Substitute for Money, and No Substitute for Maturity), and the Catskill Mountains Mysteries (Hemlock Lake and Through a Yellow Wood). She grew up in New York’s Catskill Mountains, graduated from the University of Arizona, logged two years in Arkansas with Volunteers in Service to America, and spent 25 years as a television news researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. She founded the Vancouver Writers’ Mixers and is an active supporter of her local bookstore, Cover to Cover. Her interests are reading, gardening, and NOT cooking. Website

My wife and sometimes co-author Carolyn and I have spent portions of the past several months or so re-editing, shortening, and injecting new life into two books we wrote more than ten years ago: The Hard Karma Shuffle and its sequel The Crushed Velvet Miasma. It’s been an interesting process.

Carolyn Rose and Mikle Nettleton

Authors Carolyn Rose and Mikle Nettleton

Understand, that if Carolyn had written that first paragraph it would have read very differently. Several months or so would never have flown. It would have read 3 months, 8 days, 14 hours and 27 minutes. More than ten years ago would have become the exact number of years, months, days, hours, minutes and seconds that had elapsed since we sent them to the New York agent who first shopped it around for us.

This is not to insult Carolyn. Her attention to getting the details right is admirable and a good part of the reason she’s developed a devoted readership. I, on the other hand am an approximate kind of guy.

Her background is in television news, where the difference between getting your facts straight, and being a little off, translates to angry viewers, angry bosses and even the occasional lawsuit.

I spent much of my professional life as a disc jockey. Shooting from the hip and taking the flack for it later made me quirky, amusing and for the most part succesful at filling the space between songs with fun weirdness. I once had a listener tell me: “Much of the time, I have no idea what the hell you’re talking about, but you make me smile just the same.”

Carolyn comes from a family of contractors and carpenters. Advocates of the measure twice, cut once school of thought. My roots are with a family who believed fervently in the “close enough for government work” method of home


The Hard Karma Shuffle by Mike Nettleton and Carolyn J. Rose

The Hard Karma Shuffle by Mike Nettleton and Carolyn J. Rose

Much of what Carolyn caught in her final read through of both books was dead-on-the-money, in terms of needing to be fixed. We had a character driving a P.T. Cruiser three years before they’d been introduced. It became an Audi. Jay, the disk-jockey whose on-air sidekick is his own hand with lipstick on it, has to punch a button before another song will start. Good catch, oh, meticulous one.

Here’s where we started to part ways a little. She obsessed over whether the goodie Jay talks into is a mic or a mike. (You’ll find arguments for both on the internet.) She insisted we nail down the exact date of a Grateful Dead show in Eugene, Oregon because the ages of our characters hinged on the info. My point of view was that most of the people who went to those shows probably don’t remember the decade, let alone the actual year and venue. She cares deeply about a picky reader calling horse-hockey on us for an errant detail. Me, not so much. I figure, if we entertain them with the story, they’ll forgive a small faux pas. And those who won’t are badly in need of finding a life somewhere, anyway.

The Crushed Velvet Miasma by Mike Nettleton and Carolyn J. Rose

The Crushed Velvet Miasma by Mike Nettleton and Carolyn J. Rose

Here’s the bottom line. She’s right. I’m wrong. She knows it, I know it and she knows I know it. Sigh. 30 wonderful years together with this woman and going strong.

What’s that? Oh, yes dear, I stand corrected: 29 years, 9 months, 16 days, 4 hours, twelve minutes and 7, no make that 8 seconds.  Website www.deadlyduomysteries.com

1)   Tell us about your latest book.

Vow Unbroken by Caryl McAdoo

Vow Unbroken by Caryl McAdoo

First, I want to say thank you for this opportunity to visit with the Dames! It’s an honor to be among the wonderful authors y’all have visited with, and I’m grateful.

I’m so excited about VOW UNBROKEN, my historical Christian romance set in 1832 Texas, that’s just been released from Howard Books, a division of Simon and Schuster. My heroine, Susannah Baylor reluctantly hires Henry Buckmeyer to help her along the Jefferson Trace—a hard stretch between her Northeast Texas farm and the cotton market—where she’s determined to get a fair price for her crop.

It’s been a long, rough ten years since her young husband died, and she’s in danger of losing the land left to her and the children and must get both her wagons safely to Jefferson. Henry has reputation as a lay-about. While she’s prepared for his insolence, she never expects his good looks or irresistible, gentle manner. Soon they are entwined in a romantic relationship that only gets more complicated because Henry doesn’t know God the way she does.

Dangers arise on the trace–but none as difficult as the trial her heart is going through. Will Susannah and Henry’s love overcome their differences? And will she get her crop to market and sale it for enough to save her farm? I pray readers will enjoy Sue and Henry’s adventurous tale, and that they’ll be drawn into a closer relationship with God for reading it! 


2)   Can you share a little bit about what you’re working on now or what’s coming next?

            The next title of my Lone Star Novels series is HEART STOLEN and twelve years have passed. Levi, Sue’s fourteen-year-old nephew in VOW has grown up and is a Texas Ranger under the Republic’s first president Sam Houston. He’s dispatched to pick up some stolen women and children from Comanche camps across Texas, and runs into a Sassy Fogelsong, a long-ago playmate of his cousin-sister in VOW, Rebecca. He gives up his own horse and gun in trade for her and promises to get her home to Red River County, hopefully in time for Aunt Sue’s Thanksgiving dinner.


3)   Who are your favorite authors, the ones you read when you should be doing something else? Why do they appeal to you?

It is really hard for me to get through a book because of time issues. Besides writing, I’m rearing four grandsons and those boys are always wanting to know what’s for eats! However I do always have a book going, and mostly those from my author friends, because I want to read theirs and support them. And when I get into a series, I love revisiting people I already know. Right now, Stephanie Landsem’s THE THIEF and Amy Lillard’s GIDEON’S BRIDE are in my queue.

Favorite authors back before I started writing was Bodie Thoene, love-love her Zion Covenant and Chronicles series especially. Those books make me laugh and cry, and my heart is bound to Israel. I also enjoyed Colleen McCullough’s way with words although she tells a lot, it’s beautiful telling. I devoured her FIRST MAN IN ROME series.


4)   Promotion is a big—and usually the most hated—part of being a writer. Can you share a little bit about how you promote?

            Oh, I don’t hate marketing at all. I love that part of being an author almost as much because that’s what brings me into contact with the people, my readers who I get to visit with and share testimonies of God greatness. I do enjoy the writing process, but it is the vehicle that gets me to my readers. I believe they are why I write. Granted, the hours spent on the computer and phone setting up launch parties, book signings, interviews, TV shows and radio spots are long and lonely, but then comes the reward for all the effort—being with the folks!


5)   How long have you been writing?

            Though as a twelve-year-old I aspired to being an intergalactically famous author hopping from planet to planet autographing books by the year 2000, I didn’t start writing seriously for publication until the mid eighties, and was writing with my high school sweetheart husband then. We co-authored nine titles released from four presses starting in 2000, so I did at least make to publication, though the space program let me down. So, it’s basically going on thirty years that I’ve been writing. VOW UNBROKEN is my first novel from a major house, I’m so blessed!


Author Caryl McAdoo

Author Caryl McAdoo

6)   What do you consider the single most satisfying aspect of being a writer?

            Having the friends I’ve created on the page being enjoyed by others has got to be the most fun and satisfying part of writing for a living. Of course, I love the freedom to work anywhere, and I really enjoy seeing McAdoo on those spines! I don’t know why I love the spines so much, but I sure do!


7)   Tell us a little bit about where you live.

            After more than fifty years of being a city girl in the DFW Metroplex, God led us to Red River County, known as The Gateway to Texas for all the famous first Texans who arrived by way of the river and entered the state on our borders. It’s in the far northeast corner close to Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana. TV calls it the Ark-La-Tex.

      We moved into a brand new home the Lord built in July 2013 I named The Peaceable. It’s five miles south out of Clarksville, the county seat. We’re about a thousand yards back into the woods, and you can’t even see any evidence of it from the road. My kitchen window looks out onto a pond—they call ‘em pools in east Texas—and I adore living here, I known it is exactly right where God wants me to be!


8)   If you could talk for thirty minutes with any person, living or dead, who would it be?

            You know, I’ve answered similar questions and King David is usually my answer, but if I was honored to ne gifted thirty minutes with any person, my choice, I’d ask for my mother, Naomi Ruth Cloyd Lawrence. She’s been living with her King going on seventeen years and I still miss her. I’m always thrilled when she visits in a dream. I’d want to hear all about Heaven of course, and hold her no-longer-crippled hands and hug her and touch her face.


9)   Beside “writer,” what else are you?

            Were I to be called something other than an writer, it would surely be a singer! I do love to make music, it bubbles up from my heart pretty much all the time. When I’m sad, it makes me happy; it boosts my faith and encourages me to trust God more. I enter His gates with Thanksgiving—I have so very much to be thankful for! Then I dance into His courts with praise, He is so awesome, praise comes natural. And then, worship – - – it takes me into His manifest presence, into the Holy of Holies where I want to always stay, I never want to leave. My name, pronounced carol, means ‘joyful song’ and since the ‘80s God’s regularly given me wonderful new songs to sing!


10)                      Why do you write?

            I write because I so enjoy visiting with my characters and seeing what they are doing. It isn’t until I sit down at the computer and get into their heads that I can find out.  I’m working on a novel that jumps back and forth between 1857 (pre Civil War) and 1920 (post WWI) where I have a man I really like on trial, and I’m always so eager to get back to the computer and pull up THE BEDWARMER’S SON to see if I can get him off. I want to get him off, but can I make it believable that a confessed murderer walks out of the courtroom scot free?


11)                      How many hours a day do you write, where, any specific circumstances help or hurt your process?

     My normal place to write is at the CPU armoire in our bedroom. To my left is a beautiful fireplace and to the right, a window that looks out into the woods with our drive curving off to the left. The specific circumstance that totally helps and hurts my writing process is the same: Are the four boys home from school?

     The bus picks them up at 6:50 in the morning and returns them home at 4:20 that afternoon. At school – HELP; Home from school – HURT J Not that I don’t love the little darlin’s, they are just loud and find it practically impossible to keep their hands off one another. They just love ruckus, and that’s the Truth.

     We got them eleven years ago when the baby came home from the hospital from being born; newborn, three, four, and six. The oldest is a senior this year, graduates in June, and will be off to college next August, and then there’ll be three J


12)                      How do you classify yourself as a writer? Fiction or non-fiction? Specific genre?

Once upon a time, a beloved mentor told me, “Caryl, pick a genre.”

Jack Ballas wrote twenty-something westerns for Berkley, and was writing mystery, thrillers, mid-grade, inspirational romance, and military novels. But not until I wrote VOW UNBROKEN, my first historical Christian romance at the request of my agent Mary Sue Seymour did I find my niche in the publishing world. Now I will say I enjoy contemporary almost as much as historical, but I am definitely a Christian romance writer!

I do have a mid-grade dystopia The King’s Highway trilogy that’s submitted to a publisher; book one, STARFISH PRIME awaits a contract, and I readily admit I Love writing for children, too because I love marketing to young readers. God gives me songs that go along with my stories and I sing when I do author presentations as well as teach the craft of creative writing. The three chapter books I co-authored with husband Ron are written as Grami and O’Pa McAdoo. There’s nothing like being in front of two hundred third graders—or twenty.

Thank you again so much! Hugs and Blessing, Peace, and Joy from Texas!


CARYL’s LINKS:   website http://www.CarylMcAdoo.com   Facebook  http://www.facebook.com/CarylMcAdoo/author

 AMAZON http://www.amazon.com/Vow-Unbroken-Novel-Caryl-McAdoo/dp/1476735514

The Dames are pleased to welcome author Randall Brooks to our blog today.

Randall, as you know, I recently read and reviewed Conversations at the Party. I must admit, I’ve never read a book like that before and compared you to the literary world’s version of Quentin Tarantino. You definitely write “outside the box”. I wonder, do you deliberately do this or is this just your own unique style?

You know, I honestly don’t think I’ve ever thought about that. Glad you asked, that is a good question. Oh, and let me say first off thatrbrooks.conversatoinsattheparty I find the comparison you made to Tarantino to be one of the nicest, possibly the greatest compliments I think I’ve ever gotten about my writing, and I am very humbled by it, thanks. Now, back to the question, I don’t think I necessarily write outside of the box on purpose as much as just that since my style is what it is, it just comes out that way.

I found it quite unique, with a lot of psychological twists. Tell us about your latest book.

Well, the most recent book I’ve had published is my third collection of short stories, “The Maze”. It’s another collection of some more psychological mystery thrillers, and then capped off with a non-fiction piece at the end dealing with politics and religion. I think that may be a sign of some kind that I may need to maybe take a break from writing all these genre thrillers for a while.

I admire that you’re such a prolific short story writer. I find it much easier to write a full-length novel than one short story! Can you share a little about what you are working on now or what’s coming next?

rbrooks.themazeWell, I’ve been slowly but surely putting together what is going to be my next novel, a comedic fictionalization of my band Von Wyck, a band that I formed in my high school days and worked with for a few years after I graduated. I’ve also already done the outline for my next short story collection, Phases of Travel, and already have one or two stories completed for it.

I love comedy. That sounds like a fun book. How long have you been writing?

I first started writing short stories sometime around my 8th grade year of middle school, back in 1981, and I started writing lyrical poems later during my high school years. Now, when I look back on a lot of the stuff I wrote back then, I don’t know if it actually qualifies as writing or not, lol. But I can see where I had the potential, and a lot of those older stories I’ve recently been able to go back and re-work some of them, and they are now featured in some of my published short story collections.

As I tell people who are just starting out, the best thing you can do is just keep writing, no matter how good or how bad, and it doesn’t matter what you write on. Use paper, receipts, paper towels, toilet paper, paper bags, anything that you can write on. I know that has definitely helped shape me as a writer, constantly going at it, getting in practice any chance I could get.

Sounds like you got an early start. I agree about practicing writing. I feel, well hope, my writing has improved over time and with practice. Who or what has been your biggest influence in your writing career and why?

Oddly enough, I know the typical answer would be naming some fellow authors but mainly my biggest influences and inspirations have been some very good filmmakers like Alfred Hitchcock, Brian De Palma, Stanley Kubrick, and John Carpenter. Oh, sure, there have been some really great authors that have helped influence and shape me as a writer, mainly Stephen King, Peter Straub, Mary Higgins Clark, and Jackie Collins.

And, you know, I guess the reason why would take us back to the first question you asked me, because they are artists that have always worked outside the box, so to speak.

Well, I can see your short stories as vignettes for the screen, along the lines of The Twilight Zone. Tell us a little rbrooks.perfectstrangersabout where you live.

Funny, I now live in the same area as where I grew up, Strawberry Plains. I can still remember right after I graduated high school I felt like I couldn’t get away from here fast enough and moved to Knoxville, a neighboring county, where I lived for about 20 years before moving back. And, I came back kicking and screaming about how I didn’t want to move back to Strawberry Plains, lol. But after the first night in my new house, I didn’t want to go back to Knoxville to get the rest of my stuff, because it is so tranquil, so nice and quiet and peaceful. And so beautiful! I wish now that I had never moved away in the first place, but I guess I maybe had to so I could appreciate living here as much as I do now.

We’re practically neighbors. Strawberry Plains is a beautiful area, and as you say, quiet and peaceful. How do you classify yourself as a writer? Fiction or non-fiction? Specific genre such as mystery, short story, paranormal or more general such as women’s fiction, Appalachian, etc.

I guess I would classify myself as writer of erotically charged satiric psychological mystery thrillers. And, yes, lol, I’ve been told that is a very “unique” category, to put it nicely. I guess I could also fall under the short story category as well, seeing that I have 3 collections published and am in the process of working on a 4th one to get published. I also have written 4 volumes of lyrical poems, so I also fit in the poetry category as well.

And, funny that you should list paranormal as an option, because that is something that I’ve never felt that I’ve ever succeeded at writing, and am going to try to tackle that in one of my upcoming short stories in my new collection.

You’re what I consider a diverse and prolific writer. It will be interesting to see what you come up with in the paranormal genre. When you’re writing, who’s in control, you or the characters?

I would like to think I am in control, being as how I am such a control freak in so many other aspects of my life, but honestly, when I start writing, sometimes it’s the characters that have control, and other times it’s the actual story that may take control of where things are going.

rbrooks.thetwoworldsofthemindI think that’s the first time we’ve gotten an answer like that to this question. Usually, it’s one or the other. Who are your favorite authors, the ones you read when you should be doing something else? Why do they appeal to you?

Honestly, as I’ve mentioned to a few of my friends that are fellow authors, lately I’ve been having trouble reading a lot of mainstream authors that I used to love to read almost faithfully before I was published, people like Dean Koontz, Mary Higgins Clark, Anne Rice, etc, but for some reason ever since I’ve been published myself, I now see things in their writing that actually makes me cringe. I blame it on modern day editors and not the authors themselves, because what I seem to be noticing is the same in all their books, not just in one author, but all of them, and it’s the same thing that glares out at me the most in everyone of their books.

On the flipside, some authors that I have recently discovered and enjoy tremendously are Christy Tillery French, Mark Allan Gunnels, Steven Michael, and Andrew Wolter. These are some really talented writers, and why they aren’t more world-widely discovered is beyond me. Matter of fact, not only have I enjoyed their fiction for reading, I have found it (and them) truly inspirational to myself and my own writing, and they have been a big influence on some of my newer material.

I’m honored to be listed with such talented writers, Randall. Thank you! Who were your favorite authors as a child? Have they influenced your writing career in any way?

Let’s see, I used to read pretty much anything from Laura Ingalls Wilder and S.E. Hinton to Stephen King and Mary Higgins Clark. I think they all share in common helping me form a love for the written word, and in how to tell a story, and even how to lure the reader into something they may feel comfortable with, then hit them with some unpleasant surprises.

Oh, I love that answer. Where do you find inspiration for your writing?rbrooks.vonwyck

Honestly, oddly enough, most times I have found it in everyday life and/or in people who have been involved in my life path at one time or another. As you can probably guess from some of my writing, I most times like to take someone and put them in situations that would be the farthest thing from their real life counter-part. It’s also a very healthy and therapeutic way to exorcise some personal “demons”, if you know what I mean. And I try to tell people that have inspired characters in my work to take it as a compliment, no matter what the character says or does in the story, or the fate of the character.

Heck, I’ve even offed myself in a story or two, lol.

That’s funny! I agree it can be therapeutic – I’ve used writing for that very purpose. Thanks for joining us today, Randall!

For anyone who’s interested in checking out (or reviewing) any of my books, here’s the link to my author page on Amazon.com, where you can find everything I’ve got listed on there in one place.
New web page for Author Randall Brooks: http://about.me/scott_brooks
My author page on Author’s Den.com: http://www.authorsden.com/visit/author.asp?id=166770 
Facebook page for “The Two Worlds of the Mind”: https://www.facebook.com/thetwoworldsofthemind

The Dames are pleased to welcome back fiction author Laurie Boris. Hi, Laurie! Tell us about your latest book, Sliding Past Vertical.

SlidingPastVertical300Sliding Past Vertical is not a typical love story. Sarah, a graphic artist, has made a few mistakes…okay, a bunch of them. Her life in Boston has not turned out the way she planned and everything is going wrong, including her codependent relationship with a charming-but-kinda-sleazy guitar player. Fortunately, her old boyfriend Emerson (no stranger to codependent relationships himself) is just a phone call away to help her clean up the mess. When her current mess is too big to handle, she decides she needs a radical change. This move puts her back in the same college town where Emerson still lives. And much too close for everyone’s comfort.

Sounds great! Can you share a little bit about what you’re working on now or what’s coming next?

Sure! I’m writing a “spinoff” novel based a character from Don’t Tell Anyone who wanted his story told. It’s been a great writing challenge for me so far. Also on the burner this year are a couple of romantic suspense novels. I hope to publish at least one of these in 2014.

I loved Don’t Tell Anyone. You can be sure I’ll be watching for this one! What is a typicalAuthorLaurieBoris_small writing day like for you?

It starts with coffee. I’ll write for a few hours, taking breaks to stretch and get more coffee. If anyone tries to talk to me, I’ll get crabby, because the characters are still wandering around in my head telling me things. They don’t like the competition.

As a coffee addict and a writer who needs complete isolation when she writes, I can completely understand the “crabby” bit. When you’re writing, who’s in control, you or the characters?

They are, at least for the first draft. I’ve tried it the other way, but it hasn’t worked out so well. An experiment with outlining lead to a near-mutiny, and I found myself letting the characters call the shots on scenes and then trying to shoehorn them into my plan. So I stopped and gave the story back to them. They were grateful. So is my husband, because I am much less crabby now.

Yes! The same thing happened to me when I tried writing from an outline; my main character completely rebelled and it took me twice as long to write the book. Who are your favorite authors, the ones you read when you should be doing something else? Why do they appeal to you?

A foot or so from my left hand sits a copy of The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach. I really, really want to be reading it right now. I love baseball novels, especially this one, chock full of tasty prose with far more going on than just the game. My current favorite authors—TC Boyle, Joyce Carol Oates, JD Mader, so many others—look at life a half a bubble off plumb and not always on the pretty side. That appeals to me, because I’m fascinated with the “human” part of human nature: the part that’s flawed and broken but still redeemable.

Starting to hear the them from The Twilight Zone in my head. I love baseball, too! What do you consider the single most satisfying aspect of being a writer?

When I make a connection with a reader. I’m huddled away in my room, pouring out the story I want to tell, the stories my characters tell me, and after, six, seven, thirteen drafts, I often develop a skewed perspective on whether it’s working. But when I start hearing from readers that they liked what I wrote or at least identified with it, I feel like I’ve done my job. It forms a complete loop.

What are your thoughts on the standard writing advice, “write what you know”?

Well…clichés become so for a reason. On the cliché face of it, you will write with greater authenticity about actual life situations you’ve experienced. It’s in your blood; it’s in your pores. But I think a lot of writers have allowed themselves to be hamstrung by that advice. Writers have boundless imagination. We have empathy. We have the ability to learn. Arthur Golden dressed and made himself up as a geisha to get a better feel for the characters in Memoirs of a Geisha. I think we write what we want to know or what we want to better understand. I’ve written from the point of view of characters I’ve never been and never will be, mainly because I want to tell their stories. If I don’t listen well enough, or if I don’t allow myself to empathize with them, readers will sense that and the story will feel false.

Exactly! Describe your writing process once you sit down to write—or the preliminaries.

I close my eyes and take a few deep breaths. I’ll try to listen to the characters in my mind. Then I’ll start typing. Some of my writing friends say that they see their characters first, that their early scenes are visual and have lots of detail. Maybe I’m just odd, but I hear them first. I hear the dialogue, the conflicts. I’ve tried experimenting with outlining a novel, but either I don’t have it yet or my mind doesn’t want to go there. So I go back to listening. That’s why so often my first drafts look more like screenplays.

I can’t say I’m as quick as you are to get to the typing point, but I do the same thing, listen to the characters before I start writing. Did the classics have any effect on you in your formative years? (Shakespeare? Alice in Wonderland? Gulliver’s Travels?)

Because of the way literature was taught in my school district, and because of my own distaste for being told what to think, I turned away from the classics for a while. To me then, Shakespeare, Melville, and Steinbeck meant themes and symbolism that I didn’t necessarily see or believe in. I’ve forgiven my teachers and assigned myself to reread many of the books I’d been force-fed as a student. Several of them, like Moby-Dick, A Separate Peace, and The Grapes of Wrath, have become my favorites. I hope kids today are encouraged to reach outside the box and give their own interpretations of what they’re reading.

Are you in a critique group? If so, how does it work and specifically how do the members help your writing?

I’m in a critique group, and I consider it some of the most valuable time in my schedule. Even when—especially when—the members of the group tell me what I don’t want to hear. I trust their experience and opinions. The other writers will tell me if something isn’t working or if a character’s motivation is not clear. And by critiquing the other members’ work, I’m also learning. It’s a reciprocal relationship.

Any good suggestions for overcoming writer’s block?

I suffer not from “block” but “overwhelm.” Staring at a blank page usually means that I’m tired. So I’ll work on something else or take a break. Getting out for a walk or a swim usually shakes something loose.

“Overwhelm”—I like that! What is your VERB? (this is a big poster at a local mall)? If you had to choose ONE verb that describes you and your behavior or attitude, what would it be?

My last verb was “swim.” These days it’s “breathe.” My mind gets ahead of itself at times, and once in a while I have to remind myself to slow down and enjoy the view. Plus, a wise writing coach once told me that you can’t breathe and panic at the same time. It felt like good advice.

Thanks so much for joining us today, Laurie. I’m looking forward to your new book and the one that comes next. Readers, if you’d like to find out more about Laurie and her work, please visit the following sites: 


Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/laurie.boris.author

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/LaurieBoris

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon/author/laurieboris

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4824645.Laurie_Boris

          Mysteries usually take place in urban settings. The average person assumes crime rates are higher in the concrete jungle, and therefore, more suited to crime fiction. Even if the stories don’t take place in New York, Los Angeles, Miami or Chicago, they often occur in some sort of town. After all, the country too slow, an easier life not conducive to violence. People get along and aren’t into each other’s business because they aren’t up under each other. It’s where the city dweller goes to relax. Peace, quiet, calm Americana.

          Sorry, but that ain’t necessarily so.

          In a lot of rural settings, E-I-E-I-O spells dead.

C. Hope Clark, author

C. Hope Clark, author

The country is where chemicals can dissolve your lungs, invisible gases from silos and cattle asphyxiate, tools disembowel, machinery rips off limbs, and animals, given the right situation, eat you right down to the bone.

          Imagine all that opportunity in the hands of a diabolical killer.

          Most mystery readers imagine more mayhem in urban areas. In the country, however, murder can be hidden under the lower forty acres, or amidst the livestock feed. Heck, hide the body in the dirt under a livestock barn and who’s going to notice? Drop them in with the hogs and the body disappears pretty efficiently. Just remember to take off the watch or remove the glasses. Pigs spit those out.

So many natural causes and accidents with easy cover up, and fewer people to notice.

          And the methods can creep you out.

          Manure pits just seem to be a pile of stinky crap. But fall into it, even only knee deep, and you can drop dead in minutes.

          Most bulls have their mean and cantankerous moments, and regardless how smart your character is, lock him in with a bull weighing close to a ton and the odds even up pretty quickly.

In a particular type of conventional silo, nitrogen dioxide forms, smelling like bleach at its peak. But the gas is heavier than air. It flows down chutes and collects in lower areas around farm buildings, in corners, under feed bunks, even against the floor. What may seem only like a nasal irritant can result in a person dying in his sleep hours after exposure from fluid collection in his lungs. A crazed antagonist can contain a character and expose him to the poison, then let him loose to die hours later alone, the murderer nowhere around.

          Death in the country can be horribly gruesome. It’s easier to dispose of bodies, plus you have a lot more area to do it in. Acres and acres of cropland, woods, irrigation ponds, and pasture. Bring in citified law enforcement, and your bad guy has an even greater chance of getting away with the deed.


Palmetto Poison by C. Hope Clark

Palmetto Poison by C. Hope Clark

The Carolina Slade Mystery Series is set in various rural areas of South Carolina. The country settings make for unusual crime, and there’s usually some agricultural bent to the mystery: a hog farmer killing for land titles, tomatoes harboring drug shipments, seasonal migrant pickers turning into slaves, and with the newest release, Palmetto Poison, a governor has access to deadly poisonous peanuts. This unique arena with all its colorful players, unique murder opportunity, and breath-catching display of nature is what makes Slade’s stories intriguing.

          Setting should be as strong a character as your protagonist, but it doesn’t have to mean high rises, airports, apartment complexes, dank city alleys, or industrial parks. America was founded on agriculture. Farmsteads where the sun rises over waves of wheat and seas of corn, where a man fights to work at an honest living in tune with Mother Nature. Where people know how to fend for themselves, deal with threats, and dispose of them in ways a city fella’ would never imagine.

 C. Hope Clark is author of the award-winning Carolina Slade Mystery Series published by Bell Bridge Books. She is also editor of FundsforWriters.com, and her newsletters reach 45,000 readers. www.chopeclark.com / www.fundsforwriters.com  Palmetto Poison is on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and wherever books are sold.

Holli Castillo, mystery author

Holli Castillo, mystery author

1.  Tell us about your latest book.

My latest is the third in the Crescent City Mystery Series, Chocolate City Justice.  It takes place during hurricane Katrina and brings my protagonist and my story into post-Katrina New Orleans.  The novel picks up a few weeks after the second book ends, and prosecutor Ryan Murphy is back at work.  She’s assigned to what seems to be a slam dunk case, a gang member shooting up a child’s birthday party, all caught on videotape.  But in New Orleans, things are never what they seem and Ryan is on the verge of solving the real mystery behind the shootings when Katrina hits.  In typical Ryan fashion she ends up left behind, forced to face the storm, gang members, and bad cops–and that’s just for starters.

2.  Tell us a little bit about where you live.

I live in New Orleans, which is not the New Orleans you see in the movies or on TV.  Every day is not Mardi Gras and we don’t spend all our time on Bourbon Street, although I did work in a Can-Can club on Bourbon Street during undergrad.  Most people live in the suburbs, because the downtown area is expensive.  We have gangs, but they are not organized like L.A. gangs, which is probably why they generally get caught.  We have the best food in the world, but we don’t drink liquor for breakfast.  We are primarily Catholic, although Baptist probably runs a close second.  Our architecture is beautiful, a mix of Spanish and French, and you’d be hard put to find a local who isn’t obsessed over the N.O. Saints football team.  My biggest complaint would be the weather, which is humid most of the year, and the insects, particularly cockroaches and wasps, which to me serve no purpose other than to scare people.  The bad thing about the big flying roaches is that they prefer to be in dry, warm environments, so even if you keep your house spic and span, you still risk finding a giant roach in your house when it rains, especially if you have any trees near your house.  I also think we have the friendliest people. We tell everyone hello. When we travel other places and strike up conversation with strangers, they look at us like we’re crazy.  Maybe we are, but that’s just what we do down here.

3.  Mark Twain said, “Southerners speak music…” Do you have a favorite southern saying you can share with our readers?

I have a few– my mawmaw was a French-speaking Cajun from the country, and there were several sayings we were raised with.  First, God don’t like ugly.  Second, God don’t sleep.  Third, when discussing an unattractive woman, she looks like she fell out of the ugly tree and got slapped by every branch.   And of course, the famous local expression, Laissez les bon temps rouler, let the good times roll.

4.  Who were your favorite authors as a child? Have they influenced your writing career in any way?

I was a huge Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden fan as a child, but because they were written by different writers throughout both series I can’t say which one was actually my favorite.  Both of these series made me love mysteries, though, and made me want to write mystery novels.  Every time I finished reading a Trixie Belden or Nancy Drew I would open my notebook and start penning a new novel.  Of course, I didn’t finish any of them way back then, and because I had the entire series of both books, there were a whole lot of first chapters.  I think it helped my writing skills to write so much at such a young age, even if I never finished any of them.

Gumbo Justice by Holli Castillo

Gumbo Justice by Holli Castillo

5.  What are major themes or motifs in your work? Do your readers ever surprise you by seeing something else in your stories than you think you wrote?

My major theme is how justice and fairness are not always the same thing.  Often, lines have to be crossed or blurred to some extent to get justice, and the system doesn’t always end up with what people think of as a fair result.  A common occurrence down here is that witnesses either get scared into not testifying, or get murdered before trial.  The charges get dismissed and then the defendant gets released and ends up getting killed by the first victim’s family or friends.  Then the whole cycle starts all over again. It was frustrating as a prosecutor, but a lot of people down here see it as poetic justice.  That’s one of my prevalent themes.  There’s also the issue of whether the ends justify the means.

As far as readers, I haven’t heard a lot from them about themes.  The biggest thing I get is readers enjoying the triangle between my lead characters, and choosing a side.  Ryan has a detective boyfriend, Shep, who is a complicated character in his own right, but a good guy.  But she also has Monte Carlson, an undercover officer from the streets.  He’s also a good guy, but a little bit edgier than Shep. He’s also black and not Catholic, which makes him an unacceptable match as far as her police captain father is concerned.  The captain isn’t exactly racist, but definitely set in his ways and very old school southern, more bothered by the Catholic thing than the race thing. Shep has to wonder if Monte were white and Catholic, whether Ryan would choose Monte. It’s a dilemma because Shep knows Ryan won’t go against her father.

6.  What is your strongest and/or your weakest area in the creative process?

I think my strongest area in the creative process is coming up with characters and scenarios.  I am constantly thinking up new series and characters, and new storylines, but don’t have the time to write them.  This leads directly to my weakest area in the creative process and in my life in general, which is time management.  Sometimes I can sit and write for days, almost in a manic state, annoyed if I have to stop to eat or do something for my kids.  Other days, I barely get to open the computer.  I am always multi-tasking, but am really poor at it.  I also have a sort of addictive personality, so once I get into something, it’s hard to drag myself away from it.  Sometimes that can be a good thing, such as when a deadline is approaching.  Other times, it can be a bad thing, like when I discover a new book or TV series and have to start from the beginning to see everything that happened up until that point.  I did that years ago with John Sandford’s Prey series, and again with the TV show Rookie Blue its first season.

7.  What are your thoughts on the standard writing advice, “write what you know”?

I have two diametrically opposing viewpoints on this.  I am one of those writers who writes what I know. I even double check the things I know to make sure I really do know them.  It would be incredibly difficult for me, with the type of person I am, to write about things I don’t personally know about.

But on the other hand, I recently read a post by my friend and writer Marilyn Meredith, who has the viewpoint that you should write what you don’t know, making sure you do the proper research to make it authentic. I think this also makes sense, because you can write about so much more if you write about things you haven’t actually experienced.  Writing what you know can be limiting, depending upon your experience.

Jambalaya Justice by Holli Castillo

Jambalaya Justice by Holli Castillo

8.  How do you classify yourself as a writer? Fiction or non-fiction? Specific genre such as mystery, short story, paranormal or more general such as women’s fiction, Appalachian, etc.

I write fiction, mostly mystery novels.  I also write screenplays, so far in the science fiction and drama genres, although I think my dramas tend to blend more into dramadies.  I’ve also written some paranormal, although nothing ready to be published.  I tend to set everything except the science fiction locally, in part because New Orleans is what I know the most about and also because I think New Orleans is such a great backdrop for mysteries and thrillers.  There is also a lot of movie and TV filming done down here, so I guess I am looking at a bigger picture that if someone wants to make one of my works into a movie– all offers considered– the setting is already ripe down here.

9.  Beside “writer,” what else are you; what is your “day job”?

My day job is an appellate public defender for the state of Louisiana. I was previously a New Orleans prosecutor, but quit in 2000 to stay home when I had my first daughter.  Three months later I was lucky enough to land my current job, which I work from home. I am appointed to represent indigents on the appeal of non-capital felony convictions, which means my job is mostly writing.  Although in theory we can get cases from anywhere in the State, I am officially assigned to the circuit in New Orleans, which is where the majority of my cases come from.  So even though I don’t get to be involved in prosecutions first hand, I get to read the transcripts so I still have access to the lingo, the procedure, and all that good stuff that I can use in my books.

10.  Where do you get your ideas?

I get some of my ideas from my previous cases at the D.A.’s Office and my current appeals, although usually I’ll get just the seed.  Real life crime is actually pretty boring and standard, and one murder is hardly distinguishable from another.  There is the occasional fed-a-dead-body-to-an-alligator case, or the solved-twenty-years-after-the-fact-by-DNA case, but generally most cases are pretty dry and boring.  So I’ll take the root of the idea and try to make it into something unique.   I also get some of my ideas from things that happen in real life.  I’ll hear something on the news and think of ways the real thing could have been much worse and much more interesting.  Some of my ideas also just pop up unexpectedly, either in a dream or when I’m driving.  I’ll often get annoyed at people on the road, and wonder why somebody is driving so fast.  Then I’ll make up a whole scenario in my head, like he just found out his wife has been held hostage, or the museum where his kids are on a field trip has caught fire, or any number of things like that.  I’m sure most of the time the other driver is just an inconsiderate jerk, but it makes me feel better to think of horrific things that could excuse his driving.  And then I have the start of a new idea.

11.  Were books an important part of your household when you were growing up?

We always had books in our house.  My mom was a big reader, whether mystery novels, True Romance magazines, or the newspaper.  She always had tons of books and she always read to me and my sister or listened to us read to her.  It’s funny because today my kids have to read so much more in school than we did– my sixth grader has to read the book assigned that the whole class reads, a book from a list that they are tested on, and then a set amount of pages per day in another book for their reading logs.  I don’t remember reading whole books until high school.  And I loved to read so I would have loved to have been assigned extra reading for a grade.  I remember my father would take me and my sister to the mall every Saturday evening–malls were kind of new down here then– and give us $5.00 each to buy books.  Not to show my age, but back then we could get an armful of books for that.  So every week I had new reading material.

12.  Any teachers who influenced you…encouraged you or discouraged?

I had one teacher who had a great influence on me as a writer.  Bonnie Laigast was one of my high school English teachers and in charge of the school newspaper (I was Fashion and Entertainment editor.)  The plan in my head was to become an actress at that time.  She told me frequently that I should consider being a writer because my work was good.  My fashion and entertainment articles were always humorous and fun to write, and having an adult outside of my family have faith in my writing talent and believe that I could actually make a living doing something I enjoyed so much was tremendous when I was a teen.  Her constant encouragement gave me the confidence to pursue writing when I finally felt ready to do it.  She is still a teacher and I am friends with her on Facebook.  When she congratulated me on getting my first novel published, I was really excited to be able to tell her she had played a role in it.

My Blog www.gumbojustice.blogspot.com   My website www.hollicastillo.com   My Facebook www.facebook.com/holli.castillo                                                                                                             

Follow me on  http://twitter.com/hollicastillo

Gumbo Justice www.amazon.com/Gumbo-Justice-Holli-Castillo/dp/1892343517

Jambalaya Justice www.amazon.com/Jambalaya-Justice-Holli-Castillo/dp/1610090209

Or purchase signed copies at  www.gumbojustice.net/pages/buy-the-novels.php

Welcome to Dames of Dialogue, Bette and J.J. Tell us about your latest book.

Bone Pit is the third book in our Gina Mazzio RN medical thriller series, following Bone Dry and Sin Bone. After a couple of attempts on Gina’s life in the first two books, we decided she needed a break – not from us, but from San Francisco’s (fictitious) Ridgewood Hospital and all the dark, deadly memories associated with it.

So, what better plan than to take off on a dual travel nurse assignment with fiancé Harry Lucke, who has made a career out of doing Bette_J.J._Lambthat kind of nursing, primarily in Intensive Care Units (ICU)? Their destination: a rehab facility for Alzheimer’s patients in the desolate gold country mountains in and around Virginia City, NV. Simple enough.

But Gina and Harry stumble into an illegal scheme to manipulate test results for an experimental drug that’s on the verge of gaining FDA approval as a cure for Alzheimer’s.

Bone Pit is a story of medicine, mines, madness, and murder.

Sounds like an intriguing series and I really like the cover. What’s next?

Gina, who in the first book worked as an oncology nurse, then became an OB/GYN advice nurse before taking off for Nevada, is back again at Ridgewood Hospital, this time working in the Women’s Health Clinic.

Keeping to her reputation for being unable to stay out of trouble, once again her life is threatened when she investigates suspicious circumstances in the clinic that propel her into the midst of a deadly abortion issue. The tentative title is Bone of Contention.

Gina sounds like an interesting character. Tell us more about your series’ protagonist.

Gina Mazzio, RN, evolved out of a desire to write a medical thriller that did not have a male M.D. as the primary protagonist. Bette, an RN herself, wanted an intelligent, curious, no-nonsense, and tough nurse who would become involved in a fictional medical crime that was about as far away from being a cozy as one could get. That Gina is also a streetwise, ex-Bronx, California transplant is fact as well as fiction.

You’ll note the above talks only about a single medical thriller. Gina Mazzio was never meant to be the protagonist of a series. She came into being after reading a newspaper feature article about the use of autologous bone marrow transplants as a last-hope treatment for certain types of cancer. The immediate question was what if someone stole the treated, stored marrow and held it for ransom?

We were so determined not to create a series that we dove into a stand-alone medical thriller (Sisters in Silence) about an infertility counselor who runs amok. Regardless, we continued to think about Gina; we liked her as a lead character, as did our readers. So, when we read a horrifying article about the on-going trade in human body parts, we saw it as a perfect milieu for our inquisitive, do-the-right-thing RN.

Gina also has this on-going love thing with Harry, but getting them married has run into problems.

I like that you broke away from the male MD stereotype. Does your series require extensive research?

In a word, yes.

Fortunately, Bette’s RN credentials get her interviews and into facilities that an unlicensed medical person probably wouldn’t be able to do.

Our goal is to inform the reader about real, out-of-the-ordinary medical situations and procedures without getting so technical that pages appear to have been lifted straight out of a textbook or scientific journal.

And that’s what makes it so interesting. What is your writing regimen?

Ah, if we only had one.

Each of us tries to write every day, but there are no specific hours.  Bette is better at this than J.J., which is even more admirable since she’s also a sculptor and must spend time in her studio.

We do have a regimen of sorts for creating a book – we agree on a project, then one of us (usually Bette) sits down and writes the first draft, with input from the other with respect to plot and character development and settings. Then the other writes a second draft, again with input as above. For the final draft, we sit down side by side at the computer and go through the whole manuscript, word by word, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, and chapter by chapter.

Out of this comes a third voice that is different from each of our individual voices in solo works.

My sister (Caitlyn Hunter) and I are co-writing a series and I’ve found it to be a wonderful experience and what you state regarding the third voice is true for us also. I love that. What part of writing do you like and dislike the most?

There is very little that is as satisfying as holding a printed book in your hands that has your byline on it. At the other end, there’s nothing worse than that first blank page.

bonepit_(1)Yep. What works best for you in regards to promoting?

Being able to talk to readers face to face; exchanging thoughts on an individual basis via social media. Unfortunately, bookstore talks and signings are becoming less available all the time.

They’re becoming a thing of the past it seems. But I’ve found festivals are opening up more to writers now. If you could sit down and chat with anyone in the past or present, who would it be and why?

Bette – Florence Nightingale. Would love to discuss the courage it took for her to be a battlefield nurse, social reformer, and a prodigious and versatile writer during the Victorian era. She’s a great role model for the 21st century woman – proactive and caring.

J.J. – Mark Twain. He had the enviable ability to see and say things as they really were, and how they should or would be.

What inspires you?

Different things at different times, mostly wonderful accomplishments in literature, music, art, dance, and other creative expressions.

What’s the best expression you’ve gotten from a reader?

“I stayed up all night to finish your book. I could hardly work the next day.”

Tell us about your part of the country.

We have lived on the East Coast, in the Midwest, in the Southwest, and here in Northern California. We left this area on two occasions during, primarily out of nostalgia for places that strongly drew us back. We came back here both times, sadder but wiser. We heartily agree when someone describes Northern California as Camelot.

What’s your favorite Southern saying?

Y’all come back. (But then we’ve only lived in one Southern state — Virginia.)

For more information about Bette and J.J.’s work: http://www.jjlamb.com/

The Dames are pleased to welcome YA author Shannon A. Thompson to our blog today. Hi, Shannon! What is your VERB (this is a big poster at a local mall)? If you had to choose ONE verb that describes you and your behavior or attitude, what would it be?


I used to think my ultimate dream was to be a published writer until I actually became published. Then, I realized there was an even greater emotion – the happiness I feel when a reader expresses that I inspire them to follow their own dreams. I want to continue helping others achieve their dreams while I follow my own.

My ultimate goal – no matter how extreme it might seem – is to open an affordable art school. It might not be accredited, but I want it to be a place where artists can come together and meet accomplished artists in their field in order to network and grow into their art without needing thousands of dollars to do so.

Wonderful answer, Shannon, and I wish you luck in reaching your goal. Who or what has been the biggest influence in your writing career and why?

My late mother is my biggest influence because she is my inspiration, and her inspiration is immortal. She taught me to read and write, using the art of storytelling as a coping mechanism for my night terrors and nightmares. When she died, I decided I wanted to spend my life pursuing what I love, and I haven’t stopped since. Ten years later, her photo is still on my desk, and her memory encourages me with every word I write.

What a lovely tribute to your late mother. I’m sure you miss her with every beat of your heart. Can you share a little bit about what you’re working on now or what’s coming next?

coversMy next novel releases March 22, 2014. Seconds Before Sunrise is book 2 of The Timely Death Trilogy, and the trilogy centers on a dark vs. light theme, which I explain below. It is a young-adult, paranormal romance, and it is told from two perspectives – one girl and one boy – because I wanted to give the guy a voice in young-adult romance genre instead of him simply being a mystery. The first installment, Minutes Before Sunset, was awarded Goodreads Book of the Month in July of 2013 for General Fiction. I am really excited to see where the trilogy takes readers as it continues into 2014!

Sounds intriguing and more than that, it sounds like a book I’d like to read. Congratulations on the Goodreads award! What are major themes or motifs in your work? Do your readers ever surprise you by seeing something else in your stories than you think you wrote?

I have different themes in all of my works, but I’m going to focus on my latest piece, which is The Timely Death Trilogy. The major motifs, themes, and symbols revolve around dark vs. light – except the dark is good and the light is evil – and fate vs. choice. Identity is also a pressing issue because every character has two identities and each side of them is different.

Readers surprise me the most when they pick out their favorite quotes. I’ve never been able to guess which combination of words would stick out the most, and it’s always a delightful gift when a reader lets me know what their favorite moment, character, or quote was.

Not only intriguing but original, too. Where do you get your ideas?

As a child I suffered from extreme night terrors and nightmares. I often did not understand the difference between my dreams and reality, and for a child, this was very frightening. It was my mother who taught me how to turn my confusion into stories, and I continue to do so. Most of my novels are based off of my dreams, especially the trilogy, and I actually shared the dreams that inspired the trilogy on my website here: http://shannonathompson.com/2013/11/15/my-dream-goodreads-extras/ It began with a boy visiting me in my sleep.

Okay, your trilogy just moved to the top of my TBR list and I’m also going to check out your website more thoroughly. When you’re writing, who’s in control, you or the characters?

My characters are ultimately in charge. I look at my story’s outline like a road trip plan: I know where I start, I have an idea where I am ending, and I hope to visit a few places in-between. But I’m not always the one driving that vehicle. My characters often take over, so I can nap, and they make the biggest decisions about where we end up. I lose myself in those moments; they are my favorite.

Those are my favorite moments as a writer, too. What is a typical writing day like for you?

Every day is different for me, but it usually involves a lot of coffee and a loyal desk lamp. I have a very bizarre writing style. I write all of my dialogue first (like a screenplay) and then I later add in all of the other details. Then, I go back and add more before editing. This causes a lot of versions as well as binders full of papers, pictures, and notes. I actually wrote a little (humorous) piece about my average day as a writer on my website. Feel free to check it out: http://shannonathompson.com/2013/12/27/my-average-d/

 I’ll be sure to take a look. Any teachers who influenced you…encouraged you or discouraged?

Many teachers influenced me, and I was both encouraged and discouraged. The first teacher to truly take a moment to guide my passion was Mrs. Metcalf in elementary school. She would take my stories home, even though it wasn’t homework, and return with advice the next day. Her kindness has always stayed with me, and I found her kindness in many other teachers as well. I strive to be that kindness for someone.

Every writer needs a teacher like Mrs. Metcalf. Have you bought an e-reader? What is your overall impression of electronic publishing?

I think electronic publishing has opened many doors for emerging writers, and it’s a fantastic opportunity for both writers and readers to explore the publishing world outside of the monopolized market. That being said, I still struggle to read on an e-reader. I prefer hardbacks.

I used to be that way, too, but as the years pass, I’m growing to love my ereader almost as much as I once loved my treasured hardbacks. How do you classify yourself as a writer? Fiction or non-fiction? Specific genre such as mystery, short story, paranormal or more general such as women’s fiction, Appalachian, etc.

I honestly don’t classify myself with any specific genre. So far I have had young-adult fiction published of which included science-fiction, paranormal romance, and fantasy, but I also have poetry published, and I was invited to read more poems at a museum. Beyond that, my short story, Sean’s Bullet, is military-fiction, and I have even more genres – specifically nonfiction – that I hope to publish in the future. I believe in adventuring outside the constraints, and learning to love a variety of genres allows me to explore places in my mind that I would’ve never imagined before.

Yes, I agree. I’ve never cared much for that old advice to authors, “write what you know.” I prefer writing what I want to know. It’s so much more interesting. Are there any books on writing you have found most helpful? Or classes you’ve taken?

 Like I said before, I truly believe in exploring in genres outside of your comfort zone. In college I made sure to study two different kinds of writing that were not fiction, and I fell in love with poetry – something I could have never guessed – and it taught me more than how to read and understand it. I also studied screenwriting that helped refine my focus on dialogue and simple movements.

Oh, I remember falling for poetry in college; Dickinson, cummings, Emerson, Gibran. The list goes on and on. Any good suggestions for overcoming writer’s block?

I believe that writer’s block happens when a writer is forcing something unnatural. For instance, a writer might want a scene to happen how they planned it, but the character sits down, crosses their arms, and refuses to say or do certain things. I think writer’s block can be cured by many things, but it can help if the writer keeps an open mind, listens to the story’s directions, and/or takes a short break (emphasis on the short. Too many people treat a break like the beginning to quit.) Writer’s block is nothing to be feared. It can actually be a good sign that your story is becoming so believable that you must now let it take over the reins.

“Too many people treat a break like the beginning to quit.” I love that and yes, I’ve been guilty of that too many times to count. Thank so much for joining us today, Shannon. Readers, to find out more about Shannon and her work or to purchase your own copy of her books visit the following links:

Website: http://shannonathompson.com – I share writing, editing, and publishing tips as well as my own experiences as I move forward as an author.

Facebook: Shannon A. Thompson Author page 

Amazon purchase link of Minutes Before Sunset: (book 1 of The Timely Death Trilogy)
$3.89 for Kindle, $12.79 for paperback.

Goodreads link for Seconds Before Sunrise: (book 2 of The Timely Death Trilogy)

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