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Nancy Lynn Jarvis, author

Nancy Lynn Jarvis, author

–Tell us about your latest book.
I should be more excited telling you about the five books I’ve written as part of the Regan McHenry Real Estate Mysteries series or Mags and the AARP Gang, a feel-good novel about renegade octogenarian bank robbers, but the truth is, my latest project Cozy Food: 128 Cozy Mystery Writers Share Their Favorite Recipes is so much fun, it knocks my socks off. The title pretty much says it all. A BUNCH of us did a cookbook and it turned out great!
When you’re writing, who’s in control, you or the characters?
With the exception of Mags who told me what to write, while I listen to my characters, I’m in charge. Was that the case with Cozy Food? Not really. Oh, I did have to explain why one author couldn’t have a 4000 word biography when everyone else was sticking to 300 words more or less as requested, but for the most part I just looked at what the contributors had to say, licked my lips frequently as I read their recipes, and laughed at the witty way they introduced their recipes and told readers about themselves.
–Who are your favorite authors, the ones you read when you should be doing something else? Why do they appeal to you?
I now have 127 favorite writers. Seriously, doing Cozy Food introduced me to many authors I didn’t know and my “to read” list has grown exponentially. The other thing I learned after editing the book is that cozy mystery writers are simply some of the nicest people out there.
–Promotion is a big—and usually the most hated—part of being a writer. Can you share a little bit about how you promote?
Cozy Food is my idea of a great and painless way to promote. I pitched to writers that being in the book would be akin to having a blog post with legs because people would keep a cookbook and read new parts of it as they used it to cook. I’ve been getting email from people who say that’s exactly what they are doing and reviewers have indicated they are enjoying reading what authors have to say as much as the recipes. So we all get our names in front of readers—hopefully in front of some readers who haven’t yet heard of us—and have an opportunity to meet them with our bios and recipes. The cookbook also lets readers connect with writer author pages and websites so they can easily find our books, too.
–How long have you been writing?
I started writing in 2008 with The Death Contingency and have hopefully gotten better at it with later books.
–What do you consider the single most satisfying aspect of being a writer?
I’ve had people come up to me and say, “I’ve read your books; I really enjoyed them.” It doesn’t get better than that. I must add a second aspect though, because it took me a minute to decide which was the most satisfying, and if I had to ponder that long, that’s a close call. I have “met” people from all over the world as a result of writing. I absolutely cherish those new friends.
–How many hours a day do you write, where, any specific circumstances help or hurt your process?
Editing Cozy Food was a wildly different process than writing novels. I’m a lazy writer who writes whenever I want to. For Cozy Food, I worked ten hour days seven days a week for the first three weeks. That was an extremely tense time because, when I think about the authors I emailed about being in the cookbook, the project really shouldn’t have succeeded. By rights, authors should have frowned and hit their delete button when they read my spammy invitation letter. Since I had told many people about my idea, I knew how foolish I’d look if the project failed for lack of participation and that real possibility kept me up nights. Why didn’t they hit delete? See last sentence of favorite authors question.
Once the project was a go, I worked eight hour days on it six days a week and my husband, who did the formatting, pagination, and linking to make the book work put in as many hours as I did per day until it was published.
–What are your thoughts on the standard writing advice, “write what you know”?

Cozy Food by Nancy Lynn Jarvis

Cozy Food by Nancy Lynn Jarvis

Cozy Food is the epitome of write what you know. My book covers and titles may not be typical cozy style, but my books are cozies. I know what a cozy is and understand the connection between cozies and food so a cookbook seemed like a natural next step. Even having a few pet treat recipes fit with cozy mysteries.
–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’m primarily a cozy mystery writer having done five books with a sixth in the series planned. I also want to do a new cozy series featuring two older men—one long divorced and one recently widowed—who meet at a retirement community or condo where they have moved to downsize. Both were hand and they miss home improvement, so they are going to form a business called “Geezers with Tools” and get involved in mystery solving in the course of doing home repair.
I don’t know where to put Mags and the AARP Gang: comedy, feel-good, coming of age (except the characters are in their eighties), or women’s fiction, and I have a first chapter written for a historical fiction book as well, and now I’m a non-fiction editor.
–Where do you get your ideas?
Cozy Food started when I found the front cover graphic and thought it would make a perfect cozy mystery cookbook cover. That’s not unusual for me. I usually have an idea for a book cover before I get very far into the writing process. Somehow looking at a book cover design helps me focus.
–Have you bought an e-reader? What is your overall impression of electronic publishing?
I have an antique Kindle which I bought only after being told by some readers that the Kindle version of Backyard Bones was a mess. (The Kindle people kept reassuring me the readers were mistaken, Ha!) I still prefer paper books…unless it’s 10:00p.m. and I’m looking for a good book. I admit to loving Cozy Food in e-format, though, because you can zip all over the book and link to the internet for more info about an author. It is in a word, slick!
– Why do you write?
Because I haven’t found anything else to do that’s so much fun.

Link to Amazon author page with all the books mentioned is http://www.amazon.com/Nancy-Lynn-Jarvis/e/B002CWX7IQ/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1402416328&sr=1-2-ent

My website is http://www.goodreadmysteries.com and facebook is https://www.facebook.com/ReganMcHenryRealEstateMysteries?ref=ts

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.

 

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

repair.

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

          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.

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/

Welcome to Dames of Dialogue, Karen! Tell us about your latest book, A Gift for Murder.

A Gift for Murder was originally published in hardcover by Five Star/Cengage, then in mass market paperback by Harlequin Worldwide Mysteries, and was recently released as an ebook. It’s a cozy mystery with some romantic elements.

For fifty-one weeks of the year, Heather McNeil loves her job as assistant to the director of the Washington, D.C. Commerce & Market karenmcculloughShow Center. But the Gifts and Home Decorations trade show, the biggest show of the year at the center, is a week-long nightmare. This year’s version is being worse than usual. Misplaced shipments, feuding exhibitors, and malfunctioning popcorn machines are all in a day’s work. Finding the body of a murdered executive dumped in a trash bin during the show isn’t. The discovery tips throws Heather’s life—personal and professional—into havoc.

The police suspect the victim’s wife killed him, but Heather doesn’t believe it. She’s gotten glimmers of an entirely different scenario and possible motive. Questioning exhibitors about the crime doesn’t make her popular with them or with her employers, but if she doesn’t identify the murderer before the show ends, the culprit will remain free to kill again.

Her only help comes from an exhibitor with ulterior motives and the Market Center’s attractive new security officer, Scott Brandon. Despite opposition from some of the exhibitors, her employers, and the police, Heather seeks to expose the killer before the show ends. To solve the mystery, she will haves to risk what’s most important to her and be prepared to fight for answers, her job, and possibly her life.

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

I have a couple of projects in various states completion and submission.  The story I’m actively working on right now is the sequel to A Gift for Murder, tentatively titled Wired for Murder.

My current working blurb is: Amidst the chaos of the opening of the Business Technology Show at the DC Market Center, Heather McNeil, assistant to the center’s director, has to deal with a few extra bits of trade show madness, including a loud and very public argument between the president of the largest exhibitor and an arrogant engineer working for a competitor. When the engineer is murdered, while on the phone with Heather, she has to find a way to cope with the trauma. And being Heather that means wanting to know why the murder happened and who did it.

What is a typical writing day like for you?

Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been trying to get on a regular schedule of writing for two hours from 8:30 to 10:30 before I get to work at the business that pays the bills, doing websites and other graphic design for authors and small businesses. So far it seems to be working. Before that I generally wrote in the afternoons, but I’ve realized that isn’t my best creative time. I usually write for an hour or two in the evenings as well.

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

Barbara Michaels, Sarah Addison Allen, Ellis Peters, Charlaine Harris, Mary Stewart, Gillian Roberts, Jim Butcher, J.R.R. Tolkien, Andre Norton, Jack Campbell, Lois McMaster Bujold,  Simon Green, Susanna Kearsley. I don’t really know what they have in common that makes them appeal to me except that they’re all very good writers and storytellers. They all do intriguing plots with characters who develop in interesting and sometimes unexpected ways.

How long have you been writing?

karenmccullough.agiftformurderAbout thirty years. Yeah, even I can’t believe it’s been that long. I wrote my first full-length novel in 1984. I still have the manuscript—it’s in the attic, with a sticky note on it that says, “Burn me.”  It’s bad. Really bad. I had a decent idea but no idea how to write a novel. The first novel I sold (to Avalon Books, in 1988, published 1990) was actually the sixth novel I’d written. It took me that long to learn how to do it right. I’ve had an up-and-down career since then, but I’ve had quite a few things published since.

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

Because I’m a “pantser,” writing without an outline or much knowledge of how the plot works out, I’m always antsy through most of the first draft, wondering how, when, and even if a story will finally come together. So far, it’s always worked, though, and it’s a great feeling when the threads of the plot all start to mesh and I see the whole pattern. And then when I finally finish the first draft, it’s a real high. There’s usually plenty of rewriting that needs to be done, and lots of editing and polishing, but for me the hard part is getting that first draft done.

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

My earliest reading memories involve reading all the Nancy Drew books I could get hold of, along with my brothers’ collection of Hardy Boys as well. I graduated into my Dad’s library of mysteries, which included Agatha Christie, Rex Stout, Dashiell Hammett and others. A school friend introduced me to science fiction and fantasy, and I dove into Arthur C. Clarke, Heinlein, Andre Norton, Poul Anderson, etc.  As a kid, I worked the fiction section in our local libraries hard.  Somewhere along the way, I found Gothic romances and it was love at first paragraph.   Obviously it’s no accident that when I started writing, I produced mysteries, fantasy and science fiction, with some romantic elements.

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

I write four hours a day most days, two hours in the morning and two in the evening.  I have a home office and I try to start right after breakfast as the first cup of coffee is hitting my system. I don’t listen to music or anything else while writing. I start a writing session by reading over what I wrote last, making a few corrections along the way. When I get to the end, I’m usually ready to keep going.

I’m a straight-line sort, starting my first draft at the beginning and writing from start to finish, although I occasionally will go back and fill in missing things when I realize the need them, but for most things, I’ll simply make notes on post-its on my desk for things I know I need to change. Once the first draft is done, I do the major editing pass, where I go through and smooth out the rough spots and make the corrections from the post-its. After that I do another polishing run, then send it to my critique partners and beta readers.

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

I’m a website designer/developer, who also does book covers and other graphic design. I’ve been doing it for about ten years now, but karenmccullough.thewizard'sshieldI’m starting to cut back the time I spend on that to make more time for writing.

What is your VERB? (This is a big poster at a local mall)? If you had to choose ONE verb that describes you and you behavior or attitude, what would it be?

Think.

Have you bought an e-reader? What is your overall impression of electronic publishing?

For several years, I read books on my iPhone, which worked reasonably well, but then I got a Kindle, and I totally love reading on it. My eyesight has never been all that good, and it’s great to be able to enlarge the text to a size that’s comfortable for reading. Plus I can hold it one hand. On the writer’s side, it’s a wonderful opportunity as well. I’ve been requesting my rights back on my backlist books for a while now and have been epublishing them.  I still have a few more yet to go, but it’s been nice to see some of those older books getting a new lease on life. Then there are those books that none of my various publishers wanted—usually because they didn’t fit into any marketing niche. I’ve already published one of them (The Wizard’s Shield) and have a few other manuscripts that have been languishing on my hard drive. That’s the upside. The downside is that too many would-be ‘authors’ are putting out books that really aren’t ready for public consumption. I’ve read a few epublished books that were awkwardly written, full of inconsistencies and grammatical errors. Now, if a book sounds intriguing, but I don’t know the author or haven’t read reviews, I’ll download a sample and judge from that whether to get the whole thing.

How do your characters “come” to you? Are they based loosely or closely on people you know?

Honestly, I’m not sure where my characters come from. I see them in the film running in my head and at first I don’t know much about them, but as the story continues while I’m writing it down, I gradually get to know and understand them. Most of that comes from seeing their actions and listening to what they say.  I’d have to say that most of them aren’t really based on anyone I know, but they probably have aspects of many people I’ve met, heard of, read about, or seen on television or movies.

Bio:

Karen McCullough is a web designer by profession, and the author of a dozen published novels and novellas in the mystery, romantic suspense, and fantasy genres as well. She has won numerous awards, including an Eppie Award for fantasy, and has also been a four-time Eppie finalist, and a finalist in the Prism, Dream Realm, Rising Star, Lories, Scarlett Letter, and Vixen Awards contests. Her short fiction has appeared in several anthologies and numerous small press publications in the fantasy, science fiction, and romance genres. She has three children, four grandchildren and lives in Greensboro, NC, with her husband of many years.

Website: http://www.kmccullough.com

Blog: http://www.kmccullough/kblog

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KarenMcCulloughAuthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/kgmccullough

BHby Gayle Trent

Welcome, Judge Bill Hopkins! Thank you so much for joining us today to talk about your work.

DOD: Tell us about you latest book, River Mourn.

bh2Judge Rosswell Carew’s fiancée is still missing.(See Courting Murder, the first in the series). Because her last call  to him came from a payphone in Sainte Genevieve, Missouri, Carew arranges to hold  court there so he can pursue his search for her. When he witnesses  someone who resembles Tina tossed from a riverboat ferry, he’s plunged  into a nightmare world he never knew existed. Rosswell is astounded when he discovers that what he saw and the fate of Tina are intertwined.  Unable to convince the local authorities that something deadly is going  on, Rosswell teams up with his faithful research assistant Ollie Groton  to discover the truth. The excitement never lets up until the last page.

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

The next in the series is Bloody Earth. Judge Rosswell Carew witnesses his friend getting killed on the steps of the courthouse in the river town of Cape Girardeau, Missouri. When he investigates the death he discovers some dangerous secrets. It will be out in spring 2014.

What is a typical writing day like for you?

I like to start writing early in the morning. I’ll quit around five. If I have to work at my day job (lawyer and I’m the boss), I’ll often take off during the afternoon and write until bed time.

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

The characters. Once I changed a character from female to male and it turned the whole story in a different direction. (Note: This is a good idea if you’re stuck in a story. Change something drastically!)

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

I love hard science fiction. If it’s been written since Jules Verne and has to do with aliens and space ships, I’ve read it.

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

My wife (Sharon Woods Hopkins, also a mystery writer) and I promote a lot. We have book signings every chance we get. The best luck we’ve ever had is at craft fairs. I’m not sure why, but people who go to craft fairs love to read and they like local authors!

How long have you been writing?

All my life. The first story I wrote was about Robin Hood. I was about five or six. I don’t remember the plot.

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

T. S. Eliot. His use of language fascinates me.

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

People want to read my words. That thrills me more than just about anything. I love my fans.

Tell us a little bit about where you live.

I live in the hills of Southeast Missouri. It’s got low population and beautiful scenery.

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

Mark Twain, a Missourian, has also been a great influence on me. One of the funniest sayings I’ve heard around here is when someone wants to leave the company he is in will say, “I’ve got to go. I’ve got a lot of rats to kill before dark.”

That is funny! Who were your favorite authors as a child? Have they influenced your writing career in any way?

Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl was an exciting adventure story. I also loved reading stories about Marco Polo and other explorers.

Where do you find inspiration for your writing?

I don’t know. I’ve got so many ideas, I’ll have to live another hundred years to write them all.

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 protagonist fights sub rosa against slavery, which is a problem in the world and in this country, especially sex slavery. The books are humorous but deal with exceptionally strong and serious themes. I don’t have anything graphic in the books, but there’s no question what’s going on.

Thanks again for talking with us today, Bill. Readers, please check out Bill’s websites:

COURTING MURDER
http://tinyurl.com/Bill-Hopkins-Courting-Murder

RIVER MOURN
http://tinyurl.com/Bill-Hopkins-River-Mourn

My website:
http://tinyurl.com/Judge-Bill-Hopkins-Website

My website with preview:
http://preview.tinyurl.com/Judge-Bill-Hopkins-Website

My Amazon Author Page:
http://tinyurl.com/Bill-Hopkins-Amazon-AuthorPage

 

New Photo of Marilyn

 

By Laurel-Rain Snow

 

Welcome, Marilyn Meredith!  Today we’re going to chat a bit about your books and your creative process.

 

Spirit Shapes Cover

 

-Tell us about your latest book, Spirit Shapes.

Spirit Shapes is the latest in my Deputy Tempe Crabtree series. Ghost hunters discover a young man’s dead body in a haunted house. When Tempe is called to investigate she immediately is confronted by many spirits. Besides trying to find who is responsible for the present day crime, she is confronted by unsolved crimes from the past.

What is a typical writing day like for you?

I try to write every day, though that doesn’t always work. Mornings are when my creative juices flow most freely, but I have to battle against the lure of email and Facebook. I begin each day with a cup of Chai latte—believe me that seems to help.

I am a fan of mornings, too.  Who are your favorite authors, the ones you read when you should be doing something else? Why do they appeal to you?

I love too many to list, but I’m finding many of the authors published by small independent publishers are leading the pack. One of the reasons is they seem to be more creative and are allowed to write shorter books without any obvious filler. Something I’ve seen too often in some of the major publishers’ books.

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

Actually I enjoy promoting and I do all sorts of things: the usual Facebook and groups on Facebook, and I have blog that I enjoy writing and hosting other authors on and have a good following. I love doing blog tours and being a guest on others’ blogs, like this one. I have a quarterly newsletter. I really enjoy doing in-person promoting: library talks, craft and book fairs, and I love going to writers’ and mystery cons. I have cut down on my airline traveling though—it is just getting more and more difficult.

-I think many of us are finding social media to be a good place to promote our work.  Who or what has been the biggest influence in your writing career and why?

Hands down it’s the critique group I’ve belonged to for over 30 years. In the beginning there was one writer named Willma Gore who taught me so much about writing in general. And she’s still writing and publishing at 91—and I hope to do the same. I still faithfully attend the same critique group, though the members have changed over the years. I now consider them my first editor.

-That’s amazing!  What do you consider the single most satisfying aspect of being a writer?

I love writing. I love spending time with the characters I’ve created. However, the most satisfying is when someone writes a great review about one of my books or comes up to me at an event and tells me how much they loved one of my books.

Tell us a little bit about where you live.

I live in the foothills of the Southern Sierra. To those of you who have no idea where that is, Sierra means mountain. The mountain range is the one dividing Nevada and Arizona from California. I’m on the California side in what is called the Central Valley. The little town I live outside of is much like Bear Creek in the Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series though I moved it 1000 feet higher in the mountains for better trees and more weather.

You live in a beautiful part of our state.  Who were your favorite authors as a child? Have they influenced your writing career in any way?

Of course I have to say Carolyn Keene and the Nancy Drew books. But what really got me started on writing mysteries were all the mystery shows on the radio when I was a kid. I listened to them all. I also loved to read about crime in the newspapers. Back when I was a kid, we got three newspapers at our house and anything exciting or lurid was described in great detail.

I was also a fan of Nancy Drew.  Where do you find inspiration for your writing?

Because I write two series, my major inspiration is curiosity about what is happening in my characters’ lives, what crimes they might be confronting, what personal problems they are dealing with. The only way I can find out is to write about them. I keep a file of interesting articles I find in the newspaper or on line and it really doesn’t take much to send me off answering the “What if?” question.

I like the idea of the file for interesting articles.  What is your strongest and/or your weakest area in the creative process?

I write short. Once I’m finished, I’m finished. I certainly do go back and edit and make sure I’ve added necessary details. What I don’t do is add unnecessary fluff just to add to my word count. This has cost me being published by some major houses. Do I care? No, I’m happy with both of my small publishers.

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

I’d change that to write what you can find out about or imagine.

-A great twist on the familiar saying.  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’m definitely a fiction writer, and all my latest books have been mysteries. My Deputy Tempe Crabtree series has touches of the supernatural and Indian lore along with the crime to solve. Writing is my main occupation, besides being a wife, mom and grandma.

Thanks for joining us today, Marilyn, and here are some links:

Links:
http://marilynmeredith.blogspot.com/
http://fictionforyou.com/
http://mundania.com/

Welcome to Dames of Dialogue, Morgan. Let’s start with what everyone wants to know, information about your latest book.

Well, actually there are two, released within weeks of each other and both dealing with women in jeopardy. LA BELLA MAFIA is the astonishing true story of Bella Capo, a woman who has survived enough for ten lives and landed on her feet. The abused child of a power broker with mob ties, she became a power herself in the club and after-hours club life along Hollywood’s Sunset Strip, later became a white woman boss in the Crips and now devotes her life to helping abuse victims and those in jeopardy through the online movement La Bella Mafia. An unbelievable read that I co-authored with true crime writer Dennis N. Griffin. Release date October 15.

Then, BETRAYED, a work of fiction inspired by events that really did happen in the late 1950s through the 1960s. The entire first part was inspired by morganstjamesthose events, and the rest is pure fiction. However, the parts inspired by the true events are fictionalized and author’s license is taken, unlike the true story of Bella Capo.

Laurel Murphy, a teenaged ballet protégé is kidnapped, sold into a high class brothel where she is severely beaten and left for dead. But she doesn’t die and has to rebuild her spirit and her life, all the while harboring a desire for revenge and dealing with horrendous nightmares and flashbacks. She thought she had it all together with a new family and successful career in the theater. Then the unthinkable happened and a ghost from her past was seen by accident, forcing Laurel to face her demons. The Kindle is currently available on Amazon and the paperback will be released by the end of October.

I’ve read LA BELLA MAFIA and it’s a powerfully written book. BETRAYED sounds intriguing as well. Can you share a little bit about what you’re working on now or what’s coming next?

I’m working on another true story with Dennis N. Griffin that is told by the daughter of a Las Vegas character who was a mob member and a favorite of celebrities. Those who knew his public personality thought he was a great lighthearted guy and fun to be with. Behind closed doors, his family knew different and were constantly exposed to his dark side. When one mentions his name to Las Vegas long-timers, a wealth of stories are told—some funny, some absolutely shocking.

Phyllice and I are also writing the fourth Silver Sisters Mystery, DIAMONDS IN THE DUMPSTER, and this time the twin’s 80 year old mother and uncle, feisty former vaudeville magicians who love to dress in disguise and go undercover, have featured parts. So many readers told us how much they love Flossie and Sterling that we listened to them and cast the oldsters in the lead this time.

Well, you’ve got my interest with your next book! And for those who haven’t read your Silver Sisters Mystery series, Flossie and Sterling are a hoot! What is a typical writing day like for you?

I watch the news while drinking my coffee and have a bit of breakfast. Sometimes items in the new will grab me and I mentally file those away for the future or if something really intrigues me I’ll hit the record on the DVR. I usually go up to my office around 9:30 or 10:00 and tell myself that I’ll write for an hour or two. Because I always have so many balls in the air, at least two or three projects in process at any given time, I generally forget to eat lunch and remember somewhere around 3:00. The writing is interspersed with Facebook posts, LinkedIn posts, Tweets and keeping my websites up to date, as that is one of the most time consuming things an author must do to keep their books visible.

Then I take a break and back to the computer. I’ll generally work until anywhere from 5:00 to 7:00. I’m a very prolific writer and accomplish a lot. I’ve been asked for one word to describe me and I think if you look up “workaholic” you’ll find my name.

Prolific certainly fits you! When you’re writing, who’s in control, you or the characters?

For the most part it is me because I’m an analytical person and like to see the road ahead of me. However, every once in a while a character will catch me unaware and literally lead me down the path they have chosen. For example, I won’t give away what happened in this case, but the father-in-law in BETRAYED really took me by surprise. There I was tapping away at the keys and he revealed all kinds of things I didn’t know about him and actually made the storyline take a turn that I believe truly improved it.

When they want to speak, you have to hear what they have to say.

Oh, I agree with that. How long have you been writing?

My first published magazine article was back in the late 1970s. I wrote magazine and newspaper articles until the mid 90s when my sister, also a published writer, and I decided to create our own mystery series and the Silver Sisters Mysteries and all of the zany characters who populate them, came into being. However, the first Silver Sisters caper wasn’t published until 2006.

I still write many newspaper and magazine articles, and have written over 500 related to the writer’s world about techniques and the people populating it.

 I co-wrote a book with my sister Cyndi (aka Caitlyn Hunter) and it was such a great experience. We’re presently working on the sequel and I love working with her. Since your series continues, I’d say it’s the same with you. What do you consider the single most satisfying aspect of being a writer?

I love to share my ideas with my readers and make my characters come to life—not like paper doll cutouts but like real people. Many readers have told me they feel like they want to really know my characters and wish they were real.

Since I give workshops and appear on panels, I also love to share what I’ve learned through the years with both aspiring and published writers whether in person or through my articles in examiner.com or my book Writers’ Tricks of the Trade.

I’m a strong believer in paying it forward and love knowing authors who do the same. Tell us a little bit about where you live.

Until February I had a foot in Marina Del Rey CA and the other in Las Vegas NV. Then after ten years of doing this, and practically considering the 15 Freeway my third home,  Las Vegas became my full-time home. I’ve loved Las Vegas since I began doing business in Sin City in variety of capacities back in the mid 80s and actually did move here once in right at the time of Desert Storm. Unfortunately, business in Las Vegas was pretty devastated by that first Iraq war and I went back to L.A. with my tail between my legs and relatively broke.

Most people picture the Strip as being what Las Vegas is like, and want to know things like how I like living in hotels, etc. I live in a beautiful residential community about 20 minutes from the Strip that is just like any other planned community. The people are friendly and we really do have grocery stores, movie theaters, big box stores like Target and Costco, restaurants—you get the picture. In other words, once you leave the Strip it’s like a big city with a friendly small town mentality.

morganstjames.labellamafiaI’ve never been to Vegas and that’s good to know. What are your thoughts on the standard writing advice, “write what you know”?

It definitely helps. It is difficult sometimes to write about places or circumstances that you have not personally experienced. Why? Because it is easy to get it wrong if you don’t research properly. Don’t just rely on the internet, but speak to people who have either been to places you refer to or done the things you include in your stories.

For example, I spent many years as an interior designer and absolutely cringed when I read a mystery that was set at the Hi Point Furniture Market in Hi Point, No. Carolina. The author got so many things wrong I couldn’t believe it. Someone who didn’t know that business might have assumed that’s how it is, but anyone who was savvy could only chuckle or shake their head while reading some of the bizarre assumptions and scenes.

Any family influences? Memoirs in the making?

Actually, two memoirs are “in the made.” That is to say they are in publication. When my mom was 80 I encouraged her to write her memoir so we wouldn’t lose all the wonderful stories about growing up in the early 1900s as the youngest and tenth child in a zany immigrant family. Laughter carried her through all of her nearly 97 years. She was proud of her manuscript but passed away in 2006 well before CAN WE COME IN AND LAUGH, TOO? was published. She missed her 97th birthday by about 4 months.

As for me, and I loved writing this one: CONFESSIONS OF A COUGAR is the mostly true story of basically coming of age at 42. A friend and I had three glorious weeks in England and during that time had some very fun adventures and met all sorts of young, luscious Englishmen. To find out more, you’ll have to read the book.

So sad your mom passed before the book was published. Were books an important part of your household when you were growing up?

My father died when I was 17 and my sister was 12, but my mother was an avid reader of both fiction and non-fiction and it rubbed off on both of us. When I was in the 2nd grade, I was reading at 8th grade level, and literally devoured books. I still read one or two books a week and listen to a ton of audio books while driving.

I can’t imagine my life without holding a book or ebook in my hands. How do your characters “come” to you? Are they based loosely or closely on people you know?

Somehow people I know often creep into my characters. Sometimes I don’t realize I’ve done that until I’m re-reading sections or proofing and recognize them waving at me from the pages. Other times I create composites based on several people I know.

In BETRAYED the character of Vince was inspired someone I adored for many years who passed away too soon. I memorialized him in the character of Vince with no parts of anyone else and captured as many of his traits and sayings as possible. And, yes, often your characters speak to you in your head. Vince said thanks, how did you know I was perfect for the part? Among the many things he did in his life the person Vince was modeled after was an actor at one time.

Oh, that’s interesting. Any books on writing you have found most helpful? Or classes you’ve taken?

In 2005 I took a class called “Machete Editing” that forever changed the way I looked at editing in a fantastically good way. I used many of the things I learned in some of the chapters of Writers’ Tricks of the Trade.

Books I’ve personally found extremely helpful are “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers,” by Renni Brown and Dave King; “The Frugal Book Promoter,” by Carolyn Howard-Johnson; “The Synonym Finder,” by J. I Rodale; and “Don’t Sabotage Your Submission,” by Chris Roerden, just to name a few. I made it a point to put a bibliography in Writers’ Tricks of the Trade of books I’ve personally used and learned from for more in-depth looks at many topics I touch upon in the chapters.

I devour Chris’s books – they’re well-written and informative. I was excited she used me as a sample in “Don’t Sabotage your Submission”.  “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers” is a book I refer to quite often. And Carolyn Howard-Johnson is a great resource for writers. She’s written several good books about writing.

Thanks for joining us today, Morgan. Here’s a short bio about Morgan and her works:

MORGAN ST. JAMES – Author/Speaker/Columnist

Bio

Award-winning author Morgan St. James has ten published books to her credit and with the latest, La Bella Mafia, a true crime book co-authored with Dennis Griffin and Bella Capo (whose story it is), due for release October 15 she joins the authors at Houdini Publishing. http://labellamafiabook.wordpress.com

Also scheduled for release at the end of October is a haunting story inspired by true incidents. Find out more about Betrayed, at http://betrayedthebook.wordpress.com

In addition to books she has written on her own, Morgan’s funny crime caper’s include the recent government embezzlement scam Who’s Got the Money?  and the comical Silver Sisters Mysteries series co-authored with her real-life sister More information about these books can be found on www.morganstjames-author.com

She has written over 500 published articles related to writing and frequently presents workshops, appears on author’s panels and moderates panels Her book Writers Tricks of the Trade launched a bi-monthly eZine for writers of the same name.

Visit http://writerstricksofthetrade.blogspot.com

Bone Weary by C. L. Roth

Bone Weary by C. L. Roth

Tell us about your latest book.

BONE WEARY is an adult cozy mystery. When students learn to write we’re always told to write what we know. As a stay-at-home mother, living a rural life, with no real formal education I thought my life pretty boring. But on analysis, I decided I was wrong. I grew up in a huge family. I have six sisters, one brother, more aunts, uncles, and cousins than I can count.
As we married and in-laws started to make comments I began to understand the life I grew up in wasn’t quite ‘normal’. I decided to write a story that showed what my life was like and how the family dynamics affected our whole family.
Add to this mix, my youngest son was born with cerebral palsy. He is non-verbal, non-ambulatory and quite brilliant. He’s a talented artist but over the years I get lots of questions. How do I know what he wants? How does he communicate with me? I could never tell people how we do it but I thought, in the confines of the story, I could show them.
BONE WEARY is about a big family, the main character is a mother/caregiver for a teenage disabled son. BONE WEARY is book #1 of a planned trilogy. Even though I pulled heavily on personalities I grew up with and contains scenes I’m very familiar with, the story is total fiction and great fun.
When you’re writing, who’s in control, you or the characters?
My books are very much character-driven. The characters come to me first. In the early years I would get very excited over the characters and scenes that would appear to me. I’d write feverishly for about 80 pages and then the story would die. I hadn’t learned how to plot.
I read dozens of books. Took every class our local college offered. I took a few classes by mail. Some of these were good and some were truly horrid. Then I discovered Holly Lisle and her How to Think Sideway’s course. It was big, six months long. She handed me the tools I was missing.
I always thought my creative brain was flighty; easily distracted and prone to starting and never finishing anything. I found out that my creative brain is awesome. It works overtime to give me ideas. I discovered that my logical brain, the workhorse part of my brain, was letting me down. It didn’t want to work. Work isn’t fun.
The left side of my brain was in full rebellion. It didn’t want regular hours. It didn’t want to have to do the same thing every day. Routine felt like prison. I am nothing if not a master rationalizer. I was able to convince my own brain that editing, revision, marketing, promoting wasn’t drudgery but a wonderful strategy game.
My brain likes puzzles, and strategy, and it loves winning. I convinced my logical brain that by finishing a project, I win. Finally I had both sides of my brain working nicely together (although to them I use the word ‘playing’ together.) The energy that pours out of my head now is amazing. I wish I had discovered the trick years ago.
What do you consider the single most satisfying aspect of being a writer?
The control. So much of my life belongs to others. I am a full-time caregiver for my son, Joshua. He’s 33 years old. He has cerebral palsy. He’s non-verbal, non-ambulatory, and needs help in all areas of his life. He’s also bright, talented, and amazing.
He’s an artist with his own goals and dreams. Add to this I took on responsibility for my husband’s aunt after his sister passed away. Then add the housework, the cooking…the list goes on and on.
There were times when I’d just get tired of being needed; tired of being pulled in so many directions and none of them mine. I started to write to escape; to entertain myself; to create worlds and situations that took me away from my everyday life.
It wasn’t until my husband was diagnosed with breast cancer that my writing turned from fun entertainment to serious development of my writing skills. I don’t have the freedom to go out and get a job. I don’t know too many companies that would let me bring my son to work. I needed a job I could do from home. So I became serious about raising my skill level to a competitive standard. I no longer wrote for fun and started to get my work in front of the public eye.
I still like control. But now the control extends over a broader area. In addition to writing, I’ve added marketing, promoting, public engagements. My son’s art has grown and he has a career to manage also. Life is full, interesting, an adventure that brings us something new on a daily basis.
Mark Twain said, “Southerners speak music…”  Do you have a favorite southern saying you can share with our readers?
I don’t know if this is a southern saying but my mother grew up in the West Plains/Peace Valley Missouri area and that might qualify as Southern. I grew up hearing her say: Can’t never did anything. That’s a saying I use to this day. The minute the word ‘can’t’ comes out of my mouth I hear her voice and I figure out a way to change the word to ‘I will’.
If I had to give people one piece of advice it would be to eliminate the word ‘can’t’ from their lives. When my son was born with cerebral palsy my life changed. When he was diagnosed the first thing the doctor told us was: You don’t have to raise him. You can put him in an institution.
I went home that day in such a rage. My son was only nine months old and the doctor was writing him off. My son’s situation taught me to think outside the box. When I’m presented with a problem I don’t think about why something can’t be done. I figure out a way to do it. I adapt, I build, I re-purpose but I do, by golly, accomplish what I set out to do.
My son wanted to be an artist. I didn’t tell him that because he has a disability, he can’t. I figured out a way for him to do what he most wanted to do. He is not only an artist; he’s a darn good artist.
For me to get a job done, all anybody has to tell me is it can’t be done and I will do my best to prove them wrong.
What is your strongest and/or your weakest area in the creative process?
I think my strength is humor and heart. My first goal after I got serious about raising my writing to a competitive level was to get published. I accomplished this goal when I joined our local Write Team. I contributed one article every two weeks for one year for our local newspaper.
I wrote slices of life and my style of writing was compared, favorably, to Erma Bombeck. A compliment that is dear to my heart. I had a small panic attack when I wrote my first article. It was one thing to write for the public but writing for my local newspaper scared me. These people knew where I lived.
I realized very early on that for my articles to impact the reader I had to do one very important thing. I had to write with honesty. And being honest exposes the innermost ‘me’. I can’t give the reader only the pieces I want to show them. If I want the reader to care about what I say, enjoy what I write, take away something of value, I have to be brave enough, open enough, to lay it out there and show them everything.
I think I’m pretty good at sharing emotional impact. I’ve lived a life that has, at times, ripped the heart out of me. I’ve also learned to laugh at life because if I couldn’t laugh I’d curl up in a ball and simply withdraw from life. I consider laughter a life lesson.
As far as weakness, I’m going to admit, right up front, that I am comma challenged. A grammar/punctuation refresher is on my to-do list. Paying a proofreader to go over my finished work is a necessity. On the plus side, punctuation and grammar can be learned. I will get better and better the more I write.
What are your thoughts on the standard writing advice, “write what you know”?
I think pulling on your life experiences makes your writing stronger. As I’ve said earlier, I believe in writing with honesty. I thought my life fairly boring and mundane but when I stopped and thought about the questions I get asked. When I think about the comments made by family and friends, I realized I had experiences that have value.
My goal, when I write, is to entertain. But I also hope the reader will take away something of value. I hope my work will offer ideas, connections, and satisfaction.
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 wish I could say I’m a mystery writer. Or a fantasy writer. Or… The truth is I don’t know yet. I started out writing articles for our local newspaper. I like writing articles. I’m good at it. I would love to be syndicated like Erma Bombeck was.
I wrote longer articles for magazine. I did okay at that too. If I had more freedom I could be very happy writing for magazines. I was told that I have a very commercial style of writing.
My personal love is mysteries. In my mind I always pictured myself as another Janet Evonavich, writing mysteries that are fast paced and full of humor.
Then I wrote a Middle Grade Fantasy novel and found out I love writing for children. They still believe in magic and I don’t intend to ever not believe in magic. I love letting my imagination run free.
I have characters show up in my head that are most definitely Young Adult. They tell me ghost stories. They have paranormal gifts. I will have to write about them because they are too pushy if I don’t.
I honestly don’t know what genre I will end up being most prolific in. I guess I’ll let the sales tell me. Whichever stories find the strongest homes will dictate where I spend most of my time.
What is your VERB? (This is a big poster at a local mall)? If you had to choose ONE verb that describes you and you behavior or attitude, what would it be?
The one verb that would describe me is: Curious. Curiosity is the driving force of my life. If something trips my curiosity I can’t rest until I satisfy it.
I have zero tolerance for boredom. Boredom will get me in a lot of trouble because when I get bored I look for ways to relieve it. That’s when curiosity will raise its head and lead me into some very strange places.
Author C. L. Roth

Author C. L. Roth

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

I used to be a great starter…and a non-finisher. I have notebooks of partial stories spread all over my house. I’m afraid to throw away a notebook or scraps of paper until I find time to go through them for fear of losing the one idea I will need.
Then I discovered Holly Lisle’s How to Think Sideways class. The one tool she handed me that has changed my life is scene cards.
I learned how to calculate the length of my projected book, divide the number of words by my average scene length and figure out how many scenes I need to fill the story.
My average scene length is 2000 words. If I want to write a story that is 60,000 words long I need 30 scenes. I will count out 30 notecards. I’ll write down one sentence per scene on each card.
I will start with what I know about my story. As I fill out the scenes that I already know I start to see where the gaps are. I can control pacing with the scene cards. I can tell where the story is light.
I no longer worry about writer’s block. The cards are general enough that it allows me freedom to develop the story as needed but keeps me heading in the right direction. I no longer wander all over a story so I can get the story written much faster.
I can line up my projects according to how much story development is already done. This one tool has completely changed my life.
Any family influences? Memoirs in the making?
I’ve already spoken about BONE WEARY. But on my son’s website www.ourhomestudio.com I wrote a blog titled Walk with Me. It is a documentation of my son’s life from birth to artist. What I would like to do is pull the blog together into one file, add appropriate photographs and artwork and offer the story as a free digital download. I’m hoping to get the project done sometime in 2014.
His story is amazing, and inspiring. I know first-hand how difficult finding out about disability and learning to live with it can be. I’ve gotten emails from people who read Josh’s story in the local newspaper who had family members whose lives have been changed by reading about my son. I feel very strongly that my son’s story needs to be available to anybody who needs it.
I believe in dreams. My son’s mission statement is: I believe that dreams are achieved not by limiting challenges but by challenging limitations. 
Were books an important part of your household when you were growing up?
I’m very blessed to grow up in the family I did. My mother taught us that learning was a privilege, not a right. Because of her attitude I value education. I would be an eternal student if I could. I try to take a class every year. Usually online because my time is so limited but often at the local Jr. college.
I was a bookworm. During the summer months it was common for me to read a dozen books a week. I am a fast reader and my interests are varied. I like biographies, history, how-to books. I think I may have possibly read every single book in our small town library. Not once but numerous time.
I read classics because I wanted to, not because I had to for English class. I would walk around the house with book in hand. I could even fill a water glass without taking my eyes off the written page.
I read. If there isn’t a book to read I will read the back of cereal boxes. I sometimes think I started writing to fill my need to keep my brain busy. If I don’t have a book to read I create one.
It’s harder for me to listen to books but my son can’t physically hold a book so on long trips we usually had audio books going. With some of my favorite authors, I would often buy the hardback plus the audio so I ended up reading the book and listening to it at the same time.
Have you bought an e-reader? What is your overall impression of electronic publishing?
My son bought a Kindle and life has changed. I was reluctant to try an e-reader. I love books so much but we bought the bigger size so the screen is page sized. And I found out that some of my favorites from childhood are on there. Books that I thought I’d never get to read again were not only on the e-reader but often free.
And the download took less than a minute. Not only fast but I could download a book anywhere. Any time. Convenient? I was hooked. It feels like a book. It reads like a book and I don’t have to spend hours driving(I live rural) to a book store.
The only thing I worry about is what happens if the e-reader goes away? My books go with it. With a physical paperback I can pull it off the shelf.
In addition to convenience and price, the publishing world has allowed me to live my dreams. Without the digital world I’d still be dreaming and not publishing.Visit website http://www.clroth.com/

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